To say that I feel at home at the Twenty Sided Store is such an immense understatement. For one, the owners have created a safe, cool, drama-free place to play all types of games. Also, I work there… a lot. All the time. So why in the world did I spend my entire day off on Saturday drafting Magic only to get tossed around like a rag doll by my opponents? Why? Because it’s my home, and I want to learn to be good at this game in my home.

The day started out fine. I went to the shop early to meet up with Chase, and we both headed off to the gym. Here’s another strange way Magic and the shop has changed my life. It’s actually gotten me up off my ass and exercising. Fronted, motivated, and cheerlead-ed by Lauren, the three of us have started the “Twenty Sided Workout Club” and guess what? You’re invited! I feel healthier than I’ve felt in a long time, and I’m playing more board, roleplaying, and Magic games than I’ve ever played before. Bonkers.

Riding high from a good, short workout, I came back and signed up for the draft. I always get teased when I’m at the shop on my day off. Yes, I have a life. Yes, I have friends outside of the shop. Yes, it is a little sick to spend your day off where you work. But who cares! I want to learn this dumb card game that I hate/love.

The draft went just “okay.” My pack one had some lame, unplayable rare, so my best bet in the deck was a Stab Wound. I scooped it up and waited for more to come my way (Matt probably gobbled them all up before they got to me). Second pick my best bet was the Korozda Guildmage, who I like, even though I find his abilities a little too expensive. As the draft went on I ended up following my gut on a Golgari deck. Looking through my deck today, I must have been insane. Is it still considered a Golgari deck if only THREE cards have scavenge? Damn. Correction: I drafted a Green/Black deck.

Here’s the sad decklist:

x1 Stonefare Crocodile

x1 Korozda Guildmage

x1 Golgari Charm

x1 Golgari Longlegs

x2 Grim Roustabout

x2 Sluiceway Scorpion

x3 Rubbleback Rhino

x1 Treasure Find

x1 Stab Wound

x1 Ultimate Price

x1 Drudge Beetle

x1 Giant Growth

x1 Slime Molding

x1 Gatecreeper Vine

x1 Rakdos Shred-Freak (wtf)

x1 Assassin’s Strike

x1 Chorus of Might

x1 Centaur’s Herald

x9 Forest

x9 Swamp

Can this be real? Did I really play 18 lands? See, this is the problem with me. I don’t pay enough attention to little details. I should not have been running that many lands. I wonder how many times I got mana flooded, and how many times that could have been avoided if I would have just COUNTED my decklist. Guh, moving on.

My first matchup was against Matt. And he already wrote about it in his awesome weekend recap, but a few things stuck out to me. One, it was awesome to see Matt squirm under the power of his own counter spells. Sure, I didn’t get to play a SINGLE spell (it felt like), but I could tell it was agonizing him, and that cheered me up. Two, Matt asked me why I didn’t sleeve my cards. I responded “Well, there’s not really anything of value in this deck.” To which he responded something along the lines of, “I know, I can tell just by seeing that you haven’t sleeved your cards.” Tricky psychology! Three, playing against someone you like, with whom you have a good report, even if they’re stomping you, is one million times more enjoyable than winning against a bore/jerk/”serious Samuel.” We joked around, laughed, and played such a slow game that I bet the others at our table were getting annoyed. It was great.

I know there’s a lot of thought, heart, guts, determination, and money that goes into Magic, but I keep feeling overcome with this sense of yes-but-it’s-a-card-game. Maybe it’s because I’m new to Magic. Maybe it’s because I’ve only been playing for three months. This game hasn’t been a part of my life since I was pre-pubescent. I think that makes me feel a bit detached from the highs and lows of the game. Or, if not detached, certainly flippant about it. If I win, I win. If I lose, I lose (and I always lose).

My second matchup was with… nobody! I got a bye! Hooray! A lot of players are annoyed when they have a bye. Luis jokingly calls it a “free win.” I seriously call it a “free win” and I cherish every one I get.

My third matchup was against a player who always messes me up. The equivalent of being put “on tilt” in poker, this player shakes me up and I make horrible, embarrassing mistakes. Also John and some other players were sitting around me who I really like and respect as players. And they were watching my slow and painful collapse. My opponent the type of guy who drafts with headphones on. He’s a great player, but he plays quickly, he doesn’t announce his turns, and he expects all of his opponents to be as skilled as he is. I don’t think he’s a jerk or anything, but he always messes me up. And when I make a play, any play, he responds with “really? Blocking there?” or “really? You’re casting that?” YES, really. I just played it. Please stop asking me if I know what I’m doing… I clearly don’t. I made one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made in magic. I cast Stab Wound, and then swung in to attack. What was I thinking? And to think all my Magic friends and the people I look up to were watching. I felt actively embarrassed.

After that stunning 0-2 defeat, I felt about as down as I’ve ever felt during a draft. Jason saw I was bummed and said, “Yes but how long have you been playing Magic?” I responded, “Three months.” And, perfect as always, Jason replies, “Well there you go. For three months you’re actually not that terrible. Most of these guys here have been playing for over ten years.”

In ten years, will I have long-since quit this annoying strategy card game? Or will I say the same words of reassurance to some new guy who just got his ass kicked in a game of Magic? Hard to say, but I hope it’s the latter.

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