There is something special about the first draft of a new format. Pick orders seem entirely fluid, archetypes are still unexplored, and despite having looked at Monique’s list of instants and flash spells, I still am not entirely sure what to play around. Though I fully appreciate knowing the in’s and out’s of a limited format, there is something enjoyable about stepping into the wild west of a draft and just shooting from the hip. So with only my limited prerelease experience, I moseyed into Pandemonium Books and Games this past Friday to join what would become a sold out draft. After a very patient judge yelled out 64 names, I sat down in my pod and cracked my pack.

Before I could even pull out my token and basic land, the player to my left announced that he had a Liliana, Heretical Healer which he obviously snap picked. I’m not sure how much attention I should have paid to this since, the packs should speak for themselves in terms of color signals, but I assumed I wouldn’t be passed much black and didn’t first pick the reasonable Reave Soul in my opening pack. I took what I thought to be the next best card in the pack, War Oracle, or Warocle for short. I had assumed that lifelink and reknown attached to a Hill Giant would be a pretty big game in this format. I didn’t really consider that just about every removal spell kills it and that the four drop slot in this format is stacked, but like I said, wild west. I took a Leaf Gilder out of a pretty bad pack, ended up seeing a late Citadel Castellan, and wheeled a Celestial Flare. At the end of pack one I was solidly in white, but with a strong impulse to go green unless something else tempted me.

Pack two was disastrous. Despite not passing much in the way of white, or green for that matter, I saw stacks on stacks of black and blue cards and not too much else. This is the point I should have switched into one of those colors but I stubbornly stuck to my guns and tried to fill out my curve with aggressive two-drops in Timberpack Wolves and Cleric of the Forward Order. Pack three went better than pack two, but I had to get nine playables to put together a reasonable deck. I ended up getting seven and having to play Healing Hands and Ampyrn Tactician. Also, I made the boneheaded pick of taking a Warocle over Swift Reckoning. Not only could I have used an additional removal spell, but I really just didn’t need all of the four drops I had in my deck.

This is the final deck:



GW Limited

Creatures (17)
Runed Servitor
Cleric of the Forward Order
Timberpack Wolf
Elvish Visionary
Leaf Gilder
Hitchclaw Recluse
Knight of the Pilgrim’s Road
Citadel Castellan
Llanowar Empath
Somberwald Alpha
Ampryn Tactician
War Oracle
Charging Griffin
Totem-Guide Hartebeast
Patron of the Valiant

Spells (6)
Grasp of the Hieromancer
Celestial Flare
Kytheon’s Tactics
Healing Hands
Knightly Valor
Lands (17)
Rogue’s Passage

Round One, I was paired with Amelia, a local judge who drafted an aggressive RB Deck. In both of our games she was flooded and despite having a lot of removal in multiple copies of Fiery Impulse and Reave Soul,  I was able to voltron together a giant creature with Knightly Valor and there wasn’t much she could do. I made one pretty big rookie mistake in holding up mana on her turn in order to end step play Healing Hands. Instead, at the end of the turn I looked at Healing Hands and realized it was a sorcery. I guess I was spoiled by the old days of cycling Renewed Faith and playing Pulse of the Fields in my RW Slide deck. Anyway, I won the game pretty handily and went on to Round Two where I played another RB Deck, piloted by the guy passing to me who opened Liliana.

Round Two, I won game one via a board stall where I was able to cast Kytheon’s Tactics and swing with the team. While my opponent should have been able to block and survive, he neglected to play around the Somberwald Alpha in play and I just gave my biggest creature trample to claim victory. Game two, we got into another board stall where I had a giant Citadel Castellan enchanted with Grasp of the Hieromancer and Knightly Valor. Since he had a ton of thopters in play thanks to multiple Ghirapur Gearcrafters, I couldn’t quite swing in without trading. I thought I had the game when I drew my Rogue’s Passage and started chipping away at his life. Yet, he was able to alpha me, and then follow it up with a Chandra’s Fury. Game three, I mulled to five and he had an insane draw of Boggart Brute into Cobble Brute with three sequential removal spells to clear out my blockers. That’s magic, I guess.

Round three, I claimed glorious victory over my bye and went around to see all my friends win their last match in the finals.

Here are some quick final thoughts about my drafting experience:

  • It seems worthwhile to prioritize two drops whenever possible in this format. With all of the renown creatures floating around, it seems really good to have a two drop, especially on the draw to trade with these guys.
  • Llanowar Empath ended up exceeding my expectations. While the card is certainly clunky, the ability to smooth draws and gain card advantage by revealing a creature should not be understated.
  • With all the board stalls in my games, Rogue’s Passage was an allstar. While I didn’t love this card in Return to Ravnica, in a two color core set environment the card really shines.
  • Healing Hands is not an instant. Also it probably still wouldn’t be good even if it were an instant.


At age 15, while standing in a record store with his high school bandmates, Shawn Massak made the uncool decision to spend the last of his money on a 7th edition starter deck (the one with foil Thorn Elemental). Since that fateful day 11 years ago, Shawn has decorated rooms of his apartment with MTG posters, cosplayed as Jace, the Mindsculptor, and competes with LSV for the record of most islands played (lifetime). When he’s not playing Magic, Shawn works as a job coach for people with disabilities and plays guitar in an indie-pop band.

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