The Trifecta of Anguish and Sorrow by Brandon Oakley

Magic the Gathering

The Trifecta of Anguish and Sorrow:  

Now don’t get me wrong here...The aggro mage inside me loves the rush of turning my Oddity sideways alongside my Pack Leaders after a perfectly timed Blizzard Brawl. The control mage inside me loves to double down on a Windfall, unexpectedly...just to untap into an iterated surplus of birdies and turns as much as the next sorcerer. My OCD is always satisfied when I’m sleeving up the perfect curvature, pressure, and power that is and always will be team Mono-White.  

Part of what we love about the game is the adrenaline rush of chills that cascade down our spine ever so flawlessly fusing with the warming confidence of victory as we draw that perfect answer to culminate that nail-biting win. Another part is the glory of turning months of preparation, hours upon hours of playtesting and tweaking, and a vast knowledge of the meta-game into an atrocious Battle of Wits against a fellow adversary. With each game fought and every battle won we begin to acquire this love for our preferred becomes part of our soul...   

What saves our souls from that top-decked Hullbreaker after their Epiphany chain has finally ended? How do we handle the frustration of losing each and every threat to their third turn Brutal Cathar into back-to-back Apparitions? How do we possibly overcome the devastation of coming back from their third turn Blizzard Brawl for the third game in a row? 

In the 19 years (off and on) that I've been privileged enough to play and study the game that is Magic the Gathering, Wizards of the Coast has done a phenomenal job at keeping the formats fresh, exciting, and synergistic to allow such versatile ideas, themes, and combinations for every type of player to find their niche. With that being said, we need to keep in mind that Wizards will only release four sets each year and in turn, rotate those sets only once each year. So once a format such as Standard becomes mastered, it turns into a “if you can’t beat them, join them” scenario; because anymore, the rogue decks just can’t compete. 

When you’re trying to brew new decks, the first question we have to ask ourselves is, “Can it kill quicker than Izzet goes off? Can it fortify against a fury of mono-white savages? Can it defend against the mono-green behemoths?” It becomes a trifecta of anguish and sorrow attempting to fulfill all those roles simultaneously.   

To save myself from the monotony that becomes of a “mastered” format, I turn to the ever-evolving, always spontaneous…Limited format!


Why is Limited My Favorite Format? 

To some extent, Magic is a game of money and resources. Growing up, those resources weren’t always prevalent to myself as they were with others. Playsets of a certain card were extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. Also, lands aren’t cheap. Although they're necessary and can be replaced with basics, we sacrifice a huge percentage of consistency if we are lacking the resources to obtain such fundamental essentials.  

That said, Limited levels the playing field and provides the same percentages across the table for each competitor. With the playing field leveled, Magic now becomes a game of expertise, adeptness, and resourcefulness. Without having access to the best combos in the format, without playsets of the best creatures, without access to every playable land we are forced to look at the game differently. We are forced to play the game differently. We get an opportunity to take those pieces of coal and slowly pressurize them into game-winning diamonds.  

I have fundamentally become a better Magic player from the skillset that I could have only picked up while playing Limited formats, such as what we will see in the upcoming Innistrad: Double Feature Draft (Releasing January 28th, 2022).



With being limited to only using the cards that I pick out of a draft, I have gained experience in looking at the whole picture and understanding the statistics of what I’m putting together. I’ve learned to understand the ratio of creatures/spells to maintain the pressure needed to win a game while also being able to protect those creatures and answer the threats provided by the opponent. I’ve learned what a mana curve is and how to properly follow those guidelines to fill out my curve throughout each turn rather than having a hand full of 5 and 6 mana-costing bombs. In draft, you get to look at the different intricate synergies and themes that are provided from within the current set, i.e., Werewolves (day-night), Vampires (blood tokens), or Golgari (mill-reanimate) and see if they are worth their weight in a meta-game that isn’t subject to the inevitable trifecta. Provided we find something we like, we can add the complimenting cards from the remainder of standard and see if it can compete as a playable, winnable, threat.


Be prepared for anything:  

Drafting has taught me to look at a set and assess each threat according to their significance. While playing, you will see such a variety of decks, colors, and themes. You will have no idea what to expect or what they will have in their deck on a turn-by-turn basis, so you need to be prepared for every and any scenario.  Therefore, I learn to play more cautiously and prepare myself for the worst-case scenario. If I attack with my whole team what could their biggest crack back be? Does Gruul have any haste creatures in this set? What are the possible combat tricks their Azorious deck could have with three open mana?   What two mana instants could they have? What five mana board wipes are in this set? Knowing this information and knowing my match-up weighs heavily on whether I am the aggressive deck or the defensive deck. Do I want the game to end as quickly as possible or do the odds begin to stack in my favor the longer the game goes on? Doing a little research on a set could go a long way before drafting it. 


Building my collection:  

As I said earlier, I have been an on-again/off-again Magic player over the last 19 years. When I pick the game back up I either have no collection, or I have a collection that is extremely outdated and no good to me in Standard anymore. Draft has always allowed me to open that door back up into the game I love by being able to play with absolutely no collection at all. However, once I get that first draft in, I’m hooked...all over again. The collection needs to be rebuilt. With each draft, I am guaranteed at least three rares (maybe more), depending on my pulls. Put that together with winnings from the prize pool and slowly the binder starts to populate.   



Not only am I a fan of the game itself, but I love Magic and the cards therein for the art and the lore behind the scenes. With that love, comes favorites for reasons other than they are extremely playable and really good in this deck or that deck.  Due to that deadly trifecta, I spoke of earlier, they just get to collect dust in the binder rather than hit the battlefield like I've always dreamed. Well, now that dream gets to become a reality and because of the meta-game that is Limited, they hit the battlefield with substance and finally get their time to shine as a viable threat. Speaking of favorites... *cough* werewolves *cough* *awwhhhooooooo*!!!!!!   

Thanks for Reading!

Brandon Oakley

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