Magic: The Gathering Has Finally Killed The Prerelease Event

Prerelease events have been a huge part of Magic: The Gathering for almost 15 years now. Starting with 2008’s Shards of Alara, Wizards of the Coast has allowed local game stores to run events that give you access to the cards, and willing opponents to test them out against. They’re the single most important time for any set’s release, as it’s likely the only time anyone will ever be paying attention to it on its own merits, and not because of how it fits into larger formats.

For something so important to the Magic social calendar, you may be surprised to hear that Wizards just killed them off. Over the last year, small changes have added up to the eventual death of the prerelease event. The recent announcement that cards will be legal from the prerelease, instead of the ‘official’ launch was the final nail in the coffin, and we need to drop the pretense that there’s anything ‘pre’ about it.

The first major shakeup to prereleases came with Streets Of New Capenna, when it was announced that the digital launch – which traditionally comes before any tabletop release – wouldn’t happen until after prerelease events. Your local game store was the first place you’d be able to play with New Capenna cards, and you wouldn’t have to worry about tryhards who grinded out their decks on Arena for a week beforehand. The move was so popular that it was brought back for The Brothers’ War, Phyrexia: All Will Be One, and March of the Machine, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it became a permanent move.

In September, it was then announced that limits on what Wizards Play Network-affiliated game stores could sell during the prerelease for The Brothers’ War would be dropped. Instead of only prerelease packs, everything from singles to booster boxes could be sold for the entire week ‘before launch’.

Finally, it was confirmed yesterday that when cards become legal in constructed formats will shift. Instead of entering formats like Standard, Modern, and Pioneer on the official launch date, they’ll be playable as soon as you get your hands on them at prerelease events. This is a good move: if I own the cards, and they’re not banned for balance reasons, I should be allowed to play them.

But it does raise the question of why we’re still calling that week before launch ‘pre’ release. There’s nothing special about prereleases anymore, even if Mark Rosewater tries to argue that Target and the like are still bound to the usual dates. If your local game store can sell everything, and you can buy anything and play with it in any format, then it isn’t a prerelease, is it? It’s just an actual release.

As much as I loved a good prerelease, carrying on the charade feels like an out-of-touch way to get people to feel like they’re missing out, something Wizards has repeatedly been under fire for this year with things like Secret Lair, the Beadle & Grimms promotions that sold out before anyone had the chance to grab them, and the infamous 30th Anniversary Edition. Trying to convince people that prerelease packs are a way to get an early, exclusive look at upcoming cards, when they’re actually just out and available for everyone to play, isn’t going to wash with a community who feels more jaded and wary than ever before.

On top of just being plain ol’ inaccurate, having a soft launch a week before an ‘official’ one just serves to artificially stretch out the hype cycle so many of us are struggling with. Ditching that pointless second date and just declaring prereleases the real launch date would add an entire week before Wizards kicks up promotion for the next set, and gives us more time to enjoy what we have.

All Wizards needs to do is change the name. Throw out ‘prerelease’ and be honest with players about what it really is, which is a day one launch party. It opens up the opportunity for more ‘Day One Edition’ promos (I would absolutely be a sucker for Day One bundle boxes), gives game stores an excuse to get people through the door, and also accurately conveys to the community that these cards are now out in the wild and can be played in your favourite formats.

It would still be a FOMO-fuelled limited-time shindig, but there’s no way to have an event based on playing things for the first time and not have that be an element. It’s still more honest than pointing at an arbitrary date days after everyone’s already torn open their boosters, and calling that the ‘real launch’.

Source: Read Full Article