With Modern Masters 2015 looming beautifully on next year’s horizon I think it’s even more pertinent to explore my shortcomings in the limited format. I didn’t get to play much of the original Modern Masters, both because I was still out of a job last summer, which has its obvious financial constraints; I was also so intimidated by limited that I didn’t want to scrounge what little money I could get together to draft a complex format. So I stuck with M14. Which was miserable for me. But I digress.

I’m considering my investment into MTGO my education, and what a way to do so. Being alone in my apartment has its distinct advantages when doing ‘homework’: I have the serenity of place to concentrate, to think through everything. No distractions. Often I’ve found myself talking out loud over picks, writing things down as I go. This freedom of space and time is exactly what I need, not within crowded gaming stores swimming with big talkers and traders. A thinkin man’s gotta think.

MTGO running on my MacBook Air is laughable at best. It’s an older model computer (late 2010) so when MTGO is running, nothing else can be running. While I haven’t had to restart the client yet, I’ve definitely had to be quick when making picks and clicking through turns, as the drag my computer withstands to keep pace with Magic Online is so immense my screen will often go blank mid-combat, or mid-pick.

As for drafting and playing, well, my record hasn’t been what we shall call satisfactory. If this was class and MtGO was my homework, i’d be failing and considering changing majors. I’ve done almost ten Triple Khans 8-4 drafts this week, and i’ve yet to make it past round one. And its a combination of everything: my drafts, my deckbuilding, my games are all rough compared to my smoothly rolling opponents. They each have a plan, and I have a mess of cards. It’s like i’ve never drafted before, as if i’d gone back to the very basics of the game, playing MtGO. Every mistake I make, every opening I give away, is glaring. I know I can be pretty hard on myself, so I try to stay relaxed. But the aspects of limited I fail to understand are what separates me from being a more well rounded player.

My initial impression of where I fall short begins with my inability to stay open during the draft. It has since zoomed out to larger issues: my failure to maximize the value of each card in my deck, and lacking the understanding that each card must harmonize with the deck’s overall gameplan. It is, in a way, easier to play the simpler game where you get ahead early and your cards keeps you there, or possessing the guaranteed power to disrupt your opponent out of casting their spells or extracting any value from their cards. Constructed offers these securities, and the play style I have engendered is used to having them close by. It probably explains why I love the card Abrupt Decay.

I know most of you limited experts/junkies know all this, but I have failed to see the inherent differences for far too long. So I have had to go this far back to the fundamentals and take my time hashing it all out.

So I stepped back, admitted defeat in the 8-4 queues and took a suggestion from the lone comment on last week’s article by Travis Bewley. This morning I jumped into a 4-3-2-2 with the hope that I would have more time to play with my cards and thereby get some more data. I took some notes and this is roughly how it went:

Pack 1. I open Jeskai Windscout as the best common and monocolored card in a pack with Kheru Lich Lord and Kin-Tree Invocation as the most powerful cards in the pack. I am passed a pack where I could have taken Mardu Heart-Piercer but I chose instead to stay on color and pick up Scion of Glaciers. I then see that I am being shipped decent green and take an Alpine Grizzly. My read was correct. I get passed an Opulent Palace, and end the first pack wheeling a Sultai Soothsayer and the Kheru Lich Lord. I am so Sultai right now.

Pack 2. I open Butcher of the Horde and take Savage Punch. I get passed Murderous Cut, then Sultai Charm. The pack dries up a few picks later, but I still end the pack with a Debilitating Injury, a few dual lands, and some filler.

Pack 3 I open Rakshasa Deathdealer, which I slam. The pack goes well I get a late Swarm of Bloodflies and an 8th pick Sultai Soothsayer. My deck ends up like this:

Bleu Cheese

Creatures (17)
Rakshasa Deathdealer
Archers’ Parapet
Alpine Grizzly
Jeskai Windscout
Monastery Flock
Sidisi’s Pet
Kin-Tree Warden
Abomination of Gudul
Longshot Squad
Scion of Glaciers
Swarm of Bloodflies
Sultai Soothsayer
Kheru Lich Lord
Shambling Attendants

Spells (5)
Savage Punch
Debilitating Injury
Force Away
Sultai Charm
Murderous Cut
Lands (18)
Frontier Bivouac
Opulent Palace
Jungle Hollow
Dismal Backwater

Sideboard (8)
Dutiful Return
Rakshasa’s Secret
Temur Charger
Smoke Teller
Monastery Flock
Embodiment Of Spring

I undervalued a Crippling Chill and a Wooly Loxodon, both of which were very much needed for this draft deck. But I was still happy with my picks overall. I wish it had just one more flier, like a Sultai Scavenger, that would help close games out a little faster. I also passed a Kheru Bloodsucker, which proved to be a mistake. That little guy is one of my favorite win conditions in Sultai decks.

So, for the first time, I went into round one and came out the victor. My opponent was on Mardu, and while he was able to go very wide, I was able to gum up the ground and win with fliers both games. I took a picture to celebrate.

The fliers coming across for the win!

The fliers coming across for the win!

Round two I go against Abzan. His deck was very powerful with Ivorytusk Fortress and Necropolis Fiend as problems I had to solve. We go to game three but in the end he gets there when I draw over half my lands and can’t keep his growing board under control. Sure, I made mistakes, but at the end I leaned back with more reps than I had gotten with the 8-4’s, and overall, more reps in a week than i’d been able to get all year. Turns out, in order to start advancing my game, I had to go even further back than I imagined. It’s an exercise in humility; a challenge i’ve had to dismantle before rebuilding in order to climb. I’m the architect, and i’m teaching myself how to draw.

Derek Gallen is gonna get a new computer.

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