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By: R Koster, Rob Koster
Sep 26 2019 11:00am
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How to win at the Throne of Eldraine Prerelease

Once Upon a Time Throne of Eldraine was upon us. Today I'd like to make sure you do well at your Prerelease. Everything has been spoiled and at this point, there is enough to explain my system for building a Sealed deck. 

For those of you who don't know, I used to have a video series focused on teaching people how to Draft. It ran for a year, and you can still find it on Youtube. Just look for Rob Koster and Magic, it should be the first thing that pops up. If you speak Dutch, you are all set. Just watch the entire series, and you'll know how to evaluate a card in a vacuum. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

 

Wait, what? There's no time to watch it? We need something fast, and we need it yesterday if possible? Uhh, well okay. I'll just go over how I evaluate cards at the start of a set or during Prerelease right now then.

 

When you open a booster pack from a new set for the first time, a lot is coming at you. Luckily, there are some tips and tricks that make it manageable.

 

Divide your seven dwarves

Looking at the entire thing will leave you with your head scratching about what goes where, who does what and who is who. I can't tell the difference between Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, Dopey, and Doc on a first look. Chances are, neither can you. So what do you do? You just rearrange them in a way that makes sense for you. In a Booster draft, this means pulling cards to the front, in a Sealed pool you get to make piles. I know it sounds like a chore to divide your cards by color, but trust me. It'll help make you spin gold out of that pile of hay.

 

Don't lie on a pea just yet.

During a Prerelease, you have the time to read everything when you're dividing it, but I usually don't until much later in the process. After having sorted everything by color, I take the creatures that have a good ability and put them all together. A lot of things have changed in Magic over the years. But Flying, Unblockable and Protection are still absolutely bonkers, don't be a Sleepy on them. Instead, make your opponent Grumpy about them!

If your very lucky, you have 12-15 creatures with evasion in one or two colors, and you can move on to the next step. Seeing as how I've had that happen exactly once in 13 years. (I did easily win that Prerelease though, turns out if you play a Constructed worthy deck in Limited you win. Who would have known?)

 

Some of the cards I would include in this group are:

Rankle, Master of Pranks, Kenrith, the Returned King, Clackbridge Troll, Opportunistic Dragon, Archon of Absolution, Bog Naughty.

 

For now, though, I like to leave them for a bit as I go back into the mines to dig for more gold. Because good creatures win you games, but not on their own. You also need a few things to make you not lose the game on the spot. Your opponents will throw whatever their dwarves have dug up at you as well. Usually, it's in the form of creatures, so start looking at your removal. Just put all of it on a pile. Doesn't matter how weird or situational it is. Just put it in there.

 

So, now you have your very good creatures and your removal separated. Look at it for a bit, do you have 25 Blue cards in these two piles and only 1 Black one? Guess what, you're not playing black.

 

But what about my bombs?

A mistake I see a lot of people making, especially at Prerelease is to just jam in their Bombs and force everything around them. For those of you who don't know, bombs are the cards that just brutally overpower everything. The Beast from Beauty and the Beast will easily defeat a random villager. However, one Beast does not a deck make. (It's all Disney, so it's a fairytale now!)This usually ends up with people having unplayable 5 color piles with 4 or 5 amazing cards in them and with them leaving the mines thinking about how unlucky they are for not drawing their colors.

 

"I played all my rares! How could I possibly lose?"

"I don't know, rares are usually good, you probably ran bad. It happens to the best of us."

"Could you look at my deck just to make sure?"

 

As you flip through their deck, you see a Gadwick, the Wizened a Forest, a Plains. You smile a bit to yourself as you think. "Hm, I never would have thought to go Bant with that pool." Then you flip some more cards and see the angry cousin of the seven dwarves looking back at you. He apparently had time for tea and biscuits with his cousins today after the filming of the Hobbit was done.

You immediately know what's wrong here, cautiously you start telling your friend.

 

"Torbran, Thane of Red Fell Is an interesting choice. What made you play him?"

"He's rare, he's got to be good!"

 

You sigh as you regret flipping through the deck as you make yourself ready to have the awkward talk about the birds and the Manabees with your friend.

 

So yeah, while you should look to play your bombs and often will focus your deck on them. Don't go overboard, as a general rule that would need its own article to explain fully: The better your average card quality is, the more consistent you want your deck to be.

There are some exceptions, Jon Finkel once played an Archangel Avacyn as his only White card. It was just that good. But those are really the exceptions to the rule.

 

About those birds and Manabees

I wish Manabees were a real thing, they sound awesome. I can see it now, the gentle cow of the sky in all colors of the rainbow.

 

You do need to focus a bit on your colors. Flip through your pool again. What is your mana telling you? Are you playing Alara Reborn or Khans of Tarkir and are you casually going to be playing 15 colors without a problem? Or are you looking at a pool that starts to consider eating the Taste of Death even thinking about splashing a second color?

 

If you're wondering about what's possible with mana right now and how much sources you need of everything. I can't help you during deckbuilding. For now, though, I can tell you to google Frank Karsten's article on how many sources of mana to run. You don't need to know it by heart, but your deck building will improve a lot by identifying the basic guidelines.

 

Putting it all together

So now you have your Creatures with evasion, your removal and some of your Bombs. You've chosen your colors and added whatever relevant mana fixing you had. You count the cards as you ask your neighbor about how many cards should be in a Sealed deck.

 

"40 You say? Okay, I have twenty good cards here, I'll just add 20 lands."

Or it's ugly cousin:

"40 You say? Okay, I have thirty good cards here, I'll just add 10 lands."

In the first example of 20 lands, you leave your porridge to cold. There just isn't enough action in there. Your mana will be stable, but your deck will only be cold soup. You'll be able to cast your spells, there just won't be many of them.

 

In the second example of 10 lands. First of all, you should bring some water for your opponents, because they will be salty when they find out about what you did if you beat them. But to stick to the soup metaphor, you'll burn your mouth with only 10 lands in your deck. If you manage to run as hot as the soup, you'll be casting spells like a prince. But in reality, your deck is a Frogify. 10 Lands aren't enough.

 

The most solid of Mana bases will be between 16 to 18 lands, depending on your deck.

 

Choosing the last few cards

After having done all that it really boils down to a form of art that only comes with experience, do you need some more creatures? Just put your fingers over the text of a card like Vantress Gargoyle, so you can just look at it being a 5/4 for 1U. Yeah, you'll probably want to play that. Henge Walker However? In a 2 color deck, you might want this, in a 5 color deck you really don't.

 

For the rest, I usually just throw in some 2 for 1's in there. Something like a Clockwork Servant or Dance of the Manse. Don't go overboard on this though, you can generate all the value you want. But if you get beat down while your doing it, there isn't much of a point to it.

 

And with that, I wish you the best of luck at your Prerelease!