torsdag 11 februari 2016

A short thanks

When I started playing, there were a few artists who were as important to the game as the rules themselves. The guys who created the world where we played. Artists like Jesper Myfors, Ron Spencer, Drew Tucker, Anson Maddocks and Dan Fraizer. And of course Christopher Rush.
Christopher Rush had a huge part in creating the nostalgic joy we experience when we play old school Magic. Just a few days ago, Kalle and I were talking about contacting him again to get some alters of Rukh Eggs for n00bcon. I never talked to him myself, but from what I heard he was a very friendly and easy-going guy. My personal experience with him was solely from his work, but through that he made a big impact.
Magic just got older. I'm sad to hear that one of the original creative minds is gone. His work and the impact he made will be with us as long as there is a Black Lotus in the world.

söndag 7 februari 2016

Tech from L.I.G.G.

Last weekend Alexander "Talad" Midjich and the L.I.G.G. crew in Stockholm organized their first 93/94 gathering. 20 players showed up to battle with the oldest of cards, and when the dust settled Martin Berlin and Gordon Andersson faced off in the finals. Wasn't it the exact same finals at Nebraska's War in Italy in December btw? Those guys might have something going on.
Berlin with his spoils of victory
Eksem with his spoil of last place
If anyone of you who participated in the event would like to write a short report, I'd be happy to post it here. In lieu of a tournament report, let's check out some tech from the top8 of the tournament.
Pefken's BRW Menagerie
Most of the players in Stockholm are fairly new faces for me (only four of them had previous Pimpwalker points from 93/94-gatherings), but Rickard "Pefken" Samuelsson is surely a name to be reckoned with. Pefken hasn't showed his face at 93/94 Gatherings for a year or two, but he can count winning n00bcon twice (2010 and 2012) and a staggering number of top4/8s among his achievements in the format. This time he left his blue cards at home (obv apart from his Giant Shark from n00bcon 4) and went all guns blazing with Juzam, Trolls, Vampires and Dragons. The deck looks surprisingly fair and straight forward, without any cards like Berserk or prison components, but beating down with a menagerie of the hardest creatures in the format is clearly a solid strategy.
Berlin's Artifact Aggro
As far as I know, Berlin has played two 93/94 tournaments during the last season and won both of them. Apart from this win, he hoisted the trophy in the 58-player Old School tournament at the Nebraska's War convention in Italy in December. It has been quite a while since he sleeved up a deck in the format before that, I think we last saw him at n00bcon 4 in 2012. His deck of choice looks really solid, and is not something we've really seen before. It does have some resemblance to Elof's winning Artifact Smash deck from Sehlskapsspelen 2015, but Martin foregoes green and races without Berserks, so I would assume that the decks play very differently. Instead of Berserks and Juggernauts, Berlin goes all in on huge artifact 6-drops and adds a set of Serendib Efreets. Very sweet deck!
Mikael Karlsson's UWbg Skies
On a first glance, Mikael Karlsson's deck might look like just a variation of The Deck with its high number of restricted cards backed up with Swords, Disenchants and Counterspells. Then you realize the the wincons aren't something like two Serras, a couple of Fireballs, or a set of factories. Mikael goes full throttle with complete sets of Serras, Efreets and factories. This is a very, very aggressive control deck. Every now and then, The Deck tries to just play a turn one or two Serra and "goes for it", hoping that it'll stick. This seems to be the main game plan for this deck; get a wincon down and defend it, as opposed to defending yourself until you get to resolve a wincon.
 Jonas Rebenius's WWr
WW has been a deck to beat since the start of the format, and this build has a few interesting tweaks. Jonas splashes red for a set of Lightning Bolts and a Wheel of Fortune, but cuts commonly used cards like City in a Bottle and Dust to Dust. This seems to make the deck even more aggressive, and having Bolts to back up his Thunder Spirits makes combat a nightmare for all creatures south of Mahamothi Djinn. With his extra off-color mox, he also has some extra outs to cast Armageddon already on turn two or three after having resolved a couple of threats.

You can see the rest of the lists here. I hope to add the lists from a few other tournaments from the last few months in the coming week as well.

On a different note, it's less than seven weeks left to the eight edition of n00bcon and the World championships now. Really looking forward to meet you all! And sorry that we are short on space this year; the pub can only hold 80 people including staff for legal reasons. If you signed up in December but for some reason know you can't make it anymore, please send me a message and we'll take in someone from the wait list. There are weirdly much people interested, in particular considering we're playing a format with a huge barrier of entry and pretty much no prize support. Gonna be good times though.
Potential n00bcon 8 pin design
Speaking of good times, the second edition of the Arvika Festival tournament will take place in just two weeks. A record-breaking 32 players have signed up so far, making it the largest non-shark tournament in the Scandinavian countries yet. And if last year is any indication, it's gonna be a sweet gathering. Spacious location, incredibly cheap beer and passionate players with solid tech.
Damn, I need to take a step back and just appreciate the fact that there are over 30 players travelling to Arvika to play 93/94. That's awesome. Three or four years back, you were hard pressed to find any Eternal tournaments of that size even in major cities in Sweden. And today we get not only to cast Moxen at a regular basis in six-round swiss tournaments, but to use them to cast first turn Black Knights while drinking beer.

There have been some sweet posts about the format in the last couple of weeks I recommend checking out. Danny Friedman recently updated his blog with some fresh tech. Fab Sanglard wrote a great post where he built decks inspired by the four seasons of Mishra's Factory. Gathering Magic published an article about the format where they interviewed Christoffer "Stalin" Andersson, Sigmund Ausfresser and Fab Sanglard. And as always, it's a pleasure to immerse in the world of Shaman Ben's MtgUnderground blog.

onsdag 27 januari 2016

The distribution of the binomial coefficients modulo p (a layman's review)

Once, I was pretty decent in mathematics. Using an almanac as temporal verification, it wasn't even that many years ago.

You get unfamiliar with your tools if you don't use them. I'm sure there's fortune cookie wisdom in there somewhere. But avoiding this excellent excuse to write Haiku, I'll just state that if someone asks me about functional analysis, measure theory or reading some paper in French today, I'm sure to nod nostalgically. I might hold up a conversation about the subjects when I'm drunk, but I have no real working skill in graduate level mathematics anymore.

Anyway, Magic. This is still somehow related to the history of Magic. Very old school stuff though. Like before Alpha playtest cards old school. Like Richard Garfield January 1991 old school.
There have been a bunch of articles out there about most aspects of the good doctor's life and the early days of Magic. How the company got founded, how he proposed to his wife, his struggles with getting funding for RoboRally and all that. But I haven't really seen anyone looking up the 'PhD' part of Pheddalgrif. So tonight, with a six-pack of beers in hand, we'll take a look at Richard Garfield's PhD thesis. If Frank Karsten gets to write about math at ChannelFireball, it's not weird for us to read a thesis here. Buckle up mofos!
So, The distribution of the binomial coefficients modulo p. Hardcore stuff. I think I might understand the title, which is always a very good sign. Binomial coefficients are the family of integers that e.g. shows up when you want to pick some objects from a collection of said objects. Like if you want to pick three players for a deck-check in a tournament with 40 players, in how many ways can you do that? That's a binomial coefficient. Or if I want to calculate the odds of getting this particular FTK hand from my grossly unfair Power Monolith deck:
Assuming that I really want the #MtgForLife-land and want the Juzam Sol Ring rather than another Mox or similar, but that I don't care which of my four-of Basalt Monoliths, Power Artifacts or Fireballs I get, what are the odds for drawing this exact First Turn Kill on the play? Well, the number of possible hands I can draw from a 60 card deck, assuming each card is unique, is commonly pronounced "60 choose 7", and calculated as 60!/(7!(60-7)!) = 386 million give or take a few hundred thousand. As I have four-ofs of three of the cards I want in my opener, I get to improve the odds for this particular hand to about one in six million.

Modulo p then. Slightly simplified, the modulo operation typically finds the remainder after division of one integer by another. So for example 16 modulo 12 asks for the remainder of 16/12, i.e. 4. If two numbers give the same remainder when divided by a given number, they are said to be congruent. So 16 is congruent with 4 (and 28, 40, 52, etc) modulo 12.

There are many cases when modular arithmetic comes up in everyday life. The hour of the day is modulo 24. If it's 20:00 and you wait six hours, it's not 26:00 o'clock but rather 02:00. The months of the year is modulo 12; after December we get back to January again. So let's say that we would pick five different months since the start of the current calendar in England in 1752 (when they decided to start the year with January over there). That's 3169 months ago. What are the odds that all the five months we picked were October? If we pick five random numbers from 1 to 3169, each one of them need to be congruent with 10 modulo 12 to represent the tenth month of the year, and we can pick the months in 3169 choose 5 different ways. So far so easy.
From the title, the thesis appears to cover how to assign a probability to each measurable subset of binomial coefficients modulo some prime number. So we're not looking at modulo 12 here for sure, as 12=2*2*3. Lets say that we look at modulo 7 instead, which we could think of as weekdays instead of months. If we pick a few of the almost 100 000 days since 1752, how many of them will be Wednesdays? Not that hard to find out, as it's a 1 in 7 chance for each day. But instead, lets look at how many different ways we can pick the days. These are the binomial coefficients. Let's call the number of days k. If we want to pick k=5 days, we can do it in about 6.96*10^22 different ways. If we want to pick k=30 we can do it in 1.27*10^117 ways, and for say k=25 000 we can do it in 7.05*10^23966 different ways. For a fairly large number of days to chose from, and picking many days, the number of possibilities gets unwieldy large quickly. But if we look at the number of possibilities in in terms of residue classes instead - that is how many are congruent with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 0 modulo 7 - we still get a lot of information. How many of the binomial coefficients will end up in each residue class? Can we say something about this distribution for different values of k? This is a simplified way of looking at it, but I think that these kind of distributions is what the paper is about.

...

Hm. Thinking about it, this could be the least user friendly topic even remotely related to the history of Magic one could write about. If I were writing on a commercial site, odds are that my editor would reject this with a vengeance. Well, I'm in too deep now. And lucky me, I have no editor. Here's a picture of Land Leeches:
For those of you still here, lets move from the title to the abstract to get a better idea of what we're reading.
Ouch. The more times I read this the more I realize that it would take me months to properly understand the context. In particular the sentence "The proof uses the fact that a certain mapping of p-ary digit strings to polynomials modulo (x^(p-1)-1) is a homomorphism" is beyond me. I understand the words per say, but I have no opinion on the sentence they form. Is everyone OK with taking the easy route skipping the proof and calculations, and just move on to the results? Both of you are? Thanks Frank Karsten and Martin Lindström.

So, the end result is used "to study how the the values of the binomial coefficients sit in the quadratic residues modulo p." What's a quadratic residue then? Lets look it up in my Introduction to modern algebra:
An integer a is called a quadratic residue modulo m if it is congruent to a square modulo m. In the example, they note that
  • 1² ≡ 1 mod 5
  • 2² ≡ 4 mod 5
  • 3² ≡ 4 mod 5
  • 4² ≡ 1 mod 5
So 1 and 4 are quadratic residues of 5, while 2 and 3 are quadratic nonresidues.

Lets take a quick step back and look at just how large numbers we're working with when talking about binomial coefficients. This is not related to the results in the thesis, but to get a better idea of what we would be dealing with without the modulo operation. In the introduction of the thesis, Garfield has a brief discussion where he uses n=10^9 as an example. That's about the size of the population of India in 1998. So say that you want to pick 1% of that population to do some survey on their living standards or similar. In how many ways could we pick out this one percent? I can't really write that binomial coefficient here, as it has well over 24 million digits. We would have to use all the characters of eight Bibles to write that number down. And if we go a little further, say picking 10% of the population rather than 1%, the binomial coefficient gets too big for most scientific calculators to handle. And we're still looking at, in a sense, small numbers here; 1 billion is a number we can relate to and picking 10% of that isn't that big a chunk.

So how do the values of binomial coefficients for different values of k sit in the residue groups modulo p? And why is it interesting? Well, paraphrasing Black Knight, math is its own purpose. It's the poetry of logical ideas. As Bertrand Russel so eloquently put it, "Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty -- a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as poetry."

I can't say I understand the proof. But dismissing its potential beauty because of my inept insight in the field would be ignorant. It's like someone calling from the Louvre to describe Mona Lisa on the phone and the respondent dismissing the painting as they wont get get a proper understanding of its nuances ("It's some chick with a weird smile and dark hair, with slightly tilted landscape in the background for flavor").
Something like this?
Many of the frequently used tools in modern mathematics started out as purely academic topics, years or centuries later finding a "real world use". Fields like conic sections, group theory, complex analysis and fractal geometry were all mainly studied for academic curiosity and beauty once upon a time. Later they proved instrumental in forming the modern world as we know it. Quadratic residues was originally an abstract mathematical concept from a branch of number theory known as modular arithmetic. But today it seems like there are quite a few tangible real-world applications for it. According to Wikipedia its applications "are ranging from acoustical engineering to cryptography and the factoring of large numbers." Pretty sweet. A diamond is nice to look at by itself, but once you realize you can also use it to build drills that cut through stone like butter or knives sharp enough for eye surgery it gets more value.
So now we have a basic idea of what Garfield was doing while carving out the ideas that eventually became Magic. Maybe you learned something. Maybe a slightly bigger picture of the man who became the world's arguably best game designer will help us better appreciate the craftsmanship. Or maybe I lost you seven paragraphs ago. Regardless, I'm glad to see that you made it all the way down here. And I got to go full nerd and write about math on a Magic blog. Achievement unlocked. Might write about dicks and explosions next time to compensate.

lördag 23 januari 2016

Matt's Story

Today I have the great pleasure to share the story of Matt Shields from across the ocean. Enjoy! /Mg out

"Expect my visit when the darkness comes. The night I think is best for hiding all."

Much gratitude to Mg for posting this. My opinions of Old School Magic don't carry more weight than anyone else's. But to a format so entrenched in stories and perspectives, I wanted to contribute my own. If anyone takes any inspiration or enjoyment from this at all, then it was worth writing.

...

I beat Library tonight. Sean had it first turn, on the play. I countered with double Dark Ritual into Sengir; it got Psiblasted after eating a chunk of his life. I had Land Tax early and he died to a board of 2/2s, fourteen basics, Maze of Ith, Sol Ring, and a dozen cards left in my library. Icy Manipulator did serious work. After the game I managed to acquire a NM Juzam Djinn for my deck. Psiblast that shit.

...

I was introduced to the game in the first half of 1994, at 15 years old. I'd have put myself younger, but I know the year based on release dates. Here in the US, Revised booster packs were $2. A scattering of Legends packs could be found at $7 and higher. Older product was virtually nonexistent.

The friend who taught me, to this day, is one that I count among my best, despite now living more than 2,000 miles across country. Adam deserves much of the credit and blame for my 22-year relationship with Magic. It's amazing to look back at how that time would shape my hobbies long into adulthood. The game, once it took hold, did not relent. Though its grip at various points lessened, even lapsed, here I sit in 2016, a working professional and dedicated husband and father, having spent the better part of the last three months enraptured by Sinkholes, Scrublands, and Hypnotic Specters. Magic still consumes much, if not most, of my idle thoughts. When my wife casually asks what I'm reading or what I'm thinking about, the answer is usually the same. Magic isn't so much a game as a way of life. Abstinence or obsession; there's little in between.

Adam had worked at getting me to play for a few weeks before I gave in. He and another friend were countless cards ahead, already owning black and white decks, respectively. Their card pools were Revised. Mine would be the same, and in my first few packs and starter deck I opened a Force of Nature. My color was set. There was a dominant rare creature in each color, and I'd pulled one of the Five.
How different would my Magic life be today had I opened Island Fish?
In truth, the color that called to me was black. I was awed by the Dementor-like artwork of Frozen Shade, Dark Ritual, and Bog Wraith. Cards that inspired fear. But Adam had already started his trek down the path to darkness, and for me to choose black would mean suffering to contend against a vastly superior opponent. Adam already had Lord of the Pit, Demonic Hordes, Royal Assassin, Sengir Vampire, and more.
Hooded minions of the Abyss
I lost many games to Frozen Shade. Off a turn one Dark Ritual, Shade or Hypnotic Specter was nigh unbeatable for a pile with no removal. I might have had a Desert Twister. My earliest weeks of playing involved learning the rules, buying more packs and accumulating as many cards as possible. Name a green Revised card other than Tsunami and Lifelace, my deck likely had it. Except for Gaea's Liege, a rare that eluded me. I did have Life Force though; Adam ran Deathgrip and Gloom.

We played mostly chaos matches, the three of us and Adam's younger sister, whose mono-red goblins was tactically ahead of its time. I doubt I ever won. I doubt I even scored damage with my Force of Nature, as Terror and Swords to Plowshares were in abundance. But I enjoyed it nonetheless. I remember the weekend Adam played a release event for The Dark. At the time, his deck had two Nightmares, hellfire stallions that ushered in my ruin every time they touched the table. I went to a bookstore that weekend and bought packs of Revised. I opened a Serra Angel and a Nightmare.

This was significant. It was card quality beyond what my collection knew. I didn't yet know how to put these to use, but felt for the first time that the gap between us was closing.

He called me after he got home. I don't remember the format of the event or how he might have fared. Only that he had opened a card called Leviathan. And that he had traded it for his third and fourth Nightmares.
My worst nightmares
At some point, my deck evolved. I was on a 60+ card red and white pile running Serra Angel, Fireball, and Lightning Bolt. Veteran Bodyguard and Roc of Kher Ridges. Dragon Whelps. Swords to Plowshares. Wall of Swords. Rock Hydra. We played an elimination tournament at a local store. Revised rares topped out around $5 in the case. Underground Sea was $6, same as Wrath of God. The woman that ran the shop inhaled cigarettes like they were oxygen. And she loved her Shivan Dragons. She spoke of them incessantly.

The winner would return the following week for a playoff against the winners of three prior events. The champion would get a box of Legends. I'd not so much as held a Legends card before; the idea of an entire box of boosters was unfathomable. I thought about what it would be like to open it.

I finished in second place, one match away from returning for the playoff. The result, though, was never in doubt. The player that won had beaten Adam, our other friend, and me in grim, unwavering succession. I just happened to face him last. He was older than us, and carried his cards in a briefcase. He played dual lands and Howling Mines and won with Braingeyser. He played counterspells. He played Power. I didn't fully understand what was happening as I tried to cast my creatures and attack for damage. He went through his plays and told me how many cards to draw, and when. It ended quickly. We never stood a chance.

We kept playing. Sometime in the next year, someone at Adam's school offered him a stack of expensive cards for a criminally low price. Said they'd found them, but they were obviously stolen. It hardly mattered. For somewhere around $75, Adam had acquired the full Power 9, all the duals, Forks, Mana Drains, Candelabra, and more. Adam's new deck was a machine. It played moxen and lands and countered your spells. Then it played Mana Flares, Candelabra, and Drain Power. It drained your fifteen mana and added thirty of its own. Then it cast Fireball and Forked it. Twice.

Adam played a tournament with that deck. I didn't play, but I attended and cheered him on. I don't remember what he placed, but I remember opponents eating Disintegrates in excess of 100. It was glorious.

Adam stopped playing after selling off that pile for far more than he paid. He went to college out-of-state and thereafter we were geographically separated. He wisely chose abstinence.

...

A few years went by. Frozen Shade got sultry.
The game changed for me in 1999. That summer, home from school, I started shuffling with a coworker who played competitively. I built a mirror copy of his White Lightning deck and four-color Living Death. He moved on to Bargain. With me as his apprentice, we tore through players and won prizes at local shops. My eyes had been opened. What was learned that summer would never be unlearned.

I lapsed in and out of the game and played casually for a long time. Group games, competitive kitchen table Magic with friends. The occasional prerelease or FNM. In 2009, I decided as a project to rebuild Tempest block white weenie (even though errata had long since killed it) and Living Death. The effort was a precursor to my immersion in Old School Magic. The nostalgia had gripped me; I just hadn't gone far enough back.

In the ensuing years, Legacy called, and I answered. I slowly acquired the staples; my collection value grew, but I've never really been much for tournaments. I enjoy playing the format, but prefer to play it in the company of good friends, and beer.

Acquiring the cards has always been important. Probably for the best, I've never experienced life as a single adult. My wife and I have been together more than fifteen years, long before I had a decent-paying job. We have a four-year-old daughter now, and under such conditions the angel on my shoulder keeps the Magic spending in check. If not for my family, I would be Gandalf wielding a ring of power. My collection would be a fearsome thing to behold.

As it is, the gluttony is tempered to responsible levels and I fund a decent amount through trades. I buy and sell smartly, understanding the market and taking advantage of the virtue of patience. But occasionally time wears patience thin, and something like this results:
Not so impressive on a site where Power and Beta duals are the norm, but it's the most expensive card I own. I traded for about half and paid the rest. I really want a FBB Tundra to go with it, but 93/94 goals have put that far down on the list.

Even when it's something high-end, I try to buy for playability. Power had never been a consideration, since I never had anywhere to run it. No point in having a triple-sleeved Mox Ruby in a binder collecting dust, or getting stolen. That's one of the things that makes Old School Magic so awesome: it gives you a reason to acquire the cards you always wanted to own.

When I started building my 93/94 deck, one of my first acquired pieces was this:
Set your eyes upon it and bask in its glory. The very image gives me chills. When I started playing, an Icy Manipulator was not an attainable thing. I wanted one badly, for its aesthetic and for its promise of power. The reprinting in Ice Age satiated the mechanical side only; the Unlimited version fell to the realm of excess. For years I'd have afforded one easily, but it would serve no purpose, its play value lost to the ages. 93/94 offered justification to indulge.

My first Old School game was against Sean, with whom I've delved into the format alongside. He's on U/R counter-burn, with aggro creatures, Unstable Mutation, and a Library of Alexandria he got in trade for two Tropical Islands and filler. We drew our hands and discussed the implications of turn one Dark Ritual into Hypnotic Specter. I hedged to make the play, fearing removal, but in the end I was convinced he didn't have it. I was right. Specter came down and I shipped the turn. He topdecked Bolt. We stalled out, baiting spells and allowing the war of attrition to unfold. After several turns, I resolved another Specter. He dropped Maze. I resolved Icy. End of turn tap your Maze, attack with Specter. End of turn tap your Maze, attack with Specter. It was an intoxicating victory. The format was real.

...

Now, with the spirit of 93/94 at the forefront of my Magic soul, years of perseverance and good fortune have put me in a position that I may look to acquire my first piece of Power. If and when that happens, I'll mail a pic to Mg to let him know. I'll not have acquired it without him or without this site.

I've regrettably seen spatterings of negativity toward 93/94 in the online Magic community, shunning its elitist nature and failing to comprehend the draw of its nostalgia. Those critics misunderstand the format's purpose. Elitism is not the reason the format exists; it is merely a consequence of it existing. Mg and others have done something truly remarkable in re-eliciting the emotions many of us felt when we first starting playing the game many, many years ago. The allure of the art, the challenge of acquiring the pieces. Other formats have tried to accomplish this and failed.

And, as if that alone was not enough, the format has launched a crusade of giving to those for whom that in which we indulge, luxury, has no meaning. To that, all I can say to conclude my post is thank you, Mg. #MtgForLife

söndag 17 januari 2016

FNM in Karlstad

A little over a year ago, WotC made a change in the Friday Night Magic policy allowing every format viable for FNM-play. This gave our flute-playing invoker and former DCI-manager of Sweden Mikael Mällroth good incentive to organize the first sanctioned 93/94 FNM in a local pub. This is his story. Enjoy! /Mg out

This is a little summary of the first ever 93-94 FNM. It’s late but work, family and life got in the way.

It started in the car towards the World championship in the format last Easter. We had some loose talks about doing a 93-94 FNM. Would be nice to hand out some FNM-foils in a 93-94 tournament.
A day or few after the championship I checked some dates and found a Friday that’s lodged between a Swedish holiday Thursday and the weekend. Much more chance for people to get of work and such. I talked to our local magic friendly pub in Karlstad, called The Leprechaun Pub, and they gave their approval (we host like chaos sealed there, of and on). We had a go. The tournament was set for the 15th of May at 15:00. The reason for the early start was that we had to play 3-4 rounds and then semis and final. Knowing some of the decks (and players) it could take a while even with time limit in the rounds.

Nine players signed up for the event (more than I’d thought). So we would be playing 4 rounds and top 4. This would, however, mean that one player would have a bye. I played one of my favourite decks from back then, UGR Zoo. Probably the first good deck I ever built. Good creatures with backup from bolts and power. Of course I didn´t own any power cards back then but the rest were the same.
UGR Zoo
First round, the pairings said, I would have the bye. I made good time of this for a pint of Guinness or two :) 1-0

In the second round I met Kungmarkus with his toolbox. His deck didn’t really do anything in game one and my creatures could do their job. After sideboard, game two. Now he flooded the board with various artifacts in the first rounds. I then responded with Energy Flux, which more or less shut his deck off. 2-0
Before the third round a player dropped to go to the other FNM. That meant no more byes. I met Frasse with white weenie. The first game he knocked me down (more than) some life before I could stabilize and turn around. In the second game I had a tremendous start with Volcanic Island, Black Lotus. Sac Lotus and play two Kird Apes and a Lightning Bolt leaving Volcanic for an, at end of his turn, Ancestral Recall. Second turn Taiga turned the Apes big and that was it. 3-0

Round four I met Artelas with another homebrew toolbox (a good one). After a close fight in the first game and a not so close fight in the second (his deck decided to take a break) I was on top. 4-0 and not a duel lost so far. You will get yours in the play-offs, Artelas predicted.
Semifinal. I am again to face Artelas. Now it’s my deck that won’t work (strangely, as predicted). It’s mulligan and then a keep to rely on Birds of Paradise to give me mana towards one of my colors. He pops of my Birds and half my hand stays were it is. Then I get a fast start and thanks to a side boarded Energy Flux I make it even again. In the deciding duel a fast played City in a Bottle is all that it takes to topple me over. I’m out.

In the other semi Kungmarkus and Svetzarn is battling for top spot. After the smoke settled Kungmarkus is through to the final.
In the final the two toolbox decks battle out for glory. In the end Artelas stands on top as the winner in the first ever 93-94 FNM, aka LepreCon 1. And of course as the winner he gets a card signed by all the participants. The card, of course, being Aisling Leprechaun. Some trinkets and FNM-foil were also handed out and it was a merry crew having another pint :)
The champion's deck.
I would like to thank everyone playing and telling everyone else that there will be a LepreCon 2.

Keep on tappin' Moxes and Mountains alike!
Mikael Mällroth

fredag 8 januari 2016

Ethiopian gold

I'm on a plane. If all goes well, and that is a big if, I'll meet up with my girlfriend in Ethiopia in about 24 hours. I'm going to the middle of Africa to spend a weekend with Netflix in a hotel room. If all goes well.

She's in South Sudan. It's not place one simply goes to. A month back I looked into to it at length. Even if one should manage to get a ticket and a visa, and all the clearances and vaccinations, actually landing is no piece of cake. The airport in Juba got closed yesterday due to political turmoil. It's never open during weekends. A majority of the planes that flies there are forbidden to enter European airspace due to the high risk of accidents. And if all that would work out, the country is a serious danger zone. The tribal wars isn't exactly a game of Elves vs. Goblins. Travelling in the country without soldiers looked like a bad idea. And I probably needed to to learn how to bribe.
So if I was going, I wanted to get gold. No insurance company I found would help me if I went to South Sudan willingly, so I had to make my own insurance. Gold is an universal panic button. If you have gold, you could get a ride to some sort of embassy if shit hits the fan. Or hopefully buy yourself out of unexpected situations with the military.

I got my hands on a Krugerrand from my dad in Gothenburg. Both he and mom vehemently suggested that this was a bad idea. I've done a few questionable things in the past, but this one just seemed like reckless abandon. They still helped me out with info and some research, but reached the same conclusion; South Sudan is not a country one simply goes to.
But I had my Gold. The metal in the coin was valued at $1,200 so it would be a solid get-out-of-jail-free card. This was in the end of November. December first I moved yet again, this time from the Oslo BarCode to the more bohemian Fredensborg, a place where the historically socially different east and west of Oslo collide. My new neighbours are both hipster foodies and stoned squatters. It's a good place to live if you want to get to know the town better. Rather than putting the gold straight in a moving box, I placed it safely in a wallet I rarely use.

...

If we manage to have enough income to keep the bottom layers of the Maslow pyramid happy, we are to face the necessity that begin where necessity ends. Luxury. All the money I've spent on 93/94, I perceive as money lost. It has never been about investing for me. It's more like drinking a rare beer or buying new shoes, once you've spent the money, you wont get it back. You got an experience or something you'll enjoy having. If I need a panic button, I have one in my cards, but I hope to never have to use it. Just as I hoped to never use the Gold.
But cards got different once I started to indulge in greed and sloth. Virtues in decadence, but vices in my collecting. I'm not a collector for the sake of collecting. When I got access to more cards than I really used, the atmosphere around them changed. There was no real joy in getting my last Taigas. They were means to an end, to complete some sort of achievement of having 40 duals. I had no deck for them. Rather than exciting me as new cards, they reminded me of what cards I didn't have; that Tropical Island, those Sylvan Libraries, that set of Savannahs. By themselves they did nothing for me.

I got my first Taiga in late 1995. Went home to an acquaintance who wanted to sell his cards to spend the money on whatever a cool 13-year old kid rather spends money on. Cigarettes I guess. I'm sure we haggled for an hour. I wanted to pay $7 for it, but he wanted $8. In the end I was defeated; he was a year older than me and I was the needy kid in the equation. That Taiga I had a relationship with. Showed it off and played a lot with with it before I traded it and another dual for an Italian Hellfire in 1996. Red/Green was never really my colors, and that Hellfire was fucking Magic. My last Taiga was more of a commodity.

What's my point? This could be one:
Matt Shields' Deadguy Ale (located in Hudson, USA)
Game drink.
That is an awesome pile of cards. They come with stories. Scrublands have been traded one-for-one for revised Tundras and hard-earned money was spent on the Thunder Spirits in the picture. Other priorities and formats were set aside to build this deck. In another year, it might look different. If Matt gets a Juzam to replace one of the Su-Chis at some point, that Juzam will be fucking Magic. Probably much more so than a Juzam bought for a binder or one to resell. They are still awesome, but they are commodities. My first Juzam from three years ago was fucking Magic. My third foiled Mind Sculptor was sweet, but not nearly the same. The Mind Sculptor has since been traded away.

The weekend before Christmas, I went to Gothenburg for a family Christmas dinner. I met up with Honka and Rafiki the evening before to grab a few beers and catch up on anecdotes. For this story, we should note that I don't use a wallet in Norway. There's really no need for cash as all payments are made with plastic. I do have one for when I'm in Sweden though. One of my favorite pubs in Sweden only accept cash, and I need some additional cards for public transport and such, so the cell phone case don't cover it.

The three of us and a friend of Rafiki spent a long evening at Brewer's Beer Bar, had our laughs and our whining, and didn't leave before closing time. Rafiki and Honka had some plans of going deeper into the night, but it was time to call quits for me. It had been a long day of travelling and I yearned for the embrace of sleep. When I walked down the foggy streets of Gothenburg in search for a transport, a trio of beggars approached me. It was a rare event for me to actually carry a little bit of cash, so I gave the first a small bill. I had a small bill for the second as well, but when the third came up I was out. Rather than giving nothing I emptied whatever was in the coin compartment into her dirty paper cup. A few crowns at least. It was dark.
It wasn't until two days later when I was back in Norway that I realized I had lost the Gold. First I panicked. It wasn't even mine to lose, and it had a price of the nominal GDP per capita of South Sudan. It was three months rent in my old apartment in Gothenburg. I slept pretty badly, but when I woke up I could only laugh. I could always budget to buy one to replace it. So I won't drink a few micro-brewed beers, go to a fancy restaurant, travel down in Europe to play Magic or increase my collection of duals this month. I have to pull back on the luxury for a while, or use some money from my savings. Big deal. The beggar would use it much better than I ever could. Maybe she gets to try some rare luxury for a month or two instead, or help her family. And the coin had already filled the purpose I got it for; it had now become a simple commodity. I knew I wouldn't get into South Sudan at this point. I couldn't get a visa. It looked like Øyann could get out of the country for a few days though, so we were to try and meet up in a neighbouring country. Ethiopia was the best option, so now I'm going to Ethiopia. I'm still not sure if she can make it here. I'll know in a few hours. It has been a roller coaster, but it's a point of no return now. Hopefully I'll see her soon.

söndag 3 januari 2016

Tech from Sehlskapsspelen 2015

During the holidays I had the opportunity to visit Erik "Sehl" Larsson's house in Åsa. Eight mages of ill repute had gathered to draft Viktor "Oldschool" Peterson's new 93/94 combo cube.
Limited brewing
It was a great experience. The cube contained pretty much all the possible combos and tricks in the format, and fairly few creatures in order to make the combos more powerful. I started out trying to build Transmute/Field of Dreams, but didn't get to wheel my Millstones and ended up with UR Transmute Artifact. There were some truly insane decks and matches, but I won't spoil to much in case Viktor wants to write a report about the cube later. I will however say that I unlocked the achievement of pinging an opponent from 20 to zero with a single Prodigal Sorcerer as my only offense.
Tim achievement about to be unlocked.
But that was not the only event to take place at Casa Sehl during December. A few weeks ago, Sehl hosted the second yearly Sehlskapsspelen tournament. I didn't have the chance to attend myself, but he recently sent over the decklists for the top4. And there's some solid tech.
The glorious host.
Starting with the winner, we have Elof Gottfridsson. The Pimpvitational champion's deck of choice was a new take on Artifact Aggro. With 4-offs of Su-Chi, Juggernaut and Copy Artifact backed up by a slew of mana rocks and jewellery, big guys come out the gate before there are ways to handle them. To go all guns blazing, the big four-drops are backed up by both Berserks and Atogs.
Elof's Artifact Smash
Next in line we have Andreas "JummJumm" Leo. JummJumm btw ended up with a 4-1-1 record with his WW at BSK in November and just missed the top8 on tiebreakers (also due to draws being worth zero points in the tournament, and he unfortunately got an unintentional draw in the second round). His current deck is a really sweet and techy monored brew. Like Elof, JummJumm holds the full set of Atogs in his main 60, but other than that the decks look very different. The Manabarbs are rarely seen but seem very powerful, and combined with cards like Copper Tablet, Ankh of Mishra, and burn spells they look highly dangerous. Sweetest tech has to be the Time Vault though.
JummJumm's Burning Barbs
Falling just short of the finals, we have Sehl's GW ErhnamGeddon and Simon "Mofow"'s Erhnam Burn'em rounding up the top4.
Sehl's Erhnamgeddon
Mofow's Erhnam Burn'em
Only one deck playing blue in the top4, but ten Erhnam Djinns, eight Atogs and three out of four decks playing Avoid Fate make up for the absence of Islands.