Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #146: Playing Magic!

Ingrid, my wife, was out of town for a few days. I had Thursday off, and nothing but some chores over the weekend. I had a couple dozen tix, a virtual pile of unopened packs, and some ideas for new decks I wanted to try out. I was ready to play Magic — what could possibly go wrong?

Ingrid, my wife, was out of town for a few days. I had Thursday off, and nothing but some chores over the weekend. I had a couple dozen tix, a virtual pile of unopened packs, and some ideas for new decks I wanted to try out. I was ready to play Magic – what could possibly go wrong?

I should mention a little writer’s trick called foreshadowing. It’s a method of giving hints about what is to come, without actually telling the reader. The hints usually imply that something significant will be revealed, often with an ironic twist. Foreshadowing is intended to hook the reader’s interest, and get them to read more.

“What could possibly go wrong” = foreshadowing.

Let’s start with the weekend. Ingrid was flying out Thursday morning, and getting back on Monday. I had most of Thursday, Saturday and Sunday to play Magic Online – except for a little time out to do some work around the house.

Sweet deal me, right?

Actually, I should note that Ingrid was flying to Charleston. For the Pro Tour. On the Wizards dime (at least partly). Wizards coverage of the PT had a panoramic shot of the hall. She’s the judge right in front, talking to the two players.

She was going to the PT, I was staying home. Sweet deal her.

I did have the dogs with me, though.

On the plus side, we are both going to US Nationals.

Sorry, dogs, you aren’t coming.

Anyway, I saw Ingrid off at the airport for a very early flight, and then got back home a bit before 7am. I took the dogs out for a run, and then did a bit of work in the yard. It was supposed to be a scorcher, so I wanted to be done with the chores and inside with the air conditioning blasting, soda in hand and MTGO up by noon. Of course, this was Thursday, when MTGO goes on a maintenance break mid morning, so I just played a couple of games with my Ravnica block Witch-Maw Nephilim deck.

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Witch-Maw Nephilim
4 Vinelasher Kudzu
1 Plaxmanta (will be more when I get more)
1 Plaxcaster Frogling (ditto)
2 Dark Confidant

4 Farseek
4 Terrarion
4 Remand
4 Compulsive Research (although I may try Court Hussar)
4 Might of the Nephilim
2 Supply / Demand
2 Mortify

20 lands, with most of the duals I own and some bounce lands filling in.

It’s still in the very early stages of development. (Yes, even casual decks get some development.) The Witch Maws can get ridiculously big, but the deck is not consistent. Yet. But when it works…

Turn 1: Temple Garden, Birds.

Turn 2: Kudzu, land, Birds.
Turn 3: Witch Maw, land, Terrarion. Beat for 3 with Kudzu. (Turn 3, opponent taps out to put Moldervine Cloak on a Guildmage)
Turn 4: blow Terrarion, Farseek, land, Terrarion, Remand Terrarion, Might of the Nephilim on Nephilim, making the Nephilim a 19/19 trampler, beating with it plus the 5/5 Kudzu.


When it works, it works!

Which is what MTGO does not do Thursday morning, once they take the server down for maintenance. So I went to work in the garden a bit, played with the dogs, etc.

I had also planned a bit of a surprise for Ingrid. I was going to do a little “changing rooms” type of thing. Like in the show, where some random slobs completely redecorate their home in half an hour. In my case, I was just going to pull up the carpet in the upstairs hall, then sand and stain the floor.

The house is a 120+ year old farmhouse. The carpet was probably an antique when the house was built. It was in sad shape, but since the hall leads to the main bathroom and our bedroom, staining the floor meant that we could not use the bedroom for a day or two while the stain dries. No problem on that weekend – my intention was to grab some clothes and stuff before painting, and sleep for a night or two on the couch. That wouldn’t work with both Ingrid and me, but with Ingrid out of town, it seemed like a perfect plan.

“It seemed like a perfect plan” = foreshadowing.

The carpet was this rubber foam backed stuff they use in stores, with the carpet and pad combined. I had pulled up a corner earlier, and it had come up easily, without any problem. So I cleared everything out of the hall, got my tools and started pulling up carpet. The first section came up easily, no muss, no fuss, so I cut it off, rolled it up and took it out to the trash.

The next six feet came up the same way, except that the old carpet tore in places.

The next section wasn’t so nice. Whoever installed it had changed glues, and now it was mired in puddles of a gooey mess. The carpet glue was almost a quarter of an inch thick in spots, and the consistency varied between tar and old chewing gum. And the torn parts meant I could not put just put the carpet back in place and pretend I hadn’t done anything.

MTGO went down at 10am, so I had started on the carpet about 9:30. By 10:15 I had the carpet up, and had started scraping up glue and foam.

By a bit after 11am, I had about 2 square feet scraped clean. The hall is a bit bigger than that.

By 2pm, my arms were aching, I was hungry and thirsty and I was dripping with sweat. The air conditioning was not quite keeping pace – and when I took the dogs outside, into the 95 degree heat, I knew why. (Hey, I’m from Wisconsin. Around here, 95 degrees and humid is hot.)

Time for a draft or two.

I fired up MTGO, went to drafts, and saw…

… wait for it (as I have)…

A Mirage draft with 7 in the queue.


Amazing. I came in second in a Mirage league a while back, and I won seven Mirage draft sets. I have been trying to use them up ever since, but Mirage drafts almost never fire. However, I wasn’t really that excited about playing Mirage – I just wanted to rare-draft Mirage and pick up stuff for casual play. I fired up my secondary (secondary = rare-drafting) account and joined the queue. A few minutes later, I had a cool drink, lunch and a draft.

The primary rules for Mirage drafts are to grab every Kaervek’s Torch you can lay your hands on, draft some removal and evasion, and get lucky. Visions has balanced the format a bit, bringing Blue a bunch of solid cards and more diversity, but it is still a bit of a crap shoot, especially since you never know who you will be drafting with. In this draft, I saw zero Torches, zero Incinerates, only two fliers and wound up RG with a Rock Basilisk and some random trash. I did grab the rares I opened – but I got two of them after they had tabled. For desirable cards, I got a foil Volcanic Geyser, a Mystical Tutor and some fetchlands, but nothing really exciting. My opponent, on the other hand, not only got a Hammer of Bogardan and 2 Torches, but had a good mix of Blue fliers and bounce, and splashed Black for at least a pair of Dark Banishings.

I didn’t win that one. No packs, no chase rares, nothing but a couple fetchlands that will wind up in my prismatic deck.

I wanted to play in a Sealed Premier Event sometime during the weekend. One was starting that afternoon, but I had to scrape the floor instead.

I know how to live!

About eight I came downstairs, lanced some blisters, scrounged some dinner and logged back on to MTGO. I played a league game while I ate. It was late in the week, I have a bad deck, and I got paired against someone hunting tiebreakers. My single bomb showed up just once, so I lost 2-1.

I decided to try playing Momir Vig Basic a bit before putting in a couple more hours on the floor, then crashing.

Wow – was that random! I never thought I would have a Chimney Imp in play in a Classic format. No, of course I didn’t win that game, and I can say that Chimney Imp was not my intention. I played four games, went 2-2, and saw a stranger mix of creatures than anything I have seen, even in very casual multiplayer.

Momir Vig Basic = the slot machine of Magic Online. Pay your mana, pull the handle, see what pops up.

Actually, deck construction for MVB is tricky. I spent a lot of time trying to decide on the 20 basic Mountains. In the end I decided to run four each of the Heather Hudson and Sam Wood versions from Onslaught, three foil 8Es and the remainder Mirage spires. The Swamps were easier, but choosing the Forests took some time.


I played a couple games, scraped the floor some more and tried to sleep. Ibuprofen battled aching arms all night – the aches won.

Friday was work during the day, party that night. No MTGO.

Saturday started with some early morning scraping and sanding, a drive to get more scraper blades, more scraping – and a first draft about 9am. (Yes, I get up early. Actually, the dogs get up early, then wake me. Whatever.)

I decided that, time being short, I would just rare-draft.

Rare-drafts are an occasional guilty pleasure for me. I have a bunch of packs, a few spare tix, and still need a lot of rares and uncommons I need to fill playsets. I’m way too erratic a player to just buy one deck and play that continually. I want to keep building new stuff and try new cards, which means I want three or four copies of all the bad and marginal rares. Rare drafting is a good way of getting those cards. Not great, but good. Rare drafting is also probably my ego’s secret attempt to cushion the blow of losing: I lose, not because I draft badly, but because I rare-drafted.


I joined an 8-4 Ravnica queue. While drafting, I checked out the ratings of the other players. Five were above 1850. Two had ratings between 1750 and 1800. And me, with my rare-drafting account, was at 1516.

This draft was concluded listening to Sesame Street’s “One of these things is not like the other…”

I was also trying to log my draft, to note what I drafted over what, etc. So how did that work out? It didn’t. I have no notes on this draft at all. I do have the 45-card list. I try to save that as a CSV file as soon as I get to the build screen. Here’s the list, broken down the way you’d expect for a rare-draft:

Rares: Concerted Effort; Cytoshape; Demonfire; Living Inferno; Molten Sentry; Muse Vessel; Nihilistic Glee; Sanguine Praetor; Seize the Soul; Siege of Towers; Storm Herd; Unliving Psychopath

Uncommons: Blessing of the Nephilim; Boros Swiftblade; Chant of Vitu-Ghazi; Frazzle; Ghost Quarter; Hellhole Rats; Magewright’s Stone; Martyred Rusalka; Nightcreep; Orzhova, the Church of Deals; Predatory Focus (premium); Sinstriker’s Will; Skarrg, the Rage Pits; Slithering Shade; Suppression Field

Commons: Boros Signet; Castigate; Civic Wayfinder; Conclave Equenaut; Convolute; Cry of Contrition; Farseek; Fencer’s Magemark; Gate Hound; Greater Mossdog; Rakdos Signet; Simic Initiate; Skarrgan Pit-Skulk; Skyknight Legionnaire; Steeling Stance; Valor Made Real; War-Torch Goblin; Woodwraith Strangler

Ta da!

I figure that, if I am going to mess up a draft rare-drafting, the least I can do is play the first match out. Screwing up the signals, then leaving my first round opponent sitting for an hour seems just too abusive. Besides, miracles can happen.

“Miracles can happen” = foreshadowing.

Yeah, right. In a perfect world. In a perfect world I would have spent the weekend at the PT, not scraping the hall floor.

The deck was base Green for mana fixing (Farseek, Wayfinder) plus Black and Red because marginally more of the good stuff was in those colors. I still ended up playing stellar hits like Magewright’s Stone and Fencer’s Magemark to make it to 23 non-lands. I ran 17 lands, and the Signet, because the deck had a mana curve that ran from stupidly overpriced to grossly over-inflated.

Game 1 I mulliganed, but I got a fast start with the goblin, a Signet, Hellhole Rats and then winning the flip on Molten Sentry. My opponent (starting rating 1860) had double mulliganed, but managed to Last Gasp and otherwise stop my threats and stabilized at four life. He had a tapper or two, and Faiths Fetters on my only creature, and it came down to me playing out my lands and drawing the Demonfire, or dying to a couple small fliers. Demonfire was in the last four cards, and the fliers did me in.

Game 2 I won the flip on a turn 4 Molten Sentry again, beat down again, and forced Unliving Psychopath through, then Living Inferno when Psychopath bought it. I won. I’ve taught my dogs to “high five,” so I got high fives for winning a game against a real player with a real deck.

Game 3 I had the Rats, the Muse Vessel and the Psychopath – and he soon had no hand and no board. I actually considered conceding to him, because I didn’t really want to trash his rating, but I figured that if he could not beat me when I was rare-drafting, he probably didn’t deserve it anyway.

Besides, if I lost, I had to go back to sanding and scraping. I didn’t lose.

Round 2 my opponent had the Terry Soh-approved Red-Green-Blue splash Black deck. He also had an 1890 rating. Game 1 he hiccupped a bit on mana, and my Hellhole Rats proved painful. It was a bit of a race, but I got him down to about eight, then dropped Sanguine Praetor, some other fat stuff, and stalled. He dropped a Moldervine Cloak, and started killing chump blockers. A few turns later, I snuck through for a couple points, then Demonfire to the head ended the game.

Game 2 I got Muse Vessel going early, and started wrecking his hand, and…

The MTGO server went down. And stayed down.

Ingrid called. She was taking a break. The PT was going well. On my end, the dogs were doing fine, and we shared a laugh when I said I was winning while rare drafting. Etc.

MTGO came back up. We had another 45 minutes to complete the match. I welcomed my opponent back.

We continued. He got a random 4/2 into play and dropped the Cloak on it. My life total started dipping, but I had got in a few early beats, then cast the Bramble Elemental Muse Vessel had stolen for me. Fencer’s Magemark gave me a couple chump blockers, but his creatures were big. He cast Demand for a shiny Trygon Predator, and it killed the Vessel. The game came down to one attack, where the Predator connected and he had the choice of nailing my Signet or the Magemark. I had seven lands, and both Living Inferno and Sanguine Praetor in hand. He killed the Magemark, not the Signet, so I was able to drop the Inferno next turn. He swung with the Predator, killed the Signet and Peeled the Inferno. I topdecked a land and cast the Inferno again. I had been getting damage through here and there, and he was at two. I was also low on life, but had the Inferno and the Bramble on my side. He kept back the big Cloaked dude and swung with two fliers. I also went to two, and then he dropped a Minister of Impediments and passed the turn.

I drew, tapped one mountain to cast Siege of Towers on my other mountain, traded my Living Inferno for the Predator, the other flier and the Minister, and swung for the win.

I started match 3 with “This has gone on way too long – split?”


So, I ended the draft with 12 rares, 15 uncommons, six packs and an extra 40+ rating points.

“Miracles can happen” did = foreshadowing.

A final note on rare drafting. I have probably done a half dozen or so rare drafts in the 8-4 queues in the year I have been on line. I have split in the finals twice. I would also note that the value of cards I get in the queue is often/generally less than the cost of the packs and tix I spent to get into the draft. I checked a reliable online seller I use (MTGO Traders.com), and the total retail price of all the rares and uncommons I drafted was less than a ticket above the cost of the draft – and that was only because Demonfire is a chase card at the moment. I opened the Demonfire.

Another note on rare-drafting: Constructed is a creature fest nowadays. The cards that are good in Constructed are also bombs in Limited. Look at the decks from the PT – the chase cards are Limited bombs. Don’t expect to get passed any Chars, Simic Sky Swallowers, Skeletal Vampires, Demonfires or Loxodon Hierarchs in 8-4 drafts. Or dual lands, either. Even Pro Players rare-draft those. Ditto the playable uncommons: Putrefy, Mortify, Savage Twister and the like are not going to travel far around the table.

Rare-drafting is a great way of getting cards like Razia’s Purification, Bloodbond March, unwunted Hunteds, etc.

Quick rundown – I track the cards I have opened, including those I have later traded away. Here are my Ravnica rares, not including bought cards. These come from leagues and drafts, including rare drafts. I may still rare drafting even when I have a playset, since I am often trying to get Ingrid playsets as well.

Big numbers:

Bloodletter Quill: 10
Razia’s Purification: 9
Warp World: 8
Searing Meditation: 7
Hunted Troll: 7
Excruciator: 7
Woebringer Demon: 6

Little numbers:

Char: 0
Hex: 0
Chorus of the Conclave: 0
Dimir Doppelganger: 0
Master Warcraft: 0
Loxodon Hierarch: 1
Razia, Boros Archangel: 1
Golgari Grave-Troll: 1
Grave-Shell Scarab: 2

It’s not perfect – I now have 4 Glare of Subduals (I rode one of those to the other 8-4 rare-draft split), and I have no Empty the Catacombs, even though that card will certainly go round and round in most drafts.

Anyway, after winning through in an 8-4, I decided to play a “real” draft. I fired up my serious account and got into a 4-3-2-2 9th Edition queue. I am trying to get the lands, Hyppies and Wraths I need from the base set, and want to do it by chaining drafts as far as I can. Unfortunately, I only had three 9th Edition packs lefts, and had blown my monthly budget on Dissension, so I had to win my first two matches or hang it up for a while (or waste time I didn’t have trading.)

“Had to win” = foreshadowing.

This draft was weird. I opened nothing much, but the rare – Slate of Ancestry – is card advantage, so I took it. After that I got the strangest stuff at the strangest times. Fifth pick Thieving Magpie pack 1 – then no Blue from that direction until it reappears late in pack 3? Third pick Icy Manipulator? Fifth pick Flame Wave? Thirteenth pick Aven Windreader? All that made up for my bad opens, which involved no evasion, no removal and packs bad enough that I ended up first picking a Hill Giant in pack 2. (Seriously: I opened Battle of Wits, Horror of Horrors, Reminisce, Sudden Impact, Fishliver Oil, Fear, Crafty Pathmage, HG, Goblin Sky Raider, Overgrowth (I was not Green), Reflexes, and on down.) I find that most 9th Edition players empty their hands, so Sudden Impact is worse than Hill Giant. Heck, Sudden Impact is worse than Lava Axe.

My deck had removal: Double Dark Banishing, Flame Wave, Volcanic Hammer, Enfeeblement, and Icy Manipulator. My creatures included Anaba Shaman, Deathgazer, Ravenous Rats, Flowstone Shambler, Hell’s Caretaker, Gravedigger, Razortooth Rats, Bottle Gnomes, Giant Cockroach, Hill Giant, Hollow Dogs, Looming Shade, Goblin Piker and Goblin Brigand. I splashed Blue for two Sifts and a late pick an Aven Fisher. And the Slate of Ancestry, of course.

Not great, by any means, but it didn’t seem too shabby.

Match 1, my opponent was RG. He had triple Rootwalla, 2 Volcanic Hammers, 2 Shocks, Pyroclasm, Reclaim, Elves – and Blaze.

What were the other drafters thinking?

Well – it was fairly obvious – two dropped during deck construction.

Don’t you just hate rare-drafters?

Game 1 we were both mana flooded. We both had more land in play than the sum of non-land cards in play, in the bin and in hand. His third creature of the game was Scaled Wurm. I Banished it. His fourth creature was Scaled Wurm #2. I topdecked Sift and Sifted into land, land, Sift. Sift number two gave me land, land, land. Fourteen lands by turn 9. Turn 10 I drew – land.

Game 2 he opened with Elf / Rootwalla / Rootwalla, Shock / Rootwalla, Hammer. Despite bad plays, like Blazing for zero and pumping his Rootwalla in response to Enfeeblement (with nothing to block), he still won.

His rating was 1415 going in. Mine had been around 1670 before the Dissension release weekend. Now it wasn’t. I was pissed, so I decided to draft again and try to redeem some points. Ravnica 4-3-2-2, because I had no 9E packs left, and Mirage had no one in the queue.

I opened Vulturous Zombie and nothing. I have read Terry Soh on UGR, and want to try it, but his URG list don’t usually include Blue and Red cards (Grayscale Gharial and Seismic Spike), so I took the flier. My second pick was Brainspoil over remarkably little, then I got Faith’s Fetters and dreck in pack 3.

I know why you don’t want to be in GBW in RGD drafts. That color combo works in the first pack, but in the second you are looking exclusively for Orzhov cards, and in Dissension, the set with the best commons, no gold cards fit your colors. Still, I figured the others would be fighting over RGU and I could make RGW work.

I was wrong.

The only positive was that I lost quickly, and could get back to sanding. I used up seven sanding belts before I stopped swearing. I was still grumbling about 5pm, but the floor was scraped, rough sanded, fine sanded and vacuumed clean. I sequestered the dogs and got a coat of stain down. (Sequestering was necessary. Stain on the floor = good. Stain on the dogs & paw prints on the floor = bad.)

Once I was done, I made it up to the dogs by going outside. It was still almost 95 and humid, so we didn’t run, but we played around, then they dozed in the shade while I did some yard work. A couple deer wandered through the corner of the field, but the dogs were too hot to chase the deer, and just barked a bit. I was so hot I didn’t even bark.

We got back in around seven-thirty or eight. I poured the dogs some water, took a quick shower, then made myself a gin and tonic. Now, I have no real head for alcohol. My recipe for gin and tonic is: fill a 16 oz. glass with crushed ice, add a half a shot of gin, fill with tonic. Then drink it slowly.

I had not eaten since breakfast. After a couple hours in the heat, I was really thirsty. I pretty much chugged the gin and tonic. By the time I got MTGO up, I was halfway between tipsy and hammered. I decided to win back some ratings points.

“I was… hammered… win back some ratings points.” is not foreshadowing. It’s a foregone conclusion.

I decided to act like this was a real draft and not look at my picks except between packs (except that there’s no time between packs.) I think I forgot what colors I started in. It also appears that my secret plan consisted of getting a Wurmweaver Coil or (foily) Pollenbright Wings on Dimir House Guard or Silhana Ledgewalker. (Yes, Pollenbright Wings and Ledgewalker just proves alcohol was involved.) I was apparently GBW, because it had worked so well earlier, I guess, but I also splashed Blue for Leafdrake Roost and Soulsworn Jury, and Red for Twinstrike.

Drafting drunk does not work. Especially when you are not all that great sober.

I had some dinner cooking by now, but I decided to rare draft immediately. I had one last Kamigawa draft set and that queue was almost ready to go, so I joined the draft.

Careful readers may note the lack of the phrase “so I fired up my rare-drafting account…”

I was still a bit befuddled.

I drafted rares, and ran to and from the kitchen where I was making dinner while doing so. It was a typical rare-draft for me: the rares I opened all tabled, and I still didn’t take one (actually, One with Nothing – honest) the second time I saw it. I ended up Green-Blue, splashing Black for Hideous Laughter, and I had missed at least one Shimmering Glasskite when I didn’t get back from the kitchen fast enough. I also misclicked once, and confused Yamabushi’s Flame (the good card) and Yamabushi’s Storm (not really a second pick.) At least two, and maybe three, players dropped before round three. My opponent wasn’t one of them, and he had a 1894 rating going in to the match. He had a slightly better rating afterward.

I ate dinner then, and spent some time moving the extra commons into the storage / rare-drafting account, moving the rares into my main account and any extras into Ingrid’s account. I played some Standard, then I went out with the dogs for an hour or so before stretching out on the couch.


I would like to forget Sunday. I did get the floor done. It was hot, with thunderstorms. I got some other chores done, and was drenched in sweat every time I left the house.

I played some Magic.

I opened my first-ever Steam Vents online. That, apparently, burned up all my luck for the day.

I drafted several times. Most drafts were composed of three distinctly different games:

Type one involved mulliganing no landers into two landers, then hitting land drop number three about turn twelve. I didn’t win type one games.

Type two involved normal mana development. I won practically all of those.

Type three involved hitting my first ten land drops – and, if I was still alive – all the subsequent ones. I didn’t win those, either.

In five drafts, I had one game of each type in every single match. 0-5.

In the sixth draft, my mana worked out well in two different games. That was also the one match where I made a boneheaded play that cost me a game, and the match.

I managed to drop my rating below 1600.

Wow – do I suck.

I had been playing this account for about 2 months, maybe a dozen drafts, and had it’s rating up to 1670. I blew it completely away in one long week.

Embarrassment, shame, anger – but, in reviewing my games, it really does look like bad luck. Six games were lost when I had more land than non-land cards by the end of the game. Five games were lost when I was badly mana screwed with the same decks that mana flooded me a match or two before.

The hands I kept were not horrendous – no one landers, and nothing over four lands.

Or maybe I’m so bad I can’t see my mistakes.

I wanted to play a Sealed Premier Event, but the only available one started at 7pm and had 66 players. That would have meant seven rounds, plus draft, plus Top 8 = finishing about 6am or so. I had to be at work at 6:30am. I had actually joined the event, but came to my senses before it started and bailed.

I played other computer games – ones I can win – the rest of the night.

That was the weekend. Ingrid got back Monday safe and sound. She was surprised and pleased by the floor. The dogs were pleased that the whole pack was back together. I was please Ingrid was home, etc.

So – quick word count – that’s almost 5k words with practically no strategic content. Sorry. I’m working on some Ravnica block stuff, some casual play stuff, and some cheap decks (if Romeo doesn’t get to them first.) None of those are done.

Thankfully, the floor, my weekend, and this article are.


pete {dot} jahn {at} Verizon {dot} net