Beyond the Norm: Crushing Children and Prereleases – Ixalan Edition

Ryan Normandin
September 22, 2017


            While my friends went out on the fourth of July to watch the fireworks, go to parties, and make poor decisions, I stayed home and studied. I studied every day that week, for six hours a day. By the time the Hour of Devastation prerelease arrived on Saturday, I had memorized LSV’s numerical rating for every card in the set, purchased a new playmat and sleeves, and mastered one, fluid motion in which I could remove the plastic and tear open the cardboard prerelease box. When the prerelease rolled around, I had never felt so ready.

            When our store’s judge told us to begin opening our kits, mine had been shred to pieces before he finished the sentence. A flurry of booster pack wrappers followed, and my cards practically sorted themselves. I looked around at the rest of the room, satisfied that I was the first done, and therefore had gained an edge by having more time to build.


            But that’s when I saw him. My archnemesis.


            Local preteen Jimmy Henderson.


            While I’ve played competitive Magic for a long time against a wide variety of high-caliber players, there were no tournaments as cutthroat as prereleases. Those prize packs… they changed people. And Jimmy Henderson didn’t just win; he destroyed people, exploiting their emotional and psychological weaknesses before moving onto the physical. But I had prepared more for this prerelease than any other. Surely, I was ready!

            But alas… I came to in the same state that I had after so many other prereleases. Covered in grime, I awoke in the dark, forgotten alley behind our store. My new playmat had been graffitied with things that eleven-year-olds found amusing, my prerelease kit was torn apart, cards fluttering in the wind, and I couldn’t quite remember my name… but worst of all, I realized that I couldn’t remember LSV’s numerical rating for a single card in Hour.

            Jimmy Henderson leaned down over me, snickering. “Remember this,” he said, taking a bite out of a Fruit Roll-Up that his mom had packed for him. “You can never beat me.”

            “But... but this game is ages thirteen and up,” I groaned. “You shouldn’t even be playing.”

            “And yet…” he held open his backpack, filled to the brim with at least fifty prize packs.

            “Jimmy!” called someone who was presumably his mother. “Have you finished your wizard battle with that thirty-year-old man yet? We have to get your sister to soccer practice!”

            Jimmy smirked at me one more time. “I’ll see you at the Ixalan prerelease,” he whispered. “If you can walk by then.”

            I laid there for a long time afterward. I eventually struggled to my feet, wincing as a suspiciously fresh scar over my right kidney exploded into pain. With my wallet and car keys gone, I limped back to my apartment. I turned on my computer, did a quick search, and found that half of Ixalan had already been spoiled. I had 77 days to master the set and finally defeat Jimmy Henderson.

            It is my privilege to share what I’ve learned with all of you, so that you too might defeat any prepubescent children who regularly beat you to a pulp at the one thing left in your life you thought you were half-decent at.

The secret to success at the Ixalan prerelease is that it’s all about the tribes. You need to go in knowing which tribe you support, and really give it your all.


            I get it. Everyone went through a stage where, for about eighteen months, they couldn’t get enough of dinosaurs. You could probably name all the different kinds. You’ve seen all fourteen of The Land Before Time movies. (No seriously, there are fourteen of them.) You’re also very upset that there is no reference to Littlefoot in Ixalan, because Littlefoot is bae. (Did Littlefoot and Cera ever get together? Need to check up on that…)

Pterodactyls are Fake News. 

            Anyways, if dinos is your tribe, you need to reawaken that extensive dino knowledge deep within yourself. Then, you need to leverage it. Every time you see a Kinjalli’s Sunwing, an Imperial Aerosaur, or a Shining Aerosaur, be sure to frown and shake your head disapprovingly. When your opponent asks what the problem is, shatter the child’s dream by launching into a tirade of how pterodactyls are not dinosaurs. Sure, they lived among dinosaurs and went extinct around the same time, but they’re just flying reptiles. Oh, your favorite dinosaur was the pterodactyl? Gee, I’m sooo sorry… I sure hope you can focus on this game of Magic after your ENTIRE WORLD has been shattered.


            Pirates are aggressive, treasure-loving looters who have no qualms about stealing. They also replace appendages with random objects they’ve got around on their ship. This is the reckless spirit you need to embrace going into the prerelease.


            First, feel free to chop something (or multiple things) off your body. I’ve included a handy chart with recommendations on what to replace it with.



Hook. Duh.


Peg of wood. Again, these are the two givens.






Treasure Map




Treasure Chest (a strict upgrade!)


A bottle of rum


            Next, you’re a pirate, so you need to act like one. I know a lot of people in the Magic community are adamant about proper hygiene, but let’s be real; ain’t no pirate got time for that! Don’t shower for about a month prior to the prerelease (it’s a bit late at this point, so just don’t shower up through the event). Don’t brush your teeth either; you want them yellowed and, ideally, falling out. You’ll similarly want to avoid vitamin C in order to give yourself that signature pirate disease, scurvy! (It’s also real fun to say as a pirate! Scurrrrrrrrrrrvy!) Pirates also tend to have salt in their hair, but this shouldn’t be a problem; you are at a Magic tournament, after all.


            Now that you’ve got the dress code down, work on your behavior. Are you tired of the people around you opening bomb rares while you open garbage? Well luckily, when you see something you like, punch someone in the face, cry out, “Raid trigger!” and grab their stuff. Given the way that you smell, look, and are acting, people will be unlikely to confront you. Hell, they might not even want to play against you. If anyone does try to stop you, remind them that state and federal laws are “more like a set of guidelines,” and, if all else fails, just say, “parley.”

That should get you in with the person who runs the shop, who you can then stab in the back (literally) and claim the store for yourself. Once the store is yours, you’ll want to test its seaworthiness, so first take…

(Author’s Note: Hey, there! It’s me, Ryan! I hope you’re enjoying the article so far. There’s been this occasional problem in the wonderful world of the internet where people struggle with what’s called “genre” when reading an article. The genre of this piece is “satire/parody/humor,” which means you shouldn’t actually go out and murder your friends this weekend. If you do, I can assure you that state and federal laws are definitely not “more like a set of guidelines,” unless you run one of the country’s major investment banks. If you do, have at it! They’ll just throw more money at you to make you go away. If you don’t, then you’ll be thrown in federal brig prison. Cool chat, hope you enjoy the rest of the piece!)

…and conquer the nation of Nambia. Once that’s done, you can officially consider yourself a pirate king!


            With Vampires, the possibilities are endless. You can go for the original archetypical vampire, drench yourself in fake blood and fancy clothes, and enter your LGS to screams of horror. Alternatively, you can go for the more recently trendy archetype of vampire, drench yourself in glitter and angst, and enter your LGS to screams of delight. Just remember that the Vampires in Ixalan represent Spanish conquistadors. As such, brush up on your Spanish. And no, “hola” isn’t going to cut it. You think the conquistadors ever said “hola?” Once again, a handy translation of useful phrases for this weekend, courtesy of Google Translate and whatever I remember from high school.

Do you like my glittering skin?

¿Te gusta mi piel con lentejuelas?

What’s wrong? You’ve never seen a vampire on a boat?

¿Qué pasa? ¿Nunca has visto a un vampiro en un barco?

How did I get so pale? Oh, that’s just my natural skin tone. I don’t get out much.

¿Cómo me puse tan pálido? Oh, ese es mi color natural de la piel. No dejo el sótano a menudo.

I’m thirsty. For blood.

Tengo sed. Para sangre.

Aw, I lost again?

¿Aw, perdí otra vez?

Maybe I shouldn’t play Vampires.

They seem pretty bad.

Tal vez no debería jugar con vampiros.
Parecen débiles.

I’m a pirate now.

Ahora, soy un pirata.

Raid trigger! Oops… is all that blood from your nose…? Well, I used to be a vampire, so…

¡Activa raid! Oops, ¿es toda esa sangre de tu nariz? Solía ​​ser un vampiro…




            I thought you wanted to win this prerelease? Let’s be real. If you love fish so much that you’re willing to actually play this scattered, unfocused, low-power-level tribe at the prerelease, then I kind of respect that. But you’re not winning. Just to make this clear to everyone else, bring in a live fish in a tank and let everyone fawn over it. Then, announce you’re playing merfolk, remove the fish from the tank, and drop it on the floor. Let it flop around for a bit before dying. You should now have the attention of the entire, silent, disturbed room. Dramatically poor the water from your fish tank on it. Declare that your chances of winning this event are dead in the water. Let people process that this bizarre, erratic, sociopathic behavior was all in service of a horrible pun and your devotion to Ixalan’s worst tribe. Don’t struggle as you’re escorted out of the building. You deserve this.

            And those are my protips for crushing dreams this weekend at the prerelease! Pick your tribe wisely, embrace it whole-heartedly, and you’ll be crushing Jimmy Henderson all your local archrivals effortlessly!

Ryan is a grinder from Boston with SCG & GP Top 8’s and a PT Day 2. His fragile self-esteem is built on approval from others, so be sure to tell him what you think of his articles on Twitter @RyanNormandin.


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