This morning I was running my daily check of MTG Stocks’ Interests page when a couple of price increases grabbed my attention. First, I saw that Mana Crypt had climbed over $200, hitting an all-time high. Second, Blightsteel Colossus hit an all-time high approaching $70 and likely on a one-way trip to $100.
Besides being popular Commander artifacts, these two cards have little in common, but to me they fall in a very similar category when it comes to classifying cards. They are both surprisingly expensive cards that are not on the Reserved List. In fact, Mana Crypt has already gotten the reprint treatment a couple times, although the Masterpiece printing likely didn’t add a statistically significant number of copies to the market.
The fact that these cards are maintaining such a high price tag despite their vulnerability to reprint is a testament to the community’s mindset about them: there is no expected reprint anytime soon, and these cards are so important that one can justify the steep price tag to acquire a needed copy. This is a recipe for an expensive, modern-era card. Are there others that fit this same description, with equal upside potential? This week I’ll dig into the data and find out!
Low Reprint Risk, High Price Potential
The key is finding cards that are in the process of spiking due to a powerful demand profile alongside a low reprint likelihood. That’s where profits are likely to be made, especially if affordable copies at the “old price” can be found before a full-blown buyout occurs.
Here are my ideas in no particular order:
Sylvan Library – This green card-drawing machine is powerful enough to make occasional appearances in Legacy. It’s also very playable in Old School. But without a doubt the primary source of demand for this card is from Commander: the card shows up in over 32,000 decks on EDH REC!
The card already moved aggressively, but you may be able to find cheap copies scattered throughout the internet. Once thought to be a $15-$20 card, this is now a solid $35 card with plenty of further upside should it dodge reprint another year or two.
Could Sylvan Library appear in Modern Horizons, introducing the card into the Modern format? It’s not impossible. Watch spoiler season closely, and as soon as this card is ruled out of contention it should be safe to hold for a while longer.
Oracle of Mul Daya – Would a reprint of this green creature from Zendikar really hurt so much? For some reason this Commander staple (23,000+ decks on EDH REC) has dodged reprint time and again. Given it is in Zendikar, a Modern-legal set, there’s zero chance this is reprinted in Modern Horizons as well.
Could it show up in a future Commander product? Possibly. But as a $30 card, it’s getting dicey. Should the Oracle spike towards $50, reprinting her in a Commander deck would generate lopsided demand for that deck, and Wizards of the Coast is trying to avoid that phenomenon. Only time will tell, but in the interim expect this card to climb higher.
Worldly Tutor – The more research I do, the more I realize green cards get the shaft when it comes to reprinting. This is an uncommon, originally printed in Mirage and reprinted once in Sixth Edition. It has not been reprinted since. As a result, we have a $10+ uncommon that appears in over 21,000 lists on EDH REC.
This one could be too powerful for Modern, though I’m hardly the expert to judge. If so, then it won’t show up in Modern Horizons and will continue to climb in price. There are only 115 or so listings on TCGplayer across both printings of this card—as supply gradually dwindles I expect to see the price ramp towards $20.
Sphere of Resistance – Let’s dig a little deeper to see if we can find any diamonds in the rough. It’s trivial to find all the most played, least reprinted Commander cards. How about something different, such as Sphere of Resistance? It’s not on the Reserved List, which is why it got the Masterpiece treatment not long ago. But other than that, this rare from Exodus has never been reprinted.
There are over 100 vendors with this card on TCGplayer, so a spike isn’t imminent. But Sphere does show up in over 2500 EDH REC lists and it is very popular in Vintage. Granted, Vintage demand isn’t going to move a card’s price all too quickly. But I doubt a reprint is likely anytime soon, giving this coiled spring plenty of room to pop in price in time.
Phyrexian Metamorph – It’s not easy to reprint Phyrexian-mana cards. They don’t fit in Standard sets due to the Phyrexian mana mechanic, not to mention I don’t know if Wizards regrets pursuing that ability as it led to some broken cards (Mental Misstep, Gitaxian Probe).
Given its legality in Modern, Phyrexian Metamorph isn’t going to show up in Modern Horizons. So your only chance at a reprint in the next year is going to be some Commander set. Given it's in over 20,000 lists on EDH REC, I think a reprint is possible, but far from a guarantee. Wizards has opted not to reprint it so far, and it's only getting older and sparser. I expect a push towards $20 at some point in the next year or two if this trend continues.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor – He’s Jace. He’s extremely powerful. He’s Modern-legal, and likely to get better as the card pool in Modern expands. And he can’t be reprinted in Modern Horizons. The card has already risen past $100, but is there really a ceiling on this guy? At some point, I wonder if Masters 25 booster boxes become attractive due to the inherent Jace lottery…if only there weren’t so many bulk rares in that set.
As for the Reserved List…
Speaking of Jaces over $100…it’s uncommon for a non-Reserved List card to crack $100 these days. Wizards has done a fine job playing whack-a-mole, reprinting cards where they can to keep prices down. That said, highly desirable Reserved List cards are simply doomed to rise in price as long as Magic is healthy. In fact, some Reserved List cards haven’t crossed the century mark even though I would have expected them to by now.
In the forefront of my mind is Sliver Queen. Rumors abound that Slivers may show up in Modern Horizons. Whether or not they do is irrelevant. Casual players love Slivers and Sliver Queen is an obvious include (though not usually as the general). There are currently 28 English listings of this card on TCGplayer—it is near a tipping point and $100 is virtually guaranteed.
Next, you have Serra's Sanctum, a powerful land played in both Legacy and Commander. This one peaked over $100 at one point, but copies can still be found for $80-$90. Given its presence on the Reserved List and unmatched power level, this card will inevitably break $100 permanently. This could even be the year, as we’ve seen Card Kingdom sell out of the card and jack up their buylist once already. It won’t be long before a $100 buylist price is a mainstay on this card.
The current market price on this card is technically over $100, but plenty of HP and MP copies are available for under the century mark. LP copies start in the mid $90’s. It has taken over 25 years, but I believe the last of the cheapest of the Dual Lands will finally sell for over $100 soon. Sure, there will be beat up, bent-in-half copies that sell for less. But any decent-looking Dual Land will cost you more than a Ben Franklin before you know it…even for Plateau.
Wrapping It Up
While we’re not witnessing the seemingly daily buyouts of cards these days, a lot of popular playables have quietly risen to all-time highs. This goes for both Reserved List cards and reprintable cards. Mana Crypt, Sylvan Library, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor have been on my radar a while now but there are a handful of others showing plenty of price movement.
While I tend to shy away from cards that are at risk of reprint, I have to question how Wizards plans to reprint some of these pricey, popular Commander cards. Some are too powerful for Modern, and some are too expensive to include in the annual Commander products. Without a good reprint outlet, some of these cards will climb higher and higher.
And, of course, there are always Reserved List cards on my radar. Recently I’ve been following Sliver Queen, Plateau, and Serra's Sanctum, waiting for them to crack the $100 mark once and for all. For these it’s a matter of when, not if.
Whether you prefer the security of the Reserved List or not, one thing is clear: Commander is a major driver for card prices and will help generate profits for years to come. Wizards can’t possibly keep up with all the reprints necessary to keep card prices down. This means there are still plenty of opportunities to profit.
- Here’s a hotlist card you don’t see every day: Alpha Counterspell. Card Kingdom currently offers $570 on their buylist for Near Mint copies. Be careful selling to them, though, as their downgrade percentages on Alpha can be a bit rough. Then again, how many people actually own Alpha Counterspells?
- I noticed Eureka returned to Card Kingdom’s hotlist recently. At first it was listed with a $305 buy price, but the price has since dropped to a more realistic $260. Honestly, this is such a fun, unique card and I think its price tag is merited. There really aren’t many of these in stock, and I think it will be a $500 card before 2020 is over.
- There are still a ton of Masterpiece cards on Card Kingdom’s hotlist. I suspect these are rare enough that it’s difficult for Card Kingdom to get and keep many in stock. Scalding Tarn receives top billing with a $235 buy price. Verdant Catacombs is on there with a $165 buy price and Chalice of the Void at $115. Each of these have a very robust demand profile.