By Adam Willson
I hear this all the time from casual (just-for-fun) players: “I don’t care about tournaments; I just enjoy playing Magic with friends.” Hanging out with friends and playing Magic is great, no doubt. It’s one of my favorite ways to play. However, there are a few benefits to playing with a larger group, if only once every three months. A Magic “Prerelease” celebration tournament is a great way to compete for prizes and learn more about Magic without the competitive atmosphere of other tournaments.
Prerelease tournaments are Sealed format. Sealed is a ‘limited’ format (you are limited to deck build with the cards you get on the spot) in which the players are given six Booster Packs and use them to build a 40-card deck. A good rule of thumb for building is to include 23 spells and 17 lands. Basic Lands are provided for use in decks by the store hosting the event, you can add as many as you desire. Another good rule to keep in mind is that for the most part an average creature spell is better to have than a good non-creature spell (the exception being removal spells). For the New Phyrexia Prerelease players will receive three Scars of Mirrodin Booster Packs and three New Phyrexia Booster Packs.
Part of the fun of Prerelease tournaments is also what makes it a little gentler competitively- nobody has played with the cards yet! Since the set hasn’t been released, people may have seen what the cards in the set do (in online spoilers), but no one has had a chance to actually see how they play in a deck. A Prerelease is everyone’s first chance to get their hands on the cards, and ‘take them for a spin’. Some cards that blow minds on paper end up being awkward, and not always worth a slot in a deck. Many common or uncommon cards that aren’t flashy end up being powerhouses that should be included in Prerelease decks by two’s and three’s. This is everyone’s first chance to learn what’s actually good and what’s not.
Another benefit of entering any competition is to learn more about the game. If you only play with your friends, from whom you’ve learned to play, or whom you’ve taught to play yourself, you may be missing some pieces of the rules, or strategy. Playing with other players at a Prerelease is a great way to fill in some gaps in your knowledge, and help others fill some gaps in theirs. Prereleases are first and foremost about having fun and exploring new cards. This is not the Pro Tour, and for the most part the attitude of the players reflects that. People come to the Prerelease tournament to see the new cards, hoping to open or trade for the cards they’re looking for, and maybe win some extra packs. Remember, at a Prerelease you get to play with the cards a week before they come out! As a side note, cards from the new sets are legal in Commander (EDH) the day of the Prerelease! So go ahead and throw that new bomb rare you opened at the tournament into your Commander deck and see your friends’ reactions.
The Prerelease tournament for New Phyrexia at Jupiter Games is $25, which includes your six Booster Packs for building your deck, and an exclusive Prerelease promotional foil premium card from the set. The tournaments are scheduled to start at 11:45PM on Friday May 6, and 11AM Saturday May 5. A judge will be on hand to handle any questions or disputes should they arise during play. All prizes are given in packs of New Phyrexia, and the number of entrants will determine the amount of packs that will be given out. (Editor’s note: As part of the prize, every player gets one extra pack of the new set after the tournament is done).
My first Magic tournament ever was the Shards of Alara Prerelease. My first tournament match was somewhere around my fourth game of Magic. I had an awesome time, and learned a ton. To this day Shards of Alara is my favorite block. I met one of my best friends at a Conflux Prerelease tournament (he gave me candy!), and we’ve been playing Magic together ever since. If you want to have a great time, learn more about the game, meet other players, a Prerelease event is the place to do it.
And if you like it, you can play in the Release Event the next week!