Last updated on September 20, 2021
Release the Gremlins | Illustration by Izzy
Every few months, Wizards of the Coast blesses us with a brand-new set to shake up the game (and ruin our wallets). Along with that we’re also graced with the only Sealed event I will ever play: prerelease events!
But what are these events? How do they work? How do you find and attend one? Fear not! I’ll answer all of these questions (and more). Follow me on this journey through the wonderful world of prerelease events. Let’s go!
What’s a Prerelease? How Does it Work?
Blade Instructor | Illustration by Zoltan Boros
Prerelease events are casual Sealed events that provide players with an opportunity to build a 40-card deck out of a “prerelease kit.” These products contain six draft booster packs, a prerelease promo foil of any rare or mythic rare in the set, and a special spindown life counter. After you’ve built your deck, the rest of your cards count as your sideboard as you play your matches.
These events are usually very casual since most players are just there to fawn over the new set and play with the new cards. You might meet a Spike (competitive player) here or there based on your local area but most players are there to have fun.
So, have fun with it! Build something crazy and make sure you explore everything the new set offers.
Should I Go to a Prerelease Event? Is it Worth It?
I almost always recommend going to a prerelease if you’re interested in Standard or Limited formats. These give you a hands-on way to learn the new cards and their synergies and you’ll also get to add some cards to your collection. On the flip side, I’d skip these events if you prefer older formats unless you really like the set.
Prereleases are almost always worth it, whether you measure it in cost or in fun. Dropping $25 to $35 on a single event isn’t that much and you’re already close to the “MSRP” of those packs considering you’re walking away with at least six packs and a foil promo. Your LGS will probably also offer some kind of prize as well, which means you can walk away with more if you end up doing well in your matches!
Finding a prerelease event is simple with Wizards of the Coast’s store and event locator. This tool is fantastic not only for finding local events near you like prereleases, drafts, or Friday Night Magic, but it can also show you all of the stores in your area where you might be able to find Magic products.
Here’s how to use the locator to find a local prerelease event:
1. Make sure the “Events Near Me” tab is selected, input your address, city, postal code, or region in the search bar, and then click the search button on the left
2. You’ll be brought to a map with a list of stores and their events – adjust the “Distance” selection based on how far you’re willing to travel for the event
3. Click “Filters” on the left to open its dropdown menu and then select the “Magic Prerelease” box – the results list will now show all upcoming prerelease events with their location and the date!
There are a few ways to register for prerelease events. Some stores offer digital registration on their websites while others require you to call the store and sign up or even just head inside and pay ahead of time.
No two stores are the same, so it’s always better to call them if you can’t find the info for how to register online. The event locator offers different ways to contact stores whether it’s their website, phone number, or even a discord server.
It’s also important to note that some stores may be offering prereleases as a “take-home event” to comply with local covid guidelines. Make sure to contact your LGS to find the best option that works for you and the safety of yourself and others.
Prerelease events cost anywhere from $25 to $35 on average with most of them being closer to $35. If your local store is charging more than that then you might want to consider looking elsewhere. Some stores may charge more but include additional stuff beyond just the regular prerelease kit. One of the stores near me used to provide a themed playmat and metal token for prereleases and I ended up paying around $45 for my prereleases there.
Plan for about 4 to 5 hours in most cases. According to the Magic Tournament Rules, you’re given at least 45 minutes to build your deck from your prerelease kit. 75 minutes for Two-Headed Giant events.
If you play four 50-minute rounds (with some extra time built in), you can imagine the event will take about five hours. This allows an hour for deck building plus an hour for each round.
How Many Rounds Are in a Prerelease?
Most events are typically between three to five 50-minute rounds. Some may go longer if there are more players but I’ve never gone past five rounds for an event. If you’re concerned about time, be sure to contact the store for more details.
Take Inventory | Illustration by Greg Staples
You don’t need to bring all the bells and whistles to a prerelease, but there are a few essentials that I recommend to anyone who’s going beyond the kitchen table to play some Magic:
- A way to track life totals. Something like dice or a pencil and paper. Your prerelease kit usually comes with a spindown 20-sided die, but this isn’t always the case. Forgotten Realms prerelease kits came with regular d20s, for example.
- Sleeves to protect your cards and keep your Sealed deck separate from the rest of your pool.
- Deck box to transport your new cards around. The prerelease kit’s box also doubles as a deck box but it’s not super sturdy and everyone at the event is going to have the same one, so you might get confused and mix up boxes.
- Playmat to play on. I personally never travel without one. They’re just better surfaces to play on and give you a little bit of creative expression.
But don’t let a lack of these dissuade you from coming! You’re always welcome to just show up and play regardless.
What Comes in a Magic Prerelease Kit?
A typical prerelease kit comes with:
- 6 draft booster packs
- 1 spindown 20-sided die
- 1 foil rare/mythic card with a foil year stamp
- 1 promo code for MTG Arena
The contents of the kit can change from set to set. Strixhaven kits were themed for each school and contained five draft packs as well as one “seeded booster” that had its rare slot guaranteed to match the college of your choosing. Wizards has done this a few times, mainly when there’s a big focus on multicolored cards in the set.
There’s a pretty wide variety of events and gimmicks for prerelease events, so always be sure to listen to the Head Judge of the event to see what else may be different during your prerelease!
Yup! The prerelease foil promos are totally legal in all formats. They just have a special foil stamp on them to show that they came from a prerelease kit.
Are Prerelease Cards Worth More?
Bound in Gold | Illustration by Victor Adame Minguez
Unfortunately the prerelease cards aren’t usually worth any more than the regular versions. Prerelease promos can sometimes go for the same price as a regular pack foil but most of these are around the same price as the regular non-foil variant thanks to the wide array of different borders and art styles.
For the last few years each prerelease kit has also come with an additional promo code card. You can redeem these codes in MTG Arena to get a free entry into a Sealed event for that set.
Each code is single use only. You can redeem them on the Store page in Arena. Keep in mind that only one code can be redeemed per account.
Prerelease packs might be tempting to get some good value from the packs inside but they’re just… average. Assuming the MSRP for a prerelease kit is $25 (the lowest price we’ve seen so far for a prerelease event) and the average Draft booster pack is $4, you’re paying a dollar more for the prerelease promo card. On top of that, the promo code for MTGA is only once per account so they aren’t worth anything to most people.
As far as card value goes, that’s always dependent on the set. Forgotten Realms only has 11 non-variant rares and mythics that are worth over $5 leaving 45 other cards, so the chances that your prerelease promo is worth more than a few bucks is slim. For only five bucks more you can get a bundle that comes with more packs, a special 20-sided die, basic lands, and a nice storage box.
What Can I Do to Prepare?
Travel Preparations | Illustration by Vincent Proce
Naturally you’ll want to prepare yourself and be ready to play with all these new cards. But how? Well, the internet offers a ton of resources for you to get up to speed with the latest cards and strategies.
My personal choice is to just hop onto MTG Arena and play a Sealed event. The price is comparable to a prerelease event, you get to use the cards on Arena, and Wizards opens up the event a week before paper prerelease events so you can get an upper hand on players who only play in paper.
Plus you can use all the resources I’m about to cover for your Sealed event for some practical use. And if you end up doing well you might earn enough gems to play another! And another! I might just be bragging here, but I ended up running five back-to-back Forgotten Realms Sealed events out of sheer luck.
Anyway, here are some resources to get you started!
Draftsim’s own set overview pieces cover everything you need to know about each set from cards, products, lore, mechanics, and any other fun details. And after the set is fully spoiled, we also publish our own set reviews! Draftsim also offers a pick order you can use to judge cards based on how impactful they may be.
Most importantly, there is a draft and sealed simulator on the homepage of the site that you can use to practice building sealed decks for free. This will allow you to learn the cards in the set and essentially do a “trial run” of your prerelease absolutely free before showing up.
Finally, Draftsim offers a fantastic guide on Sealed deck construction and rules. It’ll give you all the tips and tricks you need while constructing your Sealed deck and playing through the event.
MTGNerdGirl regularly does Limited set reviews for each set as they come out and they’re great for evaluating cards to see why they are or aren’t useful in your Sealed deck.
Reddit’s r/Spikes frequently has posters that offer Draft and Limited set reviews around the time the full set is spoiled which may help you decide on your Sealed deck a little better.
LoadingReadyRun has a special “pre prerelease” that’s sponsored by WotC which they do two weeks before each set releases. Not only are the folks at LRR charming and entertaining, but you also get to see real people playing with these cards hands-on, hearing their thought processes and decisions as they play through the event.
Draftsim’s own Draft simulator has a Sealed option to let you crack open a Sealed pool and get a glimpse of what cards you can expect during your prerelease event. You’ll be able to construct a Sealed deck and see what potential cards you might end up with as well as see what cards are rated higher than others to better plan your decks.
Check out our Standard rotation piece to see when the next set will be released. Prerelease events are generally a week before the set is released, so you should aim for around that timeframe.
You should also contact your local game store to find out what specific times they’re planning their events. Some stores may do multiple events over multiple days, or even multiple events on the same day.
The Last Pack
Ajani’s Last Stand | Illustration by Slawomir Maniak
Prerelease events are some of the most enjoyable, most exciting events you’ll get to attend. They offer the fun experience of busting packs, seeing shiny new cards for the first time, and putting everyone on an equal playing field. I wholeheartedly recommend attending a prerelease event if you’re interested in the newest set, and just go out there and have fun!
What was the last prerelease you attended? Or are you newer to the paper scene and excitedly waiting for the next one to come around? Let us know in the comments below or head over to our Discord if that’s more your thing. And don’t forget to grab Arena Tutor to make sure you’re prepped for the next digital prerelease!