“Just the man I wanted to see.”

The bartender is tall, with a 1990s Jordan Catalano length and part. He’s tall and very tan, wearing a short sleeve collared shirt likely purchased at Pacific Sunwear for the Vans Warp Tour.

“Sup dude.” He says, pushing a piece of hair behind his ear which then flops back down in place. “Whattaya eatting?”

“I already ate. But I need a beer.”

He pours me a long Pacifico and sticks a lime wedge to the rim of the glass. We get to chatting. He, and myself, are engaging much more than I might have ever done in the past. We are both hair-of-the-doggin’ today: me spending yesterday walking from the Lower East Side to the West Village and up to Chelsea in black jeans under a summer Monday heat; him, well, he’s a bartender. He gets to take both his medicine and his poison every day.

I drink fast while listening to him tell me of his old financial life and how he moved away after ten years to Europe in rejection of his career he had built and decided to prioritize quality of life. He hits the beach most mornings, and tends bar. It’s an easier life, and since he does less, his spending is less, too. I cheersd him for his good choices, quietly dreaming of the day I can take a job to Europe, or simply pack up and move there, to spend however much time it’ll take to sculpt the life I want over there.

I get up, pay my bill, and head to the LGS to draft.


I’ve only drafted this set five times, Magic Origins, and I am still getting my handlebars in tune. My deck was okay, light on early plays, but very capable of going 2-1.

Baby Blues

Creatures (16)
Anointer of Champions
Topan Freeblade
Skreeching Skaab
Knight of the White Orchid
Jhessian Thief
Blessed Spirits
Knight of the Pilgrims Road
Scrapskin Drake
Voidmage Prodigy
Amphyr Tactician
Aspiring Aeronaut
Totem-Guide Hartebeast
Heavy Infantry

Spells (7)
Stratus Walk
Anchor to the Aether
Swift Reckoning
Tragic Arrogance
Lands (17)
Foundry of the Consuls

When I laid it out, Hugh sat across from me and we talked over card choices from my pool until we optimized my build.

“You need to prioritize two-drops more.”

“I know, I just don’t really see them. And I always end up taking a more powerful card instead when I do.”

“You gotta train yourself. If you had a few more two drops this would be a solid deck.”

He was so right. Cut the Totem-Guide and a three-drop, probably the Knight of the Pilgrims Road, and add two more two drops and the curve would have closer to ideal. My games played out how I imagined… I couldn’t play well enough when my opponent curved out, and I got run over in my first match and third. Mana problems and mulligans aside—those happen to everyone—and I was unsurprised I went 1-2 with this deck.

I do, however, like blue in this format, more than I thought I would. There are excellent tempo spells, and Watercourser has been surprisingly effective at trading up when a bit behind on board.

Afterwards, I couldn’t decide whether to draft again or play Modern, so off  to a local restaurant, The Lodge, with Gabe and got drunk on Ommegang White. We ate wings and fries and salads and talked excitedly about the draft format—mostly me listening, though, as Gabe already drafted the set over twenty times and had some trinkets of insight—and  him going to school and me working and I told him about my problems with Modern but he had already been reading these articles and knew and asked me what I was playing so I raised my mason jar and dribbled on my pants as I told him about reading Dickmanns articles on Twin and compared it to the GP Singapore top 8 list and decided on a bit of a compromise based around what I expected to see at the store and how I like to play and really, really, I mean… It was my only night once a week where I could play Modern and, and, I mean… I can’t figure it out which one and the clock was ticking by ticking by and with less than ten minutes to decide I order another Ommegang choke it down and signing the credit card slip I run back to the store backpack against my chest excited and ready to sling some Twin.

Tarmo Twin

Creatures (14)
Snapcaster Mage
Deceiver Exarch
Huntmaster of the Fells

Spells (24)
Serum Visions
Lightning Bolt
Gitaxian Probe
Spell Snare
Spell Pierce
Splinter Twin
Cryptic Command

Land (22)
Scalding Tarn
Misty Rainforest
Sulfur Falls
Hinterland Harbor
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground
Breeding Pool
Desolate Lighthouse
Sideboard (15)
Ancient Grudge
Blood Moon
Keranos, God of Storms
Grim Lavamancer

So I crash down in the chair unroll my mat and Li is hovering over me watching me shuffle and draw my first seven. The guy across from me is playing Hatebears with the new flying horse from Origins and while he bested me on Delver last week I knew my deck configuration was better against him and we started playing and Li there above me studying the plays and our game begins to sprawl over the mats and Li is called over to draft when I am deciding whether or not to play my Huntmaster turn four. I dont and give him a window to double wasteland me and when I finally can cast the Huntmaster the value is too much as I’m sniping down his little birds and flying horses with my giant werewolf and take the game. After board I am Pyroclasming him to death and its a more lopsided game two I take down.

I’m laughing and sweating into round two, the Ommegang really taking hold of me, as my round two opponent starts Thought Scouring and Delving out big Zombie Fish. A powerful thing, yes, but I nut draw him. Serum, Goyf, Deceiver, Twin. Next game. I barely know if he has Monastery Mentor or what so I keep a few lightning bolts in but wholeheartedly expect Gifts Ungiven as he likes to play with Gifts, so in come the extra countermagic. I draw a hand with Tarmogoyfs and a million Negates and Dispels and that was more than enough so quickly I am 2-0 and I am dizzy with excitement and beer and hollar at Tony and Charles to get another beer down the street. Genese Cream Ale down the gullet in less than five and I am running back to the store and slam down across the table from a Fish player. Perfect, fish… I am underwater already.

Game one I Twin and game two he double lords me and drops Master of Waves. Game three I get to Pyroclasm his Silvergil Adepts and attack with double Goyf and… just like that i’m undefeated. I split with George in the final round, bank my credit, and run off with Li and Charles to down more beer at a empty sports bar down the street. I order and down two Guiness in quick succession and am alight with victory and Li and I go over the Huntmaster line and I learn a little more about board awareness and when to value threats in my bubbly haze and I try to pull em both to get food with me but they refuse me, it’s late, I already ate, yada yada yada, so I hustle alone to eat soupy dumplings even tho I am not the slightest bit hungry, only the beer is hungry, the beer requires sustinance to keep me floating so I sit there, nearly alone at the bar save for the employees, making an utter fool out of myself slurping and splashing everywhere as I in nirvana eating my soupy pork wrapped in dough, each bite tasting victory, each splash staining my shirt and jeans.

I can barely drink water. The beer will not allow it. I pay, roaring inside, and begin the walk home, calling my girlfriend and waking her up to tell her I love her and I miss her and I can’t wait for Montreal this weekend. She is grumpy and half-there and tells me she loves me and hates me for a little moment over why I woke her. I laugh. I hang up. I pass a bar. I see them there, the crowd through the gates in the open space, drinking and laughing. The beer nags me, pulls at me, tells me to stumble on in. I fight it, sweating hot, refusing it any further service, and collapse home in my warm bed.

Derek Gallen lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York.

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