By Kairi Izumi

Editor’s Note: Meet Kairi Izumi, our fourth contributor to the new, rotating Scrub Report! Kairi’s articles will appear over the next four Fridays, as she details the highs and lows of being new to MTG. If you’d like to write for The Scrub Report, send an email to [email protected]

Jetlag be damned, I went to my first prerelease – M15 – barely a week after I arrived in Melbourne. The host store was only a kilometre from home, so stumbling across it was a natural consequence of many aimless walks with my girlfriend; something simple, that’d long been denied by living in different hemispheres. It was only after checking out the game store that we learned about prereleases; nevertheless, we were signed up for a Saturday morning flight before we left the building. I was locked into white, and she to blue.

Deckbuilding was intimidating. Looking back, we’d pretty strange expectations for sealed: we thought that the likely outcome would be mono-coloured decks, so we ended up playing most of our white and blue cards, respectively, and the decision to splash into black for me, and white for her, was based entirely on increasing the number of non-land cards we could play. Here’s the deck I ended up with:

(Nearly) Mono-White

Land (19) (19)
12 Plains
Radiant Fountain
Swamp

Creature (11) (11)
Accursed Spirit
Ajani's Pridemate
Oreskos Swiftclaw
Razorfoot Griffin
Resolute Archangel
Shadowcloak Vampire
Soulmender

Instant (5) (5)
Meditation Puzzle
Pillar of Light
Raise the Alarm

Enchantment (4) (4)
Divine Favor
Marked by Honor
Spirit Bonds
Stab Wound

Artifact (1) (1)
Staff of the Sun Magus

In retrospect, the deck had a strange gameplan (which, to my misfortune, I would later attempt to recreate in a draft). Today I’d be pretty disappointed by the conditional removal and the number of spells that do nothing to affect the board. My narrowmindedness about staying in white shows in the fact that I can only remember one other rare I cracked besides [casthaven]Spirit Bonds[/casthaven] and the promo [casthaven]Resolute Archangel[/casthaven]; a pretty useless [casthaven]Llanowar Wastes[/casthaven]. Yet somehow the deck carried me to 2nd place at 3-0-1.

It’s possible that the more invested, more skilled players went to the midnight flight, but my round 3 and 4 opponents knew what they were doing. Me, on the other hand; I only discovered in round two that tap abilities were as subject to summoning sickness as declaring attacks. All things considered, I think my fortunate first experience of sanctioned Magic came down to my opponents not having enough removal to outrace my evasive creatures, nor the answers to deal with an inevitably massive [casthaven]Ajani’s Pridemate[/casthaven] or a persistent [casthaven]Stab Wound[/casthaven]. While I can’t see myself trying this strategy again any time soon, in this instance the life gain did a lot of work in helping me stay ahead. I had a lot of fun at the prerelease, and registered my spot in a release day draft on the way out of the store.

That first draft was tons of fun too. I ended up in a vaguely artifact-centred UR deck, with both my colours open. Tapping their chunkiest blocker with [casthaven]Tyrant’s Machine[/casthaven] and then smashing with a [casthaven]Glacial Crasher[/casthaven] happened more than once. This time I feel like I had a bit more of an idea of what I was doing, but the maindeck [casthaven]Staff of the Flame Magus[/casthaven] shows that I wasn’t paying attention to the pros yet.

My First Draft Deck

Land (18) (18)
Island
11 Mountain

Creature (15) (15)
Aeronaut Tinkerer
Borderland Marauder
Generator Servant
Glacial Crasher
Goblin Roughrider
Krenko's Enforcer
Miner's Bane
Paragon of Fierce Defiance
Research Assistant
Scrapyard Mongrel
Torch Fiend
Will-Forged Golem

Instant (1) (1)
Negate

Sorcery (1) (1)
Void Snare

Enchantment (3) (3)
Encrust
Inferno Fist

Artifact (2) (2)
Staff of the Flame Magus
Tyrant's Machine

This time I managed to go 2-1, and came 2nd in my pod. But that elation was cut short by my first experience of rare re-drafting [Editor’s Note: Rare re-drafting, common among some stores and playgroups, is a process where players give their rares back at the end of the tournament, and going from 1st place down to last, players “draft” the pool of rares to keep]. Not so much for myself, since I didn’t pull anything exciting, but my girlfriend Yuki opened up a [casthaven]Jace, the Living Guildpact[/casthaven]; not a super-exciting card for Constructed, I know, but it sucked to see her lose the first Planeswalker she’d got her hands on. On the bright side, it gave me an excuse to gift her a foil copy.

Eventually, rare re-drafting stopped me from playing at this store, despite its convenience. Too many kids went away with garbage rares (unlike the local judges, and those who played at higher-level tournaments). I don’t think I’m too biased here, being a spike myself. Further experiences of drafting there made it feel more and more cutthroat, as the regulars’ priorities lay more with winning than having a good time. Overall, this detracted a lot from the environment and even touched on angleshooting at times. At the very least, it didn’t encourage you to explore different strategies. Drafting a box with friends is so much better if you want to play without prioritising money cards.

I remember our last draft there very clearly, because the store owner was pulled into our pod to prevent anyone getting a bye. I hate ten-person pods, because nothing wheels (but that’s another story). Anyway, Yuki and I both ended up playing against him, and he was the most quiet and disinterested person either of us had ever played against. I know my standards aren’t everyone’s, but I found it unpleasant when he took part in the re-draft at the end; there was some kid, maybe 11 years old max, and he got nothing at all having come last place out of 10. Re-drafts create bad feelings in an environment of mixed skill-levels.

After this, it was hard to feel any allegiance towards the store, so we looked to Magic Online. Somehow we managed to win round 1 of our first draft – Theros block, all unfamiliar – after forgetting to press the ‘submit deck’ button. The hodgepodge of every card we drafted was awkward to pilot, to say the least, but sideboarding provided some reprieve. Despite the talk of toxic players online, I’ve yet to run into anyone actively unpleasant. One time, I found myself talking to an opponent from China, and the sense of unity through cultural walls, over a card game nonetheless, was lovely. Things are generally a bit quiet; but that beats passive aggressive dudes assuming the worst of you for being a girl. Honestly, I think Magic Online’s great; and its problems at least overstated. Still, it was hard not to miss the smell of fresh packs, and Yuki and I soon found ourselves drafting at a new store.

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