Eldritch Moon Prerelease Primer

Posted in Feature on July 11, 2016

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Three words: Emrakul. Is. Here.

Emrakul, the Promised End | Art by Jaime Jones

The source of Innistrad's madness has been revealed, and it's none other than the Eldrazi mothership herself: Emrakul.

It's up to you to help the Gatewatch (and hordes of Zombies) take down this insanity. And the best way to get your hands on the new cards to check out what's going on? The Eldritch Moon Prerelease, of course!

What's a Prerelease, why is it one of the most awesome Magic events for every kind of player, and what should you be expecting? Read on!

Embrace Prereleases

No matter where in the world I am or what time of year it is, I always try and go check out a local Prerelease. Why? Prereleases are just some of the most fun you can have playing Magic!

I vividly remember strolling into my first Prerelease was when I was eleven; I instantly knew that was the place to be. Here we are, about fifteen years later, and I still get excited for each and every Prerelease!

Prereleases are great because the set is brand new, the footing is fairly equal as everybody plays with the set for the very first time, and you're all just relaxing and having fun exploring the new cards. It's just a lot of fun! Even players who have been playing since the beginning of the game look forward to each Prerelease.

If you're a Sealed Deck veteran, you may want to skip ahead to the next section, where I talk about some of the differences you can expect at your local store for Eldritch Moon. But if you're new to the wide world of Sealed Deck, or are maybe just looking for a few extra pointers, then read on!

All right. So let's go over perhaps the most important part: finding a place to play a Prerelease! After all, you can't very well play if you don't know where to go. How might you go about that?

Well, if you don't already have a local shop you frequent, be sure to check out the store locator to find one near you! That store may even offer preregistration. Prereleases are some of the most popular events around, so be sure to check and see if the store preregisters. The best time to find out an event is full is decidedly not when you show up and learn you can't play, so be sure to look ahead.

So you've found your store. Excellent!

Now it's time to prepare. With the Eldrazi lurking around every corner, you will certainly want to be ready for whatever comes your way! While you will be building your deck for the event with cards you're given when you get there, there's plenty to do besides just that.

For example, you may still want to bring a Standard or Commander deck to play for fun between rounds, a trade binder, pen and paper to keep track of life, and even a water bottle. And while you may want to remain hungry for victory, beating people at Magic doesn't actually fill your stomach, so something small to snack on (like an apple or granola bar) could be a great idea as well. You can expect a Prerelease event to take about four to five hours, so you'll want to make sure you set aside enough time for the entire event.

Okay now, let's see. You've found a store and you've gathered everything you might need to prepare for the Eldrazi takeover. You've even read through the recent Magic Story, so you're up to date on Magic lore. And, of course, you've taken a look at the Eldritch Moon Card Image Gallery.

You're all set! Now it's time to actually go and open up some of those cards!

Zombification Nation

When you head into the Prerelease and sit down to play, you'll be handed a snazzy new deck box containing everything you need to build your deck. Check it out!

Everything you will be playing with (except basic lands, which the store will provide) comes right in here, plus a few bonus perks.

For example, you'll find this lovely Spindown d20:

And that's not all: for Eldritch Moon, you'll also pick up this awesome double-sided premium foil Zombie token. These are pretty sweet. Check 'em out:

Notably, these are foil tokens—some of the first foil tokens we've ever made! You're definitely going to want to collect one to use for all of the Zombie tokens that will be running around.

Zombies are a major theme of Eldritch Moon, and you may have noticed they are actually also major heroes this time around!

Normally, all Zombies want to do is eat your brains. (Though they're not unreasonable. I mean, no one's gonna eat your eyes.) But in this set they get to shine alongside the Gatewatch for once. So celebrate your Zombies! Dress up as a Zombie, wear your favorite Zombie-related shirt, or just lurch into the store—whatever you feel like doing to raise your bright Zombie flag.

Some stores may even be running special Zombie-themed side activities at their Prereleases, like costume contests or makeup stations. Ask your local store to find out more!

Now, there's still one major element I haven't covered yet, which may actually be the most crucial: deck building! So let's hop right into that.

Prerelease Packs a Punch

Most important out of everything inside your Prerelease pack are the six booster packs that will give you the cards you need to build your Sealed deck, plus your shiny bonus Prerelease card (which could be any rare or mythic rare in the set!).

First things first: crack open those booster packs! Then, you'll have a stack of cards.

So...what now?

It's time to build your deck, of course!

Sealed Deck is a little different from normal deck building. You get to build a deck using only the cards in front of you, plus as many basic lands as you'd like. Also, unlike a normal Constructed deck where the minimum deck size is 60, you only have to play 40 cards.

The first thing you're going to want to do is figure out a method to pick which colors you'll be playing. I recommend playing two colors.

Some things that may draw you into specific colors are:

  • A really strong rare you're excited about
  • Plenty of "removal" cards that can deal with your opponent's creatures
  • A lot of playable cards in that color
  • A good "mana curve" in that color, meaning lots of creatures of different costs

Ideally, the colors you pick will have all four, but if two or three of those are true that's plenty good.

Whatever your method, you're going to need to narrow down what you're playing. If you get stuck at the Prerelease, feel free to ask the players around you for help. (You are allowed to do this at a Prerelease; everyone is there to make sure it's a fun event!) If you get stuck, one fun thing to try is to pick a supported Innistrad creature type that fits in a color pair, such as Spirits (blue-white), Zombies (blue-black), Vampires (black-red), Werewolves (red-green), or Humans (green-white), and then build around them!

But whatever your method, now you have your colors down. From there, how do you take everything you have and figure out which 22–23 cards you're going to want to put in your deck?

Here's one process that may help!

First, lay your creatures out in mana-cost order. This helps you see what creatures you're going to potentially have to cast at each part of the game. (Don't lay your noncreatures out at this point unless they're cards you are planning to play as soon as you have that much mana. For example, you will generally cast a Graf Harvest on turn one, but Shreds of Sanity isn't a turn-three play.)

A good "mana curve" of creatures is crucial to a successful Sealed Deck. You don't want to have a ton of cards at any single spot in the curve. It's important for you to be able to have a good mix so you can play your cheap spells in the early game and your expensive spells in the late game. As a very general rule for Limited, I would look to play something like this:

  • 1 mana: 0–2 creatures
  • 2 mana: 4–6 creatures
  • 3 mana: 3–5 creatures
  • 4 mana: 4 creatures
  • 5 mana: 3 creatures
  • 6-plus mana: 1–2 creatures

That's far from hard and fast, but it's a good place to start. Cull your creatures down to these numbers by choosing your favorites.

Now that you have your core creature base figured out, it's time to add in spells! Pick your favorites among your colors to bring your deck to 22 or 23 cards, and then you're good to go from the spell side.

The spells you're going to want the most are what are called "removal spells." These are the spells that permanently neutralize your opponent's creatures, by either dealing damage, keeping them tapped, or just straight-up destroying them. Sealed Deck Magic is all about creatures, so you'll want to play most of the cards in your colors that can get rid of your opponent's creatures.

Interested in more tips? Here are a few more things to keep in mind for deck building:

  • You can play more than 40 cards, but you really should stick to 40 if possible. Every card you play past 40 just means it's that much less likely you're going to draw that awesome rare you put into your deck!
  • The land ratio you're looking at should be about seventeen lands to 23 nonlands. This isn't right 100% of the time, but most Limited decks end up looking like this. In general, it's what I would want to have.
  • Play a mix of cheap-to-cast and expensive-to-cast cards. If you have all cheap, small creatures, then a single big creature can shut you down. Likewise, if you have all expensive, large creatures, you risk getting run over first. Stick to a mix that focuses on the two-, three-, four-, and five-casting-cost creatures. More games of Sealed Deck are won by casting a creature every turn starting on turn two or three than any other way.
  • Evasion is important! Often, Sealed Deck games will get into stalls where both players have a lot of creatures and neither player can attack very well. Creatures with abilities like flying ensure that you can break through these creature stalls.

If you want to dive really deep into Sealed, here are a few articles you can check out to learn even more:

Two-Headed Giant

Some stores also support a version of Sealed Deck called Two-Headed Giant (often abbreviated "2HG"), where two players team up against other pairs of players. Each pair gets two Prerelease boxes from which the players build their decks.

How does it work?

Well, the simple version is this: you and your teammate work together to build two 40-card decks. Then, you play against another pair of players in a one-game match.

How does this kind of multiplayer work? It's simple: all of your creatures and lands are separate, but you each share the same 30-point life total and take your turns simultaneously—plus you can block for each other too! To do the best you can, you'll need to work together to overcome the opposition.

Another really fun part of Two-Headed Giant is discovering which cards work even better in 2HG! For example, take Thermo-Alchemist.

This deals 1 damage to each opponent, meaning that one tap from this creature will deal 1 damage to each of your opponents for 2 total damage to their combined 30 life total! Bam!

Curious to learn more about how 2HG works and some of the intricacies of play? Be sure to check out this page to read all about it.

Open Dueling

If the idea of spending a whole day playing a tournament doesn't fit into how you prefer to play Magic, or if you have less time and just want to experience the excitement of Eldritch Moon at your own pace, you can get involved in Open Dueling!

You get a ready-to-play 60-card Intro Pack and use it to do battle against others participating in Open Dueling, including players participating in the main tournament who are between rounds. This is a great way to dip your toe into the water if you aren't sure the Prerelease is something you want to do, or if you can't commit five hours to a Prerelease event. You can just play games in Open Dueling at your leisure. Plus, it's fun!

Ask your local store about Open Dueling at the Prerelease, and prepare to battle!

Eldritch Mechanics

From emerging creatures to escalating abilities, Eldritch Moon has a whole host of new abilities running around! You should definitely check out the mechanics article to get a full sense of what's going on. Or, for a shorter bite-size version, check out these videos that cover them in depth:

That's No Moon

If you've ever thought about heading to a Prerelease, there's no time like the present! Eldritch Moon is not a set to be missed, so gather up your best Zombie paraphernalia, take another look through the Card Image Gallery, make sure you're preregistered at your local store, and get ready to have fun!

Well, that just about wraps things up here. Hopefully these tips will help you survive the Eldritch Moon Prerelease and help you and your favorite Zombies work toward shutting down this Eldrazi attack.

If you have any thoughts, questions, or generally witty remarks, feel free to send them my way! You can always reach me by sending me a tweet or asking me a question on my Tumblr. I'm more than happy to answer any questions you might have.

Have a fantastic Prerelease, and enjoy Eldritch Moon!

—Gavin
@GavinVerhey
GavInsight

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