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 talks Adventures in the Forgotten Realms prereleases and Universes Beyond.

Magic: The Gathering's Adventures in the Forgotten Realms prereleased this past weekend.  It was one of the first widespread prereleases with in-store play since the epidemic started.  Frankly, I expected much more excitement over this in the weeks leading up to the past week, but our numbers, if anything, were a bit down for pre-registration from the pre-COVID-19 numbers.  Maybe I missed it, but I expected a lot more excitement over the set from both retailers and Wizards of the Coast, given that stores and players have been asking for a D&D / Magic crossover for since the early 2000s.

Shortly after WotC acquired TSR, players and stores started pushing for a D&D-themed expansion for Magic, given the high fantasy themes contained in both.  I remember hearing questions regarding combinations of the two posed to WotC representatives at a number of trade shows during the early 2000s.  WotC generally responded that fearing potential confusion and the difficulty of representing the mechanics of one game’s play within the other’s strictures, it was in the best interest of both games to keep them separate.  WotC took this position so firmly that questions on the topic died out after about 2005.

The release of the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica in 2018 showed that WotC had decided to reverse its stance, at least so far as to adapt the Ravnica setting to the D&D mechanics (see "'D&D' Officially Meets 'Magic: The Gathering'").  The recent practice by WotC of re-skinning Magic cards with characters from pop culture (The Walking Dead, My Little Pony) in their Secret Lair and Ikoria sets shows the company is willing to take it further (see "Preview: 'Magic Secret Lair X The Walking Dead'").  The release of  the planned Universes Beyond sets in 2022 further puts paid to the past expressed strategy of keeping Magic a standalone game as it had remained without venturing into the realms of licensing for over two decades (see "Licensing Plans for 'Magic: The Gathering'").

I can see the crossover potential of a Stranger Things Secret Lair/Universes Beyond release and even that of a  Lord of the Rings release but the proposed Warhammer 40,000 Universes Beyond release still doesn’t make much sense to me, especially given the past fate of previous Warhammer 40,000 trading card games (see "Rolling for Initiative -- Thoughts on Hasbro's Investor Day Announcements").  Adding mechanically unique cards from the Secret Lair drops to The List slot in Set Boosters still does not completely solve the problem that the people who purchase a Secret Lair release get all of the mechanically unique cards in one fell swoop, while other players have to wait six months and then only have the cards available as one possible card appearing in the pack.

Possibly getting rid of the art card slot, and replacing it with a second The List card slot would help to get more of these cards into play.  After all, the entire premise of Magic, as I commented in the column referenced above, is that every player should have an equal, albeit small chance of getting any card in the sets.  The Secret Lair releases run counter to that precept, and the current Secret Lair Superdrop running this month indicates to me that WotC has seen the past success of its previous Secret Lair drops and crossovers with other licenses and figures more must be better (see "'Secret Lair Superdrop' Showcases Art Inspired by 'D&D' Cartoon").

Am I wrong?  Are more Magic licenses a good thing?  Let me know at

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