Return to Ravnica – Draft Night

We’ve started making MTG draft nights a semi-regular thing in the gaming group.  Though we all enjoy it and frankly want to play it more often, we limit ourselves to about 3-4 times per year so that we don’t wear out our welcome.  Our most recent event happened this past weekened, where we played Return to Ravnica draft.  This marks our third draft since April of last year, but I didn’t bother writing up a blog post about the second one for some reason (likely because it was Conspiracy, so we had no real brackets or winners/losers due to it being multiplayer).


We’ve set a precident that we’re going to keep inviting those people that show up.  Sadly, Aaron wasn’t able to attend last time and we filled his spot with “Sambro,” so when we were looking for our eigth this time, we gave Sambro first dibs.  It was a little sensitive, because Aaron had a valid reason for not attending, but it made sense to invite those that do come.  I’m sure we’ll work Aaron back into the lineup again.  Otherwise, it was the same people in the first draft: Rob, Brandon, Sean, Derek, Joe, Albert, Icky, & Sam.


For food, we wound up having an extended meat and cheese tray.  I picked up six kinds of cheeses and two kinds of meats, plus crackers and pretzel crisps, plus chicken salad and a veggie tray.  Brandon was goodly enough to furnish some beverages.  It was a deviation from the normal “dinner” style with lighter fair, but I think it was a nice change.


Like last time, we wound up deciding the pertinent information (who, what, when, where, etc.) via Survey Monkey.  The group is super laid back though, so it fell into place quite easily.  We played a copy of Return to Ravnica because I had a box on hand, and it got the most votes from the group (winning handily with a whopping 2 votes).

My Deck:

rtr_boosterboxSadly, I mashed all of the cards together before I could get a list for this blog post.

Like last time, I did a bunch of pre-drafting and I’m not sure how much it helped.  Initially, I was convinced that U/W was going to be the strongest color because of how many flyers it had.  Then, I wound up yielding to G/W because green seemed to have so much good hate against flyers.  But my green decks all seemed slow, so I figured that R/B was going to be the winner.

Throughout the drafts, I really liked drafting propogate decks, but knew that I had to get the right centaurs to make it work.  So, when the cards came around, I committed to drafting Centaur’s Herald and Call of the Conclave whenever they showed.  In total, I got one of the Herald and saw two Conclaves, but only drafted one.  I also snuck a couple of Stab Wounds out because I had heard they were format defining, and was passed two Underworld Connections, so felt obliged to pick them (I think I picked the foil one over the second Call of the Conclave).

My packs weren’t amazing, in my opinion.  Prior to the draft, I had decided that I was going to draft for a winning deck, and not for value, but my first and third packs had shocklands, and I wound up taking them over the other stuff.  It helped that I didn’t see anything in either pack that was overly compelling.

I didn’t see a single mythic, which only means I should’ve sat next to Brandon–who managed to pass two mythics: Sphinx’s Revelation, & Isperia, Supreme Judge because he didn’t want to play W/U.  That shocked me (especially considering the revelation was in his first pack), but he beat me, and nearly won the night–so I’m not sure how bad of a play that really turned out to be.

In the end, I wound up making a three color deck who walled up at the start and would grind it’s opponents down with stab wounds or under the weight of populating creatures.

The Aftermath:

I did alright over the course of the night, with my only losses coming to Brandon’s B/R deck–he fell to the losers bracket after being beaten by Icky’s U/W control, where he beat me a second time, then clawed his way back up to win against Icky and force a final match, which he lost 1-2.  It seems that the two decks that I initially thought would be best were ultimately the ones that won.

Final standings looked something like this:

  1. return-to-ravnica-spoilerIcky
  2. Brandon
  3. Rob
  4. Joe
  5. Sean
  6. Sam
  7. Derek
  8. Albert

We’re going to try to keep track of this info, so we can use it for seeding information in the future.


I just thought I’d end it with the links I found helpful in preparing for the draft.

Image Credit: RTR Box art copyright Wizards of the Coast


Dark Ascension Draft Night

Clearly I dabble in the dark arts that is Magic: the Gathering, but I really don’t play all that much.  Mostly,  I just buy cards and never do anything with them.  Well, it turns out that several members of my gaming group also used to play the game a bunch, and we all decided to play an evening of draft.   So we pre-empted last weeks’ normal gaming session with a scheduled game of MTG draft, where each person chipped in $20 and that covered the cards plus food for the evening.


The regular gaming group was invited via the standard email, and we signed people up on a first come, first serve basis.  We were hoping for six people, but actually got 8 attendees: Rob, Brandon, Sean, Derek, Joe, & Albert, plus two guys from outside the group: Icky & Aaron.  All had played magic in the past, but it had been years since most of us had played, and many people had no idea about the set, mechanics, or how draft worked in general.


I don’t normally document what it is we ate on the blog, but this is an exception.  We wanted to make something nice since everyone was chipping in and my wife came up with a suggestion for French Dips (seems logical enough: what else do a bunch of grown men want to eat besides meat?).  She even found a recipe online, and it was pretty fricking amazing, so I just had to share the link.  Amazing French Dip recipe found here.

In total, I collected $160 from everyone for the evening (including myself).  $90 of that was supposed to go towards the box of cards, but I wound up going a little over.  I spent $51 on the sandwiches, and another $25 on a pizza–so I dipped into the card fund by $6 there.


We handled what to play, where to play it, etc. all in advance by hosting a series of polls through Survey Monkey.  We could’ve played the latest set, Shadows Over Innistrad (or as Icky calls it, “Shadows over Innoruuk”), but the poll actually turned out the highest votes for another box of cards I just had laying around: Dark Ascension.  Don’t ask me why it won, as none of us really know anything about the set or it’s sealed value, but it had the most votes, so we went with it.

In advance, I tried to do as much research as I could

My Deck:

I was able to draft cards to make the following deck:

  • Creatures (17)
    • 1 Briarpack Alpha (foil)
    • 2 Dawntrader Elk
    • 2 Forge Devil
    • 1 Kessig Recluse
    • 2 Markov Warlord
    • 1 Mondronen Shaman
    • 2 Pyreheart Wolf
    • 2 Strangleroot Geist
    • 1 Ulvenwald Bear
    • 1 Wolfbitten Captive
    • 2 Young Wolf
  • Spells (7)
    • 1 Burning Oil
    • 1 Fire of Undeath
    • 2 Wild Hunger
    • 3 Wrack with Madness
  • Lands (16)
    • 7 Mountain
    • 9 Forest
  • DarkAscensionDraftBracketGreen:
    • 1 Kessig Recluse
    • 2 Lambholdt Elder
    • 6 Ulvenwald Bear
    • 2 Hollowhenge Beast
    • 1 Crushing Vine
    • 1 Tracker’s Instincts
  • Red:
    • 1 Afflicted Deserter
    • 1 Faithless Looting
    • 1 Fling
    • 1 Hinterland Hermit
    • 1 Russet Wolves
    • 2 Scorch the Fields
    • 1 Torch Fiend
  • Black:
    • 1 Death’s Caress
    • 2 Tragic Slip
    • 1 Vengeful Vampire
  • Blue:
    • 1 Mystic Retrieval
    • 1 Screeching Skaab
    • 1 Griptide
    • 1 Chill of Foreboding
  • Other:
    • 2 Executioner’s Hood
    • 1 Grim Backwoods

I had done a bunch of pre-drafting leading up to the event, and ultimately decided that I wanted to go with Black/Blue or Black/Red.  My first pack didn’t have any good cards from any of those colors, so I started with a foil Briarpack Alpha, and then kept getting passed red and green cards.  Nobody wanted any of the werewolves, so I started drafting them as well (though very few actually made it into my deck).

Throughout the draft, I never saw a mythic, and only once saw one of the uncommon lord cards.  I also found it unique that the people I played with took a very different tact as to what was good in a given set/color.  I kept seeing cards getting passed around when more than half the pack was gone that I would’ve considered strong contenders for the first pick in a pack (in fact, I never got a strangleroot geist until the last half of the last pack, when I was passed two in a row).

Because of the colors I was in, I wound up making a bit of a speed/agro deck.  Due to the limits of the format, I didn’t really think that it would be possible, as it seemed quite slow, but my deck really did consistently put out creatures and hit my curve for the most part.  I claim that’s the biggest reason why I was able to pull down the victory for the night.  To reinforce that notion, the second fastest deck (Icky’s U/W Spirits) wound up taking second place.

The Aftermath:

DarkAscensionHaving never done a proper draft before myself, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into.  I can’t believe how much fun it was.  The drafting experience itself was certainly more fun than the act of playing magic, and that really seemed to be a commonly held belief by all of those in attendance.  By the end of the evening, my cheeks actually hurt a little bit from smiling too much.  Additionally, I had someone go out of their way the next day to call me and tell me how much fun the evening was.  We’re all in agreement that we’re going to do it again in the future, our next set will be Conspiracy though (or perhaps the sequel to it).

Since most people don’t actually play (or collect) magic, many people left their cards behind.  So, while I drafted complete crap when it came to value, I actually managed to retain all four mythics that were opened (including Sorin), which will surely make good decks one day if I ever get around to expending the effort.

We also had four packs leftover, and we opted not to open them, instead we’ll retain them to be packs used for a Chaos draft after Conspiracy.  Yup, we’re already planning that far ahead…


I just thought I’d end it with the links I found helpful in preparing for the draft.





Buying Magic Card Collections (Again?)

So I don’t write about Magic much, but that’s because I don’t deal with it all that often.  I do buy it (more often than I should), but I almost never get to play it, and I rarely sell anything, so what’s there to talk about?

Alvin6Well, recently I joined a local facebook group for players.  It’s a little bit of everything, but it seems to mostly be used to buy/sell/trade.  I’ve put out a few offers, but nobody seems to be willing to ship, and I’m too lazy to drive across town to buy a $4 card, so they’re mostly misses.  I did wind up talking with a guy about his cards, because he was selling a large lot and seemed willing to go through everything to build common/uncommon playsets for me (which is really what I’m after, as it allows me to spend a minimum amount, but still have enough cards to essentially make whatever decks I wanted).  While I was at it, I asked him for a bunch of cheaper rares, as he was willing to sell them for less than TCG low (which is like an internet standard for pricing).

Anywho, what started off the conversation was that he was selling fetch-lands in a lot for a reasonably good deal.  Normally I don’t buy magic cards as an investment, but I keep reading too many blogs/posts on MTGFinance to stay out.  So I bit on:

  • 1x Bloodstained Mire
  • 3x Flooded Strand
  • 7x Polluted Delta
  • 3x Windswept Heath
  • 2x Wooded Foothills

In total, that came to $150 (the cheapest I can buy them on TCG today is $233.16).  They’re all in good shape, so I figured what could it hurt?  Then, when I picked them up, he was supposed to have picked through for the playsets and some other cheap rares, but that didn’t pan out.  He decided to go through and do it again and I’d meet him the following week to pick up my stuff.

Alvin3In the interim, he posted some more cards for sale on a local facebook group and started selling his good stuff.  When I saw him the following week, he still hadn’t gone through to find the cards I was interested in–but in the process of negotiation, I wound up buying all of his non “good stuff.”  It wasn’t my finest hour, but I make bad decisions when faced with potential for good deals (big surprise, eh?)

My mindset was that he claimed to have 4x playsets for four different sets (in actuality, I’ll be lucky to get two) and I generally buy them for $20 each online, so I didn’t mind paying $80 for those.  He also pulled out some more fetchlands and other choice cards, that I’d agreed to pay his asking price of $75 for.  So, that just left me to wonder how much to offer for the rest of the cards.  He had about 5000 cards of various sorts (All from newer sets) and I wasn’t going to pick through them to see what he had.  My thought was that the “going price” for bulk is about $7 each, so that’s at least $35, and he did have a fair number of rares in it, so maybe $225?  Of course, the logic was flawed in all sorts of ways: I was paying full price for bulk, I had no idea how many rares (or if anything was good in it), and I was overpaying for 4x playsets that didn’t exist.

I was on painkillers though, so we shook hands and made the deal.  By that evening, I was surprised at how many rares were included in the deal, and there were even a few occasional good ones, so I should be able to make my money back on it.  Still, the original plan was to just get some cheap singles (And the fetchlands), and I was already almost $400 into this.  The more I thought about it, the more I developed a bad taste in my mouth.

So I messaged him–not to renig on the deal, but to let him know that if he had trouble selling his good stuff, that I’d be happy to pay him more than a local store would.  The mindset was that he’d go to the store and they’d make him an offer, and I’d beat that.  I wasn’t going to pay the prices he wanted (which were all less than TCG low, mind you)–not because his prices were too high, but because I didn’t need the stuff and was already too deep into this collection.

The thing is, he didn’t seem to want to go to a store.  I made him an offer based solely upon the prices he mentioned and the cards he described (I’m not super into Magic, so I dont know that much about new sets/prices).  I used the mindset of a former employer of mine (I used to work at a card/comic shop), where we offered up to 25% in cash value for cards that we wanted (50% in trade).  Of course, if we didn’t want/need the stuff, we offered less.  So, based upon his math, the cards were worth $385.  I figured that a local store would give him (max) $100 in cash–so I offered him that.  After a day or two of really weak haggling, he mentioned that he had some more cards that weren’t originally included, and threw them in.  Based upon that, I wound up giving him an extra $40 for the lot, but I made him deliver them to my place.

In total, the “good stuff” included:

  • Alvin63 Xenagos, the Reveler
  • 1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
  • 1 Chandra, Pyromaster
  • 1 Nissa, WorldWaker
  • 3 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
  • 1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
  • 4 Stormbreath Dragon
  • Alvin44 Thunderbreak Regent
  • 1 (foil) Shaman of the Great Hunt
  • 4 Stoke the Flames
  • 2 Whisperwood Elemental
  • 4 Courser of Kruphix
  • 4 Deathmist Raptor
  • 4 Sylvan Caryatid
  • Alvin52 Wingmate Roc
  • 6 Hero’s Downfall
  • 3 Dig Through Time
  • 4 Fleecemance Lion
  • 4 Siege Rhino
  • 3 Anafenza the Foremost
  • 2 Dragonlord Atarka
  • 1 Dragonlord Ojutai
  • 1 Dragonlord Dromoka
  • Alvin74 Temple of Deceit
  • 4 Temple of Abandon
  • 4 Temple of Enlightenment
  • 4 Temple of Plenty
  • 4 Temple of Malady
  • 3 Temple of Triumph
  • 4 Yavimaya Coast
  • 3 Caves of Koilos
  • 3 Llanowar Waste
  • 2 Haven of the Spirit Dragon

According to, the “total value” of that lot is actually $628.48 and the price I could sell it to if I sold every card to an online vendor (not feasible) for their best price would be $308.40.  Still, that’s a great deal for $140–I shouldn’t have any trouble getting my money out of that.

Alvin2So, in total, I’m out $510 (did I really just spend that much on Magic cards), and after I do alot of sorting, I should be able to make that money back and keep the actual commons/uncommons that I wanted (and hopefully the fetches, as they’re supposed to be “an investment.”)  We’ll see in time if I ever do that, and if I ever make any money on this stuff.  I just wanted to get it documented so I would know one day what I put into this lot.

Chronicling a Piece of MtG History

In case there was any doubt, I’ve been a nerd for a long time:

  • My first game of D&D was in 1984.
  • I’ve been playing Warhammer (in one form or another) since 1993.
  • I started playing Magic: the Gathering, well, I’m not sure about this one.

I know that Magic was released in 1993 and I graduated high school in 1994.  I know that Unlimited packs were still available for sale when I started playing, and I may have bought some of them at the time (though the frugality of my nature would’ve more than likely steered me away from them towards revised).  I also know that we spent a far bit of time playing magic in the hallways at school, which is where the dilemma lies.  If revised didn’t come out until April of 1994, and my last day of school was in May of 1994, it would seem logical that I played a bit before revised.

I did buy a lot of Antiquities back in the day, so it stands to reason that I was playing in March as well.  I guess then I must’ve had at least a few packs of unlimited (though I never recall opening any of the power 9, in case you were wondering).

I got out of the game on multiple occasions.  The first time was when Legends was released.

wh39kChronicles (4) (Medium)Can that be right?  I know that I pre-ordered a box of legends, and then wound up selling that back to the store for cost, and then a week later, realizing it was worth 10x that much.  That much I’m certain about, but did I really get out of magic completely at that point?  Something tells me that just wouldn’t have been long enough.  No, I think I just sold the box of Legends back at that point.  It would’ve been a few sets before I’d get out of magic completely.  My best guess would be that I lasted until about Mirage (so 1996), before I sold everything.  I don’t know what I had exactly at that point in time, but I do know at one point I’d owned 80ish dual lands, and my most power was I’d owned 9 moxes at one time, along with a time walk (which was my first piece of power 9, and the only one I never seemed to trade away).

I think I got about $1,000 when I got out of the game, which was probably a little more than I’d invested (monetarily) at the time.  That was long before I was keeping track of my frugal gaming goals (long before I even had such goals).  But I was pretty lucrative with trading back in the day, so it’s entirely possible I made some profit on it (I’d honestly guess I made quite a bit, but that was so long ago, it’s impossible to know for sure).  I did get back in once or twice, but never with that same passion.  I still collect cards, but mostly just commons and uncommons (who am I kidding, you can see my spending in my annual frugal gaming page).

I guess the point of all of this inane rambling is that I’m fairly old school, as far as gaming goes–and certainly as far as Magic goes.  Heck, I was once ranked the third best player in the state, and I was certified as a level two judge.  I’ve been playing, off-and-on, since essentially when the game was released.  I’ve had big money collections, played in tournaments, and played plenty of casual/kitchen table magic.

So, now that I’m a little more affluent than I was when I was younger, I have money to blow on frivolities.  I’ve been watching Ebay for a while looking for a classic set of magic cards in uncut sheet form.  These are collector’s items to some extent, and I guess I’m a collector, but I don’t see myself that way.  I just wanted a piece of artwork to hang on my wall.  Ideally, it would’ve been something from back when I first started playing, and something in black  border, but they’re pretty few and far between and, quite frankly, more than my budget-conscious mind is willing to pay.  I did find some sheets of Legends and The Dark at one point, but those went as high as $768 per sheet, so I walked away.

One seller had listed a sheet of Chronicles uncommons, which was white bordered, but essentially had cards from all of the other sets that I’d played with.  He wanted something in the realm of $700 for the sheet, but I wasn’t willing to pay that.  I did offer him $400ish, but he turned me down.  Months later, that same guy wound up putting the sheet up for open auction, and I wound up winning it for $213.50 (including shipping).

The sheet was damaged a bit in shipping, and I tried to work with the seller for some compensation, but the fact of the matter was, I got such a good deal, that I was going to keep it even if it was damaged.  I’m not a collector, after all, so some nicks in the sides wouldn’t lower it’s value.  Besides, I think he was really miffed that he left several hundred dollars on the table.  I also bought a frame for this at $224.61 (including shipping to Washington) and had a friend bring it up to me.  I didn’t count either of these purchase amounts against my frugal spending for the year, based upon the discussion we had about my card catalog.  This was largely seen as a piece of furniture/decoration, and I figured artwork fell into a similar category.

The frame, in case you were wondering, came from a company called American Frame, and they do great work.  It was pretty pricey, but the thing was ignormous.  It also came with some great cardboard in it that I’m going to use for priming/dipping models in the future.

wh39kChronicles (2) (Medium)So, here is a crappy photo of the sheet hanging in my painting room (that I never use for painting–it’s really just referred to as “the fourth room,” and more of a storage room).  I wanted to hang it in a position where it wasn’t going to be exposed to a lot of direct sunlight, so that it doesn’t fade over time (or at least, does so minimally).

So yeah, I spent almost $500 on a piece of art (which, is more than double what I’ve paid for any other piece of art I own), but it comes with memories, and was arguably quite a steal as far as price was concerned.  Not that I plan on selling it, but a big part of who I am is wrapped up in whether or not “I got a good deal.”   Sure, it’s nice to look at, but it’s also nice to have that thought racing around in the back of my head that I got a good deal when I bought it as well…