Here’s what we experienced in joining a Magic The Gathering event at a local game store.
Magic: The Gathering has been around for 25 years, and there is no stopping on its popularity as more cards are being developed and more players are playing it. And just like in online games and esports, there are a series of weekly activities that are open for casual players and tournaments for those competitive pro players.
And one of the known events is called the Prerelease. The cool dude at Good Trades Brigade tag me along for another session a few weeks ago with the new Core Set 2020 cards, though this isn’t my first time participating at this event, as my very first one was at the War of the Spark Prerelease last May. So what is a Prerelease? What’s it to participate in an event like this? Does it require to be a competitive player to join? How about newbies? Well those were the questions I had when I first tried it and I’ll be answering some of my own questions and share you the experience I had with it as well.
What’s a Prerelease?
These are tournaments happening a week before the actual release of a new Magic: The Gathering set, so technically those who participate in the event will be able to acquire cards from the set before anyone else. This tournament would run for the entire weekend with different schedules around the metro. The format for prereleases is the sealed deck, which is very different from the decks that you commonly see.
So what’s inside the pack?
Opening your prerelease pack will give you 6 booster packs of the featured set, a random rare or mythic foil card with the prerelease date stamped on it, a D20 Spindown dice that is different from the standard D20 dice as it’s designed as a life counter for MTG and a leaflet that explains how to build your 40-card sealed deck.
Hold up! What makes the Sealed Deck different from the Standard one?
Unlike the standard deck where it contains 60 cards, a sealed deck only has 40. Now this is where the fun part starts, you’ll be building your deck from the cards that you got from your prerelease pack, this means you need at least around 23 to 25 creature and spell cards to build it, with the remaining cards are for your land cards which you can use that are outside from the pack, either you purchase them separately (most local game stores sell them individually or as a pack) or borrow some at the store.
Is the Prerelease newbie friendly?
Believe it or not, the event was designed to encourage newbies and even returning players to go back and play Magic: The Gathering. A week prior to Prerelease, there were Open House weekend sessions happening in all local game stores. These allow people who would like to learn about the game to get to know on the basics and get a free welcome deck. Newcomers can finally get to experience playing with the rest in equal footing, as everyone will have to build their deck from scratch at the event.
And you don’t need to get anxious if you’re still not familiar with Scry or Trample or effects during upkeep, most of the players are friendly enough to explain how some effect works, just make sure to ask nicely, and in case both you and your opponent are still new to the game, there are also game judges in every event, you can raise your hand to call their attention to help you out.
Once you’re done with the event, you can finally use those cards and use the experience that you’ve learned to build your own deck and join the community through the weekly activities at your nearest local game store. There’s always a weekly activity happening so don’t be shy to try them out.
So, how was your Prerelease experience?
For someone who can get anxious in playing and competing with complete strangers, the experience was really great. Though I got invited by friends to join the prerelease event, getting to meet other players was a nice experience to a point that some are inviting me to join their weekly sessions at the game store. There are cases where I could do casual talks with players that I’m competing against and shared some good laughs about the cards that we got.
As for the experience, I last played the game when I was still in elementary (and that was like two decades ago), so I needed some updates on the newer rules and changes (like mana burn doesn’t apply anymore whenever there is any unused floating mana at the end of your turn, and I still place my lands on the upper part of the battlefield, in which some old school players are still doing it). So after a couple of matches, I finally got the hang of it and managed to play well in the later games. The good thing is that I can use the cards to upgrade my decks for different formats as I currently play Commander and Oathbreaker (which we’ll try to tackle about them in the future) with my friends and then starting to build a standard deck for my casual sessions with friends, or I can sell them to earn back some of my spendings from the event.
Building your sealed deck can be a tricky one, especially if you are still inexperienced in deck building, which I had with my previous prerelease run. You can ask for help on how to build your own based on the cards that you have, there are some players who are willing to help you out and will give you advise on the basics on deck building. And don’t worry too much if you are in the disadvantage, everyone will be getting random cards from the booster packs so it’s a fair game for everyone. And prerelease is more of a fun event than being competitive one, so it it’s all about enjoying your run, and of course still try your best to win as you can get a free booster pack for each win.
Would I recommend everyone who wants to play Magic join a Prerelease Event?
It’s a definite yes! Prereleases are meant for everyone to participate and have fun, may it be a pro player, casual or even new players. It’s designed to be more of a social event rather than focusing on the competitive aspect, since everyone builds their deck from the packs that they opened, so not everyone have the best combination of cards at their arsenal. Making new friends is the main highlight at this event so don’t get discouraged if you feel intimidated by the presence of some players in the shop, are some are actually nice when you talk to them.
Prerelease events happens a week before a new Magic set is commercially released, and there are four sets per year. This gives you more time to open up your schedule for one prerelease day and you can go by yourself or have your friends who play Magic tag you with their session.
If you want to know when’s the next Magic: The Gathering set for its Prerelease, you can check their official website or ask your local game store, there are tons scattered around the metro and even in shopping malls, you know if it’s a game store if it has displays of Magic the Gathering cards and other popular card games.