After an event like Grand Prix Las Vegas it’s easy to have a burning desire for more amazing community gatherings like we had in the Nevada desert. Prerelease weekends offer unique opportunities to do the same thing, but on a much smaller scale, organized by your local gaming store instead of by super-tournament-organizer Channel Fireball.

Is there a way to combine the two concepts? We used to have massive prerelease events, on the scale of PPTQ/RPTQ events, but they were run by independent tournament organizers instead of local stores. This was good news for local stores because prereleases are a great way to build a local Magic community. But, sometimes it feels like there’s something missing from these weekends.

I don’t think we should go back to the old system. It would hurt local stores and local communities. However, I think it would behoove Wizards and local shops to try to learn some lessons from GP Vegas. Vegas was an amazing community event that brought us together in unprecedented ways. Some of that should be leveraged to help build up our smaller communities across the globe.

Many years ago my own local shop tried various ways to make prereleases more exciting by holding contests like trivia games and having giveaways. In hindsight I think this made it feel more like a pep rally than a celebration of the new Magic set. Where GP Vegas got things right was in having community-driven events like the art show, the cosplayer summit, and so on. So what’s the lesson?

Perhaps there’s a way for local shops to make the prerelease celebration about their community by deviating somewhat from WotC’s scripted event. I think there are plenty of options on the table and it’s about what your community wants. Maybe there are a lot of cosplayers in your community. Maybe there are pro players who can spellsling for bounties. Maybe there are community members who can give advice on content creation.

The great thing about this community is that everyone is always willing to make it better. I think we can make a better prerelease that isn’t just a bigger prerelease. I hope your prerelease experience this weekend was enjoyable. Here are ten more thoughts from around the Magic community this week.

1. San Diego Comic Con is just a few weeks away and the first leaked information around the annual offering of Planeswalker promo cards appeared this weekend. There’s a lot to digest here but the first point I always want to make about this sort of product is that it’s very likely not designed for you, the average Magic fan. This product is 100% for the collector who shows up to your local shop with fully foiled Commander decks, binders full of dual lands, and leaves you with a slightly uneasy feeling every time you trade with them.

2. Collecting and Playing Magic are two sides of the same coin. While almost everyone dabbles in both sides, plenty of folks skew very heavily towards one or the other. The convention exclusives at San Diego (and the ones that will likely be available at HasCon in two months) are designed for fans who lean towards the collecting side of the coin. Those who lean towards playing can pick up all five non-Bolas ‘walkers for $50 right now, and even though it’s $30 to pre-0rder Bolas on Star City Games, the price of the God-Pharoah will almost certainly come back down to earth.

3. Wizards relationship with high-end collectors and the secondary market is certainly a shaky one these days thanks to the ever-growing increase in reprint products. With Iconic Masters and 25th Anniversary Masters on the horizon, collectors know that some of their value is going down. Exclusives like the SDCC promos and From the Vault help keep the relationship amiable.

4. Hall of Fame voting was on everyone’s mind this week. Or, at least it was on the minds of plenty of Pro Players. Paul Jordan provided some in-depth analysis on the candidates if you’re into that kind of thing (I know I am). For me though the Hall of Fame is about more than Pro Tour performances. To that end I would strongly advocate for Chris Pikula to be included for his numerous accomplishment around the Pro Tour that involve more than just winning matches.

5. Mark Herberholz is another player who is on the precipice of the Hall of Fame. Paul Jordan lays out the case for Herberholz who absolutely dominated the game for a small window of time in which he won Pro Tour Honolulu in 2006. Longevity in the game is an admirable trait but at some point you also have to give credit to folks who managed to completely crush the opposition for any sustained period of time the way Herberholz did.

6. One last player I want to talk about for the Hall of Fame is Tomoharu Saito, who famously was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2010 only to have that induction rescinded upon receiving an 18-month suspension at Grand Prix Florence, two weeks before the scheduled induction ceremony. It was Saito’s second banning from Magic. Paul Jordan and I agree that two suspensions is too much for consideration and while Jordan says he may reverse his stance in the future I think that for all the reasons the community rallies behind Chris Pikula, we need to maintain the integrity of the Hall of Fame by drawing a line in the sand where players like Saito are on the other line.

7. This thread by Card Kingdom’s content manager and official member of Wizards of the Coast’s tournament coverage team, Hallie Santo, is a reminder that local game stores, even around celebrations like prereleases, are still not universally safe spaces for women.

8. I could post another dozen tweets from women who had negative experiences at their prereleases because of the toxic environment around competitive Magic but I could do that any week so instead I want to focus on one very specific response to a woman’s tweet:

9. Now, I’m sure Mr. Harper “means well” but this response is rooted in the idea that women need to “prove” they’re better than men in order to be accepted at the same level as men. When a new male humanoid enters the gaming store they’re accepted almost immediately as anew member of the community. When a woman enters they need to justify their worth to the men. This sentiment runs rampant through the community and while, perhaps, it’s a step above flagrant misogyny it’s still deeply rooted in the same mindset that women are not equal to men.

10. Which brings us to our final thought this week which is around one of my new favorite memes (see above). Women are people. Men are people. We’re all people. We’re all Magic players. Treat everyone with the same respect you expect to be treated with. Do you only think you deserve respect if you play well? Absolutely not. Being good to one another is the only way we can build a better Magic community.

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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