Dual Lands In Vogue Once Again

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I’ve been playing Magic for a long time now, but there are a few distinct moments that really stand out in my memory as most influential to my game experience. Included are things like the first time I ever drafted (Unhinged), my first competitive event (a 20+ player free for all with no deck-building rules), and my first Grand Prix (Columbus, Legacy format, I went 6-2-1).

One of the most memorable moments has to be the very first time I purchased a Dual Land. I remember so many details from this experience—it had a lasting impact on me even though I didn’t realize why at the time.

Flashback Scene

The kid’s name was John, he sat behind me in one of my eighth-grade classes, and I don’t even think he played Magic. John must have overheard that I liked the game, and he approached me with an offer: he had a relative who ran a hobby shop, and could get me good deals on Dual Lands if I was interested.

I knew of Dual Lands of course—their colorful striped textboxes could be spotted ten feet away, and my friends and I knew they were coveted by many. This was my perfect chance to impress my friends by stepping up my deck’s power level!

At the time I had a Red/White deck and a Blue/Green deck, so the choice of which duals to purchase was a no-brainer: one Revised Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateau and one Revised Tropical Island. The price: $12 each.

Deal! Later that week John brought the two cards in and I brought the cash—probably a significant portion of my recent savings from birthday money or what have you. I honestly don’t remember where I obtained $24 at 13…my family was always strapped for money in those days. Somehow I scraped together the funds and I was in business. The Dual Lands were mine, they were real, and they were spectacular.

At the next opportunity, I included the cards in my decks and battled with my friend. The exhilaration at laying down that Tropical Island in play was a high point for me in Magic. Unfortunately, it was also a bit anti-climactic. I had a powerful, $12 card. Why didn’t I win more games?

It turns out that when you’re playing strictly casual games, where Craw Wurm and Delayed Blast Fireball dominate the game, a single Tropical Island doesn’t do a whole lot to improve your deck.

I traded away the cards. I probably didn’t own them for more than six months.

Present Day

26 years later, I have a grander appreciation for Dual Lands. Dozens of them have passed through my possession over the years—every time I marvel at their beauty, their power, and their desirability. Every time, I realize I’m not using them, they aren’t improving my game (I only play Limited or Casual games now), and the money can serve me in many other ways. It’s an endless cycle of ups and downs.

In Las Vegas I sold every last Dual Land I still owned: four Underground Seas, four Taigas, and one Badlands, all Unlimited.

I felt a huge burden lifted from my shoulders as I saw those crisp $100 bills counted out on the table in front of me. Finally, I was going to cut ties with my lifelong Dual Land love-hate obsession.

It didn’t last.

Dual Land Mania

Even though my collection’s value is now greatly reduced, I still keep a close watch on the Reserved List market. Prices have really tumbled in recent months, making for occasional, attractive deals I couldn’t resist. My focus was spent mostly on Beta rares that ABUGames frequently lists on eBay—these seem to sell consistently lower than comparable cards on other marketplace websites.

In the meantime, I began observing some interesting trends in the Dual Land market. It started with Card Kingdom’s site—when I navigate to the webpage where I can browse their singles, their default “Sort By” is always set to “Most Popular.” I couldn’t help but notice two things. First, Dual Lands are always towards the top. Second, their Dual Land prices have climbed extremely high! Here are the near-mint and heavily played (good) prices for the ten Dual Lands:

Card Kingdom Dual Land Prices (As of 2/19/2023)

Do these prices seem a bit inflated to you? I surf the Old School Discord regularly, and never see people selling Dual Lands for nearly this high. Even adjusted for store credit (about a 15% discount), I still couldn’t bring myself to pay these prices.

Sure enough, TCGplayer prices aren’t nearly so high, especially if you’re comfortable with heavily played copies. I’d probably aim to pay $50 to $100 under the prices above if I were in the market for a Dual Land.

Which I was not…

Then I saw tweets from MagicCon in Philadelphia last weekend.

Ben Bleiweiss advertised they were paying “super high” on Dual Lands. Interesting. I re-tweeted this to share the specific call out of Dual Lands with my followers. I received a couple of interesting replies:

Clearly Dual Lands are taking the interest of major vendors in the Magic community. This started warming me up to the idea of owning duals again. Another synopsis tweet from Chris at Chicago Style Gaming sealed it for me.

Dual Lands are hot, and clearly, retailers are noticing this trend.

With this backdrop, I saw a listing for a pretty beat Revised Tropical Island and I could resist no longer. I snapped it up, and I’m extremely excited to own a Dual Land once again. You can fully expect that I’ll be buying a Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateau next, just so I can once again proudly own a Tropical Island and Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateau as I did back in 1998. The total cost will be in the $550 range, more than 2,000% above my 1998 price.

Why Dual Lands, Why Now?

Hopefully, I provided enough background to explain why I am finding myself once again in the market for Dual Lands. What’s harder to nail down, however, is why the rest of the market is once again in love with the game’s most iconic cycle of lands.

Commander vs. Magic Finance

The first thing my mind goes to is Legacy, but I don’t think that format has been a major influencer of Dual Land prices in a number of years now. Certainly Vintage has nothing to do with it, and I’d argue the Old School community is a bit too small to move the market on Revised Dual Lands—there are too many in supply for that.

No, my best guess is a combination of two things. First and foremost, there’s Commander, the game’s most popular format. Since Dual Lands are legal in Commander, there’s virtually no downside (other than the cost) to including them in any multi-colored deck. The more players that play and the more decks being built, the greater the demand for Dual Lands.

The other factor is the more nebulous though less popular side of Magic finance. I suspect that due to depressed prices and more eager selling, Magic investors are once more staking a claim on Dual Lands. Retailers are now reacting, but a few months ago perhaps Dual Land pricing was soft—especially on an open market like TCGplayer. If someone was eager to invest in the blue-chip staples of Magic, in recent months they had a prime opportunity to “buy low.”

Magic Cards and Crypto

Let’s combine that with the fact that cryptocurrency is on the rebound. Bitcoin, for example, bottomed out under $16,000 and is now trading north of $24,000.

While I can’t claim a direct connection between cryptocurrency and Magic, there’s enough rumbling in the community to be confident that when one goes higher, the other tends to follow suit. It’ll be interesting to see where things go from here.

Lastly, I should mention that I believed for a short moment that the Magic 30 proxies would lead to a drop in demand for Dual Lands. If they were cheap enough and plentiful enough, I thought Commander players would settle for these non-tournament legal (but still beautiful) copies of the cards for nonsanctioned play. I don’t know whether or not this is happening. What I do know is that there are not nearly enough Magic 30 Dual Lands to move the needle significantly. At least, not yet.

Given the option to pay $1000 for a minty Tropical Island proxy or $350 for a beat-up Revised Tropical Island, I’m taking the tournament legal Revised copy every time.

Wrapping It Up

The more things change, the more they stay the same. If someone had told me 25 years ago that I’d still be buying Tropical Islands and Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateaus in 2023, I don’t think I would have believed them. These cards are just as hot now as they were back then though, only a lot more expensive.

What has changed is the demand profile for these cards. They used to be far easier to come by and were really only used in Type 1 tournaments (what Vintage was called back then). Nowadays you can still find hundreds of Dual Lands for sale at large conventions, but their price points are significantly higher. Instead of being auto-includes in any old deck, these are now highly coveted and sought-after relics from Magic’s history. I occasionally see people declare on Twitter their euphoria at finally acquiring a single Dual Land, accomplishing a pursuit years in the making. They are truly icons of Magic unobtainium.

Many copies of these cards are all beaten up now from years of use. Revised duals in particular see so much play that it’s no surprise the vast majority of copies in existence show at least some playwear. Mint copies can demand a significant premium simply because they’re so rare. Back in 1998, not many people worried about protecting their $12 duals. I suspect players paid even less concern to this from 1994-1997.

The prices have changed and the care for these cards has changed, but one thing has not changed—the awe these cards inspire. To this day I look at a picture of a Dual Land online and I marvel at the artistic detail. The trees on Tropical Island, the wolves in Tundra, and the person riding the horse on Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateau. They grip the imagination in a way that not many other cards can.

Perhaps, at the end of the day, this is what keeps me coming back to Dual Lands. Their investment prospectus is attractive of course, but it’s the childhood awe they invoke that will keep me interested for years to come.

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