On our way up to Grand Prix Providence, in a torrential downpour, me and Matt Jones stopped off on a tip at Forbidden Planet in Manhattan and somehow managed to buy three boxes of Modern Masters at MSRP. After the fact (my tipper had sworn me to secrecy), when we told this to Hipsters’ resident Magic finance guy, What We Learned’s own Rich Stein, he said, “Fuck.”

Matt Jones ended up cracking not one but both of his boxes on our way up, there, and back from the GP—and nary a Lhurgoyf did he spy. Me, at my first Modern Masters draft at Twenty Sided Store, and with Matt Jones sitting right next to me, I cracked a Tarmogoyf in my very first pack. (For extra daggers, MJ did the thing where he thought about trading his packs for mine, as they were being passed out.)

I’d also listened to the Limited Resources podcast Modern Masters set review recently, wherein Marshall Sutcliffe and new co-host Brian Wong go over each color pair’s archetype. Blue-green is kind of suspend, tempo, and fatties, and Wong said this was the archetype he most wanted to draft. So after first-picking the old */1+* monster, I figured it was as good a time as any to try it.

Even late in a draft format, I find that one of the most difficult things to do is read signals that aren’t coming—meaning cards that you should be seeing to indicate your archetype or colors are open, but aren’t. Because unless X color or color pair is being cut insanely hard from the direction in which it’s being passed to you, often by more than one person, some cards of those colors—often good ones—are still going to make it through, making you think it’s open, or open-ish. And then at the end of the draft you see someone else’s deck and you’re like, “Oh, that’s where all the Splatter Thugs went.”

Last night it was like that for me and Errant Ephemeron, the 4/4 flying suspend monster from Time Spiral block. He’s a great non-rare reason to go UG suspend, and I didn’t get or even see one of him. I did, however, manage to assemble what I thought was a tight and streamlined deck, but man did it ever turn out to be a turkey. Here’s the deck:

UG Lose-More

Creatures (14)
Trygon Predator
Nantuko Shaman
Citanul Woodreaders
Giant Dustwasp
Masked Admirers
Durkwood Baloth

Spells (9)
Take Possession
Paradise Mantle
Aether Spellbomb
Search for Tomorrow
Reach of Branches
Kodama’s Reach
Erratic Mutation
Lands (17)
11 Forest

Sideboard (16)
Spell Snare
Reach Through Mists
Walker of the Grove
Traumatic Visions
Sylvan Bounty
Hana Kami
Petals of Insight
Peer Through Depths
Greater Mossdog
Nantuko Shaman
Moldervine Cloak
Echoing Courage

During the draft, green seemed to be flowing relatively well from my right in pack one. I got a late Masked Admirers, a Durkwood Baloth, and several Nantuko Shamans and Citanul Woodreaders. I also got a late Take Possession, which I figured I could ramp into with spells like Search for Tomorrow and Kodama’s Reach, which I was also seeing.

In pack two, I opened—or was passed, I forget which—a Cloudgoat Ranger, and there wasn’t much else that was that great in the pack. I probably should have snapped up ol’ Goat Shepherd here, as his power level is just off the charts and it was only pack two (and I didn’t have all that many blue cards—and, as I said but didn’t realize until after the draft was over, I didn’t see any Errant Ephemerons in pack one). But I tried to stay quote-unquote disciplined, and shipped Ranger to Jones, who promptly switched into white (I think) and was rewarded for his efforts, as a number of good white cards starting flowing through me to him. Here’s my deck:

The plan is simple: Suspend big fatties, get card advantage with creature ETB card-draw effects, ramp into more fatties, Take Possession. But it didn’t work out that way.

Part of this is simple variance, and that’s fine. In round one I faced Jason, who’d been sitting two seats to my left, and who’d knock-knocked his third pack for luck. “What’s a foil Tarmogoyf worth?” he asked the table. Unfortuantely, this evidently $500 card (crazy!) hadn’t materialized for him.



Jason was on BG skies, weirdly enough, and man his deck gave me fits. In game one, I kept a hand with two Giant Dustwasps, and suspended one on turn two and the other on turn three. I felt very smart—until, that is, both came out of exile and Jason played Maelstrom Pulse on both of them. Man, that stung. (Get it?) Meanwhile, Jason had committed the 1/2 dredge and sort-of-deathtouch flier to the field, along with two Faerie Macabre. While I ramped into nowhere and sat on a Take Possession, waiting perhaps a turn too late for a better target than a 2/2 flier, he was beating me down in the air. The turn after I did Take Possession one of his Macabres, he slapped a Moldervine Cloak on the other one and started hitting me for five. In retrospect, I definitely should have stolen the deathtoucher, given that my plan was only to trade whichever creature I stole with one of his, rather than beat down with it on my own. I think I was just trying to save damage, and thought (correctly, as it turned out) that Jason wouldn’t attack in with his 1/2 flier if I had his other 2/2. But it didn’t end up mattering.

In game two, I boarded out one Take Possession, as I just hadn’t seen any decent targets for it (nothing’s worse than paying seven to steal a 2/2 that you’re planning on chumping with), and boarded in the 2/1 flash flier for 2U, which really should have been in my deck to begin with, I think. But my deck proceeded to give me more lands than I’ve ever seen, and Jason had answers for everything. Horoki’s Whisper was massive against my Durkwood Baloths and Imperiosaur, and I just kept drawing blanks and ramping into stone nothing. Jason also had a couple of 0/5 thallid dudes on the ground, which was making any potential race I was trying to put together kind of a farce. Eventually Jason dropped Sarkhan Vol, paid for off of a Vivid land, and that was all she wrote. Lebron had been watching our match, and afterwards, when I said that I’d never drawn so many lands, Lebron said, “Yeah, but his deck was just sick.” True fact.

In round two I was paired against Josh “Fettoblaster” Fetto, who recently joined MTGO (may god have mercy on his doomed soul) and who just previously had been sitting diagonally across from me, getting beaten down by an army of goblins (I think). “My deck is really weak to 1/1s,” Josh said, “so if that’s what you’re running let’s maybe just move on to the next round.” “Oh, you don’t have anything to worry about,” says I. We joked about his deck being weak to 5/5s, 1/1s, 3/3s, and 4/4s. Bears, though, he could deal with, I said. “No, 4/4s I can handle,” Josh quipped. “It’s everything else that’s a problem.”

Josh "Fettoblaster" Fetto.

Josh “Fettoblaster” Fetto.

Our games were really weird. Josh was on UB faeries (that’s where my Ephemerons had gone), and basically pestered me with a bunch of them, threatening me in the air with a 1/1 and the 3/1, who he was consistently casting for its prowl cost, thus drawing a card upon entering the battlefield. Josh had a couple of Peppersmokes (also usually a cantrip) and approximately a billion Warren Wierdings, which is really good against me.

I took game one the back of big dudes, and I thought I was going to win in a walk. I boarded into Riftsweeper and got rid of one if not both of my Take Possessions, for the same reason I’d cited earlier—the only thing worse than stealing a 2/2 flier with a seven-mana Mind Control is stealing a 1/1 flier. Woof.

I forget exactly what happened in games two and three, but at one point I swung in for big beats with a Masked Admirers, a Nantuko Shaman, and a Giant Duskwasp. Josh blocked the Admirers with his already-on-the-battlefield Spellstutter Sprite (which had previously countered my Aether Spellbomb), and then cast Peppersmoke on my guy, which would have let his Sprite trade with my Admirers, and also draw him card.

I felt this was unacceptable, so I cast Erratic Mutation on Josh’s Sprite, and revealed a non-zero-casting-cost card (I think Paradise Mantle was already out of my deck at this point, but whew regardless), which was set to kill his faerie and thus not only save my Admirers but negate the cantrip portion of Peppersmoke. However, Josh really wanted that extra card, so he made a second faerie by flashing in another Spellstutter Sprite. All the spells resolved, Josh drew a card and took six damage, and we moved on.

“Wait a minute,” I said, at some point into Josh’s next turn (I think during his upkeep). “Spellstutter Sprite’s ability”—counter target spell with converted mana cost X or less, where X is the number of Faeries you control—“is not a ‘may.’ I think your Peppersmoke [the only spell on the stack with CMC of two or less] should have been countered.”

Josh and I both looked at the card, and he said, “Yep. You’re right.” I think Josh felt pretty bummed out by this—which is evidently something Magic R&D has been trying to avoid in recent years, as they have made abilities like this “may” abilities (see Deputy of Acquittals), for instance. This same situation came up for Hipsters’ own Li Xu when his opponent, store regular Jason Chan, played Riftsweeper when he had a Search for Tomorrow suspended. D’oh! Back into Jason’s deck Search for Tomorrow went.

At any rate, we rolled a die to see which card Josh should put back on top of his library, and it ended up being the very Island he’d drawn. That may have been G1, I’m not sure, but Josh eventually took the match with his 3/1 and 1/1 fliers. 0-2—and drop.

Suffice it to say, besides ripping Tarmogoyfs—I pulled another one in a sealed testing session last Friday night at the awesome Nick Forker’s art studio in Bushwick—I’ve been sucking it up big time at Modern Masters. I feel supremely unprepared for GP Vegas. I played again tonight online and went 0-2.5 (I dropped mid-game-two in the last round because my other draft’s match had started, and I don’t like to double-queue) and, thank god, 2-1, both with BW decks. Here’s the first, no-win deck:

BW Rebels  1

And here’s the second, two-win deck:

BW Rebels 2

Wherein I got to do this really fun thing:

This was fun

Anyway, I have no idea what I’m doing. So I thought I would turn the mic over to former New Yorker and Magic play group member Dave Hornung, who will be joining me and Team Hipsters in Las Vegas this weekend. Dave is an excellent player, he’s done about ten Modern Masters drafts thus far, and you should listen to him:

1) Red decks are my favorite, and I think the strongest in the format. The giants deck, centered around Thundercloud Shaman, is really strong. I like the Stinkdrinker Daredevil, which leads to an explosive turn four. War-Spike Changeling an important giant at the four spot. The War-Spike is a great followup to a turn-three Blindspot Giant. But, really, it’s all about the Thundercload, aka Plague Wind. Also to note, you select your giant for Crush Underfoot on resolution, so they kill your giant in response to you casting it for the blow out.

2) Empty the Warrens is so good. Perhaps you know this already, but it’s really true in this format. It’s pretty easy to make four to six goblins, with Rift Bolt at common and Grinning Ignus at uncommon. You get the Ignus turn three and then turn four you have eight goblins. The red deck also can stall pretty well with Mogg War Marshal and Stingscourger. Torrent of Stone kills almost all creatures in the format and give you something good to do with your Mountains late-game (or early-game you can use it to kill 4/4s for just four mana in a pinch).

3) Epochrasite is first pickable (albeit in a weak pack). There are so few ways to keep it off the table (Path to Exile), and you can often just keep poking in for one during a board stall. There are only a few cards with five toughness, so Epochrasite trades with most everything, too.

4) The artifact decks I’ve seen work use modular effectively, and don’t rely on affinity. The Frogmite deck just isn’t very fast (and it’s only a Grizzly Bear). Many of the artifact decks are really slow when they try to chain four-casting-cost artifacts (Sanctum Gargoyle and Faerie Mechanist) into each other. So, if you draft artifacts, make sure you have a low enough curve.

5) I haven’t been decked yet and I’ve played against about four Dampen Thought decks. Usually they just can’t mill fast enough, even the good ones. Mind Funeral is really strong and I think is key to any mill deck. The Dampen Thought deck probably has a good matchup against control and slower artifact decks, though.

6) Tromp the Domains, as you might suspect, is really good. I also like the green thallid/dinosaur deck.

7) White weenie/WG creature decks can be really fast. Flickerwisp and Otherworldly Journey are both amazing. They take out blockers, trigger ETB, and kill tokens and sunburst creatures. I don’t like Stir the Pride (too slow) and love Blinding Beam. Blinding Beam is so good, and it’s even an instant. You can tap their team at the end of their turn and you get two swings with your team.

8) I’ve found the blue bounce creatures (Aethersnipe and Vedalken Dismisser) too slow for draft. Perhaps they can work in a four- to five-color-control deck (with Kodama’s Reach), but in other blue-based decks, they’re just really slow.

That’s all we’ve got this week, kids. Good luck this weekend at the largest-ever Grand Prix! Follow Team Hipsters’ exploits on @HOTCblog and me on @hrslaton. I hope to meet some of you probably 4,000+ competitors on day one—or, god willing and the creek don’t rise, day two!

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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