With Unfinity spoilers not even completed yet, Wizards is already trying to switch the Magic: The Gathering hype train to the Brothers’ War track. On September 22, 2022, Wizards of the Coast announced that for the first time ever, they will be allowing Wizards Play Network stores to sell the full line of products from the new set on prelease weekend – including singles. As with Streets of New Capenna, tabletop prerelease comes before digital release, which means that between November 11, when prerelease kicks off, and November 15, when Brothers’ War is set to go live on Arena and MTGO the only way players will get to (officially) experience the new cards will be at their local game stores.
You’ll be able to get your hands on commander decks, set boosters, collector boosters, jumpstart packs, and singles right off the bat so you can be fully prepared for week one standard, draft to your heart’s content, and trick out your favorite commander decks.
For a whole four days, the new cards will only be available in print, at WPN stores. That means no serious competitive playtesting before the first big event of the Brothers’ War season: the regional tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria. Players haven’t had to go into a major tournament after a release blind in a long time – since MTGOnline became a thing.
Prerelease Opportunities for Players
Prerelease is always an exciting time in Magic: The Gathering. Players get to play with new cards for the first time. You can relive that first pack experience by cracking something where even the commons deserve a look. And if you’re like me, the absolute biggest rush is tearing into your prerelease kit and finding out what totally sick and awesome promo card yours came with.
For many players, prerelease is the only time they play any sort of sealed or draft. It’s one of the few in-store events that can pull in players of all types, regardless of preferred format, and sit them down at the same table to indulge in their shared hobby.
For some players though, Prerelease is a vital jumping off point for a new competetive season. While we Timmies and Johnnies are geeking out about the latest Big Green Thing and carefully analyzing the most mind-warping ways to foil opponents’ plans, the Spikes of the community are furiously teching decks, playtesting, and trying to be the first to hit the ground running with the best decks. The decks that will shape the metagame for the rest of the season.
For those players, Wizards’ announcement creates a very real problem: while they will be able to get as many physical cards as they want on prerelease weekend, they won’t have the ability to playtest their decks against a wide pool of players through official online channels. There have been some very vocal members of the community condemning the changes on social media ever since they were announced.
Prerelease Opportunities for Local Game Stores
Obviously, this is a great boost to local game stores, many of whom still struggle to recover from their losses during the pandemic. Drumming up in-store traffic and bringing players back to in-person play is a challenge for shop owners and event coordinators with so many online options available and now in the mainstream. With paper Magic prices ever on the rise and player budgets getting tighter due to economic changes across the world, shops are in competition with Arena, MTGO, and unofficial online platforms.
Those few days of exclusivity will give savvy shops the opportunity to set up enticing events, displays, and promotions to remind some of those players what they’re missing online. And with access to the full product line, shops can to host a huge variety of events. Who doesn’t love a Commander party, playing fresh out of the box precons on an even playing field where EVERYONE is new to the game and no one has access to expensive staple upgrades?