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Analyzing The Financial Impact Of The February 15 Banned & Restricted Announcement

Monday’s Banned & Restricted announcement shook up Magic finance. Ben Bleiweiss breaks down losers, resilient cards, and a potential big winner.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den, illustrated by Slawomir Maniak

Yesterday, Wizards of the Coast’s (WotC’s) Banned & Restricted update hit five formats and changed the legality of fourteen different cards.

My focus is on the financial impact of these changes. I’m not going to talk much about what decks will/won’t be playable in different formats based on the bannings, unless they related directly to card value. There are other writers who are much more in tune with specific formats. My job is to watch the markets and anticipate what price changes might happen due to this massive B&R update.

In addition, the cascade rules were changed to make Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor work in a more intuitive way. To get this out of the way, Valki will go down some in price but it’s still a strong card. We just aren’t going to see the seven-mana Tibalt hitting the battlefield ahead of schedule via a cascade spell anymore.

Allow me to discuss the cards in alphabetical order!

Arcum’s Astrolabe

  • Newly banned in Legacy
  • Previously banned in Modern and Pauper

Arcum’s Astrolabe might have been the most-played card in Pauper history, if it weren’t banned very quickly in that format. The biggest hit in value Astrolabe took was from that initial ban. The additional ban in Legacy is going to do nothing to affect the nonfoil value of Arcum’s Astrolabe at this point, though the foil might fall a dollar or two.

Balustrade Spy

  • Newly banned in Pioneer

Balustrade Spy was already a bulk common. It’s still a bulk common. The good thing about being banned when you’re at the bottom is that you can’t sink any lower.

Dreadhorde Arcanist

  • Newly banned in Legacy

Legacy players are not the force driving the price of cards these days. That would be Commander players, who are the largest block of people driving the value and demand behind Magic cards in 2021. To wit: Dreadhorde Arcanist was widely regarded as the best two-drop creature in Legacy (sorry Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant!) but was only $4 before banning. Because Arcanist is still popular in other formats (Pioneer, Modern, Commander), I doubt it’ll see much of a value change.

Field of the Dead

  • Newly banned in Modern
  • Previously banned in Pioneer

Here’s the first card that will take a real hit in value due to the B&R announcement. Field of the Dead is a really curious case. When it was initially banned in Standard in October of 2019, it paradoxically went up in value. I’ll be honest — it’s the first time in eighteen-plus years I’ve seen a card get hit by a ban and rise in price! The reason though is because people were slow to understand how powerful an effect getting free creatures is each turn just for playing Magic, even at seven or more unique lands. Field of the Dead went from $5 to $8 before it was subsequently banned in Pioneer in December of 2019 — and promptly spent the next year nearly tripling in price to $22.

EDHREC has Field of the Dead seeing play in only 5% of Commander decks. I feel like this number is low enough that Commander itself will not save the value of Field of the Dead. With the card now gone in all eternal formats in which it was eminently playable, I see it dropping back down in value. It’ll probably settle in the $10-$15 range.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den

Lurrus of the Dream-Den (Extended Art)
Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths - Alternate Frame
Single
Magic The Gathering
  • Newly unbanned in Vintage

If I didn’t think that Legacy bans affect Magic values much at this point, I really don’t think that Vintage changes are going to move the dial much on card value. Vintage is mainly the province of online play (even more so due to COVID-19). The people who can afford to play paper Vintage often look for the most blinged-out version of cards they can find.

If you’re going to play with a $15,000 Black Lotus, might as well get the super-extended art foil version of Lurrus. For that reason, I believe that the extended art foil Lurrus is probably going to hit three-digits in value by the end of the year.

Reasons for this include:

  1. Nobody is opening Ikoria Collector Boosters at this point and it’s the only way to get this version of Lurrus.
  2. It was already a very low drop-rate card in Ikoria Collector Boosters.
  3. The card was selling for $50 before the unban in Vintage.

Mystic Sanctuary

  • Newly banned in Modern
  • Previously banned in Pauper

Unlike Field of the Dead, Mystic Sanctuary sees a very healthy amount of play in Commander (15.9% use rate). Because of this, I don’t see the value of Mystic Sanctuary really being affected by a ban in Modern.

Oko, Thief of Crowns

  • Newly banned in Legacy
  • Previously banned in Standard, Brawl, Pioneer, and Modern

You’re going to get sick of hearing this, but there are still people who aren’t listening to this.

COMMANDER DRIVES CARD VALUES

Seriously, Oko, Thief of Crowns had been banned in virtually every possible competitive format prior to yesterday’s announcement. It was still a $25 card. I’ve seen people panic-selling Oko off at this point. Meanwhile, Oko is the third-most-played planeswalker in Commander (11.4%). Let me demonstrate with an old-timey word problem!

Christer and Ulla Johansson own an elk farm in the northern Swedish town of Bjurholm. For years they’ve been breeding elks and lending out members of their gang for festive Christmas celebrations all across the country. Unfortunately, the elks of the Älgens Hus are far too popular and are hurting the other local animal businesses.

In order to protect the tourist industry, the government of Sweden prevents the elks of Bjurholm from being brought to the reindeer forests of Mettäjärvi, the emu farms of Sahlins Sruts in Borlänge, and zoological experience of the Skånes Djurpark in Höör Municipality.

Now you might think that banning the elks in Mettäjärvi, Sahlins and the Höör Municipality might lower the demand on elk rentals. However, we’re talking 7,865 people in the Höör Municipality, 41,734 people in Borlänge, and around 178,522 people in Lapland.

Meanwhile, there are still 1.5 million people in Stockholm, nearly 600,000 Swedes living in Göteborg, and a cool (pun intended) 316K in the picturesque city of Malmö. Just because around 235,000 people can no longer frolic with the elks of the Älgens Hus, doesn’t mean the demand from the other (nearly) 2.5 million natives in the most popular and populous cities in Sweden is gone.

In other words, I’m sure the elk economy in Sweden will be just fine despite the latest municipal bickering from the people of Höör Municipality.

Simian Spirit Guide

  • Newly banned in Modern

SSG (not to be confused with Elvish Spirit Guide, or ESG) had a good run as a combo enabler in Modern. As it’s not seeing too much play in other formats (including casual games, where fast one-shot mana like this isn’t the best), it’s going to tank in value. Pre-ban: $4. Post-ban: Probably $1-$1.50.

Teferi, Time Raveler

  • Newly banned in Pioneer

EDH REC has Teferi, Time Raveler as the fifth-most-played planeswalker in Commander (9.3% usage rate). Just like with Oko, I don’t think the price on Teferi will change much due to being banned in Pioneer.

I also think that years from now, when WotC looks at the totality of the Pioneer banned list, Teferi, Time Raveler is a card that they will feel safe to unban. The ban now is pre-emptive (see Wilderness Reclamation, below), and not due to actual gameplay. Yes, it’s decent. It’s probably on the right side of “too good” in the long run given that the Pioneer card pool will continue to grow by 1000+ cards a year over the next few years.

Tibalt’s Trickery

  • Newly banned in Modern

On January 28th (one day into Arena Kaldheim access), I said that Tibalt’s Trickery is miserable to play against. 

In the WPN retailer Facebook group, I argued that Tibalt’s Trickery was going to get banned in Modern. I saw it as having the same problems as Hypergenesis. Cascade cards + no Force of Will = can’t have degenerate combos like this (Force of Negation alone isn’t enough).

Tibalt’s Trickery is a glass cannon in other competitive formats, so I don’t see it getting any further ban attention. The value will go down in the short term, as Modern was the main driver of the price on Tibalt’s Trickery up until now.

It’ll recover just fine for the same reasons that Chaos Warp still has a $3 price tag despite being reprinted ten times now: it’s a color bend in red that’s great in Commander. Tibalt’s Trickery also isn’t as easy to reprint as Chaos Warp (due to name), so at some point the demand will outstrip the supply.

Undercity Informer

  • Newly banned in Pioneer

See Balustrade Spy. It was already a bulk card, and so it can just get off at the bottom floor of the elevator and walk away into the sunset.

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

  • Newly banned in Pioneer and Modern
  • Previously banned in Standard

Poor Uro. It finally gets a Secret Lair printing only to be preemptively tagged as a ban victim. Uro has about the same play rate in Commander as Field of the Dead. It’s also banned in the same formats as Field of the Dead! If Field of the Dead is going to settle in the $10 range, Uro will probably settle at around $15-$20. I would have been more bullish about $20+, except the prevalence of a new printing (hello again, Secret Lair!) will drive the supply up and the price down at the worst possible time.

Wilderness Reclamation

  • Newly banned in Pioneer

Wilderness Reclamation is a Top 50 most-played enchantment in Commander (7.5%). It also will continue to be popular for the same reason that things like Seedborn Muse will be popular — doubling your mana (even during the end step) is a powerful effect in the world’s most-played “official” format.

The price tag on Wilderness Reclamation took a hit when it was banned in August of 2020 (two months before rotation) but has remained steady since then. The current price is 95% Commander demand and 5% Pioneer demand. Thusly, I don’t see the price going down at all.

Moving Forward

This was a pretty massive B&R announcement from WotC. There are a trio of cards that will lose value (Field of the Dead, Simian Spirit Guide, Uro); one very special edition of Lurrus that I expect to skyrocket over the coming months; and a whole lot of me hitting people over the head with “if it’s popular in Commander, it doesn’t really matter if a card is banned in other formats at this point.”

That, and an exquisite lesson on the agriculture and population centers of Sweden.