lördag 14 oktober 2017

Community Spotlight: Oldschool in Québec City

With both the Eternal Central Championship and the Fishliver Oil Cup coming up in the next couple of weeks, it can be unusually tempting for an observer to view 93/94 as a large, organized format with a coherent followership. We do have 100+ player tournaments these days after all. But I still don't believe that is really the case. In the end, 93/94 is all about the grass roots; the local pubs, the local rules and tech, and the local high fives. This is what makes the format what it is. The major tournaments just gather many of these different locals to battle on a common turf. Think 1912 Olympics more than a contemporary Grand Prix.

I've been wanting to share some "community spotlights" here for quite some time. What's it like in Yekatrineburg, Manilla, Los Angeles or Québec City? Damn if I know.

Some guys do know their stuff however. In particular Christian Arcand, a weathered spellslinger from Canada. Christian quickly picked up the gauntlet when it was suggested that he shared some stories from his local crew, and gracefully went writing. This is his story of 93/94 in Québec City. Enjoy! /Mg out

The Challenger's Guide to Old Schooling

Challenges come in all forms. Some are stupider than others. I recall playing Bottle Caps drinking a whole 26oz bottle of straight up 40% alc. Bacardi rum against people drinking 4% alc. beer. Unfortunately I recall pretty much every details of the ensuing night. Boy was I stupid back then.

This one challenge was served to me by Mg when I commented one of his publication. I could have bailed out, who would know if I did? I'm just another random guy and nobody knows me 'round here anyway.

But I decided to grab the bull by the horns.

The Battlefield at the End of the Multiverse

I didn't choose to play Magic, the Gathering. Magic chose me.

Back in October (or was it November? Memory has a funny way of altering facts over time) of 1995, I was sitting in a friend's basement with another friend who took out of his backpack a deck of that new card game he discovered a couple days earlier. Then he took out a second one and proceeded to teach us the basic of that game we ever came to know by the name of "Magic". That afternoon I gave in to this world that forever changed mine.

I don't recall much from that afternoon but for one thing, Uncle Istvan. That guy could handle any other creature without even so much as a blink. He must've been the most powerful creature in Magic, right?
I remember my first starter deck. It was from 4th Edition and I spent all the pocket money I had in order to buy it. I found a Force of Nature and a Gaea's Liege inside that wonderful little box. I traded them away to get an Ice Age Kjeldoran Frostbeast because gold cards were so much better to 15 year old me.
My deck building skills were at best abysmal back then and I carried my whole collection in a 500 ct box pretty much everywhere I went. We spent lunch breaks tapping cardboards at the cafeteria. We had the time of our lives and no responsibilities holding us from playing whenever we wanted.

Fast forward 17 years.
"Choose a life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers..."
Irvine Welsh's words forebode of my adult life to come. I got to let go of Magic for some time but eventually got drawn back into it... more than once.

I now live in a different city, I was lucky enough to meet people with whom I share a common interest. That of a game drawing us together every other week for some relief from our other duties, sharing memories of the past and having a good time in general.

Let me introduce you all to the group I play with.

Québec, the Multiverse and Everything

Where are we?

The 1607 settlement founded by Samuel De Champlain, Québec City. From up North a.k.a. Canada. Eh
Modern days Québec City (credits: http://photos.rxphoenix.net)

Who are we?

A band apart. Our group comes from the merging of several other groups.
  • There are the singleton players. They evolved from playing "one of" to playing "four of". They also have their own rules for Magic, the Drinking Game. Don't try it unless you know what you're doing kid!
  • There are the '95 players. They started playing Revised to Alliance and evolved to playing '93-'94.
  • There are the '96 players. Once upon a time a couple guys started playing their own format where they played Revised to Mirage with rares and a couple outstanding uncommon cards being restricted and having a limitation of 6 restricted cards in a deck. White border was king amongst these men but black border was highly sought after. They (we!) moved on to playing '93-'94.
  • Then there are the others. A ragtag of people coming back from vintage-legacy-edh.

Where do we play?

Any basement will do. But we prefer the warmth of a hardwood kitchen table. Preferably with some fuel, ethanol in any of its form (craft beer and whisky being the most commons).

We gather for 2 official events
  • A spring tournament held at La Chope Gobline (the Goblin Beer Mug, a medieval themed restaurant) where we duel for a Goblin King
  • A summer tournament held at Le Corail (the Coral, a biker bar) where we duel for a Lord of Atlantis
(credits: http://www.lachopegobeline.com)
Both places are aptly named and can be linked to a lord available in the format. We plan on holding a fall tournament where the winner would get a Zombie Master at some point but still need to find a Hallowe'en themed place (edit: a suitable place has been found. The event will take place on November 4th at the Meldown an eSport bar).
There are also discussions for holding a two-headed giant tournament with a shared card pool for building decks. Members of the winning team would get a Two-Headed Giant of Foryis each.

When did we start?

An interesting question that is not mine to answer. I got involved 2 years ago from the '96 players and help found the '93-'94 community. But the Old School roots go back to before my time.

Our weapons of choice?

Cardboard of course! We abide by the swedish B&R but allow Revised, FBB and FWB. CE/IE are welcome at night but haven't got an official stance for tournament play yet.

Mana burn is in effect.

Who are our champions?

  • Simon, Goblin King and Lord of Atlantis holder. From the chosen many, he found his way to the crown twice.
  • Sébastien, Goblin King holder. Living away from Québec City he is. But that does not stop him from being one of our most active guy around. He drives-in to jam a couple of games whenever he can notwithstanding the distance. He is also our resident signed cards afficionado. He would rather play a signed Purelace in UR Counterburn than an unsigned Volcanic Island.
  • Guillaume, Lord of Atlantis holder. He stitched the various sub-groups together into the quilt that is our community. His musing can be found on his Old School blog (Argivian Restoration).

Name a card that can be found in our meta that stands out

Spitting Slug. What can be said about it? It survives Lightning Bolt and the weenie favorite critters. I heard it's been gaining some momemtum outside of our group recently.

Power Surge (okay that makes it 2 cards). It combos pretty well with Candelabra of Tawnos.

Who am I anyway?

I like janky decks that underperform but everyonce in a while I come up with a build that works well. I was really happy with my 2-1-1 score at the Toronto GP Old School side event last month. I was even happier when one of my opponent spontaneously granted me with an "You didn't get that deck off from the net" at the end of our match (he was on Weissman and I gave him a run for his money that ended in my favor 2-0 with my Esper robot).

So Long, and Thanks for All the Cards,

söndag 1 oktober 2017

This Month in Oldschool: September 2017

This has been a memorable month on a personal note. It started with two weeks of after work preparations, and ended with me being literally off-line for the last week. But in the middle some awesome stuff happened:
This would of course be an excellent excuse for me to write about "event cards", but alas, time has been leaping at a brisk pace and I haven't found the footing to indulge by a keyboard. I plan to have something to share on that topic before the end of October.

So what has been going on around the web this month?

Tournament reports

I think that the major tournament last month, at least as far as bragging rights and content go, was the first annual Scandinavian Championship in Arvika. Around fifty Swedes and Norwegians gathered in that dark heart of the woods to battle for joy, camaraderie, a coveted title, and an invite to the next world championship. The competition was fierce, the fatigue was real, and in the end, one man stood undefeated with his 9-0 streak (after 6-0'ing the swiss).
That's actually a Beta Clone with a the picture of Giant Shark glued on to it ;)
Jimmie has been on a huge run this season; already before this finish he was the top rated player in the PWP standings. This was the deck he used to take down the Scandinavian Championship:
One Mishra's Workshop is missing from the picture.
So far we have three tournament reports from the gathering out.
...and then we have some other stuff:

Boating, flipping, and catapulting on the Stockholm archipelago (Oldschool Mtg)
David Chambers tell the tale of the Magical Island Tour where hungry Atogs and angry waves sails him towards success.

There and Back Again: Adventures in the Pit  (MtgUnderground)
The Librarian Ben Perry Weaver a shamanic story of the Chicago Player's Ball. It's a chronicle to indulge.

GP Birmingham Old School (Brothers of Fire)
Jonas and his band of Brothers travel to GP Birmingham to join 23 mages for the old school side event. Channel Fireball rules means a slight deviation from the usual UK card pool, and his weapon of choice this time include Goblin Grenades.

I also have to mention the 93/94 FNM in Yekatrineburg, Russia. Constantine and his crew keeps marching on, and the third ever 93/94 FNM is now in the books (first two were held in Karlstad, Sweden). Five out of the six decks played were monocolored, and pretty much no power nor duals littered the tables. Very cool to see new communities evolve like this.
Ann Kveglis's finalist monoblue deck in Yekatrineburg.

From around the Web

Stand like druids of old (The Wizard's Tower)
Taylor takes us back to the fog that is monogreen; one of the most wide but fringe strategies in the format. He has tweaked his deck since last, and shares his thoughts about his updated game plan.

Episode 6 - Machine Gun & the Player’s Ball (Flippin' Orbs Podcast)
Gordon, Grant and Seb discuss the UR Artifact Aggro archetype and then interview Matt; one of the finalists from the Old School Player's Ball.

Rereading Centurion, issue #5 (End of turn, Draw a card)
Svante Landgraf keeps sharing stories from his old magazines; this time it's Centurion #5's time for review.

InQuest Issue 1, May 1995 (Part 2) (The Wizard's Tower)
Taylor also keeps his nose in the books to spread the knowledge to us with less fortunate libraries. Here he shares scans of the second half of Inquest #1.

Upcoming Gatherings

8a Liga Catalana Old School (Spain) October 8th
LCOS gather old mages for their eight showdown in Barcelona. Come deal cards and sling spells.
Top Deck Games First 93/94 Tournament (USA) October 28
Top Deck Games in Westmont, New Jersey, joins the fun and test the waters with their first ever 93/94 gathering. It's EC rules and a lax reprint policy, so if you're in the area you have no reason not to come by and show support :)

Fishliver Oil Cup 2017 (Italy) October 27-28 
Fishliver Oil Cup has quickly become one of the major European tournaments. Expect a large number of joyous players, intense Magic, and great beverages at this "Italian rules, Swedish style" tournament. Check out their awesome webpage for more info.

BSK 93/94 2017 (Sweden) Novemver 3
Once one of the flagship tournaments of 93/94 Magic, the glory that is BSK may now have Fallen wayside to gatherings like the Arvika Festival. Though we gathered over 50 players last year, as the tournament's Giant Shark now have swimmed over to Arvika, it is not unreasonable that this year will be significantly smaller. But battle we will. Perhaps even in the spirit of "old school old school".

Tournoi "All Hallow's Eve" MTG Old School 93/94 (Canada) November 4th
The Canadian players raise the stakes and gather ghouls for a fiendish Hallowen tournament in Québec City. Sleeve up your All Hallow's Eves and get ready to cast Bog Wraits.

French National Championship (France) November 18th
The first French national championship in Old School Mtg will be hosted at Waaagh Taverne in Paris Novmber 18th. Apart from honor and showing that you are of the same soil as Bertrand Lestree, an invite to the World Championship in Gothenburg is of course in the pot.

n00bcon Kval (Denmark) Novemer 25
The Danish oldschool communites gather to find their representatives for the n00bcon championship next year. The Danish players are some really sweet characters and I look forward to see what they come up with.
Team Championship (UK) November 25-26
The UK crew, in particular Christopher Cooper, will host the first 93/94 Team Championship. The format is unified oldschool. i.e. if you put all the team's decks on top of each other, the resulting pile should still be a legal (though large) deck when using the baseline B&R. The winning three-player team will get invited to the World Championships.

Gathering the Knights of Thorn #3 (Netherlands) December 3
Mari Stenhage gathers the Knights of Thorn once again, this time without a cap on the number of participants. The Dutch Old School Guild is one of the fastest growing in the world. Check out the tournament report from Knights of Thorn #2 here if you want some inspiration.

#OldschoolMail of the Month

Well, not every month can deliver Power cards or Arabian Nights boosters. I did do a couple of extravagant purchases this month as well though, but I haven't received them yet so I can barely count them as #OldschoolMail. But I did get this gem of a letter:
I like it when people pack their cards with other random cards for sturdiness, and love it when those cards are both kinda playable and have personal touch. That Ghoulsteed says "Bää!" in golden sharpie. I need to build a horror horse deck with it alongside Black Carriage and Fleshmad Steed. I will use it to throw at people, or battle pre-modern Thallid decks with. Magic is awesome. But I digress. The card I actually ordered was Recall. Recall's prominence in 93/94 has a couple of features. First, people now generally shorthands Ancestreal Recall to "Ancestral", rather than "Recall" as many did ten years ago around here. I enjoy that lack of ambiguousness. Second, I have considered it one of the least offensive cards on the Restricted list for a couple of years, and I assume that it eventually will get unrestricted. So mise well get a second copy when the opportunity arose.

In fact, a couple of weeks after I bought it, at the Scandinavian Championship, two separate players approached me and argued for the merits of unrestricting Recall. Getting feedback on the B&R is not all that uncommon during the larger Autumn gatherings, as by then usually the spring's B&R changes have settled a little, people have had the chance to brew with the changes to test their merits, and players start to look forward to the next iteration. This was a particularly heated topic five years ago, at BSK 2012, when the debate on Fallen Empires was at its highest here. And that's the segway to this months topic from social media.

This month's Topic: Fallen Empires

A few days ago this poll appeared on one of the more popular 93/94 Facebook groups:
The poll has something like 200 comments by now. I have divulged into this topic a few times before, and the post about Fallen Empires (from 2013) is one of the most commented at this blog. It is clearly a topic a lot of people care about.

First I want to burn a couple of straw men. Some people (who are pro inclusion) argue that the reason it is not included is that the play groups who decline to use it don't know what cards are in the set, and perceive it to be low power level apart from marquee cards like Hymn to Tourach. I have never heard this argument by the players who doesn't want to add FE to the card pool. Of course we know that Tax Edge would jump with joy for Rainbow Vale. I have personally smashed a lot of faces with Derelor. Everybody can envision Deep Spawn as a reanimator target and River Merfolk as a playable card. Every single set in Magic have good cards, given such a small card pool as ours, and most of us would put the average power level of Fallen Empires in front of at least The Dark, and possibly Antiquities and Legends as well.

Second, some people argue that it is not allowed because it is cheap and that wouldn't sit well with some perceived elitist view. That's not really an argument either. You are allowed to play cheap cards. I have sleeved up my Unlimited Benalish Heroes more times than I can recall. No one spits on you for playing Relic Barrier or Ironclaw Orcs. That Order of the Ebon Hand somehow shouldn't be OK due to its price tag is perplexing.
And finally, the last common straw man is that we wont include it because we're afraid of change. That's also pretty out of the blue. The baseline format has changed every year for the last decade using the B&R list as a means to that end. There's definitely no fear towards pushing some extra creativity each year at the cost of angry commenters; one could even argue that the "non-FE" versions of 93/94 have been more prone to stir the pot than the others.
The main reason we didn't include it here was that it didn't feel "oldschool" enough. Yep, that's a really subjective argument ;) But the fact of the matter is that for the great majority of the players in the mid 90s, Fallen Empires (and Revised) were everywhere. There's a reason that Chronicles didn't include Fallen Empires cards. The first two editions of Gathering and the first four expansions held a mythical quality no Magic product since have been able to reproduce. It was a big deal when you saw a Legends card, even though it technically was printed after the Revised cards we put in our bicycle spokes. We were looking for a particular feeling with 93/94, and Fallen Empires simply didn't evoke that feeling as well.

Five years ago, the arguments on Fallen Empires was a real discussion. We first tested to play with it during the inagrual Pimpvitational tournament and lengthy orations were heard from both sides. In the end, we knew that it wasn't a bad set, but that it was something else. I actually wrote an April's Fools post about us legalizing Homelands as a sort of satire over the Fallen Empires discussion; just like FE, Homelands could well be argued for inclusion in the format, but it clearly wasn't what players were looking for in old school magic (obviously even more so than FE).

So what has changed since then? Why aren't we discussing Fallen Empires the same way anymore? Because the issue has become much less of a thing. The number of gatherings have increased, and using house rules in 93/94 has been adopted in a big way (much more so than for other formats that encourage house rules, like EDH/Commander). If you want to brew with Fallen Empires today, you could just organize a tournament using Eudogames rules, EC rules, BoM rules or CFB rules. Or just make your own tweak at your local tournament.
E.g. the n00bcon 9 qualifier tournaments in Gothenburg had FE legal, along with Black Vise and Recall unrestricted and Mind Twist banned.
There are many comments in the poll mentioned above that echoes this sentiment in different ways. One of the shortest and most to the point is this one:
I think that is pretty good way at looking at it today. I mostly prefer playing Vintage to Legacy, but I don't mind sleeving up a Legacy deck every now and then. But I would mind if every Vintage tournament suddenly were removed in favor of Legacy. The popularity of the different house rules has made "oldschool" something of an umbrella term today, much like "eternal". Conforming to a least common denominator isn't necessary. When we look at the results of the poll, we see that a majority of the players who want to "officially" include Fallen Empires play in communities where it is already accepted, and a majority of the players who are against it play in communities without it. If that isn't a sign of healthy casual environment I don't know what is. And for those that argue that the issue is that they want to have deck that they can play everywhere, it's still pretty universal to build one using Swedish rules ;)

This month's deck

This month's deck is Niels Thiim's winning deck from the first Danish National Championship (September 9th). 15 players turned up to the battle, and the subtle power of Savannah Lions flanked by Serendib Efreets again showed their way to a trophy. Congrats Niels!
Let's end today with a pic of a good guy from Arvika finally trading for his first Black Lotus with an old Shark winner, and Kasper Lund's response to the morning whisper "Build me an army worthy of Mordor...".

Have a great October!

måndag 4 september 2017

Boating, flipping, and catapulting on the Stockholm archipelago

Webmaster's note: This post has been written, edited and posted by David Chambers, currently of the Berlin community. I haven't touched this post apart from writing this disclaimer to help credit go where it's due ;) 

There are many points of contrast when travelling from Berlin to Stockholm.

I left my apartment late on Friday afternoon and travelled by train to Schönefeld, Berlin’s ramshackle secondary airport which would have been retired in 2010 had the construction of the new airport gone according to plan (we're still waiting for BER to open). While in line for security I noticed plastic bottles huddled by a wall and balanced on a radiator due to the lack of a receptacle for the contraband. After getting through security (which is nerve-racking when travelling with hundreds of pieces of cardboard whose value is lost on the airport staff who inspect them) I discovered that all the departure gates were closed, forcing people to sit on the floor or on their suitcases in the hallways. The flight delayed itself (as one says in German) but we did eventually depart for Sweden.

The experience at the other end was very different. No lines. No plastic bottles balancing on radiators. No radiators. Within minutes of landing I had bought my ticket for Flygbussarna and was on my way to Cermak's place in the heart of Stockholm. The bus dropped me across the road from his apartment. Inside were Gordon, Björn, Daniel, and my roommate for the night, Jimmie.

It was already after midnight. Gordon, Björn, and Daniel soon finished their drinks and left. I had a few games against Cermak then stayed up a bit longer discussing the possibilities for mono red with Jimmie. We slept for about six hours.

By the time I got up at 8:30 Cermak had cooked a breakfast of oatmeal, eggs, toast with avocado, and orange juice. I love the Swedish commitment to frukost!

We took a taxi to the harbour and met several other players at a cafe by the water. We were soon aboard the charming Norrskär, in its elegant dining room, with a waiter and a waitress to serve us food and local beers.

Blue skies and calm waters
Table settings soon made way for play mats, dice, and cards
Proof that Magic and fine dining can mix
16 happy faces

Pairings were announced as the first round of drinks arrived, and the tournament was under way! I don’t recall the details of the first three rounds of Swiss, but action shots are better anyway.

Every player got a badge made specially for this event
Libraries are worth fighting for
I hope there’s a Clockwork Beast under those Berserks
Yes, that’s an Iron Star (Atog isn’t a picky eater)
The green sweeper
Nothing says Fuck the System better than “Swing with Sengir, Juzám, go”
A completely fair turn one
Every asset is a liability, my farfar used to say

In the fourth and final round of Swiss I found myself at 3–0 and paired against Johan Råberg, who was playing Mono Black Mono Beta! In game one he stabilized on a low life total, and was able to prevent attacks with Will–O–The–Wisp. I played Orcish Mechanics, which threatened to end the game in a couple of turns, but Johan played Pestilence and activated it for one. The game stalled until a Hypnotic Specter appeared a few turns later. I tried to answer it with Chaos Orb, but I couldn’t find my sea legs. I misjudged the swell, and the Orb bounced awkwardly, slid, and came to rest harmlessly an inch from the target.

Game two wasn't quite so close, but again Johan was victorious. I was very impressed by the power of a deck featuring only cards from Beta. I asked Johan whether he had played against the Mono Alpha deck that David Montag played to a 4–3 finish at n00bcon 9. Apparently they’ve had several tight matches. A format in which cards from Magic’s first expansion are considered too new? Now that is old school.

Johan Råberg’s Mono Black Mono Beta

The tournament had 16 players, and only four would continue to compete for the one-of-a-kind play mat illustrated by Dan Frazier. The other 12 players were not out of luck, though. The bottom four competed for another Dan Frazier play mat, while the remaining eight players had a three-round single-elimination tournament: mellanmjölk.

Apparently Sweden, like New Zealand, values being “average”

I snuck into the top four thanks to good tiebreakers. I met Ceb Selia in the semifinal. Ceb was playing a WUR deck with Savannah Lions, Flying Men, and Serendib Efreets backed by Bolts, Geddons, and Power. I only recall our final game. Ceb and I had one Factory each, but I had Atog and a pantry full of snacks. He played Spirit Link on my toothy monster, played a land (taking two damage from Ankh of Mishra), and passed the turn. I started thinking about ways in which the Atog might still be useful. It could block a Factory, I thought, or… I then realized there was another possibility. I remembered a silly deck I built in my youth which aimed to enchant Orcish Artillery with multiple Spirit Links to gain lots of life. Seb regretted his decision the instant I asked how Spirit Link works. I animated my Factory and sent it into combat alongside the original Dr Teeth. Seb animated his Factory, which I promptly bolted. He scooped up his cards in frustration: he could have played Moat that turn rather than Spirit Link. Ouch. Seb’s post on the game and the tournament as a whole is well worth reading.

Seb Celia’s WUR aggro-control

I met Cermak in the finals. We split the first two games. I had access to three Blood Moons and four copies of City in a Bottle after sideboarding, but Cermak's deck was resilient: he could remove some AN creatures for Uthden Trolls and Su-Chis which could be summoned even with both my hateful cards in play. Plus he had a sweet Beta Fire Elemental in his starting 60.

There she is!
Blocking a Factory with three Atogs (there’s a first time for everything)

Game three was very interesting. I resolved a Blood Moon, and Cermak spent the rest of the game with ample red mana but only a single green source to complement it.

At one point during the game I did some quick calculations and realized the game was mine. I sent Chain Lightning at Cermak and attacked confidently with Atog, which was threatening lethal. Cermak blocked with Erhnam Djinn. Forestwalk! I exclaimed, pointing at his Taiga. Cermak pointed at my Blood Moon. Oops. I was able to sacrifice a couple of trinkets to defeat the djinn, but I felt pretty silly about the Chain Lightning. I hoped that wouldn’t come back to burn me.

Later in the game the life totals were still fairly even, with both of us hovering in the low double digits. His only threat was Argothian Pixies, which could not attack into my Atog. My Atog could not quite threaten lethal. It was a stand-off. (A Chain Lightning would have been really useful at this point!)

I made a bold and quite possibly incorrect decision: to attack with my 1/2 to deal just one damage, knowing that I’d take two damage from the counter-attack. My thinking was that if I could trade four of my life points for two of Cermak’s over the course of two turns I would force the pixies to chump-block the turn after. It was a risk, though, as I would drop below 10 in the process and could easily lose the game in a flurry of lightning.

Inflection point

I got in for one damage and, as expected, Cermak attacked back for two. Then, he surprised me by pointing a couple of burn spells at the Atog, forcing me to sacrifice three artifacts. This was an interesting decision on Cermak’s part, as he was very close to lethal damage himself. So, we went from a high-pressure, high-variance situation in which any given draw step could end the game, to a situation in which both of us were several draw steps away from victory. With the battleground bathed in soft red moonlight I felt favoured.

Fortunately for me Cermak was not able to summon another Erhnam Djinn and I was able to end the game before he could unlock the powerful blue cards in his hand.

I had won my first Magic tournament since being joint winner of one of the flights of the Onslaught prerelease in Auckland 15 years ago. The prize? A one-of-a-kind play mat illustrated by Dan Frazier specifically for this event!

These goblins may be thieves, but at least they’re respectful
Andreas Cermak’s Fire Elemental Zoo
David Chambers’s Trinket Repair Shop
Jocke Falk’s Mellanmjölk-winning Bu deck

After getting back to land we broke into small groups and ventured in search of food and beer (this is Sweden, after all). I went with Seb, Björn, and a couple of others to a nearby outdoor event where a band was playing very loudly for an unappreciative audience. We stood in line for “Mat & Dryck”, which I understood thanks to Duolingo (which also taught me how to tell Swedes that I don't eat turtles). There was apparently no menu, though, so even the locals were in the dark as to exactly what “Mat” might be on offer. It turned out they were out of “Mat”, so we escaped the loud music and found a good burger place. Well, I liked it. Gordon, who joined us there, is a man of exquisite taste whose enthusiastic reviews are not so easily acquired.

We were also joined by Dan Pettersson, long-time Stockholm Legacy player. We ate our burgers, drank more beer, and sat around talking about the games we’d played that day, Dan’s Legacy brews, and possible names for the old-school band Gordon, Björn, and Johan formed recently. The best of the names? Bands with Other Legends.

We wandered to a different part of town where we drank more beer, Gordon ordered a shot of something expensive enough to raise a bartender's eyebrow, Björn helped me with my self-assigned German homework, Dan shared his various hacks for making himself work towards his life goals, and I dropped to the floor a few minutes before midnight to get in a dozen press-ups before I’d lose health in Habitica.

The thing that has stayed with me in the month since the event is something Björn said that night: despite being in our thirties and having played this game for more than twenty years, we’re still making friends through Magic.

Our tournament organizer

Thanks so much to Andreas Cermak for arranging the most well-run and enjoyable Magic tournament I’ve ever attended. I love n00bcon, and hope to attend for many years to come, but it’s hard to compete with a tournament on a goddamn boat!

Thanks again to Cermak for having Jimmie and me to stay at his apartment, and many thanks also to Björn for letting me crash at his place on Saturday night. I consider myself very fortunate to have made many friends in Sweden over the past 15 months.

fredag 1 september 2017

This Month in Oldschool: August 2017

Welcome to the first iteration of This Month in Oldschool!

Eight months ago I argued that Old School Magic had reached some kind of escape velocity. Three or four years past one could argue, perhaps with some sliver of merit, that if we stopped working on the BSK and n00bcon gatherings and stopped giving time to this blog, Old School Mtg would retract to the fringest corner of the casual tables. Some seats up from Highlander Gold perhaps, but far south of the more accessible retro formats like QL Magic, Block Wars and Pre-Modern. After all, if there were no content created and no tournaments organized, it would be hard for people to join (or even know about) the community.

But we're clearly not there anymore. I don't think any single person, nor group of persons, could have a heavily detrimental impact on the format or its core values these days. Today our name is Legion, for we are many. This was the main argument for me to stop with the weekly updates and spend some time learning how to ride horses instead.
That's me in 2018.
There's a lot of things going on in the communities these days. And I figured that if WotC can have a daily Magic update on the mothership, and ChannelFireball can have a weekly status check, we should be able to produce a monthly update without to much hassle. So here goes :)

Tournament reports

King of the North (Brothers of Fire)
Richard Stebbing of the London School of Magic board a northbound train to Edinburgh, Scotland, to battle for glory and an invite to the World Championships. A very good report in log form, where Richard actually talks about lines of play and matchups.

Tales from GP Birmingham (Atlantic Games)
As you might have heard, all Grand Prix tournaments these days offer 93/94 sideevents at the site (using ChannelFireball Rules). Chris Cooper recants his tale from the GP in Birmingham, and even if you're not into all the formats he played, you should scroll down and read about his experience in the 93/94 tournament. The dude sleeved up playsets of both Erosion and Psychic Venom in his starting 60, which is clearly braggable.

Rhine is on. Fire (Oldschool Mtg)
If you're here you've probably seen this one, but in case you missed it I highly recommend checking out Florian's report from the first oldschool Ante-tournament in Germany (and probably the world, at least for the last 20 years or so). They also had a "proper" tournament during the weekend, and the deck lists and tech are plenty.

Old School Player's Ball 2017 (Eternal Central)
The Old School Player's Ball was another major tournament hosted by the Chicago players, known as the Lords of the Pit. With 58 players and an abundance of tech, there's no doubt that Chicago is one of the Meccas for 93/94 players around the world. The Player's Ball joins an exclusive list of gatherings that have attracted over 50 players without being associated to other major tournaments; these players are all ballers. Check out sweet tech and pictures at Eternal Central.

Other than those reports, I would be amiss not to mention the first 93/94 tournament in the Philippines. I haven't had the chance to interact with anyone from the Manila Crew yet, but they recently held a seven-man gathering. You can check out some of their decks here. Only around 70 followers on that instagram account thus far, so they are still kinda secret tech ;)

From around the Web

The Mulligan Effect (The Wizard's Tower)
Jon-Michael steps up on Taylor's soap box to tell his story. For some reason it took me a long time before I sat down and read his post. As I am more into being amused and told a story from Magic articles than to read about mulligan theory, the title didn't attract me as click-bait. Boy was I wrong. This is a captivating story by a master penman, and he name-drops Thrull Champion and posts pictures of Juzam Djinn. Can't recommend it enough.

Reading old Magazines (The Wizard's Tower; End of Turn, Draw a Card)
As you might have seen, Taylor at The Wizard's Tower reviewed The Duelist #1 in June/July (far better and more in depth than my own mention of it a year ago). This month he got back on the train and reviewed both Scrye #1 and Inquest #1. On that same note, notorious control player Svante Landgraf has been reading Centurion #3 (the first Swedish magazine to mention Magic) as well as Centurion #4. Wicked tech, and brings back a lot of memories.

Brewing with Chambers (Flippin' Orbs)
Gordon and Grant of the Flipping Orb podcast say it best themselves: "In this episode we talk to player and brewer David Chambers from New Zealand. We pick David’s brain on how he thinks when he start brewing a new deck and we also take a closer look on three of his unconventional creations." The duo is once again flanked by 93/94 veteran Seb Celia, and the episode might be their best yet.

Old School Mtg: The Basics (PucaTrade)
Hey, did you know that PucaTrade had an article about 93/94 already in 2015? They interview me about #MtgForLife and the oldschool format. So I guess they kinda covered their basics already, but it's always fun to read different perspectives and introduction articles to the format :)

The Last Bike from Gothenburg (MtgUnderground)
Ok, so this might not be about tech or 93/94 or even that much Magic per say, but it is an article on a mainly 93/94 blog, and it is pretty much the only thing I wrote last month so it could be worth sharing. It's about shame and tribulations of daring. Maybe you like it, maybe it makes you annoyed. But I'm kinda glad I wrote it.

Fishliver Oil Cup 2017 (Web 1.0 homepage)
Last year, the "Italian rules, Swedish style" premise of the first Fishliver Oil Cup made me pack my bags and jump on a plane to play a Magic tournament far away from home for the first time. And did it ever deliver. We were 34 player last year, and to say I had a great time is an understatement. The word about it spread, and just the side event the day before the tournament already have around 50 players signed up (the side event is on Colombus day btw, so we'll use EC rules during that one). The main event this year will probably attract around 100 players from 10-12 nationalities. And the winner gets a Fishliver Oil card and some actual oil. Check out their awesome webpage for more info.

Upcoming gatherings

Scandinavian Championships (Sweden) September 23
The Swedish Nationals title has moved from Borås to Arvika, and with some cooperation from the Norwegian players, the Arvika Crew will host the first Scandinvian Masters tournament. It is a Giant Shark tournament without a Shark (this year, as Arvika already gave away their yearly Shark), but it comes with the glory of being a multi-national champion and of course with an invite to the World Championship next Easter. This is the major Swedish tournament this autumn.

Berlin 93/94 Gathering (Germany) September 23
For those of you closer to Berlin than the cold North, September 23 will still be a date to mark in your calendars. Florian von Bredow (the guy whom hosted the Rhine is on Fire gathering) will set up shop in the restaurant Dicker Engel in Birkenstraße 44. The flames start fanning at 13:00.

GP Providence (USA) October 1
Well, you say, every GP these days has some side event for 93/94. Well, I retort, not every GP is in the home of Dave Firth Bard. Dave is one of the most active 93/94-fans on the other side of the ocean, and has previously contributed to this blog about his exploits in Providence. The upcoming GP will be sure to host some familiar names in the format and sweet tech.

Fishliver Oil Cup 2017 (Italy) October 27-28
I already mentioned Fishliver Oil in Italy, but if you have your weekend around October 28st free, this is the tournament to join. Ragazzi!

Team Championship (UK) 25-26 November
The UK crew, in particular Christopher Cooper, will host the first 93/94 Team Championship. The format is unified oldschool. i.e. if you put all the team's decks on top of each other, the resulting pile should still be a legal (though large) deck when using the baseline B&R. The winning three-player team will get invited to the World Championships.

Gathering the Knights of Thorn #3 (Netherlands) December 3
Mari Stenhage gathers the Knights of Thorn once again, this time without a cap on the number of participants. The Dutch Old School Guild is one of the fastest growing in the world. Check out the tournament report from Knights of Thorn #2 here if you want some inspiration.

I don't have any details about it yet, but the US Eternal Weekend will most certainly be adjacent to one of the major 93/94 gatherings of the year. Last year they gathered well over 80 players. If you live in the US, mise well mark October 19 in your calendar. Also if you happen to hang out in Gothenburg, people are trying to get together more frequent gatherings at GG Bar. Same is true for Amsterdam, where Dyan and the crew are starting a tradition of casual spell slinging at Twee Klavering at the time of this post being published.

#OldSchoolMail of the Month

I've seen people post their #OldSchoolMail on various sites, so I'll take the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon. It has been a few sweet packages this month, but one particular card really takes the cake. I've just completed a playset that was almost three years in the making. I hoped to eventually complete this set since I got my first one from Danny Friedman before I met him. And I recently got the last one completely by surprise in the mail.
Unlocked! Four player-altered Fellwar Stones from four different countries.
Thanks a million Andrea Braida! I really appreciate it!

On a decent second place, this was also a glorious mail day:
Now to force-pick Booster Tutor in the next Haupscube draft.

This month's topic: Buyouts

I'm pretty bad at responding to notifications on social media, and I thought this could be a good place to share some responses I've failed to write on Facebook or Twitter. This month, the largest topic by far was the latest stream of 93/94 price increases. I don't have a single correct answer here, so all I can offer is an opinion.

First some context. I am horrible at following the consensus on card values.  While I do have the luxury to spend some money on Magic each month (though usually far less than last month), I mostly use my own, highly personalized, estimation of card value. I do not intend to sell my cards for profit, so the price I am willing to pay for a card is proportional to the joy I think I'll get from having it. I valued a playset of Juzams to €1,000 three years ago when I completed my set. Back then they had a price tag of around €150 each, so I was still happy when I "overpayed" a little and got the set for around €700. When I got my Alpha Lotus for around €2,700 in cards and cash four years ago, one fellow player who were looking for one asked how much I would value it. After being pressed I reluctantly agreed to €10,000, and he looked at me like I was out of my mind. "So if someone, right now, would offer you €5,000 for your Alpha Lotus, you are saying that you wouldn't sell it?!". And I said that it was correct. I didn't have a particular use in mind for the €5,000 at the time, and if I sold it, where would I find another one?
I value this above what a reasonable person would pay for it. I want my nine flips while playing under Drunken German Rules.
When people buyout cards like North Star and Stone Calendar I guess none of us can really complain. Who would ever play North Star? How many of us even knew what Knowledge Vault did a month ago? Many of us are kinda weird like that.

So what do I value Stone Calendar at? Still €3. Master of the Hunt? €25. Drop of Honey? €60. Sol'Kanar the Swamp King? €40. My evaluations aren't helping anyone except myself. And I'll guess I'll save some money by not buying Drop of Honey as it has passed my buy-in point. Cyclone is almost as cool anyway.
I the mid 90s I refused to trade a Clone for a stack including two duals. Haven't really learned that much since then.
What I'm trying to say is that these buyouts doesn't actually change the format. Not this particular format. We still get to play with what we have, as we always did. I do have a pretty solid collection at this point, but I'm not by any means one of the guys who has everything. Would I like to have a few copies of The Abyss at its pre-spike price? Sure. Will me not being able to afford The Abyss prevent me from sleeving up a Distress deck? Of course not. I'll just play Pestilence or Icy Manipulator or Paralyze instead. I'm not entitled to a bunch of Abysses.

The best time to buy cards is still, as always, two years ago.

Yeah, that rant didn't help anyone. But one guy did do a slightly more competent analysis on the buy-outs, one which I completely agree with. So I'll let him take the wheel instead of me driving us into a ditch. If you want to understand the buyouts from a fairly sober perspective, check out Saffron Olive's article at MtgGoldfish.

This month's deck

Let's finish up with a deck of the month. KungMarkus's deck of choice is a very impressive take on the Sligh archetype with some interesting choices. It is also pretty much only Alpha and signed stuff. And it looks fun to play.
Ydwen + Immolation is serious tech.
If you have any input or feedback (like, if these kind of posts are a good thing or not) or have something to contribute for next month's summary, feel free to hit me up in the comments or send me a mail.