Editor's Note: The Secret Lair singles mentioned in this article can be found on the TCGplayer Marketplace under the set name "Secret Lair Drop Series."

With Wizards of the Coast about to sell their 29th Secret Lair—a very cool charity benefit product for Extra Life—I was surprised to learn that the product line is still less than a year old. Isn't that kind of wild? Time hasn't made sense in 2020 for a variety of reasons, but I'm still a tad shocked that we won't come up on Secret Lair's first birthday until early December. There have been so many Secret Lairs this year, and we've barely talked about any of them in this column. Other than the Walking Dead box, they've just sort of faded into the background.

But in many ways, Secret Lairs have been the defining product line of 2020. They're lurking just beneath the surface of the community discourse, contributing to our continued feeling of product FOMO and burnout. They've been lauded (the Extra Life and International Women's Day Benefit drops), maligned (The Walking Dead bundle), and delayed for months due to the pandemic (Theros Stargazing). They've even been stuffed with foil fetch lands and given a suggested retail price of $400.

But should you be buying them?

Back when the Secret Lairs were first announced, I told everyone that the smart play was probably to buy every single drop that you can, hold them for a year, and then check in on their price tags. My thought process behind this was simple: if there's a premium set of cards that are only available for one single day before disappearing forever, then anyone who wants them later on is going to have to pay a premium for the privilege of buying them after the drop date has come and gone.

Is this what happened, though? I definitely bought a set of the initial seven drops, but I mostly forgot about Secret Lairs after that and haven't bought any since. The furor over the Walking Dead drop kind of shook me out of my stupor, though, and I wanted to take the time to revisit the Secret Lair series in total. Should you be buying pretty much every Secret Lair and stuffing it into your closet? Should you only buy some of them? If so, what do the "good" drops have in common? Or are Secret Lairs only worth buying if you want the cards for your personal collection?

There's only one way to answer this question: looking at every Secret Lair ever printed, in order, and reassessing its financial potential with the benefit of hindsight.

If this sounds fun to you, you're in the right place!

Stained-Glass Planeswalkers

It's impossible to talk about the financial value of the Secret Lair drops without first talking about the stained-glass planeswalkers.

Each Secret Lair drop sold so far contains one of these planeswalkers, though the individual 'walker you get is usually randomized within a small pool of available choices. For example, the "Restless in Peace" drop might have had either Jace, Sorin, Tamiyo, or Ashiok, while "OMG KITTIES" always contained Ajani.

For our purposes, then, I'd like to start the article out with a full list of each stained-glass planeswalker as well as its current price tag. That way, we can estimate the EV of the stained-glass planeswalker slot in each drop we talk about today. For example, I'll include Ajani's value in my analysis of OMG KITTIES, but when I'm going over Restless in Peace, I'll average out the value of the four possible planeswalkers you could get in that particular drop.

As usual, I'll be using current TCG Low (rounded to the nearest $0.50) for all of our pricing today.

Stained-Glass Planeswalkers (Current Value)

It's important to keep the extreme variance in these prices in mind as we do our analysis of each Secret Lair drop. Because there's no way to know which stained-glass planeswalker you're going to get until well after the drop date has passed (in most cases, at least), it's important that we don't make assumptions about which drops you "should have bought" based on information that we didn't have available to us at the time.

Some of these planeswalkers are pretty expensive, though, so I didn't want to leave them out of our analysis entirely. In fact, the average value of a card on the above list is a whopping $11.50. The EV of the planeswalker slot in a given drop is rarely that high, though, because the more expensive planeswalkers are, naturally, the ones that are harder to get. Very few drops even gave you a shot at opening Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage, for example, while Ral, Storm Conduit showed up all over the place.

Keep this in mind for future drops, too. It's unclear whether 2021's Secret Lairs will also have these stained-glass planeswalkers or if WotC will move on to some other bonus, but it's quite likely that 2020's remaining drops will contain more of these particular planeswalkers. If some of the higher-value 'walkers show up en masse toward the end of the year, it'll continue to drag the value of this subset down—at least temporarily.

Anyway, let's get to the drops!

Bitterblossom Dreams (Sold for $30)

Total Singles Price: $52

Okay, I suppose it's finally time to figure out how we're going to determine which Secret Lairs were good buys, and which were not. Turning $30 into $52 seems good at first glance, but that's borderline at best. Don't forget—when you sell singles, you're paying for shipping costs as well as listing/marketplace fees. That's going to cost you at least $10, which means that we're essentially looking at just $12 in profit here, assuming you can actually get current TCG low for each of these cards. Is it worth $12 in potential profit to lay out $30 in cash, sit on these cards for a year, and then do a bunch of work to sell them? I can certainly think of plenty of easier ways to make that much money.

For our purposes, then, I'm going to call every lair that's a double-up (or better) from its initial price a good buy, every lair that's currently worth roughly the same (or less) as its initial price a bad buy, and anything that falls somewhere in between, like Bitterblossom Dreams, an okay buy.

I think that might even be a little too generous, to be honest, but we'll see how it goes.


Eldraine Wonderland (Sold for $30)

Total Singles Price: $80

Hey, we've got our first legitimate win! Eldraine Wonderland was one of the least popular drops upon announcement, because you're essentially paying $30 for five basic lands, but it's not surprising to me that this particular drop has aged well. Not only are there a lot less of these lands in the world than, say, the cards in Kaleidoscope Killers (more on that later), but anyone who actually wants these special Snow-Covered Lands is probably trying to collect 10-20 of each. That's a good recipe for a low-supply, high-demand product.


Restless in Peace (Sold for $30)

Total Singles Price: $55.50

This slightly disappointing drop was bailed out by its planeswalkers—specifically a shot at Jace, who has remained quite difficult to open. Other than that, well, you're probably happy if you needed both Bloodghast and Life from the Loam for a deck. Otherwise, buying the singles was probably the correct call.


Seeing Visions (Sold for $30)

Total Singles Price: $33

Yikes. I was really high on the potential of Seeing Visions when the first round of Secret Lairs was spoiled, for many of the same reasons that I liked Eldraine Wonderland. I figured that anyone who really loved a particular version of Serum Visions would want a full playset of those, and that the overall supply would be low because nobody would really want to drop $30 on a playset of commons.

I was right about the second part, but demand never really materialized, in large part because Serum Visions just doesn't see a lot of play these days. This drop might shoot up in price at some point in the future, if Serum Visions ends up seeing a lot more play, but right now? Yuck.


<explosion sounds> (Sold for $30)

Total Singles Price: $52

This is another perfectly okay Secret Lair that you just didn't need to buy. As with Bitterblossom Dreams you probably didn't lose money if you bought this for $30 and you're selling it for $50 (not counting fees/shipping), but you still would have had to lay out a pretty decent amount of cash for a shot at gaining, like, $5-$10 in profit. I'm going to pass on that pretty much every time.


Kaleidoscope Killers (Sold for $40)

Total Singles Price: $42.50

Believe it or not, Kaleidoscope Killers was billed as the big "can't-miss" Secret Lair of the first batch. At the time, the foil singles were worth more than three times as much as the overall cost of the box, and the idea of getting all three of these cards for less than $15 each seemed absurd. It was also soon discovered that this drop gave you a shot at opening stained-glass copies of either Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God or Teferi, Time Raveler, which made folks go nuts. I definitely heard stories of stores and speculators picking up the maximum number of copies of this drop that WotC let people order.

Why did Kaleidoscope Killers fail? Because practically everybody bought it, but very few people actually need these three cards. It was the most-hyped lair of the set, so the market became saturated almost immediately. This lair might end up being worth quite a bit in a few years if you're willing to be patient, but right now? Picking it up looks like a mistake.


OMG KITTIES! (Sold for $40)

Total Singles Price: $116.50

Oh, hey, we've reached the best Secret Lair to date! OMG KITTIES! was met with a shrug (especially compared to Kaleidoscope Killers) when it was previewed, in large part because it was one of two Secret Lairs at the $40 price point, but it didn't have any chance cards in it. Nobody seemed too stoked about spending $40 on Leonin Warleader and Regal Caracal.

What happened here, then, was the inverse of what happened with Kaleidoscope Killers. Very few people bought OMG KITTIES! so the available supply was low. But the art on these cards was super adorable, and Cats are quite a popular tribe in Commander. Thus, demand has been quite a bit higher than supply pretty much from the start.


Year of the Rat (Sold for $40)

Total Singles Price: $77

Year of the Rat was the first Secret Lair of 2020, and the first lair offered after the initial flurry of drops that you could purchase together in a bundle. Going into this article, I wondered if this lair might have been a good investment since it flew pretty far under the radar, but the actual result is just kind of meh. $40 into $77 is a bit better than some of the other okay buys, but it hasn't quite reached my "good buy" threshold. At any rate, the five copies of Rat Colony that came with this set are doing most of the heavy lifting here, since it's one of those cards that people need 20-30 copies of.


Theros Stargazing, Vols. 1-5 (Sold for $150)

Vol. 1 Total Singles Price: $37.50
Vol. 2 Total Singles Price: $50
Vol. 3 Total Singles Price: $52.50
Vol. 4 Total Singles Price: $50
Vol. 5 Total Singles Price: $48

Vol 1-5 Total Singles Price: $238

You could technically just buy any of the five Theros Stargazing bundles that you wanted for $40 each, but the discounted price of $150 (vs. $200) for the whole set was too much to pass up for most people, so I didn't see a lot of discussion about buying any of these five drops a la carte. Regardless, I broke down the prices both ways here, and you can see that all five were pretty bad buys purchased individually but they add up to kind of an okay buy when purchased together at a bulk discount.

At any rate, turning $150 into $238 (plus fees and shipping charges) is still not great, and you're probably not stoked with your buy unless you wanted a few of these cards for your Commander decks and were hoping to sell the rest to recoup most of your costs. As with most of these Secret Lairs, that seems to have been the play here.


International Women's Day (Sold for $50)

Total Singles Price: $86

The International Women's Day Secret Lair would have been a good buy at either $30 or $40, the two previous Secret Lair price points. Unfortunately for us, this was the first $50 Secret Lair and so our standards have to increase as well.

As with most of the previous drops we've talked about, turning $50 into $86 isn't bad, but a lot of that value is in the planeswalker spot, which is even more high variance than usual because this lair had a shot at containing any of the female or agender (Ashiok, Dream Render) planeswalkers. As with the Stargazing lot, you're not upset if you bought this for yourself, but it didn't materialize into a great spec, either.


Thalia: Beyond the Helvault (Sold for $30)

Total Singles Price: $37

Similar to the Serum Visions box, the Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Secret Lair hasn't performed all that well at all. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben does see a decent amount of play in Modern, but it wasn't a very expensive card before this lair drop, and it isn't all that expensive now.

This lair might shoot up in price at some point if Thalia, Guardian of Thraben isn't reprinted for a while, but I doubt it. More likely, WotC will continue to reprint cards like this—complete with newly-minted premium versions of them—and this lair will never end up feeling like that great of a buy.


The Godzilla Lands (Sold for $30)

Total Singles Price: $61.50

Oh, hey, we finally have our second Secret Lair that's just five basic lands for $30, and it's another one of the good ones! Eldraine Wonderland showed the potential of the basic land drops, and the Godzilla box kept the trend alive. The one just barely squeaks into the "good buy" category, but it does make it, likely for the same reasons that made Eldraine Wonderland a good buy: very few people bought this one, and those who want these cards likely want dozens of each.


Full Sleeves: The Tattoo Pack (Sold for $30)

Total Singles Price: $41.50

The Tattoo Pack was a pretty polarizing drop, with a lot of people panning it pretty hard on social media. This is fine for a Secret Lair, which is supposed to be a niche product, but this one has proven a bit too niche. Most of these pieces of alternate art don't have a very large market, which is why they're not worth much more than the regular versions of these cards.

This is also the first drop in the 2020 "Summer Superdrop," which came with a free foil fetch land if you purchased all five drops together. It's quite likely that a lot of people picked this one up for that reason alone. Because of that, its value has suffered quite a bit.

This drop sneaks just above the $40 mark, but most of that is because the stained-glass planeswalker slot has a couple of elite pull potentials that are dragging the average up. I'm still going to rank this one as a bad buy, though, because you can't rely on lucking your way into a Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, Liliana, Dreadhorde General, or Teferi, Time Raveler. If you bought this drop and pulled an Angrath, Captain of Chaos or something, you're really hurting.


Can You Feel with A Heart of Steel? (Sold for $40)

Total Singles Price: $45.50

I honestly thought that this one was going to be one of the good drops, especially because you're guaranteed to get a stained-glass Karn, the Great Creator, but it is not. Arcbound Ravager doesn't really see play anywhere anymore, and Darksteel Colossus isn't the popular Commander staple that it used to be. As with most of the "bad buy" Secret Lairs you probably won't regret picking it up if you want all the cards yourself, but if not? It's better to just sit back and buy the singles in a few months.


Mountain, Go (Sold for $30)

Total Singles Price: $25.50

Welp, we've found the worst Secret Lair yet. As with the Serum Visions and Thalia drops, these "buy four of the same staple for $30" drops just don't seem worth it—even if the card you're getting is quite good. Cool alternate-art versions of Lightning Bolt have historically done well, but with WotC churning out promos these days, they're just not nearly as special.

Picking up singles right now might actually be worth it, especially since Lightning Bolt is always going to be good, but I've got to be honest, I'll probably end up using my cash on something that feels more pressing.


The Path Not Traveled (Sold for $40)

Total Singles Price: $22

Oh no, they keep getting worse! Not only is The Path Not Traveled worth less than Mountain, Go, but you had to pay $10 more for the privilege of buying it. In fact, from a cost-to-value perspective, this is the worst Secret Lair yet released.

It's possible that this batch of Secret Lairs simply isn't old enough to fully assess yet. It was sold this summer, and only shipped recently. These cards might perk up in six months or a year, making this drop look a lot less embarrassing than it does right now.

But right now… yeesh. None of these cards really see play in anything, and the alternate-art Secret Lair versions of them don't really hold much of a premium. I think this is partially due to people being essentially forced to buy this lot as part of the big summer drop that contained a foil fetch land, and partially due to WotC's continued churn of premium products making them all feel quite a bit less special. Either way, the Vraska, Golgari Queen and Tamiyo, Field Researcher in this lot are both pretty neat and I'm definitely going to buy them for $4 and $7 respectively.


Ornithological Studies (Sold for $30)

Total Singles Price: $40

We've finally come to the last Secret Lair that we can properly analyze, since the next batch hasn't finished shipping yet. Ornithological Studies is certainly better than the last few, but it's being somewhat bailed out by the fact that two of the three possible planeswalkers you can open are worth at least $10. Also, people love Birds of Paradise. Beyond that, there isn't much to say about this one.


Which Secret Lairs Should You Buy?

Now that we've had a look at almost a full years' worth of Secret Lairs, some pretty clear patterns have emerged.

First, you definitely want to pick up any Secret Lair that's nothing but special basic lands. Very few people are going to buy these drops, but the market for the singles should prove reasonably robust later on. Second, consider the confluence of good tribes and cool art. This won't always be a guaranteed win—the Goblin drop didn't do super well—but OMG KITTIES! sure did. Heck, even the Rats drop did okay. And since Goblins aren't a popular Commander tribe and the art in that drop was somewhat polarizing, I don't want to give that one too much weight.

As for things to avoid, you definitely don't want to buy any of the drops that are just four copies of a single low-value card. There have been three of these so far, and they've all been major busts. I'd also suggest not getting too hung up on the pre-drop value of the cards, especially if they're low-supply Commander staples like the cards in Kaleidoscope Killers. OMG KITTIES! ended up doing a lot better because it spoke more to what actual Commander players are looking for.

Lastly, it's worth being careful about Secret Lairs that are part of mega-drops. While the first mega-drop did okay, that was because the incentive for buying it was just a discount on the whole lot. The incentive for the second one was "free foil fetch land," which meant that a lot of people who didn't really want the Secret Lairs ended up buying them with the intent to flip. That's always going to lead to a lower market.

Of course, Secret Lairs are still really new. I expect to write a similar article next year, especially since we now know that we'll be getting at least one batch of original, non-reprinted cards in the Walking Dead Secret Lair with probably more to come. My advice might change when we revisit this topic in 2021. For now? You can safely ignore most of these drops unless you want to own the cards yourself—and even then, buying singles is going to be the better call most of the time.

Bonus Content: Secret Lair Ultimate Edition (Sold for $200-$500)

Total Singles Price: $252

I just wanted to touch on this one briefly, since it wasn't a "proper" Secret Lair and was instead distributed via local game stores with very limited availability and no MSRP. It's hard to call Secret Lair Ultimate Edition a good or a bad buy since the actual price of this item varied wildly, but it has definitely crashed pretty hard since Zendikar Rising came out and significantly increased the number of premium-looking fetch lands that are out there in the world. These cards will probably start ticking up in price again soon, but right now? You're probably disappointed with your Secret Lair Ultimate Edition purchase unless your local shop was one of the few that sold it very, very cheap.

VERDICT: Probable Bad Buy

This Week's Trends

The biggest news of the week, of course, are the continued Commander Legends leaks. We've now seen multiple packs of this set, and I've got to be honest; I haven't spent too much time looking at them. I really dislike leaks, and I especially hate squinting at blurry pictures of non-English cards trying to figure out what the heck is going on. I'd rather just wait for my favorite content creators to tell me what cards are in the set, please and thank you.

That said, even though I personally like to pretend that the leaks simply don't exist, I can't completely ignore them—especially not in a set that's so full of reprints. I might not like that the leaks exist, but they do. People are making financial decisions based on this information, which means that I have to dip into leak-world, at least a little.

What's in the set so far? In terms of reprints, we know that Rings of Brighthearth and Scroll Rack are both here, which is pretty sweet. Both of these cards should drop quite a bit in the coming weeks, though the original old-bordered Scroll Rack will hold its value better than most. For now, though, it's the Scroll Rack that has dropped the most over the past few days. Here's the chart for that card:

And here's Rings of Brighthearth:

We also know that some (and probably all) of the original partner commanders will be back, but likely only as etched foils. These are going to be found primarily in collector boosters, but they will appear in draft boosters at a substantially lower drop rate. It's unclear how much this reprinting will affect the value of this particular cycle of cards, but I'd still sell any that you're not using ASAP. Here's what Thrasios, Triton Hero has been doing lately:

I don't want to get into any of the new cards, but it's clear that Pirates are going to be a major theme in Commander Legends. Because of that, a lot of finance folk are speculating on Ixalan block's best pirates. Check out this chart for Admiral Beckett Brass, for example:

I don't know if these specs will pay off, but you still have a day or two to get in on these if you want to. I'd at least gamble on a personal copy or two of each good pirate in Ixalan block, especially if you're a Commander player who might want to build around this popular seafaring tribe at some point in the next few months.

Lastly, Skyclave Apparition seems to have had yet another week of surging prices. This is what its price chart has looked like since release:

I still feel like this card will drop a bit once we head toward the late-2020 lull and Zendikar Rising hits peak supply, but it sure hasn't happened yet. And make no mistake—Skyclave Apparition is a multi-format all-star. Heck, it even sees play as far back as Legacy. You might be able to snag it at a discount if you're patient, but this card is no flash in the pan and you should treat its price surge with the respect it deserves.