Welcome back, readers! Today's topic will cover some "long shot" speculations (the second in the series)---cards with potential that haven't shown it yet, or that did but then were forgotten or eclipsed.
Magic has existed for 23 years now. WoTC has printed a lot of unique cards in this time span. It's not always hard to spot a card with a lot of potential (some might remember how Star City Games couldn't keep Jace, the Mind Sculptor in stock when they started preselling them at $25). But plenty of times a card flies under the radar only to blow up later, oftentimes when it combos with a new card like we saw with Allosaurus Rider and Eldritch Evolution.
Today's article again focuses on the long shots. Cards that for the most part have been under $2 their whole lives (we'll exclude pre-sell prices because those often come crashing down shortly after release). While we won't always stick to these bullets we'll ideally look for cards that meet the following criteria:
- Single printing
- Pre-Innistrad block (as the playerbase grew rapidly around this time, so a lot more copies of each card entered the market as more and more packs were opened).
This unique rare from Darksteel got overshadowed during the days of Affinity. It cost four mana---way more than that deck wanted to spend on a single creature, especially a 2/2. Over the years the number of ways to add +1/+1 counters (or double them) has grown, and that happens to be a favorite play style for many casual players. If you have a way to keep adding counters to this card you can keep recurring artifacts from your graveyard to the top of your deck.
This isn't as powerful as Academy Ruins, but the fact that the land is over $20 and this guy is under $2 tells me he has at least some potential. It doesn't hurt that Darksteel is a 12-year-old set, and thanks to Affinity's dominance in Standard I imagine WoTC is weary of bringing any of these mechanics back to Standard.
This one has slowly been on the move upwards, doubling up in the past two years. It's a cheap enchantment that tutors up artifacts. So it only gets better as more cheap artifacts (or artifacts that want to be in the graveyard) get printed. As a toned down Survival of the Fittest, it has a lot of potential.
It doesn't hurt that thanks to WoTC printing Mana Crypt in both Eternal Masters and as a Masterpiece in Kaladesh, there are more for Commander players to jam into their decks, and a lot of those players like repeatable tutoring.
This one is aimed heavily at Commander players. After the power level of the Mirrodin block, WoTC toned Kamigawa block down heavily. I didn't play during this time (I was in college and didn't really have time), but my friends that did all remember it as a very forgetful block for the most part.
If you look at most Commander decks nowadays you might see a few Kamigawa cards pop up here and there, but as a block it tends to be pretty under-represented. Betrayers of Kamigawa, arguably the least powerful set of the block, you see even less.
Enshrined Memories is a card I'm happy to draw almost any time as it can give you a small card advantage early in the game or a huge one late. It plays really well with any sort of tribal Elf deck as their power level is very much tied to synergy and mana production, which plays really well with this card.
Homura, Human Ascendant
This one is slightly over $2 (but just barely) and I wanted to at least give it a shot in here. It's another Kamigawa block card (so everything I mentioned about the block previously applies here). Most people don't want to play a 4/4 for six mana that can't block, but there are tons of ways to sacrifice creatures in Commander and the flip side is really powerful. Supplying your army with a double Glorious Anthem, flying and firebreathing is a really quick way to kill people.
This one goes best in a tokens-based deck as the benefit is obviously more powerful with the more creatures you have. Red has a good number of token generators. I used to play a Márton Stromgald deck that could quickly kill out of nowhere. This leads me to my next choice.
Editor's Note: Márton Stromgald apparently has no historical price data in Trader Tools, which is why it's showing up strangely.
Just about every Commander players has to read this card when you play it. He's insanely good in a token-based deck (as I just mentioned) and you can play him as your Commander. The challenge with him is that he tends to die the first combat you swing with him (unless you can make him unblockable or indestructible), but he ends games in a hurry. He also has a low enough CMC that it's not unheard of to cast him 4-5 times in a game.
He's an Ice Age rare, which means the newest copies are still old enough to drink here in the US. I realize Ice Age felt like it was printed into oblivion, especially when you recognize that most of the earliest sets kept selling out almost immediately (save Fallen Empires and Homelands). But with the playerbase now exponentially larger than it was in 1995, these rares are still likely more rare than anything Modern-legal.
In fact, Ice Age is the last set we have a known print run of, so we can say there are only 101,000 Márton Stromgalds out there. It's also worth mentioning that this card is on the Reserved List.
I realize this one might seem a bit out there, but the printing of Harmless Offering has brought us closer to a critical number of pieces for a Donate combo deck. There are already Commander decks (I'm looking at Zedruu the Greathearted) that look to give harmful things to the opponent. The best of these are often in black (which Zedruu decks can't play), so artifact versions carry more weight.
The biggest challenge with this card is that a smart opponent would make sure they sacrificed this card first, so one would have to do a lot of damage in one shot to really make it painful.
Speaking of cards one might want to donate to their opponent, this bulk rare from Shards of Alara plays extremely well with the previously mentioned Harmless Offering. What intrigues me here is that you can use it as a semi-fog (if your own graveyard is full) to buy time to donate it to your opponent via Harmless Offering or Bazaar Trader.
If a deck like this exists in Modern, it might want to run graveyard hosers like Leyline of the Void or Tormod's Crypt, which aren't bad maindeck cards anymore thanks to the likes of Dredge, Living End, GBx Delirium, and decks with Snapcaster Mage. With a Leyline or Crypt, donating the Coil becomes lethal immediately.
This is the type of deck that could win a major event simply by being off the radar, which would spike the price of the major cards (though whether this type of deck could remain competitive I honestly don't know).
I enjoy writing this series a good bit, as it makes me 1) delve into older sets that I may or may not have played; 2) look at each card through different lenses (Modern, Commander, Legacy, casual, etc.); and 3) force me to consider what cards might play well with each. While I don't know if any cards in this series will spike for sure, I can't imagine that none will.
I am a huge fan of older cards with potential and low buy-in. I know Sigmund Ausfresser is a big fan of investing in the Reserved List and it's hard to argue that by having a fixed supply any new demand can cause a card to jump. But there is still plenty of room for non-RL cards to spike, especially since the Reserved List doesn't affect Modern.
I still feel like Modern is the biggest contributor to legitimate older card growth (I don't count buyouts as actual card growth). Though obviously I'm not opposed to RL picks either, as evidenced by my pick of Márton Stromgald for Commander/casual.
I hoped you enjoyed my Long Shots #2 and I'm looking forward to #3. If you have any card suggestions for this list please feel free to PM me or comment below and I'll be happy to review them for upcoming articles.