Money is, well, weird. You already know that. We cart around bits of paper and metal, or literally just a bit of magic plastic, and exchange said bits or swipe them to buy things, usually Magic: The Gathering.
It’s an odd system that, theoretically, acts as a shorthand for the exchange of labour. It gets even more peculiar when you are looking at things that people view as investments, especially when those things are both perishable and also not designed to be investments.
If you buy some Lego, you own some Lego… great? You buy a Magic: The Gathering card and congrats - you’ve got a very fragile bit of cardboard that does a thing in a game that is fun to play. They’re not the same thing. One is (pretty much) permanent; the other can be very easily eaten by a cat/baby/dog/you when you’re drunk.
Most expensive Magic: The Gathering cards
- Black Lotus (Beta): Oh, that Black Lotus.
- Ancestral Recall (Alpha): Forget about being able to afford it.
- Volcanic Island (Beta): Burning a hole in your pocket.
- Mind Twist (Beta): Do the twist.
- Mox Ruby (Alpha): You’re as likely to afford it as steal it from the Cave of Wonders.
- Mox Sapphire (Beta): A price tag that’ll leave you blue.
- Timetwister (Alpha): Let’s twist again.
- Copy Artifact (Beta): Can I copy your homework?
- Underground Sea (Alpha): Everything’s better, down where it’s wetter.
- Mox Emerald (Alpha): A lot of green for a bit of Green.
However, there are plenty of people who put big money into MTG, and it’s caused some spectacular prices throughout the years thanks to things like the Reserved List. The Reserved List, for those not in the know, is a list of cards that can never be reprinted. Its purpose is to keep the value of certain cards from dropping, but what it’s actually done is caused certain formats to be completely inaccessible to all but the most trust-fundy of people.
That being said, it is fun to marvel at just how expensive MTG cards can become, so we thought we’d take a look at the most valuable cards in Magic: The Gathering.
Now, there are rules here. First of all, all of the prices are as listed on MTGGoldfish for a consistent comparison. Secondly, we’re talking about the most expensive these cards have been on the site. That means we’ve got a look back at the most expensive cards, rather than attempting to nail down any kind of finances in the current market.
Thankfully, this leaves us with some all-time classic cards, so it’s likely to be true several years from now - even if the prices themselves change, the content should be accurate. Now then, without any more ado, onto the list.
1. Black Lotus (Beta)
Oh, that Black Lotus
Peak price: $42,000, 02/10/19
The chances are that you’ve heard of this card even if you’ve stumbled across this article by some weird coincidence. Black Lotus is an excellent card because for the low cost of zero mana, it gives you three mana. Needless to say, that’s a powerful effect - and, thanks to the Reserved List, it’s not one we’ll be seeing again any time soon. Black Lotus is the poster-card for how expensive MTG can be, and that’s unlikely to ever change.
2. Ancestral Recall (Alpha)
Forget about being able to afford it
Peak price: $19,999, 29/08/19
It turns out that gaining access to cheap resources is something that comes at a premium in MTG. Where Black Lotus gives you free mana, Ancestral Recall gives you very cheap card draw. For a single Blue mana, you can choose to draw three cards or make an opponent draw three cards. You’re unlikely to ever actually use the second mode of the spell but, then again, you’re also unlikely to be able to afford this responsibly.
3. Volcanic Island (Beta)
Burning a hole in your pocket
Peak price: $19,888, 13/10/19
We come to the first of the dual lands on our list. The dual land cycle includes ten lands, each of which represents a different colour pairing. Volcanic Island is the Red and Blue land. Land is an important part of MTG, and the reason that these ones cost so much is that there is no downside to playing them. Modern-day lands that give you access to multiple colours always have a downside of some sort, that’s just not the case here. Of course, this is also on the Reserved List.
4. Mind Twist (Beta)
Do the twist
Peak price: $18,416, 17/08/20
This is a fun one; Mind Twist is a card that can be used to make your opponent discard their hand. It’s not an obviously powerful effect and, on its own, it’s not all that great. However, thanks to the magic of mana generation like Black Lotus, it means you can potentially destroy your opponent’s hand before they even play anything. That, as it turns out, pretty much wins you the game… most of the time.
5. Mox Ruby (Alpha)
You’re as likely to afford it as steal it from the Cave of Wonders
Peak price: $17,908, 02/12/18
The Mox cycle of cards are a marginally less broken version of a Black Lotus. Each one gives you one mana for no mana but, unlike Black Lotus, can be used multiple times. Mox Ruby gives you Red mana, and has been used in a plethora of decks since they were released. Also, they’re on the Reserved List - it’s at this point that you should be fully aware of how much the Reserved List has bolstered the cost of these cards instead of protecting them.
6. Mox Sapphire (Beta)
A price tag that’ll leave you blue
Peak price: $14,999, 27/09/19
Imagine a Mox Ruby, but make it for Blue mana, and you’ve got everything you need to know here. These two, along with Volcanic Island, all fit in the same colour scheme, and therefore regularly go in the same decks, which is probably why they’re all so highly valued.
7. Timetwister (Alpha)
Let’s twist again
Peak price: $14,999, 25/10/19
Timetwister costs three mana and lets you shuffle your hand, graveyard and library together and then draw seven cards. Once you’ve managed all of that, your opponent does the same. In essence, it’s an incredibly potent spell that lets you not only draw a whole new hand, but almost reset the game without changing the actual board state. Also, it’s on the Reserved List.
8. Copy Artifact (Beta)
Can I copy your homework?
Peak price: $12,611, 19/05/20
For only two mana, Copy Artifact is an enchantment that lets you copy an artifact. This card might take the prize for having the most on-the-nose name, but it’s a very powerful effect and one that only gets better as more artifacts get released. The pricing of this one might be the most interesting on the list, with it generally being very steady up until its peak in 2020 and then fluctuating wildly ever since. In a shocking departure from the norm, this card is also on the Reserved List.
9. Underground Sea (Alpha)
Everything’s better, down where it’s wetter
Peak price: $11,882, 17/10/16
Underground Sea is the only other dual land on this list. It taps for either Blue or Black mana with no downside whatsoever. We think you can agree that with this and Volcanic Island on the list, it must mean the combination of Red, Blue and Black must be the best one in Magic - and that means Nicol Bolas is probably right. Yes, this is also on the Reserved List.
10. Mox Emerald (Alpha)
A lot of green for a bit of Green
Peak price: $10,125, 15/09/19
The final card on our list sees the return of the Mox cycle once more. This time around - and in something of a break from tradition - we’re not looking at Blue, Red or Black, but at Green. That makes this card unique on this list for being the only card on the Reserved List on this list. Wait, no. It’s the only Green card on this list.