When the announcement for Magic 30th Anniversary Edition came out, I was honestly floored. Still, I will do my best to remove any emotion from my discussion, as I understand there are wildly different opinions on this product.
Mark Rosewater has explicitly stated that Wizards of the Coast wouldn't reprint products like Collector's Edition and International Edition. Which I thought was a shame, because reprinting those would make for a home-run product. It would require no playtesting and no development. The only issue I was aware of was tied to the artwork rights on the cards, as Wizards of the Coast now buys the artwork outright, whereas they used to pay royalties to the artists.
I wish I had been playing when the original Collectors Edition product came out, as I would have loved to have purchased it, though at that time even the $50 MSRP would have been tough to scrounge up as I was just 9 years old!
The Dam Breaks
The release of this product does eliminate a precedent that has been in place since 2000, which was the last year a World Championship deck included cards on the Reserved List.
The cards in these decks were not tournament legal, and had gold borders and different backs. At this time, Wizards of the Coast had a more relaxed view of the Reserved List, as neither printing these gold-bordered cards nor foil versions of Reserved List cards was off the table. Thus, we saw such includes in From the Vault sets, as judge promos, and even a Duel Deck.
Wizards of the Coast hardened their stance on this subject when they revised their reprint policy back in 2010
Since this time, the playerbase has grown exponentially, and the formation of Commander has massively pushed demand for many Reserved List cards. People were soon clamoring for some form of reprint for many of these cards, and it seemed very odd that Wizards doubled down and even restricted themselves further when Mark Rosewater discussed "the spirit of the Reserved List."
With the announcement of 30th Anniversary Edition, it seems that Wizards of the Coast has finally walked back that "spirit of the Reserved List" statement, though admittedly the actual wording of the Reserved List has always allowed for non-tournament-legal reprinting in any degree.
Product vs. Price Point
I have read a lot of reactions from content creators all the way to large store owners, and I think it is smart to separate the product from the price point. I say this because I haven't read any complaints about the product itself existing. All of the issues are tied solely to its high price tag and the choice to sell it in randomized packs.
With Wizards changing their willingness to print non tournament legal versions of Reserved List cards, I would argue that other similar options like the aforementioned Collectors/International Edition and World Championship versions of cards are likely to drop in value and continue to do so.
After all, the main reason they are valued is that they are acceptable "stand-ins" for tournament legal versions in casual environments like Commander and Cube. So with more of these "stand-ins" entering the market prices, are bound to adjust. These proxy-esque reprints should not hold the kind of value that the original, tournament-legal printings will.
I personally would not hold onto any such "official proxies," regardless of whether they are included in 30th Anniversary Edition or not, as Wizards is now demonstrating they have no qualms about printing more of them. For reference, here are the most valuable of the World Championship cards that are based on cards on the Reserved List:
It is important to note that although none of these cards are included in 30th Anniversary Edition, I would expect Wizards to continue this product line, given that is essentially costs them nothing and can generate a lot of profit.
The Market as Price Police
I don't know how many remember the announcement of the original Modern Masters, but there was a fair amount of concern regarding the price of reprinted modern staples tanking like cards did when Chronicles was printed. In that instance, Wizards began with a conservative approach, and under-printed the set.
While I expected Wizards knew they would get a lot of backlash regarding their premium price point, I do wonder if that price point was a way to allow the market itself to limit production size, and by doing so eliminate the risk of tanking original versions of the cards themselves. Indeed, I am noticing on my end an increase in the number of Facebook posts by people looking to sell higher-end Reserved List cards that are included in this product, especially dual lands.
I do think we will see some drop in many of the tournament legal printings of the dual lands. It's important to remember that the Legacy format isn't receiving much support here in the US, so a lot of the current demand for these cards is from Commander players. Dual lands from 30th Anniversary Edition will almost assuredly make their way into countless Commander decks and reduce demand for Revised copies.
However, I expect most of the demand for Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited is from collectors, and thus I don't expect their prices to move much. Admittedly, that hypothesis is based on the 30th Anniversary Edition duals being significantly cheaper than their Revised counterparts. Naturally, should the market price them close to the cost of Revised duals, I can't imagine who would pick them over tournament-legal versions.
I do imagine that when Wizards makes another similar product with sets that don't include the Power 9 and dual lands, the price would likely be substantially lower, as few cards fall into the price range of those 19 cards. It would also come off as extremely tone-deaf after the pushback they received from this product.
Proxies? No Problem!
Another interesting trend I'm noticing is a greater willingness of the playerbase as a whole to allow proxies of cards in non-tournament games. I can honestly say that for years, my Commander play group was okay with someone using a proxy in a deck, so long as they owned the actual card. Our logic was that you could put a real copy in your deck if you wanted to, but it was easier to use a proxy in many instances than it was to swap multiple cards out of multiple decks. We also reasoned that risking play wear or damage to a very expensive card wasn't always worth it.
Our group text blew up with the announcement of 30th Anniversary Edition, and the consensus shifted to everyone selling out of all their high dollar stuff and just playing with proxies. Thus, we did a full 180 on our 8+ year policy in a day; now, proxies will be allowed even if players do not own a tournament-legal copy of the card in question. Granted, there are other factors at play, but it was eye-opening nonetheless.
On a similar note, I expect those who make cool proxies to get a lot of new business in the coming months as many players will decide to sell anything they can't justify owning and play with proxies instead.
Draw Three Conclusions
I honestly feel it is too early to tell how well this product will do. It is telling to me that several of the larger store owners I know on Facebook have openly stated how they would buy as much of this product as they could, yet I wonder what they expect to be able to resell it at, and how much they would really be willing to sink into this product line given the high buy-in costs.
On the flip side of this, most content creators and players I'm aware of are boycotting the product, though I don't know whether it's on principle or for financial reasons (read: they cannot afford it anyway). I didn't see any speculators on our Discord interested in buying any of the product as an investment, either.
Lastly, because of the large number of bulk rares possible in each pack, I really wonder how much will actually get cracked versus how much people are planning on sitting on to sell as "lottery tickets" in the upcoming years. As for me personally, I have no interest in gambling at this high-dollar table.