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 looks at two recent changes made for Magic: The Gathering releases.

Wizards of the Coast made a major announcement this week regarding the release of the Dominaria set.  Customers that pre-order booster boxes of the new set can pick them up pre-release weekend.  This is the first time in the 25-year history of Magic: The Gathering that WOTC has not only allowed early sales of a set but encouraged it.  WOTC even sent out notices to stores in the past weeks informing them of how many of the Buy-A-Box promo cards of Firesong and Sunspeaker (nice to see the return of Hurloon minotaurs) each store will receive.  I assume WOTC did this in order to let stores know how many boxes of boosters they could pre-sell and have enough of the Buy-A-Box card in order to satisfy demand.

Several years ago, stores had to specifically order the Buy-A-Box card, otherwise they would not receive a copy; then the model shifted to stores receiving the card automatically with the other promotional items WOTC sends with every pre-release.  That has been the model for the system for the past several years.

It would appear that WOTC really wants to push sales of booster boxes through local game stores and is encouraging them to do so by promoting both the playability of the BUY-A-Box card and its scarcity, more so than the company has chosen to do in the past.  As noted above, this change in the Buy-A-Box card promotion, plus allowing week-early sales of booster boxes during pre-release weekend by WPN stores should prove interesting.  I have already seen one instance of a store offering online customers the opportunity to have boxes shipped to them pre-release weekend, in direct violation of the agreement stores enter into with WOTC in exchange for participating in pre-release events, receiving promotional materials, and having the opportunity to sell Dungeons and Dragons books a month before they go into mass market release.

The second major change that WOTC has announced is the discontinuation of the From the Vault series of releases replacing it with the new Signature Spellbook sets.  The 8-card sets will sell for $19.95 and we have no idea yet if WOTC will produce quantities as limited as the From the Vault sets.  The limited quantities and the highly-in-demand cards always pushed the asking price for a From the Vault set from MSRP of $34.99 to double or even four times that amount.

There is no indication yet if the first Signature Spellbook set, featuring Jace Beleren, will command those kinds of multiples as various printings of the Jace Beleren Planeswalker card included with the set sell for an average of $7.  Other cards are relatively popular, with Mystical Tutor selling for around $7 and Gifts Ungiven for $12.  These cards alone will make the set popular among blue players, though its ultimate desirability will depend on how many units WOTC allocates per store.  When ordering From the Vault sets in the past, stores knew how many copies they would receive, as WOTC based it on the store’s level in the WPN, one of the advantages of seeking WPN status.  This time, WOTC just asked if stores wanted to participate and I have not heard any firm numbers regarding how many a participating store should expect to receive.

These two changes should prove interesting.

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