Hello all! I hope you are having a wonderfully fantastic Tuesday.
Casual cards often have an odd financial arc. Some cards hold steady for years before jacking up quickly or dropping down. Eureka was at a steady $40ish dollars for years and years before it leaped up. Sometimes a fun casual card hits tournaments and never drops back down, as cards like Karakas and Candelabra of Tawnos can attest.
We have a Reserve List to keep certain cards safe from any form of reprint ever. That’s nice and safe. Some Reserve List cards are artificially high as a result, like Juzam Djinn, whose super high value is clearly due, in part, to the fact that it won’t be reprinted.
And yet some cards are good and yet surprisingly low. Surprise surprise! Today I want to look at 10(ish) cards that are lower than you might think, including a trio of cards I’ve looked at before a few years ago that are still on the lower side of life. Are you ready?
How has Ertai, Wizard Adept dropped a dollar in cash over the last few years? I don’t know, but Ertai is a good example of a card that has actually gone in a different direction than you’d likely expect.
Honorable Mention #1 Hellfire
Black has a few Damnation effects out there. But for the most part, they are just generic sweepers of the board. White often has sweepers you can build around that keep your stuff alive, like Hour of Reckoning, Waves of Rath, Wave of Reckoning, and Retribution of the Meek. Black typically has to pay a lot of mana to kill everyone else with something like In Garruk's Wake. But not with Hellfire! Kill all non-Black creatures! And in a Black deck, that means pretty much your whole team is staying around. Now, because it’s Black, you’ll lose a little life when you resolve it. X+3 life, where X is the number of creatures you killed. But in Commander with a 40 life starting total, that is beans. You can easily kill 6 or 7 creatures, and lose 9 or 10 life, no problem. And yet, despite all of that, and the fact this is a rare from an under-printed set like Legends, it’s still just $18 for a near mint copy, and it goes down from there. Why? I have mentioned this card before in some articles, so I am dropping it to Honorable Mention, and it had risen in price a few bucks since I delved into it about 2-3 years ago. But it’s still too cheap.
Honorable Mention #2 Amnesia
Amnesia is kept from this list technically due to the fact that it has never been reprinted, and yet, it’s not on the Reserve List, so it could be anytime. It missed the Reserve List, and is just a buck as a result. This is a great card for several decks, but particularly for decks that want discard, but aren’t running Black, such as Commander where you can’t splash a color. I love this as a powerful sorcery in an Izzet Instant/Sorcery matters deck, where you can Fork this with effects like Mirari and others that are already in there, and you can hit multiple people’s hands and strip out all of the cool nonlands they have while also playing to your theme. Amnesia away!
10. Multani, Maro-Sorcerer
This is Reserved and is just a cheap two bucks near mint despite still being a game-ending threat of major proportions in Commander. How often do people in Commander hoard cards in their hand? All the time, right? How often are you playing a game with four or five people in Commander? All the time right? I think that’s pretty much the default setting. If everyone at the table is averaging a low four cards per hand, then this is a 16/16 at the four person game, for six mana, with shroud. That’s a big beater! Now there are ways to make Multani work even more. Toss him into your new Samut, Voice of Dissent decks to give him haste! Know what pairs well with shroud? Uncounter-ability and trample! Surrak Dragonclaw awaits. Flash it out with Yeva, Nature's Herald, and so forth. It can kill in just a few hits, and even a worst case scenario of just two players left will see it reliably at 7/7 or 9/9 very easily. Smash away my friends, smash away!
9. The Abyss
I think people are going to laugh at this card at first, but follow me on this one, and I am going to get you to the promised land, even if we detour a bit through the wilderness.
What is the purpose of the Reserve List? It’s a pledge to not reprint a certain number of cards. But why was that made? What does that mean to me as a player of a CCG? It means they are safe to acquire. I can target one of these Reserve List cards without fear of a reprint driving down the secondary market cost as may be the case with Amnesia above. And we’ve seen that happen many times recently. Right now, Magic is at an all-time high with reprints. From the Vault. Masterpieces. Commander. Judge Promos. A Masters set each year. Conspiracy. You get the idea. Tons of cards getting reprinted annually. Consider a card like Wasteland. Due to its usefulness in Legacy and Vintage, Wasteland used to be close to $100 each. After being printed as a rare back in Eternal Masters, a Zendikar Masterpiece, and a promo from the Judge Rewards program, all in the last few years, Wasteland can now be safely picked up for $30 near mint right now. Now I own 8 normal Wastelands and 1 of the old DCI promos from way back. That used to be around $800 total in value. Today, my Wastes are around $420, and most of that is tied up in my promo that didn’t drop in value. My 8 non-promo Wastelands are $240 played, a big drop from the $650 played they used to be.
Reprints hit collections. This is no surprise. They are being reprinted in order to do exactly that. Wasteland was too expensive for many players, and was a barrier to entry to the format, so, WotC intentionally reprinted cards in order to drop the value of my Magic collection. And that’s fine. That’s how the game works, and we all accept it. But the Reserve List acts as a safe break. I have five Lion's Eye Diamonds, one of which is Asian and cool looking. They are played, so I’d guess they are worth an average of $120 each for $600 total. Now, because they are on the Reserve List, they are not going to make the Kaladesh Masterpiece series, or any future one. They are not going to be dropping in value unless the card is suddenly banned in Legacy. (Please don’t do that).
Now, why am I spending that much time talking about that prior to discussing The Abyss. Because that context matters. Cards that are heavily played, and on the Reserve List, have huge price tags, because they are a safe investment, and they are the brakes on decks and formats as a result. Consider The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale as a good example. I could literally take one, run it through a rain storm all beat up, and that beat up copy would still be worth more than $1000! A used copy is $1200 easy. In Legacy it’s used as a one-of answer to creatures in some decks. Not that many, but you do see it as a good answer. I don’t even run a copy in my Pox Legacy deck, and I only have two creatures in the decklist. (Nether Spirits) Outside of that, other than the occasional Commander deck that runs it as anti-creature tech, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale is not a common sight. But it’s expensive. Take Moat as another example. It’s $500 easy, and goes up from there, and is a good card in the right build, and gets play at Commander tables as an interesting card. But even at Commander, there are enough flyers that Moat isn’t always the best answer, and it’s not played so much in Legacy (or Vintage) that is a must purchase. The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale is better in the role of anti-creature tech.
And that is the context I want you to consider. Throughout their history, both Moat and The Abyss have been paired together in multiple deck-builds to deal with all major creature threats. One delays, and the other kills. And The Abyss is easy to build around, just include cards that cannot be targeted (like Morphling) or are artifact creatures. And The Abyss was always the better option. There were Vintage decks that never touched Moat but leaned heavily on The Abyss. I, among them, had a powerful deck that controlled the board and ran Morphling and Masticore as my only creatures (unless you count Mishra's Factory). Given the strong cachet of The Abyss, and how much better it is at the kitchen table as well, (especially in a Commander metagame heavy with flyers), the fact that The Abyss is running under $250 for a played copy, and under $150 for an Italian copy is just beyond me. If you are looking to invest in a Reserve List card that’s going to have a high price tag initially, but I can’t conceive will ever drop down, The Abyss is it.
8. Ifh-Biff Efreet
The least printed expansion set of all time is Arabian Nights. And the card prices from this set tend to prove it, with secondary market values that are odd to figure out at times, like Serendib Efreet’s high cost despite the fact that a cheap version can be acquired for bulk rare $0.49, so you are only paying for the pimp-ed up fee to get one for $100+ dollars. But this card? It’s never been reprinted. It does something pretty unique in Magic. It’s a Green flyer that hoses other flyers. It’s got a lot of cachet. And yet, it’s under $40 despite the fact that it’s Reserved and never been reprinted. That’s is way too little for this thing.
7. Ydwen Efreet
Just $20 near mint? Are you kidding me? All of the things I just mentioned about Ifh-Biff Efreet go double here! Both rares. Both have very useful abilities. The Ifh-Biff Efreet at least can hurt itself or you. But this? It’s a 3/6 that can always attack. And it can block 50% of the time. No one attacks into you with a x/3 or less creature, because they don’t want to take the chance of you winning the coin flip and killing their creature by blocking, so it plays a lot better than a simple 3/6 for that can’t block. It plays like a real 3/6 most of the time. And it’s fun! Get your Efreet on!
6. Lady Evangela
Most rare legendary creatures from Legends fit into one of three categories:
- Overpriced junk that no one wants to play with, so it’s cheap (this may include some Chronicles handoffs as well) – Bartel Runeaxe, Gosta Dirk
- Pretty good stuff, but was printed in Chronicles and it’s price permanently went south — Sol'Kanar the Swamp King, the Elder Dragons like Chromium
- Pretty good stuff now on the Reserve List with a big sticker price — Adun Oakenshield, Angus Mackenzie, Rasputin Dreamweaver
So what is Lady Evangela? She has the price of a heavily reprinted good legendary creature, like Sol’Kanar, but she’s on the Reserve List and has never been reprinted. She’s better than a lot of legendary creatures with a higher price tag, like Gwendlyn di Corci, and she fits perfectly into a control deck either as an adjunct or the Commander. So grab her and give her a spin!
See also: Ragnar. Bant is so much cooler than Esper, amiright? And you can protect one of your own with a cool regeneration shield, which is pretty rare these days to see. He plays nicely into that space. He’s a Yavimaya Hollow on a stick, with a cheap-to-play 3 mana, and a solid tap ability with the size and cost of many other rare legendary creatures of that style in Legends. And yet, he’s pretty cheap. Ragnar has got it going on.
4. Stone Calendar
Cost reduction cards are always great to grab and use. Because of how flexible and useful these abilities are, they tend to be limited to a subset of cards, like Memory Crystal for just buyback, Jet Medallion for just Black spells, and so forth. Stone Calendar is different. All of your spells cost 1 fewer. It’s not legendary or an enchant world or anything else self-limiting, so you can load up. There are a few ways to abuse it. Jenny / Johnny can use them to drop the cost of stuff so that you are getting a free spell, a mana-maker, or something else. (Like Priest of Gix, Palinchron, Snap) or to break something like a buyback spell (Capsize) and such. Pumping up storm counts, getting unlimited amounts of resources, or something else to go off, the Calendar can be a useful tool in those shells. It’s also just good generally in a deck with generic mana costs and/or that plays multiple spells a turn, such as an aggro deck with cards like Wheel of Fortune and Windfall or a deck with a bunch of artifacts. It’s a great card. But, note the very, very cheap cost of just $3 near mint and $2.50 played. That is some cheap Reserve List beating.
3. Illusionary Mask
I was writing this article, and then I saw the price, and I literally just picked up a played Unlimited copy for $30 from coolstuffinc.com. How does that make sense? This card is way too good for that. Let’s remind you of how this card works (in a modern context, the rules shifted).
Pay X generic mana. This must be at least the casting cost of the card. Cast the creature.
You have to do this as a sorcery
Put the creature face down, and it obeys the morph rules – 2/2, colorless
If the creature is targeted, attacks, blocks, taps, or takes or assigns damage, flip it up.
So, the Mask is a combo with a lot of cheap creatures that have ETB restrictions, like Phyrexian Dreadnought or Lord of Tresserhorn. You can play this, drop a Dreadnaught for 1 mana and swing for 12 trample damage, killing someone quickly. You don’t have to spend morph mana to flip it up, you get a flip for free when you do anything with it.
You can use it to drop a morph creature for cheaper than the cost it would normally take if the morph costs 0-2 mana. So it works as a morph tool for those decks. Consider Gudul Lurker as a good example. Play it with the Mask for mana. And then megamorph it for, and you have a 2/2 unblockable creature. That investment would normally be instead of . I’m sure you can find more tricks. Also note you can play any creature in your hand for generic mana, so if you don’t have the right mana, no one cares. And hiding a tiny creature with a huge Mask cost is hilarious. I once drew a Birds of Paradise late when I was topdecking with Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy, and I tapped for the Mask. I felt if I tapped everything, folks would know it was a bluff, but 6 was safe. They feared that Birds! It was awesome! So given how quirky and fun the card is, I am surprised it’s this cheap.
It’s hard to argue that Treachery is never going to be the best Control Magic variant of all time due to the fact that it’s free. Tap out to steal something then untap your lands so you can protect yourself. It’s what Blue needs, not having to choose between opening their shields and stealing a valuable resource from a foe. There will never be a better Control Magic. It’s not an ability that is supported anymore, and I’d have to wonder if we’d ever see something better than Treachery in a Commander set or something later. For now, this is the cream of the crop. Despite that, a near mint is just a little under $20. Huh.
1. Argivian Archaeologist
I’m just going to give you the prices here. Near mint, for a rare from Antiquities that is very playable, $30. Played? $27. The value on the Archeologist is strong. It has risen about $10 in the last few years, so it’s not nothing. Good job! I have one in my Commander Cube, I run them in decks, and more. I still don’t get how a playable card advantage creature like the Archeologist, which is a fun, useful card in a heavily played archetype is just $30 near mint, even after the price increase. But it is. And it continues to be. I once extolled the virtues of this card in a previous article a few years ago, and it’s still high quality. There’s been no price spoke post-Kaladesh. Why not? Everything from Walking Ballista to Bomat Courier can enjoy it. After the printing of Breya, Etherium Shaper as a four-color legendary creature, how did Argivian Archaeologist not get some serious Commander facetime? I don’t understand it at all. So again, I am here, telling you that this card exists.
And there we go! A bunch of older Reserve List cards that are cheaper than you’d think. Don’t you want to unleash an Amnesia on your next Commander table? How about Multani or Illusionary Mask? There is just so much out there that will break stuff open. And these are safer investments because they are Reserve List cards, so you aren’t losing that sweet sweet investment as Argivian Archaeologist is reprinted in Iconic Masters.
So what did you think? Anything in here you want to run? Anything that tripped your radar?
Next week we’ll look at 10 cards that are worth a ton more than you’d think. Trade them, sell them or stay far, far, away.