A Fond Farewell to FNM Promos
What started out as a rather calm week as erupted into a storm that has changed the landscape of Magic: The Gathering. It started on Sunday with the announcement that FNM promos would become double sided tokens instead of actual cards. This was followed with the changes in Pro Player Club and the formats of the upcoming Pro Tours to Thursday and the announcement of the Grand Prix Schedule for the first half of 2018. When I first started playing magic, I LOVED promo cards. Up until recently I collected almost all of them. Well, techinically that was my 2nd time undertaking that endeavor; the great Fruit Salad Incident of 2004 will go down infamy! As a promo lover, these are my Top 10 Years for FNM Promos.
While this year started out rough with Noose Constrictor and Fortune’s Favor, 5 out of the next 7 months were all very solid picks. Incendiary Flow, Unlicensed Disentegration, Aether Hub, and Renegade Rallier are all heavily played cards. Fatal Push is the card that pushes this year into the Top 10. While this year only has 9 promos, 6 out of 9 is a good conversion rate with 1 being a multi-format staple.
Ok, I have to admit, this got pretty hard around here. This was the first year that there were really no misses. The only card that MIGHT have been questionable was Juggernaut, but even that was a Vintage (Type 1!) win condition of choice. The reason this doesn’t rank higher is that the best card in this year is Cabal Therapy and the rest of the cards have not aged super well. Even Counterspell and Duress ebbs and flows a lot in popularity.
This year gets the bump ahead of 2005 because the cards were all played in various formats at the time and multiple of them are still super popular today. Goblin Legionnaire was never really the home run that they thought it would be but a lot of these other cards were popular in Extended and older formats. Basking Rootwalla, Wonder, Engineered Plague, Goblin Ringleader and Deep Analysis got tons of play in various times over older formats. Cabal Coffers is the big winner out of this year being one of the most expensive FNM promos and still seeing tons of play in EDH.
This was a very good year. Aside from the head scratch that is Desert and Serrated Arrows, the power level of the cards that were in this year was solid across the board. Remand, Eternal Witness, Pendelhaven, Wall of Roots, and Thirst for Knowledge are all played today in Modern. Tendrils of Agony is a defining card in legacy. Tormod’s Crypt, Resurrection, Isochron Scepter, and Shrapnel Blast were all top tier uncommons when they were promos. It is funny, I wonder how funny it would have been for Desert to be a FNM promo today?
The 3rd year of the FNM promo was the first full year and it was a pretty good one, almost into the top 5! All of the cards were very popular and had been in some of the best decks of this era. From role players like White Knight and Soltari Priest to top tier uncommons Forbid and Wall of Blossoms, this year had it all. Albino Troll, Mogg Fanatic, Drain Life, Aura of Silence, Spike Feeder were all key pieces to some of the top strategies of the time and the old style foiling of the cards make them look even nicer today, nearly 15 years later!
Now we start to get serious. 2012 was from top to bottom a list of cards that have seen heavy play in both Standard and Modern. Despise, Acidic Slime, Forbidden Alchemy, Pillar of Flame and Avacyn’s Pilgrim were all heavily played in their Standard format. Glistener Elf, Tectonic Edge, Dismember, Ancient Grudge, Lingering Souls, Evolving Wilds, and Gitaxian Probe all continue to see play to this day, with Probe and Dismember being used up through Vintage. Almost all of the cards were great in their Standard days and half of them continue to see play years later.
This is going to come off as a mild upset, but while the last 3 cards of this year are among the top 5 ever, the rest of the year was very mild. Most of the year was a weird mix of cards rotating out of Standard and cards that were played in older formats. Slice and Dice, Silver Knight, and Lightning Rift were all cards finishing up their time in Standard. There were very few cards from Mirrodin block which would have made more sense. Willbender and Krosan Warchief were just strange picks that were better in block than Standard. With that being said, the combination of Reanimate, Mother of Runes, and Brainstorm almost carried this year into the top 3. October, November, and December of 2004 had a run of promos that was never duplicated.
This one is the only year that had 0 misses. Granted it only had 6 cards that year but they were all very good cards and some continue to see play today. Ophidian, Jackal Pup, and Carnophage were all cogs in the various Control, Sligh, and Sui-Black decks of the day. Fireblast would team up with Jackal Pup to help push the Sligh decks into top tier territory. Impulse helped find those Ophidans for the draw-go decks of the time to slowly dominate games. Quirion Ranger was a popular inclusion in the elf-ball decks. It is still played today in Legacy Elves. Swords to Plowshares goes down as the best FNM promo of all time. Not only is it arguably the best removal spell of all time, but it is also the most expensive FNM promo of all time.
I think 2009 might have been the best year for FNM promos if not for a few sore spots. Browbeat and Watchwolf bring this year down a bit. By 2009 they were not heavily played in any format. Magma Jet was also on its way out as a playable burn spell. With that being said, Kitchen Finks, Merrow Reejerey, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, Mulldrifter, Murderous Redcap, Oblivion Ring, and Sakura-Tribe Elder were all top tier cards at the time and almost all of them still are today in Modern. Lightning Greaves is one of the most important Edh cards of all time and was a great inclusion in this year.
I think 2010 was the best year for FNM promos in the history of the program. The “weakest” card, Anathemancer, was a solid sideboard card in Jund at the time and Gatekeeper of Malakir helped power Vampire decks into main strong finishes. Tidehollow Sculler, Ghostly Prison, Ancient Ziggurat, Cloudpost, Elvish Visionary, Krosan Grip, Qasali Pridemage, Rift Bolt, and Wild Nacatl all see play today in Tier 1 and Tier 2 Modern decks. Bloodbraid Elf really needs no explanation. It was the strongest card in that standard format then, and continued to dominate Modern until it was banned.
There you go! My run down of the top 10 years for FNM promos. While I am a bit sad to see the program go, I am in all in favor of the evolution of FNM. A lot of people at my store have asked for foil tokens and I think that the renewed emphasis on FNM to be a bridge for casual players to get better will make it an exciting time to play on Friday nights. I would love to hear what you think the top 10 list of FNM promos are or what your favorite promos is! Thanks again!
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