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Back into the Portal

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You might think that Wizards had just about enough of Portals by the time 1998 rolled around.

You would be wrong.

On June 24th, 1998, novice mages were once again ushered through Wizards’ Portal and back into a land of confusing text and sorceries that could be played at instant speed, but only sometimes.

The set was streamlined significantly, and the size was cut down to 165 cards instead of Portal’s whopping 221 cards. (Except in Portugal, where Portal II only had 49 cards. Does anyone know why? Do they only play red or something?)

Of course, Wizards did actually make improvements this time around. Creature types were back, this time in their modern state of “Creature – Brushwagg” instead of the classic “Summon Brushwagg.” That templating, which is still in use today, originated in Portal 2.

Also gone were the confusing changes that Portal brought to blocking, the graveyard, and the library. References to “Intercepting” and “The discard pile” from Portal were purged like so many week-old newspapers.

Portal 2 also brought a new flavor concept to Magic: Guns! Love them or hate them, it sure is odd to see the soldiers of the Magic multiverse hauling muskets around. And while Wizards considers the addition of guns in Portal II to be regrettable, I would love to see them come back. Doesn’t it make sense that some wizard on some plane has invented the gun?

Oh – and did I mention that they introduced a brand new tribe to the game? Welcome to the fold, Nightstalkers! I hope you settle in for the ride, because I’m sure loads more of you will be seeing print in the years between 1998 and 2010! (Or not…)

We Don’t Need No Stinking Sample Size!

Just a reminder: the sample size for sales of Portal II cards is as low or lower than the Portal cards we looked at last week. Again, I will use Magic Traders, Star City, AND Channel Fireball prices as a way to attempt to find a value for these odd cards.

Alternate Art

Archangel


The Portal II Archangel is well ahead of the Portal Archangel on the ‘desirable angel artwork’ curve. While the Portal Archangel sells for $3 on Star City, the Portal II Archangel is worth double that. On Channel Fireball, she’s sold out at a whopping $9.61.

Since Magic Traders doesn’t have a separate entry for the Portal II version, I am unable to determine the eBay value for the card. Needless to say, this is the most valuable version of Archangel save the Japanese Gotta magazine promo.

Armageddon


The Portal II Armageddon, unlike Archangel, seems to be worth exactly the same as the Portal Armageddon on Star City ($7.99). Of course, I think the art on this one is far better, so I might value it a bit higher.

Magic Traders agrees with me. 15 Portal I Armageddons sold for an average of $3.50. Only one Portal II Armageddon has recently sold, and it fetched just over $7.

Channel Fireball has the card on sale for just over $5.

Cruel Edict


There are times when this card is fringe playable in standard, at which point this version becomes a neat pimp card. Since it isn’t in standard right now, though, it’s not really worth anything.

You can pick these up for a buck on Channel Fireball and a $1.50 on Star City. One sold on eBay for $0.08, reflecting just how unwanted this card is right now.

Denizen of the Deep


The original alliterative sea monster, this denizen is still getting re-printed, appearing most recently in Duels of the Planeswalkers.

While this monster seems unplayable and untradeable, I can see one place for him: Quest for Ula’s Temple based EDH decks. And yes, there ARE those of us out there with a foil Lorthos and a very big dream.

The Portal II Denizen is worth $2 according to Magic Traders and $4 according to Channel Fireball and Star City.

Earthquake


While Star City games prices both Portal I and Portal II Earthquakes at $3.99, they are the exception.

Channel Fireball, for example, has Portal I at $2 and Portal II at $3.50. Magic Traders has an even larger gap, with the Portal I version selling for $2.50 and the II version over $5.

Regardless, this is the cooler version to get, and this is the only version with this artwork while the Portal 1 picture was re-printed in M10.

Exhaustion


You have to give the Portal II creative team some credit: every card I’ve examined so far that has been re-printed from Portal I has new art!

Star City slaps a $0.99 price tag on both Portal versions of this card and calls it a day. Channel Fireball prices this one lower than Portal 1, and you can buy it there for $1.50. Magic Traders reflects the fact that one copy sold on eBay for $0.25.

Goblin Matron


For those of you who can’t afford $50 for a 7th edition foil Matron, this is the next best thing. While one sold on eBay for $0.50, the card goes for $1.50 on Star City and Channel Fireball.

Hidden Horror


Yeah, this was re-printed as an uncommon in tenth edition. Yeah, it’s horrible, and that fact isn’t well hidden. But collectors need rares to complete their sets, and this card goes for two bucks on CFB and SCG. One sold for $0.50 on eBay.

Sleight of Hand


This seems like a good card to know about, because it’s only a common, yet it sells for $1 on eBay and $1.50 on Star City and Channel Fireball. As a cheap filter spell that is outclassed by most others, I don’t expect this to be a major trade target in your binder, but a set of these could be a nice throw-in to anyone who wants to try them out.

Sylvan Basilisk


Another Portal II rare that was re-printed as a rare in 10th edition! This guy is a buck on Magic Traders and Star City, and a buck fifty at Channel Fireball. Woo.

Vampiric Spirit


Another rare that’s really only good for making sets complete. $1.50 on Channel Fireball and Magic Traders, $1.75 on Star City.

Wildfire


It might be a good time to buy in on this version of Wildfire in case the card is re-printed again. One sold on Magic Traders for $0.50, and you can get ‘em on Channel Fireball and Star City for right around $2 each.

When this card is in standard, people play it, and this is a beautiful version. Right now, of course, there’s just no home for it anywhere. It’s not really an eternal or casual card.

Unique Cards

Alaborn Zealot


She’s almost a 1/1 for W with deathtouch, which is almost kind of good but not really.

I somehow doubt she’ll ever see play, making this strictly a card for weird casual soldier decks and collectors.

She goes for $1.75 on Magic Traders, and close to $2 on Star City and Channel Fireball.

Ancient Craving


At four mana, Ancient Craving is a little behind the curve for these kinds of spells. Compare this card to Skeletal Scrying or the big dog Necropotence.

That said, this card does have its use in mono-black EDH decks and fringe strategies in Legacy, so I can see it having a small amount of demand still.

A copy of the card sold on eBay once for $0.25, so that’s what it goes for on Magic Traders – there are no other data points. It’s sold out on CFB at $1.50 and sold out on Star City for $4.

Angel of Fury


I thought I knew all the angels before writing this, but I was wrong!

Angel of Fury, a six-mana 3/5 that can shuffle back into your library if it dies, is probably in the bottom 10% of playable Angel cards. She is, however, one of the rarest angels out there based on the fact that I have never heard of it before 35 seconds ago. Remember that angel collectors are rabid for completing their sets of cool rare angels.

She also has a whip. I think there are people who will want her because of that too.

Angel of Fury goes for $5.50 on Magic Traders and is up near $8 on both Channel Fireball and Star City.

Brimstone Dragon


Finally proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are more Dragon collectors than Angel collectors, the unimpressive Brimstone Dragon goes for a whopping $18 on Channel Fireball!

Star City has the card up near $20, while Magic Traders estimates its value at just over $12.

Coastal Wizard


I guess wizards who live by the sea don’t like to have anyone over for tea.

This card sells for a buck on Channel Fireball, but goes for a buck fifty on Magic Traders and Star City.

Cunning Giant


This is kind of a cool, weird reversal on the Thorn Elemental ability. I kind of wish a more aggressively-costed version of this was printed in a new set, because it would be a really sweet limited mechanic.

If you can’t wait that long, though, you can buy the world’s sneakiest giant for $1.50 on Channel Fireball and Star City. It goes for over $3 on Magic Traders.

Dakmor Sorceress


Nightmare has the exact same mana cost, flying, and (hopefully) WAY more toughness than Dakmor Sorceress ever will.

Nightmare is worth less than $1.

Nightmare, however, is a flying horse. Dakmor Sorceress is an attractive woman.

Dakmor Sorceress goes for $10 on Magic Traders and Star City and $15 on Channel Fireball.

Deathcoil Wurm


Ah, more riffs on Thorn Elemental! This time in a more classic flavor.

Despite not being a dragon and not being good, Deathcoil Wurm goes for $6 on Magic Traders and Star City and $7 on Channel Fireball.

Wurm collectors of the world unite?

Goblin General


Yeah, he’s always going to be worse than Goblin King. So what? This guy still has his uses, and he slots in well in my tribal cube. I’ve also seen him in demand for Goblin EDH decks, where lords are pretty much auto-includes.

Goblin General books for $1.75 on Magic Traders, $4.25 on Channel Fireball, and $5 on Star City Games.

Harmony of Nature


This uncommon is sold out on Channel Fireball at $0.48, but goes for $3 on Star City and $5.50 on Magic Traders. Why? Is this a playable amount of life gain for a token deck? I guess it is situationally better than Congregate.

Just Fate


It is just that this card’s fate is to be strictly worse than the already unplayable Dispense Justice.

Still, the card goes for a buck on Magic Traders and Star City as well as a buck fifty on Channel Fireball.

Nightstalker Engine


Contagion Engine this card is not. It’s not even Witch Engine.

If you want it, you can have it for $1 on Channel Fireball and Star City. One did sell on eBay for just over $3, leading me to believe that there are times when one might REALLY need a Nightstalker Engine RIGHT NOW. I don’t know when that time might occur, though.

Norwood Priestess


Finally, an Elvish Piper that isn’t shut down by Linvala, Keeper of Silence!

The Priestess is actually a reasonably cool card, seeing as how she can act as a second Elvish Piper in highlander and EDH decks. She’s also an elf, which makes her desirable in tribal decks.

Though isn’t Norwood a town in Massachusetts with a Jordan’s Furniture?

At any rate, you can buy her for an average of $16 on eBay, and $18 on Star City or Channel Fireball.

Piracy


Y’arr! Any deck that be tryin’ to set sail o’er the briny deep best be bringin’ a copy of Piracy along for the trip.

This card be a treasarrrrr worth many doubloons. All Pirate-themed decks be needin’ one o’ these!

It be sellin’ for eight dolarrrrrrrrrs on eBay and Channel Fireball. Meanwhile, whose scurvy dogs at Starrrrrr City Games are askin’ for ten dolarrrrrs in return.

Rain of Daggers


For anyone who needs a wrath in black and can’t afford to buy Damnations or Mutilates, I guess this can be some daggers for you.

The card sells for two bucks on Star City and Channel Fireball, so it’s not exactly the world’s priciest board sweeper. One copy that sold for $12 on eBay kind of skews the Magic Traders value, but maybe that one was gold plated or something.

Razorclaw Bear


This card is out of stock for $4 on Channel Fireball despite being a useless bear that is awful and terrible.

They used to have one in stock, but I have a shameful admission to make:

I bought it last time I was there for my Bear EDH deck.

So, uh, I guess that makes this a sought-after card!

And you thought it was an uncommon when you first looked at it, didn’t’ you?

SCG sells it for $5 and one sold on eBay for just under $3, so I didn’t get taken I suppose.

Return of the Nightstalkers


I love everything about this card.

I love that it costs seven mana. I love that two of the mana have to be black so you can’t splash it in your non-Nightstalker deck. (All Nightstalkers are black.) I love it out-of-context in modern Magic where I had never heard of a Nightstalker before seeing this card.

I especially love that you have to sacrifice all of your swamps.

I’ll be honest – this card was in my cube for a time even though there are no actual Nightstalkers. I was secretly hoping that someone would play it just because they liked it as much as I do.

That never happened, though.

Anyway, this card only sells for $1 on Channel Fireball and there are 11 copies in stock! What are you waiting for!?

When you’re done there, you can buy 10 more on Star City for only $1.25 and then move on to eBay, where only a single copy sold recently for almost $3.

Righteous Fury


So for 4BB, you get to wrath the board but then you fall on a pile of razor blades or something. For 4WW, you get to wrath all the tapped creatures and gain life for them!
Think of this as a Sunblast Angel but, uh, without the Angel.

It’s out of stock on Channel Fireball for $5.25, but you can pick it up for $6.00 on Star City. That seems reasonable considering the Magic Traders price is $6.50.

Sea Drake


We finally get to answer the question that’s been on the tip of everyone’s tongue: What happens if one of these terrible Portal rares is accidentally kind of almost fringe playable in a deck that I’ve never actually see anyone play?

Sea Drake is good because you can get around the drawback by playing him off, like, a land plus a couple of Mox Diamonds, right? Or maybe you want to return the lands? If any of you out there are Faerie Stompy players who want to educate me on the usage of this card, I’d love to hear about it.

Anyway, Sea Drakes go for just over $18 on Magic Traders, $25 at Channel Fireball, and $30 on Star City.

Steam Catapult


Heck yeah, Steam Catapult! I expect this to get an awesome re-print whenever they do a steampunk block, which I certainly hope is coming soon.

I assume this card is worth money mostly because its name is sweet, but it’s not the worst card in the world. You could do worse at an EDH table than to have this innocuous guy on the board, picking things off here and there like a white Royal Assassin.

One sold on eBay for a buck forty, and it is sold out at $4 on Channel Fireball. If you want one right now, you’ll have to shell out the $6 on Star City.

Sylvan Yeti


I’ve yeti to want to play this.

$1.00 on Magic Traders and Star City, $1.50 on Channel Fireball.

Talas Researcher


Talas Researcher is the go-to guy for anyone who wants to play an additional mana for an Archivist.

Actually, this guy does have one redeeming quality: His oracle creature type is “Human Pirate Wizard!” I think this wins for ‘creature type I most want to have myself.’

Talas Researcher had one sale on eBay for $2.50, which is dumb considering you can get him for a buck on CFB and SCG.

Talas Warrior


In a world…

Where Phantom Warrior is a rare…

Yeah, I got nothing.

$4 on Magic Traders, $3 on Star City, $2 on Channel Fireball. What makes this unplayable rare worth twice as much as the last unplayable rare I don’t understand.

Temporal Manipulation


Finally, a card I can get behind!

Temporal Manipulation is a second copy of Time Warp for Cubes and EDH decks. Add to that the awesome time machine art, and you’ve got a winning card.

This card traded at $6-$8 for a very long time, but it’s currently Out of stock for $15 on Channel Fireball and out of stock at $19 on Star City. Magic Traders says it’s worth just under $6, though, so your mileage may vary when trading this card at prices over $10.

Kind of a Portal II Price Guide

Based on my best guess at the value of each card in Portal II.

Twenty-Five Dollars

Sea Drake

Seventeen Dollars

Norwood Priestess

Fourteen Dollars

Brimstone Dragon

Temporal Manipulation

Ten Dollars

Dakmor Sorceress

Eight Dollars

Piracy

Six Dollars

Angel of Fury

Archangel

Armageddon

Deathcoil Wurm

Righteous Fury

Four Dollars

Goblin General

Steam Catapult

Three Dollars

Denizen of the Deep

Earthquake

Razorclaw Bear

Two Dollars

Ancient Craving

Rain of Daggers

Talas Warrior

Wildfire

One Fifty

Alaborn Zealot

Cunning Giant

Harmony of Nature

Hidden Horror

Vampiric Spirit

One Dollar

Coastal Wizard

Cruel Edict

Goblin Matron

Exhaustion

Just Fate

Nightstalker Engine

Return of the Nightstalkers

Sleight of Hand

Sylvan Basilisk

Sylvan Yeti

Talas Researcher

Again, a lot of value in a very small set. While the cheaper cards probably won’t trade well, there are some interesting alternate versions of classic cards that shouldn’t be hard to move to EDH/cube builders.

Conclusions

Despite Portal II cards being roughly worth the same as Portal 1 cards, I got the sense in doing this research that there are FAR fewer of these out there. Many of the Magic Traders listings for the alt-art cards had 10-15 data points for the Portal 1 version and only 1 or 2 for Portal II.

This tells me that if any of these cards ever truly saw competitive play, there would be a price spike unlike anything we’ve experienced so far in Magic.

Of course, I don’t think there is a card here other than Sea Drake that is strictly better than any other card at doing something a tournament player would need to do, and Sea Drake is unlikely to go up anytime soon. (they would have to errata it to ‘Creature – Merfolk’ for a start.)

That said, there is still a lot of value here. Keep this article in mind next time you look through Fat Billy’s fall-apart binder of horrible old junk! Is there a Dakmor Sorceress hiding in there for you?

-          Chas Andres

51 thoughts on “Back into the Portal

  1. About Sea Drake, an important point is also that it is illustrated by Rebecca Guay: for example, I have a playset — not in any deck, but in my wife's collection binder 🙂

  2. Hi Chas,

    I've got to be honest, I found your article by accident. Finance is not really my thing!

    …and then I read one of your card descriptions. I kept scrolling through and reading random ones that caught my eye until I realized I was reading the whole article.

    Fantastic stuff 🙂 Witty, informative, and most of all, fun to read.

  3. Interesting article.

    I found it would be nice to be able to see the comparative artwork that you spoke so much about. The links to the cards, when hovered over, just offered the newest printing.

    It would be fantastic to have a Portal and Portal II version of the card actually viewable. Then we could really know what you're talking about. 🙂

    Good research, though. Thanks.

  4. Just a note: This is going to by my last column for the wonderful people here on Quiet Speculation.

    Join me on Tuesday for my debut column on Channel Fireball where I will be covering, uh, pretty much this same kinda stuff on a weekly basis!

  5. I -loved- the Nightstalkers, and the fact that there were guns in the set. I know they'll never make their comeback the way things are, but it was glorious while it lasted!

    The Alaborn Zealot was actually reprinted a year later as the Loyal Sentry in Starter, made an appearance as such in 10th Ed., and most recently resurfaced in Elspeth's Duel Deck.

    She's slightly better than deathtouch, however, for she'll kill first strikers too.

  6. For what it's worth, Nightstalker was an established tribe before Portal II (Shimian Night Stalker was in Legends and Mirage featured Breathstealer, Feral Shadow, and Urborg Panther) and there was one Nightstalker printed after Portal II (Fen Stalker in Urza's Saga).

  7. Nitpick:

    Norwood Priestess's oracle wording makes her ability an activated ability, since those "on your turn, before you attack" things actually make no rules sense.

    You also failed to point out that one Razorclaw is three bears too many. This is unconscionable.

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