It’s prerelease time! That means that while my friends memorize Born of the Gods’ full spoiler and debate the merits of various colors, I’ll be writing this post and lighting my offerings to whatever god will listen.

My first Magic event was the M14 prerelease, and I’d rather not relive the mistakes I made. In an effort to reduce the potential of massive embarrassment, I decided to compile a list of mistakes I’ll try to avoid—but probably make—during my games this weekend.

1. Mess up counters, forget how to do basic math

I have a pretty good system for +1/+1 counters. Before every game, I empty out the contents of my pocket and, as I need them, put things on my cards. At various points in time, I’ve used nickels, my room keys, receipts (shredded into small pieces), and pieces of chewing gum. Sometimes my opponents will insist that I use their fancy counters and sometimes they just give me a look of mild disbelief as they internally debate calling a judge over.

But, at least I was able to keep the numbers straight in my head. And since most bestow creatures boosted stats in multiples of +1/+1, everything was okay.

And then Wizards decides to make a cycle of these cards and mess everything up:


I like to imagine that someone hit the wrong switch and he’s phasing back into the wall.

Don’t get me wrong. I love playing with numbers for the sake of flavor—Hundred-Handed One‘s whole “block 99 creatures” deal is one of the coolest things ever. But when Boon Satyr was released, I thought the whole +4/+2 was a neat one-time thing. Guess not. It’s like the Magic card-design equivalent of using too many em-dashes*: probably inconvenient, but, hey, it’s pretty neat.

*I’ve since moved on to abusing colons.

2. Make bad choices

Okay, I’m not really known for good decision-making, and probably shouldn’t be trusted with any task that requires any more mental faculties than coloring within the lines. Wizards, knowing this, reacted accordingly and released a whole cycle of cards that look at this:



When the tribute mechanic was revealed, a lot of people speculated that it would be weaker than average because it gave opponents a choice. Unfortunately, I don’t think that applies when your opponent is really, really bad. If someone slammed Keeper of the Doves against me, I don’t what I would do. A 5/5 flyer is universally nasty and would probably kill me. But flying tokens are pretty good and have to be dealt with eventually. Take the boost. Or the birds. Whatever makes you happy, man.

Well, at least there aren’t any more cards with strange mechanics and weird art that require constant supervision—


What the fuck, Wizards.

And then you have cards like this:


I take everything back. This is amazing.

I love gambling because when you make bad decisions, you can shake your fist at the sky and blame someone else. I’m all for avoiding personal responsibility, and I’m pretty sure this card rewards that mentality. Do you see the text in parentheses? Piles can be empty? Wizards is basically asking me to go all-in. While more conservative players will carefully organize their piles to ensure an equal distribution of risk, I’ll be banking on luck to carry me through. If this goes wrong, expect to read about it next week.

3. Fail to read (and understand) cards

I like flavor text a lot. I’d probably play a game that featured cards that were all like this:


The 3/2 is actually the girl with the stick. They just didn’t want to embarrass the nice centaur.

Actual information, however, usually receives a cursory glance before I jam the card into my deck. That’s how I end up in situations when I play Vedalken Shackles with no islands (to be fair, this isn’t close to the worst thing I’ve done in Cube), or run a mainboard Burning Earth in M14 sealed.

Born of the Gods features a lot of cards like this:


If you squint enough, it’s actually pretty cute.

Sure, in theory, it’s not that hard to understand what this gaping ocean mouth does. But that’s not going to stop me from getting blown out by it.

4. Be over-ambitious

At the prerelease, most people want to do cool things with new cards. I’m not an exception. Reading through the Hipsters’ comments and the set’s full spoiler, I have a lot of ideas. Ux card-draw-Inspired seems pretty amazing because of cards like Oracle’s Insight. Five-color good stuff? RW Heroic? Those are probably terrible ideas. But if I’m going to the midnight prerelease, there’s an approximately 0% chance of me making good decisions. If you go to a card shop in Philadelphia and see a slightly manic guy running three-color aggro-tempo-jank, that’s probably me. Feel free to say hi.

Tony is the Hipsters’ resident scrub. He lives and studies in Philadelphia. Find him @holophr.

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