This past weekend was the Journey Into Nyx prerelease, and I managed to fit in one flight at good old Twenty Sided Store. After reading Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa’s Prerelease Primer—he’s really one of the best and most readable Magic writers out there—I decided to follow his advice and chose black (and Doomwake Giant) as my prerelease pack. I ended up with a somewhat weak pool: My rares were Dictate of Karametra, Dictate of Erebos, Oracle of Bones, double Doomwake Giant (!)—aka Doomwake Bryant Gumbel, just because I say so—Daxos of Meletis, and Bow of Nylea. I had a fair bit of red removal and the black was decent, so here’s what I built:

My Journey Into Nyx prerelease deck.

My Journey Into Nyx prerelease deck.

Here’s the on-color sideboard:

Journey Into Nyx prerelease sideboard.

Journey Into Nyx prerelease sideboard.

I was mildly happy with the deck, but not thrilled. It’s tough to know how things are going to run this early. And despite usually wanting to play with rares at prerelease time (as you want to get experience when you can with new rares, so that when big events come around you can know how they will perform), I left the Dicate of Erebos in the board, as I just didn’t feel like it was what my deck wanted to do.

I had some fun! R1 I played Andrew and managed to get double Doomwake Giant out in both games—so, yeah. I kind of mowed down his team. 1-0.

Hugh "Grade 9" Kramer and Dave "Bones" McCoy.

Hugh “Grade 9” Kramer and Dave “Bones” McCoy.

In R2 I played Erik, who before our match very nicley congratulated me on my PTQ win a couple weeks ago. We had some interesting and close games. My favorite play was when Erik had Ordeal of Nylea on a Satyr Hoplite with 2X +1/+1 counters on it. I had a Bloodcrazed Hoplite, a Returned Satyr, and a Pharika’s Chosen on my side of the board, with Boon of Erebos in hand. I attacked with Returned Satyr and left Pharika’s Chosen and Bloodcrazed Hoplite back. (I had considered attacking with Pharika’s Chosen as well, but decided to keep him back in order to try and make Erik think that blocking with the deathtoucher was my plan to deal with his Satyr, popped Ordeal or not.)

On Erik’s turn he killed Pharika’s Chosen with Bolt of Keranos and swung in, putting the Ordeal trigger on the stack. I responded by casting Boon of Erebos on Bloodcrazed Hoplite, which did SO MANY THINGS. I added a +1/+1 counter to my 2/1; removed a +1/+1 counter from Erik’s Satyr; temporarily boosted my guy’s power to 5; and put a regeneration shield on him—thus preventing the Ordeal from popping and allowing me to kill Erik’s Satyr without losing my guy in the process, all for the low, low cost of one mana and a card. It felt really broken. 2-0.

R3 wasn’t fair. My opponent Travis mulled to four in both games, even with 18 lands in his deck, and basically didn’t play Magic. He was clearly disappointed, and I felt his pain. 3-0.

It made me wonder: How much are we playing this game, and how much is it playing us? In other words, after you’ve drawn your opening hand, are you just going through the motions? What percentage of the game’s outcome is already decided from turn zero? I know that variance is a thing, and that the arguments for it are good ones … but I wonder sometimes if Magic doesn’t have too much of it. Of course, there are ways in which you can reduce that variance, by adding more lands, playing fewer spells with double-color casting costs, making better mulligan decisions, and so on … but I dunno. What do you think?

At any rate, in R4 I was paired up with Dave “Bones” McCoy, who proceeded to stomp me in two games with his sick UG deck and 2X Ravenous Leucrocota. In G2 I literally gang-blocked that monstrous thing about three times, and each time Dave had a bounce or kill spell to nuke my play. Seriously, though, the Ravenous Leucrocota seemed really good: A 2/4 for four with vigilance and the ability to get even bigger later in the game is just a straight-up house, or at least it was in this match.

Rich "What We Learned" Stein and Dave "Bones" McCoy.

Rich “What We Learned” Stein and Dave “Bones” McCoy.

I had a good time, and netted six packs for my effort. Then I went home and Kim and I went into the city to stay at the New York Palace hotel for a night, in an incredible corner suite. Here’s the view:

The view from up here.

The view from up here.

The New York Palace hotel.

The New York Palace hotel.

I’m psyched about Journey Into Nyx thus far. Constellation seems ambiently strong, and I really want to draft an aggro black-white deck with Bloodcrazed Hoplites and Tormented Hero. A few nights later, in week zero of Team Draft League season two, my team of Brendan “BMac” McNamara and “Bones” McCoy—the Clockwork Bea(s)ts—faced Team Protect Ya Deck (Longo, Parke, and Colette) and had a pretty definitive win. (Thanks for hosting, boys, and welcome to the league!) Longo got lucky too, though:

Longo opened up a god pack in our Team Draft League draft!

Longo opened up a god pack in our Team Draft League draft!

I drafted UB control, starting things off with 2X Feast of Dreams and 2X Nyx Infusion. Here’s the deck:

My Team Draft League deck.

My Team Draft League deck.

Rares and foils from my Team Draft League pool.

Rares and foils from my Team Draft League pool.

The black dried up pretty hard in pack three after I first-picked a Gray Merchant of Asphodel (so lonely, these days), and I was light on playables—but nevertheless I managed to go undefeated, contributing three wins to my team’s 7-2 victory. I can’t wait to play more Journey Into Nyx, including at GP Atlanta, which I just bought plane tickets for today! Who else is going? And which cards from the new set are lighting up your pinball board thus far?

Hey, and just a final, late-breaking addendum: Twenty Sided Store is hosting a couple of extra-cool events this Saturday: “called” Theros-block drafts whose prize support is a “god pack” (made from the store’s own collection) of all 15 gods in Theros, Born of the Gods, and Journey Into Nyx. (See the photo of Andy Longo above for an example.) The god pack really isn’t the big draw in my opinion, though. Rather it’s the opportunity to do a called draft—where each pick is timed, you can’t look at your picks except during a between-each-pack review period, and basically just the rules enforcement level is quite high. Why would you want to do this? Because this is what you are going to be doing if you make day two of a Limited GP or top 8 of a Limited PTQ. And if you make day two or top 8, it can be a disconcerting and rattling experience for that to be your first called draft ever. (I was lucky enough to get a bit of experience with this before my first day two, when I top 8-ed a GP trial at 20SS a couple of years back.) So if you are a competitive player who wants to be ready to move up to the next level when the opportunity arises, I strongly encourage you to participate in one of these called drafts at 20SS. Signups are online now!

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. Follow Hunter at @hrslaton.

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