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How coronavirus will impact the launch of Magic: The Gathering’s next set of cards

Fans will be able to take Ikoria prerelease cards home

A behemoth roars, it’s antlers framing a jackal-like face. Image: Wizards of the Coast
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Magic: The Gathering is a social game, and publisher Wizards of the Coast is making accommodations for players and retailers in light of the outbreak of COVID-19. Its next set of cards, known as Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths (codename Cricket), will hold a prerelease weekend without requiring in-store events. The announcement was made on the Wizards Play Network website.

Traditionally, customers show up at their friendly local game store to buy Prerelease Packs. After that, they must stick around in the store and participate in an event. In light of the current coronavirus outbreak, governments around the United States are calling for social distancing, and that makes gathering to open Magic cards with your friends a bad idea.

So Wizards of the Coast is changing its rules. Customers will be able to buy cards during Ikoria’s pre-release period at local stores and then take them home.

Prerelease is usually held the week before the general release of each new set of Magic cards. The same is true for Ikoria. The set launches April 24, and prerelease is scheduled for April 17-19.

“We hope that with the following accommodations in place, organizers are enabled to choose what’s best for their store and their communities,” Wizards said in a news release. “We will continue to monitor the situation and take additional action where appropriate.”

Small retailers form the backbone of Wizards’ Magic card distribution network, and it is taking steps to isolate them from the impact of the coronavirus where it can. The publisher is creating a what it calls a “snapshot” of player communities at each of its affiliated stores. These snapshots will be used in the short term to allocate Promo Packs, exclusive cards, and other merchandise going forward.

For more information on how Ikoria will roll out near you, contact your local game store. And maybe pick up a few gift cards as well to use during the April during prerelease.

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