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, Scott Thorne looks at the significant changes to organized play for Magic: The Gathering and how Dungeons & Dragons releases are handled.

Along with the elimination of MSRP, Wizards of the Coast has announced some changes to the Magic: The Gathering in-store OP program that will take place with the release of War of the Spark.  A big change to the Dungeons & Dragons release program got announced as well.

Magic Open House shifts to Release Weekend from the weekend before.  Since the weekend before is Easter weekend and retailers have asked WOTC to avoid scheduling events on major holidays, the company decided for that reason and to try alternative dates to move the Open House to the following weekend.  While a good attempt, the Saturday before Easter is generally not the holiday most retailers were wanting WOTC to avoid.  Hopefully, the company will also look at avoiding Christmas, Halloween and Free Comic Book Day, which takes place the same Saturday every year and absorbs most of the available staffing for those stores that participate.

Unless a store changes, its distributor choice remains the same post-War of the Spark.  This means little to customers but makes it a bit easier and harder for stores setting up pre-releases.  For future pre-releases, WOTC will automatically select the same distributor chosen to supply product for War of the Spark.  This removes one more thing the store has to consider when setting up a pre-release, much like ordering Buy-a-Box promos is automatic now.  In the past, when setting up a pre-release, a store would also have to order its Buy-It-By-the-Box promo cards as well, and if the store overlooked doing so while putting in all of the other pre-release info, the store would not get any promos.  I know of several stores that (years ago) failed to receive their BIBTB promos for this reason.  Having the distributor pre-set makes the process slightly easier.  However, the new process makes it slightly harder to change distributors, as instead of just selecting from a drop-down menu, the store will have to contact Wizards to make the change.  Due to inertia, stores will likely keep the same distributor rather than making the effort needed to change.

Magic Weekend gets incorporated into the calendar with special rules.  The Store Championship goes away, getting replaced by special weekends several weeks after the official release.  The first two weekends ran very similarly to the Store Championships, only with a D&D adventure tied in to the Magic set.  WOTC has indicated there will be special rules for the weekend which the company will announce as the set release date draws closer.

With Saltmarsh, the hobby window for D&D releases goes away.  For the last few years, pre-releases for Magic and a roughly two-week advance window for D&D releases were benefits offered to stores qualifying for WPN status.  Game stores would receive the new D&D books around the first Friday of the month and mass market stores and websites such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Walmart would receive them about two weeks later.  With Ghosts of Saltmarsh, everyone will have them on May 21.  WOTC also announced that Saltmarsh, and subsequent books, will all have soft touch alternate covers available only through game stores, giving those customers who want the variant covers a reason to purchase from the FLGS.  So far, it appears most stores plan to respond by doubling up their variant covers and only purchasing 1 copy of the main cover.

As with everything else from WOTC, we shall see what effect these change have on Magic OP and D&D sales.

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