Release Stories

Posted in Magic Lifestyle on January 18, 2016

By Maria Bartholdi

Maria is one half of the podcast Magic the Amateuring. When she's not working on the podcast, she's probably in an improv show, speaking Welsh, or thinking about popcorn. Rakdos is the true nature of her heart.

You Prereleased.

You probably Prereleased again.

You may have even Prereleased a third time.

Three out of four doctors agree that a massive amount of Prereleasing does a body good. Those same doctors also say that Release Day is when things get real.

That's right, folks. It's time to crack your knuckles and crack some packs, because Oath of the Gatewatch releases this weekend!

*confetti and balloons drop*

*countless cheers*

*someone sets off a barge full of fireworks without a license*

There are lots of different ways Magic players celebrate Release Day. Personally, I like to hunker down and go over the Card Image Gallery again and again—memorizing instants and sorceries, looking at what's common and what's rare, asking myself "that card does what now?"—until I feel prepared to swagger into my LGS for its first OGW draft, ready to win.

I asked other players what some of their Release Day rituals were and I got some amazing answers. I even got one answer that made me a little teary-eyed.

...Okay, so it was more than just teary-eyed. I cried a little bit. Don't judge me, it is super cute you guys.

Pro Tour player Serena Quinn gets pretty hyped for Release Day. (She also loves Prerelease weekend and usually plays five—yes, five—Prerelease events. She is the real deal, y'all.) She and her friend pick up twelve boxes of the set and get down to business, cracking packs like there's no tomorrow. The goal? A playset of every card in the set. That's right. Every. Single. Card.

"We're both collectors, and no matter how unplayable or 'bad' a card is, we like having it available," Serena says. "We also pool together to build decks and we want to make sure we can play any deck we want."

If it's a Standard staple, Serena tries to make sure they have two playsets of the card. And even though she's a Pro Tour player, Serena isn't immune to the lure of foils. "I still like opening packs and I get excited when I open something rare and shiny," she admits. Don't we all, Serena, don't we all.

Serena gets ready to crack some playsets from Return to Ravnica.

New player Nick DeFeo and his friends call their Release Day ritual "Booster Box Sealed." The four friends get together as soon as the set is released and buy their own booster box. Then they each crack six packs, build a sealed deck, and settle in to do battle. Their mini-tournament continues for six weeks (thanks to 36 packs being inside each booster box). The players build new decks every week from a new sealed pool.

"We really get our money's worth," says Nick.

"But what about prizes?" I ask, endgame always in sight.

"So far, it has only been bragging rights," he says, laughing.

"What about a golden unicorn trophy?" I suggest helpfully.

Nick does not respond.

Nick's playgroup builds sealed decks and does battle.

My favorite Release Day ritual story is one I heard from Rhode Island player Steve Coventry. Steve has spent a good amount of time over the past few years teaching teenagers how to play Magic at an after-school center. "I feel like it gives young people an expressive outlet that helps their thinking, problem-solving, and social skills," says Steve. "It's especially valuable for our younger, more digitally inclined generations to actually have a chance to sit face-to-face and have fun together playing a game," he says. Steve's passion for teaching Magic sparked a fantastic new idea the day his nephew Benjamin was born—the same day Fate Reforged was released.

Yes, Steve had an idea. A genius, genius idea. To be honest, I am pretty mad I didn't think of this first. Whatever, Steve, you smart and super nice guy, you.

Every Release Day, Steve goes out and buys a draft set (meaning three booster packs) and saves it in a box to give his nephew when he gets old enough to play. *Maria wipes away a single tear*

"This is something I figured would be a great resource for helping to teach him and 'ignite his spark,' so to speak," says Steve.

Steve hopes when little Benjamin gets older, he'll enjoy the game as much as Steve himself does. "When the time is right he can start his own collection, and have 'older' cards to play with so he can see how the game has changed," says Steve.

"What kind of player do you hope Ben grows up to be?" I ask.

"I just hope he finds his place in the color pie like we all do at some point," says Steve. "If he turns out to be Golgari like me, I wouldn't complain. I myself enjoy the diverse play experience that all the colors and combinations bring to the table; maybe he can too."

Whatever, Steve. You make the rest of us look bad. Benjamin...can you read yet? No, you can't, you're not even one year old. As soon as you learn to read, read this: play Rakdos. You won't regret it.

Steve's draft set collection for his nephew so far, and the adorable Benjamin.

The way we celebrate Release Day in the US isn't so different from the rest of the world. I decided to peek in at a store in Japan to see how they ring in Release Day. I had a chat with Yuuichi Horikawa, who works at アノアデザイン— a popular game store—in Izumi-shi, Osaka, Japan.

"Prerelease Day is more like a celebration," Yuuichi says. "But Release Day is when players are looking to open new packs and see all the new cards. So we play a lot of drafts. The drafts let the community experience the joy of opening packs together."

Side note: The Joy of Opening Packs Together is my new series for PBS where I sit in an empty studio and open packs for the viewers. I enjoy all the happy little rares.

Yuuichi's store uses Release Day as an opportunity to easily welcome new players into the world of Magic.

"We keep the events casual," he says. "Players can talk to each other during drafts, there is no time limit, and they can review picks." After the draft has ended, the rares are distributed among the players in the pod. I guess when it comes to loving Magic, things aren't so different on the other side of the globe.

アノアデザイン celebrates Release Day.

Miles and miles and miles away from Japan, they'll be celebrating the release of Oath of the Gatewatch in Canada, too!

Face to Face Games is widely known as a fantastic tournament store in Toronto. They like to celebrate Release Day with all-day drafts (more than a dozen events typically fire) culminating with an FNM and a late-night draft afterwards.

"Players are always excited to check out new cards, so the atmosphere is always super upbeat," says Daniel Fournier, one of the tournament organizers. "Between our judges shouting out draft pairings and players losing their minds opening the sweetest new premium foil, it can get pretty loud!"

One especially exciting event happened during Battle for Zendikar. "We had a player open a Zendikar Expedition in their Prerelease pool, then draft one the following week on release. They were pretty pumped."

Nothin' better than Release Day.

Face to Face Games also goes the extra mile and has a bonus incentive for players to party at their store on Release Day. "We've started heralding the new set with some fancy treats from the cafe."

For example...

"We got cookies with the set symbol on them for Magic Origins, and served fresh lemonade out of mason jars engraved with hedrons for Battle for Zendikar."

"Your store snacks sound like what I have on my Pinterest board," I say, as I book my plane ticket to Canada.

Face to Face Games serves up awesome snacks.

Release Day is all about celebrating the new and looking forward to what the future holds. Daniel is among the people who will be brewing up some new Standard shenanigans as he watches the countless packs getting cracked. "I'm hoping there will be some new tools for Rally the Ancestors or Aristocrats decks," he says. "Graveyard synergies are extremely fun, and I love it when a pile of seemingly bad cards is able to randomly win the game."

I guess what this all goes to show is that a lot of people have a lot of different ways of celebrating Release Day...and all of them are cool. Whether you jam a lot of drafts at your LGS, pilot a home brew, or pick up some one-ofs to build out your Commander deck, I hope you'll take advantage of this weekend's excitement.

Just don't set off a boatload of fireworks without a license.

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