2018 has been amazing for Magic players old and new. Magic's 25th anniversary has brought a veritable witch's brew of amazing products and a formal return to Dominaria, Magic's original setting. 2018 also marks the return of something many players have been anticipating for years: the yearly core set.
Traditionally, core sets were seen as entry-level products that had a little something for everyone. They were a way to ensure Standard always had certain cards (Negate, Duress, etc.) as well as getting cards that didn't fit the themes of the current blocks into Standard. In many ways, core sets represented Magic at its, well, core. Unencumbered by the unifying flavor of a single plane, core sets afforded Wizards the opportunity to craft a broad fantasy setting and showcase various tribes, mechanics and themes from known planes. With such a wide breadth of ground covered in core sets, the core set prereleases were known for being fun, welcoming environments players of all skill levels could enjoy.
Although prereleases do tend to be on the lighthearted side due to the lower rules enforcement level, there are still things players can do to maximize their prerelease experience. As Magic players, many of us are all about maximizing value wherever possible. Whether it's your first prerelease experience or you've been playing for 20 years, these tips will help ensure your day at your local game store is smooth and enjoyable.
You may have heard this before regarding Grand Prix tournaments, the Pro Tour or other high-level events. However, the same idea applies to the prerelease experience. Prereleases tend to be lengthy events simply on account of the number of attendees. Moreover, since the cards are new and not everyone is immediately familiar with the cards or new rules interactions, deckbuilding takes longer and matches often go to time. Stores frequently run multiple event flights throughout the day, and many players make an entire day out of multiple prerelease events. A good night's rest will ensure that you're ready for a full day of exploring new cards, processing new rules interactions, and socializing with new friends.
A long day full of new cards and friends will also require adequate nourishment. It might sound obvious, but I'm sure many players have seen the person at a prerelease who also did a midnight event, didn't sleep at all, has only eaten fast food in the past day and is barely keeping their eyes open while sipping a coffee and waiting for product to be distributed. I get it – to some people that's their idea of a great time, and I'm not here to rain on anyone's fun. But I can pretty much guarantee you'll have a better prerelease experience if you eat a healthy, filling meal beforehand and bring a hydrating beverage and a snack in your bag to keep you going throughout the day. Granola bars, fruit slices, water bottles, and unsweetened tea are all wonderful options. My go-to is baby carrots and a bottle of water which can be refilled through the day.
Keep in mind these two important notes about food/drinks in your LGS. First, always check with your LGS to see if they have any policies regarding outside food/drink. Many stores sell snacks and drinks already and bringing in outside food or drink can be seen as disrespectful or as a breach of policy. If possible, try to buy from your LGS and support the store you play at. If they do not allow outside food, it's best to respect that policy and go somewhere else close by in between rounds if you want something your store does not sell. Secondly, always keep your food/drink off the tables while you're playing. Tables get crowded, and the average game of Magic requires a lot of movement in terms of cards, dice and life counter apps. It's a bad experience for everyone involved if you spill something on your own cards, or worse – someone else's.
All-day social events full of friends and your favorite hobby are the perfect place to try out a new outfit. As a bit of a fashionista myself, for the past few years prereleases have been the event that makes me dig through my closet the night before and finally find an excuse to wear that dress I bought weeks ago but just couldn't find the right event to wear it to. What could be better than showing off a new style at Magic?
Recently, I've taken a step back and tend to just wear something comfy like jeans, casual sneakers and a hoodie to events. There is a lot of moving during a prerelease event: switching tables between rounds, walking to the bathroom and reconvening with your friend group for hours on end can have a noticeable physical toll. If you're wearing uncomfortable shoes or any sort of restraining clothing article, you'll probably lose your energy quicker than expected. Additionally, flowy pieces can get caught on chairs and potentially get damaged. Summer is here, and I'm not saying don't wear that cute pair of wedges or flowy skirt you just bought. But is important to be mindful of all the movement involved with a lengthy event, and wear something that will personally help you feel comfortable and confident throughout the day.
Although you will receive a prerelease box and 20-sided spindown die, it's definitely helpful to bring a few more items to enhance your experience. There is a lot to keep track of in an average game of Magic, and unfortunately the prerelease kit doesn't contain everything you might need. This is what I consider the essentials:
- Deck box
- Assorted Dice
A deck box and sleeves will keep your new cards safe, and sleeves can make shuffling easier. Dice are always useful for keeping track of +1/+1 counters, planeswalker loyalty and rolling to determine who gets the play or draw. If you don't already, I recommend getting in the habit of keeping track of life totals with a small notepad and pen. Dice can get knocked over and apps turn off or phones die. Pen and paper is always reliable, and possessing a written record of life totals will always work in your favor if there is a dispute that involves a judge. Lastly, a playmat will help keep your cards/sleeves clean and provide a designated visible surface for your battlefield. Being prepared with your own supplies will ensure that you can focus on playing the game and having fun rather than asking peers to borrow supplies.
To many players, prereleases are seen as one of the absolute best places to trade cards. Players are still discovering which cards will be Standard staples, and there are usually sleeper cards, priced too low relative to overpriced, overhyped cards. Savvy players know to get rid of any overhyped cards they pull and also make a concerted effort to snatch up cards they think will spike in price later on. I used to love trading at prereleases, but as the years went on I lost interest due to the volatility of new cards in terms of pricing and playability.
As a new player, there are few things worse than pulling a card at a prerelease and trading it away only to later realize the value was much more than you initially thought. Value aside, it's also a bad feeling for any player to trade away a card you didn't quite realize was the perfect addition to your Commander or Brawl deck. These are major feel-bad moments, and no player should have to feel that remorse after a fun event like a prerelease. If you want to trade, make sure to use a mutually agreed-upon site for pricing. If your trading partner is pressuring you or you feel suspicious of their trading intent, it's always fine to back away and say no. Trading can definitely be fun and beneficial, but do be aware of how prices and playability of cards can quickly change. If you're ever unsure (regardless of how long you've been playing) the best thing to do is just focus on having fun playing in the event and step away from trading. You never know which card from your prerelease pool will later become a valuable gem in your collection or new favorite addition to a deck.
You might be reading this and thinking, "Do I really need to be reminded to have fun at a Magic event?"
All too often we equate building the best deck and winning all your rounds with "fun." And I won't lie, that is incredibly fun and something I enjoy attempting to do during my prerelease events! However, it's easy to forget that players have different definitions of fun. Prereleases are low-pressure events that allow players to build their deck and play in the way that's most fun to them. Are you dying to force a mill archetype even though you're pretty sure the pieces aren't all quite there? Go for it. Is green your favorite color and you just want to play mono green even though it's not the best deck build in your pool? Now's your chance. Do you have a propensity for building decks with all six-drops? That's fine too. Whatever your definition of fun is, a prerelease is a great opportunity to make it happen. Moreover, if you are an enfranchised player whose idea of fun is going 4-0, that's totally fine also! But it's helpful to take a step back and remind yourself that if you see a player with a suboptimal or silly deck and want to critique and help them, they might already be having the time of their life and not want any assistance. We all have fun in different ways, and doing what you think is most fun at a prerelease event will ensure the day is well-spent.
Whether you're a hardcore spike, a returning player or a total newbie, prereleases will most likely be in the upper echelon of enjoyable Magic events for you. So go have fun. Build that silly deck. Make new friends and memories. The return of the core set is a special event for all players. and if you've lost track of how many prereleases you've been to or it's your very first paper event, I hope these tips help you enjoy it as much as possible. See you there!
- Thea Miller