Ryan’s Four Internet Protips for Crushing the Prerelease – Amonkhet Edition
I’ve played a lot of competitive Magic in my day, and I’ve done so against many worthy foes in high-stakes matches. At Grand Prix and Pro Tours, I’ve crossed swords with such great players as Steve Rubin, Ivan Floch, and Kai Budde. But it’s time to get real with all of you – when I sat down at the Aether Revolt prerelease across from local pre-teen Jimmy Henderson, I quickly realized that I was out of my depth. GP’s and PT’s are the gentlemanly duels of bygone eras; prereleases are you getting mugged by seven hooded figures while taking a shortcut through that dark side-alley your mom told you to stay away from. The game is the same, but the rules are all stacked against you. When I finally crawled out of my LGS’s basement that weekend, physically and emotionally destroyed, with no wallet, no car keys, and a suspicious scar over my left kidney, I knew I had to do something. This article is that something, a collection of all the best advice that nobody ever gave to me.
1. Be prepared
When a friend of mine invited me to my first prerelease, I asked if there was anything that I should do or bring. They smiled and told me that if I just look over the new cards and bring some paper, I should be fine. As I’m sure you can imagine, this liar is no longer my friend.
Prereleases are loud, messy affairs, which means you’ll need help concentrating during the deckbuilding time. Noise-cancelling headphones are a must; the screams of excited youngsters pulling much better cards than you can be distracting, and you’re there to win, not to “have fun” like everyone else. Along the same lines, sunglasses are highly recommended; they’re great for hiding the occasional tear sure to run down your face as you wonder why you just can’t feel anything at prereleases anymore… except rage when you notice that everyone around you has opened planeswalkers, Masterpieces, and Gods while you’ve opened triple Glorious End.
Learning the cards and reading strategy articles like this one are a key element of being well-prepared. Memorization of all 269 cards from Amonkhet is a must, and if your memory sucks, remember that you have a week between the complete spoiler and the prerelease to get a full-body tattoo of the set. Any tattoo artist worth their salt should be able to pull that off – with color. Bonus points if the artist includes LSV’s numerical rating of each card.
2. Keep Expectations Realistic
Your pool is everything. If you don’t have good mythics, throw in the towel. If you do have bombs, but lose, it’s because your opponent has a better pool than you. Whenever you lose a match, it’s always good to remind your adversary that Sealed is the most luck-based format. Is it a coincidence that the pro players best-known as being “Limited specialists” just happen to also be the luckiest? When your opponent responds by pointing out things you could’ve done differently, just walk away. Arguing with such simpletons is pointless; if you’d had more bombs, you wouldn’t have needed to do the combat math correctly. Sure, you had lethal damage on board, but your opponent had a Liliana! And she’d created two Zombies! Totally unfair.
3. Be Bold when Deckbuilding
The traditional school of thought for deck construction in Limited is to play two colors, seventeen lands, and some generically large number of creatures. However, as we’ve already covered, Limited is a heavily luck-based format, which means you need to do anything and everything in your power to swing the odds in your favor. This means throwing all assumptions out the window.
For example, you’ve probably heard that the fixing in Amonkhet isn’t great, which means you should stick to two colors. This is a lie; your deck is as many colors as you want it to be, so long as that number is not greater than five (or two, if you’re badly colorblind). So instead, you should start off by putting all Harvest Season, Shefet Monitor, Channeler Initiate, Gift of Paradise, Oashra Cultivator, and any other color-fixing crap in a pile. Congratulations, you’re playing all of them.
Now that you don’t have to worry about your mana, put all your good cards in a pile. Notice I’m not worrying about mana curve; this is because your pile of color-fixers also happens to ramp you! Hello, mono-six-drops! There’s almost always one color that’s weaker in your pool, so put that one aside – we’ll be using it between games to switch our deck between Mossy Mardu and Moist Mardu. (Man, don’t you miss Khans Standard?)
For lands, grab like nine forests and six other basics from the land station, then cut one land for every two cards with Cycling you’re running in your deck. This is because the official Oracle text of Cycling reads, “This card is free, and when you spend both mana and tempo Cycling it, you’ll always find exactly what you’re looking for, especially if it’s land.”
Congratulations: you’ve built a Sealed deck that will either destroy the prerelease or leave you 0-4 in a pool of your own tears, devoid of hope and down a kidney, wondering where it all went wrong. But don’t worry if it’s the latter; just remember that it’s not your fault that everyone you played against had a much better pool than you – especially Jimmy Henderson.
4. Complete the Trials
Most prereleases have a gimmick that goes with them, so if you really want to be the most winningest prerelease player, you’ll need to complete the five Trials of the Gods for Amonkhet. I skimmed them briefly before writing this article, but I’m pretty sure they’re something along the lines of what follows, each with a fun hashtag or two that you can use if you’re attempting them.
Trial of Greatness: Cosplay as the God-Pharaoh himself, Donald Trump. Wig, suit, and accent are required during all matches. Just beware: it turns out Magic might be a lot more complex than anyone knew, or could’ve known, going into this prerelease. #MakeAmonkhetGreatAgain #NotMyGodPharaoh
Trial of Divination: Your deck must consist only of lands and cards that provide two-for-ones. You’ll probably be forced into playing all Embalm creatures and Aftermath cards, but that’s cool; I hear all the time that card advantage is the most important thing, so as long as you have more cards in hand when the timer goes off, I think you win. #LifeisaResource #MillMyself #HopeMyOpponentIsntPlayingCompellingArgument
Trial of Overcompensation: Your deck must consist entirely of cards that have Bolas horns in the art or mention the word “Bolas” or “God-Pharaoh” in the card’s Oracle or flavor text. This goes for lands as well. #HornyforBolas
Trial of Burning Fire Fury Vengeance Outrage Strike Blast: Flip a table. #RedistheMostNuancedColor
Trial of Ashaya: Bring a plant with you. Confer with said plant on key in-game decisions. Explain to your opponent that this is not outside assistance because you are one with the plant and the plant was inside you all along. Then, eat the plant. Maintain eye contact with opponent the entire time. #SplintersInsideMe
Bonus Points: You can add some bonus points to any of your Trials, but only if you pull an Invocation. If you do, approach another player and wistfully lament that you wish the Invocations weren’t so ugly. When they agree, pull out a Crayon and improve the border. When they presumably express shock at what you’re doing, nod. “It’s ruined now,” you’ll say, and then slowly tear the Invocation in half. Again, maintaining eye contact during tearing is a must.
And that’s it, folks! Best of luck at the prerelease this weekend! As long as you keep in mind that they’re secretly the most cutthroat of all tournaments (I’ve seen two children and one senior citizen cut down for their prize packs), you’ll do just fine!
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