Tempest holds a special place for me as a collector and trader. It was the first set where we saw “good” cards that were not just anomalies. Sure, Mirage Block had some goodies that heralded modern design, like Vampiric Tutor, Nekrataal and Hammer of Bogardan, but there’s a reason that Tempest Block is such a fan favorite. It seems that around that time, R&D started pushing the curve on power level. We ended up with cards like Living Death and Cursed Scroll, which turned out to be powerhouses that exhibited design elegance not seen before in a Magic set.
This week, we are going to take a romp through Rath to look at the sure-fire hits of Tempest, as well as the unknown money cards. It’ll be a nostalgic and profitable adventure! I am using MOTL pricing and spreadsheets on these cards to bring you accurate data about what the market really is, not just what a dealer reckons it is.
Angels and Dragons hold a special appeal for a lot of collectors. The price on these two tribes has dropped; I don’t know if less people are collecting the cards, or whether there are just too many to “catch ’em all.” The Angel clocks in at the start of the list at a modestly above-bulk price.
These little artifacts even share their naming lineage with the original Moxes, so you know they’re good. Sapphire Medallion has always been at the top of the heap because it combined well with the buyback cards in the set to make a seriously annoying Block deck. Cards like Jet Medallion provide acceleration in colors that often lack permanent mana assistance, and the Jet and Ruby are especially good because Black and Red have excellent high-mana spells. A brisk trade in EDH and casual circles keeps these cards popular.
Price: $3.25 (Emerald) – $5.25 (Sapphire)
Though it has been outclassed by Tsabo’s Decree (the original Rebel-slayer), Extinction still sees some traction as pinpoint removal against tribal decks. It can be a good card to trade to people who have lots of Allies, Elves and Angels running around their casual groups.
Grindstone sat in anguish for years until Painter’s Servant pulled it to life. I remember wondering whether I should buy them for $3 when the Servant was spoiled! Regrets, I’ve had a few. Grindstone sees some play in Legacy, but it is held back because to really cook, the decks also need to run Imperial Recruiter, which brings its own problems. Grindstone used to be the star child of Tempest, the first really visible price explosion in Eternal. It has settled down from a high around $30, but it still commands a premium.
This enchantment also falls into the “grab from the bulk pile” category. It keeps your toys safe in EDH and other multiplayer formats, and it’s good enough to command a buck. The art is an interesting and unconventional portrayal of Hanna, which makes me a bit more fond of the card.
I remember that one friend who loved his Slivers. He went to Origins that year so he could buy a Sliver Queen! The joys of pre-internet card collecting… Everyone had that friend who loved Slivers, and they probably still do. Horned Sliver is just one of the many Slivers that carry a hefty price tag. If you see it in a commons box, pick it up! The trampler is worth considerably more than bulk, and there is a brisk market for it.
When a judge wants to ascend to The Final Level, they must solve The Riddle Of Humility:
(I give it four hours before this is solved in the comments and six hours before someone posts an even harder one)
Humility is Legacy-playable and it’s in decent demand in casual circles. Since Humility plays well with Man-Lands, it gets attention in UW Control decks that plan to Wrath and Humiliate the opposition. I have seen the card double in price in the last year, from $3 to its current price. Humility is worth finding and trading for, since many players want the card for their collection. The Foglio art doesn’t hurt, either.
Blue’s best tutor is still on top. Intuition has had a strange life. It saw a lot of play in Extended, since you could go get your Saproling Bursts and then Replenish them or find those Accumulated Knowledges for cards. I have fond memories of using Intuition to draw massive stacks of cards in Vintage decks like Goth Slaver. The proper way to use it with AK, by the way, is to cast it after you have drawn your first AK. That way, you can stack up a draw-three and a draw-four alongside each other.
Intuition currently sees play in Legacy as a tutor for the Blue Lands deck, and it has been picked as the next “speculation” card by some pundits. It is unplayed in Vintage because the classical combo with it and AK or Deep Analysis is easily foiled with a Spell Pierce. Intuition is one of the banner cards of the set and you can still find people who value it around $5-7.
Since it has “Lotus” in the name, it’s probably good. Seeing play as a four-of in Legacy and a perennial casual favorite, Lotus Petal is one of those especially rare cards – a power common! They are highly liquid as a tradable card, so they are worth picking up or putting in your binder if you have spares.
Aside from the incredible Draw-7s like Windfall and Timetwister, competitive players are left with slim pickings when it comes to more Blue card draw. Meditate has always been a classical card for this, especially when fueling High Tide combo decks. What’s the harm in giving the opponent another turn when they’ll be dead before they can use it? Meditate commands a surprisingly high price tag because it is both efficient (though casual) card draw, and because it can play well in thematic decks with cards like Smokestack and Tangle Wire.
These “taxing” effects are hugely popular with the casual crowd; Ghostly Prison is also appealing. The reason is that, especially in multiplayer, when you offer an opponent the chance to either attack you for eight mana or attack that other guy for free, they’ll usually pick the latter. Propaganda is one of those classic “rattlesnakes” that tells opponents to go elsewhere, all the while being inconspicuous. It also gets attention in Legacy, where it can stall out a Dredge deck or stop creature hordes from finishing the game too quickly.
More proof that Dragons have a casual appeal, the Rathi Dragon has an above-bulk price despite being reprinted in 9th. It also has the attraction of being realistically the first tournament-playable Dragon, aside from awesome Shivan Dragon sagas from early Magic.
Yet another power common! Reanimate is hugely popular because people figured out that even though you took eight points of life, you have a Verdant Force on the table. That’s something to be proud of. Reanimate spiked when Entomb was legalized because it is the best reanimation spell in the game. Luckily, it was printed at common, but that has done little to sate players. It was even reprinted in a boxed set and that hasn’t touched the price! Reanimate is a relatively stable card to hold onto, since I think it will always command at least five dollars. That makes me regret trading three away for a Pithing Needle (before it was reprinted).
Here’s Reflecting Pool’s life cycle: first year of life: generate any color alongside City of Brass in some pretty cool Standard decks. Sit stagnant for ten years. Get reprinted in the same set as those Vivid lands and shoot up to a phenomenal price. Leave Standard, drop to $4, then benefit from Extended being changed around. That brings us to today, where this yo-yo card is expected to see a lot of play in Extended. I prefer the old Tempest copy to the newer one, and it commands a slight premium.
Can you believe this thing is a rare? I can’t imagine how many annoyed players tossed it aside in anger. I can imagine calls to Customer Service asking why the pack didn’t come with a rare! Sarcomancy, along with Carnophage, formed the bedrock of the Hatred Black deck, which was very popular. So many players have fond memories of making Zombies on the first turn that this card is still valuable.
Scroll Rack sat at $4 for years until it got hyped up with Treasure Hunt. That card didn’t pan out, but the Rack has stayed up in price. It is highly tradable to EDH players because it is a colorless card draw/selection tool. There is also speculation based around Land Tax; if the white enchantment is legalized in Legacy, you can expect that Scroll Rack will, at least briefly, flirt at Grindstone-level prices as players get hugely excited about a mediocre combination.
For years, Selenia was the only BW Legend, and being an Angel made her even more special. Selenia is hard to find in local stores and she is moderately popular as an EDH general. For these reasons, she is traded above bulk.
One issue with cards like Tradewind Rider is that there is a huge crop of casual players who have no idea that something like this exists. Tradewind Rider is one of the most frustrating cards of all time and it has just plummeted in value. You can, for example, play it in just about any Elf deck, powered out by Birchlore Rangers to make the blue mana. From there, it is a board control engine. This card used to be a monster! If you paired it with Awakening, you could get three bounces by putting the Awakening trigger on the stack in your upkeep and responding to it. The Rider did nothing short of dominate Standard when it was legal. If you have them in your binder, do your best to introduce newer casual players to the bouncing machine.
Despite my rant about it fading into obscurity, Tradewind Rider still has plenty of fans, who have maintained a decent price for the card.
So, does every player get a token or just you? Every upkeep? Huh, this guy looks pretty good,then… Verdy is a beloved card, the original One-Man Army. Despite being reprinted, many players just want to run the original if they can conjure one up. It sees play in many casual games, and has been known to occasionally pop up in Eternal formats.
Vhati does some pretty cool things as an EDH general and has other casual uses as well. I don’t know why it specifically is worth much more than bulk, but it has a unique effect that makes for great politics. You can imagine making an attacking creature shrink down after an opponent has declared attackers, seeing that Primeval Titan bite it to a Saproling! He can also imitate Forcefield decently well, in either his Tempest or Timeshifted incarnations.
It’s sort of cute that the most expensive card in the set is a boring, role-playing uncommon. Since it sees play in Eternal formats as a 4-of in plenty of decks, Wasteland has had a strong appeal for years. The price has really taken off on these, by the way. They started going up around GP: Columbus (Pt.1) and have been a steady gainer since. They are anomalous because, aside from Mana Drain, I cannot think of another uncommon that demands such a high price tag.
Wrath of God analogues are popular in Highlander formats that allow only one copy of any named card. Winds of Rath can also protect your creatures if you are playing one of the popular “Voltron” decks that aim to pile on Auras and Equipment upon your army.
For a collector or trader, Tempest also represents a good benchmark for valuing a collection that you are considering buying. It is the first tangible departure from the “Dead Zone” of Magic that began with The Dark. You can figure that any collection of a person who was actively playing during Tempest is stocked with a few goodies. The only caution I have is that if these players were tournament players, they might still remember paying $18 for Cursed Scrolls and the like, and might subsequently haggle about those sorts of cards.
Join me next week, when we move on to the next set!