Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne writes about the release of Magic: The Gathering--Conspiracy 2: Take the Crown.

In case you missed it, and you very well might have since the hype for it from Wizards of the Coast was pretty low key, Magic: The Gathering--Conspiracy 2: Take the Crown released this past Friday.  Aside from the fact that the format of Conspiracy 2 (pods of 3-5 players each round) was not supported by the format of the tournament created in DCI Reporter (which set the players up for traditional pairings), and that the length of multi-player games could vary widely, AND that WOTC sent those blankety, blank, blank, blankety, blankety, blank blank crowns to give out as promotional items to the players (did anyone at WOTC TRY assembling them after designing them?  More cardboard was thrown away from each crown after punching it out than remained in the crown, and as for assembling them, it took me a good 10 minutes to finally get one approximately put together, and as for my players, I would hazard a guess from the trash can contents that more wound up there than went home with them.  Seriously, WOTC, these are Magic players.  They want promo cards or at the least a spiffy spindown counter or notepad.), we also had the traditional breaking of the street date by the mass market.

This time, the breaking of Conspiracy 2's street date was pretty much confined to Target and its card distributor, Excell Marketing.  After hearing from several other stores about street date violations as early as Tuesday night, when a group of Target employees brought Conspiracy 2 into their FLGS and asked if it was OK if they drafted their packs that night, I took a couple of hours Thursday afternoon to check out our local big box stores: Target, Walmart and Toys R Us.

Hitting Toys R Us first, I was rather surprised to see how much the store in our area had shrunk its selection of Magic.  All of the store's collectible card games had moved from the main aisle to a side counter.  Pokemon occupied about 22 feet of the counter, Yu-Gi-Oh! about 4, and Magic a measly 2 feet.  No Conspiracy 2 on the rack here.

Walmart--Similar reduction in space allocated to Magic here as well, though a little better. Magic received about four feet of space while Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! each got about 15.  No Conspiracy 2 here either.

Target--Ah, jackpot.  Target has about 15-20 feet allocated to trading card games and there, proudly in the middle of the Magic section, hung a hook with bundles of three packs of Conspiracy 2 on it, apparently made for the mass market as I never heard anything from my distributors about WOTC making these available for us.  Pity, too, as I had players asking for them this week and I had to stare at them, since until I saw them at Target, that was the first I had heard of them and they would be perfect for drafting.  Other stores reported a similar pattern of street date violations, none at Walmart or Toys R Us but consistently at Target.

I did what WOTC has asked stores to do: let them know about violations and they will deal with the offender.  If WOTC really wanted to fix this problem, a little logistical tweaking along the order of how they handle Dungeons & Dragons would fix it.  WPN stores get D&D products a week or so in advance of non-WPN stores, which includes the mass market.  Just extend this program to Magic, have new Magic releases hit non-WPN stores a week after WPN stores, and mass market street date violations solved.  How about it, WOTC?

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of