You may be wondering what to do with your prerelease pack now that you have it. While we can’t always meet each other in person, we can still enjoy a prerelease with a little ingenuity. In case this is your first prerelease, these Magic: the Gathering packs contain 6 booster packs from the newest Magic set, just enough to build a small 40 card deck. The purpose of these packs is to give you a little introduction to the new set. Typically, these packs are also used to create a fun deck for a sealed tournament at your LGS. Since most of our local game stores are closed for events, you may be wondering what to do with your pack. This blog post is dedicated to teaching you how to set up and play a prerelease tournament at home for Ikoria: Lair of the Behemoths with your friends.
Step 1 – Obtain Ikoria Prerelease Pack
Contact your local game store to see how you can get your hands on a prerelease Magic pack of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths to take home for your tournament. Here at Mox, we have curbside pickup available for you to pick up your packs starting on May 15th. You can also preorder your pack on our online ordering site by setting your pick up time to any day after the 15th.
Step 2 – Find other players
After grabbing your pack, you will need to decide who to play with. Contact your regular Magic group and see if they’re also picking up a prerelease kit and if they want to play. Reach out to other groups you are a part of (such as Facebook Groups or Discord) to see if others are playing as well. Get the word out and make a list of participants.
As a group, you will need to agree on a couple of things for a smooth-running tournament. First, what video platform you will use? Second, finding a date and time that works for most people after they receive their packs. Lastly, the style of tournament you will play and if there are any prizes. We suggest having something small to make things fun and interesting for everyone. Maybe the winner gets pizza sent to their house, or a digital prize for another game you play together.
Step 3 – Find your platform
Deciding a video platform that will work best for your group is key for playing paper Magic at home. We suggest using Discord due to the high video quality, its ability to have information in one place, and how easy it is to jump from one call to the next.
Discord is an app that you can use on your computer, phone, or tablet, and allows you to host a lot of information in one spot. Host games, talk trash, post pulls, and have one big group chat to have while people play their individual match ups (or come back to once they are done). You can also stream the final top 2 game to make it more exciting! Here’s how you can use Discord:
- Create a discord server.
- Send link for people to join, or add them individually.
- Send out information on the discord about match ups, house rules, and encourage people to share their pulls.
- Make sure to friend people who you will be battling against to be able to video chat with them.
- Post results throughout, and join back up on the main chat to keep in touch with people for the next round.
No matter which platform you choose, make sure to set clear expectations with everyone on what will happen to create the best experience. You will need to find a platform that will:
- Host a video call with the device you have.
- Let you communicate with everyone in one spot.
- Easily make accounts (preferably free!).
Step 4 – Set Up Your Rig
Setting up your playmat and video can be a bit daunting. Have no fear, we have a great way to build a rig using your smart phone and a MtG bundle or cardboard box.
Using your Smart Phone:
Huge shout out to MaqiZodiac on Reddit for creating a phone rig out of a bundle box! This rig is great, because most of us have one of these lying around, and it makes it easy to see your opponent’s cards and display your own. Make sure to take any locks on your phone off (for portrait mode) to be able to best display the field.
If you don’t have a bundle box, you can also use a cardboard box to hold your phone above your playmat. You will want the box to be tall enough to see the whole playfield, but short enough to see your opponents cards on your screen. If you happen to have an android smartphone, you can also set up an app to turn your phones camera into an external webcam!
Step 5 – Layout your tournament
Once you have a player count, its time to set up your home tournament for your Ikoria prerelease packs. We suggest running a Swiss style tournament. By running a Swiss tournament, you will be able to play more even matches, and have a final and clear winner at the end of the tournament. You can also run a Round Robin tournament where everyone plays each other, or a Winston draft for two people that are in the same household.
A tournament with Swiss pairings is best for groups of 8 or more. This is a non-elimination tournament, so everyone will play to the end, and will have a fixed number of rounds depending on the number of players. You’ll find the number of Swiss round suggestions by Wizards of the Coast pretty helpful if this is your first tournament.
To run a tournament with Swiss pairings you will need to keep track of everyone’s wins and losses. You can keep track with a piece of paper, a spreadsheet, or you can use a handy website like Challonge.com.
To pair everyone in a Swiss tournament you will match them by their record. In the first round no one will have a record so it should be done randomly. After the first-round half the field will have one win and the other half will not. For round two you will pair all the people with a winning record against each other, then pair all the people without wins against each other. It is important to make sure that two people who have played each other before do not play each other again if it can be avoided. You will keep pairing like records until, after the required number of rounds, you should be left with a single winner!
If you have an odd number of players, then one person will need to sit out each round. This is called a bye. The person with the bye is awarded a win as compensation for not getting to play.
Before the tournament begins you should figure out what record earns what prize, with the largest prize usually going to the undefeated player.
Step 6 – Deck Building with a Pre-Release Pack
There is a wealth of information online about deck building in Limited Formats so we will just go over the basics here. In Limited, you’ll want to keep your deck as close to 40 cards as possible. This will make sure your deck is consistent enough to find the cards you need to win. Of these 40 cards, you’ll want 16-18 lands. The number of lands depends on the specific cards in your deck. Generally, if you have cards that are more expensive, put more lands in. Or if you have cards with multiple mana pips of the same color, add more of that color than the others. With Ikoria, make sure to check out the new mechanics in the set to fully understand your cards.
While running your prerelease tournament, set expectations for deck building with your friends. Will you open your packs in a group video chat, and have an hour to build your deck, or do you want people to have their deck ready to go? Making these decisions before your event will help the whole night go a little smoother.
Step 7 – Playing Paper Magic at Home:
Playing paper magic over webcam can be challenging to set up, and a bit buggy, but is worth the hassle. Make sure to hold up new cards for your opponent to read, let your opponent know how much manna you have untapped, and speak up if you can’t see their playfield. It will all come down to communication to have the best experience. If you need any more help, watch this Cardkingdom video that goes over playing Magic in a digital age.
You will deal with bad web connections, loud audio feedback, and probably a pet joining the battle. Be understanding with whoever you play with and be willing to add extra playtime to account for the things that can and will go wrong. In the end, it will be a fun new experience for your play group while we are all stuck at home. Let us know how your at home Ikoria prerelease tournament went on our Twitter, and feel free to reach out to us with your Judge questions.
-See you soon at Mox