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The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Prerelease Primer

November 06, 2023
Gavin Verhey

It's time for a journey to the center of Ixalan!

The Lost Caverns of Ixalan sends us on a journey deep within the plane, encountering all kinds of treasures, exciting creatures, and maybe even new friends along the way.

Treasures? Exciting creatures? New Friends? Well, they're not just for Ixalan—you can find some of those at a local Prerelease as well!

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 The Lost Caverns of Ixalan has its Prerelease starting November 10!

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 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:

But what makes a Prerelease so awesome? And what can you expect out of one? Let's look!

Begin your Expedition

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 explore 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. Everyone comes together for the Prerelease, from those who have been playing for ages to brand-new players! The set is new, people are chatting about the flavor and story (which, if you haven't been reading, you can find 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 Draft 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 want to, you can look over everything in advance, from the commons to the rares, to build the best deck you can. (You can check out all the cards beforehand in our Card Image Gallery.)

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

Incredible Treasures

When you sit down on Prerelease day, you're going to get handed a Prerelease Pack for The Lost Caverns of Ixalan.

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 Draft Boosters:

Open them all and check out your new stack of cards. There will also be a foil-stamped rare or mythic rare card inside that you can play—make sure to pull that one out.

Okay, boosters open? Well, 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 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 which destroy or otherwise deal with your opponent's creatures.)
  • Evasion (A lot of Sealed Deck games are won with flying creatures or hard-to-block cards.)

Additionally, another huge element to look out for are good synergies and multicolor cards. Every two-color pairing in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan 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 Draft Booster display box, but here it is for easy reference as well:

  • Oltec Ingenuity (Artifact Control): Buy time with blockers, removal, and life gain while you assemble an array of amazing artifacts to dominate the late game.
  • Echoes of the Dead (Descend Control): Build up your blockers while you fill your graveyard, then drag your opponent into the deep end with high-cost creatures, card draw, and recursive threats.
  • Going Down! (Descending Beatdown): Continually grow your creatures by filling your graveyard. Attack viciously, force blocks, or even throw permanents into the graveyard yourself, while keeping foes down with creature removal.
  • Dinosaurs of the Sun Empire (Dinosaur Stompy): Summon gigantic Dinosaurs to crush the opposition, using methods of mana generation to bring them into play and then breaking through blockers.
  • Malamet Tactics (Buffs Aggro): Keep the pressure on with lots of low-cost creatures. When your opponent tries to set up a defense, it's time to pounce by powering up your own forces in response.
  • Dusk Legion Pilgrimage (Sacrifice): Sacrifice smaller creatures and artifacts for the glory of Aclazotz (and additional resources). Once your opponent's defense is down, seal their fate with a few larger creatures.
  • Pirates' Plunder (Artifact Aggro): Set sail with a rowdy crew and their haul of Equipment and Treasures. When pesky landlubbers try to stop you, fly over them or throw your opponent's blockers overboard.
  • Fungal Festering (Descend Grindy): Muck up the battlefield with resilient creatures while you fill your graveyard. Once you've descended enough to power your side up, grind your way through the opposing blockers.
  • Thousand-Moon Legion (Tapping Midrange): Launch your military campaign with lots of small creatures and artifacts, then tactically tap those resources to activate your forces and rout the invaders.
  • River Herald Expedition (Explore Midrange): Go exploring to stock your side with lands and powerful creatures, then sink your extra mana into activated abilities and card draw to drown the opposition in value.

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

Once you have those figured out, go ahead and 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 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. 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.

The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Mechanics

The Lost Caverns of Ixalan has some new mechanics, like craft, descended, and Map tokens, as well as the return of explore! To learn more about all the mechanics and details on how they work, check out our article The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Mechanics.

The Journey Begins!

The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Prerelease is just around the corner, from November 10–16. Check in with your local game store, look over the Card Image Gallery, and get ready for your own adventure.

If you're an ardent explorer and participate in two (or more) The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Prerelease events, you can uncover a commemorative pin just for playing! (While supplies last, and only at participating WPN stores.)

Oh, and one more thing—you can preorder booster displays for pickup at the Prerelease as well. So, if you want to have everything you're going to need for your trip below Ixalan, you can bring The Lost Caverns of Ixalan home—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!

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