onsdag 29 januari 2014

Pimpvitational primer and Danish tech

This upcoming Saturday it's finally time for the first Pimpvitational tournament. It was first planned to be held about a year ago, then again last summer, and again in October. Turns out it's pretty hard to schedule an invitational tournament in this format, when most of the regular players have some combination of kids, jobs and spouses.

The Pimpvitational is a tournament where the 8 highest ranked players in a seasons pimpwalker standings are invited. These players then compete in a slightly different form of 93/94, where the winner gets a whole lot of glory, and an awesome binder (made by Stalin's girlfriend).

Trade in style.
The tournament is however, as usual, highly relaxed. There will be beer, sauna and a casual environment. The format this year is 93/94 with Fallen Empires legal, and Hymn to Tourach restricted. My idea was to play something like this:

4 Goblin King
4 Goblin Flotilla
4 Goblin Balloon Brigade
4 Goblins of the Flarg

2 Blood Moon

4 Chain Lightning
4 Goblin Grenade
2 Detonate
1 Wheel of Fortune

4 Lightning Bolt
1 Fork

1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Black Lotus
1 Sol Ring
1 Gauntlet of Might
2 City in a Bottle
LANDS (19)
10 Mountain
4 Plateau
4 Mishra's Factory
1 Strip Mine

4 Disenchant
2 Red Elemental Blast
2 Circle of Protection: Red
2 Fireball
1 Plains
1 Goblin Wizard
1 Maze of Ith
1 Chaos Orb
1 Stone Rain

A lot of travelling and work the last few weeks however made me unable to gather the cards needed for the deck (mainly the Fallen Empires cards, and the actual Goblins), so I'll have to settle with playing something else. I guess either red/white or black/blue. Probably red/white, it has been a while since last.

There were no less than 53 players with pimpwalker points in the 12/13 season. Of the 8 players in the top, everyone except Rickard "Pefken" Samuelsson will attend the tournament in Gothenburg. In his place, the number 9 player of that years standings will attend, and that man is no other than Viktor "Oldschool" Peterson. The eight players that will compete next Saturday are

1. Kalle Nord, 60p
2. Elof Gottfridsson, 41p
3. Rober Schram, 39p
4. Daniel "GaJol" Nilsson, 29p 
5. Magnus "Mg" de Laval, 23p  
6. Hjalmar "Honka" Backlund, 21p  
7. Joakim Almelund, 20p  
8. Viktor "Oldschool" Peterson, 20p 

Regular readers of the blog may recognize some of the names, but I'll be sure to take notes of some player profiles and deck techs between the beers during the weekend.

Last, I'd like to shortly show of some Danish tech. Hans Henrik Rasmussen is a 93/94 player who started around the time of Antiquities, and first contacted me in August last year. Last week he sent me a picture of a "classic" board state in the Danish meta, which I feel I have to share with you. Hans apologizes for his opponent's "proxies", but this board is awesome regardless. It's the Ali from Cairo deck vs the Living Plane deck!

Control Magic on Mishra's Factory is a rare sight. Living Plane shenanigans in full motion :)
Oh, and one last thing. I've had a few people ask me where they could by a cheap scale for testing cards. The one used in my last post about spotting fakes was bought by Freespace for $13, get one at Deal Extreme here if you wish.

torsdag 16 januari 2014

Spotting fakes, part II

Here's a quick quiz. Look at the picture below for ten seconds. Which card looks highly suspicious?

Did you see it? Newer players might miss it, but most old school players and collectors knows that the beta Volcanic Island don't have the small white dot in the lower corner. Almost all beta cards have this dot, but a few cards that changed (or were added) since the Alpha printing lack the dot. Volcanic Island is one of them.

The last few weeks there have been something of a mass hysteria in the magic community, as sophisticated new fakes recently hit the market. Chas Andres posted an article at StarCityGames about the new fakes, as did Quiet Speculation and a few other notable sources. I wont go into much details about the new batch of fakes, as you can read the info you need from Chas's article. The issue is that they are very well done and manufactured in a larger scale than previous fakes. The known batch contain 55 different cards, mostly standard and modern staples, but also a few revised duals and fetches thrown in. Nothing really new under the sun here, but I think it's time for a little more advanced follow up on my old post on how to spot fakes to avoid getting caught up in paranoia.

The first fake card I encountered was a beta Lotus back in 1998. I was hanging out at an old laser-tag place in Gothenburg when I saw it in a binder. The player who owned it assured me it was a fake one, but I hadn't seen anything like it before. I traded a Chronicles Concordant Crossroads for it, to have it as a show-off or proxie in the future. It was darker and thicker than a real card, but not very noticeable at a glance.

The second time I encountered fakes was about half a year later. It was a Time Walk and a Time Twister that had been printed out on hight quality paper and glued on to a real card. These were very easy to spot with touch alone, but looked good in a binder. I got them as throw-ins in a trade (this was around the time that the first proxie tournaments started). As a side-note, I would not trade for a fake card today, other than to possibly have it as a reference. Very little good could ever come from a demand for fake cards.

Real Lotus, weighing 1.74 grams.
Fakes have since become better and better, but it's still fairly easy to find some hints that a card is not what it should be, and that you should be cautious trading for it. Even if a faker have a great scanner and printer, the exact printing pattern is not something they can easily reproduce. Even if they have paper that feels right, and even may hold the bend test, the weight may be slightly off, and a proper light-test should tell the difference. The new Chinese fakes are at this point pretty easy to spot with sight alone, but I assume that the kerning problems and offset copyright lines will be fixed if they make a new batch. I'm sure that they read the same articles about how to spot them as everyone else, and that they will attempt to fix the easily-to-spot problems with their counterfeits in the next batch (if they're not shut down before that). The in-depth tests I'll show today won't be that easy to fake however.

First, once again, it's really hard to fake play tear in a convincing way. Be extra mindful of mint cards. Second, it's really hard to fake alpha cards or foils. Foils are hard because of the additional foil layer, an alpha cards because of partly the round corners, and partly because anyone who buys a high end alpha rare for a thousand dollars will test it. It's much easier to fake modern mythics, as they are usually in better conditions and wont be scrutinized in the same way.

So, the tests! Let's start with the weight test. A non-foiled magic card weighs about 1.74 grams (that's 42.6 millionths of a firkin-weight for all you non-metric readers). A scale that can measure this can be bought a high-end kitchen store for about $150, or a well sorted record player store for about $15. If a card weighs significantly less or more than your other cards, that's a warning sign. A heavier card may indicate re-backing, and a lighter card may indicate a professionally printed fake. There are beta cards that are real and weighs a few decimals below 1.70 grams, but it's unusual.

This is a warning flag
The scales can be hard to find cheap though, so lets go for the loupe (or magnifying glass). A loupe will set you back around $10, but it's probably the best tool in your arsenal for spotting fakes. It takes some practice to recognize printing patters, but the loupe is also great for spotting re-backs.

Inspecting Moxen.
Lets talk shortly about the printing patterns. Magic cards are not printed with dots or lines, but with figures that resembles circles. Also, any black color in a magic card (e.g. rules text) will be solid black without patterns, as black is one of the four main color that make up all the other colors on the card. Below is a comparison between a (real) Bayou and a fake Badlands. The fake Badlands is by far the best fake I've seen (at least as I managed to recognize as fake). The lighting on the cards are a little different due to my bad camera and some cut and paste. If you zoom in on the picture it is however visible that the patterns aren't as distinct on the Badlands as on the Bayou, and that the black color is a little "smudged" on that card.

Fake to the right.
If we use a proper camera and zoom in on the Bayou, we can see the correct pattern more clearly:

Notice the lack of pattern in the black mana symbols.
The one thing that made me sure that the Badlands was fake was however the light test and the edges. After stroking them over, it was somewhat visible that it was two cards glued together. Apparently the front was removed from a common (real) card with a razor, and then a very high quality printout was pasted on the real back. What was a little scary was that the card in question weighted within the margin of error (1.75 grams) and passed the black-light test. Here is a very close zoom of the edges (Badlands is the lower card) compared to a real card (above):

Notice the line that goes through the edge on the lower card.
Next up is the practical light test. Get a strong flash-light, and check that the same amount of light goes through the card as another card you know is real with similar art.

Freespace light-testing the 1.67 gram Mind Twist compared with a 1.74 gram Mind Twist.
Light-testing the Badlands compared to a real Tundra. The Badlands lets through significantly less light.
Finally, we have the black-light test. All real cards (save alternative 4th Edition) will illuminate under a Black Light. It doesn't necessarily mean that they are real, but it is an easy and quick way to spot a fake.

Real alpha and beta Lotus both illuminating nicely. The flower petals almost look foiled.
So, if you want to take some extra precaution, get a loupe and bring with you when you trade for high-end cards. If you want to go one step beyond, get a strong flash-light, a black-light and a scale. However, don't panic. There are fake cards out there, but they are still fairly rare, and they can be spotted if you know where to look. There's no reason to sell all your cards in a sudden hysteria because some new fakes have hit the market recently; this is not a new phenomena. Also, don't buy fakes. Everyone saying that they want them because they want to be able to play with them at their kitchen table can make a proxie with a pen. Fakes hurt every aspect of the game, not just competitors and collectors. If no one knowingly buys them, there wont be a proper market.

We'll end today with a picture of Warp Artifacts on Copper Tablets to lighten up the mood:
"Who's the beatdown now, newb?"

fredag 3 januari 2014

2013 Retrospective

I just got the last card to get my deck black bordered. I lack about 8 cards until the deck is complete (oncolor moxen, time twister, a few duals, and possibly Mahamothi Djinn), but it's still a milestone. The last card was a Mana Vault, but in November I also got my hands on a Workshop from Mats Karlsson. This is the state of the deck as we enter 2014:

So far on schedule ;) In less than a year from now, the deck will hopefully be complete.
On a personal note, 2013 has been a good year for old school magic. It has been the first year I've played the format outside of Sweden; in both Germany and Oslo. There have been a lot of nice guys contacting me via email to tell me about their experiences, in Canada, USA, and France. I've also managed to post in this blog about once a week throughout this year (58 posts, to be exact), which was my goal for the year.

2014 have the potential to be very interesting as well. With Vintage regaining popularity in the world, and in particular with Vintage Masters coming to Magic Online, it is very possible that old cards will become more sought after. The number of visitors to the blog are a magnitude larger than a year ago, which also may show some interest in "casual pimp".

With a lot of travelling on my schedule, along with work and family, I don't have time to play that often any more. I usually have the opportunity to play every three weeks or so, and I don't play old school more than every other month. This can make it uninspiring to write blog posts from time to time. This year I'll be a little less periodic with the updates, and write about ever other week (or more when something interesting happens, like pimpvitational in four weeks). If anyone of you would like to add additional content or deck lists, feel free to send me a mail and I'll post it here :)

As we enter the new year, good netiquette holds that I should post a list of some of my favorite posts from last year. Here are five I like (in no particular order):

Regensburg Rumble
The post is from the first time I played in Regensburg, in January 2013. The first few months I worked in Germany was a pretty tumultuous time, and meeting up with the Old School players in Regensburg was an oasis.

Time Walk and Hamlet 1.5.190
A fairly strategic and very nostalgic post from when I first got my Time Walk.

Warcon 2013, aka Kingvitational 0.5
This is probably my most complete tournament report I've posted here. It is still very casual, but I actually go through the matches I played.

Brewmaster's delight
I posted quite a few short deck techs last year. This particular deck is very cool, and there are a few good pictures of it in action as well.

Beware of Magic: the Gathering!
This post doesn't really have anything to do with deck building or playing per se, but as ranting about the old days of the game goes, it's pretty sweet :)

Bonus: n00bcon 5 pictures. A few pictures from n00bcon 2013. Good times!

This Saturday I'll get to play with my new Lotus for the first time in a local Vintage tournament btw :) Looking forward to it, it'll be a nice way to wrap up the vacation. A great new year to all of you!