Let’s Prerelease, Baby!

Chris is excited about the M15 Prerelease, and he shares his thoughts about the Limited environment, what to expect if you’re new to these events, and what he thinks will happen in Standard next week when the set rotates into play.

It’s finally here.

M15 has fully been spoiled and everyone is deep in the tank brewing with all of the new powerful cards that we are about to have available to us in just a few short weeks.

Pro Tour Magic 2015 is on the horizon, but first we have the Open Series in Balitmore as a precursor. What decks and cards do well in that Open may play a pretty big role in the Pro Tour, which is kind of cool. I’m not qualified, but I sure do have a lot of ideas that I’m working on, trying to find the best deck for me for the Open.

I love new set releases, as it shakes things up and gives everyone more chances to be creative – and while I don’t think that M15 coming in is going to be as colossal a change as we will see when M14 leaves, I think it does give us a lot of space for experimentation. My gut tells me that I’m just going to end up back on Xenagos, the Reveler and Stormbreath Dragon, but we all gotta try to grow.

The Open isn’t this weekend though, is it?

This weekend is the Magic 2015 Prerelease, and boy do I love Prereleases.

I can remember being a young(er) kid living in Tacoma and heading up to the WotC Game Center in Seattle for the prereleases. It was magical, in every sense of the word. A group of us would always head up late Friday night and start gaming at the midnight release. The game center would be open all the way until late Saturday/early Sunday where they would close for just a handful of hours to get ready for Sunday. Rather than get a hotel or even sleep, we would all just pile into a Denny’s down the street for those couple hours, play more Magic and eat pancakes.

Man, I wonder what those waitresses thought? Every prerelease they would just be packed with all these nerdy kids with backpacks playing some card game and laughing.

Sometimes we wouldn’t even go to the Denny’s and just hang out outside the game center and trade/joke/play our Game Boys until they opened. Some would dare to fall asleep, but we usually liked to play tricks on them when they did.

We would game again all day on Sunday and then head home and get too little sleep before school on Monday.

Getting to play with the cards early was awesome, but the real magic in it all was the game center itself… the atmosphere of it all. When you went into the front, there were a few things waiting for you. Off to the left was the area for the Battletech Pods and an entrance to Dalmuti’s, which had the best fries I’d ever had. Off to the right was the “store” area where you could buy product and gaming equipment. It was definitely the smallest and least important part of the place for us, which in the end I imagine is one of the reasons the place couldn’t be kept open.

Straight ahead were stairs that led down into the real game center, flanked on either side by giant statues of Magic characters. I believe they might have been Serra Angel and something else, but let’s face it – I’m old and forget a lot of things. Heading down those stairs, you really felt like you were descending into a dungeon and getting ready to battle.

The doors opened up into a layout so giant that I honestly don’t think I ever managed to go into every nook and cranny. There were partitions to close off sections as-needed for events, and a completely separate area with TVs set up with tons of SNES and N64 games for people to play.

There were no windows, and you really felt like you were in a dungeon participating in epic battles. As a sixteen-year-old kid, it was amazing.

The prereleases were always special, and extremely packed. The sealed flights would fill up quickly, and there were just too many people trying to get into drafts to organize it smoothly. I remember during the Urza’s Legacy Prerelease they started sending people to random areas in the game center, upstairs and down, and would announce over the loudspeaker where someone was and that they were taking draft signups and once they had eight people it would fire and you just hand to try to find them before other people did.

It was awesome.

There is no longer a WotC Game Center, and in fact no more large regional prereleases. Everything is done on a smaller scale at individual Local Game Stores, and yet it’s still just as exciting as it has ever been.

The new method of choosing a color and receiving a seeded pack so that you can play with your promo and “hopefully” be in that color is awesome and creates a new exciting dynamic to the prerelease.

Oh, and seeing midnight flights still being ran always warms my heart, because that’s the kind of stuff I grew up on.

I will definitely be prereleasing this weekend and I can’t wait, but there are some things that I always try to keep in mind when I go to play in events on these weekends.

1) Have fun!

Having fun at your prelease is paramount. If everyone is trying to have fun, it always ends up being an awesome time. You aren’t vying for Pro Points or an Invitational Top 8 here, and I like to try and keep that in mind. Personally, I can be hyper-competitive, and I have to remind myself that these weekends aren’t the time for that. Everyone likes to win, but let’s not take away from someone else’s fun just because you feel like they got lucky.

This being said, prereleases are always a hotbed of people looking to take advantage of those of us trying to have fun. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve suspected or even caught someone cheating by adding cards to their deck. Cheating does nothing but hurt the game. Be sure to keep an eye out for shady folks trying to take away from the fun of everyone else!

2) Experiment

I like to use the prerelease as a chance for experimentation, to play with cards that I might not normally play with to see how they interact with other cards. Land count, deck size, and alternate strategies are all things that I like to tweak a little just to see what we can get away with.

Core Set Limited in general is usually very “fundamentals”-based. Saving removal for important threats, evaluating how important certain types of evasion are, and playing to the power of your bombs are all important skills that are usually highlighted in Core Set Limited.

3) Give feedback

The experience you have at the tournament is just as important as the tournament itself. Make sure you are giving feedback to your Local Gaming Store, and if you are running a prerelease yourself, please listen to your customers! The whole purpose of these weekends, in addition to showcasing the new set and give players a chance to play with it a week early, is to have a good time and generate rapport with new players to create a customer.

These prereleases are something that WotC allows a plethora of Local Gaming Stores to run, which (unlike with PTQs) means each time there is a prerelease you will usually have several choices for where to play.

Having a friendly and spacious atmosphere, incentives to come to your shop (snacks, door prizes, gunslingers, etc), and running your flights efficiently are things that can create a good experience for players and keep them coming back.

I’ve been to so many different shops for different prereleases, and you can always tell a huge difference in how much the players enjoyed their weekend based on how much effort the store put into the event.

4) Come prepared!

After gaming for an entire weekend, if you aren’t prepared to take care of yourself you can end up worn out and exhausted. Make sure that you come prepared with water and snacks so that you can keep yourself hydrated and nourished.

These things are key for high-level competitive play, but they are also key for just having a good time with your friends. Some of us get cranky when we’re hungry, and there is nothing worse than getting a case of the “Con Crud” after spending a weekend someplace that is packed with a bunch of people.

These are all things that I like to try and keep in mind when I’m going to a prerelease, plus: I highly recommend that everyone plays 2HG! I’ll be honest, I was never really a big 2HG fan, but recently I’ve been having more and more fun with it. It’s a great way to have fun with your friends and play Magic at the same time.

Okay, enough about the prerelease and trips down memory lane, everyone is here for my thoughts on Standard now that M15 is completely spoiled.

Here are my predictions:

Thoughtseize is still good.

Pack Rat will still kill a lot of people.

Stormbreath Dragon will attack for 4 or 7 damage.

Ta da!

On a more serious note, I do think that M15 will shake things up a little, but I fully expect a lot of people to just play the same powerful decks and change maybe a card. Things like the painlands will help to streamline already-existing decks, and while there are a handful of “build around me” cards, I don’t think they will be able to thrive while the cardpool is so huge.

One strategy that I’m still excited about, despite BBD’s best efforts to Tactics the **** out of me in our Versus video last week, is Slivers. The whole time we were playing, shuffling, and while sorting our decks afterward, all I could talk about was how I wanted Crystalline Sliver and how I hoped the blue or green one gave them some sort of Hexproof.

It’s not quite Hexproof, but we definitely got a gem in Diffusion Sliver.

Here is how I would rebuild the deck if I were to try it out right now:

It may be a bit ambitious to still be running a couple Mutavaults, as it’s so important to actually get the Sliver Hivelord into play, but Mutavault is just too good.

Playing with more blue sources to accommodate Diffusion Sliver also helps us reliably cast Galerider Sliver on turn one and gives us access to cards like Swan Song in the sideboard to counter Setessan Tactics and other shenanigans.

I think that I like having Thorncaster Sliver as a way to break through against the devotion decks, and by reducing the number of Slivers that cost three or more and playing more two-drops will give us a bit more aggressive game-plan.

If nothing else, it was very fun playing Slivers, and I would love nothing more than to sleeve this bad boy up for the first Standard Open in Baltimore, but more testing definitely needs to be done.

Well, that’s it for me for this week. I hope everyone has an awesome time at their local prerelease, and I would love to hear from anyone that was in the Seattle area in the 90’s and got to play at the WotC game center.

Before I go, I do want to bring to you guys some exciting new information:

I have finally got everything together and will be launching my Kickstarter campaign this week for the “Beard Power” shirts. Please make sure you check it out at this link here, and if you’re interested in getting some sweet shirts or just want to support the project, make a pledge.

There are some awesome rewards for the different levels of pledging, like picking a 75 for me for an Open or even an actual lock of my beard, so make sure you check it out!