This week Wizards of the Coast announced an end to FNM promos which will instead be replaced by foil double sided tokens, as well as other changes to in store events. I will link the original article from the home page for you all to have a look at yourselves. Go ahead I will wait.
All caught up? Good. Now I class myself as a calm man most of the time, but boy did I have to walk this one off. FNM promos have been a staple of instore play for as long as I can remember. They have incentivised players to attend weekly events in order to get foil promotional copies of some of their favourite spells – not only providing local game stores with repeated foot fall, but giving Wizards of the Coast a recurring customer base and a continual revenue stream. However, in recent years attendance has been down at FNMs and WoTC have been trying to boost attendance at these events in a number of ways, culminating in the above announcement. While I think it’s great that WoTC are willing to try new things, I do believe this is the worst punt they could have ever made. Let me explain.
FNM stands unique among CCGs as it is a weekly casual event ran by local hobby centres, supported by WoTC in the from of prize support and special promotional collectables. The ability to play in small scale events with the chance of winning packs of Magic cards is the highlight of the week for some of us in the community, and allows us to converse with other like minded souls about our shared hobby. The problem is that once a set has been out a few weeks, the non-drafters among us start to have less need for cracking prize packs. We have more than likely already bought and traded to polish up our deck and so have very little need for even more cards. This is why we are seeing more and more ‘Masters’ sets been released as they keep people coming back to collect even more cards for their binders. Quite a few stores even allow you to have your prize support in the from of vouchers so that you can hold out to another set release, but this can only go so far. This is where FNM promos came in. By giving us a chance to pick up a alternative foil art of a Path to Exile or Serum Visions, we could pimp out our decks with some really valuable cards. Even if you didn’t need the card yourself, you were often gifted with some great trade fodder.
The issue in recent years though is that the quality of these promos has been, well kind of rubbish. Part of the appeal of these promo cards was that they were genuinely worth owning. A promo Dismember was a great addition to someone’s collection because it was generally considered a playable card, meaning it had some value. However when the promos are spells such as Rise from the Tides or Call the Bloodline, cards that have seen little to no constructed play, people are less likely to turn up every week in order to try and get a playset. If the cards are desirable however, players will be more willing to turn up every Friday for a chance to own one. In the last couple of months we have started to see better promos such as Aether Hub and Unlicensed Disintegration, and in my local stores this has had a positive effect. Fridays have been much better attend than in past few months, and I can only imagine what September will look like when Fatal Push becomes the promo. So if things are on the up, why change to these double sided tokens?
According to the article on the home page, “We’re hoping foil double-sided tokens offer something different and exciting. The player response has been very positive toward the recent foil Zombie tokens and the Thopter/Servo tokens, and they keep asking us for more venues in which we can give these out. We think players will find these rewards interesting and a fun reward for playing.” This is all well and good, but WoTC have failed to see the biggest issue with this plan. You don’t need tokens to play Magic. Even if your deck requires the use of tokens, you have the ultimate freedom of what to use. Whether it be one of the officially printed tokens, dice, or one of the many custom options available from the many stores and artists in the community, you are free to choose the ones that wish to use. You can even draw your own if you so wish. So if I have all these options available, why would I want to get the foil ones from an FNM. Sure if they are exceptionally cool looking I might be tempted to pick a few up, but that is heavily reliant on if i need them from my deck. However if I want to play four promo Fatal Push’s then I can’t go and make my own, I need the official product printed by WoTC. And that is the reason I think this is a bad idea. You may not need official tokens to play the game, but you sure do need official spells and lands.
I find it hard to believe there will be a huge commotion of the release of these tokens, but we do have evidence of the effect a great promo spell can have on these events. Now if WoTC wants to experiment with what to do with FNM promos then that’s great, but there are better things they could do. If they are wanting to move away from promo spells then why not try full art foil promo lands, similar to the ones in the upcoming Standard Showdown. Not only would they have instant value compared to a token, but would be more useful for people wanting to pimp out their decks. Everyone needs lands in order to play the game, and if done right they could be even more valuable to players than most of the other previous FNM promos to date. Can you imagine the attendance for Friday events if the card available was a foil full art Rebecca Guay Plains. People wouldn’t want just four, they will want twenty! Although this would come with it’s own issues, as after a few months the lands themselves would start to free played out and the idea might run out of steam.
Now on Monday WoTC did try to clarify some of this information on the Daily Magic Update. Blake Rasmussen did his best to show us why they were making these changes, but there was some issues that have been picked up upon. Firstly, he stated that the quality of the promos don’t impact on attendance, using the example of June’s Aether Hub not having any impact in comparison to January’s Noose Constrictor. Now WoTC would not give us the data, which would have helped their case, but they only used a small cross section rather than an extended example of serval months. The problem with this is that it looks like they have looked at the first example of a ‘good’ FNM promo and said it didn’t work. But did WoTC even promote this new promo? No video on the YouTube channel, nothing on the Twitter feed, and only a small announcement on the homepage. If the hope was that they wanted this to be a successful month for FNM then they didn’t do it any favours by not spreading the word to the wider community. Secondly, they clearly state that they don’t want people just to turn up for the promo. This is all well and good, but is goes against what they have previously said. You can’t say promos don’t make a difference to attendance, and that you don’t want people only turning up for the promo, it is an oxymoron.
Now I haven’t written this article to just criticise WoTC. I do believe that when they do things like this they do it with the best of intentions. But I would hate to see attendance at my local FNM suffer because of these changes. I will go even if there was no promo, but not everyone shares my passion for this hobby. WoTC have shown in the past that they are very willing to admit when they have made a mistake, such as with the two year rotation cycle and the improved promos we have already seen. If you agree with me that this has been a mistake on WoTC part then share this article and others like it with the community. Other community members such as Wedge from The Mana Source and The Professor from Tolarian Community College, as well as many others, have already spoken out about this topic, and the more we can show WoTC that we believe this is a bad idea the great chance we have of them reviewing these changes. Hopefully we can change their minds if we can show them why we believe it is the wrong direction to go in a grown up and respectful manner. As I have said, WoTC want to make these events a success and with our help they can, so let’s help them do it. But until next time, Good Luck and Have Fun.