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 follows up on "15 Changes Coming With 'M20'" by delving into potential allocation problems for the new Core Set 2020 Promo Packs.

Following up on last week’s list of changes coming with the release of the new Magic: The Gathering Core Set 2020, the addition of the Core Set 2020 Promo Pack is probably the biggest change.  For years, decades even, Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) has provided promo cards for stores to give away to participants in various Magic-related events such as Friday Night Magic (FNM), Draft Weekend, and Magic Open House.  However, with Core Set 2020, WotC decided to scrap the promo card system, with the exception of the "Buy-It-By-The-Box" promo card, and replace it with what WOTC is calling the Core Set 2020 Promo Pack.

Each pack consists of four cards:

  1.  A promo-stamped version of a rare or mythic rare from Core Set 2020.
  2.  A promo-stamped card from this list, most of the time.  However, just to keep us on our toes, about 25% of the time, this card will get replaced by one of the highly-sought-after Japanese Alternate Art Planeswalkers from War of the Spark.
  3.  A promo-stamped alternate art basic land card.
  4.  One of five promo cards from the current set, although in the future, this might drop back to three.  The ones available for this set of promo packs are:  Corpse Knight, Disfigure, Flame Sweep, Negate, and Thrashing Brontodon.  WotC does say they reserve the right to toss a different card in there though.

So, what are stores supposed to do with these?  Well, according to WotC’s original description of the packs for this set (see "WotC Revamps Wizards Play Network"), stores should ideally give them out on three days:

  • Magic Open House—June 29-30 and a lot of stores reported customers coming in for the event expected, nay even demanding, one of the promo packs.
  • Draft Weekend, which takes place the Saturday and Sunday after the release of a new set (i.e. this past weekend for Core 2020.)
  • Commander Weekend (see "'Magic: The Gathering--Core Set 2020' and 'Commander'") August 24-25, which is the first officially sanctioned Commander event WOTC has put on the calendar and coincides with the release of this year’s Commander decks.

However, the suggested distribution sent to stores along with the packs recommends spreading them out more, which is rather tricky given the limited quantities stores receive.  WOTC recommends stores allocate their allotment of packs as follows:

  • Draft Weekend - 15%
  • FNM - 30% (3% of available packs per week)
  • Commander Weekend - 20%
  • New Player Events (like the Open House) - 10%
  • Other events (tournaments scheduled by the store, etc.) - 25%

The problem comes with how to distribute the promo packs.  Up until now, all promotional items WOTC provided were designated for particular events:  FNM cards for distribution during FNM Events, Standard Showdown  packs during Standard Showdown tournaments, Draft Weekend cards during Draft Weekend events and so forth.  Now, we have one promo item to use for all of those events and stores have to figure out how to allocate them in order to stretch them out as long as possible.  Stores do not have enough to give every player one for participating, at least not enough to do so and still have packs to last until “Archery” releases.  Some stores are giving one to the winner, some are giving one to any player going undefeated, others are opening packs and giving away the individual cards.  Figuring out how to best allocate them will prove problematic, at best.

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