For the longest time, format legality in Magic: the Gathering has been tied to global release dates for upcoming set releases. Prereleases have traditionally been an opportunity for players to take the new set for a test run before constructed formats begin to be affected by the new cards. As such, prereleases generally take place a week before the global release of a set. While prereleases themselves will stay much the same, set legality will see a massive change with Wizards of the Coast’s latest update.
MTG Prerelease Legality Redefined
Announced today in an article written by Blake Rasmussen, the upcoming Phyrexia: All Will be One prerelease coming on February 3 will handle set legality differently. Digital play, in particular, has become complicated when new cards become legal on different platforms, with MTGO, MTG Arena, and paper commonly having different legality dates. To tidy this up, as Rasmussen states, “we’re going to make things simple: once you have your cards, you can play them!”
This means that as of the Phyrexia: All Will Be One prerelease, set legality will now be tied to official prerelease dates instead of global releases:
“Officially, this means that tabletop tournament legality is tied to Prerelease and that Phyrexia: All Will Be One cards will be legal for play in all formats starting February 3.”
This suggests that digital platforms may get Phyrexia: All Will Be One card at unique dates, but the same rule will reign across platforms: if the cards are legally available, you can play them!
A Huge Win for Magic Players Everywhere
While responses vary amongst the player base, most MTG players are excited about this change. For many, there is only an upside to being able to play their cards immediately. There are, however, a lot of players confused why the term ‘Prerelease’ is still being used if everything is being released on the same date:
Honestly, besides being a nice quality-of-life change, this seems inconsequential outside of competitive play. Having a large tournament land on a prerelease weekend could be an absolute nightmare for competitive players. Not only will the new set be legal, but cards may be near-to-impossible to get. Generally, LGS can open products before they go for sale, but will LGS be allowed to sell singles before the global release date, or will those who manage to obtain these scarce cards have an unfair advantage? Hopefully, this is never a question that needs to be answered, but if it does pop up, it will likely become its own article in the future. Besides this very niche cornerstone case, I personally see nothing wrong with bumping up format legality changes.
If you want to read the official Wizards of the Coast announcement, you can do so here.