Torment is the second set in the Odyssey block and it has the distinction of being the first set designed around one color. In this case, the set was designed with a focus on black, testing the design limits of what could be done with swamps. It extended the graveyard and Madness themes of Odyssey, while adding several “Swamps matter” cards alongside. For a second set in a block, Torment has a lot of real gems for the collector and trader. Much of its value, if you can believe it, is driven by Legacy (instead of the casual market, which usually makes up most of a set's value). Let's look at some of the valuable cards from Torment!
Breakthrough costs, in essence, one mana and has the phrase “draw four cards” printed on it. Impressive. I suppose the fair use of Breakthrough is to pump three or four mana into it and keep some cards, functioning sort of like an Impulse. However, Breakthrough gets the most play from Dredge decks. Those four draws can turn into four dredges, flipping over twenty or more cards for a single mana. Breakthrough saw intermittent play in Madness decks, but it is in combination with the dredge mechanic that this uncommon really shines.
$1.75 ($5.00 in foil)
I know I've written about this before, but people LOVE monoblack decks. Coffers was the engine that powered monoblack control like nothing else before or after. It made huge amounts of mana later in the game, which were paired with Mirari and Diabolic Tutor for all sorts of powerful tutoring. MBC, as it was known, was a disrespected-but-legitimate deck in Odyssey Standard. People like to revisit Coffers-fueled decks, even though they aren't that good these days. Cabal Coffers, though an uncommon, has been an expensive card since it was printed. It has been reprinted in a Duel Deck (which is where my copy is from) and as a FNM promotion. However, though it dropped about $3 from these reprintings, it still commands a lot of value from players.
That Cabal gets around, right? Cabal Ritual, with its threshold ability, looks like it's just there to reward you getting to the late game with a little more mana, right? Its most common application, though, is in Storm combo decks, where it makes up a critical mass of acceleration. A Polluted Delta to cast Duress on the first turn, a Lotus Petal and a Dark Ritual on the second turn and soon, you've hit threshold and Cabal Ritual is taking your mana to stratospheric heights. Without Cabal Ritual, most Legacy storm combo decks simply wouldn't exist. Though a buck normally, the foils are especially valuable.
$1.00 ($8.50 in foil)
With the appeal of Diabolic Edict, some truly creepy art and integrated card advantage, it's no wonder that Chainer's Edict is a popular uncommon. In MBC, it would often fuel a scenario where it blows away an early Wild Mongrel or other monster. Later, after a Mutilate, it would be flashed back to take care of any straggler the opponent was holding back. As a removal spell, it's fine – it will kill Shroud creatures, for example. However, just like Urza's Rage had that “maybe this will come in handy” kicker, the flashback gives decks that might falter in the lategame a chance if all they do is draw land. When R&D wanted to push Black to the forefront in Torment, this is a good example of their success.
Blue-Green Madness was the hit of Standard, simply because it cost about $15 to throw together. This fact, alone, annoyed a lot of more serious players. UG Madness was a powerful deck and it could easily punish a better player if they misplayed; on the other hand, UG Madness wasn't exactly a skill-intensive deck. One would often play something like Wild Mongrel on the second turn, then discard a Deep Analysis or Basking Rootwalla to it. Soon, the player would have a single blue mana up all the time, supporting their Circular Logic to ward against Wrath of God or Upheaval.
Psychatog decks were also quick to adopt Circular Logic; they could discard it to a Psychatog, which was pretty good, but they could also pitch it to Compulsion, making it a Dismiss. Circular Logic was also almost always a hard counter, prompting an opponent to pay seven or eight mana on top. Unlike Mana Leak, which gets worse as the game goes on, Circular Logic actually scales with gameplay. In that regard, it's probably just a little too good for Standard play. It gets a little bit of attention right now in casual decks, but it has dropped from its high of $4.
Devastating Dreams is most notably part of the Legacy and former Extended deck known as CAL. The basic plan with Dreams is this: you've got a Mox Diamond in play and you're a land up on the opponent. You cast the Dreams, discarding three or four cards. Board wiped, Armageddon. However, one of those discarded cards was Life from the Loam. Now, you've got a big mana advantage on the opponent because your land drops just won't stop. Dreams could spell the death knell for a deck like Goblins, since you'd eliminate their attacking force and starve the mana-hungry deck of resources.
Dreams has also dropped a little in price because it's out of favor right now. However, fans of land destruction still look fondly at it.
If there's one creature a burn deck will play, it's this guy. Every turn, Shock you! It shows up in Legacy Zoo decks, burn, and even Threshold decks. Another important part of Lavamancer's appeal in Legacy is that it unbalances the Tarmogoyf standoffs that sometimes appear. It gives a Zoo deck a lot of reach in that they can just land this guy and start burning out an opponent hiding behind a Moat. It's popular with casual and competitive players everywhere, so it's no wonder that Grim Lavamancer is one of the most expensive cards from Torment. He's been reprinted as a foil in promotional decks, but a lot of tournament players avoid foils. As a result, the reprint hasn't much affected its price.
Ichorid is one of those creatures that was trash for a long time until people figured out how well it worked with the Dredge mechanic. Now, Ichorid powers up Cabal Therapy and makes Bridge from Below tokens in a deck named after it. Ichorid is part of a tradition of black creatures that just won't stay dead. From Ashen Ghoul to Nether Traitor, it's in fine company. Dredge is also a fairly cheap deck to put together for tournament play, which makes Ichorid popular.
Sometimes, casual players like to Live the Dream with reanimation strategies. These often involve Living Death and these guys. Eighteen life or more, right out the door. On top of that, though it looks like you'll get that life back, the Champ regenerates, meaning he's unlikely to kick the bucket any time soon. That six power made for a pretty strong beater, as well. The Champion didn't see much competitive play – the premier kill spells were Mutilate and Chainer's Edict, after all – but those monoblack players haven't forgotten the black Flametongue Kavu.
Llawan has been a trash card for many, many years. Recently, though, people realized that Merfolk can hardly beat a resolved Llawan. Consequently, it's become a very hot sideboard card for decks like Counterbalance that are soft to the fish men. Llawan has had a meteoric price increase, from nothing to several dollars. It is rare to see a sideboard card, even an actively played one, make this kind of increase. I attribute it to Llawan being so bad that people bulked them off, meaning nobody had a Llawan in their binder to trade off to people. Once she became hot, it was only the dealers who had the squid in their collections.
Before there was Damnation, there was Mutilate. If you play enough Swamps, you can come up with a board sweeper that even regenerators cannot escape. That's the power of Mutilate. It was the backbone spell of MBC, much like Damnation held together Mystical Teachings in a later Standard environment. While Damnation has made Mutilate less desirable, people still want the card for nefarious purposes. Since it's cheaper than Damnation price-wise, that actually plays into Mutilate's demand pricing. If someone is willing to pay $1.50 for it instead of $15 for Damnation, then it can probably be bumped up to $2 if it's the second-best option. I suppose that is what makes it worth a little bit.
The Shade can turn Coffers mana into pure death. One out, with untapped lands, becomes a dangerous monster to attack into. If one just holds off, then the Shade will eventually transform into a 9/8 or bigger insect. Scary indeed. The most disruptive thing about Shade was that your opponent would hit you with one with, say, four lands untapped. You wouldn't block, thinking they'd just tap out. Instead, they'd turn that mana into a Diabolic Tutor or some other spell, forcing you to take two points of damage that you might not have taken otherwise.
Shade was $8 before it was reprinted, where it took a nosedive that would make even Meddling Mage feel better. Speculators who jumped on Shade got burned seriously. The success of Shade in Standard was entirely predicated on Cabal Coffers; without the land, the Shade was under the curve for modern creatures.
like Doubling Season, a Parallel Evolution will double your Saprolings, Squirrels or other token creatures. It's a real niche card, but a lot of token players want this kind of effect. If you see this card in a junk pile, remember that it's worth a cheeseburger or two. Worth snagging or attempting to get in a throw-in trade.
The Imp is mainly a discard outlet for Reanimator and Dredge decks. Occasionally, it gets Threshold and beats down an opponent, which is embarrassing. They're worth digging through your collection for, but people rarely trade for them unless they're foil.
The Tainted Lands
Tainted lands, like Tainted Isle, reward a player for pairing their colors with Swamps. They're modestly popular, since they're a little cheaper than other dual color lands and have no drawback if you're playing Swamps anyway. What I find interesting is that Tainted Field usually goes for about double what the other ones fetch, a testament to the fact that BW has terrible manafixing capabilities and will take what it can get.
So in conclusion, Torment is a surprisingly rich set for value traders. I would never be upset to buy a collection that had this set represented in it, since it has a good number of modestly-valuable cards in it. You'll never pull out a $20 card from it, but there's something for everyone in the set.
Where Torment went for Black, next week's Judgment put a lot of power into White and Green, two of the worst colors in Magic. Join me next week, when we look at Mana Flares, Phantom monsters and even more insects!