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New expansions come and go, but the cards are forever...
Set after set, expansions thrill us during spoiler season only to fade from memory years later when they rotate from Standard. Only a handful of top-tier playables remain to remind us of long past. By the time this article goes live, Guilds of Ravnica will be on the shelves, and the lustrous honeymoon will be over.
Some sets never seem to fade. In particular, the older Vintage sets tend to loom large in the imaginations of Magic players all around the world. Today, I'd like to focus on one such set, Legends, which is now nearly 25 years old!
Legends is the third Magic expansion, and it is truly a relic of an age come and gone. Back in 1994 when the set was released, there was no "spoiler season" or widespread internet hype train to formally introduce players and collectors to the new cards. Sets simply showed up on store shelves – and as was the case for the first Magic releases - they sold out immediately, as there was not supply to satisfy the rabid demand for new cards.
Today's article isn't a history lesson, rather, it is an exploration of one of Magic's most fascinating sets with the intent to great speculation targets in the modern her-and-now. In particular, Legends is a fantastic set to look for value for the following reasons:
- The set is gigantic. At 310 cards, there are a lot of great, obscure options to discuss. Arabian Nights and Antiquities are so small that it's very easy to target the few "good" cards. Legends is huge and full of weird cards, which makes it less obvious and thus easier to find 'sleepers.'
- The set is interesting and iconic. I would argue no set other than Alpha expanded the world of Magic more than Legends. The artwork is gorgeous and flavorful. It's a beautiful set to collect.
- The set is Reserve Listed. Obviously, the Reserved List is a big factor in Magic finance since it means certain cards cannot be reprinted – which makes them prime investment targets.
The first rule of my list is that I'm not going to include cards over $100.00. I'm a believer that if you are dropping $100.00 on a card, that it's an investment one way or another. Anything over $100 is likely Reserved List already, which makes it a reasonable investment. When it comes to expensive cards, they tend to find their level fairly quickly and then steadily tick up in price as time goes by.
I'm looking for cards that I beleive haven't found their level yet and thus could make significant gains in the near future. These are going to tend to be rares that are less than $100 NM.
Cleanse is a fairly inexpensive for a Reserved List Legends rare. I actually like this pick so much that I went on eBay and bought a copy for myself as I'm writing this article. I noticed that I don't own any copies of this card and would like to add one to my Old School Battle Box.
I think exactly the thing I just described is what makes Cleanse a fantastic pick. It is playable in fringe scenarios of fringe formats. I know this card sees some play in the sideboard of Old School Mono White decks against Suicide Black. Those are two places that this Reserved List card can see play, which leads me to believe the $30 price tag is too low.
[card graph = "Disharmony" set = "Legends"]
Disharmony is another random "unplayable" Legends rares that is in fact much more playable than most people believe.
It's certainly a card that is playable in Old School as a sideboard card. It's a straight up two-for-one in many scenarios: steal an attacker, block with it, and trade. It is also a card that has found a place in my Danger Room and Old School Battle Box.
Note that the key thing I'm looking for in these examples is "price point." There are plenty of examples of other rares that are equally (and often less) playable going for a significantly higher price (often over $100). In my opinion, it is only a matter of time before these other fringe playable cards catch up.
I was really surprised to see this card still sitting at $25.00. As a point of reference, this card had that price tag back in 1996!
Clearly, there are better creatures available in Magic these days, perhaps even at the time when it was printed. Nonetheless, the card is really cool-looking and iconic. It's the first Phoenix and has a flavorful ability.
Another point I'd like to make that helps bring my "Phoenix Pick" into focus: I believe that collecting completely NM sets of older expansions is something that will become more popular as time goes on. With that in mind, I think that NM copies of basically any cheap Legends rare ($15-$30) is likely a great pickup with regard to making a profit down the line.
Firestorm Phoenix is a nice example of the type of card that could see a major price breakthrough if "set making" becomes a more mainstream thing in the future. Even if it doesn't, the card is interesting enough that I believe it will easily trend beyond it's low price point.
Proof that cards don't need to be on the Reserved List to be great speculation targets from older sets. Hell's Caretaker has amazing artwork and is fringe playable in casual formats like Old School Battle Box, Old School, and even Commander. It certainly has some kitchen table flare, and did I mention the artwork and flavor are beyond compare?
Another amazing sleeper card that has "base value." It is really difficult to find English Legends rares that sell for less that $15.00. In fact, most of the ones that sell that low meet two qualifications: they have been reprinted and are basically unplayable.
Lifeblood is at the bottom basement price and it is neither of those things. It's never been reprinted and it is actually quite powerful, albeit as a sideboard-type card.
I actually ended up buying a copy of this card ($12.00 BIN EX+) on eBay to add to my Old School Battle Box!
Another basement pick. It's a Reserved List rare that hasn't been reprinted and sees fringe Old School Magic play as a sideboard card against Burn / Fireball decks. I love the idea of picking up cheap but nice condition versions.
Sol'kaaar is one of the overall "best creatures," pound for pound, in Old School Magic. He's beefy, has a ton of useful abilities, and is undercosted. He was reprinted in Chronicles, but people love the flare of an original copy.
Another card I was surprised to see at it's current price point of $40.00. It's an Enchant World which is interesting (since the rules around Enchant Worlds make them destroy others when played). The card itself is quite good. I'd play it in Cube or in a highlander format in a build-around-me deck. The card is really fun and unique, which makes me think its a good pick up at the current price.
Not the most exciting card with regard to stats, but it is on the Reserved List and kind of fun and flavorful. I have this creature in my Old School Battle Box and he's a lot of fun. It's mostly a price issue where I don't understand how a Reserved List card that is more playable, more interesting, and more flavorful can be worth less than other rares that fall short on every comparable metric.
Willow Satyr is actually a great card that sees play in Commander. I've noticed, and this could just be something in my circle of friends, that a lot of people are interested in playing casual formats with older cards lately. Old School Commander, Old School Battle Box, Old School Constructed, etc.
With these formats seeing more play and with more people becoming interested, these fringe cards could really become staples down the line.
We've touched on the individual cards that I like the most right now. Some of these cards I literally purchased while writing the article! The key is that I believe there are certain criteria that make cards from this set more or less desirable as speculation targets. In particular, I think it makes sense to compare cards to find inconsistencies in terms of price. If a card is on the Reserved List and a straight up more playable card, why is it less? I believe the answer to that question is: "It won't be for too long."
Legends is a great set to look for sleeper cards if you are willing to go a little bit deep and use your imagination. Remember, these cards are nearly 25 years old, so they are difficult to acquire outside of the internet, but don't be surprised when they are much more difficult to acquire a year or two down the road.