War of the Spark Prerelease Primer

Posted in Feature on April 23, 2019

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.

Planeswalkers. Planeswalkers, everywhere!

War of the Spark is truly a Magic set like none other. If you've been paying attention to the story, it's a huge deal: everything has converged at this one place, at this one time. The crafty dragon Nicol Bolas and all his carefully laid schemes have all built up to this one, climactic set.

There's a ton to dig into there. The entire set is oozing with flavor and story. If you've been following along with our heroes, there's a ton to notice.

But if you haven't been following along, that's totally okay. Not only is it a great time to learn more about it, but the set is filled to the brim with exciting and wild new cards—most notably, tons and tons of planeswalkers. There should be a planeswalker in Every. Single. Booster.

We've never done anything quite like this before.

And where's the place to check out the set before anywhere else? The Prerelease!

A Prerelease is an event, great for all players new and old, celebrating the release of a new set. Come on out, and get to play with the cards before anybody else!

So, what can you expect at a Prerelease? Read on!

Release the Spark

Prereleases are my favorite Magic events of the year.

No matter where in the world I am or what time of year it is, I always try going out to a local Prerelease. And I'm not alone: tons of Magic players, from seasoned veterans to folks just starting out, do the same! Prereleases are among the most popular events we throw.

Why? Because Prereleases are just some of the most fun you can have playing Magic!

There's nothing quite like it. You get to sit down, pick up some brand-new cards, and figure out how you want to use them at the same time everybody else is. It's an even playing field in a casual environment, where everybody shares all that bubbling energy and excitement around a new Magic set!

I visited my first Prerelease when I was just eleven and instantly fell in love with the event. Eighteen years later, not too much has changed—and Prereleases are better than ever!

Prereleases are great because the set is totally 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 for players old and new alike!

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 War of the Spark. 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?

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 we put on, so be sure to check and see if the store preregisters. The best time to find out if an event is full is decidedly not when you show up and learn you can't play, so be sure to plan ahead.

Have you found your store? Excellent!

Now it's time to look ahead and prepare for the event. 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.

Be sure to pack all the supplies you will need for your own War of the Spark! For example, you may still want to bring a Standard deck to play for fun between rounds, a trade binder, pen and paper to keep track of life, and even a water bottle.

A Prerelease event tends to take about 4–5 hours, so make sure to set aside enough time for the entire event. And you're going to need some fuel with all of that battling, so you may want to bring something like a protein bar or apple or Dragon jerky, or whatever else you like to snack on. (You may want to check with the store as well; they might even sell some food there!)

Okay now, let's see. You have a store selected on your map, and you've filled your pack with everything you'll need. You've even read through the recent Magic Story, so you're up to date on what's been going on to bring us to this point. And, of course, you've taken a look at all the awesome cards in the War of the Spark Card Image Gallery. Perhaps, if you were curious what a tournament might be like, you might have checked out my article conveniently titled "Your First Tournament."

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

Starting Your War

Okay. So, you're going to sit down and play. What can you expect to get?

Well, we're on the plane of Ravnica—but this set isn't about guilds. It's about the War of the Spark! So, if you started recently and got used to the past two times where you chose a guild, things are going to be a little more traditional this time around.

Everyone will get a box that looks like this:

Box Image

Inside, you'll get six War of the Spark boosters. Plus, a random stamped rare or mythic rare card as your Prerelease foil that could be any rare or mythic rare in the set! And you'll also get a stamped foil planeswalker card, which could be any of the planeswalkers in the set (uncommon, rare, or mythic rare)!

Then, of course, you'll get a couple other goodies—like a spindown life counter to keep track of your life total. Let's just crack one open and take a look!

What's Inside?

Excellent! Plenty of the supplies you need.

And, of course, front and center are those booster packs. Let's talk about what to do with those next!

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. You can sometimes "splash" for a third color, but in general you'll want to pick two to be your core.

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; or
  • 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!)

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 be able 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 Pouncing Lynx on turn two, whereas Divine Arrow isn't usually a turn-two 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 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
  • 2 mana: 4–6
  • 3 mana: 3–5
  • 4 mana: 2–4
  • 5 mana 1–3
  • 6+ mana: 0–2

New Curve

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.

If you want to learn more about mana curves, you can also check out my article on how to build a mana curve by clicking here.

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 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. If you have all large, expensive 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.
  • War of the Spark has a good amount of mana fixing. It is possible to splash a third color if you open the right cards. However, unless you are truly a honed veteran, I would try and refrain from playing more than three colors—as tempting as it may be!
  • Unlike most Magic formats, Sealed tends to be a little slower. If your deck is on the slow side, choosing to draw (go second) rather than play (go first) can be reasonable to give yourself that extra card.

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. (If you've had a chance to try out the Battlebond set from last year, you may already be familiar!)

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 play out? It's simple: all 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.

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

Open Dueling

If the idea of spending a day playing a tournament doesn't fit into how you prefer to play Magic, or if you have less time and just want to battle as you're available, you can get involved in Open Dueling!

You get a ready-to-play 60-card Planeswalker Deck 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 5 hours to a Prerelease event. You can just play games in Open Dueling at your own leisure. Plus, it's fun!

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

Boxing Day

Okay, not quite that holiday. (Though, admittedly, a Prerelease kind of feels like a holiday!)

Something relatively new to Prerelease is the ability to actually pick up a box at the Prerelease!

That's right: if you preorder a box ahead of time, you can actually buy your box and bring it home (or crack it all open there!) right away. Contact your local store for more details.

Similarly, you can also buy Planeswalker Decks on Prerelease day as well. Open Dueling or no—feel free to pick up a deck and get to battling!

The Mechanics of War

There are some new and returning mechanics in War of the Spark—plus tons of planeswalkers!

If you're curious about how any of these work, check out the mechanics overview—or watch these videos:

What War Is Good For

This set is a really unique and fun experience. Whether you're new to Prereleases or have played in 30 of them, this is something absolutely worth checking out.

So gather up your friends, take another look through the Card Image Gallery, make sure you're preregistered at your local store, and get ready to come out to the Prerelease and have fun!

Have any thoughts or questions? Wondering what to expect? I'm happy to hear from you! Feel free to send them my way. You can always get in contact with me by sending me a tweet, messaging me on Instagram, emailing me, or asking a question on my Tumblr. I read everything!

This set is a culmination of a lot of storylines, a lot of hard work . . . and a lot of planeswalkers! Have a blast!

Gavin
@GavinVerhey
GavInsight

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