“Don’t get too cocky.”

That’s Hugh, while we’re laying out our freshly drafted decks, and mine is legit. Real legit. The kind of pool that makes your hips move while you decide on cuts. Tan shouts from the other end of Doms apartment, where his team is building decks.

“That’s messed up that you’d say that to your teammate!”

It’s good advice for me, though. A good pool doesn’t give you leave to loosen up.

We all laughed and kept building. Our decks were good, and I was excited to brawl. Excited is a bit different than cocky. Not only had I correctly read the draft table, but I opened a pack that measurably influenced the initial flow of the table.

Before I go into the decklist, here’s my P1P1.

Deathmist Raptor /

Ultimate Price /

Rakshasa Gravecrawler /

Flatten /

Youthful Scholar

So, let’s see. My choice is between a powerful mythic rare, the best common in Flatten, the best uncommon in Ultimate Price, a powerful uncommon in arguably one of the best colors, in Rakshasa Gravecrawler, and Youthful Scholar, one of the key pieces for the exploit strategy.

It was hard to imagine who would take what, but I tried to build the situation in my head.

Bert, to my left, would probably take Ultimate Price. Hugh would then get to pick between Flatten and Rakshasa Gravecrawler. If he takes the Flatten and is already in black, Tan gets a messy signal in getting the Gravecrawler 4th pick. Putting this many people into black on my left was unavoidable, so it was best to take the unkillable Deathmist Raptor and ship no green pack one. Dom passes me, in order, Stampeding Elk Herd, Stampeding Elk Herd, Press the Advantage, then a pair of late Pacifisms. When the Enduring Scalelord wheeled, I achieved zen.

Oh, and I opened Whisperwood Elemental in pack three. The wombo combo with Deathmist Raptor!

Misty Whisper

Creatures (17)
Whisper of the Wilds
Scaleguard Sentinel
Avatar of the Resolute
Guardian Shield-Bearer
Deathmist Raptor
Sandcrafter Mage
Misthoof Kirin
Colossal Yearling
Aven Sunstriker
Champion of Arashin
Stampeding Elk Herd
Whisperwood Elemental
Wardscale Dragon
Herdchaser Dragon
Enduring Scalelord

Spells (6)
Honor’s Reward
Press the Advantage
Lands (17)

My one mistake in drafting was passing Epic Confrontation to Dom for an Avatar of the Resolute. My deck really needed one more piece of interaction and I should have thought about that a bit more. I also have an unhealthy love for Swordwise Centaur.

Hugh and Abe, who is a babe, drafted Silumgar decks. We smashed. The only disappointment was not getting to close out my match against Richard Tan in the final round. I was up a game, so if you’ll allow me, I’ll take that as a win. So I went 2-1 for the night. My only loss came against Dom, where I flooded out game one and got tempo’d out game two. Casting three spells in one turn is a real thing when they all work together to wipe your board.

I was ready to register a sweet pool for my first Sealed PPTQ in, like, ever.

I was sitting in the back of WildPig comics in New Jersey just after 12:45pm ripping open packs and asking the table how they like this whole business organized.

“It’s WUBRG.”

“And alphabetical.”

Alphabetical by set?

“Just put it in the order you have it checked off on the sheets.”

“Yeah, but by set.”

“And by color.”

Right. Alright.

I’m going through the pool and getting pretty jealous of whoever gets this bad boy. Dragonlord Dromoka, Citadel Siege, Ojutai Exemplars. It was an easy one to build, and easy one to 4-2 or 5-1 with. The cards just told a smooth, powerful story. And coming off my sweet Dromoka build from TDL, I was itching to play with power.

Then the judge came over.

“Alright everybody you’re gonna pass your pool to the person behind you.”

I knew this was coming. I handed the guy behind me a pool with a ‘THERE YOU GO!’ smile and received a hot smelly stack in return.

This pool… was a puzzle. And by a puzzle I mean it asked me a ton of questions, and many of those questions were hard to answer. I thought long and hard about…

ALRIGHT, lets stop right there. This pool was difficult, annoying, and underpowered. I also built it incorrectly. I probably should have kept it so we could have a chat about it today, but I tossed it after the six rounds were over.

Halfway through the tournament, in the 0-3 bracket, after some awkward mulligans and mana problems, I consulted with Zach Barash – fellow Hipster – for advice on my build. I needed to know if it was really the optimal selection from what I had to work with.

Zach agreed with most of my choices, that I had to be Kolaghan and splash for power. But I had chosen 2 Harsh Sustenance off two Scoured Barrens, whereas he nixed the idea and said just splash green for my two green rares, Warden of the First Tree and Atarka, World Render. So after the rest of my game ones I swapped out for the green splash. It helped a tiny amount, as I was able to take a match. But I finished 1-5 and was the in last place of the people who didn’t drop. Stick it out for points, right?

The more I think about it, I should have posted the pool as an exercise, but I was feeling dejected and pulled the rares out and tossed the rest of it. A bad memory in the trash. I passed by the top 8 draft table as I left the LGS. Five of the top Eight players were from Team Draft League. One of the other guys I recall took the pool I passed. He recognizes me.

“Hey man, howd you do today with that pool?”

I shrug.

“The pool was bad, and I misbuilt it. 1-5.”

“Sorry man.”

“Yeah, the moment I passed you that pool I knew you’d be here.”

“Yeah! That pool was nuts!”

“Whelp, congrats on the top eight.”

“Thanks man.”

I turned around right before I left to take it in. Five of Eight made it. TDL ruled this place today. And even though only one of them would get the Q, it means the world to me that we are where we are. I play with the best in New York.

Derek Gallen lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY.


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