lördag 8 december 2018

Found an old report.

These are magical days. We celebrate life and toast in unbreakable glasses. Though in dancing there is barely time for writing, and I must to fall back to old stories this time.

There are lots of tales we never wrote and lots of stones we never turned. Team Kaffebryggers's latest summer tournaments in Växjö, Team KanelFireball's post-Christmas tournaments in Varberg, or perhaps the journey of Team Lisch in Lidköping? I recently unearthed some pictures from their Drowned gathering in March 2017.
Communities are growing and stories are lurking. Luckily for me, I found one that was already written.

Before there was a Flippin' Orbs podcast, before the online deck archetype library, and before the page wak-wak.se was up and running, a jovial Stockholmer in a colorful suit named Gordon Anderson still roamed the corners of the format. The man was named Gordon that is, not the suit.
 Flippin' the Orb, preschool style.

This was in fact not that long ago, we're talking 2017. Trump was the US president and Thor: Ragnarok was a movie. But in some ways it feels like a lot of water has passed under the bridges since then. In early 2017, we for example had no YouTube channels nor podcasts discussing the format. I guess we quickly get used to having lots of information, and it is hard to think back on what it was like just two years ago, when content was far more scarce. But go back two more years to early 2015, and the concept of larger gatherings in the US is a somewhat fresh idea, EC rules are starting to properly find their footing after the first Eternal Weekend, and the Italian scene is growing with up to 30 players at their largest gatherings. Two years before that, in 2013, the first few players at the US West Coast just started reaching out about the format, the scene in Canada was still new, and I first played the game outside Sweden (in Norway and Germany). Two years before that Oldschool was mostly unknown outside the borders of Sweden, and this blog was started. Two years before that we started hosting n00bcon at the Rotary Pub in Gothenburg. And yet two years before that, Kalle and I played our first duel with "oldschool decks".

So 2017 is not that long ago in the grand scheme of this format. That is meant as an excuse of sorts. I'm trying to convey that this short tournament report I found is not outdated, per say, just a little late to the presses. Before Wak-Wak was a thing, Gordon sent over this report for me to publish. And I somehow lost it. I am uncertain if he remembers writing it himself anymore. But I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, and as family takes a good chunk of my potential writing time right now, this seems like the perfect opportunity to bring closure to the n00bcon Training Day. Enjoy :)

.....

n00bcon Training Day, by Gordon Anderson

I don’t think anybody has missed that n00bcon 9 this year will have as many as a hundred players(!). It will be THE 93/94 event of the year and it will be more important than ever to show up with a fun deck that you are comfortable with. Otherwise seven 60 minute rounds of swiss will be more than grueling, as Mg calls it on the n00bcon site. Therefore, we decided to arrange one last tournament two weeks before the big shindig, so people could try out their decks one more time. We called it n00bcon Training Day.

Me and my co-conspirator Paddan first decided to play the tournament at the usual pub where we arrange our monthly game nights. But when last month's game night ended up attracting 14 players we decided we needed to rent a place. Said and done, and a few hundred Swedish kronor poorer we had a place where we could fit at least 20 players.

Two weeks later and it was time for the tournament. Me and Paddan met up in the morning to get the key, set up all the tables and then going for a beer run to the nearest Systembolag (the only place that is allowed to sell alcohol in Sweden). We came back with 80+ beers, wrote a beer menu and got everything else ready for an amazing tournament was starting at 2pm and could go on for the whole day and night. We also planned for some nice side events to play after the main tournament was finished. The first two players showed up around 1pm and the first beers left the fridge. Two more players came shortly thereafter but they were both driving so they didn’t want any beer. Soon, three more players joined us. Three players who also didn’t drink that day. And lastly 35 minutes late (a tournament needs to be late doesn’t it) the last brave contestant showed up to make us an even ten combatants. He lives almost 200 km away so yes; he was driving as well. This is where we realized we may have bought a little too much beer. But hey, you can’t have too much beer at home!
My two starting hands against Yann; it didn't end well for him.
We decided to play four rounds of swiss and a top4. The meta for the day was quite unusual with two Power Monolith decks, two UG Berserk Aggro decks, Ponza, WUG Aggro, Arabian Aggro, Mono Blue Artifact Control, Machine Head and a BR Midrange deck with a splash for blue power and a couple of Serendibs.
Kird Ape in play and 3 bolts was a little too much for me to handle.
Because of the small size of the tournament we decided that draws, intentional or not, wouldn’t give any points at all, not even in the first rounds. After four rounds we had our top4 with Andreas Cermak on almost the same deck he took down Arvikafestivalen with, Andreas Rosén on Power Monolith, Max Weltz also on Power Monolith, and lastly the Ponza deck piloted by Johan Råberg managed to go 3-1 and get a spot in the top.
Ponza doing Ponza stuff and then slamming down a Nether Void. Paddan doesn’t seem that happy about it.
Johan was paired against Cermak which was his only loss in the swiss, and he was not happy about it. That may have been because their last match lasted about 10-15 minutes. Sadly for Johan, this time was no different and 15 minutes later he was out and Cermak advanced to the finals. The second semi-final was a little more interesting with a mirror match between the two very similar Power Monolith decks. But after some advanced spell slinging and a lot of mana being generated Andreas Rosén was able to knock out Max from contention.

At last it was time for the final round of magic, one slow and controlling combo deck versus a blistering fast aggro deck with disenchants to make life a little harder for the combo player.
Is that a Basalt Monolith on the table?
In the first game Rosén - or as we call him in Swedish: The Rose - made Cermak draw 80 cards with a Braingeyser and no, he didn’t have that many in his library so it was on to game two. In game two the small aggressive creatures won before The Rose could combo of and it was time for the final game of the evening. In this game it looked quite ok for The Rose but then his Wheel of Fortune gave all its fortunes to Cermak who got a completely bonkers hand that easily gave him his second tournament win in a row.
Arabian Aggro.
Hope you enjoyed the read and now you have some info on what decks a big part of the Stockholm crew have been testing for n00bcon. Because of the ten players that played this tournament, a whooping eight will be in Gothenburg to defend the World Champion title currently held by fellow Stockholmer Martin Berlin.

.....

Hehe, defend it they didn't ;)

If you need some more Oldschool fix, go check out the Bootlegger's Christmas OS95 report at Music City Oldschool, or perhaps read some old MtG magazines with Svante Landgraf. And head over to Urborg Buffet to check out their new Swiss 93/94 blog!

lördag 1 december 2018

Understanding Ulgrotha

Some years ago I wrote an April's Fools post about legalizing Homelands. It was in a sense a comment on the contemporary discussions about legalizing Fallen Empires; hopefully getting in a few laughs and some tomfoolery in the process. It was of course never the intention to actually legalize the set, the focus was rather to flaunt the premise. Enter irony. Not Alanis Morissette "rain on your wedding day" irony, but proper text book irony.

In celebration of the the fifth annual Arvika Festival next February, KungMarkus decided to legalize Homelands for his tournament. He's not opening the doors for dilly-dally like Revised nor Fallen Empires though; only Homelands will be added to the traditional "Swedish legal" sets. And he mentioned that he found inspiration in that old April's Fool post. So by ridiculing the fiction of having Homelands legal it somehow became fact. Irony. Now here we are, and I for one have gotten properly excited to brew in this space. So let's travel to Ulgrotha - for real this time - and take a peek at what the expansion has to offer.
Cards!
Considering the era in which they came, the spells of Homelands are actually not that horrible. Though the high end cards are probably the worst of any set. And I remember how it was both overprinted and the only new expansion to be released in the full year between Ice Age in June 1995 and Alliances in June 1996. Heh, come to think of it, the drought in exciting cards during that period was probably the reason a majority of the players at my school took a pause from the game. Yeah, it was a bad set, and the mediocrity of Homelands almost killed Magic. But is it, on average, worse than e.g. The Dark?

While the true high end of The Dark - Fellwar Stone, Blood Moon and Maze of Ith - would make most comparisons skew in that sets favor, I believe Homelands have a larger total number of cards that could possibly see play. In a small enough card pool, any addition is bound to have some effect on the meta, and 93/94 is about as small as a constructed card pool gets.
Merchant Scroll
Let's start from the top. Unlike any cards from The Dark or Legends, Merchant Scroll has the rare distinction of being restricted in Vintage. Markus opted to keep the Scroll restricted for the upcoming Festival tournament as well. As a cheap tutor it gives consistency to broken cards and also offer a surprising amount of flexibility. Though I suspect that it will search for Ancestral Recall about 65% of the time, Mana Drain about 30% of the time, and only the last 5% it will find something like Psionic Blast, Hurkyl's Recall, Boomerang or Blue Elemental Blast. It is clearly less flexible than Demonic Tutor, but considering how often the Tutor searches for Ancestral Recall, Merchant Scroll is sure to see a lot of play at the top tables.

While Merchant Scroll mostly serve to reinforce existing strategies, Homelands also bring some heavy hitters that beg for build-arounds.
Primal Order
Primal Order is my personal favorite card of Homelands, and was the original "chase card" of the set. MonoGreen strategies are traditionally not the sharpest blade in 93/94, but the Order gives us some proper incentive to go green. As distressing cards go, this is comparable to Underworld Dreams in punishing people for trying to grow resources. The jury is still out on the best Primal Order deck, but I wouldn't be surprised to see people try out green midrange or even new builds of Enchantress with the card. I have a home planned for my playset at the very least.
Fatties
Ah, the epic Baron Sengir. So close to playable. The original playtest version of the card was a 5/5 flier for 3BBB that removed all the counters from vampires it regenerated, and rather than getting +2/+2 for killing a creature it got +1/+1 for killing an opponent. Having a slightly improved regeneration ability and a smoother way to get counters doesn't really offset the two additional mana to summon though. Seriously cool dude, but I can't see him shine outside something like a monoblack All Hallow's Eve deck. I will however offer an high five to anyone who tries. You could clearly play him just because he's rad. And he does combo nicely with Nettling Imp I guess.

There are zero creatures in the original 93/94 cardpool that survive both Lightning Bolt and Swords to Plowshares. Homelands bring two to the mix with Autumn Willow and Ihsan's Shade. Autumn Willow was the first creature printed with shroud / hexproof. As such, she also laughs in the face of The Abyss. One of the first times I played against The Deck at a convention in 1996 Autumn Willow was in fact one of the finishers of choice. She also became a mainstay in ErhnamGeddon decks, to the point that many players in the area started referring to them as "WillowGeddon" decks.
The most black of knights.
Ihsan's Shade is well above the curve as 6-drop threats went in 1994. Its power level is not far below the gold standard we find in Shivan Dragon and Mahamothi Djinn. Trading flying for being invincible to Elemental Blasts and Swords doesn't seem like that bad a deal.

There's a lot to unpack with Homelands's midrange threats. E.g. Eron the Relentless (a five-mana 5/2 haste creature that regenerates for RRR) is a properly potent summon. And the original shattergang brothers - Joven and Chandler - may be far less horrible than we expected in 1995. Even commons like Hungry Mist (6/2 for 2GG, pay GG each upkeep or sac it) could be something to look into. It is not like it's an easy card to steal with Control Magic unless the opponent is heavily invested in green, and having a big beater that survives City in a Bottle could have implications.
Probably not this one though. Unless you build a sweet control deck with Mystic Decree and Wall of Kelp and have Marjhan as roadblock/finisher. Hm. Might actually be onto something durdly here.
Cards on the table. I started writing this post, or at least taking the pictures, a couple of weeks ago. My plan was to finish up a handful posts before a new player entered the family so I would be able to breeze through the updates here while my mind was elsewhere. It worked pretty well, but now I don't really remember what my plan was for these pictures. So I'll have to do some winging here, with a mind all over the place.
More cards.
Removal then, it seems. Serrated Arrows was a contender for "best card in the set" while Homelands was a part of Standard (Type 2). Though much of that had to do with the prevalence of pump knights in ye olde Necro decks. Without a bunch of 2/1s running around defining the battlefield, the Arrows get less ubiquitous. But they still kill a bunch of things in one hit; birds, elves, lions, flying men, pixies, archers, goblins, caretakers, archaeologists and the odd pegasus to mention a few. And they do mess up combat math and bring Angels and Efreets into bolt range. So while not being the powerhouse they were in 1995, I can certainly see the arrows fit into Transmute Artifact decks if nothing else.

An-Zerrin Ruins is at worst "Destroy target tapped creature", and at best some solid card advantage in red. Whenever you say "Efreet" with the ruins you are entitled to a happy dance. Broken Visage is a little harder. If you get to resolve it and trade 2-for-1 it is certainly great, but I think I'd rather have Terror in most cases. I still place it well within the realms of playables; unlike Homelands worst "removal spell" (and contender for worst card in the set):
This is a painfully terrible card. Among my stranger Magic losses was a Reject Rare Draft around five years ago when I, for real, lost a winning game as my opponent topdecked Mammoth Harness to bring my Cockatrice to the ground. I guess every card will have their moments, though I suspect them to be few and far between for the harness. This is a reserved list rare by the way, though one I predict will dodge any buy-outs.
A side note as Homelands removal goes: many of these cards fly straight in the face of modern design and color pie concerns. I picture Mark Rosewater shaking his fist somewhere.
Like this one. Green is supposed to only handle flying creatures, Roots somehow does the exact opposite. A sick combo with Mammoth Harness though.
It feels a little distasteful to highlight Mammoth Harness and Roots too deeply when we are trying to look at the bright side of Ulgrotha. So let's check out a few other random nuggets instead.
Random nuggets.
Hey, Wall of Kelp! That's the most expensive card in the set these days! It is like $6 for a NM copy at CardKingdom. Not too shabby. In most decks that want tokens, I'd probably play Sengir Autocrat instead, but maybe someone will be able to break the wall. (Hint: It may be durdly and involve Marjhan and Mystic Decree).
Something, something, Ashnod's Altar.
Headstone is surprisingly playable, wrecking Regrowths, Recalls and a litter of reanimation spells, all while drawing you a card. Just being able to cycle it is not that bad a deal either. And Joven's Ferrets could most certainly find a home in the green 1-drop deck we've seen the Russians play at n00bcon a few times. Random fact: Kyle Namvar - who along with Scott Hungerford designed and developed Homelands - had a pet ferret. Initially the set had several ferret designs to commemorate this, though only Joven's survived to see print.
These may have been Spectral Ferrets in an alternate timeline. Pretty nice stats on this one btw.
Memory Lapse should also be able to find a home in combo or tempo decks. 1U is far easier to find than UU in most decks. And there are certainly scenarios when a well-placed Lapse will be equivalent to a Time Walk.

I could go on. I could mention Sea Sprite and its success in the early days of the Legacy format. Rant on about Jinx as a way mess with Factories, or how Roterothopter is a nice mana sink in red burn and help Atog fit in the 2-slot in Sligh. Homelands may have been far from a home run, but it was by no means a complete strike out either. I think WotC themselves said it best in their hilariously mid-90s commercial.

"As you'll discover, there's much more to this new world of Homelands. A world of intrigue and magic. Not to mention, surprises..."
 Enjoy this one, and best of brewing until the Festival in February. 

tisdag 20 november 2018

Decks and rants from Fishliver Oil Cup Lanterna (and Eternal Weekend)

During the last month, we not only witnessed the largest EC-rules tournament this side of the ocean in a lighthouse in Genoa, we also saw the biggest EC-tournament ever at the yearly Eternal Weekend in the New World.

Around these parts, EC-rules gatherings are few and far between. Across the Sea though, they are the most common way to play 93/94 by a good margin. For those unfamiliar or in need of a refresher course, these are the main changes from the "Baseline B&R" which we commonly cover here:

* Fallen Empires is a legal set
* Maze of Ith and Recall are restricted
* Strip Mine, Mishra's Workshop and Shahrazade are unrestricted
* Nalathni Dragon and the two first book promo cards (Arena and Sewers of Estark) are legal
Spoiler alert: Not meta defining.
EC rules also reinstates Mana Burn as a game rule, which may make cards like Su-Chi slightly more dangerous to play. Additional changes from the full on "Swedish rules" also include a different reprint policy btw, but for all nintendo purposes that's irrelevant. Or whatever the saying is.

So let's check out some top decks from the latest EC-tournaments! We'll start with the top8 decks from the Lanterna Tournament, which was the original intent of this post. After I had gotten those lists, I figured we might take a gander at the top8 from Eternal Weekend as well to see if we can learn something from the progenitors of the rule set. Off to the races!

Fishliver Oil Lanterna Top8

Daniele Brunazzo's Arabian Aggro. 1st Place.
Smooth criminal Daniel Brunazzo took down the Lanterna tournament with his Arabian Aggro / Erhnam Burn'Em deck. I think there's few things for me to say which Daniel himself didn't explain better in his own tournament report, so check it out if you haven't!
Martin Berlin's Workshop Aggro. 2nd place.
Martin Berlin took to the Workshops for the evening; a strategy I feel might be a little underestimated when looking at tournaments across the ocean. Even with a single Workshop, three out of four Artifact Aggro decks placed in the top16 of last n00bcon, giving them one of the highest win rates of the gathering. Some deep brewing went into this list btw, check out Berlin's interview on All Tings Considered for the full story.
Patric Hiness's BRU Handelman. 3-4th place.
Here we find Patric Hinnes sporting our first Fallen Empires card; the dreaded Hymn to Tourach. In 95/96, Robert Hahn wrote one of the most influential pieces of early Magic theory: "Schools of Magic". In it, Hahn discussed different strategies to win at Magic; these days perhaps the Weissman school (i.e. "The Deck") is the most well known of them. The Handelman school was a fast and aggressive one, seeking to control the opponent's hand through cards like Hymn to Tourach and Hypnotic Specter while sporting effective spot removal to back up its end game with djinns and efreets. To quote Chris Zaborowski over at AmazingMtg: "The Handelman School is actually closely related to the Weissman School; both were essentially card denial decks, but where the Weissman School looked to prolong the game, the Handelman School looked to end it. Hahn himself summarized the School as "I'm going to come kill you with this thing right here unless you do something about it," which in many ways is the spiritual precursor to David Price's "there are no wrong questions, only wrong answers" theory to designing and playing aggressive decks."
Philipp Steinish's Deadguy/Handelman. 3-4th place.
Philipp Steinish rounds out the Top4 with a slightly different take on the Handelman strategy. This one is in fact closer to the 1995 designs, sporting white for more flexible removal, and having a mana base that gets supremely annoyed by Blood Moon. These two decks are good examples of strategies that moves up a tier with the unrestriction of Strip Mine and -most importantly- the full set of Hymn to Tourach to hinder the opponent's ability to play out their midgame.
Miguel Angel Diaz Gonzalez's The Deck. 5-8th place.
Miguel took his The Deck to the Top16 of the Saturday main tournament, the day after using this similar version to reach the EC Top8. The changes between the two rule sets are fairly subtle at glance; cutting Transmute Artifact, Mirror Universe, Sylvan Library, Tropical Island and Underground Sea from the Italian version; adding three Strip Mine, Lightning Bolt and Timetwister for EC. I obviously like the approach of playing four Strip Mines in The Deck (yes, even when you have Moat to handle opposing Factories), and cutting a few of the cards with a little more specific mana cost (like Sylvan) in favor of a card like Lightning Bolt to handle weenies seems like a very good choice. Still a total number of zero Factories in his list, which is impressive.
Francesco Delphino UWR Burn. 5-8th place.
So this is what Francesco's deck looked like the day before he cut all the Power cards and went on to win the 115 players main event. Other than the obvious power gracing the list, the changes are not only subtle. Apart from cutting a Factory, and adding a couple of extra Strip Mines (as is custom), Francesco played Serendib Efreets this day, prompting him to not use City in a Bottle. This is probably closer to what some people in Scandinavia refer to as Fantasy Zoo.
Svante Landgraf's Spice Rack. 5-8th place.
Svante Landgraf is a familiar name round these parts. Aside from top8'ing most of tournaments he shows up at, he runs the End of turn, Draw a card blog and is a frequent guest on the All Tings Considered podcast. He's also my nemesis. Svante is the one guy in the top8 to ruin the statistic by not running a full grip of Strip Mines here, but instead takes full stock on the other playset we've seen have the biggest impact on this top8: Hymn to Tourach. Spice Rack is a very cool deck, unlike anything I saw myself back in the days. Disrupt the opponent's hand, play The Rack, finish with Sedge Troll (or Atog) if needed. Check out this episode of All Tings Considered for more info about the deck.
Joep Meddens UB Handelman. 5-8th place.
Joep Meddens keeps racking up his resume with a top8 finish at the Lanterna tournament the day before we saw him grace the main event top16 with Erhnam Midrange. I am actually not sure if we could call this one Handelman. It doesn't play Juzam, and has a solid mana base, so maybe this is more UB Hand&Land Denial or something. Maybe somewhere between Handelman and O'Brien schools for those interested in nitpicking. Or perhaps just something fully different, like Joep School. Nice to see a couple of more cards from Fallen Empires represented regardless, with both the Order and the Initiates of the Ebon Hand showing up as as four-ofs.

So that's the Lanterna tournament for you! Seventy or so players. 3.125 average Strip Mines per deck and 2.375 average Factories, for those keeping count. Four of the decks uses the full set Hymns available, one take the opportunity to sleeve up a playset Workshops, and one deck make use of additional cards from Fallen Empires in Order of the Ebon Hand and Initiates of that very same hand. Some different tech that is harder to pull of using the more common Italian rules ("Baseline B&R"), in particular Handelman strategies and Spice Rack. But the major impact seems to be stemming from Strip Mine and Hymn to Tourach. The book promos glare in their absence.

Eternal Weekend 2018 Top8

Now let's take a look at what the more experienced players from across the ocean used one week later at the 181 player Eternal Weekend tournament. (If you want to see the full span of deck lists from Eternal Weekend, check out this post at Eternal Central.)
Sebastian Rauskold's MonoBlack. 1st place.
Aah, good ol' monoblack. Solid, streamlined list without any fuss nor unnecessary fanciness. Just Ritual into Hippies, Hymn, land destruction, Knights, and Juzam and Vampires to top of the curve after opponent's plan is disrupted. Robust pile. One kinda interesting thing is that Underworld Dreams is one of the MVPs for monoblack over here, while it doesn't seem to be that important a card in EC rules. Also no Lotus, which is always fun to see in a gathering of this size. Congrats Sebastian!
Jamie Parke's Atog Burn. 2nd place.
Full-Power Atog Burn is a beautiful pile and has proven to be one of the highest tier decks in the format. Piloted by a master like Jamie, it is no surprise to see this around the top of the final standings. Though I've heard from reputable sources that Jamie actually only have 18% of the credit for this runner up place, with most of the honors (around 48%) going to Will Magrann. Still I guess we're not that far from entering the 2020s, so Jamie should soon be able to pick up his 4th Pro Tour Top8 and get some well deserved spotlight for that. And hopefully another sweet rap.
Blake Burkholder's Temple of Sped. 3rd place.
Now this is kinda funny. I just realized that the LauterDeck that won last n00bcon is extremely close in style to what we know as Temple of Sped from EC rules. Basically the differences is that the LauterDeck plays a couple of more counters (Power Sink), an extra Serra Angel, all five moxen, and doesn't use red (but still have Psionic Blast for burn). Temple of Sped have a couple of pump-knights and splash red for more burn (and add some extra Strip Mines of course, but probably every single deck in the format would do that given the opportunity. Maybe sans Fork Recursion). So that's cool. This deck seems immensely well positioned regardless of rule set.
Dustin Clark's Troll Disco. 4th place.
Dammit Dustin. I know that this is a Troll list, but this is a horrible way to arrange the cards. Even using Japanese Disks to make it harder to read. Yeah, I get the joke, but I don't have the energy to feed the Troll here by spending the evening trying to decipher the full extent of this ;)
Arturo Garcia's UB. 5th place.
This deck on the other hand has enough sweet choices that I won't barely mention the glare nor the random layout. Not more than once at least. Miser's Juzam, Mahamothi, Serendib Djinn and Royal Assassin for the spice. As this post is supposed to be somewhat analytical of the top tier meta, I should probably try and figure out if this goes in the Handelman pile or Disaster pile? Monoblack splashing blue for Power and sideboard Energy Flux is generally a Disaster, but this one take more stock in hand disruption followed by must-answer treaths which is a trademark of Handelman. Guess I'll just call this UB.
Stephen Menendian's UR Burn. 6th place.
Smenen is a writer, podcaster, master wizard and general connoisseur of most formats hearkening from the other side of the millennium. I assume his resume precedes him at this point. Stephen has been perfecting UR Burn in EC rules for some time; this is the 4th time we see him in the Eternal Weekend Top8 in as many tries. There are some pretty cool choices here if we are used to wearing the "Swedish legal" glasses. Playing three sideboard Control Magic seems fully reasonable in a meta with so many decks running Trolls, Atogs or mostly black spells (without access to Disenchant), and the maindeck Scepters are also a rare sight this side of the ocean. Can we assume one of the glared out cards is an Earthquake?
Eliot Davidoff's Troll Disco. 7th place.
Our own @BetaSedgeTroll, Eliot Davidoff, doesn't disappoint with his namesake card. Spell Blast is a rarely used gem, and Hurkyl's Recall is fun enough with the Disk that I'm surprised we don't see the interaction more often. This deck is almost completely multi-format legal in all commonly used versions of oldschool btw; just cut a single Strip Mine and you'll be able to travel the world with these 75 without changing a card. Great pile by a great pilot.
Mark Le Pine's Troll Disco. 8th place.
Mark Le Pine rounds of the top8 with a slightly different take on Troll Disco, incorporating the infamous Hymns. And how rad is it to cut the fourth Disk for a maindeck Sol'Kanar the Swamp King? To cool for school, that's how cool. In fact just about the same level of cool as rocking a 62 card deck in the 1999 World Championship all the way to the finals, before eventually succumbing to Kai Budde. Mark casually adds this marvelous finish to a resume that already holds three pro tour top8s.

Rants

For those interested in the stats, we see 3.625 Strip Mines and 4.0 Factories per deck here, so slightly more than in the Italian tournament. Eliot was the guy to go against the grain and only play two Strips in his 75 rather than the full playset. The Strip Mine / Mishra's Factory discussion is a passionate one. I'll leave the Strip Mine discussion be for now, but take I'll take a sidebar to share my current stance on Mishra's Factory.

Mishra's Factory is meta defining enough to warrant a restriction. Disregarding the results above and looking at tournaments using the baseline B&R, we e.g. see 57/64 possible Factories in the main Fishliver Oil Top16. It is just an obvious inclusion to the point it seems weird not to have the playset instead of other wincons. We might recognize the concept; Brainstorm is too good in Legacy, Workshop is too good in Vintage, Factory is too good in 93/94. One often overlooked problem with restricting Factory however, is that land destruction would get worse. Today a lot of decks (in a meta with restricted Strip Mine) play the occasional Sinkhole or Stone Rain to take care of problematic non-basics. With a restricted Factory, these cards would be less likely to see play. That, in turn, would make Library of Alexandria slightly better, which could lead to more games decided by an early Library. The correct choice then, from a pure play/interaction point of view, would probably be to restrict Factory and ban LoA (and Mind Twist while we're at it). But banning cards is not something we like to do. So maybe we should just let Factory keep its reign. Or restrict it for a year and see what happens. Articulated opinions on this are very welcome, as always.

Damn, this is turning out a long and ranty post. I apologize. Lots of changes in the air at home; my focus is clearly not aligned. Here's a pic of a super sweet Chaos Orb I got a month ago:
Ok, meta analysis. Uh... Ok, so the Fallen Empires cards we see in the top8 here are - apart from the three Hymn decks - the black and white pump knights. So there's a lot of space left to explore. I kinda like the space of having Fallen Empires plus restricted Hymn in an old school format btw, like the first EudoGames rules from the US west coast did. Maybe not for permanent "Swedish rules", but I wouldn't mind trying it out again; it was six years since I last played tournament with FE legal and Hymn restricted. There are a lot of interesting options in FE if we dig a little. In fact, let's dig just two steps down from the top8 to Bryan Manolakos's glorious red midrange deck for some sick Orgg tech:
Bryan Manolakos's Orgg.dec. 10th place.
This is cool.

lördag 10 november 2018

Fishliver Oil Cup Top16

I must confess I kinda enjoy not opening the floodgates on decklists too quickly. Sure, we lose some instant gratification by not getting the info as soon as it is available, but on the other hand it gives players a chance to reveal their own tech in the way they see fit - with own reports and such - and may give a little more lasting feeling from the events. And lest we not forget, back in the oldschool days decklists weren't public at all. Once they were, you'd still have to wait a few weeks until you got your hands on the latest magazine.
Or in the case of The Wizards' Tournament, about a year.
There's a good handful sweet reports from the Fishliver Oil Cup on the webosphere now. Svante Landgraf wrote Pictures of Genoa over at End of turn, draw a card; the honorable winner Francesco posted his tales on a glorious "altervista" page; Flafoux shared some great experiences on French Boars; Bryan had a sweet interview with Martin Berlin about the tournament on the All Tings Considered Podcast; and Wak-Wak have posted all the streams. I think it is about time we can spoil the top decks in good conscience. The Fishliver Oil Cup hosts sent them over a few days after the event, and gave me the privilege to reveal them :)

Before that I must state once again how much I appreciate all the content contributions to this blog in the last months. It both give some spectacular insight to other sides of the community, as well as give me personally some spare time to write for players outside this particular corner of the Magic blagosphere. (Which I btw did, so if you speak Swedish, or are a fan of google translate, you might want to check out this part of an article series on SvenskaMagic about the most powerful cards in the earliest sets. Also, if you have a site or blog, feel free to ask if you want me to write something in particular for you.)

What else? I'd be amiss not to give a shout out to Eternal Central and the fifth annual Eternal Weekend that took place November 4th. Awesome organization by Jaco and the crew, inspiring contributions to charity, and once again taking back the title for "largest old school event yet". 181 wizards showed up this time! It is not possible to fit that many players at the Rotary Pub where we host n00bcon, so I guess Fishliver Oil Cup will have to raise to the occasion and give Jaco a run for the title next year ;) Check out decks and photos from the event here at Eternal Central. Tipping my hat :)

Anyways, Fishliver Oil Cup decklists! I have 16 of them right here, so I'll try and be quick in my presentations to avoid making this a proper marathon post. Goal is no more than three sentences for each deck. Let's go!

Fishliver Oil Cup Ed. 2, Main Tournament Top 16

Francesco Delfino's Unspoiled Burn. 1st place.
Glorious Francesco drew inspiration from the Shahrazade Sick Burn article on Eternal Central for his deck at the EC-rules tournament the Friday before the main event. It put him in the top8 of that gathering, so he decided to cut all the power cards, update it for Italian rules (i.e. "Swedish B&R"), and try to win the prize for Best Unpowered Deck at the 115 player main tournament. He then went on to win the whole thing. Check out Francesco's full report here.
Leo Bruder's Workshop Aggro. 2nd place.
Leo Bruder from Germany followed up his Top4 at Fishliver Oil last year with a Top2 this time; sporting a deadly artifact aggro deck. In the wake of restricted Workshop, Leo opted for the full set of Mana Vaults, which also combos real well with his Sages of Lat-Nam. Also note the sweet Animate Dead tech.
Marco Signorini's BWu Dead Guy. 3-4th place.
Marco's new take on Dead Guy took him all the way to the top 4. Apart from the fairly straight-forward blue splash for Power and deadly Energy Fluxes, one of the more interesting choices here is going down to a single maindeck Sinkhole. Also the playmat, I guess ;)
Martin Berlin's CounterBurn. 3-4th place.
2016 World Champion Martin Berlin brought the pain with this extremely well tuned CounterBurn. I think this may be the first time I've seen him sport UR Burn; last time I saw him on Fishliver Oil he top8'd with TwiddleVault, and he won his Worlds title with The Deck. We could note the omission of Recall in this take of the strategy.
Alban Lauter's LauterDeck. 5-8th place.
2018 World Champion Alban Lauter took his signature LauterDeck to the top8 this time; actually a slightly worse performance than last year when he placed 2nd. Alban is a brilliant player and great sport, but we should all mock him for playing 16 cards in his sideboard. Or could it be that he didn't put his Shark in his deck?!
Kevin Olivotto's The Deck. 5-8th place.
Now this is a beautiful pile of cards! Kevin sported the top placed The Deck in the tournament, and give us some really interesting options in the "flex slots". In particular we take note of his two copies of The Abyss, the two Stone Rains, and cutting down to three maindeck Tomes. Also sideboard Icy!
Marc Lanigra's Troll Disco. 5-8th place.
Famed Alpha-collector and champion of the inaugural Wizards' Tournament Marc Lanigra Troll us all by opting for an almost completely wb deck. The fact that he randomly plays a maindeck Twiddle is just icing on the Troll cake (Marc is often known by his nickname Twiedel). And let us gasp in disbelief over that he doesn't even play Timetwister here. TT is not only a good card, but arguably Marc's signature Power card as he won the Vintage World Championship where the new art of Timetwister was the top prize, and he even has TT art as his profile picture on facebook. And not least the outlandish style of playing wb as an apparent "budget option", while a good amount of the cards are revealed to be Summer Magic on closer inspection. This is a Troll decklist if I ever saw one.
Marco Rocchetti's Disaster. 5-8th place.
We had the 2016 and 2018 World champions representing themselves in this top8, but it is up to Marco to represent the 2017 World champion's strategy; the black Disaster. Marc's evolution of the deck includes going up to the full playset of Juzam, but in particular adding Disenchant and Swords to the deck to give it better answers and a more rounded sideboard plan.
Andrea Braida's BraidaDeck. 5-8th place.
The third deck with Juzam in the top8! Andrea Braida is no stranger to the Fishliver Oil Cup top8 with his signature BraidaDeck. This is a fantastic deck played by a fantastic man; Braida and his pile of sweetness in many ways encapsulates the spirit of the Italian players for me.
Andre Brunet's LauterDeck. 9-16th place.
It is kinda funny how some decks just become so closely associated with a player. Most Italians I've met would refer to the previous deck as BraidaDeck; and most aggro brewers would be able to recant the differences between Lestree Zoo and Cermak Zoo. So I'll state that Andre's pile is a LauterDeck. But oldschool deck lists are obviously not simply a list of card names, but rather the cards themselves. So let's bask in the fact that Andre have beautifully Star Wars altered Balance, Demonic Tutor, and all four Counterspells. And then let's question why the Strip Mine have a Scaled Wurm alter rather than a Sarlacc ;)
Jocke Almelund's The Deck. 9-16th place.
So Jocke has like five n00bcon top8s and is generally credited with being one of the guys who evolved The Deck from its 1994 form to the more modern adaptation. And now he's playing Icy Manipulator maindeck. Along with Kevin's sideboard Icy, we might be on the verge of a new trend here.
Joep Medden's GW Geddon (without Armageddon). 9-16th place.
Joep Medden's has quickly become one of the most renowned players from the Netherlands scene. Just a few weeks ago he shared his story from winning the inaugural Frost Giant cup, and here we see him sporting an ErhnamGeddon without Armageddon. What the actual balls. Really impressive list, and well worth a second look. I mean, no Birds to get extra sick value from the miser's Ifh-Biff. Spice!
Marco Buti's Atog Burn. 9-16th place.
Marco's Atog Burn can be interpreted as the love child between Sligh and Workshop Aggro. This time he's splashing blue not only for Power, but also a couple of Psionic Blasts. Note that the Blood Moons are relegated to the sideboard, and that the maindeck split of artifact removal is 2-1 in favor of Detonate to Shatter.
Miguel Angel Diaz Gonzalez's The Deck. 9-16th place.
Miguel gives us the third and final The Deck of the Top16. And this one have some spicy choices. If we look at the "flex slots" we see that he opts out of e.g. Stone Rain, the 4th Tome, and The Abyss in favor of two Moat, Transmute Artifact and Sylvan Library. But the real spice is that he completely cuts Mishra's Factory, giving him the opportunity to go down to 28 mana producers. And yeah, that's a single Fireball and a Serra as the sole wincons.
Per Rönnkvist's ErhnamGeddon. 9-16th place.
Unlike Joep, Per got the memo that ErhnamGeddon plays geddon. There are a couple of things I really like with this tech; one is the focus on agressive starts and the weenie suit of no less than seventeen 1-2 drop attackers (counting the factories). These guys force the opponent to commit to the board or waste removal before the geddon hits. The other thing I find sweet is how "clean" the deck is; no splashing blue for power nor black for Tutor/Twist. Just get your mana right and start pressuring.
Yuri Ancarani's Next Level Disaster. 9-16th place.
Yuri! As one of the pioneers to push a broad adaptation of "house rules" for 93/94, Yuri properly fanned the flames of the international oldschool scene. Similar to Marco, Yuri opted to take the Disaster strategy to the next level. And boy is this some sweet tech. Look at the four maindeck Energy Fluxes. Then look at the sideboard and take in one of the most surprising transformation sideboards I've ever seen. Then take an extra look at the Juzams, as Juzam always deserves some additional admiration.

So that's the main tournament's Top16 for you! Properly diverse strategies (though only a single deck that didn't opt for any blue cards). Fishliver Oil Cup keeps the streak in leaving little to ask in terms of tech and inspiring builds.

Next up we'll look into the top8 of the Columbus Night EC tournament, as well as a short meta breakdown of the full field at Fishliver Oil Cup. Might take a deeper look at the Eternal Weekend Top8 as well. And then it's time to start exploring some strange cards in preparation for next year's Arvika Festival.