Now that we have the entire card list available to us, it is clearer than ever that this is going to be a release not to be missed. We can read and speculate all we want about how cards will work, but the proof of the pudding comes to a store near you this weekend. For those of you who have already preregistered with your local store, good on you. For thems who are still working out plans, don't worry—there's still time to get involved. Clear out your calendar, click on the link at the bottom of the article, and find the best place for you to go to get a chance to play with the new cards first.
As I live in London, England, I have a few good options available to me, and will be rooting to get in on playing first thing on Saturday morning. To that end, I'll be making sure to get in touch with the tournament organizer beforehand and checking if I need to preregister—by getting my name in the books, I know my spot will be safe for a place to play. With appropriate alarms set, I'll be ready to crack some packs, then crack some Helvaults.
When it comes to cracking packs, the Avacyn Restored Prerelease is a "big set" Prerelease. What that means is that all the cards you are going to be playing with will be from the new set. Six boosters in all will give you your cards from which to build a forty-card deck. I'd recommend trying to make those forty a mix of seventeen lands and twenty-three spells (mainly creatures plus a few other bits and pieces for spice), and ideally in two colors.
I'm a bit old fashioned and like to have a bit of a surprise when it comes to what all the cards do at the Prerelease, but even I like to make sure I know any new rules involved with the set—just to be sure that I build my deck in a way I can maximize my fun over the course of the day. To this end, I'm not going to start telling you what to play and not play, as I've been limiting how many of the cards I've seen thus far just a touch. You're allowed to adjust your deck from the cards you opened throughout the day, and part of the fun of the Prerelease is the voyage of discovery around working out how things fit together. I'm probably going to try to play a miracle card or two (if only so I can loudly call out that I "need a miracle" from time to time), and Dark Ascension has already taught me that I like playing with undying creatures. Soulbond looks tricksy, and I rather like tricksy, so if I can squeeze some in then I probably will. In all honesty, I'm likely to go with those cards that excite me the most and try to build a deck that has the right mana to let me have a fair shot at casting them.
The dream for me at a Prerelease is to open a card pool that lets me build a couple of different types of decks out of my six packs. I want to play with as many cards as possible, and if I can make, for example, a white-blue controlly deck and a red-green aggro deck, then I likely will, trying out each over the course of the day to see how they work. Even if you can't manage to go whole hog with the double deck plan, it is certainly worth thinking about mixing things up a bit between games and matches if over the course of your day your deck isn't quite firing the way you had hoped. There are normally plenty of players at Prereleases (like me) who are more than happy to give advice on deck tweaks both large and small.
Prereleases have always rather stuck out to me as being the fun melting pot where players of all experience levels get together to have a good time. While there is something to be said for winning the game in the traditional sense, I think of "winning" at Prereleases in a slightly wider context. Winning matches will get you packs as prizes, but as a more experienced player, I also see it as winning to have that moment (which comes up at almost every Prerelease) when I sit down with a newer player to help that player make his or her deck a little more competitive. For some people, winning will be opening or trading for the new sweet cards for their Commander decks, or having the best record among their friends. We all set ourselves little challenges to make the game more fun, and in a casually competitive environment like a Prerelease, there is plenty of flexibility to try to meet them.
At the Avacyn Restored Prerelease, with the challenge to crack open the Helvault, there is a whole new way to win. Every player will have a card with a list of achievements to reach. As players hit a certain threshold of achievements (with that threshold depending on how big your Prerelease is), they win the right to break one of the seals on the Helvault. I for one have set myself a goal to be one of the players unlocking the box, which means I won't just be trying for the plain old "reduce my opponent to 0 life" plan, but going for style points all the way. There is no reason that the player to open that final seal needs to be the one with the most match wins, and that is all the more reason to play hard even if you are running kind of low on ticks in the Win column. We don't know what the spoils of the Helvault are just yet, but I am definitely in on the plan of finding out.
Angel of Glory's Rise | Art by James Ryman
For the record, there are some achievements that are harder than others to reach—when you're building your deck, you might want to bear in mind the following ones, to give yourself the best shot at making your mark on the vault.
- Turning the tide—have at least 10 life more than your starting life total
- Celestial struggle—control three or more creatures with flying
- Strength in numbers—control four or more paired creatures with soulbond
While many of the achievements are about manipulating the game a bit to make sure you achieve them, these might cause you to tweak your deck just a touch on the build. You have to be in it to win it (also, practice your monster voice—you may well find it useful over the course of the day).
Given that you get the cards when you arrive (including a sweet foil for participating), there isn't too much needed to prepare for a Prerelease in the same way as another big tournament. I normally just prepare for it the same way I'd prepare for any other big day out—have a good night's sleep before, work out how I'm going to get there in advance, call my friends to make sure they're going, and bring money to ensure I can afford whatever shenanigans ensue. If you're a new player and this is your first Prerelease, I hope you have a blast. If you've been playing since Alpha, I hope you have a Psionic Blast (little in-joke for the old timers there). Prereleases are always fun, and I've heard rumors that at this one, all hell is going to break loose...