måndag 15 december 2014

Burning WW: A report from Vasa Gaming

Today I have the pleasure to post a tournament report from Erik "Sehl" Larsson. Sehl's first year playing 93/94 has been very impressive, and he has tested multiple different decks in tournaments across Sweden. Two weeks ago he took his latest creation to the win at Vasa Gaming. Enjoy!

It all started during the Christmas holidays a year ago, when Viktor ”Oldschool” Peterson brought his complete magic collection to my place for some casual gaming together with Jesper “Munchhausen” Riis and his older brother Pontus. By this time I hadn’t barely seen a magic card for over 15 years, but thought it would be really nice with a stroll down the nostalgia lane. We had a great evening with many laughs and noobie plays. Viktor lured us into start playing magic in the mid 90’s and after this evening, I must confess, he had done it again.

At first I and Jesper placed an order together of cheap revised cards from the US, foolishly thinking that we will stop there and not buy any of those expensive 93/94-cards.  This was of course inevitably followed by ordering some unlimited cards. Power, duals and for that matter beta-cards was still way too expensive and definitely out of the question. I managed however quite quickly to scrape together a fairly cheap Ehrnamgeddon, my deck of dreams from the 90’, aiming for my first tournament in 93/94 Kingvitational 1.

Full of hope and excitement I faced Magnus “mg” de Laval in my first duel in my first tournament for over 15 years. He quickly squeezed the fresh fish and finished the humiliation by screaming scornfully to my face: “Synd att du inte är bättre på magic!” (Too bad you’re not better at magic!). Despite my poor results in the tournament I had a great time playing and hanging out with the guys that evening. The addiction to the game just got worse.

Teching at BSK
So, one intense year of insane bidding, orders from worldwide and participation in several 93/94-tournaments I can now say that I’m a proud and overly pleased winner of my first tournament. The tournament itself was not the most crowded one in the Swedish scene but nevertheless full of, in my opinion, very skilled players and for that matter; actual shark-holders.

Match 1, vs Brorsan - Eel Aggro
I felt really excited meeting Brorsan in the first match, hoping that he would play his great Eel aggro deck from BSK. That type of deck is one of the decks I tried to improve my game against. Red Elemental Blast added to the sideboard and Serra Angels in the main, hoping that they would be tough to burn away.
In the first duel Brorsan literally drew blanks, and I simply ran him over with some small creatures. Of course a great start for me, but it gave me very little information about how my new tech would work.
The second duel was a pure race to the bottom, he was attacking me from above with Flying men and Serendib and I was hitting him on the ground with Savannah Lion and Mishra. He eventually played a second Serendib for blocking, but my newly added Red Elemental Blast showed its greatness and led the way for my small ones.
Stare-down with Brorsan.
Match 2, vs Felipe – Atog Smash
Gaah, not Felipe again! That was my thought seeing him in the second match. He's a really tough player to meet and the actual winner of the last tournament I attended. It feels like he weighs every move with extreme precision making you feel that he’s going to win at any moment. I've met him twice before in tournaments this fall, with 1-1 as a result and my win was only thanks to a very lucky Chaos Orb ("If you have sleeves on cards, they count as the cards." Thanks, Matt Tabak).

The first duel started with an early Mind twist putting me down on my knees. I tried to recover and to get my Loa started, but it was too late. His Mishra’s and mighty Triskelion was hitting me hard and they eventually killed me topped with a Lightning bolt.

I don’t recall much from the second duel, but I remember that an opportune Blue elemental blast protected my creatures from an Earthquake making them able run the race. In the final duel I started with Loa, drew tons of cards, played tons of creatures and won. Loa is a ridiculous good card to start with even in a “Weenie deck”.
"Unlimited is just a gateway to the harder stuff"
Match 3, vs Munchhausen – URG Zoo
Munchhausen is one of my oldest and best friends and we’ve played magic together thousands of times always trying to tech against each other. Our two current decks are basically 50/50, but with an overhand for me after side boarding. He, however, plays one of the things I fear most with my deck; land destruction in form Ice Storm. I’ve always liked to play with a tight mana base, so there’s more room for fun cards instead of lands. This is of course the case of my current deck.

Munchhausen in deep thought.
First duel, Munchausen cast Ice storm, Ice storm and then Chaos Orb on my first three lands, and that's it. I hate Ice storm.

For the second duel I sideboard Red Elemental Blast, Blue Elemental Blast and of course City in a Bottle.  After resolving an early City in a Bottle I managed to lock him down and make way for my creatures. He responded after a few turns with Shatter, but a second City in a Bottle on my hand closed the deal. City in a Bottle kicks ass!

I remember the third duel as "my creatures are bigger than yours thanks to Crusade, I win".

Match 4, vs Elof
Since I don't remember much at all from our duels I asked Elof if he could write some lines about our game. Elof doesn't need much more of an introduction, he holds no less than three Giant Sharks. This is his words:

I sit down for round 4 to play against the mighty Sehl. We are both 3-0 and locked in for top 4. It does make this game somewhat meaningless and we are pretty certain that we won't face each other again until earliest the final.

I have chosen for this day to play Bantamgeddon, a list similar to what JACO wrote about at Eternal Central. I made some changes, and my list is viewable in the decks to beat section. Basically it's a deck designed to use some of the best cards in 93/94 - Disenchant, Swords to Plowshares, Serra Angel, Armageddon and Power. Unfortunately those cards are white and blue and only supply 4 creatures (the Serras). So in order to add win cons I added Erhnam Djinn. It could have been Serendib Efreet, but I was afraid of running into several Reb blasts and also playing Erhnams makes playing Mana Vault more attractive as it can ramp out Serra, Erhnam and Geddons. Anyway, back to the game at hand.

I look at my opening hand and realize it does need some help. If I recall correctly it was something in the line of Tropical, Tundra, Fellwar and Erhnam together with some cards I can't recall, probably Disenchant and Geddon. In retrospect this was not a hand to keep. I knew that Sehl was playing something aggressive since he borrowed a Plateau from me and also traded for some Lightning Bolts. So basically I should mulligan but somehow I hope to get lucky with my draws. A very bad choice since Sehl plays Savannah Lions and other creatures. I sword one but Sehl has Disenchants for my Fellwar and things spiral even further after that.

I sideboard in all the removal I can find, the Control Magics, Preacher, Drop of Honey and a Balance. I remove my Geddons and Mana Vaults. The second game locks several times, I have removal for his creatures and I'm able to steal White Knight but it get bolted, same for my Preacher. I drop a Drop (of Honey) but Sehl has Disenchant, something I wasn't counting on. My very controlling hand starts to run out of answers and Serras, Erhnams or any of my good cards is nowhere to be seen and I die slowly after hitting a land pocket.

Sehl played really good and I didn't, and that made most of the difference. Apparently Sehl had cut his Swords to Plowshares so playing a fast Serra would definitely been a good play against him. I do recall him having Serras in play one of the games, so that would be his best answer I would guess. He also plays some amount of Psionic Blasts so the matchup does favor him, especially since my Geddons does very little in the matchup.

Semifinal, vs Felipe
Not again?!
He started, as per usual, with an early Mind twist, but this time I was able to respond immediately with an Ancestral Recall followed up next turn with a Wheel of Fortune, both making his awful Mind twist quite useless. My creatures went the distance easily after this.
I decided to play a bit differently in the second duel; usually I save my artifact removal for something other than moxes, but this time I went after them directly. This turned out to be a great strategy, since Felipe had a very light land draw. He couldn’t respond to my attacks and the final was waiting around the corner.

Elof vs Freespace in the other semifinal.
Final, vs Freespace
I’ve fought Freespace a couple of times before in tournaments almost always resulting in extremely tight duels. He’s a great player and he always seems to look for the big smash with one or two Berserks. This time I had the chance to glance at his deck during the swiss and knew that he was playing lots and lots of brown cards. This made me quite relaxed facing him in the final, since I played 6 artifact removals maindeck and 3 Dust to Dust in the sideboard. Whatever he plays I should have an answer for it.

I got a dream start in the first duel; land, mox and two Lions, thinking that this would be over quickly. Freespace responded by completely pouring out artifacts in forms of moxes, Fellwar Stone and Howling Mine. In turn two I tried to destroy his card engine Howling Mine, but a well played Avoid Fate stopped me. Quickly after this he blocked away my Lions by playing his terrifying Atog. A few turns later, whilst the game was locked and when further Howling Mine had entered the board together with several other artifacts he beat me down with the Atog, huge as freakin’ monster.

Freespace was unable to get his game going in the second duel, if I remember correctly he never summoned a single Howling Mine. Eventually I had two Serras, flying over his Atog, smashing him down pumped with Crusade and topped with a Lightning Bolt.

The third duel looked quite alike the second one, he was unable to get his game going. This time it was a very opportune Dust to Dust who stopped him by removing a Relic Barrier and a Howling Mine. The really sweet price and honor was finally mine!
Who's the noob now, Mg?
Some thoughts in retrospect:
It seems like you never can play enough artifact removal, especially instant ones as almost everyone has a playset of Mishra’s in the main deck. Being able to remove moxes is never bad either.
A solid sideboard is extremely important; this in terms of cards that actually are sideboard cards and not cards that could be good against any deck, hence resulting in that you probably never use them.
If a deck doesn’t make you feel like mulligan particularly often you probably have a deck that is both well balanced and a deck that works well against any opponent.

Now I’m looking forward to Frippan Open at December 20 and I sincerely hope that Freespace will get his revenge and take the price back home, until then: Cheers and Merry Christmas!
//SEHL

onsdag 10 december 2014

Lestree Zoo and updates

Most old school players would call Zak Dolan's win at the 1994 World Championships a fluke. Zak was by no means a bad player, and his deck was very solid, but his opponent was one of the first "next level" Magic masters. Zak's opponent in the finals, Bertrand Lestree, was known as "the best European player" by most, and as "the best player in the world" by some. He was one of the first great deck builders, and a very strong player to that. Lestree followed up his second place at Worlds 1994 with a second place at the very first Pro Tour, but his name eventually faded into Magic obscurity.
This guy!
A month back, a man named Manuel Sternis organized a highly successful old school tournament in France. After the tournament (which had an open reprint policy, and attracted no less than 20 players), Manuel and I had an interesting mail conversation about the old school format and the meta. He told me; "By looking to your blog, we were completely astonished to see that there wasn't any "Bertrand Lestree's zoo" in your tournaments". Lestree Zoo is a very solid deck, and it showed great results in the first years in our meta. The final of n00bcon 2 was a zoo mirror, and Lestree Zoo placed second at BSK 2010. In later years though, the Electric Eel Aggro and Juzam Smash decks has taken the place as the decks-to-beat among "power zoo" decks.

Jesper "Munchhausen" Riis is one of the sweet players raised in Varberg. The Varberg meta might be the strongest in Sweden. Apart from guys like Erik "Sehl" Larsson and Daniel "Kungen" Ahlberg, Varberg players hold no less than five of the eleven Giant Sharks awarded in 93/94 tournaments for the last four and a half years (Gothenburg has three). As a player from that crew, Munchhausen might have slipped under the radar as one of the "players-to-beat". He started his year with a top4 at Kingvitational 1, and in the last weeks he placed top4 at Playoteket and 5th at Vasa Gaming. His deck of choice is a modern take on Lestree Zoo. It still works:
Miser's Ice Storms ftw.
This will be a short post (more is coming this weekend), and I'll end with that sweet decklist. I've also updated the PWP standings and "decks-to-beat" with the results and decks from Playoteket and Vasa Gaming today though. Check them out if you're a net-decker ;)

torsdag 4 december 2014

Green Doesn't Suck Now, Dammit!

It was time to try something new. A few months back, I got my hands on a Mox Emerald. This was mostly to get my stripes and complete the Nine. Apart from some dabbling with Vintage Oath in 2005, back when Akroma was the prime Oath target, I've pretty much never used a green Mox. Green/White in particular is the color combination I've played with the least, with a fairly large margin. In over 20 years of Magic, I've only ever owned a single Savannah (I won that and a Plateau in Legacy tournament playing monoblack Necrotic Ooze, and then used it in a 115-card casual Elemental deck before I sold it). But there I was, with the luxury problem of having a green Mox in my collection without a deck to play it in. It was time to go MonoGreen.

So, where to start? Gaea's Touch seemed like the most obviously strong card when we go all-in on forests. It does a pretty good Fastbond impression during the first turns, and after that it functions as a Green Ritual. Turn two Gaea's Touch can give me access to up to 7 mana turn three. It's also pretty sweet to cast turn two Gaea's Touch, use it to play another forest, and then sac the enchantment for two mana to cast a three-drop like Ice Storm or Killer Bees.

With the insane ramp provided by Llanowar Elves and Gaea's Touch, it's very feasible to consistently cast 6-drops. I went for 3 Desert Twisters, 2 Gaea's Liege and a single Force of Nature. If I had access to another Force I'd most probably play it (same is true for Sylvan Library). Craw Wurm was definitely a consideration as well. I rounded off the curve with a pair of Ifh-Biff Efreets, and added a set of Howling Mines to draw some extra cards. When I was finished teching, I realized that I only owned 20 forests, and I wanted to play 23. There is really no excuse not to play Mishra's Factory in the current meta, so I swapped a few forests in the list for a playset of Factories. Maybe a little boring, but it works. The card I felt I missed the most was Fog btw, I couldn't get my hands on legal copies before the tournament. Fog is very strong against the new Atog decks, as well as against WW and other beatdown/berserk decks.

For Atog, one is usually enough.
So, last weekend I was back in Gothenburg to test the deck in a tournament. My girlfriend is on the last legs for the presentation of her master thesis, and would spend most of the weekend in school. I could hence book both Saturday and Sunday afternoons playing Magic. Saturday was a moderately sized Vintage tournament with 14 players. The Vintage scene in Gothenburg have been very healthy for the last year, and we have bi-weekly non-proxy tournaments with skilled players. My Young Mages ended up in second place, losing to Stax in the finals. I knew it was all preparation for the real challenge on Sunday though.

New school?
Sunday then. The tournament takes place at Vasa Gaming, Gothenburgs prime LGS for swinging cards. 11 players had signed up, including a few guys from the Varberg crew; Elof, Munchausen, Brorsan and Sehl. All in all it's a surprisingly strong field, with a lot of sweet guys I meet far too rarely. I get paired against the Bye in the first round. It's a winnable matchup for me, even though I rather would have played someone else. I crack a beer and bother Rafiki who's the working man behind the counter for the day.

In the back: Felipe vs Stalin. Front: Timespiral vs Kalle.
After a gruelling round against the bye, I finally get the chance to go green. My second round opponent is Freespace. He had updated the Atog deck he took to the finals of Playoteket last week and was looking to smash. Without Fog and Crumble, it looks really hard to beat.

Well, if he doesn't have a Berserk, this could work. He always has the Berserk though.
Two Atog attacks later, Freespace has won the match with 2-0. Lucky guy. Killer Bees and the Avenger both showed a lot of power, but the deck simply can't race a 'tog without the nut draw.

I'm paired against Kalle in the next round, and if I know him right he'll be playing something slow and grindy. I go turn 1 Forest, Llanowar Elves, which Kalle follows with turn 1 Mana Vault. I have the Relic Barrier turn two, and Ice Storm for his Mishra turn three. Kalle resolves a Forcefield to keep my Avenger at bay, and proceeds to cast Ancestral and Mind Twist my hand. It is a grindy game, but eventually the forests are victorious.

Gaea's Avenger: The foogey's Tarmogoyf.
Our second game is pretty sweet. Kalle has turn 1 Library of Alexandria, and then one of us scoops in disgust turn 3. It is him. Turns out ramping into Ice Storms and big guys beats a Library.

Green is pretty sweet after all. I look around the tables and realize that I have something like a 5/95 matchup against Elof's DurdleGeddon (this deck cannot beat Armageddon), but other than that I think most decks looks beatable. I get paired against Munchhausen with his Lestree Zoo for the last round of the swiss.

Racing with the slug.
It's a tight and interesting match, and in the end Munchhausen walks away with the 2-1. The sweetest play was probably when he Mana Drained my Desert Twister on his Serendib Efreet. That gave him a total of 12 mana during his next turn, which was enough for a Fireball for 9 and a Fork for the win. Munchhausen ends up in fifth place and gets a Shatter to represent his shattered dreams of top4.

That beta Counterspell was actually pretty much Nm a few hours earlier. A little off center though, so I guess we shouldn't feel too bad. The Adventure's Guildhouse was awarded to the player in last place.
The top4 ended up being Felipe (AtogFlare), Elof (DurdleGeddon), Freespace (AtogSmash) and Sehl (WWu). In the end Sehl managed to beat Freespace in the finals. They have both been showing consistently impressive finishes in the last six months, and it was nice to see one of them picking up a trophy at last. Sehl probably had the best trash talk of this tournament as well, and it was highly entertaining to listen to him between rounds. It also turns out that Atog is the real deal. Felipe and Freespace have really dominated with it in the tournaments since BSK.

Though they couldn't beat the sheer luck of Sehl this time ;)
I'm satisfied with how my deck played, but there are a few modifications to be done. I really should play Crumble and Fog in the sideboard. In particular Fog would have been great in both the matches I lost. I should also cut down on the Killer Bees, four is at least one too many. They usually win the game if unchecked, but they have highly diminishing returns. Another Sylvan Library is also something to look for. All-in-all though, I think that monogreen is a viable (and pretty cheap) deck. You don't really need the Mox or Lotus to ramp the mana here, they are mostly gravy.

Gaea's Liege is soo satisfying to play.
I've heard that both Kungen and Axelsson have teched with monogreen decks as well, and I'm looking forward to a battle royale between our decks. Hopefully as soon as December 20-21, when Freespace will host Frippan Open in Gothenburg. It will be a sweet weekend with Vintage and 93/94 tournaments, and I hope to see a lot of you there!

torsdag 27 november 2014

Atog Smash: A report from Playoteket

Last weekend Playoteket hosted their second 93/94 tournament. The attendance had grown since September, and a lot of new tech was represented in the wake of BSK. The eventual champion was none other than our artistic friend Felipe Garcia. This is his story. Enjoy!

When I moved from Spain to Sweden I thought I would deeply miss the old school booster drafts from Sevilla's Vintage scene. We used complete collections of CE Beta, Arabian, Antiquities, Legends and Dark to create boosters and play 8-man drafts. The games were surrounded by beer and an amazingly fun ambient.

It was a great surprise when I, in the beginning of 2014, discovered that there not only existed a great oldschool scene in Sweden, but that this scene was one of the most active and interesting in the whole world. I became a hardcore Magic collector three years ago when I made an important decision. By that time Legacy was huge in Spain, and Legacy GP Madrid had been the largest Magic tournament to date. As many other long time players, I had the opportunity to complete a pretty decent Legacy pool which allowed me to play most of the top tier decks in the format. The birth of my twins drastically reduced the amount of Legacy tournaments I could attend, so I decided to exchange that pool into some oldschool collections. I began with the “easier” sets (LE, AR, AN, TD), and left the Beta to the end. Finally, five months ago, I could get my hands on the last card of the sets, a Beta Ex signed Black Lotus from a well known Spanish/German player.

 
My family moved from the southern Spanish city of Sevilla to the Swedish countryside near Gothenburg one year ago. Representatives from Västra Götalands Regionen's health care system went to Spain in 2013, to hire doctors in order to alleviate the severe lack of specialists that suffers Sweden. A couple of other young doctor families encouraged us to take the offer and leave behind our comfortable life in Spain.

I'm an architect myself, and at that time 80% of my projects came from China and South Korea so for my overseas clients it wasn't a huge change. We thought about it for some time. Then in June 2013 the recruiting company invited us on a visiting trip to take a close look at the working place, kindergartens, houses and the country in general. We had a great experience and the other doctors who came before finally convinced us.

I spent the first 6 months learning the language, and now I am waiting for a final interview to get a job in the city. I must give great thanks to Stalin (the first Swedish player I contacted), Johan and Jenny, Mg, and all the players who trusted in my art skills for some playmat alterations. First year in a different country can be difficult due to the language and culture shock. In my case I must say that the people in SvenskaMagic's OldSchool community have been an awesome help. In those moments the feeling of being a little part of a larger group is extremely important.

In Borås BSK I played a 5color combo deck based on Mana flare and Candelabra of Tawnos. It was pretty fun and included one-offs of almost every card, as I only had singles in my collections. But my knowledge of the metagame proved to be very short.
The CandleFlare deck from BSK
I have previously discussed with MG the deepness of oldschool magic in terms of strategy choices. I am convinced that Richard Garfield originally created an incredible vast game. Later expansions have added a lot of new cards, but mostly only tweaks to the already existing strategies from the first years of the game. Therefore I think that oldschool is still a world to be discovered.

In Borås a realized a couple of things. Under the current metagame there are no reasons to prescind of the strong Mishra's Factories, so I cut a couple colors (green and white)  in order to play four of them. Nowadays I thinks is obligatory to have an answer to them, which in my case was the Lightning bolts and the Cyclopean Tomb. The second decision was to take a more proactive role in my game style, because with most of the decks running Disenchants it was difficult to keep Candelabra/Flares alive. So the best thing to do, rather than trying to defend them through Counterspells, was to cast some Disenchant targets early in the game. 
The AtogFlare deck
 In order to beat agresive decks I added a playset of Lightning bolts and Earthquakes. I think control decks are possible without counter magic. Another thing Johan and I talked about was the power of the Mana Vault playset which work great with Transmute artifact and the Atogs.
Freespace's Atog deck in full motion.
Match 1, vs Erik “Sehl” Larsson.
White Weenie, blue splash for Power and Psionic Blasts.

I played against Erik in the the final battle for the top8 at BSK. It was a great match back then and in Malmö. He is a great player which it has been a pleasure to meet.

A quick Su-chi and Triskelion pressured his board in the first game, but it was not enough to stop his White knights and Serra angel. Sehl carries 4 Swords to Plowshares and 4 Disenchant maindeck which makes it really difficult for my artifact creatures to survive.

In the second game I resolved a Mind Twist for 5 early, and countered his Ancestral Recall with Red Elemental Blast to run him out of gas. In our final game my Factories and his City of Brass lowered his life quickly and he never got a significant board presence.
1-0
Tournament organizer Arkanon vs Sehl.
Match 2, vs Kim
Monored Goblin Burn

Kim was piloting a very effective and aggressive deck. Around 10 goblins, some other fat guys and burn spells. In the first game I got burned away through big Disintegrates and Fireballs. I never got the opportunity to apply early pressure on him to force him to waste his spells on my creatures.

The second was quick because I played Su-chi on the first turn and his 4 toughness keep him safe enough time to take the game.

In the third one I tried to play slower, as the Ivory Tower on my starting hand is a good option against burn. That is one of the things I really liked about this deck, it is very flexible in terms of speed. You can adapt to the starting hand and the opponent. Finally double Ivory Tower keep me in the safe range of 16 life for the remainder of the game. I must say it was not easy though. The burn deck is quite dangerous when it reaches 8 lands.
2-0
White Weenie vs Black Weenie
Match 3, vs Jesper “Munchhausen” Riis
Su-Chi Quicksilver

First game. I think an early mind twist cleared this one.

In the second game Energy Flux appeared on his side. It made things quite difficult for my cheap artifacts (ivory, candelabra, mana artifacts…), but fortunately Control Magic proved vital after I stole away two of Jesper's Su-chis.
3-0
A year full of Mishras is a strong alternative win condition.
Fourth match, vs Johan “Freespace” Andersson
Atog Smash

Very interesting match against the other Atog deck. The things I really liked about his deck: The Howling Mine/Relic Barrier draw engine and the 4-off Atog finisher style.

In the first two games both decks showed their potential. Johans 58/30 trampling Atog killed me right away in the first game, while I was quick enough to beat him in the second before he could get his pieces together.

In the third one I was lucky enough to have a Time Walk at the perfect moment. We could say that Time Walk is automatic win when the third Howling Mine is played.
4-0
Johan "Freespace" Andersson and Felipe. 'Tog bros.
Semi final, vs Olle “Rolex” Råde
The Deck

I began to play Magic in 1994. Back in the days before the web, information was much more restricted. Rumours were spread through specialised magazines like The Duelist or Spanish magazine URZA. I still remember how my small Magic community dreamed about what the card called Black Lotus could be. We did not have a way to know its text or cost. We just knew it was worth 8.600 Spanish pesetas (around €50).

Through that spanish magazine I read about the adventures of legendary players like Olle. Needless to say that it was a tremendous honour to meet him in Borås and play with him in Malmö.

First game I was constantly behind him in threats and he seemed to hold an answer to every line of play I tried to develop. I tutored for the only card I supposed it would be hard to counter, the Library of Alexandria, but it was already too late to beat his Serra Angel.

In the second I started with a first turn Timetwister off two moxes, and followed with a Cyclopean tomb which sealed the game. I have found the Tomb a great card versus a wide range of the decks, and a perfect answer to the factories when it's played early enough.

Olle's Mishras vs Felipe's Cyclopean Tomb.
In the third and definitive match my moral was a bit higher and a first turn library gave the advantage to overwhelm his control tools. A Mind Twist sealed the game, taking me to the finals.
5-0

Final, vs Johan “Freespace” Andersson
Atog Smash

The last swiss round gave me great information about Johan's strategy. He had a very synergetic deck, but I felt that my deck had stronger topdecks. I must keep attention to his Atog which I think is his bottle neck, and knowing that his only protection for the red creature was Avoid Fate, I strongly hoped to find board swepers like The Abyss or Earthquake.

The winning deck from BSK ran 3 Earthquakes, and I think that this was one of the reasons of its success. I played a playset in Malmö and they proved highly valuable.

I don't remember too much about the details, but I managed to win the first game.
Starting hand of game 2.
Johan begins game two. Awesome start by Johan through Workshop, Vault, Howling Mine and Relic Barrier.

I tried to search for an answer to his Atog with my Demonic Tutor. The choice was between Maze of Ith and Abyss. I picked the latter as it would be more difficult to handle and could take care of multiple copies. It was promptly removed from my hand by his Wheel of Fortune.

I played Su-Chi to distract his Relic Barrier and balance his card drawing advantage, but Johan could follow up with sacrificing 6 artifacts to his Atog and play Berserk for the win.
Coffin shenanigans.
In the last game, I played some early threats as Johan played multiple Howling Mines without finding Relic Barriers. The advantage was on the side who had enough mana to cast the 3 or 4 cards drawn per turn. I played Maze of ith and Tawnos coffin which stopped his Su-chis and factories. Finally when Johan overextended in his board presence, the Nevinyrral's disk sealed the game.
6-0
The spoils of victory: two Blasts and a signed Contract from Below.
The prices were perfect for my Beta collection as both REB and BEB was an upgrade in terms of card condition to my previous copies.

It was a great day. It was my first time in Malmö, which looked much bigger and more interesting than I had guessed. Definitely I need to take my family there for some proper tourism. Thanks to Kristoffer for the 6 hours drive, it was a fantastic language training journey.

Hope to see you all in the next 93/94 event!!

/Felipe

söndag 23 november 2014

Worzel's rules

"Worzel felt the telltale prickling at the back of her neck; her domain was being challenged!"

Magic rules used to be fairly fluid. The idea was that players would find their own interpretations on how to play. Many cards were intentionally worded ambiguously to force players to make their own conclusions. The rulebooks noted that you should discuss your interpretation of the rules whenever you played with someone outside your local playgroup to "make sure that you play the same game". When I started, we e.g. though that "X" represented the roman numeral 10. In hindsight, that may not the brightest of interpretations. I still played with Word of Binding in my deck though, as the Ron Spencer art was far to sweet to pass on.
You decide if this gives all Goblins flying or only itself.
It was expected that most players would buy a starter and maybe a few boosters to build their decks. Not surprisingly, the playtesters realized that the blue "boon" was a pretty powerful card. To fix this, rather than nerfing the power level, the rarity of Ancestral Recall was changed from common to rare. Arguably, if there only existed one Ancestral in every other playgroup or so, the impact of the card would be acceptable. In that same vein, it got clear that taking extra turns was very powerful, so the playtesters scrapped the red and black versions. Starburst and Paralysis would never see the light of day, and only Time Walk was left at a high rarity.

So in this wild west of Magic, the expectations were that players would play locally and without knowledge about all of the cards. The old golden rule states that "Whenever a card's text directly contradicts the rules, the card takes precedence". For many cards in Alpha though, it can be taxing to understand what precedence to take.
So if I steal the Hordes with Control Magic, should I be more worried about what "pay BBB" means, or that my Control Magic could be "CARD ed"?
It's not crystal clear. It's pretty funny though :) A few weeks back, I finally got my hands on an Alpha rulebook, and in some ways it makes me wonder how people ever learned how to play the game with strangers. Now, the Beta rule book is a remarkable work, but reading that in order to learn how to play modern Magic is only slightly more useful than reading The Merchant of Venice to learn how to build a bridge. The Alpha rule book is actually even more confusing. Like an Icy Manipulator or Channel from Alpha, the rulebook itself was updated for the Beta and Unlimited releases.
Alpha to the left, Beta/Unl to the right.
Not having an appendix in the Alpha rule book is harsh, but I guess that it was simply overlooked. The Beta rulebook also added a "Clarifications to rules" section, among other things.
Like anyone would need clarifications on Banding.
All in all, six new pages were added to the Beta rules. The main reason I wanted to get my hands on the Alpha book was the two pages that were removed though; Worzel's Story.

Magic was developed by role players, and it was marketed towards gamers. The flavor "drew on the milieu of Dungeons and Dragons". Hence, the first thing you see when you open the first ever Magic rule book, is a short fantasy story written by Garfield. The story doesn't make a lot of sense as to how the card game works, so I guess I can understand why it was cut. It does however hint at the mechanics of sweet cards like Sea Serpent and Glasses of Urza.
If you don't control any Islands, opposing Serpents can't attack you. Subtle hints on the rules ;)
I'm usually not that interested in lore, but I find this story interesting as it was the first introduction the earliest players had to the game. Worzel's story was continued in Roreca's Tale from the 1994 Pocket Player's Guide, but I don't think we've heard anything about her in the last 20 years. Looks like she's been outdated by the Jaces and Lilianas of today. 

This weekend there was another tournament at Playoteket in Scania btw, looking forward to hear some stories from that event :) November 30th there will also be tournament in Gothenburg, at Vasa Gaming. Planning to test out some new tech, hope to see you there!

måndag 17 november 2014

Myfz's story

Today we have a guest report from Kristoffer "Myfz" Karlsson, finalist at BSK and all-round good guy. Enjoy!

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....

That's how the soon to be nine part long Star Wars saga begins, or at least the first six episodes. This nine round 93/94 story starts in April of 2014 when I first started to play Hearthstone. After a few hours I realised that it was Magic I really wanted to play. Every move I made in Heartstone made me longing for turning real cards sideways instead. So after a 2 year long break from Magic, and with no cards left but my black 93/94 deck (without Juzam and power), I embarked to svenskamagic.com to check how things were going. I set out to build a cheap deck for Legacy to pass the time while waiting for some new 93/94 tournaments.

I've always loved the 93/94 format, but only played in a tournament once before. That was the annual n00bcon of 2012. I managed to top8, losing only to Jocke Almelund with The Deck in the swiss (think I was 4-1 or 5-1), and was beaten by the same deck and pilot again in the quarter finals. I was playing Mono Black, the same as now, but back then with Juggernauts filling the role of Juzam Djinn number 3 and 4 which I didn't own at the time.


Preparing for the BSK tournament I made some changes to the deck. In with 4 Underworld Dreams and a Lotus. I didn't have the money to put up for the Jet, Lotus or Juzams, but some nice friends borrowed me the last cards so my deck could perform as it should. When I was sleeving up my deck, noticed that I only had 2 Underworld so it was panic button in the forums to buy or borrow them for the evening. With the deck fixed I was on my way. I picked up Stalin and Tgd, and we were of to Borås; the city with highest number of rainy days in Sweden.

We were 40 player battling for 6 rounds before it was time for top 8. I was a little nervous about the outcome of the evening. It would be fun to win some duels and games, but I didn't expect to go all the way to the elimination rounds. If the tournament would be a complete disaster, I had made sure Tgd would be the one driving home, and I had prepered a cooling bag with some beers in the car.

Would my deck be completely crushed? Had the format evolved to such that a mono black deck had no room in it? Could I beat the UR counterburn deck? Many of my questions would be answered through the night. I just had to remind myself not to mulligan too much.

I was paired against berntsson86 with a green and white deck for the first round of the day. My deck performed well with me having one Hypnotic and two Juzams on the table by turn five the first game. Second game I don't really recall, but Juzam was there to tip the odds in my favor. Berntsson86 was playing CoP:Green in his maindeck and some green creature from Legends that made stuff green when attacking or blocking. Also the big scary Force of Nature. Whirling Dervishes and CoP:Black came in from the sideboard. He never got to assemble his combo against me with terror being there to stop it. 2-0 to me and I was happy for winning the first game to set the mood for the evening.
1-0

Next stop at the other side of the table was Felipe "Felipega" Garcia. I recognized him from reading his posts about alterations of cards and playmats. It feels like if we give it a year or two, all tables at upcoming n00bcons will be adorned with playmats from this guy. Felipega is playing a 5-color Mana Flare/Candelabra deck. The Underworld Dreams backed up with Hypnotic wins me game one. Lost the second one and won the third. I'm very impressed by Underworld Dreams performance in the control matchup, much better than I ever imagined. In the third game I made a huge misplay by casting my sideboarded Pestilence with no creature in play (its good to read your own card sometimes), so I had to activate my Mishra to be able to keep it alive. The factory was then bounced by my opponent to kill my Pestilence. In the end, I paid 7 mana to deal 2 damage to Felipega and getting a land bounced. Hard earned points of life. The match had gone long and neither of us had that much life left, but I topdecked an Underworld Dreams the next turn that won me the game and match. Both the second and the third game could have gone either way so I was pleased with the 2-1.
2-0

Now I'm up against UR, with the Shark-eating Elof behind the wheel. He runs me over in game one. He had the upperhand all the way to my last lifepoint. Game two and three play quite similarly; Elof keeps hands pretty low on lands when I have Underworld with backup from Sinkholes, and he doesn't draw any land that a Sinkhole or a Strip Mine cant handle. Some creatures on my side helps to close the deal while Elof is locked out of mana for most of the games. Now I'm 3-0 and I'm starting to get my aim on top 8. Some of the 4-2s should make it. Thats only one out of three I have to win. But 4-0 should be too easy on my mind, so I get paired against Mg for my first loss of the day.
3-0

Mg is piloting his Project M. I really like this deck a lot. It feels like every card in the deck just answers what I play. When Juzam lands to take home the game for me, Mg plays his own. I lock his Juzam in an Oubliette, but then Mg follows up with freaking Sol'Kanar! Sol'Kanar should always be played with his name screamed out load like a warlord to get the right feeling when he enters the battlefield. At least based on Mg's reaction to casting him. All games could have ended either way, but copying Mirror Universe with Copy Artifact is a nasty play, it's supposed to be restricted. Mg wins with 2-1. Now I'm starting to think how the f$$k I made my way to top8 on n00bcon 4 without Underworld Dreams. It is so insane against any control deck or any deck that wants to draw a lot of cards if it lands in the first turns.
3-1
 
On the other side now sits Icelander. The guy who borrowed me his Juzams for the evening. I promised him half the Shark if I would win when he handed over the Juzams. All for fun (never thought i would get close) but now I'm starting to realise that it could be possible, at least if I win against him. He's playing The Deck, in his own words a pretty crappy version of The Deck, but better than the one he played at last n00bcon. I don't have any notes on my battles with him and my memory is fuzzy here. I know I won 2-0 though, so I'm starting to get pumped up for the last match of the day to seal my fate for top8 or not.
4-1

Of course the last man on earth I want to play against waits for me in the final round. A very skilled The Deck pilot that I have a zero win-% against in previous 93/94 tournaments: Jocke Almelund! The nemesis! To boot my luck I get paired down to meet him, he is 3-2 before this duel. Jocke takes the game with 2-0. In game 2 he takes 17 dmg from my turn one Ritual into Underworld before he finds an answer and wins. I also backed up the Underworld with a Gloom some turns later, but I couldn't go all the way on my enchantments this time. Still always a joy to lose to a nice guy. But I really thought that I at least could get the opportunity to win a game against him. Maybe in the future. Lifetime games in 93/94 are now 6-0 to jocke.
4-2

Okay. Time for some waiting game before the rest of the participants finishes the round. Tgd saved my day by bringing me a well needed midnight sandwich. Hadn't eaten for about eight hours, and the time was closing in to 01:00. To make my head even clearer I'd spent my week home with my two sick children whom had allowed me about 20 hours of sleep since the Sunday before (BSK 93/94 was taking place on Friday 31 October. Also my daughter Elva's one year birthday). Never though I would be the reason we were to go home late. My bet had been that the previous Shark winner Stalin would have been the one from our car to top8 and make us stay.


To get in the top8 would prove little tricky. While I was in 8th place on tiebreakers, so was also Magnus "Eneas" Nilsson on identical tiebreakers. So we had nine guys in our top8. We decided to settle the last spot on the top8 with rolling a die. He got to pick even or odd and got the honor of rolling. He chose even. Die stopped at odd. I'm in! At this point I was so tired that top8 or not I would have been more than satisfied with the day to drive home and get some well earned sleep. But this was great!


Getting ready for pairings and crossing my fingers that I would not run in to Jocke this time. I dodge him but get my other loss in swiss, Mg.

As in our previous meeting earlier today, the matches are tight. At 1-1 we shuffle up and draw seven. I get Ritual, Hypnotic, Undeworld, Sink, Sink and 2 Swamps. I'm thinking about what to play turn one; Hypnotic or the Dreams. I go for the Dreams. It is harder for Mg to remove, and backed with two Sinkholes it will be difficult to race if I can also land Hypnotic some turns later. My plan proved to be a great success. I draw a second ritual and Underworld Dreams, followed by a third Sinkhole to seal the match. 2-1, and Mg is still Sharkless despite another top8.

Semifinals. My opponent here is last years BSK winner, Brorsan. He has abandoned his WW from last year and is piloting another UR burn deck. Seems like it was the most popular deck on the tournament. But I also noticed quite a few black decks similar to mine in the room, some with red, white or blue splashes. The hour is getting really late and I don't remember much from this match. My notes only states that I won with 2-1, and I'm off to the finals to compete for our highly desired Giant Shark.


Time to prove that I'm worthy of the Shark signed by all competing players, and the glory of being forced to have it in my 75 as long I'm playing a 93/94 tournament. One of my biggest concerns were that I had promised Icelander half the Shark if i would win. Maybe I could make some deal with him. It would be very hard to present a deck in the future with half a card in it. Also the devastating shame to have violated a signed Shark by cutting it in half.

The opponent in the finals was no one less than Robin "Hagelpump" Lundberg. Always well performing in the format when he show up, and clearly a Shark worthy opponent. The deck of choice today is UR (though, that has been his pet deck in the format since 2008). I feel pretty confident in this matchup, and know that it is more than winnable for me and my deck. I take home the first game, lose the second.

So we are up for the last and third decisive game. After explosive starts and a lot of back and forth, I start to get the upper hand with two Underworld in play. I'm at 10 life with Hagelpump at 6, and my Underworlds will deal him 2 damage in his drawstep. I have a Ritual and a Tutor in hand and five lands on the board. I play the Tutor for a Drain Life as it will put me at higher life and give him one less turn to try to finish me. My plan is to tutor for two mana, ritual for one and use my last five to drain him for three. When I've fetched my Drain I start to think about maybe it could be better to play it for five on my next turn. I am at 10 life and he had taken me there with 2 bolts and a Psionic Blast. He's got some cards in hand, but it would be hard for him to hit me for 10 in one round with bolts. So I decide to stand up, bend over, and ask him to please take the Giant Shark and give me all he's got in the behind.

Well, no, that's not exactly how it happened, but that's how it feels now ;) I keep the Drain in hand and eat a PsiBlast in my end step. I ask him if he's got any bolts, and the answer is "I have lots". I would have won if I'd played the Drain and gotten out of reach for the bolts. Hagelpump takes the shark with 2-1! Congratz!


When thinking about it now I didn't even look at his hand when I asked him about the bolts. The time was 03:30 and with my sleep record for the week didn't make me more intelligent. Proof of that is when I shuffle his deck in one of the rounds I cut it and place the same half on top again :) One more nice thing was when he Timetwisted in one of the games, and I took up the card to read it as I didn't recall what it did (a lot of laughter in the background ensued here; a player in the finals reading a power card). Then I put it down and just sat there while Hagelpump started shuffling before someone said "you should do it too, you know". Aha!


The deck I played
The deck performed well all day, with very few occasions for me to be disappointed in it. The inclusion of Underworld Dreams was just perfect. It was the MVP of the tourney. Sinkholes are so damned important to run four of. They together with the lone Strip Mine can make games just unfair when drawing multiple. They're also a big factor in the Mishra wars that frequently occurs when playing an opponent who stacks his own playset of factories. The factories are just awesome utility. As lands they're able to dodge a lot of removal and then activate, boost each other and swing. I would never cut the playset if it wasn't really necessary for my manabase, and even then I would think twice before cutting them completely.


Juzam and Hyppe are straight up unfair when landing t1, and being able to back that with Sinkhole and Strip can seal some games in an instant. Never thought I would choose Underworld Dreams over Hyppe, but against some decks (i.e UR) I think turn one Underworld off a Ritual is a tougher threat for them to handle than Hypnotic, which will usually just eat a bolt and set me back a card. Oubilette is there for black dudes that terror cant handle. And the disk is a must have, at least one main because there are some enchantments that just shuts down mono black if they land (e.g. Circles and Karma). It's also a nice Mox killer to backup the land destruction plan. Black Knight isn't that sexy, but when facing white weenie it's just a house and something to stand in the way for Lions and Wolves.

I've chosen to play some one-offs in main. With access to Demonic Tutor I think it's better to know that I have answers to most situations rather than just fold. The Tutor makes up as a second copy of many cards. Drain life can be a bit odd, but as the game proceeds it just gets better, and the ability to gain a few life should not be underestimated. With a Greed on the battlefield it'll give me some extra cards, and against UR it can nullify a Lightning Bolt or two.

Sideboard
Not so much exciting stuff. Most of it is removal of some sort. Second disk is in my opinion a must have, and I'd like to have room form a third. Pestilence is great against control and creature heavy decks. Good to have a mana sink against control that can put some extra damage through.

I'm glad that I got the time to sit down to finish this little report. It's my first attempt on this, and I hope you enjoyed the route I've taken with it. Not to go deep into each play or if I could made it better, bur rather I wanted to share my thought and feelings about my games. Now my thumbs feels numb after writing this report on my iPad (not to recommend), but in lack of a computer its better than the phone at least ;)

Over and out, and may the Schwartz be with you.

//Myfz

tisdag 11 november 2014

The BSK top8, part 1

In terms of mid-90s tournaments, 40 players are a bunch. Even by today's standards, it is larger than any sanctioned Scandinavian Vintage tournament in the last five years, and 2/3s of the size of last summers main Vintage tournament at GenCon. Quite impressive for a casual format where the first price is a $0.05 card. Winning or having "the best deck" are not the the main reasons why most people play 93/94, but I guess top8'ing a tournament in a format very close to the original version of the game still comes with some nerdy bragging rights ;) Today we'll look at the first half of the BSK top8.
Erik "Sehl" Larsson, Rano "Rafiki" Zangana, Joakim "Jocke" Almelund and Magnus "Mg" de Laval
Erik "Sehl" Larsson relapsed into the game, after a decade and a half, playing Erhnamgeddon at Kingvitational earlier this year. He then took a monoblack deck to a 2nd place at the Warcon tournament this summer, and have since been teching on a "Next Level WW". Rather than splashing red for Bolts, Sehl opted to go for a blue splash to get access to both direct damage with the PsiBlasts and his new blue Power. Like with his monoblack deck from last summer, this deck looks very solid and well built.
Double King Solomon in the sideboard is pretty wizard.
Rano "Rafiki" Zangana worked as the bartender on n00bcon 5, and have since gone deeper and deeper into the old school mire. He holds the distinction of being a pretty good Magic player in Standard and Modern, where many of us old fogeys rarely go past Legacy in terms of newer formats. When he is not studying for his master in physics, he works in a local game store, imports beer for a pub and judges local events. Most important for me though, he is a great friend and a guy I never mind having a beer with. Rafiki has borrowed decks in a couple of tournaments before, but this was the first time he showed up with his own deck. As a self-proclaimed "Spike even in casual formats", he went for the Electric Eel Aggro plan.
One of three different versions of UR Burn in the top8. Time to add Ivory Towers to the sideboard I guess.
Joakim "Jocke" Almelund is easily top3 93/94players never to have won a Giant Shark. He has 4 n00bcon top8s to his name, along with a Pimpvitational win and a pretty sweet 3-0 drop at BSK 2012. He rarely plays in tournaments outside n00bcon, but when he shows up he has something like a 70-80% win rate with The Deck. All in all, he is clearly a very lucky guy ;) His latest update on The Deck looks solid with some new interesting tech. E.g. sideboarding in Ali from Cairo against WW after they've boarded out their Swords to Plowshares seems like a great plan.
Maindeck Time Vault (with 4 Books) and sideboard Sage of Lat-Nam looks wizard as well.
And then there is me! This was actually my 8th time in the elimination rounds of a Shark tournament, so statistically speaking I should have won one by now ;) The deck I played is the same deck I've been building on and playing for over two years. I though I lacked two cards for the deck; alterations of an Underground Sea and a Volcanic Island. I opted to play with the full playset of unlimited Underground Seas rather than go for an all-black bordered deck, as I didn't considered it to be finished anyway. After playing with it this tournament though, I actually think that it is finally done. Not because it managed to win the swiss (5-1 with good tiebreakers), but mostly because I felt that the deck was the pinnacle of what 12-year old me wanted to achieve with a Magic deck in 1995, even with the wb duals. It has been a long journey.
Wouldn't mind a Giant Shark for the deck though ;)
Pretty different strategies here, but it's worth noting that there are 15/16 factories in the 4 decks; by far the most played non-basic card in the top8. This could be one of the reasons for monoblack's success in recent tournaments. With 4 Sinkholes to support your own factories, monoblack have a big edge in the Mishra war.

I still lack one of the decks from the top8, and I might be getting a report from the 2nd place player to post here before I show his deck. If I don't have it by the end of the week I'll post the last three decks I have by Sunday.