Ixalan Prerelease Primer

Hallie SantoLimited

We’re just one week away from the release of Ixalan, and you know what that means… it’s prerelease time! Prerelease is an exciting time regardless of how much experience you have playing Magic, and we’ve created this primer to help players of all levels prepare and have as much fun as possible this weekend.

The Basics

If this is your first time prereleasing, you’ve picked quite an exciting time to start! When you head down to your local game store this weekend, you’ll be exploring the uncharted territory of Ixalan and hopefully discovering some buried treasure in your prerelease pack.

Each Ixalan prerelease pack includes:

  • Six booster packs of Ixalan
  • A random foil promo card, which could be any rare or mythic from the set
  • A nifty spin-down die
  • An insert with helpful deckbuilding tips

From your six packs, you’ll build a 40-card deck, consisting of about 23 spells and seventeen lands. Narrowing down your choices can be a challenge, especially when you’re playing with brand-new cards and you’re unsure how cards stack up against others in the set. I typically lay out my cards in a 5-by-3 grid: five columns for the five colors of Magic and three rows based on how much I want to play the card. The top row is reserved for the most appealing cards in each color, like powerful rares and efficient removal spells; the middle row is for cards that I wouldn’t mind playing in my deck, but that don’t necessarily make me want to play a certain color; and the bottom row is for more situational cards that I’ll play if necessary. This will give you a great idea of which colors are strongest in your pool, though you may need to try a few different configurations before you find one you like. And if you aren’t satisfied with your original build, don’t sweat it: prereleases use what we call “Continuous Construction” rules, meaning that you can make changes to your deck throughout the tournament.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s move on to the types of cards you’re likely to find in your Ixalan packs!

Pirates, Dinosaurs, and More!

Ixalan is what we call a “tribal” set – there are several prominent creature types, and many creatures will have abilities that affect other creatures of their type. This will seem familiar to those of you who have played with Lorwyn or Innistrad, though many other sets have included creature synergies (think Allies in Zendikar). In fact, if you picked up any of the Commander 2017 precon decks, you have a good idea of how a tribal deck works.

The four main tribes of Ixalan are Pirates (Blue/Black/Red), Dinosaurs (Red/Green/White), Vampires (White/Black), and Merfolk (Green/Blue). If you have a critical mass of creatures of a given type or key cards that support a tribal strategy (such as Thundering Spineback in the Dinosaur deck), you should strongly consider building a tribal deck. However, in Sealed tournaments, we have to build the best possible decks with what we’re given, and you may be able to build a strong deck even without the requisite tribal pieces.


Many of the tribes on Ixalan have a mechanic or theme associated with them. Here’s a quick rundown of Ixalan’s keyword mechanics and what they mean.

Raid: Raid is back, and it feels just as appropriate for the Pirates of Ixalan as it did for the Mardu Clan on Tarkir. Raid is an ability that triggers if you’ve attacked with a creature on your turn. For example, if you attacked with a Storm Fleet Aerialist, you can follow it up by playing a Storm Fleet Spy during your second Main Phase and draw a card. Value!

Enrage: The Dinosaurs on Ixalan have a reputation for being quick-tempered. If you control a Dinosaur with the Enrage ability, an effect will trigger when that Dinosaur is dealt damage. Every time Sun-Crowned Hunters take damage, they deal three damage back to their controller’s opponent, so try not to make them angry!

Explore: Explore is the most complex mechanic we’ll deal with today, but I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it in due time. Whenever a creature Explores, reveal the top card of your library. If it’s a land, put it in your hand. If not, you have the option of leaving the card on top of your library or putting it into your graveyard, and the creature who Explored gets a +1/+1 counter. So even if your Deadeye Tracker didn’t find the land he was looking for, he at least found something valuable along the way.

For more information on Ixalan mechanics, check out Matt Tabak’s Mechanics article on Daily MTG!

That’s all for now, but we’d love to hear about your prerelease experience! Tweet at us this weekend and let us know what you opened, how you did, and what treasures you uncovered in your prize packs. And if you want to keep playing Ixalan Sealed or Draft with your friends, be sure to preorder a booster box from CardKingdom.com!