Since the introduction of the Secret Lair sub-brand in 2019, MTG’s art style has been on quite a journey. Working with countless artists, each with their own striking style, Secret Lair drops aren’t afraid of pushing the boundaries on what a Magic card can look like. The recently announced Draw Your Hand Secret Lair drop, for instance, features no borders and text all over the place. Throughout the 150 Secret Lair drops released so far, myriad different art styles have been used across hundreds of reprints. Some of these striking art styles have even started to creep into major MTG products. Jumpstart 2022, for instance, featured a selection of classic reprints with an anime-inspired twist. Despite the potential to cause controversy, many of these cards have been surprisingly beloved. So much so that more and more anime-inspired MTG cards are being released, much to the delight of fans.
Secret Lair: City Styles
Created by Japanese artist Tsubonari, the City Styles Secret Lair drop reimagines some of MTG’s most beloved female characters. Commander favorite Teysa Karlov, for instance, is one such character getting an anime-inspired makeover. Available for pre-order starting on the 30th of January, the City Styles drop is the second Secret Lair announced for the upcoming Winter Superdrop 2023. Also available within this Winter Superdrop is the Draw Your Hand SLD we mentioned earlier, which reprints Counterbalance.
While the City Styles Secret Lair drop does feature a handful of iconic Commander cards, unfortunately, the drop isn’t a compelling value proposition. They are likely priced at the usual $29.99, the cards within the City Styles drop fall slightly short of this mark. Carrying the majority of the value within this drop is a reprint of Azusa, Lost but Seeking, which typically costs around $9.07 on TCGplayer. Alongside this, the reprint of Paradise Mantle justifies an additional $6.11 of the cost. Paradise Mantle, however, is the last within the drop to meet the average cost of a Secret Lair card.
Thankfully, while not beating the $6 threshold, Sakashima the Impostor is still worth a respectable $4.85 on average. Falling in slightly behind this is the beloved Commander favorite Teysa Karlov, which is only worth $4.41. Last, and very much least, Massacre Girl is only worth a pitiful $0.49 on average. Totaling all these costs up, the City Styles promises just under $25 of value in reprints. Thankfully, however, MTG players’ interest in the art may well increase the value of these cards. That’s so long as not every interested player purchases the Secret Lair for themselves, at least.
Thanks to the reprints on offer, the City Styles Secret Lair drop might not be the perfect choice for investors. Despite this, however, the Secret Lair drop is nonetheless beloved by MTG fans. From the moment the Secret Lair drop was revealed, MTG players across social media have lauded the incredible artwork on display. On Reddit, for instance, users such as u/Evadude highlighted the appeal of these playable Commander cards. “These are solid cards with solid art. I wish Wotc would make more weeb stuff or at least more weeb secret lairs.” Similarly, on Twitter, several users, such as @barelyRebecca, highlighted how they can’t wait to build decks around these Commander classics. “Oh wow, I guess I have to put my Azusa deck back together.”
Alongside MTG players professing their desire for these anime-inspired cards, Reddit user u/Rawrgodzilla noted the effectiveness of this business strategy. “Ooooooo, WotC targeting weebs is their best move since they guaranteed money from us.” While likely commented at least partly in jest, u/Rawrgodzilla’s remark is surprisingly accurate. Many of the anime art cards from Jumpstart 2022, for instance, are significantly more expensive than their standard counterparts. Balan, Wandering Knight for example, is $24.05 on average as an anime-inspired catgirl, but the base version barely scrapes $5. Similarly, Coldsteel Heart sells for $8.61 on average. This might not seem like much, but that’s five times more than any other printing of the card!
While Jumpstart 2022’s anime-inspired cards were a somewhat limited promotion, it’s clear to see that demand is high for this art treatment. This may potentially pique the interest of Hasbro, who’re currently looking to increase their profits, as usual. Subsequently, it may only be a matter of time before we see more anime-inspired cards in Secret Lairs and MTG sets. As u/EbonyHelicoidalRhino points out, this may well lead to a future where players “can play an all-anime card EDH deck.”
As much as MTG’s latest round of anime-inspired art received plenty of praise, not every MTG player was thrilled with this product. Reddit user u/zdngma0, for instance, highlighted the almost extortionate shipping costs that plague players outside of the United States. “If Secret Lair shipping wasn’t a billion dollars for countries not named the USA, I would be all over this drop. Art looks FIRE” Thankfully, this issue isn’t universal, as European distributors often provide free shipping on expensive orders, however, it’s still not ideal. Additionally, expedited shipping speeds have always been a welcome improvement recently. However, even those don’t always go to plan.