Insider: The “Penny Stocks” of Magic

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Today's article will focus on the cheap "penny stock" cards that seem like sound investments. Now, every "cheap" card might be considered a potential penny stock, so we need to isolate the diamonds from the chaff. In order to do so we want to establish some parameters.

  1. Limited to a single printing (or reprinted only in a specialty box/set/etc.) - The reason for this is that these types of cards will have a decent amount of demand (or potential demand) and the fewer copies on the market, the higher the likelihood that they spike suddenly.
  2. Low buy-in price - I'm going to set this parameter to $0.5 or less. This will allow me to get a decent number of them without assigning too much of my available investment capital into them and limits the amount of risk I'm willing to take. Obviously this parameter is subjective and every investor should set it based on their risk tolerance.

So now let's go over some of my picks and the reasons for them.

Crystal Ball

This is a bad Sensei's Divining Top, but the massive demand for that card (at $18-$25 each) means that plenty of EDH players are forced to look for cheaper alternatives. Of course Crystal Ball is also not too bad with Top, as you can bottom cards to dig one deeper with Top itself.

Deceiver Exarch

(While this was reprinted in Commander 2013, given it's a one-of, I don't believe significant supply was added to the market). Currently this is the kill card of choice over Pestermite in Modern Twin decks because it's safe from Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix.

Buried Ruin

This card has quickly become a staple in almost all EDH decks that feature a lot of artifacts (whether they are blue- or red-based). It's an uncounterable recursion ability that can form a solid card advantage loop with Crucible of Worlds.

Pyretic Ritual

This is one of the rituals of Modern storm decks. Currently it's right around the $0.5 mark so it might waffle over the desired price range at times, but it's a great pickup for Modern season. It's unlikely to be reprinted before Modern season begins and if storm decks continue to be popular (especially among the game's very best--Finkel and Budde) then I expect an uptick in demand.

Squadron Hawk

This little guy was around $1.50-2.00 as a common during his Standard heyday. The ability to shuffle and tutor up three extra cards is amazing in a format that allows you to Brainstorm copies back and retutor them later. You can use them to chump block larger creatures quite easily and they can be equipped with Swords, Jitte or Batterskull to become a sizable threat with built-in evasion.

Timely Reinforcements

This card was the bane of mono-red (along with Kor Firewalker) for quite some time. Not only does it gain life, it also provides blockers for future attacks, putting it in the excellent sideboard camp for control decks. The fact that in Modern and Legacy it can be flashed back with Snapcaster Mage is gravy.

Ancient Stirrings

This common never really found a home in Standard, but has proven a major player in R/G Tron decks of Modern. The fact that it can dig for a land, an eldrazi, or an artifact gives it a lot of use in EDH as well.

Bant Charm

This is one of the better charms in the cycle. Its abilities are highly relevant in EDH and there's even potential in Modern.

Crib Swap

This is one of the great EDH removal spells that doesn't see nearly as much play as I think it should. It's more expensive than Path or Swords, but what your opponent gets in return is often far less troublesome than another land or a bunch of life. The other beauty is that it can be searched up with any creature-specific tutor (Goblin Matron, Elvish Harbinger, etc.)

Flame Slash

While this was in the Sorin vs. Tibalt decks, those weren't nearly as popular as some other duel decks, so there are likely far less of those copies than you'd think. This card is often the Spellskite killer of choice for Twin mirrors. It does rotate in and out of favor so it's preferable to get them now (while they are out of favor) than when they are back in.

Forked Bolt

This card rotates in and out of RUG Delver decks all the time as one of the flex slots. The ability to split up the damage makes Forked Bolt a very useful utility card that can always be aimed at the opponent's dome in a pinch. Its sorcery speed is one of the few major drawbacks.


This is one of the staple cards in any 12-Post deck and was easily a $0.75-$1.00 before Cloudpost's banning in Modern. Since then it has dropped to less than $0.25. Its unique land type makes it likely to not see print again (except in some sort of specialty product). If another locus land is printed you can expect demand for this to soar.

Gut Shot

Being a Phyrexian mana spell, the ability to reprint it (thematically) is limited. Free spells are something to always keep an eye out for, and the more one-toughness creatures that get printed, the more targets this spell gets.

Leatherback Baloth

Ironically his triple-green converted mana cost used to be his biggest downfall for eternal formats. Now, thanks to the devotion mechanic it's actually a plus for the heavy mono-green devotion decks. The fact that you get a 4/5 body on a three-drop certainly doesn't hurt his desirability.

Loam Lion

Again I realize this one has a caveat on not fulfilling the "printed once" clause of our requirements, but he appeared in a duel deck as a one-of so I don't feel too worried about significant supply being added to the marketplace. His demand and price are directly tied to the success (or lack thereof) of Wild Nacatl, which hasn't proven itself to be much of a danger yet in the current Modern metagame. Should a Naya (or 4/5-color) Zoo deck rise to prominence in Modern, this guy easily jumps to $1.50-$2.00.

Mental Misstep

Being legal in only one format (Vintage) has depressed the value of this card to its current $0.5. Should it ever end up unbanned (more likely in Modern than Legacy as Modern has a lot of one-drops, but nowhere near as many as Legacy), it would immediately jump up in value, likely to $6-8 dollars.

As it has remained pretty steady at $0.5 I consider it a relatively stable, safe bet with a lot of potential upside. Enough that I myself have close to 80 of them (just in case). This is my pick for the card with the most potential, because its current value is completely due to its banning in both Legacy and Modern.

Mercy Killing

This guy's a local EDH favorite in green-white decks as it can remove indestructible creatures as well as turn one large creature that's about to die into a ton of small tokens. The card has a lot of utility and is great for politicking an EDH game.

Nature's Claim

This one really suprises me, given it sees play in all formats (from Vintage, to Legacy, to Modern) and was from a second small set that wasn't all that popular (save for Jace, the Mind Sculptor). After Mental Misstep, this is the next one I'd go deep on.

Signal Pest

A staple in many of the hyper-aggro Affinity lists. This card can go into any hyper-aggressive deck (thanks to its one colorless mana cost), was printed in a second smaller set and the set itself was considered far weaker than either set it was sandwiched between.

Spreading Seas

Another common that sees play in Modern sideboards (and some Merfolk maindecks). It does a great job messing with somewhat shaky Modern manabases and serves as an out to manlands which often cause problems for a lot of decks.

3 thoughts on “Insider: The “Penny Stocks” of Magic

  1. this is a pretty good list. i don’t like crystal ball but the reasoning is sound. crib swap and red rituals are so good and too cheap. i would replace ball with blistercoil wierd/niv miz spell eater dude. those one drops are exploitable in modern, maybe, and cute enough to draw johnny.

    1. While I agree that Crystal Ball is nowhere near SDT in terms of power, I’ve had a lot of local EDH players ask me for them because they didn’t want to buy Tops (when I asked them why not use top). Besides you can only run 1 top in EDH and Crystal Ball gives non-blue decks a way to manipulate control the top of their deck a bit better.

  2. As an EDH player, I tried crystall ball several times, and it’s not what I want it to be. Three mana investment is too much. And the card is too vulnerable. Top can protect itselfs, which makes it so great in EDH.

    All the other are in my cheap spec box!

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