onsdag 22 juni 2016

Retox and rants

It had been a long time since I last played. Life gets in the way, other things get prioritized, and suddenly you're looking at two months since you last touched a Magic card. That's a good thing with old school though. I don't need to play that often if I don't have the time. It's not like the format will rotate or drastically change with new additions to the card pool in a couple of months. Or a couple of years for that matter. I've played 93/94 for almost 10 years now, and I plan to do it for 10 more. But we all have the ups and downs in Magic activity. We never stop, we just take breaks of different lengths.

It was time to relapse. As luck would have it, one of my good colleagues at work is Bjørn Einar Bjartnes, not only an excellent human being and brilliant developer, but also an old school afficionado. Yesterday we decided to play some lunch break Magic at work.
First turn Land-Lotus-Bottle of Suleiman. Some Magic right there.
With the help of some amazing skill, I win the flip and get a turn two Djinn. Thanks a bunch to Constantine Prishvitsin for the sweet tokens :) The Russian old school scene is awesome.
Post the lunch brawl, I was smitten. Magic is a damn good game. After watching some big screen UEFA soccer in a sunny park, I joined up with a few of the Norwegian old school players at Outland to get in a few more games. Michael Kjebekk, one of the early adopters in Oslo who works at the local game store, was trying out streaming a few of the games on twitch.
McGuyver setup.
There will be a 93/94 tournament Sunday this weekend in Olso btw, during the annual Arcon convention. The Arcon convention is as usual placed during Midsummer's Eve weekend in Sweden, which often prompts me to travel south and celebrate with native countrymen, but as I have been on the road every weekend for the last seven weeks it's time to take a couple of days home in Norway. Checking out the pride parade Saturday and playing 93/94 Sunday. Feel free to join if you're in the neighborhood :)

On a slightly different but similar note, last weekend marked the first annual Ivory Cup in Stockholm! I didn't have the chance to go there myself, but I've been promised a tournament report by one of the tournament organizers, Gordon Andersson, by next week. I can give a small spoiler though. I know that there were around 30 players competing, and that these were the decks in the top8:'

1 - Troll Disco
2 - Goblins
3-4 - The Deck
3-4 - Parfait (Winter Orb Prison)
5-8 - Power Monolith
5-8 - TwiddleVault
5-8 - The Gun (RGw Berserk)
5-8 - Arabian Aggro

Apparently Goblin Sligh is playable without Fallen Empires. Impressive stuff.
Who even needs Grenades when you have Ziggy at your side ;)
Speaking of Fallen Empires, I took the time to update the Banned & Restricted page with links and descriptions of the most commonly used local variants of 93/94. To quote the Alpha rule book (page 35):

"Be prepared to encounter house versions of this game when you play someone you haven't played before. These rules are a framework from which to start; after you know how to play, your play group may develop local rules, new ways to play particular cards, or other variations. Just be sure before you start that everyone is playing the same game."

Local variations is old school as fuck. This should be seen as one of the perks of playing an unsanctioned format, no one can tell you what to do to best embrace the spirit of the format but yourself. What we do here works for us, and for most of the scattered players around the globe, but it doesn't by any means mean that you have to follow what we've been doing here. Maybe ChannelFireball rules or BoM rules works better for you. Or maybe you want to come up with something yourself.

Let's end today's rant with a couple of sweet decks seen at the tables of n00bcon 8. Courtesy of Axelsson and Macensci:
Machine Head White
Eel-less Eel.
Oh, and two more things! Check out Nomad Gamer's new post about Legends and the even newer one about Red-Green Aggro. Good stuff.

torsdag 16 juni 2016

Suicide Blue

I can't remember how many weeks I've been thinking about posting something about Suicide Blue. Nine? Probably more. Let's go:
Suicide Blue
Back in the day someone decided that blue should have all of the color pie. Not just countering spells and drawing cards, but stuff like aggressive creatures and direct damage. The Suicide Blue deck is kinda like the Suicide Black decks of later eras in that it uses life as a resource and wield spells with significant drawbacks. The blue decks have slightly better evasion and more flexible sideboards (supporting e.g. four-of Energy Flux), but at the cost of a little less aggressive starts (no turn one Ritual into Phyrexian Negator or turn two Hatred for the win). If we have a high budget or lots of time, the Suicide Blue deck could also incorporate insanely powerful cards like Time Walk, Timetwister and Ancestral Recall. I don't play them here though. I dislike moving cards between decks, as it hinders easy switches between them and prevents me from lending out decks to friends. Also, I heard that some restriction in power breeds creativity, and it's highly amusing to beat a fully powered deck with a bunch of 1/1s.
Or at least beat powered Distress with a bunch of 1/1s.
As for the creature suite, one could argue for Dan-Dan rather than the Pearl Trident crew. But you really want to hit your 1-drops here. The Merfolks also make the deck a little more resilient to City in a Bottle. Flying Men and Serendib Djinn are important cards, so we already have a lot of dedication to Arabian summons. Serendib Efreet is really solid as well, of course. The reason I only play three is because I only own three, and buying a forth would cost me approximately all the money. Or at least more than a pair of new shoes.

I rarely talk about card prices, but let's take an aside today.
Creature suite
Sure, some things were more easy before this format started spreading from the deep underground to a slightly more shallow soil. Less rabble rousing, space for everyone at n00bcon, and a little more affordable to rebuild decks. But increased card prices don't really bother me too much, even though I wouldn't mind having another Efreet and a set of Mana Vaults at their 2014 prices.

It would be easy to whine about increasing prices as the popularity of the format has grown. It's always easy to whine. But here's the deal with buying cards: if a card's price don’t correspond to the joy I get from owning it; I just don’t buy it. Like, if Flying Men were a $20 card, I would still buy them because they are awesome. I bought my first two copies for around $8 each in 1998, and if 18 years of time would have increased the cards price with $12, I would accept that. If they would cost $100, I'd give them a pass. Few cards pass the $100+ test for me; stuff like Juzam, Power, Mirror Universe, The Abyss, Duals, and a few more. It so happens that Flying Men instead cost $1.50 today, which is sweet. Same with Psionic Blast, which was an $20 card in Unlimited 10 years ago, but only costs around $6 today. If Serendib Efreet had a price tag of $35 like two years ago, I'd buy them (that's why I own three of them). Hell, I'd probably be a buyer at $70. But $150 is too much. I don't need to complete my playset that bad. The deck is good enough, and sweet enough, as is.

Last Friday I travelled to Sweden to have dinner at Törnströms, a Michelin Star rated restaurant, and drank some port from 1866. The cost of that dinner was in the same ball park as a Serendib Efreet. Would I rather have a 4th Serendib than eating that dinner? Nope. I would easily sell one of my Efreets to get the chance to get drunk on 150 year old Portuguese wine. As my resources to spend on luxury are finite; I have to prioritize.

Complaining about prizes never got me anything except annoyance. It's much easier to just not be an impulse buyer at a certain point, and instead use that money for something I think is worth it. And if we look at the old school side of things, it's not like everybody had access to all the cards in 1994 anyway. Playing Clone instead of the fourth Efreet certainly has some nostalgic value.

For my own curiosity while writing this article, I checked what the price of this Suicide Blue deck would be if we use Unlimited where possible, cut the Serendib Efreets for Dan-Dans, and cut the Masks for Boomerangs (arguably a better card in the deck). TCG Mid gave a price tag of 302.88 bucks. If we cut the Djinns for Phantasmal Forces as well, we're down to $161.49. That's a little boring though, and I think that the Djinns are worth almost doubling the price of the deck. Nevertheless, if we compare it with the price of the first Standard deck I found, Green-White Tokens (the deck that won the last Standard GP), that one had a price tag of $446.43. So if you'd rather buy an old school Suicide Blue than the flavor of the week deck in Standard, you still have enough left to get a played Serendib Efreet. Or you're on a good way towards a Timetwister. But I digress.

End finance rant, enter burn spells!
Burn suite
Mind Bomb is no Lightning Bolt, but it does the job well. In the early game, it's pretty much guaranteed 3 damage for 1 mana. Zero honks are given to the fact the we take three ourselves. Unstable Mutation doesn't technically have range, as you need to have a creature to assist it, but in Magical Christmas Land it deals 6 for one blue. Psionic Blast is of course insane, and one of the top burn spells in the format. It kills anything south of Juzams, from Serra Angels to opponents.

Then we have the utility cards. Four Unsummon seemed like the correct removal suite. In this deck they are basically a Time Walk against opponents playing Factories, and they are solid answers to first turn Hypnotics or early Djinns. I considered playing Boomerangs instead, but the extra mana makes a difference and there are not many non-creature permanents apart from Nevinyrral's Disk that scare us.

Sweetest card is probably the two Masks though. While arguably not a great card, they are not terrible and any lack in playability they make up in hilarity. The first time I played this deck was against Björn-Einar Bjartnes during a retro-game exibit at the Oslo Technical Museum. We had joined the exibit mostly to see John Romero's talk about DOOM 2, but took some time to swing cardboard from the era as well. I managed to win most of the games against his Red/Green concatenation and I the masks did a lot of work. Not only that they neglect the drawback of the Djinns and Efreets for a turn turn, they can make attacking a nightmare. If I spend three mana to cast a hidden creature, most players wouldn't dare to attack into it with a Kird Ape. Even though it's only a one in five chance it's a creature that could kill it, it's not a gamble many are willing to take.

I also got to use the Mask to cast Serendib Djinns under a City in a Bottle when playing against Hardy's Distress deck at a local pub (as the Djinns have no name when I mask them). They still die as soon as they would deal damage or become tapped, but you can use them to chump block or just bide your time until you draw one of the sideboarded Boomerangs.
City of Serendib
So is the deck actually good? Yeah, I guess. I would say at least a six on a one to ten scale as power level goes. It can ignore most of the common hate like Energy Flux, Blood Moon and Underworld Dreams. It's fast and beats hard, and should one have access to blue power it grows stronger. Not the least, it's amusing to play and smashing face with mutated Serendib Djinns is sweet. If you're looking for a "cheaper-than-standard" deck to get you into the format, Suicide Blue seems like a good enough gateway drug.

fredag 10 juni 2016

Showdown in Scania

Sweden is a pretty big country. E.g. the distance between Berlin (the German capital) and Paris is quite a bit shorter than the distance between Berlin (the current 93/94 World Champion, who lives in Stockholm) and the Northernmost parts of Sweden. As such, the Swedish 93/94 players are not exactly sitting at the same kitchen tables, and different cities have somewhat different metas and communities. What happens in Scania isn't necessarily what happens in Arvika or Växjö.

The Scania 93/94 players are some sweet guys. Last weekend they had their third "official" tournament at Playoteket in Malmö. The tournament organizer Arkanon sent over a short report and some nice deck lists. Enjoy! /Mg out

Scania is situated in the southernmost part in Sweden. By convenience we have chosen Contract from below as the card all contestants sign as a price. We have approximately 12 active players and another 3-4 players who occasionally borrow decks and participate. Of the core players, four of us have power and four play casual/ budget decks/ decks-in-progress. Among them a Fungusaur deck which I will return to :) We've had five tournaments so far, of which three were official ones. Ill start with our latest tournament, here is our Top 4:
MrSinclair's The Deck. 1st place.
Danhor's ErhnamGeddon. 2nd place.
Olle's UR Burn. 3-4th place.
Arkanon's 5C Ydwen. 3-4th place.
Of course, I have to post Axelsson's deck as well, you probably wont see this deck again from him. He has pretty much all the cards (except any power), so he can build almost anything and is known for having a new tech at each tournament. So don't expect to meet this deck at the next big tournament :)
Axelsson's MonoBlack Abyss. (6th place)
And to the big question: Is Ydwen Efreet really that a bad card? Now that Fork is unrestricted, monored might have a bit of an edge, in particular if we can splash blue for power and Serendib Efreets. I was surprised by the effectiveness of Ydwen against many decks. Although The Deck could outmanouver me, every single deck I've playtested against had a hard match. The YdwenDeck I played at the tournament is just a prototype, and I lack certain cards (2 Forks and 2 Volcanics). I had great fun playtesting with a proxied Ydwen/Fork deck, maybe you will meet me soon running that deck when it's complete!
Is it that bad? Perhaps. Is it fun? Definitely!
On another note, I just have to post one of the coolest deck Ive seen among the Scania players, a total casual/budgetdeck. Ive proposed to borrow him two Sylvan libraries but he refused :)
Rednekk's Fungusaurdeck
/Mg in

I just want to state for the record that the Fungusaur deck looks amazing :)

If you want some more Old School fix, Jacopo Borrelli of Ravenna have written a great primer on Lestree Zoo at Magictime.it. It's filled with both deck techs and interesting trivia. Jacopo even managed to get an interview with Zak Dolan, the original 1994 Magic World Champion, who defeated Bertrand Lestree carrying his Zoo in the finals of the first World Championships. That is awesome. Go give it a read!

Also, I've managed to update the Decks to Beat page with 28 decklists from the last couple of months. Check them out if you're a net-decker ;)

Playoteket 3 93/94 Top4
12 participants. Photos of 4/4 decks.
The third official tournament at Playoteket in Scania showed some solid mages and decks. Mr Sinclair's awe-inspiring The Deck managed to get the best of Erhnamgeddon, UR Burn and 5-color Ydwen Efreet (!) in the top4. Again we see multiple Forks in the top4; clearly a card not to be underestimated.

Drammen 93/94 Top8
17 participants. Photos of 8/8 decks. The first tournament in Drammen gathered mages from across Norway (and a couple from Arvika and Karlstad) to fight for an Adventurers' Guildhouse. The top8 was almost completely dominated by old school beatdown, apart from one Fork deck and one Nether Void Ponza. Su-Chis, Juzams and Erhnams beat hard, and the WW decks beats a lot.

n00bcon 8, World Championships Top8
76 participants, photos of 8/8 decks. Players from Russia, the US, Denmark, Germany and many other places across the lands descended upon the Rotary Pub in Gothenburg to lay claim to the old school World Championship title and the coveted Giant Shark. More players than ever wanted to get in the ring this year, and than he tournament was filled to capacity three months before the showdown. The top8 hosted some familiar names in the format - battling with 3 copies of UR Burn, 3 The Deck, a Lestree Zoo and an Artifact Aggro - before Martin Berlin got to hoist the trophy.

Arvika Festival 2016 Top8
34 participants, photos of 8/8 decks. The third largest, and possibly the sweetest, of the yearly Northern Europe gatherings was once again held in Viksgården in Arvika. The top8 hosted 8 distinct archetypes; from Distress to Toolbox Murderers and Time Elemental Control to Dead Guy Ale. In the end, Lestree Zoo took down Power Monolith in the finals to claim this year's Festival.

torsdag 2 juni 2016

Dawn of Drammen

About a month ago, I visited Drammen for the first time. It's the 9th most populous city in Norway, still a fairly small place with a little over 60,000 inhabitants. For some reason, one of my favorite Swedish political skate punk bands from the 80s, Charta 77, had recently released a new album and decided that Drammen would be a good place to tour. So Øyann and I found a train, booked the most punk hotel we could find, and went for some springtime mosh pits.
She's the girl with her left arm up in the center of the picture btw. I'm lost somewhere in the shuffle. Good mosh was had.
Last weekend another group of ragtag sinners gathered in Drammen. Not for punk this time though, but for the first old school mtg gathering in the city. The Drammen community is spearheaded by Erland Petersen, an eternal viking and community organizer who e.g. placed second at last autumn's tournament in Moss. Erland sent over a bunch of pictures and deck lists from the tournament.
Stian takes a turn one Mind Twist for six in the Semi-finals with surprisingly good humor :)
Mia holds off a horde of black magic with ease using a good ol' Circle of Protection. On her left, the veteran Svetzarn of Arvika who traveled from Sweden to show the Drammen community who's who.
17 players gathered for good times, good beer, and good Magic.
Audun vs. Jimmie. Jimmie has moved on from WW to some black red pile with Greed and Black Vise. Also he has apparently misplaced his bottle ;)
One of the two WWs who made the top8 are looking at some slightly bigger fish on the other side of the table. Really nice playmat btw.
Can't beat that Tolaria...
Jhoval vs Mia and Artelas vs Kenneth. Some veterans vs relatively new members of the community right here.
Jhoval's 3rd place deck. No unnecessary synergies or recursions here, just Forking restricted stuff and doubling fireballs :)
Organizer Erland's 2nd place deck. A really, really sweet pile of monoblack. Royal Assassin and Kormus Bell? Check. God damn Cursed Rack in the sideboard. It's almost as if he don't even need the Juzams ;) Erland btw got to unlock the achievement of killing a Serra Angel with Royal Assassin during the tournament (with a little help from Paralyze).
Audun's winning deck. Yet another pile of awesome. Sweet one-ofs like Basalt Monolith, Stone Rain and Armageddon; combined by hard artifact beatsticks; and some unconventional non-blue control cards. Very impressive brew that won him a glorious Adventurer's Guildhouse.
The rest of the lists from the top8 will come soon. In lieu of those, I also got an unofficial tournament report, ghost written by Nils Håkon Delphin on behalf of the winner Audun Døssland:
"So I played Old School this weekend. I didn't take any notes, so I'll have to try to pull from memory how they went.

Round 1: Smash face. Twice.

Round 2: Smash face. Twice.
Round 3: Smash face. Twice.
Round 4: Smash face. Twice.
Round 5: Smash face. Twice.
Top 8: Smash face. Twice.
Semi-finals: Smash face. Twice.

Finals: Smash face. Twice."
A true Master of Magic Cards.
It looked like a really sweet gathering, and I hope I get the opportunity to join next time :)

In other news, I recently read an article at Nomad Gamer about Old School Magic. I think it's a nice post about the author's initial reaction to 93/94, and how her idea of the format evolved after she started playing it. I've never had any interactions with the player, but it gets me happy to see these kind of articles. On some social media sites, it can occasionally feel easy to find drama or even hate about different approaches or house rules. But a majority of the community don't really care about that, they are mostly players who want to dust of old cards and just enjoy nostalgia and casual gaming outside the conventional structure. It's sometimes nice to be reminded :)

Danny Friedman has updated his Understanding Ancestral Recall blog about his showdown at the Clash of Carousers, and some interesting thoughts about the most recent B&R update (as he's coming from a place where the most common rules are those of Eternal Central). As usual a good read, with some solid deck tech.

At a darker place in the blogosphere, our Shaman of the Mtg Underground Ben Perry just updated his hexing mtgunderground blog with another take on the Rabbit Hole. Take the ride.

onsdag 25 maj 2016

Clip Show

There are something like 260 posts on this blog. Most are without tags or structure. A few people have noted this, and mentioned that some sort of links could be appreciated for new visitors, or for veterans who wants to give old content a second look. So I took some time and dug up five of the, in my opinion, more interesting posts in seven different categories along with ten or so deck techs with short summaries.
A random pic of Kalle doing the Lestree Pose with a makeshift pair of black sunglasses.
Maybe you'll find something sweet you haven't seen before. Check it out here.

onsdag 18 maj 2016

Springtime at Ovino, a guest report from Giuseppe Rinaldi

Ah, summer! Suddenly, everything is alive again, the parks are full of beer, and the sun seems to never set. There are many things I could rant about in the world of the oldest of cards. The unrestriction of Fork has already had a pretty big impact. In the years prior, it has taken a few months before we've seen the real effect of updates to the restricted list; mostly as it takes so much time and effort to build and test new decks. But this time, Marc Lanigra took down the MKM Series 93/94 tournament in Frankfurt with his undefeated Fork deck already the day after the card was legalized. Further northwest, the UK old school players got some stream time during the MagicMadhouse ProSeries in Birmingham last weekend. Chris Cooper and the others in the UK Old School crew have also announced the first UK Old School Nationals championship in Blackpool July 3rd during the Magic Madhouse Grand Finale convention. A part of the proceeds will go to charity, and word on the street is that you'll get to pick your potential spoils based on how skilled you are flipping a Chaos Orb on the prize table. I'll also throw in free entry and a beer at next years n00bcon in the prize pool if the UK Champion would like to come and join us there ;) And Stephen Menendian have completed his third entry in his series on Old School Magic at Vintagemagic.com; this time looking at Zoo decks. And 93/94 Skype Magic has grown quite a bit since the post last week, with both new players and new technical solutions. And I've built a Suicide Blue deck with Illusionary Mask. And some other sweet stuff is going on.

But this is not a week for me to rant. Instead, we have a treat from the southern part of the continent where the mages of old gather en masse to fight for glory and an oversized Chaos Orb. The Ovino tournaments are by now among the top four largest recurring Old School tournaments in the world. A year ago, they hosted an impressive 30 participants. Six months ago, they gathered 40, and this spring they were 51 guys battling it out in Milan, Italy. You can check out some videos and awesome decks on the Ovinotournaments web page. But that's not all, of course. Today we have the story directly from the horse's mouth. I give the word to the 2016 Ovino X Champion Giuseppe Rinaldi. /Mg out.


In the autumn of 2015 I was surfing on this blog looking for some nice decks, when my attention was stunned by this picture:
Thomas's BRW Tempo
I liked the deck, but my first impression was that I could build it better and anyway I didn’t want to play a tempo-oriented deck but a midrange version. So I’ve played a BRW list with Dark Rituals, Sinkhole and Underworld Dreams until march 2016 when I finally got (with an huge trade) my P9, I added two more bombs and made several changes to the list thanks to the experience gained in the tournaments I played.

The main goal to reach was the simplicity: play creatures hard to deal with, like Sedge Troll (that is the most underrated creature in this format), removals and bombs. As you can see from my list, I built the sideboard thinking about control decks.
First version of the deck - December 2015, 3rd position on a 17 players tournament in Milan  (10 proxies allowed)
In the first build of the deck I ran a playset of rituals and factories 'cause I interpreted and played the deck as a Monoblack with a splash. I was wrong. This deck doesn’t want to act like a Monoblack with a ritual-specter on turn one followed by a sinkhole/black knight on turn two. In fact, if your starting hand isn’t explosive, what you want to do in the early game is to stay open and control the board until turn four, when you finally start to play your threats. So the rituals were cut for sapphire and fellwar stones that fix your mana and let you have an easier midgame. Sinkhole is played just as a one-of as a third solution to LoA or (as I often do) to destroy a blue land in order to play a bomb (now I have Fellwar Stone as cc2 drop). Armageddon was another great add: I wanted a big threat against "The Deck" at sorcery speed, in this way, my opponents can fight it only with permissions, and their  removals become useless.

About the Mishra's Factories: playing the first build I noticed that a lot of defeats were caused by Blood Moon or color screw, so the only solution was to cut colorless mana and add more City of Brass and basic lands. During the Ovino tournament I played with only one Mishra's Factory just to troll the other players :) The truth is that I really would like see it in the restricted list because I hate the stalling situations caused by them.

At the moment the only card that doesn’t convince me is Wheel of Fortune: it’s always the first card that I side out in every single matchup. Same thing about Chains of Mephistopheles and Wrath of God, they will be replaced.
The deck I played at Ovino
The deck works fine, I tuned it a lot during the past months. I started from an idea then I developed and improved it and mainly I forgot to blow Mr. Lestree or Mr. Weissman.

The Tournament

Round 1 - Mr Fabbri with BRG Abyss Control (2-0)
In G1 he resolves a Su-Chi on turn four with Badlands, Bayou and Taiga in play. I don’t see any blue sources so I just keep my Disenchant for The Abyss he had previously tutored and it’s gg. Game two is very similar but my hate for artifacts and enchantments has grown.

Round 2 - Mr Pandini with RUG Zoo (only cc1/cc2 creatures) (2-1)
During the morning I playtested with him, he had incredible starting hands and beat me easily 3-0.
In G1 I play a fast Juzam and several removals on his creatures, I force him to make unfavorable plays to take care of my big boys and he quickly lose gasoline and the game.
G2 Land creature go, land creature chain lightning, land bolt bolt. No brain, no pain. Easy victory for him.
G3 He has a Sylvan Library in play but sees only crap, another Juzam take him in the red zone but he’s able to limit it thanks to Maze of Ith until I draw a Time Walk.

Round 3 - Mr Ancarani with UWB Abyss Control 2-0
Before the match we talked about how Juzam is overvalued in this format. He asks me if I play them. I digress.
In G1 my starting hand is: 3 lands, mox, fellwar, Mind Twist and a random card. The plan is simple: Mtwist for 3 on turn 2, unfortunately for Mr. Ancarani my first draw is a Lotus...
However, the match is really long 'cause I draw only mana sources and removals, he’s able to rebuild his hand and has a nice comeback with his Mtwist. Then arrive 3 Juzam and it’s game over.
G2 again 3 overvalued djinns teach him how is wrong to mess with them.

Round 4 - a guy with Monoblack 2-1
In G3 I have to face a dramatic situation: my opponent has 2 Juzam in play, x cards in hand and 11 lifepoints, my board is a Troll, 8 lands and one card in hand (a mox). He attacks me and I go to 4 lp then he casts another Juzam. I topdeck a Fireball and let him die on his upkeep. An inglorious victory.

Round 5 - Mr Maggi with The Deck (with Serra Angel and Power Monolith combo) 2-0
G1 I play some fast creatures that meet stp and cspell, he resolves a Serra Angel so I have to invest my Demonic Tutor for a stp. I play a Juzam and he tries to chaosorbing him but the wrong flip gives me the game.
G2 I can’t remember much of this game, probably I win it thanks to a creature+armageddon.

Round 6 - Mr Lauter with The Deck (i.d.)

Quartefinals - Mr Melandri with UR Counterburn 2-0
G1 He keeps an hand with no red sources and my Specter starts to hit him. Eventually he takes care of him and when he taps out for a threat I simply discard his hand with a Mtwist. A Troll finish the job.
G2 In the midgame he plays a Control Magic on my Troll then resolves a Su-Chi, I play a Juzam and keep him on defense while destroy his blue lands with Sinkhole and Strip Mine. He plays a Timetwister and in response I cast a Bolt on his face, he seems dazed but what I need is just one of my eight outs (Reb or Disenchant) to let the Troll come back home. After the twister he chooses to attack me and I block his Su-chi with my Juzam, he looks at me, he looks at me again, he says "I know u want to fuck my ass", I put my pokerface on, he looks at his lands (island and cob open), he thinks, he looks at me again than taps his cob to bolt my Juzam.
"In response Reb on Control Magic"
"Ok man, you got my ass".
He pass, I untap, draw, play lotus, moxen, Mtwist for 6 and a second Troll. Call me scum.

Semifinals - Mr Esposito with Red Artifact 2-1
The match has been recorded so I hope u will see it online soon.
G1 I’m at 1 life and close to give up, but I succeed to take care of his massive army of Su-Chi and Juggernaut and then my Trolls give me an unexpected victory. Probably one of the best comeback in my life.
G2 A Blood Moon on turn one is enough for me.
G3 He chooses not to Chaos Orb my Troll (and swing his creatures to my face) and probably this choice costs him the game.
Mr. Esposito's deck.
Finals - Mr Citino with UBR Power Monolith 2-1
G1 I start with Scrubland, Lotus, Troll, then land, mox, Demonic Tutor (powersinked), in the midgame he plays a Timetwister and I see again Lotus, Demonic Tutor + Juzam, Strip Mine, and other bombs.
G2 An huge flood for me: 10 lands, 3 fellwar, 2 moxen (the other 2 in my hand). I play 4 spells: Time Walk, Reb, Disenchant and a Troll. He resolves Blood Moon and the Abyss then plays 4 Bolts and a Fireball.
G3 He quickly resolves a Blood Moon but has only an island and sapphire as blue sources, this means he cannot try his combo with a backup cspell. I have a Troll plus swamp and Mox Jet and slowly start a race. He gets some turns bolting my Troll in the precombat phase, then tries an Ancestral Recall on my eot, I let him resolves ‘cause I have only a Reb in hand as active protection. Then he casts a Boomerang on the autolocking Blood Moon and I let him resolves too 'cause now with Reb, Disenchant and Fork (previously drawn) I feel pretty safe. On his turn he plays a land and pass. No bombs, no Abyss, he’s in a deep flood. I draw a second Troll and resolve it (can’t remember if there was a counterwar on him). Two turns later he extends his hand.

That’s all, thanks for reading.
The prize: A huge Chaos Orb signed by Tedin and the players.
We give Giuseppe a great thanks for his story, for his good games, and for showing us again that underestimating Juzam Djinn will come at the price of your demise. All the best! /Mg

onsdag 11 maj 2016

Skype magic - or playing magic with people from all over the world when you have toddlers

Today we have a treat! Norwegian old school player and all round good guy Bjørn Einar Bjartnes shares his story, and his experiences battling opponents around the world using Skype and Shivan Dragons. Enjoy! /Mg out

I started playing Magic back when revised was in the shops here in Oslo. It was very casual and mostly with friends from school. House rules were a necessity because no-one knew the rules that well. My little brother claims I insisted Mana Flare only counted for my lands. No wonder I appreciated that card so much. We had a few older cards, mostly we got ripped trading dual lands for common legend cards, I think. My mum actually managed to buy eight packs of The Dark for Christmas once, I think the local card store got an extra box in. I still remember not being too happy about expansions like Ice Age, I guess 93/94 was in my heart already back then. When I started high school, I put my cards away in a shoe-box. Geeky hobbies like Mtg had to let go. Since then my cards had mostly been in that shoe-box, or played by my little brother who continued playing. Until the day I started working with Magnus and he showed me his blog. 20 years later all I knew for sure was that I was still going to play red and green, maybe with black, but surely not white and blue. Everybody knows those colors are for weaklings and cowards. I didn’t plan to go all in on 93/94 either, maybe just restore my old revised deck as I remembered it, but one thing led to another and suddenly the cardboard crack got the better of me, with new shipments being ordered before the first one arrives.
My current deck is under constant tweaking as I learn to play 93/94. My favorite kill is a Berserked Dragon Whelp with Gauntlet of Might. This is my build for an ongoing Skype tournament that allows revised.
A lot of good things can be said about Scandinavian gender equality, but it doesn’t give a man with young kids a lot of time to hang out playing Magic with friends all night. It’s not that much fun having a sweet deck built and hardly being able to leave the apartment… When I found the OLDSCHOOL 93-94 SKYPE TOURNAMENTS Facebook Group I got really interested. It definitely sounds a bit weird, webcam with strangers does sound a bit like chat roulette to me. Desperate to play magic, I decided to give it a go anyway. Turned out, it was a great experience, time flew, I had a few beers, we played and talked about Magic for hours. My girlfriend did make quite a lot of fun of me for it, I guess it must have looked a bit weird…
My first game, we played only using laptops, we didn’t even build the laptop up with books. We were such n00bs back then in April...
Suddenly I was able to hang out and play with people from all over the world. It has turned out a lot better than I expected it too. Old-school players are really chill, the format is really about casual fun and admiration of old cards. Rules are the “standard” Swedish B&R, but most people are ok with people playing revised cards. Personally, I play a couple of revised duals and a couple of birds, but I try to avoid going overboard and avoid proxies. I think most of us play to have fun with the old card, and even if I would probably win more if I added a few proxies for moxen and a lotus it wouldn’t feel right for me. Winning is less important than slinging old cards. Mostly, when I have time to play, I just post on the group when I have time and want to play, ideally the day before, but the same night sometimes works as well. As more players find out about 93/94 Skype I’m sure hooking up with players will be even easier.
I’ve had quite a few matches the last weeks with Markus. This shows my first setup, without an external camera, but using an extra monitor.
As more people join in on the fun, the Skype format evolves. One Sunday not too long ago we played a mini-tournament with four players, everybody got to play three matches with all three players. We had players on both sides of the Atlantic ocean. There are other longer-running tournaments being experimented with, and I’m sure we haven’t seen it all yet. We have even talked about traveling to meet up with some players to play IRL.

My experience so far, is that tournaments are a lot more chill if you schedule in matches in different sessions. Hanging out, slinging cards, drinking beer is more relaxed if you don’t have other people waiting. At least for me, the 3x3 matches in one night was less chill. I did get to play a lot of different opponents, I did have a great time, but I prefer playing one person without time limits.
Things you can do only on Skype: I can stand on my standing-desk while my opponent can sit down and smoke without bothering me.
Some things needs a few adjustment when playing over Skype, like taking control over creatures, rolling dice etc. But even flipping orbs works well! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxkpXbHGElA

Having an old laptop with a bad webcam shouldn’t stop you from playing on Skype. No matter how good your setup is, you will not be able to read the text of a card without holding the card to the camera, so a simple setup will suffice. However, I have played around a little to try to optimize my setup.
  1. Connection
    A stable connection helps a lot, not hearing your opponent clearly is more annoying than the video quality dropping. Getting good audio requires a stable internet connection. Wired Ethernet beats WiFi, so try to wire up. If you can’t, at least make sure you have a strong WiFI signal.
  2. Built in webcam
    If you don’t have an external webcam, there are a few tricks that works well. You can build your laptop up with a few heavy books to get a better angle, and if you have an external monitor you can avoid trying to look up on a bent screen on the book pile.
  3. External cameras
    You will get the best quality from external webcams. High quality webcams need to do compression to be able to send video feed to your opponent over the internet, if you have a beefy computer it should be able to do high res video (720p, at least) using your CPU to do the compression. If your computer is a bit slower, a camera with built in hardware encoding is definitely better. Cameras like Logitech’s C920 does hardware encoding of h.264 up to 1920x1080, that Skype for Windows can use directly without having to encode the video. I would definitely recommend the C920, I picked mine up used for about $50.
  4. Lightning
    Webcams need decent lighting. Avoid direct sunlight and spots that can give glares in cards. Direct back light can also be challenging.
  5. Life counters
    The mobile apps works really well, you can see both players score over Skype. My small, see-through dice are next to worthless. I dream of making a device of some sorts that would project life onto the screen, we’ll see…
  6. Sound
    Built in mics normally work, but external speakers and a decent microphone is better. I use the built in mic in the C920 and I think that's ok.
This is about as high quality as I have been able to get my video.
And in the not-too-distant future I am sure we can get even more immersive gameplay, with real cards projected on the table. The Hololens still costs approximately one unlimited Black Lotus, but unlike the Lotus, prices will drop. People have already started contributing ideas to https://microsoftstudios.com/hololens/shareyouridea/idea/magic-the-gathering/. Personally, I don’t care about the 3D models on top of the cards, there is nothing 93/94 about that, but having your opponents cards projected onto a table would be cool. Also a virtual touch on a card to have in enlarged would be sweet. http://i.cbc.ca/1.2927980.1421947089!/fileImage/httpImage/image.png_gen/derivatives/original_620/hololens-minecraft.png

We thank Bjørn Einar again for his introduction to Skype Magic and sweet tech. If you want to join him in a game or two, I highly recommend checking out the 93/94 Skype Magic Facebook group. Note that this group is not any kind of hardcore competitive environment, but a chance for deckbuilders with few local opponents or a lot of commitments to have a beer and swing old cardboard with similar good people around the world :)