A Tale Of Twenty

Chas analyzes the latest From the Vault product, From the Vault: Twenty, and shares the cards he would have picked for each year. Let him know what you think in the comments!

Every year I review the latest From the Vault product. I write about the financial impact of each card, where I think the price will end up, and at what price the product becomes worth buying.

This time around I’m going to have a little more fun. From the Vault: Twenty was designed to evoke memories from the first twenty years of Magic, but I don’t think the best card was chosen in most cases. To me, this set should attempt to tell the story of Magic’s birth and adolescence in just twenty cards. Below, along with my analysis of From the Vault: Twenty, you’ll find my picks. Do you agree? Let me know in the comments.

Here are the rules I’ve assigned to myself:

The chosen card had to be released during the year it represents. Cards released in 1994 shouldn’t be on the list representing Magic in 1995. That feels wrong to me. Gavin used different criteria, limiting himself to cards that won a Pro Tour or Worlds in a given year. This is fine, but it leaves out casual and Limited Magic players entirely. In order to better represent everyone who interacted with these cards, I’ve limited it to release years.    

No reserved list cards. This set must be printable by Wizards using their current methodology. It’s not possible to tell the full story of Magic without including Black Lotus, but I’ll do my best under the circumstances. This was by far the hardest rule not to break.

Keep an eye toward current value and playability. The set can’t have more than three or four cards that are going straight from the From the Vault set into someone’s drawer. Autumn Willow was an absolute house in her day, but no one with even a mid-sized collection would play with that card in any format now. At the same time, I can’t just include every powerful card ever or the set will impact the secondary market too much and won’t get into the hands of the players who will appreciate it the most. My wish-casted set would be the most valuable From the Vault set ever, but I’ll try to keep it from being just a pile of money.

Make sure each card has a place in the overall narrative of Magic’s growth. What does Fyndhorn Elves say about what Magic was like in the year 1996? Not very much. I will try to make sure each card makes sense for the era it has been picked to represent.

Here are two other things I would do if I were in charge:

All cards prior to Eighth Edition would have the old frame. We’re selling nostalgia here. Cards representing 1993 should look like they’re from 1993 (but foiled).

All cards in this set would feature their original art. The new art for Gilded Lotus is fabulous. Akroma’s Vengeance is great as well. But again, this set is about nostalgia. Nothing about that new Akroma’s Vengeance reminds me of Onslaught block. Use the original and iconic pieces of art.

Sound good? Here we go!


Sets Released: Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, and Arabian Nights

FTV: 20: Dark Ritual

My Card: Lightning Bolt

Bam! It’s Alpha—the most important Magic set ever made. Clearly, whatever we pick is going to be from Magic’s very first set. Arabian Nights was cool, but without Alpha’s success Magic wouldn’t have lasted twenty weeks much less twenty years.

Black Lotus and the rest of the Power Nine are the obvious dream scenario inclusions, but they’re on the reserved list and reprinting them is something that should never happen. If it does, it should be for a much better reason than this.

I briefly considered Serra Angel, Force of Nature, and Shivan Dragon for this slot. These were the iconic creatures of their day, and even something like Craw Wurm would have shown what playing Magic in 1993 was actually like. That said, I do think that Gavin chose well with Dark Ritual—the boon cycle is one of the more important and enduring design choices from Alpha, so going with one of those makes a ton sense. In fact, you’re probably happy that you’re getting Dark Ritual instead of my choice.

Dark Ritual was on its way out by the time the foil era happened, so there are only two choices you have if you want a foil today: the $60 "giant eye" foil from Masques or the $70 "dying owl" judge foil. Neither of these is among the best Dark Ritual pieces, so I’m glad there’s a third (much more affordable) choice that will soon be available to us. I only wish they had gone with the original art here—as cool as the Fifth Edition version is, I would have vastly preferred the Alpha or Tempest art. Despite that I expect this to be one of the more valuable foils in the box, and it should stabilize in the $15-$20 range.

The History Lesson: Lightning Bolt—my representative choice from Magic’s very first year—has been red’s gold standard for twenty straight years. It’s just as playable now as it was then, and you can play it in Legacy, Modern, and hopefully Standard again at some point in the next few years. I love the idea of including a card from Magic’s very first set that you still need a playset of for Constructed Magic today. That’s kind of great, isn’t it?


Sets Released: Revised, Antiquities, Legends, The Dark, and Fallen Empires

FTV: 20: Swords to Plowshares

My Card: Swords to Plowshares

Gavin nailed his pick here. Sol Ring would have been a good choice as well, but it already appeared in From the Vault: Relics and I don’t want any of these spells to feel rehashed. Ditto for Maze of Ith, which was reprinted just last summer. I thought long and hard about going with Mana Drain here—it isn’t on the reserved list—but I’m going to choose another iconic blue counterspell a bit later on and don’t think the set should have both of those cards. Mana Drain will have to wait for From the Vault: Money Grab in 2014.

Anyhow, Swords to Plowshares is a good choice. The foils are pretty expensive too—before this set was released, your only choices were the $150 FNM printing and the weird $70 golfer judge foil. The card is playable in Legacy and a staple in casual and Commander decks everywhere. I expect this foil printing to sit in the $25-$30 range as well.

The History Lesson: In the early days of Magic, spells were incredibly powerful compared with creatures. That’s why this simple one-mana removal spell has only gotten better with age.


Sets Released: Fourth Edition, Homelands, and Ice Age

FTV: 20: Hymn to Tourach

My Card: Necropotence

Hymn to Tourach is probably the card that I’m most excited about from this set. This is the first foil printing of the card ever, and I can’t wait to upgrade my cube. I would have gone with the Susan Van Camp "ghost wolf of Skull Mountain" art myself, but the new piece is super great as well. I expect this card to start around $25 and settle in around $15-$20.

In terms of my pick, I’m in a bit of a bind here. Hymn was released in 1994, so I can’t very well pick it for 1995. The best Ice Age picks are easily Necropotence and Jester’s Cap, but both of those were in previous From the Vault sets. Homelands was pretty much a complete bust from the start.

I really wanted to go with Illusions of Grandeur here. Illusions might not see play anymore, but it was one half of what became quite possibly the most devastating combo deck of all time. The pre-ban version was straight up unbeatable, and even the post-ban version was great for years—all because of this seemingly innocuous card from Ice Age. Unfortunately, both Illusions and Donate are on the restricted list, so Trix will go unrepresented.

Ultimately, giving Necropotence another reprint is the right choice. This is black’s most defining and enduring ability, and it is by far the most significant black tournament card of all time. Plus, as you’ll later see, finding iconic black cards that haven’t been placed on the reserved list is quite difficult.

The History Lesson: What is the history of Magic without discussing the black summer? This was the first time a truly oppressive strategy dominated in tournament Magic and warped the metagame into a strategy vs. hate arms race. It would be a thrill to give new players the chance to experience a small taste of what that was like.


Sets Released: Alliances and Mirage

FTV: 20: Fyndhorn Elves

My Card: Force of Will

Even though this is another Cube upgrade—Fyndhorn Elves has never been printed in foil before—I don’t like this inclusion nearly as much as Hymn to Tourach. The new art for it looks like it has digital artifacts in it and reminds me of a cut scene from an early 2000s video game. This might start around $8, but it should fall to $3-$4 before long. People are only going to really want this if they’re Cube foil completists.

Force of Will, on the other hand, was a game changer. By allowing decks to counter spells while tapped out, Force of Will ushered in a whole new era of power for control. By reprinting this card, my hope is also to spur a little bit of new interest in Legacy. Force is played in way more decks than Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and it is one of the few expensive cornerstones in the format that can be reprinted. By adding more copies of this card to game stores everywhere, my hope would be to ameliorate at least a little bit of the Legacy price increases we’ve seen in recent years and breathe a little more life back into the format. This would be my "cornerstone" card for the set, and I believe it would be exciting without being as oppressive as Jace is.

The History Lesson: For a long time, blue had a stranglehold on Magic’s power, and a draw-go strategy could overcome the card disadvantage of this spell quite easily. Countering someone’s spell when you’re tapped out is one of the most savage things you can do in the game.


Sets Released: Fifth Edition, Visions, Weatherlight, and Tempest 

FTV: 20: Impulse

My Card: Verdant Force

Believe it or not, Impulse is still a Cube staple. According to the latest round of stats, it appears in roughly 87% of Cubes. The card will have some value because of that, but it doesn’t see play anywhere else. I expect it’ll start around $5 and will drop toward $3 pretty quickly, even though the new art is kind of cool.

The card that should probably represent 1997 is Cursed Scroll. If you weren’t playing Magic back then, you probably don’t know how oppressive this card was, but trust me, it was the standout card in Tempest. Decks used the Scroll both to control the board and to finish players off—in an era with smaller creatures that didn’t do as much when they hit play, it was brutal.

Unfortunately, Cursed Scroll is on the reserved list along with most of the other best cards from 1997. Sure, Impulse was a key card in Pros Bloom, but that’s kind of like including Sleight of Hand to talk about Splinter Twin—you’re not teaching anyone about combo by giving them an outdated piece of filtering.

Verdant Force wasn’t among my top five initial choices, but the reserved list hurts more here than any other year. While Verdant Force has been mostly outmoded by cards from the New World Order, I can’t think of a better card that speaks to what large creatures were all about back then. This card saw real tournament play—ask Jamie Wakefield about it sometime—and was one of the most valuable and sought after casual cards in Tempest for almost a decade. You can’t make this set without showcasing green’s transformation through the ages. A nice bonus is the fact that we now have one card of each color so far.

The History Lesson: This was the best large creature in Magic for quite some time—can you believe that? Sticking one of these was pretty much game over and was an honest-to-goodness strategy at the time. Compare this to the last few cards you looked at if you want to get a sense of why Magic’s design ethos has changed so much.


Sets Released: Stronghold, Exodus, and Urza’s Saga

FTV: 20: Wall of Blossoms

My Card: Stroke of Genius

Wall of Blossoms would have been an exciting reprint several years ago, but it no longer feels very special. Wall of Omens was a color-shifted reprint in Rise of the Eldrazi, and the card only saw a moderate amount of play. I do run Wall of Blossoms in a few Commander decks, but a 0/4 wall isn’t what it used to be. I would expect this reprint to sit in the $2 range.

In coming up with my pick, the reserved list hurts us here yet again. My first two choices would be Tolarian Academy and Yawgmoth’s Will, but neither card is eligible for a reprint. Sliver Queen would have been awesome as well, but no dice there either.

One good option for this slot would be Argothian Enchantress. It’s not on the reserved list, and it would be an awesome casual plant for Theros. Imagine getting one of these and getting to pair it with whatever spicy new enchantments are coming our way in a few months! That would have been pretty sweet.

That said, I really want to include a degenerate combo piece at some point. This was the era of coin flip Standard where the early game was shuffling, the midgame was your mulligans, and the late game was turn 1. The reserved list nukes most of the best choices—Academy, Time Spiral, Mind Over Matter, Illusions of Grandeur, Donate, and Memory Jar—but the combo finisher of choice is available. Not only is Stroke of Genius an awesome way to finish someone out, but it can draw you a ton of cards at instant speed in a pinch. This is still a good casual card even if it doesn’t see much tournament play anymore and is a nice kitchen table alternative to Sphinx’s Revelation.   

The History Lesson: This card is a great representation of why degenerate combos aren’t allowed to roam free. Go ahead and try to kill someone on turn 1 with this—it can still be done, but it’s no longer quite so easy.


Sets Released: Sixth Edition, Urza’s Legacy, Urza’s Destiny, and Mercadian Masques  

FTV: 20: Thran Dynamo

My Card: Thran Dynamo

I’ve been after a foil Thran Dynamo for a while now, and the card’s nearly impossible to find. It had booked at $30 for a while, but none of the major retailers had a near mint one, so that price was really more of a low suggested MSRP. Heck, the non-foil has gone up to $8. Did you know that? I’d expect the new foil to debut around $20 and settle around $12-$15.

Mercifully, this is the last time the reserved list is going to get in my way. Literally the first twenty cards I looked up for Urza’s Legacy and Urza’s Destiny are on the reserved list—both sets were small, and the iconic cards are simply not available to reprint. I thought briefly about Rancor, Rishadan Port, and Mother of Runes but ultimately agreed with Gavin that Thran Dynamo is the right call. It showcases fast mana—a staple from this era—and is a great way to re-print a very desirable casual card. Good choice.

The History Lesson: Everyone remembers Urza’s block as an artifact block because of cards like this—it was actually an enchantment block strangely enough. If you have good enough mana rocks, nothing else matters.


Sets Released: Nemesis, Prophecy, and Invasion 

FTV: 20: Tangle Wire

My Card: Fires of Yavimaya

Did you know that Tangle Wire is a $50 set foil? It isn’t played much in any format, but the fact that it’s so rare combined with some Vintage and Cube play makes it a very desirable card. Because of that I’d expect this version to debut pretty high—probably around $25 or $30—but it will fall off quickly. The new art isn’t great, and the people who want to pay the foil premium are going to go after the original still. Expect this to settle around $8.

In terms of my pick, I spent a while agonizing between three cards: Lin-Sivvi, Defiant Hero; Fires of Yavimaya; and Fact or Fiction. Lin-Sivvi is the defining card from Masques block, but including her in the box set would be a real tease—there haven’t been any good Rebels to use with her in years. Fires and Fact or Fiction were equally powerful, feared, beloved, and reviled, so it was a toss-up on which to include. Fact or Fiction is more playable now, but this box set is already quite heavy on the blue. Fact or Fiction has also been reprinted a lot recently. So I went with Fires—it might work as a nice Theros plant for casual aggro decks, and it showcases the sort of niche aggro card that usually isn’t all that great. This time around, however, it was brilliant.

The History Lesson: Most of the broken cards throughout history are for control or combo strategies. For a while, an aggressive card—and enchantment no less—tore Standard a new one. It was the Bloodbraid Elf of its day.


Sets Released: Seventh Edition, Planechase, Apocalypse, and Odyssey  

FTV: 20: Fact or Fiction

My Card: Pernicious Deed

Fact or Fiction was a decent choice here—I just ruled it out a year earlier since I’m obeying different rules from Gavin. I expect this card will start around $5 and will remain there. It’s still pretty good in casual formats, but it has been reprinted way too many times for the value to be significant.

Odyssey block spawned three major decks: U/G Madness, MBC, and the fearsome Psychatog. I thought about Circular Logic—a card played in both Madness and ‘Tog—but that would have been a throwaway pick since the card isn’t used at all anymore. Same with The Toothy One himself—when’s the last time you actually cast a Psychatog? He’s not even that great in Cube. I thought about Upheaval, but it is a bit too similar to Stroke of Genius. I also considered Call of the Herd, Shadowmage Infiltrator, Vindicate, Braids, and Meddling Mage before finally settling on Pernicious Deed.

Pernicious Deed, Spiritmonger, and Call of the Herd defined midrange decks for years, and these cards spawned an oft-copied archetype called The Rock and His Millions. This is the one card from that era that still sees a ton of play today, and it would be very exciting one for casual and Legacy players to open.

The History Lesson: In tournament play, you can talk about the rise of midrange and Rock decks. This was also about the time casual multiplayer strategy began taking off, and this was one of the first "rattlesnake" cards that people began using to lay low until the endgame.


Sets Released: Torment, Judgment, and Onslaught 

FTV: 20: Chainer’s Edict

My Card: Cabal Coffers

At this point, the actual From the Vault: Twenty has basically become From the Vault: Cube Staples. So many of these cards—Edict included—are Cube stalwarts that are kind of hard to find in foil. This one will probably start around $4-5 and will settle in between $2 and $3—it doesn’t see play in much outside of Cube and graveyard-themed Commander decks.

To me, the best pick for 2002 comes down to two cards: Cabal Coffers and Goblin Piledriver. Both cards were big in Standard, and both are still relevant today. Even a non-foil Cabal Coffers sells for $12 on SCG, and Piledriver is still worth a whopping $30. Goblins was the biggest deck early on in Onslaught Standard, and getting some more copies of that card out there might help make one of Legacy’s cheapest decks a little more affordable. We’ve already printed Force of Will and Pernicious Deed in this set, though, and I’d like to save a little more juice for later.

The History Lesson: Coffers pays homage to Torment and showcases one of the most popular casual mechanics ever during the one time it was good in Standard.


Sets Released: Eighth Edition, Legions, Scourge, and Mirrodin

FTV: 20: Akroma’s Vengeance

My Card: Eternal Dragon

The art on this one is great, but the set version is still just a $2 card. I expect the foil will start around $8, but it’ll end up in the $4-$5 range before long. It’s a decent casual card, but I’ve never found too many people wanting to trade for mine before. I don’t think this version will change that too much.

Eternal Dragon is a similar card to Akroma’s Vengeance, but it’s a little harder to get and a little more useful. The original art is beautiful and speaks to both the tribal and cycling aspects of Onslaught block. It was a tournament staple that’s still somewhat useful, and it’s only been a promo once—as a judge foil.

The History Lesson: A good place to talk about cycling decks, especially the Slide deck that was dominant in Standard and Block at the time.


Sets Released: Darksteel, Fifth Dawn, and Champions of Kamigawa

FTV: 20: Gilded Lotus

My Card: Arcbound Ravager

The new Gilded Lotus is great, and it should demand more than the M13 foil. Expect it to stay in the $10-$15 range—I can’t see this card dropping much since it’s a casual powerhouse and this might be the prettiest version ever. It should rise over the very long haul.

Including Ravager as the 2004 representative is a no-brainer for me. Concurrently with Modern Masters, this helps make Affinity one of the more affordable and accessible tier 1 decks in Modern—you can play a "budget" version without the Moxes pretty easily.

The History Lesson: Affinity for artifacts might be the most broken ability ever printed. Other than the Tolarian Academy decks a few years prior, this was the single card that drove the most players away from Standard. At the same time, there’s still a format you can play Ravager in with impunity—isn’t that cool?  


Sets Released: Ninth Edition, Betrayers of Kamigawa, Saviors of Kamigawa, and Ravnica: City of Guilds

FTV: 20: Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni

My Card: Remand

For some reason, it feels like Ink-Eyes has been reprinted roughly a million times. SCG informs me that it was actually only reprinted once—in Planechase 2012. Regardless, this card can still blow people out from time to time, but I haven’t found an excuse to throw it in a deck for quite a while. I expect the foil will debut around $7 and drop toward a soft $4-$5. It’ll probably end up in more drawers than brews.

Remand, on the other hand, is the perfect card to bring back. It’s sold out at $15 right now on SCG because demand for it is unbelievable—it’s one of the best staple uncommons in Modern, and it stands alone as the only older Modern staple uncommon to be conspicuously absent from Modern Masters. So many Modern decks would be easier to make if this card were more readily available. It was also a defining card from Ravnica, and it saw a bunch of play when it was printed. It’s a win-win for history and today.

The History Lesson: You can track the evolution of blue from a hard denial color into more of a tempo color—compare this card with Force of Will to see how things have changed. The softer mana requirements were also essential here considering decks of this era were running many colors as well. It was the perfect card for its era.


Sets Released: Guildpact, Dissension, Coldsnap, and Time Spiral

FTV: 20: Char

My Card: Angel of Despair

Char is easily my least favorite card in the set, and it’s the only one that seems totally inexcusable to me. Even if you’re limiting yourself to picking from that one Zoo deck, Lightning Helix, Eiganjo Castle, and Isamaru would all have been better choices. Char is unplayable everywhere, and I expect this promo to stabilize at a buck or less.

2006 is actually a hard year to pick from, so I can see how this happened. Mortify would be good if they decide to bring it back in Theros, but if not it’s kind of a waste. Spell Snare and Trigon Predator just saw print in Modern Masters, and we don’t need to spend more time with either right now. Simic Sky Swallower was a house in its day, but do we need another outdated fatty after Verdant Force? Dark Depths is expensive and banned in Modern. Counterbalance wasn’t a huge hit in Standard, and Rune Snag and Skred are both kind of unplayable now.

I did think long and hard about Voidslime. It’s up to $5 retail and is becoming kind of hard to find, so there’s some merit in a reprint. It doesn’t see much play, but it’s pretty good and provides kind of a neat counterpoint to Counterflux and some of the other counterspells in neo-Ravnica block. Three counterspells is too many though.

Angel of Despair was the chase card in Guildpact and has had a long and venerable tournament career. It’s also still a relevant and exciting casual card—one of the few fatties from that era that still packs a wallop today. Angel collectors and casual players would be excited about this one, even though getting an original isn’t all that hard. It would also look awesome in foil.

The History Lesson: This is a good place to talk about the guilds, and Angel of Despair is a nice example of a card that was good in both a casual and a tournament setting. We’ve got two gold cards so far—one for each of the first two multicolored blocks—and an artifact each for Mirrodin and Urza’s block. I think we’re doing a good job capturing the flavor of Magic through the ages. (And yes, I know Urza’s block was supposed to be enchantment themed, but it was the artifacts that always stood out.)


Sets Released: Tenth Edition, Planar Chaos, Future Sight, and Lorwyn

FTV: 20: Venser, Shaper Savant

My Card: Garruk Wildspeaker

Right now Venser is probably number two to Jace as the chase card of the set. Based on low availability, an increase in casual play, and some fringe Modern play, Venser shot up last spring from $6 all the way to $20. The new foil will probably start around $30 and will eventually probably stabilize around $20 with the set foil. Movement on that will depend on if the card starts to see more play in Modern.

One great card I seriously considered for this slot is Damnation. It’s one of the key money cards that wasn’t printed in Modern Masters, and it’s one of the best Commander staples that everyone wants but no one really wants to shell out the money for. It was played a bunch in Standard, and it was the marquee card that represented color shifting, the best and most unique part of Time Spiral block. It’s evocative of Magic’s history, and it’s really good. What’s not to love?

2007 also brought us Magic’s very first planeswalkers. This was the most impactful design change to Magic in the past decade. Garruk was the marquee planeswalker for the first year or so they were legal, and it would be a shame to leave him out here.

The History Lesson: The Lorwyn Five were the most important cards to get right since Alpha. Wizards R&D knocked them out of the park. Garruk was easily the splashiest one, and for several years it was the quite possible most desirable card to casual and Standard players alike.


Sets Released: Morningtide, Shadowmoor, Eventide, and Shards of Alara

FTV: 20: Chameleon Colossus

My Card: Cruel Ultimatum

Chameleon Colossus is one of the most underrated casual and Cube creatures ever. When you’re playing against decks based around black removal, this guy is basically a better Kalonian Hydra—it straight up kills your hapless opponent in just a turn or two. I’ve easily won twenty games with this in my life, and I don’t think I’ve even played it all that much. Of course, none of that translates into this being a money card today. Chameleon Colossus isn’t good enough to be a Modern staple, and it’s a fringe inclusion in most casual circles. It’ll debut around $4-$5 and drop from there.

I thought about putting Bitterblossom in here myself, and it’s possible that the Faerie enchantment is the better choice. Tribal cards are very tricky, though, because they’re frustrating to open when you don’t have any other cards immediately available to you that synergize with them. Cruel Ultimatum was also Gavin’s pick for 2009, so I’m going to run with it a year in advance.  

The History Lesson: This was a crazy time for Magic when five straight sets were based around gold/hybrid cards, the filter lands and Reflecting Pool made mana fixing extremely easy, and the overall power level of Standard was quite high. Cruel Ultimatum was a splashy casual card that was also the finisher of choice for the dominant control deck of the era.


Sets Released: Conflux, Alara Reborn, M10, and Zendikar

FTV: 20: Cruel Ultimatum

My Card: Misty Rainforest

Cruel Ultimatum hasn’t aged well. It was perfectly positioned for Standard back in 08/09, but it’s too expensive for today’s Modern and doesn’t really work in a format with so many combo decks. Causal players kind of like it, but repeatable effects like creatures and planeswalkers are vastly preferred in Commander to splashy sorceries that don’t take out multiple players at once. This should start at $6-$8 thanks to the alternate art, and I’d expect it to stabilize at $3-$4.

Why go with Misty Rainforest here? Well, the fetchlands have spiraled out of control and are the biggest chokehold on Modern’s accessibility at the moment. If I were Wizards, I would be doing everything I could to support the format right now. Giving a fetchland to a whole bunch of potential Modern players is a good way to jump start their interest in the format.

The History Lesson: Zendikar was the land block, and the new fetches were its lead attraction. This was the first set after Duels of the Planeswalkers was released, and it ushered in a new era of high tournament attendance coupled with Magic’s New World Order. Misty Rainforest encapsulates the elegant, synergistic design and exuberance of this era.


Sets Released: Worldwake, Rise of the Eldrazi, M11, and Scars of Mirrodin

FTV: 20: Jace, the Mind Sculptor

My Card: Stoneforge Mystic

Jace has stabilized in early online presales around $190, leading me to believe SCG will list the card for $250 retail once the singles go on sale. When I think about this card’s future, I’m torn. On one hand, who actually wants to shell out for this? Legacy players tend to shy away from promotional foils—either they’re going to buy the original or they’ll play the standard version of the card. The From the Vault foil isn’t going to be all that much rarer than the set version anyway, so who’s going to pay a 150% mark up? People pimp their decks to impress people, and I don’t think this one is going to be that comparatively impressive.

On the other hand, when are they going to print any more Jaces after this? They’re not bringing it back in Standard again—that would be insane. It probably won’t be a promo again for a while. The card is basically modern power, and I’m pretty sure we won’t see it again for another five years at least. If Jace continues to rise in value, this one will keep going up as well.

I’ve heard some people worry that the market will be flooded with all of the non-Jace cards from this box set as people keep their Jaces and dump the rest. I don’t see this being the case at all. For this to happen any more than it has happened in the past, it would imply that earlier From the Vault sets went right to collectors whereas this one is going to greedy speculators and Jace fiends at a much higher rate. Since these sets are always worth quite a bit more than MSRP, I don’t think any more speculators will be getting these than they usually do. Anyone with at least half a brain already knows to buy these set at retail if possible. Nothing has changed this time around.

In fact, you can make an interesting argument that the opposite is going to happen. Casual, Modern, and Standard players might have a use for Jace, but it’s far more likely they’ll keep the other cards and sell the Jace in order to pay for a playset of Scalding Tarns or a Tarmogoyf or something else more useful. A higher than average number of these will hit the online market right after the box becomes available for sale. If you want one for yourself, this is the time to buy.

As for my pick, it’s certainly true that nothing dominated 2010 more than Jace. He is probably the marquee card of the New World Order era. So why not include him here? I find his presence overwhelming. It’s kind of like having your birthday fall on Christmas. Sure, people will wish you a happy birthday and you might get slightly better presents, but you’re not gonna be able to have a party and most people won’t care all that much because HOLY MACKEREL IT’S CHRISTMAS! This set should be a look at history and a trip down Magic’s memory lane. Instead, it’s Jace and friends. Merry Christmas and enjoy your $250 bill (if you can find a copy anywhere).  

The History Lesson: Jace, the Mind Sculptor wasn’t the only powerhouse card to get banned in Standard. Stoneforge Mystic was a massively powerful tutor that helped make U/W the dominant archetype for several years. It also plays perfectly into the confluence between these two blocks.


Sets Released: Mirrodin Besieged, New Phyrexia, M12, and Innistrad

FTV: 20: Green Sun’s Zenith

My Card: Blightsteel Colossus

Now that it’s been banned in Modern, Green Sun’s Zenith’s future lies mostly in the causal domain as well as in the fringes of Legacy. I expect this card to start around $10, and it might rise a little over time—even causal tutors can be quite pricey, and these "subset tutors" rise in value as the pool of available targets rise. If these drop to the $5 range, I’d consider picking up a couple for the long haul.

The History Lesson: I wanted to pick an artifact to represent 2011—ideally something that showcases Magic’s new penchant for sequels. Scars of Mirrodin was the first time we revisited a plane other than Dominaria, but I suspect that it’ll start happening every other year or so. Flavor-wise this was a huge shift in Magic design. Blightsteel Colossus is perfect because it’s essentially the Scars of Mirrodin tweak on one of Magic’s most iconic creatures and showcases the flavor of both blocks perfectly.


Sets Released: Dark Ascension, Avacyn Restored, M13, and Return to Ravnica

FTV: 20: Kessig Wolf Run

My Card: Bonfire of the Damned

I don’t know if Kessig Wolf Run is going to make a smooth transition to Modern or not. These cards have always been kind of underrated and underpriced, so I expect this will start between $6 and $8, fall into the $5 range, and creep up over time. It’s certainly a powerful casual effect, and almost all relevant nonbasic lands trend upwards over the years. This cycle won’t be an exception.

I didn’t really want to pick yet another mythic for 2012, but I did want to bookend my set of twenty with another red card. Bonfire was without question the breakout card of 2012, and it represents Innistrad perfectly: top down design, a horror theme, and the miracle ability. After all, if you’re going to represent twenty years of Magic in one set, go big or go home.

The History Lesson: Everyone should watch greatest Magic GIF of all time: the topdecked Bonfire at the World Magic Cup 2012.

Final Thoughts

I expect the retail price for the singles in From the Vault: Twenty to start around $450. The overall set will retail around $400 if you’re willing to buy all the cards at once. This isn’t going to make the people who shelled out almost $500 each for these after Jace was spoiled feel any better about that decision, of course, but I told everyone it was silly at the time.

Right now it’s possible to find these boxes as low as $225 shipped if you’re willing to shop around a bit. I expect low end will be around $200, but that will be brief. If you just want one for yourself, you’re probably okay buying in at the current price of $225. Think of it like paying close to retail for the Jace and getting everything else for free. People are underrating Swords, Hymn, and Dark Ritual a bit right now, not to mention the Gilded Lotus. All four of those at least will rise in value over time. Jace probably will too. Anything under $200 is an easy buy for investors and collectors alike.

Feel free to sock one or two of these away if you want—the set will appreciate over time. If you’re tapped out from the Comic-Con planeswalkers and Modern Masters, though, feel free to give From the Vault: Twenty a pass—it’ll be a slow grower.

Until next week –

– Chas Andres