måndag 26 maj 2014

Banned and Restricted update 2014

Each year after n00bcon, a group of organizers and players take a look at the B/R-list to see if something should to be changed. Below are a few of the cards we discussed, and an actual update to our list :)
Some of the cards which sparks debates

Library of Alexandria and Mind Twist
I'm grouping these two together. If you're playing a control deck and your opponent starts with Library, you are very unlikely to win. If you're playing aggro or midrange, and your opponent starts with Mind Twist, you are very unlikely to win. Of course, an aggro deck will also have big problems with the Library, but can sometimes race it; and a control deck will have a real problem if Mind Twisted, but they can occasionally claw back the card loss. The arguments against the "unfairness" of the two cards are very similar in the end, but different types of players tend to focus on different cards. Whether any of these cards (or both) should be banned is a discussion that was very much alive even in the mid 90s. An interesting mail thread, with players like Roberth Hanh (of "Schools of Magic" fame) can be read here. To quote one player in the thread, "We're not winning games with Black Lotus and Moxes, we're winning them with Library of Alexandria and Mind Twist." In the end though, we really don't want to ban cards in this format, and have decided to keep both Mind Twist and Library restricted.

Mishra's Factory
There have been some discussions about restricting Mishra's factory as well. It is clearly a staple card, and probably the best creature in the format, but it doesn't seem unfair or warping. I guess that Stone Rains, Ice Storms, Sinkholes and such could see more play. Even cards like Cyclopean Tomb, Fissure, Psychic Venom and Blight could probably be good choices against cards like Mishra and the Library if they become to much of a hassle.

Strip Mine
On the plus side, Strip Mine is a good answer to Library, Mishra and Maze. On the minus side, every single deck would play 4, every deck would up it's land count to 28 to give them a chance against a double Strip Mine start, and players who can't afford artifact mana would have a much harder time getting to cast their spells. It would slow down both matches and tournaments, and the amount of games lost to both mana flood and mana screw would increase as well. It's a very annoying card to play against, and of course extremely powerful. Strip Mine stays restricted.

Black Vise
Last winter, this looked like a very good candidate, but with draw7-burn decks at both first and second place at n00bcon, this seems like the wrong time to let the Vise roam free as a 4-off. Black Vise was restricted in Type I after the printing of Prosperity in Visions, as Type I and Type II shared the same B/R-lists, and the deck was far too strong for Type II. After the lists were separated, Black Vise was unrestricted in Type I again. It is possible that this card is not too strong for this format. Still, a burn deck that casts Wheel or Twister and draws a pair of Black Vises before passing the turn, or just anyone casting a pair of Vises against you turn 1 when you're on the draw, would be completely back breaking. 4-off Black Vise makes fast mana, and power, much more important, which isn't something we really want to do. It's a close call, but for now we'll keep Black Vise on the restricted list. It is a good candidate to be unrestricted some time in the future though, and we'll keep a close eye on decks that can use or abuse it.

Mana Vault
Many decks play the Vault to get explosive start, but I have a hard time seeing The Deck or any of the other top tier decks using more than 0-2. It appears good in some sort of Hurkyl's Recall Fireball combo deck though, and it also looks very good in budget monoblack. In monoblack it can increase the power of an early Mind Twist, cast an early disk, or consistently play Sengir Vampire turn two without power. Casual combo and powerless decks are both archetypes we don't mind giving an extra boost to though. It will be interesting to see if this will make an impact, so here goes. Mana Vault is unrestricted.

Mana Vault will be removed from the restricted list June 1st. Happy brewing!

onsdag 21 maj 2014

Showdown in Eudemonia

Last weekend Eudo Games hosted an Old School tournament in Berkeley, CA. Blaine Christiansen, the organizer of the tournament, sent over lots of nice pictures, and explained a little about their take on old school Magic:

"Most of us around here are new to the format, but our first event was very successful.  We have a fairly strong Vintage scene in Northern California, with several players who have been playing Magic since the beginning.  Our approach to Old School Magic is less focused on collecting and more focused on playing with old cards. For this tournament we allowed Fallen Empires, Revised, Chronicles, and foreign cards, just to try to get as many people interested as possible. Future tournaments will experiment with the restricted list and with legal sets."

The first Berkeley tournament hosted 10 players, which is impressive. It took us in Sweden well over a year before we had a tournament with double digit attendees :) 

Esteemed old school players
Adam Telleen noted similarities between this format and modern Vintage: "This format has decisions and interaction reminiscent of modern Vintage, but almost always spread out over many turns rather than often being compressed into just a few. This makes tapping out and baiting a huge deal because there are so many more opportunities to screw it up. Which sounds like Standard or something, but instead it's awesome because mind games, bluffing, and baiting are so important because of the high impact of the swingy cards."

Adam's The Machine (3rd place)
The eventual winner of the tournament was former Vintage world champion and author of The History of Vintage Stephen Menendian. Stephen's deck, called Weissman Tinker, is an interesting new take on blue/white control with Transmute Artifacts.

Smmenen's winning deck
I've posted the top4 decks of the tournament in the Decks to beat section here. I'm keeping this post short though, as there are a lot more decklists, pictures and comments from the tournament at The Mana Drain, I recommend checking it out :)

If I'm not mistaken, the guy with the triple Glooms uses a 1994 Khalsa Brain playmat. Now that's pimp :)

fredag 16 maj 2014

Inquisitions and Leprechauns

This will be a short post, as I need to prepare for the national holiday in Norway tomorrow. I've celebrated national holidays in a few different countries; Independence Day in San Francisco, Bastille Day in Paris, Nationaldagen in the Swedish woods, and St Andrews Day in Edinburgh. Nothing beats the 17 of May in Oslo though. The entire city suits up.

I was actually trying to write a proper introduction about the decks here. Muse about the Arvika players, and maybe add something about the spirit of the format, which these guys embodies with passion. Guest are coming over for the weekend in less than an hour though, so I'll let the decklists do the talking. What I will say is that I'm very impressed, and certainly hope to see more of these guys!

Henrik Berntsson's Aisling Leprechaun deck. Synergy!

Markus Guldbrandsson's UBR Sweetstuff. My kind of deck :)

KungMarkus grins as he casts Inquisition. Who wouldn't?
I hope to get some pics from Eudemonia during the weekend. Good luck to all of you who'll play, and I hope you too will experience the joy of facing an Ifh-Biff Efreet enchanted with Green Ward :)

måndag 12 maj 2014

Eureka!

In many settings throughout the years, this card has been an amusing curiosity:

Maybe because "volume of water displaced equals the volume of object submerged" has very little to do with mass-energy equivalence.
There were some cases of people trying to build tournament decks around it though. Most of them looked something like the one in this German Magic book:

Section "Type-I decks für fortgeschrittene", i.e. advanced tech.
Now, this deck is pretty easy to dismiss; it only plays 19 mana sources, 17 pretty random fatties (e.g. three different Elder Dragons and a pair of Craw Giants), and a single Concordant Crossroads. Our next list from last n00bcon is a little harder to dismiss though.

Sveby was one of the 93/94 format's first players, starting his tech back in 2007. One of his more memorable decks is the Shahrazad/Tormod's Crypt deck from n00bcon 2. That interaction stopped working after the exile zone was introduced to the game during the summer of 2009 (exiled cards in subgames weren't returned to the library in the main game before that), and he went on to build new odd decks.

Sveby's deck of choice this easter was a new take on Eureka, a deck that both turned heads and smashed faces. It's a real beauty, and I hope to see more of it!

And he did go top16 with the deck :) 
Also, if you're in California, don't forget to check out the Old School tournament at Eudemonia next weekend. Stephen Menendian mentioned a little about it at his podcast. If you're going, feel free to send over any pictures from the tournament or a short report, and I'd love to post it here.

onsdag 7 maj 2014

Alpha pimp, part 2

A while back I wrote a post about some cards which I prefer in the Alpha version. I felt like writing some more random posts in between the n00bcon decktechs, so today we'll look at some more odd Alpha cards. These are much rarer than the ones from my previous post, but may be interesting even if they are not as affordable. Maybe you've missed them :)

Five cards in Alpha were never playtested. They were designed "top-down" in pretty much the last minute of development in order to make use of some otherwise unused artwork. One rare card of each color were added this way, and some of them have among the strangest art in the set. Word of Command, with arguably the least artistic art in Magic, was the black one. Fay Jones's Stasis, with arguably the most artistic art in Magic, was the blue one. The green card turned out to be one of the most important green creatures of all time; the inconspicuous Birds of Paradise. I do not know why the Alpha version of the Birds have the very odd '//' in the textbox, as other cards with multiple abilities lack the slashes (like Lord of The Pit or Sedge Troll). I do however know that the Alpha version is the coolest version there is.

Alpha to the right.
So why did Wizards have some extra art of a flight of birds? (Is it flight? Maybe flock? Murder? Parliament? Piteousness? Pod? Sownder? Wedge? No idea about the collective noun for Mana Birds). Well, Mark Poole was commissioned to do the artwork for Tropical Island, and handed in the picture that was eventually used for the 0/1, due to the prevalence of the fanciful of birds (sounds right) in the art. Jesper Myrfors, Magic's first art director, then painted new art for Tropical Island. This was done very late in the development process though, and leads us to our next sweet Alpha pimp; Tropical Island. In the first edition, Mark Poole was accidentally given artist credit for the land, as he was originally commissioned for the art (which then ended up on the Birds).

Alpha version to the right. I guess it's still reasonably pimp with Beta Tropicals though.
And when we're talking about duals, let's go deep. Now, the next card is not really a card you can get, this is more of a curiosity. There are probably a few hundred alpha Birds and Tropicals in circulation, and you could get a playset of these to pimp your deck if you have enough money and time. For this last one, I only know about a single copy. It is very possible that there actually only exist one of these, but then again, there could be more out there.

7 cards were left out of Alpha, and are known to first have appeared in Beta. These cards are one version of each basic land, CoP: Black and Volcanic Island. These cards are pretty easy to spot in Beta, due to the "solid black" of their borders, and the fact that they lack the white dots in the corner that are seen on most Beta cards. I'm not really sure how or when in the printing process, but there were some Alpha cards that got mixed into Beta packs (probably the last printings of Alpha, to fill up the first Beta batch). The card on the picture below is quite possibly the single most pimp dual land ever.

Alpha to the right(!). Note the dotted borders.
We'll end today with a sweet decklist from n00bcon. This is a deck I really could see myself playing. Built by Viktor "Oldschool" Peterson, and played by Viktor "Hoben" Lindgren, enjoy the Unstable Skies/ SerendibGeddon/ UWeenie:

WW going big.

lördag 3 maj 2014

Enchantress

Shortly after the release of Ice Age in 1995, a master deckbuilder named Mark Chalice won a 50 person tournament i Costa Mesa, CA. The deck he used for the tournament was was called Vercursion Recursion.

Mark had previously built the Fork Recursion deck, a deck that consequently got Fork on the restricted list (and is the main reason we have Fork restricted in 93/94). When he couldn't use Fork anymore, he realized that Verduran Enchantess could be used as an engine, and went on to build the first known Enchantress deck. The Vercursion Recursion deck heavily relied on 4 copies of Forgotten Lore from Ice Age, and took good use of Mesmeric Trance and Zuran Orb from that same set.

Turn 3, draws deck and wins with Channel Fireball.
Last n00bcon, Mats Karlsson took the opportunity to build an Enchantress deck himself, and created a deck that, in terms of card pool, predates the first known version of Enchantress. Mats borrowed the deck to a friend of his, Kenneth Mossberg, who piloted it to some awesome board states at the tournament. Kenneth have some history from the early years of the Pro Tour btw, including a 18th place at PT Paris 97 (where the the original enchanter Mark Chalice placed 10th).

Enchantress vs. 12cm from the propeller caps team. I'm guessing late game?
The deck looks amazing. I can't testify to how well it actually works, but the few games I saw it in action looked like a blast to play. Here it is in all glory:

A lot of alpha power here. Also Wild Growth.