onsdag 25 mars 2015

From scratch

It was one of those weeks with a full plate. Evaluations, meetups, n00bcon preparations and things at work that should be done before Easter sets in. I started to write three different posts in the last two weeks, but I've realized that all of them needed a few more hours of research before they were done. That is not really time I have before the weekend though, so I'll just rant today. One of the top things currently on my mind in Old School Magic is the emerging community in Oslo, so lets talk a little about how to build a deck in the format.
Usual deck list, circa 1994.
Building your first 93/94 deck can seem like a daunting task. Most people don't own any cards legal in the format, and it's not like you can go to your local card store to buy a starter of Unlimited and a couple of Legends boosters and start cracking. Decks in the format can easily hold price tags well above $10,000. So, where to start?

Well, my own first deck in 93/94 looked like this:
CREATURES(19)
4 Erg Raiders
4 Merfolk Assassin
3 Sea Serpent
3 Dandan
2 Phantom Monster
2 Water Elemental
1 Wall of Putrid Flesh

ENCHANTMENTS(9)
4 Unholy Strength
3 Phantasmal Terrain
2 Unstable Mutation

INSTANTS(6)
4 Dark Ritual
2 Terror
ARTIFACTS(4)
3 War Barge
1 Sol Ring

LANDS(22)
10 Swamp
11 Island
1 Strip Mine

SIDEBOARD (15)
4 Cuombajj Witches
4 Frankenstein's Monster
2 Fallen Angel
2 Boomerang
2 Oubliette
1 War Barge

It's really not that good a deck. Pretty sweet though. At the time, I was a university student with part-time income (at best) who also attempted to maintain a legacy card pool. The cost of a beta Mahamothi Djinn was that of a playset Wastelands, and the Sea Serpents would have to do in Fat Mothi's place.

It is however more fun to have a deck that at least occassionaly can win a game, and preferably to have a deck that you can grow with and update over the years. Working on my pet deck over the last three years have been surprisingly sweet and satisfying.
Project M, three years ago. Already had a three of the expensive cards when I started. Wrote the first deck list on an airplane from Dubai, and Gwen Stephanie songs were on repeat on the plane radio, hence the title.
Four months into Project M.
n00bcon 5 two years ago.
n00bcon 6 one year ago.
With a starting capital of, say $300, you can get a decent version of a majority of the strategies in the format. The best "budget" strategies often include Underworld Dreams, Savannah Lions, Mana Vault, Serendib Efreet, Land Tax or Howling Mine as the more expensive cards. There are exceptions, such as Arvid Grahn's winning mono blue control deck from Gothcon 93/94 2008 or GaJol's Colossus Skull from BSK 2013.
The main idea is to abuse Priest of Yawgmoth, Animate Dead and Skull of Orm. You could e.g. cut Bazaar for Jalum Tome, Abyss for City in a Bottle and Berserk for Concordant Crossroads here.
So, I guess that the very first step in building a deck is to decide what kind of deck you want to play. After some testing, you usually get a majority of the more common cards from online retailers. If you like prison, you should probably look at cards like Underworld Dreams and Howling Mine. If you want to go aggro, Lions, Efreets and Chain Lightning are good cards. The Efreets can pretty easily be exchanged for Phantasmal Forces for a fraction of the cost though.

One thing that's pretty important when building a first deck, if you want it to be good, is to have some kind of early-game plan or acceleration. If you are playing one land a turn and have fairly expensive spells (manawise) it can easily feel like your opponent gets to start playing two or three turns ahead you. If your opponent goes turn one land, mox, Fellwar Stone and your turn one always is land-go, you're probably in for a rough time.

A majority of the successful powerless decks still try to cheat on the mana curve. Monoblack can cast a ritual into Underworld Dreams or Hypnotic Specter, Tax Edge casts a Land Tax and then operates on 1-3 mana for the game, Monogreen have Elves and Gaea's Touch, Atog and many other decks use Mana Vault, etc. Decks like WW, Suicide Blue and Electric Eel Aggro have such an agressive curve that they don't really care if the opponent has twice as much mana as them; they will have the threats. The aggro decks can then use the top of their curve (cmc 3+) to make sure that the opponent can't hit back, using cards like Blood Moon, Dust to Dust, Armageddon and Energy Flux.
The Mine/Barrier packet are surprisingly strong in builds outside the obvious Prison or Trick decks. Relic Barrier is a also very good answer to Mishra's Factory and Mana Vault.
One of the more entertaining things with playing 93/94 are the extremely powerful spells available. Cards like Strip Mine, Mind Twist, Sol Ring and Black Vise are crazy powerful, and still very affordable. Other spells like Balance and Wheel of Fortune can help you reclaim games that looks all but lost. I would try to include at least one or two of the restricted cards when I build a new deck. If nothing else, they are really fun to cast.

So, this was mostly opinions, and maybe not that informative. I guess that the reason is that it is kind of hard to tell people how they should approach building a 93/94 deck. There are so many possibilities and so many different ideas of why people play the format. If I would try to summarize how to build a deck, it would go something like 1) Figure out what kind of deck you want to play. 2) If you don't have friends with large collections, buy the bulk of the deck at some online store. 3) Get a few of the cheaper restricted cards to stick in the deck, they are restricted for a reason. 4) Slowly improve the deck.
An evolving trick deck.
What else? I'll start my Easter vacation on Friday, and a week from that we'll be playing at n00bcon7. The Italian scene is crazy awesome, and Jacopo Borelli and his crew are really evolving the format down in Ravenna. Manuel Sternis will host a tournament in France this Saturday. Freespace will host a n00bcon warmup tournament in Gothenburg this Sunday. I hope to play in my first 93/94 tournament in Oslo the weekend after n00bcon, April 12th. And I'm really looking forward to come home to Gothenburg this Friday, as I have a very sweet letter waiting for me. I'll be sure to post some pictures of its contents when I come home.

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