Too-Specific Top 10 - Special Reserve
(Lodestone Bauble | Art by Douglas Shuler)
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 Sands of Time is the only card on the Reserved List that has players skip their untap step?)
Whether it be Yawgmoth's Will, Gaea's Cradle, or just an Underground Sea to round out your mana base, cards on the Reserved List can be pricey. Ultimately, this is by design, as the entire point of the Reserved List was to keep the prices of older cards high for collectors who were worried about losing money on their investment. Not every card on the Reserved List is Timetwister, however. There are plenty of subpar or even downright bad cards that made the Reserved List, too!
As you might imagine, cards that are bad tend to have less demand. Even among collectors who don't play the game, typically a card has to have an interesting history or an extremely low supply to garner much interest. Think Juzam Djinn or Chaos Orb, for instance. Cards that are just plain bad and were common to begin with don't tend to fall under that category, nor do they get players of eternal formats excited. That means that their prices stay low because of their extremely low demand, despite there being a fairly limited supply of the actual cards due to the restrictions of the Reserved List.
Is there a sweet spot, however? Is there a list of cards that are on the Reserved List, still have a fairly low cost, and yet aren't utter garbage that couldn't see play even in the worst of formats?
Top 10 Reserved List Cards Under Ten Dollars
First off, a caveat is needed. I am not an expert in investing, collectibles, or anything to do with the financial side of Magic. This list is not an endorsement of anything, and is not meant as advice to go out and purchase these cards. Far from it, in fact. I would avoid doing so under any circumstances other than the most direct: that you like one of these cards and want it for a deck.
There are a lot of good Magic finance resources out there, and I suggest you seek them out if you have an interest in that side of things, although I would counsel that any investment in Magic is an inherent risk, and that there are no easy fortunes to be made.
All right then, with that out of the way, let's take a look at some fun, obscure old cards that we'll never see in a new border!
Criteria: Cards on the Reserved List that cost less than ten dollars as of February 21st, 2020. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC Score.
10. Soldevi Excavations
(801 Inclusions, 1% of 147,319 Decks)
While not the most exciting way to start off a top ten list, lands that tap for more than one mana are useful in any number of ways. Soldevi Excavations checks that box and then goes a step further by letting us scry 1 on command. This means that for both decks that can untap lands with the likes of Teferi, Temporal Archmage or that care about library manipulation a la Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow, this card can be in high demand. The supposed drawback of having to sacrifice an Island when it comes into play is also useful in Lands Matter decks playing blue, however, making this a decent graveyard filler for the likes of Tatyova, Benthic Druid.
All that said, where you'll most often find this is in your basic, run-of-the-mill mono-blue decks. Even there, however, it's still a rare find, which may explain the relatively low price tag.
9. City of Solitude
(796 Inclusions, 1% of 135,449 decks)
Along with being an excellent back-up commander for Dosan the Falling Leaf, City of Solitude is a means to keep control decks in check so you can continue to play like the Timmy or Tammy you are. If you've ever been held down by a Teferi, Time Raveler, then you know how frustrating it can be to not be able to respond to things as they happen. While City of Solitude doesn't quite rise to that level of annoyance, it can nonetheless keep opponents in a much more predictable lane so that you can continue to turn large creatures sideways without having to worry about pesky instants from the rest of the table.
On the more Jenny/Johnny end of the spectrum, Rule of Law is also a great piece of tech to keep enchantment decks rolling uninterrupted, as it allows you to play an enchantress and several enchantments before an opponent has a chance to respond, guaranteeing you triggers for card advantage and other effects that care about enchantments being cast or entering the battlefield.
8. Hall of Gemstone
(851 Inclusions, 1% of 135,449 Decks)
An absolutely brutal Stax effect, Hall of Gemstone can stop multi-colored decks in their tracks. Only being able to utilize one color at a time slows down even two-color decks, and completely stops multi-colored cards entirely if you don't have mana rocks or mana dorks that can create colored mana. If you've ever had this obscure card hit a table and everyone slowly take a turn reading it, then you know exactly how much it can turn a game on its head.
All that said, most Stax decks have multiple colors, or include at least Azorius colors in some fashion. While Hall of Gemstone is high on the list of mono-green Stax cards, that's a relatively short list in a strategy that (thankfully) doesn't see much representation, anyhow.
7. Scorched Ruins
(924 Inclusions, 0% of 280,841 Decks)
The lesser-known colorless cousin of the basically-just-got-reprinted Lotus Vale, Scorched Ruins can ramp you ahead a turn at the low, low price of letting you get absolutely wrecked by a Strip Mine effect. Still, the greedier among us may take the chance, anyhow, and be rewarded for it due to that Glacial Chasm down the way being a juicier target.
For the more reserved among us, however, this card is probably only useful in a mono- or dual-colored Lands Matter deck like Titania, Protector of Argoth or The Gitrog Monster, although taking a look at the EDHREC page, quite a few colorless decks have also considered its inclusion worth the risk. Wherever you may end up using Scorched Ruins, however, I would try to make sure you have some means of getting lands back from the graveyard.
(934 Inclusions, 1% of 128,147 Decks)
Speaking of Enchantress, Opalescence! One of the many cards from the old Replenish deck of Combo Winter 2.0 to make the Reserved List, Opalescence originally acted as the win condition after a horde of Parallax Waves, Parallax Tides, and Attunements had thoroughly done their work as control pieces, removing any and all opposition from would-be opponents.
While it is rare to see that level of dominance out of an Enchantress deck that has to live in a high-variance multiplayer environment, Opalescence still often acts as a finishing blow for decks heavy on enchantments. While many would call this strategy too risky in a world that has all sorts of ways to remove hordes of creatures at instant speed, you have to admit that there is something to be said for the all-out blitz from a story perspective. Win or lose, swinging in with a dozen Propaganda effects is something that's bound to have everyone at the table grinning.
5. Kjeldoran Outpost
(942 Inclusions, 1% of 128,147 Decks)
The second and final of the Replacement Lands to make the list, Kjeldoran Outpost shines in Selesnya tokens builds as a cheaper-yet-more-risky Vitu-Ghazi the City Tree while also being seen in a lot of mono-white decks that wouldn't mind a few extra blockers. All that said, it is a bit slow for even the mono-white decks of this current day and age, where Battlecruiser tables are getting harder and harder to find as players flock toward faster, more optimized builds. While there are certainly the hipsters and the holdouts such as myself who will attempt to slow playgroups down through sheer stubbornness, even I would probably find pause on spending $8.00 on a land that will probably still just be tapping for mana the majority of the time while also slowing me down a full turn.
Which really raises the question... why exactly is this ahead of the two-mana-supplying Soldevi Excavations?
4. Mana Web
(961 Inclusions, 0% of 280,314 Decks)
If you've noticed a bit of a Stax trend in this list of old Reserved List cards that not that many people are playing, I think we can officially state at this point that that is not a coincidence. While there is no doubting that Mana Web makes your Hokori, Dust Drinker, Taniwha, or Urza, Lord High Artificer build better, that still doesn't answer the question of who will want to play against it?
3. Dream Halls
(985 Inclusions, 1% of 147,319 Decks)
One of the last cards to be printed with what probably seemed like a "fair" means to get around paying mana costs, Dream Halls once again proves that there is no such thing. That said, you do have to have quite a card draw engine in order to get it up and going, especially when compared to effects like Fist of Suns or Omniscience. All that said, Wheel decks tend to have no problem keeping ridiculous turns of 30 or more cards being drawn once this card hits the table, and should be rightfully feared for doing just that.
2. Retribution of the Meek
(1065 Inclusions, 1% of 128,147 Decks)
Toxic Deluge fans will know all about the joy of a one-sided board wipe that only costs three mana. While Retribution of the Meek doesn't quite rise to that level, it is nonetheless an absolute powerhouse in decks that are built around it. Whether that be Arcades, the Strategist Walls decks, Gaddock Teeg Hatebears, or just a happy coincidence of a deck that happens to feature mostly utility creatures like my Samut, Voice of Dissent Pingers, Retribution of the Meek can be an absolute game-winner with the right tiny pals around it.
While many these days prefer the more trustworthy Slaughter the Strong which also has the added bonus of not caring about indestructible, the old adage of "why not both" definitely applies here, especially with how much of a swing in fortunes this kind of effect can be.
1 . Karn, Silver Golem
(210 Decks as Commander, Rank #339; 909 Inclusions, 0% of 280,314)
Totaling out at 1,109 total decks playing him, Karn, Silver Golem has actually been on a downward trend compared to his amount of play early on in the history of EDH. For a long time, Karn was one of the only options for a colorless commander. Given the completionist nature of many a Commander player and the popularity of artifact decks, this meant that it was actually fairly common to see Karn around tables. With the printing of other colorless commanders (mainly the horde of legendary Eldrazi), the decline began and has only continued as other options have become available. Still, while Karn may pale in comparison to Kozilek, the Great Distortion, he's actually still number three overall when it comes to colorless commanders, right behind Traxos, Scourge of Kroog.
I firmly believe that the reason for Karn's continued popularity is because he's the only real colorless artifact commander. Sure, Traxos and Hope of Ghirapur are legendary artifact creatures, but neither of them actually have the word "artifact" in their rules text, much less come with a stapled-on win condition for a deck flooding out three to four artifacts a turn. The Eldrazi are certainly mighty, and Traxos can be an untap engine, but when it comes to synergizing with artifacts, Karn is still king.
There are lots of other categories I tried out here which I didn't want to go to waste, as they are their own kind of interesting. Ultimately, "Top Ten Cards Under Ten Dollars" ended up being both the simplest with the most obscure-yet-still-recognizable-and-playable listing, but that doesn't mean that other lists don't have their own unique charms. It was also interesting to see how little overlap there was between lists, really showing how much price is an impact when it comes to what is and isn't played in Commander.
Top 10 Reserved List Cards Over 100 Dollars
Whether you just like to flex or need that competitive edge, there are no shortage of expensive cards on the Reserved List that you can still play in Commander, even if Black Lotus and the Moxen themselves are banned.
- Mox Diamond
- The OG Dual Lands
- Grim Monolith
- Gaea's Cradle
- Lion's Eye Diamond
- Transmute Artifact
- Power Artifact
- Mishra's Workshop
- The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
Top 10 Reserved List Cards Under $100
If you are still on a more middle-class budget, however, there are also some more reasonable takes to be had on the Reserved List that won't have you breaking the $1,000 mark for a single land slot.
- Wheel of Fortune
- Volrath's Stronghold
- Survival of the Fittest
- Yawgmoth's Will
- Gilded Drake
- Yavimaya Hollow
- Academy Rector
- Time Spiral
- Copy Artifact
Top 10 Reserved List Cards Under Five Dollars
For those of us that look at cards costing $10 and immediately multiply that by one hundred in our brewing minds, there are still a bit more reasonable options that can see more niche play.
- Soldevi Excavations
- Rainbow Vale
- Phyrexian Devourer
- Illusions of Grandeur
- Koskun Falls
- Breathstealer's Crypt
- Harbinger of Night
- Elvish Farmer
- Frenetic Efreet
- Altar of Bone
Top 10 Reserved List Cards Under a Dollar
And finally, for those of you brewing on a real budget, a good rule of thumb many of us use is that the majority of cards need to come in under a dollar. Fret not, budget brewers, there is hope yet, even on the Reserved List!
- Lodestone Bauble
- Elkin Lair
- Flooded Shoreline
- Serra Aviary
- Infernal Denizen
- Weatherseed Treefolk
- Tidal Control
- Mindbender Spores
- Asmira, Holy Avenger
- Anaba Ancestor
What Do You Think?
The Reserved List is such a contentious topic that I'm sure many have been slightly frothing at the mouth while reading this article, or may have even clicked off of it as soon as they saw the topic. With that in mind, I figured the least I could do was leave some data here for posterity.
And finally, what are your favorite Reserved List cards that you can actually afford? Are there any on the more reasonable side that you like to splurge for? What is your opinion on using the gold-bordered versions of these cards that were reprinted in the World Championship Decks?
Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the table we called in and reserved for Commander Night ahead of time.