by Phoenix A. Desertsong, Staff Writer, Healer & Advocate
In Magic the Gathering, there are a wide variety of rare cards worth less than 50 cents. These are often called "bulk rares" since they can easily be found in bulk. But, the anatomy of every bulk rare card is slightly different. There have been “true bulk” cards such as Serpentine Spike that no one will really ever play. There’s somewhat playable creatures like Fathom Feeder. Then, you have a card that sees a fair amount of play in the ever-growing Commander format that’s probably still a bit underappreciated: Insidious Will.
Back in October 2016, Insidious Will was a $0.50 card that was buylisting for close to its retail price. People were actually pretty excited about this card. Even though it costs 4 mana for effects that typically cost only 2 or 3 mana, the versatility of this card seemed to make it worth it. With Baral, Chief of Compliance looking like he’d be a big part of Standard, it seemed to some people that Insidious Will was going to be at least a $1 or $2 card. This never happened, although Baral, who makes Instants and Sorceries you cast cost 1 less mana, is very good. In fact, Baral is probably going to be tied to this card’s long term value.
Two of its effect choices are Redirect and Twincast. These are cards that each cost 2 mana, being able to choose seems worth an extra price. The third choice is essentially Cancel, which is 3 mana as a straight counterspell. But, wouldn’t having these choices in a control deck be a nice thing to have, even just as a one-of out of the sideboard?
The answer is yes... in Baral, Chief of Compliance EDH decks. Baral has become quite a force in the growing 1v1 Commander scene, thanks to Magic Online adopting the format as a competitive league. It’s clear that most demand for Insidious Will comes from EDH players. While Baral is hardly the only Commander that plays this versatile 4-mana instant, he’s definitely the one who’s added this spell to his library the most.
So, what’s made Insidious Will a bulk rare? It simply never found relevance in the Standard format of the day. It would pop up in the odd Blue/Black Control list. Some people considered trying to use Insidious Will to copy Approach of the Second Sun for a quick instant win, but that didn't work because the second copy of Approach of the Second Sun had to be cast from the hand.
Long term, though, cards like Insidious Will easily surpass $2. Foils of this card will definitely not be less than $2 forever, either. The price of this card is always competitive, meaning that the market price of the card has historically been very close to the median price. That's good news for this card's future, as supply is barely meeting demand.
When it comes to the anatomy of this bulk rare, Insidious Will was a card released at a time where its value simply wouldn't be realized. One copy per Commander player coming off the market at a time simply won't drive the price. This is a card that you want in foil if you’re looking to cash in on it in the long term. But, as far as people who just want it to play with, it’s definitely well worth spending a couple hard earned dimes on to add it to your collection.
Slayer’s Plate seems very underrated as an Equipment. While this Shadows Over Innistrad rare has been pretty much bulk since its release, there seems to be a lot of power here. While probably not competitively playable due to requiring 3 mana just to cast and another 3 to equip, it does provide a 4/2 boost. If the equipped creature dies, and it was a Human, you get a 1/1 flying Spirit token into play.
The reason I like this card is that in Commander, there are decks that can often equip it for free. Also, being able to throw this on a flying 1/1 token seems strong to me. Heck, even if this is equipped to a Human token, you still get the 1/1 flying Spirit. So far, it seems that Sigarda, Heron’s Grace is the only Commander deck to use it somewhat regularly. There are plenty of Commanders, especially ones that play plenty of Humans, that should want this card. As a bulk rare, I really like this as a pickup.
Battle for Zendikar is a set chock full of aggressive creatures, most of them Eldrazi. While quite a few have gone on to competitive success, one that hasn’t quite found his place is a 5/3 for 4 mana, Dust Stalker. On the surface, he looks like a powerful creature. He does have the drawback of needing to return to his owner’s hand if you control no other colorless creatures. However, he has haste, and in a deck full of Eldrazi, his drawback is rarely an issue. Overall, he’s a pretty efficient creature.
However, as we are taking a look at Dust Stalker on Anatomy of a Bulk Rare, we have to see where he’s gone wrong. The obvious thing about the Stalker is that he doesn’t have Trample or any other secondary keyword other than Devoid (which just makes him colorless). By no means does this mean he’s bad. But for 4 mana, especially in Standard, you need to get more value out of him, especially in an aggressive deck. Even after Magic Origins and Dragons of Tarkir rotated from the Standard environment, he never really caught on. However, some budget-conscious tournament players have played Dust Stalker with varied success. But there aren’t enough people willing to commit to keeping around four copies for his price to rise much about $0.50 at retail.
In fact, so few people want to own Dust Stalker that many vendor buylists exclude him completely. This doesn’t mean you can’t sneak him into a buylist order to a vendor as an unlisted bulk rare. But major vendors really don’t need him. So what is there to make of him? Is he worth keeping around? Actually, yes. Over time, more casual players looking to build an aggressive red and black Eldrazi deck will latch onto this guy. So he does have a future. But I'd never expect him to be worth much.
As we have said before in this series, not all bulk rares are created equal. While this isn’t of the competitive ilk of Fathom Feeder, it’s definitely no Serpentine Spike. Battle for Zendikar, like many sets, is actually full of rares just like Dust Stalker, cards that over time people will find uses for and suddenly they won’t be bulk any more. I will take Fathom Feeder over Dust Stalker any day, but the Stalker is just one of those creatures that newer players will see, love, and just need to have. There’s nothing wrong with that, and while he may never get you more than 10 cents from a vendor buylist, he’s fine to hold onto.
On Anatomy of a Bulk Rare, we take a look at rare Magic the Gathering cards that will usually only net you a dime ($0.10) if you try to sell them to a store. Today, we take a look at an Eldrazi creature that started out hot, but quickly fell from grace. This little guy is called Fathom Feeder, and vendors have so many copies of this guy that if you don’t include him as a bulk rare to a major vendor like Star City Games, you could get as little as 2 cents a copy!
But wait, you ask, aren’t bulk rares worth a minimum of ten cents a piece? In most cases, yes, this is true. Most stores pay a minimum of 10 cents for each unlisted bulk rare. Some pay 10 cents for store credit, but only 8 cents for cash. Others even pay 12 cents cash. So, yes, on average a bulk rare is an easy dime. However, in some cases, like with Fathom Feeder, the overall supply becomes so great that many Magic card sellers simply don’t want to even pay a full dime a copy. With how popular Battle for Zendikar turned out to be, it’s not surprising there’s a glut of these guys.
There is hope for our two-mana friend, however. Fathom Feeder has actually seen play! For the most part, he sees play in Grixis Control. His main purpose in the deck is to serve as a 1/1 with deathtouch. The Ingest ability which activates whenever he connects with a player is a nice bonus, making that player exile the top card of his or her library. The ability for 3UB to draw a card and also exile the top card of each opponent’s library is also pretty sweet. This is a good creature. The trouble is, where does he fit in a competitive Eldrazi deck?
The trouble for Fathom Feeder is that there just isn’t a regular home for him in competitive play. He’s also not really popular among casual players in the way that many Eldrazi cards are. He’s very similar to Sire of Stagnation, which, while being a strong creature with valuable abilities, simply doesn’t have enough demand to be worth much more than bulk. Even at retail you have been able to buy copies of Fathom Feeder for a quarter ($0.25 USD) each. Paying a single dollar for 4 copies of Fathom Feeder seems a bit too good, doesn’t it?
Fathom Feeder is not what we would call a “true” bulk rare. Not only does he look playable, but he has actually been a part of some competitive Standard decks. He sees play in Commander, too, as part of several different strategies, including mill. Being two colors does limit him a bit, but it’s strange that Fathom Feeder isn’t still worth at least $1.
If you are looking to pick up any bulk rare, Fathom Feeder fits the mold of a card that can make you money someday if you hold onto them long enough. If you get them for 10 cents a piece, which is totally possible if you tack them on an order with TCGPlayer or a similar retailer, you actually can lose almost exactly zero money. It’s not unrealistic for this to be worth at least $1 again, and could get you between 25 to 50 cents a piece on a vendor’s buylist some day. As bulk rares go, Fathom Feeder is a good one. Worst case scenario, you can probably trade it away as a throw-in.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
There are a couple of things that are always true when it comes to selling Magic the Gathering cards. Commons and uncommons will almost always get you between $3 - $5 per thousand and bulk rares will almost always get you at least 10 cents a piece. This means that bulk rares are probably the easiest guaranteed money in Magic. Of course, not all bulk rares are created equal.
On Anatomy of a Bulk Rare, we take a look at a wide variety of cards worth a minimum of 10 cents on the ordinary buylist.
Today, we look at Serpentine Spike from Battle for Zendikar. This is what we would call a “true” bulk rare. That means this card will never see any meaningful Constructed play. This 7 mana Sorcery is actually pretty good in Limited. The fact that it can often kill 3 creatures at once makes it a good card from a card advantage standpoint. It deserves to be a rare from that perspective. The trouble is that it requires three different targets to be effective, even if you have to choose your own creatures. The good news is that you can just choose 1 or 2 creatures, but you have to choose which ones to deal 2 damage, 3 damage, and 4 damage to in succession.
This is what you call a “high-variance” card. There will be times where this card will turn the game in your favor on its own. As a rare that was included in one of the Battle for Zendikar Intro Packs, some newer players probably became a bit frustrated with it due to how awkward this card can be.
The good news about Serpentine Spike is that you can always include it as a bulk rare when you’re selling cards to a store. Is it useful to you otherwise? As far as teaching new players about complicated cards, it can serve as a good teaching tool. If you’re drafting Battle for Zendikar for fun, it’s also good. But if you’re actually building a deck that doesn’t involve a limited card pool, you can happily let it go for a dime.
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