torsdag 16 mars 2017

n00bcon 9 preparations

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

 -T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

April is approaching, and with it Easter and the Oldschool World Championship. A murder of ragtag jesters and spell slingers gathering in Gothenburg. Whatever it may lack in order and sanction, it makes up for in panache and recklessness. This is oldschool oldschool, the way 93/94 was envisioned. April 14th Rotary Pub hosts the 10th annual Easter gathering in 93/94, and the 9th annual n00bcon. Like most times before, it will be the largest old school Magic tournament held yet.
I've been getting a lot of messages about the how, what and when of the tournament, so I used my l33t h4xxor skills and put up a web page with some info.
Party like it's 1994.
While the page could once upon a time be described as "rad", it isn't super user friendly (no WCAG 2.0), so I'll just recap the most common quandaries here:
  •  n00bcon, despite the "-con" suffix, isn't really a convention in the common sense of the word; it refers to a single championship tournament. However, players will usually gather for impromptu side events at the site after the swiss, and there will be plenty opportunities to play Magic with new faces at other locations throughout the weekend if inclined. I'll update the homepage with side events in other locations in Gothenburg during the weekend as they are announced.
  • The players hail from 14 nationalities and 34 communities. Most of the spots were distributed to tournament organizers in larger communities (for them to with what they liked), plus some extra spots for "small communities" with fewer players. The most representative group is probably Arvika with 11 players. They travelled around and grabbed a bunch of invites from qualification tournaments in other communities ;)
  • The 100 player cut-off is a hard cap, and the spots have been confirmed since December. There are currently over 40 players on the waitlist, so I'm sorry to say that there's little to do if someone realize now that they would like to join this year. It sucks that we can't let in everybody anymore, but it's hard to find a location that can let in more people while still upholding the casual ambience that makes the tournament what it is. (But we did manage to raise the cap from 76 to 100 this year.) Don't hesitate to contact me about the tournament anyway though, as there will always be a next year (and a year after that) :)
  • The tournament follow the baseline rules as described on this blog. E.g. no reprints after Unlimited, fbb cards, nor CE/IE.
  • The prize structure is a Giant Shark for the winner. The "EV" is horrible ;)
So why would anyone want to play this tournament? Well, gathering a bunch of rad people with gnarly cards and tubular beer is bound to be groovy. We play because we like the game and enjoy the company, simple as that.
Some pics and videos from last year.
If you think this looks sweet but didn't get a spot this year, I can recommend checking out e.g. The Ivory Cup in Stockholm in June. It's a fairly large (and growing) tournament that embrace the same values as the n00bcon championship. Or just start hosting something in the underground yourself, community organizers have a big leg up in getting spots here ;)

I'm really looking forward to see a bunch of you guys in a month. This will be the first time I'll get to meet players from e.g. the Spanish and the Dutch 93/94 communities, or battle Italians or UK players on Swedish turf. And it will be great to grab a beer with the returning players from e.g. Russia, USA and Germany again. You make this awesome.

Now check out the n00bcon homepage and then place your bets for the next World Champion!

lördag 11 mars 2017

The Wak-Wak deck library

*Rod Serling voice*

An universal truth for those dabbling in charms: cherish what you believe. Whether you walk in Tolarian cloaks or in goblin caves; imitation is only flattery. It was for the mage herself to scribble the pages of her spellbook, expressing the modus operandi of her conjuring with self reflection.
 

Paint a picture of an atypical librarian. Add a cunning smile, a sharp pressed suit and a glass of fine scotch in hand. The man you see is Gordon Andersson. While submitting that a library of libraries will never offer the unassailable wisdom so often craved, it will perhaps supply perspective. Maybe even inspiration. It is said that every master penman knows the virtues of reading.

Gordon Anderson. A man who built an index for inspiration. This is his story. /Mg out

Hello, is it me you’re looking for?

A few of the cards I with played back then.
My name is Gordon Andersson and maybe you’ve seen that name pop up on the blog here and there the last year. For those who don’t know me, here is a short introduction. I started playing Magic in 1995 when my brother introduced it to me with a 4th edition starter. Even then I was fascinated by the look and feel of the older cards but as many other players around that time I could never get my hands on any as they were near impossible to find.

So when I got the opportunity to play 93/94 a couple of years ago I fell in love instantly. Now I’ve only been playing 93/94 actively for about 2 years and it’s pushed away every other format I used to play. With my friend Daniel “Paddan” Sunhede I organize tournaments and events in Stockholm, Sweden. But I still felt that I wanted to give even more to the community, so last summer I started a “small” project which now can be found on wak-wak.se/decks.

It's five o'clock somewhere

This is from that exact day when I got the idea. By the way, I do not recommend this bourbon.
The idea came to me one afternoon when I sat down on my balcony with a glass of whisky to enjoy one of the few warm and sunny Swedish summer days. I sat with my computer and answered questions from a couple of people who we’re interested in the format. The questions where the same as always; Why isn’t revised legal? Is there a budget deck? Can you play without power? Isn’t just The Deck the best so why play anything else?

My answer was also the same as it always is: ­– “You can build whatever you want to play, so just play the cards you love. There are a bunch of different decks because it’s all about having fun, not just about winning”

This is when I usually sent a link to the “Decks to Beat” section of the Old School Blog but I as it usually only shows the top decks of each event (hence the name Decks to Beat) I wasn’t completely happy with that. That’s when it hit me; how about building a site listing all the different decks in the format, both good and bad? That way people can see how big the format really is, and also get some inspiration for what to brew themselves. 

I immediately started to list all the deck archetypes I could come up with and after asking around I soon had a list of about 40 decks. I then started to think about what information people would like a site like that to have about each deck. A couple of questions that ran through my head was: Should I write about if it’s a tier 1 or tier 2 deck? Should I list the main colors of the deck? Maybe there also should be a card list with the most used cards? 

We Built This City

Join the stream on Sundays! More info at wak-wak.se/streaming
I soon settled on “less is more”. It was important for me to NOT build a netdecking site. The whole reason was to give people inspiration and show how many different decks they actually could build. So I decided quite quickly to only have the most relevant information about each deck; main color, what type of deck it is (Combo, Control etc.), a short description mentioning often used cards and some wonkier choices, and last but not least a picture of ONE sample deck. Because what is 93/94 without having nice pictures of beautiful decks to look at? 

Then it took a little bit over half a year to write about every deck archetype and to set up a page on our local community’s webpage (which I manage). A couple of weeks ago the site was at last “finished” and I was ready to launch it! I clicked publish and then went on to tell the world about it on the Super Sunday stream on Twitch. Super Sunday is a stream we do on Sundays where people all around the world play Old School magic against each other via Skype and you should absolutely check it out!

Description of a Strange Man

The deck that’s my deck of choice right now, The Beast. You can soon read about it on the site.
So the reason I built the site was to give people inspiration and show them how many different decks they can play in the format. Right now you can find around 40 decks or deck archetypes on the site. Each deck has a short description written about it which first of all describes the decks overall game plan. The description also gives you a short rundown about what cards are the most commonly used and play key roles in the deck. Some decks also list some more unusual, but fun, cards that you could choose to play and also what splashes are the most common.

All the decks are categorized in four different deck types; Aggro, Midrange, Control and Combo. Of course some decks have some overlap but I’ve tried my best so that you at least can identify approximately what type of deck we’re talking about.

I’ve also added a search function which can be used in a couple of different ways. You can of course search for deck names but a more useful function is probably being able to search for specific cards. Not all cards that are played in a deck is searchable but every card that is mentioned in the description is searchable. So if you want to play a deck where Dark Ritual plays a big part, just search for it and you’ll get a list. I’m thinking of adding a database with more cards than the once mentioned but that will be a future project. But one thing I have added is a database with what the main colors of each deck are. So if you want a red deck, just search for red and if you want it to be more colors just add them to the search.

I don’t want to talk about it


Lastly we have the most important function of the whole site. I you go to a deck page and scroll down to the bottom you will find a commenting section. I put it there after realizing that there isn’t a forum anywhere online where you can discuss the different decks, like Vintage has The Mana Drain and Legacy has The Source. So please use that function to post pictures of your own lists, discuss cards you like, cards you think is overrated and more.

Tell me why

Ok, maybe you have some questions after looking at the site and reading all of the above? I’ve already gotten some feedback and questions about the site so why not give you some answers to the most frequent subjects.

1. Why don’t you publish decklist in written form?
There is a couple of reasons for this. First of all, it’s in the spirit of the format. 93/94 is a format where esthetics is important and that’s why we see pictures instead of lists from almost every event. We want to see all the beautiful decks and if someone has an all Alpha deck except for an unsummon or something like that. The second reason is the one I’ve written about above, I don’t want this to be a netdecking site and written lists would make netdecking easier.

2. You should publish more pictures of each deck
This is something that I thought about doing but decided not to. As said above, I don’t want this to be a netdecking resource so I just want to show one nice list for the esthetics. Most of the times the picture doesn’t even show one of the best lists out there.

3. Can’t we get a card list for each deck of all the different cards it can play?
The short answer is no. And the reason is the same as the questions above. I do not want to give away everything; you need to do some brewing yourself. Isn’t it more fun to come up with card choices by yourself?

Holding out for a Hero

The feedback I’ve gotten so far has been amazing, thank you all very much! I already have at least another 10 deck archetypes to write about and I’m sure there will be more soon. If you feel that the site is missing an archetypes, or if you have any other feedback, please send me an email at wakwakmtg@gmail.com. 

Thank you for reading!


Ps. Yes, all of the headings are song titles and Tell me why should be the Neil Young song.

lördag 4 mars 2017

Pictures from Arvika Festival 3

Arvika Festival 3. In the world I see, this is how Magic should be played.

It started with 16 players two years ago, expanded to 34 last year, and hit 47 this time. It is not unlikely that this was the largest Magic tournament in Arvika ever, regardless of format. The word is spreading and people travel from far to be a part of the festivities.
Train people.
The Train People -this time consisting of Hardy, Øyann and myself - arrived in Arvika Friday evening and stayed with KungMarkus and his family for the full weekend. Had our traditional fight with their dog and got filled up on good beer and good food.

Last year I wrote an in-depth report of my experience from the tournament. This time I'll take an easier route and approach it the way I did the first one. We had guests in our apartment this week and I didn't find the time to go deep nerd and write a lot. What I will say is that the difference between having your fiancée in South Sudan in the middle of a tribal war and her being in Arvika playing the tournament with you is a world. The latter option was far better for the nerves.

Markus Lundqvist casually (*cough*) hosted an 11-hour stream of the entire main tournament from London. There are some sweet decks and interviews, I recommend scrolling through it if you missed it last weekend. You can find the full stream at https://www.twitch.tv/videos/124654483. And as alway, Markus and the Skype players will do a Super Sunday this weekend as well, check out https://www.twitch.tv/oldschoolmtg for more info.

But now, lets look at some pictures from the weekend in Arvika.
Starting Friday night with some HaupsCube shenanigans at KungMarkus place. Hardy fails to properly sneak in his Sneakyface and the end is night.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad // So I had one more for dessert. Ever so slightly hungover a gang of scoundrels gather at noon to play "påsdraft". Randomized packs from between Stronghold and Shadowmoor picked from a plastic bag, courtesy of Mällroth.
Polers and Øyann finished 1st and 2nd in the påsdraft after a 2-0-1 record (unintentional draw against each other). They were both on BR btw, Øyann with a very low curve with a bunch of goblins, burn and an Ensnaring Bridge from the Stronghold pack, Polers with a higher curve and a lot of more high-impact cards.
KungMarkus watching over Björn watching over the bar.
The price structure. Unlike most other tournaments, Arvika Festival actually have some fairly high-value prizes to the top finishers. Me: "Are you giving an oversized Shivan Dragon to the 2nd place, and a Portal Three Kingdoms booster to the third?!" Markus: "It should hurt coming second."
Players starts to roll in. Kenneth Mossberg from Gothenburg discuss his EurekaLegends deck with Gordon Andersson from Stockholm.
Berntsson from Arvika resurrected his Aisling Leprechaun deck for the occasion. He was searching for more Lifelaces before the tournament. Still, with only one copy of lace in his deck, he managed to take it to a highly respectable 3-3 finish. Impressive!
William "Timecode" Ljugberg came from Gothenburg to set up a temporary shop at the tournament. Lots of sweet old cards up for grabs to get the last fine-tuning of the decks in place. Including four copies of Black Lotus, but unfortunately not that many Lifelaces along for the ride ;)
Looking through Kalle's tech binder. Yeah, all those cards are Summer Magic.
Gathering the Magic.
I face off against Kalle game one. Three broken games as we both draw far too much power and stupid spells. I did it one game, he did it two.
At the table next to us, real Magic is being played.
Gentleman's agreement. After the broken game one with Kalle, I ask my following opponents to board out LoA and Mind Twist in our games. Aspiring Rookie of the Year Max Weltz gladly agree. 
Facing off against great guy Paddan at 3-1. We keep the gentleman's agreement going. Nobody said anything about the raw power of Mahamothi and Sol'Kanar though!
Round five. I'm starting to take it for granted that pretty much nobody drops in these tournaments. Players gonna play.
Magic's original Art Director and the father of the look and feel of early Magic joins the stream! Legendary Jesper Myrfors checking out the Arvika Festival mofos! Step one, hold the high fives and ask him what was going on with Word of Command ;)
Harsh tiebreakers put Jonas Rebenius just out of contention at 9th place. As tradition holds, he was awarded with a Quagmire. (So I guess that the real first loser was yours truly at 10th place ;)).
Top8! Elof "The Mighty" Gottfridsson face off against Kalle "Egget" Nord in the quarterfinals. Familiar faces in the elimination rounds.
Apart from Kalle and Elof, no player has won more than one Giant Shark. Between them, they hold five. Elof hopes to win his 4th today. If he gets the playset, we as a community have agreed that he may exchange the four Sharks in his deck for a single Leviathan. It would make his future deckbuidling slightly easier.
After ruthless elimination rounds, Andreas Cermak's UWGb Zoo takes down Elof's ErhnamGeddon in the final to claim the Shark and the Festival. Congrats man, and well played! 
Cermak's winning deck from Arvika Festival 3.
I'll post the rest of the decklists from the top8 in the not too distant future. Thanks again for a great tournament, already looking forward to next time!

onsdag 22 februari 2017

Old School Commander

*Rod Serling voice*
A word to the wise. Whether their concern be pediatrics or geriatrics, whether they crawl on hands and knees and wear diapers, or walk with a cane and comb their beards: There's a special Magic to the battle royale. An uncanny sensation reserved for the motley crews who engage in its ravaging diplomacies. Our destiny is not to sit in the rubble of our making but to reach out for whatever perfection that is to be had.

Submitted for your approval: Mr
Dyan de Rochemont. A citzen of Alkmaar walking a path of revelry and invocation few of us dare imagine. And there be Elder Dragons. It is my great pleasure to introduce the musings of Dyan de Rochemont and his stories of 93/94 Commander /Mg out

“WAT IS DEZE?!?”

93/94 seems to be thriving. There are tons of reports and pictures out there of masses gathered playing Old School. 

I couldn’t help but notice that it all seems aimed towards one-versus-one matches. In an era where Commander is immensely popular, I was surprised to embark on so few tales of multiplayer old school magic. How come?

Hi, my name is Dyan de Rochemont (1980) and I’m a Magic player from The Netherlands.  About a year ago, I stumbled upon this blog and actively picked up playing Magic again because of it, after an idle period of nearly two decades. Now in turn, I’d like to try and give back by contributing some myself.

I’d like to muse some about what Magic meant to me in my early days and how 93/94 abruptly dragged me back into it. And last but not least, how I nowadays enjoy playing a homebrew multiplayer variant with my playgroup: 93/94 EDH aka Old School Commander – of which I’ll subliminally try to enthuse you to try it too.

BACK THEN

As a teenager, I started playing Magic during the summer of 1995, having Fourth Edition and Ice Age freshly hit the stores. Fallen Empires was still on the shelves.

My friends and I were self-taught mages and my start-up was mandatorily awkward, running Bog Imps and Ironroot Treefolks alongside Air Elementals because hey, three-color Magic with exclusively basic lands was just pro.

But we would evolve. I progressed as I carefully studied game progression, board states and tactics and practiced strategies and builds. I was able to change gears consistently as I learned that having profitable trading in your skillset was a valuable asset.

My friends and I became avid casual players, spending most of our spare (and not so spare) time on it. An era of Xeroxed card lists with rarities, Inquests, some Duelists and just plain old moments of ‘going-through-trade-binders-and-be-amazed’.

During those days we summoned armies of Sengirs, Mahamotis, Doppelgangers, Juggernauts and Shivans. We’d terror, clone, balance, counter and bolt. We timed things LIFO. We’d interrupt. We’d tap continuous artifacts and blocking creatures. We played multiplayer games with 16 players and 4 simultaneous turns. We’d argue and laugh but above all wreak havoc and spread mayhem!

Back then I already had a strong preference for those lovely older cards, but had to face the inherent difficulty to attain them. I disliked the look of fourth edition (no magic present there to me) and heavily sought after Revised and the early expansion sets. There were only a handful ABU cards in circulation in the group of friends that I played with. The few that I owned were attained externally from nearby gettogethers in community centers and a handful of tournaments. Some antique cards had to be overpaid for heavily, but who cared? After all, those were awesome.

The cards were finally safely stored somewhere late 1999 when college started. The playgroup split up and my mana got too scarce to keep up. But although tucked away for years, Magic was never out of my heart. Every now and then I’d glance at the cards with inherent feelings of nostalgia. But the then-new (sixth edition) ruleset, the huge amount of new cards/meta and above all lack of fellow players discouraged me to return.

Years later, I once again tapped into the nostalgia. As I started to generate some disposable income I got hooked on purchasing cards off Ebay USA, which was both fun and exciting. I also got to take full advantage of the then favorable Euro-to-Dollar ratio. During a period of 6-8 months in 2005, 2006 I acquired quite a lot of staples from the early days: a Library, Juzam Djinns, Serendib Efreets, Berserks and loads of Unlimited Duals. Underground Seas were only around 25-30 euros at that time. Eventually I eliminated all Revised and newer cards from the deck – “Wouldn’t it be nice to play these old cards exclusively?”. Little did I know that not much later – about a thousand kilometers from my hometown – this concept would actually become a format.

After that buying spree, the cards were once again tucked away for a decennium to come. Within that timeframe, I only made a big 40+ Revised dual land trade (somewhere around 2011) towards 6 pieces of Unlimited Power, but didn’t play or acquire any other cards. It wasn’t until 2016 that they would see the light of day again.

NOW 

Things got rebooted when I told my girlfriend that I owned a considerable amount worth of old cardboard, which she initially could hardly believe. Together we dusted off the card boxes, looked up some values and learned that prices had exploded. A little research showed this was because of some format called 93/94. I immediately was intrigued. On request I learned her how to play and we’ve been bashing each others heads in with Juzams and Shivans on a regular basis ever since.
Getting pounded by the Mrs.
Early 2016 I started joining Facebook groups centered around old school Magic. After a few months of lurking and researching I decided to jump on the bandwagon and seriously get into old school: halfway 2016 I started to purchase pieces of Alpha and Beta Power and began replacing white bordered cards with black bordered, preferably round-cornered cardboard.

A year later I had assembled half a dozen Göteborg-legal decks and about the same amount that contain revised reprints. To me, playing these old cards is just immensely pleasurable.

I’d like to go over two of the decks that I run in 93/94: “Big Zoo” and Old School Commander.

“BIG ZOO”

I’ve always loved the butchering effect of Berserk. Back then it was restricted and it had to be either luckily drawn or tutored for and required assistance of Growths for lethal application. With Berserks stacking power exponentially, Fork seemed its perfect counterpart, but was restricted at the time too. Nowadays, things have changed for the better, especially with the unrestriction of Fork in the 2016 Ban/Restriction-update.
This 93/94 deck is centered around a Djinn/Efreet theme and is based on midrange to big creatures, backed up by Berserks and Forks. The objective is simple yet geniusly evil: summon a large beast early on, double-zerk it, silently pray for a no-plow and have it swing for lethal. Profit!

Fork, the versatile card that it is, can either be used to go for the kill copying Berserks, provide general support by cloning powerhouses such a Recall, Walk and Tutor or mimicking an opposing Mind Twist or Mana Drain.
This deck is intended as a somewhat viable 93/94 version of cards that are historically iconic and of nostalgic significance to me. It’s an old school incarnation of the cards that I played when I was young, or wanted to play but could not afford.

It’s far from original: it runs the same base as most 93/94 decks using duals, Cities and Factories plus a lot of the commonly found restricted cards such as the Power Nine, a Library, a Twist and a Tutor. Besides that, it’s a somewhat unusual brew though it contains a lot of the staples that are common to the format.

It’s by no means constructed as a competitive deck. With its four colors and solid amount of double-color casting cost cards, it has a fragile mana base that is vulnerable to both land destruction and Blood Moon. It has flying creatures but Moat still weakens its creature base (and therefor win con) significantly. The Abyss is an outright nightmare. King Suleimans’ ‘errata’ against this deck is basically “Tap to destroy any of opponents’ creatures”. It has a very limited amount of removal: just a Bolt and a Blast. I’ve never liked sideboarding so there is none (pro).
Orchestrated hand for some 93/94 first-turn kill shenanigans.
It has fighting chances though. The creatures themselves pack punch when not swiftly dealt with, are efficient (though some at the expense of their master), cannot be bolted and come in fair numbers. Its four colors allow it to run quite a few of the restricted power cards and although it lacks early game creatures – such as Kird Ape like in classic RG or RUG Zoo – it can still curve out from turn 2 onwards. The set of Forks gives the deck a versatile twist to it, that can swing either way.
A cozy gathering of Djinns, Efreets, Troll and Dragon.
“What are these doing here?” – Just some sinister cardboard. 

ELDER DRAGON 93/94 OLD SCHOOL COMMANDER

AN INTRODUCTION
And now for something somewhat different.

Lately I’ve been playing Magic with a playgroup of five to six players, most of them in their early to mid-thirties. I joined the group about six months ago, when their recipe was Modern and regular – though quite competitive – multiplayer Commander, incorporating the Legacy ban list to rule out some of the most broken cards.

I introduced them to 93/94, told them about the laidback yet flavorful format that it is, and cautiously tried to enthuse them for it. I was excited and quite surprised to witness one of them shortly thereafter assembled an old school deck (white weenie) with modern printings. Others then quickly picked up the format too, starting with mostly reprints to try-out the format and find out firsthand what all the fuzz was about.
The old school snowball seriously gained momentum as things moved quickly from there: players were having a great time, started brewing multiple decks simultaneously and began replacing reprints with their older counterparts, whether it be Revised or actual Göteborg-legal cards where possible. They’ve been pillaging card stores all over The Netherlands and Belgium for months, depriving them of playable 93/94 cards. I’m quite sure there is not even an Unlimited Forest to be found anywhere in a 200 kilometer radius.

We started out playing free-for-all old school multiplayer in between regular EDH games, but also occasionally Two-Headed Dragon (2 vs. 2) and Emperor (3 vs. 3). A few weeks later 93/94 had basically become the new normal. Multiplayer 93/94 is a totally different animal. A Beast. And we love it!

To make it more accessible we allow reprints, preferably same art, same frame. The fun the playgroup had building these decks, along with the plummeting prices of Modern, encouraged two of them to completely shift focus towards old school and transition by disposing of nearly all their Modern cards and buy old cards instead. Besides the obvious cool factor, a superior investment anyway.

We recently changed gears by picking up a homebrew blend of two popular formats: 93/94 and Commander.

I figured it would be fun to integrate the two formats that we played, and on a Sunday afternoon I sat down and assembled a RUB 100-card singleton deck consisting of spare old school cards, lead by Tetsuo Umezawa.

The initial draft looked like this (find the card that’s accidentally present twice!):
The idea for the deck was well-received by the playgroup, but the feedback I got was to play Nicol Bolas as general instead, and make it truly EDH. Plans were forged and that very same night the five Elders were distributed among the playgroup: 93/94 EDH, or Old School Commander, with the actual Elder Dragons was born.

After a few months of playing, moving around some cards and purchasing some missing pieces, my deck turned into this:
Getting closer! Notable cards missing are Guardian Beast and some pieces of Power.
VIBE & APPEAL
One of the facets of building this Old School Commander deck that really appealed to me is that there is basically zero information to be found on the web that applies to this format. Insights about strategies or card strength that are common knowledge in two-player 60-card Magic hardly hold any truth here. There are no primers, no posts, no discussions, there is no net-decking: as far as card selection is concerned, you’re on your own.

Looking at cards through these different eyes puts it all in such a different perspective: I literally had to go through all of the cards of the old sets again to assess and reevaluate whether it was somehow significant on a five-player battlefield. The “Think big” EDH credo surely is in effect here. This process of trial and error, finding synergies, sharing ideas and cards with fellow players reminds me a lot of Magic in the early days. It’s awesome!

I do not wish to spoil it for anyone who wants to give Old School Commander a try, so I will talk some cards and tech – but hopefully only just enough to raise some curiosity – and by no means will try to unravel its magic. Nor would I claim I would be able to do so anyway, as we are still brewing, experimenting and learning ourselves: to us, Old School Commander so far has been very much a living, evolving thing.

DECK CONSTRUCTION
Three-color EDH with the 93/94 card pool grants access to a little over 400 cards in the appropriate colors, accompanied by about 150 artifacts and 50 lands to choose from. With 35 to 40 basic lands in the deck, this basically implies you play with 10% of all cards available to you. This singleton approach with such a limited card pool imposes some interesting restrictions and forces you to make some funky decisions.

As themes (such as tribal), specific archetypes and combo are hard to pull off with so little available cards, you’ll most likely end up playing good stuff (although this does by no means imply you can bluntly ignore synergies). Therefore, you tend to see many of the same cards although played in different color variations. Even though the circumstances in singleton multiplayer are fundamentally different, a lot of the same deck design principles such as card advantage, permission, evasion, removal and threads, still apply.
A mellow early game board – The calm before the storm.
COLORED PIE
I found that the distribution of strength between the colors turned out differently than in regular non-singleton, two-player games of Magic. Some colors have a strong top-end, but the curve then quickly spirals downwards. Mono black for example is widely considered quite strong and versatile and as such I had high expectations of it in Grixis, but with only one-offs I quickly got the feeling I had to resort to suboptimal choices. The same is true for Red – sure, it has a few bombs, but – burn nor aggro strategies are nowhere near as effective in multiplayer.

Green on the other hand, in old school by itself generally is considered a relatively weak color and is mainly viable as a support color, has a broad range of effective tools – both offensively and defensively – and multiplayer powerhouses. Desert Twister is a well-known versatile removal spell, but Powerleech and Urza’s Avenger are probably cards you’ve never even remotely considered playing in 93/94, but we consider auto-includes here in Old School Commander. It’ll come as no surprise that this is where Greens passive-aggressive artifact hate really shines: Citanul Druid, Titania’s Song and the beforementioned Powerleech and Urza’s Avenger all are beasts in this artifact-heavy multiplayer format. All-round it’s a surprisingly strong color.

White as expected, does particularly well in terms of board control and spot removal, mostly with cards that are already staples in 93/94. Some notable lesser-played cards are Angry Mob, Preacher and Argothian Archaeologist.

Blue, even in singleton, is every bit as strong as you think it would be: it has a powerful (and often redundant) array of tools that facilitate countermagic, copying, theft, bounce, draw, recursion and even tutoring. Truly a force to be reckoned with, but a sight to behold.

GAMEPLAY & STAPLES
A game of Old School Commander unfolds slowly and can easily last 4 hours, especially when all five Dragon are represented and well over a hundred permanents on the board. These games are intense and challenging!
A typical midgame board with 3 out of 5 Dragons online. Asmadi ironically fighting by my side and swinging at its former master – forcefully fallen prey to mutiny, made possible by Control Magic and Fellwar Stone.
Looking at 160-200 enemy points of life as opposed to the regular 20, going the purely aggro route is not a viable strategy in multiplayer Magic. Therefore, defensive measures must be taken. Luckily old school has quite a lot to offer in that area, especially when speed and mana cost isn’t of significant importance. Tawnos Coffin, Maze of Ith, Island of Wak-Wak, Icy Manipulator and Horn of Deafening all provide proper color-neutral protection against blood-thirsty Dragons. Having your defenses up generally results in opponents attacking alternate players instead, which in turn – more often than not – leads to retaliation of sorts, which is icing on the cake.
“Better bring some protection, kiddo.”
The number of available Tutors can easily be counted on just a single hand – the relevant ones being Demonic Tutor and Transmute Artifact – which is exactly in line with what EDH was originally intended to do: bring variety back to the game and have it last longer than just a few turns. The lack of tutors certainly emphasizes the requirement for versatility in cards and might persuade you to play Fissure over Stone Rain.

I really fell in love with the artifacts in this format and cherish their wide range of application. I currently play around 20 of them. Al-abara’s Carpet singlehandedly stops hordes of ground creatures in their tracks at the expense of 5 mana. Jayemdae Tome and Book of Rass (or, Book of Bas as we call it) both offer excellent card draw, the latter having a nice synergy with Mirror Universe. Candelabra of Tawnos both helps fixing your mana and allows utility lands to be reused (most notably Library, Maze, Valley and Wak-Wak). Obelisk of Undoing provides protection against permanent-hate (stealing, removal) and is great for reusability of cards like Triskelion, Tetravus, Sprit Link and Clone. Nevinyrral’s Disk is a great panic button and a thorough tool for breaking through stale game states. An Aladdin’s Ring carefully put in position is a lethal weapon and a threat on its own.

Legends offers some very flavorful and playable multicolor legendary creatures such as Tetsuo, Angus, Oakenshield, Gwendlyn, Halfdane, Soulsinger, Sol’Kanar, Hazezon, Ragnar, Rasputin and Xira. Some of which have found their way into regular EDH decks as well. The three-color Legends can really make your deck stand out as you’ll get to be the only one able to play them.
One-on-one game of Old School Commander. Gwendlyn and its Clone keeping both players at bay, for now.
Although significantly less relevant than in two-player magic, mana acceleration is present but scarce. Even when running the traditionally rampy color green with Birds, Elves, Wild Growth, Ley Druid and Untamed Wilds. Besides Black Lotus and the Moxen, a Sol Ring, Basalt Monolith, Fellwar Stone and arguably Mana Vault are your best bets for decent ramping. The Mana Batteries of Legends actually are pretty useful too, especially when decharged into a humongous Braingeyser or Hurricane, or just for recasting that 12 mana general after it has been wiped off the board twice.

Most color combinations offer plenty of spot removal for most types of permanents. Enchantments are exceptionally hard to deal with for nearly all colors, so choose your Chaos Orbs target wisely.

Games are usually decided through powerhouses such as Angry Mob, Dakkon Blackblade, Mahamoti Djinn and, of course, the Elder Dragons. Mass-damage dealers such as Pestilence, Hurricane and Earthquake (but dodge that pesky Reverberation!) traditionally also have a dramatic impact to the players’ life totals and board position in general. Mass-removal like a Nevi Disk, Shatterstorm or Wrath of God can also instantly break players’ carefully put together defenses, leaving them exposed to threads.

RULING
As a baseline, we honor the Swedish 93/94 ban and restricted list, and have it take precedence over the official Commander list. This means that certain cards that are banned in Commander, such as Chaos Orb, Balance, Channel and the Power Nine to its fullest extent – in turn all cards that help define and characterize 93/94 – are absolute fine to be played. On top of that, we make up house rules as we go.

As a rule of thumb, we think everybody needs to be able to have a good time and we therefore tend to avoid cards that completely lock out the board (Winter Orb, Stasis) or that cripple or heavily penalize a single player only (we banned Mind Twist for just that reason). We also discourage mass land destruction such as Armageddon – since it’s already a slow format – and color-specific hate (eg. Flashfires and Northern Paladin). Land walking creatures such as a Swamp King are fine – when was the last time you used Hammerheim or Urborg for something other than mana? – an Erhnam can certainly pose some hilariously political dilemmas. An Abyss or Moat will not be appreciated. Balance – although it truly holds immense power – is played but Karakas is not.
Michels “second brew“ Arcades deck.
WRAPPING THINGS UP
Nostalgia has always played a starring role in my deeply rooted fascination for Magic. 93/94 got me right back into the game after so many years. And I’m thankful for it.

Special thanks also go out to Bas (Chromium), Michel (Arcades), Sander (Palladia), Thomas (Asmadi) and Niels (Ramirez DePietro) for facilitating playing epic games of Magic again.

Although original print runs are limited for sure, there’s still plenty of room for others to pick up 93/94. Even modern day players that started much later might be interested in getting to know how it all started. I think Revised is a great “gateway set” to enter the scene on a budget, and still get to play cards of that era. The group I play with is an excellent example of how a small spark can set a Juggernaut in motion.

Old School Commander has both flavor and depth and brings me joy on so many levels. I like composing decks with self-imposed restrictions, and getting to play such a diversity of old cardboard is just a blast. The Commander part of the format brings some political aspects into the game as well, and lends itself to negotiation and reasoning (read: blackmailing and trash talk).

So for all you out there that have the luxury of multiple nearby Old School players: I dare you to sleeve up one-hundred cards of yore and try this one out!

Signed,
- Dy

torsdag 9 februari 2017

A night at Alara Games

  "So Mg", the voices say, "why not write something about last weekend in Trollhättan? Still have a blog, y'know."
  "Well," I answer myself. "I just invented the sport Soccer Punch, and I'm trying to read a driver's license book filled with what the kids call 'microaggressions'. I don't know how much time I have to write something good."
  "So you think because you write less frequently now, whenever you do it has to be some kind of masterwork? Get over yourself. Prefection is the enemy of done. Yes, I know that's a typo. See how much I care. Just write some shit so we can collect our PW points."
  "Ok, fuck it."

Soccer Punch is a one-on-one sport. You set up small goals with whatever lies around, find something round enough to be excused as a ball, and strap on your gloves. The goal is to avoiding getting punched out by the other player while winning either via scoring or TKO. It's kinda like soccer, but instead of off-sides and passes you've got complex foot work and blunt body trauma. Can't wait for the IOC to pick it up.

When I got home from the two-hour long session with Peter last Friday, my body had given up on me and my mind was as blank as a 1951 Robert Rauschenberg painting. In this state I decided to buy the tickets to Trollhättan and join fellow old school players in celebrating the opening of Alara Games. It went about as well as expected. A short thirty minutes later I had managed to buy train tickets for the wrong day. Another sucker punch, this time in the form of a 449 Nok train ticket. This is an expensive game. But I might win an Uthden Troll.
First prize of the tournament, here in the process of being upgraded.
Hardy, my partner in crime, had left the day before me. He'd found a bed at his girlfriend's aunt's place, and I was told the day before I left that it was room for me as well. I was even invited for dinner before the tournament (which started at 22:00 in the evening to create a more lax drinking atmosphere at the convention site. "Closed company" and all that). So this time I was to ride the train alone for a change. My company was a couple of books and the Hurloon Minotaur jacket.
Train Jacket.
The karma of the world continued her attempts to thwart my consumerism. On the trip I wanted to make a fairly numerous order from the ChannelFireball store. A bunch of sweet cards for the casual decks I bring out when guests are abound or I'm asked to learn people how to play. Like, have you seen cards like Priest of the Blood Rite? I don't care how "pure" you are as an Oldschool player, that is one sweet card.
According to TCGPlayer, Juzam is more than 1,500 times more expensive. But let's be honest here; Juzam is probably not more than 70-80 times sweeter. At most a hundred and fifty times sweeter. Seems like a deal to me.
The CFB store offers free shipping worldwide once the order passes the $200 mark. And if you live in Norway, that's some serious incentive to buy for over $200. That made my pile of random durdle kinda extensive, and a harsh mistress to order on a smartphone. I first tried to order it using my Visa card, but it was for some reason declined so I completed the order with paypal.

About ten minutes later I got the message stating that my credit card had been frozen due to suspicious activity. Apparently it had been used in Ajman, Dubai, Norway and Sweden in the last week, and now someone was trying to order stuff online from a place called "CinnamonFireball" or something like that. Ain't easy being jetset. It feels like it took half an hour on the phone with my bank before I was ready to roll again.
So it started with some sprinkles of tilt. And I had no idea what to expect going home to that aunt and uncle I'd never met. I don't even think that Hardy met them before yesterday. And I'd never been to Trollhättan before. All I knew about the place was that a couple of guys in Gothenburg used to rage about Trollhättan having the best kebab pizza sauce in Sweden.

I got picked up at the station by Hardy and the uncle. He seemed like a very likeable fellow. I asked him about the rumours of the Kebab pizza. He nodded. Apparently there was a cheap hole-in-the-wall pizzeria somewhere in the city that offered nothing short of ambrosia. I knew I had to find it.

The welcome at the aunt and uncle's house was truly remarkable. I'm a random bearded guy from Norway who's a friend of their niece's boyfriend and they treated me like family coming home for the holidays. They made an awesome dinner (I refilled twice), and left nothing wanted in terms of wine, beer, cognac nor drinks.
Cincin ragazzi!
Four or five hours later we all started to get affected by the hospitality. The uncle went and picked up a disco ball and some lasers, and we continued the evening with the backdrop of VH1's top50 love songs and a suburban light show.
#VisitTrollhättan
Now this is fun. Hardy and I recalled old stories of the road. How Megu left his hotel room in Genoa to give us a few hours sleep before he picked us up and drove us to the airport. When KungMarkus left us with his dog in his old house during the first Arvika Festival and we though that we might have become citizens of Arvika. The random three dark thirty disco at the pizzeria in Växjö. Hanging out at Custer's home in Munich. Play the game, see the world. Ain't need no Pro Tour to find friends with these piles of cardboard.

Eventually we left the suburban home to get to the site. The convention was the brainchild of Yespair, the guy who e.g. did video coverage at n00bcon last year. He and a couple of friends just opened a game store in Trollhättan and set up a weekend of Magic to celebrate the occasion. There were a couple of PPTQs, Vintage, Legacy, truly casual EDH and limited. And there was 13 brave souls that gathered for a nightly 93/94 tournament after the doors had closed for the day.

This was my deck for the evening:
Tried some extra shenanigans and a couple of counterspells in place of the red cards this time.
Hardy was on The Machine, but with some solid upgrades since last. In particular these two cards:
Unlocked.
That's awesome. As a duo, we now own over 65% of all the Alpha Lotuses in Norway. The third one belongs to JhovalKing.

Before the tournament started I picked up a Mishra's Workshop from KungMarkus (I want to sleeve up Crimson Disco and Project M at the same time and looked for a second copy of the land), and bought an Elspeth vs. Kiora duel deck from the store. If you like casual Magic and suboptimal decks I give the duel decks two thumbs up. They might lack some in the nostalgia or "bling" departments, but the fact that you can pick up seventy or so sixty-card decks for the prize of a single Workshop should not be scoffed at. In the world of Alpha Lotuses and Beta duals, it's easy to forget just how entertaining other approaches to casual Magic actually is.

Old school is still the best though.
Game on.
I was paired against a new face match one. Erik started playing back in 94/95 but hadn't sleeved up for a tournament in a couple of decades. Our first game was a little anticlimactic. He mulled to six on the play and kept a one-lander with Black Vise. I probably would have too. Luckily I found a mox at the top of my library and got to play that and a Fellwar Stone turn 1. In the end, I managed to sneak away with just five damage from the Vise, and Erik opted to decline drawing any lands for five turns. I eventually resolved a Vesuvan Doppelganger copying a Mishra's Factory, and then got to cast two Copy Artifacts copying the Doppelganger the following turn. That's some serious Mishra beatdown. Triple Doppelganger isn't an easy act to follow.
Magic!
Game two was a little more involved and we both got to cast spells this time. In the end I went Rube Goldberg with Tawnos's Coffin and Tetravus backed up by Guardian Beast.

Fresh on the winning streak I face Erik's friend, Andreas Lövgren. That's no rookie. Andreas has very explosive starts. I think I'm climbing back in game one, but he blows me out with a well-timed Balance. Game two I he attacks for lethal around turn four.

Next dude is good ol' Berntsson from Arvika with his ErhnamGeddon. It's a very strong deck. In the last couple of years, the players from Arvika have really gotten their hands on some powerful cards. It's a tight game, but Guardian Beast and Chaos Orb do what they do best. Control Magic and Terror gets to shine after sideboard.
Berntsson and KungMarkus. Pioneers of the Arvika 93/94 scene. The Arvika Festival tournament will be hosted on their turf February 25. It's easily one of my favorite tournaments of the year.
So, last match. Might be win-and-in for the elimination round. There's only a final this time, as the ungodly hour works against the prospect of an entertaining top4, but 3-1 might be enough. In my way stands eight-time Shark top8 competitor and two-time PWP Invitational winner Jocke Almelund. He is my god damn nemesis. I actually think he's worse than Sehl at this point. Jocke and I have played numerous 93/94 games starting sometime around n00bcon 3. And I've never beaten him once. He starts game one.
Sure. Why not.
I don't manage to resolve a spell that doesn't get countered or destroyed before I pass the turn. No threats are left unanswered for the entire game. And it's not that I don't draw well; I had awesome hands. LoA, Disks, Tomes and the whole shebang. Yet again he beats me out of contention without breaking a sweat. I will have my revenge. Some day I will.

In the end Jocke's tiebreakers didn't help him to the finals. Instead the last match was a battle between Andreas Lövgren and Martin Lindström. Martin had played three tournaments in the last year; n00bcon warmup, n00bcon 8, and BSK. He finished 1st, 2nd and 1st in those. This weekend brought another title to his résumé. At this point it's starting to get easy arguing he's the best The Deck player in the world.
Congrats!
Hardy and I drifted around at the site for while and eventually found a cab to take us back to the aunt and uncle's house. He was to play the Vintage tournament the next day and I joined him to the site before the train would take me back to Oslo.

I asked Yespair about the rumours I'd heard of the kebab pizza. That cheap pizza place with supposedly the best sauce in Sweden. He knew. The truth of the story was only a five minute walk from the site. He jotted down some directions on a piece of paper. On a backstreet in Trollhättan, hidden between random shops and apartment buildings, it was.
I paid 65 Sek (around €7) for a massive lunch of the local cuisine. And god damn. Play the game, see the world.