onsdag 31 december 2014

Moxen and Timon of Atens 4:2:30

It was a shock to learn that Daniel didn't play with his Island Fishes. Daniel was "the local mister suitcase", and had the strongest collection of all of us. Among his gems where two Lord of the Pit, Force of Nature, Keldon Warlord, and even a Colossus of Sardia. My older sister had opened a Gaea's Liege in her first Revised starter, and Daniel had offered her a choice of two Island Fish Jasconious, or a misprinted fish with a big red ink-dot on the card. After some deliberation she decided to trade her Liege for the misprinted one. We hence knew that Daniel owned two more, which for some reason wasn't in his deck. It was a huge 6/8, and few cards could compare to it in size. Daniel argued that he simply had too many of the great creatures, and it wasn't good enough to get a spot.

It was around this time we started wondering what the actual best card in magic was. We couldn't deny that Force of Nature was better than the Island Fish, but there could after all be cards even better than that. Christian had heard that the best card was called Black Lotus and the second best card was called Mox, but wasn't sure what they did. We asked Daniel, and he said that Black Lotus was a zero-mana card that tapped for three mana in any combination of colors, and that Mox tapped for two mana of any colors. We all thought that that sounded very strange; those cards could do nothing against a Force of Nature, and they didn't even sound that much better than an ordinary Sol Ring, which we all had a few of.

It is strange, and wonderful, how our perceptions change over time. What we consider good or important evolves with our time and experience. The last two and a half years, I've lived with a lot of change. I've often seen the last years as a boot camp of sorts, I've moved seven times, and worked at different jobs in three different countries. Five days a week, I've been trying to build a CV and a network that would make my "real" future possible. Two days a week, I've been ignoring work and seminars to focus on one of the only solid and truly important things in my life and future; my relationship. After this holiday, the years of long-distance was supposed to be over. I first started writing this post two weeks ago. A few days later, I started my winter holidays. That same night though, life took a huge turn.

...

I don't think any new player, at any time of the game, has thought that the Moxen were broken at first sight. Once we realized what they actually did, their main pull was the legendary status and their insane price. The first time I remember seeing a Mox was when Olle Råde bought a green one from TV-spelsbörsen, one of Gothenburg's' now closed game stores. If I recall correctly, he paid 600 sek for it, almost $80. We knew that Olle was a player at a different level than us, but how anyone could pay that much for a single card felt crazy. The card didn't really do anything after all, it was just a Forest with a price tag of at least six Shivan Dragons.


Power level was very different when you didn't know how to play or build decks well. Me and my sister played 2-3 Sol Rings in our decks, and I'm sure that moxen would have been no problem had any of us owned them, but cards like Rag Man was outright banned when we played as it was considered too powerful. The first really expensive card I bought was a Ring of Ma'ruf; not a powerhouse by today's standards. I was offered three duals for it by a guy who tried to rip me off, and when I refused to trade it, he simply stole the card from me and ran away. I took a long hiatus from the game after that.

So, mox. It's not really a word. Richard Garfield derived it from "moxie", meaning "force of character, determination, or nerve" according to a local thesaurus, or "energy, courage, or determination" according to WotC's webpage. And it really takes some determination to get them all. In 93/94, you didn't have the social media in place to find them, and even if you hung out at usenet, you probably didn't know you wanted them. Today, the price is the biggest barrier. How many hours would you have to put down to afford one? What will you give up for that time and money spent? It took me six years to complete the set, and my last one had a price of almost five times that of my first. The waiting game has never been a good game if you want to get Power.

The cost of trading up this one from wb to bb was almost three times of what I paid for my first mox btw.
So, now I finally have them all. These last days though, I sometimes feel that I would tear them all up. I made a mistake, or rather, I failed to do what I could have done. My life is very different now than two weeks ago. I could have sold that Sapphire and gone to Argentina for a week. I could have sold the Jet to make up for the leave of absence at work. I could have sold them all, and went away for the whole two months. If I'd done that, my life would have been different today. Maybe not better, maybe even worse, and maybe it was inevitable, but it would have been different.

I apologize that this post is a little different from what I usually do, and that it is unusually personal. I haven't been online for a while, and I needed to write something to get it off my chest. Passion is a strange creature. We take stuff for granted, not because they are not important, but because they are so important that they define who we are. We know we have ourselves, and that we will live with ourselves until we die. We may have people, places or ideas that define us, and become a part of us. When our home burn or our closest friends leave, something breaks. We didn't focus on it, because it defined us, rather than being something we simply had. We spent too much time on hope and didn't live for the present. As Albert Camus wrote "The typical act of eluding, the fatal evasion, is hope. Hope of another life one must "deserve" or trickery of those who live not for life itself but for some great idea that will transcend it, refine it, give it a meaning, and betray it."

I wish you all a great new year. Give some thought to your priorities, and try to not sublime your present in hope of some less tangible future. Life is a strange beast, but we are privileged.

fredag 19 december 2014

Gatherings

After input from Marcelo from Brazil, I've added a page with upcoming gatherings/tournaments in 93/94. You can check out the page in the side menu. If you want to add a local tournament to the list to spread the word about it, feel free to send me an email and I'll post it here. Local interpretations of the rules are very welcome, and I don't mind posting about small gatherings where e.g. you're four local players looking for a fifth. The requirements are that the gathering/tournament should be played without proxies, and that you send some pics or a short report to post e.g. here or at Eternal Central for the joy of the community.

So, this was a very short info post. We'll wrap up with a pic of our latest BSK winner Hagelpump, contemplating an attack with Ywden Efreet in 2008.
Storm World ftw.

måndag 15 december 2014

Burning WW: A report from Vasa Gaming

Today I have the pleasure to post a tournament report from Erik "Sehl" Larsson. Sehl's first year playing 93/94 has been very impressive, and he has tested multiple different decks in tournaments across Sweden. Two weeks ago he took his latest creation to the win at Vasa Gaming. Enjoy!

It all started during the Christmas holidays a year ago, when Viktor ”Oldschool” Peterson brought his complete magic collection to my place for some casual gaming together with Jesper “Munchhausen” Riis and his older brother Pontus. By this time I hadn’t barely seen a magic card for over 15 years, but thought it would be really nice with a stroll down the nostalgia lane. We had a great evening with many laughs and noobie plays. Viktor lured us into start playing magic in the mid 90’s and after this evening, I must confess, he had done it again.

At first I and Jesper placed an order together of cheap revised cards from the US, foolishly thinking that we will stop there and not buy any of those expensive 93/94-cards.  This was of course inevitably followed by ordering some unlimited cards. Power, duals and for that matter beta-cards was still way too expensive and definitely out of the question. I managed however quite quickly to scrape together a fairly cheap Ehrnamgeddon, my deck of dreams from the 90’, aiming for my first tournament in 93/94 Kingvitational 1.

Full of hope and excitement I faced Magnus “mg” de Laval in my first duel in my first tournament for over 15 years. He quickly squeezed the fresh fish and finished the humiliation by screaming scornfully to my face: “Synd att du inte är bättre på magic!” (Too bad you’re not better at magic!). Despite my poor results in the tournament I had a great time playing and hanging out with the guys that evening. The addiction to the game just got worse.

Teching at BSK
So, one intense year of insane bidding, orders from worldwide and participation in several 93/94-tournaments I can now say that I’m a proud and overly pleased winner of my first tournament. The tournament itself was not the most crowded one in the Swedish scene but nevertheless full of, in my opinion, very skilled players and for that matter; actual shark-holders.

Match 1, vs Brorsan - Eel Aggro
I felt really excited meeting Brorsan in the first match, hoping that he would play his great Eel aggro deck from BSK. That type of deck is one of the decks I tried to improve my game against. Red Elemental Blast added to the sideboard and Serra Angels in the main, hoping that they would be tough to burn away.
In the first duel Brorsan literally drew blanks, and I simply ran him over with some small creatures. Of course a great start for me, but it gave me very little information about how my new tech would work.
The second duel was a pure race to the bottom, he was attacking me from above with Flying men and Serendib and I was hitting him on the ground with Savannah Lion and Mishra. He eventually played a second Serendib for blocking, but my newly added Red Elemental Blast showed its greatness and led the way for my small ones.
Stare-down with Brorsan.
Match 2, vs Felipe – Atog Smash
Gaah, not Felipe again! That was my thought seeing him in the second match. He's a really tough player to meet and the actual winner of the last tournament I attended. It feels like he weighs every move with extreme precision making you feel that he’s going to win at any moment. I've met him twice before in tournaments this fall, with 1-1 as a result and my win was only thanks to a very lucky Chaos Orb ("If you have sleeves on cards, they count as the cards." Thanks, Matt Tabak).

The first duel started with an early Mind twist putting me down on my knees. I tried to recover and to get my Loa started, but it was too late. His Mishra’s and mighty Triskelion was hitting me hard and they eventually killed me topped with a Lightning bolt.

I don’t recall much from the second duel, but I remember that an opportune Blue elemental blast protected my creatures from an Earthquake making them able run the race. In the final duel I started with Loa, drew tons of cards, played tons of creatures and won. Loa is a ridiculous good card to start with even in a “Weenie deck”.
"Unlimited is just a gateway to the harder stuff"
Match 3, vs Munchhausen – URG Zoo
Munchhausen is one of my oldest and best friends and we’ve played magic together thousands of times always trying to tech against each other. Our two current decks are basically 50/50, but with an overhand for me after side boarding. He, however, plays one of the things I fear most with my deck; land destruction in form Ice Storm. I’ve always liked to play with a tight mana base, so there’s more room for fun cards instead of lands. This is of course the case of my current deck.

Munchhausen in deep thought.
First duel, Munchausen cast Ice storm, Ice storm and then Chaos Orb on my first three lands, and that's it. I hate Ice storm.

For the second duel I sideboard Red Elemental Blast, Blue Elemental Blast and of course City in a Bottle.  After resolving an early City in a Bottle I managed to lock him down and make way for my creatures. He responded after a few turns with Shatter, but a second City in a Bottle on my hand closed the deal. City in a Bottle kicks ass!

I remember the third duel as "my creatures are bigger than yours thanks to Crusade, I win".

Match 4, vs Elof
Since I don't remember much at all from our duels I asked Elof if he could write some lines about our game. Elof doesn't need much more of an introduction, he holds no less than three Giant Sharks. This is his words:

I sit down for round 4 to play against the mighty Sehl. We are both 3-0 and locked in for top 4. It does make this game somewhat meaningless and we are pretty certain that we won't face each other again until earliest the final.

I have chosen for this day to play Bantamgeddon, a list similar to what JACO wrote about at Eternal Central. I made some changes, and my list is viewable in the decks to beat section. Basically it's a deck designed to use some of the best cards in 93/94 - Disenchant, Swords to Plowshares, Serra Angel, Armageddon and Power. Unfortunately those cards are white and blue and only supply 4 creatures (the Serras). So in order to add win cons I added Erhnam Djinn. It could have been Serendib Efreet, but I was afraid of running into several Reb blasts and also playing Erhnams makes playing Mana Vault more attractive as it can ramp out Serra, Erhnam and Geddons. Anyway, back to the game at hand.

I look at my opening hand and realize it does need some help. If I recall correctly it was something in the line of Tropical, Tundra, Fellwar and Erhnam together with some cards I can't recall, probably Disenchant and Geddon. In retrospect this was not a hand to keep. I knew that Sehl was playing something aggressive since he borrowed a Plateau from me and also traded for some Lightning Bolts. So basically I should mulligan but somehow I hope to get lucky with my draws. A very bad choice since Sehl plays Savannah Lions and other creatures. I sword one but Sehl has Disenchants for my Fellwar and things spiral even further after that.

I sideboard in all the removal I can find, the Control Magics, Preacher, Drop of Honey and a Balance. I remove my Geddons and Mana Vaults. The second game locks several times, I have removal for his creatures and I'm able to steal White Knight but it get bolted, same for my Preacher. I drop a Drop (of Honey) but Sehl has Disenchant, something I wasn't counting on. My very controlling hand starts to run out of answers and Serras, Erhnams or any of my good cards is nowhere to be seen and I die slowly after hitting a land pocket.

Sehl played really good and I didn't, and that made most of the difference. Apparently Sehl had cut his Swords to Plowshares so playing a fast Serra would definitely been a good play against him. I do recall him having Serras in play one of the games, so that would be his best answer I would guess. He also plays some amount of Psionic Blasts so the matchup does favor him, especially since my Geddons does very little in the matchup.

Semifinal, vs Felipe
Not again?!
He started, as per usual, with an early Mind twist, but this time I was able to respond immediately with an Ancestral Recall followed up next turn with a Wheel of Fortune, both making his awful Mind twist quite useless. My creatures went the distance easily after this.
I decided to play a bit differently in the second duel; usually I save my artifact removal for something other than moxes, but this time I went after them directly. This turned out to be a great strategy, since Felipe had a very light land draw. He couldn’t respond to my attacks and the final was waiting around the corner.

Elof vs Freespace in the other semifinal.
Final, vs Freespace
I’ve fought Freespace a couple of times before in tournaments almost always resulting in extremely tight duels. He’s a great player and he always seems to look for the big smash with one or two Berserks. This time I had the chance to glance at his deck during the swiss and knew that he was playing lots and lots of brown cards. This made me quite relaxed facing him in the final, since I played 6 artifact removals maindeck and 3 Dust to Dust in the sideboard. Whatever he plays I should have an answer for it.

I got a dream start in the first duel; land, mox and two Lions, thinking that this would be over quickly. Freespace responded by completely pouring out artifacts in forms of moxes, Fellwar Stone and Howling Mine. In turn two I tried to destroy his card engine Howling Mine, but a well played Avoid Fate stopped me. Quickly after this he blocked away my Lions by playing his terrifying Atog. A few turns later, whilst the game was locked and when further Howling Mine had entered the board together with several other artifacts he beat me down with the Atog, huge as freakin’ monster.

Freespace was unable to get his game going in the second duel, if I remember correctly he never summoned a single Howling Mine. Eventually I had two Serras, flying over his Atog, smashing him down pumped with Crusade and topped with a Lightning Bolt.

The third duel looked quite alike the second one, he was unable to get his game going. This time it was a very opportune Dust to Dust who stopped him by removing a Relic Barrier and a Howling Mine. The really sweet price and honor was finally mine!
Who's the noob now, Mg?
Some thoughts in retrospect:
It seems like you never can play enough artifact removal, especially instant ones as almost everyone has a playset of Mishra’s in the main deck. Being able to remove moxes is never bad either.
A solid sideboard is extremely important; this in terms of cards that actually are sideboard cards and not cards that could be good against any deck, hence resulting in that you probably never use them.
If a deck doesn’t make you feel like mulligan particularly often you probably have a deck that is both well balanced and a deck that works well against any opponent.

Now I’m looking forward to Frippan Open at December 20 and I sincerely hope that Freespace will get his revenge and take the price back home, until then: Cheers and Merry Christmas!
//SEHL

onsdag 10 december 2014

Lestree Zoo and updates

Most old school players would call Zak Dolan's win at the 1994 World Championships a fluke. Zak was by no means a bad player, and his deck was very solid, but his opponent was one of the first "next level" Magic masters. Zak's opponent in the finals, Bertrand Lestree, was known as "the best European player" by most, and as "the best player in the world" by some. He was one of the first great deck builders, and a very strong player to that. Lestree followed up his second place at Worlds 1994 with a second place at the very first Pro Tour, but his name eventually faded into Magic obscurity.
This guy!
A month back, a man named Manuel Sternis organized a highly successful old school tournament in France. After the tournament (which had an open reprint policy, and attracted no less than 20 players), Manuel and I had an interesting mail conversation about the old school format and the meta. He told me; "By looking to your blog, we were completely astonished to see that there wasn't any "Bertrand Lestree's zoo" in your tournaments". Lestree Zoo is a very solid deck, and it showed great results in the first years in our meta. The final of n00bcon 2 was a zoo mirror, and Lestree Zoo placed second at BSK 2010. In later years though, the Electric Eel Aggro and Juzam Smash decks has taken the place as the decks-to-beat among "power zoo" decks.

Jesper "Munchhausen" Riis is one of the sweet players raised in Varberg. The Varberg meta might be the strongest in Sweden. Apart from guys like Erik "Sehl" Larsson and Daniel "Kungen" Ahlberg, Varberg players hold no less than five of the eleven Giant Sharks awarded in 93/94 tournaments for the last four and a half years (Gothenburg has three). As a player from that crew, Munchhausen might have slipped under the radar as one of the "players-to-beat". He started his year with a top4 at Kingvitational 1, and in the last weeks he placed top4 at Playoteket and 5th at Vasa Gaming. His deck of choice is a modern take on Lestree Zoo. It still works:
Miser's Ice Storms ftw.
This will be a short post (more is coming this weekend), and I'll end with that sweet decklist. I've also updated the PWP standings and "decks-to-beat" with the results and decks from Playoteket and Vasa Gaming today though. Check them out if you're a net-decker ;)

torsdag 4 december 2014

Green Doesn't Suck Now, Dammit!

It was time to try something new. A few months back, I got my hands on a Mox Emerald. This was mostly to get my stripes and complete the Nine. Apart from some dabbling with Vintage Oath in 2005, back when Akroma was the prime Oath target, I've pretty much never used a green Mox. Green/White in particular is the color combination I've played with the least, with a fairly large margin. In over 20 years of Magic, I've only ever owned a single Savannah (I won that and a Plateau in Legacy tournament playing monoblack Necrotic Ooze, and then used it in a 115-card casual Elemental deck before I sold it). But there I was, with the luxury problem of having a green Mox in my collection without a deck to play it in. It was time to go MonoGreen.

So, where to start? Gaea's Touch seemed like the most obviously strong card when we go all-in on forests. It does a pretty good Fastbond impression during the first turns, and after that it functions as a Green Ritual. Turn two Gaea's Touch can give me access to up to 7 mana turn three. It's also pretty sweet to cast turn two Gaea's Touch, use it to play another forest, and then sac the enchantment for two mana to cast a three-drop like Ice Storm or Killer Bees.

With the insane ramp provided by Llanowar Elves and Gaea's Touch, it's very feasible to consistently cast 6-drops. I went for 3 Desert Twisters, 2 Gaea's Liege and a single Force of Nature. If I had access to another Force I'd most probably play it (same is true for Sylvan Library). Craw Wurm was definitely a consideration as well. I rounded off the curve with a pair of Ifh-Biff Efreets, and added a set of Howling Mines to draw some extra cards. When I was finished teching, I realized that I only owned 20 forests, and I wanted to play 23. There is really no excuse not to play Mishra's Factory in the current meta, so I swapped a few forests in the list for a playset of Factories. Maybe a little boring, but it works. The card I felt I missed the most was Fog btw, I couldn't get my hands on legal copies before the tournament. Fog is very strong against the new Atog decks, as well as against WW and other beatdown/berserk decks.

For Atog, one is usually enough.
So, last weekend I was back in Gothenburg to test the deck in a tournament. My girlfriend is on the last legs for the presentation of her master thesis, and would spend most of the weekend in school. I could hence book both Saturday and Sunday afternoons playing Magic. Saturday was a moderately sized Vintage tournament with 14 players. The Vintage scene in Gothenburg have been very healthy for the last year, and we have bi-weekly non-proxy tournaments with skilled players. My Young Mages ended up in second place, losing to Stax in the finals. I knew it was all preparation for the real challenge on Sunday though.

New school?
Sunday then. The tournament takes place at Vasa Gaming, Gothenburgs prime LGS for swinging cards. 11 players had signed up, including a few guys from the Varberg crew; Elof, Munchausen, Brorsan and Sehl. All in all it's a surprisingly strong field, with a lot of sweet guys I meet far too rarely. I get paired against the Bye in the first round. It's a winnable matchup for me, even though I rather would have played someone else. I crack a beer and bother Rafiki who's the working man behind the counter for the day.

In the back: Felipe vs Stalin. Front: Timespiral vs Kalle.
After a gruelling round against the bye, I finally get the chance to go green. My second round opponent is Freespace. He had updated the Atog deck he took to the finals of Playoteket last week and was looking to smash. Without Fog and Crumble, it looks really hard to beat.

Well, if he doesn't have a Berserk, this could work. He always has the Berserk though.
Two Atog attacks later, Freespace has won the match with 2-0. Lucky guy. Killer Bees and the Avenger both showed a lot of power, but the deck simply can't race a 'tog without the nut draw.

I'm paired against Kalle in the next round, and if I know him right he'll be playing something slow and grindy. I go turn 1 Forest, Llanowar Elves, which Kalle follows with turn 1 Mana Vault. I have the Relic Barrier turn two, and Ice Storm for his Mishra turn three. Kalle resolves a Forcefield to keep my Avenger at bay, and proceeds to cast Ancestral and Mind Twist my hand. It is a grindy game, but eventually the forests are victorious.

Gaea's Avenger: The foogey's Tarmogoyf.
Our second game is pretty sweet. Kalle has turn 1 Library of Alexandria, and then one of us scoops in disgust turn 3. It is him. Turns out ramping into Ice Storms and big guys beats a Library.

Green is pretty sweet after all. I look around the tables and realize that I have something like a 5/95 matchup against Elof's DurdleGeddon (this deck cannot beat Armageddon), but other than that I think most decks looks beatable. I get paired against Munchhausen with his Lestree Zoo for the last round of the swiss.

Racing with the slug.
It's a tight and interesting match, and in the end Munchhausen walks away with the 2-1. The sweetest play was probably when he Mana Drained my Desert Twister on his Serendib Efreet. That gave him a total of 12 mana during his next turn, which was enough for a Fireball for 9 and a Fork for the win. Munchhausen ends up in fifth place and gets a Shatter to represent his shattered dreams of top4.

That beta Counterspell was actually pretty much Nm a few hours earlier. A little off center though, so I guess we shouldn't feel too bad. The Adventure's Guildhouse was awarded to the player in last place.
The top4 ended up being Felipe (AtogFlare), Elof (DurdleGeddon), Freespace (AtogSmash) and Sehl (WWu). In the end Sehl managed to beat Freespace in the finals. They have both been showing consistently impressive finishes in the last six months, and it was nice to see one of them picking up a trophy at last. Sehl probably had the best trash talk of this tournament as well, and it was highly entertaining to listen to him between rounds. It also turns out that Atog is the real deal. Felipe and Freespace have really dominated with it in the tournaments since BSK.

Though they couldn't beat the sheer luck of Sehl this time ;)
I'm satisfied with how my deck played, but there are a few modifications to be done. I really should play Crumble and Fog in the sideboard. In particular Fog would have been great in both the matches I lost. I should also cut down on the Killer Bees, four is at least one too many. They usually win the game if unchecked, but they have highly diminishing returns. Another Sylvan Library is also something to look for. All-in-all though, I think that monogreen is a viable (and pretty cheap) deck. You don't really need the Mox or Lotus to ramp the mana here, they are mostly gravy.

Gaea's Liege is soo satisfying to play.
I've heard that both Kungen and Axelsson have teched with monogreen decks as well, and I'm looking forward to a battle royale between our decks. Hopefully as soon as December 20-21, when Freespace will host Frippan Open in Gothenburg. It will be a sweet weekend with Vintage and 93/94 tournaments, and I hope to see a lot of you there!