Nearly three and a half years ago I wrote up an article about something near and dear to my heart: Homelands. The flavorful set has always been a personal favorite of mine ever since I was buying packs for $1.75 at the local hobby shop. To this day I maintain a full set of Homelands for personal enjoyment. Surprisingly, some of the set’s cards have actually proven to be quite lucrative.
An-Zerrin Ruins was the most recent card from Homelands to pop on the back of the tribal-themed Commander 2017 decks. I managed to sell a couple copies for about four bucks each before buylisting the remainder of my stack to Card Kingdom for a modest profit.
Beyond this card, I’ve also seen healthy gains from Anaba Spirit Crafter and Koskun Falls. Say what you will about the underpowered nature of the set—there are still a few obscure cards there worth keeping in a trade binder.
This week I thought I’d investigate cards from another overlooked set: Ice Age. This set isn’t nearly as worthless as Homelands as a whole thanks to the existence of the pain lands. Besides those lands, there really aren’t many cards you’ll run into during tournament play. But just because there are no headliners doesn’t mean the set is completely worthless. What’s more, it contains many Reserved List cards—some of which have shown movement lately, such as Glacial Crevasses. I think there are enough sleepers in the set that it’s worth a deeper look.
Pirates and Dinosaurs
The Ixalan prerelease took place last weekend. Players and speculators were able to get their hands on Magic’s newest set. We’ve already seen the set’s theme catalyze movement in certain areas of the market. Of course I’m referring to the Dinosaur and Pirate themes of the set.
This theme in MTG finance is likely to continue further. And it may even extend to various obscure cards from Ice Age. For example, one of my favorites is the card Skeleton Ship. This card has risen from virtual bulk to over a buck.
When I swing by TCGplayer to search for this Reserved List card from Ice Age, I find just 14 sellers with Near Mint or Lightly Played copies. There are a smattering of sellers with MP, HP, and Damaged copies but do you really want to be chasing those? I personally wouldn’t buy this one out, but I could see someone randomly deciding that the $40 it would take is worth a chuckle. Of course, the greatest irony of all is that this isn’t technically a Pirate. It’s a Skeleton. But no one has to know.
When I sort TCGplayer in order of best selling, there’s actually a Dinosaur card that has been quite popular: Pygmy Allosaurus. The card is extremely underwhelming, almost to the point of embarrassment that Wizards printed it as a rare. But with a buy price of over a quarter, this really isn’t bulk anymore, is it? There are still a bunch of copies on TCGplayer, but if you have any Ice Age bulk make sure you pull these out and set them aside.
If these two obscure targets don’t excite you—or if you prefer to avoid such ho-hum cards—let me direct your attention to another area of speculation that lies within Ice Age: speculation on Mairsil, the Pretender. People have been scouring the history of Magic in an attempt to find exciting cards to exile with Mairsil. Many have gravitated to Shauku, Endbringer, causing the price on the Mirage rare to skyrocket.
While exiling creatures on a whim is tempting, I’ve noticed others shift focus towards a different creature with powerful activated ability: that of Minion of Leshrac.
Why use an ability that only targets creatures when you can destroy either creatures or lands? Seems like it’s worth trying, at least, even if the card itself isn’t very good. There are only 63 sellers left on TCGplayer, and based on the site's sorting it appears this has been the second hottest seller from Ice Age of late.
What’s the hottest seller? It’s another Mairisil spec: Infernal Denizen! Imagine summoning a Mairsil, the Pretender that steals creatures rather than destroys them. Seems pretty strong, right? Just like with Minion of Leshrac, putting this guy under Mairsil gives you the powerful activated ability without having to worry about the downside.
The card hasn’t really caught on yet, as evidenced by its low numbers on EDH REC. But I think it may get there one day, so I think it’s worth picking up a few playsets for dirt cheap.
Shifting to Alliances
Well, I’ll be completely honest here. I thought there would be more inspiring targets in Ice Age, but as I moved deeper and deeper into TCGplayer’s ranking of “best selling,” I found very little worth talking about. Rather than shake a tree with very little fruit, I will instead shift gears and look at the second set in Ice Age “block”: Alliances.
This set has much more going for it. For one, it contains Legacy staple Force of Will. The best seller lately on TCGplayer is Lake of the Dead, a Reserved List land I talked about a few weeks ago. Hopefully some of you picked up some copies before the card spiked. I was also inspired to see Varchild's War-Riders suddenly jump since that was another one I had been watching closely.
Going a little deeper, there are a few other noteworthy cards that are lesser known. These should remain on your radar and certainly be picked out of bulk.
My favorite one is Phyrexian Devourer. This is a Reserved List card that has actually seen tournament play à la its combination with Necrotic Ooze and Triskelion back in the Survival of the Fittest days of Legacy. Phyrexian Devourer’s power can’t exceed seven or it’s toast. But with this and Triskelion in the graveyard, Necrotic Ooze can get bigger and bigger and then shoot down opponents with all the accumulated +1/+1 counters.
Now there’s a new game in town: Mairsil! If you exile your Phyrexian Devourer with Mairsil you can make your commander extremely beefy at instant speed. Then you are welcome to abuse all sorts of other cards to take advantage of his newfound power and toughness. This is definitely a card worth buying.
Another Alliances card I like for its Commander utility in multiple decks, though it fits best with Omnath, Locus of Rage due to its ability to trigger landfall repeatedly. Naturally I’m referring to Thawing Glaciers, a Reserved List land from the set.
This is one worth owning a few copies of, and if you’re really ambitious you could go after the foil copies. The foils are from the Judge Foil program and released in 2010 before the Reserved List tightened restrictions on such reprints. Thanks to these rules, this is the only foil version of the card that will ever exist, yet it trades at a steep discount to other Reserved List Judge Foils in a similar boat. To me, this indicates upside.
The last cards I want to touch upon are the other four lands that make up the “replacement land cycle.” These include Kjeldoran Outpost, Soldevi Excavations, Balduvian Trading Post, and Heart of Yavimaya (Lake of the Dead being the fifth). Of course Lake of the Dead already popped, but the others have some potential. It also helps they’re all on the Reserved List.
When I browse TCGplayer for the best selling Alliances rares, Kjeldoran Outpost shows up sixth in the list, while Heart of Yavimaya shows up tenth. I like both of these the most for their long-term potential. The latter has the lowest stock besides Lake of the Dead, which probably makes it my favorite of the bunch.
Soldevi Excavations and Balduvian Trading Post have deeper stock, but they do show up twelfth and thirteenth in the ranking. The Trading Post is the cheapest one with the most stock, so you may have an easier time finding these in bulk. Definitely pull them out to sit on them.
Wrapping It Up
I really enjoy exploring this time period in Magic’s history because it’s a trip in time to when I started playing the game. I remember cracking my share of Homelands, Alliances, and Ice Age packs. At the time it was always a thrill to open a pack, not knowing what the rare was or what new tools I’d find to build my casual decks. I even distinctly remember buying a Jester's Cap for $25 from a hobby shop…fun times.
Now that these sets are over twenty years old, a few cards—especially those on the Reserved List—have potential to pop. We’ve already seen some obscure and unexpected cards skyrocket out of bulk status, including Glacial Crevasses and An-Zerrin Ruins. Given the rarity and age of these cards, I am confident we haven’t seen the last of the buyouts. But rather than go back and study all these older cards to comb through the uselessness to find the few hidden gems, I have done my best to complete this task for you. Hopefully you found it helpful and informative.
So go out there and dig into your Ice Age and Alliances bulk! There are some pretty interesting cards in these sets worth pulling aside. From Mairsil combos to Dinosaurs and pseudo-Pirates, there are enough catalysts in the newest products to spark interest in these classic and once-forgotten cards. The more ahead of the curve you can be on these oldies, the better off you’ll be!
- I’ve been quite vocal in the Discord chat about Arabian Nights Erhnam Djinn. After seeing Serendib Efreet spike and hold a new price plateau, it feels like Erhnie could be the next card to pop. I urgently completed my playset for Old School play. Now there are just three copies left on TCGplayer and Star City Games has just one played copy in stock for $99.99.
- I am amazed at the momentum behind Shauku, Endbringer. The Reserved List rare from Mirage went from virtual bulk to nearly $10 in a few weeks. Each time the card spiked to a new plateau, I felt it was overpriced and not worth chasing. But now seeing Star City Games sold out with a $5.99 price tag, I have no choice but to believe the movement will be permanent. If that’s the case, it paints a fairly compelling case for the other Mairsil picks I identified earlier in this article!
- I recently picked up a Mirror Universe because that one also has very thin stock and an iconic nature. Star City Games is sold out with a $124.99 price tag. That’s not far from Card Kingdom’s buy price of $95. I suspect both of these numbers are due for a bump higher in the near term given both shops’ sold-out status.