Pondering—Promo Cards and How I Wish They Didn’t Suck

The Dragon’s Maze prerelease, only a week and a half away, will mark one year since my return to Magic. At the Avacyn Restored prerelease last year, I got what would be the last (to date) Constructed playable promo card, the multi-format all-star, and probably my favorite white card for all time, Restoration Angel. Okay, it was the release event, not the prerelease, but you get the idea.

Not all promos were created equal, however. Scars of Mirrodin block had megaton bomb after megaton bomb, starting off with the Wurm-Father, followed by the Big Girl, and rounding it off with Little Miss If Only Grave Titan Wasn’t In Standard. And that’s not even mentioning that 15/15 jellyfish.

And then there are the complete whiffs. Who still remembers that this card exists? How about this one?

Over the years, Wizards has dramatically shifted their stance on giving away mythic rares at prerelease events. For the player, it definitely sucks not getting a sweet chase rare right off the bat; but for shop-keeps, it makes sense. After all, giving away 50 Wurmcoils doesn’t exactly drive sales.

But does it have to be so black and white? I can live with not getting a Hero of Bladehold at every prerelease, but every time I see the DGM promo, I die a little on the inside.

Maze's End
I feel they got it right with the Innistrad promo, Mayor of Avabruck. Mayor’s not an insane $20 chase rare, but it’s definitely a good card that saw (and still sees) play in Constructed. In fact, I wouldn’t mind them doing something similar to the old Player’s Rewards program and start giving away awesome alternate-art commons/uncommons instead of a bulk rare that will never see the light of day. I know I would have loved a foil, full-art Azorius Charm instead of the Archon of the Suck-Ass that I got at the RTR prerelease.

Hell, just bring back the Player’s Rewards program. I like free stuff in the mail.

You can’t always get what you want, I suppose. A more reasonable thing to hope for is the return of actual Magic at prerelease events. We’ve basically been handed decks for this entire block; let’s introduce a bit of skill and card evaluation back into Sealed. Limited is not my personal strong suit, and being led down a path from the get-go isn’t particularly conducive to my learning of a new format. Thankfully, they can’t possibly make guild packs outside of this block, so we’re safe from that whole business for a while.

Not a whole lot else to speak of this week, though I may get a chance to take a Standard deck out for a spin on Friday or Saturday. It’s been months. I won’t lie, I’m a tad bit excited. Stay tuned.

8 Responses to “Pondering—Promo Cards and How I Wish They Didn’t Suck”
  1. I wonder who the promo cards are designed most for. If they’re for casual players, pretty much any card that’s rare and foil is probably going to make for a great memory. If they want to tell the story or encourage players to run the Implicit Maze, then Maze’s End makes a lot of sense. Tournament players are a small minority in the Magic community, so releasing promos that’ll specifically get them to come out and play Magic (which they’re probably most likely to do, anyway) is less important.

    That said, I can’t remember several of the promos from recent sets, whereas I can remember all of the Scars block promos I received.

    • Li Xu says:

      It might just be whatever sticks to the theme of the set. Innistrad block was all flip cards, angels, and demons. RTR block has been guild rares and that dumb maze. And recent core sets have been “Hey, I hear people like mono black!”

      • I agree that Mayor of Avabruck was hitting the sweet spot. It sold the set’s themes (Moonsilver Spear? Seriously?) and was sweet, but wasn’t as big a chase rare as Snapcaster.

      • Tim says:

        Li, I’m sorry to tell you this, but you and I are not the target audience for prereleases. Before I got back into playing competitive constructed, I went to 3-4 prereleases with close to ZERO other magic played between the first two. There are A LOT of people who fall into that camp and the prerelease is the only event that brings them out. Those are the people these promos are for. They would’ve been so bummed if they got a stupid two mana instant that doesn’t even permanently get rid of creatures instead of the sweet sweet archon that takes over the game by itself. For added perspective, when I first got back into constructed, I thought preordain was a bad card and would cut it from lists for more sweet cards that actually do something. Now I sometimes find myself putting preordain in my legacy decks and bemoaning its absence in modern.

        As an aside, Resto was the buy-a-box promo. And don’t knock the maze! You’ll change your mind when you lose to the deck that I have yet to finish designing but have preemptively named “The a-MAZE-ing Battle”

      • Li Xu says:

        The buy-a-box was Silverblade, but yeah, totally with you on prereleases being a big draw for the casual players. Charles, Luis and I actually had this conversation on Sunday, and we felt there was a middle ground that could be found. Just because a card is designed with the goal of attracting casual players in mind, doesn’t necessarily mean it has to suck. The odds are against it, but nothing’s absolute in Magic.

      • Tim says:

        Oh snap, you’re right! So wait, everyone that showed up on release weekend got a free ugly art Reso? That’s a solid deal!

      • Li Xu says:

        Yep, though no one realized how good of a card it was until GerryT put it in Delver. I actually remember Mike Scovazzo and Rob Kofsky playing pack wars with their prize packs, and Mike fervently argued that Demonic Rising was a better P1P1.

  2. SnottNormal says:

    Even as an all-casual player, the prerelease promos have been mostly suck. At least we got to play with the Ravnica promos (and I suppose I do derdle with my shiny Fathom Mage in EDH now and again).

    I get the rationale behind not doling out a constructed bomb for every prerelease. If they were *that* concerned about keeping people chasing boosters, I don’t think they would have stuck a Thragtusk into three event decks in a row. Wizards is weird.

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