Hello, my fellow Magic players. I hope we’re all excited for the upcoming Kaladesh release. I know I am. Even if it weren’t for the shiny new Masterpiece series–cue the screams of EDH players everywhere–Kaladesh is home to some of the most exciting artifacts to be released. Not to mention the card all dredge players are losing their minds over. I’ll be doing a set review later, but for now, here’s a short article about how I survive prerelease tournaments.
1. Be ready for the long haul mentally.
Prereleases are probably the most exhausting game of Magic there is, barring six-player commander games with three stax players. Prereleases have so many new cards and mechanics flying at you (sometimes quite literally) that it gets tiring to keep up with everything. Having a basic working knowledge of the new set will help you out a lot. Head knowledge can only carry you so far.
Before you even get there, get ready mentally. Even seasoned players tire through rounds since a prerelease is deckbuilding and four matches across the span of about six hours. You need the mental staying power needed to take the SAT. Or a college calculus exam. Trust me; you will be wiped after it’s all over. A prerelease is kind of like working out; a good chunk of it is just pushing through the exhaustion.
2. Bring some food
If you’re not a foodie like me, this may not be as important. However, having something to eat will help with that whole staying power thing I mentioned. Don’t be like me and delude yourself into thinking French fries at 3 AM is a good embodiment of nutrition and energy. Take some granola bars or trail mix. Eat like you’re about to run a race. (I used to play volleyball, and our top picks before a game were pastas, bananas, and nuts.) Those foods give you long-term energy instead of small bursts.
3. While we’re on that note… stay hydrated!
Water! Drink it! You get more tired the less you drink. Do yourself a favor and drink lots of water or juice. Something that will keep you hydrated and powered up. Not energy drinks or anything comparable. They produce a crash that leaves you needing more and writhing like an eldrazi if you don’t feed the post-boost cravings. The last midnight prerelease, I had a raging migraine from early-night red bull that wore off around match two. Coffee or tea will serve you better in the long run. (Fun fact: mint tea helps you stay alert.)
4. A little bit of deckbuilding
My acronym for building a deck is CRAP: creatures, removal, ability, and panic button. Let me define them for you a little.
- C: Creatures. Creatures almost always win in limited decks. Limited decks usually don’t have the capacity or resources to pull off infinite combos or bolt an opponent to death. Every deck that’s beaten me in limited has done so mostly through normal damage. Creatures are of the utmost importance during deckbuilding. Look for low-cost creatures and those with evasion.
- R: Removal. The second thing you want to look for is removal. Since creatures are the way most decks win, the way to stop them is by removing their attackers. Throttle is a card that doesn’t see a ton of constructed play, but that card won games for me in prerelease by finishing off blockers and letting me get through with my attackers. Be less stringent about how you evaluate your removal options when building your deck. It’s necessary.
- A: Abilities. If you make it past five or so turns in prerelease games, they start getting real grindy real quick. Your creatures and cards having abilities that outpace your opponent are key. Think mana sinks, pump spells, card draw, tapping down your opponent, sacrifice outlets. You get the idea. Vanilla creatures are okay in prerelease, but I’d take a 3 mana 2/2 with some kind of ability over a generic bear. I once won a game off Drogskol Cavalry’s mana sink. My opponent couldn’t get enough damage through the wall of tokens. My mana flood won me the game because I chose a late-game piece for my deck.
- P: Panic Button. Your panic button is probably what a lot players term a bomb. OGW prerelease, my panic button was Linvala, the Preserver. A panic button is the card you slam down as a last resort against your winning opponent or the card you use as a threat. In the first case, it may be enough to stop them. In the second, they’re forced to expend all their resources on your ticking time bomb, leaving you more room to work. In some cases, your panic button isn’t a creature but a boardwipe that cripples your opponent so you can take the win.
5. Come Prepared
The things you need for a prerelease are pretty standard. Sleeves–I take 45ish for my deck in case I split some and a couple in another color for anything valuable. A playmat, dice, a pen, paper, food, water, trade binder. Oh, and something to cut that pesky plastic wrap off your prerelease kit.
6. Have Fun
Finally, have fun. Be a courteous player. Know that you’re going to make misplays and it’s very possible you could lose to something like the Tree of Perdition combo. Shake your opponent’s hand before and after matches. Introduce yourself. Chat with other players. Help out the less experienced players. Don’t be a bad sport or gloat over a win. Try to keep the cussing to a minimum (I’m known to struggle with this one) since kids often are there. Play to win, but play to have fun.
So there you have my guide to surviving a prerelease. Be on the lookout this week for my review of Kaladesh through a commander player’s eyes. What are some of your favorite parts about prereleases? Let me know in the comments below.