fredag 26 maj 2017

Ante up!

Today we have a treat! Our guest Greg is probably known to most as @oldschoolmtg. He is the guy that started the first (and most popular) 93/94 Instagram account, posting daily updates to share old school anecdotes and deck techs with his over 10,000 followers. He also started the 93/94 subreddit and was an early adopter of showing the format to a larger number of nostalgic players at different platforms. Today he takes a step into the blogosphere to guide us through the history of ante. Enjoy! /Mg out

Hello! My name is Greg. Some of you may know me better as the guy who runs the @oldschoolmtg Instagram account. I’ve been meaning to try and write an article for “The Blog" for several years now; discovering The Blog back in 2014 was what reignited my love for this great game. In chatting with MG a while back we discussed me writing a post about one of my favorite aspects of early Magic, which has been absent since Homelands in 1996, a mechanic lost to the annals time - of course I'm talking about ante.
The most taboo of all Old School cards
A brief history of Ante

In the mid-90's Magic: The Gathering really was the overprotective parent's worst nightmare. Not only did it teach their precious snowflakes to worship Satan via cards like Demonic Tutor, Unholy Strength, and Sacrifice, but it turned them into degenerate gamblers as well - because Magic was originally played for keeps.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with the mechanics of ante in Dominaria - at the start of each game, after shuffling, each player flipped over the top card of their deck and set it aside. The winner of the game won all anted cards. Won as in they became the new owner. This is why early cards like Control Magic and Aladdin specified you gave cards back at the end of game. While those effects were temporary, ante was for forever.

Originally Garfield and company didn’t quite anticipate how players would buy and play the game. They thought players would buy a starter deck or two and hopefully a few booster packs. Their original vision didn’t include the “4 of” playset rule as they didn’t think players would have that many copies of any particular card. Ante was also meant to aid this. Once a player had their 100, 200, or *maybe* 300 cards they’d play at shops and against friends for ante. Winning and losing cards would keep the cards rotating throughout play groups, thus an ever evolving set of cards in your community. Fortunately for WotC's wallets players bought every wax pack in sight, but unfortunately for ante the game’s success was partially responsible for it’s demise. With certain cards becoming rather pricey players didn’t want to risk losing their hard earned Shivans and Serras.

Ante was represented on cards in the original printing only in the color black. There were 3 black ante cards in the Alpha printing of Magic: Contract from Below, Darkpact, and Demonic Attorney. Contract from Below isn’t as infamous as Black Lotus or Ancestral Recall due to it being tied to ante, but it is hands down the most powerful card every printed. It’s like the evil love child of Ancestral Recall and Wheel of Fortune, letting you draw a new hand of 7 for a single black mana… that is insane. Sure you have to ante an additional card, but let’s be honest, you just drew 7 cards for 1 mana, you’re going to win this game. Darkpact was also a semi well known card as it was included in perhaps the most annoying deck every created, nothing but Darkpacts & Swamps. Dark pact reads "You own target card in the ante. Exchange that card with the top card of your library.”, so you basically just end up losing the game and probably a Swamp, but if you are able to cast a Darkpact you get to essentially trade your opponent a Swamp for whatever they anted - pretty dirty and cheesy, especially if they flip over a spicy rare. Demonic Attorney said each player had to ante an additional card unless your opponent conceded the game immediately. Based on the timing when casting Demonic Attorney it could strong arm your opponent into giving up on their original ante to prevent possibly losing a second card.
The evil color had all the gambling cards of course.
Each of the first 3 expansion sets brought with it one or more additional ante cards, this time all stepping out of the Swamps. None had quite the impact as the original black cards, but were still interesting. Arabian Nights had Jeweled Bird, one of the first “cantrip" cards, replacing itself with your anted card. Jeweled Bird could save you from losing a key card and let you draw another card while doing it. Pretty neat. Antiquities gave us Bronze Tablet, an Artifact that could swap itself with a card your opponent had in play unless they paid 10 life. Not only did this remove the threat from play, but you could target your opponent’s best card. Steal that Shivan or Juzam unless they pay 10 and most likely lose the game, they'll likely sacrifice the life to keep their prized cards. The two ante cards from Legends were probably the weakest. Rebirth was a Sorcery that let any player heal themselves back to 20 life in exchange for an additional ante card. Tempest Efreet was a 3/3 red creature that could swap itself with a random card in your opponent’s hand. They may have some specific uses, like when comboing with Channel or Glasses or Urza, but they’re quite specialized. Ironically The Dark, the most evil of sets, contained no ante cards. All ante cards were reprinted in different combinations of Revised, 4th Edition, and Chronicles. There were 2 more ante cards created before the mechanic was abolished, but they were in Ice Age and Homelands, so we won’t go into them here since we don’t discuss “new” sets. Ha.
The rest. White and Blue were never blessed with any ante related cards.
 A proposal to revive ante in Old School

I’ve been kicking around an idea for a tournament variation that keeps the ante aspect of the (very) early game we all love: “Tempor-Ante” (as in Temporary Ante). I’ve laid out what I brewed up as the rules for this variant and I’d like to share that here.

Tempor-Ante Rules:
  • Normal 60 card minimum deck to start the tournament (may drop below 60 cards later)
  • Standard 15 card (optional sideboard)
  • Players must bring a stack of blank cards for proxies (cardstock, acetone wiped cards, basic lands, or standard poker cards all work great) and extra sleeves to match their deck.
  • All ante cards are legal.
  • Normal restricted list (Contract from Below & Darkpact are currently restricted at the time of this writing).
  • Before each game, each player antes a random card from their deck. Ante is drawn after any sideboarding and shuffling.
  • Cards lost due to ante are removed from the player's deck for the remainder of the tournament.
  • Winner of each game MUST add all ante cards he/she anted back to their deck. For each card won from their opponent that player adds a proxy of that card to their deck (non-optional, all won cards are played with). Use proxies so that ownership is not permanent and you don't need to keep track of cards (lost cards are kept in your possession, just not in your deck).
  • Won cards are not subject to deck construction rules. You may end up with more than 4 copies of a card or multiple copies of a restricted card based on wins.
  • Whenever you lose a card (any type) to ante, you may replace that card with a Basic Land if you wish. This is optional and just meant to keep decks from getting permanently mana screwed by losing cards.
  • Players should do their best to recreate the card won on their proxy because most people can’t draw worth a damn and you should be forced to play your artistic atrocity.
What are the pros-cons of this tournament style? I see it adding some fun and chaos to the format. Here’s some highlights of what I imagine it might bring:

  • You can play with Contract from Below, the most powerful card every printed, as it was intended to be used.
  • Decks will need to be constructed in a manner that they can afford to lose a handful of cards. This should lead to some creative decks without having only 1-2 win conditions or fragile combos. If you lose all of your win conditions, you’re done - you’ll need backup plans.
  • Multi colored decks and cards like City of Brass/Birds of Paradise/Celestial Prism will be encouraged as you may win cards outside of your initial colors and you won’t want dead draws.
  • If luck is on your side you could end up playing a deck with a playset of Black Lotus or Ancestral Recall.
  • Fun between round banter and speculation about who has won/lost what and what it’ll mean in future rounds.
  • You get to play for friggin’ ante!!
  • You of course could lose cards to make your deck incapable of victory, but hey sometimes a dose of randomness is fun!
True high quality proxies are made with Sharpie; none of that "black core", bend test passing, U.V. light glowing, counterfeit eBay bullshit.
I’d love to hear if anyone thinks Tempor-Ante is intriguing and I’d LOVE to see reports if anyone actually gives it a shot in their local group. Perhaps when the Swedes are choosing their annual variant for PWP Invitational they’ll consider ante as the wild card. Would be a great way to throw a little chaos into any tournament and just play the game we all know and love in a way you probably have never played or at least not in the past 20 years.

Thanks everyone for lending me your ear and hopefully I’ll see you back over on Instagram.

- Greg T.

torsdag 11 maj 2017

Banned & Restricted update 2017

It's that time of the year again!
Still something a little off with this picture...
Last weekend we talked a little about the current meta. But rather than ranting on about the updates here, Gordon Andersson asked if I would like to talk about it on an extra broadcast of the Flippin' Orbs podcast. That sounded like a fun approach, so that's what we did.

You can check out the episode here.

For those of you who can't or won't listen to podcasts for some reason (random cool fact; the national deaf Italian record holder in 50-100-200m breaststroke is an active 93/94 player), here are the changes:

Darkpact is restricted*
Contract from Below is restricted*
Black Vise is unrestricted
Maze of Ith is unrestricted

*Note that Ante-cards are still banned if the tournament/game you play isn't played for Ante. There haven't been a tournament played for Ante yet, but as casual Ante games have started to slowly rise in popularity, we felt it was important to make these distinctions as well. The deck with 56 Swamps and 4 Darkpacts is perhaps the single most annoying deck in the history of the game.

As always it will be exciting to see how this works out and what kind of tech people come up with. Feel free to scream your opinions in the comments :)

söndag 7 maj 2017

Some pre-B&R meta ranting

I ran a mudrace called Råskinnet yesterday. Now everything hurts and I keep finding new wounds on my body. Should probably not have topped it of with a pubcrawl. Damn traditions.

Anyway, did you guys follow the latest B&R update from Wizards a couple of weeks back? They banned Sensei's Divining Top in Legacy which made people very upset, both due to the fact that it was banned and due to the fact that it hadn't been banned earlier. And they didn't ban the CopyCat combo in Standard, which made people super upset. Then they decided to ban it after all, and people on social media got even more upset.
The yearly B&R update here is by far the post that promotes the most reactions. Some people go full tilt over the fact that the consensus isn't aligned with their own gut feelings. It is fun to see that people care so much, but my day job isn't douche bag whisperer and it's impossible to cater to everybody. If we would just follow all the suggestions received, this would be the start of the changes:
Well, I don't deny that it could be an interesting format. Maybe we'll land there someday. Would be cool to see everybody happy at once ;)

Before we do the B&R update this year, let's do our first ever top-tier meta analysis and look at the over-all health of the format. As one other variation of 93/94 has grown a lot overseas during the last two years, this time we also have the opportunity to do some comparisons with another B&R approach to get better data. This isn't super scientific as our sample sizes are still kinda small, but it gives us a good road map and feel. Let's start with the top16 decks at n00bcon 9 (102 players):

1. Disaster (Black)
2. The Deck
3. Zoo
4. The Deck
5. The Deck
6. UW Skies
7. The Deck
8. UR Burn
9. Michael's Toolbox
10. Transmute Burn
11. Artifact Aggro
12. UB Beatdown
13. Lestree Zoo
14. Eureka
15. Power Monolith
16. Arabian Aggro
Kalle's Transmute Burn. Perhaps the most blinged out deck ever ;)
I'm not sure about all of the decks that went 5-2 at n00bcon (place 8-21 in the standings), but I saw that two of them were MirrorBall and The Machine. But let's skip the ones outside the top16 in the stats for now. To make sure that we have a decent sample of top decks, let's also check out the top8 of the ~50-player Arvika Festival 3 tournament (the last Giant Shark tournament before n00bcon 9).

1. UWGb Zoo
2. ErhnamGeddon
3. ErhnamGeddon
4. The Beast
5. Copy Toolbox
6. Power Monolith
7. The Deck
8. UB Beatdown
Gordon's The Beast.
That gives us a basic meta breakdown of the top performing decks in the largest tournaments in 2017 like this:

5 The Deck (20.8%)
4 Zoo (2 UWGb, 1 Arabian Aggro, 1 Lestree) (16.7%)
2 Erhnamgeddon (8.3%)
2 Power Monolith
2 UB Beatdown
2 UR Burn (1 "classic", 1 Transmute)
1 Disaster / Monoblack (4.2%)
1 Copy Toolbox
1 UW Skies
1 The Beast
1 Eureka
1 5c Toolbox
1 Artifact Aggro

So 13 different archetypes among the 24 decks, and obviously some big differences between the decks in the same archetype.
Sehl's ErnhnamGeddon from Arvika.
If we were to go back and check the data from the top8/top4 in all tournaments over the last two years that have deck lists and reports on the blog (a total of 21 tournaments with 136 decks in the elimination rounds) we see that The Deck drops to 14.7% of the top tier meta. If we ignore the smaller tournaments and only look at gatherings with 20+ players, that number rises a little to 18.2%. And, as we saw, if we look at the latest of the "most competitive" Shark tournaments (n00bcon and Arvika), we're up to 20.8%. That is actively looking for a sample that gives us the highest number of The Deck though, and perhaps not a very professional way of choosing a sample if we look at the format as whole. But if we want to make a comparison with the Eternal Weekend tournaments, I still think that the correct approach is to only look at the Shark tournaments right now, as they have comparable size and similar "bragging rights" in the pot.

The US Eternal Weekend tournament uses EC rules, which means that e.g. Black Vise, Strip Mine and Mishra's Workshop are legal as 4-offs, and Fallen Empires is a legal set (with unrestricted Hymn to Tourach). Glorious tournament organizer and "Grandfather of Pimp" Jason Jaco hosted a major 93/94 tournament at Eternal Weekend last year (86 players). He also posted all the the competitors' deck lists and the top16 standings. This was the top16 at the 2016 Eternal Weekend:

1. WW
2. UR burn
3. UR burn
4. The Deck
5. The Deck
6. Monoblack
7. Shops / Tron / Artifact Aggro
8. Troll Disco
9. Shops Prison
10. The Deck
11. O'Brien Prison
12. The Deck
13. Erhnam Burn'Em
14. Deadguy
15. Monoblack
16. UR Burn
Dario Moreno's Shops Prison. Can't really be built the same way without EC rules.
To get more data and an equal sample size, we can also go back and check out the Eternal Weekend 2015 top8 (54 players, similar to Arvika in size, and I only found the top8 standings), and compare those with the n00bcon 9 top16 and the Arvika top8.

1. The Deck
2. The Deck
3. UR Burn
4. The Deck
5. Trick Deck
6. Zoo
7. UR Burn
8. UWB

This gives us this top tier meta breakdown for Eternal Weekend:

7 The Deck (29.2%)
5 UR Burn (20.8%)
2 Monoblack (8.3%)
1 WW (4.2%)
1 Shops / Tron / Artifact Aggro
1 Troll Disco
1 Shops Prison
1 O'Brien Prison
1 Erhnam Burn'Em
1 Deadguy
1 Zoo
1 Trick Deck

(It could be interesting to note that we see a slightly higher number of Mishra's Factories here (3.3125 per deck at EW compared to 3.125 at Shark tournaments), and an average number of 3.0 Strip Mines per deck.)

A healthy 13 different archetypes here as well; clearly the EC rules also offer a lot of variation and exciting brews for those who might think it's just a Strip Mine lottery with control or prison decks. Both B&R approaches look healthy and produce similar decks in the top of the standings; perhaps skewing a little more in favor of Prison decks using the EC rules and a little more in favor of Combo using the baseline rules. Though that might also be due to the players. Sean O'Brien will play prison, and he will play it well.
The school of Magic carries his name after all.
A weird thing, which I hear almost constantly in discussions regarding the B&R, is that some people seem to assume that allowing some combination of Strip Mine, Black Vise and Hymn to Tourach should relegate The Deck to tier2 status. I never got that argument, and it is one of the reason I wanted to delve down a little and compare numbers. It is amusing theory crafting, but not much more than that. Another thing is that people assume that The Deck is the end-all-be-all of the format, and that it shouldn't be fun to play now that it's "solved". Having the most popular tier1 deck taking up 21% of the top spots in the format isn't a sign of an unhealthy format. It's a sign of a solid deck that you have to have a plan against if winning is important to you. And I promise you that the format it still fun to play.
Just look at how happy he is.
But we do see that Mishra's Factory is a very popular card. Not really a surprise there. 15 out of 16 decks in the EW 2016 top16 played multiple factories, as did 14 out of 16 decks at the n00bcon 9 top16. It could be worth noting that only one of these decks at n00bcon 9 played less than the full playset, but a full 5 of them played 2-3 copies at EW 2016. This looks to be mostly due to avoiding mana screw, as the decks with less than 4 factories at EW play 3-4 Strip Mines. Playing the full playset of both can be very constraining for getting colored mana. 
Still, the numbers clearly tell us that unrestricting Strip Mine isn't an answer to having people play less Mishra's Factories. Maybe people just feel they need a more powerful answer to the Factories while still having them as a major part of the meta, and prefer facing an average of three Strip Mines per deck?

I think I've heard almost all possible arguments for Strip Mine. Errata it to Wasteland, allow two per deck, allow three per deck, and a myriad of others. I don't think allowing it would "destroy the format" as some other people argue (just look at the diversity at Eternal Central), but I do believe that more people currently would dislike an unrestriction than would enjoy it. The proponents are more vocal but the opponents seem more numerous. I'm sure that we'll eventually try out playing with four Strip Mines "officially" here as well, but it's not in the cards yet.

It could be kinda sweet to play it like Ghost Quarter?
Let's take a step back again and consider fetchlands. They break Brainstorm in two, fills the graveyard for Delve, Delirium and Threshold, dances circles around Wasteland, and fixes your mana in a way not even the original ABU duals do. They help you avoid lategame mana flooding and they have great synergy with cards like Crucible of Worlds, Knight of the Reliquary and Grim Lavamancer. Apart from a small handful of decks in eternal formats (e.g. Shops and Eldrazi), every deck plays loads of fetchlands; usually for more advantage than just mana. In most ways of measuring, they are ubiquitous and simply too good. So should they be banned?

Brainstorm is too good in Legacy. Sol Ring is too good in EDH. But when a too good card work in every strategy, we need to look at it from a slightly different angle than we would looking at a card like, say, Mana Drain.
Will it be the winter of our discontent?
Some people have argued for power level errata on the Factory. Some others, like the Varberg and Scania players, are in strong support of restricting it. Others just love it and think that it balances out the playing field. Every deck can use them, and most every player can afford them.

I personally think that the only way to make the Factory less of a factor in the format is to restrict it; I don't think unrestricting Strip Mine would have that much to say in terms of how many Factories we see in a top8, nor would giving it power level errata. But I think the real question is if it is a card we actually want to see less of. Or if it is a card like the fetchlands or Brainstorm in Legacy.

(Sidebar: I wouldn't consider myself a strong The Deck player, but I think I'm fairly decent. So just to test out how The Deck would work without Factories, I tried playing a The Deck without them. My wincons were two Fireball and a Braingeyser. I played five games against a couple of different decks, and from that short experience there seemed emerge some sort of pattern. My mana was better so I had better control of the games. The games took much longer, as my way of winning was usually gaining control, casting a fireball for 10, Recalling it, and casting it for 10 again. My opponents seemed to suffer through the motions quite a bit. I didn't get "free wins" from the Mishra lottery, but the deck became even more consistent and I won all my games. Make of that what you will. End sidebar.)

If we still think we want to hurt The Deck, what would achieve that? Making other archetypes stronger, or restricting key cards like Jayemdae Tome or Counterspell probably. But again, having a ~20% cut of the top performing decks isn't really that crazy for a tier1 deck. It is a good chunk less than e.g. Ravager Shops in Vintage (~30%), and far below that aforementioned CopyCat combo in Standard they went back and forth about banning (~45%). So we ask ourselves, do we really need to restrict the Tome? Of the players I talked to at n00bcon, one guy was in clear favor of it; Martin Lindström, the top rated player in last year's PWP Standings. Dude has the highest win percentage of any any player in the format right now, and he felt that the Tome made it almost too easy. Most other (non-The Deck) players I talked to didn't care much, and felt the card was safe and The Deck wasn't that big of a problem. A fairly common answer from the people I talked to a tournaments were actually "no changes" when asked about the B&R list.
But we do kinda like changes. We've done it for 10 years now, and it's an interesting way to stir the pot and see what people come up with.
Black Vise might be the most discussed card. The main issue with Black Vise is how swingy it is and the "feel-bad" of the card. Sometimes it's "oops, I win" and sometimes it does nothing. It lies in that rare land between either being too good or too bad depending on when you draw it. And this is already a swingy format, with cards like Mind Twist and Ancestral Recall turning tables. Increasing the random factor with a card people dislike losing to isn't an obvious choice. Also, it is stated in Mastering Magic Cards that it is the most sucky card ever and should be avoided during friendly play.
It also says that it is necessary to defeat counter decks though.
I personally kinda like Black Vise. I think that it would be a cool addition to Sligh and some versions of Atog to name a few outside the Prison strategies. Some players have argued that we shouldn't underestimate the "feel-bad" of the card, which could have an discouraging effect on new players in he format. It will also increase the importance of low mana curves even further.
The winning deck from NoviceCon in Chicago a week ago (using EC rules). There are arguments to be had that this is a far worse deck to face than The Deck. Just sucking up all the fun and having it for yourself ;)
So where do we end up? Well, basically that the format is healthy with no really oppressively dominant strategy. A myriad of different decks can be considered in the top tier for those of you who care about those things. And a few of you will probably get upset by the update coming in next few days, but like the previous years it will probably end up ok ;)

Let's end with a picture of The Machine (5-2 at n00bcon 9, missed top16 on tierbreakers):
Hardy's The Machine. Ridiculously sweet pile.

måndag 1 maj 2017

The n00bcon 9 Top8

I guess having two weeks between the tournament and posting the Top8 lists is kinda old school. Some twenty years ago, we had to wait until the next number of Scrye, The Duelist or Centurion saw print to get a hold of the hottest tech. Us kids today with our newfangled phones and complicated shoes have become accustomed to far shorter feedback loops.

Anyways. Top8'ing n00bcon is a proper feat in Magic. It takes mastering one of the purest forms of the game against very diverse competition and decks. Even though this is a casual format and a casual atmosphere, it is undeniable that this attracts some truly masterful mages. In this top8, we have a slew of old Pro Tour players, a few national championship titles and over 150 years of combined Magic experience. We may say that we compete for a Giant Shark, but often the real prize is the pride and glory. These are the eight players that made the cut in the 2017 World Championship.
The n00bcon 9 Top8: Landgraf, Icelander, Glans, Gordon, MrSinclair, Cermak, Fluffy, and Hashi.
Let's check out their decks.
Gordon's UR Burn.
Gordon Anderson is a true community builder from Stockholm. Apart from hosting annual tournaments in his city (like The Ivory Cup and From Russia with Love), he spreads the word about the format via the Wak-Wak webpage, the OldschoolMtg twitch channel, and has recently started an Oldschool Magic podcast with Grant Casleton. Check out the first episode of Flipping Orbs here.

Gordon is a UR Burn player at heart. I'm sure that he would have played the deck regardless of how well it actually worked. Turns out that it works great and his passion for the deck helps him pilot it with consistent results. Gordon is almost a fixture in the top8s at the larger tournaments these days. But he rarely survives past round eight in a tournament, often due to misplays caused by intoxication. That is kinda funny. This is an endurance game.

Gordon says that the best cards in the deck are the Flying Men. During our game at the tournament he stated something like "Flying Men is the card that ties the deck together. It's like a Lava Axe for one blue, but better. Anyone not understanding the greatness of Flying Men in UR Burn is obviously a sub-par Magic player. Especially if they are named Karl." Well, Gordon has the stats to back that up ;)
Landgraf's The Deck.
Svante Landgraf is a self-proclaimed (and university-proclaimed) Doctor of Science Fiction. I think his actual PhD might say something about Literary Arts and his master degree is in Mathematics, but Doctor of Sci-Fi sounds more rad. He's one of the few 93/94 players from Linköping, which I frequently confuse with Lidköping. He is also something of a master across the board in Magic. I think that I've noted before that he won the previous Vintage national championship, but another fun fact is that he top8'd the national championships in pretty much all other formats that same year. Top that with a handful of Pro Tour appearances and a random GP Top8 and you find a really solid player with an extremely diverse grasp of how to play Magic.

Svante plays the latest and greatest version of The Deck. One interesting thing with this version is that it plays two maindeck Stone Rains. This tech was shared with fellow top8-player Martin Lindström, and 2016 World Champion Martin Berlin (who missed out on the top8 on tiebreakers this year).
Glans's UW Skies
Anton Glans is a super friendly eternal player from Örnsköldsvik in the Northern part of Sweden. A regular at the Vintage and Legacy tables at the various conventions across the country, usually showing of with rad and personalized brews. While writing this I did a quick googling of his name, and I realized that not only has he been a cross-fitter for over half a decade, he's also a cross-fit trainer and a frequent writer for We have talked many times in many different settings, and I've never once heard about his training regime. So I guess I have to retire the old joke about cross-fitters constantly talking about cross-fit. Well played man.

Glans's deck of choice was UW skies, a sweet pile of Serra Angel, Serendib Efreet and Mahamothi Djinn backed up by white removal, blue restricted cards, and Moat. Two-off Mishra's Factory for the miser ;)
Fluffy's SuperDuperAttack Deck!
I've written about Martin "Fluffy" Lindström a couple of times before in the last year. He started playing 93/94 more frequently around last n00bcon, and just broke the format. He first played the n00bcon 8 warm-up tournament, which he won, and then finished second at n00bcon 8. His next tournament was BSK 2016 where he won yet again and picked up his first Giant Shark. Then he played at the Alara Games convention earlier this year and won that one as well. He was the only player with a 7-0 record after the swiss at n00bcon 9, and it almost surprised me that we didn't see him in the finals yet again. He's also a physically strong mathematician with some solid finishes from the Pro Tour in his CV.

All that aside, he is horrible at sending me decklists. So I just assumed what the deck he played looked like. To think like Martin, I checked the 1994 Pocket Player's Guide for info on building killer decks, remembered that he usually played five colors, and put together a pile that I'm sure is something similar to what he played. He feels like a creature kinda guy with a lot of luck on his side ;)

On a more serious note, this is probably more what his deck looked like:
Probably Fluffy's actual deck. Four books and a pile of restricted cards.
Fun fact is that Fluffy is one of the most vocal proponents of restricting Jayemdae Tome himself. The B&R update is btw coming in the next couple of weeks, and I think we've landed on this years changes by now. If you have any input or suggestions on the B&R you are as always welcome to send me a mail at But let's go on.
MrSinclair's The Deck.

MrSinclair is another fixture in the elimination rounds. He lost to Fluffy in the finals of last BSK, and was seen in the n00bcon 7 top8 before that. It is almost like this is a skill based game. MrSinclair has been playing since the early days and is a The Deck player at heart.

Among his more interesting choices are the main deck Mirror Universe and Red Elemental Blast. Sideboard Serra Angels also look like solid tech. Sinclair opts for Lightning Bolts rather than Stone Rains here, perhaps a better answer to opposing Factories, even though they don't pull double duty against Libraries or mana screw.
Cermak's UWGb Zoo.
Andreas Cermak is another player with a history of Magic going back well over 20 years. Though a relatively new player in the format, Cermak has been tearing up the meta with his take on four-color Zoo. Fresh of a victory at the Arvika Festival in February, he quickly followed that up by winning the Stockholm n00bcon warm-up tournament and claimed the 2016/2017 Rookie of the Year title. Kicking of the new season with a n00bcon top4 puts him among the top performing players in the format.

The core players in Cermak's deck are the trio of Savannah Lions, Argothian Pixies and Serendib Efreet. Erhnam Djinn and Serra Angel top of the curve, and the deck is glued together with the white removal suite and blue power cards. A fierce and quick deck with loads of powerful spells.
Icelander's The Deck
Erling "Icelander" Hansson surprisingly missed last year's n00bcon top8 on tiebreakers. Other than that, he has been in all of them in the last half decade. His last finals appearance before this one was at n00bcon 7. He is an extremely likable guy and yet a true master of playing The Deck. That playmat below his deck is btw one of the Worlds-mats Khalsa-Brain produced for the Magic World Championship in the mid 90s, where Erling was a member of the Icelandic team.

We see main deck Stone Rain and sideboard Serra Angels. Sweetest tech here is probably the sb Time Vault though. It is still kinda straight-forward for Icelander, this is a guy that has top8'd with a The Deck having Nicol Bolas as the win condition ;)
Hashi's Disaster.
And finally we have our new World Champion, Kristoffer "Hashi" Arlefur from Växjö and the glorious Team Kaffebryggers. Team Kaffebryggers is one of my absolute favorite teams in Sweden; a bunch of highly skilled casual player who really seem to just enjoy playing Magic. When you see them in sanctioned tournaments, it seems like they pretty much always hang out in eternal formats sporting tier2 pet decks, but playing them fiercely. They are the kind of guys that host Tribelander and 93/94 tournaments at their conventions and have higher attendance for casual formats than official ones.

His deck is of course glorious. The only thing it might miss is Vesuvan Doppelganger. And I must confess that I see some joy in having Juzam Djinns finally pick up a Giant Shark after a handful close calls. This is the real deal. Congrats man!

tisdag 18 april 2017

Pictures from n00bcon 9

Well, this was spectacular. Over 30 communities present, over 100 players, an awesome pile of beer, and just amazing Magic. Probably the largest number of Chaos Orbs in a room since Unlimited left the printer.

Russians, Americans and Italians representing. German, Norwegian and Spanish players. Dudes taking a roadtrip for days from Switzerland, a UK crew showing up with matching Beasts of Borgadan t-shirts and a crew of Dutch players hanging out until five in the morning to watch the finals. The finals between a casual player from Växjö and a man whom represented the Icelandic team in the 1996 Magic World Championship. Players from all over, with all kinds of backgrounds, decks, and stories.

I can tell you that 100 players are more than 50 in the same way a marathon is longer than a half-marathon. It is not just twice as much, running it becomes a different ballpark. It may get crowded, the scorekeeping and barkeeping may become a different monster, and every now and then you just have to sit on a beer keg and play in liue of a chair. But when you have a community like this, it just works. Everyone is so damn friendly and nice to hang out with. There are honestly like zero douchebags here. You make this what it is.

I was something of a wreck on Saturday and unfortunately missed Kalle's Huvudturneringen ("The Main Tournament") the day after n00bcon. That seemed like a super sweet event, one which I wouldn't mind getting some stories from. I also heard, sometime in the middle of the night, that one player from the Netherlands would write a tournament report from the event, so I'm holding out for that one ;) But first, let's check out a bunch of pictures from the event.
Thursday preparations. Trophies, Easter Eggs and a pack-fresh Giant Shark.
Beer prepping. Both Old Viscosity and Older Viscosity ;)
Players starting to roll in and registration is up. Thanks a bunch to Mällroth, Timecode and Knutsson who made it work after short-notice cancellelations from other guys.
It was a little too crowded to announce the tournament starting in the middle of the playgroup, but the pub provided a sweet balcony for me to stand and shout and drop pairings from.

The game's afoot! Sitting arrangements alternated between most things between sofas and empty beer kegs. In other places at the location, people played on most things between bar tables and a pingpong table. Chaos Orb flips were supposedly hard to reach at the pingpong table ;)
Island of Wak-Wak and Gaea's Avenger looking good against Serendib Efreet.
First game of the day. Drinking Deadguy Ale and attacking with Serras and Sengirs. Feeling good.
Ninth-time n00bcon player Sveby with Eureka versus third-time Russian player Constantine with TwiddleVault. Crazy games.
Among the stranger binder pages. Altered blackbordered power, BB duals, and Sorrows Path. The trick is to have the cheaper cards closest to the D-rings, so they shield most of the damage you get from keeping the cards these kind of binders ;)
A good third or so of all the completed Ultra Pro Puzzles in the world. I got the chance to flip my entire Orb puzzle on an entire Lotus puzzle. Achievement unlocked.
Øyann versus Tall Steve. In the background we see our glorious commentators Yespair and Elof.
Steve's deck. A glorious Living Plane/Drop of Honey/Prodigal Sorcerer pile.
The UK team; Steve, Ben, Jonas and Karl
Representing! Karl is a properly built man, but looks kinda tiny in comparison to the Hill Giants of the Kingdom.
Random prize for the highest placing Brit. Couldn't find a proper Hill Giant, so I went Garfield Alter on a similar card.

Robin "Hagelpump" relaxing between rounds. His ninth year at the tournament.
Super friendly Andrea Braida from Italy showing who's the boss. Shivan Dragon, that's who.

A true expert on playing Magic on a computer, Gregory from Switzerland won the Skype group invite. He just found an Easter Egg with the "Shandalar" game for his accomplishments.

I myself got this fantastic Beta Braingeyser alter from Constantine and Shelest from Russia. Thanks a lot guys, you rock! This will see a lot of play :)
William from Mindstage set up an impromptu shop for those needing to round out their decks during the weekend. He also help out a lot with the score keeping. Thanks man!
Though some cards had better grading than others ;)

I got to play a feature match against Danny Friedman and his sweet Millstone deck. Circle of Protection: Black doing a lot of work!
Danny also found an Easter Egg, this one with four Ashnod's Coupons that could get free drinks throughout the tournament (and could be cast from outside the game during matches). Other Easter Eggs btw contained stuff like a Legends booster and a Pre-Alpha playtest card.
Paddan's first turn Erhnam is sufficiently matched by my first turn Juzam. Note the gentleman's agreement of leaving out Mind Twist and LoA from our decks ;) Also note the sick championship play may!
Bad quality pic, but you get the idea. The mats are inspired by early Khalsa-Brain mats; the guys who made the first ever play mats and the play mats for Magic World Championships in the later half of the 90s. They are completely hand made; the art is hand drawn and then hand printed, the mats are hand cut from top quality cloth. Around 50 were made total by co-founder of the format Kalle Nord, but we didn't manage to cut them all up in time for the tournament. So if you played at n00bcon 9 and want one but didn't manage to find it, find Kalle on Facebook and he might be able to set you up. They are made to be exclusive and the few made are only for sale to people who competed in the tournament. The price is around €50 (which was the cost to make one). They are awesome.
Speaking of top-notch cloth, Danny and Shane shows how to represent the Lords of the Pit from Chicago.
Fransesc representing the Saint Feliu de Llobregat comunity in Spain. Dude also made sweet 5/5 djinn tokens for all the participants at the tournament :D
Fransesc's sweet deck.

Shark-winner Robert Schram seems certain on an impending victory.

All Hallow's Eve looking good.
Death by a thousand pings. Or at least 20.
Some players prefer it less subtle ;)
The Italian players printed out an oversized plane ticket and gave free airfare to Fishliver Oil cup in Linguria to the eventual champion. If you have the chance to join the Fishliver Oil cup in Italy this autumn, I can't recommend it enough. Awesome gathering :)
A lot of cards changed hands during the gathering, and crazy trades were all over. Here's a guy from Norway upgrading five power cards from Unlimited to Beta in a single transaction.
It is rare to have an Alpha Lotus being outshined, but of the three on this table, the one on the right is simply next level. Three signs (two Rush, one Garfield) and an awesome Ishan's Shade alter by the late master Rush to complete the awesomeness. Of the 10+ Alpha Lotuses seen at the tournament, this one won ;)
Another one of the alluring flowers was seen in this great pile. It's an Alpha-only deck, probably the only deck in the tournament that could be completed already in the summer of 93. And it went 4-3, winning record!
Sengir Vampire's second ability actually matters when opponent plays Flying Men and Chain Lightning.
n00bcon 3 winner Viktor "Oldschool" Peterson getting beaten down by a Preacher. Still keeps that winning smile :)
The Lestree Pose.
Alpha-deck player Montag, David Chambers of New Zeeland, n00bcon 8 winner Martin Berlin, and n00bcon 6 winner Christoffer "Stalin" Andersson. Good people.
Good times in the trading/heavy drinking area.
Megu's sick blinged-out MonoBlack deck. Everything that can be Alpha is Alpha.
Round seven. Still around 97 players standing ;)
Yeah, so how many Amy Weber altered Alpha Time Walks has anyone seen? Some of the German players had collections that just blew me away.
The 2016/2017 Rookie of the Year, Arvika Shark winner Andreas Cermak! Thanks a bunch for the Mtg Poker Chips btw :)
Stalin in the bar still keeping the fort. A few of the bartenders had an 18 hour shift. Well played!
While the top8 has started elsewhere, a bunch of hardcore players starts Hövveturneringen ("The main tournament"). Single elimination, one round, last person standing.
This year the glorious Rukh Egg of Hövveturneringen was picked up by the 15/16 Rookie of the Year Thomas Nilsen of Norway.

Some casual playing with Jonas from the UK while waiting for the finals to start. He didn't dare to play for Ante as he had borrowed a bunch of cards in his deck. Jokes on him, as he won the game and would have been a Summer Mishra's Factory richer otherwise ;)
It's time. For all the marbles.
Icelander picking up his fifth n00bcon top8 and second final appearance in the last three years. Facing of against Hashi, a top skilled casual player from Växjö.
The final was a truly great game of Magic. The crowd couldn't hold the applause when Hashi deployed a Nightmare through Icelander's defenses.
After three tight games with impressive spell slinging, the Dark Side emerges victorious! Congratulations to the new World Champion: Kristoffer "Hashi" Arlefur! Awesome played man!
The winning deck of the 2017 Old School Mtg World Championship: Hashi's Disaster.
Finally, I want to express my gratitude again to all of you who came and made this the largest and most represented Old School event ever! Hope to see a bunch of you next year. The rest of the top8 lists will be posted in the not to distant future. And if anyone else would be interested in posting a report of the event, I'd be very happy to host them as always.