New Phyrexia Prerelease Primer

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The letter W!elcome to New Phyrexia!

Here in New Phyrexia, we've got plenty on offer for visitors who want to become part of something big. If you are thinking about joining us, your first chance comes this very weekend, at the New Phyrexia Prerelease. While you can see the whole set in the Card Image Gallery here on MagicTheGathering.com, this will be the very first chance that anyone will have to play with all those toys that we've come to covet already.

Surviving the New Phyrexia Prerelease should not be too terrifying an affair, even if some of the beasts that you unleash while playing are fearsome indeed. All throughout the world there are Prerelease tournaments taking place, and I would thoroughly recommend that you find the nearest one to you, go on a jaunt to your local event, and join us. Of all the events in the Magic calendar, it is the Prerelease events that I consistently find the most fun. This is where everyone shows up looking for a good time, and they never have too hard a search.

While finding fun at a Prerelease isn't hard, a little preparation can make it all the better. The first step is finding the event itself, and working out how to get there. Luckily, this very site is well furnished to let you know where to start looking. Assuming that you can make it, it's time to work out what you want to do when you get there. Some of the options I'll be weighing up for the weekend include:

  • Sealed Deck
  • Draft
  • Two-Headed Giant Sealed Deck
  • Casual dueling
  • Trading
  • Getting cards signed by artists

The core of most events is the Sealed Deck competition. Here you get three Scars of Mirrodin boosters, and three New Phyrexia boosters with which to build a minimum 40-card deck, and play for prizes. They are a great way to get a feel for the new set, meet other players, and potentially win some more packs. Because just about every Prerelease will have Sealed Deck, I'll go into a little more detail about my preparation for playing in these events.

Preparing for Sealed Deck with New Phyrexia

While all the cards are available online, I tend not to worry too much about trying to learn what they all do—that's a lot of information to try to remember, and, especially at a Prerelease, it isn't the main thing that will win or lose you games compared to building a good deck and playing it well. What do I do with my time instead? Well, I think a bit about the core mechanics and how they might affect my general strategy for Sealed Deck.

Your normal Sealed Deck will typically be just two colors, with 40 cards in it total. Any more and there's less chance that I draw my best spells, so I try to keep things lean. Those 40 cards will contain about 17 lands and a good mix of different cost spells, so that I have something to do on each turn. Too many expensive creatures and I might get run over by fast decks, but equally, one-cost creatures get outclassed fast enough that I won't tend to run any of them. My preferred creatures will either have evasion (like flying) or will do something cool when they are on the battlefield. My preferred spells will kill my opponent's creatures, my opponent, or both. Most Limited games tend to get won or lost by creatures, so I tend to run about 17 creatures, 17 lands and 6 spells, depending on what cards I open.

If that's the general strategy, then how does New Phyrexia liven things up? Well, that Phyrexian mana is something a little bit special. Being able to pay 2 life rather than mana for spells opens up a whole world of possibilities. My normal Sealed Decks will try to be two colors, so that it is easy for me to find the right lands to cast my spells. With Phyrexian mana, there is a lot more room to be "experimental" with mana.

The most basic way of doing this is by paying life to cast Phyrexian mana spells a turn or two earlier than I normally could. In this way, I can get away with having a mix of spells that are perhaps a little more expensive to cast than I would otherwise. If you are attacking fast with creatures, then that life you've paid will be offset by the extra damage you're dealing. The more interesting thing that Phyrexian mana offers as far as I'm concerned, though, is spells that I might not otherwise be able to cast at all.

Risky though it may sound, there is potentially a lot of mileage in running cards using Phyrexian mana even if you don't have any (or many) lands that tap for the right color to cast them. Yes, paying life for cards is a little risky, but the reward could easily be worth it. When you are building your Sealed Deck with New Phyrexia in the mix, be sure to think about the fact that you could cast any of your Phyrexian spells regardless of what lands you end up running (assuming you have the life required).

The Phyrexian cards that have me the most excited are those that I can cast fairly easily with life, without needing to have any mana untapped at all. These are the sort of tricks that are going to turn games around, and I love the idea of turning a game in my favor.

Gut Shot and Mutagenic Growth are not the sort of spells you want to be casting too early. These are precision strikes that are built to catch people unawares, especially as you can cast them at any time. Typically I can only see myself casting Gut Shot targeting a player if it kills them or one of their planeswalkers. Likewise, I never want to cast Mutagenic Growth unless it kills a creature, a planeswalker, or a player. Gut Shot could kill a 1-toughness creature, but often I'll be looking for it to do even more than that: making my small creature trade with a larger one.

Mutagenic Growth works well on small creatures so that they can trade up with big hitters, but is even better on big monsters. Often opponents are forced to double-block big creatures in an effort to kill them. With Mutagenic Growth to make your big creatures massive, you can sometimes set up for horrible combat steps where your one Mutagenic Growth kills a couple of your opponent's creatures, while keeping your best one around. The effects of these spells aren't new, but the difference is that there is basically no way that your opponent can play around these spells, given how easy it is to cast them, even when tapped out and regardless of color. I will not need to be playing red or green to play with either of these spells at the Prerelease.

Two-Headed Giant Sealed

I mentioned a few other formats in my initial run-down of what happens at the Prerelease, and one that I want to give some extra love today is Two-Headed Giant. This multiplayer format is among my favorite Prerelease activities, and it has undergone a few changes recently.

At the Mirrodin Besieged Prerelease, my partner in crime, Glenn Goldsworthy, and I wreaked havoc on unsuspecting opponents with some fairly devastating decks sporting plenty of powerful cards, including one blight dragon by the name of Skithiryx. We had various games that were back and forth, exciting and close. We also had one game that was ended in decisive fashion when my Skithiryx came in with haste and immediately got pumped to lethal size by Glenn's Untamed Might.

While there were certainly some high-fives from the good guys after that play (and having a teammate to high-five is part of what I like best about 2HG), it probably wasn't the most fun game for our opponents. Given that infect is a strategy that has only got better as more cards in this block have been released, there has been a slight tweak to the rules. It now takes fifteen poison counters to end the game in Two-Headed Giant, rather than the regular ten. This, if anything, only makes me more excited to play 2HG at the London Prerelease this Saturday. While I liked going poison crazy at the last event, I think I prefer that sort of thing to be the exception rather than the rule.

Thinking of rules, I have a few little rules to building a Sealed Deck for 2HG that I thought I might share, as there are some nuances to the format that are a little different from regular Sealed Deck.

The first thing to look for is cards that are particularly powerful given the fact that the game is multiplayer. In the past, these have been cards like Syphon Soul. I won't go as far as to tell you what specific cards to look out for, but there are certainly a few that gain a boost in power given the extra players in the game, and proliferate as a mechanic can do that much more when it can help your team and hinder your opponents.

Given the fact that everyone gets a shot at a "free" mulligan in 2HG (a mulligan where you draw a full seven cards), I am typically greedier during deck building about the number of lands that I play. Often this means playing only sixteen lands in my deck, and more business spells, safe in the knowledge that the extra mulligan, and a teammate to help protect me, mean this won't hurt too much. Aggressive decks can definitely end games fast, and both milling and landwalk get much better in 2HG, thanks to most lands being represented, and decks not being any larger, in spite of life totals being that much higher. (If one of your opponents tries to draw from an empty library, they both lose!)

The Reason You're There

Find a Prerelease Near You!
Find a Prerelease Near You!

Of course, for some of you, it won't be 2HG that is the reason you're there. It might be Draft, or trading, or simply seeing old friends who don't make it to so many tournaments. The key to every Prerelease is to find what makes it fun for you and enjoy it. With plenty of players of all levels there and an atmosphere that is more casual than competitive, a Prerelease is a good place to get started on tournaments, and learn from more experienced players. For more experienced players, it is a great place to get back to the grass roots of the game, kick back, and have a bit of a laugh.

I know that I'll be having a blast at the London Prerelease, playing all comers for prizes for much of the day, and then battling in Two-Headed Giant for laughs. Whatever you do at your Prerelease, and wherever it might be, I hope you have a great time too.

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