I promise I was all set to take my own Last Picks Challenge this week, and post the triumphant results today. But circumstances, shall we say, intervened. Still, I tried. After staying home sick from work on Tuesday, I worked most of the day and then in the late afternoon fired up Magic Online for a Last Picks Challenge draft, in a Swiss queue. Here’s the P1P1 that faced me:

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“Sweet!” I thought. “I’ll first-pick the Murderous Cut, wheel the Gurmag Swiftwing, and be off to the races.”

But the first time in history Swiftwing didn’t come back, and I stumbled a bit in the draft, trying to stay true to the Last Picks Challenge, but also trying to put together a decent deck. I really felt the spike-y pull of wanting to win competing with my commitment, Dear Reader, to provide you with entertaining content. Here’s how the deck came out:

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It’s not bad, though I would have killed for another dual or tri-land, plus maybe another Trumpet Blast to make it sing. I never saw another Swiftwing, but I did pick up 2X Molting Snakeskin, which is one of the cards I targeted in last week’s brief. Perhaps I should have run one of the Rush of Battles, but I didn’t like doing that with my mana-fixing situation. And maybe, again giving my mana-fixing sitch, I shouldn’t have run either of the Chiefs.

In R1 I faced a Jeskai opponent and went to three games. I forget whether this happened in R1 or R2, but at some point I had a Leaping Master suited up with a Molting Snakeskin, and had enough mana to both leave up regen mana and put the Master in the air every turn. I jumped the Master on T6 or so, but then opted to tap out to play a morph into my opponent’s nearly empty board, risking a burn spell—which of course he or she had. I think I should have just stuck to my plan and ridden the Master to victory, rather than getting greedy and trying to develop my board. Typically, of course, developing your board is the right decision, but if you have a threat that your opponent has to answer or he or she dies, and a way to protect that threat (regen mana), I feel like you should force your opponent to show you the answer before you do something else.

Then in G3 I died to Flying Ninja Holocaust, which Christ almighty is a demoralizing card. Here’s what the end of the world looked like:

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My opponent didn’t even have the respect to cast Flying Crane Technique after attacks, thus untapping his creatures in case of shenanigans and a crackback on my part. Come on, man!

And then in R2 I got badly mana-screwed in G3, missing land No. 3 for literally nine consecutive turns, and somehow managing to stay alive until then, with a one-drop Disowned Ancestor, a Chief of the Something-or-Other, and a Mardu Skullhunter. In R3 I got the rub-ins bye.

So that worked out well. I’ll get back on the horse and try again next week, though. Stick with me, Dear Reader!

In other news, this week Wizards unveiled their holiday card, which is an awesome tradition they’ve been doing since 2006. Here ’tis:


What an awesome card. I have to admit, I’m a sucker for Christmas and the holiday season in general, and every year I wish that the season were longer, rather than the truncated and super-busy Thanksgiving to New Year’s stretch, after which we face the Great Blasted Expanse of January through March with nary a reprieve or much to look forward to.

And you know what else I like? Christmas music. I’m not kidding. I honestly think that “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is one of my favorite songs ever. It’s such a simple melody and lyrics, but something about the tremolo of the music in the good versions just conjures softly twinkling lights and those languid moments at home when everything seems warm, and a whiff of magic from out of childhood fills the air.

There’s a good new Christmas song this year, too, by a band called The Both, aka Aimee Mann and Ted Leo. Aimee Mann previously made one of my favorite Christmas albums, One More Drifter in the Snow, which some reviewer (favorably) called “Christmas music to slit your writst by.” Definitely check out that album if you into non-sappy Christmas music. And here’s the song from The Both:

In the meantime, if any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one: I’d like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is!

Wait, that’s not right. Still, it’s a great scene from one of my favorite movies:

Be good to each other, remember those who are less fortunate than you are, and enjoy the season! And seriously, if anybody wants to track down a copy of Mishra’s Toy Workshop for me, I would be happier than, well, a kid on Christmas morning.

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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