Monday, 12 August 2019 19:38

The legend of the Black Lotus

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Artwork for the 'Magic: The Gathering' card Black Lotus. Artwork for the 'Magic: The Gathering' card Black Lotus. WOTC / CHRISTOPHER RUSH

If there is one card that people not into Magic can name it would be the Black Lotus.

It was one of the “Power Nine”, a group of nine cards so powerful that Wizards had to make new rules and cards to stop them. Today they’re only allowed in Vintage, and even then rules make it rare to allow in. But for the Black Lotus, you pull that card early, and you can tap it to your hearts desire, what with no cost, and unleash a torrent of mana.  Once, that is.  And by torrent, we mean three.

Still, its power (mixed with its rarity) has made the Lotus -- specifically the black-bordered Alpha Black Lotus -- a literal investment. In February of 2019, a mint Alpha Black Lotus went for over $160,000.

So we all know it’s power and value, but how has the card gotten to be this generations T206 Honus Wagner in terms of card value? Well let’s look back.

Drawn by Christopher Rush for the first Magic sets in 1993, the Lotus came out in Alpha and Beta, with the Alpha run being particularly limited with only 1,100 ever printed. It’s early nullifying made it a legend, and by the late 1990s that legendary card known for giving a lot of mana early and was rarely ever seen outside of tournaments was the card everyone talked about. Every top player has said that any deck would benefit from it. This hype only proved that.

But that’s when things got weird. The power nine cards were selling for a lot. So, with only so many Black Lotuses in the world, Magic cards became a prime target for counterfeiting. And since pre mid-nineties cards were on a cheaper cardstock with no real countermeasures put in place, early cards were a prime target.

By the mid-2000’s Wizards themselves had to put out articles showing how to spot counterfeits. That’s when things changed. Cards began getting trickier designs. Police, who had formerly ignored counterfeits because of their low value, began getting more and more involved. Fans and players began testing cards left and right, scaring many counterfeiters.

And the counterfeited card that made Wizards of the Coast, players, and Police get more serious about it? The Black Lotus.

Today, it goes for six figures and is still regarded as the holy grail of MTG. But it’s legend also comes in the form of becoming a card so powerful and valuable outside the game that it forced, and still forces, stringent measures on cards production so no one gets screwed.

That $166,000 automatic pay off student loans piece of paper here?

Well, it doesn’t seem like that much for helping keep a $2.45 billion a year franchise on the up and up with players.

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