I’m writing you from my Portland-bound plane, on the way to Pro Tour Magic 2015, and I don’t quite know how to feel about it all.

One way I feel is mildly to seriously unprepared, at least when it comes to Standard, which comprises the majority of the tournament. I have a deck I mostly like—Jund Monsters—but it’s a relatively stock list, and I honestly have no idea what to expect from the game’s best brewers, who have been cooking up new decks in secret these past few weeks. I feel like Fred Savage’s little brother in The Wizard, who goes to the video-game tournament in Las Vegas and then in the finals they have to play a brand-new game that no one’s ever seen: Super Mario Brothers 3.

Of course that’s a pretty far cry from this situation, as M15 has been out for a few weeks now— but I’d wager that, in addition to facing some standard-issue UW Control, Boss Sligh, GW Aggro, and Mono-Black and -Blue matchups, I’ll also be running up against some weird lists whose game plan I am unfamiliar with. And I am unfamiliar with a lot. (It’s also worth noting that M15 is exceptionally deep and complex for a Core Set.) Just the other night, at The Uncommons in the West Village (great place, BTW), I had to read Angel of Serenity twice before I grokked what it did, and how to deal with it (“not well” being the answer).

But, as my MTG consigliere Carrie O’Hara has counseled me, “Look forward to starting off the Pro Tour with draft, and then Standard is pretty much a freeroll. You can’t expect to do amazingly in Standard, so whatever wins you get will be amazing.”

And she’s right. I think it’s well within my ability to mise a 3-0 in draft, at which point I would just have to win one out of five Standard rounds to make Day Two. That’s my big goal: just getting to draft again, and play all 16 non-Top-8 rounds. Still, that’s a tall order, and I’m going to try not to get too down on myself if I end up 1-2-ing the draft, or god forbid worse. These are the very best players in the world, and this is my very first—and who knows? perhaps only—Pro Tour.

I’m not saying that to be negtive or defeatist; not at all. Rather it’s just that I know how much effort it takes to really be amazing at this incredibly difficult and challenging game; and what this past summer since winning my PTQ has revealed to me is that I am basically fundamentally unwilling to upend my life in such a way as would be required to really crush it at the PT. I’ve got a new wife, a career that is very important to me, side projects (like Hipsters of the Coast) that I dig, friends to hang out with, and stuff I like to do that doesn’t involve shuffling up.

So I dunno. This may be one and done for me. Or it might not be! I’m just going to try to go with the flow, not get ahead of myself, and keep things in perspective: After all, right now I’m *flying to Portland* on a plane ticket that I won, to play for serious money on the biggest stage of what I consider to be the best game ever made. What could be better than that? This whole thing is a freeroll, as far as I’m concerned. I’m going to try and keep that top of mind. Over the next few days I will try to have fun, stay cool—which is where I play at my very best, and have what I think is my max advantage over other players—and enjoy Portland, a city I’ve never been to.

It’s been a crazy, eight-year journey to get here. I never would have thought when I cracked my first Guildpact pack in a draft (what’s a “draft”?) at Adi’s NYU grad-student apartment alongside Carl, Brandon, Adam, Tony, and others—having exactly zero idea what to do—that I would one day be headed to Magic’s Pro Tour, which was not even a thing I was aware of that existed at the time. So no matter whether this is a once-in-a-lifetime situation for me or the start of an improbable gravy-train run, I’ll always know that I got there one time. And that’s pretty sweet.

That’s all I’ve got for now, kids. In the meantime, if you want to track my progress at the PT, follow me on Twitter at @hrslaton. I hope to represent Hipsters, our sponsor CastHaven, Team Draft League, my PT Northwest teammates, Twenty Sided Store, the Brooklyn and NYC Magic scenes, and all those who’ve ever rooted for me to the very best of my abilities. Wish me luck!

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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