This two week period is something I’ve not known since I was in college: finals hell. I’m a nonexistent graduate student who’ll emerge from his hidey-hole to hopefully see his shadow two weeks from today. I’m coding, in design meetings, and conducting research every day. Except, that is, for this past Saturday.

I stopped everything to spend the day drafting and hanging out with friends. We gathered to celebrate the two year aniversary of Team Draft League and the hard work of its founders and stewards: Hugh, Matt, and Dave. For my part, I contributed my last draft set of the original Ravnica block. It remains one of the greatest Limited formats of all time and was an absolute treat to draft (perhaps for the last time ever).

As is usual for RGD, I defaulted to my favorite strategy (draft all the bouncelands) and ended in my favorite deck (five color good stuff). I tried to start in Boros (really, I did), but there weren’t enough cheap creatures to make a deck of it. Izzet and Orzhov were relatively open early in pack two, but only in packs with fixing (which I took over the aforementioned Izzet and Orzhov cards). By the third pack, I planned on ending in RUGw, but black seemed most open in Dissension and suddenly I was fully five colors. My mana was neither spectacular nor atrocious and I ended up in this eighteen land, two signet deck:

RGD Draft Deck 12-08-2015

Normally when one gives a draft or tournament report, they  detail all their matches. I won’t. The best part of the day wasn’t the Magic; it was the Magic with friends. For months now, I’ve focused all my attention on staying in shape at Magic (given grad school and the loss of my LGS, I play a lot less) and almost none of my attention on enjoying it.

Saturday was different. Sure, there were plenty of non-games, due primarily to my or my opponents’ mana problems (a common occurrence in RGD), but they didn’t matter as much; nothing was on the line, it’s not important which of us does best at a ten year old format, and there were no teams (all of my in-person drafts these days are winner-take-all team drafts). I had an excellent game two against Gabe (which I lost, due to some stellar play on his part, his pair of Nettling Curses and my inability to find removal or creatures). It was great fun, regardless of my loss. It reminded my why I got into Magic in the first place. It reminded me why I kept getting back into it every time I left.

As day gave way to night, we retreated east, to Kadar’s studio, where we drafted Derek’s powerful, but not powered cube. After a P1P1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor and a P1P2 Griselbrand, I quickly settled on Reanimator, one of my least favorite archetypes (mostly due to how insanely powerful it is and how uninteractive it can be). It’s also one of my favorite archetypes, because everything you do is insane!

Gallen Cube Draft 12-06-2015

I was probably one reanimation target and one Entomb away from having a truly bonkers deck. As it was, I had to settle for blowing up all of my opponent’s lands, attacking for 11 points of lifelink a turn, and having a turn two Frost Titan. Sometimes, life is hard.

After drafting, I joined the lady and our board game friends for some late night karaoke. We arrived home after three in the morning. It was perhaps the most productive day I’ve had since grad school started in September, and I did no homework at all. It was glorious and it was necessary. Most importantly, it was fun, and it’s easy to forget that that’s why we play games.

I encourage you all to remind yourself that as much as possible.

And, as always, thanks for reading.

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner, improviser, and game designer (currently going for an MFA in Game Design at NYU). He has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.