Last week I headed to Los Angeles for work, in order to write a story about a moderation-management rehab in Beverly Hills. (Stay tuned for that story on I thought I might have a little free time on Friday afternoon, before hooking up with some friends who moved out west a year and a half ago, so I asked my Magic Google Group if anybody knew a good place to play in LA. Sure enough, former Brooklynite Zed directed me to a shop in Burbank called Emerald Knights, which had a Friday-afternoon draft. Sorted!

So on Friday, after getting done with my work, I got in my rental car and headed out to Burbank. Glorious Burbank! I ate lunch at a Fatburger on the corner, where I enjoyed this lovely view, which a friend of mine termed “an urban hellscape.” I dunno, it’s got some unique American charm to it.


Why you’d want to buy liquor from a clown, I dunno.

I got to Emerald Knights, a combo comic-and-card store on a sleepy strip in Burbank, across the street from a sports bar called Champs, a little after 2pm. First thing I heard when I got into the shop was a relatively heated discussion RE: the problems with Iron Man 3. Shortly thereafter, I heard the main guy say, “The biggest thing I worry about Avengers 2 is that Thanos is going to have the Infinity Gauntlet.” I knew I was in the right place.

I sign up for the draft and chill for an hour, bird-dogging a four-man commander match and checking out the comics. I’m not much of a comics guy, but I believe there are two kinds of people in the world: those who occasionally wonder what Superman’s up to, and those who don’t—and you can’t trust the latter.


The inside of Emerald Knights, with a bit of the commander game on the right.

By the time 3pm rolls around, we’ve got 17 people signed up, so we get split into two pods, one eight-person and one nine-. I was in the nine-person pod, which was kind of a bummer because I really didn’t want to get the bye, but hey—a shop’s gotta make money, and turning away people who want to draft isn’t good business.

We get seated and crack our first pack—Dragon’s Maze—and I’m looking at a Savageborn Hydra, which I’ve never played with, and a Far // Away, which I have. I hemmed and hawed for a bit over the choice, as I do love trying out cards—but I really wanted to win the draft, and Far // Away is just gross, so I shipped the Hydra. I was promptly rewarded with a second-pick Far // Away, and slammed it. Pack one went well, and I got a couple of Ubal Sar Gatekeepers, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to pick up any guildgates. Other notable pack-one picks included a Fatal Fumes and a late Warped Physique.


Pack two, Gatecrash, went even better. I got an approximately billionth-pick Dinrova Horror, along with a Soul Ransom, a late Dimir Charm, and a Call of the Nightwing on the wheel (I’d chosen Balustrade Spy over it). Pack three was a bit sketchier, as I was firmly in Dimir, but I grabbed a Vassal Soul, a Gutter Skulk, and some other roleplayers. Here’s the final list:

Death’s Approach

Murmuring Phantasm
Gutter Skulk
Basilica Screecher
Warped Physique
Dimir Charm

Wind Drake
Vassal Soul
Dead Reveler
Pilfered Plans
Gift of Orzhova

Ogre Jailbreaker
Balustrade Spy
Fatal Fumes
Call of the Nightwing
Soul Ransom

2X Far // Away (this card is straight-up amazing)

Isperia’s Skywatch
Dinrova Horror

Rogue’s Passage
8X Islands
8X Swamps

Notable/on-color sideboard cards
Mortus Strider
2X Ubul Sar Gatekeepers
Inaction Injunction
Incursion Specialist
Isperia’s Skywatch
Hands of Binding
Assassin’s Strike (I originally had this in there instead of Agoraphobia, but I think that was the wrong call)

Sick deck, right? And nothing’s more fun than playing a very strong Dimir list.

Round 1—Kevin Barber


I was paired up against a nice guy on UWR, who nonetheless had a few suspect cards in his deck, including 2X Uncovered Clues. (Awesome joke RE: U.C.’s rules text by my Magic buddy Dave: “Look at the bottom four cards of your library. You may put them back in any order.”) In both games I basically just controlled the board with removal and ground him down in the air. 1-0

Later in the round, a match next to me went to turns, and somebody down on the lower level called up, “You guys playing Eggs up there?” “No,” answered another guy, “it’s Terry.” (Evidently Terry, who was friendly with everybody, is the shop’s resident slow-player.) Towards the end of Terry and his opponent’s match, there was a really complicated board state wherein Terry had 2X Syndic of Tithes, a few other creatures including a Rakdos Guildmage, and a Maw of the Obzedat, to whom you can sac dudes to give your other creatures +1/+1.

Terry’s opponent had Azorius Charm in hand on (Terry’s) turn five, which obviously mucks up the whole game—and the match ended in a draw. But me and another guy kind of figured out how Terry could have taken the game regardless of the Charm, which I think could have worked (the opponent was at 11 life, or thereabouts). Lesson: Maw of the Obzedat is a great game-ender.

Round 2—Marlon Torres


My opponent had a strong start in G1, wherein I snap-Dimir Charmed his T2 Goblin Electromancer, and then he followed up with Wojek Halberdiers, which he promptly slapped a Madcap Skills on. Oof. I took six from the Halberdiers before casting Away, forcing him to sac it. Then Marlon got out Nivix Cyclops and put Pursuit of Flight on it. He cast some instant in order to allow it to attack and then gave it double strike with Boros Charm, doing 12 to me and dropping me to two life.

Of course I just now realized that by casting the Boros Charm, Cyclops should have gotten another +3/+0, putting it up to a 9/6 and doing 18 to me, not 12—but, well, Marlon didn’t realize and neither did I. Oh well.

Nevertheless, the game kept going, with me at a precarious two life. I soon stole Cyclops with Soul Ransom, and he pitched Mizzium Skin and Massive Raid to get it back. Meanwhile, I found my second Far // Away to get rid of the Cyclops and bounce his Crosstown Courier, after which I won with my fliers.

I was rocking it no-sleeves with a hotel keycard for a token—or, henceforth, "Burbank style."

I was rocking it no-sleeves with a hotel keycard for a token—or, henceforth, “Burbank style.”

In G2 Marlon played nothing but Mountains and was promptly discarding into oblivion (sorry, dude), as I curved out with my fliers: Vassal Soul, Balustrade Spy, and Call of the Nightwing, with Isperia’s Skywatch in hand—and that was GGs. 2-0

In between rounds two and three, I bummed around downstairs and got to talking with one of the owners, Julian “J.” Rodriguez, about his spacious and welcoming shop. J. told me they had more than 300 players over the Dragon’s Maze pre-release weekend, and that Wil Wheaton has even stopped by on occasion. He said sometimes the shop rents out a local movie theater and everybody gets tickets and sees comic-book and superhero movies together. They’re going to do it later this summer for the new Star Trek, Pacific Rim, Man of Steel, and maybe the new Thor movie in December.


Julian “J.” Rodriguez (left) and Martin, “the Magic guy” (right).

J. told me that the last great comics shop in the area was called the Last Grenadier, which was open for 30 years before closing last month. The owner had lost his passion for the shop, unfortunately. But J. and co-owner Jason Weymouth (wearing a Firestorm shirt, and the expounder on Iron Man 3 and Avengers 2 I’d heard earlier) were there to step into the gap, having been open now for four years. “There are gamers all over the place, and they need a place to hang out,” J. told me. He said they’d even had a couple of gamers meet at the shop, start dating, and eventually get married. That’s awesome!

They had a cool system wherein you folded up your match slip and dropped it in this tube to report.

They had a cool system wherein you folded up your match slip and dropped it in this tube to report.

Round 3—Jude Niles


Jude was a cool dude who was on Bant but mostly Simic, with Call of the Conclave, Pit Fight, Battering Krasis, and Seller of Songbirds. He got off to a fast start against me in G1, with T1 Wasteland Viper into Spire Tracer into Battering Krasis, when my first play was Call of the Nightwing ciphered onto itself—but eventually I stabilized with a fused Far // Away (so sick) and put Gift of Orzhova on Dinrova Horror, putting myself back up to a comfortable life total—and eventually winning.

In G2 Jude kind of flooded out while I Agoraphobia’d his Stonefare Croc and won in the air with my rapidly multiplying fliers, thanks to Call of the Nightwing. On one key turn I milled my opponent for two with Doorkeeper, flipping a creature and a land, and then—having seen this mill—swung in with Vassal Soul into his Concordia Pegasus. “Aw, man, what have you got?” Jude said. But he blocked with Pegasus anyway, which I killed afterward with Death’s Approach, thus ending his air defense.

After the match I saw that Jude had both Mystic Genesis AND Plasm Capture in his deck, along with Beck // Call—that’s a sick series of potential plays, Plasm into a fused Beck // Call. Fortunately I didn’t see them, and I didn’t drop a game all day! 3-0

Good times! And for my troubles I snagged $25 in credit (which, plus a dollar, I turned into six DGM packs) and a foil FNM Judge’s Familiar, which looks really cool.


I can highly recommend Emerald Knights and its cool customers. Thanks to J., Martin, and Jason for the hospitality. My last shot before I took off to Boyle Heights to meet up with my ex-Brooklynite friends was of this shop regular named Josh, who I think should be named an honorary Hipster of the Coast.


Last but not least, I got my winnings from GP Pittsburgh the other day. Best $200 I ever made.


23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands.

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