torsdag 29 januari 2015

Old Dead Guy Ale

In the spring and summer of 2006, I hosted a bed and breakfast in San Francisco. The house was located on the corner of Bush and Webster Street in Pacific Heights. It was series of fairly odd circumstances that put me there, but anyway, there I was.

When you run a bed and breakfast, you have to get pretty familiar with the town you're in. Your guest will ask you not only about the common attractions like Alcatraz or Fisherman's Wharf, but also questions about which streets you should avoid during night time, and where you can find good food or good beer. I hence spent quite some time drifting around in the city to get to know it.

One place I found quickly was the Rogue Ales pub by Washington Square Park. This was a few years before we had easy access to any Rogue beers in Sweden (nor any other of the good American beers for that matter). I went into the pub, and had my first few Dead Guy Ales. I went for the Dead Guys Ales first, as they shared the name with Chris Pikula's Legacy deck from the first Legacy GP. I actually didn't know that there was a real beer with that name before I stepped into the pub.
It's hard to say if the beer is even better than the deck.
The Dead Guy deck is a Black/White creation which uses some discard and land destruction alongside rituals and effective creatures. While MonoBlack is a strong strategy in 93/94, the deck will struggle against cards like Circle of Protection: Black and Karma. The Dead Guy deck, on the other hand, can answer pretty much any permanent that comes in its way, and still gets to cast that first turn Juzam or Underworld Dreams. It's a very cool deck, and it hasn't been fully explored yet.
Myfz and Eneas
Magnus "Eneas" Nilsson sleeved up an old school Dead Guy deck for the last BSK. He ended up 8th in the swiss of the 40-player tournament. However, so did Kristoffer "Myfz" Karlsson, on identical tiebreakers. To decide who would play in the top8 they rolled a die, and Eneas lost the roll. He took it in good humour though, and was rewarded a Blaze of Glory signed by the top8 as a nod to his good fight (and abrupt end).
This should be the start of a tradition for players in 9th place.
His deck looks really sweet, and I hope to see some more Dead Guy tech in the future:
The pub has been booked and the stage has been set for n00bcon 7 btw! The tournament will take place in Gothenburg, April 3rd. I'll update with some more info in the coming week. Feel free to send me a mail or comment here if you're non-Swedish and want to play in the possibly sweetest 93/94 tournament of the year ;)

torsdag 22 januari 2015

Winter deck

Heiner, you fox:
Yep, a Mana Vortex deck. I don't know how it placed in the Eudemonia tournament, but I'll assume that it won. At least some bragging rights, if nothing else. If someone who played the tournament at Eudo Games would like to write something about the tournament or the local playgroup (or share some pictures), it would be much appreciated :)

So, unrestricting Black Vise to make this deck viable in the Nordic meta? It's a hard nut to crack. The finals of last n00bcon was between two UR draw7 burn decks, and 3/4 decks in the BSK top4 were UR draw7 burn decks. It might be a bad idea to give our current tier1 deck access to the full playset Vises. A man can dream though. As per usual, we have our yearly update of the B/R list during the weeks after n00bcon in April. If you have any thoughts, feel free to share.

But I digress. I've recently updated the decks-to-beat with most of the decks from the Frippan Open top8, as well as the top4 decks from the more recent Sehlskapsspelen (the name of the tournament is a pun on Sehl's name in Swedish. The title of this post could also be interpreted as a Swedish pun btw. If you don't speak Swedish, don't worry; it's really not that funny).

Munchhausen took down Sehlskapsspelen with his new take on Lestree Zoo. He actually went 7-0 in matches in the tournament, against a very strong field. Turns out Lestree Zoo is a real deck if you can tweak it and know how to play it. Some of my other favorite decks from the elimination rounds of the tournaments are Elof's Troll Disko deck (which placed second in both tournaments) and Kalle's The Burn Deck, which is what The Deck would look like if it was a burn deck rather than a control deck. Mikael Lindén's UW control is also worth a second look, very impressive pile.

So, this was a short post. If you have the urge for some more old school tech, fear not. Christian Zoli recently wrote a great tournament report from the second tournament in Ravenna. Check it out, it's Stasis tech at its finest :)

torsdag 15 januari 2015

2014 Retrospective

2014 was an impressive year for old school Magic. The interest in the format has grown both locally in Sweden and internationally. Starting on a personal note, this is the curent state of Project M:

It's actually somewhat finished. One might argue that I could use more duals, but with their current price tag, that seems like a long shot. I have the Unlimited versions of the UGs and Volcanics should I want to play them, but I think I prefer to keep the deck BB for now. It's nonetheless a pretty impressive pile compared to the version of the deck I played in Regensburg two years ago:
Did not have the cards for a sideboard, but the main was actually pretty solid.
On another personal note, the nerdy side of me thinks that this is pretty sweet:
Full A/B power on a 1994 Khalsa-Brain mat. Checking it off the bucket list I guess ;)
So, raising our sights a little to the Swedish tournament scene, we can in good conscience say that it has been a good year to play old school. We've had 12 tournaments in Sweden this year, and the major ones have really been major. Both BSK and n00bcon attracted 40+ players, and Freespace's Frippan Open tournament attracted 27 players, being the fifth largest tournament in the format yet (after n00bcon 6, BSK 2014, n00bcon 4, and n00bcon 5). I personally had even more fun at Frippan Open than at BSK 2014, being able to drink at a tournament and upholding the casual ambience feels important to enjoy playing 93/94 fully. There used to be more beer in Magic. Long gone are the days where each GP had their own bar, or when Mark Justice got to casually drink beer in the semifinals of Worlds (check the first 10 seconds of that link if you want to see Justice drawing his opener from an unsleeved deck right next to a beer at the table).

One of the best things with the evolution of the format in Sweden during the last year is the emerging groups of old school players in other towns though. I hope to travel to Scania at some point this year to battle Arkanon and his playgroup at their own turf, and I'm very much looking forward to travel to Arvika to play in a tournament against Kungmarkus and the Arvika players in February. Great excuse to meet new people.

So, looking at an international scale, there are actually quite a few non-Swedish groups by now. A year ago, the only tournaments outside of Sweden had been in Canada, but last year we saw players organizing tournaments in France, Italy and different parts of the US. There are also players in Germany, Russia, Denmark and many other places. There are a lot of people who does a great amount of work to keep the format living and create opportunities to play. Without people like Jason Jaco, Dustin Espersen, Greg Titcomb, Manuel Sternis and Jacopo Borrelli the format could never have grown internationally the way it has during the last year. Thanks, people like you gives me a lot of motivation to keep this blog going! :)
Dustin's deck from last week's tournament at Eudo Games in Berkeley. This is just ridiculously sweet.
The format has also grown over social media last year. If you haven't checked them out, have a look at Greg Titcomb's Instagram or Kalle Nord's ditto. There's also a subreddit for Old School Magic now, also started by Greg. The traffic to this blog is about double of what it was a year ago, and a year ago I was almost certain that we had peaked. It's pretty cool to see that other people shares your passion for 20-year old playing cards :)
Monthly pageview trend since March 2012. The monthly views have now passed the total number of Unlimited Lotuses ever printed. There actually seems to be an interest in old school tech ;)
Good netiquette holds that I should mention a few of my favorite posts from the last year. Among my own posts, I would probably pick these as some of the better ones (in no particular order):
  • The return of The Deck. I've written a few short "deck techs" during the year, and this is probably my favorite of them. Very impressive deck, with an interesting background.
  • All in good timing. This is the only post I've written yet where I go well beyond 1994, and discuss rules and decks up to Urza's Saga. It started with me trying to write a "Magic: The Puzzling" quiz post using rules from 1994, but evolved into a rant about how odd timing used to be in the mid 90s.
  • The Fire of Sri Lanka. A post about the card Serendib Efreet. It's a cool card :)
  • Cut from a different Cloth. A nostalgic post about the first Magic play mats and the history of Khalsa Brain games, with comments from Japji Khalsa. Japji is an awesome craftsman, and he does some great work. "Fun" fact: after this post, the cost of early Khalsa-Brain mats on ebay tripled.
  • Priorities and Luxury. A post about why we prioritize to spend so much money on our cards, and why we play an expensive card game with little to no price support.
There have been some great guest reports during 2014 as well; e.g. Olle Råde's report from BSK, Felipe's report from Playoteket and Heiner Litz's report from Eudemonia, among many others. Thanks a lot, they have been very appreciated! Please keep them coming :)

All in all, it has been an exciting year for old school Magic, and I'm happy to be a part of the great community. It's a fun hobby to have, and has helped me wind down when life has gotten stressful.

Here's to a great 2015!

måndag 12 januari 2015

Åland's perspective

Lots of interesting things has happened in the last days. One of my personal favorites is that Heiner Litz from California actually built and played a Mana Vortex deck in an old school tournament. We'll get back that (and the 2015 retrospective) later though. For now let's give the word to our own World Champion, Christoffer "Stalin" Andersson. Stalin got a hold of Mikael "Åland" Johansson after his win at Frippan Open to ask him some questions. Enjoy :)

Stalin: For the people that's not in the Swedish 93/94-community and know you; How would you introduce yourself?
Åland: My name is Mikael but everyone in Sweden calls me Åland, which is the name of the island I grew up on. Apart from 93/94 I like to play vintage but I also play legacy, modern and sometimes standard. I’ve studied for quite some time and have a bachelor of information technology and a master of public administration. I work as a systems analyst at Mölndal municipality. When I don’t play magic I like to watch TV-series, play board games or read police investigation reports and verdicts.

What got you into playing 93/94?
A couple of things. This blog surely helped but the fact that I started playing during the revised era and bought a lot of (Italian) Legends makes this format very nostalgic to me. Also the fact that it was a childhood dream to play The Deck but I never could afford it back then.

You just won Frippan Open, any particular moments from the tournament that you want to share with us?

Not really. The main thing with the deck is to play consistent during the day and don’t make any major mistakes. I got no Mind Twist for seven round one stories but I started with Library of Alexandria turn one a couple of times. 93/94 seldom gives really intricate lines of play like in legacy or vintage.
Kalle testing an interesting line of play against Åland in the quarterfinals.
We talked during the event and you told me that you where not as competitive this time around as you where at n00bcon (where you tilted quite hard vs me in the quarterfinals). Was that just a lie or how and why has your take on the format changed since then?
I want to clear up one thing, I didn’t tilt against you I tilted against myself. Generally people think I tilt against my opponents, but most of the time I tilt against myself (bad plays, bad mulligan decisions etc). I made a fatal deck building error in my deck during n00bcon ‘14 where I had too many mana sources, I had been lucky all day and got “unlucky” during the quarter finals. I wanted to sell my cards the next day (not the power, but cards like balance, tomes, mind twist etc). I was really upset with myself for a couple of days. I realized that there is no point in taking 93/94 that seriously when there is no prize money involved. I need to take the losses with a smile and during BSK where I did not make top 8 it still felt okay, I went to sleep with a smile on my face. In Frippan open I lost the first match. I just shaked my opponents hand and didn’t think more about it. It sounds weird but I might have become a better person by losing to you in the quarter finals of n00bcon compared to if I had won the whole tournament.
Åland and Elof have faced each other before; here in the finals of Warcon 2012.
I know that you've been playing ”The Deck” for quite some time. Is it since you entered the format several years ago? Any thoughts you want to share with us about the evolution of the deck? Did you do any changes for this tournament to beat the current meta?
I’ve played The Deck since I’ve started playing the format, my début was the 16th of June 2012 and I’ve played in 12 tournaments since that day, I have all the deck lists still saved. There are several The Deck players in Sweden and everyone has their own take on how to build the deck. I never fancied Mishra’s Factory in The Deck when some people see it as a must, it doesn’t fit my style of play. I don’t like weird variations with Fissure either. For this tournament I went down from 31 to 29 mana sources, it is the biggest change in a long time. I cut all the weird cards like Disrupting Scepter, Icy Manipulator, Copy Artifact, Circle of Protections etc. I call my deck “The Deck with Wincons”, I play 2 Serra Angel and 2 Fireball. I didn’t make any big meta changes, I played 2 Lightning Bolts in the sideboard and Mirror Universe main because I thought it would be creature heavy meta and that was the right call. I don’t like fancy strategies with weird cards or combos, I prefer a consistent deck with the best wincons. Moat is probably one of the best cards in the format, to quote my final opponent Elof “Your Moat worked overtime in the finals”.
The Deck with Wincons. Including Riven Turnbull.
What do you think about the format right now? Anything thats particularly good or bad? Anything you want to change? Anything that you feel should not change?
I think the format is really healthy, we see new decks popping up. The Atog Smash is a new variant which I haven’t seen before. Alot of people are talking about Mishra’s Factory restriction/ban, I don’t really understand what people see in that card. I mean it gives you random wins sometime but most of the time you open up yourself for opponents land destruction without them having land destruction cards in their decks.

There are lots of people out there interested in the format but they feel that they can afford to get into it. What's your thoughts about that? Any pointers to people on how to get into playing 93/94?
Either be very certain about what deck you want to play and just buy it, which I did with The Deck, or find a cheap variant. I think the best budget deck is White Weenie which you can buy for around $250 with the cheapest card versions available. It can quite easily be remade into a RW Tax Edge or WW with bolts. If you like blue you can splash Ancestral Recall, Time Walk and/or Psionic Blasts. Remember this about the old expensive cards, they are a good investment. Stop playing drafts and standard which effectively is a big money sink.

If you could ask yourself a question. What would that question be, and how would you answer it?

"What is your goal with playing Magic?" My goal is actually three different goals: top 8 a Grand Prix, win a Giant Shark and become the Swedish national vintage champion. I think the most reasonable one is to win the Giant Shark, I’ve already been close a couple of times. I have won a couple of smaller vintage tournaments and top eighted Bazaar of Moxen so winning the Swedish national championships in vintage isn’t that unreasonable. The problem with that is that you only have one chance every year (starting again in 2015). The hardest goal is to top 8 a Grand Prix, I have only made day two once and I wasn’t even close to top 8 that one. Top 8 a Grand Prix would be sweet so that I would qualify for a Pro tour which I want to play once in my life.

Thanks for taking the time for this interview!

tisdag 6 januari 2015

Pics from Gothenburg and Ravenna

During the last weeks there have been two impressive tournaments in Italy and Sweden. Jacopo Borrelli hosted a 13-player tournament in Ravenna, Italy, which was the second largest tournament thus far outside of Scandinavia. The Italian community is growing quickly, and Jacopo's work with it can't be understated. A few days before that, Johan "Freespace" Andersson hosted a 26-player tournament in Gothenburg, Sweden. Freespace had rented a location where beer was aplenty, and had even invited a local game store too the event to sell old school cards and refreshments.

Jacopo has posted a tournament report with some more decklists and pics at his Magic Time webpage, and I hope to get a tournament report from the winner of Frippan Open (*nudge*), so I won't spoil to much about the tournaments right now. Until then, enjoy some pictures from the events.

Project M going monoblack style against Hannes Löfgren.
Elof goes binder browsing.
Kudzu is making an appearance in Ravenna. Amazing playmat btw.
Control vs aggro, old school style.
Abyss and Moat have nothing on Tetravus in Ravenna.
Frippan Open, finals. Elof's Sedge Troll and Factories are stopped cold by Åland's Moat.
Monored spinning the Wheel.
Old school players in Ravenna
Old school players in Gothenburg
If you draw a land, would you play Juzam or Greed turn 2? One looks better, but the other looks cooler.
The proud top8 from Frippan Open. From the left: Mg, Kalle, Jenny, Brorsan, Myfz, Lindén, Åland and Elof.
Mishra's Factory attacks for 18.
Olle Råde going for the beats with Force of Nature.
The glorious prize at Frippan Open.
Adrea Morrone takes down the first Italian old school tournament! Congrats!
Kalle doing his best Bertrand Lestree pose. Lacking the black shades, a Beta and an Alpha Lotus will have to do to shield his gaze.
This weekend, the 11th of January, there will be a second Old School Tournament at Eudemonia in Berkeley. The last one was won by legendary Vintage player Stephen Menedian. If I had the possibility to go there to hear some stories and play with some of the pioneers of the game, I most definitely would. You'll even get to play with your Revised duals and Thrull Champions in the tournament, so it's a good opportunity if you want to try out some old school Magic.

I aim to post a "2014 retrospective" in the coming week, even though it'll be a little later than usual. It has been an interesting year. I'll also update the decks-to-beat section with the decks from Ravenna shortly, and the decks from Frippan Open as soon as I get them.

And lastly, a great thanks to the people who have been giving me support and helped me get out of bed the last weeks. It has been a rough couple of weeks, but you have really helped me. Life is what it is right now, but it will change and your support have gone a long way.