History, Restapled - Lands, Ho; Prices, Low

17 Aug
by Steve Heisler

Welcome back for another History, Restapled, a Commander-focused column that attempts to validate a newer card’s status as a staple by looking at how cards that are similar, synergistic, or competing have fared in the past financially. 

It’s not often these columns will contain 10 staples, but Commander Masters has had a pronounced effect on prices despite its overcosted boosters and precons. Below you’ll find a handful of previously pricy cards I’m excited to pick up on the (in some cases, relatively) cheap, though there are certainly plenty to eyeball for future columns. Plus, I’ll dig into five staple lands from The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth for which Wizards of the Coast delved too greedily and too deep… 

The Shire, Barad-dur, Minas Tirith, Mines of Moria, and Rivendell

Commander decks are large, but once you fill slots for card draw, ramp, removal/interaction, and protection, there’s little room for cards that don’t actively contribute to the game plan. Therefore, one of the best ways to expand the reach of your deck is to run lands with additional abilities beyond tapping for mana. Plenty leap to mind, but the ones that enter untapped are generally more expensive and in higher demand. 

The Channel lands from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, boasting playability in other formats, range from a few dollars up to $30 for Boseiju, Who Endures. A similar price range applies to the mythic cycle of MDFCs in Zendikar Rising and the cycle of original Kamigawa legendary lands such as Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep—reprinted as Helm’s Deep in Tales of Middle-earth Commander and worth $10. 

The core Tales of Middle-earth set contains its own cycle of legendary lands, each with consequential abilities and, in a format defined by legendary creatures, requiring minimal setup to enter untapped. My favorite is Mines of Moria because it’s great at breaking stalled board states later in the game when graveyards are populated, commanders are likely on the field, mana advantages are narrow, and end-of-turn, instant speed effects enable players to hold up mana without sacrificing tempo. It has a high ceiling, sure, but the floor is relatively high, as well: a Mountain that occasionally enters tapped. Best of all, both versions of the card cost less than one dollar. 

Minas Tirith is the priciest of the bunch at $4 but draws you cards simply for attacking and functions most of the time as a Plains. The worst one, objectively, is The Shire, because, besides merely making a Food token, it reduces the Forest count for a color that often relies on fetching Forests or maintaining a high number of Forests in play. But gaining life is underrated in Commander and, at minimum, The Shire produces a permanent that’s also an artifact, which can enhance quite a lot of synergistic elements—something a basic Forest will never be able to do. 

In previous columns, I’ve speculated on the likelihood that a card from Tales of Middle-earth will be reprinted in a non-Tolkien set, and some folks have expressed optimism that the more ambiguously named ones might qualify. However, all five of the above are tied to specific locations in Middle-earth, so I’d say the chances of a reprint outside of this universe are quite low. Grab them while you can. 

The Shire
Minas Tirith
Mines of Moria

STATUS: Staples that should not be forgotten or lost 

Commander Masters 

The most premium of non-premium sets contains quite a number of reprints that drive down the prices of some powerful staples. Here are a few from Commander Masters worth picking up: 

Ohran Frostfang 

For one more mana than Toski, Bearer of Secrets ($9), Ohran Frostfang applies deathtouch to your attacking creatures and ensures more of them will make it through blockers and draw you cards. Only a few months ago, Frostfang was worth $27, but at $6 it currently sits at its lowest price since mid-2020. 

Grasp of Fate

This three-for-one white staple debuted at $3.50 in late 2015 and never sank anywhere near that price again. The reprint, at $3, finally makes it possible for your wallet to revisit those halcyon days. 

Song of the Dryads 

Here’s a removal spell from Commander 2014 that’s so strong it borders on unfun. Lands and enchantments are the two hardest permanent types to remove, and transforming someone’s commander without killing it can shut down most people’s decks. And let’s not forget that Song of the Dryads enchants any permanent. Since 2019, the card has never gone for less than $8 and has reached as high as $15 in its existence. Its reprint in Commander Masters runs a mere $3.50. 

Ugin, the Ineffable 

While this powerful planeswalker has spent most of its time below $5, the reprint sets the price at $1, unlocking the card for even the tightest of budgets. I love Ugin, the Ineffable in mono-color decks, particularly red, black, and blue ones that struggle with certain types of permanents once they’re on the field. The static ability ranges from flavor text to a free Arcane Signet and the +1 ability produces chumpsters that draw you cards. 

Alms Collector 

Power creep has not been kind to this Cat Cleric, yet the card remained north of $10 since mid-2020. Post-Commander Masters, Alms Collector is a bulk rare—not bad for white card draw with light stax upside. I wish it was slightly stronger against Esper Sentinel and Rhystic Study-type effects, like if it applied to any card drawn after the first for the turn, but for $0.50 the card offers an appropriate level of power. 

Ohran Frostfang
Grasp of Fate
Song of the Dryads
Ugin, the Ineffable
Alms Collector

STATUS: Stable staples, grab when able 

Perfect 10 

I’d love to know which Commander Masters reprints you’re most excited to grab, especially if it’s a card you’ve had your eye on for some time that never quite fit into your budget. Similarly, I’d be curious to know more evidence from the field regarding how often the Tales of Middle-earth legendary lands enter untapped. This column is always going to be evolving and I hope the community can assist with that process for the betterment of us all. Send me a note on Twitter or via Reddit and let’s staple like we mean it!

Check out these articles:

A Penny Saved, An Exchange Earned by Ryan Cole

Dinos and Merfolk and Pirates, Oh My! (Also Vampires) by Adam Berg

Modern Times - Pro Tour: LOTR by Corey Williams

Steve Heisler
Steve Heisler

Steve Heisler is a writer and pop culture journalist covering comedy, games, television, film and the tech industry. His work has been published in Rolling Stone, GQ, Variety, The AV Club, Fast Company and the Chicago Sun-Times. He began collecting Magic cards during Fourth Edition and plays Commander and Modern primarily. He also enjoys tennis, the Dark Souls family of video games and supporting live comedy. He lives in Chicago with his cat, Rosie.

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