tisdag 26 juli 2016

AFK and some decks to beat

I’m off to ride a bike from Gothenburg to Oslo during the next four or five days, and then travel north and live in a log-cabin for a week or so. Look at cows and such I guess. What do Magic players even do on their vacations?
Erik, Marina, Gajol, Honka, Øyann and Hörnet yesterday. To be fair, one person around this table does not play Magic.
I'll be off the grid for a week or two, or at least far away enough to not properly update the blog this week or the next. Some digital vacation. Though if there's need for some extra 93/94 fix during the coming week or two, I've updated the Decks-to-Beat section with 16 new decks :)

Arcon 93/94 Top4
14 participants, photos of 4/4 decks. The large Arcon convention in Norway hosted their first non-proxy 93/94 tournament this year. The Norwegian 93/94 meta is much like their metal; unusually black. Again we see a top4 without a single blue card, instead Sinkholes, Geddons and large creatures reign supreme alongside a TaxEdge deck.

The Ivory Cup 2016 Top8
29 participans, photos of 8/8 decks. The first Ivory Cup in Stockholm showed off a myriad of different strategies, and showed that the players from the Swedish capital is capable of skillfully piloting a lot more than control decks. Eight different archetypes in the top8, and the final battle stood betwen the Trolls and the Goblins.

Wexio State Championships 2016 Top4
14 participants, photos of 4/4 decks. For the third year in a row, it was time to battle for a glorious Prodigal Sorcerer and to determine who was the top 93/94 player in Småland. Again, the control decks are mostly left behind. The top4 is dominated by burn spells and effective creatures, alongside a BW Party Crasher. In the end, a five-color Artifact Aggro deck ended up at the top of the heap.

Also, if you want to try a new approach for old cards and multiplayer this summer, you should check out Geena Buxton's two posts about old school EDH at Nomad Gamer; Deep Dive and Mine. Old School. She digs into sets as far ahead as Alliances in the 100-card decks (as that was the time when the terms EDH and "Highlander" were first defined for Magic in The Duelist), but if you're not abhorred by the concept of 1997 and Ishan's Shades with Rituals of the Machine, it sounds like a really sweet and nostalgic approach to multiplayer :)

Have a great summer!

fredag 22 juli 2016

Battle at Blackpool: The UK Championships in Old School Mtg

One could argue that the last month has been a harsh mistress for the Kingdom. News speaks of political turmoil and an abrupt end in the UEFA soccer cup. But as the scald of Stratford-upon-Avon wrote; The course of true love never did run smooth. For love is there, as good people with good stories will tell. This one, about the first UK Blackpool championships in old school Magic, didn't grace the papers. But it is a tale to indulge. This is the story from the horses mouth. It's my pleasure to give the soap box to the first Blackpool UK Champion in old school Magic; Bryan Connolly! Enjoy! /Mg out

Welcome to my first Old School report, which is actually on my first Old School event... When I first heard of old school, I was disappointed to discover that some groups only allowed up to unlimited printings for base set and no reprints. I can see the attraction of keeping it exclusive, but this represented a big of a challenge for me. I actually started playing round Beta/Unlim' Arabians, but briefly stopped as I thought it was getting too expensive! I came back during Revised/Legends, but tended to trade my older (non power) black bordered cards away, keeping only things like bolts, elves and some basic lands etc. I recently discovered the UK group is more relaxed than some, and will happily allow reprints of from Revised, 4th, Chronicles/Renaissance etc, subject to art being the same. This meant no having to acquire ABU duals or Arabian Serendibs, Cities etc. I actually sold or traded all my Arabian and Chron's Cities years ago to dodge City in a Bottle (before it was errata'd) so had to dig out old Cities along with original picture Icy's and as many old playables as I could from the dustiest areas of my collection. Happily I also found a couple of booster boxes which have been traded or sold nicely in the meantime! I've not played much in the last few years aside from a couple of Vintage events a year since the kids came along, so Old School promised to be a reminder of simpler times and a lot of fun to boot.
Simpler times.
Once I realised the format was playable, it was time to decide what to actually play. My favourite deck of the time was based round efficient critters, counter and burn, with splashes for the good stuff in black and white. I dropped white (and sometimes black) depending on how many Blood Moons were played back then (often a lot). I didn't even get chance to test at my local store (Patriot Games in Sheffield) so after a little goldfishing and jiggling, I decided to cut the white the night before the event and keep the blue fliers, restricted good stuff, counters and burn, plus a little black for tutor and twist (the former allowing more singleton 'bord cards such as Blood Moon.) I was agonising over the final mana base and ultimately adopted the one used by Gordon Andersson a few months back at Noobcon, actually ending up pretty much the same deck, as once you add the black for Twist and Tutor, it's pretty close to optimal, apart from a possible change of some counters to Sinks. The sideboard being the usual complements of REBs and BEBs, Flux, Boomerang, Shatters, Blood Moons and Control Magic that makes UR(B) so good.
UR(B) CounterBurn
The event took place during the season end of a series the UK shop Magic Madhouse was running in Blackpool. Sadly, the turnout was slightly lower than hoped due to the event taking place just after a cluster of other big weekends, plus the Old School event clashed with a couple of things that ate into participant numbers slightly (The main event, a large modern with excellent prize support, Senior Championships with booze based prizes, some EMA events, including an amusing Iron Man that saw a foil Dack countered and thus ripped up!) so a couple of people dropped out quite late in the day and we were a fairly small field. 4 rounds Swiss plus a top 8 promised a good shot at playing the deck a few times. This was billed as the first UK Old School champs, but there was actually a similar event last year, but it's Old School, so no-one is that bothered, the main thing is that it's becoming more popular and people will travel to play.
Pre-tournament signing of the participation card D'Avenant Archer.
My first round was against Steve Rich who seemed to be on a conventional zoo deck. I got very early beats in, including a turn 1 Black Vise on the play, so I slightly misboarded for game 2. It was actually more of a sui build, heavy on the Unstable Mutations, Giant Growths, Blood Lust and Berserks (with some cunning avoid fate to keep things alive.) Serendib swung at me for 10 very early in game 2 and I got too far behind as a result. Once I corrected board and play style (I was not the beatdown) I was able to keep his actual creatures down and strand his pumps in hand to pull out a 2-1 for my first ever round of Old School. Steve's been on the scene forever and has always been a cracking bloke, so first game was a pleasure.
Round one facing Steve.
Second round was against Rod Smith, another stalwart and active supported of the Vintage and Old School scene who turned out to be on a RBW critter list round big hitters like Juzam and Su-Chi, with plenty disruption in the shape of Sinkholes, Plows, Bolts, Disenchants and the like. In the first round, I landed an early Flying Men and was able to keep nibbling away, control his guys and burn him out. I borded to be a little more control oriented and to try to land a Blood Moon as he was very light on basics (2 swamps it transpired.) Took a bit more damage in the 2nd and had to deal with a City in a Bottle, but the dib and burn got there for a 2 – 0.

Third Round was against James Griffin, piloting a mono white deck which was a thing of beauty to behold. He does his own alterations and every single card was altered (and by altered, I mean entirely repainted) himself with a monochrome feel with subtle colour used to good effect. I was able to keep multiple Crusades from hitting, meaning I could Bolt or creature trade efficiently, and I cast my mind back 20 some years to remember how best to counter the mono white builds. I was able to get a favourable combat trade by a sneaky Boomerang of a Crusade. I avoided getting 'Geddoned and once the creatures ran out, the burn could go to his face instead for another 2 – 0.
James's monochrome altered WW.
Fourth round was against Jim Brophy, one of the Irish crew I've known for years, and was faced with a similar deck, albeit much prettier (entirely black bordered, and I mean Beta rather than FBB.) Jim didn't have the Black splash, but went with heavy hitting top end in the form of Serendib Djinn. We could have easily drawn in, but where's the fun in that? The first 2 games were slug fests, each of us taking it down still on double digit life, with the last one being such a close one. We both mulled and traded blows, it came down to the wire with us on one life each, but I edged it in the end with sneaky use of blasts. Top 8 and undefeated in my first Old School, and having a ton of fun to boot.
Jim's blinged boardstate.
Quarter was against Chris Cooper on a Dead Guy style build chose to plow my Flying Men early rather than take evasive damage, but that was one less answer for Factory later. His Twist did little other than empty my hand of instant burn. His life total went down in the usual increments of 2 from factories and 3 from Dibs and Bolts, plus the odd Psi Blast here and there.
Quarterfinals vs Chris.
A tactically timed shatter on his City in a Bottle in the second game let me drop my City of Brass and Twist his entire hand away before following up with the last few swings, all taken in good grace. By this point I'd realised that without exception, anyone playing Old School is pretty much certain to be a truly nice person.
Good people
Semi was against Alastair Kennedy, another Sheffield based bloke who I try to get the odd test in with in the local shop before Vintage events, but neither of us knew what the other was on thanks to a minor domestic trauma that kept me out of the shop the week before. He turned out to be on U/W deck control and got a nice bonus of a free mull' out of me, as between chatting, eating and drinking, I managed to shuffle some my board in for game 1 and I saw an Energy flux in my opener – I immediately advised the judge and I deboarded, got a warning and a compulsory mull. This one promised to be a grind, especially with untimed rounds, so mid way through, I decided best way to actually win was to try to fight permission on my terms even it if meant 2 for 1 to deal with Serra's and use life as a resource to thin him down. 
Alastair vs. Karl in the swiss.
With us both getting a little low on cards, I managed to set up a situation where I had a plan B of Wheel to run him too low on cards left to kill me, but instead got plan A off: This was to wait till he tried to resolve a Serra, and ultimately get to Mana Drain it, then have enough mana left to pull off a near lethal Braingeyser, with exactly enough mana to pay for a Power Sink in case he had one left. Decking win in the first with Alastair at 18 life! All the hate in the world came in for game 2, and with my smaller flyers and some Chains replaced with REBs and Fluxes, his Moxes were going to Lotus Petals, and Tomes and Icy's a bit of a liability. An unpleasantly timed Twist when we got to mid game let 2 swings from a Serendib and a fist of burn seal the deal. The run of fun and pleasant games continued.
Alastair's UW Control deck.
Final time, against Rod Smith again. Game 1 was a bit of a roll, as he had turn one library, which is always tough to beat. After bording to more control, game 2 went my way, having to 2 for one a couple of times with the library Gods favouring me this time, with a strip ready for Rod's, and we were down to the one for all the marbles (or in this case, a wee trophy and choice of which oversized card we got.) Rod was back on the draw and didn't look 100% happy with his 7, but kept. 
The final seven.
I decided to chance keeping my opener, which one of the onlookers took a pic of: City of Brass, Bolt, Ancestral, Shatter, Blood Moon, Twist and Fireball. After a bit of early trading, Rod was forced to drop City in a Bottle to stop Serendib, and I decided not to shatter it till I absolutely needed. Another game of life as a resource, saving my counters for the biggest things (like CoP Red) not risking a Serendib killing me while being neutered with Maze, Imprison, Spirit Link or the like. I had to go very low to take control and keep multiple counters while on 2 life, with Rod then having to plow a couple of my factories to avoid going too low himself, thus giving me a cushion against Bolts – I was back up to 8 briefly. 
Finals vs Rod
He ended up under a Black Vise with multiple Arabians cards in hand, and even had to cast a “do nothing” Balance to free up his hand a little and cut down on damage. As the game ground down I ended up with multiple Counters, a Control magic for Su-Chi, Trolls or Black Knights, plus Bolt and Psi Blast and a Serendib to beat with if he did blow the City and start dropping Juzams. Got to the point that I couldn't see an out with likely played cards (I gave Rod credit to not run Healing Salve) and showed him my hand of “no” and burn for the handshake.
So, what have I learnt about the format? Suggestions that Vise should be de-restricted are not realistic, it just deals too much damage early, keeps card drawing (especially with Library EOT) in check, and gives free kills off Wheels and Twisters. Speaking of the Library, in the absence of Wasteland, early LoA can be a deciding factor, especially for controlling mirrors. Having had a run on one classic deck from the era, I'm torn whether to fettle with it, or dig out some other old stuff and go combo or heavy control.

Wonderful day of magic at a well run event with friendly people and no unpleasantness. Magic Madhouse even donated a proportion of entry fees to a charity of the winner's choice and sprung for a nice glass trophy. Am hoping to fiddle with more deck types and get to more events, am certainly sold on Old School. There are still complex decision trees, different archetypes to explore and metagame, but less anguish over whether they're holding a Force/Mis-step or Daze, and more booze and junk food. I'll be back for more, that's for sure.

torsdag 14 juli 2016

Party Crashing at Wexio 2016

Of course he has it. Everyone always has it. Why haven’t I been practicing my Orb flips?
Desolation.
Wexio. The summer convention of Växjö form a rare twilight between the sanctioned Magic scene and the Mtg underground. Sure, they host an FNM during the Friday, but it’s no-proxy Vintage. The Saturday draft is Eternal Masters. The Standard tournament is there, of course, but it seems like a footnote for people who enjoy playing Standard rather than some high-stakes competition of judge calls. The tournaments usually host around 10-20 people, all whom really enjoy the game. People laugh here. Some guy drives his car for ten hours to get to Wexio and play his 100-card tribal Gnomes deck. Here, Magic is a game like the others, not an obvious feature of the players or a reason for aggression or tilts. Or perhaps not like the others. It really is the best game.

I’d spent the last week in Gothenburg, hanging out with family and friends in my old home town. Had a few evenings at Honka’s place playing Super Nintendo and solving the world’s conflicts. The plan is to jump on the train to Växjö when his weekend starts on Friday, and arrive at the site late in the evening for the Tribelander championships. Hardy will join us from Oslo and meet up in Gothenburg. Same guys as Arvika Festival, and same as last year’s Wexio. We’re the Train People now.
Playtesting.
Hardy had spent better part the last week at a Fusion festival at a former Russian airfield in The Middle of Nowhere, northern Germany. He's on no sleep, but in no mood to let things like lack of nurture, REM or location bother him. Of course he would travel to Sweden and meet us, and of course he would join us to Växjö. His Lotus is not some notch in his belt, it’s for casting Icy Manipulators in his monoblack Distress deck.

My deck of choice is Undead Party Crasher. Reasonable name for a deck. In the end of the nineties there was an Extended combo deck with Goblin Bombardment and Enduring Renewal, for some reason called Fruity Pebbles. Another deck builder decided to add black for Necropotence to the mix, and called the deck Cocoa Pebbles. Thus a tradition was formed, and pretty much every subsequent combo deck in Type 1.x was named after breakfast food. Trix, Full English Breakfast, Cephalid Breakfast, and so on.
Just add milk, Donate and Illusions of Grandeur for a balanced breakfast.
Then in 2005, handsome four-eyes Chris Pikula finished second in the first GP in the then new-fangled Legacy format. His deck was a rouge Black-White deck with Sinkholes, Hypnotics, Hymns and Vindicates. He called the deck Rouge Dead Guy Ale. When Scania player Eneas first showed up with a 93/94 variant of the deck at BSK 2014, I decided to keep Pikula’s name for describing the strategy. The Vindicates of the original deck are Disenchants here, and the mana-hungry Nantuko Shades have been replaced by 4-drop creatures, but the deck plays much in the same way as Pikula’s Dead Guy Ale.
But a Dead Guy is not necessarily Undead.
Dead Guy Ale is a very sweet deck. This BW brew plays differently though. This deck wanted to abuse Armageddon and Underworld Dreams. It wanted to lock out pesky Factories with Moat, and have high-end finishers in Serra Angels. Still it was some sort of BW control/aggro deck, but it was not a Dead Guy. So I took a note from the combo decks of old Extended, and decided to name BW decks in 93/94 after beers rather than breakfasts. Enter Undead Party Crasher.
The first guy who builds a BW Aggro with Erg Raiders, Unholy Strenght and Geddon and brings it to a tournament may chose the beer brand name for that one.
I playtested it at GG Bar in Gothenburg the week leading up to the tournament. The results looked solid. Most control decks seemed like a breeze, in particular post sideboard when I removed my creatures for disruption and Warp Artifacts. Most matchups appeared favorable, at the very least beatable, and there are few real week points outside Tranquility. I had some issues beating burn and Lestree zoo, so I added three Ivory Towers and two Wraths to the board. In retrospect, it should probably have been four Ivory Towers. The Tower is a damn house here. And it was restricted for a while in 1994 after all.
As was Underworld Dreams btw. They kept their hands of Skull of Orm though. Surprisingly playable, and cheaper than a soda.
We arrive at the site around ten in the evening for the Tribelander tournament. I’m to face Wervolves, Rouges and Plants in the first pod. Next to us Honka and Hardy battles in a pod with Rats, Thrulls, Clerics, Gnomes and Advisors.
Rats snitching on Advisors to Clerics.
I manage to take down the first pod with Snakes. The final pod is versus Thrulls, Rats and Rogues. The Train People fight the good fight, but eventually Jokemon, one of the convention organizers and a true aficionado of casual Magic, pulls the longest straw with his rogues.
Lucky Mr. Skillpants.
We walk back to our sleeping quarters. The night is dark and full of terrors. Discoteka yugostyle at a pizzeria three dark thirty. Eventually we get back to our hotel and get some much needed sleep before the ultimate showdown tomorrow.
Train people.
The phone interrupts our daze sometime after high noon. Axelsson has just arrived from Scania. Axelsson was the first player from Scania to start playing the format way back when, and was the only player representing the southernmost parts of Sweden until Arkanon started hosting tournaments in the area a little over two years ago. He owns pretty much everything there is to have in the format, except most duals nor any Power. And he always shows up with some new sweet brew. Today is no exception. His train back will leave around the time of the top4 tonight, so he's mostly hoping for some sweet duels in the swiss. A true player, and a really good guy.
Hardy, Honka and Axelsson with some afternoon cocktails. Talking tech and DevOps.
A quartet from the Varberg elite has also arrived. A few not so nooby noobs among them. Elof, the guy with three Giant Sharks and BSK, n00bcon and Pimpvitational wins to his name is one of them. He missed the most recent n00bcon top8 at tiebreaker on 5-2. He's been in the top3 in the pimpvitational race for the last four years, as long as we've been counting points. He's not the nemesis though.

Sehl. He sometimes flies under the radar somehow. Like Elof, he missed the n00bcon top8 on 5-2 tiebreakers with ErhnamGeddon this year, but he top8'd last year, and the BSK before that. He has a couple of wins as well, e.g. from the Vasa Gaming tournament which he wrote a guest report about. Dude has been a staying power in the Pimpvitational tournaments the last couple of years, and this while not owning a Lotus nor all the blue Power cards. Every year around Christmas, he organizes his own 93/94 tournament called Sehlskapsspelen. For now though, he's my Magic nemesis.
Also clearly a 90s surfer jock.
The first time I played him, at Kingvitational 1.0, he was pretty fresh back to the game. He hadn't played a game of Magic for the last 15 years or so, and I managed to beat him, win the tournament, and throw a barrage of trash talk his way. That was a little presumptuous of me. Sehl is not only a black belt in trashtalk, but has since become a master of the format. It's kinda hard to bash him these days. Last time we met was during Arvika festival, when he abruptly beat me to put me on tilt in the losers' bracket. In the last couple of years, our games have always been very tight and very high stakes in terms of glory and bragging rights. He is obviously one of my favorite opponents in the game. "Guess I'll see you in the finals." "Oh, so you gonna stay and watch me play in the finals? That's nice of you."

16 players have reported to the Wexio tournament at the small convention. This is it. Game face.

Game one I'm facing off against Mattias Nilsson. For some reason I think he's playing WW before we start. Turns out he's on full-power Trick, an Underworld Dreams deck with Timetwister, Wheel of Fortune and Winds of Change along with a majority of the restricted list. Luckily, as I'm on Underworld Dreams myself, his wincons works against him. Also, he's URB, which means no Disenchants. I win the first of a well-timed Disenchant on his Underworld Dreams in response to his Wheel, and then grind out advantage with Skull of Orm. Game two I have turn one Serra Angel and eek out a couple of attacks before it is destroyed. Eventually a follow-up Underworld Dreams and Warp Artifact gets him before he gets to stabilize with his Sol'Kanar.
1-0
Solid start.
Second opponent is Jokemon, the guy who won the Tribelander tournament yesterday. He also won the first Wexio 93/94 tournament in 2014. I managed to win the tournament last year, and hence we both sport a glorious Prodigal Sorcerer in our sideboards. We're looking to get a second one today.
Serious showdown.
He's on his signature Zoo deck. I make a misplay around turn four game one, when I commit a Serra Angel to board rather than just plowing his Serendib and go for Geddon immediately. Geddon would have pretty much locked the game, with the Moat in play on my side, but instead I get greedy. A Channel + Fireball from Jokemon next turn makes us shuffle up for game two. This one works better. I get an early Ivory Tower, soon followed by an active Land Tax, and start running away with life. He doesn't get the chance to catch up, and a couple of Underworld Dreams seals the deal. Last one is tight. This guy knows how to play Magic. He didn't compete at WSK last year, as he had too much work to do organizing the convention, but he lent out his deck to the guy I faced in the semifinals. I won the match based on a few misplays from my opponent that time, but Jokemon wont make those mistakes. The tables eventually turn in my favor when he summons an Efreet of Sri Lanka which I get to cast Spirit Link on. This means that not only is his Efreet worthless as attacking goes, but it will drain one life for me each turn. He has to throw a Fireball on his own creature, and the card advantage is on my side. An Ivory Tower and a Greed later, I start running away, and eventually he succumbs to the nightmare enchantments.
2-0

So. That was kinda rough. Does not look like I'm going for the easy streak today though, as my next opponent is none other than Elof "The Mighty" Gottfridson, arguably the best old school player in the world. These days, he always show up with some random build that nobody really understands how it works before it breaks the meta. He top8'd last Arvika Festival with a Time Elemental deck. He won last Sehlskapsspelen with the first version I've seen of Artifact Smash. He won last Warcon with the first build of Monoblue Artifacts. He placed second at Frippan Open with the first iteration of Troll Disco. Dude can build a deck, and dude can play Magic. I have no idea what to expect.
These are our final moments game one.
Mofo kills me with a trio of Prodigal Sorcerers past my Moat. I don't even. Sylvan Library and Sindbad for card advantage. I try to play linear Magic, but the guy flanks me. Ok. So in with a bunch of removal and Ivory Towers I guess. The long game should be mine if I have towers.

Second game is a grindfest. Elof is one of the last persons you want to grind against. Turns out that he is on a Living Plane combo deck. I assume that it's a pretty bad matchup for him, as I both have all the Disenchants, but also Wraths and Armageddon. Eventually my Underworld sticks and ticks down his life. He has some sort of clock, but I gain a bunch of life every turn from my duo of Ivory Towers, and can play the long game with Underworld.
Elof's Living Plane Combo
Third is a mess. He manages to stick one Prodigal Sorcerer and resolves Living Plane. My few lands are promptly pinged off. He finds the Disenchants for both Ivory Tower and my black Mox. Only upside is that I'm at around 40 life, with him on eight, but he attacks for three or four each round. As all my lands now have summoning sickness, and he has a Tim, my outs are very slim. I do have Land Tax and Balance in hand, but I would need to draw either Lotus or possibly Mox Pearl into Sol Ring to handle this. It's bad odds, but luck and amazing skills delivers my Lotus a few turns later. Cast Land Tax and Balance. Even out the playing field immensely.  I play a City of Brass and pass the turn. Elof plays a Forest. I attack with the City, take one damage, and watch Elof block. It seems like my attack caught him a little of guard, as he plays a new land during his turn. Not an obvious misplay, but far from his usual collected playing style. I tax for three lands, pass the turn, and taxes for three more my next turn before i deploy my first 1/1 land. Eventually Elof has to kill his own Living Lands to survive the onslaught. Eventually an Underworld Dreams join my side to pick off his last few life points.
3-0
Honka vs Simon. Berserk Zoo vs BR Ponza. Good people.
So, 3-0. Who could be the other guy on 3-0? God damn Sehl of course. Sehl is playing a weird deck. One-of of each of the ten duals, a bunch of restricted cards, and playsets of Su-Chi and Juggernaut. He eeks it out game one, as the threats keep coming. Second game is really rough, but my Ivory Towers take me there. Turns out that he had boarded out his eight Artifact creatures for sets of Chain Lightnings and Psiblasts. Didn't expect that. Last game I miss an important Chaos Orb flip on Library and watch myself burn. Felt really close though. One more turn of Ivory Tower lifegain might have gotten me there. The trashtalk is piercing. I'll show him in the finals.
3-1
Jimmie Jephson (Suicide Blue) vs Max Weltz (Troll Disco). One guy playing his first tournament, the other coming fresh of a win at The Ivory Cup.
Semifinals. Facing off against UR Burn, courtesy of Johan Domeij. I keep a kinda sketchy hand against the deck game one, with two bullets in the chamber. I will be able to deploy a Hypnotic Specter turn one and turn two, but I don't have any real gas nor removal after that. It's kinda harsh against a deck with 8 bolts, Serendib Efreets and PsiBlasts, but there's always the chance that he doesn't have the bolt. And he mulls to five and doesn't have the bolt. A turn four Armageddon seals the deal.
Aptly named card.
Game two is a little more exciting, though I have a solid sideboard for UR Burn. He fights the good fight, but I eventually get to deploy a Serra Angel with Spirit Link after he has played a couple of PsiBlasts already. I was at four life at the time, but there's no coming back from a lifegaining Angel.

I glance over to the other table to see Sehl beat Simon's RG Berserk deck. So it's him and me again. I was dreading, and hoping for, this final.

Sehl. A player who started in the mid-90s, left his cards for a decade and half, and came back to play 93/94. A guy who plays with what he's got, and doesn't let the lack of duals or full power be an excuse for him not to win. A laughing man we he loses, but a louder laughter when he wins. Tournament organizer. House builder. Nemesis. It was a tight match in the final round of the swiss, and I have the cards to beat him. I know what to expect now.

My deck delivers decently game one, but Sehls delivers better. Threats are bigger than Answers. He has turn two and turn three beatsticks, and follows up with Sylvan Library. I've got spot removal, but he grinds it out with card advantage and solid play. I didn't really expect to win game one though. Game two and three is where I'll shine. He'll never beat a trio of Ivory Towers, regardless of his game plan.

Turns out his game plan is turn one Library of Alexandria, and my game plan is to miss the flip on my turn two Chaos Orb. Of course it is. Why haven't I been practicing my flips? He gets to draw five extra cards before I resolve Armageddon. He has the Disenchant for my first Ivory Tower, and a greedy misplay ends up costing me. I cast two more Ivory Towers the next turn, which is pretty much an invitation for him to cast Demonic Tutor for Dust to Dust. Less greed would have made me cast just a single tower, gain the life I needed to get out of range, and have a backup in case of removal. A couple of turns later he goes Time Walk into Wheel of Fortune, and draws the ten direct damage in bolts and blasts he need to put me at zero. "Hold on sec, I need to grab my phone so I can take a picture of your loser-face."
Humble winner, gracious loser.
So there we are. A glorious defeat from a glorious man. It's hard to not be at least a little humble when you get outplayed. I could have hit the Chaos Orb flip, and I could have been less greedy with the towers. I had the opportunity to win, or at least play a longer game, but Sehl took it anyway.

Eventually my tears dry, and I join an eight-man free-for-all Tribelander multiplayer downstairs. I will get him next year. I will crush him at BSK to get that glorious Shark that yet eludes us both. The Train People will be back.

This was a great gathering.
Sehl's winning deck from Wexio 2016

onsdag 6 juli 2016

Gothenburg, WSK Preparations and Arcon notes

Six weeks of some combination of vacation and leave of absence has just started. Gonna catch me some fish and get me some chilax. Went to a new barber in Gothenburg to get a summer moustache.
It's a sweet moustache.
There's an E-Sport bar in Gothenburg called GG Bar. Something of a mecca for nerds who enjoy the combination of beer, games, cocktails and chiptunes. The local 93/94 players recently decided to make that their meetup point for monthly 93/94 spell slinging, and I had the chance to join the first gathering this Monday. Nine people met up, and we hosted an impromptu casual tournament. Worth noting may be that out of the three decks that didn't play Mishra's Factory, all three of them made it to the top4. Mishra-schmishra. The final standings in the top4 looked like this

1. Farsan (Lestree Zoo; UGR Zoo)
2. Mg (Party Crasher Porter; BW Geddon)
3. Halo00, aka Beyonce (Trick Deck; BRu Underworld Dreams)
4. Kalle, aka Egget (Power Monolith; 5c Power Artifact)

I wanted to test out my new BW brew before the Wexio "state championships" in Småland next weekend. Lestree Zoo was a fairly hard matchup, as expected, and I think that WW will be rough. I'll throw in a few extra sideboard cards and cross my fingers.
Gathering some spell slingers.
Blue Beatdown Mirror between Tibia and Iceman.
Tricky matchup in the semis vs Halo00.
Build-your-own-Baneslayer vs Mr Sinclair with The Deck.
Kalle goes deep. Check out that Island btw.
Just over a week ago, the annual Arcon convention in Oslo, Norway, hosted their first 93/94 tournament. They gathered 14 players, where 13 were local Norwegians and your truly was the sole expat (though myself dropping after round two to meet up with family). That's pretty damn cool. The Norwegian scene is by all ways self-sustainable by now, with multiple tournament organizers and twenty-ish players. Who'd guessed that a year ago? We had zero Norwegians at n00bcon 7 in 2015, and today a non-proxy tournament gathers 14 (more than the Vintage tournament at the convention). I don't have all the decks from the top4 yet, but I can spoil 75% of the piles:
Erland's MonoBlack. 1st Place.
Kenneth's Big White. 2nd Place.
Hasthi's Dead Guy Ale. 3-4th place.
Speaking of growing communities, last weekend marked the first UK Championships in 93/94! Word on the street is that we'll receive a report from the first UK champion Bryan Connolly in the not to distant future, so I'll keep the spoilers on the down-low for now. Also, there's something brewing in Sant Feliu de Llobregat, close to Barcelona in Spain. Francesc Montserrat and a few fellow mages are in the startup phase for their local community. If you're in Northeast Spain and want to swing some cards, try to get in touch!

onsdag 29 juni 2016

Rise of the Trolls & Goblins: Stockholm and the first Ivory Cup

*Rod Sterling voice*

There is another format beyond that which is known to the DCI. It is a format as vast as perception and as timeless as stone. It is the middle ground between competition and chivalry, between structure and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's wistfulness and the summit of his jubilation. This is the format of old.

Scene: Stockholm. Summer’s day. Witness a man called Gordon Andersson, age thirtyish. Occupation: Jack of trades. Gordon Andersson, perhaps the sight of a rather minor component to a hot June, but in a moment he will venture a trail of invocation and revelry. For Gordon Andersson, this is just another step on a journey he began some twenty years ago. But for fellow mages, it is masonry of hidden paths in a city where the roads oft laid plain. If in any quest for Magic, in any search for sorcery, witchery, legerdemain, first check the human spirit. This is Gordon’s story. This is the story of the first Ivory Cup. /Mg out

Two weeks ago the first Ivory Cup was held in Stockholm, Sweden. Ivory Cup is the first dedicated old school tournament in Stockholm and the plan is to make this a yearly thing. This year 29 people showed up to try to win an Alpha Ivory Cup (what else?) and have a chance to take on the reigning world champion in 93/94, Martin Berlin. But let’s leave the Ivory Cup for a while and talk a little about Stockholm’s old school community.
The Stockholm community
First of all it’s important to note that even though 93/94 is credited a Swedish creation, it was founded on the west coast of Sweden while Stockholm is located on the east coast. It’s about a five hour drive from coast to coast in Sweden and this means that the community in Stockholm is not the same as the community on the west coast, something MG wrote about a couple of weeks ago. The format did however reach Stockholm quite fast and there have been old school players in Stockholm for many years, but mostly playing at their kitchen tables in separate local playgroups and just meeting up at tournaments in other cities.
Until last year that is. As we all know the format skyrocketed all over the world last year and of course Stockholm was no exception. A small group of players then started playing more regularly at a local pub and with that more and more old timers started to come out of hibernation. The scene slowly started to become more organized which also meant that more and more people heard about 93/94 Magic. This in return brought a lot of new faces to the format and the community grew to what it is today, with both old fogeys and new players joining up all the time.
Nowadays the scene in Stockholm is consisting of well over 20 active players, also counting some players from Uppsala, just north of Stockholm, that often come here to play. We also have a standing game night the first monday every month. The venue of choice is a small quiet pub (Bishop Arms, Folkungagatan) with one of Stockholm’s best beer assortments and tables perfect for spell slinging. So if you’re ever in Stockholm you now know where and when to go.
The usual game night consists of around 8 - 12 players, some that just started playing and some players that have been battling old school for many years. Some of the players own complete sets of black bordered power and some don’t even have a Chaos Orb, let alone power. But some things are true about us all, we play because we love the game, the old cards and the great atmosphere. Some people have their pet deck that they play every time and constantly try to improve while other players have big collections and come with different brews almost every time.
The first Ivory Cup
Sometimes at our game nights we play mini tournaments but when it comes to larger, more organized tournaments, Stockholm has only had one, the last L.I.G.G tournament. L.I.G.G is a classic, beer infused tournament here in Stockholm that is organized by Pefken and Alexander Midjich every now and then. L.I.G.G doesn’t have a set format, instead it changes from tournament to tournament, but the main focus has been on Legacy and Vintage. At this year’s L.I.G.G Vintage was the format of choice but the organizers also asked the players if they wanted to play some 93/94 Magic. The answer was a ringing yes and the 93/94 part of this year’s L.I.G.G ended up having around 20 players flipping Chaos Orbs and smashing each others faces with Juzam Djinns. It was clear that there was a big local interest in the format, which got me and my co-organizers to start thinking about organizing a stand alone 93/94 tournament here in Stockholm. And so, Ivory Cup, the first dedicated 93/94 tournament in Stockholm was born.
So with the help of wuberg (aka Paddan) and invaluable input from sebcelia, berlin and Eksem we started to make plans for the first Ivory Cup. Most things went smoothly but we ended up having a lot of setbacks concerning the venue. At the last minute we got ahold of  a photo studio called Fotostudion [www.fotostudion.se]. The problem though was that the studio didn’t have enough tables or chairs for the event so we had to become a little creative. The chair problem was solved easy with us going to IKEA to buy some cheap plastic ones but the table problem was a little worse. We ended up building table legs from lighting stands and then using the studio’s different backgrounds as table-tops. All in all I must say that I’m happy how it all ended up and the studio was a great place to have the tournament at, but yes, the tables could have been a little better.
Some quick facts
The tournament consisted of 29 players with roughly 20 from Stockholm, 3 from Uppsala and 6 came all the way from Arvika and Karlstad (about a 5 hour drive). We played 5 rounds of swiss before a cut to the top 8 and intentional draws where strictly prohibited. We drank over 200 bottles of beer, ate 19 pizzas, broke one mirror and had more than a few laughs until the last bunch gave up around 5 am. Amongst the players where multiple people with Giant Sharks and also one player that is 5 years younger then the game itself (more about him later on). We also had a player that came into contact with us because he wanted to sell his cards as he hadn’t played for many many years. One buyer then told him about the old school community and Ivory Cup so he paused his selling spree to play some last games and after winning his first 93/94 game at Ivory Cup it became clear that he ain’t selling anymore.
The Swiss
I actually don’t have much to say about the swiss as I either played or stood at the bar serving beer but I’ll try to write about a couple of highlights. To everyone’s surprise the world champion Martin Berlin showed up with an aggro deck completely without counterspells instead of his classic The Deck. But he still showed us all that he is the champion for a reason by being the only player to end the swiss undefeated at 5-0. One of his opponents was Seb Celia who became the only player to make it to top 8 with a 3-2 record, a top 8 in which he got his revenge and knocked out Martin Berlin in the quarter finals.
We also got to see Johan Larsson with his Goblin Sligh deck get his only loss in the swiss to Max Weltz. Both those players later went on to crush the competition and meet each other again in the finals, a final where Johan was out for revenge.
The Uppsala player Per Algander came to the tournament with one goal in mind, he wanted to Earthbind (yes, he played Earthbind in his deck) a Serra Angel. Maybe a strange dream, but a dream nonetheless. We are really sorry to say that he never got to fulfill his dream at this year’s Ivory Cup but from us organizers, good luck next time Per, we really really hope you’ll be able to do it then!

The top 8 decks!
If we are allowed to say it ourselves we had an amazing top 8 with a good spread of archetypes and players of all ages and backgrounds.

Finalists
The winner of the tournament, Max Weltz has only been playing for a bit over a year but has put up some great results with his aggressive take on Troll Disco*. His eight trolls are joined by a full set of Nevinyrral's Disks, and to get rid of all those that oppose the trolls, including players, he plays eight Bolts and two Fireballs. And just to make the opponent feel even worse he also plays a full set of Sinkholes which can win games all by themselves. A big congratulations Max from the organizers of Ivory Cup!
Max Weltz's Troll Disco
In the finals Max’s trolls fought an army of orcs and goblins piloted by Johan Larsson. Johan is the player I wrote about earlier who is a whole five years younger then the game itself. Johan hasn’t played Magic for more than a couple of years but has already become a respected player in Stockholm’s Legacy community. Another fun thing is that he had never ever played a game of old school before this tournament and was only there because I asked if someone would like to try the format and borrow my extra mono red goblin deck. Said and done, Johan shuffled up the deck and showed us amazing skill when he smashed through the swiss and the top 8 all the way to the final where he lost to Max’s Trolls. If you want to know more about Johan’s first impressions of the format you can find a short interview with him later down the page.
Johan Larsson's Goblin Sligh
The deck Johan played is one that me and the other organizers have been talking about for quite some time and also think of as the format’s most underestimated budget deck. I usually play the deck with four more goblins and a full set of Goblin King just for fun, but the day before Ivory Cup I changed the deck according to suggestions made by master deck builder Martin Berlin. That meant going down on Goblin Kings, cutting a couple of goblins and instead adding Ironclaw Orcs for a better curve.

Top 4
Pefken is one of the old timers when it comes to 93/94 in Stockholm and he is also one of the revered few who has a Giant Shark in his deck. For this tournament he sleeved up what I would say is his signature archetype, Parfait, a classic prison deck that wants to make the opponent’s life miserable with Winter Orbs, Icy Manipulators and more. The fun thing is that he decided on this deck before Eternal Masters changed the game big time with it’s errata on Winter Orb. That of course only made the deck better and as one of Pefken’s victims in this tournament I would say, this deck is for real. But no matter how good the deck is, Pefken lost in the semifinals to Troll beatdown. It’s hard to beat four Nevinyrral's Disk when your whole deck is built around permanents.
Pefken's Parfait
The last top 4 contender was Seb Celia who played a classic The Deck and if I remember correctly the same configuration that took him to a top 8 placement at this year's n00bcon. There isn’t much more to say about the deck as it is THE Deck, but do note Seb’s favorite wincon in the sideboard, The Hive. Seb was also as far as I could tell the only player who showed up with The Deck. But even the mighty The Deck fell to the goblin horde after a couple of Blood Moons and a bunch of Red Elemental Blasts that showed up out of the sideboard.
Seb Celia's The Deck
Top 8
As I wrote earlier Martin Berlin came to event surprising us all with a deck completely without counterspells. Martin is calling it Arabian Aggro but you could also call it Zoo, or maybe Big Zoo? With only two answers to City in a Bottle a deck called Arabian Aggro will probably die if one hits the board, but on the other hand, not many players are using City in a Bottle these days, so why not play some of the best creatures in the format and back them up with restricted cards and Lightning Bolts? This deck took Martin to a top 8 finish where he was stopped in his track by Seb Celia’s The Deck.
Martin Berlin's Arabian Aggro
Johan Guldbrandsson was one of the guys who traveled all the way from Arvika to be able to play in this event, and the only one of those guys who reached the top 8. And as many other players in this tournament he did it without blue. Johan played a mostly green and red Zoo deck with full playsets of both Berserks and Giant Growths to get those quick wins. He also had some nice tech splashing white for one of the formats best removal spells, Disenchant. This deck hit hard and fast, and many players died before they even knew what was going on. But 8 Lightning Bolts and 4 Nevinyrral's Disk was too much for Johan who fell to the might trolls in the top 8.
JohanGuld's Erhnam Burn'em
The last two players in the top 8 were combo players, one being Felipe Garcia who played his signature Twiddle Vault. This deck draws an absurd amount of cards and takes a very large number of consecutive turns by playing Twiddle on Time Vault while deploying a bunch of Howling Mines. It really is an amazing deck, but it is also a really complicated deck with so many decisions all of the time that only a true master can handle it. Felipe has shown us many times that he is a master of his deck and this time it took him to the top 8 before the goblins ran him over.
Felipe's TwiddleVault
The last contender in the top 8 was yours truly who for once did not play UR Counter Burn which is the deck I have been playing for quite some time now. Instead I at last sleeved up a deck I’ve been brewing on and playtesting for a while now, The Tower of Power, or as most people call it; Power Monolith. My latest “innovation” was to add white to the mix for Disenchants and Swords to Plowshares. Those cards helped me survive the early and mid game better both against control and aggro so I had the time to actually draw my combo. I do however only own three Disenchants, otherwise the deck would have had four, but that will be for next time. I got crushed by an Underworld Dreams combo deck in the swiss and later by Pefken’s Parfait but all in all my deck worked like a charm and I also were able to pull of a turn two combo kill.
Gordon Andersson's Power Monolith
Special mention
Keeping with the local tradition in Stockholm, the last non-dropping player in the tournament was designated Rag Man and of course awarded with the signature card, this time with signed greetings from Daniel Gelon Congratulations Andreas Ahlgren!

Interview with Johan Larsson
At last, some quick questions for Johan Larsson who may not have won Ivory Cup, but for his efforts got a signed and limited print of Elves of Deep Shadows from 1995. He was definitely the story of the day as he hadn't played the format at all before Ivory Cup and still made it to the finals. Hi Johan!

Johan: Hi!

GA: You usually play legacy and have never tried 93/94 before, what are your first impressions of the format?

Johan: It is very fun. The formats offers exciting plays, exciting cards and exciting decks. It definitely a format I want to play more of.

GA: Tell me about your experience at the tournament.

Johan: I went into the tournament with no expectations whatsoever. I thought I might win a match or two if I got lucky. But then the wins started pouring in. Somehow the small goblins backed up by lightning and a giant red moon got there over and over again. And on top of that I managed to get lucky as well. For example i topdecked a ball lightning for the win in the last round of the swiss (which felt amazing) and in game 3 of the quarterfinal my opponent went land into ancestral on turn one but never managed to find a second mana source which made it easy for me to win. As for the sideboard, there were many very good cards such as the REB:s but a few cards should certainly be replaced. Goblin Cave for example might be cool, it just isn't very good.

GA: Any additional comments  about the deck, any MVP:s or completely useless cards? And which matchups seemed to be the hardest ones?

Johan: The deck felt good. It did what it was built to do, namely dealing damage and getting free wins with Blood Moon (which is the best card in the deck). The individual cards in the deck are of very different power levels but all seemed to fulfil their role. A card that actually surprised me was Ankh of Mishra which dealt a lot of damage to my opponents throughout the tournament. A matchup that felt really hard was the one against Troll Disco. I played against that deck three times in the tournament going 1-2 against it. The game I won was against a build of the deck with more land destruction and less trolls and it is the trolls my deck have a really hard time dealing with.

GA: Enough about goblins now, if you had an infinite amount of money, what deck would you play?

Johan: Hmm. I think many of the blue combo decks such as Felipe's Twiddlevault deck and Gordon's power artifact deck are very interesting. Even though I love Juzam Djinn over all the other card in this format I have to go with one of those two decks.

GA: Any thoughts about how the 93/94 community or the tournament differs from your other Magic experiences?

Johan: I would say that the term “Laid back” best describe both the tournament and the community. There are for example very few magic tournaments where I can enjoy a beer while playing a match. The vibe of the tournament is much less competitive than tournaments in other formats which is perfect when the main goal is to have a good time. As for the community there were many nice people i knew from earlier and the new people I met were also very nice.

GA: Last but not least, how well did you do with your Chaos Orb flips? Because as I understand it you had never flipped one until this tournament?

Johan: I only got to flip it once and that was a hit. On an Ivory Tower if I remember correctly. I was taught how to do it just before the tournament however. If I hadn't gotten those reps in it would probably had gone worse on that part.

* = Max himself wants to call the deck Disco Troll but as he isn’t the one writing I’ll call it Troll Disco. You want to know why? Because it’s not ONE troll dancing disco, a Disco Troll. It is eight trolls dancing disco, so it becomes a Troll Disco.