Before every Prerelease, an article goes up that is there to help new players enjoy their Prerelease experience a little more. I hope to do that here, as well as offer more experienced Prereleasers a little something to up their fun as well.
Art by Anthony Palumbo
In recent Prereleases, Wizards has included Achievement cards in the Prerelease packages. These include making interesting in-game plays (for example, having four creatures in play at once), making sounds similar to what the creatures in play would make (howling like a werewolf), and ways to encourage player interaction and a sense of camaraderie among teammates (high-fiving members of your guild). I love these cards and encourage everyone to work their way through the checklist.
What I'm offering here is another Achievement card, but this one is a little more meta. I'm confident that checking off this list of ten achievements for the Theros Prerelease will up your level of fun exponentially.
10. Preregister. For most of you reading this, it is the Tuesday before the Prerelease. I strongly encourage you to preregister (if your store does preregistering; not all do, so check first). Preregistering just makes sense. Many Prereleases sell out. The Prerelease I am holding is already sold out. Make sure to save your place at your local store, or you may find yourself driving from one store to another, desperate to find an opening somewhere. You will undoubtedly want a particular color package for Theros and preregistering makes it much more likely that you'll get your desired color. Preregistering also allows you to better prepare for the entire event. Knowing exactly where you are going and what time you need to be there is very comforting to a lot of players.
A side effect of preregistering? Your store owner will love you. Preparing for a Prerelease is a significant logistical undertaking. The more players who preregister, the better prepared your store can be to handle the players who come in. Do you want to be waiting while your store owner and/or judge is busy setting up extra tables? Do your store a favor and preregister. Encourage your friends to preregister too.
9. Be ready. You will have a lot more fun if you are completely prepared for the Prerelease. Do you have a pen and paper to keep track of your life totals? Did you bring new sleeves and a deck box for your cards? The last thing you want is to get your brand new Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver all scratched and nicked because you forgot sleeves. I'd even recommend a short card box (something the size of a Fat Pack box). You can store extra cards, sleeves, dice, tokens, and most everything else in there. Do you have your lunch, or at least some snacks packed? Prereleases can go long and being hungry just takes away the fun.
I would recommend reading the Theros Release Notes before you go as part of your "readiness package." Did you know that if someone plays Hero's Downfall on your Cavalry Pegasus that you are enchanting with Celestial Archon, that the Celestial Archon still enters the battlefield, but as the creature? It is something like this, and many other interesting possibilities, that can trip you up with a new set. Reading the Release Notes is a good idea.
8. Bring friends. I have been to Prereleases without my friends. I've been to Prereleases with my friends. Going with friends is just better. After a close game where crazy stuff happened, I love to rehash it with my opponent, then talk about it with my friends later on. I still have a good time when I have to attend without my friends (I mean, new Magic cards, people!), but when your friends are there the laughter is a little louder, the high fives are more frequent, and the great in-game moments are a little more memorable.
Part of preregistering means that you know there will be room for you and your friends at a single store. Look at how the achievements are all inter-related!
It also helps the mood in the store as a whole. If you and five of your friends are at the same Prerelease that has less than forty people, your boisterous excitement with your friends will spread to the rest of the players in the store. A happy store is just going to make your Prerelease experience even better.
7. Be the color you want. You have likely read articles by now, or will through the week, that suggest which color is the strongest color. The writers have looked at the cards in the format, and the packages you can choose from, and have decided that you are better off with this color over that color. Your odds of winning will improve if you take color Y.
For those of you who won't enjoy the experience without winning packs, follow the advice. For the rest of you, pick the color you'll enjoy playing the most! Don't worry about what the experts say is the best generic pick. Choose the cards you want to play and go for it! While I'm leaning toward white, I could go with another color, depending on what gets revealed (as of this writing, I haven't seen the entire set yet).
Vaporkin | Art by Seb McKinnon
6. Ask for help. All of us have played games against opponents who were far better players than we were. I've had opponents manhandle me with decks that didn't appear all that spectacular, but always seemed enough to get things done. When you run into these players, and there is still time before the next round starts, ask them for their advice with your deck.
First off, most players will be happy to offer their advice. People are generally thrilled to find that someone values their opinion, and often that is all it takes to get people to give you a hand. Secondly, this is one of the best ways to learn. Improving how you play is great, but starting out with a better deck than you had initially is always helpful.
This may involve shedding your Coat of Pride, but you'll be better off for it. Perhaps the player only suggests some minor changes to your mana base. He or she may suggest a wholesale change to the deck, including dropping a splash color. Listen to what the person has to say and learn.
As a father and older player, my asking younger players for help can be a great experience for them. Most younger players have never had the opportunity to teach anything to someone more than a couple of years older than they are. Listening to a twelve year old explain why I needed two more Plains in my deck was a learning experience for us both.
5. Offer help. As a corollary to the above achievement, offering help is great too. This one can be tricky, since some players don't want your help and take offence when you offer it. I find the best way to offer is to start by striking up a conversation about the game.
"I notice you got a little mana-screwed in two of the games. Was that bad luck, or do you think you are a little low on lands?"
"I was lucky you didn't have a way to stop Boon Satyr. Did you have something in your deck that just didn't show up?"
If you get people talking about their decks, they are often more amenable to hearing about your suggestions for improving the deck.
4. Make a player's day. This one is easy. My favorite story involves a player at an SCG Open Series tournament and my youngest son, Spencer. Spencer and I were walking past the guy and he stops us and gives my son a City of Brass. There was no prompting; this player saw a younger player and decided to do something nice.
There are all sorts of ways to make a player's day. I have seen players return lost decks that were worth hundreds of dollars. Players who congratulate their opponents, asking about the interesting or unique deck ideas they used to win. I've watched players concede games that were obviously more important to the opponent. It can be so easy to make the Prerelease a wonderful and memorable experience for someone else, at little or no cost to yourself, that it really doesn't make sense not to make it happen.
3. Say thanks to your tournament organizer (TO). Being a TO means that I don't get to play in many tournaments. One of the most recent Prereleases I've been to was the Avacyn Restored Prerelease. My son and I attended at TJ's Collectibles in Milford, MA. These guys really know how to run a Prerelease. Everything was on time, clean, and as advertised. I watched the staff handle some awkward situations smoothly and they did everything they could to ensure that everyone had the best experience they could.
After the Prerelease, I thanked the judge who ran the tournament, and he pointed me to Tom, the store owner. I repeated what I said to Tom and you could have blown him over with a feather. While it is important for a TO to hear about any problems you may have had with the tournament, getting a compliment and a thank you are simply unheard of. If you have a good time, let the judge or the TO know it. Everyone loves to get a compliment and these folks just don't hear it enough.
2. Your own achievements card. While this article is an achievement card already, I'm sure you can come up with a handful of things for both in and out of game that you would love to try. Chris Lansdell (@lansdellicious on Twitter) used to write an article series for manadeprived.com called Achievement Unlocked. He would set a couple of goals that he would try to achieve, along with winning, depending on what deck he would bring to his next tournament. The articles were fun to read and are one of the inspirations for this article.1
As for my Achievement Card? Well, it looks like I'm not going to make it to a Prerelease, since I'll be running my own. If I was going to the Prerelease, I'd be running this card:
Instead, I'll be using this card:
Not a lot of difference between the two cards, really.
1. Leave the game face behind. A Prerelease is an opportunity for players who don't regularly play in tournaments to enjoy a more structured game with brand-new cards. There is a good chance that many of your opponents will not know the rules as well as you do. If they make a mistake, let them back up and do it right. These newer players are the lifeblood of the game. All of us want to see them back at the store again and again. If this turns into a lousy experience for them because you held fast and determined that they needed to learn from their mistakes, they may not come back.
The best thing to do for a Prerelease is to drop your competitive nature at the door. Smile and have a good time. Play the games and don't worry about the results. Enjoy the art, the new abilities on the cards, and the relaxed feel. Offer up genuine compliments for good and/or interesting plays. Be the person in the store who is the most fun to play against.
1: Chris has started a new article series at manadeprived called Stream of Consciousness. I recommend it, along with a podcast he co-hosts, called Horde of Notions. (return)
Bruce's games invariably involve a kitchen table, several opponents, crazy plays, and many laughs. Bruce believes that if anyone at your table isn't having fun playing Magic, then you are doing it wrong.