New Player Series - Commander Decks
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Price Check Some New Cards


Hello, folks!

City in a Bottle
Not a lot of finance writers in the Magic world focus on the casual market. You see a lot of articles about various tournaments without a lot of updates on the casual cards. And to be fair, not a lot of cards move. Many casual all-stars are bulk, and others move so slowly that there is little incentive to discuss how some minor card has increased a quarter in the last month.

What I want to do today is to point out some cards that have unusual prices on the secondary market here at There are some unusual cards out there, from Portal Three Kingdoms to some early cards that you’d be surprised at.

When a lot of singles from Arabian Nights, Antiquities, and similar under-printed early sets have rarity taxes on them that jacks up their secondary-market prices, why are some cards that seem pretty strong not worth that much?

Consider City in a Bottle. It’s a card from Arabian Nights that does very little. No one wants to pick up a City in a Bottle for either the kitchen-table or competitive tournaments. It’s currently $19.99 near mint over at CoolStuffInc.

Now compare City in a Bottle to Argivian Archaeologist. It’s actually a good card. You can drop it early, tap it regularly to bring back your best dead artifact, and do a lot more. It has good game early and late, and other than the fact that Hanna, Ship's Navigator is the same in two colors (and can bring dead enchantments as well), it’s just odd, unusual, and flavorful.

Argivian Archaeologist
Here are some notes about the Archeologist:

  • It’s more useful because it’s in one color, so more decks can benefit from it.
  • It’s on the Reserved List and can never be printed.
  • It’s a card that brings a lot of old-school swank to your next Magic night.
  • It was in a set that has a very small number of cards in print compared to the size of today’s audience.

So why is it worth less than the City in a Bottle? Its $2 cheaper in price. I don’t understand that at all.

Shoot, even in-set Arabians Nights creature Ifh-Biff Efreet clocks in at the same price as Argivian Archaeologist, and it’s a pretty solid card as well.

Next up, I’ll bring you some older cards with their current near-mintes price. I am including those prices—even though you can often find them cheaper if a card is used—as a comparative tool and also to fix them in the article in case they fluctuate later. (Prices can sometime alter from the writing of an article to when it is released, and then until you read it.) Here are ten other older cards for your casual-minded consideration.

Arboria: $2.99 — Really? Man, there are some sweet cards that fly under the radar! Arboria prevents any player who doesn’t play a card (or a land) during his or her turn from being attacked. Now, it does work on other folks, too, so you need to be careful that someone doesn’t just turtle up, but it’s brilliant for a draw-go-style deck or a flashy-flash deck led by the big beats of Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir (or similar flash-inspired cards such as Vedalken Orrery, Leyline of Anticipation, or Yeva, Nature's Herald).

Caverns of Despair: $3.99 — Red doesn’t often have a lot of ways to keep people from attacking you. But if you dig, you can unearth a few cards here and there, although few have the power—or the awesome name—of Caverns of Despair. If you are looking for a way to slow things down, the Caverns is an ideal way to do so. Also note that Caverns will work well with Goblin War Drums–style cards in red. You attack with two creatures, and one can be double-blocked while the other makes it through. Don’t forget that Caverns is a rare from Legends, and it therefore has serious swank value.

Halfdane: $8.99 — Not only is Halfdane a sweet option to lead your next Esper Commander deck, but the cheap cost and fun ability creates a useful card that you can easily drop into a lot of decks with the color requirements all good to go. Don’t forget that Halfdane, who is from Tolaria, will always be a 3/3 if there’s nothing else to copy, so he’s fine on a naked board, unlike many other copying effects.

Caverns of Despair

Hellfire: $11.99 — Yes, it’s clunkier than Damnation. It costs more mana to use, it doesn’t blow up black creatures, and you lose some life post-Hellfire. But did you know that there are some formats in which you begin with 40 life? And did you know that since you are playing black creatures, the Hellfire won’t kill your stuff at all?

Lady Evangela: $7.99 — Speaking of fun creatures to lead your Esper Commander deck, take a looksee at Lady Evangela. If you have any sort of Esper control deck, the Lady is cheap to play, and she can Fog a creature and prevent its damage. There’s also a rainbow in her art, too. You’ll earn serious style points for playing her. Imagine flipping over your commanders at the beginning of the game: “Let’s see, Mary has Kaalia of the Vast. Again. And Steve is using Sliver Legion, and Ginger has Nath of the Gilt-Leaf. Roger, who do you have? Wait, what?” Lady Evangela for the win!

City of Shadows: $3.99 — I think a lot of people misread City of Shadows. Tap it, exile a creature, and then place a storage counter on the City. Then, you can tap the City to make an amount of colorless mana equal to the counters. You never pull the counters off. If you exile just two creatures, you already have a land that taps for 2 colorless mana, and it quickly grows from there. Now, people sometimes don’t want to exile their stuff. I get that. But what about someone else’s stuff? Why not pair this card with something like Vedalken Shackles? Or you could exile some tokens.

Lady Evangela
City of Shadows
Gaea's Touch

Gaea's Touch: $0.75 — A lot of great older commons are worth quite a bit. This is a unique variant of Exploration—you can only drop basic Forests. But you can sacrifice it to make 2 green mana when you are pressed for mana or after you’ve dropped all of your lands at the pool. It doesn’t work in every deck because of its love of basic lands, but it does make a lot of good decks even better.

Preacher: $5.99 — Preacher is a great example of a card that’s cheaper than I expected. One of the truly iconic cards from The Dark is Preacher. Tap it, and steal your opponent’s worst creature. It used to be pretty questionable at times since you might steal a lot of the fluff that was being played. However, as creatures have grown better and better, the Preacher does as well. Barring a token-infused deck, all of the best creatures tend to rock the block during your next casual game.

Wei Assassins: $2.99 — Except for destroying rather than sacrificing, Wei Assassins is essentially an enters-the-battlefield (ETB) trigger of Imperial Edict tacked onto this fun creature from Portal Three Kingdoms. You can easily add it into a deck that can harness the power of anther ETB body alongside stuff like Bone Shredder and Nekrataal. But get ready . . .

Wei Assassin
Predatory Nightstalker

Predatory Nightstalker: $0.75 — I’m sorry. I intentionally set this card up by putting Wei Assassins first. It has the same casting cost, they’re both on 3/2 bodies, and yes, this one actually forces an opponent to sacrifice a creature upon arrival on the battlefield. And it costs less than a buck to buy. Because it is a true sacrifice/Edict effect, it’s quite powerful, and it can easily fit into your next Commander deck. So why don’t you pick some up now?

Dauthi Embrace
Soltari Champion: $1.99 — Let’s take a closer look at this awesome card. There are a lot of creatures that pump the team when you tap them. But the problem is that many can be easily killed by blockers—even lil’ old Signal Pest can be broken by a flyer. That’s what makes the Champion different. Unless your foes are packing shadow (and they usually aren’t), you can safely swing with it as you bring the team, and the pumper isn’t being face-smashed by a particularly antagonistic blocker. There are some other shadow-infused cards that appeal to me—Dauthi Embrace and Soltari Visionary are both solid, and they’re often-forgotten cards from the way-back machine that are cheap to pick up and yet bring a lot of game.


There are a ton of great cards from the Old Days that are cheaper than I’d expect, especially after the post-Commander hit for casual-friendly cards that work well in that format. Because Commander is multiplayer, with large decks and just one of each card to include, they have to delve more deeply into their card collection. So casual heavies like Argivian Archaeologist, Preacher, and Predatory Nightstalker are surprisingly cheap.

It would be a shame for me not to share those things with you! I regularly bring cheap, casual cards to your attention in my articles here, so I owed it to you to bring this set as well. I’ve recently picked up cards from this list for myself to flesh out my various decks and projects. (For example, I recently added Argivian Archaeologist to my Commander Cube). Grab some great cards on the cheap, and impress your friends at your next Magic night!

See you next week,

Abe Sargent

P.S. Don’t forget that, in two weeks, we’ll be sharing the results of the Hardcore Highlander challenge with you. I’ve already done my deck for that article, so you won’t have to worry about me copying you! Just send in any results to euplatious at hotmail dot com, and I’ll discuss them in two weeks’ time.

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