tisdag 30 juni 2015

Elof's tech: Paint it Black

Our three-time 93/94 Giant Shark winner and two-time Swedish Eternal King champion Elof "The mighty" Gottfridsson continously works on new sweet tech. A while back, he suggested that he could write monthly "deck techs" about some of his ideas to post on the blog, and of course he was was welcomed with open arms. This is the first of hopefully many techs from one of the premier players of old school magic in the world. Enjoy! /Mg  

Welcome to a new segment! Long time reader, first time writer. I've been playing this format for a couple of years, my first tournament with my own cards was noobcon 2012 if I recall corretly. I remember playing a deck similar to UR Burn but with Serendib Djinns and finished 9th on breakers. Since then I have mostly been playing The Deck or blue control, but have tinkered around with other decks; Nether Voids, Disco-Troll and even a Living Plane - Prodigal Sorcerer deck! But for this article, which I hope will be a montly reccuring one, I will be talking about a more casual deck that I have yet to test in a real tournament. I was thinking since I have more ideas for decks than I have time to play, I'll write about them instead.

Lets start with a picture:
Paint it Black
4 Northern Paladin
4 Exorcist
4 White Knight

1 Time Walk
1 Braingeyser
1 Recall
1 Mind Twist
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Balance

4 Deathlace
4 Sleight of Mind
2 Touch of Darkness
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Mana Drain
4 Disenchant

1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Pearl
1 Chaos Orb
1 Sol Ring
1 Black Lotus

LANDS (20)
4 Underground Sea
4 Scrubland
4 Tundra
4 City of Brass
1 Strip Mine
1 Library of Alexandria
2 Plains

The core
Northen Paladin + Deathlace
Wow, much combo. Such power. At the surface, this combo is easy, just use Paladin on your opponents Juzams, Sengirs, Hypnotics and go to town. If they instead have a Erhnam, you can just make it black with Deathlace. But, what about trouble cards like Underworld Dreams and Gloom? Well, the Paladin destroys any black permanents, not just creatures. It also means that with Deathlace you can destroy Moats or even Library of Alexandrias. This is a way to cool combo to not put into a deck.

Explaing the deck
The problems with these kinds of combos is often that if you only draw one piece of the combo, it doesn't do anything. Therefore the deck have several other mini combos. First of we have Exorcist that works as a minor Paladin, that only destroys creatures. After Exorcist we also have White Knights, a decent beater and they can also hold the ground against whatever your opponents biggest landwalking summon spell as long as you paint it black. You can also save your Knight from a Lightning Bolt or Swords to Plowshares by making the spell black with Deathlace. Yes, Deathlace can make spells black. Speaking of making things black, Touch of Darkness works as a alternative Deathlace, with the abillity to make any numbers of creatures black. However it only targets creatures, so no permanents or spells. The effect also only lasts until end of turn so better put all of your exorcists and paladins to good use. And finally, we have Sleight of Minds that can make the Paladin or Exorcist destroy other colored creatures and can also make White Knight protection from other colors.

The rest of the deck is a pile of good cards i.e. restricted, and also Disenchants in case you don't get the Paladin combo going. Note the abscents of Swords. I don't think they are necessary, and you also have a Chaos Orb in worst case.

The combo part is pretty cheap but the restricted goodies are not. There are several budget versions to consider. Green gives access to Whirling Dervish, Lifeforce and Avoid Fates. You can also consider playing maindeck Circle of Protections if you have the blue option, I especially like Greater Realm of Preservation. Cleansing and Touch of Darkness is also a combo of sorts.

Playing a few games
To my surprise it is actually possible to win games with this. Granted, most of my wins happened because of a big Mind Twist, Braingeyser or just Lotus-Demonic-Ancestral shennanigans, but that is the reason those cards are there! Even without the power cards, I think that the core could definitly steal some games. In testing I found that the Paladin dies a little to often and it makes me sad. There are ways around this, for exemple playing Black Ward or similar spells, but in general it will be a problem. I also notice that while you can create a sort of lock with Paladin/Exorcist it is difficult to beat the opponent down in a fast maner. Therefor I think that the green splash for Whirling Dervisch and perhaps Lifeforce sounds more interesting.
Decent keep, with a touch of darkness.
The last card left in hand was Balance.
Core players.
A rare sight; a Volcanic that's both black bordered and plain black.
Lestree Zoo goes deep.
Some sweet Magic right here!

torsdag 25 juni 2015

Rookie of the Year and PWP update

It has been a while since I updated the PWP standings. Two and a half months, to be exact. I started to calculate the rankings for the new season immediatly after n00bcon 7, but the same issue I've been thinking about for the last two years hit me again. Once we started having tournaments with over 16 players, the rating system would get very top heavy and fairly skewed. I looked at a few options on how we could do it instead. After checking some different ways local Magic Leagues in other formats calculates points, I eventually reached the conclusion that the simplest way to do it is to use something similar to Wizards own Planeswalker points system. The new system is described in some detail at the PWP-page. But I digress.

The ball has started rolling on the Pimpvitational 14/15 tournament. It was originally planned to take place a couple of weeks ago, but it didn't pan out. Deciding on when, where, and most of all how to play it requires some strategic  planning. Erik "Sehl" Larsson is on the case however, and I have confidence that it will eventually get settled. We have 10 months left after all.

There were no less than 89 players competing in 93/94 tournaments in Sweden last year. That's a lot of new faces in the community. With that in mind, it felt like it was time for a "Rookie of the Year" award to the new player with the most points from last season.

It was a tight race. Samuel "Anthrox" Lowejko got off to a great start with his top4 at n00bcon 6, and held the lead for a long time. Felipe Garcia was another strong contender, who won the Playoteket tournament in Scania, top4'd a couple of others, and was a millimetre off a Chaos Orb flip to top8 BSK.

In the end, Felipe and Samuel had to bow down to Jenny "Moxin" Arvidsson. Jenny's top4 at the 27-player Frippan Open tournament in December, along with many solid finishes (including a second place at the n00bcon warmup tournament) was enough to grant her the first rookie of the year award.
Jenny with the trophy at n00bcon 7
A year ago, Jenny was not only an aspiring member of the 93/94 community, but actually fairly new to Magic as a game. She is one of a tiny handful of players that I know off that pretty much started to play tournament Magic with the Old School format. While most players may start their collections with a pre-constructed Duel Deck or a few boosters, Jenny went deep from the start. After borrowing a deck to try the format in a tournament at n00bcon 6, she bought her first Magic card. A Black Lotus. She found one at a decent price, and it was easy to argue that it would go in any deck. And it's pretty damn rad to own a Black Lotus :)
Black Lotus and black stout. A good start for any deck in the format.
Using a few different strategies last season, Jenny's top finishes came piloting monoblack and UR Burn.
Jenny's monoblack from Frippan Open.
UR Burn from the n00bcon warmup tournament.
What else can I say about her as playing casual Magic goes? First thing that comes to mind is that she is a cunning and dangerous opponent in Drinking Cube. Last summer she also picked up Vintage as her second tournament format. We used to live close to each other in Gothenburg, and I had the opportunity to playtest Vintage with her a few times. There were some rough White Trash mirror showdowns over good beer. (White Trash used to be a very strong deck btw, though very few players actually sleeved it up. I started to write a primer about the deck for EC but scrapped it once Monastery Mentor was printed and made the deck much worse).

Jenny is a pleasure to face both in a tournament and in a bar, and I'm looking forward to see new tech :)

tisdag 16 juni 2015

Bottled up

Creating expansions to The Gathering wasn't really the plan. The idea was to let the 10 million cards from Magic: The Gathering fill the demand for the foreseeable months, and then phase them out for Magic: Ice Age about a year later. Instead, the first edition of Gathering sold out in weeks. To saturate the demand a second edition, Unlimited, was printed. It was soon clear that this wasn't enough. The players demanded new cards to fill the void before Ice Age would hit the shelves.

The story of Arabian Nights is a tumultuous one. I'm sure I'm going to write about it in more detail in the future. For now, lets simply state that there were some reservations at WotC about adding cards to The Gathering. Ice Age had been planned as a standalone version of Magic with different card backs. Using different backs was also suggested for Arabian Nights, as well as having a different color on the borders, before finally settling on having an expansion symbol to differentiate the cards. The set hadn't been tested nearly as much as the original core set, and there were worries that players could get alienated. Richard Garfield stated that if you were going to play a deck with the expansion, you would have to get the permission of your opponent first. And to really make sure that the expansion wouldn't break the original game, he created City in a Bottle.
Last year I wrote a post about Serendib Efreet. I think the time is ripe to take a deeper look at another sweet card from the first expansion. Today, let's look through the glass of City in a Bottle.

City in a Bottle is, fairly obviously, the first "expansion hoser". And in Old School Mtg, it's a really good one. It kills a majority of the best creatures in the format, as well as cards like Library of Alexandria, City of Brass and lots of other powerful staples. The card is the main reason that Juzam Smash decks play Sengir Vampire rather than Serendib Efreet. Pretty much any deck that don't rely on cards from Arabian Nights themselves would be wise to include the card, at least as a sideboard option. Killing five of the best lands in The Deck, crippling a majority of the offense in Zoo, or simply holding off Juzams is a bargain at two mana.

So what is a city in a bottle anyway? It is not mentioned in 1001 Arabian Nights for one. When it was decided that Wizards should make the first expansion for Magic, they argued that it would save a lot of time to use an existing mythos as the basis of the set rather than create a new one from scratch. At the time, Garfield had just read Sandman #50, Ramadan. It is about how the Caliph Harun al-Rashid becomes worried that his city of Baghdad will eventually be forgotten. 8th century Baghdad is shown as the most spectacular and awe-inspiring city in the world, overflowing with wealth and mythical beings. The Caliph makes a deal with Dream and sells his city to him. In exchange, Dream will make sure that the Baghdad of Arabian Nights will always live on in the dreams of man. Dream seals Baghdad in a bottle, and we see the Caliph wake up in "real world" 8th century Baghdad with no solid recollection of what transpired.
Garfield was impressed by the story and the setting, and used it as the inspiration for his expansion. When the set was printed, he then sent two copies of the City in a Bottle card to Neil Gaiman, the creator of Sandman. One of them for him to keep, and the other for him to sign for Garfield.

The bottle shown in the comics doesn't really look like the one on the card. This could be chalked up to that Drew Tucker maybe hadn't read the comic. If we dig a little further though, there are some other interesting things about the artwork used.

In 1993, the artwork was mostly up to the artists. Garfield's response to seeing Llanowar Elves for the first time was reportedly "That's not at all what I had imagined." All artwork was used, to the point that new cards were made for unused artwork (like Bird of Paradise). This makes the fate of the original art for City in a Bottle very strange. The art first submitted for the card is the first Magic art I know of that was in fact rejected. Drew Tucker's original interpretation never saw the light of day. As to why it was rejected, I can only speculate. Maybe the colors of the bottle and the background looked too similar to the comic, and WotC was worried about accusations of plagiarism?

The original art for City in a Bottle is owned by "The Godfather of Pimp" Jason Jaco. For those of you that don't know him, his CV includes being the CEO and Content Manager of Eternal Central, as well as one of the early adopters of Old School Mtg in the US. I sent him a message and he was quick to send me a picture of the original art.
The art was later suggested for Urza's Miter ;)
Pretty sweet. It is kind of ironic that this card in a sense removed even itself ;)

City in a Bottle was the only card in Arabian Nights not primarily influenced by 1001 Arabian Nights, but rather referencing a comic from present time. In a similar vein, the expansion hoser from the next set had a fairly odd name reference. Rather than talking of "The Brother's War" between Mishra and Urza, this one had a blantant Bible reference.
"So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha" John 19:17
Creating a card that destroys all the cards in the set and naming it after the hill where Jesus was crucified is kinda crude. A little amusing, especially considering the backlash WotC suffered from Christian groups in the mid 90s, but still crude.

The Crucifixion Bowl is not as versatile and powerful as the Bottle. It has twice the mana cost, with an additional mana to activate, and destroys itself in the process. It also won't hinder your opponent from casting cards like Hurkyl's Recall or Transmute Artifact. It's not a complete dud though. Recently a few players have begun using the Sylex as an answer to Factories and Su-Chis. From what I've heard it works well enough.

The next set took the expansion hosing even less aggressively. Legends gave us Arena of the Ancients. This one only shut down all the new multicolored creatures introduced in the set and left the other cards alone.
This might actually be playable in that newfangled EDH format the kids are talking about.
At this point, it seems like Wizards had begun to accept expansions as a good part of the game, and not something they needed to hose. The Dark had no card that hated on the set or new cards introduced in it. It took until Homelands until we saw another expansion hoser, the Apocalypse Chime. I think that Homelands got the power level of the expansion hoser right. City in a Bottle might be too effective and the Crucifixion Bowl is probably overcosted.
The problem is that it is pretty much the only permanent in Homelands that don't suck, which makes it suck again.
A decade later, the expansion hosers were considered mistakes. Like the dexterity cards, many players viewed them as silly ideas from a bygone era. And the rules around the cards could be a headache. In 2005, I remember asking a couple of judges about them before a Legacy tournament. Sea Stompy was a fairly popular strategy in the area, and I considered splashing City in a Bottle to take care of the deck's Serendib Efreets and Flying Men. I played a deck with a full set of Enlightened Tutors maindeck, so the Bottle could take up a slot in the sideboard without too much hassle.
If you wanna talk real old school, add them to the ante instead of removing them from the game.
Two of the three regular Sea Stompy players had pimped their decks with Serendib Efreets from Arabian Nights. In the store where the tournament took place, you could however obtain Efreets from Revised easily. So if I cast my City in a Bottle, could my opponent switch out his AN Efreets for Revised Efreets while my City was on the stack? Could he change them between turns or matches? The most common reply was that it was OK for opponents to switch between matches but not in the middle of a game, but there was no consensus.

To handle this ambiguity, and encourage sweet basics, we actually used to have a small errata on City in a Bottle. The errata simply stated that the Bottle did not affect basic lands. This was to make the Arabian Nights Mountain playable in the format, instead of just being a much worse alternative to the ABU versions. Some time later, Wizards changed the rules on expansion hosers to solve this issue once and for all. Now the hosers look for cards originally printed in the set rather than checking for the expansion symbol, and Mountain v78 is free to roam the format without any help from us.
Now this is amusing. The first errata of the card available to players (from the first Official Encyclopedia) was misprinted and hence need errata.
All in all, City in a Bottle is damn sweet card. It's easy start pondering what would have become of the game if Garfield hadn't read that Sandman comic all those years ago. Maybe Magic would not have become as successful. If they had followed Alpha with something like Homelands, things could have looked very different. At the very least, we wouldn't have been able to crack open Rukh Eggs and close Libraries for two colorless mana.

onsdag 10 juni 2015

Joypad Open: A study in soot

The phone wakes me up. I stumble to answer it, barley supporting my movements on my newly sprained ankle. A scent of decadence in the room. The physical pain in my foot is second to the psychological embarrassment. Maybe I'm not 20 anymore. Maybe I should not spend 14 hours drinking and dancing in the streets. Maybe two or three punk bands are enough for one evening, and maybe I shouldn't be drinking Jack from the bottle. After I trip down a stair and clearly sprain my foot, maybe I should listen to my girlfriend when she suggests taking a cab home rather than continue running down the streets of Oslo. Sometimes, I'm not a very bright man.

It's Kungmarkus on the phone. He's been travelling from Arvika with JohanGuld and Artelas, and he asks where he can park his car.

13:40. Yeah, it's 13:40. The tournament is scheduled to start in twenty minutes, and I'm a Scathe Zombie away from home.

I'm at Øyann's place. She left a few hours earlier to take a Sunday horse ride with a friend, and I got back to sleep. With a decent walking pace, I should be able to get to the Joy Pad in fifteen minutes. Decent walking pace is not an option with my current ankle though. And I should probably eat something, eventually.

I call Hardy. He knows my pain. Yesterday was the so called Musikens Dag in Oslo; "Day of the Music". It is one of the major yearly festivities in the city, and we celebrated it as such. Hardy has decided to meta-game based on his hangover, and forgoes his newly built Black Machine in favor of his Trick Deck. The amount of triggers and decision trees in Black Machine seems too daunting for the day at hand.

I drink a pint of orange juice and take on the arduous task of walking. Pick up a burger on the road as I stumble through Tøyen and Grønland on my way to the BarCode complex where we live. Did I embarrass myself yesterday, or did I act in an acceptable fashion? Probably went to far with the dance moves during the third concert. Should not have started arguing with Øyann that my foot was fine when it clearly wasn't. Gawd. Other than that, I think I did OK. Had a very nice morning with her before she left, which counts for a lot to make the angst more bearable. Buying a stuffed Scolopendra and reciting the Swedish national anthem to strangers were probably correct plays. My jeans are broken.

I get to the apartment, and I'm the last one to arrive. The others are binder browsing, discussing sideboard plans and game drinks. There's a new face in the room, Thomas, a local man from Oslo who's playing his first tournament in the format. I go for some quick pleasantries before I jump into the shower, change clothes to something that is not ripped, and grab a beer from the shelf. Somewhere I wish that I'd bought something a little lighter than Horizon Tokyo Black as my game drink.

Thomas is drinking a dark red wine. I ask what he's playing, or if he needs to borrow a deck. He says on red/black, and my mind goes to a Trick Deck. I can't place his face yet, and a basic Trick Deck is possible to build on a fair budget and comparably short time. "So, Winds of Change and Underworld Dreams?" I ask presumptuously. He shows me his deck. "Did not know that there was that much more black bordered Power in Oslo" I reply with a grin matching his Juzams. I check his binder. The blue power cards and another Lotus sticks out alongside his casual old school staples, a second playset of Workshops, and cards skilfully altered by himself. A graphic designer who's been in the game for a long time, mostly falling back to playing Eternal and non-sanctioned formats in later years.

This could get tricky for our hero.
We're an odd number of players today, and the burden of the first round bye is mine to carry. It would be sweeter to go 4-0 in the swiss without the bye, and get to play some more Magic, but life doesn't always turn out the way you'd hoped. I sip casually on the imperial stout and check out the game between Thomas and Artelas. Artelas is no scrub. He has only played the format for about a year, but in that time he has top8'd both n00bcon and BSK. A few weeks ago he won the first ever sanctioned 93/94 FNM in Karlstad. If our Norwegian challenger wants a fight, he's in for a fight.

Thomas ends up winning a fairly quick 2-0.
Kungmarkus vs Jhoval. RTC.
I hear some laughing and heavy sighs from the other end of the table. Jhovalking has resolved a Power Artifact on a Basalt Monolith and has a Rocket Launcher in play. KungMarkus reveals his hand containing Steal Artifact and Fireball, which would have been a pretty good answer. I take a picture and they both shuffle up, convinced that Jhovalking just won. He retells the story of how he cast the Launcher and some other stuff with the Power/Monolith combo. I commend his power gaming for pretending to be able to win with the Launcher the same turn he cast it, as it doesn't work that way. Both Jhoval and Markus give a stunning impression of a question mark. They re-read the card, and realize that they both had misunderstood how it worked. After some deliberation, they decide to replay their third match, and Jhoval manages to win.
There are other ways to win.
So, I'm up against Jhovalking in round 2. He goes land, Mana Vault, and I cast turn two Relic Barrier for his Vault. He follows up with Sol Ring and a land, and I proceed casting Sinkholes and Icy Manipulators to deny him mana. Distress is not the kind of deck you use to make friends. Eventually I cast Underworld Dreams and he dies from his Vault and nightmares. Game two is a little more involved, as I miss my Chaos Orb flip on his Guardian Beast. I get to keep him off shenanigans by tapping his Beast with my Icy and blowing up my Disk. I go Demonic Tutor for Demonic Hordes on an empty board, and the rest is academic.
Thomas vs Hardy.
Thomas managed to beat Hardy in two tight games involving impressive spell slinging. He waits for me in round three. Is it possible that he'll just enter the scene from nowhere and beat both me and Hardy? Of course he wont. That would be a terribly impolite thing to do to your hosts, and my deck is as solid as a Bronze Tablet.

My hand is decent, though lacking any threats. That's ok. Threats are not the game plan. Swamp, Strip Mine, Mox Jet, Ritual, Ritual, Drain Life, Howling Mine. Swamp, go on my turn, in the case I would draw a LoA. I draw a turn two Lotus and get to Drain Life his turn two Juzam. Cast my Howling Mine and eventually gets an Icy online to start running away with cards. He keeps producing threats. Multiple Factories, Hypnotic Specter, Black Knights and Triskelion. I keep them at bay the best I can with Icy, Relic Barrier and more cards than him. I resolve a Drain Life for seven and another for six, cast a third Underworld Dreams (the first two got hit with Disenchants) and let him draw himself dead with my Mines. I ended the game on eight life and would have been dead in his next combat step. Gaining 18 from the Drain Lifes (Drain Lives?) was a good plan.
Paralyze, aka Black Swords.
Second game is a little less spectacular. I have the Paralyze for his turn one Hypnotic, and tap out the rest of his team until I get to Tutor for Demonic Hordes. It eats all his lands and proceeds to beat down alongside a Factory.

So, this deck is unbeatable.

Kungmarkus waits for me. A stout man, arms and body covered in tattoos. Organizer of the Arvika Festival 93/94 tournament and winner of last year's Huvudturneringen at n00bcon. He placed second after Artelas at the first 93/94 FNM a month back. Currently, a man of few smiles. This could get rough.

Kungmarkus plays his signature Toolbox Murderers deck. A deck not unlike my Project M, though with a heavier red splash and a fistful of Counterspells. My ankle hurts. My head hurts. I must ignore my pain. To win this, I must meticulously play around his Mirror Universe and Disks. This is the time for subtle, careful commitment.

Or I could just play LoA turn one and a Mind Twist for six turn three. That will also work. Oh well. Magic is a fair game.

In the second game, my hand commits me to mana denial. Markus starts with Island go, and I throw a Sinkhole of a ritual at it. The last black mana gives me another ritual and an Underworld Dreams. My four cards left are something like Strip Mine, Relic Barrier, City in a Bottle and Mishra. Markus next land is a City of Brass, so I stick it in my Bottle. Eventually I find a Howling Mine and start drawing extra cards. Markus has a few Fellwar Stones, but I manage to keep him low enough on mana with my Barriers to make him unable to cast his Sol'Kanar. The Underworld Dreams keep chipping away at his life total. Eventually the dark side emerges victorious, as Markus is unable to cast a relevant permanent during the match. Distress: Sucking up all the fun and having it for yourself.
Should I feel bad? I do have a tingling sense of regret, a splinter in the back of my mind. Is unleashing the Black Magic too much for me? I remember Pastor David L. Brown's 1995 article about the dangers of playing Magic. How it turns you away from what's right and just onto a path of darkened hearts and heresy. Maybe Wizards was right to remove the Demons and occult elements from the game in 1995. Maybe this deck and its relentless ravages is the cause of my thumping headache and distress. Or maybe I'm just very, very hungover. I grab another beer and ponder my choices in life.

The top4 is myself, Thomas, Artelas and Hardy. I'm facing Hardy in the semis. It's the most important game of our lives.

The Distress vs Trick Deck matchup is a hazardous one. The main goal is to get your Underworld Dreams to stick, and my game plan should focus on that. An opposing Underworld will destroy the decks' engines. Always kill his swamps.

I think my deck is slighly favored, due to the virtue of my full set of Sinkhole vs his pair, and my three Icies vs his none. With two colors, he should not be able to hit three black mana without a Ritual. On the other hand, my deck is slower. I can't get wins of a random Wheel or Winds with the Dreams in play. And the Sedge Trolls and Shatters are painful. We shuffle up.

It is a stone cold war. Hardy is first out with the nightmarish enchantments. He starts to gain the advantage. A Sedge Troll joins his team. I manage to tap out his black regeneration mana and clear the board with a timely Disk. Cast a Howling Mine, and we're in double topdeck mode. A Maze of Ith keeps his Sedge Troll at bay. I eventually find Demonic Hordes to seal the deal, but Hardy has the double bolt. I draw more howling mines and barriers. Hardy spins the Wheel. I'm at eleven, he's at 13. He plays some stuff. I get two Underworld Dreams and a third Howling Mine of the Wheel and my drawstep. I ritual out the enchantments and pass the turn, letting him take eight in his drawstep. Hardy laments the fact that he didn't play a land last turn, and casts a Fireball for ten in my face. I draw four new cards to my already stacked hand and consider my options. I tutor for Sinkhole and play Sinkhole, Sinkhole and Strip Mine in his three red mana sources. Hardy reveals the top two cards of his library and shows me the bolt before he draws his third card to put him at zero. Close call.

In the second game I have the turn one Underworld. I keep tapping his threats with my artifacts. Hardy has the Mind Twist for five to take out my incoming Demonic Hordes, but it is too late. Thirteen turns later Underworld has taken him down to seven life, and I can cast Demonic Tutor for Black Lotus to bring him to one with Pestilence. His next draw step is his last.
So this is it. The finals for all the marbles. Or the very least for pride, a signed Kobolds of Kheer Keep, and a signed Khalsa Brain Salt n' Pepper 2-player mat. Had an extra mat to throw in the pot before we started. Time to win it back.

Thomas waits for me in the finals. Will the native Norwegian take home the first non-proxy tournament in the country, or will Distress prevail? I'm off the Horizon Tokyo Black and quench my thirst with a Swedish lager.

The game-drink induced karma hits me in the first game. I keep a decent but slow hand. Nothing in particular to cast before turn three, when I will be joined by my Demonic Hordes. I have the ritual and the Drain Life in case of an early Specter. Before I get to go through with my plan, I find myself with an empty hand. Mind Twist is a card.

This is one of the weaknesses with monoblack, or monogreen for that matter. There is no Balance, Wheel of Fortune, Timetwister or other single card to drag me up from a Mind Twist. I need to claw back the card loss incrementally. With only two Swamps in play, it will be rough.

I draw very well though. I find a Maze of Ith and Relic Barrier to keep Thomas's Hypnotic and Factory at bay, and eventually some more lands and an Icy. I just need a Howling Mine now. Thomas starts to present more threats than I have answers to. Another factory and a pair of Black Knights joins the fight, and I start taking two damage a turn. A Pestilence would save me. My good draws have run out, and a few turns of blanks later Distress has lost it first game of the day.
Deep Magic
Thomas plays well. He had more than a few chances to misplay and give me a couple of extra turns to find an answer which he didn't give me. Could it be that he is the hero of this tale? I wont give him any glory without a fight. I board in a bunch of Paralyze and put my game face on.
Game face?
My hand is below average. Maybe mulligan? No. I have lands and spells, and a possible turn two Pestilence or Icy of a Ritual. It could be good enough.

Thomas has the turn one Hypnotic of a Ritual. I go for turn two Icy. It's a one in four chance he'll hit my Pestilence. If he doesn't he'll have to commit more to the board to handle the Icy, making a future sickness take out more than patient zero. He plays a Scrubland to cast the instant Vindicate splashed in his deck, then attacks to pull my Pestilence. This is a quagmire.
Actual wording against my deck.
I try to crawl back. I draw the black Mox and cast Underworld Dreams and a Factory. But I'm in too deep, and have no card engine nor creature control in sight. Do you know how big Juzam is? There is no time. I came with darkness, and should have expected his visit. Two turns later, the story is at an end.
The jovial champion of Joy Pad Open.
We exchange handshakes and high fives around the table. It's impossible to be mad losing to a Juzam Djinn. It is almost as rad as winning with a Juzam Djinn. Jhoval gives me a sweet crimped Mind Bomb as a consolation prize. We talk about the Oslo scene, anecdotes from glorious pasts and plans for the future. But mostly we just talk, and enjoy having each others to share the passion with. These have been rough weeks at work. An afternoon with old school Magic soothes the soul and nurse the hangovers.

I leave for a late dinner date with Øyann, leaving Jhovalking, Hardy and Thomas in the Joy Pad. It was a great day. I look forward to the next showdown in Oslo. Then, for a lark, I might visit the plains.
Thomas's winning deck.

fredag 5 juni 2015

Joy Pad Open, blags, and California tech

Just a quick heads up.

This Sunday my roommate Hardy and I will host the first non-proxy 93/94 tournament in Oslo. It will take place in our apartment, aka the Joy Pad. We decided on the time last Sunday, and are hoping for around 6-8 competitors, given our meticulous planning and early heads up.

The tournament starts at 14:00, Sunday the 7th. There is no tournament fee, but betting is encouraged and there will be some kind of price for winning. Bring beer.

So what beer you ask? Personally I recommend to match the beer with the deck. You e.g. don't want to be binging Red Stripe playing Stasis, as it would cause problems with bathroom breaks and rounds going to time.
MonoGreen. Works great with American Pale Ales
Creatureless TaxEdge. Something spontaneous fermented and sour, in particular if you don't run Land's Edge and have Feldon's Cane as the sole wincon. Alternatively some kind of hipster beer geek stuff like 2nd edition Red Horizon.
Distress. Horizon Tokyo Black seems like a good choice. 16% ABV, 100 IBU. Darkness in a glass.
If you are in Oslo and want to try the format, I'll be happy to lend out the TaxEdge or Monogreen. Might also be a Trick Deck up for grabs. I'll post some pics and a short tournament report here after the event.

Speaking of smaller and local events, I just got a mail from a Will in California as I was writing this. Will and his friends had started playing pretty close after the beginning, and had been ripping AN-boosters back in the days. I got some nice anecdotes from the past, and a few sweet pictures from the present, when Will and a few friends had brought their cards along on a family vacation to play with them again. It is always a great pleasure to hear that this blog can be a small inspiration for former players across the world to dust of their old cards :)
Eureka beats down with Nicol Bolas, Force of Nature and Lord of the Pit on turn 4. Beer of choice is 805 ale.
Greed gets close, but Eureka steals another victory in California.
I also want to give a shout out to two new blogs. As of last month, this is no longer the solitary old school blag in the webosphere. Two champions of the format across the ocean, Danny Friedman and "Shaman" Ben Perry, have started blogs with coverage on Old School Magic.

Danny's blog, Understanding Ancestral Recall, contains "musings, tournaments reports, information about Old School Magic, and pictures of luxurious cardboard". It also contains a section with Chaos Orb flipping videos, and rad old school design :) Go ahead and send him your best flips.

Shaman Ben's blog can be found at mtgunderground. The focus of the blog is not 93/94 Magic per say, but rather the underground casual scene of Mtg which 93/94 is a major part of. To quote Ben what #mtgunderground is all about:

"[Your DCI-number] keeps you from playing in high stakes Vintage and Oldschool house games with larger buy ins, better pay outs, illicit and allegedly illegal substances, better music, better company and above all better MAGIC. While you were playing FNM last week somewhere in Detroit six men of ill repute were sitting in a basement drinking Scotch passing a pipe and laughing maniacally as they battled out a sealed Ice Age tournament with a $500 prize to first place. While you were cursing under your breath at last Sunday’s Premiere IQ about how awful and lucky your opponent was and about how stale the format was there were sixteen guys in Archbold, Ohio (I had never heard of it either, do not feel bad) playing Oldschool MTG with the Swedish 93/94 Ban/Restricted list in a tournament for a Chaos Orb and a Mirror Universe (the latter of which I won for placing 2nd) and enjoying themselves so much that the guy who finished last is currently reading strategy articles from Scrye #3 and scouring eBay for a good deal on uncommons from The Dark."

That's it for today. Go check out the American blogs, and I'll update with a tournament report from Norway after the weekend.

söndag 31 maj 2015

Rausch's tale: A story from Card and Board

Today I have the pleasure to share a report from the first old school tournament at Card and Board in Archbold, Ohio. Let's give the word to Nicholas Rausch. /Mg

McIntosh: Hey Rausch?
Me: What’s up?
McIntosh: So Mishra’s Factory is the best unrestricted card in ‘94 right?
Me: Debatable but yeah probably
McIntosh: What happens if you Copy Artifact an animated Mishra’s Factory?

And that’s how it started.

Well that’s not how it started. Let me rewind about a year.

I've always been a cube enthusiast. My powered 720 cube has been an ongoing project for about 5 years running. New sets come out. New cards go in. Old cards go out.

Old cards go out. That part hurts. I have fond memories of my foil Japanese Spiritmonger and my English Legends All Hallows Eve, and my Arabian Nights Serendib Djinn and Serendib Efreet. But, for the sake of ever increasing power level and making sure that new cards got their chance to be included, cuts had to be made.

It was in discussing these cuts and swaps that McIntosh had a stroke of genius. “What if I built a cube.” He said suggestively. “A cube that didn’t require cuts and additions every time a new set drops. A cube that let us play with all the fresh and dope shit we used to play with. A cube with only cards from the first sets of M:tG, ABU, Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, and the Dark. A cube that was nostalgic and, above all, fun.”

Now I could get into all the details and research that went into building that cube. Card selection. Making sure colors were somewhat balanced. Supporting different draft archetypes. But that’s McIntosh’s story to tell.

This is my story.

While doing research for McIntosh’s cube project, we stumbled upon a website. http://oldschool-mtg.blogspot.com/. What we saw was a growing, living, breathing community of M:tG players dedicated to playing the game as if it were 1994. We both immediately fell in love with what we saw. Hundred of decklists. Tournament reports. Beer. Deck techs. Game theory articles. Beer.

We went right to work building decks. It didn’t matter how good or bad a deck was, we wanted to build it and play it. Any spare time we had was spent playing this ‘93/’94 Old School M:tG format.

But it wasn’t enough. We wanted more. We introduced the format to some of the local regulars, some of which have only been playing a few years and had never even heard of a Juzam Djinn let alone seen one, at the card shop we run. They loved it! Many of them began doing their own research, building decks, tweaking those decks, and brewing. The format was infectious.

Yet, it STILL wasn’t enough. We needed something to satisfy the thirst for more ‘94. Something that could connect us with other players who love the format. Something that would allow us to reach out and introduce Old School MtG to other players.

“How do you feel about proxies?” I asked.
“Well, we want people to come and play in this right?” Mac quickly answered back “If we don’t allow them, no one locally will be able to play. This is primarily for enjoyment. We don’t want card availability to hinder that.”

“Ok. What about prizes? It has to be something that players who play will use and appreciate.”

“I know. I’ve got that covered.” McIntosh reached in his grandfather’s army utility bag, which served as the main carrying case for all the ‘94 decks, and pulled out a small deck box. He opened it and exclaiming “what do you think about..THESE” withdrew 2 cards. An Unlimited Chaos Orb and an English Legends Mirror Universe. They were perfect!

We set the date of the tournament for Sunday, May 17th. This was significant as it was weekend of the 1 year anniversary for the store. If we couldn’t celebrate the way we wanted to celebrate by playing Magic the way we wanted to play Magic, what was the point? Saturday would have been better but we had already scheduled a Starcitygames.com Invitational Qualifier that day. It had to be Sunday.

We understood that the format was going to be new territory for most players. Being unfamiliar with something tends to make people shy away. In order to try and make the tournament a success, I blasted Facebook anyway that I knew how promoting the event, and telling people about the format. McIntosh made calls to all of his contacts that might even be remotely interested in playing. One such contact was a huge boon in getting this event off the ground. Ben Perry. Ben has so many contacts in the Magic Universe it’s crazy. He spread the word to other players and groups that he knew who already played Old School MtG. With his help, we were pretty much guaranteed at least 8 players for the event.

About a month before the tournament, I had settled on playing the mono green deck. Ernham Djinns, Gaea’s Touch, Ice Storms, Howling Mine + Relic Barrier. Not because it was necessarily the most powerful deck, but because I had fun playing it. Mono green was it. That was until that conversation happened.

McIntosh: Hey Rausch?
Me: What’s up?
McIntosh: So Mishra’s Factory is the best unrestricted card in ‘94 right?
Me: Debatable but yeah probably
McIntosh: What happens if you Copy Artifact an animated Mishra’s Factory?
McIntosh: It comes in play as a copy of the land right?
Me: *quick google search*...Sure does.
McIntosh: That means you can ostensibly play with 8 Mishra’s Factory right?
Me: Sure does.
McIntosh: Why in the fuck has noone done this?!
Me: You mean, no one until now.

Rule 706.2. When copying an object, the copy acquires the copiable values of the original object’s characteristics and, for an object on the stack, choices made when casting or activating it (mode, targets, the value of X, whether it was kicked, how it will affect multiple targets, and so on). The “copiable values” are the values derived from the text printed on the object (that text being name, mana cost, card type, subtype, supertype, expansion symbol, rules text, power, toughness, and/or loyalty), as modified by other copy effects, by “as . . . enters the battlefield” and “as . . . is turned face up” abilities that set characteristics, and by abilities that caused the object to be face down. Other effects (including type-changing and text-changing effects), status, and counters are not copied

It is this rule, and interaction between the 2 aforementioned cards, that became the backbone to my new deck. ‘94 aficionados know that winning the factory war is a HUGE advantage in any given match. We had found a way to make sure that achieving exactly that was not only probable, but assured.

Next was the shell to build around it. Being blue meant we got to play with all the good restricted cards. Starting with The Deck was a logical choice. Because Copy Artifact was primarily copying Mishra’s Factory, which is a mana source, it made sense to remove Fellwar Stones. Hell, worst case scenario, I could always Copy Artifact one of my own or my opponents moxen. With less colored sources of mana from the lack of Fellwar Stones, I had to make concessions on the number of colors I could play. Blue and White were locked in and even though I love me some Red Elemental Blast out of the sideboard, I wasn’t about to give up the power of Demonic Tutor and Mind Twist. This same situation with more colorless sources led me to me trading out some of the Counterspells for Power Sinks and playing a few more situational artifacts. It didn’t bother me though. Copy Artifact could always become a copy of those situational cards if the time was right. The Abyss made it’s way in the deck as an additional avenue to combat creatures that also happened to not interfere with the factory plan. Having The Abyss in turn meant Serra Angel was out. Triskelion took its place to due to favorable interaction with not only The Abyss, but also with, you guessed it, Copy Artifact. After a few games I ended up with the main deck I played at the tournament.

2 Triskelion

1 Black Lotus
1 Chaos Orb
1 Icy Manipulator
2 Jayemdae Tome
1 Mirror Universe
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Sol Ring

1 Ancestral Recall
2 Counterspell
4 Disenchant
1 Mana Drain
2 Power Sink
4 Swords to Plowshares

4 Copy Artifact
2 The Abyss

1 Balance
1 Braingeyser
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Mind Twist
1 Recall
1 Time Walk

1 Island
1 Plains
4 City of Brass
1 Library of Alexandria
1 Maze of Ith
4 Mishra’s Factory
1 Strip Mine
4 Tundra
3 Underground Sea

For the Sideboard there were some options that I knew for sure I wanted. 4x Blue Elemental Blast was a given. I wanted 3 dedicated slots to fighting additional artifacts which meant some number of Dust to Dust and Divine Offering. I settled on 1 and 2 respectively. UR burn was a very popular choice in the local metagame so 2 Ivory Towers were added to strengthen that matchup. I wanted an additional non-creature way to win grindy matchups like the mirror. McIntosh suggested Millstone so I threw a couple of those in. These also served double duty as a way to win the game should the opponent resolve a Blood Moon. The WW and Black Aggro matchup could sometimes be problematic if they got off to an aggressive start so a Wrath of God was added to shore up that problem. The last 3 slots were tricky though. I went back and forth between including some Circle of Protection Red and Black or a tiny Transmute Artifact package. In the end I decided on the latter as it gave me a way to also find the situational one-ofs I already had in my main deck.

4 Blue Elemental Blast
1 Disrupting Scepter
2 Divine Offering
1 Dust to Dust
1 Forcefield
2 Ivory Tower
1 Millstone
2 Transmute Artifact
1 Wrath of God

6 o’clock am. I was laying wide awake in bed. It was two hours before I needed to be up to get around and ready to open up the shop. It didn’t matter. My excitement could not be contained. I’m sure if my fiance Melissa had woken up and rolled over, she’d have seen me staring at the ceiling with the biggest shit eating grin on my face. The day of our ‘94 tournament had finally come.

I got to the shop about 9:30 am. Due to the number of players travelling for this event, McIntosh and I decided it would benefit us all if we opened early and got the event started as close to noon as possible.

Players started rolling in. There were 7 of us local guys, 2 players from Toledo, 4 from the Detroit, MI area, and 3 from Chicago for a total of 16 competitors! McIntosh found an oversized Chaos Orb and we had everyone sign it as a memento for the event. It is now prominently on display in the store. Everyone was super nice and very easy to talk with; it seemed as though the group got along very very well despite so many of us never meeting one another before. After a very brief players meeting thanking everyone who came out and opening up future discussion about the vision and future of this format, round 1 began.

Fan-freakin’-tastic. I get to start right off the bat with one of the biggest ‘94 enthusiasts this side of the pond. This is going to be rough. Danny and I made some small talk about the format in general before deciding who went first. We decided to kick it old school by comparing bottom cards of our deck, high card goes first. Well, it took us about 6 cards deep before he finally hit a higher cmc.

Danny was on his signature Stasis deck, updated from his top 4 finish at the Eternal Central Old School MtG event from Eternal Weekend 2014. Game one progressed as normal with both of us establishing our mana base. That is until I hit Library of Alexandria. The card went about 8 turns unimpeded before a Strip Mine took care of it. By then it was too late. My 3 Mishra’s Factories were able to outrace his Ivory Tower. Game two saw me mulligan to 5, which wasn’t all bad considering Danny opened up with a Black Vise. He stumbled on lands which allowed me to catch up. After Danny went for a soft stasis lock, which I was able to disrupt with a timely Disenchant, a Mind Twist from me put me back in the game. Danny was able to fire right back with a Sylvan Library off the top. Turn after turn, he blanked, only finding lands while I was able to find a Millstone. This was an interesting position. On one hand, this Millstone could win me the game should I be able to bin his Timetwister. On the other, it would allow Danny to see a fresh set of cards each turn with his Sylvan Library. Fuck it. Mill 2. Draw. Go. Mill 2. Counter your relevant stuff. Draw. Go. Mill 2. BOOM! Hit the twister with 4 cards left in his deck! 1-0

The adrenaline rush was insane. I was still riding high on it when the pairings for round 2 went up.

Fan-freakin’-tastic. Another ringer. “Shaman Ben” Ben Perry. He can be a pretty intimidating guy at first sight but once you get to know him a bit, you realize he’s all about the same thing you are. Hanging out with peers and having fun playing Magic. Ben is also a man of many stories. If you ever get the chance to ask him about his toaster and Kevin Sorbo, do so. I promise you won’t be disappointed. I decided to run back the bottom card, high card goes first. Ben and his sandwich bag deck box obliged. Me? Disenchant. Ben? Shivan Dragon.

Ben was playing UR Burn but instead of playing Juggernauts or Su-chi’s he opted for Clone, Vesuvan Doppelganger, and Old Man of the Sea as a way to deal with larger creatures like Juzam Djinn. He also had a playset of Counterspells in his deck which is atypical of the archetype and could cause me some issues. Game one I start off with a Library of Alexandria and that was that. I let his first few burn spells resolve bringing me to 10 life before countering his draw sevens and addition burn. A factory and his copy went the distance. Game two Ben jumped out of the gates with a turn 1 Serendib Efreet. I answered back with an Ivory Tower to try and counteract the genie. A few turns went by with us playing land-go until Ben went for a Blood Moon. My attempt to Power Sink it was stifled by a Red Elemental Blast. No worries. I can just sit in my tower until I find the appropriate basic or Mox to get out of it with my own Blue Blast or Disenchant. Ben found a Chaos Orb first. I was helpless against his onslaught of forthcoming burn spells at that point. Game 3 went exactly the same way as Game 1 did except I was on the bad end of Library. His card advantage completely overwhelmed me. 1-1

Max is a friend from the Detroit area who came down for the whole weekend to play in the ‘94 event as well as the SCG Invitational Qualifier we had put on the day before. He wasn’t super familiar with format but found a deck he found a deck he thought he would have fun playing. That deck was a mana denial deck based around Sinkholes, Stone Rains, Nether Voids, and main deck Blood Moons. On paper this looked like a nightmare matchup

Game one, Max ritualed out an early Juzam Djinn on turn 2 which quickly met its demise with a Swords to Plowshares. The next few turns Max played running Blood Moons. Unfortunately for him, I was able to disenchant one of them by floating mana and then Chaos Orb the other one. Max was out of gas. I dropped a Triskelion and copied him twice the following turn for lethal the next. Game 2, he had one of his best openings by ritualing out an Underworld Dreams. I dropped a Pearl and a Tundra. Max went for a Sinkhole his following turn which was stopped by a Power Sink. Soooo glad I chose to run that card. My turn two I played a Mishra’s Factory and a Black Lotus. After shipping the turn, Max followed up with an Energy Flux. Annoying but not the end of the world. The flower paid for the mox and animated the factory. I got in for 2, played a land and passed. On Max’s turn all he could do was shrug and ritual out a Nether Void. My Pearl gave it’s last breath to the factory and the beats continued. It was now a race. I needed to kill Max with factory before he found a Bolt to either kill the factory, or kill me in conjunction with the Underworld Dreams slowly ticking away at my life total. 10 turns later, the factory prevailed. 2-1

Standings were posted along with round 4 pairings. Turns out everyone with 6 match points could draw into the top 8. It’s unfortunate that some of the top 8 slots weren’t decided by nailbiter bubble matches but it didn’t seem to affect anyone. I was paired against local player and man of many nicknames Joel “senior slow-roll” “hippy joel” Draggoo. We signed the slip but decided to play out a match for fun. At this time I look down at my notebook where I do my scorekeeping and see a lovely note my fiance must have left for me before she left.

Murder your Goomba from Mario Bros? I dunno what it means. Anyway.

Joel made a last minute switch from his normal UR Burn deck to Juzam SMASH! His reasoning? “Dude! Have you played Juzam SMASH before?! It’s fucking awesome!” Fair enough. Game 1 started off with me playing a Copy Artifact on a Mishra’s Factory on turn 2 off of a Mox Sapphire. Joel put in a Juzam. I then went for a Mind Twist for exactsies on his hand, but he sneakily cast an Ancestral Recall in response trying to protect his draw 7. It worked. His next turn saw him cast a Timetwister to try and kill me with berserks he had to find. He missed his Berserks but did hit a Strip Mine to take care of my now turned on Library.  What I found though was a Swords to Plowshares to exile the Djinn. A few turn laters, 3 factories (2 of them copies) ended the game. Game 2 was over just as quickly as it started. Joel went turn 1 Lotus, Ruby, Bayou, Juzam leaving up the Bayou for Avoid Fate. I went Lotus, Pearl, Jet, Factory. Factory animates himself, crack Lotus for 3 blue, copy my factory, tap my remaining mana producers for total of 4 mana (1 floating from lotus) and play The Abyss. “I hate you Rausch” was the only thing Joel could say while shaking his head and scooping up his cards. “Good luck in the top 8” 2-1-1

“Oh Hai Joel!”

“Are you serious?!”

It was clear Joel did not think he had a favorable matchup vs. me in the quarterfinals. And rightfully so. Juzam Smash only has 8 relevant creatures in it. It was very easy to keep them off the board between Swords to Plowshares and various counterspells not to mention The Abyss which is practically unbeatable. We wished each other luck and got down to business.

Joel won the roll and started game one out with a Library of Alexandria to which I responded with 2 moxen and an Underground Sea. After drawing a card for his turn, and drawing an additional card with Library but finding no land, Joel went for broke with a Lotus into Wheel of Fortune. His follow up was a Bayou and a pass. With my fresh new hand of 7, I made my land drop and plopped down an Abyss. Oddly enough, Joel didn’t seem too worried about it. His hand was tipped on his turn when he made another non white land drop and played a Birds of Paradise into The Abyss. Instead of tapping out to play an Icy Manipulator, I elected to leave up counter magic for the Disenchant he most assuredly had. After his upkeep disenchant got countered, Joel made a land drop, Regrowth-ed his Disenchant and summoned another Birds of Paradise. He was determined to get the enchant world off of the table. On my turn, seeing no countermagic in hand, I opted to just play a Copy Artifact on my Mishra’s factory and pass leaving up UU. It was clear Joel was still going to go for the disenchant but I wanted to 1) perhaps prevent him from trying to play anything else the turn and 2) hide the Icy in my hand in hopes he played a Juzam so I could make him stick himself. Joel went for the Disenchant on upkeep which resolved. He tanked for a minute and saw right through #1 from above and slammed a Juzam. #2 was what was really happening. A game of Land-Go ensued for a couple turns while my factories and his Djinn took a chunk out of his life. When a second Juzam made an appearance, I decided to stop attacking and let them do the work for me.

Joel took the play for game 2. Looking at his hand, he shrugged and quoted “no guts, no glory.” I kept my opener as well. Bayou, Ritual Ritual Sengir. He was banking on me not having Swords. I didn’t What I did have was an Ivory Tower to stem the bleeding while Joel missed land drops. I found a second Ivory Tower in Copy Artifact to actually start pulling ahead. It wasn’t long after that that I drew the Swords to clear the vampire from the table. It was elementary after that. My life total was too high and my card advantage was too much to overcome.

In the Semifinals I got matched up against another local player, Cayden “Hunk” Blaisdell. While shuffling we talked about how much pressure we actually felt in this matchup. Even though this was a casual tournament put on solely for all of our enjoyment, it still felt as though there was something on the line. Cayden, who went 4-0 in the swiss rounds with his Mono Black splash White deck, got the choice to go first as he was the higher seed going into the top 8.

I started the game off with a mulligan but that is quickly negated by the Library of Alexandria I rip for my first draw. Cayden’s first play was a turn 3 Hypnotic Specter which I did have an answer for in Maze of Ith. I wasn’t super confident in this answer as Cayden could very easily play other creatures and swing past it or draw one of his 4 Sinkholes at any point. Still on 3 lands, he fired right back with a Dark Ritual allowing him to cast a Sengir Vampire. Now I had a choice to make. Continue to Maze the hippy but be on a much faster clock from the vampire, or Maze the vampire to extend my life but risk losing key cards in my hand. I chose to maze the hippy. I thought I was in trouble when Cayden summoned a second Hypnotic Specter but a Chaos Orb from the top dealt with it. The next turn I finally found a Swords to Plowshares for the Vampire to stabilize. That’s when Cayden drew his card for the turn and asked that dreaded question. “How many cards are in your hand?” Fuck. I got Mind Twisted for all of them except one. A Mana Drain was the lone card left. Then Cayden made a crucial mistake. He Demonic Tutored for an answer to my Maze of Ith that was still keeping his Hippy at bay. He chose Sinkhole completely forgetting about the Strip Mine still in his deck. This obviously met the Mana Drain still in my hand but I needed to top deck something good soon to pull ahead. Oh look! My own Demonic Tutor. I Dt’d up Ancestral which set me up for the next few turns. Cayden was still in decent position hitting a Factory to keep the pressure on. My trike hit the board. Cayden played a second Factory. I played a second Trike in the form of a Copy Artifact. Cayden played a third factory. I did some quick math and we both decided It was fine to attack trade one of my trikes for 2 of his Factories. After that my own factories took me home.

Game 2. We both started off with reasonable openers with me getting 2 copies of a factory of and him with an early Sengir and a Hippy and a Sinkhole for the real Factory. I wasn’t drawing any land to further develop my board so I was forced to Balance clearing the board of all his creatures and all but 3 lands but leaving me only 1 card in my hand. The lone Mana Drain again. It countered his next spell (I think an Underworld Dreams) and enabled my man lands to enter the red zone. I found another Copy Artifact to make my third Mishra’s Factory which eventually closed out the game. Onto the finals!!!

We meet again! Who else but Ben Perry. Ben was very happy about the recent unrestriction of Mirror Universe and had made posts on twitter about how jacked up he was to build his Lich deck. Well, I was more than happy to help him walk away with the 2nd place Mirror Universe prize instead of the Chaos Orb.

Ben was on the play so of course that meant my opening hand had a Library in it. In the midst of the good hearted ribbing of how lucky I was, I forgot to activate it before I played my Mox Pearl putting me to 6 cards in hand. Doh! That of course prompted even more ridicule. The beauty of it was that it didn’t matter. Normally I would go on tilt after such a boneheaded play but I was having too much fun! The plan was the same as before. Let all the early burn spells resolve and then counter the draw 7s and late game burn. However, even with Library, I wasn’t drawing any of my counter magic. Just Swords and Disenchants. That's when Ben went for a Wheel of Fortune when he had something like 5 cards in his hand. He must have also drawn his bad cards or too many lands too. Deal. We both got a new 7 but I got to use mine first. Mind Twist! Gotcha.

The plan for game two was exactly the same but with less dead cards and more countermagic. I really wish I could tell you we had a super epic back and forth final game but we didn’t. Ben got stuck on lands early for multiple turns. I had DT for Ancestral. His burn got me to 4 life then my grip full of countermagic and back up StPs for my own factories shut it down. Always a class act, Ben extended his hand with a smile on his face.

I’m sure the smile on my face was a sight to see as well. I let out a sigh of relief and let it sink in. You might think I’m being over dramatic but let me tell you this. Coming from someone who’s won a Star City Open, someone who’s had a string of top finishes playing the World of Warcraft

TCG, and someone who’s been playing this game more than half their life, I can honestly say I’ve never had more fun playing this game than that day.

Oh! To those claiming “scumbag” that the shop owner won his own tournament and is keeping his own prize. Wherever and whenever the next Old School MtG tournament is that I can attend, that Chaos Orb is getting donated to the prize pool. And I’m going to do my damndest to win it back!

onsdag 27 maj 2015

Haupsdeck Distress

Finally getting to play a deck is a pleasure. I started teching on my own take on Monoblack Distress in November last year, and yesterday I finally got the last pieces of the puzzle for a solid 60-card maindeck. Apart from my very first deck - which was a pile of Sea Serpents, Erg Raiders and Phantasmal Terrains - building decks in 93/94 has always been measured in months or years for me. Yeah, it goes faster once you've gathered a few staples, but it's still not a speedy process. Them Sinkholes, Icy Manipulators, Rituals and Demonic Hordes will still be a visible expense.

They can actually be pretty hard to find as well; for each one of these there are e.g. more than four Unlimited Lotuses printed.
The idea of my latest pile is that of black Distress; make most of your opponent's removal useless, count on them having no more than 4 Disenchants, and bleed them out in the long game with control elements and slow damage. The strategy was first popularized by Daniel "GaJol" Nilsson after his top4 at BSK 2012, though his deck was more into Warp Artifacts and didn't use e.g. Pestilence nor as much mana denial.
Haupsdeck Distress. No holds barred.
The ideal start is a Ritual or Lotus into Underworld Dreams, and then just follow up with Sinkholes, Icy Manipulators and Relic Barriers for control. Pestilence combo well with the Factories, as you can activate them after Pestilence has dealt damage to keep the enchantment in play.

There's definitely some work to be done. For one, I need a sideboard. Current sideboard is something like 4 Glooms, 10 Swamps, and an altered Disenchant. I would like to play Hypnotics or Juzams in the board to take in after the opponent has sided out a majority of the creature removal. Having a transformational sideboard is also a solid excuse to complete a playset of Juzams. Need them Juzams.

As for the maindeck, the most glaring omission is The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. Turns out that they are kind of expensive. If I get me a Tabernacle or four, I could use them for a future Mana Vortex deck, so it isn't a complete silver bullet aquisition. If you haven't seen Heiner Litz last article on Mana Vortex decks at Eternal Central btw, I highly recommend giving it a read. Heiner is one of the pioneers of Old School tech across the ocean, and has contributed with reports and articles both for this blog and at EC.

Just checked the price for Tabernacle at Starcity Games. Seven hundred bucks. Might have to settle for Paralyze in that slot for the foreseeable future. I also noted that Chas Andres just posted an article about Old School Mtg at SCG. Pretty cool. I'm not much of a fan of Magic finance, but Chas Andres is still my favorite Magic writer, at least as far as writing skills goes. I don't have SCG premium, but every Wednesday his articles from a month back go live for everyone, and every Wednesday I read about what happened in Magic finance five weeks ago. I'm really not interested in speculating on Dragons of Tarkir cards, and I don't play sanctioned non-eternal formats, but the dude really can write. Looking forward to read the article in a month.
Solid keep and solid game drink.
So, the Distress deck. I think my next acquisition for the deck will be an Alpha Cyclopean Tomb. Very powerful card and sweet flavor. I do own the card in Unlimited, but something about the aesthetics hinders me from playing a single white-bordered card in an otherwise BB deck. That is a pretty funny thing with 93/94 btw; had I owned the Scrublands or Badlands to splash a color in the deck, I'd most assuredly would have played the Unlimited Cyclopean Tomb, as most of my duals are white-bordered as well. Instead I go "budget" and play mono colored, but that opens a whole other bag of snakes. Now I want an Alpha Cyclopean Tomb and a playset Beta Hypnotic Specters.

On that same note, pretty much the only reason for me to play Demonic Hordes in the deck is that I happen to own it and it has a sweet misprint in Alpha, where the black mana symbols in the rules text have been exchanged for 'B's. It is a solid card and it can give a few wins, but it is usually a bad idea to give your opponent a target for their Swords to Plowshares.
Worth it.
So what's next? I originally planned for Project M to have the Power Artifact / Monolith combo. Now that Power Artifact is unrestricted, I might try to rebuild the deck to fit the combo. I also have some plans for a Lich/Mirror deck and a Martyrs of Korlis pile. I guess my focus should stay on the duals though. I'm up to 23/40 now, and it woul be cool to unlock the 40/40 duals achievement.
Good 'ol land, Lotus, Icy is twarted by Shatter.
But first I'll crush the meta with my new Distress deck. It is awesome to play, and I highly reccomend testing the strategy. If you want to go black but still want to turn creatures sideways, I otherwise recommenced checking out this post on monoblack from last summer or Axelsson's monoblack from Kingvitational 1.