Earlier this week I decided to celebrate the Holidays in style, and I invited a bunch of my fellow Magicians over for a night of drafting, debauchery, and durdling. Not necessarily in that order. Our intent was to draft our picks for next year’s Fantasy Magic League, as outlined in my last article, and to get in a few Cube drafts while we waited for our Avengers to assemble. My only regrets are that one of our group was called into work at the last minute and could not participate, and that I chose to get 8 Magic players together at my house the night before my family came over for Christmas Eve dinner. To say that this made my Christmas Eve preparations more difficult would be to say that LSV “likes” puns. It doesn’t even begin to describe the level of gravity to the situation. Still, the work was worth it, as the evening was a great success.

Our evening began with a bit of informal Cube drafting, as we had a combination of those on vacation (the Haves) and those who were forced to work normal hours throughout the day (the Have Nots). Once a trio of opponents arrived, we got down to the business at hand.

One of the players in our Fantasy League is a local judge and eclectic Magic enthusiast, Jason, who has a Cube of a different color. He calls the Cube a “palette cleanser,” and though we’ve only had a few opportunities to draft it, I have to say it is without a doubt the most refreshing blend of Magic I’ve played in quite some time.

You can find his full Cube list here. By the way, this was my first exposure to cubetutor.com, and while I have no idea how long the site has been up and running, it’s a heck of a resource if you’re interested in discovering new ideas for Cubing. There’s a wide list of user Cubes, with plenty of room for descriptions of what they’re trying to accomplish with their Cubes, including a blog for each user to discuss the methodology behind their design. You can also draft sample packs, which is a fantastic waster of time (in the best possible way).

Jason’s Cube features underutilized archetypes from across Magic’s history—like white/green fliers, red/green Minotaurs, red/white reanimator, and the like. If you’re willing to go off the deep end and commit to an oddball deck, it can be a blast. If you’re not very sure what’s going on and try to build a normal deck, you’re probably in for a rough one.

My first draft of the night was a generic Junk-colored deck, featuring every removal spell I could pick up, and very few ways to win the game. As it turned out, even in a Cube where things were topsy-turvy, overloading on removal was still a reasonable way to get ahead in a game of “Limited.” My first pick was a [ccProd]Wayfarer’s Bauble[/ccProd], and my next four picks were dual lands of some variety. Because I saw an early [ccProd]Etched Monstrosity[/ccProd] (and because I know Jason loves the archetype) I expected 5-color good stuff to be well supported in the Cube. When the Monstrosity didn’t table in a 4-man draft pod, I realized the dream was dead, and I sought other options. It was then that I took a [ccProd]Mortify[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Putrefy[/ccProd] back-to-back, and went with the “take everything that kills things” strategy. A quick 3-0 later, and my night was off to a good start.

By the time we finished our first draft, a pair of additional players had arrived, and we got ourselves into another Cube effort. This time, I first picked a [ccProd]Trading Post[/ccProd] out of a pack with at least three artifacts, and decided to try and force an archetype I wasn’t even sure the Cube supported. Over the course of the next few picks I prioritized picking artifacts where I could, any artifact creatures that happened to go by, and found myself in blue as I got a late [ccProd]Academy Ruins[/ccProd] and a few random blue spells. What took shape over the next two packs was a weird kind of turbo-mill strategy (which I’ve discovered rarely actually works in any draft format), featuring [ccProd]Shriekhorn[/ccProd], [ccProd]Grinding Station[/ccProd], [ccProd]Dream Twist[/ccProd], and more. The final build:

[deck]Drowner Initiate
Enclave Cryptologist
Arcbound Stinger
Spellskite
Grimoire Thief
Merfolk Mesmerist
Snapcaster Mage
Grand Architect
Trinket Mage
Walking Archive
Vigean Graftmage
Aven Auger
Labyrinth Minotaur
Cytoplast Manipulator
Dream Twist
Thought Scour
Whirlpool Whelm
Volition Reins
Shriekhorn
Scroll of Avacyn
Golgari Signet
Grinding Station
Thunderstaff
Trading Post
Academy Ruins
Mutavault
Izzet Boilerworks
Simic Growth Chamber
12 Island[/deck]

This deck was awesome. Playing it felt like I was in an entirely different format, where the things relevant in normal Magic were not part of the game, and I was focused on a whole different plane of victory. It was almost always a race between whether the opponent could string together lethal damage before I found an engine to come online and make short work of their library. Battling against an opponent with only about 1/3 of your deck available is difficult, and adding the life gain and chump blocking of [ccProd]Trading Post[/ccProd] into the mix seemed just unfair. I played three matches with the deck, and didn’t really get to see any of my opponents’ decks function to full capacity. They were left with removal in hand that wasn’t particularly useful against me, or were left with no options but to blow up the world (losing more of their own threats than mine) with sweepers, left to watch me rebuild through a combination of [ccProd]Trading Post[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Academy Ruins[/ccProd].

In one game, I slightly miscounted and found myself a mana short of milling my opponent out with a sequence of:

• Sacrifice a burned [ccProd]Shriekhorn[/ccProd] to [ccProd]Trading Post[/ccProd] to draw a card.
• With that ability still on the stack, activate [ccProd]Academy Ruins[/ccProd] to put [ccProd]Shriekhorn[/ccProd] on top of my library.
• Ability resolves, draw [ccProd]Shriekhorn[/ccProd].
• Play and activate [ccProd]Shriekhorn[/ccProd].

I could get the Horn back to my hand, but ran out of mana at that point. Left with no alternative, I just sacrificed the Horn to draw a card. Fortunately, it was a [ccProd]Thought Scour[/ccProd], and I won anyway. It was that kind of night.

We played through this Cube draft until our full drafting suite was arrived, and then we got down to the real business at hand—our Pro Tour Fantasy Draft.

As I said above, we were down a player as he was forced to work late, making our league 7 teams instead of 8. This means we’ll be doing a total points scoring system, rather than a head-to-head league, because 1 person getting the bye every week is lame. We rolled for first picks, and that honor went to Jason. It seems only fair, as he was gracious enough to provide us with the Cubertainment for the evening.

Jason led us off with a pick of Reid Duke, with Owen Turtenwald being picked up second.

Third pick, our friend Aaron decided that he wasn’t interested in being a part of the competition at the end of the year, and he picked Brian Braun-Duin.

Don’t get me wrong. BBD is a good player, as his recent results on the GP and SCG circuits attest to. However, in a draft of the best Magic players on the Pro Tour in current competition, I think even he would have laughed at being taken that early.

The draft returned to normality with our fourth pick overall of William Jensen, completing the Peach Garden Oath only one pick slower than it should have been. Next, our 5-spot picked up World Champion Shahar Shenhar, followed by perennial favorite Yuuya Watanabe. I rounded out the first round of picks with Ben Stark (who I felt was criminally late in the draft) and took Sam Black on the wheel.

What we quickly realized about this draft was that there were far less top-tier players than I think we would have liked, and our opportunities to take high-caliber points earners dried up rather quickly. With 8 teams, rather than the 7 we ended up with, we would have been scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel by well before halfway through the draft, and we would have needed to do some serious consideration for the players we wanted to pick for the last few rounds.

As it was, we did have to go deep on a few picks toward the end—105 players is still a ton of Magicians, and there were plenty of players who couldn’t make the cut. We managed to devour the Top 25 player standings in short order, as well as all of the Platinum and Gold players from last year and the Top 20 standings from the SCG Open series, as well. Then, we had to get creative. I think the take-away from this is twofold:

First, I think our rosters are simply too deep. 15 players per team is a TON. It makes it almost impossible for you to find a diamond in the rough ahead of time, because you’re forced to draft down to some guy who won a few FNMs last year. Second, it makes the need for waivers extremely unlikely—because who are you going to pick up? There’s no one left!

Still, these are the kinks you hope to work out in the first season of your Fantasy League, and I’ll be sure to keep updating you on all the good and bad of our League as it goes. With any luck our mistakes can be to your benefit, as I’ve already discovered that the draft was about as much fun as I’ve had Magic-ing without playing in a long time.

For your enjoyment, here’s the order of picks from our draft, first to 105th:

Reid Duke
Owen Turtenwald
BRIAN BRAUN-DUIN
William Jensen
Shahar Shenhar
Yuuya Watanabe
Ben Stark
Sam Black
Josh Utter-Leyton
Martin Juza
Shuhei Nakamura
Tom Martell
Makahito Mihara
Craig Wescoe
Raph Levy
Stanislav Cifka
Eric Froehlich
David Ochoa
Matt Costa
Ari Lax
Brian Kibler
Paul Reitzel
Lukas Jaklovski
Willy Edel
Luis Scott-Vargas
Shouta Yasooka
Christian Calcano
Guilleme Wafo-Tapa
John Stern
Alex Hayne
John Finkel
Dave Sharfman
Tomoharo Saito
Brad Nelson
Tzu-Ching Kuo
Pat Chapin
Rob Jurkovic
Joel Larsson
Jeremi Desani
Melissa DeTora
Jelger Wiegersma
Ken Yukihiro
Conley Woods
Samuelle Estratti
Paulo-Vitor Damo De Rosa
Sam Pardee
Todd Anderson
Pat Cox
Jacob Wilson
Gabriel Nassif
Gaudenis Vidugiris
Gerard Fabiano
Matej Zatlkaj
Li-Shi Tian
Andrejs Prost
Matt Nass
Ali Aintrazi
Denniz Rachid
Chris Fennel
Seth Manfield
Ben Friedman
Dave Shiels
Rich Hoan
Ivan Floch
Tomek Pedrakowski
Harry Corvese
Andrew Cuneo
Max Tietze
Kelvin Chew
Chris Vanmeter
Erik Smith
Tom Ross
Andrew (unreadable, will relate later)
Alex Bertoncini
Zvi Mowshowitz
Kai Budde
Frank Karsten
Alex Majlaton
Joe Demestrio
Andrew Shrout
Florian Pils
Dan Jordan
Brian Demars
Dusty Ochoa
Darwin Kastle
Osyp Lebedowicz
Matthias Hunt
Max Brown
Dave Williams
Max Sjoblom
Josh Ravitz
Pat Sullivan
Jackie Lee
Matt Sperling
Mike Hetrick
Shaheen Soorani
Thomas Holzinger
Satoshi Yamaguchi
Brian Wong
Frank Skarren
Steven Mann
Bing Luke
Lucas Siow
Thomas Enevoldsen
Caleb Durward

I think the most interesting thing about this list is how we all seemed to play off each other in terms of the tempo of the draft. We all took a break for the more well-known names toward the middle of the draft, and started taking Europeans and Japanese players to be sure our roster had them available for overseas GPs. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, some big names popped back into the mix. Somehow Kai Budde, arguably the greatest player of all time, made it to round 11 before being picked up. We all agreed that this was too late. Despite the fact that Kai is only playing in European PTs, he’s still Kai. I was happy to nab Frank Karsten in the same round, as he’s made a return to the game this year and is working with Team ChannelFireball for PT preparation. I think he’s a sleeper pick, and I was surprised he was still on the table that late.

I still debate with myself when it comes to the depth of roster, as on one hand we did have to make some interesting picks for our late rounds, but on the other hand, this allows us to track some players who we wouldn’t otherwise bat an eyelash at, and who are full of potential. It gives me a reason to pay attention to European GPs, and makes even the SCG events much more critical. I’m excited for the coming year of coverage; I think this will be a triumphant experiment.

Enjoy the rest of the holiday season, and I’ll see you next year!

Adam
@AdamNightmare