by Tony Mei

So it’s two in the morning and I realize I have an article due tomorrow and nothing to write about.

My standard deck is arriving in small bits and pieces. Some cards have made their way through the labyrinth of my university’s mail system. A lot more are missing in action. I ended up ordering all the pieces through Amazon. I’ll gladly pay a small premium for the ease of organizing and purchasing everything together. I’ve yet to get the sideboard Anger of the Gods, but everything together was a very reasonable $20. A friend from high school and my former partner in disastrous drafting is mailing over his copies of Young Pyromancer. Everything is coming together nicely. And I’m very excited about playing this deck at future events.

Until then, I booted up Magic Online for the first time in months. I was addicted to the game over the summer. It gave me the perfect platform to play some real drafts in between work and a comically bad sleeping schedule. I cut my teeth on New Player Phantom Drafts—a four man pod with one ticket ($1). Going 2-0 netted you a cool promo card and a booster pack, which could be pawned off for more tickets.

Unfortunately, I never really left the learning stages. I skipped steps, forgot to play instants, and never really figured out how to work the program correctly. I distinctly remember going 0-2 and being able to play and resolve an Archangel of Thune in three out of four games. My drafting strategy was rarely coherent. I switched colors at random. And if I opened up what I believed to be an awesome bomb, I would do whatever it took to force that color. As you can guess, it usually ended poorly.

I recently found Ben Stark’s article “Drafting the Hard Way.” It’s a fantastic read and changed how I approached the limited format in a lot of ways. One of his most insightful tips is about color switching—knowing when you commit and when to jump ship.

I went straight into a four-man M14 phantom draft to see if I could apply Ben Stark’s wisdom.

Check out P1P1:


After a few weeks of drafting and practicing with exclusively Theros, I realized that M14 has removal everywhere. Shock, Claustrophobia, and Pacifism in one pack. Even more if you count Banisher Priest and my buddy Ratchet Bomb.

But I’m feeling optimistic and a little antsy. I grab the Predatory Sliver.


On to pick five and two thirds of the removal is still there. Shock, the other Sliver, and Ratchet Bomb are absent. (Remember, this is a four-man draft.) I figure Howl will wheel and grab Mark of the Vampire. The rest of the pack proceeds pretty normally. I end up with two Howl of the Night Packs and several strong black cards. I’m pretty firmly in GB.



A lot changes. If I’m sticking to my colors, then Lifebane Zombie is an easy pick. But Ben Stark is sitting on my shoulder watching judgmentally, and I’ve struggled a lot with making the zombie work in draft. I know what he would do. I take the Flames of the Firebrand.

P2P2 is another surprising pack:


Two amazing blue cards are wide open. I play it safe and grab the Rumbling Baloth, hoping I won’t regret it later.


Surprise! This was absolutely surreal. I grab Opportunity and make plans to switch. Moving toward the end of pack two, I’m a bit nervous. But when I close my eyes I see the kind visage of Ben Stark and I know what I must do.


This is what my deck roughly looked like near the end of pack two. I have the Opportunity hidden because I have literally no other blue cards.


Pack three is extremely kind to me. I saw an open color and moved into it. That decision netted me two Air Servants, Archaeomancer, Divination, and Time Ebb. A few green cards round out my deck. I’m very, very happy.

My final deck looks like this:


My plan is to control the early turns with Slivers and transition into my late game bombs. I’m very, very excited.

My first opponent disconnects immediately. My enthusiasm falters, but I’m 1-0 and I guess winning by default is still winning, kinda.


Pictured: the best kind of winning

Game two was a blowout. My opponent played a total of two spells, one of which was a Merfolk Spy. I didn’t see a second color and assumed he got mana screwed.


The next game starts strong. My two Baloths give me immense pressure, and Seacoast Drake maintains the sky nicely (I knew it was my favorite card for a reason).

I’m ready to last an Enlarge and swing for lethal when I realize that Merfolk Spy completely foiled my plans. A few turns earlier, I revealed an Enlarge. My opponent immediately countered my spell, and we were back to a stalemate.


Pictured: a very unhappy Tony

With great luck, I plop down an Archaeomancer, bring back Enlarge, and swing in for what I think is lethal.

To be concise: it wasn’t lethal. It appears that I’m still bad at math. My opponent survives with two health and kills me on the backswing. I’m devastated.


Thankfully, I’m still watched over by MTG spirits. Game three was a relatively straightforward win. I played safe and ran the numbers before attacking. Again, double Baloth + Rootwalla proved to be massive ground threats. And grabbing Air Servant and Howl of the Night Pack off of Divination sealed the deal.



Pictured: My actual first draft win.

Writing this report, I’m actually a bit delirious with happiness, which is kind of sad considering I won one match against who was probably a beginner opponent. But that was the most fun I’ve had playing MTG in a while. And I’m glad I got to work on drafting. Learning to switch colors and maintaing a cool game plan is difficult for an indecisive sort like me. At least I could prove to myself (and the general public) that I’m learning something.

That is until when I forget all my lessons and make the same mistakes next week. Hey, at least you get to read about it and laugh again.

Tony is a college kid living in Philadelphia. He started playing Magic after M14’s release and hasn’t improved much since. When he isn’t making bad plays, he enjoys writing about them.

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