torsdag 24 juli 2014

Warcon pics and WSK top4

The top performing decks from WSK are finally up in the Decks-to-beat section. The top4 consisted of a The Deck, a Zack Dolan Control, an UGR Burn and a "4-color black" beatdown. I haven't seen all the lists from Warcon yet, but I can tell you that the finals was between a monoblack deck (played by Erik "Sehl" Larsson) and a monoblue (played by Elof). Amnesia has really shown itself as a powerful card the last few months, in particular with plays like turn 1 Mana Vault, turn 2 holding up two islands for Counterspell, and turn 3 Amnesia. I'm hoping for a tournament report from Elof, but for now we can take a look at a few pics from the tournament (thanks to Kalle, Elof and Freespace for the pics).
The Fellwar Orb, first price in the tournament.
Glenn, aka Gnell, from Varberg is playing monoblue against Axelsson, an awesome player from the South.
BSK 2013 winner Henke playing creatureless Tax Edge vs Gnell's monoblue Stasis. A crawling slow match; game one took 50 minutes before Henke scooped in disgust ;)
Amnesia hits for 6. Lots of Amnesia-tech during this tournament, maybe influenced by Elof's n00bcon top8 deck and by the fact that they are easier to cast without power now (with Mana Vault legal).
Turn 1 Library is responded to by turn 1 Library.
Jenny's RG beats playing Elof's monoblue artifacts for the top4. That's a distracting playmat btw.
Orb vs Juzam, a fair sight for old school players. Freespace also uses the secret tech of a distracting plamat.
Blood Moon vs monoblue artifacts. At least it takes care of the library ;)
Munchhausen vs Brorsan.
Stasis facing an opposing Feldon's Cane :)

I'll be posting decklists from Warcon as soon as I get them.

onsdag 16 juli 2014

Priorities and luxury

Sometimes, I need to take a step back. Most of us know that playing an expensive deck in competitive formats is a luxury, and not a right. Even in casual formats, not all cards are accessible unless you make a conscious prioritization and decide that owning these cards are more valuable to you than using that money on something else. It could be due to the joy of the game, the joy of owning a piece of history, or simply the joy of luxury. "Luxury is a necessity that begins where necessity ends", to quote Coco Chanel. Sometimes you need to ask yourself 'why?' though. A week ago I got one of the very last cards for my Project M deck, and the question was more present than ever.

The card on the left is my old Mox Sapphire, which I obtained just after last New Years Eve. The card on the right is my new one, a moderately played Alpha version of the card. The nice thing is that I'm now up to seven of nine in black bordered power cards, and that I have all the cards for Project M apart from a pair of duals. The slightly disturbing thing is the very large price difference between the card on the left and the one on the right. I think I got a fair price marketwise, but I can't help to think about why I prioritize spending all the extra money to make a wb card I own into a black bordered version of the same card. There are a lot of things I could have done instead of "upgrading", e.g.
  • I need a new suite. I could actually fly with Norwegian Airlines from Olso to Munich, buy a new Hugo Boss suit in Stachus, do some minor tailoring on said suite, and then fly home.
  • I could draft every week for a year, and still have money left for most of the year's pre-releases.
  • I don't own a tablet, so I could have bought a 4th generation iPad Air. Then I could also have bought Kurio tablets for both my nephew and my niece to have someone to play scrabble with.
  • On the more humanitarian side of things; I could have bought goats to 28 different families in Bangladesh or the Philippines. Thinking about these kind of things really makes you question your need for luxury.
So, does owning an Alpha Sapphire make me happy? Yes, most definitely. Even if I didn't play 93/94, I would find use for it in a casual Homarid deck, Vintage, or my drinking cube. Would I be happier owning 10 new pairs of good shoes instead the card? Maybe. It's a priority.

Here's an interesting thing though; if I would buy a decent Canali suit for $1000, very few people I know would question that expense. If you would buy a used car for $5000, pretty much no one would blame you for spending the money (Fun fact btw: Roland, the guy I obtained my Lotus from, recently sold of his eternal collection and bought an amazing sports car with the money). However, with cards like this, you can't avoid feeling that you wouldn't want to talk about the expense with everybody. Would you tell your colleagues or spouse, or do you feel "nerd shame"? I know I'm very open about it today (yep, even have a blog about it ;)), but eight or nine years ago, I would be hard pressed to tell most of my friends about my nerdy prioritizations. Well, this post isn't about "nerd shame" though, it's about the fact that we prioritize spending our (often hard-earned) money on Magic cards. And we don't really have to, at least not to play this format.

Brorsan's Shark-winning deck from BSK 2013. Cheaper than many Standard decks.
Quorthon's monoblue deck from WSK last weekend. No power, and looks really fun to play.
There's something deeper here. We don't play to get rich or find high-level success in the game, we play to have a good time with like-minded people. That's probably why arguments on allowing reprints are not heard at n00bcon, and why nobody at 0-2 dropped during the swiss at WSK. Winning is far second to playing.

I guess I could have had the new suit. I played this format for 3 years before I got my first power card. I think that I agree with fashion designer Marc Jacobs though, "Luxury is about pleasing yourself, not dressing for other people." And owning black bordered cards makes me glad, it's a part of history which I can use as an excuse to both hang out with old friends and meet new ones. I think it's cool to own game pieces that have their own wikipedia page. Working on my deck over the last two years have been very relaxing in times of stressful work. And it is fun to play Magic. It is a great luxury.

onsdag 9 juli 2014

Pictures from WSK

Last weekend the Wexio Gaming Convention was held in Växjö, Småland. Around the board games, steam punks and NES consoles there was old school Magic going on. I'm aiming to write a longer report about the weekend, but for now we'll have a look at some pics from the tournament.

Freespace playtesting the Chaos Orb in our hotel room before the tournament.
After we felt comfortable with the flipping, we went down to the local Bishop's Arms pub to relax. With 4 Juzams and skill with the Orb, Freespace's shape is looking good.
We did however have some additional tech against the Juzams, with the powerhouse that is Riven Turnbull. If you haven't looked at this card's design and flavortext, I can simply tell you it's hilarious. It's also a 5/7!
The hotel trading floor. Kenneth marvels at Mats' plastic bag of trading cards. An awesome old school way of storing cards if I ever saw one.
To be fair, some of the cards in the trading bag did have sleeves. Not the alpha Stasises or duals, but some did ;)
Elof is playing 4-Vault Mud and started our first game with turn 1 Library. I luck out with Demonic for Strip Mine, and after some Recall shenanigans I have double Chaos Orb and Guardian Beast in play. Elof casts Copy Artifact on the Orb to kill my beast, but misses his flip. Clearly an important card to playtest ;)
Game 2, Elof has turn 1 Su-Chi, which I respond to with turn 1 Sol'Kanar. Elof goes turn two Unsummon and Juggernaut though, and it's a quick affair.
Fat Mothi blocking the way for Sengir. The monoblue deck looks really cool with multiple Mahamotis (and Spell Blast!). Unfortunately I didn't get much time to see it in action.
Åland vs Arkanon. Åland is playing a modern version of Weissman control, where Arkanon took inspiration from Zak Dolan's Stasis control from from worlds 1994.
Ottifant vs Sehl; Juzams vs enchantments. Beautiful decks :)
Mishras vs Apes and Disk vs Enchantments
Juzams and Sengirs facing Hypnotics, Erg Raiders and Black Knights.
There has been no disruption or removal here, this is simply turn two for Enchantress. This was a very funny match btw, with no less than nine Timetwisters resolved during the three games.
Top4 players: Arkanon facing Matte, and Jokemon vs Åland.
Joakim "Jokemon" Jansson facing Niclas "Arkanon" Johansson in the finals. A very interesting game to watch with lots of exciting plays. Throughtout the day, it looked like Jokemon's two maindecked Ice Storms did a huge amount of work.
Arkanon finishes second and gets a futuristic calendar from the year 1998, and three copies of Flood (Växjö is the second most rain-heavy city in Sweden).
Jokemon, a great guy and skillful player, takes home the trophy. Jokemon is one of the driving forces behind the WSK convention, so we both congratulate him to his victory and thank him for a great weekend :)
Jokemon's winning deck. Manabarbs in sideboard and maindeck Ice Storms for vaule :) I'll post the other top4 decks in the deck's to beat section here soon.
This coming weekend it's time to battle again, this time at Warcon in Varberg. I unfortunately can't make it to this tournament myself, but I hope that those of you that join will have a great time and that you take a lot of pictures to show the rest of us!

måndag 30 juni 2014

Factory Settings

Apart from the basic lands in alpha/beta, Antiquities was the first set with different versions of the same card. One could argue that the misprints in Alpha (like Cyclopean Tomb) got a new version in Beta, or that the cards in Arabian Nights that got updated mana symbols (like Oubliette) technically exists in different versions, but Antiquities was the first set where this was consciously done by using different art.

Having cards with different art became popular in the mid 90s, and it could be seen extensively in Fallen Empires, Homelands and Alliances. Nowadays alternative art is almost exclusively used in special products, like "From the Vault"-supplements or Duel Decks. I think that the last time we saw multiple versions of the same card in a normal set was during Kamigawa (with Brothers Yamazaki).

In antiquities, there were five cards with different versions; the three Urza lands, Strip Mine, and Mishra's Factory. The Strip Mines look very much alike, and there's not a lot of discussion on which Strip Mine is the most “pimp” version; most people don't really care, and the rest usually consider it to be the version with the small tower. With the factories however, there's a pretty big difference, and people have vastly different ideas. This is my personal ranking of the different versions. "Pimp" is very much a matter of taste, and I'm sure many players disagree with my opinions here ;)

5. Spring
Comparatively boring with its washed out green colors, and by far the most common version. The number of spring factories in existence are vastly greater than any of the other Aq versions, as the spring factory was the only one to be a common card in the set.

4. Autumn
Autumn looks nice, but the fact that it has been reprinted so many times (4th in a myriad of languages, and as a Judge Reward) makes it seem less impressive and like an “average factory”. Every fbb mishra will look like this, which makes the aq version less interesting.

3. One of each
I can see arguments for this, but to me it still seems like “semi-pimp”. If you play a vintage storm deck, it's not like you have one ritual from Beta, one foiled from Masques, one from JR and one japanese from Tempest, you chose one and use that. That's an extreme example, but it still feels a little random with one of each Mishra.

2. Winter
The winter version is awesome, I can't say anything else. The only issue I have with it is that it is "obvious pimp". It's a little like a foil japanese Trygon Predator, a card that is simply consensus pimp. Winter Mishras are sweet, and I do own a playset for my Legacy deck, but they are second to one version.

1. Summer
Now, the summer version have everything going for it. Mainly, it's the best season. If you haven't spent a winter in the Nordic countries, it's hard to explain just how dark and depressing it can get. In Oslo, we had less than 20 hours of sunlight between new years eve and the first of March. That is less than one day of sunlight in two months. During the summer though, life is as awesome as it gets. Everyone is beautiful, good times are everywhere, and all the beer is free. With the summer version looking fairly close to spring (though with much nicer color), it's also a little more subtle than the winter version.

The main reason I'm thinking about Aq pimp right now is a very personal one though. Last week I got a new trio of Transmute Artifacts from Eli Kassis, and I really wanted to show them off. Eli is a well known collector from the U.S., and his collection is truly amazing. The Transmutes I got from him are pretty far away from "subtle pimp", but they are nonetheless impressive in their uniqueness:

Eli got his hands on one of Wizard's astonishingly rare uncut Antiquities sheets from Carta Mundi (the uncommon sheet; there are no rares in Aq). He took this to a professional printing company, and got the sheet cut up after 20 years. There are 3 Transmute Artifacts on one of these sheets, which is just the right number for my deck :) Even if the cards probably would have been even more interesting if they would have come from a booster pack rather than straight from the factory, the history of the sheet and the collector makes these cards very special for me.

Next weekend it's time for the WSK gaming convention! I'll be travelling up to Småland with Freespace and Åland to play 93/94, Vintage and hopefully a few more casual formats. It seems like a great start of the vacation :)

måndag 23 juni 2014

The flip side

Dexterity cards are pretty funny. I think that one of the things that makes 93/94 feel like a friendly format even with the intimidating costs of some decks is that the Chaos Orbs are flipped without hesitation. I've seen guys successfully managing overhead flips with the Orb, people who have completely missed the table, and I've personally been thwarted by a rotating fan to lose a match. It's not a card for everyone, but those who play it really enjoy it.

Michael "Jhovalking" Ahlberg is hoping for an unrestriction ;)
Chaos Orb have a small errata in 93/94 tournaments, basically stating that it can only hit one card. This is to avoid messy play areas with players spreading out their cards too much. Falling Star does not have this errata though, and can potentially hit a pair of mana birds or a couple of White Knights hanging out too close at the table. I does not have the ability to be a colorless one-sided Armaggedon though, as the best case is more like a one-sided Pyroclasm for 3. Players have recently started talking about actually playing Falling Star, so I went out on a small quest to better find out how the dexterity cards would work with modern rules. When are you allowed to move your cards? What is a 'hit'? What is a flip? Let's delve down.

Step one was not really close to the modern era. In The Duellist #1 from January 1994, they have a section where they explain rules on complex cards (the section on Illusionary Mask is hilarious btw). They have a section about Chaos Orb here:

Well, that sounds strange. I don't think taping your cards to the wall would be interpreted as good sportsmanship these days. I wonder if someone actually did this, and scotch-taped a few unsleeved moxen to a wall. A man can dream.

Step two was putting aside the printed media and try this newfangled internet thingie. At Wizard's Magic card database, The Gatherer, they have card-specific rules for all non-silverbordered cards. The rulings for Chaos Orb and Falling Star have some good info, but they still lacked some of the rulings I was looking for. For example, only Chaos Orb had the rulings "If you have sleeves on cards, they count as the cards." and "You can't interfere in any physical way with the casting of this card." I assume that these hold for the Falling Star as well. Only Falling Star had the ruling "Only cards touched when it stops moving are affected. Not ones touched while it is moving."

How do you flip a Frisbee?
One thing that puzzled me was the ruling for Chaos Orb that stated "You can arrange your cards any time before the Orb is put onto the battlefield, but not after. In general, you should not stack cards or put them in places where your opponent can't read the names of all of them or count them. This is recommended good gaming practice." It is not so much the fact that this statement from 2004 contradicts the one from 1994, it's more that it sounds like it have some big timing issues. According to this, your opponent could rearrange their permanents when Chaos Orb (or similarly Falling Star) are on the stack. This is not intuitive.

So do we get to rearrange cards when Falling Star is on the stack, and do we get to destroy permanents that the Chaos Orb hits but bounces off? I figured there were only one person who could give me a final answer; Matt Tabak, the official Magic rules manager. I sent an email to Matt with my ponderings, and he was quick to reply and sort it out:

"Thanks for writing in. I wouldn't put too much stock in the [gatherer] rulings for either card. [...] I'd say only cards touching the flipped card when it stops moving count, and as soon as a spell or ability is announced that would put Chaos Orb onto the battlefield (including casting the spell itself), players can't move their cards around. The same is true with respect to Falling Star being cast. As a side note, I'd also rule that token copies of Chaos Orb must be regular card-sized. [...]"

Well, that was easy. Very friendly and helpful guy :) Matt didn't mention anything about Forked copies of Falling Star, but it's reasonable to assume that these should also be regular card sized. If you do manage to Fork a Falling Star against me though, I'll definitely let you use an oversized Juzam if you want to flip that.

We'll end today with a picture of Paralyze on Savannah Lions.

Monoblack Prison vs Erhnamgeddon. Sweet matchup.

tisdag 17 juni 2014

A champion's Deck

When Kalle and I first started playing some durdly games with Alpha Sea Serpents in 2007, none of us expected to compete in 40+ player tournaments in 93/94 in the future. I took a lot of passionate people and a few years, but here we are.

Kalle and his most recent deck performed really well at n00bcon 6. How well you ask? He had a family engagement during the evening, and only had time to play five rounds. In round 6, he sat down and then quickly scooped. With that intentional scoop, he still finished 6th in the standings. As he didn't have time to play the elimination rounds, the 9th player in the standings took his place in the top8.

The nice things with Kalle's deck isn't just synergies, or the fact that it made a virtual top8, or that it plays black bordered versions of most of the expensive cards in the format. What I like most about it is all his signed cards from different tournaments. In the sideboard, Kalle holds the first Giant Shark ever rewarded in a 93/94 tournament (from Rotary Champs 2010). A Giant Shark, signed by all the competing players, is the first price of the n00bcon and BSK tournaments. If you win one, you are pretty much required to play it in your deck from that point to show it off :)

Other (usually smaller) tournaments have other cards as prices. Kalle won his Strip Mine during Gråberget Champs 2012. He won one of the Fellwar Stones at Pimpvitational 12/13. The Chaos Orb was the first price at the n00bcon 4 Warmup tournament at Vasa Gaming 2012. I do believe that Orb is the only card that have been a first price in a 93/94 tournament that haven't been signed by all the participants. It was originally an ordinary unlimited Chaos Orb, but Kalle altered it himself (a wb card in this deck would really stick out). Kalle also won a Moss Monster at WG Eternal Weekend and a Deep Water at Borås Day2, but I guess that those two didn't really fit in his deck's game plan ;)

A great deck from a great guy, here it is:

Sideboard Serras ftw.

onsdag 11 juni 2014

The Dragon v3

Viktor "Oldschool" Peterson has created quite a few odd decks in his years of playing 93/94. He won n00bcon 3 with a deck that used All Hallow's Eve to reanimate Colossus of Sardia, and he came second last BSK with a strange combo deck using Dark Heart of the Woods and 4-off Winds of Change. Other notable decks include a deck that relied on Field of Dreams, a Lich deck and the Drop of Honey / Living Plane deck. His deck for last n00bcon is one of his sweetest yet though.

Viktor first played The Dragon at Pimpvitational 12/13, and wrote a report about it for this blog. He used a slightly modified version during Kingvitational 1, which he played 4-0 in the swiss; eventually losing to n00bcon 6 top8 player (and more recently Bazaar of Moxen Vintage top8 player) Mikael "Åland" Johansson. After some additional tweaks, Viktor created a third version for n00bcon 6.

It's a fairly intricate deck, with Hurkyl's Recall as one of the most important cards playing multiple roles in the deck. It's capable of huge X-spells and Dragon attacks, and can without to much problem deal 20 damage on a single turn. Also, if you think Library of Alexandria is broken as it is, it gets even more crazy when you have 4 Candelabra.

The Disk works well with Hurkyl's. Also note that half the deck is signed :)