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  • Gift Cards

  • December 18, 2023 6 min read 0 Comments

    It’s that time of year again: the holiday season is once again upon us! As a person who loves the winter, this season is always my absolute favorite for three reasons. First, the weather is colder and I look forward to any forecasted snow. Second, I have a few days off work, which I combine with some vacation time to shape into an extended “staycation” at home. And third, the holiday season puts me into a festive, upbeat mood.

    Wizards of the Coast has their own festive take when it comes to the holiday season via the release of their annual holiday promos. While I’ve only ever owned a couple of these special cards, I often find entertainment in their flavor.

    Did you know that these cards often reference a real (i.e., tournament legal) Magic card? Sometimes the callout is obvious, but other times it’s a little more subtle. This week I’m going to examine some of my personal favorites, comparing the holiday promo artwork to the corresponding tournament legal card being referenced.

    Gifts Given (2007)

    (You can find a print of Gifts Given along with hundreds of other pieces at the Original Magic Art store.)

    gifts given art

    gifts ungiven mtg

    I’m kicking this article off with my all-time favorite holiday promo: Gifts Given, from 2007. This is the only holiday promo I currently own and it also happens to be the most expensive. I must not be the only one who appreciates Jason Chan’s take on the original art for Gifts Ungiven, illustrated by D. Alexander Gregory.

    The two pieces are masterfully similar. The details that Jason Chan adds in his holiday rendition are fantastic: from the festive wrapping the central figure is using to the cracked open door with snow outside. The central figure even spent time to change into a more decorative outfit for the holiday season and to turn on some lights, giving a more festive, upbeat setting to the room. I still don’t have a clue what she’s wrapping, but they look more like gifts in the holiday promo as opposed to unwanted, uninteresting objects in the original art.

    Even the rules test on Gifts Given are a fun twist on the original Gifts Ungiven. Everything about this card is perfectly done.

    Snow Mercy (2010)

    snow mercy art

    no mercy mtg

    The 2010 holiday promo, Snow Mercy by rk post, is a creative callback to No Mercy printed originally in Urza’s Legacy. The transformation involved in this case, however, is a bit more drastic. The card is still an enchantment (snow enchantment, in fact) but the color shifted from black to white. Instead of destroying creatures that damaged you, you can tap them by shaking the snow globe in which they are trapped. I love the tap, untap, tap, untap, tap activation cost required to have the desired effect—it’s the act of shaking a snow globe!

    From an art standpoint, the references are playfully done by incorporating figures and the castle from No Mercy within the snow globe of Snow Mercy. Mark Tedin’s artwork looks nothing like a festive, holiday card, but rk post did a fantastic job including the strange robots and creatures in the holiday promo’s art. This is yet another fun holiday card, and quite costly as well!

    Stocking Tiger (2013)

    stocking tiger mtg

    stalking tiger mtg art

    The 2013 holiday promo, illustrated by Terese Nielsen, is an obvious throwback reference to Stalking Tiger, printed originally in Mirage. Funnily enough, the artist for Stalking Tiger is also Terese Nielsen, so in this instance the artist riffed on her own art.

    While it’s obvious that both cards reference and depict a “tiger” the similarities between the two are less obvious. For example, I like how the tiger is in the foreground, facing right, with some of its body out of the frame to the left of the artwork. It gives the image a feeling of movement—the tiger is moving across your field of view and you were lucky to catch a glimpse of the creature.

    Beyond that, however, I don’t see too many throwbacks. The original art is photorealistic, and doesn’t contain too much additional detail outside of the tiger itself. The holiday promo art is obviously a bit goofier, as is the card’s ability. I’d say the pun of the card’s name was the primary callback to an old card here; the rest of the design is novel.

    Goblin Sleigh Ride (2015)

    goblin sleigh ride mtg

    goblin sledder mtg

    Mark Zug had the honor of creating the illustration for Magic’s 2015 holiday promo, Goblin Sleigh Ride. This card was a fun throwback to Onslaught’s Goblin Sledder, illustrated by Ron Spencer. The rules text doesn’t have any real similarity, but what about the artworks?

    Well, both artworks depict a goblin holding onto a harness and riding a creature. In Goblin Sleigh Ride, the creature being ridden appears to be a giant treant attached to a sleigh. In Goblin Sledder, the creature being ridden appears to be much smaller and…less cooperative in its role as sled. Honestly, the Goblin Sledder’s art looks just as goofy as Goblin Sleigh Ride!

    Thopter Pie Network (2016)

    Thopter Pie Network art mtg

    thopter spy network mtg art

    The holiday promo from 2016 is another obvious reference to a tournament-legal Magic card originally printed in Magic Origins the previous year. Thopter Pie Network depicts the same busy goings-on that you see in Thopter Spy Network. There are flying drones, beautiful buildings architected in the background, and a colorful scene in both pieces of artwork. It’s clear they both use the same setting.

    What Victor Adame Minguez’s art includes that isn’t in Jung Park’s original, however, are the pies being ferried about by these large drones! That’s where the amusing, holiday flavor comes in. The card itself also includes festive flavor by referencing food to represent tokens—food that needs to be eaten as part of the card’s ability! There are overlapping rules text between the two cards as well: both involve creation of 1/1 colorless Thopter artifact creature tokens with flying. In general, Thopter Pie Network a nice reference to an older card alongside an amusing holiday pun!

    Chaos Wrap (2022)

    chaos wrap mtg art

    chaos warp mtg art

    Besides Gifts Given, this is perhaps the most obvious reference in a Happy Holidays promo card. The 2022 card, Chaos Wrap illustrated by Zoetan Boros, depicts a humanoid’s legs on one side of the red warping rings and a rhino-like animal on the other side. The same transformation is occurring in Trevor Claxton’s art for the original Chaos Warp. The hilarious difference is that Zoetan’s rhino appears to be gift wrapped! And of course, there is a snowy landscape in the background—it’s not a holiday card without snow!

    The rules text in Chaos Wrap is also a callback to Chaos Warp (when I look at these two card names quickly enough, they appear identical to me). In both cases, the owner of target permanent shuffles it into their library. When “warping,” the owner reveals the top card of their library and puts it into play if it’s a permanent. When “wrapping,” on the other hand, the owner looks at the top card of their library and may wrap it. If it’s a permanent, they put it face down as a 4/4 red Present creature.

    At the same casting cost, and both at instant speed, I don’t know which would be better to play. I know which one is more entertaining, though!

    As a final note, note that this holiday promo was the first one to be printed in black border rather than silver border, receiving the small acorn symbol to denote non-tournament legality.

    Wrapping It Up

    There are plenty of other entertaining (and sometimes valuable) holiday promos I didn’t cover this week. Decorated Knight is unique in that it’s a holiday promo is a creature that also comes with an adventure, a reference to Throne of Eldraine. Bog Humbugs reminds me of some of the “bog” creatures we’ve seen over the history of Magic: Bog Rats, Bog Wraith, Bog Badger, Bog Elemental, Bog Glider, Bog Gnarr, Bog Hoodlums, Bog Imp, Bog Initiate, etc. etc.

    Then there are the playful pun cards that don’t necessarily mimic a previous Magic card, but instead play on other aspects of the game. Last-Minute Chopping is one such example.

    By including main characters from Magic’s story (Liliana and…who’s the other guy? Jace? He kind of looks like Young Pyromancer) you have a pun that combines last minute shopping with the chopping Liliana may perform on her zombie subjects.

    The list is an entertaining one to say the least, and I look forward to seeing new holiday promos in coming years. Some of them are bigger hits than others, but they all manage to elicit at least a smirk on my face as I look ahead to the holiday season.