Bile Blight.”


I untap and take my draw under the dim kitchen table light, play a land and tap out for Dragonlord Ojutai. Hugh, across the table, has four or so mountains in play and a couple of cards in his hand. An oiled chicken crackles inside the oven, sends the smoke alarm upstairs into a hysterical screech fit. Hugh’s roommate screams, runs downstairs into the kitchen, and I watch from across the table the carcass emerge from the heat popping and smoking. She fans the midnight roast and sighs. I turn to Hugh, who is already passing the turn, but I can’t hear him among the detectors piercing scream. The way for my feathery hexproof dragon was clear.

Damn. Dragonlord Ojutai is… good. My-first-Serra Angel kinda good. After only a few turns of crashing in, I suddenly won. Turns out control decks now have incredible closing speed.

Serra Angel

A few games later and its getting late, and after midnight, so we pack everything up and call it.  The alarm had stopped upstairs but the chicken still crackled away. Presumably she had yanked it from the ceiling and it hung there, swaying from wires. Hugh didn’t know what he was going to play anymore for this weekend’s RPTQ.

“That card really impressed me.”

Walking down Metropolitan Avenue home I’m texting Tim, who is in Providence for the SCG Open running CFB’s Esper Dragons list.

“Ojutai is the truth. Holy fuck.”

This was following up an unforgettable text received earlier in the day from him, during his mid day-one run:

“Ojutai is the best permanent we have been graced with since Jace, the Mind Sculptor.”

Ah, magic and hyperbole. But I didn’t fully “get” what he was so excited about until I finally played with this new murder weapon from Dragons of Tarkir. By now most of us have seen Ojutai in action, both at the Pro Tour and Grand Prix Krakow—where 6 of the 8 decklists were similar builds of UB Control—turning sideways and protected eerily by another new card that says UU: Counter target spell.

Before you had to risk going to time. Now you can beat someones face in with a 5-power flier and afterwards reward yourself with an ice-cold beer before the next round begins. Well, maybe not the beer exactly. You could smoke a cigarette. Or eat something. Luxuries that control players could only afford when the other side of the table flooded the board with 2/1’s for one.

Earlier that night Hugh, Abe, and I descended upon Sam’s Brooklyn apartment for the first week of Team Draft League. I open a so-so pack with Zurgo, Bellstriker and take Dragon Hunter. Sean Morse passes me his pack and I am swooned by a drifting darkness shrouding my vision. A distant laughing thrusts against me. The floor coming up from all sides and bending around me, then dissolving into blue-black ocean. Tiny goblins and shadows of birds pester me. I am feversihly drawn to their long coaxing fingers, the insect sounds of wings.

Winless Nightmare

Creatures (14)
Typhoid Rats
Shambling Goblin
Jeskai Sage
Palace Familiar
Dutiful Attendant
Marsh Hulk
Ukud Cobra
Wandering Tombshell
Gurmag Drowner
Lotus Path Djinn
Silumgar Butcher
Gurmag Angler

Spells (9)
Reach of Shadows
Ultimate Price
Butcher’s Glee
Rakshasa’s Disdain
Sight Beyond Sight
Supplant Form
Enhanced Awareness
Lands (17)

Sideboard (2)
Mystic Meditation

This deck did absolutely nothing, but it drew most of its deck each game. My teammates, ever the disciplined drafters, played their decks like champions. I struggled, still clouded by the power of blue-black. But while it taunted me, it laid for me no path to victory. I was lost, stumbling through my games with a bunch of small creatures and card draw spells while my opponents played bigger creatures and beat me down. I felt cheated, betrayed by my own weakness to the hypnotic colors. I was their victim.

I went 0-3. My teammates closed out 3-0 and 2-1, getting the victory for our team, Reid Duke Nukem. Hugh and I packed up and left Sam’s apartment together, as he wanted to head home and test some Standard. I told him I had Abzan Aggro, but would play whatever he had.

Friday night. FNM. We can end on a high note, as I opened Dragonlord’s Prerogative and drafted this beauty of a UW deck.


Creatures (14)
Stratus Dancer
Wandering Champion
Arashin Cleric
Jeskai Sage
Elusive Spellfist
Updraft Elemental
Sandsteppe Outcast
Zephyr Scribe
Monastery Loremaster
Mistfire Adept
Aven Tactician
Aven Surveyor
Cunning Breezedancer
Belltoll Dragon

Spells (9)
Write into Being
Center Soul
Whisk Away
Enduring Victory
Dragonlord’s Prerogative
Secure the Wastes
Will of the Naga
Void Squall

Land (17)

This deck, by contrast, had a consistent plan, a higher power level, and really sung when playing the control role. I could turn the corner very quickly with cards like Mistfire Adept. I had great finishers with Secure the Wastes and Cunning Breezedancer. I went 2-1 with this deck, as my round two opponent played Abzan Beastmaster into Surrak, the Hunt Caller on curve. I passed an Ojutai’s Breath and wished I could have not played the Zephyr Scribe, but other than that I thoroughly enjoyed playing every game with this deck.

First UW, then UB, and now, Esper. And Dragons. For a green midrange player this past year, I’ve been in heaven playing blue again. The darkness has made itself present, and I can do no longer with pressing it away. Let’s see how deep Esper will take me.

Derek Gallen lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY.

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