“I don’t know dude, can’t I just play with my ‘pack deck’?”
“No man, that’s your sealed deck, that’s different from drafting, remember?”
“Whatever, just tell me what to do.”
I could tell Nate was getting frustrated with me, but I had just picked Magic up as an excuse to drown myself in nostalgia and commraderie. I was 19, and eager to feel at home at my college, which was six hours from anything familiar. So when a Junior named Nate brought out his Magic cards and asked me if I wanted to play some, I dove right in to that murky pool. I thought that some nostalgia was just the thing to keep me from going insane and I had fond memories of slinging spells in middle school.
Nate went over the drafting portion (an exercise I’ve had to repeat many times in my life), signed me up with a DCI number, placed me at a table with seven other strangers, and was handed three packs of Shards of Alara. Some of the people at the store were eager college kids like myself. Some were icy veterans with greasy night jobs, yet everyone was salivating at their unopened boosters. Nate gave me a thumbs up. Someone said, “Crack!”, and the tearing of plastic and shuffling of cardboard filled the room. I remember struggling through the pack, trying to pick ‘just one’ card, feeling more lost than ever at this game I grew up playing.
Something caught my eye, a shiny beacon guided me to the last card, a glimmering light at the end of a multicolored tunnel. In the pack was a foil Hellkite Overlord. A foil, rare, dragon. It had to be good, it was foil! I gingerly placed it down in front of me, and tried to calmly mimic the strange process everyone around me had already memorized. It was like watching a dance routine, having never considered the combination of movement and music. I passed the pack left, and glowed with a joy that had been stifled since 7th grade which caught Nate’s eye. He gave me a questioning glance and I returned his thumbs up. I looked at my card, ensuring myself that it was real and realized that I was no longer homesick.
Now I am a 23 year old adult working in San Francisco, CA trying to stumble through life better than I used to stumble through Shards of Alara boosters. I’ve been playing off and on during that 5 year period, and I’ve run the gamut. I’ve played all formats. At one point I owned some dual lands and some Force of Wills. At another point I owned just 40 sleeves and 100 basic lands.
I went to college for Economics, Math and Writing. I like working with a limited amount of resources. I enjoy evaluating the ‘optimal pick’. I relish deck construction. I bicker with variance. I love debating the concepts of ‘Card Advantage’ and ‘Magic Theory’. I like Magic: The Gathering as a creative, analytical, and mathematical outlet that rarely grows stale, and I can have that experience with friends and a beer.
You won’t recognized my name. I haven’t placed in a serious tournament. I don’t have a trophy or a check from Wizards of the Coast. But I have the drive, knowledge, and the will to get better. I am on a serious, dedicated team whose aim is to take down GP San Jose, a team sealed format. This is an incredibly unique event, with an unknown set, and a difficult road ahead. To win this event, I must be a better player. There are serious holes in my play and the first step to fixing these holes is admitting I have problems and working on fixing them. To win this event, our team must be prepared, focused and determined. We must have goals.
One of these goals is to make a list of our strengths and weaknesses, to make it honest and public, and to promise to fix that list. I cannot think of a better introduction than a thorough and honest review of my abilities. Without further ado,
Tyler P, Limited Player
-Strong Drafter- As I said before, my limited play is my strongest and beloved portion of my game. I would not continue to play Magic if it wasn’t for drafting. I have passion for the format, for the risk and the reward.
-Flexibility- I attribute this to when I had a cube for about 10 months, it wasn’t powered, but it had powerful strategies, and I explored all of them. Maybe it was just the nature of having a solid draft set at your hands at all times, maybe it was my unquenchable desire to play limited, but I’m quite the shapeshifter when it comes to strategies. I love the grinding Erratic Portal/Mystic Snake games as much as I love putting Grafted Wargear on Keldon Marauders. But most of all, I love synergy with removal. It’s natural that one procures ‘preferred’ strategies in a limited format, but I consider myself to be quite versatile in drafting (with a caveat that we will get to in weaknesses).
-Deck Building- I know how to make a deck around synergies and find exploits that I’ve created through my drafting. I know how to make a deck win, and I know what your mana base should be. Not just your mana base for your two colored beatdown deck, but for your 4-Color-Control-Deck-Splashing-Sprout-Swarm-With-Three-Non-Basics wacky draft format. I can also tell you how many Ravnica Bouncelands and Guild Signets are too many (a recently acquired skill). I like building decks, but there are holes in my process as well. I’m very likely to play 41 cards for no real reason other than I’m too lazy to find the 24th cut. Sometimes I draft decks with more removal than threats. Sometimes I try to get too cute and end up with a pile of garbage. These are all things that must be polished before GPSJ.
-Haste- For an analytical player, I sure play fast, without any reason. I learned this from Nate, the hyper aggressive pyromancer. I play fast and lose online and in real life. I need to take the time to think about my turn sequence and the consequences of my actions. Most of the time, when my opponent is contemplative, I’m just bored. I need to take the time to think and plan when given the opportunity. Too many times I’ve rushed into situations, not considering what the results would be or how the board would be affected. I need to think if it is correct to play one card over another, and to know the reason. This is the number one part of my game I want to get better at. I rely on my reactions rather than considering each board state as a new puzzle, where I must decipher the correct play.
-Hubris- I think I’m better than I am. When my friend Arthur asked me how we should get better for the GPSJ tournament, I thought that only he needed to get better. Then he asked me to help him make his list and I realized how far behind I was. Not only did I have faults, but if I continued playing with Arthur, he would learn them as well, in addition to his own. I know that I have spent more time slinging spells than Arthur, but that doesn’t mean I can’t stop learning.
-Concessions- Sometimes I concede when I know I’ve lost, purely out of shame. This is wrong on many levels, I should not show weakness, and I should at the very least look at my opponent’s graveyard and get a sense of what they are playing. Even if I have just mulliganed to 5 and bricked on lands, seeing more of their deck lets me make better decisions in games 2 and 3.
-Losing- I take losing very poorly and in a strange way. I never blame my opponent or throw a temper tantrum, I get upset at myself. I become miserable for other people to talk to. I play the victim. I talk about how ‘unlucky’ I was or how ‘there was nothing I could do’. I need to take responsibility for losses that are my fault, but I also need to learn how to play above them. I must learn to put losses behind me, or be able to think of them objectively and without emotion.
-Lack of Tournament Experience- Most competitive Magic tournaments I have been in have been a disaster for me. Whether it’s the combination of bad plays, or unlucky draws I haven’t actually done well in a professional tournament. I get nervous. I get intimidated by ‘better players’. I need to man up and play at their level.
-Advice- Admittedly my biggest fault when playing 2HG or Team formats has been my inability to respect my teammates’ advice. I can count numerous examples where my teammate suggested a play and I disagreed and we ended up losing because of my misplay. I cannot allow that to happen in GPSJ, having a team of friends who understand the game just as well as you and can offer unbiased advice is going to be one of our biggest advantages.
That is my critique and I look forward to getting better. I’ll be sure to keep you all updated on our testing process for GP San Jose as well as my limited p/reviews of the set, Return to Ravnica.
Drafting with Confidence,
As a bonus, I’ll leave you with a sample hand from a ‘Wacky Draft’ from my ’4-Color-Control-Deck-Splashing-Sprout-Swarm-With-Three-Non-Basics’ that I actually drafted: