Call of the Ring | The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth | Art by Anato Finnstark
3, Jul, 24

$80 Multi-Format Staple Exposes Major MTG Pricing Problem!

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Article at a Glance

You have to hand it to Wizards: they really nailed the whole “One Ring to rule them all” thing when they designed The One Ring MTG card. There hasn’t been a card so good in so many formats for a long, long time. In fact, at Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3 last weekend, The One Ring proved its dominance in a big way.

While all eyes were on Nadu, Winged Wisdom, The One Ring sneaked through the gates to become the most-played card of the entire event. Is it healthy for a card with the price tag The One Ring has to be so popular in MTG? What, if anything, can be done about it?

The Will To Dominate

The One Ring | The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth

Before we cover the card’s frankly ridiculous price, let’s take a look at the storied history of The One Ring in MTG. This is a four mana legendary artifact with two key abilities. It provides protection for a turn when it enters and can draw you cards on every single turn. The card draw is exponential in nature, scaling up each time you use it. There’s a life penalty, too, intended to stop players from getting too greedy with it.

The card received a good reception when first revealed, but even early advocates were unprepared for just how dominant this legendary artifact would become. The One Ring quickly established itself as a staple in not just Modern, but in Vintage and Legacy too. The draw power proved incredibly strong, and the life loss was negligible enough to barely matter in most matchups.

You’ll find this incredible card draw engine in powerhouse decks like Sneak and Show, Mono-Red Prisons, and Jewel Shops. All eternal archetypes that very rarely get new tools. Modern was where The One Ring really made its mark, though.

At the time of writing, the card is in nearly 30% of all decks in the format. This includes Combo decks like Amulet Titan, ramp decks like Tron, and even slower strategies like Jeskai Control. At last weekend’s Pro Tour, the card’s play percentages increased to 46%. If nearly half the decks at the top tier of play are running it, you know it’s a good card.

All of that is to say nothing of The One Ring’s ubiquity in Commander. A colorless draw engine with little downside is, unsurprisingly, widely used in the format. So much so that creators like The Command Zone believe it to single-handedly raise your deck’s power level to an 8.

Delving Too Deep

So The One Ring is a very powerful card, that much is clear. Not a problem in isolation. Generic draw power can be a good thing for a format, enabling deck types that are color-locked out of efficient play otherwise. Unfortunately, this widespread appeal and power have combined to push the price of The One Ring higher than any staple card should really go.

At the time of writing, the cheapest available version of The One Ring is the one from the Tales of Middle-earth Bundle. Even this version, which was guaranteed in every single Bundle, now costs over $80 on TCGPlayer. Every other version is over $110, with the flashy Showcase treatments going for over $180.

These are serious, serious prices. Even fellow Modern staples like Orcish Bowmasters and the newly-minted Phlage, Titan of Fire’s Fury have prices in the $40-45 range. Not exactly affordable, but still around half the price of The One Ring. The usual solution to a card’s price spinning out of control like this is a reprint in a future set. This solution could be applied to cards like Phlage, but for The One Ring things are a little more complex.

As MTG YouTuber PleasantKenobi covered in a recent video, the fact that The One Ring comes from a Universes Beyond product makes it more difficult to reprint than most cards. The One Ring is a trademarked name, after all, and there are likely many tangled contracts preventing the reprinting of cards from Tales of Middle-earth in general. This is undoubtedly a factor in the card’s price climbing so high. Players feel safe to invest without worrying about an imminent reprint.

The Last Debate

The-One-Ring-Price-MTG-Councils-Deliberation

The One Ring is an incredibly interesting MTG case study, in that it’s a perfect storm of multiple conflicting factors. It’s a powerful card, but not oppressive enough to really warrant a ban in any format. Even Modern, where it slots into nearly a third of all decks. It’s an expensive card, but not one that can easily be reprinted in multiple sets to bring the price down.

This leaves WOTC in a fairly tricky situation. The sheer price of The One Ring is clearly a problem that needs to be addressed. The card, as it stands, represents a $400 paywall for multiple formats. This is hardly an ideal situation, even for a game as notoriously expensive as Magic.

So what can be done about this? Perhaps the most obvious solution is to reprint The One Ring as a ‘Universes Within’ card. We’ve seen these before with some of the older Secret Lair crossover cards. Rick, Steadfast Leader becoming Greymond, Avacyn’s Stalwart, for example. That being said, The One Ring might need more than a Universes Within reprint via The List to make a dent in the price.

We’ve seen expensive cards in MTG before, but none quite on the same price or power level as The One Ring. The way ahead is unclear, but one thing’s for sure: WOTC needs to either up the availability of The One Ring or cast it into the fire.

Read More: MTG Pro Tour Causes 18-Year-Old Rare to Spike to $70!

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