Finding Value in the Commons & Uncommons

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First and foremost, I’d like to wish all my readers a very Happy New Year! In a paradoxical way, 2021 was both gruelingly long and terribly short. Either way you cut it, the year was filled with challenges as we attempt to adjust to a “new normal”, co-existing with the COVID-19 virus.

But you’ve heard enough about that from other news outlets and social media. No need to dwell on what everybody already experiences day in and day out.

Instead, I want to talk this week about something most people probably don’t know. Or at least, they may have an inkling but not the full picture. Because over the past few months, as people embraced the holiday season and 2021 winded down, a handful of particular cards were quietly bought in volume, driving price spikes that may have been overlooked if not paid close attention.

The kicker: not a single one of the cards I’m about to mention is on the Reserved List!

You Don’t Have to Be Rare to Spike

For a few years now, the headlines in my writing have been about increasing prices across Magic’s earliest sets. Alpha, Beta, Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, and The Dark are of particular interest. Not a day has passed since I got into Old School back in 2015 where I have regretted this decision. The nostalgic cards have both kept me interested in a game that has otherwise escaped my fancy, and have doubled as spectacular investments for the college fund.

But up until recently, I’ve solely been focusing on the Reserved List cards—rares and uncommons from these early sets that will never be reprinted. Recently, I’ve noticed a trend I had not anticipated: some commons and uncommons that aren’t on the Reserved List have also appreciated significantly in price!

I suppose even a Legends C1 common has a relatively low print run compared to modern-day cards: about 212,000 printed. The U2 uncommon has a print run of about 116,000, which is on par with Arabian Nights C4 commons, at 124,000. While these numbers dwarf the quantities of cards printed at rare from these same sets, I suspect the relative print run to any modern-day rare and mythic rare is relatively small. On top of that, add in the fact that these cards are pushing 30 years old, and you have the recipe for some value growth!

But it’s not all natural growth, so we need to approach these cards cautiously. Allow me to provide a few examples to illustrate my point.

Desert Nomads

This common from Arabian Nights has never seen a reprint, and perhaps never will, given the card's unique ability “Desertwalk.” In fact, if we were ever to see a reprint of Desert Nomads, it would have been the last time Deserts were printed. There was a big desert theme in the Amonkhet block, yet no Desert Nomads. Then in Commander 2020, Hostile Desert was reprinted and this could have been another opportunity to bring Desert Nomads back. No such luck.

Even as recently as 2021, we had a Afflicted Deserter // Werewolf Ransacker reprint in Commander: Adventures of the Forgotten Realms. Yet despite all these chances, we have yet to see the 2/2 creature with Desertwalk and immunity to damage done by Deserts resurface. At this stage, you have to wonder if they’re destined never to be reprinted.

Back in September, someone must have believed just that—or else they were speculating on the desert Commander theme taking off. Either way, this card spiked hard before settling back down in the $15 to $20 range. You can find played copies for less than $10, but this is a far cry from the $3 card this was back at the beginning of 2021.

Adventurers' Guildhouse (and company)

This land is part of a cycle of five uncommon lands in Legends. The others include:

Impressive lands, eh? Hardly.

These lands are extremely narrow in their utility. Add on top of that the fact that they don’t tap for mana, and you have lands that have almost never seen any play. Even in Old School, I’m not sure anyone’s found much use for these lands. They don’t grant your legendary creatures (aka “Legends”) banding…they gain “bands with other legends”. There’s a difference, that’s all I know.

Despite their complete unplayability, these lands have a couple of things going for them from a financial perspective. They’ve never been reprinted. Given their antiquated reference to banding and their low power level, they never will be reprinted. They have nice artwork. As they are uncommons from Legends their print run is relatively small.

Someone caught onto these lands in the early stages of 2021, and these cards spiked from a few bucks up towards $20-$30. While they didn’t maintain their peak pricing, it’s interesting to see how sticky the higher price has been. These now sell for $10-$20.

I honestly wouldn’t recommend picking these particular lands up, unless you’re planning to flip them to an aggressive buylist. These lands saw their spike, and I don’t see another one on the horizon. But you should be aware of how expensive these are now.

Raging Bull

Even Legends commons are worth a closer look. If they haven’t been reprinted, chances are low they will see a reprint anytime soon. This makes them prime targets for buyouts. The most recent one which may have experienced such buyout treatment is Raging Bull.

Raging Bull is literally a functional reprint of Gray Ogre, a three mana vanilla 2/2 creature, from Limited Edition Alpha. Gray Ogre was reprinted up through Fourth Edition. Raging Bull, on the other hand, was only printed in Legends. They're both terrible cards. Despite how bad they are, someone decided to buy up copies of Raging Bull recently, sending its price north of $10.

This spike is so fresh, there may still be arbitrage opportunities out there for profit. I found a TCGplayer seller with 12 lightly played copies listed in the $5.25 range. Card Kingdom was paying $8 on their buylist (it was $7.50 as of this article’s writing). I purchased the 12 copies and immediately submitted a buylist to Card Kingdom for a modest profit. It's likely there are more copies of this card at the “old price” floating around at local card shops.

I could go on and on. The bottom line is Magic speculators and investors have looked past the rares in the game’s oldest expansions and have moved into commons and uncommons. I highlighted a few cards that caught my attention lately, but the list of random commons and uncommons from Legends, Arabian Nights, The Dark, and Antiquities that are worth a surprising amount of money gets longer every month.

Commons and Uncommons of Value

Here’s a more extensive list of commons and uncommons with values that may surprise you, for quick reference. It's worth noting that some of these cards have been reprinted multiple times. Despite that, the original printings are still worth over $10!

Legends: Winds of Change, Spirit Link, Bane, Lord of Darkness, Kismet, Presence of the Master, Arboria, Storm Seeker, Blood Lust, Fallen Angel, Azure Drake, Relic Barrier, Whirling Dervish

Arabian Nights: Jeweled Bird, Desert Twister, Death's Oasis, Eye for an Eye, Rukh Egg, Ali Baba, Flying Carpet, Army of Allah, Magnetic Mountain, Flying Men

Antiquities: The Rack, Ivory Tower, Tron Lands (all artworks), Energy Flux, Millstone, Armageddon Clock

The Dark: Elves of Deep Shadow, Fellwar Stone, Tormod's Crypt, Dark Sphere, Dust to Dust, Gaea's Touch

Wrapping it Up

Of course, the list gets larger depending on where you draw the line. More cards join it all the time. At this point, any common or uncommon from these four sets that stand out are worth holding onto. Next time you’re rounding out a shopping order, perhaps in search of a few small cards to earn free shipping, browse through some of these cards for possibilities. The ones I listed above have already seen a good bit of price appreciation. There will likely be more.

Remember, these cards are turning 28 or 29 this year—they’re not getting any easier to find, and they won’t get much cheaper as a result. Cards that recently spiked (e.g. Raging Bull) will see a pullback, so avoid these until that happens. If you’re looking at a particular card and see that it hasn’t spiked in the past year, you may have something worth grabbing.

You almost can’t go wrong at this point.

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Sigmund Ausfresser

Sigmund first started playing Magic when Visions was the newest set, back in 1997. Things were simpler back then. After playing casual Magic for about ten years, he tried his hand at competitive play. It took about two years before Sigmund starting taking down drafts. Since then, he moved his focus towards Legacy and MTG finance. Now that he's married and works full-time, Sigmund enjoys the game by reading up on trends and using this knowledge in buying/selling cards.

View More By Sigmund Ausfresser

Posted in Arbitrage, Buying, Buylist, Buyout, Commons, Finance, Old School Magic, Uncommons

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