What the future holds for the priciest lands in Magic history.
Believe it or not, Revised dual lands used to be relatively easy to acquire.
Market Price: $471.12
Market Price: $402.82
Market Price: $347.41
Market Price: $508.39
I’m not even talking about the earliest days of Magic, when most players didn’t think much about their mana base and audibly groaned when their Revised Starter Decks contained an Underground Sea instead of a Force of Nature. I can’t even tell you how many old collections I’ve purchased where the duals were unceremoniously dumped in with the basic lands, clearly unplayed.
No—I’m talking about the next decade or so, when duals were easily available between $15 and $40. Or even the five to six years after that, when dual lands varied between $40 (Plateau, usually) and $200 (Underground Sea). Even then, it was possible to trade for a dual down at your local game store if you had a couple of solid Modern or Legacy staples to part with. They weren’t cheap by any means, but they were accessible feathers in the cap of any serious player’s collection.
Let’s check in on the current price of every Revised dual now, shall we? I’ll keep it to Lightly Played or better condition, looking at the cheapest copy currently available on TCGplayer:
- Underground Sea – $840
- Volcanic Island – $775
- Tropical Island – $700
- Tundra – $500
- Bayou – $450
- Taiga – $415
- Badlands – $400
- Savannah – $310
- Scrubland – $300
- Plateau – $285
You probably don’t need me to tell you why dual lands are so expensive. As long as the Reserved List remains in place, these ten lands are likely going to remain the best color fixing options in all of Magic. Oh, and they’ll never be printed again. They’re also legal to play in Commander, the most popular Magic format. If you want the best lands for your deck, you’ve got to compete against an increasing number of players for a decreasing number of available copies.
Dual lands are also incredibly old. The last Revised booster pack rolled off the presses in 1994. That’s 27 years ago. There are people born after 1994 who have Masters’ degrees. 27 years from now is 2048. A quarter century is a long, long time. Many of these cards are just… gone. Either destroyed over the years, or socked away in forgotten and dusty collections.
Despite the age of these cards, however, I’ve gotten more requests to write this article than any other over the past few months. Dual lands have been on the rise all year, and many people are at a loss with what to do about that. Is it safe to buy in, or are these cards at risk of tanking?
I don’t blame you. If your $40 card ever tanks in price, it’s no big deal—you’ve still got the card to play with, and at worst you’re out the cost of a decent takeout meal. But if your $800 card tanks? You’re out the cost of a really nice bicycle, several nights at a nice resort, a plane ticket to Hawaii, half a year’s electric bill, or whatever else $800 might mean to you. If you’re going to spend that kind of money on a single card, you want to be sure it’s a good idea.
That’s my goal today. Let’s take a look at the price history of these cards, analyze the risks and rewards for buying in, talk a little bit about the Reserved List, and make our best estimation of what might happen to their price tags in the future.
Have Dual Lands Ever Lost Value?
Let’s start with this question: has there ever been a bad time to buy dual lands? Let’s comb through the past decade of price history and see what we can find. Here’s Underground Sea:
Underground Sea’s price built and built until June of 2018, when its value peaked at just over $800. That was as far as it got, however. The price started to erode shortly after that, finally bottoming out just under $400 in February of 2019. That’s a 50% price drop in under a year, and bad news for anyone who bought in at the peak.
Well, until 2020 bailed them out, that is. Those people aren’t upset now, because Underground Sea’s price tag is currently higher than it has ever been before. You’d have been way better off timing the market than buying at the peak, but everybody holding these cards eventually won out.
You can find similar trends for all the other dual lands, too. Here’s Tundra:
You can see the similar market actions at play here. Tundra peaked around $380 in summer 2018, bottoming out around $220 in spring 2019. Everything since has been upward mobility, and the card is worth $500-$600 today.
Here’s Volcanic Island. Same deal. Peak around $600, drop to $360, current price is $700-$800.
What about the lower priority duals? Same deal. Here’s Scrubland:
There was a peak around $200, a dip to $110, and then a rise to $300+. I could keep going, but you’d just see a similar pattern repeat over and over.
Quick aside: have you noticed that all three of these cards seem to have had a single day back in the mid-2010s where someone bought an absurd number of copies? It’s that big green spike right in the center of each chart. If you zoom in, it’s actually two dates: February 15th and 16th, 2015. At first, I thought it was a single-source buyout—maybe one of the large dealers forcing the market on duals by buying a bunch of copies of each. The sales data doesn’t bear that out, though, since there were many unique buyers on each of those days, and each of them only bought one to two lands apiece. My guess? It was some sort of long-forgotten President’s Day sale.
Back to the point, I wanted to show you all of these charts because there’s a common myth in Magic finance that Reserved List cards never lose value. This is verifiably untrue, especially in the case of dual lands. While Reserved List cards do eventually always seem to end up being worth more than they used to be, it’s not a linear journey for most of them. If I were writing this article in early 2019, I’d be talking about how nearly every dual land had lost between 20% and 50% of its price tag over the past two years. There’s nothing in the rulebook that says this can’t happen again, and it’s worth keeping in mind as we proceed.
The Crypto Link
Now that we’ve seen four very similar dual land price charts, I want to show you a couple of other interesting charts. Here’s the Bitcoin index since 2014:
And here’s Ethereum:
I don’t want to get into the ethics of cryptocurrency right now. My personal Twitter feed gets deep into the reasons why I loathe the stuff, and I try to stay away from it as much as possible. Regardless of your feelings on crypto, though, it seems pretty clear to me that the price of dual lands is at least somewhat tied to the price of the top two cryptocurrencies.
When Bitcoin first surged in price, duals took off. When Bitcoin dropped off a cliff, so did duals. When both cryptocurrencies spiked again in 2020 and early 2021, duals perked right back up again. Now both dual lands and cryptocurrencies are worth more than they ever have been before.
I don’t think this is a coincidence. The dual land prices link up perfectly with Bitcoin’s initial rally from being a relatively valueless commodity to an incredibly valuable one. Since there’s a lot of overlap between the kinds of people who invest in high-end Magic cards and the kinds of people who were early cryptocurrency adopters, it’s likely that the increase in price was at least partially due to those folks cashing out of their Bitcoin and picking up dual lands. Remember: in the early days of Bitcoin, it was much harder to convert it to cash than it is now, and the early Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox was even founded as a place to buy and sell MTGO cards. (It was originally MTGOX, for MTGO Exchange.)
It also makes sense that a lot of people with a ton of crypto-related disposable income are going to snap up the expensive cards from their childhood. If you’ve essentially just made a few grand (or more) from your hobbyist crypto income, why not?
How can this help us evaluate dual lands going forward? Because the crypto market might provide us with a window to the future of dual land prices. If crypto keeps rising, dual lands might do the same. If Bitcoin and Ethereum tumble, dual lands could be in for a repeat of 2019. It’s not guaranteed, and dual prices aren’t likely to drop off a cliff regardless, but it’s certainly going to be on my radar going forward.
Also, it looks like both crypto and dual prices have peaked and stagnated right now. It’s certainly possible that both dual and crypto prices will surge again over the coming weeks, especially with stimulus checks hitting bank accounts, but it’s far from guaranteed. In fact, it’s possible that dual lands and Bitcoin are both hitting peak value right as I’m writing this article.
Reserved List Risks
Now that we’ve examined the risks of dual lands dropping because of normal market trends as well as cryptocurrency-related market trends, it’s time to look at their reprint risk. After all, reprints are the number-one cause of price drops. If WotC does choose to reprint dual lands, it’s hard to imagine them remaining in the $300-$900 range. I would definitely sell all of mine right now if I thought that WotC was close to abolishing the Reserved List.
But it doesn’t seem like Reserved List abolition is in the cards—or even close. It has been years since WotC has even been willing to openly talk about the Reserved List, and all we get now are oblique references in Mark Rosewater’s blog. According to the current FAQ on Mark’s blog, this is WotC’s official position on the matter:
Mark has also clarified that Collectors Edition-style reprintings violate the “spirit of the Reserved List,” so we probably won’t be getting any dual lands that way, either. It’s a bummer, I know. Practically every public-facing WotC employee and most Magic community figures have come out in favor of abolishing the Reserved List, or at least circumventing it a little, and none of those campaigns or conversations have ever amounted to anything. The Reserved List definitely seems like it is here to stay.
Could this change in the future? Perhaps. Hasbro could make a lot of money selling dual lands, so it’s certainly possible that some future CEO will toss the Reserved List aside and offer a Premium Dual Box for thousands of dollars. I never want to bet against companies eventually choosing to exhaust all of their options for making money, regardless of “promises made to collectors” more than a decade ago. That’s why I’m not totally sold on WotC keeping this promise for decades to come. It doesn’t seem likely to happen this year, or next, but within the next decade or two, who knows? It’s impossible to predict the future that far out.
If WotC does abolish the reserved list, however, I wouldn’t expect to see dual lands show up in $3.99 booster packs, or even $9.99 Collector Boosters. WotC would first do what they could to exploit high-end demand, selling premium foil copies of the famous lands for the highest price point they could reasonably get away with. It would likely be an additional couple of years before they’d print them in a truly accessible format.
Consider what has happened with the enemy fetch lands over the past few years. First, WotC released them in a Secret Lair for close to $350. Then they put premium copies in Zendikar Rising Collector Boosters. Now they’re finally going to show up in Modern Horizons 2 booster packs (which will themselves be far more expensive than Modern Horizons 1 boosters). By ramping down like this, WotC was able to use the same five cards to sell three different products at three different price points. It’s a clever bit of marketing.
I bring this up here because even if WotC announces that they will be abolishing the Reserved List tomorrow, it’s quite likely that your dual lands wouldn’t suddenly become worthless. I would certainly expect prices to enter freefall right away due to panic-selling, but they’d probably pick right back up again as soon as WotC announced what their actual reprint plan was and everyone realized that it wouldn’t be as cheap or extensive as hoped. So even though Reserved List abolition seems like the ultimate worry for anyone planning to invest in dual lands right now, chances are you could still recover most of your money within the first year after that announcement hit.
I would also expect Alpha and Beta dual lands to hold their value no matter what. These cards are vanishingly rare, and hold a premium due to collectability. Ditto for Near Mind (gradable) Revised and Unlimited copies of these lands. If you want to hedge against Reserved List abolition, it’s paradoxically better to spend more and get pricier versions of these cards that have additional collector value. Collectors will still covet the Alpha, Beta, and Near Mint copies of duals in the future, no matter what WotC chooses to reprint. Meanwhile, the budget copies would drop the most because Commander players who simply wanted a playable copy of Taiga or Bayou would be happy enough with a reprint.
Are Any Duals Underpriced Relative to The Market Right Now?
All duals have seen a major price surge recently, but have any of them lagged behind the rest? That might provide us with an interesting buying opportunity.
I think the best way to do that is to see how much each land has increased in price, percentage-wise, over the past couple of years. Let’s use June 2018, February 2019, and March 2021 as our three anchor dates. That should give us a sense of how each card peaked, dropped, and peaked again relative to each other.
Here’s what my spreadsheet looks like:
Interesting stuff, right? There doesn’t seem to be a ton of correlation between price tag and value lost between 2018 and 2019—the most expensive dual also lost close to the most value, but the second and third-most expensive duals lost the least value. Meanwhile, the cheapest dual lost close to the least value, but the next two up lost close to the most.
Tropical Island has been one of the biggest gainers by any metric. Not only did it lose the least value between 2018 and 2019, but it saw close to the biggest gains by 2021. Ditto for Taiga, which has more than doubled in price since its last peak and more than tripled since its recent price floor.
Revised Edition | RareDetailsPrice History
Market Price: $687.81
The least frisky dual land so far? Volcanic Island. It didn’t lose much value between 2018 and 2019, but it also hasn’t gained nearly as much since then, “merely” doubling in price from its February 2019 price floor. It’s possible that this land has suffered a bit in the shift from Legacy to Commander, because Izzet is the best color combination in the former and merely okay in the latter, but if I had to bet on one of these lands having a third gear this year, that’s the one. Honorable mention goes to Bayou, which also appears to be lagging behind a bit. That one might tick up a bit too.
Are any of these lands overvalued? Scrubland is the most likely. It lost a lot of value between 2018 and 2019, but it’s one of the biggest overall gainers between that price floor and today. This might also be Commander-related—Orzhov is more popular in that format now—but historically, this land has been a touch cheaper relative to its pals.
What About Non-English Dual Lands?
When we’re talking about dual lands, non-English black-border (NEBB) and non-English white-border (NEWB) refers to the Italian, French, and German printings of Revised. This was the first time Magic was printed in a language other than English, and there were two print runs in each language: first with a black border, and then with a white border.
NEBB dual lands have pretty much always held a premium over both US Revised and NEWB dual lands. Old School Legacy players used to really covet that black border, and NEBB was the only way to do it without shelling out for Alpha or Beta copies. The premium multiplier for NEBB has gone down over time, though. WotC no longer prints white-border cards, so they’ve gone from being seen as budget cards to something that is cool and unique. While NEBB duals still hold a slight premium, I wouldn’t expect this gap to suddenly increase unless white-border cards suddenly start to seem less cool again.
As for NEWB duals, they are scarce but you can sometimes find them for cheaper prices than US Revised. Some people just don’t think to look for them, and non-English cards have always been a little harder to buy and sell online. If you’re looking for a budget copy, I’d definitely recommend checking these out. I see no reason why they should be worth any less than US Revised duals, especially as the available supply of these cards continues to dry up and people simply need them for Commander decks.
What Do We Do About Duals?
The future of the dual land market is unclear.
It’s possible that WotC will announce changes to the Reserved List that will negate everything I’m about to say next, but that seems unlikely to me. I expect the Reserved List to stay in place for the foreseeable future, and I don’t think that the most likely scenarios for Reserved List abolition (which is itself unlikely!) will destroy the dual land market regardless.
That said, the dual land market is at an all-time high right now, and it is quite likely that it will drop off again in the coming months. The dual land price charts appear to have peaked, as has the crypto market, which tends to roughly map onto the ABUR dual land index. It’s possible that both crypto and these lands will keep increasing in price, especially with stimulus checks hitting bank accounts right now. It’s also possible that one of these things will keep climbing while the other drops. I just haven’t seen any evidence of either thing happening yet.
Ultimately, I am a contrarian. I get scared when the market is too robust, and I get excited when it bottoms out. This is how I make money. It’s not as sexy or fun as chasing the market uphill during a crazy spike, but it tends to work out better in the end. Too many people seem to think that dual lands cannot drop in price, but recent history shows that they have, and can. If you want to try and time the market, I expect that all ten of these cards will be cheaper at some point over the next 12-18 months than they are today.
That said, these ebbs and flows won’t matter much over a long enough time scale. If Magic is still a collectable game in five or 10 years, these cards will probably be worth more than they are now. That might not be true for all Reserved List cards, but the dual lands are among the most iconic in the game. Unless there’s a widespread reprinting in old borders, which seems unlikely, collectability and nostalgia will win out. If you aren’t concerned about possibly losing value over the short term and you’ve got your stimulus money burning a hole in your pocket, you have my blessing to buy the dual lands you’ve been wanting for years. I’m probably going to wait myself, but there are worse things than buying a card as cool and iconic as a dual land at a slight premium.