Shards of Alara Prerelease Impressions

20:38 Sun 28 Sep 2008. Updated: 16:34 26 Apr 2009
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I played at Eudemonia‘s Shards prerelease yesterday. It’s the first of the “new-style” prereleases; Wizards has turned them into small store-based events rather than region-wide ones.

I prefer the region-wide approach, but I knew that before I went. I like Eudemonia as a store, and used to draft there quite often. The event was well-run apart from starting late (apparently some Eudemonia employees told people they could show up “a few minutes before 11:00”, which didn’t help matters), and the store is a good playing space. However, I always liked the fact that the larger prereleases would bring lots of disparate players from the region together in one spot.

I also liked the fact that the larger prereleases offered more opportunities to actually play. In the old system, there would be two flights per day, usually with team-based events in the evenings (the older ones went over two days). The Eudemonia event, and the other store events near San Francisco, were only on Saturday, and were also only one flight.

I don’t see why Wizards aren’t trying to sell as many packs as possible at these events. You have a lot of MTG players, all eager to get the new cards, why not support large events where multiple flights are possible? For some reason, Bay Area events tend to be weak in this regard. I used to think that this was the fault of the prerelease organizers, but now that others are running similar events, I’m not seeing a big shift.

I must be missing something, because surely once you have a large number of MTG players in one place, the thing you should do to maximize revenue is to give them as many opportunities to play as possible. The old-style prereleases around here were bad at this too: they didn’t do multiple small flights that began after the initial flights, the way they seem to do it on the East Coast. The stores seem to have similarly problematic approaches, although this is partly due to Wizards being really niggardly with product (not a good sign, I think).

Draft events must at least be relatively lucrative for stores. As far as I’m concerned, any event that more than 20 MTG players show up to should have side drafts available—prereleases, release events, PTQs, whatever. As a store owner/tournament organizer, you have people right there who are likely eager to play and willing to pay full retail for packs, why not take advantage of that demand?

Anyway, apart from gripes about that side of things, it was fine. I didn’t do too badly, with a 3-1-1 record. The new set is all right. It felt a little strange, with its focus on big creatures and big mana spells, and my first impression of it was that it didn’t seem that complicated. A lack of complication is in my view generally a bad thing for an MTG set, but I’ll have to play it more to find out. In Sealed, it definitely encourages crazy manabases. I played a deck based in Blue, Black, and White, splashing both Red and Green. This greedy approach paid off for the most part, and I saw quite a few other players doing similar things.

In Draft, that might be quite different, and it might be possible to focus on much narrower archetypes. I’ve been quite happy with how sets have been for drafting since the start of the Ravnica block (and, in fact, I didn’t think that Champions/Betrayers/Saviors was that bad), with Lorwyn/Lorwyn/EventideMorningtide probably being the low point, so I hope that this set is as successful—and that the new company shift to smaller big sets is less harmful to drafting than I suspect it might be.

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One Response to “Shards of Alara Prerelease Impressions”

  1. Jason Sheffield Says:

    Thanks for your post! I wasn’t able to make it to a prerelease event. It is nice to get a glimpse of it. I was afraid that the big spell/creature theme would make the limited format slow and combersome. The set will force people to learn to build solid mana basic or make them want to quit. In short the set will separate the Men for the Boys.

    A small correction should be made… Lorwyn/Lorwyn/Morningtide (not eventide).

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