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Monday, May 5th – The Ferrett reveals a strange and awkward secret about himself, and why this applies to first-time Shadowmoor drafting. Abject lessons in What Not To Do abound.

I’m about to tell you something that all of my friends know. But that’s all right, right? You guys are friends. Some of y’all have been reading and emailing me for eight years, so I feel like I can curl up with you.

I have Seasonal Affective Disorder.

That’s a fancy way of saying, “Once a year, for about three weeks, I enter a deep and dark physiological depression that pretty much cripples me.” Most people have a Seasonal Affective Disorder that arrives when the sunlight begins to fade, in the fall, and for them sunlight lamps can help alleviate things. Me? I have it inverted, and I tend to get it in the spring when the daylight time starts lengthening.

When it happens, I become irrationally convinced of my own worthlessness. I’m convinced my wife hates me. (She doesn’t.) I’m convinced my friends are about to leave me. (They aren’t.) I believe, with all my heart, that I should never have been born, and the world would be better without me. And it’s a hard friggin’ struggle sometimes to remember that this will pass, and indeed I will feel at some point in the future as though I have earned a slot on this earth.

At this time of year, though, writing is the worst. Writing is, at its core, an act of purest ego, and I have no ego to speak of at this moment. My friend Neil once said that writing was arrogance personified, because any fiction writer has to look at the collected works of William Shakespeare, Homer, and all the other greats that have ever produced anything worthwhile in literature… And say, “Yeah, but I can say something better.”

Applying fingers to keyboard is veeery difficult at this time of year, precisely because I don’t feel like I can say something better. When you feel as though the entire world thinks you’re a fraud, it’s a battle uphill to say, “All right, let’s do this.”

And you know what makes things even better?

Going down to the gaming shop to draft a set you’ve never played before, when you know your first draft always goes disastrously. And then, when you bomb out, returning to StarCityGames.com to write a report about how terribly you did.

Yeah, that’s a boost to the ol’ ego. That encourages you to think of yourself as “not a fraud.” Hey, let’s write an article about how bad you are!

Still, one has to learn. The trick to this sort of crazy depression is that really, even though it’s pretty draining, you have to just keep swimming. And frankly, I never ever get a set at first glance. I’m one of those slow players who has to learn the card interactions one bit at a time, starting off with losses and ramping into okay builds at the end of the season. Whenever I’ve prepped for PTQs, I have to practice a lot. It’s just the way I am.

And if I stayed inside, not playing Shadowmoor because I don’t want to share my bad experiences with the crowd, then when I emerged from my deep dark hole, I’d know even less. And then I’d be depressed not because my body was going haywire and flooding my brain with deadly neurotoxins, but because I’d be so far beyond the eight-ball that I’d never catch up.

Which would be depressing. And there’s nothing worse than emerging from an artificial depression, only to find that now you have an actual reason to feel down. And so I must venture in to lose, and lose badly.

I missed the prerelease due to a prior commitment. Now I had to attend the release party. Bleah.

So how’d it go?

Well, as I’ve mentioned before, I hate release drafts because a third of the folks are rare-drafting, a third of them are novices who draft once a year, and the remaining third are better than I am. I have problems enough reading signals as it is, so I invariably blow it by wandering throughout the set without a plan.

In this case, I should have known better. The store owner himself said, “Draft Blue/White. Steel of the Godhead is just insane on anything.” And in fact, that’s precisely what Nick Eisel had said (even if he’s not as big on Steel of the Godhead). And Steve Sadin also adored Steel, though he loved Runes of the Deus even more.

In this case, the packs got opened and I snagged a first-pick Jaws of Stone because there wasn’t anything else really bombworthy that I noted as something I wanted to take. I wanted B/U, but there was no Blue or White removal, so I punted.

Second pick? Steel of the Godhead. Awww, yeah.

Third pick? Biting Tether. Sweet.

And here the wheels came off the cart, because I got a fourth-pick Burn Trail. Which, I am told, is Some Good. And here it is going fourth, and clearly I already have some Red — maybe I should deviate from this plan. And I take it.

And get a fifth-pick Burn Trail. Clearly awesome. Two Burn Trails and a Jaws of Stone? Clearly, I want to go Red. I started picking Black removal, too, hoping to go B/R and snag as much removal as I could.

Should I have stuck to my guns? I’m not sure. U/W is good, but there were several U/W players, and I’m not sure I could have competed with all of them. Certainly there weren’t that many bombs I was opening for that archetype, or any other.

Alas, the Red kept coming, but everything else dried up. It took me several more picks to note that Green was underdrafted, so I moved into there with a couple of Tattermunge Duos, and started picking up Green beef.

But the problem was that I had all of this Conspire stuff, and very few creatures. I was only getting Green beef, and my mana curve started at four. I tried to look for low-cost critters to work on that, hoping to round it out come the third pack, but lo! Nothing in the first five picks was even close. The packs had just pooped out, or someone was cutting me off on Green (but given the squeals of joy upstream, I’m betting it was pooped out, because the U/W players seemed to be doing quite well).

What I wound up with was a botch, based on the misreading that a) you could Conspire more than once (I’d gotten my Conspire knowledge courtesy of the new Wort and remembered the wrong line from the FAQ), and b) that Giantbaiting was an instant.

Note that this made Giantbaiting doubly terrible. Whoops. Unfortunately, I like to hit prereleases cold and have new sets surprise me. Honestly? I hate previewing for Wizards, because I like going and opening up my cards without the slightest clue as to what’s going on, and even though I’m the guy who imports all the new cards for SCG, I try to stay clear of knowing these new cards until my first play experience.

Sadly, that means that sometimes I make very bad errors when I’m drafting quickly and reading lots of cards for the first time seriously, and as such I discover things a little too late.

Yeah. Not a fraud. Right? Sometimes, your depression has a point. (Even though the question came up based on two other folks who also thought as I did about Conspire — I have a feeling casual games everywhere are going to be going to the judge’s pages to discover that lo, they’re wrong.)

Anyway, here’s my final draft deck:

Boggart Arsonists
2 Burn Trail
Ember Gale
Flame Javelin
Jaws of Stone
Puncture Bolt
Rustrazor Butcher
2 Scuzzback Marauders

Elvish Hexhunter
Medicine Runner
Wildslayer Elves

Cultbrand Cinder
2 Giantbaiting
2 Mudbrawler Raiders
1 Skuzzback Scrapper
2 Tattermunge Duo

Elsewhere Flask

10 Mountain

7 Forest

Unfortunately, this deck had the following problems:

Not Eighteen Lands.
I switched into another configuration after I doped this out, but given that my deck didn’t really get online until four lands, not going with eighteen was suboptimal. After realizing how Giantbaiting was really bad, I took both of those out and swapped in the extra land.

Forty-one Cards.
There’s never an excuse for this. But man, do I do it. Especially at release events when I don’t know what to cut, and I always justify it by saying, “Well, I’ll learn what works.” This is not a good idea.

Not Enough Enchantment Hatred.
The enchantments are so potent in this format that I should have picked enchantment hatred a lot higher. Otherwise, especially since I’m playing Red, I just lose to every dual-color enchantment that hits and sticks. In particular, I got decimated from twenty to zero in two turns when Runes of the Deus landed on a large R/G critter of some sort.

(And it burned, because I passed it to him. It came in a pack with Flame Javelin, which I ranked higher. Since I was already in R/G, whoops.)

As it was, all I had was Elvish Hexhunter, which was too vulnerable. That’s why the Wisps are so damn good, because they can shut down those enchantments… And I sided in Crimson Wisps in a vain attempt to destroy them. But alas, I never drew them when I wanted them.

No Match For Big Guys.
The biggest guy in my deck is 3/3. I really should have picked those Morselhoarders a little higher, because particularly in Red, I lose to anything I can’t kill, which is everything.

No Match For Fliers.
Since I knew that U/W was going to be popular, why in hell didn’t I pick more anti-flying cards? What’s up with the Spiders and Tattered Canopies that I passed? Boy oh boy, I shoulda known.

No Trickiness.
Again, Burn Trail is sorcery speed, and only gets good when I have creatures. Aside from that, I have Flame Javelin and Puncture Bolt, but no Green pump spells to save me. Not solid.

No Mana Curve.
When I’m sticking in Chainbreaker in a deck with no particular synergy in -1/-1 counters because it’s a two-drop, you know I’m in trouble.

Anyway, I went 1-2, losing legitimately in the first round (despite a mulligan to six and slight land shortage in the final game), winning illegitimately in the second match (but I would have won anyway, Conspire shenanigans aside — I had three 4/4 Giants, ooh! — but that was because I had four creatures out and could just have easily attacked with them), and losing in a heartbreaker in the third round to a mulligan to five and stuck at three land with two Burn Trails, a Jaws of Stone, and several critters in my hand.

Not once did I draw the Jaws of Stone. I did, however, draw the Flask several times, which showed up to taunt me. Flask, I hate you.

Anyway, I’m learning about this set. There are probably ways to draft good R/G decks, but this clearly isn’t it.

Maybe I’ll do better when my brain isn’t broken. But that’s really no excuse. We’ll get ’em next time, tiger.

The Weekly Plug Bug
This week on My Name Is Might Have Been: Our heroes have set off across the desert to play their gig at El Ocho, a ragged club where 20,000 starving peasants wait for them to perform the song that will unlock their heart. But there’s a reason this new storyline is entitled, “Can’t Stand Rocking When I’m In Here”….

Signing off,
The Ferrett
[email protected]StarCityGames.com
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