måndag 30 juni 2014

Factory Settings

Apart from the basic lands in alpha/beta, Antiquities was the first set with different versions of the same card. One could argue that the misprints in Alpha (like Cyclopean Tomb) got a new version in Beta, or that the cards in Arabian Nights that got updated mana symbols (like Oubliette) technically exists in different versions, but Antiquities was the first set where this was consciously done by using different art.

Having cards with different art became popular in the mid 90s, and it could be seen extensively in Fallen Empires, Homelands and Alliances. Nowadays alternative art is almost exclusively used in special products, like "From the Vault"-supplements or Duel Decks. I think that the last time we saw multiple versions of the same card in a normal set was during Kamigawa (with Brothers Yamazaki).

In antiquities, there were five cards with different versions; the three Urza lands, Strip Mine, and Mishra's Factory. The Strip Mines look very much alike, and there's not a lot of discussion on which Strip Mine is the most “pimp” version; most people don't really care, and the rest usually consider it to be the version with the small tower. With the factories however, there's a pretty big difference, and people have vastly different ideas. This is my personal ranking of the different versions. "Pimp" is very much a matter of taste, and I'm sure many players disagree with my opinions here ;)

5. Spring
Comparatively boring with its washed out green colors, and by far the most common version. The number of spring factories in existence are vastly greater than any of the other Aq versions, as the spring factory was the only one to be a common card in the set.

4. Autumn
Autumn looks nice, but the fact that it has been reprinted so many times (4th in a myriad of languages, and as a Judge Reward) makes it seem less impressive and like an “average factory”. Every fbb mishra will look like this, which makes the aq version less interesting.

3. One of each
I can see arguments for this, but to me it still seems like “semi-pimp”. If you play a vintage storm deck, it's not like you have one ritual from Beta, one foiled from Masques, one from JR and one japanese from Tempest, you chose one and use that. That's an extreme example, but it still feels a little random with one of each Mishra.

2. Winter
The winter version is awesome, I can't say anything else. The only issue I have with it is that it is "obvious pimp". It's a little like a foil japanese Trygon Predator, a card that is simply consensus pimp. Winter Mishras are sweet, and I do own a playset for my Legacy deck, but they are second to one version.

1. Summer
Now, the summer version have everything going for it. Mainly, it's the best season. If you haven't spent a winter in the Nordic countries, it's hard to explain just how dark and depressing it can get. In Oslo, we had less than 20 hours of sunlight between new years eve and the first of March. That is less than one day of sunlight in two months. During the summer though, life is as awesome as it gets. Everyone is beautiful, good times are everywhere, and all the beer is free. With the summer version looking fairly close to spring (though with much nicer color), it's also a little more subtle than the winter version.

The main reason I'm thinking about Aq pimp right now is a very personal one though. Last week I got a new trio of Transmute Artifacts from Eli Kassis, and I really wanted to show them off. Eli is a well known collector from the U.S., and his collection is truly amazing. The Transmutes I got from him are pretty far away from "subtle pimp", but they are nonetheless impressive in their uniqueness:

Eli got his hands on one of Wizard's astonishingly rare uncut Antiquities sheets from Carta Mundi (the uncommon sheet; there are no rares in Aq). He took this to a professional printing company, and got the sheet cut up after 20 years. There are 3 Transmute Artifacts on one of these sheets, which is just the right number for my deck :) Even if the cards probably would have been even more interesting if they would have come from a booster pack rather than straight from the factory, the history of the sheet and the collector makes these cards very special for me.

Next weekend it's time for the WSK gaming convention! I'll be travelling up to Småland with Freespace and Åland to play 93/94, Vintage and hopefully a few more casual formats. It seems like a great start of the vacation :)

måndag 23 juni 2014

The flip side

Dexterity cards are pretty funny. I think that one of the things that makes 93/94 feel like a friendly format even with the intimidating costs of some decks is that the Chaos Orbs are flipped without hesitation. I've seen guys successfully managing overhead flips with the Orb, people who have completely missed the table, and I've personally been thwarted by a rotating fan to lose a match. It's not a card for everyone, but those who play it really enjoy it.

Michael "Jhovalking" Ahlberg is hoping for an unrestriction ;)
Chaos Orb have a small errata in 93/94 tournaments, basically stating that it can only hit one card. This is to avoid messy play areas with players spreading out their cards too much. Falling Star does not have this errata though, and can potentially hit a pair of mana birds or a couple of White Knights hanging out too close at the table. I does not have the ability to be a colorless one-sided Armaggedon though, as the best case is more like a one-sided Pyroclasm for 3. Players have recently started talking about actually playing Falling Star, so I went out on a small quest to better find out how the dexterity cards would work with modern rules. When are you allowed to move your cards? What is a 'hit'? What is a flip? Let's delve down.

Step one was not really close to the modern era. In The Duellist #1 from January 1994, they have a section where they explain rules on complex cards (the section on Illusionary Mask is hilarious btw). They have a section about Chaos Orb here:

Well, that sounds strange. I don't think taping your cards to the wall would be interpreted as good sportsmanship these days. I wonder if someone actually did this, and scotch-taped a few unsleeved moxen to a wall. A man can dream.

Step two was putting aside the printed media and try this newfangled internet thingie. At Wizard's Magic card database, The Gatherer, they have card-specific rules for all non-silverbordered cards. The rulings for Chaos Orb and Falling Star have some good info, but they still lacked some of the rulings I was looking for. For example, only Chaos Orb had the rulings "If you have sleeves on cards, they count as the cards." and "You can't interfere in any physical way with the casting of this card." I assume that these hold for the Falling Star as well. Only Falling Star had the ruling "Only cards touched when it stops moving are affected. Not ones touched while it is moving."

How do you flip a Frisbee?
One thing that puzzled me was the ruling for Chaos Orb that stated "You can arrange your cards any time before the Orb is put onto the battlefield, but not after. In general, you should not stack cards or put them in places where your opponent can't read the names of all of them or count them. This is recommended good gaming practice." It is not so much the fact that this statement from 2004 contradicts the one from 1994, it's more that it sounds like it have some big timing issues. According to this, your opponent could rearrange their permanents when Chaos Orb (or similarly Falling Star) are on the stack. This is not intuitive.

So do we get to rearrange cards when Falling Star is on the stack, and do we get to destroy permanents that the Chaos Orb hits but bounces off? I figured there were only one person who could give me a final answer; Matt Tabak, the official Magic rules manager. I sent an email to Matt with my ponderings, and he was quick to reply and sort it out:

"Thanks for writing in. I wouldn't put too much stock in the [gatherer] rulings for either card. [...] I'd say only cards touching the flipped card when it stops moving count, and as soon as a spell or ability is announced that would put Chaos Orb onto the battlefield (including casting the spell itself), players can't move their cards around. The same is true with respect to Falling Star being cast. As a side note, I'd also rule that token copies of Chaos Orb must be regular card-sized. [...]"

Well, that was easy. Very friendly and helpful guy :) Matt didn't mention anything about Forked copies of Falling Star, but it's reasonable to assume that these should also be regular card sized. If you do manage to Fork a Falling Star against me though, I'll definitely let you use an oversized Juzam if you want to flip that.

We'll end today with a picture of Paralyze on Savannah Lions.

Monoblack Prison vs Erhnamgeddon. Sweet matchup.

tisdag 17 juni 2014

A champion's Deck

When Kalle and I first started playing some durdly games with Alpha Sea Serpents in 2007, none of us expected to compete in 40+ player tournaments in 93/94 in the future. I took a lot of passionate people and a few years, but here we are.

Kalle and his most recent deck performed really well at n00bcon 6. How well you ask? He had a family engagement during the evening, and only had time to play five rounds. In round 6, he sat down and then quickly scooped. With that intentional scoop, he still finished 6th in the standings. As he didn't have time to play the elimination rounds, the 9th player in the standings took his place in the top8.

The nice things with Kalle's deck isn't just synergies, or the fact that it made a virtual top8, or that it plays black bordered versions of most of the expensive cards in the format. What I like most about it is all his signed cards from different tournaments. In the sideboard, Kalle holds the first Giant Shark ever rewarded in a 93/94 tournament (from Rotary Champs 2010). A Giant Shark, signed by all the competing players, is the first price of the n00bcon and BSK tournaments. If you win one, you are pretty much required to play it in your deck from that point to show it off :)

Other (usually smaller) tournaments have other cards as prices. Kalle won his Strip Mine during Gråberget Champs 2012. He won one of the Fellwar Stones at Pimpvitational 12/13. The Chaos Orb was the first price at the n00bcon 4 Warmup tournament at Vasa Gaming 2012. I do believe that Orb is the only card that have been a first price in a 93/94 tournament that haven't been signed by all the participants. It was originally an ordinary unlimited Chaos Orb, but Kalle altered it himself (a wb card in this deck would really stick out). Kalle also won a Moss Monster at WG Eternal Weekend and a Deep Water at Borås Day2, but I guess that those two didn't really fit in his deck's game plan ;)

A great deck from a great guy, here it is:

Sideboard Serras ftw.

onsdag 11 juni 2014

The Dragon v3

Viktor "Oldschool" Peterson has created quite a few odd decks in his years of playing 93/94. He won n00bcon 3 with a deck that used All Hallow's Eve to reanimate Colossus of Sardia, and he came second last BSK with a strange combo deck using Dark Heart of the Woods and 4-off Winds of Change. Other notable decks include a deck that relied on Field of Dreams, a Lich deck and the Drop of Honey / Living Plane deck. His deck for last n00bcon is one of his sweetest yet though.

Viktor first played The Dragon at Pimpvitational 12/13, and wrote a report about it for this blog. He used a slightly modified version during Kingvitational 1, which he played 4-0 in the swiss; eventually losing to n00bcon 6 top8 player (and more recently Bazaar of Moxen Vintage top8 player) Mikael "Åland" Johansson. After some additional tweaks, Viktor created a third version for n00bcon 6.

It's a fairly intricate deck, with Hurkyl's Recall as one of the most important cards playing multiple roles in the deck. It's capable of huge X-spells and Dragon attacks, and can without to much problem deal 20 damage on a single turn. Also, if you think Library of Alexandria is broken as it is, it gets even more crazy when you have 4 Candelabra.

The Disk works well with Hurkyl's. Also note that half the deck is signed :)

lördag 7 juni 2014

10 random thoughts

Anyone who have traveled to Oslo with a car should be familiar with the mule paths they use as roads. For a city that is one of the wealthiest in the world, Oslo really don't spend any of their money on traffic planning. Being stuck in a bus during rush hour for over an hour, a lot of things comes to mind. A few of them are 93/94 related. Here are 10 of them.

1. When will someone manage to build the Mana Vortex deck? It must be possible somehow.
This is not Smokestack.
2. Many people say they wish they had played when you could trade 3 duals for a Shivan Dragon, so they would have a bigger collection today. I have my stories of trading away a pair of 4th Mishras to get a Bazaar of Baghdad, but for each one of those I have a story of refusing to trade a revised Clone for a pile a cards containing multiple duals, or trading away said Bazaar for a Deflection or two. You couldn't possible know where the game would go. Wizard could have decided to never print a decent creature after Arabian Nights, but instead print something like triple lands. In hindsight, trading a Savannah for a Savannah Lions is a bad idea, but you couldn't really know that in 1995. Better to start saving up now to eventually get the cards you want, than to be upset about the missed opportunities.
In early 1995, you could get $25 for any mox. Even the green one ;)
3. On that note, I just realized that Urza's Saga boosters today cost 3 times as much as Italian Legends did in 1996. I got a Rapid Fire in my first Legends pack btw; now THAT is a bad rare :)
Stock image here; my old Attacco Rapido found a new home in a reject rare cube.
4. I really enjoy getting to post occasional guest posts here. I'm still hoping for a Kingvitational 1 report with the Kobold deck though (hint, hint).

5. I have a long thread on a team forum about how (and from whom) I acquired each card in my Project M deck. For soon to be two years, I've been trading in hotel rooms, sending late night e-mails, haggling at movie theatres and buying cards at pubs in different countries. It would be awesome to get one of the last cards for my deck via this blog. So, if you have a bb Timetwister, I'd like to buy it. Otherwise, if you have an Alpha basic Island and want to sign it or alter it yourself and send it to me, I'd love to play with it (in particular if you're non-Scandinavian) :).
One of the last six cards. Finalized the deal to get it from Elof about six weeks ago, he gave it to Freespace when they met at the Linköping Gaming convention two weeks ago, and I picked it up at Freespace's apartment last weekend. No unnecessary stamps here ;)
6. There are a few different opinions about what the B/R list should look like, or even if modern rules should be used. I guess that the goal of the list should be to make many different archetypes viable, and that as many players as possible should be able to play with their favorite cards and interactions. The reaction to last month's unrestriction of Mana Vault have been generally positive though. It will be interesting to see what happens.

An information graphic on how to cast a spell (before 6th ed. rules)

7. Cyclopean Tomb in Alpha is sweet. I'm very close to playing it in my deck just because of the casting cost misprint. I guess it is a decent answer to Mishras and the Library as well.
The art alone makes it playable.
8. The funniest cards in 93/94 if you ignore oracle errata are probably Floral Spuzzem and Island Fish Jasconius. Floral Spuzzem causes a draw if it attacks and is not blocked (as the triggered ability most certainly wont resolve), and Island Fish is an actual Island, and will be destroyed by Tsunami and landwalked over by Segovian Leviathan.
603.3. Once an ability has triggered, its controller puts it on the stack as an object that’s not a card the next time a player would receive priority. [...] It remains on the stack until it’s countered, it resolves, a rule causes it to be removed from the stack, or an effect moves it elsewhere. Let's see what Floral Spuzzem chooses.
9. If I would chose one card in each color and one artifact from sets released up to 1996 that could be legal in 93/94; it would probably be Order of the White Shield, Deep Spawn, Stupor, Pillage, Primal Order and Jester's Cap.

10. Växjö's Gaming Convention (WSK) during the 4-6 of July will host both a 93/94 tournament and a non-proxy Vintage tournament. It's the first 93/94 tournament in Småland, and the roadtrip is on!

That's it. This was a pretty fun post to write. The bus eventually arrived in Gothenburg :)

måndag 2 juni 2014

Suicide Black! A tournament report from Eudemonia.

Last weekend I got my hands on The Duelist #1, and I intended to write a post about that magazine. It has been a hectic week though, so I'll save that one for a little later, and instead get to present Heiner Litz tournament report from Eudemonia two weeks ago :) Thanks a lot Heiner!

Heiner's Suicide black deck
Round 1. Steven with UW-Control
Steven goes first with Tundra. I play land, rit, Specter who goes farming immediately, second turn I drop Strip Mine, rit, Juzam. Steven plays some more land Juzam attacks for five. Steven drops Moat which is pretty much game although I have Gloom next turn. Would I have stripped his tundra to deny him the second white, gloom would have come down shutting of Moat which probably would have won  me the game as I followed up the Djinn with 2 Pumpknights. Steve gets his draw engine going and that's game.

Second game I sideboard 2 more Gloom and 2 Energy Flux for some Djinns. I start with a strong hand that has first turn ancestral and some moxen, then second turn Ritual, Greed, draw 2. I draw another 3 on turn three but then Steven finds his Disenchant. Again I was to greedy, I should have played Gloom instead of drawing 3 to keep alive my Greed. Still I am in good shape drop some creatures and start beating. I also drop 3 Gloom taking out his white cards completely. However, Steven plays Ancestral, gets ahead and slowly stabilizes. He chaos orbs a flyer, drops Maze of Ith and control Magic on one of my creatures. I drain life one stolen Knight but he steals another one and starts beating with it and a factory. I am at 5 life or so and finally draw Demonic. There is no single card that could help me so I go for Timetwister. Its a good one. I play Serendib go. He attacks with his 2 creatures and untaps one of his with Maze. I play Drain Life for 6 or so and attack with Efreet. Next turn I have Psi Blast to finish him off. 3rd times out so we draw.

Juzam at the wrong side of the Moat.
Round 2. Eliott with Zoo
I start with some Specters and Knights which both eat a lightning bolt. I get one Serendib Efreet to stick but he plays Juzam+Crossroads and immediately attacks. I have 2 Juzams in my hand and only need a fourth mana to easily win the game but I don't draw one for 3 turns and his Juzam wins the race.
Second game, I have a first turn specter and he doesn't have the bolt. He turns sideways 3 times before he plays Hurricane to take him out and one of my Serendibs but I drop 2 Juzams in the following 2 turns.
Third game I drain life 2 Kird Apes and he bolts one of my specters. We play draw go and he gets a Juzam down and handles all I have. I am still confident as I have lots of mana and Timetwister. I something like twister, time walk, then Mind Twist him for 5 and then drop huge creatures the next turn.

Moments before the Psychic Purge.
Round 3. Blaine with Monoblue-Artifacts.
He has 4 counterspells and counters everything I have and then drops a creature. I was pretty low on life already.
Second game I get first turn Necropotence and in the next 3 turns I draw 2 extra cards every turn, drop at least 2 mana, have a couple rituals and beaters. He can't cope with that.
Third game he keeps a one lander with ancestral that does not draw him a land. I have first turn Specter and 2nd turn Greed and a couple turns later I have the game under full control with 6 mana against his 2, 2 creatures, 7 cards including drain life against his 3 and I am at 6 life. Now epic things happen with Specter discarding Psychic Purge, putting me to 1, I drain life, he mana drains, I drain life again for one and Efreet finishes me off two turns later. I misplayed this again as I could have demonic tutored for Strip Mine the turn before taking out his second land for drain.

Round 4. Adam with the Machine
He starts with library but I get down a Specter so although I cant get him below 7 cards it slows him down as he can only play one card per turn. I increase the beatz and at some point he goes for it dropping 2 Hell's Caretaker and Bazaar. He bazaars twice and puts 2 Trike in his yard. I take out one Caretaker but he can get one trike out to ping my Specter, I then drop Juzam and finish him off with 2 Psi Blasts soon thereafter.
Second game he has a lot of mana and drops Trike and Pentavus. I take out Pentavus with Psi Blast ignore Trike and beat him to death quickly with Serendib Efreet+Serendib Djinn.

Serendib beatdown.
Round 5. Dustin with Weissman Control
I mulligan to 5 both games while he has first turn Library one game and ancestral+tome the other.

Apart from game five I was really happy with the deck. Without my mistakes I should have easily made 3:1:1 or 4:1. The deck plays the format's best creatures ignoring bolts/trikes and runs a great draw engine. Greed is awesome but the deck needs to be constructed around it. In control, it just doesn't work but in this deck its super broken. 4 Greed is an absolute must to stand a chance against control. White weenie can be a problem but it can be well handled with Gloom and Jovian Evil which is usually 8-10 damage for 3 mana. Another broken card (at least in this artifact heavy meta) was Energy Flux. I sideboarded it 3 games and it usually took out 3+ moxen and other artifacts.

I didn't have that much fun at a tournament for a long time, the format is great and has more depth that one would think. Many games were really tight and its just super fun to play an undeveloped format which holds so many surprising decks albeit the small card pool. I am definitely looking forward to the next one!