The Quiet Rise of The Dark Prices

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When Magic investors and speculators talk about the “Four Horsemen” sets, they’re referring to Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, and, in a distant fourth place, The Dark. The reality is the expensive headliner cards from this era are mostly from the first three expansions. Cards like Bazaar of Baghdad, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, and Candelabra of Tawnos readily come to mind.

But what The Dark cards readily come to mind? For me, it’s usually Blood Moon, Maze of Ith, and Ball Lightning—these were the most valuable cards from the set, once upon a time.

The Rise of The Dark

Now it’s time for a pop quiz! Can you name the three most valuable cards from The Dark (according to Card Kingdom) without looking it up? Here’s a hint: they’re all on the Reserved List.

Number 3: Preacher

There was an error retrieving a chart for Preacher

The third most valuable card is one of my favorites from the set. Totally breaking the color pie, Preacher steals an opponent’s creature, but only one of their choice. Sometimes they’ll only have one or two creatures to pick from and Preacher will shine. Other times, they’ll have some incidental 1/1 token that you’ll end up getting. Despite the variance, this seems like a useful card in multiplayer Commander games.

Number 2: City of Shadows

There was an error retrieving a chart for City of Shadows

I have to be completely honest here: I didn’t remember what this card did until I re-read it. After reading it a second time, I have to say I’m scratching my head a bit. I guess if you’re generating a ton of creature tokens, you can exile them one at a time to ramp colorless mana. I looked this up on EDH REC for kicks, but it’s not really a thing in Commander unless you’re playing the Old School commander variant with Hazezon Tamar. Very interesting.

Number 1: Goblin Wizard

There was an error retrieving a chart for Goblin Wizard

This card certainly seems more useful than City of Shadows, but at four mana is this really that great? I guess it lets you flash in Muxus, Goblin Grandee at instant speed and in uncounterable fashion. But it’s only going to enable the card to come down one turn earlier. And being just a 1/1 creature, Goblin Wizard seems awfully vulnerable for that turn he has summoning sickness.

Clearly, something has happened to The Dark’s Reserved List cards lately. Even a year or two ago, these would not have topped the most valuable list from this set. They’re no Chains of Mephistopheles or Library of Alexandria, sure, but they are certainly meriting closer attention given these price movements.

Other Noteworthy Cards from The Dark

The recent surge in The Dark prices doesn’t stop with these three cards. In fact, many of the Reserved List cards from this set have rallied significantly on a percentage basis. I want to highlight a few to drive awareness because it’s possible not all Magic shops (especially smaller ones) may not have adjusted pricing yet. It’s probably not every day someone walks into their LGS and asks for Season of the Witch, right?

There was an error retrieving a chart for Season of the Witch

Yet this black enchantment has exploded in value lately! Five months ago this was a $9 card at retail. Today, Card Kingdom sells near mint copies for $37.99! That’s more than triple the price (never mind that in 2017 this was a $1 card).

Why is there a black enchantment that forces creatures to attack? Beats me. This seems like a red ability (e.g. Curse of the Nightly Hunt or Grand Melee). The only thing that feels “black” about this spell is its upkeep cost. At least the card has some utility, and breaking the color pie makes it interesting. Is it $38 interesting though? I’m not so sure about that.

Speaking of breaking the color pie, how would you like to play land destruction in blue? You could jam Acid Rain from Legends (another Reserved List rare that spiked recently). But if you’re looking at The Dark cards, then you’d be entertaining Mana Vortex, a blue enchantment that forces players to sacrifice a land during their upkeep.

There was an error retrieving a chart for Mana Vortex

Is this really a playable card? Its symmetry could be broken, I suppose, with something like Crucible of Worlds. But it’s a lot of work to slowly bleed your opponent’s lands dry.

This isn’t the first time that Mana Vortex spiked. Back in May 2018, when all the Reserved List cards jumped, this one went from $12 to $35. But then the card’s price slowly drifted back down to $15 over the subsequent two years, only spiking again very recently. Card Kingdom sells near mint copies for $32.99 and they pay $16.50 on their buylist, giving legitimacy to the recent jump in price.

The next one I want to mention is a card with actual utility in both Old School and Commander. The card is an uncommon, and not on the Reserved List. Any guesses? It’s Fellwar Stone!

That’s right, this mana rock from The Dark, retails for a whopping $17.99 nowadays. It’s interesting to note that other printings have also been on the rise and now top $5, despite appearing over and over again in Commander sets. Expect this card to be reprinted again and again and still maintain some value; the original printing in The Dark will likely be unimpacted by reprints.

Smaller Cards to Watch

I’ve mentioned most the seriously noteworthy cards from The Dark already. But there are still a bunch of seemingly unplayable Reserved List cards that are suddenly demanding a higher price that I want to mention. When I see the prices on some of these, I am left scratching my head. But I guess if a Four Horsemen card like Pyramids can buylist for $110, some of these other cards can also be bought out and driven higher in price.

First, there’s Cleansing, a white sorcery from The Dark that tries to be like Armageddon but falls far short. This card is sold out at Card Kingdom right now with a price tag of $14.99. Why is this? Other than the fact that it’s on the Reserved List, I really can’t say!

There was an error retrieving a chart for Cleansing

Then there’s Eater of the Dead, an uncommon that’s not even on the Reserved List! Yet this card still retails for $13.99. Elves of Deep Shadow also isn’t on the Reserved List and has been reprinted a few times. Yet the original The Dark printing retails for $12.99 and is sold out on Card Kingdom’s site!

Some other noteworthy Reserved List cards from The Dark that are suddenly worth your attention include Exorcist, Martyr's Cry, Frankenstein's Monster, and Nameless Race. I couldn’t even tell you what these cards all do without looking them up. I suspect their presence on the Reserved List is the sole reason these are drying up right now.

Let’s face it: it’s very unlikely random players have many of these lying around that they can now ship to buylists for cash. Without large in-person events, it’s difficult to shake loose these cards to provide new inventory to the market.

Lastly, I want to make honorable mentions to two alternate "paths" that may give you a chuckle. First, arguably the worst card in Magic, Sorrow's Path.

There was an error retrieving a chart for Sorrow's Path

This card now retails for $7.99 simply because it’s a Reserved List rare. No one is going to convince me of otherwise. I personally have a copy I keep around simply because the card and its artwork are comical.

The second honorable mention is the cheapest Reserved List card from The Dark (as of now): Hidden Path. The card retails for $4.49 despite being virtually unplayable. This goes to show the power of being a Reserved List card from one of the Four Horsemen sets, and it wouldn’t shock me at all to see this card worth twice as much two years from now.

Wrapping It Up

I enjoyed paying homage to the least loved Four Horsemen set this week, and I hope you equally enjoyed learning about this nontraditional set. The Dark is riddled with underpowered cards, some of which seem to break the color pie in odd ways. While you’ll probably never run into someone jamming Cleansing in their decks, it’s hard to argue with the Reserved List-driven demand for these 26-year-old cards.

If you’re looking through these and asking whether or not they’re worth buying, my advice to you is simple. I’d look for copies of these cards at the “old price” and pick them up with the plan to flip them to buylists while retailers are paying aggressively. But I wouldn’t be a buyer of these cards at their new prices in the hopes of selling them for more in a year’s time.

Instead, I’d recommend holding. These cards tend to follow an ebb and flow pattern. A time will come when these will cool off yet again and prices will calm back down. That’s the point where it’s best to pick up some of these whacky cards for your personal collection. From there, patience is going to be key—don’t expect these to grow 300% in five months reliably. But given enough time, and the sustained health of Magic as a game, these should continue to appreciate given enough time, despite being largely unplayable!

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