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, Scott Thorne examines the coming changes to the WPN.

First, a follow-up to last week’s column (which in turn followed up on the previous week’s column).  From what Wizards of the Coast staff have indicated on the company’s Facebook page, changing the time stores can start running Magic: The Gathering pre-releases to 3 p.m. on July 5 is a trial program to see what effect allowing an earlier start time has on pre-release numbers or other factors the company wants to learn more about.  Feedback from stores so far has been almost unanimously positive, with stores quite happy not to have to remain open and staffed until 5 a.m. or later Saturday morning.  However, WOTC announced the pre-release dates for the next set, codenamed "Archery," as the last weekend in September, with no indication yet as to whether the prerelease for the set will run September 27-29 or 28-29 as past pre-releases have run.

Some other things WOTC has announced with the release of Core 2020 this July will or could bring major change to Magic Organized Play.  Although Commander has been a recognized form of Organized Play for a number of years, it will get its first specific in-store event this August, coinciding with the release of the Commander 2019 decks.

Scheduling for prereleases is now available up to the prerelease weekend, although stores will still need to schedule events far enough in advance to make sure they get their allocations set for future sets.  One benefit of this will be that it allows a store, if it seems it will have extra prerelease packs available, to schedule another event to use them, rather than allocating them to a prerelease party.  Sanctioned events count toward future allocations, pre-release parties do not.

The quantity of early sale booster boxes a store received will be tied to the number of Buy-a-Box promos the store receives.  Previously, stores received a certain number of promos based upon their standing as a WPN store.  Now, I imagine the number of promos will reflect the number of "Tickets and Engaged Players" a store has recorded over the past year.  Store will also be able to early sell booster boxes starting at 3 p.m. through the prerelease weekend, with the sales blackout going back into effect on July 8.

To my mind, the biggest change will be the elimination of the decades-old Friday Night Magic promo card and similar promo cards for other events, replacing them with the 4-card Promo Pack, quantities of which will ship to stores based on the numbers of "Tickets and Engaged Players" the store had during the past year.  Given the randomness of the contents of the packs and the rarity of the cards inside them, I expect these to draw a lot of people to Friday Night Magic and other events, since unlike the current promo card system wherein WOTC announces the cards available for each block, the Promo Packs are random, having that same appeal that regular Magic booster packs and the Saturday Showdown (and the Ixalan Treasure Chest) packs do.  We have players who show up specifically to play in Standard format tournaments only because they want one of the Saturday Showdown packs and I expect the new Promo Packs to drive players to participate in WOTC OP as well.

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