tisdag 26 april 2016

Garfield alters

In the spring of 1995, I spent a lot of time in my grandparents place out on the countryside. It was a remote scattering of houses by the woods, with only two mail boxes registered in the hamlet. My sister and I filled our days picking berries, playing with the animals and rummaging through wooden chests of old trinkets. In the picture painted by most, it was idyllic.

At that point Magic was an endless sea of rare and odd cards. There was no web with easy access to spoilers and the Encyclopedia books were yet to be printed. We had played for a couple of months and it felt like any card could exist. Take an extra turn for a mana or two? That could well be a thing. A 10/10 creature? Seems like a schoolyard urban legend, but sure, it could be possible.

We approached the game with odd house rules and a sense of discovery. At first, Dark Ritual was a interpreted as a permanent that tapped for three mana. No effects were "until end of turn". An 'X' in a mana cost was thought to represent the constant 10 (the Roman numeral) rather than a variable. Touch and go. As we had done in board games before, we created our own game pieces in our grandparents' house.
My early 1995 arts and craft.
Many players had a similar approach. Scribbled card ideas or errata in their notebooks at school. Cut and paste cards to create something novel as an outlet for creativity. Around that same time, Japji Khalsa and Jeff Brain of Khalsa-Brain Games got as far as producing a complete 3rd party Magic expansion designed by Donald X Vaccarino; the guy who later created Dominion. For the common man in search for some lime light, Scrye Magazine had their own pages where readers would show off their spawns of scissors, sharpies and neglected cardboard. But this was all dadaistic antics, and home made alters were not something people would even consider playing outside the most casual of casual games. That is, except for the alters made by The Man Himself.
Fear of Life, by Richard Garfield.
There was a common house rule in the 90s that said that if you got Richard Garfield to alter the text of one of your cards, and then sign it, it was to be played as written. The mid-90s Garfield alters were few and far between though, and it took me until a few years ago before I first found a few myself. I guess that it could be related to the fact that I've spent most of my life in Sweden and Norway. Also might be because they haven't really had a market nor as big a reputation in the last 15-20 years. But way back when, there were lots of rumors. There was a 3/3 Llanowar Elves somewhere. A copy of Living Wall had flying. A Birds of Paradise could tap to ping one damage. An Ancestral Recall drew 10 cards. There's an Ornithopter Lord floating around.
Ornithopter Lord.
Last December, I hoped to get down to Italy and visit Nebraska's War. One of my plans for the trip was to try and meet Garfield and ask him to change my Shahrazade from Sorcery to Instant. It's an hilarious card, and it would be neat to be able to play it in response to an attack or someone casting a spell. But in the end I got a change of heart. The old days of exploration are over, and a newly minted Garfield alter wouldn't hold a candle to the mystique of one from the 90s. And as (thankfully) most people seem to agree on that, there aren't that many old school alters made these days. The ones that exists are commonly stuffed away in old collections, or gathering dust in some desk, rarely to be parted with. Maybe because they typically don't command the monetary value enough to make it interesting to sell them, at least not compared to the nostalgic value of owning a piece of mid-90s Magic history.
Benalish Hero with "Maze of Ith"-ability
Finding pictures on Garfield alters was kinda hard. I didn't find any site or forum topic on the web that had pics of more than one or two, usually as curiosities. So I'd like to give an extra thanks to David Cermak, owner of the Benalish Hero with the Maze ability above. David contacted me a few weeks back when I had just started writing this post. He had received the Hero as a part of a huge deal when he recently bought the collection of Alex Parrish, the guy who won the Magic tournament at GenCon '93 (the first ever officially organized Magic tournament). David helped me with getting pictures of many of the cards below, some of which I'd only heard about before but never actually seen.
Like the 7/7 Serra Angel for 1WW
Garfield has a reputation for playing with his home-crafted cards. Perhaps most famously, he proposed to his first wife by playing a card named Proposal designed for the occasion. Apart from his alters, he has been known to make brand new oddities and sleeve them up in his decks. When he played in the old school matches at Nebraska's War, his deck was mostly made up of his own creations.
Once more, with feeling.
These custom made cards weren't really a thing people talked about back when, but on the other hand, if Richard Garfield himself brings a deck with home-made cards to an old school tournament, who would ever decline playing against it? I probably wouldn't want to face any random player using these cards, but as the man who both invented the game and designed the entire Arabian Nights set by himself, he clearly gets a pass to make the cards he wants for his old school deck. He made most of the cards in all of our decks after all.

So what about the real 93/94 legal cards, altered by Garfield? Personally, I think that they could be played as altered in old school games as long as both players agree to it beforehand. I wouldn't actively encourage them in tournaments, but I sure wont hinder players to walk down that lane of nostalgia if they both want to. They were a big part of school yard legends in the 90s, and the few players who had their hands on them usually played them as written. If one or more of players in the match don't want to play the cards as altered, they should be played according to Oracle errata (i.e. as normal versions). In particular, some cards are much more fair than others to play. The Serra Angel is pretty broken, but e.g. this Rabid Wombat looks sweet. By no means broken, but probably playable in Enchantress:
The Yavimaya Enchantress of 1994.
On the other hand, this Mishra's Workshop could cause some disgruntled frowning:
A Workshop that taps for 3 without restriction on how to use the mana
As would probably this Time Walk that returns to your hand from the graveyard unless your opponent only speaks only in rhymes:
I'm Rubber, You're Glue?
But looking at the grand scheme of The Doctor's alters, even the power level of those two cards could be considered meek. I think that this card is one of the most charming Garfield alters I've seen yet:
Chaos Confetti
"Soo... I'm gonna flip my Orb on your Beta dual. If I hit, you'll have to rip it up. Then I'll rip up my Chaos Orb, unless I want to scoop before that part of the ability resolves. Do I feel douchy enough to give up a game for seeing you rip up your card? Who knows. Anyways, will you scoop in response, or do you want to rip up your card?" Barring playing against someone like Honka or Shaman Ben (I presume), activating this Chaos Orb would almost always prompt a concession from the opponent.

Hm, more I think about it, the more sure I get that I'll eventually rip the card apart in an inebriated game of 93/94. It's the only Garfield alter I own, but I guess it would be something of a tribute to 1995 Mg to use it properly at some point. And ripping up Chaos Orbs is after all a big part of the lore of mid 90s Magic. Benalish Dead would be proud.

In other news around the world, a bunch of rag-tag Britons gathered to swing old cardboard in a pub in London earlier this month. You can check out some sweet decks and pictures from the event here. The large Ovinospring tournament in Milan took place last weekend, this time gathering over 50 players. And in a little over a month, I'm planning to travel to Frankfurt to see what the Germans have to offer in terms tech and beer, and battle Marc Lanigra and friends on their own turf. Hope to see some of you there!

tisdag 19 april 2016

The Россия perspective

Today we have a treat. Our friend Constantine Prishvitsin from Russia is not only a good guy and an awesome alterer of Fellwar Stones, but he was also the first player to travel multiple time zones to compete in Old School Magic. Since his showing at n00bcon 7 he has been building up, and a few weeks back he was to return to Sweden and compete again, this time with a brother in arms. This is his story. Enjoy! /Mg out

I've been attracted to everything oldschool since I realised myself as a person. 80-90s action movies, games, underground and popular music. You name it. No wonder I always felt a bit uncomfortable in modern day magic, even though I am a game store owner and should support wizards' activities all the way.

First, there was a video on youtube where Olle Rade defeated Sean Fleischman in the finals of Pro Tour Columbus 1996. I was mesmerized by the whole oldschool feel of the coverage. Not the oldest of kinds of magic, but it seemed like an awesome one! Next there was a whole Premiere Pro Tour video from WotC, in which they filmed almost the entire final between Bertand Lestree and Mike Loconto. Erhnamgeddon, millstone, Ivory towers and Icy manipulators... They brought tears to my eyes. That was the kind of magic I had always looked for; decks I only read about when I was a kid.I started building decks, almost abandoned Legacy, modern and everything else. I found a brother in arms, Shelest, who followed me through my journey of oldschool magic. And then I found Mg's blog and shit got real.

How do you playtest when you don't play with proxies, you have just one opponent and a very limited cardpool? The answer is very simple: TEST THIS PARTICULAR  MATCHUP HARD! At least you'll know who’ll win when you meet at a tournament (IF WE HAD ONE)!

The Rasputin Deck
We built decks, tried all combinations of colors and strategies as far as our cardpool goes, but every single time we met one single problem: the manabase. It is no secret that an average manabase of an oldschool deck is horrible. So there were two main ways to use that fact: either to play with a single color to avoid color screw or to play a lot of land destruction to punish the opposing greedy manabases.
 

Last noobcon I played Black-Red land destruction and at this point I was very tired of this deck. It was cool and everything but I had managed to obtain blue pieces of power since then and wanted to try them out in a real tournament. I decided to play monoblue deck based not only on transmute package but also on a rogue tech of maindeck Ivory Towers (a Moscow tech as I call it, as a player from there taught me to abuse them in control decks). The main idea is very simple: play one color, use a toolbox and never ever lose to damage-based strategies.
Monoblue Transmute for n00bcon 8
Shelest, on the other hand, was true and loyal to his pet deck of 1/1 green creatures which is surprisingly strong considering its lack of powerful spells besides maybe a playset of Berserk.

Shelest's Monogreen 1/1 deck
This deck is, as you call it, very “power independent”: it can function on low mana sources, it plays one color AND punishes you for playing multiple ones. It attacks, it taxes you with snakes and Scavenger folks and hits hard with pendelhaven-giant growth-berserk out of nowhere! Believe me, I know what I am talking about - I have been playing against this deck for over a year already! So, we test in real life, test in Shandalar (because why not?). We’re ready to say to each other, “Meet you in the finals, mate!”
 

I won’t torture you with details of my trip to Sweden and overall boring stuff. I just want to thank Mg, Kalle, Danny, Elof and all other guys for the most awesome tournament in my life! Let’s get down to business and tell a story of glorious battles on the tables of Noobcon 8: A Russian story.

Round 1
The tournament starts hard for me. With a bottle of Imperial Gonzo in hand I meet my first opponent, last year’s finalist Icelander with the Deck!

I keep a slow hand with Ivory Towers and a bit of everything. Icelander stumbles on mana, and I manage to press advantage by overwhelming him with must counter/must destroy threats. I am pretty lucky and I have a decent sideboard plan against the deck: more threats! In the second game I side-in Serendibs and Blood Moons just to become the meanest son-of-a-bitch around. I start with land, mox, mox, Serendib, but it eats a plow. Immediately after that I deploy a Su-Chi and start a beatdown. A couple of turns later Icelander taps out for a book, I play Blood Moon just as planned. It pretty much seals the deal even though he managed to destroy it later in the game. I deal the last points of damage by tapping Icelander’s City of Brass with my Icy Manipulator.
1-0

Round 2
Sveby. Maaan! I had really no idea what he’s playing. He started with Birds of Paradise - very pretty ones from beta, altered with double slashes as if it’s alpha. My thoughts at this point: maybe he plays some kind of Zak Dolan’s Stasis Control… But he follows up with Eureka and everything goes right for him: he drops two Shivans and I have just one Su-Chi and a Mirror Universe (which buys me a turn, but I die quickly anyway) - there goes the first game.

In the second game he drops fast Energy Flux, but he has to sacrifice his own mana acceleration, and I have just enough mana to kill him with Su-Chi transmuted to Triskelion.
 

The third game was decided once again by the quantity of mana sources as he starts with Strip Mine-Sol Ring-Winter Orb. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to draw any more lands and I overcame him with a lone Su-Chi.
2-0 (very surprising for me!)

Round 3 

Some muscular guy with quite pimped the Deck offers me to arm wrestle instead of rolling for a turn. I immediately throw hands in the air shouting, “I give up!” My puny physique won’t stand this shit!

This particular guy beat Shelest in the first round by his quite unfair starting hands of power cards. There were two quick games, as he was very lucky to drop early Tomes around my countermagic, and in control mirror it matters a lot. In the end, he is a real Destroyer of Russians!
2-1

Shelest vs. The Destroyer of Russians
Round 4
Lennart Guldbrandsson with black-red Underworld dreams. I’ve never met a person playing so carefully (and I’m more of a nervous type myself). In this matchup Ivory Towers really shine! I manage to gain approximately 50 life through the course of the game — it is very hard for a fair deck to inflict that much damage! In the second game I don’t have enough counterspells. He manages to drop two Underworld Dreams and destroy my tower, so I am crushed. And in the final game his hand is full of red and artifact blasts, but I just don’t need to play spells as I have 2 factories for a beatdown.
3-1

Round 5
It is time for another Imperial Gonzo Porter and another opponent with the Deck! Ohh, I’m starting to feel a bit drunk but super happy. I am overconfident and it becomes my doom as my opponent quickly destroys me with two Serras! It’s time for a massive sideboard plan: moons, Serendibs and a stick. This time I show him who is the beatdown. My creatures keep coming and his defences are thwarted by my counterspells!

And there was THAT third game when my deck betrayed me. At first everything was flowing like in a dream. I dropped Serendibs and Mishras, pressed hard and he even was forced to play his Timetwister into my EMPTY HAND! At that point I felt great: he was at very low life, I had board presence and he just gave me a fresh seven!

Seven. Freaking. Mana. Sources. SEVEN! Against his hand of swords, disenchants and Serras. My deck betrayed me, and I fell to my knees - what a glorious defeat!
3-2

I need to kill a bitter taste of defeat with a bitter taste of porter. Mohawk it is then.

Round 6

What a coincidence! Shelest is also 3-2 and we are playing against each other. I guess, here it is: our “finals” :) Unfortunately for him, I know this matchup by heart: play towers, do nothing, win. My deck plays along but there’s no satisfaction in it. Sigh…
4-2

The Final round 7 

I look for the pairings and see the one thing I feared the most. It was the same person I met in the last round. The almighty Olof "Elof" Gottfridsson. That’s what I call “the last nail in the coffin” :) We play three tight games (he’s on Time Elemental/Hypnotic Specter deck by the way) and in the end he emerges victorious with 1 life left! Ah, anyway that was sweet - almost felt like finals to me. It is always a great experience to play against a strong opponent and overall nice guy! Thank you, Elof - see you in the last round next year!
4-3

Shelest also manages to make 4-3 in the last round preying on another UR Burn deck (I think he crushed two or three of them in the tournament). Let’s call it a tie. I’m glad that we finished like this. Now we have stories to tell and all this awesome people to meet next time.

It is almost 11 pm, we’re starving and going back to hotel. It will be a big day tomorrow, but not as big as this day of Noobcon 8 which will stay with us forever. Mg, we thank you!

хорошая игра

onsdag 13 april 2016

The n00bcon top8, part 2

Let's step right in.
Top8 players: Martin Lindström, Morgan Karlsson, Olle Råde, Seb Celia.
Martin "Fluffy" Lindström is one of the guys I'm more familiar with outside of the realm of Magic. Martin, myself and another guy spent a lot of time together during the second half of 2011 studying Hilbert spaces and functional analysis. It was a notoriously difficult course in graduate level mathematics, boasting a fail-rate close to 90% at the time. It would be my third try on the exam, and Martin's first. From that experience, I was to deduce that the man is a damn brilliant human being. In the end, we both managed to pass the course and I got to learn a lot from him.

I wasn't that active in sanctioned Magic at that time, but Martin's reputation had regardless gotten ahead of him when we started working together. He had been the top performing Eternal player (across multiple formats) at the Bazaar of Moxen earlier that summer; being rewarded the custom Mox Jet seen in his decklist as a bonus prize. When we started our study group, he was ranked #2 in the Pro Player Rookie of the Year race and no stranger to the Pro Tour. His resume in Magic is still going strong, more recently including e.g. a top32 finish a GP Brussels in November. He also won the n00bcon warm-up tournaments a few days before the Championships. This time he again sleeved up his The Deck and went to town, climbing his way all to the finals.
Fluffy's The Deck
Morgan "Farsan" Karlsson is one of those names that you read about in printed Magic magazines in Sweden 15-20 years ago. When you see a tournament report about the team Pro Tours around the turn of the millennium, Farsan's name inevitably pops up. Like in this match report from 2002, where Farsan, Olle Råde and Rickard Österberg (who e.g. won PT New Orleans 2003) are defeated by Kai Budde's Phoenix Foundation in round 7. A quick google check also hints about a bunch of other high level tournaments, like PT Venice 2003, PT New York 2000 and a slew of GPs in the late 90s. It is always really fun to see when the old pro players come out of the woodworks to show off at old school tournaments :)

Farsan was the only player with a perfect 7-0 record in the swiss, eventually getting his first loss of the day at the hands of Berlin in the semifinals. His deck of choice was Lestree Zoo, with the highly effective Argothian Pixies at his disposal to get an upper hand in the Factory wars. Solid tech with 4-of Energy Flux in the sideboard as well.
Farsan's Lestree Zoo. (One Volcanic Island and one Tropical Island missing from the picture.)
The other guy from the semifinals was none other than one of Morgan's old team mates from the Pro Tour; the man sometimes known as fusk-Olle. I think that most guys reading this blog knows who Olle Råde is. The guy has basically won everything there is to win in Magic (including the pro tour, grand prix, invitational, etc); he's in the Magic Hall of Fame; and he was "the first consensus best player in the world in Pro Tour history". He also won last BSK, and as such already has one Giant Shark in 93/94. He is, like, a super-duper good wizard, and probably the most skilled player I've met.

Olle hade made some changes to his Shark-winning UR Burn deck from BSK. In particular, he had followed the strategy used by Gordon Anderson in Arvika and added a set of Flying Men as "Lava Spikes". A really solid deck used by a really solid player, and the results speaks for themselves. His average finish in the three Shark tournaments he has played since November 2014 is 4th-5th place. That's pretty damn impressive.
Olle's UR Burn
And finally we have Seb Celia. I actually know fairly little about Seb. I know that he comes from Stockholm, that he has helped organize Vintage tournaments in the capital, and I think that this was his first 93/94 tournament. Pretty good debut. A sharp dressed man with a warm smile, slinging a brutal version of The Deck.

Stockholm seems very partial to The Deck and the players have help each other optimize the builds a whole lot over the last year. The capital probably has a higher density of skilled The Deck players than any other community. Seb's version looks really interesting, with no less than ten maindeck instant speed answers to Factories; in addition to his Strip Mine, Chaos Orb and Stone Rain. He also got a sweet The Hive in the sideboard :)
Seb Celia's The Deck
That's it for the top8. Next time we're treated to a sweet tournament report from our friend Constantine from Russia! Good times. Before that though, I highly recommend checking out Danny Friedman's recent tournament report from n00bcon at the Understanding Ancestral Recall blog. A very nice read with sweet tech and pics.

lördag 9 april 2016

The n00bcon top8

Of the 9,000 or so page views this blog has had in the last week, how many care about the exact constellation of cards that won? It's not an insignificant number, I'm sure. But I think that for many of the people here, perhaps even for the majority of the players with a small part of their hearts in old school Magic, what's more important is the nostalgia and inspiration. There's a reason why the n00bcon stream showed different sweet decks and players rather than just being a fixed camera on table one. It's not unlikely that there are more players reading this blog who are amused by, say, a blinged out monogreen stompy playing 1-drops into Berserks with 3-of Pendelhaven. So lets start with a Russian built monogreen stompy with Nafs Asp:
Nikita Shelest's sweet monogreen stompy.
That said, top8ing n00bcon is a god damn feat. Building any deck in this format is hard, expensive, and time consuming. Building a good deck even more so. And optimizing a good deck and learning how to master it is a real rarity. 93/94 games are rarely decided on just luck. Sure, you could start with a first turn Library of Alexandria against a control deck and eek out unfair card advantage. Or you could get Mind Twisted for six turn two. But mostly the masters will be able to claw back. The players in the top of standings are familiar names, both from previous 93/94 tournaments and high level sanctioned Magic throughout the history of the game. Games rarely end quickly here. Long term plans and strategy really matter in this pure form of Magic.

All in all, the top8 consisted of three UR Burn, three The Deck, one Lestree Zoo and one Atog Aggro; with Lestree Zoo winning the swiss with a 7-0 record. Another deck with a very strong showing was Erhnamgeddon, having two copies just missing the top8 on tiebreakers after a 5-2 record in the swiss (played by Sehl and Danhor). The other players at 5-2 were Icelander (who top8'ed the last three n00bcons and placed 2nd last year), Elof (previous n00bcon winner, holder of three Giant Sharks), Åland (top8 at multiple Shark tournaments and winner of Frippan Open), ErikSundberg (e.g. top8 last BSK) and Alban Lauter from Germany. These guys are no rookies. But let's delve down and look at the mages from the top8.
Top8 players: Gordon Andersson, Patric Hiness, Martin Berlin, and Carl Olzon.
Gordon Andersson played in his 4th large 93/94 tournament, and convincingly reached the elimination rounds for the 4th time. And for the third time of those, he was eventually eliminated by our current World Champion Martin Berlin. That's a Magic nemesis if I ever saw one. Though a relative rookie in the format, Gordon is already an extremely strong 93/94 player and a driving organizer in the Stockholm community. He'll host his first tournament in the capital June 18th; The Ivory Cup.

Gordon's pet deck of choice is Counterburn, aka Electric Eel Aggro, aka UR Burn. We saw some innovations in his list in the top8 of Arvika, where he first added a playset Flying Men to his menagerie of creatures. This time he opted for a black splash to give him access to the powerhouses Mind Twist and Demonic Tutor. An interesting new take on the Counterburn strategy, and a solid choice against the decks at the top tables.

Gordon's CounterBurn
This was the first time I got to meet the very friendly Patric Hiness of Stuttgart, Germany. From what I heard from him, he hadn't been traveling that much to larger events like NYSE or Eternal Weekend, mostly keeping his plays withing the borders of Germany. It was still quickly evident that he was a master of both casual and eternal Magic. Among his more interesting achievements in tournament Magic, he top4'd a 132-player 100-card Legacy Highlander tournament. And he's got an impressive pile of Eternal top8-decks at mtgtop8.com. He also beat me in an 93/94 showdown with four beers in the ante the day before n00bcon, which is braggable.

Patric's deck is a beautiful artifact aggro. It combines a majority of the fast mana available in the format with full sets of Su-Chi, Triskelion and Copy Artifacts. The mud beaters are backed up by a set of Serendib Efreets and a couple of Atogs for good measure. His cards are in awesome condition, and for the most part from the first printings. I gave him the benefit of the doubt regarding the Unl Volcanic Islands (as many German players go for the fbb German version in Vintage decks, and might not feel like getting an extra playset Beta rather than, say, a new car), but I couldn't help myself to jokingly ask why he "cheaped out" with an Unlimited Lotus in his otherwise pristine pile. Well, turns out that he did have a bb Lotus, but it was in pretty close to mint condition, so he bought an extra Unl Lotus a few days earlier just for traveling purposes, jokingly referring to his extra Lotus as his "proxie". That's next level ;)

Patric's Atog Aggro
Then we have Martin Berlin, the god damn World Champion! Berlin first showed his face at n00bcon 4 hoisting a sweet 93/94 cube and an appetite for destruction. He eventually took an hiatus from 93/94 for a few years, but returned to the stage with a vengeance last winter. Of the three large tournaments he played since December, he has won all of them. He first took down Nebraska's War in Italy, followed up by winning L.I.G.G. In Stockholm, and now picked up the Giant Shark at n00bcon. Berlin has quite a record in sanctioned Magic as well, including a few stints on the Pro Tour and representing Sweden in the World Championships after winning Nationals in 2011. Clearly a very lucky guy ;)

Martin's deck is a modern interpretation the boogie man of the mid 90s, the powerful pile known simply as The Deck. It hosts a majority of the restricted list combined with the best control cards in the format, using Jayemdae Tomes and other card advantage tools to bind it all together. It's a very cool deck; basically the first real "deck to beat" and the deck that made card advantage a thing. As it is both very powerful and highly intricate to play well, combined with the fact that it is perhaps the most famous deck in Magic history, variants of it is a popular choice for long time players with access to deep card pools (if you own full power and duals, you are more likely to play a deck that uses them than to leave them in the binder). Martin took some additional tech-savy decisions in his deck building, e.g. using maindeck Stone Rain to help him beat Libraries and Factories. (If you're interested, you can read a little more about The Deck in this post.)
Berlin's The Deck
Carl "Tibia" Olzon is no stranger to old cards, and one of the most familiar faces in the Swedish Vintage scene. I think that this was his 3rd n00bcon, though he has of course played in other old school events as well. He e.g. won the 16-player StabCon 93/94 tournament last year with UWR Skies. But this tournament seems special, and as he said during the day, "I've had to tell my girlfriend that we unfortunately can't celebrate Good Friday together, it's a part of our deal. For every Easter where there's a n00bcon, I will be here." Good for us :)

This time Tibia left the white cards at home, instead letting just the red complement his blue power to create a counterburn pile. Tibia's deck is a little lighter on summons than e.g. Gordon's and Olle's builds from the top8, only playing the sets of Serendib Efreet and Factories as creatures go. Serendib Efreets had quite a showing in the last rounds of this tournament, with half of the top8 decks playing the full set. Still don't hold a candle to Mishra's Factory though, which every single deck in the top8 had a playset of. Stone Rain and Blood Moons seems like good choices.
Tibia's CounterBurn
Other stuff? The response for the April's Fools B&R update last week have started a lot of interesting discussions. For the sake of Rukh Egg, I want to add that the first version actually was misprinted in AN (like that Elvish Archers never was supposed to be printed as 1/2 in Alpha). In February 1994, before official errata was a thing and while AN were still to be found in stores, Richard Garfield had this to say about the card: "The "going to the graveyard" text means only when it leaves play as a creature.  It does NOT include being discarded from your hand.  One may be able to read this card wrong.  This is one of the few "play it right" and not "play it as it reads" corrections." So if we were to ever start with "power level errata", this would be a weird place to start.

And there has been some sweet old school tech from around the world in the last few days. Canadian Guillaume Soucy have recently started a new old school blog where his first post covers the Roi de la Chope tournament in Quebec a few weeks back, check it out at Argivian Restoration. Yespair have added a few more videos from n00bcon and posted them all at Youtube. Stephen Menendian has started a very good article series about old school Magic at Vintagemagic.com. The first part is up right now, second part will come soon. Well worth a read :)

fredag 1 april 2016

Banned and Restricted update 1/4-2016

Note: Like the post about Homelands two years ago, this was an April Fools joke. We're not going to add errata to play Rukh Egg as (misprintedly) written in AN or unrestrict Power cards. Quite a lot of people was lead to believe this post though, so I add an extra disclaimer here just in case. And it has lead to some good discussions :) The real (potential) B&R update will come in late April to early May. /Mg

With n00bcon in the books, it's time for the yearly banned & restricted list update. This is an opportunity to stir up the meta, help support new decks, and keep the most oppressive strategies in check. Last year we unrestricted Mirror Universe and Power Artifact, a decision that created two new tier decks we've seen at the top tables at large tournaments. The year before that we unrestricted Mana Vault, opening the doors for decks like Atog, Monoblue Artifacts and Nether Void, each with at least one tournament win on its belt after the changes. In 2013, we restricted Mana Drain, which made decks other than the then highly oppressive The Deck able to win Shark-tournaments.

As the format has grown, more concerns have been voiced about the possible degeneracy of some decks and cards. A lot of people care about the state of the format, and even though many of them don't play 93/94 themselves I guess it would be rude not to take all of them seriously. So while a few of you might disagree with some of the B&R changes at first, I think that a majority will find the updates inspirational. This year we both have unrestrictions and restrictions, and even a small single-card errata. Here's a recap of the most interesting discussions from the last week:
Serendib Efreet
To quote one player, "Serendib Efreet is such a good creature that, would it be legal in Standard, it would be played in Standard." It is by far the most represented creature in winning decklists, forcing a whole slew of otherwise playable potential summons to the bench. Playset of Efreets in the winning deck from BSK? Check. Playset Efreets in the winning deck from Arvika? Check. Playset Efreets in the creature decks in the n00bcon top4? Check. Top top things off, it's not only the arguably best aggro creature, but in the arguably most oppressive color. Serendib Efreet was banned in Extended already in 1995 as it was deemed far too oppressive compared to the other options at the time. To increase diversity in the tempo decks, Serendib Efreet is restricted.
Fellwar Stone
This was first suggested by Shark-winner Brorsan and the Varberg crew, and initially sounded a little odd to me. But the more we talked about it, the more obvious the decision seemed. Fellwar Stone the only powerful mana rock that isn't restricted, and what's more, it's usually more of a Mox Diamond than anything else. Resolving Blood Moon against The Deck with Tax Edge usually wont win you the game, simply because the 4-off Fellwar Stones will tap for Disenchant mana. It makes the control decks so much stronger against land destruction, and give them a big hand in splashing cards like Regrowth or Red Elemental Blast. Turn one land, random mox, fellwar will turn on pretty much all the spells in the deck by turn two. A second turn Book, Moat or just a Mind Twist for three or four is far too easy to achieve with the Stone roaming the format. It has probably been long overdue. Fellwar Stone is restricted.
Rukh Egg
As we were trying to open up for more creature strategies, we looked back at the original B&R from 1994 for inspiration. Here, you have a bunch of fairly random creature supporting cards like Ali From Cairo and Orcish Oriflame being restricted, most of them due to their different rules or wordings at the time. One card in particular that catched our interest was Rukh Egg. Rukh Egg was restricted in 1994 due to it's interactions with discard effects like Bazaar of Baghdad and Jalum Tome. As written, the Egg will create a Rukh regardless of which zone it was in when it entered the graveyard; only in late 1994 the Egg received errata to trigger only from the battlefield. As written, the card is a great answer to the Mind Twists and Disrupting Scepters of the control decks. Possible discard penalties seemed like a decision tree that was sorely lacking in the format (we're operating a year or two before Guerrilla Tactics and Sand Golem), and it could help aggro decks even out the game against more dominant control strategies. In order to not accidentally break the format and create too big an impact on the meta, we though it good to keep Rukh Egg restricted with the new errata at least during the first year of legality. Rukh Egg is restricted and played as written.
Mox Emerald
One problem with cutting Fellwar Stone from the control and combo decks (it's also played as 4-off in Power Monolith and Mirror Ball) is the splash damage done to more "fair" decks like Atog, Martyrs and Artifact Aggro. The issue with the Stone is not that it ramps one mana, it's that it almost always taps for the mana needed to Disenchant or Counterspell something. We still want to give Atog something to eat and give the artifact decks ability to ramp, so when restricting this we felt that we needed to open something else to not completely nerf a few of the tier2 decks. The best way to go here clearly looked like Mox Emerald. In control decks, it can only be used to cast Regrowth (or possibly Sylvan Library), and will mostly act as a simple "Mox Crystal", or a much worse Sol Ring. The monogreen decks wont be broken by a few extra moxen either, as they already have abundant access to ramp in Elves, Birds, Gaea's Touch and the likes. The only potential issue with unrestricting Mox Emerald would be the monetary costs involved; many decks would like to play the full set, and it is after all a fairly expensive card. We don't really think that that should be the decisive argument though. This is already an expensive format and the cost of cards like Black Lotus doesn't discourage players to join the community. And after all, it is the least expensive Mox and one could probably get a playset unlimited ones for a single black bordered Underground Sea if so inclined. Mox Emerald is unrestricted.

So, there's some fairly high impact updates this year, but I guess that most of you who follow the format saw most of them coming. The new B&R list will come in effect May 1st. Next time we're gonna look at the first half of the n00bcon top8, some solid tech right there :)

måndag 28 mars 2016

Videos and pics from n00bcon 8

n00bcon 8 and the World Championships of Old School Magic is in the books! It was a great gathering with some awesome people and sweet Magic. People from all over came to battle. It was a pleasure to hang out with aficionados like American old school pioneer Danny Friedman, former Vintage World Champion Marc Lanigra of Germany, and the super friendly David Chambers of San Francisco; people I've had interactions with online but never got the chance to meet in person before.

We had people with resumes ranging from decades of nothing but kitchen table play to Pro Tour winners. Even though we don't really care about the number of participants, I must say that it's pretty cool that we filled up the pub to maximum capacity already in December. This is a casual format with a big barrier of entry, and we are fighting for a damn Giant Shark. The 76 players competing this year actually made it necessary to get a lot of extra tables and chairs to the pub to give everyone a place to sit. A few people have asked me how to qualify for the championships this year, now that there were a few people that didn't make it due to lack of space. Well, everyone who had a deck and found out about it were qualified, and after that it was just a matter of first-in-last-out. We expected it to fill up this year, so a part of joining was simply to find out about it or ask; people deep in the old school mire or long time players maybe had a better idea of were to look. Maybe you found out about it  at the end of a guest post at the mtgunderground. Maybe you found the info on on a private forum. Or maybe you simply found this hidden page at the blog. I had twenty spots ear-marked for players outside the different Swedish groups until the last couple of weeks before the tournament to give a slight advantage to players from communities outside the country.

As for next year, I don't know. We could most certainly have been over a hundred already this time if we would have had the room, and I don't really see that we'll be less players interested next year. So we'll just see how we'll solve that. Ideas are welcome ;) (We don't want to move to some more sterile location just to fit a bunch of people in a room. Ambiance is very important.)

Our local heroes Yespair and Jokemon streamed the seven rounds of swiss and the top8, and we already have a few sweet match videos and decktechs up. Check them out!

Round 1: JummJumm (Vault Burn) vs. Sveby (Eureka)

Round 2: David Chambers (Coffin) vs. Jhovalking (CandleFlare)

Round 3: Gajol (Distress) vs. Berntsson (ErhnamGeddon)

Round 4: Nikita Shelest (MonoGreen) vs. Felipe Garcia (Blue Artifacts)

Round 5: Freespace (Atog Smash) vs. Axelsson (BGW Skies)

Round 6: Logai (Enchantress) vs. Paddan (BWR)

Round 7: Loff (TaxEdge) vs. Thomas Nilsen (Power Monolith)

Quarterfinals: Olle Råde (UR Burn) vs. Patrick Hiness (Artifact Aggro)

Semifinals: Martin Berlin (The Deck) vs. Farsan (Lestree Zoo)

Finals (and interviews): Martin Berlin (The Deck) vs. Martin Lindström (The Deck)

 ...and some random highlights from the stream for you guys:

Decktech and Easter Egg with David Chambers (Easter Egg after pause at 12:37)

Decktech with JhovalKing

Decktech with Felipe Garcia

Rookie of the Year with Thomas Nilsen

There are a few other notable moments in the stream. Around 11:02 Mällroth and myself plays some flute, rants about old cards and cracks a sweet The Dark booster pack. Especially after the first seven rounds, there are a lot of ranting and random tech between the games. You can check out the entire 12.5 hours long stream at https://www.twitch.tv/yespair/v/56533281.

Thursday preparations at Kalle's place. Building decks and Easter Eggs.
We met up with a few of the long way players at the Rotary Pub the day before the tournament to get a head start on the competition. 2012 Vintage World Champion Marc Lanigra has found a German-sized glass of helles.
Jokemon and Jespair are ready to stream like it's 1994.
Russian and German trading. Binders full of lands, but kinda good ones.
Elof Gottfridsson, Danny Friedman, David Chambers and Marc Lanigra. Hardcore old school profiles.
Round one is about to start!
Hypnotics versus all the permanents.
First turn LoA. First turn Strip Mine. Second turn Strip Mine. Second turn LoA. Ok, now let's start the real game.
David found an easter egg with a playset of Stone Rains, one from each legal set in 93/94 (Alpha, Beta, Unlimited and Summer).
Arvika Festival winner Mällroth wants Rookie of the Year Thomas Nilsen's altered BoP for his collection.
A few of the Swedish Magic elite of the mid 90s.
Constantine Prishvitsin and Nikita Shelest from Russia shows up to battle. Wicked nice Team T-Shirts for the Time Boaks, though it takes both some knowledge of old Magic cards and skills in the Russian language to get the pun ;)
Lennart Guldbrandsson with Markus "KungMarkus" Guldbrandsson from Arvika. Some father & son Magic.
Simon Gauti of Denmark's Sengir Vampire can only watch in horror as the Doppelganger gets joined by Mahamothi.
Former Rookie of the Year Jenny versus JhovalKing. Note that they are playing on a Khalsa Brain playmat from Worlds Toronto :) The guy in the cap, Sveby, is btw the only player apart from myself who has been to every annual 93/94 Easter tournament (and n00bcon) since 2008.
Facing off against last year's National Vintage champion Landgraf who just got into old school Magic. He beat me in the finals of the Vintage Nationals, and now he beats me in the swiss of n00bcon. He's on a good roll to become my new Magic nemesis ;)
Andreas Lorenz, Simon, Freespace and Loff.
Socializing in the pub area between rounds.
Facing of against Kalle and his beautiful Copy Deck in Round 7.
Thomas Nilsen of Norway won Rookie of the Year and celebrates with some Titan IPA in his new chalice.
Sideevent The Main Tournament (Hövveturneringen).
Eneas casually wins Høvveturneringen and picks up a Rukh Egg.
Gordon Andersson is yet again dreamcrushed by Berlin in the elimination rounds. Flying Men are somewhat smaller than Serra Angel.
The Old School Magic World Champion of 2016: Martin Berlin!
The champion's deck. The maindeck Stone Rain looks like really solid tech.
We scribble a new year on the Shark that has been nailed behind the bar in the pub for over half a decade, and say goodnight to n00bcon for this year. A big thanks to everyone who came, played, hung out and shared this with us!