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Insider: Touch of the Eternal — Commons & Uncommons

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Welcome to Touch of the Eternal! In this episode we look at the common and uncommon staples of the Eternal formats. This article idea is was suggested by MirageofHope, so a special thanks to him/her for that.

I'm a huge fan of trading in commons and uncommons rather than rares. There are several reasons for this.

  1. They rarely become so valuable that the price is detrimental (i.e. so expensive people are unwilling to pay or trade for them.)
  2. The commons often max out at 4-5 dollars (Sinkhole being the glaring exception to this rule) while uncommons can peak at 15 or so. This makes them prime for trades.
  3. They are necessary to run all the top-tier decks in Legacy/Modern. (As a side point, if you are a store trying to expand your player base, it is critical to have a good collection of these commons/uncommons.)
  4. They are easily thrown in to "even up trades" and are often great ways to make money when buying collections (when most people sell their collections they only value out the rares and then either throw in or bulk out the commons/uncommons)

Determining Risk of Reprint

There are some dangers to the common/uncommon waters. A reprint can often devalue all versions by 50% or so, especially commons. For a great example of this, look at Ancient Grudge.

Given this potential loss involved in holding commons and uncommons, it's wise to determine the likelihood of reprint. To help do this, I break commons and uncommons into two major categories: the power cards on one hand, and the hosers and enablers on the other.

Power Cards

The power commons/uncommons are the ones that are valuable based solely on their power in the abstract. These are far less likely to see a reprint. Some examples of these are:

Hosers and Enablers

Hosers and enablers on the other hand are far more likely to see reprints. These cards are good mainly due to the context of other cards that are currently legal and thus are often used to support the power cards. Good examples of these are:

  • Ancient Grudge (hoses artifacts)
  • Tormod's Crypt (hoses graveyard based strategies)
  • Ponder/Preordain (enablers whose power comes from the fact that blue often wants to find specific cards)
  • Spell Pierce (hoses non-creature decks)
  • [card Circle of Protection Red]Circle of Protection: Red[/card] (amazing against Burn)

Modern Legal or Not?

There is one last consideration to take note of: is the card in question Modern-legal? If so, then there is a much higher probability of a reprint. Many traders and speculators believe that Modern Masters will slightly reduce the cost of some high-dollar rares and mythics, but heavily depress the value of Modern uncommons. Here are some of the uncommons currently worth a couple bucks or more that are likely to reappear in Modern Masters.

All the cards listed above are currently at retail prices of $2.50 or more. However, any that are printed in Modern Masters will drop considerably (I'd guess they'll be at 50-75% of their original value). With a few exceptions they were all printed once and the current value is based on that fact. A second printing (especially at uncommon) will flood the market with extra copies as many players try to recoup the cost of Modern Masters.

A Note on Artwork

Another factor (though considerably weaker) that will determine future prices is the artwork. One important thing to keep in mind with Eternal players is that they often want the best of the best in their decks. This is why regular daze costs $2.50 but foil ones go for $45-50.

The best current example is the Brainstorm from Izzet vs. Golgari (the artwork is gorgeous, see image to the right) and it's currently the most valuable of the non-foil Brainstorms. Something to keep in mind should any of the uncommons in Modern Masters receive new artwork.

My current call on any of the cards listed above is to sell while you can. If and when they appear on the Modern Masters spoiler, their price will drop and continue to do so until they've hit their bottom about two months into Modern Masters' release. That will be the time to buy back in and hold for a while.

The Magic finance roller coaster is luckily quite predictable with prices changing based on the season (Modern/Standard/Legacy) so simply tracking that can make you a decent profit.

14 thoughts on “Insider: Touch of the Eternal — Commons & Uncommons

    1. They are indeed..the artwork is gorgeous and I would LOVE to somehow get those in foil (maybe wizards could reprint that artwork foiled in a FTV’s or something). Luckily, most people undervalue it because it’s 1) a common, 2) in the duel deck that a lot of casual players bought solely for the Niv Mizzet/Jarad’s.

  1. Commons / Uncommons that could easily be reprinted from your power list:

    Spell Snare

    Path to Exile

    Tendrils of Agony

    Counterbalance

    Commons / Uncommons that could be reprinted but unlikely:

    Brainstorm

    Sensei’s Divining Top

    Aether Vial

    Daze

    Standstill

    Dismember

    Investing / speculating in commons and uncommons is really bad because if they get reprinted once, the market tanks on them (although, not quite sure why it hasn’t done this on rancor (and actually one of the few rare exceptions where it has gone up!, maybe because it was uncommon in M13 and no one drafts the base set?)

    1. I apologize, I failed to mention one critical footnote. The “power” commons/uncommons will almost assuredly not see reprint in a standard legal set. Modern Master’s may in fact print some of them, but Wizards will NOT be printing brainstorm in a standard set, the same can be said of Sensei’s Diving Top, Daze, Standstill, Aether Vial. The major point I was trying to push (and perhaps failed to do so adequately) was that if you are going to pickup commons/uncommons it’s wise to determine the liklihood of a reprint (as we’re both in agreement that reprints almost always reduce the value of the original). I believe Rancor’s exception is heavily based on the fact that the last time it was printed was 1999 (and thus a lot of newer players had never seen/played with it and older players may have thrown them away/stowed them/etc)

        1. R&D has gone on the record calling storm the single most broken mechanic they ever made. Tendrils has a snowball’s chance in hell of a reprint.

          1. duress says hi. uncommon/common reprints don’t have to hurt pricing. also, its always about cost of investment versus expected return. grabbing new U/C on the cheap means you don’t care about reprints.

            add this to U/C as filler in trades and i think you miss much by ignoring the market.

  2. Nice article idea 😉

    Thanks for the information, David. It should come in handy for my Modern sell-off of commons/uncommons. Is Gemstone Mine really considered an uncommon? I believe it was Timeshifted, and I’m not sure how to count those. If Timeshifted counts maybe something odd like Darkness could be reprinted because of its high value.

    I wonder if the uncommons will drop even more than 50-75% of their original value. Take Reliquary Tower for example. Before M13, it was selling for 5$, now the Conflux version is $1.50. Obviously, just one example, but the demand for that card is pretty high, and it couldn’t sustain even half of its price.

    1. While Darkness certainly could be reprinted, I think the fact that it’s not really played in any modern deck or in really high demand might keep it from being reprinted…though if it fit a set thematically, I don’t see Wizards having an issue reprinting it. The difference with Reliquary tower, was that it was a smaller set that wasn’t drafted a whole lot…in the days of Conflux you still drafted Shards/Shards/Conflux..so as a whole very few packs were opened (compared to a lot of other sets).

      1. I know people aren’t exactly clamoring for a Darkness reprint, but I am just wondering if they do have to throw in some cards that aren’t necessarily Modern staples just to round out the set or make it more draftable. If the set is all staples, the drafting concept won’t really work.

        Thanks for the info about the Towers.

        1. They will definitely have to add “filler” cards to make it draftable..however, a fog effect in black isn’t really a “filler” it’s only valuable due to it’s rarity rather than a strong demand. There are plenty of “filler” cards they could use that would make it better for drafting.

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