Abe and I are walking down Grand Avenue away from the finals of Team Draft League, and our not-close win. Abe was three hours late due to a train accident that involved him switching trains–not cars, but entire trains—at Jamaica station, which only led to the new train take off in the wrong direction. A draft scheduled for 7:30 began when nearing 10:30. In the waiting time, the rest of us drafted holiday cube, played guitar, ate dinner twice. Hugh and I walked Grand Avenue looking for food for everyone: snacks, treats, hummus for the two of us. We talked a lot about our love lives, about work… not really much about Magic. Nothing left really had to be said before we cracked our packs. We had gotten here, playing a season against the best players in New York.

Now it was time to stay calm and take it down.

Abe arrived, sweating from a burst out of the subway, and hungry. We ordered him food, and on his insistence we drafted before the food arrived. I opened Deathmist Raptor and slammed it. The signals were tricky but I passed Sarkhan’s Rage and Atarka Efreet and didn’t expect red to come back in pack 2. I swung around Green, White, and Red for the first pack. Pack two I opened Draconic Roar and was passed Roast. I spent the rest of the draft trying to decide which flavor of Naya I should be, and ended up sorta between all three colors on playables. I had enough morphs and splashable cards that I could figure out which color to splash, and off we went to deckbuilding.

I ended up with a clunky midrangey deck that was base Atarka with a white splash for a few morphs and a Sandblast.

“Remember: don’t be the control deck.” Hugh’s advice. Sound.

The games went slowly for me in round one against Sam and his sweet Silumgar deck with, yep, Silumgar, the Drifting Death. He had me at every turn of the match, his deck paced itself perfectly against mine and I had no real recourse unless he stumbled. After losing round one, and both my adept teammates won their rounds, I went against the almighty Pena.

Pena was having a night. Earlier, before the actual draft began, he bought into a holiday cube draft on MTGO and put together a goofy deck with Pack Rat and Balance. Once the draft started, him loving his deck as much as he did, he kept running up to make plays on MTGO while in his League matches. For the league match, he was on Kolaghan (my favorite color combo in the Dragons format) and as we started playing I then realized what my good matchup was: aggressive decks. I took him down with Deathmist value and just like that, it was 4-1 in our favor. We needed one more. By the time I was halfway through round one of my third match, we had already taken the whole thing down.

We scooped up our winnings, high fived everyone for making the finals, and took a ridiculous picture.

Afterwards, with Abe and I walking down Grand street, we said goodbye. Soon he’d be off to college in Connecticut and he’d be more or less invisible, apart from a few visits, for the next four years. He smashed the competition all season, far and away the best record among the entire league. I learned a lot from him, just by watching him, and it’ll be a huge loss for us all that we don’t have him around. So good-bye, Abe Lusk. For now. See you on the Pro Tour.

I spent the weekend glowing from my first great victory among my peers. After working each weekend day and spending time with the lady each night, we had all of Monday and Tuesday together to catch up. It’s crucial in a relationship to invest full days together to keep the momentum healthy, especially prior to making a big decision, like living together. So we dedicated these two full days to each other, just enswathed in each other. Often, we go for long walks around the neighborhood and explore places we haven’t yet been. This exercise frequently involves a lot of eating and drinking, and this particular venture was no exception.

However my love was not within her usual spirits. She was tight, quiet, spun up and half faded. The entire two days I gently pressed, persisting with tenderness, over what it might be that was closing her up. Not only from me, but from the world around her. It was out of my control, but I wanted to get her to start talking. If we let our loved ones stew in their own worlds for too long, they can damage their own perception of themselves, and damage us without even being aware of what they do. It was as if the sun, in a midsummer apex, was pressing down on me, weighting me to the pavement, and the more we walked and sat and drank together in half silence, the more I felt the sun’s heat push me against the sidewalk as we traversed further into the afternoon.

We slept that Monday night and into the morning. She was up early, drinking coffee on an empty stomach. There was that same heaviness as I stumbled half dressed into the kitchen. It began to weigh deeper on me. I couldn’t bear to see her in straights and unable to open any of it to me. I told her I had to leave. She stopped me, turning and beginning to cry. I held her immediately, and she let me in.

She was lost. Ten years in New York and a slave to her job has left her feeling without enough friends and without anything, a hobby, to keep her stimulated. All she did was work, and rest. I was like this once. I commiserated with her. We have, of course, quite a lot in common. I was there, alone and focused entirely on my job, without a substantial interest to come home to for the majority of my twenties. It wasn’t until I found my love of writing, and my love for Magic, that brought me out of a perpetual hangover. I loved her hard then, and comforted her deep sense of purposelessness. The harder I held her, the more thankful I felt for her, and for my friends i’ve made through Magic. For the community i’ve been welcomed into. It’s a constant support system that gives me everything my job, my lover, and my writing dont. It gives me a sense of belonging. I told her she should seek that out, whatever that means to her, and relayed to her my finding and cherishing that belonging with my friends. It worked. She kissed me, and promised me she would find it for herself.

Without each other, we are stranded islands. It is heartwrenching to see some so alone, not wanting to come out and play.

The lady kissed me good-bye and off I went to the LGS. I was ready to start working on Magic Origins. I joined a six man pod and cracked my first pack. The best card was War Oracle. I got passed some great white cards in Suppresion Bonds and Patron of the Valiant. I had a choice on whether to take the green card or the red card, and chose a red removal spell over the 4/4 trampling reknown creature. It ended up being a medium decision, as green was wide the fuck open at the table in packs two and three, and I was fighting for both red and white in the early part of the curve. My deck ended up slow, controlly, with a powerful late game and the ability to get easily run over.
The games played out as I expected. If I hit a two drop on turn two, I couldn’t lose. If I didn’t, I was playing from behind. I had to prioritize two drops highly if I was to keep up with the pace of this format. I ended up losing my first match and then going 2-1 in the pod. Good enough for a few packs and some data to take away.
After that I decided to play Modern instead of draft again. It’s my favorite format and I only get to play once per week. I didn’t get Zoo together in time, so before I ran to the LGS I threw together this.

Grixis Delver

Creatures (14)
Delver of Secrets
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Gurmag Angler
Snapcaster Mage
Young Pyromancer

Spells (28)
Gitaxian Probe
Serum Visions
Thought Scour
Lightning Bolt
Spell Snare
Mana Leak
Kolaghan’s Command
Murderous Cut
Lands (18)
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Steam Vents
Blood Crypt
Watery Grave
Darkslick Shores

Sideboard (15)
Izzet Staticaster
Vendilion Clique
Spell Pierce
Magma Spray
Self-Inflicted Wound
Rending Volley

My god I had an awful experience with this deck. I sat down against Tron, GW Hatebears (with the new Vyrn Wingmare) and then UWR control. I got slapped in the face thrice, in quick succession. I wasn’t even enthusiastic about playing the deck so it felt wrong to even show up with it.

I vow to you, my modern enthusiasts, that I will find a deck I like soon enough. Like i’ve said, I have to love what I play. I think it’s been healthy to try different decks, and I will continue to do so. But i’m waiting for that spark, like a love at first sight, for my next commitment.

Until then.

Derek Gallen lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York.

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