Reserved List cards still have a strong hold on this list!
Stronghold, released in 1998, helped herald in one of Magic’s biggest storylines: the Phyrexians. Part of the Tempest block, this set introduced us to some iconic characters, many of which you may have seen referenced recently as the Phyrexians met their (untimely) demise in March of the Machine and it’s upcoming Aftermath add-on. As an old set as well, Stronghold has quite a few oddball, unique and, most notably, expensive cards. With the power of the Reserved List, as well as some incredibly pushed designs, these cards hold exceptionally high price points – and will most likely stay there.
10. Hermit Druid
Hermit Druid looks like a weird card, at first glance: a two-mana 1/1 that draws you a basic? That doesn’t seem great. Well, as I’m sure many readers already know, this card isn’t used to draw you basics – it’s used to mill yourself out in one go. By building a deck with no basics, a single activation of Hermit Druid puts your entire library into your graveyard. This is such a powerful effect that this card is banned in Legacy. Even with basics in your deck, this card is still a powerful way to fill your graveyard, and as such it’s still very popular in EDH – Grolnok, the Omnivore, Karador, Ghost Chieftain and a host of other graveyard-based commanders are more than happy to have such a powerful self-mill engine.
9. Intruder Alarm
This card has combo written all over it. While not really seeing much in the way of competitive play, it is nonetheless found in Commander decks with generals like Chulane, Teller of Tales or Prime Speaker Vannifar, where it can do very silly things indeed. With Chulane, Intruder Alarm and either Shrieking Drake or Whitemane Lion, you get infinite card draw and – if you have mana dorks – infinite mana, while Intruder Alarm plus Lullmage Mentor and six other Merfolk means your opponents can never resolve a spell ever again. This card has spiked in price a few times as new combo pieces have been printed, but it tends to settle back down at the $10 each time, which is still, roughly, where we find it today.
8. Horn of Greed
Horn of Greed is an incredible inclusion in decks that are able to play extra lands, like Azusa, Lost but Seeking (it’s not a landfall trigger, so fetchlands and Rampant Growths don’t draw you a card – it has to be playing a land). While the effect is symmetrical and your opponents can draw off this once a turn, fill your deck with cards like Exploration, Oracle of Mul Daya and Dryad of the Ilysian Grove and you’ll be swimming in card advantage before long. This card has only been reprinted once, in Conspiracy, and has held value pretty consistently. Its price has gone up, recently – after sitting at $10 for many years, it’s now up to around $13. This isn’t a surprise, as it’s a niche but powerful card offering a relatively unique effect that, in the right deck, can be exploited for a serious advantage.
It won’t trigger Horn of Greed, but that doesn’t stop Burgeoning being an absolutely bonkers card in EDH. Even with a bunch of reprints, Burgeoning is still pushing $20 (although that price seems to be trending down at the moment), purely because of how good this card is in Commander. If you’re playing a landfall deck with a high land count, Burgeoning offers a great return on investment: you’ll usually get to play three extra lands a turn cycle in the early stages of a game, all for just one mana! Admittedly, it’s a terrible draw in the late game, but so is more or less every other cheap ramp spell. If you’re running Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait or Tatyova, Benthic Druid or any other landfall commander, make sure you’ve got a copy of Burgeoning to go with it.
6. Ensnaring Bridge
We come now to a Constructed powerhouse, a card that many people probably wish had never been printed: Ensnaring Bridge. This card is a frustratingly potent lock piece – in the time when Lantern Control was running roughshod over Modern, this card would lock down the battlefield and make it impossible to attack with anything other than a Noble Hierarch. While it’s not played in the same numbers, you will still run into Ensnaring Bridge in Modern, in Karn sideboards or even in newer decks like Dimir Mill, where it once again can lock down a battlefield and render all those huge opposing creatures useless. This card has been reprinted a ton of times and is still around $20 – that’s the way it goes with competitive staples like this!
5. Dream Halls
Dream Halls seems like a very weird card. It seems like a fun card, too – but is it a good card? My short answer is “no.” It does enable some pretty funny combos: play this with Enigma Eidolon and Sawtooth Loon and you can stack your deck, putting all the cards in any order you choose – but it’s still not all that popular in EDH in general. A bit of play here and there, in Tiamat and Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign, but for the most part it’s pretty fringe. Why is it $26, then? What possible reason could there be for Dream Halls to cost so much? Did you guess… the Reserved List? Yes indeed, Dream Halls is on the Reserved List, and therefore comes at an inflated price that it really isn’t worth.
4. Grave Pact
Now here’s an absolute banger of a card. Grave Pact is a must-play card in sacrifice decks of all kinds, from Athreos, God of Passage to Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, as it punishes opponents so heavily whenever one of your creatures dies. One of the big reasons stopping people from playing this card is its price: despite six reprints, Grave Pact is still pushing $30. Unbelievable! The demand for this card is so high that all these reprints haven’t made a dent in the price, and since a spike in early 2021 the card has settled at around $30, where it has stayed ever since. This would, I believe, have to be printed in a Standard-legal main set for its price to be meaningfully impacted.
3. Volrath’s Stronghold
Another Reserved List card, Volrath’s Stronghold will cost you an astronomical $85 – and that’s cheap, compared to how much it cost a couple of years ago. A price spike took this card to almost $200, before it sank back down to below $100. It still has a slight downward price trend, but it’s unlikely to ever be an affordable card ever again. Is it worth the price? I wouldn’t say so. It’s a reasonably powerful effect that you can do some cool stuff with, but there isn’t an EDH deck that absolutely needs Volrath’s Stronghold in order to function. I would stay away from this card, as it really doesn’t feel like a good investment or a worthwhile option for the 99, given its price.
2. Sliver Queen
There might have been a time when Sliver Queen was the best option for Slivers in Commander, but it’s certainly not the case now. Even if you want to argue that Sliver Queen is better than Sliver Hivelord, Sliver Overlord or even The First Sliver, it’s still a hell of a lot more expensive. Why pay $330 for Sliver Queen when you could pay $23 for The First Sliver, or $40 for Sliver Overlord, both of which are arguably better options? There’s the flex, I suppose, and that’s important for some people, but this overpriced Reserved List card just absolutely is not worth it, in my book. Just buy a copy of The First Sliver and spend the $300 you saved on, oh, I don’t know, the rest of the deck?
1. Mox Diamond
Oh boy. Unlike Sliver Queen, here’s a card that can’t be replaced so easily. Mox Diamond is one of the few Reserved List cards to actually get a reprint, in the form of a From the Vault version, but even that hasn’t been enough to suppress the price of this colossally expensive card. Stronghold Mox Diamonds go for over $600, and in the past have peaked at $850. Why? This card is an essentially inclusion in Legacy Lands decks, usually as a four-of, and like any quality fast mana is also sought after in cEDH. That’s a lot of demand for a 25-year old card, especially one as powerful as a Mox! This is not the sort of card you pick up casually, and a purchase that you should consider carefully – unless you’re dead-set on playing a lot of Legacy or cEDH, there are definitely cheaper sources of fast mana out there.