It was a dark and stormy night, but no bad weather would deter us from drafting Eldritch Moon. We were on our way to Chicagoland Games Dice Dojo, my local game shop in Chicago.
Dice Dojo is great. I registered my DCI there years ago for my very first Friday Night Magic. That first FNM was so successful that I even won some packs! I may have lost my first round, had an opponent leave during Round 2, and gotten a bye in Round 3...didn't matter, cracked a mythic rare.
Four pods had already fired by the time we arrived, so we waited around for a bit before enough people showed up and fill our pod. We look so happy in this picture, you would never guess we're about to draft the spookiest set in all of Innistrad.
On the left in this picture we see Andrew Baeckstrom, aka BK. Five years ago or so, BK and I learned how to play Magic together. Technically speaking, BK learned to play Magic earlier than that. "I did day camp as a kid in fifth or sixth grade. We played Magic without rules, I'm sure our decks were all terrible, we had curves that started at four, but it stuck with me. When I got out of college, a friend of mine had Magic at our office and we all started playing again," he said. BK and I played kitchen-table Magic against each other, battling NoFun.deck (a mediocre control deck) versus Vampires.deck (Sengir Vampire for life). "A lot of things you try when you're a kid, and you come back to them ten years later, you're like, 'Oh wow, this isn't actually that awesome.' Well...Magic actually is that awesome." Today, BK is a Silver-level pro who tests with Team Ultra PRO and ChannelFireball.
In the middle, we have Emerson Spartz, my hubby. Emerson learned to play Magic a year after I did, mostly due to my nonstop insistence. Funny story, Emerson's first sanctioned event was Grand Prix Louisville. "My wife had already started playing Magic, and I hadn't gotten on the bandwagon yet, but she and some others were gonna go down to GP Louisville. It sounded like fun. I wanted to come and I figured that I could just to hang out, but I might as well learn to play and compete in the tournament," Emerson said of his introduction to the game.
I took it upon myself to whip Emerson into shape for Grand Prix Louisville in the three weeks before the event (cue Rocky Balboa training montage). When we arrived at the site, we registered his DCI on the spot, gave him a mono-red deck and let him loose. "I ended up going 3-5 in the main event," he said, "which was thrilling because I didn't even understand the phases of a turn. I just knew to play creatures and turn them sideways and then it was the other person's turn." Emerson still plays this way.
Eventually our draft pod fired. My first pack was mediocre and I settled for a Spirit of the Hunt. BK was sitting directly to my left, and I figured he'd probably be happy I picked Spirit of the Hunt, since he loves drafting slow blue control decks. I carefully picked the next cards for my deck, and this is where I was at the end of pack one.
My goodness, what a mess. There were no strong signals in pack one, or anything that was really drawing me into a specific color. On the plus side, the deck was happy to play any good cards opened in pack two. Everyone slowly checked their picks and got ready to open pack two.
Now we're talking! My deck could definitely pivot into green-white. I have a Spirit of the Hunt, Tangleclaw Werewolf, It of the Horrid Swarm, and Faith Unbroken, and both green and white were relatively open from the right. Pick by pick, I ended up with this deck:
This looks good considering where I was at the end of pack one. I stayed pretty open and got rewarded with some premium white removal spells. This is not a very aggressive deck. It slows down the game with cards such as Sigardian Priest and Tangleclaw Werewolf until I can cast my beefy flyers like Bruna, the Fading Light and Drogskol Cavalry. I also have Ulvenwald Captive and Cryptolith Fragment to ramp into my high-cost cards.
Finally, I sit down in front of my Round 1 opponent. Oh snap, it was my arch nemesis, BK. I won the die roll and drew my opening seven.
Yuck...the hand was good, but there was no white mana. The hand would become great if I could draw a white source, and if all else failed I had a Spirit of the Hunt that might ambush one of BK's creatures. I was also assuming he was playing a slow control deck, and that'd buy me time to find a white source. I decided to keep it. I drew a Plains immediately and curved out beautifully.
Did I call it or what? I see a lone Wharf Infiltrator on the other side of the battlefield. He drafted Blue-Black Zombies, but I was too aggressive in Game 1 for him to stabilize. Unfortunately, BK defeated me in the next two (very long) games. His deck was great, and a combination of Liliana's Elite, Wharf Infiltrator, Gisa and Geralf, and Cemetery Recruitment dispatched me. "I drafted Blue-Black Zombies because I opened up Gisa and Geralf," he said. "It's one of my favorite archetypes to draft [CALLED IT! —Gaby]. It's not one of the strongest, but when you get a card as powerful as Gisa and Geralf, it can really come together like it did tonight." Our decks were both slow, but he had more card draw and more ways to get value from his graveyard.
No introductions were needed for Round 2 either—it was my hubs! If I wanted to play these clowns, I could've stayed at home. Either way, it was time to battle.
Emerson drafted a green-red beatdown deck, which, as we established earlier, fits his playstyle perfectly. He had beefy creatures at the top of his curve, like It of the Horrid Swarm and Ulvenwald Observer. I know earlier I said that my deck wanted to slow the game until I could play my big flyers, but then this happened:
Oops. I went very aggro. I curved Noose Constrictor into Spirit of the Hunt, then enchanted each of them with a Faith Unbroken. The first Faith Unbroken exiled Emerson's Insatiable Gorgers, and the next one exiled his Ulvenwald Observer. Without good removal, I would've had a tough time getting through his board, but I ran away with the game quickly.
Our second game was slower and much longer. We stalled out the board until each of us had ten-plus creatures on the battlefield. Eventually I drew my Drogskol Cavalry, which Emerson was able to answer two turns later. At that point, the damage was done, and I had a couple of Spirit tokens created from Drogskol Cavalry's activated ability that managed to go all the way.
Round 3 came along, and it was finally time to face someone who didn't arrive in my car. His name was David Kaehler, and he drafted a sweet blue-black value deck.
David's favorite format is Booster Draft, which is what brought him to FNM that night. We got to chat a bit about Eldritch Moon as well. This was David's first EMN draft since the Prerelease. "I'm a little sad because I really enjoyed Green-Blue Clues; I was hoping to see more of that in Eldritch Moon, but I've enjoyed some of the other things Eldritch Moon is doing."
David's deck was trying to reap incremental value from all his spells and creatures. "I wanted to be Blue-Red Spells, but then red dried up." He ended up in blue-black, with small critters he could use to power out his emerge cards and then "buy back" with Midnight Scavengers. He had ways to get cards in his graveyard and multiple Take Inventorys to keep the card draw flowing. We played two very close games, from which I eventually emerged victorious.
After starting out 0-1, I was pretty happy to rally back to a 2-1 finish. I went to pick up my prizes at the counter and was met with a lovely surprise. Not only did I win four booster packs, I also got to pick a promo out of the promo box!
The promo box is a fun invention at Dice Dojo. The promos span a large portion of Magic's history, and you get to pull one out if you had a winning record but didn't win the regular FNM promo of the week. If you're very lucky, you might even get a promo box mini-game.
Take a look at these:
- Promokratis: Pull another promo. If it's a Tromokratis, pull two more promos.
- Promo Divination: Draw two promos from the promo box.
- Gitaxian Promo: Look at your hand, draw a promo (you may look at your hand the whole time).
- Promo Brainstorm: Pull three promos, then put two promos back.
And last but not least, the troll promo: "The promo was inside you all along!"
I wasn't lucky enough to pull out a mini-game, but I did take home a Magma Spray promo. This about wrapped up our time at Dice Dojo. We packed up our things and headed over to a nearby Mexican restaurant to celebrate a fun FNM with some tacos and margaritas. Eldritch Moon is great so far, and you better believe I'll be drafting it many more times in the next few months. How have you been liking Eldritch Moon? What's your favorite thing about FNM at your local store? Let me know on Twitter @gabyspartz, or on my stream at twitch.tv/gabyspartz.