What types of cards maintain value through reprints, bannings, and format changes?
The Reserved List contains Magic: The Gathering’s most expensive cards. They’re costly, in part because Wizards of the Coast’s reprint policy states they’ll never get printed again. Besides WotC’s reprint policy, demand and scarcity are other causes for increasing Reserved List card prices.
Market Price: $28.54
Market Price: $26.23
Market Price: $47.16
While Reserved List cards are more expensive than a year ago, they’re not the only cards in MTG subject to dramatic price changes. Have you seen the current prices for Smothering Tithe, Necropotence, or Finale of Devastation? Each of these non-Reserved List cards has more than doubled in price over the last year. If Smothering Tithe, Necropotence, or Finale of Devastation printed again tomorrow, would their prices drop by over 50%?
MTG sets like Double Masters and Eternal Masters create opportunities for players to pick up reprinted cards at discounted prices. However, cards players and collectors want tend to rise back up in price. What qualities must a card possess to keep its price from bottoming out? Let’s look at a few types of cards that have maintained a reasonable price point through reprints, bannings, and format changes.
Versatile artifacts synergize well with competitive archetypes across MTG formats. Also, versatile artifacts adapt to metagame changes due to their resilience. Modern and Commander players are probably familiar with an all-star artifact creature called Walking Ballista.
Double Masters | Rare
Market Price: $13.29
Aether Revolt released in January 2017, and featured a chase card called Walking Ballista. The above chart shows its price change over the last four years (left to right). Players may remember Walking Ballista included in the top-tier Golgari Constrictor Standard decks. The 2018 Challenger Deck, Counter Surge, was based on Golgari Constrictor, and included a copy of Walking Ballista.
Theros Beyond Death | Mythic
Market Price: $23.66
Currently, Walking Ballista is in many modern decks, including Eldrazi Tron, Hardened Scales, and Heliod Company. Its versatility lets it dominate the board or end games as a finisher. Outside of Modern, the two-card combo of Walking Ballista and Heliod, Sun-Crowned is commonly included in white Commander decks.
When Aether Revolt was released, Walking Ballista immediately became a $10+ rare. Last year, it peaked close to $30 before Double Masters’ release. When Walking Ballista got reprinted in Double Masters, it hit a floor price of $10. Since then, its price rose back up to almost $18. It might not be long before Walking Ballista becomes a $25+ card again.
Double Masters | Mythic
Market Price: $71.18
Another Double Masters card that increased in price since getting a reprint is Chrome Mox. After the release of Double Masters, Chrome Mox was available for about $40. Within a year, Double Masters versions of Chrome Mox increased to about $60—a 50% gain. Chrome was a $15 card before and after its printing in Eternal Masters (the first quantity sold spike in the above chart). However, the demand for Chrome Mox grew in the last few years, pushing the card’s price to its current levels.
Market Price: $80.59
Market Price: $33.09
While Chrome Mox isn’t legal in Modern, it does see play in Legacy and Commander. Zero-mana artifacts that produce mana are prevalent in Commander. The upside of playing cards that provide “free” mana helps maintain the price point for Chrome Mox. Other zero-mana artifacts, including Mox Opal and Mox Amber, offer similar abilities to Chrome Mox with price points of $30 or more.
Market Price: $20.67
Market Price: $19.24
Market Price: $14.90
It’s probably not surprising to see fetch lands on a list of non-Reserved List cards that always hold value. Modern Horizons 2 will show the resilience of enemy-color fetch land prices. While enemy-color fetch land prices will initially drop after release, we should see prices rebound fairly quickly.
Market Price: $11.89
Market Price: $14.54
Fetch lands are format staples in Modern, Legacy, Vintage, and Commander. Practically every Constructed format multi-color deck includes fetch lands when allowable. In Commander, fetch lands are technically playable in any deck since they don’t have a color identity. The vast playability of fetch lands makes them desirable additions to many MTG decks.
Market Price: $16.02
Market Price: $23.76
Market Price: $16.27
Shock lands see extensive play across Pioneer, Modern, and Commander. All ten shock lands are among the most played lands in the formats mentioned above. While shock lands aren’t currently playable in Standard, they were Standard-legal in the past. According to EDHREC, shock lands account for ten of the top 16 most-played lands in Commander.
Market Price: $11.43
Market Price: $15.20
Prices for normal versions of shock lands range between $7 and $20. With reprints and metagame shifts, shock land prices will rise and fall over time. It’s hard to say there’s ever a bad time to pick up shock lands since they offer excellent and affordable mana fixing.
Powerful Effects for Few Mana
Ultimate Masters | Rare
Market Price: $49.19
Demonic Tutor is an iconic card printed in Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited, and it’s a top 20 Commander card featured in over 89,000 decklists on EDHREC. As a two-mana tutor, Demonic Tutor offers a powerful effect for little mana. The demand for Demonic Tutor seems to continue rising alongside Commander’s increasing popularity.
No matter how many times Demonic Tutor gets reprinted, it still maintains a relatively high price point. In the last two years, it received a reprint in Mystery Booster, and as a Mystical Archive in Strixhaven: School of Mages. Mystical Archive versions of Demonic Tutors sell between $35 and $400!
Double Masters 2022 | Uncommon
Another iconic card from Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited is Lightning Bolt. No other burn spell in MTG’s history is as efficient. Since 1993, Lightning Bolt’s been reprinted over 15 times in various sets, supplemental products, and promotional cards.
Copies of Lightning Bolt sell anywhere from $2 to $500, depending on the version and condition. For about $10, anyone can pick up a playable set of Lightning Bolt for Pauper, Modern, Legacy, or Vintage. This card sees play in decks across most MTG Constructed formats, which may be why it remains above bulk pricing.
Planechase | Uncommon
Market Price: $19.64
There are other examples of cards beyond those above, which continue to hold value over time. Many format staples in Constructed formats and Commander maintain value, playability, and collectability. Also, WotC appears to put thought into how and when they reprint cards. For example, Cabal Coffers is a mythic rare in Modern Horizons 2. Had WotC printed it as an uncommon in Modern Horizons 2, its value may have plummeted over 90%. As a Modern Horizons 2 mythic rare value, Cabal Coffers will probably maintain a $20+ price point.
WotC shows respect to the secondary market by not printing cards such as Walking Ballista, Demonic Tutor, and fetch lands into oblivion. While enemy-color fetch land prices will drop because of Modern Horizons 2, players shouldn’t fear Scalding Tarn becoming worthless. Including Scalding Tarn in a high-priced sealed product, along with ample demand, will keep its value from dropping to $10 or less. WotC is focused on maintaining the Booster Fun experience by throttling reprints of many desirable cards like Scalding Tarn.