Exclusive:  ICv2 recently spoke with Brian Trunk, Brand Manager for Magic: The Gathering at Wizards of the Coast about its new organized play initiative, The Hero’s Path, which will be launching on Friday, September 20th with the Pre-release of the Theros set (see "'Magic: The Gathering--Theros'").
What are the goals of the Hero’s Path organized play initiative, and how does the event achieve your goals?
As you know Theros is the first set in the newest Magic: The Gathering block, it’s also the beginning of The Hero’s Path.  It’s our unprecedented block-long Magic entertainment experience. 
We have nine quests--that includes puzzles, we have battles, we have rewards that will be going on at the store.  What we really want is to have retailers turn their store into Theros, be the arena for the Magic players for the quests along the Hero’s Path.
What is the goal in a marketing sense?  Is the goal to tie players through the block more, to keep them more engaged, or are there other goals?
We are looking at allowing players to engage through an entire block-long experience.  We haven’t done this in the past, so it’s an unprecedented block-long experience that allows players to come in any time throughout the entire set of Theros, Born of the Gods, and The Journey into Nix and go through those epic quests that the heroes do on the Path, and enter themselves into the Hall of Heroes.
How do retailers participate in this promotion?  You said you want them to be the arena for the Hero’s Path?
One of the goals is we really want to drive players into the stores.  This time we’ve created three experiences for them for each set.  For Theros we have the Pre-Release, then we have the Launch Weekend and then the Game Day.  Each one of these experiences will drive players into the store.
Retailers can go to the Wizards’ Event Reporter, where they can sign up to run the event.  While [sign-up for] Theros has already been completed, Born of the Gods opens on November 25th.  Retailers can go there and sign up to participate in the Pre-release, Launch Weekend and Game Day experiences.
So there are three events for each set, is that right?
That is correct.
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Those tie in to these three quests for each block?
That is correct.
The first experience of the Pre-Release is choosing a path.  The next experience will actually be Launch Weekend where players go into the store and have a puzzle to figure out.  Once the puzzle is solved, players receive another Hero Card.  Players will bring those two Hero Cards to their first Game Day experience for Theros.  At Game Day they’ll have a unique experience where they’ll have a Challenge Deck that they’ll be able to use to face the Hydra, similar to what Elspeth has done within the story of Theros.
You say of the Hero Cards, "It's a physical card that has Magic-like abilities, but isn't a Magic card."  Can you explain how they’ll be used to "prepare for the battle at the end of the set's Hero's Path arc?"
When a player goes to the Pre-Release, Launch Weekend, or Game Day they’ll receive these Hero Cards.  Each Hero Card is double-faced.  One face contains the specific game mechanics and the other side has a redeemable code that they can go to Planeswalker Points and get an achievement.
The mechanic on the first side of the Hero Card can help the player defeat the Game Day Challenge Deck that we’ve created.  They can get a bonus, for example, of death touch, or extra life, or plus one, or give their creatures haste.  There will also be digital Hero’s Path avatars similar to those Hero Cards, which will be available on Magic Online.
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So why did you add Challenge Decks as part of the Game Day experience?
We’ve seen a lot of excitement with Game Day in the past few years, and we wanted to make sure we tied the entire set in instead of just having a big celebration with Pre-Release and the Launch Weekend.  We know that players are excited to come into the stores, and we wanted to give the retailers an opportunity to continue that excitement with Game Day and we created an experience with the Game Day deck, where players can come in and have that epic hero-type experience at Game Day.
You said that players can join The Hero’s Path at any point along the way, is that correct?
That is correct.
And what if they want to change their color or theme?  Are they locked in to one thing when they start or can that be changed?
They need to complete all nine quests to get into the Hall of Heroes.  We said that they could participate at any point within the block.  They’re not restricted to a color, or a theme.  Basically when they come to the Pre-Release, they chose a color or a theme, the Path is the quest throughout Theros.  That is your path.  The path is not choosing red and then being stuck with red throughout the entire block of Theros.  The theme is to allow them to fill out their Theros character a little bit more.
The reward at the end of the Hero’s Path is to be listed in the "Hall of Heroes?"
That is correct.  Once a player completes all nine quests, they get exclusively entered into the digital Heroes at MTGHEROSPATH.com.  In addition they get the Hero’s Path Planeswalker Points achievement by redeeming their Planeswalker Point codes on the back of their Hero Cards throughout the quest.
What’s in the Pre-release Pack?
Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received from our players and retailers in terms of Ravnica and Gatecrash, we’re happy to announce we’ve replicated that experience for the Theros block.  In the Pre-Release Pack, a player will find everything they need to play in the pre-release: five Theros boosters and a seeded booster pack.  That seeded booster pack contains pre-determined Theros cards that are selected to help the player build an exciting deck that matches their heroic theme.  The Pre-Release pack also contains their Hero Card, a special unique card that is theme-designed to help them in their Hero’s Path quest at Game Day.  Additionally the Pre-release Pack will have a promo card that is playable this time, a spin-down counter, a quiz activity card that they can work with their friends to solve throughout their pre-release experience.
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Are there any special products associated with the other two events for each set?
There aren’t products associated with them, it’s a standard event.  What they’ll be able to do when they come to the Launch Weekend is there will be a puzzle that they’ll be able to solve, and solving the puzzle will receive them their Hero Card.  Then on Game Day, they’ll have that challenge deck experience and upon completing that experience they’ll receive another Hero Card.
Thinking about potential benefits of a block-long organized play event, with previous blocks, has there been attrition between the first and third sets in a block, or is it totally variable depending on the content?
We’ve seen some variable data in the past. We’re actually seeing a lot more excitement with the Launch Weekend and Game Days.  At least we have through the Ravnica block.  We want to keep players engaged through the entire block-long experience this time.  This is unprecedented.  We’ll kind of see how they react; we think they’ll be more engaged throughout the entire experience this time.
It also tied them into the story, tied them into the very similar story that Elspeth is going through in terms of becoming a hero herself.
You said players can jump on to the Hero’s Path at any point, but for players who may want to begin after the first set in the block, do you run the risk of players saying 'I’ll just wait for the next block--I’m not going to complete the achievements for this'?
It could potentially run the risk of that, but I really think that the Challenge Day experiences--at least in terms of our experiences playing the deck so far, are very, very exciting.  Even if they come in with Born of the Gods, or Journey into Nix, you really need those Hero Cards to aid in the player experience for that third Game Day challenge deck.  Players will really want to come to the Pre-Release and Launch Weekend to get the cards for that next Challenge Deck experience, so even if they missed the release of Theros, players will definitely want to come to the Born of the Gods and try that Challenge Deck experience.