Hey! Welcome to my first article here on ManaDeprived.com. My name is Vern Crawford and I’ve been playing the wonderful game of Magic since the late 90’s but I recently got serious about it.

If you’re reading this, then you should be aware that Mirrodin Besieged is nearly here! What I wanted to do today is share with you dear reader, what I do to prepare for the Pre-Release and Release Events because let’s face it, why would you show up unprepared? Maybe it has something to do with my Engineering trained brain, or maybe I’m just OCD, but I have several methods that I use to make sure that I have a leg up on the competition at the Release Events.

Why be prepared for the PREs? The way I see it, PREs are the BEST opportunity to win games of Magic, and if you fit into the “Spike” psychographic like I do, then winning is pretty friggin important. It’s the best place to win because if you know, and I mean really KNOW the cards in a situation where everyone else is seeing them for the first time, you can totally school people. I’m talking school like those punks that would put damage on the stack against you before you even knew what the stack was (not that it matters anymore). Besides that, the prizes at a PRE typically go down to top 16 (at least they do at a “good” store) and winning prizes is awesome! I know personally, I’m gunning for first place at the PRE I’m attending because at the store where I play, first place wins a box of the new set. A whole BOX! That’s awesome!

Okay you’re convinced, now what do you do? I would rank the steps as First: track all the spoilers you can manage. Second: memorize the full visual spoiler. Lastly: play with the cards!

Number 1 – Troll the Rumor Mill and the Orb threads

Wizards of the Coast, with all their good intentions, do make an attempt to post to the mothership where all of the spoiler cards can be found. The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to the distribution of preview cards. I noticed this particularly with recent sets, there would be a listing given on the mothership of where to find spoiler cards, but that same day, there would be other sites showing spoilers not found on the mothership anywhere. This discrepancy can probably be attributed to timing, but regardless, if I’m going to rely on a source for spoilers it better be good. So the mothership is out when it comes to specific cards.

The next best source is the forums at mtgsalvation.com. I’m not sure how they managed to become the go-to source for spoilers, but their Rumor Mill page is the best place I know of to get the latest spoilers.

On mtgsalvation.com on the top navigation bar you’ll see the link for Mirrodin Besieged Spoiler (X/155). Go to that page and you’ve arrived at the spoiler cards. It’s nice that they make a little text-only representation of the card kind of like the playtest cards that R&D use, but click the jpg icon beside the card name and you can see the card if someone has copied and uploaded the image.

Typically, but less reliably, you can go to the Orb of Insight. The Orb this season is split in two halves (Phyrexian and Mirran, duh) but they’re hard to find cause they’re on the Mirrodin landscape pages. Instead of doing all that typing and checking on individual words and number combinations, just go to the mtgsalvation forums and someone else has done all the work for you. Actually the only thing I checked on the Orb this season was the number of Infect creatures on the Phyrexian side, and the Orb came back with 20. What this means is that there are 20 instances of the word “infect” on the Phyrexian cards in Mirrodin Besieged. I recently picked up a couple extra Hand of the Praetors as a result of this Orb search.

Number 2 – Twitter

This is the most effective way to stay on top of the cards as they’re spoiled. You’ll especially want to be following financial people as spoilers come up because card interactions make card prices skyrocket almost instantly. An unfortunate trend that I’ve been witnessing occurs when a new preview card is spoiled at Midnight Eastern Time, and players rush to their online store of choice and snap up cards that they think will be relevant in their format of choice. You have to be VERY careful when speculating and factoring in new cards in your purchases. Don’t make purchases based purely on a hunch when you have nothing to back it up. I think this could be a topic for an entire article, so I’ll stop there. Essentially, I discourage pre-ordering new cards.

Anyway, with this particular spoiler season, I’ve found that SCG must have some poor sucker scouring the MTGSalvation forums or some person staring at a computer screen with matrix-esque symbols running down the screen watching all of the internet for preview cards from all over because their twitter feed, and Facebook photo album have been the best places to see the spoilers first. So following the SCG Twitter feed is a must, and having a facebook account is also kind of important to see their facebook page.

Number 3 – Print the Visual Spoiler

It is customary for WOTC, on the Monday before a Pre-Release, to post the “Full Visual Spoiler” on the mothership revealing all of the cards of that new set. Now unless you have a mind like a Black Vise, staring at the cards is not going to be an effective way of learning the set.

Literally just click File, Print, Print. Okay, that may not work because I know Firefox has trouble with that for some reason, but you get the idea. The next way to do this is to open a Word document and click and drag the images to the document (if your browser and word processor allow it, you can highlight and copy all the cards on the screen). This lets you fit more on a page when you expand the margins of the word document.

I like doing this for perusal during those long boring classes that I don’t need to be conscious to get the attendance mark but I can’t have a digital device in front of me or I look rude. I can keep the printout in a binder or book, and it’ll just look like I’m following along with the class material.

Number 4 – The Cellphone Game

This one takes a little effort, but trust me, it pays off. Once the Full Visual Spoiler is up on the mothership, save all the images. Right click and Save As. Aaalllll of the images. AALLLLLL of the images. All 155 of them. Annoying right? Here’s where the game comes in: don’t change the file names. Save all the images to one folder with the coded file names from the set, and then put the folder on your mobile device of choice. Now at your leisure, go to your images and change the file names of the files to the card name one at a time. On most devices, this will necessitate looking at the card and this is the opportunity to memorize what the cards do. And just like in school, spelling counts! Make sure you’re spelling the name of the cards correctly or else you’re wasting your time. I did this for the first time with M11 and it was pretty good but there were a lot of reprints. Where this method really shined was with Scars of Mirrodin. I should probably attribute my early SOM drafting success to this method simply because I knew what cards were in the set and had already started working out the interactions.

Number 5 – Rank the Cards

Duh. Focus on commons and rank what you think are the best cards in each color. This is good Limited practice because it will create the shortcut in your mind of which cards you want to look for when drafting/building your sealed pool. This is especially effective for commons because there are just so many of them and staring at a stack of commons can use up a lot of deckbuilding/draftpick time.

For example, when I had the spoiler and sorted by color, I took all the white commons and ranked them like this:

Glint Hawk

…the rest? Honestly I can’t think of any other white cards worth playing that don’t have Metalcrap (not a typo).

Once you’re done with that, do a similar ranking for uncommons, rares and mythics. I say do rares and mythics but those don’t really apply to Sealed because you don’t have the option of passing them.

Number 6 – Play a Practice Sealed/Test on MWS
Unfortunately this isn’t going to work for the Mirrodin Besieged Pre-Release Events because of the faction packs. If this is the first you’re hearing about these faction packs, when you show up at your Pre-Release you pick a faction and you’ll receive three boosters of SOM, and three packs containing cards from Mirrodin Besieged of your chosen faction ONLY. So if you choose Phyrexian, you’re going to get your three packs of SOM and three packs of Phyrexian cards from MBS. (Here’s a question for ya: who comes up with the set name acronyms? MBS makes me think “More B.S.”)

If we’re talking about the Release though, then I recommend using your practice drafting method of choice, and cracking six packs and practice building your Sealed Deck. Depending on how diligent they are, you might get lucky with my personal favorite drafting website http://draft.bestiaire.org/index.php. Whether you go to the trouble of actually playing the cards or not is dependent on your time constraints and whether or not you have someone else who can play against you, but I recommend AT LEAST practicing going through your deck building process.

Tying into this particularly labor intensive tip is brewing on MWS. This is a lot of work because usually it’s really hard to find the link to the complete set formatted properly for MWS to add the cards to itself. It’s usually buried in a forum thread somewhere, but when you find it and install it, you’re really glad you went to all the trouble. But honestly, even just playing on MWS and joining games where the opponent says that they’re using new cards is beneficial because it lets you see the new cards in action even if you’re just on the receiving end.

I think that should do it. Follow whatever combination of these tips you feel work for you, and after you get first place at your PRE, post in the comments to let me know how it went.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy your Pre-Release and Release events!

MTGO: vwc
twitter: ninjavwc