It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
The Holiday season is upon us once more, and for those who have owned a local game store or work for Wizards of the Coast will know what that means. That’s right! The latest holiday promo card has been sent out to WotC employees and business partners alike.
These promos have been sent out every year since 2006, and they’re usually very charming. They’re silver bordered, so they can’t actually be played, but they all have Christmas or holiday-related effects with a nice theme. As a former LGS owner, I’m lucky enough to have been sent one of these cards, and it’s one of my favorite cards I own.
But, not all of these cards are created equally. They vary in quality among the 17 of them, both in terms of flavor and how they would play out if you could actually play them. So I’m here to rank them in the objectively correct order. There is no room for debate. This list is ironclad.
I present to you…
The Magic Holiday Promo Tier list!
This was pretty easy to make – all things considered, though we do have a few tough choices.
Let’s start in D Tier. There is no F Tier because none of these cards are so awful that I felt it was necessary. I put two cards in D Tier for this list: Topdeck the Halls and Decorated Knight, the promos from 2020 and 2019, respectively.
Topdeck the Halls has a strong name, solid art, and a flavorful ability but it gets put in D TIer because of its effect. It cares about running premium cards, foils, and alternate frames, and while I like those things, not everyone does. I get what they’re going for, but with how notoriously low quality some of the ‘premium’ cards have been, this one loses points.
Decorated Knight has a fine ability but I just don’t like the art. He’s too smug. I get he’s decked out in a bunch of presents so someone like that would be smug, but with it being the holidays, I don’t want to be reminded that the spirit is actually corporate greed. The effect of the card is also medium and pretty confusing. I don’t see when you’d want to adventure it and a four mana 3/3 that draws a card when it attacks isn’t exactly a world beater.
I do like the unicorn though. Majestic.
C Tier is the most populated tier, and I actually like all of the C Tier cards enough – but cuts had to be made somewhere.
Evil Presents, the 2008 promo, just doesn’t quite work for me. I can’t really tell you what I dislike about it, but it probably starts with the effect. It’s just bad. Not even a broken mess like some of the other ones, it just isn’t a good card. I didn’t need Delibird’s signature move reflected on a holiday card. The flavor text bumps it up a bit, but this was very close to being in D Tier itself.
Yule Ooze (2011) is another one that’s just not anything special. Once again it rocks strong flavor text and silly art, but it’s another one where the effect just isn’t good. It’s in C Tier because I like when a card tells you to eat food. Nutrition is important. But at the end of the day, this is a four mana 1/1 that does nothing the turn it comes down. And what happens if you don’t have food on hand to regenerate it? Then Yuleooze the game.
I like that they did a split card for Naughty/Nice (2012), and I like that it follows the naming suite of the other ‘or’ split cards, in that it doesn’t have Fuse or Flashback. I also enjoy that it uses the creepy guy from Greg Staples’ drawing of Diabolic Tutor. There’s nothing wrong with this one per say, but there’s nothing really special about it.
Goblin Sleigh Ride (2015) is another one where there’s nothing wrong with it but it doesn’t stand out enough to me. I like what they did with the pun in the flavor text, but there is absolutely no instructions for sliding them on their merry way. How do I do that? Do I just push them across the table? Do I have to construct a slide out of deck boxes and extra sleeves, then line cards up along it? I need more instruction here Wizards. Telling me to have a card climb onto another card so I can slide them is pretty vague.
Chaos Wrap (2022) is the latest addition to this list, and while I like the ones that reference other cards, I actually don’t think this card is silly enough. It’s just Chaos Warp, but holiday themed. This one is playable as written, with no weird gimmick other than it making a 4/4 present, but with Unfinity released now, I don’t even think it’s that weird anymore. It’s a good gift but it feels like one of the more uninspired ones on the list.
Now we’re getting into the really good ones.
Season’s Beatings (2009) is in B Tier on pretty much name alone. What a strong name. It also uses a flavor word, similar to the ones they used in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, a good 12 years prior to that set. The card is pretty unplayable and invokes a pretty sad scene all things considered. Why doesn’t this goblin want to go home? Is his home life really that poor? It looks like he has a couple people waiting for him inside that cozy little shack. But at the same time, I know a lot of people who hate seeing their family on the holiday, so maybe this is actually very relatable.
Mishra’s Toy Workshop (2014) gains points for me because it references another card, and I like that Mishra has a card in black border that is holiday themed on top of this. I’m a sucker for bad puns as well, which the flavor text represents, and making tokens and forcing you to use toys as those tokens is very flavorfully strong. Perfect mix of referential and functional humor. Just a solid one overall.
Thopter Spy Network (2016) is another reference to a card, but unlike Chaos Wrap, this one doesn’t feel as lazy. You have to make sure you both A) Have food to eat and B) Have food to use as tokens, meaning you don’t want to play this card while scarfing down your holiday mashed potatoes, otherwise you risk a starchy battlefield. I also like that if your token dies, you just get to eat more! This card is a win all around. As I said earlier, nutrition is important, and Thopter Pie Network encourages you to chow down while you beat down.
Some Disassembly Required (2017) is solid because of how they’re trying to Frankenstein’s Monster Frosty the Snowman. The flavor text is on point, and the card overall feels very much like a magic card. This would work a lot better functionally too now that they have keyword counters to make it easier to track. ANd I like that there’s an added bonus for using the card in December.
Gifts Given (2007) checks a lot of boxes. It references another card, utilizes snarky flavor text, and has a pretty funny ability to go with it. I like the concept of the Gifts Given being stolen property that’s passed off as receiving a gift. Not much to say about this one, but it works well.
Snow Mercy (2010) was actually going to be lower, until I took another second to consider the activated ability. It’s perfect. YOu shake the snowglobe all around and make everything you’ve trapped inside it dizzy. I really enjoy that they smacked five total tap/untap symbols on the card and this is another card that could very easily function if they took out the gag. But I’m glad it’s a gag card instead of a real one, it works better this way.
Stocking Tiger (2013) is a great one. I like the terrifying sock puppet consuming another sock puppet art (though I am not a fan of the artist who did this one). I also greatly enjoy cards that want you to open a booster pack, and especially in this case because it’s a stocking stuffer. It is unfortunate you can only open one booster pack. I wish it had some kind of ability that let you put another pack under it, so you could keep drawing 14 cards whenever it connects. But it’s not going to lose points for that. The card works well.
Last-Minute Chopping (2021) is great for the pun name, the flavor text, and the referencing of well liked characters in the universe. It’s the only one that has art depicting actual Magic characters, and I appreciate that. It’s also a perfect Dimir card because it will make the opposing player feel very awkward when you cast it. No one likes being asked about gifts, and Dimir is the perfect color pair to represent that. Everything about this card works. I like it a lot. It’s my third favorite and almost made S Tier.
But as for S Tier, only two were able to find their way here.
Fruitcake Elemental (2006) was the first one they released, and it is also absolutely one of the best. The gag here is so good. No one can get rid of this thing. No one wants it. As much as you try, the Fruitcake persists, inflicting damage to you at every turn. Sure, you can use it to attack, but it’s also going to kill you very fast if you keep it around. Three mana makes it easy to obtain, as fruit cakes always are, but you’re encouraged to get rid of it, or it’ll sit there and kill you slowly. It’s amazing they nailed it this hard on the first try. No hiccups out of the gate. Just perfection.
Bog Humbugs (2018) is pretty easily my favorite one. It’s the one I was fortunate enough to get my hands on, and I really do treasure it to this day. I have the art on a playmat, and the card and note it was sent with hanging on my wall. I love everything about it. The name is a pun, it’s a simple, goofy card that you could somewhat reasonably play. The art is festive and cute, and to top it off, the flavor text is the first few notes of Jingle Bells. That means that they put a cheat code for you on the card itself. You don’t even have to remember a holiday song, they gave you 11 instances of leeway on the card itself. This is one of the stronger cards to play, and overall the most fun, and I really enjoy that there is a Magic card with music stanza on it.
While I’m not a big fan of the holiday season overall, I do really love things like this, and I’m glad they have continued to do them year after year for the last 16 years. It’s a fun little gift and something to make people smile during a season where a lot of people might need a little laugh.
I do wish more people were able to have access to these so they could enjoy them, as they have gotten pretty pricey all around, but it is one holiday tradition I hope they continue.
Happy holidays everybody!