In early Magic the Gathering, you can find many examples of cards that were simply just not very good. Merchant Ship from Arabian Nights was a card that was never reprinted because it’s on the Reserved List. But, it doesn’t really matter, because it’s not very good.
Merchant Ship is a 0/2 creature that can’t attack unless your opponent controls an Island. Why would you attack with a card with 0 power at all, anyway? If you attack with it, and it isn’t blocked (little chance of that, really) you gain 2 life. Also, if you control no Islands, you must sacrifice this card. This is a little odd, since if you’re playing this card nine times out of ten you will control an Island. In any case it’s pretty weak, especially for an uncommon from Arabian Nights!
Still, Merchant Ship is on the Reserved list, and many hardcore Magic card collectors felt this card was worth collecting just for collection’s sake. Plus, while it’s a really mediocre card, the occasional Ramirez DiPietro or Skeleton Ship Commander deck would play a copy. However, with the Pirate creature type gaining many competitive cards from Ixalan, the interest in Merchant Ship gained considerably. Additional Pirates from Commander Legends and the Modern Horizons set has made Pirate Tribal decks a serious contender in Commander.
In 2021, even well-played copies of Merchant Ship can sell for as much as $60 or more on TCGPlayer. That’s in spite of seeing even less play than ever in Commander, as while Ixalan suddenly made Merchant Ship playable with new Legendary Creatures such as Admiral Beckett Brass, far more interesting Pirates have been released in subsequent sets. Still, as a card from Magic’s first ever expansion set that will never be reprinted, Merchant Ship is still worth having as a part of any vintage Magic card collection.
Have you ever played Merchant Ship?