MTG The Dark Expansion: Why It’s the Perfect Time to Invest in This Underrated Gem

Brian Cooper  By Brian Cooper | Updated on January 8, 2024

MTG The Dark

If you’re looking to add an iconic set to your Magic investment portfolio, MTG The Dark is the perfect expansion and one I would definitely consider. The set brings back tons of memories as it was one of the original sets that I used to collect back in my early days of Magic. And, if I only knew what I know today, I would have bought The Dark Booster Boxes by the case and stashed them away!

The Dark is what I consider one of the OG Magic sets and it continues to be highly sought after even today. And as we’re fast approaching the 30-year anniversary of this awesome set, I thought it would be a great time to take a look at this underrated gem of a Magic set.

So what makes The Dark such a darn good investment? I’ll dive into all that a little bit below, from exploring the best cards in the set and their values to showing you the best strategies to investing in The Dark singles, booster boxes and packs. So let’s dive in.

Investing in The Dark: A Smart Move for MTG Collectors

If you’re a Magic the Gathering fan looking to add something to your collection that has a ton of potential, investing in The Dark expansion is a great option. Released almost 30 years ago, it remains one of the most popular MTG expansions with its unique cards, mechanics and rich lore and I think it has the potential to be bigger than it already is.

And if you look at some of the Rare (and juicier!) cards like Maze of Ith, Ball Lightning or Blood Moon just to name a few, they’ve seen their prices appreciate significantly over time making them fascinating investments for any discerning collector! But as you’ll see, there’s more to this set than these three popular cards….WAY more!

With the growing success of Magic: The Gathering, demand for Vintage top condition cards will be soaring once we get out of the worldwide economic mess we’re in. Among all of those Magic cards and sets sits a top contender in my view – ‘The Dark’ expansion.

As with any collectibles investment, you never know 100% without doubt that values will rise over time. However, after Investing in these old-school gems for years I think the possibilities of seeing a bigger movement in values to the higher side could come in the next 1-3 years.

In other words investing in The Dark now could be an incredibly profitable move if done right!

The Most Valuable Cards in MTG The Dark

The Dark was a relatively small set when compared to most major and expansion sets. Most times you’ll see sets with 300-400 unique cards, but The Dark only had 119 cards in total.

The card rarity was broken down as follows: 40 Common, 44 Uncommon and 35 Rare.

This was one of those sets where the rarity of the cards was based on how many Wizards printed on each uncut sheet. You’ll often see individual cards referred to as C1, U1, and U2 meaning Common and varieties of Uncommon with no official “rare” card designations. However, over time the cards have been labeled more correctly to match the current Common, Uncommon and Rare format (there were no Mythics back then.)

That being said, there are cards that are Uncommon that are worth more than some of the Rare cards. But the end result is when you study The Dark, there are probably eight main cards that are super desirable and tend to bring north of $30 each and then there are fifteen cards that are valued over $10 that also draw a lot of interest. Let’s break it down below.

The Eight BEST Cards in MTG The Dark

BLOOD MOON – $88

MTG The Dark Blood Moon

If you’ve ever wanted to turn the tables in a game of Magic: The Gathering, Blood Moon might just be your lucky charm. This rare red enchantment card can help disrupt any strategy by turning all non-basic lands into Mountains!

Released with a low print run and high demand, it’s not hard to see why its value has skyrocketed over time. Near mint copies are now worth around $400 or more on the secondary market. Now that’s Magic indeed!

CITY OF SHADOWS – $81

MTG The Dark City of Shadows

Back in November of 2020, I went on a buying spree of The Dark cards and was buying up a list of cards that I thought were undervalued. City of Shadows was at the top of my list.

Back then, a NRMT version of this card was bringing about $35 and I should have bought more knowing what I know now. But there’s only so much money in the bank account so you have to pick and choose. I was lucky enough to get a bunch of nice City of Shadows singles though.

Just one year ago, this card was selling strongly for $200+. But as with everything we’re talking about here, values took a massive turn and now a City of Shadows is less than half that price. It’s definitely bad for those that bought at high levels, but great for those who missed out.

I love the City of Shadows artwork and the fact that it’s a Rare Vintage Land card from a great original Magic set makes this one one of my top picks for the best long term investment from The Dark. Today’s prices are CHEAP on this one. Take my word for it.

GOBLIN WIZARD – $80

MTG The Dark Goblin Wizard

If you can cast the Goblin Wizard quickly in a game, you’ll certainly have a leg up if you run a powerful Goblin deck. Tap the Goblin Wizard and he becomes a Goblin casting machine and that’s part of the reason it’s such a popular card.

Although prices are down from their peak by about 30%, I think Goblin Wizard prices will eventually return to their former glory of close to $125. But we’re talking years away from that so make sure you have time to wait. It’s a great time to get your hands on one at a discounted price.

PREACHER – $62

MTG The Dark Preacher

White cards just do not tend to be as popular as other colors in Magic, but this card from The Dark has stood the test of time. Preacher continues to be the most expensive white card in the expansion set and for good reason.

Another ‘The Dark’ card with great artwork and a powerful card to have in your deck if you’re into taking control of creatures on the battlefield. Value wise, Preacher is definitely down from its early 2022 highs in the $80’s but it’s getting to the point where it’s time to buy again. Keep an eye on this one.

BALL LIGHTING – $45

MTG The Dark Ball Lightning

If you’re looking to beef up your creature deck then Ball Lightning is certainly the card for you! This powerful red card can trample its way to victory if you time it right and is one of the most iconic cards from this set and era in Magic history.

This card was less than $20 for the longest time and then in late 2020 it shot up to the $60-$70 range within 6-10 months time. As the economic conditions have changed on collectibles, prices for just about everything started to come back down to more ‘normal’ levels and Ball Lightning stabilized in the mid $40’s.

My guess is over time we’ll start to see all of these cards like Ball Lightning start to make their way back up in value. The ones you’ll want to invest in will be the best condition cards so shoot for finding a Ball Lighting in PSA/BGS 8 and above if you want a solid long term investment.

SEASON OF THE WITCH – $40

MTG The Dark Season of the Witch

Season of the Witch is a great card and another one of my favorites from The Dark. The creepy face in the sky above what looks to be a burned forest gives me flashbacks to the A/B/U Word of Command with its beady little eyes. Just awesome artwork and a great card when it comes to play value.

I think this is a very undervalued card. At one time in early 2021 you had to pay $80-$90 to get your hands on one. Prices have definitely sunk (like everything else) and now you can find them in the $40’s pretty easily. I think this card will eventually work its way back to that higher price level, but it will take some time for sure.

MAZE OF ITH – $35

MTG The Dark Maze of Ith

At one time, Maze of Ith was the poster child for The Dark set. There was a time where everyone wanted this rare Land and you had to pay a premium for it.

From around late 2019 through early 2021, Maze of Ith was one of the most valuable cards in The Dark. At its peak you had to shell out $50 or more to get your mitts on a near mint version!

Prices have come back down and have settled in the mid $30’s so it’s much more reasonable to pick up one if you haven’t in the past. Where do I expect prices to go on the Maze of Ith in the next few years? My best guess is it will probably take another 1-2 years to get back above $50 but it certainly will get there.

Shoot for finding one that is graded in top condition. Having a PSA 9 or 10 The Dark Maze of Ith in your collector is definitely NOT a bad thing long term. Speaking of which, maybe I’ll hunt one down myself!

MANA VOTEX – $31

MTG The Dark Mana Vortex

Coming in at the bottom of our Top 8 best cards in MTG The Dark is Mana Vortex. This blue enchantment is just a royal pain to your competition as it destroys lands every round and renders your opponent’s hand nearly useless.

Players and collectors love this card both for its cool abilities and its great artwork. The Dark is such a flavorful set and Mana Vortex is one of the reasons why. The ominous waterspout swirling through the ocean with the dark sky above is just so cool. It’s a great card from a collectors point of view.

I’m not sure we’ll see prices for this one get much higher over the next year so it’s probably a great time to pick one (or a few) up at the current $30 price. It was priced well over $70 at its peak in April of 2021 so the potential is there long term (2-3+ years) to have this current price double.

Factors that Can Influence Card Value in MTG The Dark

If you’re considering investing in The Dark, there are a few things you need to think about.

RARITY AND PRINT RUN

Rarity and print run can make certain cards more valuable than others. I remember back in the day it seemed like The Dark’s print run was massive compared to other sets. Many likened the print run to Fallen Empires which was probably one of the most printed sets back in the 90’s.

However, over time the product has been ripped open, played and the amount of good condition cards left in the market is starting to dwindle. That bodes well long term for The Dark.

CARD CONDITIONS

As well as rarity and print runs, it’s also good practice to consider what condition your cards are in when assessing worth. When it comes to investing in Magic The Gathering cards, two of the most important things to consider are print runs and condition.

I would not even be considering investing in The Dark cards unless the condition was top notch. If you can find graded cards, all the better as people love high grade slabbed cards and will pay a premium for them.

If you concentrate your efforts on picking up grades 8, 9 or 10 (or subgrades in between), long term you will be a winner. There’s always a demand for cards in this range of condition and you’ll have an easier time down the road reselling them for a premium.

MARKET CONDITIONS

The market dictates the prices for Magic cards and right now the market is down (as of early 2023.) Just 1-2 years ago we were all waste deep in cash and valuable Magic cards and now a lot of cards (including The Dark) are off by 50% or more. It’s a strange time in the macro economy and it’s far reaching, even into trading card values.

I think the recession will hurt values for a while though, but that is a HUGE opportunity for buyers. I think now is the time to buy Vintage Magic cards and we finally have a buying window that will allow everyone to get back at historically low prices on many cards.

I really think picking up cards like City of Shadows and some of the others listed above is a spectacular idea right now. To have a shot at buying City of Shadows now for the $80’s when we all know it was $200+ just a year ago is a ridiculously massive opportunity.

POPULARITY AND PLAYER DEMAND FOR CERTAIN CARDS

Every Magic card has its own value both in and out of play. But there’s more at work than just luck! Playability and Popularity plays an important role.

Cards with strategic value in the game that players are continuously looking to add to their decks can expect to fetch a larger price tag on the secondary market. Similarly, some cards gain extra fame from their artwork, lore or mechanics, making them ultra-desirable among players and collectors alike.

That being said, popularity and more importantly PLAYABILITY plays a huge role in influencing the values of cards. There are certain cards that players just don’t like very much but they are rare and valuable because of it. But the lack of playability depresses the values because the demand is not high.

Take for instance Season of the Witch that we talked about above. As a collector, to me it’s a rare card with great artwork that is getting somewhat difficult to find in top condition. To me that’s something valuable. To a player though, I’ve read enough to prove that some players just do not like the card and it has little value in decks. There are just many other cards that are better so in that respect, the player value is super low.

It’s all subjective but taking into consideration if a card is desirable for it’s playability is super important.

Investment Strategies for The Dark

Investing in MTG The Dark can be lucrative if done right. For those looking to maximize their returns, I would recommend that you take the following approach when it comes to putting your hard earned money into this vintage Magic set.

BUY AND HOLD

From my personal perspective as a long time Magic investor I think that buying The Dark now with the BUY and HOLD strategy is best. I think going into this by buying cards and looking to flip them for a quick profit is going to be difficult (not impossible, but difficult.)

That’s why I encourage you to buy for the long term and have the mindset that any The Dark cards, packs or boxes you buy will be a minimum 2-year hold (and probably longer.) This economy and Magic market needs at least 2-years to right itself and to get back to it’s former glory. But I know that time will come….just a few years from now.

CONSIDER BUYING COMPLETE SETS

I don’t normally recommend putting together complete sets as an investment, but for The Dark I think it’s an easy one to put together. First there are only 119 cards in the set so it’s not overwhelming in that regard. And second, it’s a vintage set and I think that down the road a complete original NRMT set of The Dark will bring big bucks.

You don’t find many collectors putting together complete Magic sets anymore as it tends to be time consuming and costly. But for MTG The Dark, you’re not dealing with tough to find Mythics and all sorts of card variations. You have common, uncommon and rare cards and that’s it so obtaining the cards to make a complete set is definitely doable.

How much is a Magic The Dark complete set worth? Just in the past few weeks I’ve seen two sales online in the $700-$800 price range which is pretty accurate from what I’ve seen over the past few months. Both sets were near mint to lightly played.

Considering the price of The Dark Booster Box is currently around $8,000 I think buying a complete set for $700 is a complete bargain!

TARGETED PURCHASES

What I mean by Targeted Purchases is picking specific cards or products and buying them as your investment in The Dark. Want some ideas?

There are so many ways to buy The Dark and it’s just a matter of what fits your budget and how you enjoy collecting.

FAQ

Q. When Did MTG The Dark Come Out?
A. Wizards of the Coast released THE DARK on August 8, 1994.

Q. What is The Dark MTG Symbol?
A. The set symbol on all MTG The Dark cards is a thin crescent moon.

Q. How many packs are in MTG The Dark Booster Box?
A. A Magic The Gathering The Dark Booster Box contained 60-packs with 8-cards in each pack.

Q. What was the print run of MTG The Dark back in 1994?
A. There was an estimated 65-75 Million total The Dark cards printed in 1994. Most sources indicate that this equates to approximately 128,000 complete sets.

Wrapping Up The Dark!

I hope you enjoyed a little blast from the past as we talked about one of my favorite Magic sets from the early 90’s, The Dark! As mentioned above a few times, now (early 2023) is the time to buy as prices are lower than they’ve been in years!

Come up with a strategy that you enjoy and go find The Dark online, at your LGS or even at local comic and card shows. A few years from now, I’ll bet you’ll be glad you did!

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Brian Cooper has been a part of the trading card scene since the 1980s and is the driving force behind MAGIC CARD INVESTOR. His mission is to help bring back the fun and nostalgia of collecting Magic: The Gathering cards and other Trading Card games to everyone young and old.

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