I was alone.

Not the morose kind of alone, wishing to be in the presence of loved ones. The sudden, inspired type of alone, when, for the first time in weeks, maybe months, I'm the only person in the room.

I looked over to the desk next to mine, expecting to see Kenny, excitedly waiting for three rounds to tell him that I just 3-0'd a draft with only 10 creatures in my deck. I had forgotten he wasn't there - it was 5am and he was sleeping, as I probably should have been. I had been playing Magic Online for almost 12 hours straight at this point, and I don't think I had eaten since yesterday.

Is this healthy? I ask myself. I'm a smoker. My go-to defense mechanism against convincing myself that I should take the healthier choice on a matter. I've already made a terrible decision once, I shouldn't use that to validate more bad decisions. Is playing another draft even a bad decision? I should be playing more Standard so I can have a decklist that can win a match in my next article...

Double Click.
2 Event Tickets, 1 Theros Booster, 1 Born of the Gods Booster, 1 Journey into Nyx Booster
Click.

The crackle of virtual packs opening.

The next double click will shape how my next two or three hours go.

Temple of Malady
Blinding Flare
Golden Hind
Hubris

There are 11 other cards in the pack, but I wasn't picking any of them here. Already today, I've started a draft by first picking each of these cards. I won each of those drafts except the one where I first picked Blinding Flare.


Draft A:

2 Sigiled Skink
7 Swamp
1 Coordinated Assault
1 Fearsome Temper
1 Keepsake Gorgon
1 Blinding Flare
1 Bladetusk Boar
1 Satyr Hoplite
1 Prophetic Flamespeaker
10 Mountain
1 Reckless Reveler
2 Fall of the Hammer
1 Blood-Toll Harpy
1 Dragon Mantle
1 Baleful Eidolon
1 Borderland Minotaur
1 Rise to the Challenge
1 Archetype of Finality
1 Underworld Cerberus
1 Felhide Minotaur
1 Aspect of Gorgon
1 Pharika's Chosen
1 Spiteful Returned

Sideboard
2 Impetuous Sunchaser
2 Lightning Diadem
1 Swamp
1 Asphodel Wanderer
1 Gods Willing
1 Forest
1 Commune with the Gods
1 Aspect of Gorgon
1 Acolyte's Reward
1 Loathsome Catoblepas
1 Cruel Feeding
1 Island
1 Mortal's Ardor
1 Ephara's Radiance
1 Pinnacle of Rage
1 Cruel Feeding
1 Scourgemark
1 Font of Ire
1 Epiphany Storm
1 Boulderfall

The second pick Prophetic Flamespeaker came as quite a surprise, as the card is both good and worth a reasonable amount of tickets.

I lost in the finals with this deck, to a U/b Control deck with plenty of 1/3s, removal, and high-toughness fliers. They say you learn more when you lose than when you win, and I agree with whoever "they" are. When I lose, I try to think of the interactions that led my loss, at the very least the ones under my control. Of course it's easy to lose to mana issues, but if your lasting thought is "I never drew my third land" more than "I could've mulliganed," then you're not really learning anything.

This deck had a reasonable curve and some powerful spells, but I really needed to save my Fall of the Hammers for important targets.

I won the die roll and played a Pharika's Chosen. My turn two was a Sigiled Skink and his was a Disciple of Deceit. I had a Fall of the Hammer in my hand, as well as a Blinding Flare and a Borderland Minotaur. If I used my Fall, I could kill his creature, get some damage through, scry, and still play my creature on four. It seemed like a reasonable plan - but I wasn't considering what my opponent was likely to have.

Once I had cast that Fall of the Hammer, I only had two cards left in my deck to kill his creatures with. Additionally, I had a creature with Deathtouch in play already, so I could have waited until he played a card I wasn't already able to outclass in a turn. Instead of fighting to get a couple of points through, I could have played for a longer game in which we both amassed some board presence. This would've led to the Blinding Flare I had in my hand being game-winning.

I should have considered that I had far more threats that could attack past his Disciple of Deceit than I had ways of answering Prescient Chimera (I knew he had two) or Siren of the Fanged Coast.

On a basic level, I learned to save my removal spell until I really needed to use it.


Draft B:

1 Pharika's Chosen
1 Spiteful Blow
1 Cavern Lampad
2 Prescient Chimera
1 Hubris
1 War-Wing Siren
2 Divination
1 Nightmarish End
1 Nullify
1 Aspect of Gorgon
1 Pin to the Earth
1 Shipwreck Singer
1 Blood-Toll Harpy
1 Baleful Eidolon
1 Eternity Snare
1 Omenspeaker
1 Disciple of Deceit
1 Crypsis
1 Chorus of the Tides
7 Swamp
11 Island
1 Sealock Monster

Sideboard
1 Eye Gouge
1 Fleshmad Steed
1 Boulderfall
1 Felhide Brawler
1 Nullify
1 Evanescent Intellect
1 Pull from the Deep
1 Guardians of Meletis
1 Lightning Diadem
1 Reap What Is Sown
1 Lost in a Labyrinth
1 Benthic Giant
1 Satyr Wayfinder
1 Triton Shorethief
1 Kiora's Dismissal
1 Satyr Hoplite
1 Crypsis
1 Countermand
1 Forest
1 Market Festival
1 Swamp
1 Font of Ire
1 Thunderous Might

I first picked Hubris, and when a Disciple of Deceit came as my second pick, I figured now was as good of a time as ever to try drafting UB control, which seems to have gotten better with the addition of Journey into Nyx.

Notably, I picked Pin to the Earth over Squelching Leeches and Dreadbringer Lampads. At the time, my only creatures were Disciple of Deceit, Pharika's Chosen and War-Wing Siren. Cards like Pin to the Earth (referring here to blue auras that only reduce a creature's power) are usually pretty underwhelming. In this format, Pin to the Earth is actually one of the better blue commons in JOU. It's an effective, cheap answer to bestowed creatures and unblockable creatures, which are the primary ways of winning games in this format. I wouldn't take it over Hubris, but both of those cards being comparable isn't something I would've ever expected.

Notably, I boarded in Guardians of Meletis against a monored deck, and won because Pin to the Earth and Guardians of Meletis answered both of his Bladetusk Boars, for which I would've otherwise been completely unable to race.

In this draft I tabled Kiora's Dismissal, and didn't play it main, but boarded it in almost every game, and it was the deciding factor more than once. Of course, playing enchantment removal main in the enchantment block makes sense, but with 18 lands, double Divination and so few creatures, I thought I needed the slot to be a card that actively did something. Turns out, I boarded out Cavern Lampad most often, as it was by far the least impressive card in the deck.

This draft, I learned that UB control seems a lot stronger than UB tempo, which I was a fan of in BRN-THS-THS. I also learned that Kiora's Dismissal is quite good.

1 Tormented Hero
1 Aerial Formation
1 Gild
1 Servant of Tymaret
1 Hubris
1 Felhide Brawler
1 War-Wing Siren
1 Thassa's Emissary
1 Flitterstep Eidolon
1 Retraction Helix
1 Sip of Hemlock
1 Spiteful Returned
1 Nyxborn Triton
1 Returned Phalanx
1 Omenspeaker
1 Ordeal of Thassa
1 Sudden Storm
1 Crypsis
1 Chorus of the Tides
7 Swamp
2 Triton Shorestalker
10 Island
1 Polymorphous Rush
1 King Macar, the Gold-Cursed

Sideboard
1 Claim of Erebos
1 Swamp
1 Forsaken Drifters
1 Returned Reveler
1 Evanescent Intellect
1 Crackling Triton
1 Nyx Weaver
1 Breaching Hippocamp
1 Font of Fortunes
1 Kruphix's Insight
1 Annul
1 Benthic Giant
1 Horizon Chimera
1 Satyr Wayfinder
1 Countermand
1 Sigiled Skink
1 Island
1 Island
1 Bronze Sable
1 Pin to the Earth
1 Stymied Hopes
1 Asphodel Wanderer

This was a draft I did much earlier in the pre-release, taking Polymorphous Rush and Triton Shorestalker too highly. As you can see, I had Pin to the Earth in the sideboard of this deck , and my biggest creatures were 2/3s and 3/3s. I don't want to say I picked removal in this draft too highly, but Hubris, Sudden Storm, and Retraction Helix are a lot less impressive if you're only attacking for one or two a turn.


Draft C + D:

1 Ill-Tempered Cyclops
1 Everflame Eidolon
1 Satyr Rambler
1 Reckless Reveler
1 Flamespeaker Adept
1 Spearpoint Oread
1 War-Wing Siren
1 Flame-Wreathed Phoenix
1 Steam Augury
1 Stormchaser Chimera
1 Aqueous Form
1 Nyxborn Rollicker
1 Voyage's End
1 Spite of Mogis
1 Omenspeaker
10 Mountain
1 Ordeal of Purphoros
2 Fall of the Hammer
1 Bolt of Keranos
1 Rise to the Challenge
1 Satyr Hoplite
1 Sigiled Skink
1 Magma Spray
7 Island

Sideboard
1 Marshmist Titan
1 Last Breath
1 Colossus of Akros
1 Flamecast Wheel
1 Starfall
1 Pharagax Giant
1 Lightning Diadem
1 Culling Mark
1 Rouse the Mob
1 Mortal's Ardor
1 Mountain
2 Flurry of Horns
1 Forest
1 Omenspeaker
1 Staunch-Hearted Warrior
1 Crypsis
1 Countermand
1 Island
1 Plains
1 Acolyte's Reward
1 Bloodcrazed Hoplite
1 Font of Ire

1 Magma Spray
1 Hubris
1 Temple of Epiphany
1 Knowledge and Power
4 Sigiled Skink
2 Vaporkin
1 Sudden Storm
6 Island
1 Triton Tactics
1 Triton Fortune Hunter
10 Mountain
1 Rise to the Challenge
1 Fall of the Hammer
1 Bolt of Keranos
1 Titan's Strength
1 Lightning Strike
1 Dakra Mystic
1 Fearsome Temper
1 Stormcaller of Keranos
1 Griptide
1 Satyr Nyx-Smith
1 Kragma Butcher

Sideboard
1 Triton Shorestalker
1 Flamespeaker's Will
1 Satyr Rambler
1 Mindreaver
1 Two-Headed Cerberus
1 Blinding Flare
1 Dissolve
1 Plains
1 Mountain
1 Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass
1 Rise to the Challenge
1 Charging Badger
1 Nyxborn Rollicker
1 Silent Artisan
1 Unknown Shores
1 Plains
1 Benthic Giant
1 Ashiok's Adept
1 Brain Maggot
1 Tormented Thoughts
1 Triton Shorethief

I like R/u a lot in this format, mostly for abundance of red two-drops and their synergy with blue bounce spells. This archetype also has access to a lot of scry, which is almost the equivalent of drawing a card when you put a land on the bottom in the mid/late game. In the first deck, I picked Satyr Hoplite and Magma Spray early, and was rewarded in packs two and three with rares, mythics, and Fall of the Hammers.

The latter deck was more interesting. I first picked Temple of Epiphany out of an unexciting pack, then picked Hubris, and then took Sigiled Skink over Spite of Mogis and Knowledge and Power. I wasn't even sure if Knowledge and Power was playable, but I kept it in mind as I already had two scry cards.

Pick 4: Sigiled Skink, not much thought
Pick 5: Sigiled Skink, I wonder if Knowledge and Power is playable
Pick 6: Sigiled Skink, I really hope I table Knowledge and Power

I was so excited when I tabled that Knowledge and Power. I probably took Stormcaller of Keranos over something better, but I was really excited to play with the expensive Lightning Rift variant. As it turns out, I drew Knowledge and Power often, and only activated it a single time across three rounds. I boarded it out game three of round two, and then as soon as I could in the finals. In some ways, it was saddening that in a deck with so much scry, it was still very overcosted. In another way, I was proud of myself for realizing that it was the worst card in my deck, despite the Johnny in me.


Draft E + F:

1 Oakheart Dryads
1 Gnarled Scarhide
1 Kruphix's Insight
2 Strength from the Fallen
1 Sedge Scorpion
8 Swamp
1 Golden Hind
1 Karametra's Favor
1 Mortal's Resolve
2 Commune with the Gods
9 Forest
1 Returned Reveler
1 Nyxborn Wolf
1 Bile Blight
1 Setessan Oathsworn
1 Feral Invocation
2 Dreadbringer Lampads
1 Insatiable Harpy
1 Pharika's Cure
1 Nylea's Emissary
2 Fleshmad Steed

Sideboard
1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
1 Impetuous Sunchaser
1 Gluttonous Cyclops
1 Bronze Sable
1 Stymied Hopes
1 Tormented Thoughts
1 Forsaken Drifters
1 Plains
1 Portent of Betrayal
1 Mountain
1 Archetype of Aggression
1 Mortal's Resolve
1 Market Festival
1 Skyreaping
1 Font of Return
1 Swamp
1 Returned Reveler
1 Rise to the Challenge
1 Great Hart
1 Ashiok's Adept
1 Setessan Starbreaker
1 Fleetfeather Sandals

2 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
1 Oakheart Dryads
1 Cast into Darkness
1 Unravel the AEther
1 Shrike Harpy
1 Courser of Kruphix
1 Nylea's Disciple
1 Marshmist Titan
8 Forest
10 Swamp
1 Mortal's Resolve
1 Mogis's Marauder
2 Mogis's Marauder
1 Disciple of Phenax
1 Read the Bones
1 Bile Blight
1 Feral Invocation
1 Baleful Eidolon
1 Bloodcrazed Hoplite
1 Brain Maggot
1 Pharika, God of Affliction
1 Pharika's Chosen

Sideboard
1 Returned Phalanx
1 Culling Mark
1 Weight of the Underworld
1 Temple of Enlightenment
2 Eye Gouge
1 Goldenhide Ox
1 Font of Fertility
1 Setessan Starbreaker
1 Swamp
1 Font of Vigor
1 Plains
1 Forest
1 Rotted Hulk
1 Swamp
1 Loathsome Catoblepas
1 Cutthroat Maneuver
1 Charging Badger
1 Mortal's Ardor
1 Fade into Antiquity
2 Triton Shorestalker
2 Nature's Panoply

The first draft here seemed like a really sweet constellation combo deck. I had two copies each of Strength from the Fallen, and Dreadbringer Lampads. The goal, then, was to fill my graveyard and with each enchantment make a huge intimidating creature. This is why I played double Fleshmad Steed and didn't play Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Strength from the Fallen wasn't going to do anything if I didn't have creatures to trade early, and I figured even an enchantment like Karametra's Favor was going to essentially deal more damage than Gray Merchant's trigger.

I lost because I kept this hand:

2 Strength from the Fallen
1 Dreadbringer Lampads
2 Forest
2 Swamp

I was excited - I had my combo pieces!
I was ignorant - I kept a hand that did absolutely nothing.

The very logic I used when building my deck, I did not use when choosing to keep my hand. My deck wasn't going to be very good if I couldn't trade or put cards in my graveyard. Staying focused on synergy when building your deck is important, but I forgot the bigger picture when I kept this hand.

The other G/B deck drafted itself, I opened Pharika, God of Affliction, who seemed ridiculously powerful. Not only do his Snakes have deathtouch, but they also are enchantments to trigger constellation at instant speed. This is a format where I'll take Pharika's Chosen, Baleful Eidolon and Sedge Scorpion over most other cards.

I can confirm that Pharika is a bomb, and wins games without even becoming a creature. Of course, in pack three I opened a Gray Merchant, got passed a Gray Merchant, and then triple Mogis's Marauder, putting any primarily black deck into a really good position to win the draft. This was the first draft where I had less two-drops than any other slot on the curve, but the power level of most of the cards in the deck more than made up for it.


Attacking in Standard

As I alluded to earlier, acquiring some Battlefield Thaumaturges was not in my best interest for winning matches of Standard. I tried the list I posted, as well as the lists in the comments, and I