The email starts: “Greetings Planeswalkers…” It leads me to the basement of the JRR, which is funny because it’s very apparent that none of the attendees are econ majors, which in retrospect makes perfect sense. One guy wears a cape. 


I make the trip alongside another member of the Nass Weekly masthead, and already, we’re      out for blood. We’ve studied the most recent set. We’ve discussed the chase cards, the optimal archetypes, and the most efficient methods to reduce your opponent to zero life. We have sculpted ourselves into machines of trading-card wizardry.       


In the basement, eight players sit at a table–we each open a booster pack. Fifteen cards: one rare (or, if you’re lucky, a mythic rare), four uncommons, ten commons. Each player selects one card then passes the pack to their left. We each empty three booster packs this way and finish with forty-five cards. Then we build our decks. It’s the most rewarding way to play the game because it’s sort of triathletic: pressuring your card selection, deck building, and gameplay skills. Besides, other formats are clogged with miserable reanimator decks, throwing out “Atraxa, Grand Unifier” on the cheap, and midrange shells, fronted by the dread “Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.” The metagame is too lopsided to really care about. 


The draft descends upon me in this very beautiful way where everything comes together. I stick to two of the five colors that organize Magic the Gathering. My green and black shell centers around a strong removal package, early-game ramp options, and, the centerpiece, “Mosswood Dreadknight,” which I can loop into card advantage and sacrifice-based synergies. 


I fumble with the cards but not noticeably. The Magic the Gathering club is funded by the Alcohol Initiative, so you have to pregame beforehand. It’s a Saturday. It’s 9pm. The game is best played with the golden intuition of skirting the legal limit. 


My masthead companion says it’s funny there aren’t any women. He drafts a fairies deck with a similar competitive edge.  


The draft organizers assemble a tournament-style bracket–I pull my chair in front of your table. You tell me your name, but I forget it. I can tell you’ve played before because you overhand mash shuffle your deck, which gives me a chance to check you out. Your hairline thins and pushes toward your temples. Your band t-shirt pulls tight across your breasts. You don’t make much eye contact. We cut each other’s decks and roll to see who plays first. It feels like foreplay. 


I can see the reflection of your hand in your glasses. You tell me that you’ve drafted riskily, which I like. Most of the room seems afflicted with this paranoid humility: a sentiment that reduces to It’s okay because I don’t usually play much Magic: the Gathering


The first game doesn’t go your way. You’re stuck on lands, and you don’t draw into your strongest threats. I’m nice about it. When you concede, your hand brushes against mine, and we glance up at each other. 


As we push deeper into the second game, you start sweating. Your voice rises an octave. It looks like the first game might be repeating itself. 


Suddenly though, the game is tight. I pass the turn. And look, you’ve got a “Decadent Dragon,” and my board is wonderfully, astonishingly open, except for this “Mosswood Dreadknight”–and he can’t block the Dragon. Your eyes widen. You attack. Of course, you attack. I cast “Leaping Ambush,” untapping the Dreadknight and killing your dragon. It’s an impossibly classic maneuver. 


Now, my turn. I swing in with Mosswood Dreadknight. The knight connects. It’s over. It’s always been over. It was over the second you walked into this basement.  

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