Last updated on September 27, 2022
Flusterstorm (2012 judge promo) | Illustration by Erica Yang
Judge promos are something of a special card type in Magic. They’re rare, with a very limited amount being produced, and often feature some of the most powerful fan-favorite cards in the entire game. They’re usually an end-game collection goal for a lot of players since they carry expensive price tags sometimes ten times higher than their original, non-promo counterparts.
Today I’ll be going over a few basic questions regarding the promo cards, including just what they are, how many there are, and how you can get your hands on them. I’m also going to cover the top 50 judge promos so you can get an idea of just how rare some of these cards are.
Let’s get started!
What are Judge Promos in MTG?
Bitterblossom (2011 judge promos) | Illustration by Nils Hamm
Judge promos, also known as Judge Gift Cards, are handed out to MTG judges as payment for judging Magic organized events. Events often need a team of judges to make sure players have equal access to them throughout play, as well as to mend disputes between players (and even other judges).
Judges are given judge promos as a form of payment for their services, which has occasionally sparked criticism from the community towards Wizards for not paying what are essentially their employees at events.
How Many Judge Foils are There?
There are currently 154 unique judge promo foil cards in existence. The first ones were given out in 1998!
#50. Grim Lavamancer (2006)
Starting off today’s overall rankings is Grim Lavamancer, which was a mono-red burn staple in Modern for a long time, and a sideboard piece in Legacy. It’s seen much better days, though. But it looks great in judge foiling with the DCI watermark, and it’s a great way to start off this list.
#49. Grand Arbiter Augustin IV (2021)
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV’s 2021 judge promo has some unique art that, while similar to the original, takes on a much more ghostly and magical theme. I think it’s gorgeous with green mist and smoke that’s highlighted by the promo foiling.
#48. Omniscience (2022)
Following the Arbiter is Omniscience, one of the most wicked cards in blue. This time it features the northern lights above some snowy mountains, which is just begging to be in foil.
#47. Azusa, Lost but Seeking (2016)
Azusa, Lost but Seeking’s 2016 judge promo is pretty basic. There’s no new art or special border, it’s just the normal Azusa but with foiling and the WotC promo star. But it still looks great and is one of the better Azusa printings out there.
#46. Karmic Guide (2012)
#45. Pernicious Deed (2006)
This 2006 promo of Pernicious Deed has the old “DCI” logo, a remnant of a now mostly gone system. Regardless of how used the card or the system is, this card features some wonderful artwork and is a solid promo overall.
#44. Stifle (2009)
Stifle does what not many other counterspells do, and it does it well. This iteration features brand new art that looks fantastic in foil, as well as that classic DCI logo front and center in the oracle text. It’s an underrated card, especially when it bricks a fetch land.
#43. Birthing Pod (2020)
Birthing Pod is the win condition for a lot of decks, and it’s about time it got its judge promo version. And it’s a fairly affordable promo, sitting at only about $50 compared to the under $20 price tag the New Phyrexia version has.
#42. Gamble (2020)
Gamble got its judge promo in 2020, and it’s one of the most affordable promos on this list which is surprising for such a popular card in Commander and even Legacy storm.
#41. Meddling Mage (2006)
Meddling Mage has wreaked havoc for well over 20 years now, and it got its judge promo version early on in 2006. The promo foil brought new art, which carried with it the ongoing theme of a fire and ice blast coming from the mage’s hands.
I love this promo because it brought the card into the newer border while keeping a lot of the original aspects of the artwork.
#40. Entomb (2011)
Next up is Entomb, which has seen a plethora of special printings from Amonkhet Invocations to new art in Eternal Masters. This time we get to see the body actually being entombed, which is a callback to the original art. We also get the DCI logo front and center which is a nice marker of age.
#39. Spellskite (2017)
Spellskite’s 2017 judge promo art is very similar to the original art, which I really enjoy. It’s sort of a callback/upgraded version that further adds to the rarity of the card.
#38. Goblin Piledriver (2008)
Goblin Piledriver is a great card, both in name and in what it does. This judge promo is well deserved and is an excellent chase version of an otherwise affordable card. I’ll be sure to pick up a playset of these as soon as it’s spoiled if it ever gets printed into Standard again!
#37. Sylvan Tutor (2020)
While it isn’t one of the most powerful tutors, Sylvan Tutor still deserves its own judge promo, which it got back in 2020. The promo features new original art on the new border and was the card’s first reprint since Portal. A much-needed face lift in my opinion, and the lower price is nice as well.
#36. Damnation (2015)
I play Damnation in just about every black Commander deck I build. It’s a great card with even greater art, and I’m more than pleased that WotC decided to keep the art for the judge promo version. And the foiling works wonders for the art, especially the purple highlights around the central void.
#35. Reflecting Pool (2019)
Next up is Reflecting Pool, which got its judge promo version in 2019 featuring multiple Zendikar polyhedrons. This is a gorgeous reprint that offers some selection and customization to what is now a Commander staple.
#34. Enlightened Tutor (2020)
Enlightened Tutor’s judge promo features a bright yellow and orange scene that looks brighter than the sun in-person, and I’m all for it.
#33. Bitterblossom (2011)
Bitterblossom is one of the most powerful and prominent black Magic cards of all time, and this foil judge promo version does it justice. The beautiful artwork was quite literally made to be foiled out, and the blue and purple accenting does just that, which makes its over $100 price tag possibly worth it.
#32. Mox Opal (2019)
Here we have the 2019 judge promo for Mox Opal, which interestingly features nothing new other than the large star watermark in the oracle text. But it looks fantastic in foil and the grey/silver theme combined with the special foiling really emphasizes the “opal” part of the card.
#31. Dark Confidant (2011)
Next up we have Dark Confidant, often referred to as simply “Bob,” with its original art and border in foil form. This promo does not have a watermark in the oracle text and instead features the DCI logo within the art frame itself.
#30. Merchant Scroll (2018)
Merchant Scroll’s promo features brand-new original art for the card on the new border with the star watermark in the oracle text. I’m a big fan of the art on this version since it actually includes the merchant for once!
#29. Vendilion Clique (2011)
Vendilion Clique is one of my favorite MTG cards, and I think this judge promo’s artwork from 2011 is my favorite iteration of the card. I’m a sucker for blue foils that have a soft color palette, and this card is at the top of my list in that category.
#28. Mana Drain (2016)
Mana Drain was certainly deserving of a reprint in 2016 before its debut in Commander Legends, but I don’t know if this $200 foil judge promo was what the community was expecting. It still looks amazing and the beams of light and magic in the artwork look great in foil!
#27. Chalice of the Void (2019)
The 2019 judge promo Chalice of the Void has a unique artwork that goes great with the foiling on the card. It’s also one of the best looking sideboard pieces in the game on top of being one of the best sideboard pieces in the game!
#26. Monastery Mentor (2019)
Monastery Mentor features brand-new art and is the only other printing of the card outside of Fate Reforged and The List. I think this artwork is much more beautiful than the original, and the dominance of white in the scene really hones in on the card’s identity.
#25. Dark Ritual (2009)
Yet another printing of Dark Ritual, this time with new art and the large DCI logo in the oracle text. This is quite an expensive card compared to its original version, which costs 100 times less than it at around $1.
But it’s a beautiful card despite the price, and the most expensive of all the Dark Ritual printings out there.
#24. Yawgmoth’s Will (2007)
Next up is Yawgmoth’s Will, which got a promo version in 2007. This card is a foil version in the new border, and the only copy of Yawgmoth’s Will in this style. It carries a price tag roughly four times higher than its original card’s price of over $200, making it quite the expensive pickup.
#23. Demonic Tutor (2020)
Demonic Tutor’s 2020 judge promo art is exceptionally evil-looking and gives me an uncanny feeling I don’t particularly like, which is perfect for the card.
#22. Mana Crypt (2011)
The 2011 judge promo version of Mana Crypt is my personal favorite art for this card, and I think it looks spectacular in foil. This is definitely one of the more expensive judge promos, and one that makes me consider trying to become a judge just get my hands on cards like it.
#21. Noble Hierarch (2012)
Noble Hierarch’s 2012 judge promo is next, and I’m a huge fan of this card. Not only is the card itself actually good in a multitude of formats, but it looks great too! The way the judge foiling interacts with the original green border makes it look so lush, almost like a mint green, and I’m a fan.
#20. Rhystic Study (2018)
Everyone needs a Rhystic Study, so why not get the 2018 promo version worth seven times as much as a normal one? This version has completely unique art by Paul Scott Canavan, which is exclusively available on the judge promo and Magic Online promo.
#19. Vampiric Tutor (2020)
Vampiric Tutor is somewhat of a black staple in Commander. This iteration from 2020 is the most expensive version, often going for over $250 on the secondary market.
I like this version in particular over the 2018 printing because it has the original art and card frame, which I think is far superior to newer versions.
#18. Armageddon (2004)
Armageddon is a classic card. Nothing better than destroying all lands and setting the Commander pod back 45 minutes, so why not do it with your $90 judge promo?
#17. Crucible of Worlds (2013)
Next up is Crucible of Worlds, which almost looks like a white card with the brown border being somewhat light and it being paired with the judge foiling.
#16. Rishadan Port (2015)
Rishadan Port’s 2015 promo interestingly only costs about $40 despite being a Legacy staple in Death and Taxes.
#15. Regrowth (2005)
Regrowth’s judge promo from 2005 is next, which is pretty expensive at $40 compared to the normal cost. But it’s a very simple card, which means the DCI watermark and foiling bring out the art and are much more noticeable than other promos.
#14. Karakas (2012)
#13. Hermit Druid (2004)
Hermit Druid got a promo copy in 2004 with its original artwork on the new card frame. I think this card frame looks best in foil since it foils the outside border area particularly well, and it also brings out the woodland forest behind the druid.
#12. Show and Tell (2013)
This judge promo is spectacular, costs only a little more than double the actual card’s worth, and features a nice prominent star watermark. What’s not to love?
#11. Flusterstorm (2012)
Ah yes, Flusterstorm. An incredible counterspell that looks absolutely stunning in judge promo foiling. The foil really makes the green and yellow highlights on the mostly blue art come to life, and I just can’t take my eyes off of it.
#10. Imperial Seal (2016)
Imperial Seal is up next and is, surprisingly, not as expensive as you may think. Despite having the original version go for over $1,700, the judge promo version (which is foil and featured the new card frame) goes for less than half of that. This is a pretty affordable foil version for a Reserved List card that already is out of most players’ reach.
#9. Wasteland (2015)
Into the single digits now with the 2015 judge promo version of Wasteland. This card carries a pretty expensive price for a judge promo as a Legacy staple, worth well over $370 on the secondary market.
#8. Intuition (2003)
Intuition has a judge promo version that’s very similar to its normal printing. This time it just features the star watermark in the lower left as well as the DCI rarity symbol.
This card is another one of those already-expensive cards that could cover most of the receiving judge’s rent if sold today.
#7. Mind’s Desire (2008)
Mind’s Desire is one of the more gorgeous cards on the list for today. It’s just so blue and is very appealing to the eye. The foiling and the DCI watermark accentuate that, and I’ll admit I’m a fan.
It’s also a somewhat affordable judge promo, worth only about $20 on the secondary market.
#6. Time Warp (2004)
Time Warp’s 2004 promo has the massive DCI watermark in the oracle text with the beautiful Tempest art on the newer card frame. This is one of my favorite versions of the card, and something I’ve actually been on the lookout for recently!
#5. Gaea’s Cradle (1998)
The 1998 judge promo version of Gaea’s Cradle is one of the most expensive cards on today’s list. A normal version of the Cradle goes for about $1,000, with the promo version being around $1,500.
#4. Force of Will (2014)
It wouldn’t be a judge promos list without Force of Will, one of the most desired blue promos in Magic. Force already carries a high price tag with the cheapest versions being over $110, but this version is nearly five times that, and for good reason.
#3. Lightning Bolt (1998)
Next is the classic Lightning Bolt with Christopher Rush’s art and the WotC star watermark in the bottom left. I prefer these watermarks to be big and centralized in the oracle text, but I think this is a beautiful simple card overall.
#2. Counterspell (2000)
The 2000 judge promo Counterspell features some beautiful art in the old border with the DCI logo as the rare symbol. I love the WotC star watermark, and I think it really rounds out this card nicely.
#1. Sol Ring (2005)
In first place is the judge promo version of Sol Ring. Everyone needs a Sol Ring, and I can’t think of a better version. It features the original art on a new border with the DCI logo front and center. Second only to the Kaladesh Inventions version in price, this is definitely one of the best ways to bling out your Commander deck!
How to Get Judge Promos
If you’re not a judge or looking to become a practicing one any time soon, the only wany to get judge promo cards is by trading for them or buying them directly on secondary markets like TCGPlayer or Channel Fireball. Judge promos are usually worth much more than their original printing since they have such a restricted release, and they come in very limited quantities.
Be well prepared to spend up to ten times more for a judge promo of a given card, especially if it’s a staple or high-demanded reserve list card.
Are Judge Promos Tournament Legal?
Judge promos are tournament legal because they’re just foil versions of cards. As long as the base version of the card you have a promo of is legal, then the judge promo version is also legal.
But don’t get confused between judge promos and championship deck cards, which have gold borders and a different reverse side. These are unique cards to championship decks that Wizards used to sell, which are explicitly not legal in a tournament setting.
Vendilion Clique (2011 judge promos) | Illustration by Jesper Ejsing
That wraps up everything I have for you today. I love judge promos and have recently started trying to collect them, starting with Force of Will! I think they’re stunning and offer some of the best versions of my favorite cards.
What do you think of the judge promos? Do you think they’re a fun niche collector’s item, or are they too rare and a mediocre form of payment for judges? Let me know what your thoughts are down in the comments or over on the official Draftsim Twitter.
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