Last updated on October 25, 2021

Champion of the Perished - Illustration by Daarken

Champion of the Perished | Illustration by Daarken

Wizards is no stranger to questionable decisions when it comes to making promo cards. Whether it’s odd choices in themed sets, cards with hideous art, or canceling the coolest promo program they ever had (I miss you, FNM mail-in promos), they’ve done a lot.

But within the last decade or so, WotC made some changes to one of their longest-running promotions: the buy-a-box promo.

What is a Buy-a-Box Promo?

Realmwalker - Illustration by Igor Kieryluk

Realmwalker | Illustration by Igor Kieryluk

The buy-a-box promo is a promotional offer where you get a special card when you buy a booster box.

Somewhere once upon a time, Wizards of the Coast decided that they could print neat promotional cards featuring an alternate foil (sometimes with alternate art not found in the main set) that would come with any purchase of a booster box.

These cards were in every major set release from 2009 to the release of Dominaria in 2018. This set started a new trend of promo cards that were only available through the buy-a-box promo.

Where Do You Get Them?

You can get the buy-a-box promo cards at select local game stores when you buy a booster box, or you can find them from online retailers like TCGPlayer or CardKingdom.

A lot of the buy-a-box promo cards were made in excess, which led retailers to also package them with other sets. It’s pretty common to see big-box retailers like Target and Walmart selling older, repackaged booster packs that come with a random foil card that’s generally a buy-a-box promo card.

List of Buy-a-Box Promos

SetPromo Card
Magic 2010Honor of the Pure
ZendikarDay of Judgment
WorldwakeCelestial Colonnade
Rise of the EldraziGuul Draz Assassin
Magic 2011Birds of Paradise
Scars of MirrodinMemoricide
Mirrodin BesiegedMirran Crusader
New PhyrexiaSurgical Extraction
Magic 2012Chandra’s Phoenix
InnistradDevil’s Play
Dark AscensionGravecrawler
Avacyn RestoredSilverblade Paladin
Magic 2013Cathedral of War
Return to RavnicaSupreme Verdict
GatecrashNightveil Specter
Dragon’s MazeRender Silent
Magic 2014Ratchet Bomb
TherosSylvan Caryatid
Born of the GodsFated Conflagration
Journey into NyxEidolon of Blossoms
Magic 2015Goblin Rabblemaster
Khans of TarkirRattleclaw Mystic
Fate ReforgedShamanic Revelation
Dragons of TarkirOjutai’s Command
Magic OriginsRelic Seeker
Battle for ZendikarRuinous Path
Oath of the GatewatchGoblin Dark-Dwellers
Shadows over InnistradElusive Tormentor / Insidious Mist
Eldritch MoonThalia, Heretic Cathar
KaladeshSkyship Stalker
Aether RevoltScrap Trawler
AmonkhetArchfiend of Ifnir
Hour of DevastationWildfire Eternal
IxalanBurning Sun’s Avatar
Rivals of IxalanCaptain’s Hook
DominariaFiresong and Sunspeaker*
Core Set 2019Nexus of Fate*
Guilds of RavnicaImpervious Greatwurm*
Ravnica AllegianceThe Haunt of Hightower*
War of the SparkTezzeret, Master of the Bridge*
Modern HorizonsFlusterstorm*
Core Set 2020Rienne, Angel of Rebirth*
Throne of EldraineKenrith, the Returned King*
Theros: Beyond DeathAthreos, Shroud-Veiled*
Ikoria: Lair of BehemothsZilortha, Strength Incarnate*
Core Set 2021Rin and Seri, Inseparable*
Zendikar RisingOrah, Skyclave Hierophant
Commander LegendsMana Confluence*
KaldheimRealmwalker
Strixhaven: School of MagesDragonsguard Elite
Modern Horizons 2Sanctum Prelate*
D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten RealmsVorpal Sword
Innistrad: Midnight HuntChampion of the Perished

Cards with an asterisk * are only found as a buy-a-box promo and aren’t found in packs in the set.

Magic 2010

Honor of the Pure buy-a-box promo

Promo: Honor of the Pure

Zendikar

Day of Judgement buy-a-box promo

Promo: Day of Judgement

Worldwake

Celestial Colonnade buy-a-box promo

Promo: Celestial Colonnade

Rise of the Eldrazi

Guul Draz Assassin buy-a-box promo

Promo: Guul Draz Assassin

Magic 2011

Birds of Paradise buy-a-box promo

Promo: Birds of Paradise

Scars of Mirrodin

Memoricide buy-a-box promo

Promo: Memoricide

Mirrodin Besieged

Mirran Crusader buy-a-box promo

Promo: Mirran Crusader

New Phyrexia

Surgical Extraction buy-a-box promo

Promo: Surgical Extraction

Magic 2012

Chandra's Phoenix buy-a-box promo

Promo: Chandra’s Phoenix

Innistrad

Devil’s Play buy-a-box promo

Promo: Devil’s Play

Dark Ascension

Gravecrawler buy-a-box promo

Promo: Gravecrawler

Avacyn Restored

Silverblade Paladin buy-a-box promo

Promo: Silverblade Paladin

Magic 2013

Cathedral of War buy-a-box promo

Promo: Cathedral of War

Return to Ravnica

Supreme Verdict buy-a-box promo

Promo: Supreme Verdict

Gatecrash

Nightveil Specter buy-a-box promo

Promo: Nightveil Specter

Dragon’s Maze

Render Silent buy-a-box promo

Promo: Render Silent

Magic 2014

Ratchet Bomb buy-a-box promo

Promo: Ratchet Bomb

Theros

Sylvan Caryatid buy-a-box promo

Promo: Sylvan Caryatid

Born of the Gods

Fated Conflagration buy-a-box promo

Promo: Fated Conflagration

Journey into Nyx

Eidolon of Blossoms buy-a-box promo

Promo: Eidolon of Blossoms

Magic 2015

Goblin Rabblemaster buy-a-box promo

Promo: Goblin Rabblemaster

Khans of Tarkir

Rattleclaw Mystic buy-a-box promo

Promo: Rattleclaw Mystic

Fate Reforged

Shamanic Revelation buy-a-box promo

Promo: Shamanic Revelation

Dragons of Tarkir

Ojutai’s Command buy-a-box promo

Promo: Ojutai’s Command

Magic Origins

Relic Seeker buy-a-box promo

Promo: Relic Seeker

Battle for Zendikar

Ruinous Path buy-a-box promo

Promo: Ruinous Path

Oath of the Gatewatch

Goblin Dark-Dwellers buy-a-box promo

Promo: Goblin Dark-Dwellers

Shadows over Innistrad

Promo: Elusive Tormentor / Insidious Mist

Eldritch Moon

Thalia, Heretic Cathar buy-a-box promo

Promo: Thalia, Heretic Cathar

Kaladesh

Skyship Stalker buy-a-box promo

Promo: Skyship Stalker

Aether Revolt

Scrap Trawler buy-a-box promo

Promo: Scrap Trawler

Amonkhet

Archfiend of Ifnir buy-a-box promo

Promo: Archfiend of Ifnir

Hour of Devastation

Wildfire Eternal buy-a-box promo

Promo: Wildfire Eternal

Ixalan

Burning Sun's Avatar buy-a-box promo

Promo: Burning Sun’s Avatar

Rivals of Ixalan

Captain's Hook buy-a-box promo

Promo: Captain’s Hook

Dominaria

Firesong and Sunspeaker buy-a-box promo

Promo: Firesong and Sunspeaker*

Core Set 2019

Promo: Nexus of Fate*

Guilds of Ravnica

Impervious Greatwurm buy-a-box promo

Promo: Impervious Greatwurm*

Ravnica Allegiance

The Haunt of Hightower buy-a-box promo

Promo: The Haunt of Hightower*

War of the Spark

Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge

Promo: Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge*

Modern Horizons

Flusterstorm buy-a-box promo

Promo: Flusterstorm*

Core Set 2020

Rienne, Angel of Rebirth buy-a-box promo

Promo: Rienne, Angel of Rebirth*

Throne of Eldraine

Kenrith, the Returned King

Promo: Kenrith, the Returned King*

Theros: Beyond Death

Athreos, Shroud-Veiled

Promo: Athreos, Shroud-Veiled plus one of the following foil Nyx lands:

Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths

godzilla, king of the monsters

Promo: Zilortha, Strength Incarnate as Godzilla, King of the Monsters*

Core Set 2021

Rin and Seri, Inseparable buy-a-box promo

Promo: Rin and Seri, Inseparable*

Zendikar Rising

Orah, Skyclave Hierophant buy-a-box promo

Promo: Orah, Skyclave Hierophant

Commander Legends

Mana Confluence buy-a-box promo

Promo: Mana Confluence*

Kaldheim

Realmwalker buy-a-box promo

Promo: Realmwalker

Strixhaven: School of Mages

Dragonsguard Elite buy-a-box promo

Promo: Dragonsguard Elite

Modern Horizons 2

Sanctum Prelate buy-a-box promo

Promo: Sanctum Prelate*

D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms

Vorpal Swords buy-a-box promo

Promo: Vorpal Sword

Innistrad: Midnight Hunt

Champion of the Perished buy-a-box promo

Promo: Champion of the Perished

Buy-a-Box Promo History

Wizards started the buy-a-box program with Magic 2010 to increase the sale of booster boxes. The promo cards were foils with alternate art and a watermark of each mana symbol in the text box.

While we don’t have sales numbers to prove the idea worked, players didn’t mind the program and the chance at free promos. But there was a distinct shift in promos after nearly eight years.

The buy-a-box promo cards from Dominaria through Zendikar Rising couldn’t be found in packs of that card’s set, so they were only available to players who bought booster boxes. While this already sounds like a poor idea on paper, the first card we saw for this (Firesong and Sunspeaker) didn’t make an impact on the format which led to most players believing that WotC knew what they were doing.

After the oppressive nature of Nexus of Fate and Kenrith, the Returned King in their respective Standard formats (and Nexus eventually being banned in several formats because of its power), Wizards finally realized that these exclusive cards weren’t healthy for the game and reverted back to promo cards that were already in the set.

Are Buy-a-Box Promos Available in Boosters Too?

Almost every buy-a-box promo is available in its accompanying set just with the regular art.

The buy-a-box promo card was only available as a promo card if you bought a booster box for the following sets:

Availability and Controversy

Dragonsguard Elite - Illustration by Daarken

Dragonsguard Elite | Illustration by Daarken

Players initially didn’t really care about these promos. They were a fun addition to buying a booster box and some of the cards saw heavy play which made them more fun to use. But the change to cards that weren’t available in the actual set left a sour taste in players’ mouths.

With the release of Core Set 2019 came Nexus of Fate, a card that would immediately warp the format thanks to its ability to not only give you an extra turn but also shuffle itself back into your library. This incentivized players to run a full playset and made Turbofog the most popular deck of that year’s Pro Tour. We wouldn’t see the card banned until July 2020 but the damage was already done.

The next few sets wouldn’t have cards anywhere near the same power level, with the closest card being Kenrith, the Returned King that saw competitive play all the way until Standard rotation. But Kenrith was nowhere the same level of oppression, though this could have been worse if in-person events had been more of a thing while players weren’t able to get the card in paper.

Wizards decided to revert to the old system in September 2020 and no longer made promo-exclusive cards from Zendikar Rising onward.

Box Toppers vs. Buy-a-Box

The modern iteration of box toppers started with Ultimate Masters, which gave players a foil with an alternate border in a small pack included with the box. These continued with Ikoria, Double Masters, and Zendikar Rising with different rules for each.

Unlike buy-a-box promos, box toppers were randomized from a list of cards in the set. Or, for Zendikar Rising, a Masterpiece series.

How Much Are Buy-a-Box Promos Usually Worth?

Honestly, buy-a-box promos aren’t usually worth much. Most of these cards are essentially bulk rare prices thanks to how many were printed. Some that see play in Modern, Legacy, or Commander have higher prices because they’re popular cards, but this is a very small number of them.

Does it Make Buying-a-Box Worth It?

I’ve never felt incentivized to buy a booster box because of the buy-a-box promo. Some of my friends and people I play with valued them when they were cards that saw play, but overall they enjoyed the box toppers more. I don’t think they’re worth it, but it’s a nice addition for those who already buy booster boxes for drafts.

Do Set Booster Boxes Come with Buy-a-Box Promos?

Yes! Wizards has confirmed that you can get a buy-a-box promo for any type of booster box you buy.

What Were the Holiday Buy-a-Box Promos?

Kaladesh Bonus Holiday Pack

Players who bought a booster box of Kaladesh for the holiday season in 2016 got a “Bonus Holiday Pack,” which was really just a repackaged version of the Standard Showdown packs that were already out in the world. These packs had two foils of any rarity that weren’t double-faced cards and four foil rares or mythic rares.

Ixalan Treasure Chest Booster

Ixalan followed suit in 2017 with a “Treasure Chest Booster” that had two foils of any rarity cards from Standard-legal sets, four rare or mythic rare foils from Standard-legal sets, two foil basic lands, and one of ten alternate art, foil double-faced cards.

I honestly don’t even remember these being a thing. My assumption is that they didn’t perform too well and were quickly scrapped since we haven’t seen them in the last four years.

How Do Buy-a-Box Promos Work on MTGA?

Thankfully there’s an easier way to get buy-a-box promo cards on MTG Arena. If you buy 45 packs of a set (which is a little under $50, half the price of a booster box), you also get one copy of the buy-a-box card style. You’re also able to craft them with wildcards for promos that weren’t part of the main set.

Wrap Up

Vorpal Sword - Illustration by Alessandra Pisano

Vorpal Sword | Illustration by Alessandra Pisano

Buy-a-box promos are a neat way to incentivize players to buy sealed products, even if they weren’t always great cards. These alternate-art foils are a simple way to add to the experience of buying a booster box but didn’t really shake anything up until WotC released cards that weren’t available in the set. Now that we’ve reverted back to the old system, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this program continue for some time in the future.

What are your thoughts on buy-a-box promos? Which alternate art version is your favorite? Let me know in the comments down below, or head over to our Discord if that’s more your thing.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll see you in the next one!

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