Khans of Tarkir limited has driven me up the wall with madness. My overall win record is now well below 50%, and my Team Draft League record this season, after week 2, is a lowly 0-2. In fact, this past week, I have not won a single game of Limited magic.

This recently left me puzzled into a daze. I went deep inside myself this week amidst a flurry of anger and embarassment, wondering what the hell was going on. I have worked so hard this past year to level up my limited game, as it has historically been my weakest skillset. Going into Khans of Tarkir I had never felt more ready to apply my understanding of both drafting and navigating Limited Magic. But laying there in the darkness Wednesday night, my sample size thrust the obvious before me: something was glaringly wrong with my approach, something that was until this moment far off between the picks and the deckbuilding and the sequencing I had come to value.

My endarkened failures left me wishing for Theros block, where drafting was simpler and plainer to extrapolate. I wanted to open a Wingsteed Rider or a Griptide. I wanted what no one else wished for, as everyone around me was loving Khans limited. I wanted to slam a first pick that no one could contest. I wanted to be right and win, but instead I was alone, and I was dead wrong. When the hell did I become so stubborn?

And then it crashed over me in a tsunami of revelation. I lept from my bed and paced around the room, texting my sleeping friends and furiously typing notes into my phone, nervous I would forget the whole thing if I let it slip away into sleep. Khans Limited has exposed a habit of mine, a parasitic being feasting on my magic skill.

All the studying i’ve done, all the practice i’ve done in limited, and I am here, foiled by something so simple.

I am stubborn, beyond all comprehension. A stubborn, illogical, baby of a drafter.

I can intellectualize how to draft, and discuss it exhaustively with you. I will listen to podcasts, like Limited Resources, watch videos, read articles daily. I will analyze pools and card evaluations with my peers. I will do all of this, my commitment strong and serious. But sit me down in a draft pod, the first pack cracked open and fanned before my eyes, my brain is suddenly surrounded with a thick fog, from where I am left with but a pompous child analyzing that first pick. Often, I will slam something without consideration, pass the pack, and from there enter a tumultuous and bitter marriage with that first pick. So unwavering is my commitment to that pick, that I will pass whatever is coming open to me, insisting that the deck will come together.

What deck, you ask? Why, the deck I have already built in my mind, of course!

This is totally gonna work out...

This is totally gonna work out…

The worst part of this habit is that sometimes, less than half the time i’d say, my marriage ends up working out for me. The deck I commit to with pick one is open, and my deck is awesome. I play confidently, and win the majority of my games, congratulating myself for my excellent drafting skills and my ability to read the table. This results oriented thinking is far from the reality of what happened at the draft table, and I never caught a glimpse of why this draft actually came together.

Or did not come together, as the case has been overwhelmingly with Khans. More often than not I end up with three color decks that have zero to one fixing sources and two-drops in all three colors. And just as often, the person to my left is in the same clan as I, and has a much stronger, and consistent deck. What’s worse? I’m shocked. Shocked by it all.

So how did I engender this bad habit of being so stubborn? Why does my brain short circuit when I sit down and open that pack? Why can I not think through a draft and, more to the point, when my draft is clearly derailing, why do I so egregiously stand stalwart to my first pick when logic says to jump ship? How did I become so goddamn stubborn?



I know that slowing down and staying open is the key to this debacle, but the long term effects of this habit are insidious. I hope I am able to focus in on my next drafts and claim a better terrain than stuck in the miserable emotion of hope.

Because that’s what i’m doing. Hoping. And when there are aspects of magic you can control, relying on hope is the last bastion of the dead. You’re relying on luck alone to get you there, and that’s never going to make me, or anyone a better drafter, or a better player. Between hope and information, i’d rather have information. So stop relying on hope, Derek, and beat the fog. Otherwise, you’ll be settling for never getting better at this game.

I’ll leave you with my first pack from last Wednesday. I took Heir of the Wilds over Debilitating Injury. I know Debilitating Injury is better. Even in a vacuum Injury wins. But I decided I would be Temur right away. Just like that, I slam Heir of the Wilds and make the decision right there, that no matter what happens I will end up in Temur. And then I get passed another Debilitating Injury. So I take Avalanche Tusker. GREAT! IT’S WORKING ALREADY! Then I get passed Temur Charm! WOW! ITS SO OPEN! LOOK HOW GOOD I AM AT THIS DRAFTING THING!

And then, shortly thereafter, it gets cut, and cut hard. I never see a fixing land. I never see 5/5 Trample Yeti. I never see Alpine Grizzly. I’m shipping insane black and red cards everywhere. And yet, I am unwavering. Heir of the Wilds is insane, right? How can any opponent beat a turn 2 Heir of the Wilds?

Needless to say, I ship a crazy Mardu deck and ended up with a pile. I was so miserable with my deck that I played like an asshole: bitterly, arrogantly, and without shaking hands. I was disgusted with myself, and didn’t even have it in me to apologize for my behavior to my delightful opponents, who are all swell players and even better people. Everyone was having a good time, playing magic. Winning, losing, whatever. But I was there, boiling, rotting, being eaten alive by my own insecurities. And I didn’t even understand what I was doing so clearly wrong.

Now, I have caught the glimpse. Now, I can put this understanding to work and collect new data. Maybe I can start to wield more control of my drafts, and not miss out on whats really happening at the table. Khans is a difficult set to draft, with no real solution after the Pro Tour. I am thankful, and hope I can salvage this format, what some say might be one of the best limited formats ever, into something I can thoroughly enjoy.

Reporting from the mire.

After a ten-year lapse from Magic, where his favorite combo was Tradewind Rider with Stasis, Derek is back to learn the new-border variant of the game. While less frustrating cards have been printed, he now has to get used to planeswalkers, and people rolling dice when he resolves Hymn to Tourach. He qualified for the Junior Super Series in 1999 at Pro Tour New York, then used his collection to finance his college education. Years later, he works in the fashion industry as a stylist, consultant, and sometime-matchmaker for brands. He loves all things black leather, and is out to journal his level-ups with hopes of playing at the highest competitive level of the game. You can reach him at [email protected].

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