Hola, amigos. It’s been a long time since I rapped at ya. 😉 Welcome to the Best of Hipsters of the Coast Week, as we revisit some of the top articles we published this year. As you may or may not have noticed, this past summer, after a final 23/17 post about my showing at GP Las Vegas, career-related concerns compelled me to step away from my beloved Hipsters of the Coast. It was a tough decision, but ultimately the right one. In the meantime, I’ve still been playing plenty of Magic, and keeping up with this and other sites—and so I was pleased when editor Rich Stein emailed to ask if I wouldn’t mind Hipsters republishing this, one of my favorite columns from the past year. Why do I like it so much? Because it demonstrates a lesson we should all remember, both in life and in Magic: Pride cometh before a fall. (And also sometimes this game is a real car crash, and you just have to laugh at it—and yourself.) Enjoy!

I drew my opening seven and looked at my hand: five lands, a mix of Plains and Islands, plus a Jeskai Elder and Monastery Siege.

“Keep,” I said to my opponent. Sure, it was a threat-light hand, but I was on the draw and my two spells were perfect to mitigate mana flood.

On turn two my opponent played a Jeskai Sage and passed. I played my Jeskai Elder and shipped the turn back. He played a tap land and did nothing. On my turn, pre-combat, I cast Monastery Siege (on Khans) for the prowess trigger and swung in with my 2/3 Elder. Before blocking, my opponent casts Feat of Resistance on his Jeskai Sage, making it a 3/3 for the turn, and blocks—fair enough, I suppose, if unfortunate.

I ship the turn back—and he insta-kills Monastery Siege with a maindeck Erase. “What the fuck!?” I think. And we are off to the shameful, demoralizing races.

A couple hours later, I walked away from Twenty Sided Store feeling like I’d just been in a car crash. Not only had I lost the match I’d just described—in three games, once to uber-flood after again getting my Monastery Siege insta-snapped off, and once to effectively decking myself by casting Crippling Chill on my opponent’s key blocker (Monastery Flock) for my big fliers when I had two cards left in my library; a next-turn win on the table (I think, anyway); and an active Monastery Siege. I instantly realized what I had done, and after swinging in with everybody in a last-ditch effort to win the game, I said, shame-faced, “You got this one.”

What do you do against terrorists—madmen!—like this? (And of course I don’t mean at all to disparage my opponent; he played the best game he knew how, and it’s on me that I wasn’t able to sufficiently adjust my game plan to beat him.) He had like a billion Arashin Clerics and an ungodly amount of seemingly random counterspells: Cancel, Disdainful Stroke, and even the rarely seen Rakshasa’s Disdain. He didn’t really have any way to win, but he damn sure had ways to make me *not* win. And I took the bait.

I also got really flustered. I was losing—I lost—in spectacular, mostly self-inflicted fashion, to a player I deemed to be not as good as me. Maybe I was justly rewarded for my hubris. As they say, pride cometh before a momentous fall.

You don’t often encounter such players if you mostly travel in competitive circles, but I have encountered them before at almost all levels of play, from FNMs to PTQs to even the middle rounds of Grand Prix I was doing OK at. How do you react to (what we see) as bizarre card choices and lines of play?

I think what I should have done in this case, among other things, is board out my Monastery Siege. It seems so counterintuitive, but doing so would have 100% guaranteed that my opponent would have had a dead card in his deck or, hopefully, hand: Erase.

Also the plethora of Arashin Clerics and Jeskai Students without really much to do with them should have alerted me that this was going to be a long, grindy game (as I was on a pretty controlling UW build with a couple powerful win cons), and that I didn’t need the added punch of Monastery Siege to out-card-quality my opponent. I should have recognized that the velocity of all my card draw might actually be a liability, because holy shit does Monastery Siege burn you through your deck.

And, of course, I should have RTFCs. (That’s “read the fucking cards,” to those not in the know.) To be fair, I’d never played with Monastery Siege, and so I wasn’t quite prepared for the runaway train that that card turns out to be. I’m also relatively unfamiliar (as it’s not a situation that comes up all that much in Limited) with playing around in the extreme polar regions of almost decking yourself. My Team Draft League captain, Monique, summed it up nicely when she said to me, between matches, “Your deck seems really … dangerous.” And it was. After G1 of round two, during which I *also* accidentally decked myself thanks to Monastery Siege and Crippling Chill, I said to my opponent, “Now I think I know what doing crystal meth feels like.” I would have killed for a Cranial Archive, in my sideboard if nothing else. I just didn’t know at the time that my deck maybe needed it.

That is the story of my shame. After a second-round draw, against a hyper-aggressive Mardu deck that I managed to stabilize against, but at a *very* precarious life total, which didn’t allow me to go on the offensive until it was too late, I scooped up my cards, hot-faced with embarrassment, dropped, and scuttled from the shop. I felt like a real donkey.

And yet, as I walked home in the cold night air, breathing deeply, I began to see the humor and the insanity in the situation. Like I said, I felt like I was walking away from a car crash. I texted some of my Magic buddies about the incredibly bad beats I’d just experienced, and the sage Carrie echoed my thoughts exactly when she wrote, “You are one big step closer to nirvana. That is a life experience you could never have expected.” And I began to feel strangely exhilarated. It’s a hell of a game, after all.

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands. Follow Hunter at @hrslaton.

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