Lessons We Should Learn from Cards Badly in Need of a Reprint

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If I were to make a list of the top cards that most badly need a reprint, the first several hundred cards would be everything on the Reserved List. I suppose that it goes without saying that the high demand and low supply on Old School cards is very real. Since we know the Reserved List is "Growing Strong" like House Tyrell, today's discussion will have more of a Stark "Winter is Comming" theme when it comes to potential financial moves.

"Winter is coming..." is perhaps a little bit ominous, but at the heart of those words is a reminder to pay attention to what is potentially coming on the horizon. We know that reprints tend to have a negative impact on the price of preexisting cards, since supply increases while the demand remains the same and/or goes down.

Obviously, from an investing theory point of view, it makes a lot of sense to pay attention to cards that are likely to be reprinted in the near future, because we don't want to be left holding the bag when those reprints are confirmed.

The increase in reprints has made any financial moves that do not involve hoarding Reserved List cards tricky, but there is clearly still money to be made. Today's article is about how to recognize cards that "need" a reprint so that we can avoid holding onto investments that are ripe to go rotten for too long.

5. Fetch Lands

But, Brian, these cards have already been reprinted...

I agree – but they likely need to be reprinted many, many more times in order to actually fill the demand for them in a meaningful way.

Consider this: fetch lands are more the building blocks of Modern and Legacy mana bases than basic or even dual lands. A typical deck will play more fetches than lands that can be searched up, sometimes at a 2-to-1 ratio. Fetch lands are the most played type of land across all of Magic.

If that is the case (and it is), it makes sense that the full forty set of fetches is something that every grinder would eventually aspire to have at their disposal for the purposes of deckbuilding. At the very least, the majority of players looking to play in a tournament will need some number of these cards just to field a deck.

Every new player to the game will also need these cards at some point if they want to break into the non-rotating formats. From a practicality perspective, it doesn't make sense to have the building blocks of multiple formats this expensive on the secondary market. The inverse is a much better situation for growing the games, and also for Wizards selling cards directly to consumers.

Aside from simply throwing fetches into Masters packs, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the enemy fetches return in a Standard set/block, but likely without a dual land type to fetch up.

While I believe the necessity of fetches to simply play Magic ensures they will require repeated reprints, I also think there is value to be hand. In particular, the full-art Expedition copies are sharp, flashy, unique, and sufficiently scarce. The same can be said about the old-border Onslaught foil versions.

These are essentially the equivalent of Beta copies of dual lands that players love to use to bling out their decks. Even in a world where fetches are reprinted until they have little value, the rare premium copies would be likely to retain, and more likely gain, value in the long run.

So, while I'd be reluctant to hold on to tons of extra copies of fetches for too long, I would still be interested in stowing away the foils.

4. Goblin Lore

Random $35 uncommons that go into tier-one Modern decks are bad for everybody. The same could be said about cards like Aether Vial or Mishra's Bauble, which have also seen reissue.

Reprinting uncommons with low availability and extremely high demand is a no-brainer for Wizards of the Coast. It is a way to really up the perceived value of whatever packs they put them into. It is also just a feel-good situation for everybody involved.

As a player, nothing is more annoying than having to pay a lot of money for something that I don't want to pay a lot of money for. It's not easy to justify, "Well, I'll never use this card outside of the next month or so – because it isn't an objectively great card." Take my money, please...

Goblin Lore is the kind of card that nobody actually ends up owning and everybody wants to rent. I'm borrowing Goblin Lores from a friend who borrowed them from a friend who borrowed them from a friend... Watch out for a reprint of this.

3. Nexus of Fate

Image result for nexus of fate

Nexus of Fate is one of the most ridiculous blunders I've seen Wizards make in the past few years, and honestly, that is really saying something.

I cannot overstate how much I hate the idea of Wizards putting out random promos that are legal in Standard (even though they are not included in a Standard-legal set) that have the potential to have high demand and thus ridiculous prices.

If this card was simply included in the set, even at mythic rare, it would still only be a fraction of the current price. The reason for the high price is that the card is hard to find. What part about playing Standard at FNM is improved by including a random, hard to find, expensive, buy-a-box promo in the format? What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

I think it would be a huge mistake to not simply include this card in Guilds of Ravnica. Just throw it in there and stop the madness. Playing Standard, especially at the local level, should include none of what this card has done.

I understand the dynamic of wanting to create more unique cards and sell them in various venues, such as Planeswalker Decks or Buy-a-Box Promos, but everything about Nexus of Fate is a feel bad and look bad. It's possible the fad will simply die out and that the Turbo Fog deck is too one dimensional to adapt now that it is a known commodity. Either way, I think it is an ideal candidate for a reprint and a card that I would certainly not want to be left holding the bag on. I already sold the copies that I pulled out of bulk from buying boxes and sold them. No regrets.

2. Cavern of Souls

If Modern is truly to be a format embraced and played by everyone, the first step (and there are many other steps necessary to make Modern more player friendly) is to get random $100 staples out of the format.

I take particular issue with lands being so expensive, because they are so fundamental to actually playing the game. I've often wondered why the land cycles are not printed at uncommon rather than rare. How annoying is it to open a rare mana fixer when you travel to a Sealed Grand Prix, RPTQ, or even a prerelease? It sucks. And there is really no good reason that the basic building blocks of the game should be rares.

Cavern of Souls, on the other hand, does feel like a rare land to me. It's unique. It's not the basic building block of every deck, like fetch lands, but it is a key piece to specific tribal decks. In particular, it is part of the backbone of the Humans deck that protects those decks from counterspells and also allows them to essentially play all the best Humans across all of the colors.

Tribal strategies are a real thing across many formats – Goblins, Elves, Spirits, it goes on. Basically, name a creature type  and I'd play Cavern of Souls in that tribal deck. I've even played Cavern of Souls in Mishra's Workshop decks.

Requiring new players to drop $400 dollars as a cost of entry to build a tribal beatdown deck is an ugly look. Although Cavern has already seen a Masters reprint, the demand is still obviously unmet. I would be shocked if we didn't see a another reprint in the near future.

This card is so good and so fundamental to so many decks that until it is confirmed that more Caverns are going to be released, the price will continue go up. I don't think a Cavern reprint is so much an issue of "if" but rather of "when," which means that holding this card long enough to get maximum value but not being left holding the bag is the name of the game.

1. Oubliette

Interestingly enough, this Pauper All-Star from the Arabian Nights expansion is not on the Reserved List, which incorporated the uncommons from Arabian Nights and Antiquities, but not the commons.

Oubliette is a $55 common that is legal in Pauper and extremely difficult to acquire, seeing as it is from Arabian Nights. Again, this is not a good look. As the card is technically legal for selection as a potential reprint, I would fully expect to see it reprinted at some point in the future. It is also awkward that the card has been reprinted on MTGO but not in paper. So the card is cheap on MTGO but uber expensive in a physical format.

However, I don't think this means people should simply cast off their copies of Oubliette. Since the card is from an old, rare set and has amazing art, I would expect it to hold the lion's share of its value even after a reprint. The card is also played in Old School, which requires the old card face versions for play.

Over the past six or seven years since Masters reprints were announced, I've basically transformed my entire collection into a largely different group of cards. A decade ago, I realized that simply holding onto any Magic card was great value since it would eventually become expensive simply based on rising demand and short supply.

The introduction of reprints into the economy dramatically changed that. There is no guarantee that your card will ever be scarce when more copies can be produced and sold to the consumer at any time.

One of the keys to my having been able to transform my largely "Modern-centric" collection into a hoard of Old School and Reserved List cards was recognizing what I needed to trade away for better investment cards. On basically any card that isn't on the Reserved List, I'm willing to hedge my bets and sell into a spike. May the odds ever be in your favor, they say – and they are, when you sell into spikes before reprints arrive to satiate lopsided demand.

It is always useful to think about which cards "need" to be reprinted in order to make playing the game easier for the average player at the local game store. These are the players who buy the reprint packs, and they are the reason the reprint sets exist. Paying attention to what people need today is a great predictor of what Wizards will sell in the future. Use that to your advantage!

2 thoughts on “Lessons We Should Learn from Cards Badly in Need of a Reprint

  1. Great article, Brian!

    This is exactly what I’ve been doing, too: consolidating the value in my collection into Old School.

    Almost everything I’m not currently using is getting sold or buylisted for power and OS staples.

    I’m even looking at “can never have too many” cards like Fetchlands and going down to a playset of each for now. Better to move some cards around every once in a while than lose hundreds or thousands in value due to a reprint.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful content. Keep up the great work!

  2. Also don’t forget about us Commander players we need fetches too. We can survive without them a little better than other formats, but they really do smooth out the mana in your deck. I personally feel like even if they reprinted fetches in big fall standard legal set they probably wouldn’t see that much of a drop, since anything remaining 60 card players would get gobbled up by commander players. If for some reason they ever got cheap enough (which they likely wont) its gonna be fetches and crucible of worlds even in my mono colored decks.

    Just wanted to add that in. Great article!

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