Black Lotus is the most well-known card in Magic: The Gathering. It was first printed in 1993 and is a member of the iconic power nine, which means, like the other members of the power nine, Black Lotus was only printed in the first three sets ever made in Magic – Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited. Its effect is considered as one of the most powerful ever made in MTG, generating three mana of any color at zero mana cost.
Black Lotus is famously the most expensive card in Magic with the cheapest on Cardmarket going for well over 2.000,00 € and easily breaking 10.000,00 € for mint condition Alpha versions. The reason for this is fairly simple: Firstly, it is a rare card from three extremely short-printed sets, meaning very few packs of Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited were ever released. Secondly, it is one of the most powerful cards in Alpha, enabling the first major one-turn kill combo in Magic.
Players would play a Mountain and a Black Lotus, and would sacrifice the Black Lotus for three green mana. Then they would play Channel and pay 19 life to generate 19 colorless mana. With 19 colorless mana, one green mana, and one red mana, they would cast a Fireball where x equals 20, instantly killing their opponent before their opponent could play a single card!
This combo, in conjunction with Black Lotus' playability in any deck, quickly made it the most valuable card in the first three short-printed Magic sets. More than twenty years later, with no tournament-legal reprints, Black Lotus remains the most valuable card in Magic: The Gathering.
Black Lotus is expensive, and it is also banned in every format except Vintage, where it is restricted to one, not unlike its brethren in the power nine. This is done because of the card's insanely high power level. Vintage is a format in which every card that is playable by the current rules of MTG is legal. As a result, the card is played in almost every Vintage deck, as there is little reason not to run a card that gives you three mana for free if you can run that card.
Price is also an important reason why Black Lotus is restricted in Vintage (and banned in every other format). When you factor in the cost of Black Lotus and the other played power nine cards, Vintage decks tend to cost north of 13.000,00 € even with Black Lotus restricted to one card per deck. It is, therefore, also useful to restrict the card based on its price, as Vintage is already an unapproachable format due to its high cost.
Players should expect Vintage to remain the only format in which Black Lotus is legal. It is a card that can be played in any deck and would be absolutely required in the vast majority of decks in any format it was legal in, so Wizards of the Coast and the other format rules advisors will not be doing that. It is also on Wizard's infamous reserve list, which means Wizards has no intention of ever reprinting the card. Players who collect them can be confident in the card's value. This also implies that the card's price will likely rise as long as Magic is popular, as few to zero additional Black Lotuses will enter the market.
If you are interested in cards like Black Lotus, but do not feel like shelling out 5.000,00 €, there are numerous cards Wizards has made in homage to the original lotus. Gilded Lotus, Lotus Vale, and even the recent Dowsing Dagger / Lost Vale are a few examples. However, anyone interested can find many other references to MTG’s most well-known card.
Black Lotus is, and will remain, Magic’s most iconic card, as well as its most expensive card. It is definitely a valuable piece of Magic: The Gathering’s history.