“So this is an old border-only cube?”

“Yeah. Only before all the art started to suck.”

We are face up pile shuffling the four hundred and fifty some-odd cards across the table, and Brian David-Marshall, Pro Tour Historian, smiles atop his hilighter-orange sweatshirt. Around us, the familiar sounds of a busy gaming store begin to fade.

“Yes, and the Black Album will be on for the duration of the draft.”

He laughs.

“Well, it’s 1994 so it’s probably more like In Utero.”

Another smile and a laugh from BDM. We’re all laughing and getting relaxed into our seats and the downtown Manhattan evening. Soon the packs are dealt out and we begin to draf Evans Classic Cube. I open a decent pack and first pick a rather unexciting Wrath of God, then get shipped a Worn Powerstone. I patienty wait to see whats open at the table. When all the WW 2/2 heros table I move in on the most unexciting classic cube archetype: Green/White Fair.

The best part of the draft is right after the drafting when everyone flips over their piles and builds their decks at the table: we all start laughing and ooing and bragging over picks, lamenting passes, and the air gets more boisterous and exciting as we add lands and get ready for the first round.


Green/White Fair

Creatures (16)
Mother of Runes
Soltari Priest
Order of Leitbur
Soltari Trooper
Longbow Archer
Order of the White Shield
Soltari Champion
Pianna, Nomad Captain
Nantuke Vigilante
Caller of the Claw
Paladin En-Vec
Mystic Crusader
Mageta, the Lion
Serra Angel
Karmic Guide

Spells (7)
Winter Orb
Sylvan Library
Empyrial Armor
Elephant Guide
Armadillo Cloak
Lands (17)
Windswept Heath

Sideboard (9)
Akroma’s Vengeance
Wrath of God
Thornscape Battlemage
Blinding Angel
Vengeful Dreams
Radiant’s Dragoons
Mirari’s Wake

I debated over the correct build and decided to go all-in on the early game and hope to close the door with Armageddon or Winter Orb, and keep the midrange cards in the board. I could easily board out the auras for Genesis, wrath effects, and artifact/enchantment disruption. Anyone who has ever drafted this era of Magic knows how strong the artifacts and enchantments were, and how quickly they need to be answered. Overall the deck was lacking a Swords to Plowshares effect, so I had to rely on a stream of threats and evasion to get me there.

I end up going 1-3 over four rounds. I was pitted round one against Li “Reanimator” Xu, to whom I so graciously passed the card I never pass in cube, Recurring Nightmare. I actually passed him Living Death too. I was feeling much too generous. To be fair, I did take Armageddon and Winter Orb over them, and my deck was in dire need of both effects. Otherwise, I am fully aware how wrong it is to ship these cards. Li beated me handily. His ability to recur Symbiotic Wurm and Visara, the Dreadful were too much for my little dude deck to handle.

Flashback, Pro Tour New York 1999. My first and only qualification to the Junior Super Series. The format, Type 2, or Standard. I am playing Shadowclysm. That’s a white weenie deck full of shadow creatures and Cataclysm. I get beaten up quickly at the tournament, losing to Necropotence in round one and to RecSur — Recurring Nightmare and Survival of the Fittest — in round two. It was the wrong deck to play at the tournament. I had dropped after round two and spent the rest of the weekend drafting oversized cards and goofing around in the presence of the old greats.

Even after boarding against Li he just simply had too much value and stomped easily all over my valiant and graceful 2/1’s.

Then a series of amazing games against Justin on 4 color control. A very Justin deck, with Tinker/Voltaic Key/Phyrexian Colossus as the sweet finisher. This was the best deck to board into my midrange strategy, but I couldn’t find my closers and failed to close out the match.

I looked over at BDM, who was busy gunning down his opponent with his mono black deck. He had it all, as black was shamefully open at the draft table. He played sternly, and at blinding speed, Mind Twisting, Hymning, tutoring for Strip Mine. There was a staunch aggressiveness to his play style that endeared me to him.

My next two matches were to Ferrando, whom I lost to, and then to Evan, whom I beat with a beautiful nut draw and then tempoed him out. Caller of the Claw was definitely my MVP. By the fourth round we were all very tired and happy to be so tired. The gaming store, soon to close up for the night, was nearly empty, and all had suddenly come back into focus.

Outside, even in nearing midnight, the air held within the wind a budding whisper of Spring.

Friday evening I decided to get a draft in at the LGS in Brooklyn. After Grand Prix Miami I needed a break from Standard, wanting instead to buckle down and work more on my limited game. The draft itself was where I really needed to focus my mind, relax, and navigate.

I open a sublimely mediocre pack that contained the black mythic Ghastly Conscription. I took it, as there was no real great uncommon, and only a Reach of Shadows at common. I figured I could potentially build around the card if black was open. After getting passed Pyrotechnics, I get a beautiful stream of blue cards in the first pack, a pair of Gurmag Anglers for black, and a bunch of junk. It was not even clear that I was anything except for blue. I kept my mind open, ready to shift my strategy, and opened the second pack.

I open a foil Master of Pearls and a Flying Crane Technique. The rest of the pack, aside from a Mardu Heart Piercer, was unexciting. I thought for an infinite minute about his pick. I decided to take the Master of Pearls and hedge on possibly nabbing some white cards in pack two, as I didn’t see much white in the Fate pack. I bob and weave around blue and white cards, and end up wheeling the Flying Crane Technique. I slam it, and focus entirely on Jeskai. I got very lucky in pack three as I open Crater’s Claws, then get passed a few on-color lands!


Creatures (12)
Jeskai Student
Ainok Bond-Kin
Wetland Sambar
Glacial Stalker
War Behemoth
Master of Pearls
Sage-Eye Harrier
Canyon Lurkers
Lotus Path Djinn
Mindscour Dragon

Spells (10)
Write into Being
Master the Way
Force Away
Smite the Monstrous
Crater’s Claws
Flying Crane Technique
Enhanced Awareness
Treasure Cruise
Lands (18)
Wind-Scarred Crag
Swiftwater Cliffs

I asked old TDL mate Sean Morse to help me smooth the deck out, which was a great help. I was proud of myself for being patient and correctly abandoning my first pick. While my deck wasn’t a slam dunk, it was both consistent and powerful. It had a plan.

I went 2-1, losing in the finals to an insane Abzan warriors deck. He said he didn’t lose a game, and I certainly believed him.

This weekend I will be prereleasing at TwentySidedStore in Williamsburg. Come say hi!

Derek Gallen lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY.

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