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 the outreach programs Wizards of the Coast has in place to get more people into the behemoth that is Magic: The Gathering.

Given that this past weekend was the Magic Open House née Demo Day, I thought it a good time to reflect on the outreach programs Wizards of the Coast has in place to get more people into the behemoth that is Magic.

Demo Decks.  This is, in my opinion, the best demo program that any company has in place to get people into their game.  Just imagine, if you are a WPN approved store, you can email WOTC at any time and ask for a box of demonstration-quality Magic decks to use to introduce new players to the game.  WOTC will send, upon request, a box of 20 demo decks and the company will even pay for the shipping.

In-store promotional material.  WOTC sends out some pretty amazing promotional materials to use in the store.  We still get comments from customers on the Kaladesh airship models (no more of those please, three hours to put together a promotional piece is just way too long).  Posters, standees and 3D display items are really eye-catching, though I would not mind seeing a revision of older promotional items such as logoed scorepads, tablecloths, lit window signage and even a window cling or two.  I think the last window cling we received identifying us as a WPN store and, more importantly, as a place to play Friday Night Magic, was back when Return to Ravnica launched.  Maybe even some signs for Alliance Distribution’s light panel display wouldn’t be out of place?

How-to articles.  WOTC produces a steady stream of materials aimed at both the established retailer and the one comparatively new to Magic and the game industry.  I wish I had had this amount and quality of material when I was just starting out (of course, retailers starting out in 20 years or so will look back at this material and shake their heads as they slip on their VR headsets to look at the new cards).

Digital support material.  WOTC makes available a lot of high quality support materials like these printable Magic Core 2019 pre-release invitations as well as things like Facebook banners, web banners, sharable FB, Twitter and Instagram materials.  No Snapchat filters though.  Other companies do this (Games Workshop comes to mind) but not to the extent that WOTC does.

Outreach programs.  Although it sounds like a Harry Potter reference, or the title suitable for one of the dozens of YA supernatural-themed novels that come out every month.  Magic in the Library (not the official name, but doesn’t it sound cool?) got launched last year as an outreach to libraries and schools.  Sending a demo table to them along with a set of demo decks and the demo walkthrough is a brilliant idea and it looks as if some 800 libraries and schools have taken WOTC up on it.  Of course, inside of every one of those demo decks, assuming the player really likes the game, is a card directing them to the DCI Store locater.  After all, libraries and schools do not sell Magic.  If they like the game and want to improve on the demo deck, they have to come to stores to get more cards and, last time I checked, Amazon and Walmart are not listed in the Locater.  Sounds pretty good to me.

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