Welcome to part seven of my now eight-part series on the financial value of Commander!
This week, we’ll be tackling one of the biggest and most beloved categories of Commander staples: Artifacts! (Colorless cards will also be included here.)
It’s interesting to me that artifacts and gold cards are so both beloved because they fill opposing roles. Artifacts are popular because they’re easy to cast and you can fit them in any deck you want. They have to be overcosted/underpowered to make up for their utility, but they allow you to ‘cheat’ the color pie a little when building a one or two color deck.
Gold cards, on the other hand, are generally undercosted, but you have to have the right mana in your deck to play with them.
Unlike past articles in this series where I have given a very detailed review of each card, I will be using a different format for this column. I want to cover as many artifacts as I can, and in order to get to everything I am going to group cards together and discuss each cluster in turn.
No preamble necessary – let’s get to it!
All of these cards are useful in Commander as well as the constructed formats that they’re legal in. I’m sure all standard players are familiar with the latter two, and the two from Darksteel have gone up in price an insane amount due to Legacy playability and speculation.
The best of these in Commander (in my opinion) is Sword of Light and Shadow. It has protection from the two best removal colors, and the free Raise Dead is probably the strongest single ability. All of these cards are playable in nearly every Commander deck, though, and most would agree that SoFI is has the most raw power. It certainly has the best combination of abilities.
That said, these are not a strong pickup right now. Out of all the cards in the Legacy price jump, these are the ones I see with the most potential to rocket back to earth. I don’t know anyone who will trade for them at retail right now, and I fully expect SoFI to be a $25-$30 card again in a few months.
The newer swords are reasonable pickups, especially when they rotate from Standard. They will be played in casual decks, Commander, and cube from now until forever.
Other Strong Equipment
Lightning Greaves – $5.50 ($14 Foil)
Skullclamp – $3.50 ($4 FtV Foil)
Loxodon Warhammer – $2 ($4 Foil)
Umezawa’s Jitte – $25 ($25 GP Foil)
Sunforger – $2.50 ($4 Foil)
Tatsumasa, the Dragon’s Fang $2 ($4 Foil)
Sword of Kaldra – $4 ($6 Prerelease Foil)
Shield of Kaldra – $5 ($6 Prerelease Foil)
Helm of Kaldra – $4 ($4 Prerelease Foil)
Nim Deathmantle – $0.25 ($2 Foil)
Greaves is great in any general-dependent deck, (think Omnath, Arcum, or Lorthos) especially in a build that tries to kill with general damage or needs a general’s activated ability.
Skullclamp is at its best in a token deck where it can bury the rest of the table under its singular card advantage.
Both cards are excellent Commander pickups that should rise even further in value.
Umezawa’s Jitte is awesome, but its price is still being held up mostly by Legacy interest.
Loxodon Warhammer is still a beating, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Show this card to any new deckbuilder who enjoys green – they’ll flip for it.
The Kaldra pieces are great fun to play with, and I recommend them to anyone who wasn’t playing back then. They’re not for every deck, but can be super sweet in white equipment-heavy decks that have ways to tutor them out. They’re also good to put on Godo, Bandit Warlord now and again.
You can often find those three cards in bulk binders/bins, and they’re great pickups. See if you can trade them away as a set, though: you don’t want to get yourself stuck with a pile of useless Helms.
Sunforger, Tatsumasa, and Nim Deathmantle don’t see a ton of Commander play, but they’re worth stocking in your binder because they’re do find a home now and again. I expect the Deathmantle to be a $4 card once it rotates and people stop opening them in packs, but that’ll be a few years down the line.
Pick up foil ones now, though – they’re undervalued at $2, and you can probably trade for them at $1 or less.
Colorless Mass Removal
All three of these cards will be forever useful in this format, providing tier-1 reset buttons to colors that wouldn’t otherwise have them. Of particular note is that all three give black a way to deal with enchantments, which is otherwise a huge weakness of the color.
Stone and Disk trade briskly, and I recommend picking them up whenever you can. You will often be able to pick them up in the $4 range, which is super good.
All is Dust is still being propped up a bit by Standard, even though it sees very little play there. This will be a great pickup when Rise of the Eldrazi rotates, as Commander playability should keep this card in demand for years to come.
Emrakul was the big daddy here, but his banning in Commander doesn’t make the other Space Cthulus any less spicy. For best results, play these in a deck with lots of green mana ramp.
Again, Ulamog and Kozilek are buoyed a lot by their standard legality. Put them on your ever-expanding list of amazing pickups when Zendikar block rotates. Seriously – go out and drop a couple hundred bucks next October. I sure will.
Artisan of Kozilek and It That Betrays are surprisingly good in Commander, and their prices are super low because they’ve been completely ignored in Standard. Get a couple Artisans from your LGS bulk bin, and stash ‘em for a while. Then trade for all the It That Betrays you can at a buck or two each, because I guarantee that card will be a slow, steady riser due to casual demand.
While it is getting easier to make a Karn deck due to the increasing amount of nonbasic lands that tap for a colorless, it is still considered by most to be a badge of courage. Thus, keep an eye out for the Arena foil version of Karn – it looks just like a Saga foil would, and is sought after by those hoping to make a mono-brown Commander brew.
Memnarch is a beast, and I only see him going up in price. He’s not only a superb general, but he’s excellent in nearly any blue deck. When you have a ton of mana going, he’s just about the best possible draw you can have.
Bosh isn’t very popular right now, but the foil ones are still sought after by people looking to use him as their general.
These six cards provide the foundation for the most broken Commander decks out there, and their impact on the format can’t be understated. In a metagame where every player is doing something huge and broken on nearly every turn, jumping to three mana on turn one or going from 8 to 16 mana on turn six can be the difference between losing a game and taking down the entire table.
Sol Ring should be in every single Commander deck you build. If you don’t include it, you either don’t want to spend the money for one or you don’t want your deck to be as powerful as it could be. Those are the only valid reasons you could have.
That said, they’re hard to trade away at $18 because the price just went up this month along with all the Legacy stuff. I certainly wouldn’t trade mine away at less than retail, though, because I doubt they’ll be coming down from that price any time soon.
Don’t buy Mana Crypts solely based on Commander playability – the format is good, but it’s not good enough to support an $80 book promo. If you’re buying these, it’s for your Vintage deck.
Mana Vault is a super divisive card in the format. In some areas, everyone has embraced it like Sol Ring and you can’t find one at less than $5. In other places, it sees almost no play because everyone hates the drawback. If you’re living in the second sort of area, think about running some of these and turning your group on to them.
The last three cards on this list are among the ones most affected by the Commander price increase. Heck, Gauntlet of Power was a $1-$2 card for years! These three are all cards that you can pick up for less than retail and have absolutely no problem finding a trade partner for. They’re solid 10’s in demand for sure.
Coalition Relic has had its value suppressed by a reprint in Phyrexia Vs. The Coalition. If it hadn’t been for that box set, this card would probably be $5 strong by now.
Take this as a reminder that many of the cards in this series WILL go down in price if they are reprinted in the EDH decks that are coming out this summer. Keep an eagle eye on those lists – they will matter more than you think.
The other three cards on this list are dirt cheap, but the foils have more value than you’d think. They’re certainly worth keeping on your list.
Duplicant – $3 ($15 Foil)
Solemn Simulacrum – $8 ($20 Foil)
Sundering Titan – $3 ($2 FtV Foil)
Stuffy Doll – $7 ($15 Foil)
Triskelion – $0.25 ($1.25 Foil)
Pentavus – $0.50 ($3 Foil)
Scarecrone – $1 ($4 Foil)
Platinum Angel – $2 ($5 Foil)
Platinum Emperion – $1.50 ($5 Foil)
Arcbound Reclaimer – $2 ($5 Foil)
Wurmcoil Engine – $9 ($9 Prerelease Foil)
Steel Hellkite – $1 ($2.50 Release Foil)
Blightsteel Colossus – $8 ($30 Foil)
A lot to talk about here!
First, Duplicant and Solemn Simulacrum are tier-1 format staples. The Solemn is a perfect early play – fixing, card advantage, and a blocker all in one. Duplicant is also phenomenal – it’s a threat plus an answer, and it can nuke a creature off a Tooth and Nail in a mono-green deck. Both should be trading priorities for you, and I fully expect Duplicant to keep gaining value.
The platinum cards are casual favorites, but the market is pretty saturated with them right now. Low priority pickups for sure.
Wurmcoil Engine and Blightsteel Colossus have most of their value tied up in standard playability, but I’d certainly keep an eye on ol’ Blighty even if he doesn’t end up seeing much action. Have you looked at the price of Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker lately? Blightsteel Colossus is similar in terms of being a long-term casual win.
Scarecrone and Arcbound Reclaimer are both cards that play well in decks that have a heavy artifact count. They also both look like bulk rares, and are easy to snag from people’s boxes of chaff. Both have room to grow.
Stuffy Doll and Sundering Titan only see play in decks that seek to abuse them, but both are quite powerful in the right builds. Sundering Titan’s value has been suppressed because of the From the Faults foil, but Stuffy Doll is an excellent pickup – it’s worth $7, but most people will value it in the $3-$4 range.
Steel Hellkite is another long term buy. It even sees some play in eternal formats, and it’s only worth a buck right now. It’s a current set rare, so the price will slowly creep up as the set goes out of print.
Crucible of Worlds – $17 ($40 Foil)
Memory Jar – $4 ($2.50 FtV Foil)
Mimic Vat – $3 ($6 Foil)
Mind’s Eye – $6 ($20 Foil)
Mindslaver – $1.50 ($5 Foil)
Planar Portal – $1.50 ($8 Foil)
Scroll Rack – $15
Sensei’s Divining Top – $20 ($25 FtV Foil)
Vedalken Orrery – $4 ($10 Foil)
Crucible of Worlds is obviously a player in Legacy, hence the still-skyrocketing price. However, it is at its most powerful in Commander.
To me, this is the card that separates the truly competitive Commander decks from the more casual/fun builds. If you really want to win, put a Crucible in your deck along with a [card]Strip Mine[/card] and a [card]Wasteland[/card]. Assembling this combo early in a 1 vs. 1 came is likely to hand you the win, though your opponent may not want to play against that deck ever again. While I don’t personally have any decks that run Crucible/Strip, one cannot fully evaluate Commander without mentioning it. This card is $17, and I believe there is a strong chance we will see a reprint sooner rather than later. Barring that, it is a perfect 10 on the desirability scale since it is so good in multiple formats. If you don’t believe it’s coming back, trade aggressively for these and don’t let ‘em go for under $20.
Sensei’s Divining Top is another Legacy staple that sees a ton of Commander play. I’m pretty sure I run a Top in nearly every deck I can because the card is completely absurd – especially in a format like this.
One note: if you’re going to play Top, don’t wait until the last possible minute to use it. Yeah, that’s the best tactical play, but it can make the game drag on forever. And if you do that, I will attempt to kill you just because I don’t want to watch you looking at your top three cards for five minutes every turn.
They may bring Top back as another promo, but it shouldn’t hurt the value much. It’ll never be released in a Standard legal set again precisely for game length reasons, so I doubt it will get a wide-release reprint. The card is desired by everyone and is as safe a bet as any in Magic. Go nuts trading for these – I always do.
Scroll Rack is not good in every deck, but it provides absurd card advantage in decks made to abuse it. The card doesn’t see much Legacy play right now, but it could – keep an eye on it for sure.
Mind’s Eye is the best Commander draw engine outside of blue, and thus is highly desirable for decks that don’t run islands. A $1 card for years, I can see this trending upwards as long as the format stays healthy. The one thing that might hold it back is that I expect to see it in the Commander pre-cons, so make sure you sell if you see them on that list. Foil ones, on the other hand, should hold their value no matter what.
Mimic Vat is $3 now because Scars packs are being opened like so many candy bars. Once the block rotates, this card will start to rise. In fact, I can’t imagine a commander deck that doesn’t at least consider playing this card. Foil Mimic Vats will be $20 in 2-3 years. Book it.
Memory Jar, Mindslaver, Vedalken Orrery, and Planar Portal are all powerful cards that are often overlooked. They don’t command absurd premiums, and even the $4 cards (Jar and Orrery) can be found in $1-$2 boxes at most large events.
I expect Orrery to keep going up, but Mindslaver and Jar have had their prices hampered by reprints. All are worth picking up in bulk trades and stocking binders with, but expect to sit on them until you find the right buyer.
Dragon Arch – $3 ($5 Foil)
You can often find this mixed in with bulk, and it’s easy to trade at retail to the guy building the 30+ gold legends all-six-drop deck.
Relic of Progenitus – $0.50 ($3 Foil)
Graveyard hate that replaces itself? You have to at least consider running this, because so many decks in the format play out of their ‘yard. Foils also trade well to Legacy players, so they’re a very solid pickup.
Quietus Spike – $1 ($3 Foil)
In a format where life totals start at 40 and blockers are rarer than normal, spiking someone seems awesome.
This card sells for $1, but most people will trade it to you at $0.25 or less.
Leveler – $0.50 ($2 Foil)
Don’t play or trade for Leveler.
Tower of Fortunes – $0.50 ($2 Foil)
Drawing four cards a turn in the late game seems quite good. Obviously you don’t want to stuff this in every deck, but it’s quite overpowering in the right ones.
Crystal Ball – $0.50 ($3 Foil)
Anyone who played M11 Limited knows the power of this card. If you can’t afford a Sensei’s Divining Top, this is the next best thing.
Helm of Obedience – $6
Some Commander decks don’t play blue (gasp!) yet still want to do tricky things. Some decks play blue and want to do even more tricky things. This card is for both of those situations.
Darksteel Forge – $9 ($20 Foil)
Playing with Arcum? After you snag Greaves, this is your second target. Regardless, a must-play for any deck that wants to win with a pile of robots.
Also: Note the price. This is one of the easiest ~$10 cards to get at $1 because people don’t know the value. I needed a fourth for a Commander deck I’m currently building, and found a (very beat) one in a store’s $1 bin just this weekend!
Howling Mine – $2 ($5 Foil)
I don’t know why people love this card so much, but they do. It’s great if you’re at a large play table, though – I mean, who’s going to kill the Howling Mine guy?
Sapphire Medallion – $6 (& other Medallions)
Sapphire and Jet are the best ones, followed by Ruby, Pearl and then Emerald. This is roughly in order of how much each color needs the mana acceleration.
While these cards don’t trade terribly briskly, I pick them up when I can because they’re quite hard to find and can command a premium to the right player.
Ensnaring Bridge – $4 ($8 Foil)
Make sure you know what you’re doing before dropping this on a large table…everyone else that is behind on board will be fighting to save the bridge, while those who are ahead will do their best to kill you to get rid of it. This is a truly fun card, though, and a great one for any attempt at a weenie/burn Commander deck.
Isochron Scepter – $6.50 ($7 FNM Foil)
There aren’t enough good two mana instants to make me want to play this, but others may feel differently. The card trades well despite seeing very little competitive play.
69 artifacts – that’s all I’ve got! I know I’ve probably missed some, and I could have gone into more ‘Legacy’ artifacts like Metalworker, Tangle Wire, and Grim Monolith, but I think I’ve managed to hit most of the crowd favorites.
Post your favorite “offbeat” Commander artifact in the comments, because I’d like to see what other sweet robots I should be trading for.
Until next time –
– Chas Andres