Too-Specific Top 10 - Special Reserve, 2021 Edition

Stonk Stink

Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Skeleton Ship is the only Skeleton on the reserved list?)

For a long time, I've been wanting to revisit a few of my previous top ten lists now that some time has passed. There have been several that really struck a nerve with both me and you but that haven't stood the test of time as more cards are printed and our format changes. Aside from scheduled Standard rotations, there's been banlists bursting at the seams, new planeswalkers in every set, and yet another revitilization of Snow cards. As far as changes in the last year go, however, there's only one list that has completely changed from top to bottom.

Top 10 Reserved List Cards Under $10

Before we get started, I must once again stress that this is a top ten series written by an author who has absolutely no expertise in finance of any kind. While it is tempting to see the Reserved List as an investment that does nothing but go up, they can still definitely go down in price as well. There is always a risk when it comes to speculating on Magic: The Gathering cards, and the existence of these lists is in no way meant to be seen as any sort of financial advice, other than pointing out that if the cards on them are interesting to you, they are, as of this moment at least, fairly easy to purchase.

Last February, we visited cards on the Reserved List that, despite limited supply, were still fairly economical to purchase. Well, time has passed, the Reserved List has seen massive spikes, and every single card that made that top ten list no longer qualifies as under $10.00:

The Top 10 Reserved List Cards That Were Under $10 in February 2020

  1. Karn, Silver Golem: $16.99
  2. Retribution of the Meek: $13.99
  3. Dream Halls: $34.99
  4. Mana Web: $39.99
  5. Kjeldoran Outpost: $14.99
  6. Opalescence: $19.99
  7. Scorched Ruins: $39.99
  8. Hall of Gemstone: $19.99
  9. City of Solitude: $29.99
  10. Soldevi Excavations: $11.99

At a 100% rate, every single one of the cards from last year's list now costs more than $10.00, with many of them probably already reaching even higher heights since the writing of this article with the current Reserved List run that is going on. Once again, however, I would note that that in no way means that prices can't drop. Indeed, just looking through this list you can find several cards that used to have a higher price than they currently do. Soldevi Excavations had a spike all the way up to $20.00 back in August of 2018, only to fall down to $5.00 for almost two straight years after that. In fact, this entire list and the Reserved List in general had a huge spike back in the summer of 2018, the difference being that the price maintained for many of the more expensive portions of the Reserved List, while they fell for every card on this list.

But enough financial cautionary tales. Let's see what our brand new list looks like for 2021!

Criteria: Commander-legal cards that are on the Reserved List and have a price of under $10.00 as of February 2021. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Political Trickery

(447 Inclusions, 0% of 248,943 Decks)

I can safely say of our #10 card that not only is it the only card on the entire list that I actually play, it's also easily my favorite card on the list. Political Trickery is an efficient stand-in for Annex that costs one less mana, can't be destroyed to get the land back, and is easily splashable. Given the ever-increasing need to be able to handle land threats in games of Commander, I can heartily endorse this option. It costs the same as a Stone Rain, will often act as ramp rather than having you lose a land drop to the likes of Strip Mine or Ghost Quarter, and still does the job of removing that Cradle of Itlimoc, Glacial Chasm, or Maze of Ith across the way that's keeping your opponent in the game. Give it a try, spellslingers. I guarantee you'll love the results.

9. Harbinger of Night

(497 Inclusions, 0% of 244,822 Decks)

Harbinger of Night, on the other hand, is a bit more limited in both floor and ceiling. -1/-1 counter decks are the obvious choice for this Mirage weirdo of a Spirit, but Harbinger of Night doesn't play favorites. Sure, you'll be creating 20 Snakes with Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons on your upkeep, but the very next upkeep Harbinger will kill every one of those Snakes and Hapatra herself, followed by killing itself the upkeep after that.

The Scorpion God will outlast the Harbinger and draw you a bunch of cards during the whole process, making this a much more solid option there. All in all, however, the real dichotomy of Harbinger of Night is that most -1/-1 counter decks are creature-heavy, and it's a bit too symmetrical to play nicely. If you are playing a bit lighter on the creature side or a bit more on the death trigger side of things, however, then Harbinger of Night can be an absolute must-answer. Overall, it probably won't ever compete with Archfiend of Ifnir, but then again, what does?

8. Elvish Farmer

(512 Inclusions, 0% of 232,227 Decks)

Elvish Farmer's EDHREC page looks exactly as you would expect it to. Thallid decks love to stack up more Thallids to stack up more spore counters, and Elvish Farmer does exactly that with an extra option to sacrifice Saprolings to gain life if you need to. It's not going to win games outright, it's not going to wow anyone past maybe acting as an unexpected Fog, but it does fit solidly in the theme. If you're willing to pay a couple extra bucks for that extra "Thallid", then Elvish Farmer is your guy.

7. Wall of Kelp

(549 Inclusions, 0% of 248,943 Decks)

Speaking of token-makers, Wall of Kelp is one of the only cards in the game that can make Wall tokens. Dowsing Dagger makes a couple of them, but they go to your opponents. Nesting Dragon, Atla Palani, Nest Tender, and Flamewright do as well, but don't fit in colors for most Wall decks (read: Arcades, the Strategist). That leaves Teyo, the Shieldmage and The Birth of Meletis as the only remaining efficient wall-generators in Bant, and both of them only get you a limited amount of walls. Which just leaves the inefficient options.

Are we starting to see why this weird Kelp creator from Homelands is seeing some play?

6. Varchild's War-Riders

(567 Inclusions, 0% of 230,336 Decks)

Folks that haven't ever seen a Phelddagrif deck go nuts with Suture Priest triggers may be wondering why you'd ever want to give a horde of tokens to your opponents. But outside of that particular insta-death situation, there is also the ever-growing strategy of forced combat. If your opponents have to attack with their horde of 1/1s, but can't necessarily attack you, then that's just what we call a win-win.

Failing that, I would really like to see someone take on Boros Suture Priest combo. Seems like that would be a blast.

5. Recycle

(619 Inclusions, 0% of 232,227 Decks)

Recycle is a card that no one thinks is real when they first see it, but immediately gets your wheels turning once you do find out that yes, Phil Foglio does exist as a Magic: The Gathering artist, and yes, it's amazing. Skipping your draw phase is a heck of a drawback, as is having to discard down to two cards every turn, but high risk can indeed equal high reward. If you've ever seen a Chulane deck get going, then you have some idea of how good "play a card, draw a card" is, but what a lot of folks gloss over when it comes to Recycle is that it says "play", not "cast". Meaning, even if all you do is play a land for the turn, you still get to draw a card. Combine that with all the low-cost spells in the world and some sort of card that triggers in some fashion, and you should be more than able to find a way to win games. That's what six-mana cards are supposed to do, right?

4. Frenetic Efreet

(620 Inclusions, 1% of 117,195 Decks)

I was honestly shocked to see that Frenetic Efreet not only still qualified for this list, but that it was also so low on it. Coin-flip decks have gotten a lot of tools over the last couple years, including three commanders which all Partner in one fashion or another, and this three-mana Efreet is still one of the best cards you can draw in that strategy.

For those unaware, Frenetic Efreet can essentially flip a coin infinite times all on its own by putting an arbitrary number of its zero-cost activations on the stack. Whether or not the Efreet dies or phases out, the coin flips still happen, so you can still get any triggers you may have on the battlefield. Just make sure you don't go with too high an arbitrary number when it comes to Zndrsplt. Unless you've got the Laboratory Maniac out, that is.

3. Breathstealer's Crypt

(644 Inclusions, 0% of 130,397 Decks)

It may be number three overall, but Breathstealer's Crypt is #1 on my list of cards from this list that that I hope never see more play. If you thought Rhystic Study and Smothering Tithe were annoying, then you've never seen a game where literally every card draw results in players having to make complex decisions, resulting in gameplay slowing to an absolute crawl that makes Stax decks look like the Indianapolis 500 in comparison. Please, I'm begging you. Just let this one lie.

2. Goblin Bomb

(704 Inclusions, 0% of 230,336 Decks)

On the other side of the coin (pun intended), however, there is Goblin Bomb. It's not what you'd call a good card, but it is what many would describe as a fun card. From coin-flip decks to Proliferate decks to just old-fashioned (emphasis on the old-fashioned) burn decks, Goblin Bomb is a fun mini-game all unto itself. Will you ever get to the five counters? Who will you target if you do? Will it actually be enough to kill them? Can this be repeatedly recurred in Boros, since it only costs two mana? Wait, I know the answer to that last one....

1. Rainbow Vale

(895 Inclusions, 0% of 472,010 Decks)

The essence of flying under the radar, Rainbow Vale is one of the few cards in the history of the series to make a top ten list that I had no idea existed, and it's at the tippy top! That's probably because I've never dipped my toe into the White Elephant strategy exemplified by Zedruu the Greathearted for years (and Blim, Comedic Genius for months), wherein you Donate permanents to your opponents for personal advantage.

Rainbow Vale's disadvantage plays right into this strategy, constantly being handed around the table. One thing I would note, however, is that for every player there is out there who would maniacally keep this from you to deprive you of your own resources, it does seem like there's probably two more who would think the problem all the way through and make sure you end up with it on your turn so as not to get Zedruu's or Blim's triggers.

Honorable Mentions

There were quite a few lists in last year's version of this article, so let's dig right into those, shall we?

Top 10 Reserved List Cards Over $100

(Bolded cards appeared on this list last year)

  1. Mox Diamond
  2. The OG Dual Lands
  3. Gaea's Cradle
  4. Grim Monolith
  5. Gilded Drake
  6. Survival of the Fittest
  7. Yawgmoth's Will
  8. Lion's Eye Diamond
  9. Timetwister
  10. Intuition

Top 10 Reserved List Cards Under $100

(Bolded cards appeared on this list last year)

  1. Volrath's Stronghold
  2. Yavimaya Hollow
  3. Academy Rector
  4. Memory Jar
  5. Palinchron
  6. Null Rod
  7. Squandered Resources
  8. Lake of the Dead
  9. Treachery
  10. Winding Canyons

Top 10 Reserved List Cards Under $5.00

(Bolded cards are on today's top ten list)

  1. Wall of Kelp
  2. Elvish Farmer
  3. Harbinger of Night
  4. Lodestone Bauble
  5. Shauku, Endbringer
  6. Fungal Bloom
  7. Anaba Spirit Crafter
  8. Dominating Licid
  9. Phyrexian Marauder
  10. Forsaken Wastes

Top 10 Reserved List Cards Under $1.00

(Bolded cards appeared on this list last year)

  1. Infernal Denizen
  2. Anaba Ancestor
  3. Homarid Shaman
  4. Subterranean Spirit
  5. Reveka, Wizard Savant
  6. Royal Decree
  7. Tornado
  8. Bogardan Phoenix
  9. Lightning Blow
  10. Thran Tome

Finally, I'd like to add one more list here that seems to be getting less and less gee-whiz: The gold-bordered World Championship Deck cards. I'm seeing more and more of these as a sort of expensive proxy around tables, but several of them are starting to get prices to where that's not really tenable anymore. As such, it's probably a good idea to start keeping track of the more ludicrous examples.

Top 10 Most Expensive Gold-Bordered Cards

(Bolded cards are not on the Reserved List)

  1. Gaea's Cradle
  2. Vampiric Tutor
  3. Force of Will
  4. Yawgmoth's Will
  5. Grim Monolith
  6. Chrome Mox
  7. Replenish
  8. Enlightened Tutor
  9. Land Tax
  10. Mystical Tutor

Nuts and Bolts

There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion…), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.

What Do You Think?

I'd like to, going forward, try to use the polls for these repeat articles as a sounding board for how opinions may have changed over time, so here's the exact same poll I ran last year, word for word!

And finally, what are your favorite Reserved List cards that you can actually afford? Are there any that you've been picking up as a just in case type of thing, especially given the current speculation? Do you think that Wizards will ever renege on the Reserved List, or is the specter of investor/collector lawsuits going to keep them in line?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the table we called in and reserved for Commander Night... for the second night in a row.

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.

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