Lunch: A Gathering for Magic

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The letter W!hile many of you are already aware, this may come as a surprise to some of you: I'm not a full-fledged employee of Wizards of the Coast. My daytime proclivities are completely unrelated to Magic and the awesome things I enjoy in my free time.

For me, Magic is a hobby. It's a hobby that I'm dedicated to, work hard to grow and share, and find infinitely exciting to explore, but a hobby nonetheless. While working for Wizards is an amazing thing from all appearances, I have to find creative solutions to spice up the doldrums of the everyday with Magic additives. One way to do so was a subtle tip from Tom LaPille in his article introducing Winchester Draft: Magic over lunch.

Today is a two-part story: why I started running with Winchester Draft a few times each week, and how just such a draft ended up playing out.

Miracles of Miracles

After attending the local New Phyrexia Prerelease I received an email from Craig, a fellow associate who works in the same building with me, sharing that he, too, was at the Prerelease, had seen me, and definitely loved Magic. We shot a few emails back and forth, and the topic of conversation quickly moved to fitting Magic in over lunch breaks.

Games of Magic take time to play. While coming with Constructed decks ready to go is the fastest way to fit it into a short timeframe, Craig and I agreed that drafting would be way more fun than trying to bash the same decks against each other all the time. We each have a Pauper Cube (an idea which I introduced to Craig and that he quickly adapted for his own) and share a penchant for pack busting, but found that Winston and other two-player Draft variants were just too sluggish to work for our 40-minute window.

Enter Tom LaPille's article on Winchester Draft. The gloomy skies of foreshortened Magic parted in a burst of iridescent brilliance. We gave it test runs using my cube and leftover prize packs. The timing worked out perfectly; we could meet, draft, eat, play, and clean up all in well under an hour.

Thanks to prize packs from the Innistrad Prereleases I attended, we had the chance to break in the latest set the way I love best: over lunch.

Spicy, like good decks.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's review make sure we're on the same page.

 Winchester Draft  
In Brief: Winchester Draft is a variant, two-player method of drafting booster packs.
Rules Rundown: You can find all the essential elements of the rules in Tom LaPille's article about the format. That's it!
Pros: Winchester Draft requires very little set-up time, just two players in total, and mixes a healthy amount of luck and skill to reward players of all types. You can even bring separate packs and track where certain cards came from (you or your opponent) so they make their way back at the end!
Cons: It's a difficult format to adapt to more than two players without losing some of the simplicity of it. Like other Limited formats, once the match is over the decks are fairly used up; you'll want plenty of booster packs to make the most of Winchester.

As promised last week, Craig and I worked together to document significantly more of the information many of you like to see. You can find the entire draft—that's all the picks and every card—here.

The final decks we created were these two:

These are two very different decks, each with their own unique plan. I was all aboard the Werewolf train to pain on Craig, while he had decided to bring a plethora of spells and graveyard interaction. While I was dubious about his concept, you'll see some things work out for him pretty well. (Spoiler: Very well.)

Game 1

Craig got to go first, but I had to mulligan as well. I kept a hand of four lands and two five-drops, but I would soon regret keeping only two big dudes as I drew nothing but lands for a few turns as Craig was able to muster Rakish Heir, then Riot Devils. I quickly slammed my Hollowhenge Scavenger when the Heir was a 4/4, but Craig was ready for that possibility with Ranger's Guile.

A Moon Heron from Craig led to things looking a little grim for me. I took even more damage as I cast Bloodcrazed Neonate and Darkthicket Wolf, and Craig found Orchard Spirit and Mirror-Mad Phantasm. After a little bit of blocking, this is what things looked like:

What is a Spider-wielder to do? Well, with my life total at just a meager 7 life, I decided to give this crazy Phantasm a block. At first it seemed like Craig would just smash the Mirror-Mad Phantasm into the Spider and call it a day. But Craig is, if anything, amusing to play with, so, naturally, he used the Phantasm's activated ability to save it. It took every card except for the last in his library to get the Phantasm back.

That's right: Craig had exactly one turn to kill me. I still had Somberwald Spider on the battlefield. He had Orchard Spirit, the aforementioned Phantasm, and a One-Eyed Scarecrow. This is how it played out:

  • Craig drew for the turn: Geistflame.
  • Cast Geistflame on the Spider (1 damage dealt).
  • Cast Past in Flames to give instants and sorceries in his graveyard flashback.
  • Cast Geistflame on the Spider again, for just Red Mana instead of 3 ManaRed Mana (2 damage dealt).
  • Cast Prey Upon targeting my Spider and his Scarecrow (4 damage dealt; lethal).
  • Attack for exactly the last 7 life.

In a most spectacular fashion, Craig won!

Game 2

For the second game, neither of us changed out decks up; we just went straight back to work. This time my lead-off plays were much faster: a turn-three Villagers of Estwald into a Wooden Stake, equipped, on the subsequently transformed Howlpack of Estwald. A counterless Festerhide Boar joined the party too, as did a Hollowhenge Scavengers.

Craig wasn't just sitting by. Curse of the Bloody Tome was tearing up my library every turn, taking out hits such as Harvest Pyre and Darkthicket Wolf. He played some creatures, including Selhoff Occultist, but they just died to my angry big dudes.

However, because Craig is lucky if nothing else, he did find Mirror-Mad Phantasm again. With 5 power on the table and sitting at 12 life, things started to look up for Craig. The Dead Weight I ripped off the top took out the Phantasm, and my three guys hit in for exactly 12.

Fast! I won one!

Game 3

Our third game, for all the marbles (though neither of us seem to have many at all), was much more interesting than the second. I had a fairly aggressive start, with a turn-one Reckless Waif (that howled into a Merciless Predator shortly thereafter), turn-three Hanweir Watchkeep, and turn-four Villagers of Estwald. Sound scary?

Before our third game Craig had decided to switch things up and bring in some of his white for green. His idea was to present more creatures, earlier, and better fight a Werewolf horde. He opened with an early Curse of the Bloody Tome and Moon Heron, but my Werewolf creatures transformed when I took a chance that he couldn't cast two spells right away on his turn.

It looked like I'd unleash a world of hurt after Craig's turn. But Craig had drawn a land for his turn, which then let him cast two more creatures in one shot: Orchard Spirit and One-Eyed Scarecrow.

Suddenly I had lost all my momentum and I was taking a lot of damage in the air in a hurry. While my little furballs did get another chance to howl, by the time they could it was too late. I was short a Swamp to cast the removal in my hand, and died to an evasive assault from Craig.

Game, and match, go to Craig!

Adam and Craig's Excellent Adventures

Winchester isn't the only way to draft with two players. Other methods often lead to just as interesting games and situations, but Winchester gets us to those games first by far. If you think that there's some drafting to be done in your future, give Winchester a try. If you already like Limited then you'll really enjoy how Winchester lays it all out there for you!

Our howling good time last week has quite a few loose ends to wrap up, starting with some polls!

If you were going to have Adam build and play one of these two Werewolf decks, which would it be?
Mr. Eichenberger's "A Blue Moon Rises" 198 62.1%
Mr. Langley's "Werewolves in the Mist" 121 37.9%
Total 319 100.0%

If you were going to have Adam build and play one of these two Werewolf decks, which would it be?
Bryan's "The Little-Death That Brings Total Ruination" 142 57.3%
Sean's "Love in the Grave" 106 42.7%
Total 248 100.0%

Do you want to see a battle of the night terrors between the winning Werewolf and Zombie decks?
Yes 297 91.1%
No 29 8.9%
Total 326 100.0%

Four decks, three questions, two tropes, and one final battle to own the night; I like your choices! What's stunning is that there was a bit of a hiccup on deck duplication, and the actual list for Mr. Eichenberger's list did not show up for several hours—yet still won! As has been tipped off to me, his deck is "just beautifully put together" to make the most of the double-faced card rules. You can expect a fearsome showdown in a few shorts weeks as I need to rally the cards appropriate for just such a duel.

This week's poll is much more practical:

 Have you already tried, or plan to try soon, Winchester Draft?  

Join us next week when we get gibbed before a respawn. See you then!

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