tisdag 1 september 2015

Pimpvitational 14/15

Elitist? Yeah, I guess. You're not entitled to play with any card you want. Some people will have more expensive cards than you. Though it's like saying that the roads are exclusive and only for the rich just because some people drive a Tesla while others have a Ford. It's not the roads' fault. You are not entitled to a Tesla just because someone else saved up for one. 93/94 were never meant to be something like the next EDH, or to be mainstream. If you feel that you must get first to the destination and drive the best car, this is not the road for you. It was never meant for you. If you're driving for the leisure, enjoy the view and like the company of the other drivers, come join! Some players may have spent years and thousands of dollars on their equipment. If you want to, you can do that to. If you don't want to, accept that some cars will probably run faster than yours. If you're a skillful driver, you might get ahead anyway.

Exclusive? Hm. Anyone who wants gets to play. We don't event promote winning with valuable prices for the higher finishers. The tournament fee is never more than to cover the expenses for the organizer. The cards you have in your deck will never rotate nor become obsolete here. You can build a deck for peanuts and come to play and have a beer in our tournaments. If you want to build the first deck I played in the format, and use Unlimited cards, you can buy the whole 60-card pile from CardKingdom right now for $48.68. People who rather spend $80 on a set of Deathmist Raptors for Standard and still feel they should get to play an optimized deck with Power and duals without commitment and time, this is simply not their format. People who enjoy the game for the game and the beauty of old cards are always welcome.

That is mostly the truth. But among all the public roads, there is a private one. The tournament where only a handful people are invited, where the top old school players battle for glory and bragging rights. Eight players, all of whom with the skills to spike a tournament. Eight decks, each with a simply ridiculous price tag. This is the tournament for haters to hate, where elitism meets exclusivity, and where all the complaints are justifed. This is Pimpvitational.
Got nine problems but Power ain't one.
Following the tradition of the old DCI Invitational tournaments, the Pimpvitational uses slightly different formats than usual. Last time, we played with Fallen Empires. This year, the format was 93/94 Highlander, with Library of Alexandria banned and no more than nine cards from the restricted list allowed in each deck. 60-card decks, no sideboard. When I arrived at the site, I compared my restricted cards with those of last year's BSK winner and nn00bcon finalist Robin "Hagelpump" Lundberg.
No surprise that Robin would go for Shivan rather than Serra.
Very similar cards. We only changed color of one mox, and Robin opted for Braingeyser over Black Lotus. The reason might be that Robin's Beta Lotus is incased in a plastic prison, and he hasn't opted to free it yet. Though I must say, the Lotus was by no means an autoinclude for me. It is obviously great, yes, but it's uncertain if it's better than the Geyser in the format. At least for me, four out of five times I drew my Lotus in the tournament I'd rather have had the Braingeyser. The nine cards chosen by the field looked pretty similar, though with a few surprises:
Just add three Mahamothi Djinn and you can build a rad 75-card casual deck. Unless you'd rather build a house.
The only card used by all eight players was Ancestral Recall, which was the MVP of the tournament. Seven players opted for Sol Ring and Mox Sapphire. Six each went for Black Lotus and Time Walk. Five players took the Braingeyser, and four each went for Demonic Tutor and Mind Twist. Then there was a handful of non-blue Moxen, Chaos Orbs, Mana Drains and Balances. Among the more unconventional choices we have cards like Regrowth, Mishra's Workshop, Recall, Wheel of Fortune and Black Vise. The only P9 card not represented in any list was Mox Emerald. Ain't easy being green.

This was my list:
Turn 3 Phantom Monster of a mox is crazy sweet. Also, Moat!
The Prodigal Sorcerer might not be the best creature in the format, but it kills Preachers and Archaeologists while providing a solid intimidation factor showing that I won the WSK tournament. Not as imtimidating as the Sharks played by Elof, Stalin and Robin though.
Stalin vs Elof. Stalin managed to kill Elof's Shark and then attack him for 16 with his own :)
As for deck design, I figured that the format would be kind of random with all the one-ofs, and that players would generally have to win with creatures. So I simply took all the solid flyers in the format alongside Clone and the Doppelganger, added a bunch of creature removal (Terror, Swords, Paralyze, Preacher, King Suleiman, Control Magic, Moat, etc), and 29 mana sources. UWB Skies. If I would get to drop a four-power flier on turn 3, 4 and 5, it would be hard to have an answer to all of them. Hence my focus on the restricted cards were fast mana; five Solomoxen, two blue Power cards, Mind Twist and Demonic Tutor (awesome in highlander). It worked pretty well. In retrospect, I should probably have cut either Lotus or Mind Twist for Braingeyser though. Card draw was even better than usual in this format, and the card I lost to the most was by far Ancestral Recall.
Pimpvitional players. Standing: Hagelpum, Mg, Felipe, Elof, Freespace and Sehl. Sitting: Stalin and Jenny.
In the end I went 4-3 for a quadruple tie on second most match wins, had a few double IPAs and a couple of Imperial Porters, and eventually bowed down to Elof Gottfridson who only lost a single match during the day. Elof has now won pretty much everything there is to win in the format; n00bcon, BSK, Pimpvitational and Huvudturneringen (alongside a bunch of other smaller tournaments). Looking forward to a tournament report. He's clearly a very lucky guy.
Our local Mark Justice.
Freespace took pictures of all the decks and will hopefully provide player profiles and deck techs in the near future. Until then, here's a video of a Norwegian doing good deeds (or blasphemous, depending on who you ask):

onsdag 26 augusti 2015

A Randy Deck

Last weekend Jason Jaco and the guys at Eternal Central hosted a major Old School tournament in Philadelphia. 54 players came to battle, including a couple of guys from Norway who visted Philly to sling cards at the Vintage and Legacy championships at Eternal Weekend.

The EC players have a few local rules that sets them apart from the current meta in Sweden and most of Europe. Cards like Strip Mine, Black Vise and Fork are free to run as 4-ofs, Fallen Empires is a legal set with the Hymn being unrestricted, Mana Burn is enforced, Power cards are more abundant with the CE/IE proxies legal, and Winter Orb has errata stating that it gets "shut down" when tapped. So which decks would end up on top?

One could argue for monoblack. It's a tier1 deck that consistently shows up at the top tables at our larger tournaments, even though it's usually only played by a small part of the field. When adding 4 Hymns, 4 Strip Mines and additional pump knights, it could be a real juggernaut.

One could argue for monored, or sligh. At the 12/13 Pimpvitational tournament, where we had Fallen Empires legal (but with Hymn restricted), my plan was to play Goblins. There's just so little life gain in the format, and 4 Bolts, 4 Chain Lightnings and additional red burn goes a long way. Adding 4 Goblin Grenades and a bunch of solid Goblins could push it into tier1 territory.

Maybe prison? With the Winter Orb errata and 4-off Vises, prison looks even stronger. Nether Void won the Mindstage tournament in Sweden earlier this year, and here it has more toys. Or the Fork Recursion deck? A Power Artifact deck?
A Black Lotus deck?
Not if one the most famous card drawers from 90s Magic gets to have a say. After the reign of Brian Weissman as the "world's foremost control player", in the later third of the 90s many agree that those reigns was passed to Randy Beuhler. Randy invented decks like CMU Blue and Draw Go (a deck with 21 counters, 4 Disks, some card draw and a Rainbow Efreet). He had pretty short career, after winning rookie of the year the 97/98 season, winning PT Chicago and top8ing a little over half a doozen GPs, he was recruited by WotC in 2000 and not allowed to play sanctioned events anymore. At Wizards he was, among other things, tasked to test out cards to help and avoid a new Combo Winter. He became lead developer of Magic in the summer of 2001, and got inducted in the Magic Hall of Fame in 2007, his first year of eligibility. These days he's pretty known for his coverage at the Pro Tour as well as his relentless promotion of the Vintage format and historical decks, including creating the Vintage Super League (VSL) and the Gauntlet of Greatness.
The "fair" Mind Twist. Random fact: Randy Beuhler has worked on a free-to-play online game called Mind Twist with Skaff Elias and Richard Garfield. I guess it would give even worse associations if they had called it "First turn LoA" though.
Now the internet is a sweet place. In 1994, I would have had to try and digest Randy's winning decklist from Philly myself for a while, had I even gotten my hands on it, and then eventually maybe print something about it in a fanzine. In a few weeks a handful of people in my local area would know my thoughts on the deck. Now, 21 years later, I have the opportunity to find Randy himself on the web to get some info, and I can post it for a global community for free. Good work Tim Breners-Lee! And thanks a lot for the quick replies to my rambling questions Randy!

It was no surprise that Randy would be a force to reckon with in the EC tournament. Nor was it a surprise that he would play control. The deck of choice was, well, The Deck. Was e.g. monoblue Draw Go a possiblity for kicks? Randy worked on a few different ideas before settling on the boogeyman of the mid 90s. "I always suspected I would play a version of The Deck, though I did also sketch out a Stasis deck, a Workshop deck, and a combo deck", Randy explains. "There aren't anywhere near enough counterspells in the format to play mono-blue, plus Nevy's Disks would mean you can't play with Moxen and that's a lot to give up."
Randy Beuhler's The Deck (EC restrictions).
There are some interesting choices with this build of The Deck. While most of the more recent builds of The Deck over here feautures 3-4 Books and 0-1 Scepters, Randy opted for the 2-2 split. He also went all in with 4 copies of The Abyss between his maindeck and sideboard. "Tomes and Scepters both seem great to me and I would want 1 of each before I ever wanted a 2nd of either so I felt quite good about 2 & 2. Obviously I get to upgrade one now into my prize, but I don't think I will change away from 2 & 2. (Mostly I just need to track down some black-bordered Scepters.)"
The spoils of victory.
"I probably had one anti-creature spell too many. I think Abyss #3 cold start in the sideboard instead of the main deck (and I don't know that I need access to a 4th). I would probably replace it with a 30th mana source (probably a Volcanic island as I struggled to cast both Counterspell and Red Elemental Blast during the vent, especially both on the same turn). Oh, I also need to think about Fellwar Stones. If it wasn't for Energy Flux I would definitely want them ... They're probably good even with that card in existence."
Randy Beuhler masterfully flipping the Orb vs. Stephen Menedian in the semis.
The Factory wincon looked a little scary with the 4-off Strip Mines legal. Randy talked about why he went for the Factory/Abyss combination rather than e.g. Serra/Moat. "It's true that Strip makes that a little scary, but don't forget I can get them back with Regrowth and Recall.", Randy explains. "In practice I draw so many more cards than my opponent, and reduce them to zero cards in hand so often that actually winning the game isn't hard once I'm in control of it."

"I like Abyss more than Moat because I think Mishra's Factories are awesome. They give you 4 lands (for fueling Tomes and Scepters) that also do other things when you have plenty of mana. Also, when you Scepter lock someone they can still point a top-decked Plow at your Serra Angel whereas you get to make them discard it before they can kill you Factory. Plus, i expected to face a lot of Serendib Efreets (and was right). Abyss is obviously way better against them."

"I definitely plan to play again! Hopefully there will be something local to me before next year, but if not I'll at least turn up at Eternal Weekend and attempt to defend my title."

If you want some more in-depth tech, here's a sweet video where Randy talks about his deck with Bob Maher:
You know what? It's damn fun to see how legendary players from the 90s like Olle Råde, Sean O'Brien and Randy Beuhler comes to show their skills with old cards. I'd like to see how the expert The Deck players in Sweden, like Jocke Almelund, Elof and Kalle Nord, would stack up against Randy's experience and tech. Hopefully a few of us will get the chance to battle in Philadelphia some time in the coming years :)
But before that, Europe. Maybe not this one, but at least for Nebraska War in December.
In other corners of the world, the Simone Esposito of Italy just posted a sweet article about the format and the gowth of the Italian (and international) scene during the last year at http://www.metagame.it/magic/42-italiano/2407-old-school-mtg-tempo-di-fare-chiarezza.html. It's in Italian, but easily worth a google translate if you dont speak the language.

torsdag 20 augusti 2015

Thursday rant

Those last two posts with Danish tech are hard to follow up! Very entertaining and innovative decks. It's nice to see how other local groups approach the format. I think that Hans and his playgroup are the only ones who actually puts even more constraints on legal sets and cards than us, with their ban on P9 + LoA. The Norweigian players, who are hosting the first tournament in Moss in six weeks, go for the standard Swedish approach. A few other groups in Europe, including many of the Italian, French and German players, allow Revised and in some cases Renaissance and Chronicles. The main difference between the groups outside of the US is however if the allow Revised or not. E.g. the Russians stop at Unlimited like us, while e.g. the Australians have a very open reprint policy.
Russian tech, UG aggro vs. Brw Control. Watch it!

 Australian tech, Eel vs. Monoblack.

Yep, there's a 93/94 scene in Australia :) They hosted their first tournament at their yearly Eternal Weekend, and plan to run the next one the day before GP Sydney this year.

In the US, things looks a little more complicated. Different groups have different approaches on not only Revised and Chronicles, but on Fallen Empires, the B&R list, local rules and errata, and how to approach proxies (no proxies, CE/IE proxies, or anything goes). This is pretty much in line with how different playgroups approached Magic in 1994 though ;)
I guess it makes it a little harder to tech for different tournaments across the states. It doesn't seem to discourage people that much though; there are close to 50 players signed up for the Eternal Central Old School Tournament this weekend. It is one of the largest Old School tournaments ever, at this point second only to n00bcon. Very impressive, and I hope the ones of you going will have a great time. Just remember to practice flipping Chaos Orbs at different stages of inebriation before the tournament. It sucks when you realize that you can't hit water in a thunderstorm after the third round in the swiss.

As for a uniform list of rules and B&R, I don't think trying to enforce unity in the rules is that necessary. Though I like to have a common ground to stand on, house rules are about as old school as it gets. If you're playing expensive old cards with good people, have a beer in proximity, and are having a good time, you're doing it right.
Legalizing Black Vise does have its perks. Like being able to play old school Stax.
So what about the original B&R from October 1994? Well, if we'd use that, I strongly suspect that a modern interpretation of Maysonett Balance would be the highly opressive tier1, The Deck with 4-off Mana Drain would be a decent tier2, and everyone else would have a really bad time. With Underworld Dreams and Berserk restricted it would be even harder for any non-control decks to catch the occasional win. The format is a replica of Magic in 1994, not a copy, and having fun is more important than being completely historically accurate. As for accurate B&R-lists btw, there were no less than seven different B&R-lists in 1994, and this was at a time before the general public had access to the internet. Knowing which cards were restricted at what time and place was definitly not for everyone.

As for playing with the original rules and B&R from 1994, it can easily get weird quickly. I have written a little bit about the original rules here, and how timing changed between 1993-1999 here. But there are implications even with small changes. Take mana burn for example, which might be the most debated rule to bring back. We don't use it here mostly to avoid confusion and have a solid set of rules. There are a few rules from back when I really like personally (Damage prevention step is sweet, e.g. making Manabarbs shut down circle red is great for monored; and I really enjoy the old rules for face down creatures with Illusionary Mask). Mana burn very rarely comes up, and it is rare that it has an impact. It makes Mirror Universe better and Su-Chi worse, but that's close to it. The impact on Mana Drain has been pretty much neglible from my experience.
It is not enough to make this card even remotely fair.
So if it's almost neglible and some players like it, why don't use it? Well, it can get pretty confusing for a very small return in game play value. If we look at the old rules for mana burn, they state that "When a phase ends (but not a step), any unused mana left in a player’s mana pool is lost. That player loses 1 life for each one mana lost this way. This is called mana burn. Mana burn is loss of life, not damage, so it can’t be prevented or altered by effects that affect damage.".

So Su-Chi then. Before sixth edition rules, combat was not an own phase but a part of the main phase. If Su-Chi dies in combat should we use the combat rules from 1999 to handle it (so we can't use the mana in our second main), or should we say that combat is not a phase anymore, so we can use the mana but get burned if we don't? What about upkeep? Mana didn't burn until the main phase as upkeep is step in the beginning phase (along with untap and draw). Should mana stay until draw? That have some implications for using e.g. Icy Manipulator on a land in upkeep, in particular if there's something like a tapped Mana Vault in play. The easiest answer to that question is probably to play 93/94 magic with 2015 rules with the exception of using mana burn from 1999 with phases and steps emptying from the 2010 rules change? Whichever way you look at it, unless we go back to the original turn structure, something will be a little "off" with mana burn, or at least how mana stays between steps. It's most certainly possible to create a solid modern interpretation of mana burn, but for us the current rules worked best to avoid picking different rules from different times to try and create an "intuitive" version of it.

What else? The big one is the Eternal Weekend tournament in a couple of days. The weekend after that though, it's finally time for Pimpvitational again. My deck is finished, and I really enjoy just looking at it. It might not be the best deck in the history of the game, but it is one of the sweetest ones I've played. I wont show to much in order to not spoil any tech, but these are a few of the things we might expect in nine days.

Berserk on Riven. Now that's an achievement.

If anyone who attends the Eternal Weekend Old School tournament would like to write a short report about it, I'd love to post it here. Now go and check out the youtube videos at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QdD4YwxOB0 for some inspiration.

lördag 15 augusti 2015

Danish brews, part II

Let's continue with some more sweet tech from Hans Henrik Rasmussen. If you missed it, you'll find the first part here. Enjoy! /Mg

Old School Lands
We don’t have a lot of toys for a lands deck, but we have Fastbond which is a lot by itself. Also, this deck includes the coolest win combo I’ve ever discovered: Hazezon Tamar plus Karakas which works in a very odd way. Hazezon Tamar comes into play with a trigger, but a so-called “delayed trigger”, so if you play him and then bounce him with Karakas the trigger is still there and will be resolved during your next upkeep where you get a bunch of sand warriors with no danger of them being removed in one swoop by your opponent removing Hazezon (since he is already gone). When your sand warriors have dwindled in number you can then replay Hazezon and do the trick again to make a new bunch.
Old School Lands
The second advantage of playing a lot of lands is that Nevinyrral’s Disk can be used quite effectively. It’s too bad that Mishra’s Factory is good in almost all decks, otherwise Lands would really have something going for it, but it is still a fun deck to try.

Desert is quite good and Desert with Candelabra is excellent. Island of Wak-Wak as the less good Maze of Ith of course needs to be included, and the Drop of Honey Living Plane combo is also a good option. And of course we need Tabernacle though it doesn’t combo too well with Hazezon (still it isn’t that bad to have to tap out if you’ve got enough tokens to win).

Consecrate Land fits the theme and works very well on a Mishra’s Factory or in case you want to preserve your Maze of Ith or something similar.

A fun start is Turn 1: Fastbond, Lands, Wheel of Fortune, More Lands – Turn 2: Hazezon Tamar with Karakas – Turn 3: sand warriors en masse.

The sideboard has a lot of cards against control: 2 Sylvan Library, 1 Greed, 1 Tsunami and 3 REB as well as 1 Wrath and 2 StP against creature decks and finally some massive tech against land destruction in Equinox and Pyramids.

A note about Hazezon Tamar: I’ve also played him in another deck that seeks to take full advantage of the tokens, playing 3 Hazezon, 4 Gauntlet of Might, 3 Jacques le Vert to pump them as well as 4 Kird Ape and 4 Scarwood Goblins (which are also pumped by both le Vert and Gauntlet). It really wasn’t that hard to get something like 8 3/5s on board.

And another note: I’m right now toying with both a Lands deck featuring Ley Druid to have even more Maze-Desert-Island of Wak-Wak untapping as well as a Lands deck featuring Sindbad/Sylvan Library/Field of Dreams/Millstone as the draw engine (milling your opponent with Field of Dreams in play feels very much like fate sealing with Jace the Mind Sculptor, except way better) – perhaps more on these later.

Old School Goblins
Even back in 93/94 there were some very decent Goblins available. Our house rule of letting the Alpha Orcish Oriflamme have a casting cost of 1R doesn’t hurt of course.
Old School Goblins
The main trick here is including 3 Pendelhaven to have something to pump all of your 1/1s in case you don’t get an anthem effect going (remember to pump before you attack if you have an Orcish Oriflamme in play). And splashing green also gives you access to perhaps the best Goblin (or at least second to Balloon Brigade) in Scarwood Goblins. The lone Blood Moon is nice to make Goblins of the Flarg unblockable (most likely more Blood Moons main deck would be better but remember Old School is about style, not winning!). Late game Fireballs can get pretty big with a couple of Gauntlets in play.

The sideboard is usual stuff but worth highlighting is the Hurricane which doesn’t hurt your creatures and can also be used to finish of the opponent (I’ve often played one main deck) and green allows for Tranquility which takes care of especially COP: Red, Moat and Control Magic on Goblin King. Also, against decks with few, big creatures Raging River is an all-star letting you bypass a big blocker.

MonoWhite Suleiman
This one is janky! Certainly not the best deck ever, but if the coins flip your way anything is possible. The main combo is Bottle of Suleiman with either COP: Artifacts or Martyrs of Korlis to prevent the damage. Argothian Archaeologist brings back the bottle for another flip. Ashnod’s Transmogrant is pretty fun in that it can both make a turn 1 Savannah Lion into a sizable early threat and also play defense by turning an opponent’s creature into an artifact and then letting you use COP: Artifacts on it or tap it with Relic Barrier. The Urza Lands feed all of these shenanigans and if everything goes well, you can make several 5/5 Djinns per turn. Or at least loose several coin flips per turn!
MonoWhite Suleiman
Maybe Angelic Voices has a place in here. A version splashing green could add Argothian Pixies which could block everything Ashod’s transmogrant has … transmogranted? And also Titania’s Song to make the bottles attack on their own.

The sideboard has some tech in Reverse Polarity (Reverse Damage is even better though less on theme) and Armageddon Clock, more creature hate and more card draw versus control.

I got a little carried away and made a token using a picture from another card as the Djinn:
Djinn tokens
Well, that’s all for now. For an eventual Part 2, aside from those mentioned above, I’ve got decks featuring Eureka, Land Equilibrium, Tron Decks in each color, Aladdin’s Lamp, Leviathan(!) with Halfdane, The awesome Guardian Beast-Life Matrix-Nevinyrral’s Disk-combo, Living Lands, Obelisk of Undoing/Stasis, Rukh Egg/Drop of Honey/Disk/Kabal Ghoul, Serendib Djinn/Land Tax etc. (oh and discard – The Rack/Storm World are really very good cards).

Any and all questions are welcome. Thanks for reading and have fun (if you’re not having fun, you’re probably playing some other format)!


måndag 10 augusti 2015

Danish brews, part I

Today we have a special treat! Hans Henrik Rasmussen started playing Magic around Antiquities, and a couple of years ago he was the first Danish player to contact me about 93/94. Since then he has been brewing a lot. His playgroup has a few house rules, but all the decks are legal within "official" 93/94 rules as well. I think they look awesome, and I hope I get the chance to see them in action some day! Enjoy! /Mg

So, for the last I don’t know how many months, I’ve thought about sending you some Danish tech – since I, exactly like Elof, make a constant stream of decks that I think others could get some fun out of seeing – and of course when I saw his post on your blog recently, I just had to finally get this thing done (and I’m thinking the more deck lists the merrier!).

And with the Danish summer being even more disappointing than usual, I will send you a bunch here while I have the time to do it. Another reason for my wanting to send you this, is also that I really, really appreciate your work, and I thought that you deserved a little free content so that you could take a week off :)

I will cover what I think is relevant about each deck and then people can ask if there is anything that is unclear. I know that I myself am always most interested in seeing the list.

First, I just want to make a few notes about our few house rules over here.
  • No Power 10 (gasp!): We played Type 1 for years back then so we know how good it feels to play a Time Walk, an Ancestral Recall or a first turn Lotus, but our reasons for not playing these are as follows: 
    • We sold our power cards long ago (not that it is only a budget issue, though I would probably be lying if I said I would leave them in the binder if I still had them).
    • The fun, I think, in playing Old School is not in casting the very best cards ever made, but in casting Gauntlet of Might and growing my Goblin Balloon Brigade flying it over my opponent’s Kird Ape, stealing my opponent’s beta Hypnotic Specter with an Old Man of the Sea or reanimating a Colossus of Sardia.
    • Much as you pointed out in your recent post about removing Library of Alexandria, some of these cards really don’t make for interesting games, but are just too swingy.
    • With these cards available, deck space becomes way more limited as the list of must-includes grow, and the option of adding blue to every deck becomes very hard to ignore.
  • Alpha editions of Orcish Oriflamme and Orcish Artillery have the casting cost printed on the cards: Why not make two pretty unplayable cards into two good, but in no way broken, cards?
Well, on to the decks!

UR Ali (Ali boma ye)
I have made many lists featuring Ali from Cairo, and this is probably the most basic a.k.a. less janky one. It is a lot about not having the combo pieces that aren’t any good by themselves stuck in your hand while waiting for Ali, and also a lot of times Ali doesn’t do anything since your life total aren’t that low, so this list is also about insuring that you are using your life points as a resource.
Ali boma ye
The 2 Spectral Cloak and the Jade Monolith plus 2 Transmute Artifact gives you a good chance of assembling the combo without over committing. Really, the best combo is Ali from Cairo plus counterspells.

Orcish Artillery is great here and I could see adding a third, but it does get a bit suicidal sometimes so 2 are good for now – also since I want to keep all 4 Electric Eel which sometimes aren’t that impressive but which also are able to build the early pressure that makes an opponent have to dedicate resources that frees you up to assembling the combo (more specifically use his Lightning Bolts and Swords to Plowshares so that he doesn’t do it in response to you playing Spectral Shield on Ali) – and then win whenever down the road (Braingeyser or Bolts à Recall à More Bolts are ways of doing this if your opponent has had his creature defense set up).

No room for Mishra’s Factories since you need both RR and UU (and really, UUUU to cast Spectral Shield with Counterspell backup) reliably.

Maybe the Forcefield in the main should trade places with the Mirror Universe in the board.

The sideboarded Dwarven Demolition Team is obviously to crush the numerous Wall decks. Mountain Yeti is great against White Weenie and also lets you win through your opponents defenses if he has a Mountain out (or you’ve played a Blood Moon). Cyclopean Tomb, Disrupting Scepter and Mirror Universe all take advantage of the 2 Transmute Artifact in the main.

Note: Having been on both sides of the Ali combo, I can attest to the fact that it is extremely frustrating to play against for an unprepared opponent (meaning one without Disk, Earthquake, Wrath etc.), so bring a second deck!

Power Colossus
As shown with both this deck and the one below, I am a huge fan of your recent unrestrictions and have built a lot of decks using the new combos. This one I like a lot since it combines several powerful combos while still having few cards that are useless on their own.
Power Colossus
Transmute Artifact is an obvious choice for the Power Monolith combo, but what is maybe not quite as obvious is that it can act as an Entomb for the 2 Colossus of Sardia. You simply neglect to pay the difference in casting cost and then Colossus goes to the graveyard where you can then fetch it with Animate Dead. And should a Colossus be stuck in your hand it is also a fine win condition when you have the combo out as you can easily both play and untap it. Also, remember that you can chain Colossusses (Colossi?), so that if you reanimate one, you can attack with it and then transmute it into another to avoid the untap cost. Basalt Monolith can be sacked to Transmute Artifact and besides isn’t a terrible card to speed up a Fireball or a Mirror Universe, and Power Artifact can be used on Jayemdae Tome and Disrupting Scepter to good effect. Especially on Jayemdae Tome it is surprisingly good. I’ve only included 3 Monolith since the space is tight, and it can be fetched with Transmute Artifact.

Sometimes the Power Monolith combo will just be there, and sometimes the Colossus Animate Dead combo will – if you have neither Power Artifact or Animate Dead in hand you should probably hold on to that Transmute Artifact.

Guardian Beasts in the sideboard are to enable the Chaos Orb combo when that seems a good option (with Transmute Artifact to fetch the Orb) or combo with Rocket Launcher or just to protect against artifact destruction in post-board games. Greed is awesome against any deck that doesn’t attack your life total and the rest is basic stuff.

Some of the other lists I’ve fooled around with have used Dragon Engine and Carrion Ants as the kill and foregoing red and Fireballs, and I could see maybe sideboarding 2-3 of the former if you need to apply a little pressure in some matchups or just have a decent blocker that can become win condition. It works with Power Artifact too… But still, Fireball is probably too good a card not to include.

I would like to add 1 Copy Artifact if I could find the room.

MonoGreen Mirror
Inspired by Magnus’s MonoGreen and the unrestriction of Mirror Universe, this deck is based on the many green cards that work well with the Mirror: Sylvan Library, Ifh-Biff Efreet and Force of Nature. Especially the last one can be ridiculous if you start a turn by letting the Force of Nature trigger give you 8 damage and then sacrifice the Mirror to instead make the opponent suffer the 8 damage after which you attack with the Force putting him down up to another 8 (depending on how much he is able to put in front of it). Best case, that’s 16 in one go. Finally, Channel is acting as Gaea’s Touch number 4 since it also synergizes well with Mirror Universe. I’ve thought about adding Wormwood Treefolk instead of Craw Wurms to have even more self-damage and also lower the curve a bit, but I like having the possibility of playing a turn 3 Wurm.
Monogreen Mirror.
The deck can play out both pretty controlling, having a total of 9 land destruction cards (4 Ice Storms, 3 Desert Twister, Strip Mine and Chaos Orb) as well as 2 Icy Manipulators and the 2 Scavenger Folk, and can also take the aggro route with a fast big creature, or just a Llanowar Elves followed by Ifh-Biff Efreet which can deal 5 a turn on its own.

The sideboard is just basic stuff, but I have also toyed with an alternate, transformational sideboard which looks like this. 
Alternative sideboard
Playing Eureka turn 2 (turn 1 Llanowar Elves, turn 2 Gaea’s Touch plus extra land and then sacrifice Touch) and then putting for example Mirror Universe and Book of Rass into play is quite fun, and adding Titania’s Song doesn’t make it any less so. Or a turn 3 Eureka with Craw Wurm, Ifh-Biff Efreet and Icy Manipulator.

Any and all questions are welcome. Thanks for reading and have fun (if you’re not having fun, you’re probably playing some other format)!


(That's not all from Hans! He sent me no less than six lists, also including Old School Lands, Goblins, and Monowhite Sulieman. I'll post the rest of the lists by the end of the week to avoid tech overload in this post :) /Mg)

tisdag 4 augusti 2015

Pimpvitational and Norwegian tech

Good things come to those who act. The date and format for Pimpvitational 14/15 are finally set, and in a few weeks I'll be battling with the finest of the foulest. Characters like n00bcon 6 winner Stalin, BSK winner Hagelpump, Elof, FreeSpace and Sehl will gather in Gothenburg to drink beer and fight for the Pimpwalker Champion title. 
Probably also a Time Walk playmat and a trophy up for grabs.
The format of this year's tournament is 93/94 Highlander (i.e. all cards except basic lands are restricted), with a small twist. A deck cannot contain more than nine cards from the ordinary restricted list, and additionally Library of Alexandria is banned. This means that you could play all the power cards if you want, but then you can't use Demonic Tutor, Balance, Sol Ring, Braingeyser, or any of the other restricted staples. I think that Sol Ring is the clear autoinclude in pretty much all decks, and that Ancestral is an obvious inclusion in any deck playing blue. Other than that, it gets kinda tricky. Is Mana Drain better than an extra mox? Would you play Balance over Maze of Ith? How good is Braingeyser without mana acceleration from jewlery? With only one legal copy of City of Brass, Fellwar Stone and duals of each color, playing more than one or two colors quickly becomes a gamble. A deck like monored goodstuff, sporting less-used cards like Two-Headed Giant of Foriys, Roc of Kher Ridges and the Elementals backed up with burn and some land destruction, could very well be among the top tier decks. There are after all no more than one Swords to Plowshares in each deck.

A sweet thing with the new format is that it gave me an excuse to buy some new cards. I'm currently on a quest to get up to 40/40 duals, and having that on the top of my list leaves very little room for buying other Magic cards. Turns out duals are expensive. But this was a decent enough excuse to get a Moat. And now that I have a Moat, I have a good enough excuse to get a playset of Counterspells so that I eventually can put together The Deck. Playing The Deck in a Magic tournament has to be on some kind of nerd bucket list.
Now I just need a reason to get a playset of these.
The Norwegian 93/94 scene has at least doubled during the summer btw, and today I think there are about eight players with decks in Oslo alone now. A few of them gathered last Sunday to play, but I had to pass as I had some old family friends from the US visiting. Today however I got the chance to meet up with a pair of new faces at Outland, Oslo's prime game store. Great excuse to meet new people.
Tax Edge vs land destruction and Juggernauts.
Trading time.
I had a really nice time playing. Got to do some sweet trades, test out the Tax Edge mirror, and cast a turn three Craw Wurm against land destruction :) Hope to do it again soon.

Of the new Norwegian players, at least one of them will be going to Eternal Weekend in Philadelphia to represent the Scandinavians in the Eternal Central Old School tournament. It looks to be the biggest Old School tournament outside of Sweden yet, with no less than 31 players currently signed up. Among the players represented we have old school ringers like Sean O'Brien, Randy Buehler, Steve Menendian and Roland Chang. I wouldn't mind seeing a match between O'Brien playing prison versus Beuhler playing control. That would be some serious old school. And I have to love any tournament where the entry fee is a six-pack of craft beer. My bet for winner? Well, if David Schooley shows up with his all-Alpha monoblack with clear sleeves, I think he wins by default. The possible out is if someone shows up with a six-pack of Dark Lord stout as their entry fee beer, that would be hard to beat. Last man standing though? Of course our Norwegian countryman Thomas Nielsen will finish on top. He's a former pro player who placed 1st and 2nd in the two last 93/94 tournaments in Sweden and Norway, and his deck will become even more insane with the local Eternal Central rules permitting 4-off Hymn to Tourach and unrestricted Strip Mine. Lets see what the yankees can do about that. The fight is on!
Swedish/Norwegian union Fellwar Stone, altered by Thomas. I would really like to have this for Project M :)
There will also be a Norwegian tournament October 10th in Moss, an hour or so south of Oslo. Two months left to get the decks ready. The event will of course be non-proxy, and the first price looks to be a Moss Monster. There will be beer, and hopefully a gang of Swedes joining in on the fight. Hope to see a bunch of you there!

onsdag 29 juli 2015

Legendary rules

Hm, writers block?
That was a long time since last. It's a kind of odd experience. Now that the blog actually has lots and lots of readers, I feel some new sense of responsibility to actually write something. Lets look in the closet and see if we find something sweet to talk about.
Khalsa Brain mats? Those are sweet indeed, but I already did it. An old school life counter perhaps?
Yeah, that one is definitely coming. Not today though. Should do some more research before. Maybe the first Magic novella from 1994?
I guess I should try to read it first. Also found a Shandalar game. Now that's something. Bought it back in 1997. Only works well on Windows though, and there's currently no computer in my possession running on anything less than Linux. I'll put that in the future-pile as well.

A Legends-booster? Yeah, lets look at the Legends rule card. That could be a lark.
Before we check out the rule card, lets take a quick look at the three uncommons we opened. Kobold Drill Sergeant, Fortified Area and Horror of Horrors. For the trained eye, there are some implications here. We'll never open Mana Drain, Land Tax, Underworld Dreams nor Sylvan Library in a booster from this box. In fact, the only good uncommon we could hope to open here is Karakas. These uncommons are all from the b-sheet.

There have been a lot of complaints regarding the sorting of recent sets like Modern Master 2015 and Magic Origins lately. (Entitled kids with their newfangled tap symbol and shiny booster mapping apps. Back in the days we were lucky if anything less than the entire set was miss-sorted. Instead of foils, we had the occasional card with the correct artist credit. Luxury, we thought.) In any given box of Legends, you'd either open cards from the top half of the uncommon sheet or the bottom of said sheet. The top part, most commonly referred to as the a-sheet, contains almost all of the good uncommons in the set.
Legends uncommon sheet.
This had been sorted out by the release of Italian Legends in 1995. In Italian Legends however, you only got one rule card per display rather than one per pack. This trade-off was deemed satisfactory by most.

So, the rules card. Legends was the first set to introduce new keywords to The Gathering. Though I guess one could argue, with some merit, that Arabian Nights did it first. Cards like Cyclone and El-Hajajj gave us a first peek on what would become frequently used new abilities. But Legends went far deeper, and was the first set to actually introduce new vocabulary. Lets see how the rules stack up in today's New World Order.
Rules card front
Bands with other
This might be the most odd ability in the history of the game. I guess Substance from 2005 might have been weirder. Phasing had it's moment in the sun as well, when it used to trigger "leaves the battlefield" but not "enters the battlefield". Anyways, there are a couple of funny things with bands with other. The main issue is the linguistic implications. For example, if you had a Seafarer's Quay in play, you might assume that your blue legends, whom now have the "Bands with other legends" ability, could band with any other legend. Silly you. A creature with "Bands with other <creature type>" could only form a band with another creature, regardless of type, if that creature had banding or the exact same bands with other ability. E.g. a Goblin and a Zombie that both have "Bands with other Elves" could band together. They could not form a band with an Elf though, unless it also had that same ability.

Unlike normal banding, where up to one creature in an attacking band could join without banding, all the creatures in a bands-with-other band needed to have the ability. Also unlike normal banding, bands with other would only work on the defensive if at least two creatures blocking the same attacking creature had the same bands with other ability. To make things slightly more confusing, any other creatures blocking that same attacker would get to join the defending band, and damage could be distributed between all the blocking creatures of defending players choice. And this was at a time when even normal banding was the cause of headaches.

Icing on the cake? A total of zero creatures have been printed with the ability. There are a cycle of lands that grant the ability to legendary creatures, and the tokens created by master of the hunt have the ability, but as for actual creatures with the keyword, the count is nil. Even so, there are two hoser cards to remove the ability.
Random fact: This is one of very few creatures in the set with a standardized creature type, and it still got creature type errata. It's currently an ouphe.
Rampage, much like Substance, is an ability that has no effect (seriously, substance. 502.49a Substance is a static ability with no effect. That's the actual comp rule.). Rampage was discontinued in Mirage, and never pumped a creature before that. I guess that flanking might be a fixed version of rampage? It was the first new creature keyword, but was still not returned for the Timespiral block. That says a lot about how little impact it had. I guess Wolverine Pack is pretty sweet though. Awesome art and flavor, and a 2/4 for four which can't be double blocked by Knights or Factories could have some merit. I'd still rather have an Erhnam, Iff-Bhiff or a Giant Spider in a four mana green creature, but at the very least it's a slam-dunk first pick in Legends draft. Can't recommend drafting Legends btw.
Also awesome art and Shakespeare flavor.
Multicolored cards
Now we're talking. While a majority of players might not be familiar with Rampage or Bands with other, gold cards still are a major player in the game. It is pretty cool how the Legends design team kept the design space for multicolor cards so open; the only gold cards in the set are legendary creatures. The color pie balance in the cards feels kind of random though. A multicolored card today usually has a connection to the colors of the card, or at the very least show off some rad abilities. In Legends, you instead got stuff like Sivitri Scarzam, a Legendary blue/black Craw Wurm for seven mana. But it's 'A' for effort, and they had already improved it by The Dark with flavorful cards like Dark Heart of the Woods.

Enchant World
World enchantments are awesome. The flavor of changing the setting of the battlefield is sweet, and the strategic implications of the cards are real. If you're playing a black prison deck, would you rather have the battle in a Nether Void or in The Abyss? You can't chose both. I remember a game I played with Tax Edge a few years back. My opponent, GaJol, was down to two life. I had an active Land Tax in play, along with a Serra Angel and a Land's Edge. He had nothing, but The Abyss was waiting at the top of his library. It promptly destroyed my Land's Edge and then forced me to kill the Angel in my next upkeep. Solid topdeck. It is by no means useless that cards like Concordant Crossroads and Field of Dreams can be used to destroy Nether Voids or Storm Worlds. When Olle Råde won the first invitational, his first suggestion for his invitational card was an Enchant World for one mana with no effect, simply to destroy other Enchant Worlds (though I guess he could have designed it with Substance and Rampage for the same effect).
I kind of understand why World Enchantments were removed from the game. They do come with some rules baggage and make the game more complex. A "fixed version" of World Enchantments were introduced in the casual Planechase release, where different plane cards were used to represent where the battle took place. It was pretty fun, but far more random than the old school World Enchantments.

Legends and Legendary Lands:
Gotta love that the rule card has to state that Legendary Lands are treated as lands instead of creatures.

Legendary creatures are interesting in that they are very beloved and popular, but game-play wise simply are creatures with a built-in drawback. When Legends first was released, all legendary creatures where even restricted to keep the flavor at a peak.

The first attempt at the Legendary rule was very different from what we have today. Basically, the first player to get a legend in play got a huge edge. Any new copies of that card entering the battlefield would get destroyed, while the first version would stay in play. During the Combo Winter of 1998, it was not unsusual for e.g. green decks to play Tolarian Academy, even without the artifacts to support it. A first turn Academy of a Crop Rotation would make sure that your opponent couldn't play his or hers and combo off as easily. This legendary rule got particulary troublesome around the time of Mercadian Masques, when Lin-Sivvi rebels was the deck to beat. The first player resolving a Lin-Sivvi in the mirror had an almost insurmountable advantage. The legendary rule was then updated in 2004, with the release of Champions of Kamigawa, to instead destroy all copies of the card in play whenever a new one would enter the battlefield. It was then updated again in 2013 to only trigger of legendary permanents controlled by the same player.
So, all in all, of the five new rules introduced in the Legends rule card, one was discarded immediately, two lingered on for a few years before being discontinued, and two got heavily updated but are still around today as "evergreen" mechanics. I guess that's decent? If we compare it with the track record of Arabian Night's introduction of things like -1/-1 counters, lifelink, cantrips and coin flipping, it looks pretty bad, but most things looks bad compared to AN. Come to think of it, Poison counters were introduced in Legends as well, even though they are not mentioned on the rules card. Like the legendary rule, how cards use poison counters has been changed twice since the inception. First in Time Spiral, with the keyword Poisonous, and then in Scars of Mirrodin with Infect. The solid design but lacking development of many cards and abilities in Legends again shows just how little time the team at WotC had to complete the set. Given an extra month or two of development, I'm certain that e.g. the Mana Batteries would have a mana cost of 2-3 rather than 4.

So, this was easy enough to write. Now I should just try to power my way through the Arena novel.