Merry Boxing Day, (Canadian) kids! I hope everyone had a great Christmas, if that’s your bag.

Anyway, when last we parted, Dear Reader, I had made Day Two at Grand Prix Baltimore Magic 2014 with The Deck—but sadly not with the 8-1 or 9-0 record I had wanted, and that I thought The Deck deserved.

But hey, no spilled milk: There are few things better than drafting on Day Two of a GP, and so I was psyched to crack some stamped packs.


First, though, I had to get something to eat and get some rest. After round nine, me and Fellow Hipsters Dave McCoy, Zach Barash, and (most recently) Andy “Champ” Longo went out to find some grub, with coverage initiate GCB joining us shortly thereafter. We had a couple beers and some laughs, and went back to the hotel for some more drinks. I bought one round for myself and the boys, and then—cognizant of my Big Day tomorrow—headed up to bed, not at all hammered or caffeinated, at like 11:30. No biggie.

I have troubling sleeping on occasion, though, and this night it struck hard. I woke up at 3am or so, and literally could not get back to sleep. I may have dozed for a bit, but I just couldn’t find the sweet spot. It was really, really frustrating, because I wanted to be fresh and alert for a long draftathon—two, and hopefully maybe even three, drafts.

I’m not sure what the reason for my insomnia was, but most likely it was a combination of being excited about Day Two, having drunk two Five-Hour Energies during Day One, and maybe three beers didn’t help, either, although generally that’s not enough to affect me poorly.

At any rate, I knew I was going to be running on medium empty for Day Two when I finally got out of bed to finish packing and check out of the hotel at 7am. Bummer.

Nevertheless, Day Two started out pretty well. I was 65th overnight, and so I knew that my pod would be players 65–73, and thus would contain not only Matt Costa, but the current top player in the world, Owen Turtenwald. My draft went well, though: I first-picked a Suspension Field over I think another, gold removal spell (maybe Mardu Charm?), and then second-picked a Raider’s Spoils. I was off to the WB Warrior races. Here’s the deck:


GP Baltimore Draft 1

Creatures (13)
Ponyback Brigade
Disowned Ancestor
Salt Road Patrol
Chief of the Edge
Abzan Guide
War Behemoth
Alabaster Kirin
Sage-Eye Harrier
Mardu Skullhunter
Krumar Bond-Kin
Unyielding Krumar

Spells (9)
Suspension Field
Crater's Claws
Rush of Battle
Bitter Revelation
Raider's Spoils
Mardu Charm
Feat of Resistance
Take Up Arms

Land (18)
Bloodfell Caves
Wind-Scarred Crag
Blossoming Sands
Sideboard (8)
Smite the Monstrous
Jeskai Student
Firehoof Cavalry
Molting Snakeskin
Rakshasa's Secret
Heart-Piercer Bow
Abzan Banner

Fucking great, right? I was lucky enough to snag the Crater’s Claws in P1 out of pack two. And it’s a good thing, too, because I soon found out that, unluckily enough, I would be facing the No. 1 player in the world for my first match of the day:

R10—Owen Turtenwald

I stayed calm and collected during this match, even though Owen was a bit rushy and aggro in his play style—which, hey, if that gives you an edge I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. This is a psychological game in addition to a strategic one. Owen was on an Abzan-ish build with Archer’s Parapets and cards like Dead Drop. We had a good match, but the raw power of my warriors just overpowered him. The key (and amazing) play in G3 was when I had Owen’s back up against the wall with three creatures, including a pair of Unyielding Krumars, and a Raiders’ Spoils on the table. On Owen’s turn he went to Dead Drop, and I tapped five mana to respond with The Best Take Up Arms Ever, netting +1 creatures after the dust cleared. Clearly that was not how Owen envisioned the turn going, and I won shortly thereafter.


R11—Matt Costa

There would be no rest for the (very) weary, though, as my next opponent was the currently unranked but still very fearsome Matt Costa, on Sultai. We had an interesting and drawn-out match, two moments of which I’ll mention here.

The first was when I had Matt down to a low life total, something like 6 or so, and I had Crater’s Claws in hand. I currently didn’t have a four-power creature, though, and thus needed another turn in which to outlast my Disowned Ancestor up to four power in order to be able to punch through enough damage to win.

Unfortunately when I passed the turn, though, Costa unmorphed a Sidisi’s Pet, and then on his turn cast Incremental Growth on three of his guys, including the Pet, which suddenly started to put my Claws even further out of reach. Life totals went back and forth for a turn or two, with me cracking back in order to mitigate his lifegain, and then on the pivotal turn—after which his life total would have surpassed the reach of my Claws—I drew a much-needed land and cracked in with the team, hoping his last card wasn’t anything—and was able to post-combat Claws him for exactsies.

The third match of our series was nuts. Basically I got out a billion creatures—literally probably 15 or more, including a pair of flipped-up Ponyback Brigades, and so on—but Costa developed his board extensively as well, his life total was high, and I wasn’t able to safely alpha for the win.

My life total was high thanks to an earlier Rush of Battle, but we were stalled out. As our libraries dwindled and land counts increased, I began to become worried about Villainous Wealth, which toward the end of the game he could have just one-shotted me with, emptying my library with an X = 14. I’m not sure if I actually played this game correctly, as Matt noted (very nicely and conversationally) at the end of our match, but the way in which I did play it—very carefully, and holding back—made it such that he couldn’t win. At one point late in the game I drew Mardu Charm, and played it on its little-used targeted discard mode.

Costa wanted to fight over this, and therefore so did I. He cast Stubborn Denial as a hard counter thanks to his 4/5 Glacial Stalker, and I responded by Throttling the Stalker, turning off the hard counter. Costa then responded again by casting a Dragonscale Boon on an unflipped morph, thus making the Denial hard yet again. When the dust settled Costa was left with one (terrifying) card in hand and a buffed morph.

I had talked myself into thinking that card was Villainous Wealth. Matt had picked up on that as well, and had begun to subtly encourage my belief, by asking me how many cards were in my library (like, 10 more than him). Then when Costa had like two cards left in his library, I decided to alpha, given that I felt like he didn’t have enough time to kill me through damage, and that the only way he could kill me was with Wealth.

I swung in with an incredibly huge team, and Costa flipped up the buffed morph—Thousand Winds! Holy shit. Literally all of my guys went back to my hand—but, given the advanced stage of the game, I was able to restock my side of the board with a hardcast Ponyback Brigade, a morphed Sage-Eye Harrier, and a Chief of the Edge, leaving me with six creatures when I passed the turn back.

Costa then swung in once with the seven-power flier, knocking me to like 21 life, but when he passed it back I just developed my board further and passed back to him, letting him draw his last card. At this point I very nearly said, “Just show me the Wealth,” but instead he passed the turn back and I swung with a few guys, prompting him to reveal a pretty much useless Sultai Charm—no Wealth! I won by decking him. Crazy. This game is fucking amazing sometimes.


R12—Some Guy Whose Name I Don’t Know Because Wizards’ PWP Site Is Shitting the Bed

After fighting through Owen and Costa, this guy was a relative walk in the park. At first in G1 my alarm bells started going off that maybe he had End Hostilities, as he was on RW and basically did nothing for the first five turns—so I started holding back developing my board, just cracking in with a War Behemoth and forcing him to commit equally to the board or die.

He started to play out creatures, and so I matched him pretty much one for one, ensuring that End Hostilities, if he had it, would be more or less equal—but I guess he just didn’t have it and I won. G2 wasn’t much of a game, either; I felt like I had the match firmly in hand at all times, and I killed him with a Crater’s Claws.


Step one accomplished! After this draft I was on top of the world. I was halfway towards the pretty tough goal of double 3-0-ing my Day Two drafts in order to make Top 8. But then, when we got seated for our second draft—I was in Pod 2—my heart sank when I saw this:


I can’t imagine a more stacked pod of straight-up murderers, as I tweeted at the time. I knew I had my work cut out for me. And, unfortunately, my exhaustion really started to catch up with me at this point. I first-picked a Pine Walker, second-picked a Thousand Winds, and started angling to be straight UG, hopefully with a Secret Plans or two and, gods willing, an Icefeather Aven. I was seeing some strong Temur cards, as well as a lot of Swiftwater Cliffs, but I was (perhaps foolishly) committed to the UG plan, and stuck to my mostly two-color guns.

I dunno what happened—maybe there were zero of those strong UG cards in the draft, or maybe I just didn’t see them. Nevertheless, long story short, my deck turned out kind of rigid and without much connective tissue. Here it is:


GP Baltimore Draft 2

Creatures (17)
Thousand Winds
Pine Walker
Whirlwind Adept
Tuskguard Captain
Heir of the Wilds
Abomination of Gudul
Riverwheel Aerialists
Witness of the Ages
Archer's Parapet
Monastery Flock
Mystic of the Hidden Way
Embodiment of Spring

Spells (6)
See the Unwritten
Savage Punch
Dragonscale Boon
Force Away
Lands (18)
Dismal Backwater

Sideboard (12)
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
Scout the Borders
Weave Fate
Singing Bell Strike
Kin-Tree Warden
Shambling Attendants
Stubborn Denial
Dragon Throne of Tarkir
Hardened Scales

As you can see, I maybe made some deckbuilding mistakes, too. I left Sidisi, Brood Tyrant in the board, such was my desire not to splash. I also hadn’t really played with Sidisi, and so I underestimated how worth it s/he was.

All this ended up being mostly academic, though, because in R13 I had a feature match against probably the best player ever:

R13—Jon Finkel

It’s kind of a perfect storm, when I think about it: My first feature match ever, against Jon, on three hours of a sleep, with a deck that was kind of lacking a soul. Jon was kind enough to dispatch me quickly with his Gruul Beats deck, absolutely destroying me with Alpine Grizzly into Summit Prowler into Savage Punch and Dragonscale Boon, and so on.

There was one key turn in G1 when if my morphed Thousand Winds had lived one more turn, I could have flipped it up and set Jon back a fair bit, but he killed my morph with Savage Punch and I was mostly done. Then in G2 I was forced to mull to five, after a too-slow opening hand and a one-land six-card hand, and I pretty much never was in the game in any meaningful way. As I said after, hey—at least I didn’t have a chance to punt on-camera; and, as Marshall said on coverage, “There’s no shame in losing to Jon.” True enough.


R14—Jason Kim

After that I will spare you. The wheels more or less came entirely off—I was just running on total empty, mentally—and I lost a rematch in R14 against one of my Day One losses, Jason Kim, including a turn wherein I swung in with a morphed Thousand Winds and an unmorphed Riverwheel Aerialists, flipping up the Thousand Winds to return several guys to Kim’s hand … but of course also my own Aerialists. It was just a boneheaded, non-thinking play. That’s where my head was at, at this point.


R15—The Fiddler

Finally, in R15 I lost to a guy I’ll call The Fiddler, who was recording all of his matches with a GoPro, using an iPad to track his life total, and tracking all sorts of other data on a sort of spreadsheet. He also requested that I use his numbered morph tokens (instead of my lucky, Matt Jones–made morph tokens), and other bullshit like that.

I acquiesced, because he seemed harmless enough, but it really put me off my game and bothered me, especially when I was losing. (This guy had an honestly stupid deck, with double Mardu Charm and double Abzan Charm.) So I got to be upset at this guy, and thus played contemptuously and not well—and lost. Then the fucking guy apologized to me! It all felt very weird and codependent, and I am resolved in the future not to let another player’s bizarre preferences or peccadilloes affect my game. No, you may not use your numbered morph tokens on my creatures; no, I’m not going to use your lucky dice as counters; and etc. All that stuff is just a distraction and, unless I’m misinformed about the rules, I don’t think any player is ever required to use tokens as requested by his or her opponent.



So after starting the day on an amazing 3-0 run, setting me up for a potential Top 8, I again—just like at GP Pittsburgh and GP Las Vegas in 2013—I ended the day on a bad skid.

Still, it was good enough for 80th place and $250, so I can’t complain too much. But like I said in last week’s article, I’m getting to the point where Day Two isn’t good enough for me. I’ve won a PTQ, I’ve made Day Two of a Pro Tour, and now I want to Top 8—and win!—a GP. As the first draft of this GP proved, I can hang with the best of the best when I’m on top of my game, so I don’t see any reason why it can’t happen. I just have to keep trying to improve, not get discouraged, and enjoy the ride while I’m at it. Even though I got stomped by Jon, it was still pretty sweet to have a feature match against him. I want a rematch!


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.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.