Dominaria United Prerelease: Players and Games at Illuminaudi

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So what's better than going to a Magic: the Gathering prerelease? Going to more that one! I actually would've been able to go to a Saturday event as well, but I did have some non-Magic items to attend to. Namely finish building my second card box storage unit as shown in this article, and my pup Gracie would've been very sad that I was gone for three days in a row, no matter the reason.

Like Gracie, Jarod wasn't able to attend either, due to work, but I headed out to the Sunday prerelease event at Illuminaudi. No worries for Jarod, though; he was able to attend two other events on Monday and Thursday.

Sunday, Funday!

Illuminaudi's prerelease on Monday
(I missed the group picture on Sunday, so my son, Jarod, snagged a similar picture the following day)

I arrived and waited for the sweet, sweet goodness that is a prerelease kit. It's a funny thing, but the feeling of opening loose packs or packs for a draft doesn't really compare to grabbing that kit and hoping for greatness. I would consider it to be like that new car smell (which, of course, is so much better than old car smell). Your first cards of the set. I know, these were the second cards of the set for me, but the feeling was still great.

My Illuminaudi Prerelease deck: Bant Defilers

Note: for clarity, I've highlighted key cards in each deck.

Yep, THREE Defilers! Defiler of Vigor was my promo, with the other two in one pack, the Defiler of Faith being foil. I knew the potential problem was stretching the mana, but figured by the time I got to five or six mana, I should be able to cast at least two of the three. I had a little bit of fixing and some decent early plays.

I figure this deck would be at least a 3.5, maybe a 4 out of 5. So with a four-round event, I thought I could at least perform as well as my Friday event, right? Yes, that's intentional foreshadowing.

Round 1: Josh, Jeskai Jaya

How long have you played Magic?
I started between Eldritch Moon and Kaladesh, so about six years.

Who or what got you into the game?
It was an ex-girlfriend's brother. He begged me to come with him to the Eldritch Moon prerelease. I knew nothing about the game and he prepped me for a day the week before the event. He paid for my event, built the deck for me, everything, so I would come with him.

Do you still keep in contact with him?
We were in contact for a few years after that, but he moved out of state, so we haven't talked for a while.

What do you enjoy about Magic?
Honestly, the variance. There's just a wild amount of cards involved. That's the main reason I generally stick to prereleases, you never know what you're going to get. I mostly play Commander with friends and attend prereleases. Though I recently entered a couple of Modern RCQs.

Branching out, that's great! What did you play and how did it go?
Esper Reanimator. I didn't win, but I was able to Top 8 in both events.

I'd say that' pretty good for your first venture into the format.

So, what is one of your favorite memories involving the game?
Having something to do with my friends every weekend is something I really appreciate.

Have you made friends through Magic?
I moved into the area around the start of 2021 and have been playing every weekend with a group of friends for the past year. One of them moved to Michigan recently, so we started using SpellTable as well to keep in touch.

Keeping in touch through Magic!
Yep, we have a great time.

Any favorite Magic cards?
When I really started to get into the game, right around Aether Revolt, I had many fond memories of Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Winding Constrictor.

Oh, wait, there's one of my favorite memories!

Awesome, let's hear it!
At my old game store in Mansfield, Ohio, around Guilds of Ravnica, there was a gentleman who would donate a booster box of cards to the store. He would do this once a month to be used for an event of his choosing. For this particular event, it was round robin where you played four different formats with four different decks. The first, Standard; the second, Modern; the third, Tiny Leaders; and the fourth, Commander.

That was the only time before the RCQs that I ever played Modern. I built a Winding Constrictor counters deck, since it had just rotated out of Standard. I actually won the match against someone playing a real Modern deck, with a Blossoming Defense to deal the final blow. That's my favorite Magic memory.

Match Result

The first game started off with both of us exchanging blows. Josh pulled ahead with Jaya, Fiery Negotiator and sealed the deal with a very large and nasty Electrostatic Infantry, supported by Furious Bellow and Twinferno.

In the second game, Josh mulled to five, but still put up a great fight. He played an early Jaya, Fiery Negotiator, but I fortunately had the Prayer of Binding for her. We had both ended up in single digits when he cast Stall for Time on a couple of my guys.

I just smiled, blocked a little, and took a little damage. See, I'd scryed the turn before with Crystal Grotto and knew what was on top of my deck. He only had his two creatures, which were larger than mine, but I proceeded to cast my own Stall for Time and win.

The third game was very anticlimactic. I played the two lands from my starting hand, and didn't get another until about turn seven. Yea, I wasn't coming back from that. 1-2.

Round 2: Chris, Temur Fun

When did you start playing Magic?
I started during Amonkhet with a few friends, but got out of it until Guilds of Ravnica and have been going ever since.

Who or what got you into the game?
In Boy Scouts. Everyone was playing it at the time, but it was still a little difficult to break into their playgroups, which seemed pretty established.

So, that's what introduced you to the game. What brought you back?
It actually happened when I switched scout troops. This group was easier to get involved with and was having a great time.

What do you enjoy about Magic?
I love the different interactions within the game and the fact that there are so many ways to play. The breadth of Magic is enormous.

What is one of your favorite memories involving the game?
Since Boy Scouts is what introduced me to the game, I'd have to say those earliest memories are my foremost ones. My buddy [motions down the table] was in scouts as well, and it's been a great way to stay in touch. That and enjoying Commander with my close friends at their places.

So Commander is your favorite current format, then?
Oh yeah, definitely.

Who's you favorite Commander?
Karlach, Fury of Avernus. Piling on a potentially infinite number of attack steps. I really enjoy Mono-Red decks that utilize the attack step.

Any other favorite Magic cards?
Even though I enjoy Mono-Red, another card I like is Bolas's Citadel. Even when you aren't working to combo out with it, it's still a fun and interesting card. For Commander specifically, it's Lightning Greaves. Need to protect the Commander!

Match Result

My deck decided to start running on all cylinders and Chris's deck blew a tire. He worked to put up a good defense, but had a difficult time landing threats. When I was able to land both Defiler of Faith and Defiler of Dreams in the first game and Defiler of Vigor in the second, the match was over. 2-0.

Round 3: Michael, UW Fliers

When did you start playing Magic?
I'm actually entering my third phase of the game. My first phase was in the '90s, from Fourth Edition through Homelands. We weren't serious about it, and it was very typical kitchen table Magic. One thing I remember from then was the difficulty in getting basic lands. Unlike today, where they're everywhere, you had to break open starter decks just get the lands you needed.

Yep, I remember those days!

I had stopped playing while in college, until Return to Ravnica. At that point, I was quite a bit more competitive. I'd be slugging it out in local Standard events three nights a week, grinding in the Grand Prix and various Star City tournaments. I never got too far into the upper levels of play though. My best was at a couple of Star City events where I ended 7-3, with a cash prize of $50.

That's still something. Many others would've liked that!

It was a great time. My friends and I would have super draft nights, where we'd all buy a box and draft all night. I was totally immersed in the game. I believe I stopped again, around Dragons of Tarkir. I'm unsure of the reason, but it probably dealt with being upset with a set rotation. I was strictly a Standard and Limited player.

Until recently, I had always thought to play Magic the "right" way, you had to commit to it. Play multiple nights a week, tournament travel; be dedicated. So when I wasn't able to do that, I'm sure that had an effect. I was also involved in many other games, so there was probably some general overload happening as well.

Now I'm in the third, and hopefully, last phase. Today is the first official event I've played in about seven years. I restarted just a few months ago with some friends who have been playing Commander for a while. They got me into Commander and I'm enjoying the format. So, I think, between casual Commander and events like this prerelease, I can finally enjoy the game without becoming overly serious about it.

Did you happen to keep your cards throughout the phases?
Unfortunately, no. Playing Commander I've seen people playing Cyclonic Rift, and I was thinking, "Hey I remember when that card was $4.00 and I had a bunch of them."

So, I've told myself that if for some reason I decide to stop playing again, I'll keep the cards! Hopefully though, I'm looking forward to continue playing and enjoying the game from here on.

Who or what got you into the game?
Obviously it was different people at different times. In high school, a good buddy went to a tournament, came back with a few Revised packs, and got our group of friends playing.

I've always been a gamer, so the second time I came back I was ready to play and rip open some packs. I arrived at our local store at the stroke of midnight and bought a box of Return to Ravnica on release night. I don't recall what specifically brought me back in, but I was raring to go.

More recently, my board game buddies played Commander, so my interest was naturally piqued, along with them working on me for a while.

What do you enjoy about Magic?
Winning used to be the goal, for certain; the competition. Now, it's more just enjoying the game and working to achieve what I built my deck to do. If I don't succeed, then I rebuild, and try again. I've been really enjoying the Commander aspect. It's allowed me to focus more on the Gathering part of the game.

What is one of your favorite memories involving the game?
Hitting 7-3 in a few of those Star City tournaments was satisfying. I can't think of anything specific, but I've always enjoyed those come-from-behind moments. Where your opponent believes they have you, and you pull out the win. Yea, those are always great.

Favorite Magic cards?
Oooh.... I would say Falkenrath Aristocrat. I had much success with her during my Standard competitive phase. Another is Sphinx's Revelation. Definitely a favorite of mine during Return to Ravnica.

Match Result

Remember that foreshadowing? Not to dismiss Michael's deck, because it was a very competent deck, but my deck decided to stop at two lands again in the first game. In the second game, it was slightly better, but with a little removal and his fliers, I crashed and burned. 0-2.

Round 4: Lance, Five Color

When did you start playing Magic?
I don't recall specifically, but I started sometime between Champions of Kamigawa and Time Spiral blocks. I took a break after Zendikar, but got back in with Kaldheim.

Who or what got you into the game?
Boy Scouts. Had a few friends that introduced me to the game. I already played various board and video games, so the interest was already there.

What do you enjoy about Magic?
The challenge. Both in the competition and within deck building. It hits on so many levels.

What kind of formats do you enjoy playing?
In my early days, it was Standard and Draft. Since I've been back, I've been more into Commander, but am looking forward to getting into Modern.

What is one of your favorite memories involving the game?
Definitely winning my first and second drafts. It was Shards of Alara and I won both with a terrific Naya deck. I love playing those colors and was able to crash through with big beefy boys like Woolly Thoctar. Occasionally I would get to pair him up with Welkin Guide and smash even harder.

Favorite Magic cards?
Llanowar Elves. I love the mana dorks. Being able to ramp or attack. If I had to choose a second, it would be Counterspell. Both cards are useful in many ways and are always solid cards.

Match Result

Sadly, this match was eerily similar to the previous round. Game one, I was stuck on two lands for multiple turns. Game two was better, and we had more of a game. Alas, in the end, he had one more piece of removal in Extinguish the Light and a couple of small guys like Haunting Figment to clean things up. 0-2.

Event Wrap-Up

Well, that's variance poking its head up and saying hi. I'm sure there was the option to mull a couple of those hands, but sometimes it just doesn't go the way you had hoped. Still, in the games I was able to actually play, getting the right colors never seemed to be a problem. The nice thing is that with Illuminaudi, everyone gets at least one pack for playing, so I was able to drown my sorrows by cracking that pack.

As I mentioned, prereleases are always a great time. Win or lose you get to open packs, build a deck, and hang out with your local Magic community. Thanks again to my fellow players at both stores.

How was your prerelease, or by this time, release events? Did you pull some great cards or have a great (or not-so-great) story to share? Were you able to make new Magic friends? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below or on Twitter.

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