Insider: Hidden Gems in Shards of Alara

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Welcome back and happy new year! This week, we will be taking a look at the not-so-distant past; we take a look back at the first half of the Shards of Alara set. Shards introduced the Mythic rarity, partly as a way to build more hype, though mainly to re-balance drafting. One can make powerful mythic rares (Planeswalkers, mainly) and they will not overpower drafts if they are less common. Garruk Wildspeaker was a wrecking ball in draft and Wizards wanted to keep those sorts of things from happening again.

Shards was a look at allied color sets (and where did we hear that before?). While fans like me were understandably tired of yet another set about color relationships, the set did explore interesting power combinations among trios of colors. It is the set from where we get our names of the allied color shards - Bant, Grixis and the like. Let's take a look at the high-value cards from the set!

Ajani Vengeant


Ajani has a long and storied history in tournament decks. He can defend himself to an extent, both tapping down dudes and doing a reasonable Lightning Helix impersonation. Ajani factored into Standard control decks, often in sideboards. The idea was simple: in the control mirror, people sided out their removal. They also played a lot of lands that enter the battlefield tapped, like Vivid Creek. Ajani could come down, lock down a land and then Armageddon them a few turns later. Other decks used Ajani to mop up small creature swarms. I don't think the card is great at stopping monsters and it has a relatively pointless ultimate in Modern, so I don't think he'll see much competitive play from here on out - I'd consider this a casual staple, though.

Arcane Sanctum and associated tri-lands


Wizards really pushed the envelope with these cards, making brilliant color-fixing lands and keeping them from being rare. This was huge for casual players, but these lands also dropped the prices on a lot of other rare lands, since these were mostly better. I rarely see them in bulk bins any more, but the foils are especially choice to find.



A solid and straightforward card, appealing to two things that casual players really like. These solidly go for a dollar, even to dealer buylists.

Death Baron


This card has doubled in price over the last two months, thanks to Innistrad. It was entirely predictable, too. People love their Zombie decks and this is just about the best Zombie lord there is. You can make your tiny tokens trade with terrible towering titans, now that they have Deathtouch. I suppose he's also grand for your Skeleton tribal deck, since he pumps them up too! Keep your eye on these guys; they sell very readily to dealers, so if you are looking to make your collection more liquid for buylists, you can just trade dollar-for-dollar for these against less sellable cards.

Elspeth, Knight-Errant


Elspeth has been on a roller coaster of a price run. She was elusive as a Hollywood starlet, then showed up in a cheap feature called Elspeth Vs. Tezzeret, which everyone ended up buying. She dropped from $40 to her current price and was even as low as $10 when the duel decks came out. Elspeth is still a very reliable Plainswalker. She makes her best impression of an unkillable 4/4 flier, given enough time, and she'll jump the unlikeliest creatures over to screw with your combat math. Although casual players angle more for her big sister (THREE tokens!), she's still a good Modern staple and commands the price to match.

Empyrial Archangel


This monster of a woman usually shows up when people need a second Natural Order target to haul out against aggro hordes. It also shows up in Reanimator decks - most decks cannot work their way through her, even with burn spells. If the Archangel were Legendary, I'm sure she'd be worth double or triple what she is, simply because she'd be a great Commander general. As it is, she's still a fine throw-in to Bant Commander decks. Being an Angel makes her casual trade dynamite.

Etherium Sculptor


This lowly uncommon has silently climbed to its current high price. Packs of these readily sell on Ebay, so there's a great market for them. This is my pick for the sleeper of the set. If you drafted Shards, you probably have four or five of these sitting around anyway.

Ethersworn Canonist


A Cannonist is a person who presumably uses a cannon. A Canonist is, I would imagine, one who write canons - comprehensive tomes or musical movements. The Canonist sees a bit of play in Legacy and Vintage, since it is a storm hate card that can actually attack. It shuts down Cascade spells and combines in casually annoying Erayo decks. These are solid traders and I think you'll find a lot of attention on them in your trade binder.



This is a worthless bulk mythic, but it is an older Mythic; people want it for their sets. I suppose people also want it for their Commander decks. An 8/8 token is really cool, after all.

Hellkite Overlord


This grand Dragon sees competitive play in Oath of Druids decks in Vintage. It also swings for a considerable surprise in the air. If it makes it to your untap phase, the game is probably over. Overlord actually got so popular in Oath decks in Vintage that people started siding in Karthuus, Tyrant of Jund from the sideboard to steal opposing monsters.

Knight of the White Orchid


I'm not sure how often you get the Tithe out of this card - do you always play it so you can get the extra land? Is it worth playing if you can't score the Tithe? In any case, this is a white Knight, which means it slots into theme decks, and it is a reasonable accellerant on top of that.

Join me next week as we look through the second half of Shards!

Until then,

Doug Linn

Douglas Linn

Doug Linn has been playing Magic since 1996 and has had a keen interest in Legacy and Modern. By keeping up closely with emerging trends in the field, Doug is able to predict what cards to buy and when to sell them for a substantial profit. Since the Eternal market follows a routine boom-bust cycle, the time to buy and sell short-term speculative investments is often a narrow window. Because Eternal cards often spike in value once people know why they are good, it is essential for a trader to be connected to the format to get great buys before anyone else. Outside of Magic, Doug is an attorney in the state of Ohio.  Doug is a founding member of Quiet Speculation, and brings with him a tremendous amount of business savvy.

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One thought on “Insider: Hidden Gems in Shards of Alara

  1. Etherium Sculptor is a common, so easier to find… Shards has actually 4 solid commons = Etherium Sculptor, Blightning, Relic of Progenitus & Oblivion Ring. Together with the tri-lands a solid bulk bin set 🙂

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