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Insider: The Value of Lands

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The market is on the move once again. Most of you probably saw Star City Games’ most recent stunt – they increased their buy price on Scalding Tarn and Misty Rainforest to $20. Their sell price similarly increased to $35 for NM copies. Incredible.

This simple change suggests so many underlying implications. We’ve already ruled out the biggest potential implication as false thanks to a timely tweet from Ben Bleiweiss:

The sigh of relief could be heard around the country.

But there are still other reasons Star City Games would want to artificially inflate the price of Zendikar Fetch Lands. For one, Modern season is around the corner and they will want to be well stocked. Additionally, Real Estate has always been one of the safest investments in Magic Cards. While supplies are considerably less, a quick check on blue Onslaught Fetch Lands prices suggests how high the Zendikar counterparts could go.

This recent movement in the market is a perfect time to revisit the importance of Land cards in MTG Finance. The more ubiquitous the lands, the safer the investment.

Double the Colors, Double the Price

I cannot even name all the Nonbasic lands in Magic. While all ten Dual Lands and Fetch Lands can be readily recalled by the savvy MTG speculator, most people can’t name the five Legendary Champions of Kamigawa lands so easily. When was the last time you’ve seen Eiganjo Castle legitimately played? (Although I see no reason not to play this cycle of lands in EDH.)

The inevitable truth is that color-fixing rare lands are disproportionately more financially relevant than those lands that produce one or zero colors of mana. And while cards like Karakas have earned recognizable spots atop the Nonbasic land food chain, the reality is that color fixing is so often needed that rare versions of “Dual Lands” are so often good investments.

The most recent case is of course the recent jump in Innistrad Dual Lands (chart from blacklotusproject.com).

I sure hope you were acquiring all five versions of these mana-fixers as I wrote avidly about them a few months ago. Most of these have neared their peak, with Woodland Cemetery winning the reward for most overpriced.

By the way, the only Innistrad Duals I haven’t sold yet are half my Hinterland Harbors and all of my Clifftop Retreats. I am hoping for a metagame shift with the release of Gatecrash, and this should give these two a chance to inch higher.

Pseudo-Dual Lands don’t have to be in Standard and Legacy to be financially relevant. Thanks to the advent of Modern there are so many lands that have value beyond EDH appeal. If it’s a rare land that produces two colors of mana reliably, and if it’s Modern legal, then it has value.

Filter Lands have rebounded significantly since their post-Standard rotation drop. Their pattern will likely be followed by Scars of Mirrodin Dual Lands, which are just starting to rebound from their bottom (chart from blacklotusproject.com). If Filter Lands are any indication, these “Fast Lands” are destined for a rebound, and they don’t face possible reprint in Modern Masters. Acquire accordingly.

Even going old school with Pain Lands can merit some value. Despite being reprinted many times in Core Sets, Pain Lands haven’t seen print since Tenth Edition. Not all of them are financially relevant, but the enemy colored versions haven’t been printed quite as much and may have some potential. Especially Shivan Reef, which sees Modern play and is a fun casual color combination (chart from blacklotusproject.com).

Because of the consistent playability of Pseudo-Dual Lands, I will always view these as solid investments. Reprints are always possible and even likely, and this does have an impact. Many Shock Lands will never be the same again because of their massive reprinting in Return to Ravnica. But as far as stable long term investments go, you could do much worse.

And for those who care, I did check – even the Unhinged card City of Ass is financially relevant. Foil copies are SOLD OUT at Star City games at $14.99. In this case, I think this is a legitimate “sold out” too. After all, now that mana burn is gone, City of Ass is strictly better than City of Brass.

Basic Lands Have Feelings Too

For stable long term investments, you could do even one better. There are five cards that are legal in every format and are always relevant in every metagame. I am, of course, talking about Basic Lands – the only cards that never rotate.

Yes these have been printed a zillion times. Yes Basic Lands are boring. But this does not preclude the fact that Basic Lands can be financially relevant. You just need to know where to look.

For starters, any full art basic land is noteworthy. Zendikar copies are the most common and they still buylist at $0.10, the same buylist price as regular foil lands. Foil Zendikar Lands are even more desirable, already buylisting up to $6. It may take a long time for these to reach $30 like foil Unhinged Basics, but I can Foresee no reason for foil Zendikar Basics to drop in the next few years. These are pretty safe to invest in.

I suppose it would be possible and even likely that Wizards once again prints a new set of full-frame basics. Players love them and their presence in a set helps to sell packs. If for some reason Wizards was lazy and reused the Zendikar art, or if they printed even sweeter artwork, then I could see Zendikar Basic Lands diminishing in popularity. The good news is there is something even safer.

No matter how many reprints Wizards may do, I will go out on a limb and suggest there are a few Basic Lands that will never be printed in a comparable form again. One of my favorites is the number one most frequently reprinted card ever – Mountain. The reason Mountain wins this prize is because it appeared alone in the Arabian Nights expansion.

As time passed, this unintended blip has created a rare, highly sought after Basic Land. How’s this for a stable price chart (from blacklotusproject.com):

Some wild fluctuations did take place but they were short lived and the general trend has been upwards. In fact, since early 2009 it looks like the card has nearly doubled in price. I wish all of my assets would double after 3 years. And since Wizards will never reprint or ban Arabian Nights Mountains, this is hands down one of the safest investments in the game. Just don’t expect a lot of daily discussion on it.

But if you thought Arabian Nights Mountain was the most valuable Mountain, you’d be dearly mistaken. Know which Basic Lands are even more valuable? How about these:

Those eBay listings are for one Mountain. Now over ten years old, Guru Promos are exceptionally rare and valuable. Guru Islands are the most expensive, hovering in the $120 range!!

But I wouldn’t do justice to the most valuable basics I’m aware of if I concluded my article here. Off the top of my head, there are one more set of five Basic Lands that are more expensive. They are so rare, in fact, that I couldn’t even find any listed for sale.

They are, of course, the Summer Magic Basics.

This image is from ABUGames’ website – it’s no surprise they have little Summer Magic in stock. But at least they had a price to reference. Star City Games didn’t even bother having a subpage available for Summer cards since they have 0 in stock! I would wager my life’s savings that Summer Magic Basic Lands will never get reprinted in any way.

So if you can find them, these must truly be one of the safest investments in the game of Magic – just be careful acquiring since finding an outlet to sell may be tough (think rare pieces of artwork).

Back to the Future

All of these Basic Lands are fascinating to the right buyer. I didn’t even mention some of the really obscure Basics, such as APAC lands, the Wald misprint, or my personal favorite, the Drudge Skeletons misprint.

Approaching Basic Lands and Pseudo-Dual Lands as key conservative investments for a diversified MTG portfolio is a solid strategy. They are always legal, they are unlikely to become obsolete, and they are always in demand. The less likely to be reprinted, the better. And in the extreme cases, Star City Games may take notice of their popularity and suddenly increase their price drastically, creating easy profit for you. This is why I loved Innistrad Dual Lands so much and it’s also why I’m acquiring Scars of Mirrodin Lands now even as we speak.

Sigbits – The Buylist Edition

  • After a short stint at a higher price, Star City Games has finally reduced their buy prices on Unhinged/Unglued Basic Lands. I’m not sure why, given that they will never drop in price. But I suppose they tried to force the price increase a little too prematurely.
  • Channel Fireball is buying Sigarda, Host of Herons at $8, a decent price vs. SCG’s buy price of $6. This was a great target going into Standard rotation, but I wouldn’t acquire too fervently at this price.
  • An even greater discrepancy lies in Terminus. Star City Games is buying this card at $5, which isn’t bad if you got in at $3 a while ago. However, you could do MUCH better selling to Channel Fireball, who is currently paying $8! I’m inclined to pull the trigger on my last extra copy and skip the eBay fees altogether.

-Sigmund Ausfresser
@sigfig8

20 thoughts on “Insider: The Value of Lands

        1. They are, summer prices have gone up though. (Do remember though that these are asking prices, not sell prices). I’ve seen the scans you posted on magiclibrarities, those swamps were a bit worn right?

    1. Really? Then why is it still $0.25? Seems like there’d be little reason NOT to run all 5 of the lands in that cycle since they don’t CIPT. Maybe they are trade targets?

  1. I think players should take Ben B’s affirmation of the Legacy Open series with a big grain of salt. Affirming a move to Modern Opens would reduce the value of their Legacy stock substantially. The only thing Ben B *could* do was to come out and say Legacy Opens will continue into 2013. I don’t think Modern Opens are coming soon, but it’s inevitable imo.

    This move to raise the price level on Zen fetches might have had more to do with the end of Zendikar redemption than anything else. This should have been a predictable event for finance people, I’m kicking myself for not seeing it.

    Redemption ends in November, therefore new supply of Zendikar fetch lands is going to end. Combined with seasonal/increasing interest in Modern and thus higher prices are anticipated in the future. Ben B might have gone through this same thought process and decided to make the preemptive strike of raising buy prices in order to secure adequate supply for their Legacy Opens in advance of Modern season.

    1. You’re absolutely right. It seems like a logical progression of thoughts. I don’t think people in the finance community missed it exactly. Rather, I just don’t think any of us anticipated the price would drastically jump because of an artificial, sudden shift in SCG’s prices. Let’s face it. If they had increased the price by 5$ it would have been much less noticeable and the reactions of the masses would not have been as dramatic.

      Instead, they nearly doubled their price, causing massive buyouts. Ben did what was best and inevitable, I just wish it wasn’t so sudden. The market is so connected digitally now that such sudden changes by SCG causes major shakeups in the market.

  2. so which lands should i get rid of now?? my innistrad ones ie woodland cemetary? or my zendikar misty rainforests??

    which one is at its peak already?? and besides zendikar full art foils and shivan reef etc. what should i buy? thanks

    1. You may get different answers from different people here. I’d definitely sell all your Woodland Cemeteries. They’re in an event deck and they are already very expensive. As for Misty Rainforest and Scalding Tarn, I’d recommend you visit the Zendikar Fetch Land thread in the forums. A lot of discussion there on what to sell and what to buy. I personally am moving some of my extra Mistys and Tarns. There may be a minor price drop once Modern season is over in a few months and I can try to get back in then if I want.

      I’d prefer not to dictate what to buy. Rather, I try to provide some ideas and the rationale behind them and I encourage you to make the decision that fits your style best. If you like long term investments, then some boring basics like Zendikar Foils would be wise, as would Arabian Nights Mountain. If you’d prefer a quicker play, you could try Shivan Reef. My top choice is the five Scars Dual Lands. Those seem like best positioned for a bump. Hope this helps 🙂

  3. thank you so very much for your advice!! i really appreciate you taking the time to help me out 🙂 …and dont wry i wont hold anything against you if things dont pan out the way id want them too lol the reason why i jump to ask you guys these types of questions is because i dont play and i dont have a very good feel for whats hot and whats not…i strictly collect and fortunately have the money to throw around lol…so long term or short term doesnt rly matter much for me as long as i speculate well and make some fun money… but i will say this…you got me to buy a bunch of mistys and woodlands when the prices were substantially lower so lets just say i got to trust your wise advice! 🙂 thanks again!

  4. SCG buy prices for Scar Lands are very low compared to their selling price and i wont lie it kinda scares me… ie Razorverge Thicket is sold @ 1.99$ and bought @ 0.25 cents and they have TONS of copies for all 5… and even Blackcleave Cliffs sells @ 5.99$ and bought @ 2$ (which is the only one that sortha makes sense..) … and even Darkslick Shores sells @ 3.99$ and they buy it @ 0.50$…hmmmm are you’re still confident?? i’m sure you know what you’re saying but does this make sense?? thanks

    1. SCG must have recently dropped these prices. Not long ago, there was a thread in the forums talking about how SCG was paying much more for these. They likely acquired a ton and are content with their quantities – hence the lower buy price. The discrepancy is a bit odd, and it’s possible that the Scars Duals won’t go up much this Modern season. It took a couple years for the Filter Lands to get traction.

      But this type of research and discussion is very important. You’ll need to ultimately make the decision to acquire or not. I just see that Scars Dual Lands see Modern play, as do the Filter Lands. If the Scars Duals follow a similar price trajectory, then the Scars Duals are due for a long term rise. If I were you, I’d do a search on TCG Player, Card Shark, and eBay to see what these are selling for in reality (not overpriced retail land :)). From there, think about picking up a few here and there when you see they are relatively cheap. That way worst case you can sell them to make most of your investment back. When they’re selling for a couple bucks, can you really lose that much money?

  5. i understand your logic and theory…i checked out prices all over from tcg to ebay and prices are relatively high (overpriced retail prices lol)…the cheapest ive seen blackcleave was just under 4$…and the rest are scg type prices… im thinking of buying about 50 of each so as of now the bill would be pretty high :S…and i realize that im the one that will be making the decision but to spend well over 600$ for about 250 scar duals… i want to be prudent i guess.. and obviously to make a bigger profit id have to make a larger investment… i guess ill wait a bit…see what transpires.. but theres one thing ive noticed thats interesting…the foil versions are selling higher than scg prices just about everywhere…

  6. if only i would have invested everything i got on jace,the mind sculptor FOILS!!!! LOL those things are selling for 350$ on scg (and SOLD OUT!!!) and supposedly that card is banned???!! jesus christ!! lol

    1. Your prudence is not without merit. I rarely dive in so deeply on any card. I’m always a fan of diversification, which means I’ll never get rich from the hobby but I’ll also never be left holding 500 copies of something that flopped.

      Don’t beat yourself up on specs you missed, as you’ll drive yourself crazy with them. I’ve been playing Magic since 1997. I’ve heard stories of people opening Lion’s Eye Diamond and immediately ripping them up and/or throwing them in the trash. That card was perceived as useless. Imagine if I had just collected them for fun?!

      1. Hi Sigmund,

        Your comments and reviews are always well justified and very good. You seem like a great speculator. Your last comment perfectly fits my investing philosophy :). So I must say I agree 100%. You started playing magic more or less at the same time as me :). Maybe it is a generation issue… 😀

        1. Thanks for the kind words! I do have a different approach to investing, maybe it is a generational thing I don’t know. Could be an interesting study. I typically find myself to be risk averse, and so I rarely go deep on cards. It doesn’t make me a bad speculator – it just means I’ll never get rich from the hobby. I’m OK with that for the most part.

          One of these days I’ll get the courage to go deeper on something. But there are always opportunities out there, so if you missed the last one try to move on rather than fixating on the lossed chances. Right? 🙂 Always appreciate your comments, so please feel free to let me know what you do and don’t like in my articles! 🙂

  7. I remember Force of Will and Wasteland at around $2, Beta Duals at around $50, Revised Duals at about $9, if only… I collect Elvish Archers, sure hope those will take a jump in price! At least the Alpha ones did, the way those went up the 3 I have are now easily worth more than the entire Archers collection cost me.

    But I agree diversification is certainly recommended, not only because of the risk of holding 500 copies of a card nobody wants, but also because even if your spec works out you are still holding 500 copies. It’s not easy to move 500 copies of a card no matter how popular.

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