checked out chino magic — a store i found online that had some stellar reviews. there were a couple of other options, but this one seemed best. reviewers said the best thing about the store was the owner.
i messaged them on facebook asking when draft started, but never got an answer. i assumed it’d be at 7:00, and i arrived sometime around 6:35.
at the register, i saw a sign that said draft started at 6:30. if i was on ji-time, i don’t think i would have made it for draft today, which would have been a shame because i went undefeated.
the lady at the register, cat (kat?) asked me if i had a dci number with the store. i told her i had a dci number, but not with the store. she asked me if i had my dci card, and she was genuinely surprised to find out i had my number memorized.
there were 15 drafters, and i was seated with the pod of eight.
pack one, pick one: tolsimir. i thought about picking kaya or eternal taskmaster or sorin’s thirst, but then i’d have a problem with signals. sure, i could cut off black, but selesnya isn’t a color people often force, and i could go wolves or proliferate. i wanted an arlinn, a pack of wolves, and enough removal to get rid of big threats.
i picked up a wanderer, a law-rune force enforcer, and some conditional removal (gideon’s triumph and divine arrow). white cards i didn’t expect to see again were being wheeled. people were sleeping hard on white.
i picked up a solar blaze that made me consider splashing red or going gruul or boros. a late nahiri was a nice surprise.
pack two, pick one: domri. i started to consider going red as main with green or white getting splashed, especially after being passed a neheb. i passed a wolf and wasn’t helping myself on the proliferate front. even though i picked up a grateful apparition late, i knew i would need to force counters if i wanted that synergy.
i drafted another wanderer and a wanderer’s strike. more proliferation. needed more creatures with counters.
pack three, pick one: opened up the pack and had to smile. double ugin. all the way! i turned around, raised my hand, and got the owner’s (becky) attention. she came over, and i asked her, “what happens when i open a good pack?”
“you can buy another pack and replace it.”
when she left to get me a new pack, the table asked what i pulled.
the drafter to my left expressed disappointment about not getting an ugin. “you would have passed me the foil one, right?” he asked.
with a new pack in hand, we continued the draft. i think i skipped the rare. don’t really remember what i picked, but pack three filled out the rest of my deck with some critical additions. got a second hex-proof crocodile, my first and/or second iron bully (counters!), and some two-drops — pouncing lynxes and war screecher.
a pledge of unity and a battlefield promotion were a huge relief to see.
looking back on the draft as a whole, i struggled with a few choices that could have made my deck better. i passed the 2/2 pegasus that carries another attacker, and i passed some mana fixing. i also passed some removal — the green fight card that sends damage from two creatures.
when i started building my deck, i left all the red cards besides domri on the cutting floor. i only had a paradise druid in terms of mana-fixing (i passed the 2/4 mana-fixer that gets you two life and the lands), and i added just one mountain to the deck. looking at the curve, i felt comfortable enough to cut down to 16 lands.
i didn’t add kiora because i wanted to be a little more aggressive. i could have drafted a huatli, but i wasn’t aware of my deck at the time and passed. looking back, it might have helped since most of my creatures were higher tougheness.
match 1: put in an ignite the beacon after winning my first game. my opponent scooped and then got flooded during the second game.
match 2: during the first game of my second match, my opponent played a toll of the invasion. he left me with the signal the beacon because i had two planeswalkers in my hand. when i used it to get domri and the wanderer from my deck, he was amazed. he won the game, but i took the next two games after taking out beacon and one of the enforcers for two lynxes.
things could have ended much differently, though. after the third game, he showed me a murder girl he was saving. had he drawn any one of his 2/1 creatures, i might have lost.
of all the matches, this one was the hardest. the tolls and davriel were really hard to deal with, especially because i didn’t have any card-draw. he had a couple of cantrips, and he had card advantage.
match 3: i took the first game against my third-round opponent, but he had no problems during the second. i kept a hand that didn’t have a play until the third or fourth turn. he took full advantage, swinging hard and throwing sarkhan’s catharsis at me twice. his mowu was dangerous — i forgot about the trample damage when he attacked my nahiri. i exiled it, but his arlinn’s wolf had done enough damage to bring me within range for sarkhan’s blasts.
match 4: my fourth-round opponent had mana problems and couldn’t mount a solid defense. he had plenty of removal, especially during the first game, but he couldn’t keep up. the second game, he got rid of my grateful apparition a turn after it was cast, but my iron bullies had other ways of getting huge.
he handed me his deck after the match, and i dodged a pretty big bullet. he had tons of removal and his threats were strong. had he drawn the right mana at the right time, he would have met me halfway or put me on my back foot instead of just playing to his means. my hexproof crocodiles, once they landed and got counters on them, were my finishers — i was surprised to see he had left lillian’s triumph in his sideboard.
in salinas, drafts are $12 and a pack per win. tonight, i went 4-0, which net me nine packs and a promo. the past three weeks, i haven’t been doing well in draft. going 4-0 and picking up a stack of packs felt great, and i had some great conversations with becky and cat (kat?) about the store, its business, and the community.
hearing how the store received 300 prerelease kits and hosted a midnight prerelease that was so big, they had to rent the restaurant next door — i was amazed. i was even more amazed to hear that the store held a sealed and two-headed giant tournament at the same time for its prerelease.
and like most of the stores in the country, chico magic was struggling to keep war of the spark on its shelves. becky said it was the best-selling magic set ever for her store — she sold through her initial 90 boxes, then another 40, and was waiting on another delivery. they wouldn’t sell any boxes tonight because they had to keep enough for draft.
overall, i am glad i checked out chico magic — and not because i went 4-0 or pulled a double-ugin pack. the community seems healthy, the owner knew what she was doing, and the prices were fair (booster boxes were $100). i wish they had war of the spark boxes on sale because i would have bought four in order to get the buy-a-box promos.
the reviews were spot-on about the owner. she was so knowledgeable and friendly, i messaged a friend about throwing cash at the store to support it. i might go tomorrow to pick up a single or two.
and if they get any boxes, i might be buying those too.
here’s the deck including sideboard (draft was continuous deck construction).
(2) iron bully
(2) law-rune enforcers
(2) pouncing lynx
(2) wardscale crocodile
tolsimir, friend to wolves
(2) the wanderer
domri, anarch of bolas
nahiri, storm of stone
ignite the beacon
pledge of unity
courage in crisis