Well, well, well. We meet again, Internet. In case you haven’t heard, Magic has a new set coming out, ready to unleash all sorts of nonsense into Standard, and lead to even more bannings. While it’s true that nobody has even played a sanctioned match of Ixalan Standard yet, I’m already preemptively calling for a ban on all of these OP cards. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The first step in the newly invigorated Death March of Magic™ is Prerelease!
For most of you, a prerelease is the only time you’ll even play Sealed. For the rest of you, a prerelease should be the only time you play Sealed. Seriously. If you want to scratch that Limited itch, draft your cards like an adult. For some of you, this may be the first time you’ve even been to a gathering like this, so I’m here to help with some “tips and tricks” to make it great! Well, as great as Sealed can be, anyway. Seriously I hate Sealed deck so much.
Finding your Prerelease
Most local game stores will have a midnight prerelease following their usual Friday Night Magic events. If you don’t value regular rest and sleep, I recommend attending one. Not only do you get a leg up on the sweet tech before all those clowns who operate on a normal schedule, you can boast about being up until 4 am on a Friday night. With a little luck, your friends will think you have a social life. Just don’t tell them you were playing Magic.
Some stores require you to call ahead and reserve a spot in the tournament. These stores are not for you. You’re a paying customer, and if they can’t accommodate, make a big scene, post about it on Reddit, and take your money elsewhere. Make sure they know how angry you are, and storm out in a huff. Threaten to call Wizards, and get their sanctioning taken away. Maybe next time they’ll be more accepting!
Before the Prerelease
When you arrive at the store, there will probably be people hanging out, playing Commander and talking about the new set. Now is a good time to scope out the competition. Look for the people who have fancy, custom-made playmats, expensive bags sitting next to them, and binders sorted by format. These players are usually terrible, and should be good for easy wins. Remember, just because Regisaur Alpha is alpha, doesn’t mean you have to be a beta. Unless we’re talking basic lands. Then you want to be a beta.
You’ll also have to check in with the tournament organizer and usually pay ahead of time. If you slip them an extra ten dollars or so with a sly wink, they’ll give you one of the good Prerelease kits with on-color mythic bombs. Once you’ve received your kit, find a place to sit. Set your kit in front of you, and stare at it. Stare through it. Use sheer determinatin to force the cards to be good. If you stare hard enough, you will be rewarded. Do not apply this advice to finding a significant other, though.
Building the Deck
Eventually, the tournament organizer will announce that you can open your prerelease kit. So, struggle with that shrink wrap, behold the goodies trapped inside, and inside you will find:
- A note or letter designed to “set the flavor” of the plane. This makes sense that a nearly omnipotent Elder Dragon would tell some scrubs about important plans.
- A spindown life counter. Wizards expects you to think it’s a collector’s item, until you remember everyone playing gets one.
- Six booster packs
- A foil, date-stamped copy of the worst rare in the entire set.
- A checklist of “accomplishments” you can try to achieve during the prerelease, some of which are impossible.(“Bring a friend to a Magic tournament?”, etc)
Sometimes they’ll give you some random little trinket to try to distract you from the fact you paid $40 for little pieces of cardboard. They’ve been getting away from this lately, though. Probably because they realized most Magic players would buy Yu-Gi-Oh cards if they had Jace’s face on them. The packs are the important part, though. Open them up, start looking through them, and if you open a Mythic rare, you are required to announce it to the room. If the Mythic is foil, you have to wave it in people’s faces and go “nyah nyah look at me” in addition to announcing it to the rest of the room. Violators of this policy typically receive DCI suspensions lasting in the hundreds of years.
Now that you have cards, it’s time to build the deck. In Sealed, it’s a forty card minimum, which includes as many basic lands as you want to add. Most players sort their cards, figure out the strongest colors, then build a deck with exactly forty cards in those colors. This is wrong. Let’s think logically. Most games of Magic are won by the player who casts the most spells. If you want to cast more spells than your opponent, you need more cards. Therefore, the best strategy is to grab about fifteen of each basic land, collect up all the cards you opened, and shuffle them together. I typically include the tokens and “tips card” as well for best results.
Playing the Games
Sealed deck is a format where your deck is lousy, but that’s ok because everyone’s deck is lousy. Standard players should feel right at home. Since it’s a new set, there will be mechanics and keywords that are new, as well as abilities you may not have seen before. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know what your cards do. No one really knows what the cards do. It’s part of the fun of Prerelease, trying to figure out if Wizards printed another infinite combo to ban immediately.
In Sealed deck, creatures tend to be better than in other formats. Therefore, you want to make sure your opponent doesn’t have any. Attack and block often to ensure victory. One thing to note, if you’re playing at a midnight prerelease, your opponents will be exhausted as the tournament moves forward. Take advantage of this. If you notice their eyes half closed or their mouth half open, declare you have lethal damage after resolving Mulligans. You just might get an easy scoop or two from half-conscious players.
For Ixalan in particular, there is another thing to keep in mind. Wizards made a “whoopsie” and printed a card incorrectly. They have issued errata for it. So don’t forget, the card Hostage Taker is now an instant for one blue that reads, “Target player draws three cards.”
End of the Prerelease
With a little luck, you might just do well and win something. Most stores will give out packs of the new set for prizes. These should be opened immediately, so the few other people that are still awake can crowd around you and beg you to trade away all your winnings.
Speaking of which, anything you open should be traded away that night. For whatever reason, Magic players seem to value cards highly on prerelease night, especially when they’re sleep deprived. I don’t think you should try to hold onto your cards. Remember-they aren’t even legal in real formats yet (unless you play Commander. Then you should just get rid of the red cards.). Just like Star City Games before the B&R announcements, you want to sell, sell, sell. I recommend picking up copies of Scute Mob. (Seriously you guys it’s going to spike!)
So there you have it. This should be the only prerelease guide you’ll ever need. Enjoy it. It’s an entirely special and unique experience. That gets to happen every three months.
Phil plays Magic and has four kids. These often conflict. When they’re not conflicting, he’s the resident comedian here at MTG.one.