Tribal Thriftiness #31 – The Last Great Prerelease

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Thursday, July 10th – My love of pre-releases comes from the Invasion block. (In fact, most of my love of Magic comes from Invasion block.) I had become involved in Magic in a bunch of ways by the time Invasion came around, had played in some PTQs, gone to a Pro Tour (albeit as a coverage person), and had started writing for Star City. But up until Planeshift, I hadn’t attended a pre-release…

After reading the comments section from last week’s article, and doing some adult-beverage-influenced thinking over the holiday weekend, I’m making some changes to the CCCP, which will come up later in this column. But in the meantime, I’d like to talk a little about one of my favorite things, and it just happens to be this weekend!

The Last Great Pre-Release

My love of pre-releases comes from the Invasion block. (In fact, most of my love of Magic comes from Invasion block.) I had become involved in Magic in a bunch of ways by the time Invasion came around, had played in some PTQs, gone to a Pro Tour (albeit as a coverage person), and had started writing for Star City (the first time). But up until Planeshift, I hadn’t attended a pre-release. I don’t even know that I necessarily was aware of pre-releases.

The Planeshift pre-release was immense. I had seen huge Magic events before — Grand Prix: Philly 2000 had nearly 600 players. But if you’ve been to a pre-release before, you know that a pre-release has a different … vibe … to it. It’s not hundreds of Magic tournament players playing for big amounts of cash. It’s pros, local guys, and casual players all taking the time to get a look at the newest cards for the hobby they all share.

More than in any one place, I think a pre-release is where you can really feel the overwhelming love that players have for this game.

With the changes Wizards is introducing for Shards of Alara in October, could Eventide be the last time we will have the chance to attend this big Love-In of Magic? It’s a possibility. Nothing against the local stores who will now have a chance to give their local players two events for each new set, but more small local events will inevitably cut into the attendance at the big events hosted by premier TOs. Will attendance dwindle to the point where it’s not financially feasible for the big boys to run big pre-releases? What chain of dominos will Shards of Alara start?

In my mind, there are two possibilities. It’s a battle that divides the two halves of my Magic personality.

The Budget Half

Well, obviously the budget half of me is excited about local pre-releases. I mean, especially for me, the difference in location is the difference between driving an hour to Denver on $4-a-gallon gas, and walking three blocks to my local store. And it’s very likely that my local shop won’t charge me the same price that the big TO will, since it’s very likely that he won’t be handing out the same prize support. I’ll get my pre-release card, my new product, and it run me between 10 and 20 bucks less.

But will I be likely to play in the Release Event then? It will be exactly the same event, most likely, since it will be the in the same spot and with the same people. And since it just happened a week ago, it will be fresh in my mind. No, it seems likely that I will use some of my Release Event cash instead for new packs of Shards, and that will cut the investment down event further, as I will probably only buy a few packs until I can assess what the set actually has that I want.

That will leave me more dispensable cash to use on singles or playsets of the cards that have tournament value. Eventually I’ll still probably use the same amount of cash (it’s a budget, after all) but I’ll have less random cards and more cards that I can use.

So that’s good.

The Magic-Loving Half

But it’s bad too. The local pre-release is going to be the same guys I play Friday Night Magic against week in and week out, and I probably have a pretty good idea where I lay in the skill hierarchy there. Playing a pre-release against them probably won’t be any different than drafting against them once a month. I’d be missing out on plying my skills, such as they are, against a larger group of people from all over the state, but without the intense competitiveness of a PTQ. Playing against people who I’ve never met and who have the same love of the game as I do is half of the fun of a big pre-release.

Magic, after all, is a social game first and foremost. A big pre-release gives me the opportunity to interact with players that I’d never meet at a PTQ. It rekindles my love for the game, seeing people who aren’t swirled up in the competitive aspect.

The other reason I love big pre-releases is because there’s more opportunities for me to get my hands on those new cards. Where a small store probably will only be able to provide enough product for one sealed event, the big TOs provide numerous flights of sealed deck, meaning that I can potentially play in more than one — and if that doesn’t pan out, I still have the chance to get new cards from any of the side events that might be happening. Hundreds of players also means that prize support is more readily available, so if I’m halfway decent, I can pick up more cards that way.

Usually when I’m at a pre-release, the last thing I’m thinking about is “which uncommon do I need a playset of?” No, it’s definitely about getting as much of the new cards as possible. A big pre-release gives me a better likelihood of grabbing a lot of the new set.

A Win-Win Solution?

What I’m actually hoping is that this turns into a win-win situation for both parties. That people who have the capability to attend a big pre-release will still make the trek, build the networks, and enjoy putting their hands on as much of the new cards as possible. That people who have limited funds will still have the chance to get the “new card” feeling of a pre-release, without the heavy investment or the sometimes-overwhelming crowd.

I guess time will tell. I love the big pre-release. I don’t want them to go away.

CCCP — The First One Had Changes, So Why Not This One?

I’m going to run the CCCP as a second strip in this column until the whole Cube is built. I’m hoping to get your input, seeing as how most of the comments pointed out something I was totally missing — that while, yeah, the Cube is a “Greatest Hits,” the most important thing to building a successful Cube is to treat it like a set for limited play.

So to start, I’m going to set forth these ground rules, and then start looking at White cards for inclusion in the CCCP.

1. Each color will have fifty cards. There will also be fifty multicolor cards (five in each combination), fifty non-basic lands, and fifty artifacts.

2. No more than 20% uncommons. This will filter down into the multicolor cards such that only one of each five will be an uncommon.

3. At least 60% creatures. This may not be the final number, especially in Green, where most of the good cards are creatures.

4. There should be mana curve considerations. Cards should be available in quantities in the early mana costs, and the higher mana costs should be high-impact.

Mrs. White, In The Billiards Room, With The Candlestick

In a color known for its small creatures, the lower end of the creature curve will certainly take some effort. Here is a listing of the creatures I am considering for the creature base of white in the CCCP. Uncommons are listed in italics.

1cc: Deftblade Elite, Goldmeadow Harrier, Icatian Javelineers, Kami of False Hope, Lantern Kami, Martyr of Sands, Mother of Runes, Nomads en-Kor, Soul Warden, Spurnmage Advocate, Suntail Hawk.

2cc: Benalish Trapper, Blade of the Sixth Pride, Capashen Knight, Kami of Ancient Law, Knight of Meadowgrain, Leonin Skyhunter, Leonin Squire, Longbow Archer, Mistral Charger, Monk Realist, Order of Leitbur, Order of the Golden Cricket, Samurai of the Pale Curtain, Silver Knight, Soltari Trooper, Whipcorder, White Knight, Whitemane Lion.

3cc: Aven Mindcensor, Aven Riftwatcher, Diving Griffin, Kitsune Blademaster, Pegasus Charger, Stonecloaker.

4cc: Calciderm, Valor, Witch Hunter.

… the creatures really taper off in quality after that. With already a number of Disenchanting creatures listed above, maybe it’s better to remove one or two of them to make room for Cloudchaser Eagle. But is it similarly necessary to replace, say, Benalish Trapper with the five-casting-cost Loxodon Mystic?

For big creatures, I like both Gempalm Avenger and Jedit’s Dragoons in the six-casting-cost slot, and I think Ivory Giant earns a spot as well. With roughly 27 spots to fill, which of the above fail to make the cut? Post your thoughts in the forum. Remember that only approximately six of the uncommons can make the list when you’re posting your thoughts.

Spring Forth and Enjoy

If you’re headed out to the pre-release this weekend, be sure to enjoy it to the fullest! And pass along your thanks to the TO, who no doubt has worked hard to provide you with your entertainment for the day. I’ll be in Denver, potentially playing in a GP Trial for GP Denver if the pre-release doesn’t go well for me. So next week you can expect stories from the pre-release and maybe the GP trial, as well as the final list of White creatures for the CCCP and discussion on the White spells.

Until next time…