It’s that time of the year again! Pre-release for a new Magic: the Gathering set is finally upon us and it’s something I absolutely love. Pre-releases happen the week before the product actually hits the shelves and players are allowed to buy their boxes or boosters. It is a very casual format aimed at getting people familiar with the new cards and mechanics. Players of all ages and skill are encouraged to play as they don’t need to have a deck built beforehand. The format used in pre-release is referred to as “limited” because players are limited in the cards they are allowed to play. This will be the 80th set released for Magic: the Gathering and to keep things fresh each new set gets new mechanics, but what is neat about the Ravnica sets is they have “guilds” set up in the lore. These guilds are represented by color pairings that work together and I’ll go through the new ones to help newer players decide which guild fits their play-style. Let’s jump right into it.
Guilds of Ravnica
With the last set, aptly named Guilds of Ravnica, they brought back the bicolored Ravnica guilds. These were Selesnya (Green White), Boros (Red White), Golgari (Black Green), Izzet (Blue Red) and Dimir (Black Blue). Each guild had its own mechanic, or keyword, that set it apart from the other guilds. Players don’t necessarily have to play a specific guild to be successful, but there are specific cards in the guild colors that become more powerful when they play off the guild synergies. Ravnica Allegiance is still set in the same plane as the previous expansion but the cards are all separate so none of the keywords from this set will show up in the Allegiance pre-release.
What is a Pre-release?
The actual release date for Ravnica Allegiance will be January 25th, however the weekend prior will be pre-release weekend. Generally, local game stores will have a pre-release event for each day of the weekend starting off with a Friday night one at midnight. These are always going to have the biggest number of people as this is the earliest players can open and play with the new cards. There will be an event on Saturday, maybe two depending on the volume of players the store has, and usually on Sundays the store will run what’s called a Two-headed Giant event where players can play with a partner. Two-headed giant is a great way to learn as players can talk to each other during the game and there is less pressure to make the correct choice. Plus, it’s one of the few ways players can play with a friend. Since Wizards of the Coast is going back to the Guilds for these sets, when players sign up for the pre-release they will usually be able to choose which guild they want. Wizards of the Coast instituted this so that players who preferred one color/play-style to another would have a better chance to play those colors. Players receive a pre-release pack with whichever guild they chose. Inside the pre-release box will be a promo card that is playable in the event as well as a pack designed around their guild choice. Players also receive five other booster packs that they use to create a 40 card deck including lands.
Intro to Ravnica Allegiance
Ravnica Allegiance showcases five different bicolored guilds. These guilds, Azorius (White Blue), Rakdos (Black Red), Gruul (Red Green), Simic (Green Blue) and Orzhov (White Black), all feature different play-styles and new mechanics to supplement these play-styles.
Azorius is generally associated with a more slow and controlling style of play. Azorius players usually cast a lot of spells and then win with creatures that are hard to get rid of. Azorius has been given the keyword Addendum. Addendum causes a spell that would usually be used on an opponent’s turn to gain an additional or alternative effect if used on your turn.
Rakdos is a hyper-aggressive guild that uses small, cheap creatures to constantly apply pressure and attack the opponent. The Spectacle mechanic allows the Rakdos player to pay a separate cost rather than its regular mana cost provided the opponent lost life this turn. The first drop of blood creates a feeding frenzy for the Rakdos player.
Gruul is another aggressive guild, but instead of relying on smaller and cheaper creatures Gruul gets access to some larger threats in Green. Gruul’s keyword, Riot, gives the player an option when their creature enters the battlefield: give it a +1/+1 counter and make it bigger or give it haste and allow it to attack right away.
A lot of the Orzhov color pairings’ prior mechanics have revolved around when the creatures played die and Allegiance is no different. Orzhov gets the keyword Afterlife “X” where whenever that creature dies it is replaced by X amount of 1/1 spirit tokens with flying.
Simic is all about growing and preserving nature. They tend to have a bunch of smaller evasive creatures that get bigger which plays right into what their keyword is all about in Allegiance. Adapt “X” allows the player to pay a cost and if that creature has no +1/+1 counters on it then players may put X counters on that creature.
If you haven’t been to a pre-release before then I do hope that this preview has inspired you enough to get out there and give it a try. Besides getting the chance to see and play with all the new cards, you get the opportunity to meet new people. It amazes me to see how so many people can go out of their way to make new players feel included and give advice on deck building or things they could have done differently in-game. Players are always teaching and trying to get people to come back and it is very evident in the casual pre-release atmosphere. Make sure you check out this month’s new set: Ravnica Allegiance and prepare to do battle with whichever guild you choose!