The prerelease for the newest Magic: The Gathering set is coming in a few short days, and I wanted to give you an overview of what to expect and how to prepare to get the most out of the event, whether it’s for your first prerelease or your twentieth.
Prerelease is one of the best experiences you can have as a Magic player. It’s fun and exciting to play with brand-new cards as soon as possible. Each player at the prerelease will receive four packs of Hour of Devastation and two packs of Amonkhet, from which you’ll construct a 40-card deck. You’ll then play in a tournament against other players and win packs of Hour of Devastation as prizes, a week before they go on sale at your store.
I want to encourage you to keep the following things in mind when you play in a limited event like a prerelease:
- The cards you get in your prerelease kit are your pool of cards for the entire event. Do not add cards that you received at another prerelease event or cards that you open in your prize packs to your prerelease pool; this is cheating, and you will be dropped from the event and asked to leave.
- Do not trade cards from your prerelease pool with your friends or other players until your prerelease event is over. Trading for cards to put into your prerelease deck is also considered cheating.
- Get sleeves for your cards. Your local game store should have a selection of sleeves on hand and I highly recommend buying some for this event, even if you don’t normally play with sleeves (which you should!).
- If you have a question, please call the judge. Everyone will be playing with the new cards for the first time, and there’s no shame in wanting to clarify how new cards or mechanics work.
- Remember to have fun!
“But I am an experienced player and have played in many prereleases. What do I need to know?”
If you’re familiar with the prerelease procedure but still want to get some prep work in before the event, I advise you to take a look at the Hour of Devastation Release Notes. This is a document that Wizards releases about a week before the prerelease, and it includes rulings on all the mechanics in the set. While the Release Notes are intended to help judges make correct rulings at prereleases and other Magic events, they’re also useful for players, who may have questions about how certain cards or mechanics work.
Amonkhet’s Exert and Aftermath mechanics will be returning in Hour of Devastation, but we’ll also be getting two new keywords: Eternalize and Afflict. The Release Notes have this to say about Eternalize:
702.128a Eternalize is an activated ability that functions while the card with eternalize is in a graveyard. “Eternalize [cost]” means “[Cost], Exile this card from your graveyard: Create a token that’s a copy of this card, except it’s black, it’s 4/4, it has no mana cost, and it’s a Zombie in addition to its other types. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery.”
- For each card with eternalize, a corresponding game play supplement token can be found in some Hour of Devastation booster packs. These supplements are not required to play with cards with eternalize; you can use the same items to represent an eternalized token as you would any other token.
- If a creature card with eternalize is put into your graveyard during your main phase, you’ll have priority immediately afterward. You can activate its eternalize ability before any player can try to exile it, such as with Crook of Condemnation, if it’s legal for you to do so.
- Once you’ve activated an eternalize ability, the card is immediately exiled. Opponents can’t try to stop the ability by exiling the card with an effect such as that of Crook of Condemnation.
- The token copies exactly what was printed on the original card and nothing else, except the characteristics specifically modified by eternalize. It doesn’t copy any information about the object the card was before it was put into your graveyard.
- The token is a Zombie in addition to its other types and is black instead of its other colors. Its base power and toughness are 4/4. It has no mana cost, and thus its converted mana cost is 0. These are copiable values of the token that other effects may copy.
- If the card copied by the token had any “when [this permanent] enters the battlefield” abilities, then the token also has those abilities and will trigger them when it’s created. Similarly, any “as [this permanent] enters the battlefield” or “[this permanent] enters the battlefield with” abilities that the token has copied will also work.
- Several cards have an eternalize cost that includes “Discard a card.” You can’t discard the card with eternalize to pay its own cost because the card has to be in your graveyard to begin activating its eternalize ability.
And here are the rules for Afflict:
702.129a Afflict is a triggered ability. “Afflict N” means “Whenever this creature becomes blocked, defending player loses N life.”
702.129b If a creature has multiple instances of afflict, each triggers separately.
- If multiple creatures block a creature with afflict, afflict triggers only once.
- Afflict causes the defending player to lose life; it’s not damage or combat damage.
- If a creature is attacking a planeswalker, that planeswalker’s controller is the defending player.
- Afflict resolves before combat damage is dealt. If this loss of life brings a player to 0 life or less, that player loses the game immediately. A blocking creature with lifelink won’t deal combat damage in time to save that player.
Some additional tips for advanced players going to the prerelease this weekend:
- Remember that this isn’t a competitive event. Some of the players you face at your prerelease will not be as knowledgeable or up-to-date on the rules of the game as you might be. Be helpful to these newer players.
- If your opponent is new, communicate with them more than you normally would at a Magic event. Explain each spell as you cast it; announce what phase or part of the turn you are in and when you move from one to the next.
Remember that this event isn’t designed for advanced players – its purpose is to bring players of all levels together to experience a new set for the first time. Many of your opponents play casually at home with friends, and this is the only sanctioned event they go to each quarter. You may even face some brand-new Magic players! The example you set will have a huge impact on these players and may determine if they play in future events at your game store. So be clear, be courteous, and remember to have fun!