I love doing my finanical recaps of older sets where I mine the expensive cards, but going back further is a little harder in two ways. First, there are just so few good cards in older sets. Second, the good ones don't often turn over, so it's hard to establish prices. Luckily, Mirage Block was the first "modern" block and it brought in some great spells that wizards still sling today. Let's take a walk through time as we re-acquaint ourselves with the block. Below is a list of some of the choice picks from the block; I left out the cards worth under two dollars, leaving only the prime cards on the list. There are some cards in here that I guarantee will surprise you.
Mirage had such an incredible and immersive world. I remember cracking packs when it first came out and marveling at elephants, giant insects, night horrors, stout knights and more. The flavor text was well done. With the series of Knights, like Burning Shield Askari, they pushed what Grey Ogres could be. Mirage is still seriously underpowered compared to today, but it's a fine set to go back and think about. Here are some of the hits:
Of all of the topdeck tutors, Enlightened Tutor is the most dangerous in Mirage. Enchantments and artifacts have a long-lasting and powerful effect on the board. The card can get things like Choke, Null Rod, Tormod's Crypt, Warmth and Light of Day. In Legacy, it's used to get both halves of the Thopter Sword combo, get a Top and Counterbalance or put up an Ensnaring Bridge. It's a phenomenally good card. Bob Maher used it in Oath of Druids to run a toolbox deck with a few maindecked bullets. It's still a captivating card for players to this day.
Commander has really pushed new life into the topdeck tutors. ET will slot into anything you put it in with white and you're sure to have great bombs - even if you're just getting Sol Ring on the first turn. Despite being reprinted in Sixth Edition, everyone wants the white-bordered copies instead.
Lion's Eye Diamond
LED sat languishing for years, until it broke out in Vintage as part of a deck that used it in a combo. You would cast Burning Wish, getting your sideboarded Yawgmoth's Will, and crack the Diamond in response to the Wish. You then had three free mana and an open graveyard to replay the LED and everything else. You had four LEDs, so it was likely that you could get two or four free Black Lotuses in the combo turn. What a monster.
LED was restricted in Vintage but it still sees a lot of love in Legacy, where the "activate in response" trick powers Ad Nauseam and hellbends Infernal Tutor. It ticks up in price about $5 per year. The card is never going to be reprinted and there's not much that can really hose storm combo in Legacy to where it would stop being played, so LED is a stable card.
Mystical Tutor got banned in Legacy last year, which caused a lot of griping. Let's be clear: Mystical Tutor was too good and we knew it for a long time. Brainstorm is too good and there will still be people griping. Mystical Tutor, while it cannot grab hate cards on the caliber of Enlightened Tutor, could still get everything that a combo deck needed. It grabs the engine cards, the kill cards, that one-of Echoing Truth to stop hate bears... It's an all-around solid card. It is one of the sacrosanct blue cards that never gets cut in Vintage and it sees plenty of play in Commander, too.
The 'Nought was a tempting garbage creature when it was first printed. I don't think my friends realized that they didn't gain any benefit if they sacrificed 12 power worth of dudes to fuel this thing. Luckily, more intelligent people figured that you could use it with Illusionary Mask (good luck figuring it out) at the time to get a 12/12 in play with no downside. Thus, MaskNought was born, one of the first aggro-control decks in Vintage. A Dark Ritual could power it out on the first turn, backed up by Unmask. It was a deadly deck and was a force to consider in the early days of Vintage.
The Nought also gets a minor bit of play in Legacy right now, since you can Stifle its trigger. This was the basis of Dreadstill decks, which aimed to use the 12/12 and Standstill to apply a lot of pressure on the opponent. It's a bad creature and a bad combo, but people still love the idea of a 12/12 for one mana.
Spirit of the Night
The Spirit was one of the coolest cards for me in Mirage because of the summoning ability with Urborg Panther. It had a few brief moments in Oath and Reanimator decks, but it is largely forgotten in the face of Akroma these days.
Creatures are often the worst part of a combo to tutor up, and this guy has to compete with Survival of the Fittest at casual tables. That said, Worldly Tutor is a fine card for grabbing silver bullet guys or getting casual combos on the table. The fact that this grabs any creature, not just green ones, makes it head and shoulders above the rest of the creature tutors.
Visions was a much smaller set and it developed more of the Mirage themes of Phasing and Flanking. I can't really pin a good theme on what Visions was about. It had killer art, but most of the cards are just not memorable (or valuable). It is a historically significant set because it was the first set with comes-into-play creatures. The mechanic of a benefit when a creature enters the battlefield is huge in design these days. Imagine that there were several years of Magic, thousands of cards, before this idea was explored in its infancy!
Anvil of Bogardan
I like the Anvil, but I'm not so sure what it does. It lets me skip my discard like a Spellbook and it gives me a Merfolk Looter, but then again, it gives that to everyone. I'd have to design a deck that really focused on getting the most out of this effect to give something that valuable to an opponent. It's definitely in the vein of Howling Mine, but I don't know why I'd want this when I wasn't also running the Mine.
On a side note, I'm amused that R&D has realized the real power of Howling Mine in recent years. Keeping that card in Standard alongside too many Fog effects can be dangerous, indeed.
Desertion is one of the best counterspells in Commander. It's a superb spell that will jack a Mindslaver just as easily as a Grave Titan. All of its value comes from its use in Commander and similar casual ventures.
Natural Order is the Green Tinker and it wasn't worth a red cent before Keeper of Progenitus was printed. We suddenly had a giant, insane and unremovable monster to get, simply by feeding a Ignoble Hierarch to it. Thus, Natural Order shot up in price as people slotted it into Legacy decks. Natural Order comes and goes in power. The prime decision is whether you can rely on a 2GG spell to win - can you cast it fast enough? Can you protect it? It's strange to think that sometimes, Progenitus simply isn't enough, but he doesn't gain life and that's a big disadvantage. Natural Order is rarely played now because both the UW Stoneforge decks, with Spell Pierces, and the RUG Delver decks with tempo coming out everywhere, can handle the sorcery just fine.
Year by year, Tithe is forgotten a little more. It's a great little spell - I love its ability to grab two dual lands if I'm on the draw or just crafty with fetches. Tithe had a few problems going against it in that you couldn't exactly rely on it when people play spells like Daze and Spell Pierce. Land and color smoothing isn't really worth a card if all you're doing is getting one land, and it's unreliable for getting a pair. I'm Tithe's best friend, but I doubt it'll ever see serious play in Legacy.
Vampy alone probably makes up half of the value of Visions. It's a card second only to Demonic Tutor. It's been insane or better in every format where it's been legal. Again, despite having been reprinted, people still love the black-bordered Visions editions.
I especially like Weatherlight, even though it's a really poor set. It's got a lot of neat flavor to it and I think it set up the Tempest cycle pretty well. I have good memories of cards like Roc Hatchling and Mistmoon Griffin. My two favorite cards of all time are Disrupt and Phyrexian Furnace. Such value! There are a few cards in the set that have survived the test of time financially, and here they are.
Abeyance is a pretty cool word and a pretty cool card. Back in Ancient Times when this was first printed, it was interpreted to be the most insane Time Walk ever. See, tapping a land for mana was an activation cost, since you had to tap it. That still holds true to this day. Abeyance could hit lands in the beginning, so you could use it to blank an opponent's turn and then draw a card in the process! How berserk! The card was quickly changed and now it's just used to protect combos from counterspells. Note that this, like Disrupt and many other Weatherlight cards, carries that magic phrase of "draw a card."
I am not making this price up. Firestorm, that naughty X-X-X card, can sweep away an army in front of you for a single mana. What was a downside at the time of printing - giving up a lot of cards - has become a reason to run Firestorm in Legacy. It's an amazing discard outlet. Dredge runs the card to turn on its discard and fight aggro decks more effectively. If you know other reasons why Firestorm suddenly is so expensive, let me know!
It has "Lotus" in the name. It makes three mana of any color. If your buddies don't know what Wasteland is, this card is pretty solid.
Null Rod ostensibly sees play in Vintage as a hoser for Moxes, but it's on the wane. With Lodestone Golem around, it's a better strategy for Mishra's Workshop decks to combine the Golem and Phyrexian Metamorph instead of spending slots on the Rod. White has Stony Silence, which Fish decks run instead because it's a lot harder to kill an enchantment than an artifact in Vintage. Null Rod sees a tiny bit of Legacy play, mostly to shut down Tormod's Crypts.
Peacekeeper used to sell for $10-15 when Merfolk was a big deal, but that deck is as dead as last week's catch. There are some decks that simply cannot get past a Peacekeeper and Merfolk was one. Dredge was another. Now that those decks are out of the metagame, Peacekeeper gets to retire with Llawan, Cephalid Empress to the land of obsolete hosers.
Winding Canyons is entirely a Commander card, but it's ubiquitous because it's colorless. I have played a lot of Commander and I have very rarely used one of these when it's on the field, but it's a nice enough ability. There is a lot to be said for colorless lands with a minor effect, which is why cards like High Market command the price that they do.
Keep an eye out for some of these older hits. If you'd like to go back and read some of my older articles, which span Tempest to Zendikar, simply click here and get to reading!
Until next week,