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I've been looking at the card Bazaar of Baghdad:

(Land) Tap: Draw two cards, then discard three cards.

Almost everywhere I've seen has it as over 200$, and most of the Arabian Nights set is much cheaper than that, so I assume its ability is extremely powerful. However, I can't really figure out why. It gives you a net loss of 1 card no matter what, and I suppose its ability could be compared to having the ability to mulligan later in the game but have a wider choice of cards to pick as your new hand. It would help you find a specific card in your deck if you're running a strategy based on that card (and I notice its most popular in vintage, where this is more prominent) I could see it being a decent card, I can't see where it might otherwise be valuable.

Is Bazaar of Baghdad an extremely good card? What decks would it work best in? How would I know when to use its ability in a game?

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A general comment: in my limited experience, draw+discard is often a powerful and initially underrated action in any game involving playing cards from a limited hand. Magic makes this even more true, by pretty much always having a card somewhere that'll soften (or nullify or invert) the negative or take advantage of the positive. –  Jefromi Jan 14 '12 at 0:22

5 Answers 5

up vote 20 down vote accepted

While all of these answers get at some measure of Bazaar's popularity, I should note (as Ian does somewhat in passing) that virtually all of Bazaar's value at this point comes from it being the key card in the Vintage Dredge deck; Madness and Flashback are both effectively moot, but in Vintage Dredge is an immensely powerful strategy. Note that in the Dredge decks, Bazaar is all upside; drawing 2 cards means you have two opportunities to dredge, and the discard 3 puts cards in your graveyard where you want them - Dredge would rather not have cards in its hand! See, for instance, the first decklist at http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/vintage/22161_New_Phyrexia_In_Vintage_Dredge.html - this is a pretty good example of Bazaar at its most powerful.

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+1: When I read this question, I thought "well, obviously it's because the card is a key player in the Dredge deck"... and this is the first answer that really stresses this. –  thesunneversets Jan 16 '12 at 10:40
    
The rule when playing Vintage Dredge is "Mull until Bazaar." I've seen players win with only that card in their hand at the start of the game. –  WLPhoenix Sep 17 '12 at 0:00

The more information you have on where your cards are the more powerful position you are in and the more options you will get.

There are plenty of game mechanics that like to have cards in the graveyard the most simple is a reanimation deck which will love the chance to draw the key spells it runs on, while also getting some of its high cost targets into the graveyard

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Bazaar of Baghdad is a very good card. A good description of its usages can be found in this SCG article. From that article:

One of the most powerful effects in Magic the Gathering history is the interaction between Squee, Goblin Nabob and Bazaar of Baghdad. These two cards have the power to create card advantage like very few things can. Once operating, this combo creates a virtual Ancestral Recall, for free each turn, which cannot be countered by conventional means.

It is a reusable non-counterable draw-discard engine. This means it's incredibly useful with graveyard and discard mechanics; namely, Dredge, Madness, and Flashback. It essentially lets you filter through your library piece by piece, with the only real cost being one less land usable for mana and the loss of a card from your hand. This is offset by its usability in winning games quickly.

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most of the Arabian Nights set is much cheaper than that, so I assume its ability is extremely powerful.

Bazaar of Baghdad is from one of the first MtG expansions with a relatively small print run and is on the Reserved List (won't be reprinted), so that's going to make it more expensive regardless of utility.

It would help you find a specific card in your deck if you're running a strategy based on that card (and I notice its most popular in vintage, where this is more prominent) I could see it being a decent card, I can't see where it might otherwise be valuable.

Here you answer your own question. Many Vintage decks are based on broken combos. Many broken combos like to have certain cards, or many cards, in the graveyard. Important point you may be missing: it's a land, so it can't be countered. Its effect costs zero mana and is repeatable. With that in mind, any card that basically says "pay zero mana. draw two cards. put three in the graveyard" is going to be very very desirable.

Is Bazaar of Baghdad an extremely good card?

Yes.

What decks would it work best in?

Combo decks. Reanimator decks. Graveyard decks. It's not legendary, so you can have multiples. It can be untapped by, say, a Candelabra of Tawnos and reused. It can enable crazy graveyard strategies like a Golgari Grave-Troll. Play it with flashback spells to turn the card disadvantage into an advantage. If you don't want to lose your cards to the graveyard, it combos nicely with Library of Leng. Play it with draw spells or Howling Mines.

How would I know when to use its ability in a game?

When you have card advantage, are looking for a game-winning combo piece, or need an answer now. Any deck built to rely on it is probably going to use it as soon as possible, as often as possible.

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A draw-and-discard card is more powerful than just a late-game mulligan. The key is that in an open format (especially Vintage), an extra card discarded is not necessarily a 'loss'. One obvious use, for example, is in discard-and-resurrect decks, planning to discard powerful creatures and flashback spells early, then resurrect them into play for less than their casting cost.

The cost is increased disproportionately by age, however. Arabian Nights / Antiquities came out before magic really took off, and hence there were quite a low absolute number of cards printed compared to later expansions. Short form: it's very rare now, and useful. Hence expensive.

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Yeah, there's a smaller print run, and that's compounded by the fact that it hasn't been reprinted and won't be reprinted. –  ghoppe Jan 13 '12 at 23:00

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