Well, we’re at the tail end of the year here. In all honesty, 2023 felt like three years stuffed into one. We’ve had tons of sets, a handful of supplemental products, and many MagicCons, and with all of this, we’ve received a bounty of cards to add to Magic’s lexicon. I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at the cards of 2023 and highlight some of the tastiest, blingiest pieces. Who knows? This could be your Christmas list. (Wink, wink.)
Serialized Secret Lairs
Let’s start with my favorite cards from 2023, the serialized Secret Lair cards. These cards came in sealed black envelopes and were handed out randomly to guests attending MagicCons (and one outlier, Gen Con).
At the time of writing this article, there are only five runs of these serialized cards, representing each color on the color pie. The first one released was Shivan Dragon at MagicCon Philadelphia, the second one was Giant Growth at MagicCon Minneapolis, the third was Lord of the Pit at MagicCon Barcelona, the fourth one was Merfolk of the Pearl Trident at Gen Con, and the fifth one was Swords to Plowshares at MagicCon Vegas. Each of these cards features incredible Secret Lair art that fills me with glee. These cards range in value, with the cheapest being $500 and the most expensive being $2400. Wow.
The Secret Lair Prize Cards
I’m not surprised to find the Secret Lair prize cards on this list. These chase cards can only be won by participating in Secret Lair Showdowns at MagicCons or Regional Championship Qualifiers (RCQs).
At the time of this article, there are only eighteen cards in this category. You might be aware of some of the more infamous pieces, like Brainstorm; Jace, the Mind Sculptor; and Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer. However, these aren’t the only ones. We have Eldritch Evolution; Ugin, the Spirit Dragon; Relentless Rats; and more.
There are some heavy hitters here, and don’t even get me started on the value! Ragavan is around $3000 and the Fatal Push is around $100. These aren’t even the most expensive! There are only four of the SLP Brainstorms in existence, which borders on priceless territory. I tried to find an estimate online, and the only number I could find was for $99999 on MTGStocks. Honestly that feels a little low to me. Next year, there will only be four Dark Rituals in existence, soooo, better get on that grind, right?
Planeswalker Championship (PWCS) Cards
Planeswalker Championship cards come from player programs at WPN stores in Japan only. The program started in 2019 and is ongoing. These cards come with gorgeous alternate art, with some of them even having special stamps based on how the players placed in their event.
There were five of these promo cards released in 2023, but the ones that received the most hype were Braids, Arisen Nightmare and Liliana of the Veil. I remember seeing the internet catch fire with people trying to find ways to get these cards without traveling to Japan. I mean, I saw posts begging people to try and snag them one, and honestly, I don’t blame them. These cards are absolutely gorgeous. If I played black, I would’ve been begging online as well. Liliana currently sits at $350 and Braids at $90. I’ve been eyeing that Braids a bit, so maybe I’ll get myself a little early holiday gift.
Special Guest Mana Crypt
I don’t think anyone is shocked to see Mana Crypt on this list. The Lost Caverns of Ixalan (LCI) brought us a lot of fun and pricey pieces (more on that later), but Mana Crypt is not one I expected to see.
There are seven total Mana Crypts printed into LCI’s Special Guest slot. I half expected that many to make the price plummet. Wrong! These Special Guest printings are so dang expensive, it’s shocking! The mono-red printing (17e) even surpasses the Kaladesh Invention printing…like, how?! The cheapest of these Crypts lands at $186, with the most expensive being at $1550. I knew Mana Crypt was a pricey piece, but dang, y’all, is it worth that much? Maybe invest in an Eternal Masters printing instead.
Jurassic World Embossed Logo Foils
Ever since The Brothers’ War, we’ve been seeing serialized cards crop up in just about every set, specifically in Collector Booster packs. As a lover of the chase (no, pun not intended), I always try to snag a coveted piece. In fact, I got lucky in March of the Machine and was able to pull a serialized Yarok, the Desecrated.
When the Jurassic World collection dropped, I expected the same number treatment; however, we got a special embossing instead. These special cards feature the Jurassic Park logo in the center embossed in a special foil stamp. The look is incredibly subtle, but the price is anything but. The embossed Don’t Move is around $550; Indoraptor, the Perfect Hybrid is $480; and the cheapest is Permission Denied at $170. I really love the Jurassic Park IP (sorry, World, but your movies are bad), so maybe I’ll find myself on the hunt for one of these bad boys in the new year.
Mental Misstep Media Insert
Let’s go, y’all! We have a reprint of Mental Misstep, this time in the unreadable Phyrexian language! This card came as a promo in Beadle & Grimm’s Behold New Phyrexia product. The product included a deck box, sleeves, dice, and translation journal, and was a fun little nod to those who love the weird, sinewy ways of the Phyrexians.
While the original printing of this card isn’t too brutal (unless you’re looking at the foil), the Secret Lair drop has the card at $47. But the media insert really said ‘hold my beer’ and shot the price up to $118. I think it has to do with the Phyrexian text on the card. Personally, I like being able to read my cards, but hey, that’s what the translation journal is for.
Magic x Duel Masters Promos
When I saw these cards, I immediately assumed they were part of the PWCS promos. Turns out they’re not! In fact, these promos are a collaboration between Magic and Duel Masters, and could only be grabbed at FNM in Japan. These promos include Serra Angel, Earthquake, Pouncing Jaguar, and Nicol Bolas. That’s right! The original Elder Dragon gets an insane reprint with the dopest art ever.
It just so happens that this is the most expensive card out of the bunch. This old fogey is $109. Granted, you could get an older printing of this card for around $2, but the Duel Masters promo is definitely more of a flex.
Sheoldred, the Apocalypse
Listen, I know what you’re going to say. ‘Chase, this was released in 2022! It doesn’t count’ It does count, because the most expensive version of this card was released in Phyrexia: All Will Be One Collector packs! This Sheoldred features some of the original concept art for the Praetors and comes in both nonfoil and Step-and-Compleat foil. Wow, that was a mouthful.
I can see why this printing is expensive. It was elusive, and this Sheoldred is a powerhouse in every single format you see it in. This compleated cutie currently sits at $145. Maybe it’s time to make your Pioneer deck extra special, huh?
Secret Lair Mox Opal
This is one Secret Lair I am kicking myself for not picking up when I had the chance. The Mox Box Secret Lair came in the Vegas Convention in a Box alongside some other gorgeous product. This Lair was incredibly simple, but gorgeous nonetheless, featuring iconic Dan Frazier art of Sol Ring, Mox Opal, and Mox Tantalite.
I am absolutely obsessed with this drop, but I am not obsessed with the Mox Opal price. This freaky Frazier is going for $85! Sure, it might not be as expensive as the Kaladesh Invention or the Judge promo, but I still find it to be the most appealing Opal in Magic’s history.
Secret Lair Emrakul, the Promised End
Last, we have the Secret Lair printing of Emrakul, the Promised End. This card hails from the John Avon Secret Lair and sits alongside pieces like Progenitus, Brainstorm, and Serra Angel! I love the variety in this Lair. You can never go wrong with a Brainstorm, Serra Angel is an iconic card, Progenitus just rocks, and Emrakul is a much-needed reprint.
Seriously, this card was and still is rather pricey. The Secret Lair printing is $53 for a nonfoil and $77 for a foil. While she may be thirteen mana, I’ve been considering running her in my Secret Lair Sisay deck. She may not be tutorable with my commander, but she’s just too good to resist.
2023 was a year full of great sets and even more great promos. Secret Lairs dominated the year and also dominated this list. I can only imagine what 2024 will look like. What Lairs will we get? What promos will we get? Let me know your predictions and what you thought of my list. There’s still time to snag some of these for the holidays…or you could be like me and stare longingly at their images on Scryfall. Happy fawning, deckbuilders.