When a price changes drastically, there's usually a reason for that, for example an unbanning, spoiling of a new card that complements a card, or some new tech. But why are cards expensive that, well, already are expensive? That's what I'm going to try to explore in this article series. This instalment, we'll be talking about Karakas, a land with an unique ability.
Aim of this article
Many articles require (some) background knowledge about formats, the metagame and price history of a card and similar cards. We also like to serve newcomers, casual players and infrequent players in the community who would like to understand how or why a card got to where it is now. If you have been dealing with Magic finance for some time, this article probably contains a lot of information you're already aware of. A card with a high price tag, which probably looks like a terrible card to new players.
So, let's talk Karakas, a land that produces and is Legendary. So based on only this, you can argue that Plains (232a) strictly is a better card. But its really is the second ability that does the trick. Lets start looking at how the price evolved over time.
From the moment we started recording prices in 2012, Karakas was about $67. You can see that around Return to Ravnica, the price started rising. The land has always been popular as means to bounce opponent's creatures or to protect your own Legendaries. Karakas reached a point where it would cost you more than $160, but fortunately, when it got a reprint in Eternal Masters, the price came down. Only a few months ago, in February, Karakas actually had its all time low of "only" $60.46, but it is currently slowly creeping up again because of the recent B&R Announcement.
Karakas was a city on Dominaria during "The Time of Legends". When visiting the city, travelers were so intrigued by its adventure and treasure, that they forgot where they came from or where they were going. During Angus Mackenzie's leadership, Karakas became so peaceful that battles no longer served a purpose in the city.
Karakas was printed in Legends. You are probably familiar with this set, since cards from this set have been popping up every single day in our Interests page. What is it with this set?
Legends was released in June 1994 as the seventh Magic set. It was the first set to contain multicolored cards. The print run was around 35 million cards. To put this into perspective, the print run from The Dark, the set after Legends, had a print run of 62 million cards and Fallen Empires had a print run of 350-375 million cards. Revised Edition, the set before Legends, had an estimated print run of 600 million range. So as seen, the Legends run was very small in comparison to other sets from that time. Also Legends is a big set with 310 cards, meaning there are less copies of each. Fortunately, Legends was reprinted almost a year later in Italian, adding quite a few copies to the supply.
As any other set, Legends was sold in boosters, but some boosterboxes only contained only one part of uncommons from this set, while other boxes contained the other part. This led to widespread complaints from frustrated players. This was "solved" by Wizards of the Coast with the Legends Exchange Program, which would allow customers to trade in up to 100 cards from one part of uncommons for an equal number from the other part.
The set obviously contained "Legends", later replaced by supertype "Legendary". Of these unique one-of-a-kind permanents, only one with the same name could exist on the battlefield at any time. Legends also introduced "Enchant World" cards, where the idea behind it was that they were magics so powerful, they transported the battle to another plane altogether. Only one "World" permanent could be on the battlefield at the same time.
Because of all the Legendary creatures in Legends, Karakas is obviously a nice card to bounce them again and fits within the theme. Fortunately, Karakas was printed as an Uncommon (U2), so since it's not rare it dodges the dreaded Reserved List.
Karakas has two abilities. The first one is simple: : Add .
Although this does might seem mundane, it shouldn't be underestimated. It being able to generate a color rather than it extremely useful, since it can be played instead of a Plains (232a). The card would also be much worse if it had no ability to generate mana (like The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale).
Its second ability is actually why it's very useful:
: Return target legendary creature to its owner's hand.
Because Karakas is a land, it has a few perks over regular spells. You can't counter it, and your opponent doesn't receive priority when you play it, meaning you can activate its ability before your opponent can respond to it. Obviously your opponent can respond to the bounce-ability being put on the stack.
Karakas is Legendary itself, so you won't be able to have multiple under your control, however decks like Death & Taxes still often opt to play a 3 or 4 copies.
Karakas is played in quite a few Legacy decks, of which Death & Taxes and Lands are the most notable. However, it serves a slightly different role in them.
In Death & Taxes, the role of Karakas is three-fold:
- Being able to protect your own Legendary creatures against removal. In most D&T decks, this is Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.
- Not so much played nowadays, but in early versions Karakas combo'd with Mangara of Corondor. You could activate Mangara, target an opponent's permanent, and in response to the ability send Mangara back to your hand with Karakas.
- Bounce Legendary creatures your opponent controls, like Griselbrand, Leovold, Emissary of Trest or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.
In most other decks, Karakas only fulfils this last role. Security against big creatures which are most likely cheated into play.
This is going to be the shortest paragraph of this article: Karakas is banned in EDH. Just imagine being able to have an uncounterable and repeatable way to bounce your opponent's commander.
#ButWhy is it expensive?
So... #ButWhy is Karakas so expensive? It's a versatile card that can be used to bounce your opponent's creatures and protect your own from removal. It only has seen two (real) prints of which the Legends version has a very small print run and the Eternal Masters' print run also isn't as large as regular expansions. It being able to make rather than , makes it a lot more useful.