“You wanna split? I need to get dinner before the prerelease.”

That’s me, tired and trying to resolve our finals match.

“You wanna split? YEAH! That’s fine. That’s totally cool with me. But… what are we going to do about the PROMO? That’s a Hordeling Outburst, you know. I mean. You should just concede it to me, becuase, you know, you’re hungry. You’re probaby really hungry and need to eat, right? Before your big midnight prerelease? You should just give me the promo… I will let you go eat dinner. HAHAHAHHA now I don’t see any problem with that! HA!”

That’s my opponent. He made me feel great about handing him the promo.

The plan was simple. Get one last draft of Fate Reforged/Khans of Tarkir at FNM, then the big dinner that burns deep into the midnight prerelease oil. Sleep a few hours, then head back to the LGS for the 3pm on Saturday. Most who know me well enough know I am bound, most of the year, to work all weekend, so having off both Saturday and Sunday off is reason enough to celebrate.

The snow and the cold, however, tried some sassy shit as I finished work in my cardboard reveries. For those not in the New York City area this past weekend, you should know how tough we natives got Friday… watching the snow fall and chill the streets and begin to stiffen the tops of poles, the dry arms of trees. We watched it fall, and we refused its silence. Out and about was the world while it became wetted and hooded with refusal. We didn’t care. The snow had its time to apprehend us, and we had already thawed and stomped out the dirty and crusted remains of winter.

It was bullshit.

As I sat down to my FNM draft I was happy to enjoy one last dance with this wack-a-doo format, and excitedly slammed a foil Mardu Strike Leader in a decent pack of playable commons and a crap rare. I get passed a pack with 3 uncommons and a Soulflayer. I shrug and take the rare. Then, the excitement happens. I get passed a third, yes, THIRD PICK Mistfire Adept.



The next pick is by far the most interesting. The best cards are Aven Surveyor and Sandsteppe Outcast. I’ll go over this pick for a second because I think it’s really interesting. The obvious pick is Aven Surveyor as it goes with my Mistfire Adept. However, I don’t believe it goes with my first two picks, especially the Mardu Strike Leader. The Sandsteppe Outcast, however, does go with the strike leader. And while both cards are late in the pack, I think the Sandsteppe Outcast is a bigger signal. A first pickable white card made it half way around the table?

While the surveyor is really solid, the outcast is a card I place a higher value on for the synergy potential in the Khans packs. Last, and certainly not least, was the tiebreaker. I had yet to even draft Black/White Warriors in this format. I really wanted to, but it never signaled as open, and this seemed my opportunity to move in. I took the Outcast. I was instantly rewarded by getting passed another Sandsteppe Outcast. The blue quickly dried up.

A few decent wheels and I ended up with a sweet BW deck that splashed Duneblast. It was nothing special, but it still easily went 2-0 and split in the finals. Actually, I split because I was desperate to get my meal in before the midnight prerelease. My finals opponent used this information haughtilly as leverage to press me into conceding the promo Hordeling Outburst to him. I had just watched him not let his opponent take something back because, you know, they were playing for the promo. This was serious business. Cutthroat Magic.

Andy Longo (Papa – the supreme fellow Hipster) agreed to fuel our serious midnight contest with some dulset bowl BiBimBap. We ordered Kimchee Pancake and strong beverages. The dulset bowls entered the sprawl, hissing and steaming. We bent to it, and took down our respective mounds. Longo looked at me halfway through his food.

“This is…really good.”

We paid and left, the last ones in the empty dimmed restaurant. Our bellies full, our minds ablaze, we gathered our boxes of packs and cracked those first thrilling unfocused packs.

I had Silumgar. I opened Deathbringer Regent as my stamped rare. I also opened Stratus Dancer and a bunch of sweet uncommons. I loved my deck and spent most of the time fiddling with my 22nd and 23rd card. Longo had a wacky Kolaghan control deck with a million burn spells, Outpost Siege, Sidisi, and the Dragonlord herself. He hemmed and hawed over a few cards, but it was really the refinement of an already high-powered deck. We laughed, tired as all hell, and sleeved our decks up. I went 1-2 over three rounds, getting trounced by two Atarka mages with a million burn spells and huge green threats.

I left alone and walked to Metropolitan Avenue under a yellow night sky and a canopy of white-haired trees. I stood at the edge of the sidewalk, half dead to a world pulsing with last call arguments and cab rides and continued towards home. The silence overtook me as I crossed McCarren Park. In just a short while the sun would rise and overtake the night, but for now it was a blue black world that surrounded me. A world of silence and darkness, where the mind is the greatest tyrant of all.

Saturday, 9am. No alarms, no loud surprises. I wake quite naturally, my mind in a terrible fog but my body suddenly rearing. I shuffled and drank cups of coffee and ate. I organized cards and called my parents. I showered and stretched. What in the hell was wrong with me?

Around 1:30 I had had enough and left for a quick breakfast burrito before stumbling into the LGS far too early to play. So I tagged along with a group of guys and went to lunch. Again. I ordered a coffee and the guys ordered drinks and burritos and we sank into our hard wooden chairs and laughed as we ate and drank. When another round was ordered we all felt more relaxed and some of us even started shouting as other guys from the store came in and laughed at us and ordered burritos. Soon we were roaring and itching to play. We paid the bill and ran down the street to the queue and cracked our boxes.

I took Atarka because I got smashed by Atarka at midnight and wanted revenge. I opened the poorest pool I had ever opened and grappled with it angrily and hated the cards and my Crater Elemental I got foiled and stamped. The prerelease date was mocking me and I hated the 0/6 bastard.

I went 0-2 quickly. Billy, a local ringer at the LGS, scolded me for not playing my three Kolaghan Aspirants. I shoved them in, and then went 2-0. I should have thanked the guy. I also should have realized I needed a better curve. Playing with a shit pool definitely warrants better play, better commitment to maximizing your value. I had to milk every card I got, and I was lucky to get the 2-2 and the 2 prize packs at the end.

Most of the matches I was laughing and thinking very seriously at times and overall having a great time playing Magic with all the prerelease folks over at Twenty Sided Store. I love playing there, and I love the prereleases. I haven’t set foot in another store for a sanctioned event since I started playing there. I believe it to be the best place to play in New York City. They never disappoint.

I walked home, and into bed with my lady shortly thereafter, and slept for almost twelve hours. I tried to explain to her things about Magic and about Dragons of Tarkir that were so amazing and that filled me with excitement, but she didn’t care, she didn’t care about any of it. She just pet my head and let me sleep. She could see how strung thin I had become. She recognizes it whenever I travel for a Grand Prix. I’m lucky to have her to fall into after I put so much out there to play. Whenever I burn out, ashen and gaunt from mental burnout, she’s there to comfort me and nurse me back to health. I am a lucky man.

Derek Gallen lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY.

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