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 Wizards of the Coast's recent announcement of parallel cards for Magic: The Gathering – The Brothers’ War.

Wizards of the Coast first teased "parallels" as another addition to the card line in late 2021 (see "WotC Adds Card Parallels to Magic: The Gathering") and released the first one, a serial numbered 1 to 100 MIrrored Viscera Seer, in the Phyrexian Praetors; Compleat Edition Secret Lair set in November of 2021 (see "New ‘Secret Lair Superdrop’").  Apparently having found the limited release successful and seeing the potential to generate even more sales to collectors, WotC has quietly decided to insert serial parallel cards in the upcoming Magic: The Gathering Brothers’ War set (see "Update on ‘Magic: The Gathering; Brothers’ War’"), specifically the Retro Frame Artifact cards which are reprints of older cards with different framing treatments. WotC will apply three different frame treatments to the Retro Frame Artifact cards: regular retro frame, retro schematics, and serialized retro schematics with "double-rainbow" foiling.

There are 63 uncommon, rare and mythic rare Retro Frame Artifacts in the set, in both regular and foil versions. The regular retro and “retro schematic” cards will appear in all three varieties of boosters. It gets more interesting with the serialized Retro Frame Artifact cards as they are one of a kind and only appear in the Collector Boosters.

WotC has borrowed the idea of serialization from the sports card market and some of the Weiss Schwartz TCG sets and will produce 63 serial numbered sets of each of the Retro Frame Artifact cards, with the serial number appearing in the lower left corner of the card art, as shown in the released picture of the prototype Wurmcoil Engine.  Considering there are 63 Retro Frame Artifact cards and 500 of each parallel version, that is a whole lot of additional cards for M:TG collectors to pursue.

I mentioned the new parallel cards during a staff meeting and the Magic aficionados among them just rolled their eyes and said, once again, WotC made their head hurt. Of course, this new version of the cards does not target players but rather Magic collectors, specifically that segment of the collector market that the video game industry calls "whales".

Whales are what makes it possible for most video game players to play the game of their choice for free (well, free aside from giving up information about themselves for the companies to sell to other marketers).  Almost all video games offer some form of in game purchases whether it be custom skins, lootboxes, upgrates, etc, for a cost.  Less than 10% of video game players make these in game purchases but enough do, and make purchases in such quantity, that it allows the company to make the game available to the overwhelming majority of players for free or at a nominal cost.  The whales defray the cost for other players and, in return, get cool extras and a vast pool of opponents.

Of course, the parallel cards will not add more players into the pool and will not enhance gameplay.  They will put more money into WotC/Hasbro’s coffers and more sales on the aftermarket.  I fear WotC will keep coming back with new treatments for cards aimed at collectors instead of improving the experience for the casual player and doing outreach to get more players into the game (Hint: Welcome Decks).  Our store has already seen a noticeable drop in interest in Collector Boosters.  No new players means no new customers for parallel cards.

Your thoughts?  Are serialized cards a good or bad or neutral idea?  Send your thoughts to

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