Welcome to the Dominaria United Prerelease Primer!
Prereleases are some of the best Magic events, whether you're brand new to the game or a seasoned veteran. They're the celebration of a new set, and the perfect way to play in your first-ever Magic event. With Dominaria United having its Prerelease on the weekend of September 2–8, it's a great time to come and check it out!
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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 prefer to hear about some of this in a video, I have a companion video to this article you can check out over on Good Morning Magic.
What makes a Prerelease so awesome? Why should you trek out to one? Let's dig in a bit!
Preparing for the Prerelease
There's nothing like handling fresh cards from a new set, and that's exactly what you get to do at a Prerelease. Whether these will be your first cards, or you're Post Malone and have 'em all, you're all on equal footing: nobody has these cards before the Prerelease, and it's the first chance to explore how they 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 get to discover cool combinations for the very first time.
One of the really great things about the Prerelease is that it's an environment great 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.
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: you're going to open six packs of Dominaria United, and then build a deck right there with the contents. It really is all about the new set and what's inside. You'll want to look over everything, from the commons to the rares, to find the best deck to build.
How exactly does this work? Let me walk you through it!
The Sealed Deal
When you sit down on Prerelease day, you're going to get handed one of these Prerelease Packs:
There are several things in here: a spindown d20 for tracking your life, a fun little insert with some information and tips, but the most important things are these six booster packs:
You're going to open them all to end up with a stack of cards! There will also be a stamped Prerelease card inside you can play with, too—make sure to pull that one out. Then you're going to build a deck.
How do you even start?
Well, first thing's first, you should know what you're trying to do! In Sealed Deck, you're building a 40-card deck, not 60 or 100. And 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 that?
The first thing I'd do is sort your cards by color. Make eight piles: one for each color, one for any multicolor cards, one for your artifacts, and one for your lands. As you're going through, you'll have a chance to read through the cards and see what might interest you!
Normally, you want to whittle it down to two colors. In Dominaria United, you may sometimes want to "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 in on the two colors you want here. You can select them in any way you want—maybe you just like those colors!—but three things to keep an eye out for are:
- 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—a lot of games of Sealed Deck are won with flying creatures, or otherwise hard-to-block cards
One other huge element to look out for is good synergy and multicolor cards. Every two-color pairing in Dominaria United has a theme, and knowing what those are might clue you into which colors to play! Here's the insert you'll find on the top of every Draft booster box explaining the color combinations:
Once you've chosen your colors, one thing that is really important is what is called a mana curve. This helps to ensure 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 out your mana curve! First, lay your creatures out in mana-value order, from left to right. So, all creatures that cost one, 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 it counts as a two-drop, but you're probably not playing a removal spell on turn two.
As a rule for Limited—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
Once you have those figured out, go ahead and add in your noncreature spells. You will probably want to play all your removal spells that deal with their creatures. Beyond that, some common classes of cards that are nice to have are ways to pump up 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. I'll note that you can play more than 40 cards, but I would strongly advise you not to: every card you play beyond 40 just makes the odds of you drawing your best cards lower.
So that's how you build a deck . . . But what are the mechanics you can expect? Let me run you through them!
Mechanics of Dominaria United
In Dominaria United, there are many mechanics, but there are three new and two returning mechanics I'd like to focus on in particular.
First up is kicker. The way this returning mechanic works is straightforward: you may pay an additional cost as you play the spell. If you do, you get a bonus or upgraded effect! Here's an example of a kicker card:
Kicker is going to be at its strongest late in the game, or when you have a ton of mana. So, if you think you're going to be playing long matches, pay extra attention to kicker cards. Additionally, keep in mind those off-color kicker costs. That could be a reason to splash a third color!
Another returning mechanic is domain. This mechanic counts the number of basic land types among your lands and provides an effect for it. Here's an example:
The more colors, the more powerful—another reason to play a third color! And keep in mind that the common dual lands you've opened have land types and count toward these.
Next up is a new mechanic: enlist! This lets your nonattacking creatures team up to pump your attacking creatures. Check it out:
This is a really great way to help your creatures stay big, even as the game goes long.
Next up is a twist on a returning card type, Sagas. Let's look at read ahead:
The way Sagas work is that you start on the first chapter and do its ability and then advance to the next stage every turn. But a Saga with read ahead lets you choose where to start! Some cards will care about Sagas, so keep an eye out for how those interact with read ahead.
And finally, Dominaria United debuts a new evergreen mechanic: stun counters! This replaces classic "tap and freeze" style effects. Here's what one looks like:
Anytime a creature with a stun counter on it would untap, you remove a counter instead. So, you'll want to give these to your opponent's creatures to slow them down!
The Prerelease is just around the corner, from Septmeber 2–8. Check in with your local game store, take a look at the set over in the Dominaria United Card Image Gallery and prepare yourself for a good time!
Oh, and one more thing: you can also preorder displays of boosters to pick up at Prereleases as well! So, if you want to take some Dominaria United home with you, be sure to talk with your local store about grabbing one of those.
I hope this helped you on your Prerelease journey! And as always, if you have any questions at all, feel free to hit me up on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube—I always appreciate hearing what people have to say and will answer your questions if I can.
Have a blast with Dominaria United, and we'll play together soon!