Have you ever lost a game of Magic when your opponent is at one life? We all have. That happened to me this past Friday at Twenty Sided Store, when I got to play my first IRL Magic 2014 draft. And the worst part of it was, I knew exactly where I could have won. First off, here’s the deck:

UB skies/control

Creatures (14)
Deathgaze Cockatrice
Seacoast Drake
Messenger Drake
Scroll Thief
Trained Condor
Nephalia Seakite
Undead Minotaur
Accursed Spirit
Warden of Evos Isle

Spells (9)
Mark of the Vampire
Doom Blade
Quag Sickness
Liturgy of Blood

Land (17)
10 Island
Sideboard (10)
Essence Scatter
Sensory Deprivation
Merfolk Spy
Minotaur Abomination
Zephyr Charge
Mind Rot
Corspe Hauler
Festering Newt
Wring Flesh
Armored Cancrix

This was a seriously fun and controlling build, and I had a ton of great sideboard options, which I like. Pack one, pick one I passed Lifebane Zombie and took Pacifism, but soon the white dried up while the blue flowed steadily. Then in pack two, I got passed a Doom Blade for pick two, and wondered what had happened—whether or not my neighbor had followed my signals into black. There wasn’t much for me in that pack, so I snapped up the Doom Blade and picked up a few good black cards here and there along the way.

I won R1 in two against Scott, a nice guy who recently moved here from Des Moines.


One of our games featured the most disappointing Opportunity ever, as I cast it, drew four lands, and then untapped and drew a fifth land. WAH-WAH. Nevertheless, that was five draw steps that would have been totally blank had I not cast Opportunity, so it evens out.

Skipping ahead a bit, I also won R3 against the diabolical Nicholas “Ol’ Scratch” Forker, after which I helped him rebuild his deck, and promptly lost a much closer second set of games.


But R3 wasn’t the finals. In R2 I faced Keith, who was on a pretty aggro RB build, with Volcanic Geyser and Lava Axe.


At one point in G3, in early turns, I had down a Seacoast Drake against Keith’s Gnawing Zombie. And I remember very distinctly thinking, on that turn, “Should I swing in and trade one point of damage? Or should I play the long game, and preserve my life total?”

I decided to hang back—and that ended up deciding the game. On the final turns, Keith had out an Accursed Spirit and I think a 1/1 elemental token, and I had no blockers—nor could I find removal—for his Spirit, which was cracking in for three a turn. I was racing him in the air, and hit for five points of damage on my last turn, dropping him to one life, but that was all I could do. I passed the turn and he combined a Lava Axe with a final hit from Accursed Spirit to kill me.

And immediately I thought back to that turn with the Seacoast Drake. I’m not quite sure what I should have done, given that preserving your life total against an opponent who is running quite a lot of burn is not a bad strategy—but it’s certain that swinging in on that one early turn with Drake would have done the trick, when the game was said and done.

I might even have started swinging in with Drake on the following turn—in which case, what the hell was I doing? It’s a good principle of Magic to remember: If you are going to make a decision to do something, well—most of the time you need to keep on doing or not doing that thing, absent some fundamental change in the board state. (And, in the course of one turn to the next with my Drake and his Zombie, the board state had not changed all that much.)

So that’s our lesson for this week: Every point of damage matters.

In other news, I’ve really been enjoying M14, despite the boos and jeers RE: the format I’ve been hearing from my fellow travelers. Sure, I haven’t played all that much, and I’ve been less inclined to play the release-event sealed queues (or “valqueues,” as I call them, given their awesome pack payouts) on MODO lately. However, a lot of that has had to do with some upheaval in my life as of late, wherein I got offered a new job while on vacation, and then came back to find out my current company, the sadly now-defunct The Fix, would be closing that coming Friday.

As a result, last week I had a week-long staycation wherein I got a to play a little more Magic than I might usually, although not the ‘til-my-eyes-bleed amount I always threaten to play whenever my fiance is out of town.

I drafted this deck, which I piloted to 2-1 in a Magic Online 8-4:

8-3 M14 BW 2-1 deck

Which led to this amazing game state:

Double Pacifism, Double Deathgaze

Then I drafted this smashy monstrosity, which I split in the finals of an 8-4:

8-5 M14 GR Howl deck

Leading to Matt Jones’ favorite game state:

Matt Jones' favorite game state

And then finally I drafted this mono-blue pile, aka Matt Jones’ most-hated deck, in a swiss draft:

8-5 M14 mono-blue deck

About midway through the draft, I started to pick up a few black cards here and there, including two Blightcasters, thinking I might be able to work a minor enchantments-matter theme—but in the end I just decided to go mono-blue and see how it worked. The answer: Not brilliantly. I lost in the first round of the swiss, and then won out. I weirdly felt like I didn’t have enough defense for Jace, and I was never able to mill out anything with him. Perhaps that’s an argument for having one or more of the sideboard Millstones in the maindeck, as some of my friends argued when I posted these screenshots on Facebook, but in general principle I prefer to either go all-in or not at all on a mill theme—except when I have, say, a Jace, Memory Adept or last summer’s Sands of Delirium, both of which are very fast game-enders in and of themselves. After my first-round loss, I won out—which surely proves, as Matt Jones would assert, that there are no gods watching over this world.

Last but not least, on Sunday we played a DGR draft with Hipsters’ newest columnist, Ensnaring Cambridge’s Shawn Massak, who was in town on a mini-tour with his band! Look at this magnificent bastard!:


Shawn beat me in the finals, too, with a sick aggro Rakdos build, featuring 2X copies of Carnage Gladiator, one of which he opened, and one of which I passed him. So guess what—you’re fired, Shawn. Pack up your shit, kid, you’ll never work in this town again.

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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