Fate Reforged Prerelease Primer

Posted in Feature on January 12, 2015

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.

Editor's note: Please note that an earlier version of this article incorrectly listed the number of possible Prerelease rares you can receive. While it was eight for Khans of Tarkir, there will be six possible rares for each box in Fate Reforged. For more information, click to the Inside the Box portion of this article.

Welcome to the past.

Using some ancient magic on Tarkir, Sarkhan Vol has traveled through time 1,280 years into the past—and you've come with him!

You may have known the Tarkir of the present, but the Tarkir of the past is a much different world. The landscape is less torn. The clans harness very different magic. And, most of all, dragons still rule the skies.

It's a whole new world—and a turning point in Tarkir's history, as Ugin is struck down by Nicol Bolas. But Sarkhan—and you—have a chance to change all that. Tarkir's fate is hardly a fixed moment in time. Right now, it can be changed.

Crux of Fate | Art by Michael Komarck

Will you change it? Will you fight for the clans or for the dragons?

The choice is yours. Welcome to Fate Reforged.

And even though you're 1,280 years in the past, there's one thing you can always count on. Throughout the ancestral tradition of Planeswalkers from generations past, there's one constant rite: a Prerelease, of course!

Prereleases Are Awesome

There's nothing quite like a Prerelease.

Prereleases are some of my favorite tournaments of them all. Everything is brand new to everyone playing, and you can all experience the set for the first time.

Way back in 2001, when I was just eleven years old, I went to my first-ever Prerelease. It was my first major tournament—and I absolutely loved it!

And thirteen years later, Prereleases still make me as excited as I was then. It's your first chance to play with the new cards before anybody else and get an edge over all your friends. A brand-new set means an even playing field: people haven't dissected this format for weeks to figure out the optimal strategy. And most of all, it's a low-key, more casual event that's just a lot of fun!

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 and special pieces you can expect at your local store for Fate Reforged. (Like, for example, how exactly you're going to help revive Ugin!) But if you're new to this whole crazy Sealed Deck shindig, or are maybe just looking for a few extra pointers, then read on!

Okay. So step one is you actually have to get to one of these "Prerelease" events in the first place. 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 one of the most popular events we put on, 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.

Okay. Great. You've found your store—excellent!

As you travel back in time, you're going to want to make sure that your Planeswalker backpack has everything you'll need for the adventure! (They didn't have granola bars 1,280 years ago, after all.) While you will be building your deck for the event with cards you're given when you get there, there's plenty to do beside just that.

For example, you may still want to bring a deck to play between rounds for fun, a trade binder, pen and paper to keep track of life, and even a water bottle plus a few aforementioned granola bars to snack on. You can expect a Prerelease event to take about four to five hours, so come prepared.

Okay, let's see. You have a store and you've packed your trusty bag with all of the essentials to travel into the past. And I see you're even driving a DeLorean to your Prerelease! Great style points.

That means it's time for…

Sealed Fate

Maybe you're entirely new. Maybe you're used to building with the clans we all know and love from Khans of Tarkir. Either way, there's still plenty new going on with the Fate Reforged Prerelease—and I'm here to help walk you through it. What does all this mean for the Fate Reforged Prerelease?

Well, at the Fate Reforged Prerelease, you will still be picking a clan. Abzan. Jeskai. Sultai. Mardu. Temur. These all still exist, even so far in the past. If you aren't familiar with Khans of Tarkir, each of these is based on a three-color "wedge" of Magic's colors.

The first thing you're going to have to figure out at the Prerelease is which clan you want to be! You'll receive a special box that helps you play that clan, so knowing that is important. What do all five do best? Well, to run down:


In Khans of Tarkir, the weathered warriors of Abzan were known for their endurance. That's still true to some extent—but they're also given a bit more aggression this time around, and their creatures grow larger in small bursts rather than over time thanks to the new bolster mechanic!


The nimble monks and enlightened students of cunning outdo their opponent through wit in combat. The Jeskai keep their prowess ability from Khans of Tarkir, which threatens to make their creatures to grow out of nowhere in combat—and makes each opponent think twice before tangling with a Jeskai warrior.


The Sultai clan deals in opulence and wealth—but make no mistake, for the Sultai are ruthless. Just like in Khans of Tarkir, the Sultai use death to their advantage by harnessing the delve mechanic to play their huge threats far earlier than they otherwise would.


The Mardu clan embodies the speed of the dragon, and these bloodthirsty warriors tend to be just that in the game of Magic! Their new dash mechanic helps do just that: dash cards can come down and attack right away, but go back to your hand at the end of the turn. If you want to put on pressure quick and push damage out of nowhere, Mardu is the clan for you!


The Temur clan fights with savagery. Even 1,280 years in the past, it's still all about size: the Temur clan's mechanic of ferocious rewards you for having a creature with power 4 or greater on the battlefield—making your big threats even more dangerous.

If you're still not sure which clan is the one you want to wield at the Prerelease, take the clan quiz and see which clan you are!

Okay. So let's see. You have your clan firmly in mind. Now it's time to kick everything off!

You'll go to your store, choose your clan (or, if you preregistered, perhaps you already chose when you did that), be handed a clan box, and it's off to the races!

Inside this box you'll find a lot of neat things, including an achievement card to help revive Ugin and get some special promotional cards! But most key to your day are going to be the six booster packs that will give you the cards you need to build your Sealed Deck (four Fate Reforged, one Khans of Tarkir, and one special clan booster full of cards to help you play your clan).

First, rip those packs open! If you want to sound nice and Tarkir-like, you can even chant your clan's name for good luck. 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 only out of 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.

Deck building in a world that points you toward playing three colors can be tricky—and this is where that special clan booster comes in.

When you picked your box you chose a specific clan, and that clan matches up with the contents of your special "seed booster" that was wrapped in plastic as you opened your box. This "seeded deck" experience helps you figure out what colors to play. That pack contains cards only in your chosen clan's colors—meaning that's a pretty safe bet for working in your deck.

While you are allowed to play any colors you want, most often it's going to be advantageous to play your clan's colors. So, what I would recommend is to just set aside all of the cards of the other two colors your clan doesn't have and pick the best cards in your clan. If there's a really cool rare or strong card in another color you want to play set it aside and come back to it later, since you could consider "splashing" it if you have the right mana-fixing lands, but in general you'll want to put away cards of other colors here.

All right, so how do you narrow down all of your clan's cards down to the 22–23 cards you're going to want to put in your deck? It's time to lay them out!

Take the cards of your clan's colors and lay the 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 Write into Being on turn three, but an Awaken the Bear you will generally not. I would generally count all instants and sorceries with manifest as creatures.)

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+ 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. (Or, if you can't decide, arbitrarily choose them by doing the ancient Tarkir ritual of flipping coins.)

Something else to keep in mind, and especially more so in Fate Reforged, is that sometimes it will be correct to play only two colors of your clan and splash the third, meaning you are primarily two colors and then play some of your stronger cards of the third color (including your three-color cards). If, while paring down your creatures, you notice you only have a few cards of one color left, consider splashing that color instead.

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 last thing to figure out is your mana base! Especially if you're playing three colors, making sure you can cast your spells is important. I would definitely play all of your nonbasic lands that produce mana of your colors. Even if they enter the battlefield tapped, it is a small price to pay for making sure you can play your cards on time! Generally, you will have two colors in your deck that have a lot of the lower-mana cards, and you'll want to play more lands producing mana of those colors than of the cards with the more expensive mana costs to ensure you can play your cheap cards on time.

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 you can. Every card over 40 you play just means it's that much less likely you're going to draw that awesome rare you put in your deck!

  • The land ratio you're looking at should be about 17 lands to 23 nonlands. This isn't right 100% of the time, but most Limited decks end up looking like this and, 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, but 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 Packs (they don't have to be the same clans, even; you can figure out which two clans go well together—or double up on the same clan!) from which the players build their decks. Your tournament organizer can tell you more about 2HG if your store supports it.

Open Dueling

If the idea of spending a day playing a tournament scares you, or you just want to experience more games with Fate Reforged, you can get involved in Open Dueling.

In this side event, 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 own leisure. Plus, it's fun!

Inside the Box

Outside of just the booster packs we opened, you'll find a few other items in you clan box.

The first is your Prerelease promo card. You can play with this in your deck—and there's a good chance you'll want to—so be sure to put it in your deck-building stack!

The way Prerelease promos work in Fate Reforged is that, for each box, there is a subset of six different stamped Prerelease rares you could receive. That way, you're likely to get a different one than your friend who also chose the same clan! There are plenty of exciting cards you could receive.

You also get a neat Spindown™ life counter.

But perhaps most interesting of all is your chance to help revive Ugin—the achievement card.

That mean it's time to talk about something very, very important and special about the Fate Reforged Prerelease…

Ugin's Fate

With Fate Reforged, there is a major activity that runs alongside the Prerelease where you, the players, help to revive Ugin and forever change history—and get some exclusive promo cards with art that can only be found at the Fate Reforged Prerelease while you're at it!

Each store will be sent a pretty awesome centerpiece that looks like this:

To revive Ugin, there are three stages: activate the shard, create the cocoon, and then the final step of ultimately reviving Ugin. Similarly, this Prerelease activity has three stages—and the centerpiece transforms at each stage!

During stage one, you can do any of the stage-one achievements to help toward opening the Ugin centerpiece. You only need to do one of them.

When it's done, let the person running the event know so he or she can record your progress. Shout it out, even, to display to the entire store that you have completed your task!

Once enough people have done stage one, you'll move on to stage two—which works much the same:

And then, finally, you do that again with stage three:

Once you have successfully revived Ugin, congratulations! You have changed the timeline! As you may have inferred from the third set's name being Dragons of Tarkir, dragons are back in the world in the future—instead of the dragonless landscape of Khans of Tarkir.

And that can only mean one thing: promo cards!

Inside the centerpiece are special Ugin's Fate boosters. Each of them contain three playable Magic cards from either Khans of Tarkir or Fate Reforged: 1 Fate Reforged basic land, 1 common, and 1 uncommon or rare card. These all have alternative artwork to show the changed world. For example, check these out side by side:


What does all of the alternative timeline artwork look like? Well, you'll have to come out to a Fate Reforged Prerelease and change the world around you to get a booster and see for yourself!

There's not going to be anything quite like this Prerelease. Especially because of this exclusive activity, be sure to check and see if your local store preregisters!

Mechanics Reforged

There are quite a few cool things going in this set. Cards that let you choose between khans and dragons, bolster, dash, and even an entirely new way to put cards face down in manifest! Plus, there are plenty of Khans of Tarkir mechanics that continue on into this set as well.

Let's go over them one-by-one, courtesy of the "Mechanics of Fate Reforged" article:


Bolster is a keyword action, and it is always followed by a number. To bolster, first find the creature you control with the least toughness. If there's a tie, choose one of those creatures. Then, put a number of +1/+1 counters on it equal to the bolster number. Bolster doesn't target any creature, and you don't determine which creature is getting the counters until you're taking the bolster action.


Prowess returns in this set as and hasn't changed since Khans of Tarkir. Creature spells won't cause prowess to trigger, even if those spells have other card types, such as an artifact creature spell. When prowess triggers, it goes on the stack on top of the spell that caused it to trigger, meaning it will resolve first. Once prowess has triggered, it doesn't matter what happens to the noncreature spell.


Delve is a returning mechanic that hasn't changed since Khans of Tarkir. As you're paying for a spell with delve, you can exile cards from your graveyard. Each card you exile this way pays for 1. Delve can't pay for any colored mana in the spell's mana cost. Also, you can't exile more cards than the amount of colorless mana in the mana cost.


Dash is an alternative cost found on creature spells. As you cast a spell with dash, you can pay its dash cost instead of paying its mana cost. If you do, the creature will have haste, so it can attack that turn. At the beginning of the next end step, you'll return the creature from the battlefield to its owner's hand. If you choose to pay the dash cost, you're still casting the spell, so it goes on the stack and can be countered. Dash doesn't change when you can cast creature spells—usually only during your main phase. If you cast a creature spell using its dash cost, it will return to your hand only if it's still on the battlefield at the beginning of the next end step. If it leaves the battlefield before that point, it'll just stay wherever it is.


Ferocious returns in this set and hasn't changed since Khans of Tarkir. Each ferocious ability is different, but they all rely in some way on controlling a creature with power 4 or greater. Instants and sorceries with ferocious abilities check if you control a creature with power 4 or greater as they resolve. Some ferocious abilities are activated abilities. If the effect depends on the number of creatures you control with power 4 or greater, that number is counted as the ability resolves. Other abilities require that you control a creature with power 4 or greater to even activate the ability. For those abilities, once you activate the ability, it doesn't matter what happens to the creature with power 4 or greater.


When you manifest a card, you put it onto the battlefield face down. While face down, it's a 2/2 colorless creature with no name, no abilities, and no creature types. Face-down creatures are creatures in every way. Any time you have priority, you can turn a manifested creature face up if it's a creature card. You do this by revealing what its mana cost is and paying that cost. This also lets your opponents see that it's a creature card. As soon as the card is face up, it has its normal characteristics. If you manifest a noncreature card, it can't be turned face up this way. If you happen to manifest a card with morph, you can turn it face up either by paying its mana cost (if it's a creature card) or by paying its morph cost.

Hybrid Mana

Several cards in the Fate Reforged set have abilities that include hybrid mana symbols. A hybrid mana symbol can be paid with either of two colors of mana. If a cost includes multiple hybrid mana symbols, you can choose a different color to pay for each.

Modal Enters-the-Battlefield Abilities

There's a cycle of creatures that offer you a choice when they enter the battlefield: put a +1/+1 counter on the creature or get some other effect. You choose which mode you are using when you put the ability on the stack. Once you choose a mode, you can't change to the other mode no matter what happens before that ability resolves.

A Brand Old World

Fate Reforged may take us into the past—but it's sure to add plenty of new things to the Khans of Tarkir format we all know. And now that you've read through this article, hopefully you feel well enough armed to go out to your Prerelease, choose a clan, and have fun reviving Ugin!

Oh, and if you'd like to know more about some of the awesome cards you're going to be playing with, don't miss the Fate Reforged Card Image Gallery, which shows off all of the cards in Fate Reforged!

If you have any questions at all about the Fate Reforged Prerelease, please feel free to ask me and I'll try to help you out as best I can. The best way to get ahold of me is to either send me a tweet or ask me a question on my Tumblr—either way, I will be sure to see whatever you have to say.

Choose a clan, fight in a world with dragons, revive Ugin…and maybe, if things go your way, you'll even open an Ugin card!

Change history this weekend at the Fate Reforged Prerelease. Have fun!

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