They've reprinted the holy grail of Magic! What does it mean? Will card values plummet? Is Magic about to die? Will dogs and cats live together, causing mass hysteria?
...Or is this just the latest nothing burger? As far as Commander goes, definitely the latter. First, I'm going to give you the TL;DR of my opinion, and then we'll going to dive a bit deeper into why I think this is not a big deal, for Commander at least.
Collector's Edition, International Edition, Championship Decks
These things have all existed for years without causing significant harm to Magic as a game, Commander as a format, or to the collectibility of old, valuable cards. We've returned to Ravnica and Zendikar and Kamigawa, but we haven't had a Collector's Edition TWO yet? It's about time.
Another idea is that making new Championship decks could be a way to get people interested in competitive Magic and Standard again. Rather than blaming the popularity of Commander for Magic's issues, maybe pundits should consider that Hasbro has done little to re-invest and grow other Magic formats for many, many years.
What Does This Have to Do With Commander?
Nothing. No, seriously, not one thing. Completely illegitimate proxy cards already exist. Some groups allow them, others do not. As mentioned before there have been many Magic products that are authentic but non-tournament legal. These new authentic-but-not-tournament legal cards will do the exact same thing as Unfinity: cause additional confusion and divide the player base. These are premium-priced collector cards intended for a super small subset of whale buyers, not the average Magic player.
A Deeper Conversation
First and foremost, what is the essence of Magic: The Gathering? Well, it's the primogeniture of all CCGs, or collectible card games. Ah, there it is. Collectible. Card. Game. You can't collect anything without cards, and your cards don't just sit in binders and graded slabs looking awesome; you can also play a game with them. The new Magic 30 reprints are for enthusiast collectors, not regular players. We know this why? Because the cards have a different back and they are not tournament legal, so you literally cannot play with them. Yes, these are equally as playable as homemade proxy cards when it comes to authorized Wizards events. Oh, and they cost $250. A pack.
Let's Talk About Apes
Kid Ape may seem a rather strange card to talk about, but I think it will drive the point home. For many years in the early life of Magic, Kird Ape was a top-of-the-line aggro threat. After a turn one Taiga, you had an impressive 2/3 with which to start the game. A few Giant Growths, Blood Lusts and Lightning Bolts later and the game was over.
The card saw success in various Zoo decks later on, after it had been reprinted into oblivion. It's been reprinted several times, and at one point was even banned. As a result of that, you can even pick up a version with its rarity technically at mythic in the From the Vault: Exiled product line.
Okay, But Isn't This Article About Reprinting Black Lotus?
Kind of! It's about the nature of CCGs and reprints. Arabian Nights Kird Ape will always be the most collectible printing, because it was the first print and from an absolutely ancient and extremely scarce set. No amount of reprinting, foiling, or rarity shifts will change this fact for this card. Do you remember this other nothing burger?
Right now, these Duel Masters cards are selling for around $15 each. Is the above card really Black Lotus? No, we all know that is not what this is. Is it rare and ultra-collectible in the same way? No. Should you care that other people buy it? No. Does it matter that at Timmy's kitchen table, they use this card as a proxy when they play their custom Vintage format? No.
But, Really, I Thought This Was About Commander?
It is, I promise! I'm merely drawing parallels. The 30th Anniversary cards that are the most playable in Commander are obviously Timetwister, any dual land, Wheel of Fortune, and Mana Vault. Here's the thing, though. These 30th Anniversary cards are just as legal to play as homemade proxies or other cards that are banned from the format entirely, like... Black Lotus.
So is your play group really going to allow certain newly reprinted cards, but ban others? Doesn't sound likely to me, and I think this would cause more issues than it solves. Furthermore, outside of Twister, it's totally possible to acquire the other cards. It's a collectible game; collect!
Why Mention Mana Vault? It's Been Reprinted!
There's a really good reason to bring up Mana Vault. Sure, it's been reprinted several times, but the price has still stayed fairly high for any version. However, the Fourth Edition print seems to generally be the least expensive at around $40 or so. Owning one for every deck would get quite expensive. The thing is, there are tons of current in-print cards that command $40 or more. Look at Dockside Extortionist, which just got reprinted and is red, not an artifact that could go into every deck. Sure, it came down in price, but is it still $40 or more? Yes. This is a collectible game, and desirable cards with any hint of scarcity tend to be expensive. Welcome to CCGs!
Poor Budget Decisions: The Real Culprit
Let's say your play group will allow these 30th Anniversary cards into your pod. Why aren't you manufacturing your own proxies for virtually free in that case? No, your group won't allow inauthentic proxies, but authentic proxies get a pass. Uh, alright, I guess? You're going to gamble $250 plus tax, buy a pack, and hope you get a dual land, Wheel, or Twister? At the time of writing this article, you could get a (heavily played but completely authentic and tournament legal) Savannah, Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateau, Scrubland, Taiga, or Wheel of Fortune from one of numerous online retailers for that same $250. Shopping around on eBay/tcgplayer could get you a better condition card, price, or maybe a different dual as well.
I don't understand. You have $250 to gamble but you don't have $250 for a guaranteed card of your choosing? And yes, you could get a Timetwister or "better" dual land, potentially. But it's a proxy! An authentic proxy, but a proxy nonetheless.
What about Collector's Edition/International Edition Timetwister? Those are also "authentic proxies" and they are worth thousands of dollars! Sure, but you see, I was already prepared for this line of attack. Much like Arabian Nights Kird Ape, those sets are nearly 30 years old, far rarer, and therefore superior. It's obvious that most Magic players would take an OG Arabian Nights Ape over a new-border one if offered.
Plus, There's Old School Format
While the format is not massively popular like Commander or Standard, a growing surge of Old School players has driven up card prices over the past few years. Sure, we're in a price correction right now. Geopolitical strife, inflation, Hasbro reprinting everything, and so on. However, if Old School continues to slowly grow, it will put pressure back on the prices of original, older printings. Part of the reason that both CE and IE have appreciated in price so much is directly related to Old School format. The modern 30th cards simply don't work in this case and never will.
Just Buy Dual Lands Already
Seriously. Commander players. They aren't going to get cheaper in your lifetime. 30th Anniversary was your shot at getting these reprinted, and the economics don't make sense, as shown above. If you play with a group that allows proxy cards, you still shouldn't buy 30th Anniversary. Stop complaining about the price of 30-year-old collectible cards that are powerful and buy those instead of new proxy product. You won't regret it. Oh, what's that? You needed a Timetwister? Well then, good luck!