Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite | New Phyrexia | Art by Igor Kieryluk
6, Jun, 24

Mismatched Secret Lair Bonus Card Leaves MTG Players Puzzled

Article at a Glance

It’s a big week for Secret Lair Bonus Cards. As the latest drops wend their way into players’ hands, the many MTG subreddits have become drip feeds of new Bonus Cards, each more intriguing than the last. We’ve seen an Instagram take on Thrun, the Last Troll, a stunning new Snapcaster Mage, and, today, a Phyrexian Praetor with a new coat of paint. The Praetor in question is Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, and, according to a player on Reddit, it’s the Bonus Card for the Poker Face Secret Lair drop.

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Mother Knows Best

The Elesh Norn Bonus Card is quite interesting. Despite allegedly arriving alongside the Poker Face Secret Lair drop, according to notzhe on Reddit, the card is clearly out of place. It uses the art style of another recent Secret Lair drop instead. Specifically, Outlaw Anthology Vol. 2: Sinister Scoundrels. This drop takes classic Magic villains, like Karona, False God and Memnarch and presents them in the style of vintage action movie posters.

Elesh Norn shares this style and, as an iconic Magic villain, is a perfect fit for the lineup. Due to this, it seems quite likely that notzhe received the card in error. Still, a new Bonus Card is a new Bonus Card, and there’s plenty to say about this one.

Firstly the art, which comes to us from Josh Newton and Scott Okumura, is striking. It fits the character well, while also feeling appropriately pulpy for the Outlaw Anthology style. The flavor text is also excellent, playing into the meme status of the word ‘Mother’ in recent times while still fitting with Elesh Norn, the Mother of Machines.

Value-wise, this is a very solid reprint. Copies of Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite go for around $12 on average, thanks to the card’s power in Commander. It’s too early to say if the Outlaw Anthology style will boost this price much long-term, but pre-sale prices on the other cards are encouraging. You can likely expect a value of $20-30 on this one, which isn’t bad at all for a Bonus Card. You just have to hope that you actually find this bonus Elesh Norn.

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Elf On The Shelf

Just before notzhe shared their spicy Poker Face Bonus Card, Sl0psh did the same. Only theirs wasn’t an Outlaw Anthology Elesh Norn. Theirs was a Fierce Empath, part of the ‘Elusive Elves’ range of Bonus Cards we’ve seen in Secret Lair circulation for a while now.

Typically, Secret Lair Bonus Cards fall into two categories. Pre-set, on-theme cards for certain drops, like the Fallout Wasteland and Codex Shredder, and unrelated cards chosen from a random pool. This pool changes every so often, and at the moment it’s full of Elves. Extended art Elves, to be exact.

As you might expect, multiple classic Elf and Elf-support cards have already been reprinted as extended art Bonus Cards. Recently, for example, we’ve seen reprints of both Elvish Visionary and Wirewood Symbiote. Alongside these staples, we’ve also seen plenty of not-so-classics, like Generous Patron and Jaspera Sentinel.

Fierce Empath falls somewhere in the middle. It’s a great Commander card and sees sparing play in Pauper to boot. It also comes with some humorous new flavor text in this Secret Lair version, which is more than can be said for the other Elusive Elves. The fact that this came with the Poker Face Secret Lair, and the fact that the Elesh Norn we discussed above doesn’t fit the theme of that drop at all, seems to imply we have a bit of a packaging error on our hands.

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A Question Of Quality


Due to the mysterious nature of Secret Lair Bonus Cards as a whole, it’s unlikely we’ll get official confirmation one way or the other on this. That being said, it certainly looks like some kind of error has occurred. Admittedly, switching the thematic Bonus Cards of two Secret Lairs would be a fun twist. This would be very in-keeping with the spirit of Secret Lair. However, the fact that Sl0psh got a card from the existing pool implies that Elesh Norn’s inclusion here was a mistake.

The fact that the majority of Bonus Cards aren’t discussed on official channels is a big part of their appeal. They feel exciting and esoteric, and there’s a real sense of community whenever a new one is revealed and everyone flocks to give their opinion. They’re also a great incentive to buy the Lairs themselves. In cases like this, though, that sense of vague mystery can be more of a hindrance than a help.

While this seems like a routine packaging error, we have no way to know for sure. The same goes for the Snapcaster Mage Bonus Card discovered yesterday in the Hatsune Miku drop. Is it a rare alternative to Elvish Mystic? Or was this perhaps a card from a future Miku drop included by mistake? We don’t know, and we likely won’t ever know, either.

At the end of the day, the Poker Face drop is sold out, and it’s not hugely important to the average player what its Bonus Card is. That said, Secret Lair products could likely do with a little more transparency in this area, even if it comes at the cost of intrigue.

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