Sunday morning I drafted a sweet deck. The last time I’d had the chance to draft it was February, so you could say I was jonesing. I love Fate/Khans draft and it has been so difficult the last few weeks to be too busy and too deprived of internet to have any chance to crack packs.

I found myself sitting at draft pod twenty two at a random table in the basement of some Cleveland meat locker. The day before, I took one look at my sealed pool and said, “at least I have [casthaven]Duneblast[/casthaven]!” Which, you know, could be worse. Fortunately I passed the “what other 39 cards go in this deck?” test and snuck into day two of Grand Prix Cleveland with a 7-2 record. Along the way, I cut another knotch out of my achievement card: make an 11/11 [casthaven]Swarm of Bloodflies[/casthaven] with [casthaven]Duneblast[/casthaven] and still lose. That’s a platinum trophy.

Anyway, back to the draft. I laid out the forty-three picks during deck build and nodded. It was the kind of deck you get up at seven ay em on a Sunday to play. There was something about it. Something seventeen. Something two. Something November 2013. Paging Zac Hill!

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Old School Rakdos

Creature (15)
Mardu Shadowspear
Valley Dasher
War-Name Aspirant
Leaping Master
Mardu Skullhunter
Gore Swine
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
Merciless Executioner
Ponybacl Brigade
Krumar Bond-Kin
Mardu Warshrieker
Summit Prowler
Dragon-Style Twins
Gurmag Angler

Spells (8)
Douse in Gloom
Collateral Damage
Arrow Storm
Act of Treason
Temur Battle Rage
Tormenting Voice
Lands (17)
Mystic Monastery
Bloodstained Mire
Bloodfell Caves
Mountain
Swamp

Sideboard (17)
Crackling Doom
Temur Battle Rage
Dutiful Return
Rush of Battle
Sage-Eye Harrier
War Behemoth
Rotting Mastodon
Shambling Attendants
Defiant Ogre
Bloodfire Mentor
Mardu Banner
Pressure Point
Temur Runemark
Tomb of the Spirit Dragon

This is what we call drafting the open deck. (The fact that this deck could be an option is one reason I love this format. You can do anything!) I wouldn’t mind having a second [casthaven]Act of Treason[/casthaven], and the [casthaven]Mardu Shadowspear[/casthaven] could be something better, but we can’t expect perfection. It could really use Tymaret, the Murder King but whatchagonnado? Second-picking [casthaven]Valley Dasher[/casthaven] is not exactly something that I ever want to admit I did. (It was a different time.)

We take the gifts we get, however, and this deck was a real gift. Forty-one of the cards are at least theoretically playable out of the sideboard, although I can’t imagine splashing [casthaven]Pressure Point[/casthaven] so maybe it’s only forty usable cards. Did you know [casthaven]Defiant Ogre[/casthaven] is a warrior?

I had SOMUCHFUN® playing this deck and I never even had the opportunity to use Alesha’s reanimation ability. I never got to curve her into morphed [casthaven]Ponyback Brigade[/casthaven] into [casthaven]Collateral Damage[/casthaven] and attack. I just did normal things.

In game one of round 11 I defeated Cedric Phillips despite being stuck on three lands until turn eight. I cast five spells: [casthaven]Douse in Gloom[/casthaven], morphed [casthaven]Krumar Bond-Kin[/casthaven], [casthaven]Douse in Gloom[/casthaven], morphed [casthaven]Krumar Bond-Kin[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Gurmag Angler[/casthaven]. I started drawing lands again, and that’s when things got out of control. Shuffling for game two the [casthaven]Goblin King[/casthaven] wondered aloud how he lost that game. We traded four cards but mine turned into [casthaven]Blacker Lotus[/casthaven]. Delve, I tell you. Delve. Game two wasn’t close.

How is this the best google image hit for "Cedric Phillips Goblin Token" I could find?

How is this the best google image hit for “Cedric Phillips Goblin Token” I could find?

So. After being the one who eliminated the hometown hero from the grand prix by the lake, I was 9-2 and playing what the player beside me described as a win-and-in for a PTQ top eight. My opponent was Kentarou Yamamoto. He’s pretty good at Magic.

Matches like this are why I play, why I came here, why I flew to Cleveland the weekend after my first week at a new job and two days after some dudes in a truck dumped twenty boxes of crap into my apartment and said “have fun with this!” If you don’t want to play a top-25 player at the halfway mark of your 6-0 journey to the top eight, then why play competitively at all?

When you know your opponent will sideboard well, you really want to win game one. You can also sideboard well, but still. The hardest thing to do in Magic is to beat a master who’s seen your deck and had a chance to configure their own to beat it. Against most players I feel I get an edge after the first game. Against Kentarou, however, I sure as hell did not.

Game one was going well enough. His four-color temur monsters deck was tough, but I had a good draw and a trump card in hand. [casthaven]Temur Battle Rage[/casthaven] wins games that didn’t look like they were about to end. If you do too much mental math before attacking your opponent will see it coming.

What happens when you go to play your [casthaven]Bloodstained Mire[/casthaven] on turn four and you briefly flash your [casthaven]Temur Battle Rage[/casthaven] to Kentarou and see his eyes pop? Apparently if you are Brendan McNamara, you instantly and subconsciously decide that your shame is too great to even try to cast the card for the rest of the game, and then sideboard it out. Don’t ask me what I was thinking.

Many turns later, many cards exchanged, one [casthaven]Temur Battle Rage[/casthaven] still in my hand, effectively face up. Kentarou has eight life, [casthaven]Lotus Path Djinn[/casthaven], and a random ground creature. I had the kind of hand this deck tends to give you in the late game: [casthaven]Act of Treason[/casthaven], [casthaven]Temur Battle Rage[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Collateral Damage[/casthaven]. So obviously I win, right? Take the djinn, make it a 3/4 double strike, then fling it post-combat. Maybe he can interact, but I still come out of that okay, right?

Maybe not. “Take two, go to six?” As soon as I said it, he reached over to take back his djinn. And why not? If I had anything else to do I would have done it. When I said no and cast [casthaven]Collateral Damage[/casthaven] to put him to three, he probably couldn’t believe his luck.

I managed to pull myself together during sideboarding, as I brought in [casthaven]Crackling Doom[/casthaven] (which he passed me and unfortunately knew I had), [casthaven]Dutiful Return[/casthaven], and two plains. This was a grind and he had a lot of big annoying creatures. I won game two comfortably, but I still felt sick. You don’t give away game one against a master and still win.

My tournament effectively ended in game three, with Yuuya Watanabe watching closely. We had been jockeying back and forth like game one. I had kept his board in check and continued to apply pressure to his life total. Then the fateful turn came. Kentarou untapped his six lands, drew the third card for his hand, played a land, cast [casthaven]Riverwheel Aerialists[/casthaven], and passed the turn with one island untapped.

[casthaven]Crackling Doom[/casthaven]?

waitforit

[casthaven]Stubborn Denial[/casthaven].

I untapped, did something I have since forgotten, and passed back. Empty handed, he drew a card. Bear’s Companion it was. A win for me, it was not. I ended up 10-5 in 130th place.

We had a Hipsters dinner Saturday night—Hunter, Zach, GCB, along with a couple friends—and during the conversation I observed that one of my strengths was my ability to shrug off a mistake. I said this maybe twelve hours before I threw away my chance to win the GP out of nothing more than shame. Live and learn.

Live and fucking learn.

Don’t give away games. Don’t be an idiot. Don’t let embarassment compound your mistakes. And don’t whiz on the electric fence.

The story does have a happy ending though. Sunday night I had a great dinner with DoctaFunkenstein, NumottheNummy, dave_finkle, and more new friends. Then Gabe (the non-GCB) and I came back to the hotel and filled out two late-night coverage drafts with BDM, Marshall, and co. Have you ever drafted with half the packed being stamped surplus and the other half cracked from packs? Has your team won both sets? Did you get these cards as prize?

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Brendan McNamara (MTGO: eestlinc, Twitter: @brendanistan) used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he’s a lawyer by day and a Dimir agent by night.

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