Prereleases will be undergoing major changes starting with Fates Collide this April. This will be the most radical change to prereleases ever.
But first, a history lesson since I’m nostalgic tonight! (Oh my god I’m never going to finish my thesis script – stupid Pokemon! :p)
Back in August 2003, “Pokemon USA” held its first “Ruby & Sapphire Challenge Tournaments.” They were the company’s first attempt at tournaments, but weren’t exactly prereleases since the set had already been released the month before. The tournaments had a naivety to them since Pokemon had just taken over the card game from Wizards of the Coast and didn’t have much experience holding tournaments. As 14-year old me posted here on August 10th, 2003:
For the first round, we were given six EX Ruby and Sapphire packs and had to create a 40-card deck out of them. I managed to make a Treeko / Kirlia deck and for my first battle, I battled a fire deck and won! Then, we had two rounds of Gameboy battling and I won those as well. Unfortunately after my dad and I came back from McDonald’s for our 30-minute lunch break, we had another round of the TCG and I was facing an electric deck and lost. I couldn’t do anything because I had not shuffled my deck well and for the whole time I literally only got grass energies except the one Koffing I had out. Later, we had two more rounds of Gameboy battling and I won those. But, for the final round, I got to battle on the TV using a Gameboy player for Gamecube. So, in total, I only had one loss. Then at the end of the tournament, there was a drawing for a Gameboy Advance SP and I won it! If you thought that that was lucky, I won first place for the age group 11-14 and won a medal, a booster box of R/S, and a $200 gift certificate for PokemonCenter.com.
So the first “prereleases” were a hybrid of video game and TCG battles, and the prizes were much, much greater. Second place received 18 packs, third and fourth place received nine packs, and fifth through eighth place received four booster packs. Everyone also received holo Kyogre ex and Groudon ex promos as well as an Eon Ticket. This would be the first and only “prerelease” to involve the video games.
Starting with the following set, EX Sandstorm, prerelease tournaments were only for the TCG – you received six packs and built a 40 card deck for $15. Players were still given the large booster pack prizes, but Pokemon axed the medal and gift certificate (to be honest, they were probably overkill anyway). From this point on, each prerelease tournament would give out a stamped card from the set as a prerelease promo. For EX Sandstorm, it was a holo Armaldo. It would be the only prerelease promo during this era that would be holo. The rest would be non-holo cards from the set, like Gyarados for EX Dragon with a prerelease stamp.
Starting with EX Deoxys prereleases in January 2005, prizes were drastically cut. Players would no longer receive a booster box if they won the tournaments, nor would top finishers receive a bunch of booster packs. Instead, everyone would get four booster packs at the end of the tournament, two Pokemon Organized Play (POP) promo booster packs, and a pin with the set’s logo (the winner of each age division would get a special pin with “winner” on it). The reason for the cut in prize support was to make prereleases more “friendly,” especially for new players. The idea was that the prerelease events shouldn’t be treated as competitive tournaments with competitive prizes, especially since they’re based on the luck of the draw.
For the next set, EX Emerald, the entry fee went up to $20.
Starting with EX Legend Maker in January 2006, players would get a deck box in addition to a set pin. But due to a shipment delay in October 2006, the deck boxes did not arrive in time for EX Dragon Frontiers prereleases, so Pokemon cancelled their contract with the manufacturer after less than a year. Deck boxes stopped being given out at prereleases as a result.
For the following set, EX Power Keepers, Pokemon stopped making the pins as well. Participants instead received a notebook, though it would only be for this prerelease.
For the next set in May 2007, Diamond & Pearl, the cost of prereleases went up to $25. You would no longer get four booster packs at the end of the tournaments – now it was only two. There were no longer any deck boxes or pins, but Pokemon instead gave players a pack of card sleeves. The card sleeves would continue until HS – Triumphant‘s prereleases in October 2010.
Starting with Call of Legends prereleases in January 2011, deck boxes returned, replacing the card sleeves that had been given out from 2007 to 2010. Deck boxes continued all the way up through Legendary Treasures prereleases in October 2013.
In the middle of the “deck box” era in April 2012, Dark Explorers prereleases began giving out actual promo cards. Each were a reprint of an existing card in the set, but with new artwork, promo numbering, and a set stamp, making this the first time the promos weren’t just reprints from the set with a stamp slapped on. The only exception was XY‘s Aegislash, which was a reprint with a stamp like prereleases before Dark Explorers.
Starting with XY in January 2014, the prereleases stopped giving out any special products and the price went up to $30. This meant you were only getting six packs, a promo card, and two more packs at the end of the tournament. This was arguably the worst era in prerelease history – the tournaments cost more than ever, but gave out the least amount of product relative to previous prereleases.
OH MY GAWD THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO TAKE 30 MINUTES TO WRITE – WHY DID I SPEND THREE HOURS WORKING ON THIS STORY? DAMN YOU NOSTALGIA! Eh hem. So now.
From now on, prereleases will give out “Prerelease Decks.” Inside each package, you’ll find four booster packs of the set and one “Evolution Pack.” Inside this “Evolution Pack” is 22 key cards from current and previous sets, plus one of four alternate art prerelease promo cards. Like prereleases of the past and present, you will build a 40 card deck out of these cards.
At the end of the tournament, each player will also get three additional booster packs from the current set.
In total, this means you’ll get seven booster packs (one less than the previous era), one promo card (like the previous era, though now you have to collect four of them), and 22 “key cards” from previous and current sets.
In terms of value, will the 22 “key cards” in these “Evolution Packs” make up for the loss of a booster pack? Will “Evolution Packs” give players easier access to staple cards? Will they make your prerelease decks more stable? I guess we’ll find out soon. Stay tuned!