his is it. We are days away from the Gatecrash Prerelease and your first chance to play with the other five guilds of Ravnica: Orzhov, Dimir, Gruul, Boros, and Simic. Get ready, 'cause this Gatecrash Prerelease Primer is going to be one heck of a thrull ride!
If you've never been to a Prerelease before, don't know what Gatecrash is all about, or just want to refresh your memory a bit, this primer is meant for you! Here, you can find a walkthrough of how the Gatecrash Prerelease is going to work (spoilers: pretty much just like the one for Return to Ravnica, if you went to that), a look at the set's five new mechanics, quick strategy tips (with links to further reading!), general tournament advice, and more Gruuling puns to endure.
Enough introduction, let's get going!
When sorting all those colors, start with the five WUBRG mana and add the guilds in like this. Mouse over to see how the Return to Ravnica guilds fill in the gaps.
The Prerelease Process
Veterans of the Return to Ravnica Prerelease know what to expect for this one, but I would be doing a disservice if I assumed everyone reading this was such a veteran. Here, then, is a walkthrough of what to expect.
We cannot stress this enough: contact your friendly local game store and preregister (if available) for the Prerelease. In the last couple years, Prerelease tournaments have sold out all across the world, and a lot of people who waited until the day-of to register were turned away. Don't be one of those sad unguilded urchins begging for scraps outside a Godless Shrine. Preregister! In fact, open a new tab in your browser, look up your local store, and contact it right now. RIGHT NOW! Don't worry, I'll wait for you to come back.
2: Choose Your Guild
At the Gatecrash Prerelease, you are going to do battle on behalf of one of five guilds, Orzhov... um... some other guys... look, who cares? You can choose Orzhov, so what else matters? [All the guilds matter, of course. For Gatecrash they are Orzhov, Dimir, Gruul, Boros, and Simic. —Ed.] The guild you choose for the Prerelease needn't be the one you've officially selected on your Planeswalker Points page. You're just representing it for this tournament.
Once you choose
Orzhov the guild you want to represent at this Prerelease, the tournament organizer (or a helper) will give you a Prerelease Guild Pack from that guild (assuming the store hasn't run out, which might happen! so go preregister... just sayin').
Thus begins the fun part of the tournament!
3: Open Guild Prerelease Pack
Here we go! Just like with Return to Ravnica, each Guild Prerelease Pack comes with goodies for your chosen guild.
Five Gatecrash booster packs: These are normal booster packs full of spiffy Gatecrash cards. "But wait," you might be saying, "why only five? I thought Sealed was six packs?"
One guild booster pack: Here is your sixth pack! All the cards in this pack are either from your guild specifically, or are at least your guild's colors. That puts you on the path toward being able to play your guild in the Prerelease (which is the point, of course!). Each guild booster pack comes with eleven commons, three uncommons, a rare, and the premium (foil) Prerelease promo card specific to your guild. Now, you might be wondering if you can open a mythic rare in the guild booster pack's rare slot, and the answer is... yes! But! The only mythic rare you have a chance of opening is your guild leader.
One promo card: This alternate-art rare comes in your guild booster pack and is intimately tied to your chosen guild. AND! Unlike most Prereleases in Magic's past—but just like Return to Ravnica—you can play this promo card in your Prerelease deck. Let that sink in a second. Pretty cool, right?
One guild symbol sticker: Proudly display your guild affiliation at the Prerelease (or afterward, depending on where you stick it!) with this guild symbol sticker.
One Spindown life counter: Keep track of your life total! Roll to see who goes first! Throw at your friend!* The Spindown Life Counter you receive in your Guild Prerelease Pack is in your guild's colors and bears its symbol in place of the 20.
*This is actually a terrible idea that you should ignore. You don't want to lose your cool Spindown life counter, do you? Oh, nor your friend...
One letter from the guildmaster: Your guildmaster welcomes you to your guild in a matter befitting the guild. Of course, the Orzhov welcoming letter is the best, but (please don't tell Teysa I'm saying this) they all look cool and reflect their guilds well. (I'm a particular fan of the Gruul guild letter... check it out if you get a chance!)
One achievement card: Extort, battle, rush, encode, and evolve your way to victory over the other guilds. And while you're doing exactly what your guild wants you to, mark off achievements along the way.
4: Build Deck
I'll give you a bit of strategy advice a little later, along with some links to where you can get some even better, more in-depth help for building a sealed deck. But, yes, this is the step where you build your (at least) forty-card deck with which to represent your guild!
5: Sleeve Up
Completely optional but totally recommended! Various food-based liquids (water, soda, ketchup, pizza sauce, BBQ, &c.) get splashed around on tables at tournaments all the time. You don't want to drag your cards through that, do you? I know I don't, anyway. But it's up to you!
I don't really need to elaborate on this part, do I? Well, maybe I do a little bit for those of you new to Prerelease tournaments. The tournament organizer will pair you up with someone at random. Most Prereleases run three rounds, with prizes based on how many wins you get. Each round is about an hour long, with a break between each to allow the TO time to generate the new pairings and players to take a little break. If you win enough, you can even win additional prizes (but you'll want to talk to the store you're at to find out what the prizes are).
Like Return to Ravnica before it, Gatecrash features five guilds, each with a new mechanic. The full set is now available to see on the Card Image Gallery, so pop that open in another tab and follow me through this quick look at the set. Unless you're one of those people who like to be surprised at the Prerelease, in which case stop reading this section and skip down to the Prerelease Events subhead!
Multicolor: Further, Gatecrash continues the block's multicolor theme: it contains seventy multicolor cards and fifteen hybrid ones. (If you don't know what that means, the mechanics article explains both terms!)
Orzhov: Grandiose, pontifical, and wholly dedicated to the all-mighty gold, Orzhov are blessed with a new tool to exact penance from their membership. And, well, anyone else, too. The extort mechanic allows you to spend a or mana with any spell you cast—one per card with extort you have (which means you can't just pump a bunch of mana into it). If you choose to extort your opponent, your opponent loses 1 life and you gain that much. Oh, and you may use either or mana to extort with any card you choose, even if the card doesn't have that color in its cost.
Dimir: Even though they are now out in the open and no longer a semisecret organization, the Dimir remain pretty mysterious. Don't believe me? Well, it's right there in their new mechanic name, cipher. It's a really tricky mechanic, so rather than risk botching its explanation, I'm just going to pull straight from the mechanics article: "As a spell you control with cipher resolves, you may exile it and choose a creature you control. The cipher card is then encoded on that creature, and whenever that creature deals combat damage to a player, its controller may copy the encoded card and cast the copy without paying its mana cost." Further explanation can be found here.
Gruul: Nasty, brutish, and... uh... generally pretty big, the Gruul live out in the wilder parts of Ravnica (which is a relative distinction, given the entire plane is a city). Calling them "nasty" is a little fallacious, though, as they are merely wild and always ready for a fight. Bloodrush taps into this eagerness for battle with creatures who push themselves onto the battlefield before you even cast them! When a creature has the bloodrush ability word, you may pay mana and discard the creature card to grant a bonus to an attacking creature already on the battlefield.
Boros: As the soldiers of Ravnica, the Boros march into battle in orderly unison, ready then to unleash their righteous form of justice on the city-plane's many knaves and ne'er-do-wells. This orderly approach to attacking is reflected in the guild's new keyword, battalion. The trigger for battalion is always the same—the creature with battalion attacks alongside at least two other creatures—but the effects of the keyword vary by card.
Simic: Although the guild is not quite as obsessed with experimentation as in the past, the Simic Combine continues to look for ways to accelerate and harness evolution. That aspect of the guild is right there in the very name of its new keyword, evolve. Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control with an evolve creature you control already there, you compare the new creature's power and toughness to the evolve creature's power and toughness. If either or both are larger in the new creature than in the evolve creature, the evolve ability triggers. When that happens, the evolve creature gets a +1/+1 counter.
So... you have yourself a bunch of great Gatecrash cards from your Guild Prerelease Pack and you're ready to put together a deck! But... is this your first Prerelease? Do you know what to do now? Don't worry! This is the Prerelease Primer! We'll get you all ready to go before you crack your first pack.
Sealed Deck: The main event at a Prerelease is the Sealed Deck tournament, where you open your Guild Prerelease Pack, build a deck, and battle. A sealed deck is at least forty cards (but try to keep it at forty exactly) and is made from the cards you open at the event. The basic ratio to follow is seventeen lands, seventeen creatures, and six noncreature spells. Gatecrash has enough tools to help you get multiple colors of mana in play so it's possible to play a three-color deck, although if you can keep it at two colors you'll find your mana base is more consistent. Because of the way the Guild Prerelease Packs are made, you'll have a great head start in making a deck based on your chosen guild.
Now, keep in mind those are the basics of building a sealed deck. For a more detailed look at some serious sealed strategy, check out Nate Price's Price of Progress series. If that doesn't sate your appetite, I also recommend this excellent retrospective piece from Steve Sadin that covers both deck building and game-play strategies for Limited. And, finally, our current master of Limited Information, Marshall Sutcliffe, began his tenure on a high note, with a look at a few preview cards from Gatecrash!
Two-Headed Giant Sealed Deck: This is similar to regular Sealed Deck, except you and a friend (or a friendly stranger!) open two Guild Prerelease Packs (they don't have to be from the same guild...) and use the packs therein to build two forty-card decks. If this sounds exciting to you, make sure to check with your local store to find out of it is supporting Two-Headed Giant (and to preregister, of course!).
Open Dueling: Some venues will also run side events using Intro Packs. In Open Dueling, each participant (who can also be a competitor between rounds of the tournament's main event) gets an Intro Pack and uses it to duel.
Skygames | Art by Sam Burley
Enjoying the Event
A Prerelease is a Magic event like none other. What follows are some bits of advice to help you enjoy yours.
Have Fun: First, have no misery. You are going to a place where a lot of people are gathering to play Magic. Having a positive attitude makes a difference, and most people (even if they are playing against you) will respond in kind. A Prerelease brings together the full cross section of Magic players, from the Hall of Fame pros to those playing the game for the first time. Most people fall somewhere in between those extremes and, in my experience, at least, are willing to help out those with less experience.
Hydrate, Eat, Sleep: Unless you're going to a midnight Prerelease (and even then, if you can swing it), get plenty of sleep the night before. Rest is good for your mind, which you will need operating at peak efficiency throughout a long day. Eat and drink, too. It'll keep up your energy and help you stay focused.
Bring Cards: Sometimes, your match ends really early and you have time to kill. Bring a deck or three to play in your downtime. Also, because of the mix of people at the event, you might have some success with trading, so remember to bring your trade binder as well!
Magic is a lot of fun, right? Of course! But Magic with a friend is even better! Having a friend at a Prerelease gives you someone to talk to between rounds (or play quick games against... remember to bring decks!). And having a buddy means you don't always have to haul your stuff with you everywhere you go.
The Gatecrash FAQ has the answers to your rules questions. That's it! I'm out of advice!
If this is your first Prerelease, I'm a little jealous. You're about to discover something...yes...Magical!
Seriously, though, Prereleases are great! No matter what you consider to be fun in Magic, you can find it at a Prerelease.
Good luck; have fun!