It’s amazing how quickly things can change. I’m writing you at 10:55pm on Thursday, aka an hour before my article is due, aka way too fucking late. Last night I had a bit of a dark night of the soul—insomnia, being worried, fear about my quality as an employee and a family member—and tonight I am feeling better, though not really because of anything I did; rather I was just granted some perspective. More on that in a minute.

Here’s the theme song for this post:

Like I said, I’ve been feeling frustrated, with life and Magic. Maybe I’ve just been jet-lagged and travel-weary—I was away all last week for a family vacay and then a work trip in California, the end of which marked the fourth weekend I’ve been away from home in a row. It’s been a big summer, from getting married to the Pro Tour, and now, this week, I had a coming-down feeling, like it’s all over. And I hadn’t played a lick of Magic since my last losing round of Standard in Portland.

Last night I got back on the horse, somewhat. Sitting on the couch, feeling ill at ease and like I didn’t know what to do with myself, I made the very poor decision to fire up MTGO and draft. I don’t know about you guys, but that’s about the worst possible way in which for me to interact with Magic: distracted, non-committed, annoyed. I drafted a passable yet not exciting RG deck without a single copy of my beloved Hornet Queen, and promptly (at least it was mercifully prompt) lost in the first round to an RB deck that did exactly this in both games:

T2—Land, Generator Servant
T3—Land, sac Generator Servant, play (a hasty) Brood Keeper, cast Hammerhand on Brood Keeper, thus making a 2/2 Dragon, swing for three.

Both games, exactly that sequence. It was infuriating.

I really don’t like playing on MODO, at least not solo on a school night, at home with my wife, with the TV on and etc. I’m just so impatient and distracted, and the new client additionally makes me feel like I’m somehow walking underwater; everything feels very non-responsive, click-wise; the turn cycles don’t feel crisp; and I also feel like I’m a much worse drafter and player. It’s true: For whatever reason (and I track my stats, so I know), I have a drastically better W/L rate in real life rather than online—and that’s taking into account what I feel is 8-4–level IRL competition, in the form of Team Draft League and, hey, going 5-1 in Limited at the Pro Tour. (I swear that’s the last you’ll hear of it.)

Two Scenes


Tuesday night, my wife and I are out to dinner at Five Napkin Burger in the Theater District, headed to a play whose name is a surprise to me. (It ended up being This Is Our Youth, which was good but not great.) Kim and I are talking about the fall and travel plans. I tell her that unfortunately over Yom Kippur weekend (aka Oct. 3–5) I’m going to be in Orlando for the Grand Prix.

“I thought you were going to take a break from Magic,” Kim says.

“That is a break,” I say. “I’m not going to GP Salt Lake City over Sept. 5–7, after all.”

And there was confusion as to what is or is not a break from Magic.


Out to dinner on Wednesday night with Gabe Carleton-Barnes, who I’m very happy to announce will be joining Hipsters of the Coast as of next week (!), we were having a couple beers and getting to know each other. Gabe was the architect of the Pro Tour Portland team that I was on, including Jackson Cunningham, who in both his first Pro Tour and first Constructed outings managed to finish in an amazing second place.

“What’s your fire like, currently, with respect to competitive Magic?” Gabe asked me.

I averred, then was honest: “I dunno, man. I never considered, when I was going to all these PTQs, what it would actually mean were I to win one. And of course this fall I’m going to hit the last of the old-school-style PTQs, but other than that I just don’t know.”

Gabe understood where I was coming from.

Under the Pressure

So like I said, today I wasn’t feeling so hot.

Then later in the day I got word that a good friend of mine wasn’t doing so well. I won’t go into details out of respect for him, but long story short I found myself this evening in his apartment with a few other of his (and my) friends, supporting him and letting him know that we love him and are concerned for him.

“When was the last time we were all together?” my buddy mused at one point, ashing his cigarette out the window onto the nighttime Brooklyn street.

At first we couldn’t remember, then someone said, “At Hunter’s wedding,” and we all bobbed our heads in assent. Later more things were said and, looking my buddy in the eyes, we both teared up a bit.

We left his place with him feeling better, I think—I hope—and me feeling better, too, having been able to help someone and get out of my own head for a bit in the process. That’s the thing about doing service, whether it’s helping out a friend in need or helping someone who is new to the game of Magic take their deck apart and put it back together at a prerelease, or inviting the guy or girl at FNM who seems like he or she doesn’t have many friends to hang out with your crew afterward: It’s incredibly freeing not to think about your goddamn self for a little while, at the same time as you maybe make somebody else’s day a little better—a little less lonely—along the way.

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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