With real life taking priority lately, I haven’t played a single game of Magic in more than a month, but this community is a funny thing. Between listening to several podcasts a week, watching coverage, and reading articles, I don’t feel like I’ve really been away from the game. I’ve still been doing a little speculating, theorycrafting, and updating my cube. Nearly all of the people I follow on Twitter are Magic personalities. But playing the game? Who has time for that?
Well, I do now: this weekend, for the Journey into Nyx prerelease. A Magic prerelease feels an awful lot like baseball’s opening day to me. Everything is fresh and new, nobody really knows how the season is going to turn out, and there is lots of pizza (sadly, this is where my analogy falls apart, as I’m more of a hot-dog-and-nachos kind of guy at the ballpark). On opening day/prerelease, players/cards are still question marks—nobody knows how they will perform individually, both in-game and financially. On a macro level, nobody really knows which decks/teams will dominate. The community can make educated guesses, but as we all know, sometimes things turn out rather differently than we expect.
If you can’t tell, I love Magic prereleases. There’s just something different about playing with new cards, in a good way. From tournament grinders to the purely casual, all types of players attend these events. Whenever Magic takes a backseat in my life, it only takes a prerelease to reinvigorate my interest in the game.
Because these events are few and far between, I like to clearly determine my goals and priorities beforehand to maximize the brief time I do get to spend prereleasing. As cliché as it is, I do firmly believe that you should be attending these events primarily to have fun. As financiers, sometimes we attend events with an all-business, I-will-make-money attitude. Often we don’t even play in the event in question. That’s appropriate for PTQ's and GP's, but I believe in playing the prerelease. Of course you can make trades all day, but this is a casual day to kick back and enjoy the game of Magic for once*. And of course, playing with new cards will give you a better idea of whether they’re worth buying later.
*Not applicable to shop owners/TOs
Winning the Prerelease
I’m at the prerelease to have fun, and to me, nothing is more fun than winning. It doesn’t mean I can’t be friendly and welcoming to new players, but I view the prerelease as an opportunity to pay for drafting for the entire season (at least until my LGS flattened the payouts—now a prerelease win is just good for a few weeks). That means playing tight and being familiar with the new cards.
I can’t recommend enough listening to the Limited Resources podcast in preparation for the prerelease. Last week, Marshall and Brian invited judge Joe Bono to educate the audience on the new and returning mechanics in Journey into Nyx. This is a great way to be sure you have a good understanding of the rules, which will allow you to make optimal plays at the prerelease. Later this week, LR will post a common/uncommon set review, going through every card and evaluating each one specific to Limited. If you have a long commute or some work that will allow you to double-task with a podcast, this is a pretty easy way to go into your prerelease prepared.
Keep in mind that the format isn’t changing that much. We’re going to be getting two packs of Theros and one of Born of the Gods in our prerelease packs, so playing Sealed or Draft events leading up to this weekend will offer some preparation. In any case, be aware that the BTT format was pretty aggressive—if you wanted to win, you needed to be able to beat white-based heroic aggro, especially paired with red or blue.
With this in mind, there’s only one prerelease pack I’m even considering. The white promo, Dawnbringer Charioteers is head-and-shoulders above the other promos, has the lowest mana cost, and is analogous (but so much better!) to two the best commons from Theros and Born of the Gods: Wingsteed Rider and Akroan Skyguard. I usually don’t think the right choice is this obvious, and my biggest fear is that there won’t be any white packs left when I play my Saturday evening event. I haven’t heard any other opinions on this matter, but I’ll be legitimately surprised if anyone who knows the format well says differently.
Bye, Return to Ravnica
If you haven’t gotten rid of your Return to Ravnica block cards, this is the time to do so. I repeat: this is the time to do so. I’m excepting eternal playables, of course, but your Standard-only stuff? Boros Reckoner, Nightveil Specter, Desecration Demon? I’ve been out of them so long that I don’t even know where these cards are priced these days, but the only reason to be holding them anymore is if you are playing them frequently. Even then, consider switching to a different format or deck for a bit, because these are going to decline sharply in the coming months.
Of course, be on the lookout for folks that have the same idea, but haven’t caught on to not trading eternal-playables like Abrupt Decay, Deathrite Shaman, Supreme Verdict, and the like. I don’t expect these cards to drop much at rotation. Or ever, for that matter.
Hello, Journey into Nyx
I’m a pretty big proponent of trading away hype-fueled new cards for underpriced old cards, but there are a few JOU tools I don’t mind picking up in trade this weekend.
Kruphix, God of Horizons seems relatively underpriced at around $8. This is guaranteed—I mean absolutely guaranteed—to be a Commander staple. If it does anything in Standard, $8 will look like a nice buy-in. I’m not convinced that will happen, but I don’t think any copies I can trade for at the current price will end up becoming regrets. If this drops to $3 or $4, I’m buying in hard. Remember the 1:2:6 of Journey compared to Born compared to Theros.
Temple of Epiphany will see play in Modern combo decks, I’m fairly certain. Again, the 1:2:6 ratio suggests that this one will be more expensive in the long-run, so I am all too happy to trade Theros temples one-for-one for this.
Battlefield Thaumaturge is only about $2 and seems breakable. I don’t love it, but I think it’s worth it as a deal-evener or if you can trade up. It’s funny thinking of trading up into $2 cards, but you know what I mean—a few bulk rares won’t be missed, and if this hits at all, you’ll be glad you acquired it. It’s obviously designed with strive in mind, but I have a sneaking suspicion in may also be a plant for the next block.
Hall of Triumph is currently less than $1. I think this is a $3 or $4 card long-term. It will probably drop further before the growth starts, but I will trade for all of these I can at the current price. I’m almost sold on buying in on this one.
Honestly, I don’t pay a lot of attention to prices during prerelease season, because the vast majority of them are way too high. Looking down the current prices for Journey into Nyx, I’m actually surprised at how reasonable a lot of cards seem. All of the Dictates seem potentially playable and likely to be casual favorites, and none are very expensive. This may be a rare prerelease where I acquire more new cards than I trade away. I’m pretty excited by this set.
Again, have fun at the prerelease. Be an ambassador for the community and make sure that other players—especially young or new ones—have a good time. Play tight and trade smart, but remember the jovial atmosphere these events are supposed to have. And find a prerelease with food! I’m looking forward to the pizza most of all.