This coming week in the US we have a lot to celebrate: Our Independence, fireworks, BBQs, drinking… and most importantly the prerelease of a new Core Set M13!!
Since 2010 Wizards has been giving us a Core Set every year. In the past Core Sets came out every two years and were solely made up of reprints. No new cards at all. This was great when you got Birds of Paradise and Wrath of God, but sucked when you had to see another reprint of Disrupting Scepter. Starting in 2010 the Core sets were now comprised of reprints, functional reprints, and BRAND NEW BROKEN CARDS (Primeval Titan, Baneslayer Angel, etc).
Prereleases are a great way to play with a new set and start picking up cards for trades to all those standard players at your store. Prereleases are generally Sealed Deck (some places also will run Two Headed Giants which is a team Sealed Format). In Sealed Deck you get 6 packs in which to build decks. The site provides all the basic lands you need, and your deck needs to be a minimum of 40 cards (and honestly you should stick as close to 40 as you can). We’ll get to actual deck construction in a bit, but first I want to tell you what you can expect at your first event.
The first prerelease I ever attended was for Time Spiral. It was a regional prerelease in San Diego and was the largest magic event I’d ever been to. I had never played a sealed event before, and for this set I didn’t know anything about spoilers. I sat down with my 6 packs, and opened the first one, pausing to read every card. I looked through the commons, the uncommons, and the rare (I still remember opening and playing Ith, High Arcanist). But then something strange happened. There was another card past the rare, with some weird purple rarity symbol and an old Magic Border… in this case it was Merieke Ri Berit (originally printed in Ice Age it turns out). I get to steal a creature? And if I can untap this card somehow I can destroy that creature and take another one?? What the hell is going on here Wizards? One of the reasons I remember this so clearly is because Merieke was my kind of card. I loved the color combination and in fact would go on to make Merieke my first ever Commander/EDH deck. So there I was with an Ith, High Arcanist and a Merieke, and a ton of other random cards and I was expected to make a deck? This to me is the beauty of a prerelease as a casual player. I don’t have to worry about competing against decks with 100s or 1000s dollars’ worth of cards. My skill can got a lot further (as limited as that is too).
Almost every prerelease I have attended since has been at my LGS. In fact in the last few years Wizards has made the move to have prerelease and release events be run by stores. This is a great way to get you more involved with your local community and also try out different stores to decide where you want to play. The first thing you need to do if find out when sets are coming out and call ahead to the store you want to play at. Most take signups and these events can fill up quickly! The same basic rules apply for attending a prerelease as going to your first FNM. Make sure to call ahead and sign up, bring sleeves, playmats, life counters, dice, etc.
The final step for going to your first prerelease is making a decision about spoilers! Wizards and other sites slowly put out spoilers for the new set in order to get players interested. Usually by the day before a prerelease you can look at the whole set. This means that you have a few options. You can look at nothing at all. Come to the set blind and get to see the cards fresh when you open your packs. This in some ways is the most exciting way to do it, but is going to lead you the least prepared for deck building. The second option is to follow the official spoilers on Wizards site, get an idea of the set, but still leave yourself with some mystery. The final option is to print out a spoiler list, study the hell out of it, and know what every single card in the set does. I’ve done varying degrees of all of these. Now that I often want to try and win more packs to crack open I usually at least go through the complete set once or twice and try to get an idea of what cards might go well together, and what are some common/uncommon cards I might have played against me.
When it comes to your actual deck construction the first step is to simply rip open all 6 packs and ohhhhh and ahhhhhh and get excited about your rares so that everyone around you know you opened the Hotness… ok that’s what I do, but sometimes it might give away info to future opponents. After you’ve opened the packs, separate all your cards by color. For sealed you most likely are going to be in 2 colors at least. Your goal should be to see if you can make something strong with 2 colors so you don’t have to freak out about missing your land drops. Most sets will allow you to splash for a third color, but if you do it should only be for a few cards. Once you have your color piles you look to see what you have in each color. You might really love playing blue, but if you only have 6 blue cards and 3 of these are unplayable you don’t want to play blue. When I first look through my piles I am looking at a 3 things: Bomb rares, Evasion and Removal! Most sealed formats are going to be creature heavy and won by combat. So if you can get rid of creatures, or stop creatures from attacking you, you are in a good spot. Also if you can make your creatures hard to block (flying for example) you can sneak a ton of damage in.
When you are looking through your cards you want to aim for ~23 playables and ~17 land. This formula is a pretty safe one especially for your first event. We’ll talk in future articles about more advanced deck building, but this article is just aimed at helping you build a deck that can win a few games and let you play with new cards! Prereleases, even more so than FNM tend to have a lot of new players, and casual players who don’t normally play in competitive events. Everyone likes opening new sets, so tons of people come out of the woodworks for these events. Have fun, and get a chance to learn how cards will play together!
I want to thank all the readers who have been coming to check this out. I have been pretty shocked by the amount of traffic I have gotten, and I want you all to know how much I appreciate it. I want this blog to be for everyone and to really help cut down on the intimidation factor that can come with joining the magic community.
I can be reached on the comments here and @HobbesQ on twitter! I appreciate any and all feedback.
ps: I will be doing a giveaway this week! One lucky commenter will have a chance to win this!!