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Murders at Karlov Manor Prerelease Primer

January 29, 2024
Gavin Verhey

There's been a murder! Well ... several, actually.

Welcome to the mysteries of Murders at Karlov Manor. Detectives, grab your magnifying glasses—the game is afoot! Which game? Well, Magic: The Gathering, of course! And it all starts at your local Prerelease.

What's a Prerelease, you ask?

Well, Prereleases are some of my favorite Magic events anywhere, perfect for newcomers and seasoned veterans alike. They're the celebration of a new set, and Murders at Karlov Manor has Prerelease events starting February 2.

First up, if you want to learn how to play Magic, I recommend some of these resources:

Additionally, if you're looking for a store to play in, I always recommend our handy store locator tool. Just enter your location, and it'll show any stores near you. Once you've found a spot, be sure to contact them about preregistering. Prereleases are popular events, and you'll want to make sure you have a seat at the table!

Now, if you're a visual learner, I have a companion video to this article you can check out over on Good Morning Magic:

But what makes a Prerelease such a great time? And what can you expect out of one? Let's take a look!

Finding the Clues

There's nothing like handling fresh cards from a new set, and that's exactly what you get to do at a Prerelease. Everyone's on equal footing: nobody has these cards before the Prerelease, and it's your first chance to investigate the set and see how they all work together.

The energy in the room of a Prerelease is palpable. Relaxed and fun as people open their cards, exclaim about the cool things they've found, and discover cool combinations for the very first time.

One of the really great things about the Prerelease is that it's a great environment for helping you through your first event. Even if you're brand new, people will be there in the store to support you and help you have a fantastic experience. New and old players alike—everyone comes together for the Prerelease! The set is new, people are chatting about the flavor and story (which, if you haven't been reading, you can find right here!), and everyone is just there to have fun.

So, do you need to bring a deck from home? Nope! For a Prerelease, you will play a format called Sealed Deck. It's straightforward: open the six Murders at Karlov Manor Play Boosters from your Prerelease Pack (plus the promo card you get inside!) and build a deck with the contents. It really is all about the new set and what you find in those boosters. If you'd like, you can look over everything in advance, from the commons to the rares, to build the best deck you can. (Check out all the cards beforehand in our Murders at Karlov Manor Card Image Gallery.)

How exactly does this work out? Let me walk you through it.

Building a Mystery

When you sit down on Prerelease day, you're going to get handed a Murders at Karlov Manor Prerelease Pack.

Murders at Karlov Manor Prerelease Pack

While there are many things in here, like a spindown life counter for tracking your life total and a fun little insert with some information and tips, the most important are these six Play Boosters:

Murders at Karlov Manor Play Boosters

Before jumping ahead, there's something you need to know: You'll also find one of three legendary creatures found only in Murders at Karlov Manor Prerelease Packs:

Melek, Reforged Researcher
Tomik, Wielder of Law
Voja, Jaws of the Conclave

These promo cards are an extra bonus and are Standard legal—ready to play at local events or inspire building a Commander deck. However, these promo cards cannot be played in Prerelease events.

There will also be a foil-stamped rare or mythic rare card inside that you can play—make sure to pull that one out, then open all your boosters. Now, you're ready to build a deck!

But where do you even start?

Well, first thing's first, you should know what you're trying to do. In Sealed Deck, you only need 40 cards, not 60 or 100. You can get as many additional basic lands as you want from the store.

A good rule of thumb is to play 17 lands. So, all things said and done, you're only looking to play about 23 nonland cards from the cards you open. That's your goal: identify the 23 cards to play.

Okay, sounds a bit easier. How do you go about picking those cards?

Try sorting your cards by color first. Make eight piles: one for each color, one for any multicolor cards, one for colorless cards, and one for lands. As you're going through, you'll have a chance to read the cards and see what interests you.

You'll want to whittle your choices down to two colors. You can sometimes "splash" a third, playing two colors as your base and a couple powerful cards or additional costs of another color, but I'd really focus on the two colors you want here. You can select them in any ways you want—maybe you just like those colors—but here are three things to keep an eye out for:

  • Any strong rares in those colors that you're excited to play
  • A lot of removal cards (Cards that destroy or otherwise deal with your opponent's creatures.)
  • Evasion (Many games of Sealed Deck are won with flying creatures or hard-to-block cards.)

Now, if you're familiar with Ravnica sets of the past, you might expect a strong multicolor component here, given that Murders at Karlov Manor is set on Ravnica. It's important to note that this is not a traditional Ravnica set where you choose your guilds. However, with that said, there are still ten common multicolor cards with the disguise mechanic—meaning you might have a little more reason than normal to splash a third color. That said, I'd still try to generally stick to two if you can.

Additionally, another huge element to look out for are good synergies and multicolor cards. Every two-color pairing in Murders at Karlov Manor has a theme, and knowing what those are can clue you in to which colors to play. These are detailed in an insert on the top of every Play Booster display, but here it is for easy referencing as well:

  • WhiteBlue Detectives: Get on your opponent's case with this fast midrange strategy. Leverage Detective typal bonuses to overwhelm your opponent's defenses, and sacrifice Clues to refill your hand in the late game.
  • BlueBlack Clues Control: Use defensive spells to extend the game and generate Clues, then turn the excess mana into a card advantage that will bury your opponent in a mountain of value.
  • BlackRed Suspect Aggro: Suspected creatures have menace and can't block. Keep attacking with your suspicious characters, and your opponents will be helpless to stop them.
  • RedGreen Big Disguise: Spend the early game accelerating your mana and setting up a face-down board state, then beat down your opponent's side of the board by flipping over haymaker after haymaker.
  • GreenWhite Go-Wide Disguise: Flood the battlefield with face-down creatures and accrue impressive rewards whenever they're turned face up.
  • WhiteBlack Pint-Size Disguise: Face-down creatures bolster your strategy, which rewards playing creatures with power 2 or less and boosting them to become more impressive attackers.
  • BlueRed Artifact Sacrifice: Generate and sacrifice Clue tokens strategically to gain a massive card advantage over your opponent. Then, chip away at their defenses by attacking with evasive Thopters that bring death from above.
  • BlackGreen Gravebreak: Use the collect evidence mechanic and raise the dead to support a long-game strategy that gives you extra value whenever a creature card leaves your graveyard.
  • RedWhite Battalion: This classic Ravnican strategy adds extra punch to aggressive red and white creatures by providing a bonus whenever you attack with three or more of them.
  • GreenBlue Collect Evidence: Rapidly fill up your graveyard and collect evidence to power up your spells while amassing permanents that reward you each time you do so.

Once you've chosen your colors, it's important to think about your mana curve. This helps to ensure that you have creatures at every turn of the game to cast. If everything costs six mana, you're going to be way behind on playing creatures, and if everything costs two mana, you're going to get outclassed in the late game.

Here's how to check your mana curve. First, lay your creatures out in mana-value order from left to right. So, all creatures that cost one mana, then all creatures that cost two, and so on. Only lay out noncreatures here if they're cards you are planning to play as soon as you have that much mana—for example, you might play an Equipment on turn two, so that counts as a two-drop, but you're probably not playing a removal spell on turn two.

For Limited in general—and this is just a guideline—I'd look to play something like this:

  • 1 mana: 0–2
  • 2 mana: 4–6
  • 3 mana: 3–5
  • 4 mana: 2–4
  • 5 mana: 1–3
  • 6+ mana: 0–2

Now, one thing to keep in mind in Murders at Karlov Manor is the disguise mechanic. This lets you play creatures face down as three-mana 2/2s. That means you can fudge your curve a little bit: you'll have some more three-drops than normal, naturally, because of this mechanic. I would generally put any creature that you're usually going to want to disguise first in the three-drop slot on your curve—for example, you'll usually want to play Coveted Falcon face down first. Just keep this in mind as you're building your curve.

Once you have those figured out, add in your noncreature spells. You will probably want to play all your removal spells to deal with your opponents' creatures. Beyond that, it's nice to have ways to pump your creatures at instant speed and ways to draw cards. But you can season to taste depending on what you think might work well in your deck.

And there you have it! When you're finished, you should have a 40-card deck. You can play more than 40 cards, but I would strongly advise against it: every card you play beyond 40 just worsens the odds of drawing your best cards.

So, that's how you build a sealed deck. But what are the mechanics you can expect? Let me run you through them.

Mechanics of Murders at Karlov Manor

Defenestrated Phantasm
Agrus Kos, Spirit of Justice
Axebane Ferox

Murders at Karlov Manor has some new mechanics, like disguise and collect evidence, Cases as a new enchantment subtype, and more! To learn more about all the mechanics and details on how they work, check out the Murders at Karlov Manor mechanics article.

Go Solve That Mystery!

Murders at Karlov Manor Prerelease events are just around the corner, February 2–8. Check in with your local game store, look over the card image gallery, and get ready to solve the mystery.

Oh, and one more thing—you can preorder booster displays for pickup at the Prerelease as well. So, if you want to solve this case at home, you can get some Murders at Karlov Manor for yourself—just be sure to talk with your local store about grabbing one.

I hope this helped you on your Prerelease journey. And, as always, if you have any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube—I always appreciate hearing what people have to say.

Enjoy the set and have fun!

Instagram: GavinVerhey
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Twitter: @GavinVerhey
YouTube: Good Morning Magic

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