I believe I have talked about Pre Release in the past yet it is still worth talking about and discussing. It is by far one of the most enjoyable and in many ways a strange format. It is rather bizarrely temporary format. The decks are built in passing, often using most guesswork versus solid learned experience. Having previous experience or knowledge is useful, but rarely required. It is quite literally a format that one could walk in a blindly learn.
It is useful to have some knowledge of the cards. Like most people who come out who are entirely new to the game have at least played a bit of kitchen table Magic. Given the right group of people and those who are kind enough to greet those fresh to the game, it can be truly life changing. My first was quite awkward and I fumbled quite a bit, even with that I had had some of the most fun I could have in years. It was quite enjoyable and the people I met, I found myself wanting to play against again.
What the hell is Pre release?
Like I had said prior, Pre release is a very strange event. The events all start a week before the release of the actual set. Typically, they start on that Friday. The first event starts at midnight and new events start across the course of the next 2 days. My local shop ends the sign up for the final event at 5 pm on Sunday. Each event runs for 3 to 6 hours. It is largely dependent upon what style of elimination the store runs.
At my store, Pre Release is $25 per event. Most people who have the time will do 1 to 3 events over the event. That amount gets you a kit. 6 packs, a rare or mythic of the current set, 1 roll down d20, and typically an information card or some form of similar advertisement material. In reality, each kit is some of the best value one can open of new raw cards. Each kit has 7 total rares or mythics. 1 is a special time stamped foil rare card from the most current set. Sometimes that card can be worth next to nothing, or they could be worth close to $50 to $80. I have seen people open kits with 6 mythics, or they opened all the best expected cards of the set. It happens more often than most people would expect.
As far as playing, you take the cards you open and build a 40 card minimum deck. Most people build a deck with exactly that many cards. Almost every deck is a mix of removal, some creatures, maybe some proper value. It was not exactly excellent decks. Most of them are slow, clunky decks. The power levels differ widely. Perhaps somebody pulls off an absolute bomb set of cards to go off into a perfect kill, then the next 2 rounds they get completely screwed on lands. It can be entirely fair, or absolutely disgusting and broken. The simplest truth is, that is the way Magic goes.
Then how is this fun?
Honestly, the most important element to enjoying pre release is the attitudes involved. Comic Town in Columbus, Ohio is perhaps the most enjoyable places to play at in the area. They did have one of the best set of judges to officiate. They were very open and okay with people playing and talking about the game. The people I had met who played tended to have the same attitudes. They were very calm, cool, and in general fun to play around. They were looking to have a good time, maybe pull some stuff they wanted, yet above all they were hoping to enjoy the game.
I had met several women, wives of players, or straight up pro players who had their own preferred ways to play. I had met people with kids, who were learning, and I had met grizzled old pros who still wanted to come out and enjoy the game. Most people were really cool. Most people were even awesome about it. Looking at your cards and telling you what would be better to run or instructing you on a better way to approach it. I even saw a few people going through the rules talking through what happened, why, and how to be ready for it. All in all, it has been pleasant to see.
Attitudes did change as people did progress, it took until round 4 typically before the gloves come off and people start becoming bitter and angry. From what I have seen at most places, they try to stop that end of it. Comic Town was typically pretty strict and had reason to allow asshole-ish behavior to take over. No cursing, no direct insults, people could be disqualified if they were too mean. It was for the best honestly.
The more tough they were on that behavior, the more casual the game stayed. Personally, I think it is better for the format in general. This pre release seems to have really set a mark for it too. There must have been a fair amount of nastiness back and forth on it, all because they are looking to get rid of the Gauntlet. They may bring it back, but it will be something different. I am friends with both people who work there, and the players. It was interesting to hear both sides. I think the store is right to get rid of the format. Sundays are normally packed to rafters and yet they were down 25 players. Something must have happened.
To Sell or to Play?
My first kit had some real power in it. I was stuck in 3 colors in a mono color draft envirnoment without any form of color fixing. However, I had a very powerful Grixis deck. Blue, Black, Red. Gods, I had the Scarab God, Torment of Hailfire, Liliana of Death’s Majesty. I had an incredible pool to pick from. I just never got to really see the deck in action outside of a couple of quick practice games. I got a bye my first round and sat down and played against somebody while waiting for a customer.
The second round I had planned on dropping by then, but I must have left myself in…. Cause, suddenly I realized I had to notify my opponent. I went to tell him what was going on, and right then my name was called. I ended up winning a Owl of Devastation play mat (the set’s real name is Hour of Devastation.) It was like a $30 mat I managed to win by accident. I gave my opponent the win then played a couple of matches against him in passing waiting for a customer. My deck stomped him, he was grateful I dropped in all honesty.
Still, I had gone to this pre release to raise funds. Thank the gods, I sold incredibly well. I ended up selling about half the boxes I had brought with me. I traded one away for my afternoon entry, I also gave 2 away. I did cut my price on a couple of boxes upon getting to the show just because I realized I priced stuff way too high. I also got to test out my square reader which is truly awesome to have. That made doing credit card sales a quick, hassle free action. I will be looking to be prepared to do that for now on.
After selling a bunch of boxes, I got to the pre release I had paid for via trading. It was a little awkward as my ex-business partner showed up. I kinda chatted with him in a distant manner. I didn’t really have much to even state to him. Once we had our kits, the guy sitting next to me decided on making up Hour of Devastation “Gauntlets” using the Kit boxes. It was hilarious. That was some of the most fun I had had outside of selling that day.
And was kinda the end of my night really.
My pool was awful for that one and scooped after the first match. I was crushed hard by my opponent. I ended up not hitting a piece of my removal and was kinda up against somebody in the gauntlet which made my match less than fun. It wasn’t bad… But I effectively traded a box for nothing I could even write home about really. I stuck around for 2 more rounds trying to pick up a couple of last minute sales and that just fell right through the floor. So I packed up and left, $200 more in my pocket, new play mat in hand, and relatively happy.
I also gave my ex-business partner the Scarab God I pulled. A last gesture of kindness so he may look down on me a little less as we finally parted ways. I had no reason to wish ill upon him, he isn’t worth the time to.
At the end of the day, I had had a lot of fun and look forward to the next event here in a few months. I just need to sort out a short term option for the shop to see if I can figure out how to have product for it. Have a nice one.