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 discusses the problem with odds approximations on Brothers' War boxes as well as how this weekend's prerelease events went.

A blurb on the Wizards of the Coast Brothers’ War Set Booster boxes has proven somewhat problematic for retailers and purchasers of booster boxes of said Set boosters.  The blurb reads as follows: "1 in 10 boosters includes a Transformers card."  Not "may include a Transformers card" or any fine print underneath qualifying the stated ratio, just a flat one in 10 boosters includes a Transformers card. (see "Wizards of the Coast will Include Magic the Gathering Transformers’ Cards").

The problem is that I have seen several stores reporting they have opened booster boxes of Set boosters and found no Transformers cards inside.  Of course, other retailers counter that they have opened booster boxes and gotten four, five, or even six Transformers cards.  As WotC has noted many times over the years, any ratios applied to Magic: The Gathering cards are approximations and not a guarantee that a certain number of cards will appear in every pack or box.  However, as WotC likes to point out in its investor calls, a large number of new Magic players have started playing the game within the past few years and they are likely not aware that Magic ratios are approximations, not guaranteed, and WotC certainly has not made much of an effort to reinforce that ratios are only estimates. 

Frankly, I'd rather have the company take the route it did with the Godzilla cards in Ikoria:  Lair of Behemoths and the Dracula set of cards in Crimson Vow: customers knew they could find those cards in the set, and with a minimal amount of research found out how common they were; instead of raising expectations by stating on the box top that purchasers could expect to find three Transformers cards in a box of Set Boosters.

Stores reported prerelease attendance numbers all over the board.  Our Friday and Saturday pulled in less than half the numbers of our Dominaria United events over the same days and several other stores reported similar figures with declines in attendance of 40%-50% not uncommon.  Having the prerelease fall on Veterans Day weekend possibly has something do due with the low figures, since if you work in certain industries, you get Friday off and a chance to get out of town.

Bemusing though is that most stores reporting low prerelease attendance also report seeing significant levels of box sales; not single pack sales, though.  Customers still expect single packs available for sale on the release date, not the prerelease date.  At least here, the excitement of prerelease weekend for Magic the Gathering players has dropped off considerably (see "The Pre-release is Dead, Long Live the Prerelease").

The excitement of Magic prerelease weekend was tied to the fact that the only way to get the cards from the new set was to play in a prerelease event.  When stores eased out of the pandemic, WotC introduced the at-home prerelease, which really helped stores garner customers while not having to worry about them in the store spreading COVID.  But it did diminish the idea that customers had to play in-store to get the new cards.  No more playing one round and dropping, customers could just "buy" a pre-release kit and leave.  The next step was completed IRL prereleases, and moved stores back to normalcy.  But then, WotC moved beyond that by first allowing sales of booster boxes and now allowing the sale of all Brothers’ War product, including individual boosters and single cards. Players could get as much products as they wanted (subject to the allocations from WotC).  Sales are good, but a lot of the excitement has gone out of Magic prereleases this time through.

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