Editor's note: We don't have enough price data on the Magic Player Rewards cards David discusses below to provide full-on graphs, so the normal printings appear in their place.
Welcome back, readers!
We are all aware of the spikes happening with Reserved List cards (whether they seem warranted or not), and this topic has been discussed ad infinitum in the past two months. The Reserved List consists of cards that will never be functionally reprinted per WoTC's policy.
That being said, a fair number of cards not on the actual Reserved List have specific versions that are nonetheless very unlikely to be reprinted. Assuming our assessment of their reprint risk is correct, these can be a strong speculation target.
We've been seeing a lot of movement on the Masterpieces recently, as many players view those as unreprintable, though I personally don't think that's a guarantee. Another option people might look at are the judge foils. These have yet to see a second printing with the same artwork, though the same card has been printed a few times (see Vindicate).
There are a few more options that we should look at. I'm going to talk about one of those options today, Magic Player Rewards.
Magic Player Rewards
The Magic Player Rewards (MPR) program was a fantastic program to encourage players to keep returning to their LGS (and/or play in large events). Every sanctioned event you entered earned you a certain number of points. At the end of the season, based on how many points you'd accumulated, you would receive cool full-art cards in the mail.
The downside was that since some of the cards were worth a fair amount of money, some unscrupulous stores created fake accounts to get large numbers of promos sent to themselves to resell. Given that, it's odd that WotC is back to sending stores promos that may or may not be worth some money (see FNM Fatal Push when it first released).
These cards had one other major flaw that somehow nobody at WotC picked up on (though some older MPR cards didn't have this problem). Can you spot it?
That's right, no rules text at all. While these definitely look cool, they are not really great when playing against new players at your local FNM who don't know what the cards do. You may end up having to look up or explain the card text repeatedly, which hinders game play.
WotC eventually realized this was a problem, and essentially said they wouldn't be doing it any more. That decision isn't set in stone the same was as the Reserved List, but it's one they are unlikely to reverse given the statements they've made on the subject.
Below is a full list of these full art Magic Player Rewards cards.
|Card Name||TCG Low||TCG Mid|
|Brave the Elements||$1.80||$2.69|
|Day of Judgment||$4.16||$4.91|
|Sign in Blood||$2.35||$3.50|
|Wrath of God||$16.65||$18.53|
There are a few interesting things to point out about this list. There are only four cards printed at rare—three wrath effects plus Cryptic Command. Most of the cards are tournament-playable commons or uncommons. We can definitely see that the ones most played in eternal formats have the higher price tags, but to be fair there really aren't a lot that fall into this category.
There are also a fair number that are quite cheap given how much rarer they are than their regular counterparts. Now it is fair to point out that many of these were Standard staples that haven't found a home in many decks after rotating, but some are definitely Commander staples. Those are likely the ones we want to focus on right now, along with anything that might have potential in Modern.
For quite some time Harmonize was one of the few cost-effective card advantage options for mono-green decks. We have gained additional options now thanks to cards like Shamanic Revelation. But it's important to look at this card's price history and notice that for a fair amount of time regular Planar Chaos copies were close to $2 (as recent as Kaladesh's release).
Subsequent reprints tanked the value of the Standard versions of this card. However, I think that if it was able to hold a $2 price as recently as June 2016, then the full-art (much rarer) version should certainly be a fair bit more valuable.
While most copies of Harrow can be picked up by purchasing bulk, this is definitely a card that sees play in Commander (it serves as both an instant-speed ramp spell and a way to sacrifice lands). The fact that full-art MPR copies can be had for under $2 on TCGplayer appears to imply there is plenty of room for upward price movement.
This one really amazes me. I understand it's a worse Regrowth in that it costs one more. But Commander is the format where, thanks to the one copy limit, slightly worse versions of cards are still very much playable. With copies of this sitting at only about 2x that of regular versions, I'm a big fan of this one (though again finding copies can be a pain).
This card used to be a staple in mono-red burn decks. Over the last few years they have shifted to playing more small aggressive creatures (as those allow for continual damage). Regular versions used to retail for more than the MPR version does now.
I'm not sure if Mono-Red Burn will ever revert back to a heavier spell version again. But with copies of this one so cheap, should it get reprinted in Standard and prove playable, it could easily do what the MPR Sign in Blood did a couple years ago (it shot up to over $10 for a brief period). I would definitely be fine picking up a couple playsets at their current price if you can find anyone with them.
Pyroclasm a perennial sideboard card for Modern decks that has its day in the sun, fades, then re-emerges when aggro decks become dominant. It has also been printed into oblivion (it has 14 printings). What's interesting here is that the Portal version is worth more than the MPR version, which I think could easily be a $10+ card.
While I can certainly agree that overall more eternal decks are likely to run Negate as their two-mana counterspell of choice (assuming they can't run actual Counterspell), it is extremely surprising to see such a dramatic price difference between Negate and Remove Soul.
Throughout Magic's history spells have tended to be more powerful than creatures (hence a non-creature counterspell is preferred). WotC has pushed the power level of creatures a lot more the within the past six years or so, though. There may very well come a time when players will really want to run Remove Soul in either main decks or sideboards. For under $1 per copy, this does seem like a good one to have a few playsets of.
This is another one of those cards I could see spiking should it make its way back to Standard (and control is a viable strategy). Granted, that may seem like a bit of a jump, but the artwork on this card is gorgeous and the MPR version retails for less than the Starter 1999 version. I know I'd rather play the MPR one than the Starter option any day of the week.
While definitely not dirt-cheap, these still aren't that expensive, especially for a card that often rotates in and out of Modern control sideboards. (It's a clean answer to both Blood Moon and Liliana of the Veil, but of which can be nightmares for control decks to deal with).
The MPR version of this one definitely has some pretty impressive looking artwork. I imagine many would rather play with MPR versions than foil ones (especially since the artwork is the same for all the booster printings).
This is an option that would have been good to pick up six months ago. It used to be in the sub-$1 range, but spiked thanks to finding homes in some Modern sideboards to help combat Death's Shadow.
While the price may have gone up pretty dramatically already, it still serves as a great sideboard option, and Death's Shadow decks are still extremely popular in Modern—thanks in large part to the high power level of the namesake card Condemn answers so cleanly.
While far worse than the original Diabolic Edict, this is one of the better options for a sacrifice removal spell in Modern. At around $1, it seems like one of those triple- or quadruple-up options should it ever find a home in a sideboard.
Terror is one of the more iconic cards in Magic's history, serving as the earliest of black's targeted removal spells. I was happy to see that WotC kept the original artwork (and expanded it) for the MPR card. More recently it's been outclassed by Doomblade and Go for the Throat, but this is another of those options that would easily be a $5+ card if WotC brought it back to Standard.
Putrefy is a Commander staple in decks that can play it, thanks to its power and versatility. While the MPR version is already over $4, I think as time moves on, these will become scarcer and scarcer. I wouldn't be surprised to see this as a $10+ card in a year or two.
While I expect Reserved List buyouts to continue, I imagine people will eventually shift away from buying completely unplayable Reserved List rares. They may shift instead towards playable cards which, while not on the actual Reserved List, are still unlikely to be reprinting in a specific form. Full-art cards are definitely at the top of that list.
One of the biggest challenges with these MPR cards is finding them outside of large stores (you typically don't see many copies in trade binders), so picking them up can be difficult outside of straight-up buying them.
That being said, all the RL spikes will have speculators and players looking for alternative investments, and I like MPR cards to fill this role. I think these types of "soft Reserved List" cards will be the next to start moving. And I'm definitely a fan of them as speculation targets, especially given how rarely I actually see them available in trade binders.