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 compares the most recent Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons releases.

Partially thanks to Wizards of the Coast, it looks like November will prove a pretty good month in terms of sales.  Unfortunately, not due to the release of Magic: The Gathering--Iconic Masters, I fear.  We cut back on our orders from the quantities we requested for Eternal Masters and Modern Masters and I heard a number of other stores doing the same, primarily due to those age-old laws of supply and demand.

First of all, there appears to be plenty of supply.  I have seen pre-sales of displays of Iconic Masters selling for as low as $165 a display on eBay and other websites.  Even Walmart has a 3-pack "draft pack," apparently a mass market exclusive, since hobby game stores did not have the item offered to them.  I recall similar 3-packs getting released through Walmart and other discount stores in the past.  Funny, though, I have yet to see Walmart or Target run a draft or even a Standard tournament.

Of course, without a MAP (Minimum Advertised Price) in place from WOTC, nothing stops sellers on the web from dropping the price lower and lower in order to move product.  After all, if you sell the same thing everyone else is, and have lots of it, the only thing you have to compete on is price, which means dropping the price in the hope the consumer will choose your commoditized box of Magic over someone else’s commoditized box of Magic.

In addition, when you have "experts" on YouTube posting videos talking about the Expected Value of a box of boosters as if the buyer was making an investment, it gets hard to convince the customer that they should pay $229 for a box when the "experts" say the buyer should only expect to get a value of $154.  After all, why would I pay $75 more dollars for something only worth $154?  Likely the only way for a store to do well with Iconic Masters is to sit on their purchase, wait until the pricing frenzy dies down and then sell the set for closer to MSRP.  Unfortunately, many stores do not have the cash cushion to sit on their order until that happens.

On the other hand, we have Dungeons & Dragons: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.  XGTE shows the flip side of the laws of supply and demand.  When there is scarcity, or perceived scarcity, people want the product and prices increase.  Like last year’s Volo’s Guide to Monsters, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything released with a hobby market-only cover, and demand for the allocated cover has proved strong enough that most distributors, and WOTC, allocated orders of that version.  With little of the fanfare that accompanies a typical Magic release (posters, cardboard displays, promotional cards), Xanathar’s Guide has proven a very strong seller with stores in larger markets reporting sales of nigh onto 100 copies in the two weeks since its release, amazing numbers for a RPG release.

Unlike Iconic Masters, perceived scarcity has driven asking prices for copies of the hobby market cover significantly higher than MSRP, hitting $70 to $90, making customers view the MSRP at which most stores sell the book a comparative bargain and leading to steady sales at cover price.

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