Howdy! The release of the newest Magic set, Outlaws of Thunder Junction, is just around the corner—and it's time to wrangle up your best crew.

Just like you'll see in the set trailer, if you haven't checked it out already:

The best way to dive into the set and see this mayhem unfold? It all starts at your local Prerelease!

What's Prerelease, you ask?

Well, Prereleases are some of my favorite Magic events anywhere, perfect for newcomers and seasoned veterans alike. They're the celebration of a new set, and Outlaws of Thunder Junction has its Prerelease starting on April 12.

First up, if you want to learn how to play Magic, I recommend some of these resources:

Additionally, if you're looking for a store to play in, I always recommend our handy store locator tool. Just enter your location, and it'll show any stores near you. Once you've found a spot, be sure to contact them about preregistering. Prereleases are popular events, and you'll want to make sure you have a seat at the table!

Now, if you prefer to hear about some of this in a video, I have a companion video to this article you can check out over on Good Morning Magic:

But what makes a Prerelease such a great time? And what can you expect out of one? Let's take a look!

The Opening Act

There's nothing like handling fresh cards from a new set, and that's exactly what you get to do at a Prerelease. Everyone's on equal footing: nobody has these cards before the Prerelease, and it's your first chance to dig into the set and see how all of them work together.

The energy in the room of a Prerelease is palpable. It's relaxed and fun as people open their cards, exclaim about the cool things they've found, and discover cool combinations for the very first time.

Magic Players

One of the really great things about the Prerelease is that it's a great environment for helping you through your first event. Even if you're new, people will be there in the store to support you and help you have a fantastic experience. New and old players alike—everyone comes together for the Prerelease! The set is new, people are chatting about the flavor and story (which you can find here if you haven't been reading!), and everyone is just there to have fun.

So, do you need to bring a deck from home? Nope! For a Prerelease, you will play a format called Sealed Deck. It's straightforward: open the six Outlaws of Thunder Junction Play Boosters from your Prerelease Pack (and the promo card you get inside) and build a deck with the contents. It really is all about the new set and what you find in those boosters. If you want, you can look over everything in advance, from the commons to the mythic rares, to build the best deck you can. (You can check out all the cards beforehand in our Card Image Gallery.)

How exactly does this work? Let me walk you through it.

The Deck-Building Roundup

When you sit down on Prerelease day, you're going to get handed an Outlaws of Thunder Junction Prerelease Pack.

Outlaws of Thunder Junction Prerelease Pack
Outlaws of Thunder Junction Prerelease Pack

While there are many things in here, like a spindown life counter for tracking your life total and a fun little insert with some information and tips, the most important are these six Play Boosters:

Outlaws of Thunder Junction Play Boosters

Open them all and check out your new stack of cards. There will also be a foil-stamped rare or mythic rare inside that you can play—make sure to pull that one out.

Okay, boosters open? Well, you're ready to build a deck!

But where do you even start?

Well, first thing's first, you should know what you're trying to do. In Sealed Deck, you only need 40 cards, not 60 or 100. You can get as many additional basic lands as you want from the store.

A good rule of thumb is to play 17 lands. So, all things said and done, you're only looking to play about 23 nonland cards from the cards you open. That's your goal: identify the 23 cards to play.

Okay, sounds a bit easier. How do you go about picking those cards?

Try sorting your cards by color first. Make eight piles: one for each color, one for any multicolor cards, one for colorless cards, and one for lands. As you're going through, you'll have a chance to read the cards and see what interests you. It's worth noting you'll get some cards from Special Guests (SPG), Breaking News (OTP), and The Big Score (BIG). Those look like this:

0036_MTGOTJ_SpeGuest_OTJSpecialGuest: Notion Thief 0003_MTGOTJ_CrimeBns: Journey to Nowhere 0002_MTGOTJ_Epilogue: Grand Abolisher

If you open a card in a Play Booster from one of these sets, it can go in your sealed deck, even if it's not part of the main set, so definitely keep them in mind!

You'll want to whittle your choices down to two colors. You can sometimes "splash" a third, playing two colors as your base and a couple powerful cards or additional costs of another color, but I'd really focus on the two colors you want here. You can select them in any ways you want—maybe you just like those colors—but here are three things to keep an eye out for:

  • Any strong rares in those colors that you're excited to play
  • A lot of removal cards (Cards that destroy or otherwise deal with your opponent's creatures.)
  • Evasion (Many games of Sealed Deck are won with flying or hard-to-block creatures.)

Additionally, another huge element to look out for are good synergies and multicolor cards. Every two-color pairing in Outlaws of Thunder Junction has a theme, and knowing what those are can clue you in to which colors to play. These are detailed in an insert on the top of every Play Booster box, but here it is for easy reference as well:

Outlaws of Thunder Junction Draft Archetypes Insert

White mana symbolBlue mana symbol
Take a Break: Keep your guard up. Use the plot mechanic and cards with flash to pass your turn with mana available, ready for anything.
Blue mana symbolBlack mana symbol
Crimes: Keep targeting your opponents and their stuff turn after turn. You're looking to play a long game, but your constant heists will leave your opponents less than prepared.
Black mana symbolRed mana symbol
Outlaws: Assemble a crew of Assassins, Mercenaries, Pirates, Rogues, and Warlocks. This motley crew of outlaws will find ways to work together to wear down your opponents.
Red mana symbolGreen mana symbol
Power 4+: Big creatures are usually their own reward, but this set steps it up. Boost your forces with spells or Mercenary tokens and let the onslaught begin.
Green mana symbolWhite mana symbol
Mounts: There's a whole stable of Mounts eager to charge into battle. Every time a Mount attacks backed by some skilled riders, you'll reap more rewards. Saddle up!
White mana symbolBlack mana symbol
Attrition: Your permanents are here for a good time, not a long time. Sacrifice shamelessly, block fearlessly, and attack aggressively. Every loss is another opportunity for a larger gain.
Blue mana symbolRed mana symbol
Second Spell: Sling your spells in one-two bursts. Low–mana value cards and plotted cards enable combinations of two or more spells in a turn, unlocking a flurry of bonuses.
Black mana symbolGreen mana symbol
Creatures in the Graveyard: You only live once? Hardly. Your cards can bring fallen creatures back to the fray or simply take advantage of the number of creature cards in your graveyard.
Red mana symbolWhite mana symbol
Mercenary Aggro: You might not have the biggest creatures, but you have the most aggressive ones. Mercenary tokens will pump the power of your creatures so you can keep making good attacks when opposition arrives.
Green mana symbolBlue mana symbol
Plot: Set your mastermind plans into motion with the plot mechanic. Your opponents may see them coming, but that doesn't mean they'll be able to stop them. Control the battlefield and strike when the time is right.

Once you've chosen your colors, it's important to think about your mana curve. This helps to ensure that you have creatures to cast at every turn of the game. If everything costs six mana, you're going to be way behind on playing creatures, and if everything costs two mana, you're going to get outclassed in the late game.

Here's how to check your mana curve. First, lay your creatures out in mana-value order from left to right. So, all creatures that cost one mana, then all creatures that cost two, and so on. Only lay out noncreatures here if they're cards you are planning to play as soon as you have that much mana—for example, you might play an Equipment on turn two, so that counts as a two-drop, but you're probably not playing a removal spell on turn two.

For Limited in general—and this is just a guideline—I'd 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

Mana Curve

Once you have those figured out, go ahead and add in your noncreature spells. You will probably want to play all your removal spells to deal with your opponents' creatures. Beyond that, it's nice to have ways to pump up your creatures at instant speed and ways to draw cards. But you can season to taste depending on what you think might work well in your deck.

And there you have it! When you're finished, you should have a 40-card deck. You can play more than 40 cards, but I would strongly advise against it: every card you play beyond 40 just worsens the odds of drawing your best cards.

So, that's how you build a sealed deck. But what are the mechanics you can expect? Let me run you through them.

Outlaws of Thunder Junction Mechanics

Outlaws of Thunder Junction has some new mechanics, like committing a crime and spree, cards that care about outlaws—a specific batch of creature types—and more! To learn about all the mechanics and details around how they work, check out our Outlaws of Thunder Junction Mechanics article.

Time to Ride Out!

Outlaws of Thunder Junction Prerelease is just around the corner, taking place April 12 to 18. Check in with your local game store, look over the Card Image Gallery, and get ready for a brand-new frontier of Magic.

Oh, and one more thing—you can preorder booster displays for pickup at the Prerelease as well. So, if you want to bring even more cards home with you, you can get some Outlaws of Thunder Junction for yourself—just be sure to talk with your local store about grabbing one.

I hope this helped you on your Prerelease journey. And, as always, if you have any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube—I always appreciate hearing what people have to say.

Enjoy the set and have fun!

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