The very first time there is a fumbling. Fingers which are unused to tearing the foil wrapping from cards try their best to navigate the shiny waters. Eventually, they make some headway, tugging and pulling in the right places until there’s some separation and the tiniest corner of a card pokes its way through. Fifteen cards, for the New Player enjoys even the most basic of land, are then poured over with a sense of excitement; some of the pieces make sense, others are complicated and still more are misunderstood but all of them are special. The first booster.
We were all New Players. Even those of us who have been playing Magic from when the cards were made of etched stone were once nervous and shaky of hand (disclaimer: the bit about cards being made from stone is not actually true, don’t waste your time trying to acquire early Black Lotuses from Granite Edition).
Being a New Player is a wonderful time, because the innocence is soon gone, replaced with some measure of deck construction skill. It’s like childhood; filled with exciting opportunities and true moments of standout awe before life becomes just bills and nine-to-fives. You don’t realise how good it is until it’s gone, and then you look back at it fondly, wishing you’d spent more time enjoying vanilla 3/3s for four.
New Players come in all shapes and sizes, just like children (I’ll drop this metaphor at some point in the article, I promise, but for now you are going to have to go with it). A New Player may have found an early love for white and green cards, where another might not care about colour at all, just as long as the pictures speak to them. A third will enjoy the flavour text, while a fourth may like Dragons – remember him? For a new player to remain with the game, however, he is going to need to keep enjoying and keep growing. Those first few baby steps are very formative.
Like a toddler (yes, I regressed the New Player a little bit; metaphors are funny like that, you can kind of mess with them all over), the New Player has to take those first baby steps into the world of organised Magic play if he is going to grow. There’s nothing wrong with staying at home, but outside is so much more enticing. Beyond the front door, there’s a lot of Magic play and though it can be frightening, it is also exhilarating. If you like, you can bring your Mum to make you feel better too.
What am I talking about? I should probably start properly beating the bush (you know, rather than beating around it) and get to the point. This coming weekend brings with it the pre-release for Khans of Tarkir. A new Magic set, and more, a new Magic block. With it we get another Magic storyline and one more plane to explore. It’s revitalising for those of us who are in our Magic adolescence or beyond, but for the New Player, it’s going to be their first real experience of the outside world.
Let me talk for a few paragraphs about the pre-release.
Everyone remembers their first pre-release (except for people who have never been to one and those with subsequent head injuries). It was, in almost every case, an exciting time in their Magic career. Those first steps into a strange, yet comforting world. You enter a room of chaos and noise – a place undoubtedly suffering from poor lighting, wonky furniture and doubtless an off-putting smell. It is to become a fond memory, so these things will take the back stage and allow the more pleasant memories to come forward. There are players leant over tables with open folders, trading cards and discussing values which seem frankly ridiculous to the initiate; there are little multiplayer games of Commander taking place in shadowy corners; there are judges and scorekeepers and tournament organisers; posters on the wall. On entering, you look around and join the queue to register, a few tenners held tightly in an increasingly sweaty palm until you get to the front and are asked a question to which you have no answer: “What’s your DCI number?”
Oh, New Player, you have so much to learn, but do not worry, for all around you people will hold your hand (you can tell Mum she can go off to get coffee and maybe go shopping for four hours or so…). Magic players are generally friendly (generally), and before too long, the New Player finds himself sat next to someone who is willing to wax arrogant about his Modern deck; the words make little sense, but the constant chatter is comforting and there’s little chance that there’ll be a test at the end. Would you like to see his foil Lorwyn Thoughtseize? Why not. It can’t hurt. Nod a few times, make appropriate noises. It’s easy to fit in here. Where did Mum go again?
Any new experience can be somewhat overwhelming (are experiences ever simply ‘whelming’?) but a pre-release shouldn’t be too bad. It’s the Magic tournament equivalent of a trip to the playground. A few goes on the swing, a spin on the roundabout and, if it’s a decent enough playground, half an hour in the sandpit. There’s no dress code, no worry of rejection, and with most pre-releases being held in a single room, little chance of getting lost. The natives, as they say, are friendly.
By the end of the day, the New Player is convinced he is no longer worthy of the title. He has played, battled, duelled and won (well, maybe). There are the prizes, the pre-release card, the nice little cardboard box it all came wrapped in, and so many new cards. He has had a nice day and as Mum comes back from her shopping trip, it starts to become a favoured memory. Just like it has for the rest of us.
Ah yes, the rest of us. It’s important for us all to remember that we too, were once the New Player. Perhaps we even really did bring our Mums (no shame in that). Now we are tournament veterans, regulars on the PTQ circuit, known names and faces across the country. There’s that part of this article series where I give you hints and tips on how to face across the perspective of the day. Let’s take a look.
6 Simple Tips To Help You Enjoy Your First Pre-Release More
- Say “Hello”. Nothing is more intimidating than an opponent who looks across the table at you with his stoney face and “you have no chance” attitude. This isn’t the top eight of a WMCQ, this is a pre-release. Drop the attitude, soften the glare and say “Hi”. Reach out and introduce yourself and make the person who might well be a New Player feel that little bit more comfortable.
- Slow down. Yes, the round is timed, but it’s not going to kill you to take your time during the game. Give your opponent time to read the cards (yours and his), and assimilate what is actually happening on the battlefield. Sure, it’s a tournament, but win legitimately, not because you rush him or hide information.
- Allow takebacks. “What!?” you say. Am I mad? No, I’m not mad. If the person sitting opposite you is a New Player, then let them learn and enjoy the day and part of that is by letting them undo the odd mistake, especially if it is obvious. If they are tapped out and attack with their 2/2 into a wall of 4/4s then calmly explain that they are just going to lose their creature and maybe holding it back for defence is a better idea.
- Help them. If they can win on board and they can’t see it, why not hint to it? Sure, you lose a game, but you gain some karma (good vs. Swamps). If there’s a better recipient for their aura, or a double-block they missed, why not just say so?
- Remember it’s just a game. Some people have a hard time with this. Repeat it to yourself now – “it’s just a game. It’s just a game. It’s just a game.” Got it? Games are for fun. F. U. N. You don’t have to win. Really, what do they teach you people these days?!
- When you win (and you often will), win cleanly and pleasantly. Don’t gloat. Don’t be condescending. Don’t make them feel small. You know all this anyway.
And you, Mr. New Player, do come. Take a look at your calendar for this coming weekend and rub out whatever you had on Saturday; after all, who really needs to go to a second cousin’s wedding? Replace it with the following: “Khans of Tarkir pre-release”. Find a venue near you, pre-register (these things do fill up fast) and have a really good time opening up shiny boosters and discovering what goes on outside. You won’t regret it.
You can leave Mum at home though, seriously.
You can find listings of all the upcoming Magic: The Gathering events including the Khans of Tarkir pre-releases using the UK Magic Calendar.