The Pokemon Company is launching a major celebration of the brand’s 25th anniversary, including multiple music partnerships headlined by Katy Perry, video games, mobile apps, animation, merchandise, and more.
The music collaborations come via an overall deal with Universal Music Group, and will include additional artists in addition to Perry, who touted her Pokemon cred. “Pokémon has been a constant in my life from playing the original video games on my Game Boy, to trading Pokémon TCG cards at lunch, to the adventures of catching Pokémon on the street with Pokémon GO,” she said in a statement accompanying the announcement.
For the Pokémon TCG, the company promised “special 25th anniversary-themed collections” later in TCG. It has already announced a series of First Partner Packs to be released throughout the year (see “’Pokemon First Partner Packs’”).
Other progams include a journey through the regions of the Pokémon video games, beginning with the Galar region and ending with the classic Kanto region; collaborations with Build-a-Bear workshop, General Mills, Levi’s, and McDonald’s; and special merchandise from Jazwares, Scholastic, Mattel, Funko, PowerA, the Wand Company, and others to be announced.
This adds up to substantially more throw-weight than even the massive push for the 20th anniversary, which helped move the entire TCG category up 20% in 2016 (see “Pro: Hobby Games Market over $1.4 Billion”). The visibility of the brand, which is already red-hot in the TCG category, is only going to go up this year.
Square Enix announced Opus XIII: Crystal Radiance, an expansion for Final Fantasy TCG, to release in March 26, 2021. This new set features brand-new Multi-Element combinations as well as a return of Multi-Element Forwards which first appeared in Opus XII: Crystal Awakening (see ” ‘Final Fantasy TCG: Opus XII – Crystal Awakening’ Detailed”). There are a also new cards with elemental combinations that differ from those of the Multi-Element cards from previous sets. Also, this set includes three powerful cards from past expansions are included as legacy cards: Vivi [3-017L], Fina [8-060L], and Fusoya [9-094L].
These boxes come in a case count of 12, and MSRP per booster box is $144.00.
Wizards of the Coast unveiled the Lotus Bloom Buy-a-Box promo as well as the March 19, 2021 release date for Time Spiral: Remastered. On January 1, WotC dropped a preview card for their upcoming Time Spiral: Remastered set on their Twitter feed (see “‘Magic: The Gathering’ Release Calendar for 2020/2021”). This release promo, Lotus Bloom, features a retro-90s Magic: The Gathering foil card frame similar to the ones used on early foils in sets like Urza’s Saga block, Invasion block, and Odyssey block. The promo is meant to be given away as a either a Buy-a-Box or Launch Party promo on March 19-21, and is not available in booster packs.
WotC also mentioned that the Time Spiral: Remastered product line will feature Draft Boosters that come 36 packs to a box. Additionally, they are dedicating their launch weekend entirely to Limited play with in-store play featuring Booster Draft or 4-Pack Sealed tournaments. Stores can also opt to host Webcam Launch Parties via Discord in place of their in-store events.
Rarity Configurations for ‘Collector Boosters’, ‘Set Boosters’, and More!
Wizards of the Coast released new information on the rarity configuration of Magic: The Gathering packs for the upcoming Kaldheim set. The Kaldheim booster configurations had been kept a well-guarded secret, even with set being less than a month away from release (see ” ‘Magic: The Gathering’ Release Calendar for 2020/2021″). Once WotC revealed that this set will include Snow Lands, the information for the booster rarity configurations was made public. Starting with the basics, a Kaldheim Draft Booster will contain 15 Magic cards: an ad/token or MDFC Helper, a Rare or Mythic Rare, 3 Uncommons, 10 Commons, and a Snow Land (basic or tapped dual). The changes to the Draft Booster pack are the addition of the Snow Land in the basic land slot and that every one-in-three Kaldheim Draft Boosters from a sealed box will contain a foil card.
The Kaldheim Set Booster gets a little bit more interesting because WotC switched up the configurations since their first run of this type of booster in Zendikar Rising (see “‘Magic: The Gathering’ ‘Zendikar Rising’ Product Line Revealed!”). The major changes here are the addition of a Wild Card, the basic land is not full-art, and that the commons and uncommons included are no longer “connected”, but instead, “assorted”. These packs contain an Art Card, an Ad or special card from Magic’s history (“The List” card replaces the Ad card in 25% of Set Boosters), a Snow Land (15% chance of foil), 7 assorted Commons and Uncommons, a Snow Common/Uncommon or Showcase Uncommon or Theme Booster Rare not found in Kaldheim Draft Boosters, a Wild Card of any rarity, a Rare or Mythic Rare, and a Foil of any rarity. For the Art Cards, a foil-stamped Signature Art card replaces the Art card in 5% of Set Boosters.
Kaldheim Collector Boosters have more or less panned out to have a similar configuration to previous sets with the exception of the addition of Snow lands in various rarity slots. Kaldheim Collector Booster packs contain 15 cards and 1 foil token: 5 foil Commons or tapped Snow Dual Lands, 2 Foil Uncommons, a Foil Snow Basic Land, a Rare Saga or special Rare or Mythic Rare not found in Kaldheim Draft Boosters, an Extended-Art Rare or Mythic Rare, a Foil Rare or Mythic Rare (Single or Double-Faced), a Non-foil Showcase Uncommon, a Non-foil Showcase or Borderless Rare or Mythic Rare (Single or Double-Faced), a Foil Showcase Uncommon, and a Foil Alternate-Frame Rare or Mythic Rare (Single or Double-Faced—Showcase, Borderless, or Extended-Art).
Kaldheim Theme Boosters contain an ad card and 35 Magic cards that revolve around one of the following six themes: White, Blue, Black, Red, Green, or Vikings. These boosters can include Showcase Legends and 20 cards not found in Kaldheim Draft Boosters. The Kaldheim Bundle has a similar configuration to previous bundles, and it contains an exclusive Reflections of Littjara promo.
Grants Can Be Used For Several Categories of Projects; Rebuild Store Interiors or Even Add a Digital Storefront
Wizards of the Coast announced that applications for Retail Improvement Grants are now available for 2021. In 2019, WotC unveiled a program that would assist stores in moving from WPN to WPN Premium by infusing them with retailer grants (see “Rolling For Initiative — Wizards Puts Its Money Where Its Mouth Is and Other Trends”). The 2021 grants can be applied for through the WPN site, and used for four different categories of store improvement: furniture, design, operational, or construction. Examples of possible furniture improvements could include new tables, chairs, or shelving, and design improvements are mostly decor-related. The larger grants would likely come through the request of construction projects, which can be applied to a wide-range of structural changes such as electrical work, plumbing, and even a new roof.
Operational grants are possibly the most intriguing of the grants because they involve adding tools to help along digital sales, tracking inventory, and contacting customers. In the age of COVID-19, installing and maintaining a digital storefront, website, or signing up to an ecommerce platform is almost a vital component for business survival. This grant offers a chance to help retailers make that move as the pandemic draws closer to an end point.
Online retailer and community site ChannelFireball.com parent Superstars of Sports, Inc. and game store point-of-sale software company BinderPOS are merging, the companies announced, and plan to launch an online collectibles marketplace in Q2 2021.
The new company will be called CFB Group and headquartered in Henderson, Nevada at the Superstars of Sports HQ. Top management will be BinderPOS CEO Joshua Grant, who will be CFB Group CEO, and Superstars of Sports CEO Jon Saso, who will be what sounds like a very active CFB Group Chairman.
“We’ve structured the company in a way in which Jon and I work together a lot of ways,” Grant explained. “He’s more at a board level, whereas the direct business operations falls upon myself as CEO. John is extremely hands on when it comes to being in there. He’s got years and years of experience and knowledge and knows the brand and the audiences through and through. Making sure that he’s fully engaged is very important to making sure that we provide the maximum level of value to this marketplace and the CFB Group.”
The planned collectibles marketplace will launch with three TCGs, Pokemon, Magic: The Gathering, and Flesh and Blood, with plans to expand into other collectibles as well, CFB Group Chief Marketing Officer Mashi Scanlan told ICv2. Sellers will be limited to retailers; there will be no peer-to-peer sellers on the marketplace. The BinderPOS retailers software will integrate with the ChannelFireball marketplace, but retailers will not need to subscribe to the BinderPOS platform to participate.
“CFB Group knows that Local Game Stores are the key to this industry’s growth; our platform and business model are designed around the mission of helping the LGS community thrive and grow,” Grant said in a statement accompanying the announcement.
ChannelFireball parent Superstars of Sports was founded in 1993 as a retail store focused on sports cards. “Sports memorabilia went down, and Magic: The Gathering rose in popularity at the same time in the late 90s, so Magic took over the store,” CMO Scanlan explained. The ChannelFireball site was launched in 2009. “The way we grew ChannelFireball from launch was that we had free strategy content available on the website. That was our big pull. We didn’t do traditional marketing, like PPC or SEO or anything. We just had content, and people came to the website.”
ChannelFireball has grown into a content site with over four million unique visitors in 2020, a top Magic esports team, and a global events coordinator, as well as an online and brick-and-mortar retailer. Scanlan concurred when we told him we estimated that ChannelFireball was the third or fourth largest online retailer of Magic singles, with TCGplayer, which operates an online marketplace as well as retailing cards on its own behalf, the undisputed leader.
After helping a retailer develop software for their store, BinderPOS began actively seeking new customers in 2019, and started a push in the U.S. and Canada early in 2020 (see “BinderPOS Expanding in U.S. and Canada”). With around 200 retailers using its software by early 2020, the company has doubled to around 400 retailers as of early 2021. “A pretty consistent number for us is about 30 new stores joining our platform every month,” Grant said. “We’ve had a really good retention rate with clients. We’ve been getting big fast and having to scale; obviously, there’s always challenges with that. We’re coming to a point now where we’ve just gone through another round of hiring on the BinderPOS side. With the infrastructure of CFB Group to also help with that scaling, we’re in a very good space for 2021. There’s no signs of that slowing down at the moment. We’re about to announce a bunch of valuable integrations for stores, to popular marketplaces and new sales channels, which will also help a lot.”
BinderPOS currently offers integrations through Shopify to Google Marketplace, Facebook Marketplace, Instagram selling, and Amazon. “We will be announcing our integration with eBay in the coming weeks, moving away from the Shopify structure,” Grant said.
The companies began talking about working together at GAMA Expo last March, Grant told us. “Discussions between Jon Saso and myself started at GAMA,” he said. “We were discussing ChannelFireball coming into the BinderPOS platform as a customer. As we discussed further and I realized how closely our goals aligned, we began quickly exploring the idea of working together, which turned into a little bit more of Jon and myself being very passionate about this industry and driving growth. As a retailer himself and experiencing the recent changes of the world, we decided that we wanted to change our focus and work together to do something for this industry. BinderPOS, of course, has always been more of a B2B brand, but coming together and creating the CFB Group turned us into a community brand.
“We really want to have a focus on growing the collectible space, growing the hobby industry, but at the same time, a huge focus on adding even more value to our local game stores and helping them grow online. Jon did a very good job with ChannelFireball over the years, obviously, capturing an audience, maintaining an audience, growing an audience online. A lot of local game stores could really benefit from that.
“We’re turning this into the playbook. We’re getting this content, getting this marketing, getting this channel open so that all the local game stores can get in on it. That’s, I suppose, our unique point of difference here. We’re not letting everyone trade on this platform. This is really for businesses to utilize our marketing strengths and our audience.”
Asked about funding, Grant said, “We will be looking at running a formal Series A this year.”
We asked about the future of live events, which had been an important part of ChannelFireball’s business before the worldwide pandemic effectively suspended them indefinitely. “As soon as the opportunity to safely hold live events again comes up, we will be out there advocating and pitching for live events,” Scanlan said.
The company will use ChannelFireball’s Covid-era experience running online events to host a retailer Zoom event on February 13, the first LGS Con, to launch the B2B push for the online marketplace. The event will feature industry professionals, game publishers and educators for a day of talks to help retailers succeed in the hobby space.
A PSA 10 Gem Mint Black Lotus, from Magic: The Gathering’s Alpha Edition, has been bid up past $700,000 on an eBay auction run by PWCC. An auction for a coveted Alpha Edition Black Lotus is looking like it will finally give the recent gem mint Charizard auctions a run for their money as far as highest price realized for a CCG card (see “Record-Setting Sales Number for ‘Pokemon TCG 1st Edition’ Sealed Product “). This PSA 10 Gem Mint Black Lotus features an on-case autograph of artist Christopher Rush, who created the artwork for this iconic card (see “RIP Christopher Rush“). It is one of seven PSA 10 Gem Mint Alpha Black Lotus cards in existence, and as of the publication of this article, the high bidder sits at $702,500 (Update 1.19.2021: Due to special bidding rules that disqualify unapproved bidders, bids have been retracted down to $310,500).
High-grade Alpha Edition Black Lotus cards have periodically come up for auction, but haven’t realized anywhere near the current high bid. In 2019, a PSA 9.5 Alpha Black Lotus went for $160,000 (see “Rare ‘M:TG’ Alpha Black Lotus Nearly Doubles Price of Last eBay Auction “), and in 2020, Daniel Chang of Vintage Magic LLC sold another PSA Gem Mint 10 Alpha Black Lotus for $250,000.
Wizards of the Coast announced that it has helped raise $1.4 million dollars for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through donations to its Extra Life 2020 campaign.
WotC has raised a sizeable chunk of money for CNM Hospitals through donations to the Extra Life charity organization. Donations came from a number of different communities related to WotC products, such as Magic: The Gathering and D&D.
The largest donations came from Magic: The Gathering community team who raised over $900,000 through donations and sales of the most recent Secret Lair drop set (see “Wizards of the Coast Reveals ‘Magic: The Gathering’ ‘Secret Lair: Extra Life 2020’“). Each Secret Lair set sold racked up a $30 donation and each Ultra PRO playmat sold resulted in a $16 donation for CNM Hospitals. The D&D community team also raised over $426,000 in donations.
Wizards of the Coast announced the Secret Lair: Secretversary Superdrop, drop sets featuring popular Magic: The Gathering artists, for direct sale from November 30 to December 14. It’s been about one year since WotC headed down the road of releasing drop sets (see “The Mystery of The ‘Secret Lair Drop Series’ Revealed”). Now, WotC is planning a Superdrop of Secret Lair sets to mark the one year anniversary of this product line. Details on the Superdrop are scarce, but they will feature cards with work from popular Magic: The Gathering artists. The only set spoiled thus far showcases the work of Seb McKinnon on cards such as Swamp, Sower of Temptation, Damnation, and Enchanted Evening.
Thus far, no official MSRP has been released for this product.
Non-foil: $29.99/€34.99*/£29.99* *inclusive of local VAT
Mana rocks are the foundation (see what we did there?) of many games of Magic, but we never really see them get used in-world. This drop explores strange and uncanny wizards from across the Multiverse using rocks we all know and love in an atypical pop-art style. This drop contains totally rockin’ art by Caramelaw, Mab Graves, Dani Pendergast, Theodoru, and Yosuke Ueno. May your fixing be as powerful as it is plentiful!
Non-foil: $29.99/€34.99*/£29.99* *inclusive of local VAT
Welcome to the first of (hopefully many!) Secret Lair‘s Artist Series drops where we let some of Magic‘s greatest artists run wild. This time, we worked with Seb McKinnon to select four cards on which he wanted to leave his mark. We then got out of his way and let him illustrate them however he wanted. After a month of radio silence, Seb emerged from the woods near Wizards HQ—clothing ragged, hair immaculate—and handed us four unbelievable pieces of art. The pieces tell the story of a knight’s chance encounter with a faerie, and they are accompanied by a poem written by Seb’s brother Liam McKinnon. Don’t mind us, we’re just going to stare at that Damnation art for a little while longer . . .
Foil: $39.99/€44.99/£39.99 Non-foil: $29.99/€34.99/£29.99 *inclusive of local VAT
This is a real special treat we have today. This drop includes ten different basic lands: that’s two Plains, two Islands, two Swamps, two Mountains, and two Forests—each one with a unique piece of art by Bob Ross. That’s ten different pieces by the patient and soft-spoken legend himself. Whether you use them to add some joy to your deck or put them on display, we know these happy little cards will be right at home in your collection.
“But what about the other five Bob Ross lands?” you ask. “How do I get them in MTG Arena?!” Oh, don’t you worry. We’ll be making those available to everyone via limited-time universal codes! Stay tuned to @MTGSecretLair for more info very soon!
Pricing: $29.99/€34.99*/£29.99* *inclusive of local VAT
Here it is: the heaviest, crushingest, most brutal Secret Lair drop of all time. We picked five cards with the most metal names possible and turned them into hand-drawn breakdowns. These cards are so incomparably sick that the mere thought of Thraximundar makes our feet unconsciously start to air double bass. This drop would not have been possible without a supergroup of talented artists: Scott Buoncristiano, Illustranesia, Vance Kelly, Robbie Trevino, and Rafal Wechterowicz (Too Many Skulls).
Pricing: $39.99/€44.99*/£39.99* *inclusive of local VAT
They said we were mad. They said we were spouting nonsense. Spreading fear, hysteria, paranoia! But the squirrels, you see, the squirrels are planning something. Don’t believe us? Look at these cards! You think these are soft, fuzzy, friendly creatures? Sure, they might look cute, but it’s all an act to get us to let our guards down. (Between you and us, we think that illustrators Puffygator, Joy Ang, Carl Critchlow, Ivan Shavrin, Rudy Siswanto, and Ron Spencer might be on their side. Look how awesome this art is; they’re clearly double agents!) We just hope that the next time you see one of these cards across the table from you, you don’t underestimate it. We only hope that it isn’t too late .
1x No Foils, No Nonsense Bundle
1x non-foil A Box of Rocks
1x non-foil Artist Series: Seb McKinnon
1x non-foil Happy Little Gathering
1x non-foil Party Hard, Shred Harder
1x Foils Forever Bundle
1x foil A Box of Rocks
1x foil Artist Series: Seb McKinnon
1x foil Happy Little Gathering
1x foil We Hope You Like Squirrels
Price: $229.99/€259.99*/£229.99* *inclusive of local VAT
**MTG Arena redemption is not available in the following regions: China, Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam.