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Wednesday and I arrive at Biermerchants for a 7 o clock Team Draft League match against Rolex. That’s Hunters team, what I call it. Whatever the case, Rolex needed a sub and the Werb was tagged out for SilumKadar, the Drifting Deathtouch. He passed to me. I opened Sage-Eye Avengers and was happy to pass the 33% chance to open a good rare. The stats are supposed to be about that, how often you open a rare good enough to take in this format. The pack was fine, so I felt okay shipping the goods and counted what would come back. I got passed a ‘meh’ pack and ended up in the right seat to draft UR when I wheeled Cunning Strike and Enhanced Awareness. I prioritized prowess and spells that could deal loads of damage from nowhere.

I was handing batter between Kadar and Hunter that was black and defensive. I figured they were both black based and made sure to cut a card here and there as I drafted. A few mistakes during the draft kept me short 2 Whirlwind Adepts, which proved fatal.

Get Swiped

Creatures (12)
Wetland Sambar
Smoldering Efreet
Jeskai Windscout
Bloodfire Expert
Scion of Glaciers
Lotus Path Djinn
Hungering Yeti
Mystic of the Hidden Way
Sage-Eye Avengers
Glacial Stalker

Spells (11)
Tormenting Voice
Trumpet Blast
Jeskai Runemark
Barrage of Boulders
Cunning Strike
Enhanced Awareness
Temur Battle Rage
Lands (17)
Swiftwater Cliffs

If we minus the Trumpet Blast and the Cancel to the sideboard and add 2 Whirlwind Adepts I think we have a deck. But, Ce La Vie. Ever since Luis-Scott Vargas hyped the card it hasn’t been wheeling like it used to. Sigh.

Round one. Monique is on UG dudes and spells that punch your creatures with her creatures. Theres some red in there, too, for a Snowhorn Rider and probably a Temur Charm. I don’t see much and I get there in three joyful games on the back of tempo spells and flying prowess scouts.

Round two. Our team is ahead 2-1. I go up against SilumKadar on Sultai Control. Again. This guy won’t quit. His deck is fine. It takes him a year to set up his durdles into a value machine, but once its going I am not winning. So, leave it to variance to bite me in the bum. I get choked on a color and other bad mana things happen to me. Kadar gets his million years to set up and I lose. He even went off with Kin-Tree Invocation.

Round three. Rolex. Or, Hunter. He writes for the website too, you know. He is on 4-color no red control. His deck has End Hostilities and Silumgar and random dudes. It looked like he was between Silumgar control and BW Warriors for most of the draft. Why does my team always either go against Silumgar or open Silumgar? This card has warped my idea of this format around itself. It stinks. Just like Silumgar stinks, killing any notion I had of becoming a 2/2. I lose.

My deck didn’t have enough creatures to pressure my opponent. Damn you, Whirlwind Adepts! I will have to take you higher now!

Shout out to Dylan who 3-0’d the night with a beautiful Mardu deck. I was able to ship Ankle Shankerand Mardu Ascendancy right through Hunter. Glad that happened, otherwise it would have been really bad. Like, worse-than-losing bad. And whats worse than that? REALLY losing. Dylan boarded in Break the Line against Kadar and Hunter and smoked their stupid 0/5 defenses. It frustrated the shit out of Kadar. Sorry not sorry. Not every Parapet is insurmountable.

After the draft was over and we settled our bar tabs, Dylan all willy-nilly on winning out his draft he was so excited and we chased our breath and the talking about the draft as they heated us en route to my apartment in Greenpoint, to get some Modern in while we still had blood left in us to play.

We saddled up, I put the music on, and we smashed faces with our Splinter Twin decks and my Abzan deck. We were in a haze and laughing before getting very serious and frowning over the game below, concentrating as best we could in our current state. I played all the shit I wanted to play and he loved it. Dylan and I had never until that night just jammed games at my apartment, but since Team Draft League formed and he had elected me as his teammate this season we began. We talked about Denver and my brother out there who played Magic way back in the day and him winning at Barrons once with a Pirate Ship and two Land Leeches and making the regulars tilt because his deck was so utterly mediocre.

He left late, well after one a.m., and I barely slept off my haze that dragged into the workday.


Friday. I am dead tired. I head to The Dojo after work to practice Standard. The Dojo exists in the clouds above lower Manhattan. Only those worthy can enter. I am barely worthy but I manage to enter and get some reps in with the guys. Everyone is testing for the PPTQs that weekend. I help them, but I am also testing for GP Miami. My headspace has been so clogged with Modern I had to slow down and build my headspace for Standard. I have Abzan Control sleeved up.


Creatures (10)
Courser of Kruphix
Siege Rhino
Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Planeswalker (5)
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Sorin, Solemn Visitor

Spells (19)
Abzan Charm
Read the Bones
End Hostilities
 Hero’s Downfall
Bile Blight
Lands (26)
Sandsteppe Citadel
Windswept Heath
Temple of Malady
Temple of Silence
Llanowar Wastes
Caves of Koilos
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Sideboard (15)
Nissa, Worldwaker
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Liliana Vess
Garruk, Apex Predator
Drown in Sorrow
Glare of Heresy
Read the Bones
Utter End
End Hostilities
Bile Blight

2 Drown in Sorrow were already in the deck and the Read the Bones were all in the sideboard. I figured it was a good metagame call if the format was overrun by RW aggro. It wasn’t a great idea. I switched them out after the second game or something. Testing was interesting and I learned a great deal about the format, which is incredibly diverse and many decks can be quite competitive.

I tested against Sidisi Whip (I am unfavored), RG Devotion (I am slightly unfavored) and RW Aggro (it is about 50/50 pre-board) for the whole night. I was horribly exhausted from work and said a lot of shit without thinking about it but played decent enough magic that I didn’t have to clean up any messes. I left feeling uninspired by Abzan Control. I wanted to attack more. It makes me nervous to play a slow control deck over a long tournament like a Grand Prix. Perhaps that is a reason to play it, to push myself towards a different play style. Ultimately I have not yet committed to the deck, or any deck, but I have ideas. I have a lot of work to do before the Grand Prix and will report back next week when I know more.

I will also be PPTQing this weekend outside of New York City, in the Standard format. I will pick one of these decks:

Abzan Aggro

Sidisi Whip

RW Aggro

Abzan Control

And run it. Who knows, I could win the thing. I feel confident about my ability to play but less than confident about my understanding of the format as a whole. Lets see how a weekend of tournaments changes all this thinking.

Until then.

Derek Gallen lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY.

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