Green Mages: An Interview with Principal Packaging Lead at WOTC, Veronica Ruggenberg

Quinton Macdonald • February 17, 2024

Welcome back to another installment of Green Mages! Since the kickoff of this series, I've been focusing on what we as a community can do to decrease our footprint, whether that's through buying less, being more intentional with purchases, or what to do with your cards at the end of their life, the focus has been on us as players.

One of the most popular comments I have received is that the responsibility lies on Hasbro/Wizards to improve and that we as consumers can't make an impact. While I fundamentally disagree with this sentiment as I believe that consumers can make a difference, I do acknowledge that Hasbro and Wizards have a HUGE role to play in this journey. 

That's why I am so excited to share with you an interview I had with Veronica Ruggenberg, the Principal Packaging Engineering Lead at Wizards of the Coast. This interview highlights some of the initiatives that Wizards is focused on around packaging, one of the largest impacts created by Magic. Specifically, we get into the evolution of Commander deck packaging, where they are going, and the future of plastic booster wrappers.

I want to give a big thank you to Veronica for taking the time to chat with me and help give us a bit of insight into what is going on inside Wizards. We're all trying to make a difference and I'm confident that Veronica cares deeply about these issues and is doing all she can to drive sustainability deeper into the world of Magic.

Please enjoy!

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

What is your role at Wizards of the Coast?

 As Wizards' Principal Packaging Engineer Lead, my role is to guide structural packaging development work for our Packaging Engineering team and the brand stakeholders with whom we work. I develop processes and strategies in collaboration with other engineers, brand partners, and Hasbro colleagues to safely deliver our products to mass market stores, hobby stores, and online sales channels, all while striving to delight consumers and minimize the packaging's environmental impact.

Generally, what is Wizards of the Coast doing in the world of packaging to be more sustainable? What is the goal?

Over the last few years, Wizards has focused on minimizing or eliminating plastic in our packaging, especially single-use plastics. Now that most of our packaging has realized this goal, we are shifting our attention to other tactics to help make our packaging more environmentally friendly. This includes things like creating second uses for packaging components (e.g. punch-out counters for gameplay, or card storage boxes), right-sizing some packaging (reducing volume), and light-weighting materials where appropriate.

Can you talk about the evolution of Commander deck packaging over the years?

The Commander packaging has undergone many evolutions over the last 15 years. Each successive Commander packaging redesign has attempted to balance a better consumer experience against retailer needs and reduced packaging waste. As early as 2012, we began using recycled PET, or RPET, for the plastic thermoform shells that were in use.

In 2021, we replaced these plastic trays with fiber-based trays, specifically n-flute corrugated board. Most recently, consumers will notice that the September 2023 release of the Wilds of Eldraine Commander packaging is smaller, lighter weight, and uses a paperboard tray, which translates to less material waste and better efficiencies in shipping and transportation.

(for note this interview took place in late 2023 and Wilds of Eldraine was not yet on shelves. This packaging design has continued through The Lost Caverns of Ixalan and Murders at Karlov Manor)

As far as I can tell Command Legends: Battle For Baldur's Gate was the last time the 'Minimal Packaged' Commander decks were available. Was that effort a success, and will there be more of that product style in the future?

The minimal Commander [deck] packaging was well-received by consumers. Unfortunately, this packaging was canceled for the MTG Commander product due to complications related to SKU identification and e-commerce sales systems. Fortunately, this packaging continues to be used for our direct-to-consumer Secret Lair Commander Decks. Check out the previously released "From Cute to Brute" Secret Lair or "Angels: They're Just Like Us but Cooler and with Wings".

One thing I have noticed is that recently the box that the Commander decks come in are large enough to hold a 100-card sleeved deck. Is part of the focus for Magic products/packaging to make them more functional?

Good question! Although we do not advertise this fact, the deck boxes that come in our MTG Commander products are purposely sized to allow players to store 100+ sleeved cards. We know it's common practice for Commander players to sleeve their decks, so providing extra space in the deck box creates a more functional, longer-lasting storage box, which we hope enhances the product experience. 


Waste seems to be one of the biggest material factors for Wizards. Most outer packaging can be recycled now, but booster wrappers cannot. In Hasbro's 2022 annual report they talked about a recycling pilot with TerraCycle. Can you tell me more about that? Was it successful? What is the likelihood of that being rolled out as a full program?

It is true that our common metalized booster wraps cannot currently be conventionally recycled. We continue to invest a lot of R&D in finding sustainable packaging alternatives that perform consistently across our many global suppliers while delivering a quality consumer experience. To-date, consumers can see some paper-based card wrap alternatives in some MTG product, such as the land packs found in many MTG Bundles, and the promo card packs found in some Prerelease Packs. While R&D continues, teams across Wizards of the Coast continue to explore alternative approaches.

The Wizards Play Network team partnered with Teracycle, a company dedicated to finding solutions to recycle typically non-recyclable items, for a pilot program to recycle Magic: The Gathering Booster wrappers. In North America, WPN Premium stores, our best-in-class partners, were sent large boxes for depositing Booster wrappers, which were shipped back to Teracycle for recycling. There are no plans to continue this program, but Hasbro continues its toy recycling partnership with TerraCycle.

(if you are curious about the TerraCycle program you can find details about it here)

Parting Thoughts

Overall, the work that is being done on the packaging front at Wizards is really promising. To look at where the packaging is today versus where it used to be is impressive. One of my first ever Magic products was the Commander 2015 deck Call the Spirits helmed by Daxos the Returned (which I still play regularly to this day). That box was bulky, full of plastic, and not terribly functional. Now being able to open a precon, have minimal waste, and having a functional deckbox is huge win!

On the other side I was (and still am) very disappointed that the TerraCycle initiative was cancelled. The details around why it was cancelled are unclear, but its impact is not. Now the only home for booster wrappers is the trash, and I sincerely hope that Wizards will either reinstate that initiative or work to use recyclable paper wrappers like has been done on Flesh and Blood (which ironically is printed by the same company that prints Magic, so the paper wrapper technology should be available for MTG as far as I can tell).

Thank you all for joining for another installment of Green Mages! I really believe in this movement and hope that we as a community can come together on pushing for greater environmental awareness around our favorite game!

Are there any sustainability topics you would like covered? Please let me know in the comments down below!

Sustainability nerd. Outdoor enthusiast. Lover of janky commander decks and the light stax piece. Writer for Commander's Herald and host of the Out of the Box MTG podcast.