I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, not every product that Wizards of the Coasts slaps a Magic: the Gathering label on is for you, fellow MTG enthusiast. When a product is announced like the Mythic Edition booster box, which Blake talked about last week, the first question I ask myself is, “Who is the target audience for this product?”

It’s obvious that the target audience is high-end collectors, which puts the Mythic Edition promo Planeswalker cards in the same category as Masterpieces and From the Vault cards. They’re directed at folks who are more than willing to spend several hundred dollars to upgrade individual cards in their collection and won’t hesitate to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a single deck.

Now, this is where the story deviates from past editions of “These cards are not for you.” Editions like Masterpieces and From the Vault were high-end and exclusively designed for high-end collectors but they also had another important component to them, they drove traffic through your local game store.

Other products have also been designed exclusively for game store distribution such as the Commander reprint anthologies, the Nicol Bolas Archenemy set, and the Duel Decks Anthology series. The products serve the purpose of getting cards to a specific market segment but also driving traffic to your local shop.

The Mythic Edition box, which will cost $250 and come with 24 booster packs including all 8 of the new planeswalker promo cards, can only be purchased through Hasbro’s online toy store with a limit of two per customer and you must have them shipped to an address in the United States or Canada.

So, uh, not through your local store then, eh?

The reactions so far have been pretty damning of Wizards of the Coast, accusing them of a greedy money grab that is a sign that the end is nigh for the gaming company. Coupled with recent announcements of products specifically designed for large retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, and it’s easy to build a narrative that the ship is sinking and WotC plans on taking your local game store down with them.

This leaves local stores stranded with just buy-a-box promos, event promos for Open House, Draft Weekend, Magic League, and Store Championships, playmats for Store Champion, and the ever-popular Friday Night Magic promotional series. Also there’s pre-releases and PPTQs that only local stores can run.

But, there’s a clear delineation being drawn here between what’s for gaming stores, which all seems geared towards competitive play, and what’s for retailers/Wizards, which seems geared towards casual players and collectors. That’s a weird dichotomy but it puts local stores in a tough place because they become dependent on their local competitive scene for MTG revenue instead of casual sales which get diverted to retailers and online sales.

Wizards has a track record of throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks, especially when it comes to non-competitive products like event decks, duel decks, the premium deck series, from the vault, planechase, archenemy, Commander, and so on and so on and so on. It will be interesting to see how the Mythic Edition works out for them but it’s easy to see why most fans are unhappy.

More importantly are the long-term effects this will have on the relationship between WotC and local stores. Will store owners wake up to the reality that their profits exist at the whim of the Play Design team and change their business models? Will that result in fewer Magic events meaning less support for competitive communities?

It’s too soon to speculate, but there are strong opinions all around the community, lots of questions about Wizards of the Coast’s motivation, and as usual very few answers to be found until the next announcement day.

Rich Stein is a retired Magic player, an amateur content creator, and a Level 2 Social Justice Sorcerer. He hopes to eventually become a professional content creator and a Level 20 dual class Social Justice Sorcerer/Bard but he’s more than content to remain a retired Magic player. You can follow his musings on Twitter @RichStein13

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