When I first started playing Magic, there was a, well, magical quality to the discovery of new cards in the game. The first games I played were with the cards that were brought back to my hometown by older alpha nerds on their journey out into the world, and our AD&D, Vampire, and Diplomacy games were forever affected by that trip.
We didn’t know what cards were until we saw them. It was exciting. I had already seen a Lord of the Pit, but I strongly recall the look on my friend Molly’s face when she opened one in her first starter deck.
One of the first cards that really boggled my mind was Deathlace.
It was a rare, and I hadn’t seen one yet, but I was already deeply in love with another card in my collection, and Deathlace shocked my sensibilities.
The wonder of the new was a huge part of getting me into the game. It was exciting to see something that wasn’t even on my radar before and learn to cope with this previously unknown card.
Eventually, though, what took over in me (and, I’m willing to guess, you) was the desire to know the newest cards and to formulate plans with them before I ever faced them down. By the time I head to the Aether Revolt Prerelease at my friendly local game store, Misty Mountain, I’ll be well-versed in what all of the cards do on paper, and I’ll be looking to see how they match my expectations, and discover where they don’t.
As of this writing, the new set is only about one-third spoiled, and so I find myself with a little too little information to really start speculating on decks in the meaningful ways that I like to. Without that context, I want to speak about the Prerelease events themselves.
There are a lot of reasons you might be going to a Prerelease. Here’s a guide to most of the best of them.
You Want to Have a Blast
Awesome! Me too!
This is one of the easiest things to accomplish at a Prerelease, and probably you’re doing fine at this one.
If you aren’t having a blast, it’s probably for one of a few different reasons. They almost all have to do with the people you’re playing with.
Get friends to go with you. Getting a group together to hit a Prerelease can make it a bonding event. After every round, the more people you have, the more likely you’re going to have someone in the mix who doesn’t just have a story, but a good story. Camaraderie is fun!
If you haven’t already, try to build more connections with the people in the store you’ve chosen to play at. Especially if someone seems like a regular, say hey, and if they seem open to it, ask about their card pool. Not everyone will want to connect, and you won’t want to connect with everyone, but that’s okay; you’re only required to be friends with everyone until around kindergarten.
Perhaps you find yourself not enjoying the specific store you’re playing at. Well, if you have options, check them out! It could be that the store you’re at just isn’t your speed. Some stores are very, very competitive, others are very, very casual, and then there is all of the in-between. If you aren’t enjoying the games you’re playing, very often, it can just be you’re in a store that has a mismatch for you and you find yourself not enjoying the specific store you’re playing at.
Finally, if you’re looking for a ton of Prerelease fun, play in every Two-Headed Giant you can shake a stick at. They’re a blast!
Personally, for me, all Magic experiences before the very big ones (Pro Tours, Grand Prix, etc.) are opportunities to learn. What I want is the chance to have my ideas shaken up, new thoughts to emerge, or epiphanies to happen.
If that’s you as well, there are some important things you can do to best accomplish that.
It’s easy to simply reinforce what you already believe. If you think that the best Sealed decks involve two colors, seventeen land, eighteen creatures, and five tricks (give or take), you can just apply that formula and be done with it. If your formula, whatever it is, is close to reasonable, you will get a close to reasonable result in that event.
However, sometimes things are very far from what you expect.
There have been Limited formats where fifteen land was common for the best archetype, and formats where very nearly every creature worth its salt was worth playing over all but the best spells. There are formats where Equipment has been universally good or nearly universally bad. Even more impressively, there have been formats where, once you add the second set in the block, they fundamentally shift what is important.
If you’re hoping to learn early, you can get a big jump up at a Prerelease.
When you’re building your decks, throughout the day, talk to your friends about what they would do with your deck. Ask to see other people’s decks, and think about what you would do. If they want to talk about it, talk about it.
One fabulous feature of an event like this is that you’re allowed to change your deck between rounds. Do it! Try out that idea your friend had and see how it feels. Make sure to be realistic, though: just because their card idea came up, whether it failed or not in that specific instance is a pretty darned small sample size, so just add it to your list of experiences.
If you’re debating between playing a common and an uncommon to fill out your last non-land slot in the deck, play the uncommon. Same thing for the rare; the rarer the card, the less likely you’ll have a chance to see the card in action again, so have the experience in a low-stakes environment. If you ever are in a position to make the choice when it really matters, you’ll be all the more ready.
Most importantly in all of this, though, is just always be looking to learn. This is a good lesson for all of Magic, but there is a special freedom at a Prerelease, both because of the relaxed atmosphere and the general newness of everything going on. Asking questions and keeping an open mind are important. If the lessons are going to do you any good, you’ll need to start finding conclusions (“Card X is bad in nearly any archetype, but it still works if you are short on removal and desperately need one” or “This card is much worse in a slow deck”), but be willing to change your conclusions after more time passes, and don’t imagine you’ll have your Final Answer before you even sit down to your first Sealed build or even by the end of the weekend.
To Get in the Practice
Prereleases have entirely different meanings to everyone. If you look at Prereleases as an opportunity to get in a Magic workout, there are ways to get the most out of it.
A Prerelease can be an opportunity for anyone to practice their skills. Typically, for those who don’t get that many opportunities to experience organized play, a Prerelease can be one of the best options. Things are light and loose, and the level of play against any opponent can be great to shake off the cobwebs.
If you are more serious, a Prerelease still offers those opportunities to practice, however.
Just because an event isn’t high-level doesn’t mean that you can’t work on fundamentals. Be strict with yourself during deckbuilding and think about your choices as though you won’t have the chance to change your build in subsequent rounds. Make your mulligan decisions carefully. Think about all of the little plays that come up in every game of Magic (questions of pacing, the strategic and tactical choices of combat, sequencing) and try to make the best of these choices. Don’t allow yourself takebacks.
Now, there is a chance that this could interfere with fun (see #1, above). I would suggest only doing the work of making the Prerelease a space of practice if it doesn’t get in the way of having fun. The fewer opportunities you have for in-person Magic playing, the more you may want to make it a time of practice, but make sure you don’t kill the pleasure of the experience by making it too serious.
Most importantly, though, respect the fact that other players may be there to have fun. While you may be trying to get a workout in, don’t put a damper on other players’ fun by refusing to engage in light conversation or the generally pleasant interactions you’ll see at most Prereleases. If you are truly serious about getting Magic practice in, make some time so that you’re getting those workouts at events more suited to them than Prereleases, or, better yet, work on collecting a community of like-minded folks around you to do this work with.
You Want to Win Aether Revolt Packs
Now, you’re looking at putting in some work.
First of all, haunt the spoilers. From now until the day you hit that Prerelease, you should read the spoiler every day to see what you can learn and remember. Don’t forget to take a few minutes to review Kaladesh, too, just to remind yourself of the cards in that set.
It’s natural for us to think about sets in terms of Constructed. When you’re looking at the Aether Revolt cards, think about their potential power level in a game of Sealed. Just because a card isn’t going to make the cut in a world of Smuggler’s Copter and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, this has little bearing on what is going to happen in the world of Limited.
Pay special attention to instants. Every instant could end up being a part of a tricky play that leaves you in bad shape. If you don’t know the best instants out there, you could walk to the edge of a cliff and suffer a horrid, if obvious fate.
By the time the Prerelease is here, you don’t have to know the entirety of the set (though it helps), but you should have a good feel for it, and you should definitely know the following:
- Every instant removal spell
- Every instant pump spell that costs two or less
- Every mass removal card
- Every common or uncommon card that feels absurdly powerful (often, there aren’t many of these)
- Extra credit for cataloging all of the creatures with haste or flash
To win those Aether Revolt packs, you’re going to want to get all of the wins you can. Getting all of the wins that you can is going to take a lot of things, luck included, but minimizing falling into traps is one of the best ways to keep a “W” from turning into an “L”. While you can’t and shouldn’t play around every old thing that exists, knowing what is even possible can make all the difference. Against the very best opponents, it can even give you the opportunity to represent something you don’t even have! (Of course, any bluff requires that your opponent know what is possible for it to be successful.)
Beyond being prepared for in-game questions, there is another thing to think about outside of the game itself: whom are you competing against? You may want to change where you play to minimize your competition and maximize your potential prizes.
The more competitive you are, the more that this factor is likely to be at odds with the previous three factors!
Generally speaking, if you are trying to minimize the competition you’re facing, this is likely putting you in a worse position to both (a) learn and (b) get excellent practice. Furthermore, it is likely that the more competitive you are, the more competitive your peers and friends are in the game. Seeking out a less competitive arena can steer you away from your friends – and, for most of us, from fun!
This factor might not always be at odds with the others, depending, but if you are trying to maximize the packs you walk away from the Prerelease event with, it very well may. This might make you consider something simple: if you can wait until the following Friday, you can just buy packs.
To Build Your Collection
Typically, the best way to build your collection at the Prerelease is trading. It can either be simple choices like merely trying to acquire as many rares as you can, or a set, or some other more complicated scheme. Beyond that, you could be the kind of person that is a speculator, picking out the future best card of the set before it is worth anything (I recall my friend Ian DeGraff picking up something like 30 copies of Tarmogoyf when Future Sight came out).
Here, I must admit that I’m quite bad at trading. Also, because I like to think so speculatively about cards, I’ll be so open-minded that I might think one card in the set is good, but also think that is the case for enough other cards that end up not having any value.
Thankfully, StarCityGames.com has a few other authors who should have you covered! Pay attention to Chas Andres for some awesome financial articles that could do far, far better than I can to steer you in the right direction.
¡Viva la Revolución!
The time to revolt is only a week away! If you’re in Madison, I hope I see you at the event at Misty Mountain Games, but wherever you are, I hope you have the best time that you can have, whatever that means to you.
I know for me that will mean some Two-Headed Giant with my friend J.P., a little solo Sealed, and as many laughs as I can fit in.
This weekend, please feel free to root me on at Grand Prix Louisville, and next weekend be sure to root for the revolution! Down with Tezzeret! Let’s have a Revolt!