It’s been a long year, and we’ve still got five more months of it left. After playing exactly zero games of Magic in the first seven months of 2021, I finally took the opportunity to update my Arena client on Monday and ended my Magic drought. The last set I drafted on Arena was Zendikar Rising, so you could say I’m a little rusty. Even so, I managed to take my first Arena quick draft to a perfect 7-0 record and enough gems for a few more down the road.

Over the years I’ve enjoyed drafting Core Sets more than most. Adventures in the Forgotten Realms feels like a core set to me, especially since I have little connection to the world of Dungeons & Dragons. I moderated some D&D-adjacent message boards back in the the early 2000s, so I know the name Drizzt Do’Urden, but I have no connection to personalize the cards of the set.

But as Zach Barash observed yesterday, recent Magic draft sets have been well-designed. That’s enough to get me back at the tables eventually. Drafting a good Magic set is the best gaming experience in the world, after all. Besides, who doesn’t love a Portable Hole?

It was Zach who really motivated me to take AFR draft for a spin. He and I tend to have opposite tastes in drafting, so I figured this set (which he hasn’t much enjoyed) might be right up my alley. While I can’t say for sure yet, I did enjoy my first foray into the format. The cards offer fresh takes on many draft staples I’ve played over the years, and each of my games presented tricky and rewarding situations. Even though I still don’t have a ton of time to play Magic this year—writing a novel will do that to you—I’ll be back for a few more AFR drafts this month before the next Innistrad season descends upon us.

Once I got the multi-gig Arena update downloaded and installed, I fired up a quick draft—perfect for learning the cards on the fly. With no time limit for picks, it might not have been a “quick” drafting process, but I never had to wait. Armed with nothing more than what I’ve gleaned from chatting with and editing our writers—red-black is best, two drops are essential, blue isn’t very good—I ventured into the dungeon and ended up with this solid-looking deck.

Green-White Beatdown AFR Bo1 Draft

Creatures (17)
Ranger’s Hawk
Monk of the Open Hand
Trelasarra, Moon Dancer
Gnoll Hunter
Scaled Herbalist
Intrepid Outlander
Underdark Basilisk
Dawnbringer Cleric
Ingenious Smith
Circle of the Moon Druid
Priest of Ancient Lore
Dire Wolf Prowler
Blink Dog
Arborea Pegasus
Drizzt Do’Urden

Spells (6)
Ranger Class
Portable Hole
Bull’s Strength
You Find a Cursed Idol
Dungeon Map
Lands (17)
Lair of the Hydra

My first pick rares were Ranger Class, Drizzt Do’Urden, and Lair of the Hydra. That’s a nice combination of cards to anchor a deck, and those colors were passed to me freely in packs one and three. From there, I took the best two drops I saw in each pack, along with any other on-color playable I saw. The deck doesn’t look great in a vacuum, but it attacks without fear even if it rarely has any backup in hand. The only thing that really mattered was playing Ranger Class. Take me to school, daddy! (Oh, is it not that kind of class?)

I figured that, if two drops are so important, Portable Hole has to be good. After playing seven games with two of them, I was exactly whelmed by the card—neither impressed nor disappointed. I mostly used them to exile Shambling Ghasts, but they also hit classes and cheap equipment, and I did get one +1/+1 counter on my woefully under-supported Ingenious Smith.

Agent Smith seems great with enough treasure producers, something I could only get from one sorcery and potentially a trip through a dungeon. Three artifact cards, one treasure producer, and random venture effects are not enough to support the Smith, but I’d rather play one bad card than jam a bunch of useless artifacts into a deck that should focus on attacking.

My motley collection of one-power creatures proved their worth, especially the deathtouchers. Then again, Ranger’s Hawk looks a lot better when you curve it into Ranger Class—go figure—maybe with a Portable Hole to complement the immediate and obligatory Ranger Level 2. Mine truly was the Ranger’s Hawk.

That said, the idea of tapping the hawk and another creature—and three mana—as a sorcery!!!—never crossed my mind. Doing it at the end of my opponent’s turn crossed my mind on the rare turns I chose not to attack with my bird. Alas. Perhaps venturing into the dungeon at the end of every turn off a Hawk or Dungeon Map would be too good, or at least too annoyingly slow to be worth allowing.

Speaking of dungeons, my deck made little effort to venture very far. The rare times I triggered a venture, I had no real plans to do it again. In fact, I surprised myself by only ever choosing to venture into the Dungeon of the Mad Mage to gain a life—the absolute thinnest of value. Probably I should have chosen Lost Mine of Phandelver, but Ranger Class is absurd and I never needed to bother scrying.

Lifegain feels like it would be a good strategy with all the beatdown decks running around, and I definitely could have benefitted from a bit more in that regard. But really, all I needed was creatures to turn sideways and a broken rare or two to break my opponent’s will to live.

Simple beatdowns combined with savvy creature combat maneuvering led me to a perfect 7-0 record. I will admit that my draws were good. I only mulliganed once, in the seventh match, when I was on the draw. But I did miss some land drops from time to time, got stuck on the wrong color of mana in a few games, punted some value by knowing none of the cards, and otherwise gave my opponents chances to steal victory. It did not matter. On this day (technically two days), I was unstoppable. And most importantly, the games were challenging and fun.

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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