Basic Land Finance

Written By:

Douglas Johnson @Rose0fthorns

Hey everyone! I hope your summers are all going great. I’ve been selling some Magic cards on Twitter, and trying to save up money to set aside for my first semester of grad school in the fall. It’s been going pretty well so far, but this week I was absolutely swamped with some pretty large collections that I couldn’t turn down. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’m going to have to have a relatively quick turnaround on these than what I’m normally used to.

As much as I would love to rinse and repeat that paragraph a few times and hit “Publish” so that I could get back to collection buying, I did actually find something worth writing about while I was piecing out one of those previously mentioned collections.


swamp island

The person who was trading in a bunch of bulk to me had these two basic lands included in the relevant stuff, among great cards like Vampire Nighthawk and Thought Scour. Before you ask, they were not foil. I assumed he had just mixed these in on accident, so I put them in the “stuff I don’t want” pile as I continued to sift through the relevant cards that he was trading up towards a set of Liliana of the Veil. After seeing that I was uninterested, he let me in on this little nugget;


Yep. I mean, I know that the art on a card can affect the price, that’s some pretty basic finance. I’m just surprised to see the price of a non-foil basic land affected to such a degree when it’s not full art. While these are both gorgeous pieces, there’s got to be another underlying reason for such a drastic price difference from all other Lorwyn block lands, right?


Okay, that makes a lot more sense now. Thanks to @thatresolves on Twitter for solving that mystery for us! It makes a lot of sense that Fae players would want the lands that represent where their mischievous little creatures come from, more so than the “traditionally fancy” full-arts from Zendikar or Unhinged. While I really don’t have a battle plan for moving these non-foil $1 basics, it’s certainly nice to have that knowledge for future picks and pulls. Maybe you can throw them in an Ogre box  at $.25 and see which vendor bites once you explain that they’re $1+ retail.


All this thinking about niche basics got me thinking; what other basic lands am I unaware of that are worth money? The value of basic lands can very easily slide under the radar due to the difficulty of actually looking up their value. What app do you use when trading or looking up card prices on the go? I’m assuming a lot of you use MTGFamiliar; a universal free app that also has a life counter, round timer, and card search functionality. While it’s still pulling data from the “TCG mid” metric instead of “TCG Market Price”, it’s still one of the most common smartphone sources of looking up card prices in my experience. Go ahead, try to look up the prices of different basic lands using this app.


Mhmm. In this case specifically, it looks like the app only pulls the data for the first numerical island of the set; it’s looking up Island 286 when 287 is the Glen Elendra one. If we want to see all four of the Lorwyn Islands to compare, we have to go to the actual TCGplayer website and grab a microscope.


Now considering it doesn’t seem very practical to do this for every single basic land. While it won’t be a comprehensive list, I’ve been using StarCityGames’ buylist to easily find a general idea of which art styles will get you more cash.

plains1 plains2 plains33028_200w

scg plains

According to SCG, people really like fields of wheat that include the horizon towards the back of the art. I dunno, I guess that’s popular. Thunderstorm Plains from Odyssey is 10 cents nonfoil and two whole dollars for the foil.  This isn’t even only concerning older basics; one of the foil Mountains from Khans of Tarkir is $1 on SCG buylist.

Unfortunately, this “check the SCG buylist to see if a bunch of other people enjoy the art” doesn’t always work out. If you’re picking through your bulk foil basics and have a hunch, you’ll likely have to do the grunt work of searching for that specific art on TCGplayer. For example, I recently purchased a Kami of the Crescent Moon Commander deck where all of the Islands were matching foils. While SCG doesn’t have a buy price for any foil Mirrodin lands, it looks like they go for at least $2 on TCGplayer for NM copies. The struggle will be finding another player who wants to foil out their deck in that specific way, but I don’t mind waiting.


talk about BFZ/ZEN full art, foil and nonfoil

I wouldn’t be closing out this article unless I talked about being a “local buylist”, and I’m sure some of you are wondering what you should be paying when you’re brought foil basic lands. I personally pay 25 cents cash on all bulk foil basics that come my way, and I trade for them at three for $1. With the new information in this article, I’ll definitely pay a bit more attention to which basic lands I’m picking up, and see if I can increase my buy prices on certain arts that will be easier to move to vendors or other players at an increased rate. As soon as I finish this article, I’m going to go through my own box of foil basic lands, and see what goodies I can pull out that I didn’t even know I had.

These have probably been sitting in my box for at least 4 years.

End Step

I might be biased because I play Child of Alara as a Commander, but I really, really like High Market as a long term pick at sub $1. I know Jason Alt has mentioned this card on the podcast and in his articles in the past couple of weeks, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s a long term pick, but I think we see it creep back up to $3 in a year or two.


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Graf vs Host

While it’s not the immediate, standout build-around card that The Gitrog Monster was, another Golgari monstrosity is piquing some interest.


An obvious EDH bomb, I identified this as a card to buy at its floor. It seemed too slow for Standard but its power was obvious in EDH. On the Brainstorm Brewery podcast, Ryan said that he was going to go pretty deep on $2 copies of the itsy bitsy Grafwidow and I opted not to join him. It’s not that speccing on golgari cards in the past hasn’t paid dividends – I’m writing this article on the computer I bought with profit that was in part to Deadbridge Chant spiking to $10 after all. But this didn’t seem like it could impact Standard all that much. Wish I’d bought in, frankly. I have stayed away from speculating on Standard cards for so long I can’t tell if a card is good or just good in EDH.

Then it spiked to $10.

Unless you listened to our set review episode and agreed with Ryan and dropped a few hundo on $2 copies of the Grafwidowmaker you aren’t in a position to make much money from her directly. However, you may remember that one of the things I do in this series is scour decklists to try and find financial opportunities. Older cards that suddenly are getting more play due to people building a new deck can suddenly become worth money, especially if they go from trash to staple the way a new deck can make cards do. I think there is money to be made on a few Ishkanah staples and there is still time to get in.

I am not going to load this article up with a ton of preamble this week because I basically am not feeling my typical, jovial self.


This card is going to do something someday. Basically, whenever a card is unique in its effect, you need but ask whether you think casual players might one day be interested in the effect. If the answer is yes, you have a delicate balancing act to think about. Is the card good enough that lots of casual players playing lots of decks will want it but not good enough that they need to reprint, functionally or otherwise, the card for future sets? I don’t know that they’ll feel the need to give us another Assault Formation any time soon, but making everything Doran opponents in the face is a cool effect. Spiders and other big-butted creatures get a massive upgrade from this. Legacy and Modern players can even use Assault Formation to kill opponents Tarmogoyfs with their Tarmogoyfs and break up ground stalls. I mean, they won’t, but they can and that matters. You know, to me.

Modern is also giving this deck a bit of a bump in noticeability because MTG Price’s own Corbin Hosler is streaming some doofy Doran deck in Modern where you use Zur the Enchanter to snag Assault Formation so he can attack for 4. There is removal and stuff he can also grab. The deck is a pile, but if piles didn’t move prices, Travis Woo would be out of a job. You know, more. This could put some pressure on the price, also. Those two factors may not be enough to drive the price right now but all that means is that you have more time than you would if Corbin’s stupid deck got played on camera (I know he streams, but I meant a camera that has people watching.  I don’t even watch him stream and I’m friends with him. I bet even his wife doesn’t watch his stream. Still, he writes for TCG Player, now and that has to count for something. At least the card is getting put in people’s minds.

I think you have a while to move on these, but I think you’re safe going pretty deep.


This seems like a no-brainer. I don’t know that this gets printed again easily and it’s narrow enough that there won’t be much pressure to do it even in the few avenues where they could do it. This is in a precon that theoretically has $60 worth of cards in it, but a lot of that is presuming you can get $0.50 for a lot of the uncommons. It basically has an $8 Commander Beacon, a $5 Eternal Witness and a $4 Solemn Simulacrum. These decks aren’t super worth picking up at MSRP to flip so basically the decks are going to players. This card is above its historic low but it didn’t stay there long. It’s trending up-ish thought not enough to make a pronouncement. I think there are enough $3-$5 cards in Eldritch Moon that will be $0.50 next month that you should start sheltering your value by trading for a $3 card that has upside like this. This doesn’t just go in Ishkanah decks, but 90% of the Ishkanah decks uploaded to EDHREC run it so if that deck is popular at all, this card will be, too.  If this goes down at all, I like it. If this goes up at all, I like it even more.

The rest of the deck is pretty cheap, and that’s appealing, too. When a deck can be built as cheaply as this deck can, it becomes appealing to foil the deck out. That can present challenges but people will still try. One challenge is the disparity in foil multipliers for other-format staples and also for cards that are reprinted in non-foil in Commander sets but are only foil in the original set.  $30 foil Urza’s Incubator doesn’t care that the non-foil is $4, now.

Still, it’s a deck where, once the artifacts like Door of Destinies, Ashnod’s Altar (ouch) and Sol Ring (I may skip this one) are foiled, you can finish it cheaply means people might try it. A lot of the spiders are affordable but there aren’t a ton of them and there could be opportunity here, if only just to trade the foils off.



These come as a set, and 75% (heh) of the Ishkanah decks are running this combo. Cheap spiders are easy to buy a few playsets of affordably and watch the price go up over time.


This was reprinted in a Commander precon which means as the non-foil price goes down, we’ll see greater and greater divergence of the foil price, which is already trending upward at points. We’re not getting more copies and even though dealer confidence went down with the reprint of non-foils, demand is going to eat copies eventually and when supply can’t catch up, the price will.


This card, near its historic low, has a mere 10x multiplier. Standard used this and maybe Modern will, so the additional potential exposure from some crazy Modern dredge thing could give this some traction on top of a crazy foil spiders deck. Dealers are staying pat on this, but a second spike will be harder and they’ll be flat-footed so maybe take a look at this.


Early Standard adoption messed this price up for life, basically. The non-foil is tanking but the foil doesn’t know what to do. Dealers aren’t in a hurry to race to the bottom so I feel like it’s in a weird spot. I’m not enthusiastic about its current price and I feel like it will be $3 before it’s $7. This is gross, but people may want to buy it now, and you never know if Standard somehow spikes this if people adopt Ishkanah in Standard. Strangers things have happened.

Also, buy basically every single spider that goes in the deck in foil, if you can. People who build this deck run a lot of crap spiders from the pre-foil era and a foil deck would have to leave them out (We hardly knew ye, Root Spider) but the deck is doable in foil. I don’t think a ton of people will build it, but it will be tempting once people see how cheap most of the cards are. Any cards, like Cryptolith Rite and Spider Spawning, that see play in other decks will have additional upside exposure and are better buys.

That’s about all for Grafwidow. Join me next week where the topic of discussion will be something else.

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PROTRADER: Bant isn’t Simic, Forsythe!

By: Travis Allen

Don’t miss this week’s installment of MTG Fast Finance! An on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important Magic economy changes.

Last week, we talked about cards to keep an eye on as we got ready to kick off post-Eldritch Moon Standard, with our eyes on the Pro Tour. Our goal was to identify cards that had a lot of potential to be realized by EMN additions. We’ve already seen some appear this past weekend at Columbus. On the whole the tournament was disappointing — Bant Collected Company mirrors were everywhere, with some fairly outrageous statistics. Here’s the top 64 breakdown, weighted by finish:

Bant Company 43.8%
U/W Spirits 11.5%
B/G/x Control 10.0%
G/W Tokens 10.0%
W/R Humans 7.7%
W/B Control 5.4%
G/R Goggles 3.1%
U/R Eldrazi 2.3%
G/B Delirium 1.5%
G/B/x Emerge 1.5%
Misc 3.1%

Yep. 44% of the meta was Bant Collected Company. Nearly half the decks in the room on Sunday were the same damn thing. I’m not even sure Pack Rat was this bad.

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Grinder Finance – WTF is Printing and Collation?

I’ve decided to start a little mini-series, appropriately titled “WTF is _” to take some time to discuss some topics that might not necessary be the most important finance topics but tangentially related to the cost of cards as a whole.  The first topic I’m going to talk about is collation.

Well if you go look up the word collation, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the way it’s used to describe Magic product so I’m assuming someone made the stretch to fit at some point in time.  I don’t know the etymology of the phrase but I know what it means.  Collation in Magic terms refers to the distribution of cards in a booster pack (or packs in a box, etc).   But before we can really dive into Magic’s collation process and what it’s doing today, we need to talk about the printing process first.



Since the dawn of time Magic cards have been printed on huge sheets of card stock and cut down into the much smaller cards we all play with today.  It’s not uncommon to see foil uncut sheets like these available at Grands Prix’s prize walls.  Generally each set has 3 sheets for each of the 3 rarities.  Generally…


As a young upstart company without presumably a ton of financial resources it’s no surprise Alpha was a huge source of printing problems.  You ever want to make a vendor roll their eyes?  Ask them if they have any Alpha Volcanic Islands for sale.  Alpha was missing two cards that were part of Beta (Volcanic Island and Circle of Protection: Black) and that’s not even the worst part.

Here is a picture of Mark Rosewater standing in front of an uncut sheet of Beta rares.  You might not notice it quickly but I count 4 (FOUR!?) basic islands on this rare sheet and I can’t even see the whole thing!


In this second picture (of presumably a common, rare, and uncommon sheet) there yet still more basic lands on the uncommon sheet.


The short version of this story is don’t buy an unopened pack of old Magic.  You could get some very bad cards as your rare.

Experimental printing processes:

Have you ever heard someone say something’s rarity is “U2?”  No they’re not talking about the band, but rather another experimental and now defunct printing process (kind of).  Most people assume that the Legends Karakas is an uncommon and so is Mana Drain.  They’re from the same set, right? Well yeah but technically, Karakas is a U2 and Mana  Drain is a U1 which means there are twice as many Legends Karakas in existence than Mana Drains.  The U1/2 distinction is how many times each card appeared on the uncommon sheet.  That also happened with the common sheet which lead to some weird situations.  Hymn to Tourach is a C1 in Fallen Empires but it has 4 different arts so it’s on the sheet 4 times…  Some commons only had 3 different arts (this different art experiment was also a bad idea) which means despite them both being C1, there are more of some than others.  But Fallen Empires also has other problems like it only being printed on two sheets (the other sheet had U3, U2, and U1 cards – which were Uncommons, Slightly more Uncommons, and Rares).  Wizards has since learned something from these mistakes.

Modern Day Printing:

Today, there are 3 sheets.  Commons, Uncommons, and Rares.  But wait, what about mythics?  Well it’s pretty simple to explain.  With the introduction of the colored set symbols to denote rarity, it became imperative that each card at the same rarity was the “same rarity.”  Some cards, like Mythic rares appear slightly less often than other cards in the same slot so they have a new symbol but they are printed on the same sheet.  The rare sheet for modern sets has 2 of each rare and 1 of each mythic – making mythics twice as rare as rare without the confusing R2/1 notations. But wait, there’s more!  Flip cards can’t be printed on the same sheet as normal cards because they don’t have the same backing.  Thus we have sheets that contain only flip cards and they are cut and inserted into the packs later as well.  BUT WAIT – there’s still more!  With Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon I am going to go out on a limb and make the assumption that they have split the flip cards into two sheets.  One with commons and uncommons (1 goes in every pack) and one with rares and mythics (1 goes in some packs but doesn’t replace the other flip card).  This printing process is different from Innistrad and Dark Ascension where there was only ever 1 flip card in a pack.


Okay so now that we’ve had that history lesson on what printing is – let’s talk about collation.  In the oldest years of Magic there was no collation.  The cards were printed, packed, and shipped.  Many cards appeared in the same order in booster packs and the same rares in the same order.  I vaguely remember in my earlier years, while drafting Onslaught, that there were some cards that often appeared before or after Sparksmith on a sheet.  With this information I was able to tell if a Sparksmith was likely in the pack and base my further decisions on that.  If you didn’t draft Onslaught you probably don’t get why Sparksmith is so important.  Basically it’s like opening a Pack Rat at common.  Maybe not quite that bad, but whatever – I’m getting off topic.


There have been strides made in order to limit the ability to know what rares would be in what packs.  This is also called “box mapping” and while I don’t do it or endorse it, many people try.  Some boxes are especially susceptible as a few years ago there was an app you could download to help you do it.  I don’t want to say it was box mapping for dummies, but it was.  As you can see here, it only took 8 packs to map out the entire box’s contents.  This is obviously very unsettling to people and had gone on through Gatecrash and Dragon’s MazeTheros introduced new colation processes that had some packs shift and/or columns move that made it much harder to do.  As far as I can tell, going forward it has been pretty hard to map boxes.

Problem Packs

On more than on occasion we have seen some colation failures and it’s almost always at the expense of the player.  Modern Masters 2015 had a comical number of errors.  I experienced two different drafts where the number of cards in the packs was not correct (missing foil, missing rare, extra foil, or extra rare).  Then you have weird stuff like this box where every pack had a mythic.  This also happened in Fate Reforged where there were a number of people that opened a fetchland in every pack.

Eldritch Moon

So we have another problem this time.  “Box Mapping” has become too easy for the average player.  As you can see in this video, you are able to tell which art packs in a case has all of the non-flip mythics in that case.  While it’s not quite as bad as knowing where every card is in a box of a set, you can find most of the mythics pretty easily across multiple boxes with this technique.  In fact, after you find one mythic you are very likely on your way to finding them all.  This is a big colation problem and might be a result of using a different colation process from Oath of the Gatewatch which weirdly had 4 booster wrappers instead of the usual 3 of a small set.  It might also be a problem with how they decided to package flip cards from this set and it was masked by the 5 booster wrappers in Shadows over Innistrad.  The short version of this story is don’t buy loose packs.  The long version of this story is all of the words it took to get here.

Final thoughts from Last weekend

  • So, Spell Queller.  Who’s ready for a year of this guy?  I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the next few days since it’s already a $10+ rare but man there are so many Spell Quellers in the T64 of SCG Columbus.
  • Moving forward I think there will be an uptick of 1 mana ways to kill Spell Queller (Aerial Volley, Fiery Impulse, etc) but I feel they may fall short of killing the rest of the Bant Company deck.
  • Not a big splash of Eldritch Moon cards in Modern.  I wouldn’t give up on your Allosaurus Riders / Eldritch Evolution deck but I’m not saying it’s likely to happen.
  • Pro Tour is a few weeks away.  If you see cards under performing don’t ditch them yet.  You have a good chance to cash out during a weekend of spikes.  Last Pro Tour I was able to sell all of my Dark Petitions for far more money than I should have been able to get for them.
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