I’ve been watching the Rivals of Ixalan Pre-Pre-Release replay first on Twitch and later on YouTube over and over and I think that this is the best kind of marketing event for Magic: the Gathering that Wizards of the Coast ever fell backwards into. Why?
1. The people at Loading Ready Run who are hosting and producing these events have at least a decade of experience in being funny and entertaining while being professional. (Special kudos to James Turner, whose idea this all was, I think.)
2. Their online chat mods do not tolerate trolls. At all.
3. Their online chat community also does not tolerate trolls. At all.
4. The focus on the event is having fun and learning what the cards do, as all non-moneyed competitive events should do. (Note: Winning packs as prizes doesn’t count as money. No matter how much you try, you cannot buy groceries with packs of Magic cards.)
5. The guests they invite can be a diverse bunch of folks who are also entertaining, engaging, and friendly. Two of my favorites have been former Magic pro and current Wizards employee Melissa DeTora and Jimmy Wong from the Command Zone podcast. (Special hat-tip to Reuben Bresler of the Magic Mics podcast, whose Facebook post recap inspired this post.)
It’s these last two parts that are perhaps the most important key to drawing new players into the game or convincing lapsed players that they should head back into their Local Gaming Store to attend the set’s actual pre-release and perhaps start playing Magic again. I know that’s how I felt back when LRR debuted this show starting with the Shadows of Innistrad Pre-Pre-Release. I went to my LGS the following Saturday and went 0-4 in back-to-back events. By watching the show, I could not only see some of the cards that were released in the visual spoiler, but I could get a sense of how to actually play with them in a live situation.
Perhaps the biggest barrier for someone who’s on the fence on whether or not they’ll want to spend their money on a new game they haven’t seen is wanting to actually see what it’s like; the PPRs are perfect for that kind of demonstration, more so than Wizards‘ own Magic tournament streams. Because it’s partially produced by the company, there’s some sort of quality control. However, because LRR was first and foremost a sketch comedy troupe, it’s going to be entertaining. Best of all, because they actually play the game themselves, the way they speak and interact with the game is completely natural and not something that you’d get from any mainstream video content producer or marketing company.
It’s a bit too late for me now to attend the Rivals prerelease because it’s happening this weekend. However, with the return to the game’s initial starting plane Dominaria this April, I may decide to dust off my card sleeves and see if I can actually win a round this time.
After all, practice does make perfect.