I use Magic Online for one thing: drafting. That's it. But every month, without fanfare, a promotional card or two is put into my account. There's nothing really wrong with this. It's not like I'm paying extra for it, and it's not like I'm playing on Magic Online only because of promos.
But really, what's the point? Unless WOTC randomly chooses a card you need for a Constructed format, these cards are basically worthless. Check out the season that ended 2014. The two promos offered were:
Nekusar is desirable for only one format, and that's Commander. There's a couple issues with this. First, I'm pretty sure Trick Jarrett is the only person who plays Commander on MTGO (besides those he tricks into playing with him, of course). Given how relatively unpopular the format is, why are Commander cards considered desirable promos? Second, and even more important, these promos are triggered by playing in a Constructed, Sealed, or Draft tournament. I am pretty sure that people playing in competitive tournaments on MTGO couldn't care less about Commander cards, but hey, I don't have the market research that WOTC has. I'm sure this was a decision made completely within the confines of realistic expectations over player excitement.
Stoke the Flames is kind of a different story. A Standard staple and an uncommon retailing online for $4.40, there's a real argument to be made for this promo version being a good giveaway for players, especially those who need it for Standard. For those of us who don't play Standard, we can sell it for a few tix. After all, the paper FNM version (which has the same art) retails for $6.50. Everybody wins! It's a promo that actually makes some semblance of sense!
Except that only players that actually want to play with the card win, because promos are nearly worthless online. In a testament to how important redemption is to keeping online prices up, as a rule, digital promos are worth far, far less than their from-the-actual-set counterparts. For example, when Nightveil Specter was a Standard staple, it was pushing four tickets online. Wizards gave out promo Specters, and I posted a classified asking for two tickets. I eventually sold it for one and felt like I had totally triumphed. Promotional cards are supposed to be a rare treat, but they are worth a fraction of the value one would expect online.
Promotional cards make a lot of sense in paper Magic, but they're just not exciting in the digital realm. Better promotional items MTGO could offer include:
- Special event vouchers based on the number of tournaments one plays or wins during a given season.
- Promotional items based on the formats you play during a given season (for example, drafters could get a phantom draft, Legacy players could get free entry into a Daily Event, and sure, Standard players could get a hot new card when appropriate).
- A point-based reward system that allows you to select promotional items based on your interests (and save up points to get better stuff over time).
- Options for paper promos for players of both the paper and digital games.
Those are just a few ideas off the top of my head. Regardless of what happens, even if the promo system stays exactly the same, I don't know why promo cards are put into MTGO accounts with absolutely zero fanfare. It's as if Wizards is ashamed of the worthless promos and doesn't want to point them out to you when you receive them.
I'm basically complaining about Wizards giving us free stuff here, but when it's free stuff that nobody wants, I kind of just wish they'd spend that programming time actually improving the client. Does anybody out there find MTGO promos exciting? If so, please leave a comment and also tell us what it's like to be a unicorn.