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CasualNation #47 – Price-Check These Cards

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Hello, Nation! I dearly hope your week has been laced with joy and productivity and Magic in equal measure. Today, I want to look at the prices of twenty cards that I find inconsistent with their power level. There are some really cheap casual cards out there that you need to look at more closely. Perhaps you’ll find some good deals to steal! On the other hand, we have some seriously inflated cards that I have no idea about, and maybe you’ll want to sell or trade them away while the iron is hot. Let’s take a look under the hood.

Wolf PackThis is a perfect example of a card that costs way too much. We all know that P3K cards have a limited rarity, and therefore have inflated value. This card is sitting at roughly $40. That’s more than really good and useful P3K cards. The sucky rares from P3K sit in the $10-and-under zone, and yet here is Wolf Pack, bound to suck, and currently at a price that looks like that of a really good card. It’s not. It has the exact same Oracle ability as Thorn Elemental, costs an extra mana to play, and has 1 less toughness. You can get fifty Thorn Elementals for the price of a single Wolf Pack. The value can’t be explained by its creature type either—Wolves aren’t exactly breaking the door down in Casual Land.

Tradewind RiderIn the history of Magic, there have been few creatures that have dominated a table like this Rider of the Tradewinds. Due to its mana-free cost, people have built decks around it for years. It was in tournaments heavily in a variety of decks, include Armageddon-led ones. (Destroy the lands, and then bounce the one land your enemy can play each turn.) It does require some creatures, so cards like Wall of Omens, Deceiver Exarch, and more can contribute to your creature count and have enough numbers to start the bouncing. Despite this card’s sheer power, and despite the fact that it has never seen a reprint in any form except a very old promo (one that still has the original border), the price is just $2 for a near-mint one. That seems ridiculously cheap to me.

Serra AvatarWhat happened to Serra Avatar? It went from the mid-twenties to the high twenties to less than half of its price! I have no clue why it dropped in value so much, but it allowed me to finally pick up an extra copy for my Big Box, a.k.a. Abedraft, a.k.a. A Copy of Every Card Printed for Drafting. It’s usually a one-hit-kill creature, and when it isn’t, it should kill in two. It’s very large for its size, it combos well with things like Sneak Attack, Eureka, and Show and Tell, and it’s a powerful kick to the face on an ongoing basis. I have no idea why the price drop occurred, but it’s an opportunity for you to pick up some.

Verdant ForceThere are a lot of cards out there that have been overprinted. Verdant Force is a classic example. A few years ago, it was worth $8 to $9 each, and that price held steady for years. Then it was printed, and printed again, and placed in two decks (Planechase and Duels of the Planeswalkers). The result is a card that has dropped to around a buck or so, and you can get a foil one for just $2 on CSI right now. It’s still a great creature, and perhaps you can find a home for it again.

Volrath's StrongholdOne of the things I don’t get about this card is its price. Even today, at $17 on CSI, it still seems low to me. This card is a virtual essential in Commander decks that use Black. Many other cards that are used as heavily as the VS from this era of Magic have much higher values than this (such as Sliver Queen). I can’t imagine where this is going to end up, but it’s one of the few super-valuable cards that it is hard to do without. I can downgrade regular dual lands to the Ravnica ones, and I can downgrade those to the various tap lands, pain lands, Karoo lands, and such. But there are a few cards that it is virtually impossible to do without, and the Stronghold is one of them.

Yavimaya HollowIn a similar vein, this is another land that does something unique. Kor Haven is great, but you have other options. What else regenerates a creature? Not many cards do this at all, and certainly not lands. Tossing one in Green decks is a virtual essential. Yet it has a cost of just $7 on CSI. Just like the Stronghold, I suspect we’ll see nothing but continuing price jumps. (Check out the price on the foil—$36.) (See also: Academy Ruins at $8, and that’s low compared to some other vendors.)

Xiahou Dun, the One-EyedSpeaking of highly priced cards used in Commander, has anyone noticed that this card’s price tag is a bit out of alignment with its play value? It’s now in the $125-to-$150 range. It’s a good card, I suppose. Horsemanship is good, and a 3/2 for 4 mana is solid. You’d have to attack seven times to kill someone with it as a Commander. You can only sacrifice it on your turn, before you attack. While bringing back any Black card is cool, it only goes to your hand. It seems a bit limited as a Commander. I don’t think it would have even made the cut in my Commander Shadow deck (built around Nether Shadow, Ashen Ghoul, Bloodghast, and many friends). Here are the rares from P3K that have a higher price than this: Imperial Seal, Zodiac Dragon. It’s about equal with Ravages of War. That’s it. Is it getting massive play in Vintage or Legacy to drive up its cost? Nope. Is it getting a lot of Commander play? I guess. Maybe, like Juzam Djinn, it’s a status symbol. It’s not even worth close to the amount of money you have to pay for it, but having it earns your deck cool points.

Vampiric DragonI have to admit that I have never understood the financial value of this card. For years, it was one of the most valuable rares from Odyssey despite not seeing competitive play. You would see it at $6, then $8, then more. It was just a Dragon with a Vampire type stuck to it, but people dug it. Then it saw print in Archenemy in one of the decks, and its value plummeted to $1.50 for the Archenemy one and $2.50 for the Odyssey one. A simple printing in a deck like that has never hurt the value of a card like this, so the drop in price can’t be solely attributable to the fact that it saw print in those decks. I always wondered why it had such a high value anyway. It wasn’t $8 good.

VesuvaThis has taken a major price jump in the last month. Twelvepost and Modern seem to be bumping its price past what I would be willing to pay for it as a very good casual card. That happens a lot to cards with high casual playability. (Examples include Mox Diamond, Maze of Ith, and Karakas.) We just have to get used to paying a ton for something. As of the writing of this, it’s sold out in a lot of places at $15, and perhaps will jump higher.

Oath of DruidsI can’t remember the last time Oath of Druids had a lower price tag than $8 for near-mint and $6.75 for played versions. It’s not hot right now with the Modern emphasis, and that means you might be able to grab a few. We all know these will rise again in price someday. I still remember seeing Vindicate for $3 each after they rotated and knowing they’d come back up later. Take advantage of these deals when you can, because it’s how you build a card collection. If you’ve ever wanted to build an Oath deck, here’s your shot.

AlurenAnd talking about old-school Green enchantments to build a deck around, check out the $6.50 near-mint and $5.50 played price tags on this Tempest entry. Aluren decks can be quite powerful. All of the arguments above from Oath of Druids apply here as well. It’s a classic card that you want to build around.

Chameleon ColossusSimilarly, these were $2 recently, and now they are rising again. Will they rise in price past their $4 point right now? I can’t be sure, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised. They are very, very good after all. They were strong in Standard, but ebbed afterward. They remain one of the best Changelings of them all, and that gives them permanent play value for the rest of Magic.

Hermit DruidOne of the things that make a card cheap is being banned in formats. There was a time when the power cards from Urza’s block dropped massively in value after being Standard-banned. Cards like Tolarian Academy and Time Spiral had very little value. Banning a card can really affect its financial value. Hermit Druid is so powerful that it is banned in Legacy, so you can buy a few for a humble $1.50 each. That’s pretty sexy-cool. Imagine if they get unbanned—boom! Want to know what format does not ban them? Commander.

MorphlingDuring the entirety of history, there has only been one era when the best creature in Magicdom would have been elected by consensus (well, as close as we can ever get to it in this community). Today, what’s the best? Tarmogoyf? Stoneforge Mystic? Trygon Predator? Lodestone Golem? Primeval Titan? There’s no way you get three Magic players—let alone ten or twenty—to agree on one card. At the beginning of Magic, Serra Angel, Hypnotic Specter, and Shivan Dragon were the three big ones for a while. Then the various Djinns and Efreets from the next set would dominate the conversation for a long time. Finally, you started have curve-challenging cards like Carnophage hitting the shelves, and when Morphling saw print, there was a long time of serious domination. Due to its ability to dodge both The Abyss and Moat, it evaded the two major creature-control cards in Vintage; Legacy didn’t exist; it saw play as the finisher of choice in Blue control decks in Standard; and it dominated in other formats. What is the best creature of its era? Morphling—no hesitation. When was the next challenger for the title printed? Based on your take, the likely candidates would be Masticore, Goblin Welder, Flametongue Kavu, or Wild Mongrel. I go with the Mongrel as the next creature that truly ran with the power of the Morphling and warped a format. The best creature in Magicdom has lost the throne, but now we have the territory divided into a large number of fiefs, each overseen by a pretender. Morphling will never rule again, but neither will anyone else. In the last few years, the price has dropped as its play has gone down. Now you can get a near-mint one for $10, and it’s $8.50 for one that isn’t. If you never picked up a few because of high prices, perhaps this price will entice.

RoutWraths are weird. You never know what will happen to the value of them. Some have high values (Rout is at $6 for near-mint and $5 played) while others simply aren’t even close to a high value (Final Judgment is half the value of Rout, and Kirtar's Wrath is in the $1 range). For a long time, Rout was a card you found in the buck box. Now it has risen in value significantly. Will it keep rising? I have no clue, but that’s starting to get to a prohibitive level to pick up more. The “instantness” of it is great, but you can always find another really good one, like Phyrexian Rebirth, Catastrophe, Akroma's Vengeance, or Austere Command to give you what you need.

Woodfall PrimusI feel that this card is the winner of the Casual Sweepstakes from the Lorwyn/Shadowmoor megablock. Let me see if I can explain. There are a lot of great casual rares from the block, and some are very good in tournaments as well (and thus have high prices). Many of these great casual cards have sub-$5 price tags. (See cards like Dread, Stonehewer Giant, and more for details.) On the other hand, Woodfall Primus is rarely in stock in any store, and is worth twice as much as these guys. As of right now, there are only nine auctions and buy-it-nows on eBay. The Primus is harder to find than most other Green cards (compare to Terastodon, for example). Right now, it’s in the $9-to-$10 range in most places, and completely sold out. How long before it gets another increase in price? It’s the unsung hero of the megablock.

Akroma's MemorialI have no idea what happened to this card or why it jumped to almost $20 a copy. It’s crazy-time in Future Sight World (especially considering how many FS packs were cracked to play in the Tarmogoyf lottery).

Sterling GrovePlease note that this great uncommon from Invasion is currently rocking a price higher than most rares. $6 near-mint and $5 played is a high price for an uncommon that’s not in Modern, Extended, or Standard, nor good enough to see Legacy or Vintage play. This bad boy is a casual exclusive (where it rocks.) Protecting your enchantments is great. Searching for an enchantment is great. You have whichever you need, and any deck in a color with an emphasis on enchantments must consider a set of these. They play a unique role in getting combo pieces and protecting them.

Hibernation's EndJust like a lot of great casual-friendly cards out there, Hibernation's End provides a massive amount of card advantage over time. Unlike those, it has a bulk-rare price. I’ve never understood why this hasn’t caught on like Defense of the Heart, Tooth and Nail, and Pattern of Rebirth. The combined value of the near-mint versions of those three cards is $26. The value of Hibernation's End is $0.50. (Even Birthing Pod is a $4 card, and one copy of Chord of Calling is worth five copies of Hibernation's End.) The great thing about this is you can just sit back and make an army without having to play more cards. You will be the threat. Other very cheap Green powerhouses include Holistic Wisdom, Cream of the Crop, and Name Dropping (which reminds me: write an article on gray-bordered cards).

Rakka MarIn a similar vein, check out the price of this token-maker (just $0.50 as well). It taps for a r to make a 3/1 with Haste. Unlike many other token-makers of similar type, the creature does not die at the end of the turn. Compare this to other token-makers, and it really comes out smelling quite sweet. (Such as Throne of Empires, which costs three times as much as Rakka Mar. Take a look around and you’ll realize what a great deal Rakka Mar is.)

Annnnnnnnnd we have our twenty cards! From cards that are underpriced to those way overpriced, we looked today at twenty cards that I think you need to pay attention to if you play casual Magic. I hope that you found something useful in here, perhaps to pick up or unload, as your collections and decks demand.

See you next week,

Abe Sargent

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