The rooftop to Adam’s renovated warehouse loft is several flights up a staircase and opens to the canopy of north Brooklyn and beyond the hidden river and the Manhattan skyline. The spring sun light bounces off the towers. Adam shoots his hands at the skyscrapers.

“Look at that, man. Just look at that.”

“It’s great.”

It was my first time visiting my best friend from middle school.

“You see that, D? That whole thing out there. That, my dear friend, is the Factory.”

It vibrates, breathes.

“Yeah. It is.”

“And this. This, dude. Brooklyn. Is the Lab-ra-tory. Think about that.”

I bought two boxes of Modern Masters 2015 and along with a bunch of guys from Team Draft League cracked a few to draft with over the long course of a recent day, and across the weekend I managed to draft the set about six times.

Before that, though, I went to Google to do a cube draft simulator. There were six of us, in an empty cafeteria, stickering sleeves and making packs. I had studied some but had not yet played with many of the cards and did not build sealed pools. I built Red/White Double Strike. My deck was okay, not great, but had some late game power with Nobilis of War and it was enough to go 2-1 in a six man pod.

Back at Longos and into the next day at an art studio in Brooklyn I underperformed with two Black/White Spirit decks — one significantly less mediocre than the other — and after deciding to perform the old ‘Bad Idea Draft’ I went 0-3 with a WUBRG pile. I was tilted, frustrated with the deck and with myself for drafting it. I grabbed my value and shoved it in a deckbox and fumed incessantly into the buzzing streetlights as I sweated home.

I had to calm down. I had to not let anger cloud my vision of the game. I wrote down what I did wrong, and thought a lot about fatigue. When my brain has had enough it shuts off and refuses to open itself up to, you know, thinking. Stress and restlessness have to be kept in check.

Adam kept his training studio spotless, dusting and wiping and meditating to incense were his days and evenings for years. I would come and visit him to train once per week, mostly boxing and climbing, but a well designed menu of modalities. After the hour had done and I showered and steamed and emerged swollen and tired, Adam unfolded a chair and we sat with our legs touching the mat and we burned incense and spoke circles around our childhood together and consciousness expansion and the universe being a great lung that breathed and we were all essentially a feather on that breath.

We talked about focus, intention, and preparedness. I was disciplined in those days and woke up early enough to get in stretches every day and when I visited Adam to train I would really show the class how it was all done. When Adam had the mitts on and the body pads and helmet, I would execute combinations and hear the mitts pop like gunshots with falling dust.

It had been over a year and a half since I last swung a tight, focused punch at a mitt. Magic took its place, and ever since I had slowly leaned back down and all that energy that exploded out of me had no outlet and soon I became pent up again. The focus had faded, the coffee had skyrocketed, and the sheer amount of processing has been exponential.

Tuesday, yesterday, I got a massage and stretched. I breathed and my mind relaxed. I thought a lot about the factory and the laboratory that Adam had proposed to me all those years ago when I was still a child here in New York City. I always agreed with him. Today I believe Factory and the Laboratory are even stronger with what they ask of us. I can hear them churning when I slow and listen.

Tonight I played Splinter Twin again. A list I borrowed and fiddled with from fellow Hipster Zac Clark. For those of you who remember me I am definitely an Abrupt Decay mage, a Birthing Pod player through and through when it comes to Modern. I decided to put down Abzan, as I spoke of these last few weeks, and try something different. Twin is different. It’s powerful, its classic format combo shenanigans always must be respected, and really though its just a completely different style of play than I am used to.

I have not done well enough yet. Tonight was 2-2, as I lose to Mono-U Tron and Abzan. Here is my current list that I played.

Grixis Twin

Creatures (13)
Snapcaster Mage
Deceiver Exarch
Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Spells (25)
Serum Visions
Lightning Bolt
Spell Snare
Kolaghan’s Command
Splinter Twin
Cryptic Command
Murderous Cut
Lands (22)
Scalding Tarn
Polluted Delta
Bloodstained Mire
Steam Vents
Blood Crypt
Watery Grave
Sulfur Falls
Desolate Lighthouse

Sideboard (15)
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Vedalken Shackles
Engineered Explosives
Smash to Smithereens
Olivia Voldaren
Keranos, God of Storms
Anger of the Gods

Sideboard plan against midrange matchups is great, as I love to grind and the deck can really give it to someone post-board. Overall, though, I might like Tarmogoyf more than Tasigur. I always feel the deck is light in the 2 cost slot and I would love to have a proactive follow up to Serum Visions.

I am going to keep tweaking, keep trying out new cards each week, slowly tinker the list until I like the general strategy and believe it to be optimized for my play style. It’s exciting to be trying something new in Modern. I was sick of Abzan. Granted, Twin is nothing new, but I have to stimulate myself with a different kind of deck — a blue deck — so that I may better learn the format.

Adam smiles through a puff of smoke as he looks through me with his squinted eyes from the sunlight. The factory and the laboratory. I will continue my way to discipline.

Derek Gallen lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York.

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