Pop quiz: what infrequently used card is nearly the most expensive Modern-legal card in normal printing, using TCGplayer mid pricing? The answer may surprise you, because the card doesn’t crack the top 50 for most played cards in the format. Or any format for that matter. Give up?
That’s right, Horizon Canopy has just about dethroned Tarmogoyf (using the cheapest printings available) to become the most valuable Modern-legal card. That’s what happens when a card sees fringe play and is released with only a single printing released in a small set a decade ago (Expedition supply likely added negligible volume to the market). At this point, the card is so expensive, you may as well pick up the Expedition version for a very reasonable $30 premium.
Both printings are also very low in stock, which fuels the speculation fire.
However, I’m here this week to emphasize caution. Horizon Canopy may be difficult to reprint now due to its price, but it’s not immune by any means. With new sets being thrown at us left and right, this card and others are all at “high risk” due to their price points, limited play, and overall vulnerability to reprint. Allow me to explain further.
The Bigger They Are…
When I see a card worth nearly $100 despite not being played much, it raises a huge red flag. Remember what happened to Damnation? The card was approaching $70 when its reprint cut the value of the black sorcery in half!
The card dodged reprint year after year and gradually rose in price. It sees plenty of Commander play and the occasional Modern sideboard may run a copy, but this card’s price was pretty much driven by its rarity and uniqueness. Sound familiar? I suspect Horizon Canopy is in a very similar boat. One opportune reprint and this card will tumble, because any appreciable increase in supply will very quickly outstrip latent demand.
If I take a step back, Horizon Canopy isn’t the only card at risk of significant price correction upon reprinting. In fact, I don’t even think Horizon Canopy is at greatest risk. There are a couple other cards that worry me even more, and I would advise you to develop an exit strategy and be prepared to execute said strategy at the drop of a hat.
First off, consider Mana Drain.
Many people probably assumed this was on the Reserved List. But those misconceptions died when Wizards gave us a judge foil printing. Now it’s glaringly apparent: this card can and will be reprinted! I’m not certain where we will get the reprint, but now that Wizards has commissioned a new piece of art for the card, I suspect they will be eager to use it a couple more times.
It could show up in Masters 25 next year. It could be revisited as a judge foil just like Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite was. Or it could show up in some other product altogether. All I know is that this is a $200 card that sees play only sporadically since it’s banned in Legacy. The original printing will maintain value, of course, but it will still fall a long ways when that reprint drops.
Another expensive card that is begging for a reprint is Rishadan Port.
This is another card some folks may mistakenly assume is on the Reserved List. But in reality, RL cards don’t exist starting with Mercadian Masques. That means all cards from this block and all moving forward are fair game. While the vast majority of Mercadian Masques cards are not worth visiting, I strongly believe we will see a Rishadan Port reprint at some point. Once again, this would be attractive in the Masters 25 set slated to launch next year. But it could be reprinted in other ways too. You may think this $100 card is safe from reprint due to its specific location reference, but Wizards has shown us time and again they have creative ways of reprinting cards. I wouldn’t sit on any copies of this one unless you regularly use them.
Another card that worries me is Flusterstorm.
Besides a judge foil, this was only printed in the original Commander series and has been gradually rising in price pretty much since the day it was released. Looking at its five-year chart, it’s incredible to see how this card has barreled through every price ceiling to set new highs. Now sitting at around $90, it seems almost inevitable this gets into triple-digit territory. Or does it?
Well, it is the 14th-most played card in Legacy, so it will survive reprint a bit better than other cards in this article. Then again, the fact that this card has never seen a normal printing means supply is artificially low. A sizable reprint in a Masters set would likely damage this card’s price for a long time. Judge foils could be safer to hold because you would avoid some pain from a nonfoil reprint. But if this gets a foil reprint as well, the judge promos are positioned to tank hard.
Lastly, let’s take a look at another card that falls in the top 10 most expensive in Modern. Perhaps even top five. I’m talking about Chalice of the Void.
This is the 32nd-most played card in Modern. It also cracks the top 50 in Legacy. But is it really seeing enough play to justify an $80 price tag? I would say not. This card was initially printed in Mirrodin, then got a follow up printing in the first Modern Masters, which we know was printed in low numbers. Another reprint and we could see this card tumble all the way back down below $50. It may take a while for that reprint to come, but I would be on high alert if you have a bunch of copies in your inventory.
There are plenty of places to park MTG resources to reduce your risk profile. Obviously Reserved List cards are the ideal low-risk MTG investment, but I’m not going to dwell on this again. You all already know this. (Or if you're new to site or concept, welcome! Check out articles tagged "Reserved List" or "Timeless Info" to catch up on some core ideas.)
I’m going to try and come up with non-RL cards I would be comfortable with holding at least for the time being...at least to start with. These may be places you want to look when cashing out of high-risk cards.
First off, I think foil printings of key Cat EDH cards could be a worthwhile pursuit. We already know that a successful Commander product leads to ample opportunities for profit. One look at the impact Atraxa and Breya had is enough to convince me that this is a great area to place some bets. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in the field of EDH or the Cat creature type, but EDH REC already has an assembly of tribal cat decks.
I would start by browsing this list and picking up foils of key cards with low stock. Many have already moved, but I’m sure that as more spoilers are released there will be other cards that spike in price. By avoiding nonfoil printings, you are largely immune to reprints while maximizing upside potential.
The fun won’t stop at Cats, either. Once we know what the other tribes of the Commander 2017 product will be, there will be no shortage of opportunities. Stick with foils of key cards and you’ll be well primed for profits.
Another area worth your consideration are the Masterpieces that have not spiked yet. These are going to do double duty in your portfolio: they should provide steady, consistent gains over time and they will also be prone to spiking should any speculator decide to make another move. In particular, I’ve got my eye on Solemn Simulacrum and Extraplanar Lens. Both see significant Commander play but lag behind other Commander heavy hitters that have already spiked. There’s also the Expeditions Horizon Canopy, which is likely one day away from disappearing from TCGplayer. Just be careful with that one, because it’s probably expensive for different reasons, as discussed earlier.
Okay, you knew I couldn’t stay away from Reserved List cards completely. There are a couple ideas that have my eye that I would be remiss to leave out. These are almost assuredly off your radars, so hopefully it inspires you to a few new ideas. First off, consider Urborg Justice (credit to Chris Martin for the idea).
This Reserved List card from Weatherlight has been drifting higher over the years, but only marginally. But when you read its ability, the card actually does seem interesting. It requires a bit of activation, but at just two mana and instant speed, I’m surprised it doesn’t see more play. Perhaps that’s because not many people have heard of the card…until now, perhaps. Also, supply is very low. There may be 51 sellers on TCGplayer, but you can’t even buy half the copies due to TCGplayer’s $2 minimum policy. If Season of the Witch can maintain a $10 price point, there’s no reason this can’t be a $5 card in time.
Another idea worth your consideration is Reparations, the Reserved List enchantment from Mirage (credit to Chris Martin for the idea).
This is another one of those cards with deceptively low stock on TCGplayer, since you can’t buy half of them without adding other items to your cart. I like this card because it draws you cards. Enough said. The two colors makes it awkward, and it certainly is no Rhystic Study. But only a little notice and it could see a 500-percent gain overnight. I’d suggest throwing a few copies in a box somewhere and revisiting it a year later.
Wrapping It Up
Wizards of the Coast has been ruthless with reprints lately. This trend is not likely to reverse, either, given the continuing pressures from Hasbro to sell more product. Therefore, I need to emphasize extreme caution to those who are sitting on high-dollar cards that aren’t on the Reserved List. It seems like it will be just a matter of time before these get the reprint treatment. Because many of these high-dollar cards are expensive due to low supply rather than high demand, their prices will absolutely tank upon reprinting.
The cards that worry me most are Mana Drain, Rishadan Port, and Horizon Canopy. I don’t want to own any printings of these cards. Since they see so little play, I suspect you don’t need to sit on them either. Why not consider moving them and picking up some safer bets?
We’re about to see a major catalyst in the realm of Commander thanks to the release of a few tribal-themed decks. Other than the commanders (which will all likely be new), there won’t be any foils in the decks. Therefore, picking up key foils now, in advance of the set’s release, could set you up for the most potential profit. Right now, we only know about Cats and Dragons, but when the other decks are spoiled you will have to act fast! Having cash on hand will enable you to make your purchases quickly to get the best entry point.
And of course, what would I do if there was no Reserved List? Time and again, I can revisit this well to draw up new places to invest. Reparations and Urborg Justice are a couple of cheap bets worth tucking away in your shoeboxes for a rainy day. I’m sure there are others as well.
The name of the game is to make profit, and I find it’s easiest to do this by avoiding unnecessary risks in the market. By balancing my portfolio and staying focused on potential reprint pitfalls, I can maximize my likelihood of success!
- I wanted to be first to mention Willow Satyr, but it sounds like the QS Cast beat me to it. This one has been drifting lower in stock, and it’s an attractive Reserved List card that appears primed to pop. Star City Games is sold out at $19.99 – you may want to put in a restock alert in case they stock a couple more copies at this price point before increasing it.
- There’s just one English copy of Sword of the Ages in stock at Star City Games, and it’s MP at $9.99. This is actually a good price because TCGplayer is higher. I expect this one to move up in price some time in 2017, though it’s not on the doorstep of a spike like Willow Satyr is.
- One Old School card that really surprises me is Word of Command. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this card played in a game of Magic. Yet its iconic nature and Reserved List status has led to all-time high pricing for the black instant. Star City Games is sold out of Alpha and Beta printings at $399.99 and $249.99, respectively. They have just one MP Unlimited copy in stock for $39.99, and even CE/IE copies are knocking on $10’s door.