Promos – Part 1: All That Glitters…

I am an absolute sucker for shiny things, aesthetically pleasing objects, and curios. So, the existence of cards with special treatments that are rarer than their conventional counterparts is particularly dangerous for me. That right, we’re talking promos today (well for a few days actually). Briefly, for the uninitiated, the term “promo” in the CCG space is loosely applied to any cards not distributed through opening packs. Some people may quibble about whether play mats count or if tournament prizes should be regarded in their own category, but those people are pedants, and they’re ruining our enjoyment of pretty baubles, so let’s ignore them.

This is going to end up being a sort of mini-series where we’ll go over all the extant promos that I know about. But, before we begin I want to talk a little bit about the promo market generally. In 2019 and 2020 LSS handed out a fairly wide variety of promos through various channels. In many cases, there are actually a fairly small number of these out there, but there was a fairly long window where the player population was also small, and not a lot of people were focused on them. From my perspective, around the time of the Unlimited announcements people started to get more interested in promos, and then interest exploded around the time Channelfireball sent the market into buying frenzy and kicked off the second spike. However, we also saw LSS releasing additional copies of promos previously believed to “done”.

As a result of these developments, I want to issue one word of caution before we jump in, LSS has, as far as I know, released no official position on promo reprints. There are specific cards (we’ll talk about them when we get there) that while they lack exact publicly-known numbers, are confirmed as one time printings. Beyond those, it is absolutely possible that LSS could reprint any of them at any time in an identical format. When we get to the end of this series, I’ll share my impressions on what’s likely, but before you run out to spend $500 on a 1 in 500 promo (rarer than a cold foil Heart of Fyendal!) be aware that you’re essentially gambling on LSS not re-releasing that promo.

Note: I’ve done my best to gather information from official releases, accounts from players who were at events where cards were awarded, and discussions with people who distributed promos, but official information is very scant and we have very little hard info. If you have better or more complete information on any of these (especially if you have a citation, please let me know. I’ll be happy to update these articles and cite you).

Slingshot Underground artist proofs

Before we get started on the promos proper, let’s take a quick look at these oddballs. LSS released artist proof copies of the Ironrot gear in advance of the game launch proper. You can read a bit more about them here. I won’t rehash the interesting tidbits of trivia that LSS provides on these, but I will say that they seem to be either exceedingly rare or the player base doesn’t have a high level of interest in them, which is not uncommon with artist proofs.

I’m inclined to believe that they’re just that rare though, as the last time I saw one pop up on the market it got a lot of immediate interest and was snatched up very quickly, and I haven’t seen another show up since.

Armory Promos

And now we arrive at the most the well-known promos. Armory kits are provided by LSS for free to qualifying local game stores to support organized play. They include cold foils, extended art (which will be rainbow foil as of season 3), and a play mat (they also have event posters, but those are exceedingly niche as a collectable, and I won’t really be touching on them). Thus far, each Armory kit has corresponded to a set release, providing promotional versions of cards from that set.

For season 1 and 2, each kit came with 4 copies of one Welcome to Rathe or Arcane Rising hero’s signature weapon, 32 copies of a class card, and a play mat featuring art from a specialization card.  Season 3 will have 4 cold foil copies of a Crucible of War young hero (Kayo, Data Doll MKII, Kassai, and Benji – no love for Kavdaen at this time). The 32 rainbow foils in each kit are, as of yet, a mystery, and the play mats have no real unifying theme to them, although a couple of them are quite striking.

There are a few interesting points to know about these. The first is that their contents were also distributed through channels other than Armory events. Season 1 and 2’s cold foil weapons have, at a minimum, been given out as part of Alpha Investment’s Patreon bundles, Team Covenant’s WTR/ARC bundles, and alongside unlimited WTR/ARC pre-orders in limited quantities. While it seems that the physical cards being distributed are from a single printings that LSS has just fliffed out across several promotions (per the Collector’s Centre listing for a single printing of each), it’s worth noting that they’ve indicated a clear willingness to continuously put armory promos in the hands of players beyond their seasonal run. Given that, I would advise caution when buying these. The cold foils have generally sold from $20-40 with some upper outliers (up to $90 as I write this) in the wake of the second spike. When these are finally done being handed out, prices will likely rise, but given how many times they’ve been given out, it feels like playing with fire to me until LSS says something to indicate that no more will be forthcoming.

Meanwhile, the extended art promos have been quite sad in terms of secondary market performance. A lot of these were given out, and they have the unfortunate distinction of not being particularly flashy. Personally, I think it’s hard to find a good balance of translucency on the text box that allows cards to be read while also making the extended art “pop” – these are a bit too opaque for my taste. With their relative abundance and lack of “wow” factor, these have hung around a few dollars at best for most of FAB’s life, and back before the first spike, they were often tossed in by various sellers as add-ons for box orders. Some people are trying to get up to $10 a piece out of these right now, and I just don’t think those prices are going to bear out long term. The shift to rainbow foils in Season 3 is an exciting change, and depending on which cards they’ve chosen, these could fare far better.

For anyone with an eye on buying Armory promos going forward, it’s worth remembering that more continuously enter the market over the course of an Armory season, even if LSS doesn’t decide to release future Armory promos in other contexts. Season 3, for example, runs from December 2020 to March 2021 “while stock lasts” (I currently have no idea what sorts of numbers kits will be printed in, but I wouldn’t be immediately concerned). If you want to get a promo during week one of a season, it will likely come at a premium that will be driven down as more weeks go by.

Premier OP events

There are a variety of promo cards given out at Premier level events, some of these are exceptionally rare and the player base is only now valuing them based on that rarity. This has caused the prices of some cards that were moving at $30-50 in September to shoot up over $500+ at the end of October. Premier OP event prizes account for a fairly diverse set of cards, and we’ll be covering the bulk of them in the next piece, but we’ll wrap up here with a bit of an amuse-bouche to illustrate how rare some of these cards are.

So, you’re probably familiar with these folks. You’ve likely got a pile of them either from Welcome to Rathe or in their Crucible of War appearance; they’re the first four young heroes. There is, of course, a catch with these particular versions: they’re rainbow foil and exceedingly rare.

These were awarded at the four The Calling tournaments hosted between October and December of 2019. In some recent discussions on one of the Facebook FAB buying/selling groups, several people publicly ball-parked attendance for these events at numbers that mesh with the exact numbers we have from LSS for Aukland’s event. Estimates put the rest at between 35-45 people or so. This makes sense to me as it seems rather likely that New Zealand had the biggest turn out. In these events, players received the hero that they played with the top 8 players receiving a second hero. LSS provides the meta-breakdown of each of these events, so we can estimate relative numbers of heroes. Aukland was fairly evenly split between the four heroes, but after that, Katsu was played far less (only 6% of the field in New Jersey). Dorinthea, Rhinar, and Bravo jockeyed for the “most played” spot at the other events. With that in consideration, we’ll eschew a bunch of granular math, assume 200 people total attended these events and then we add 4 top 8s and the set of all four was also awarded during the 1st anniversary Blitz-a-thon stream, and we get around 236 of these handed out with Katsu potentially a distinct minority of them (as I don’t know which ones went to the top 8s).

People absolutely slept on these. They were traded and sold for $20-50 dollars (I’ve spoken to people who were buying theirs at $30 around the time Crucible came out). However, as FAB began to boom and people started looking at promos, these shot up, almost overnight, to several hundred dollars. As a personal aside, I am supremely disappointed I didn’t grab a $30 Dorinthea (there is a potential lesson here that we’ll revisit on another promo). But, we have no idea if these will be distributed again. Their prices right now are entirely propped up by their extreme rarity (compare to the adult promo versions of the same heroes which sell for $15-20). If more get distributed at some point (say in Canada or Europe, for instance) prices will likely dive overnight. Even now, people are treating these with more caution and $500+ high have retreated to $300-350.

We’ll wrap up there for now. I’ve got a few more of these coming up in the coming weeks. You can look forward to wrapping up the Premiere event promos, getting into basic pre-release promos, and then moving onto even stranger things. Finally, when we’ve cataloged all that is rare and obscure, I’ll give you some thoughts on the future of promos, and how safe it is to store your money in them as opposed to your mattress.

Note: While preparing to launch this site, I thought I’d take a couple weeks and build a backlog of articles so that is I had a busy week I wouldn’t be lacking content. Of course, FAB moves so fast that there were pertinent developments related to promos that came out after I wrote these. I’ve tried to integrate the ones that fit in, and I’ve removed and replaced any information that I now have a better source for, but one resource I want to call out is the Collector’s Centre (which they also refer to with the American “Center” spelling in some places). As of this writing, there are some TBA fields (such as print run sizes) that could have meaningful impacts on our understanding of relative card scarcity. So, I would advise at least skimming over this section to see the most recent updates.

*Header Image: Whisper of the Oracle by Masha Mishina

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