söndagen den 20:e april 2014

n00bcon 6 pictures

The dust have settled after the world championship in Old School Mtg. Forty-four players came to play nostalgic magic in a casual setting. We saw players with resumes ranging from a few years of kitchen table play to players with multiple success stories from the early years of the Pro Tour. There are many anecdotes to be told, but for now I'll let some pictures do the talking.

Players gathering at the pub to chat and trade before the tournament starts.
Burken, our glorious scorekeeper, at work. A mostly casual but skilled player, with a résumé that includes defeating Brad Nelson at Worlds 2010, which lead to the Player of the Year play-off for that season.
Round 1 has started.
I faced off against Danish player Jimmy in the first round. Doppelganger doing good work against the Meekstone.
We had to get some extra tables to the pub and move around the furniture to make room for everyone. The last tables are in a sofa area. A lot of power in this room btw.
These rad dudes travelled down from Arvika to show off a pair of really nice decks; UBR Sweetstuff and the Moss Monster deck (without Moss Monster).
Synergy!
White Weenie having a hard time against triple Mishra and Abyss.
Freespace, Elof, Kalle and Mg from Team 0-2 Drop showing off Lotuses.
Hashi, Herr Glans, Anthrox and Jokemon from Team Kaffebryggers showing off an Oubliette.
The Deck mirror. "The absolute best way to play Magic" -Åland.
Kungen took his Kobold-less Kobold-deck to a 9th place.
Timespiral's Black Weenie just resolved Hellfire against White Weenie.
Honka playing WR No-Win against Goodstuff.
Shark-winner Robert Schram playing his first tournament since the restriction of Mana Drain. Looking sharp.
Inquisition hits Balance and Alabaster Potion.
Top4 player and casual aficionado Anthrox got a playset of White Wards as a bonus price. It is a funny card :)
Enchantress having an impressive board state against control.
After the swiss, 20 or so players who didn't make it to top8 stayed and played a spontaneous side event (Huvudturneringen) for a signed Rukh Egg.
One player have played two lands and a Howling Mine. Enchantress plays about half its deck, and wins with Channel Fireball. Magic!
Robin, aka Hagelpump, finishes second after an impressive performance. Robin is no stranger to the n00bcon top8, and his Shivan Dragons took him to top4 last year.
Stalin, the original founder of this blog, old national champion in Vintage, pimpvitational competitor, and 93/94 player since 2008 takes home the trophy and the Shark! Stalin used great Karma to his advantage during the entire tournament, and show that nice guys finish first!
Stalin's 2014 World Champion deck. 4-off Electric Eel!

torsdagen den 17:e april 2014

T minus 3

I've been practising my Chaos Orb flips the last days, and I'm reaching a decent level. Two more players have signed up today, Jenny and Sveby. Jenny is a new 93/94 player, and Sveby was one of the format's first players from 2007.

I, Honka, Freespace, Jenny and Åland gathered at my place tonight for some tech. I wasn't really in the mood to playtest that much with Project M, as I hadn't played "seriously" since Kingvitational, I was fairly tired, and the deck has decision trees that goes on for days. I did play a couple of rounds though, and I think the deck seems pretty good.

Pictured: Teching
Honka's deck is awesome and incredibly annoying to face. The round I saw him playing, he was gaining about 20 life each turn, and eventually comboed out and dealt 22 damage to his opponent on the spot. Jenny's deck is a Berserk deck that can win out of nowhere. Freespace's 5-color Machine Head has been updated since his top8 at BSK, and looks very well positioned. Åland has been teching together with Jocke Almelund, and together they seem to have optimized The Deck even further. All the decks looks very different, and mirrors the players' style well. I know that all of us will have a good time playing even if we don't reach top8.

That's a cut-out Giant Shark on the big trophy, and a Deep Water on the 2nd place one.
I will fix something for the 3-4th players as well, and fix some other random prices. Again, if you're coming, any random prices you want to hand out yourself to random players are encouraged :)

Frames and Deep Waters. This has to be the start of something.
I still haven't got any information on possible videos from n00bcon. I hope we'll be able to solve something. Tomorrow will be the first day of Gothcon, and it's possible that someone there has some ideas. Gothcon is awesome, and really marks that the spring finally has come to Sweden.

tisdagen den 15:e april 2014

n00bcon preparations

It's getting close. We are now 43 players signed up for n00bcon. I wouldn't be shocked if this is the largest tournament that that allows Moxen in Sweden for the last five years. When we consider the fact that the tournament pretty much has zero price support apart from honor, this says something sweet about the people who will play.

So what have we done this week in preparations? The pins are fixed, and I'm very happy about the service. When I first got them, there had been a misunderstanding about the layout. I sent an e-mail to CosmicWhale, who made the pins, and they sent me a new batch for free within a week. I used them for the pins last year as well, and if you're Swedish and for any reason wants to create pins or other merch, they have my highest recommendations. Professional, friendly, and reasonably priced :)

Old batch to the left, actual pins on the right.
I went to the pub last Friday to check out the selection and table spaces. It will be crowded, but the selection of imperial stouts from De Molen will help us make it comfortable.

Oh, that Tsarina Esra. Possibly even better than Rasputin.
One thing I actually spent quite a lot of time on after work the last two weeks is to create my own Magic drinking cube. I read about a "boozecube" on the web a few weeks ago, and though that the idea sounded brilliant. I however though that the execution of the existing cube was lacking;  the cards were kind of unbalanced, and also seemed misogynistic and too much into popular culture for my taste. The idea is still something I'd like to try though, so I made my own cube. Turns out it is kind of hard to make a balanced drinking cube, but I feel pretty good about it given the time. If you're coming to n00bcon/Gothcon and want to try it out, send me a mail :)

First pick Ashnod's Coupon
On the Old School side of things, I've got three new cards for Project M for n00bcon. Can't wait to slam my Relic Barrier :)

Upping the red sources for Sol'Kanar!
I'll be picking up the n00bcon trophies from the engraver tomorrow. After that, my girlfriend will be travelling up to Stockholm to celebrate Easter with her parents, and I'll be home alone, on vacation, in Gothenburg. I and Team Squattlehaups will be doing some teching tomorrow evening, and I'll be sure to update this blog frequently this week with updates on the coming world championship. I hope to be able to do some liveblogging between the rounds on Saturday as well.

Also, saving some big news for last, there will be an Old School tournament in Berkeley the 18th of May! Berkeley have some real history about the game, and I think that anyone who is interested in the format and have a chance to join should check it out. The Berkeley tournament will allow Fallen Empires and Revised, so the threshold to enter is much lower if you're just curious about testing the format. I'll try to get the players at n00bcon to sign some random card and send it over to the tournament hosts as a bonus price (if you're interested) as well. I also hope to get some sweet pictures (and maybe even a tournament report ;)) from the event. Check it out at http://www.eudogames.com/magic/norcal-old-school-magic.

måndagen den 7:e april 2014

Black is the new black

Spent my weekend in the Austrian Alps. I've never been there before, even though it's less than two hours drive away from Munich where I worked for six months last year. Helles and skiing is as good a combination as ever though.

We're now 38 persons signed up for n00bcon in two weeks! It will be awesome. At least three nations are competing now (Sweden, Norway and Denmark), so we've actually got multiple countries represented for the world championship this time ;) The player base has grown during the last year, and there's something like 15 players participating in their first 93/94 tournament this Easter.

One of the newer players I'm looking forward to meet again is Axelsson, who first started playing oldschool at BSK last year. During BSK, he went top4 with a powerless Berserk deck, beating Elof in the quarterfinals. He also placed in the Vintage tournament at BSK, with a pretty random pile of black cards from the 94-98 era. I myself had a pretty good run in that tournament, but lost severly to Axelsson in the first round. Axelsson played cards like Black Knight, Drain Life, Contagion and Stench of Evil, and my Thalias and Leonins never had a chance. Axelsson always plays with a smile, and looks as happy weather he wins or loses. I remember in a round of that Vintage tournament, when his opponent asked him before they started playing if Axelsson was a power gamer. Axelsson replied that he didn't know what a power gamer was, but that he didn't own any power cards. That is a good sportsman :)

For the Kingvitational tournament, Axelsson opted to play a monoblack deck that looks quite a bit different from what we've seen before. He doesn't play Juzams, nor any other of the other larger creatures maindeck. Instead he uses Meekstone to shut down opposing fatties, and have Knights, Hypnotics, Beasts and Mishras for the beatdown. The deck is pretty "controlly" as well, with the full set of Sinkholes and multiple scepters. The deck looks very nice, completely black bordered and with four-off Guardian Beast.


And yeah, if someone missed it, the post about Homelands was an April Fools joke. We're not about to legalize Homelands ;)

tisdagen den 1:e april 2014

There's no place like Homelands

The discussion on legal sets in this format is truly a vivid one. The arguments on Fallen Empires is the most commented post on this blog, and the third most read (after the two more general posts on fake cards). From that discussion, it's clear that many players want to add some additional cards to the format, but at the same time many players are sceptical towards the FE expansion. Another issue that commonly comes up is the lack of mana fixing, and the problems with finding duals that are format legal.

After some consideration, we've come up with a great solution which handles all these issues. There is after all another expansion that really can vitalize this format, and that is not a part of modern block structure. The people who are sceptical about legalizing Fallen Empires wont have to worry about Hymns wrecking their meta, and the people wanting to have access to new tech will get their fair share. This set even have some "triple-lands", giving the most grinchy naysayers easy access to mana fixing. The set I'm talking about is of course Homelands.


Homelands was released in 1995, but is in many ways an "older" expansion than Ice Age. Where Ice Age is a part of the modern block structure, today with Ice Age/Alliances/Cold Snap, Homelands is still keeping it oldschool as a stand-alone expansion. The themes and the artwork from Homelands is much closer to expansions like The Dark than art from Mirage or newer expansions. It will fit the artistic style of the format well.

Finally more mana fixing!
Homelands of course has quite a few powerful cards which will stir up the meta. Green, one of prevoiusly weaker colors in the format, is the biggest winner here. Autumn Willow will be the formats future finisher-of-choice for control decks, and Primal Order will make the red/green beatdown decks even stronger. Apart from these two obvious flagships, there's quite a lot more going on here. Roots gives the green mage unconditional removal (at least in combination with Mammoth Harness); Spectral Bears is a huge game even if the opponent isn't running black; and Hungry Mist is a very fast clock that usually plays around control magic (due to it's upkeep "drawback"). The list goes on.

A faster clock than Erhnam in the Ehrnamgeddon decks.
 The other colors also gets their fare share of backbreaking spells though. Blue gets the Enchant World Mystic Decree, which completely locks down creature combat (in combination with Moat or Island Sanctuary). The new Memory Lapse counter will make last years loss of Mana Drain feel much less stingy for the control players. Perhaps even bigger than that, we'll get the Vintage powerhouse Merchant Scroll, able to tutor for cards like Ancestral Recall and Mana Drain. The Scroll is one of two cards in the set we'll have restricted from the start. The other one is also blue, and is of course the almighty Marjhan. Marjhan's ping-ability can completely lock down the board, and is additonally one of only five cards in the format (apart from elder dragon legends) that can kill an opponent at full life in only three attacks. As the control decks are already very strong in the format, giving them access to 3-4 Marjhans seems like it would do more harm than good.

Also combos well with Animate Dead and Sengir Autocrat.
Black and White get their main boosts in form of creatures. Black now have access to three new game-ending 5/5s, in Baron Sengir, Ishan's Shade and Veldrane of Sengir, as well as new cheaper beatdown cards like Sengir Bats. The winner of the weenies is White though, with cards like Death Speakers and Trade Caravan, and additional Crusade effects in Serra Aviary and Soraya the Falconer.

Red even gets access to two new Tribes! You can be sure that we'll see a lot of the Minotaurs and Dwarves during the coming season. Add some combat tricks like Ambush and Aliban's Tower, and Red would be a winner even without the Shatter-machines of Joven and Chandler.

The legalization of Homelands will be in effect by n00bcon, so make sure to get your hands on your Dry Spells and Evaporates as soon as possible if you want to try them out! To peak your intrest even further, check out this Homelands booster ripping video by n00bcon 4 top8 competitor Xerent.

Feel free to give feedback and new tech ideas!

onsdagen den 26:e mars 2014

Got there! A report from Kingvitational 1.

Preparations
I had updated my my deck since BSK. I'd traded away my black mox, but I had found a blue one and a workshop. In particular, I'd been tuning the pile to get a more stable midgame, maindecking two transmutable answers to creatures in Icy and Tawnos's Coffin. Large creatures, and Berserks, seemed to be the new big thing. After some reflection, it was clear that many games were lost by the opponent doing something completely broken early in the game; e.g. Library, Mind Twist or Balance, and I wanted to add some strong topdecks that would have impact enough to even out loss of card advantage. Had I been a slightly more strategic player, I would probably have splashed white or green for Balance or Regrowth. Being more of a flavor-player, the obvious choice was splashing red for Sol'Kanar the Swamp King. Two Sol'Kanars this time. Nothing beats Sol'Kanar. Maybe Juzam.

The journey of Project M continues.
The evening before the tournament, I had traveled from Oslo and was home alone in Gothenburg. I decided to go out and have a beer with some friends. This turned out to become more than one beer, and I came home around six in the morning. I sent a strategic SMS to Honka, and nonchalantly fell to sleep.

Half a nights intensive sleep later, I woke up when Honka called. Time to put the game face on. I drank all the water in my apartment, bought a coffee at 7-11, and skulked into the city. Met up with Honka, and we went back to my place to have a pizza, watch The Legend of Fong Sai Yuk 2 on VHS, discuss Buster Keaton, and discuss tech. I claim that Honka is a horrible player, and could not win a match if his opponent mulls to two and wont draw lands. Honka claims my deck is awful, and matches my face. We both agree that Buster Keaton is the greatest action hero in the history of film.

If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and see this movie.
Varberg
To Gothenburg central, and get some train tickets to Varberg. I'm on the phone with Team Leatherjacket, aka Oldschool and Gajol, who are to drive Oldschool's car to Varberg. Oldschool's car is an old mirth mobile and fueled by love and coin flips.

Honka and I get our tickets, and we're on the road. We sit next to an older lady who seems to be amused by the piles of playing cards we're shuffling about during the trip. Honka trash talks me and Thrull Champion. I call Honka a Trotskyist. A woman with a café tray walks by and I shine up like a sun. Buys all her juice, and feel that I'm soon back at zero.

We enter the city of Varberg and walks along a long street that randomly changes name three times during our stroll. Buys some more juice. We discuss the problem that black and white movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood are regarded as classics even if they are both boring and overacted. We agree on about five movies from that time that are actually good and stand the test of time (12 angry men, The great Dictator, To kill a mockingbird, The treasure of the Sierra Madre, and one more). Honka claims that Witness for the persecution is good as well, but he's wrong. I claim that the Marx Brothers' movies are pretty amusing, and he thinks I'm slow. We agree that all other black and white soundies from Hollywood between 1927 and 1959 are mediocre at best.
It is pretty much the exact same acting as in All about Eve.
We come across the pizzeria in Varberg. I assume that there's more than one, but this was the one we were looking for. Kungen, Elof and Brorsan is there and finish up their lunch. Kungen has recently started training for marathon running, and looks surprisingly fast. Axelsson joins up a while later, after some delays with his train from Scania. We engage in some casual chatting about bandy and the likes, and then walks to Kungen's place where Erik and Munchhausen awaits.

The new Casa Kungen is a really sweet place, with effective tables and windows you can open (I had some mishaps with fans and Chaos Orb flips during Kingvitational 0.5 last summer). Additionally Kungen has even prepared coffee; a sight for sore eyes with my present pulse. Honka and I change to our lederhosen team outfits and have a pre-game beer. Axelsson brough a pile of different sweet decks and ponders which one he should play. A few moments later, Åland and Team Leatherjacket joins, and we're good to go.

The Kingvitational 1 team selfie
Game 1, Erik Larson
Erik plays in his first tournament in over 15 years, and was recently lured back into the game by Oldschool and the Varberg crew. His deck of choice is Erhnamgeddon. Our first duel is long and complex, with plenty twists and turns. I manage to achieve some sort of control with Icy Manipulator and Maze of Ith, and stabilize around 3 life for a few dozen turns. Two geddons and at least three disks clears the board during the game. In the end, with few cards left in my deck, I resolve Mirror Universe, go down to two life with City of Brass, tap down the last blockers with Icy, and beat with Guardian Beast ftw. Second duel starts out tight, but eventually I get the beast/orb lock down. At this point, I think that the game is locked in my favor, and I start playing sloppily. I miss inf flips, tap the wrong lands, and don't keep counter mana up for the inevitable Balance. Erik starts to reclaim the game, but we go to time before one of us claims the victory. 1-0.

Honka: "Mox, Land Tax." Oldschool: "I'll see that mox." Honka: "I will not raise."
Game 2, Munchhausen
Munchhausen is another sweet player from Varberg who just picked up the cards again. He plays an aggressive UG Berserk deck, but with the full set of Mishras instead of more Djinns and Efreets (apart from Erhnam and Serendib). Duel 1 he plays all his 4 Mishras pretty early, and it's a quick affair. Giant Growths and shenanigans kills the few creatures i manage to resolve, and we're soon off to duel 2. The second duel takes a little more time, but I still play very shaky. I miss Chaos Orb flips, count wrong, and plays my deck on autopilot instead of thinking properly. Munchhausen plays the full set of Psionic Blasts, which easily kills my Guardian Beasts. When a Crumble destroys my Forcefield, he can attack for 17 with Giant Growths and Berserks boosting Erhnam and Mishras, and the game is over quickly. I feel that I've played pretty bad the last three duels, in particular considering my flipping and transmuting, so I drink a couple of beers and ponder my strategy before round 3. 1-1

Gajol and Axelsson.
Game 3, Elof
Ah, Elof. This should be easy ;) Elof plays the Nether Void deck. Duel one is very interesting, and we go back and forth 3-4 times switching the upper hand. At one point the game looks good for Elof, he's got a couple of Hypnotic Specters and a Nether Void in play, I've got a Guardian Beast, Forcefield, and a lot of mana. Skilled as I am, I topdeck a Chaos Orb and start flipping (good flips this time). I kill off his Hypnotics before he exiles the Orb and my blue mox with Dust to Dust. We have some more back and forth before I land a Sol'Kanar and swampwalks him to victory. The second duel is a little more one-sided. I get a good start and can keep board position enough for Elof not to be able to profitably cast Nether Void. He Disenchants three relevant artifacts, but then proceeds to draw all his four Nether Voids rather than something exciting. I transmute into Jayemdae Tome, and cast Sol'Kanar for the win. 2-1.

Game 4, Kungen
Kungen plays the Kobold deck, and hence have 11 maindeck 0-mana Kobolds he won last BSK. He also plays some good cards, but most of them are in his sideboard. He has been losing the first duel in all his matches, but has then proceeded to win most of his other games. Very amusing. I win the first duel when Kungen plays a bunch of 0/1's and no Taskmasters or Gauntlets of Might. In the second duel, Kungen is very light on lands, and I get an early disk to remove his moxen. I resolve a turn five Sol'Kanar after than, and the rest is a formality. I looked at his decklist after the game, and it looked very strong, so I think that I could have been in deep water if he hadn't been stalling on mana in duel 2. He did btw sideboard 15 cards between the first and second duel. 3-1.

The King of the Kobolds.
Semifinals, Munchhausen
3-1 and off to top4. Munchhausen did beat me in the swiss, but I feel like I'm in a little better shape now. Honka throws a lot of friendly trash talk at me before the game. I drink a beer and contemplates. I know that I need to play around Munchhausen's Psiblasts, and that I need to respect his Mishras.

Duel one i start with land, go. Munchhausen goes land, Sol Ring. I follow up with land, copy artifact on Sol Ring. Munchhausen plays a land and cast Erhnam, and I can follow up during my turn with swamp, Mind Twist for four. Next turn I can transmute my copied Sol Ring into Nevinyrral's Disk and clear the board. I win a few turns later by attacking with Su-Chi and a Mishra. Next duel Munchhausen starts with land, Birds. I go land, Mox. He casts an Unstable Mutation on the bird, but doesn't play a land. I see an opening, and Strips away his land. He draws another land and cast a second Unstable Mutation on the bird. I cast Recall for my Strip Mine and take away his other land, but he draws a new one and beats me down to 9. I cast Fellwar Stone, and the turn after I hit six mana to cast transmute into Chaos Orb, Demonic for Guardian Beast and Time Walk. Cast the beast and start flipping during my extra turn. My flips are back to being 50/50 though, as I clearly haven't been practicing them enough lately. Transmute another Stone into Triskelion and starts going for the beats. Munchhausen resolvs a Psiblast to ge me down to 4, but I have the Mana Drain in case of a second one, and Triskelion goes all the way. Honka trashes and congratulates all at once, and I'm off to the finals.

Facing off against Munchhausen.
Finals, Åland
The second semi-final is between Oldschool (who went 4-0 in the swiss with The Dragon) and Åland with The Deck. Åland manages to win after an epic battle, and we're facing of in the finals. Last time I and Åland met in elimination rounds at a tournament was in the semi-finals of Warcon 2012, where he managed to sneak himself to the victory. Duel 1 is very one-sided, when Åland starts with Library turn 1, and builds up a huge card advantage with answers on everything i do. When he plays his second Mishra I scoop, as there at that point was no reasonable line of play left in my deck that could beat his cards combined with a 5-turn clock. Duel two is pretty similar, but this time it's I who start with the Library. Åland never catches up, as I transmute into Tome and Scepter to increase my card advantage even further.

Duel three is the most exciting one, as none of us have the Library. My first transmute-target in this matchup is clearly the Scepter, to keep down his card advantage and make him unable to hold counters. Eventually I get the Orb/Beast combo going as well, and hits a pair of flips before he can sword my Beast. I still have my Orb though, and cast a Copy Artifact to double up. I destroy another pair of lands, and can safely cast a Sol'Kanar. Nothing beats Sol'Kanar, and he is forced to scoop up his cards shortly afterwards.

Aftermath
We have a period of high fives, and I'm immensely happy over my new Relic Barrier (and my first 93/94 tournament victory!). That Barrier will surely be in the deck for n00bcon! After a few more beers and some happy pictures, me and Åland gets a ride to Varberg central station to take the night-train to Gothenburg. The other players stay and play casual into the early hours, but as the clock has passed midnight after a long day, I need to get home to get some sleep. It was an awesome tournament with sweet decks and happy faces, and I'm looking forward to see you all this Easter!

onsdagen den 19:e mars 2014

Erhnamgeddon

At the very first Pro Tour, 1996 in New York, the "best European player" took an interesting deck all the way to the finals. The top8 for the event was stacked with the pros of yesteryears, including names like Mark Justice, Shawn "Hammer" Regnier and Leon Lindbäck. The French player who ended up in second place was none other than Bertrand Lestrée, famous for losing against Library+Ivory Tower against Zak Dolan in the finals of Worlds 1994.

Bertrand's deck was an early version of the so called ErhnamGeddon deck. The idea is to drop an early fatty, like Ernham Djinn, and then follow up with an Armageddon and pound the opponent while they struggle with mana. Add some Land Taxes and mana elves for consistency after geddon, and the deck can be a real hassle to handle.

During Kingvitatational, Erik "Sehl" Larsson played in his first tournament for over 15 years. His deck of choice was Erhnamgeddon, one of his favourite decks from when he first started playing. I faced off against Erik during the first round of the tournament, and our game was nothing short of epic. Two Armageddons, Balance, and at least three activations of Nevinyrral's Disk occured during our first game, clearing the board whenever one of us got ahead. I stabilized at 3 life for a long time, using Maze of Ith and Icy Manipulator, and eventually managed to squeeze in the win with Mirror Universe and attacking with Guardian Beast, with something like 7 cards left in my library.

The deck looks like a blast to play, and I hope we'll see more of it at n00bcon.