It's nearly Theros Prerelease time! I remember the first Prerelease I went to after coming back to the game. It was Shards of Alara. That set had a lot going on, and it was a fun new world to explore. Not only were the cards interesting, there were even new types of cards we hadn't seen before (colored artifacts kind of blew my mind).
Additionally, all of this newness was set in a really cool world, one where selected three-color chunks of the color pie had developed on their own, away from the remaining two colors.
I remember just taking it all in, trying to read really quickly, and hoping to figure out what I was going to play in Limited in the coming months.
Theros feels a lot like that. It's definitely its own world, and we have some pretty funky new card types running around as well (Legendary Enchantment Artifact??).
While there will be the customary adjustment period, Theros looks to reward our initial leap of faith with gobs of godly goodness. I don't know about you, but I am really hoping to open a card that says "Legendary Enchantment Creature – God" in the type line.
I don't even care which one.
Commune with the Community
The last time I wrote about the coming Prerelease, I decided to write about my approach to Prereleases generally instead of specifically to the set that was coming out. As a quick recap, I feel strongly that Prereleases serve an important role in Magic: building a community. I want to reiterate that here, although I won't be writing an entire article on it like last time.
Prereleases are the number one place to get new players into your local community. This is a good thing for them, as they get to play more Magic and discover this great hobby that we have all come to love.
As I outlined in the mentioned article, though, this is also good for you. Having players lower on the proverbial ladder than you supports the game you love and also gives you a steady stream of slightly worse players to play against, week in and week out. While perhaps a bit sharkish, I do think that it's mutually beneficial to both parties, and I think that the bulk of the responsibility lies with you.
So, if you see newer players at the Prerelease, be kind to them. Be friendly. Be available for questions, but don't force your knowledge on anyone. And if they make mistakes in their games gently help them out.
Okay, so you are being a nice person, and you are at a Theros Prerelease. Great.
I have another task for you: Win the Prerelease! Being a nice and welcoming person certainly doesn't preclude you from taking down the tournament.
Let's take a look at some of the basic assumptions we can make at this early stage of the Limited landscape.
Scry Me A River
Let's just get this out of the way right now: scry is awesome. It's a mechanic that looks unexciting, but when you get to scry a bunch during the course of a game, it gives you a big advantage.
Scrying is also skill intensive and will reward great play.
Some basics of scrying are easy. If you need lands, and can scry away a nonland card, you should usually do it. Even this can trip up some greedy players, however. Proper scrying takes discipline. If you have five cards in hand you cannot cast because you are short on mana, it's appropriate to ship that God to the bottom of the library in order to facilitate future land draws.
Scrying away unneeded lands later in the game is a great way to get ahead on card quality as well. Scrying away a dead land is akin to drawing a card.
Scrying for answers is the most common use of the mechanic. Your opponent has presented a troublesome threat and you need to find a way to neutralize said threat. Scry can help.
The main thing with scrying is to really think about it. It's easy to just have a knee-jerk reaction to the card you see on the top of your library, but really putting some thought into what your hand—or the board—will look like in a turn or two will pay dividends.
Bestow If You Can Wait
We haven't seen how quick the Theros Sealed format is yet, but I'm guessing we will get the chance to play our bestow creatures for their bestow cost at least some of the time. If you can craft a game plan around this, I would do it. Since it's essentially a freeroll to play one of these for its bestow cost, it simply makes sense.
Most of them are very powerful Auras, even if they do cost quite a bit of mana. Taking the time to get double the value out of them may well be worth it.
A word of warning; I wouldn't take this idea too far. You don't want to sacrifice all of your early- to midgame board development just in the hopes of landing a huge bestow card later.
The obvious combo is to bestow onto a creature with heroic. This way, you get the best of both worlds. I'm curious if this just happens occasionally or if there is actually a deck you can build around heroic and bestow. We'll find out soon enough.
Monstrosity is Gravy
I talked about gravy in a previous article. A quick reminder: Gravy is the upside to a card that you get on top of an already good package.
Magma Jet would be playable even if it didn't have scry 2. The scry 2 part is gravy. It is a welcomed—but not necessarily expected—upside.
That's what the monstrosity mechanic is too. When you are going through your sealed pool, look at each card with monstrosity and ignore the monstrosity part altogether.
How does the card look now? If it looks pretty good, you can feel good about running it. The monstrosity part may or may not come up in game, and if it does, sweet.
If the card doesn't seem up to snuff, then read the monstrosity ability, and see how much better it makes the creature, and at what cost. Some of the monstrosity cards have a fairly reasonable gap between casting cost and monstrosity cost:
Some, however, have a pretty steep jump:
The raw amount of mana needed, the difference in casting cost, combined with the monstrosity number and any other effects, will all go into determining how good the card is. The problem is that managing all of these things while looking at a full sealed pool can be pretty difficult.
The shortcut is to just look at it as if it didn't have monstrosity and then treat the monstrosity as gravy.
The truth is that each monstrosity card will have to be judged individually, on a case-by-case basis. And that will take time and experience that we will garner post-Prerelease.
Open Legendary Enchantment Artifacts
These look insane to me.
We don't have the space to go over each one of these individually, but after reading them four times each, I have decided that they are awesome. I usually refrain from going into too much depth on rares here for the column—and I'll continue that trend here—but let's just say I would be very happy to open one of these this weekend.
The real question is how easy it is to get rid of them. If one of these stays on the battlefield for a while, they will wreak havoc with the direction of the game.
Find Your Favorite
Prereleases are times when I get to have some fun with the cards that may not be good enough for real competitive play. Or maybe they are, and we just don't know yet. Either way, I usually have a card or two in mind as I go into the Prerelease that I am just dying to try out.
The one that I have had my eye on since the Theros party at PAX Prime is this one:
Listeners of my podcast, Limited Resources, will know that I am sucker for a nice tempo play. While I usually prefer my tempo plays attached to otherwise reasonable cards (see: Mist Raven), I think Voyage's End will do just fine. Unsummon effects like this one are cards I value a bit higher than most for Limited. I tend to think that I can be patient and find a place where I can get a card's worth of value from a bounce spell like this.
Tossing in scry 1 sweetens the deal much further for me. While I realize that Voyage's End isn't the flashiest card in a set full of Gods, it's the kind of card that gets me excited for a new set.
What card has you most excited for Theros?
No matter what it is, I hope you get a chance to take it for a spin this weekend.