There are many different ways for fans to appreciate the game of Magic. Some like to play lengthy, elaborate multiplayer games of Commander. Others like to buy, sell, and trade cards to try and grind out that little bit of extra value. Some appreciate the artistic side of the game, along with an extensive storyline. Then there are the cosplayers, artists, accessory collectors… the list goes on and on.
There were all of these options and more available for fans to enjoy at the Magic 30 anniversary celebration in Las Vegas last weekend. Simply put, there was something for everybody.
Want to spend the weekend taking selfies with numerous talented cosplayers (including my personal favorite, @Zbexx)? There were plenty to meet!
What about shopping for cards? Whether inexpensive rares for Commander, or highly graded Power 9, numerous vendors were there for the browsing with an endless variety of singles! What if seeing Brothers’ War spoilers and experiencing the rich thirty-year history this game has to offer was more the priority? The schedule for guest speakers and interviews was jam-packed. Of course, if you were hoping to jam games of Magic, there were nonstop side events and access to tables for casual and Commander games galore.
At the end of the day, there was so much to do that one person could not realistically experience every facet Magic 30 had to offer.
My Magic 30 Shopping Experience
At the highest level, I had an absolute blast participating in this once-in-a-lifetime Magic event. I went in with a specific plan, so it was critical to prioritize the activities I wanted to complete. I understood that lower-priority items simply wouldn’t make my to-do list.
Being so closely tied to Magic finance, while also being an avid Old School collector, I spent the vast majority of my weekend exploring the wares of each vendor booth, examining their hot lists, and scoping out who may be paying the best prices for the cards I had to sell. Interestingly, not many vendors had older cards on their hotlist—more on that later.
When I wasn’t sitting down with a buyer selling cardboard, I was browsing vendor inventories to see what the market supply looked like that weekend. Every vendor had a smattering of interesting cards including Power 9, Dual Lands, and foils galore. However, only a handful of vendors really impressed me—those that did impress me did so for very different reasons.
One Wisconsin-based vendor, in particular, Chimera Hobby Shop Inc., had an impressive selection of CGC-graded cards (including over 100 pieces of Power) and some exceptionally rare sealed product. This included a sealed booster box of Arabian Nights! It was likely the only one in the room, sitting right alongside sealed boxes of Legends and The Dark, as well as Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited starters.
It was incredible seeing the magnitude of graded cards this vendor had on display. Each one of these cards was CGC graded and encased in a protective sleeve with a reflective-blue label. I’m not sure if CGC has the same pedigree as BGS in the Magic: the Gathering world, but I must say the display at this booth would indicate they are certainly making a significant push. I was even convinced to purchase a card (CGC 8 Shahrazad) because this vendor’s price, $600, was pretty reasonable. I had not seen any graded copies of this condition sell for this low over the past few years.
The other vendor that really caught my attention throughout the weekend was Michael Caffrey’s Tales of Adventure. Not only was their booth run with the efficiency of a well-oiled machine, but the sheer magnitude of cardboard they processed throughout the weekend was nothing shy of impressive. On Saturday morning, as soon as the doors were opened, I made my way to the Tales of Adventure booth to sell some cards… only to find that there was already a line ten people deep! It never seemed to trim down, either. One person after another was looking to peddle their cards to this booth in particular.
I was afraid they may run out of cash early in the weekend with all that buying, but even Saturday evening they seemed to be running strong. They also had some of the best buy prices in the entire room, with some attractively competitive sell prices to match. One buy price that really caught my eye was their $500 offer on heavily played Volcanic Island from Revised. On the sell side, they had a played Shahrazad for $400, which I was able to pick up using a 20% trade-in bonus to the booth (notice a trend with cards I acquired, here?).
Their staff was professional, efficient, and very easy to work with, not to mention many of them are well-known Twitter personalities in the Magic community.
I also would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to ManaLeak.com. The head buyer at this booth was Josh from Journey’s End Games, and he was exceptionally accommodating in our interactions. He was so flexible that he agreed to buy some cards from me while still allowing me to play with them in a Friday side event. In addition, he was willing to meet with me Friday morning before the event started, which is above and beyond what I think most vendors would be willing to do.
In addition to talking with all the vendors at the event, I also managed to partake in a couple of other activities throughout the weekend. Notably, I managed to play in one side event each on Friday and Saturday. Friday I battled in Vintage, a truly apropos way of celebrating thirty years of Magic. By contrast, I played in a Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty sealed event on Saturday. I’ll provide more details on these events in another Magic 30 recap article in the near future.
While I really didn’t have much time to play casual games of Magic, I did manage to meet a few people I knew from online networking. A couple of new friends from Discord and Twitter managed to connect with me throughout the weekend, and I also met up with a co-worker, whom I didn’t realize would be at the event until just a couple of days before. I already mentioned the exciting opportunity I had to meet Zbexx, but I also should mention the serendipitous run-in I had with former Major League Baseball player Hunter Pence.
Lastly, the most iconic Magic personality I met throughout the weekend has to be Mark Rosewater himself, during a signing session on the 16th floor of one of the Expo Center buildings.
I hadn’t come to the event prepared with something cool for Mark to sign, but someone in line in front of me proffered their playmat for him to sign. I followed suit, and now have a playmat I’ll cherish for life.
Outside of these meet and greets and the two side events, I really had almost no extracurricular time to experience the event. There was simply too much to do and not enough time to do it all.
A Deeper Look at Finance
If you’re an avid reader of my articles, you likely have some finance questions running through your mind related to the event. Rest assured, I’ll go into far more detail in this space, but it’ll have to be in a subsequent article from what will become a multi-article series on Magic 30.
Before wrapping up, though, let me share a few tidbits to whet everyone’s appetites. Here are a few observations I made throughout the weekend, which I’ll elaborate upon more in upcoming articles:
- Card Kingdom, one of the most prominent online vendors and my personal favorite vendor to sell cards to online, had a tiny booth and basically did minimal buying all weekend. What was their motivation for being there?
- Star City Games was only buying with store credit all weekend. The head buyer, Ben Bleiweiss, told me that Magic 30 was a selling event for the store. Before the event, they blasted a mysterious tweet advertising 1,001 Black Lotuses in stock. What was that about?
- Which vendors wanted nothing to do with Old School cards? Which vendors were specifically interested in Old School cards?
- Many vendors wouldn’t touch Magic 30 singles. On the other hand, a handful of vendors were buying up sealed Magic 30 booster packs. What was the rationale for this dichotomy?
- I could see some softness in certain card prices, but other Old School cards were still expensive despite broader market weakness. What were the stand-outs?
Beyond the Magic finance section, I also hope to talk about the overall sentiment of the event—the energy of the atmosphere, the overall sentiment of the attendees, etc. There is no shortage of topics to cover, and I suspect this will take a few articles over the coming weeks to fully cover everything relevant that took place in Las Vegas.
Wrapping It Up
Magic 30 was a convention like no other. Throughout the jam-packed three-day weekend, the available activities were seemingly endless; it was not possible to thoroughly enjoy every facet of the event. For this reason, it was critical to prioritize those activities most important for any given individual.
For me, that meant spending most of my available time at the vendor booths. In between peddling my collection in an attempt to downsize, I spoke with various vendors to learn about their attitudes towards the event and the broader Magic secondary market. This yielded multiple insights, which I intend to dive more deeply into in a follow-up article. I also intend to cover my experiences playing in Vintage and Neon Dynasty sealed side events, as well as my experiences meeting people all weekend.
Until then, I leave you with my overall sentiment about the event: it was amazing. Was everything executed flawlessly? Of course not. In an event of this magnitude, one can’t expect things to run 100% perfectly. There was insufficient seating for casual play, for one, and the side events didn’t proceed without issues (at one point, two tournaments were meant to take place in the same space at the same time).
Overall, though, I was pleased with the experience. I was never bored and I found the event thoroughly enjoyable. I only hope I won’t have to wait another thirty years to do it again.
More In-depth Magic 30 Coverage:
Magic 30: The Networking Aspect