tisdag 30 juni 2015

Elof's tech: Paint it Black

Our three-time 93/94 Giant Shark winner and two-time Swedish Eternal King champion Elof "The mighty" Gottfridsson continously works on new sweet tech. A while back, he suggested that he could write monthly "deck techs" about some of his ideas to post on the blog, and of course he was was welcomed with open arms. This is the first of hopefully many techs from one of the premier players of old school magic in the world. Enjoy! /Mg  

Welcome to a new segment! Long time reader, first time writer. I've been playing this format for a couple of years, my first tournament with my own cards was noobcon 2012 if I recall corretly. I remember playing a deck similar to UR Burn but with Serendib Djinns and finished 9th on breakers. Since then I have mostly been playing The Deck or blue control, but have tinkered around with other decks; Nether Voids, Disco-Troll and even a Living Plane - Prodigal Sorcerer deck! But for this article, which I hope will be a montly reccuring one, I will be talking about a more casual deck that I have yet to test in a real tournament. I was thinking since I have more ideas for decks than I have time to play, I'll write about them instead.

Lets start with a picture:
Paint it Black
4 Northern Paladin
4 Exorcist
4 White Knight

1 Time Walk
1 Braingeyser
1 Recall
1 Mind Twist
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Balance

4 Deathlace
4 Sleight of Mind
2 Touch of Darkness
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Mana Drain
4 Disenchant

1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Pearl
1 Chaos Orb
1 Sol Ring
1 Black Lotus

LANDS (20)
4 Underground Sea
4 Scrubland
4 Tundra
4 City of Brass
1 Strip Mine
1 Library of Alexandria
2 Plains

The core
Northen Paladin + Deathlace
Wow, much combo. Such power. At the surface, this combo is easy, just use Paladin on your opponents Juzams, Sengirs, Hypnotics and go to town. If they instead have a Erhnam, you can just make it black with Deathlace. But, what about trouble cards like Underworld Dreams and Gloom? Well, the Paladin destroys any black permanents, not just creatures. It also means that with Deathlace you can destroy Moats or even Library of Alexandrias. This is a way to cool combo to not put into a deck.

Explaing the deck
The problems with these kinds of combos is often that if you only draw one piece of the combo, it doesn't do anything. Therefore the deck have several other mini combos. First of we have Exorcist that works as a minor Paladin, that only destroys creatures. After Exorcist we also have White Knights, a decent beater and they can also hold the ground against whatever your opponents biggest landwalking summon spell as long as you paint it black. You can also save your Knight from a Lightning Bolt or Swords to Plowshares by making the spell black with Deathlace. Yes, Deathlace can make spells black. Speaking of making things black, Touch of Darkness works as a alternative Deathlace, with the abillity to make any numbers of creatures black. However it only targets creatures, so no permanents or spells. The effect also only lasts until end of turn so better put all of your exorcists and paladins to good use. And finally, we have Sleight of Minds that can make the Paladin or Exorcist destroy other colored creatures and can also make White Knight protection from other colors.

The rest of the deck is a pile of good cards i.e. restricted, and also Disenchants in case you don't get the Paladin combo going. Note the abscents of Swords. I don't think they are necessary, and you also have a Chaos Orb in worst case.

The combo part is pretty cheap but the restricted goodies are not. There are several budget versions to consider. Green gives access to Whirling Dervish, Lifeforce and Avoid Fates. You can also consider playing maindeck Circle of Protections if you have the blue option, I especially like Greater Realm of Preservation. Cleansing and Touch of Darkness is also a combo of sorts.

Playing a few games
To my surprise it is actually possible to win games with this. Granted, most of my wins happened because of a big Mind Twist, Braingeyser or just Lotus-Demonic-Ancestral shennanigans, but that is the reason those cards are there! Even without the power cards, I think that the core could definitly steal some games. In testing I found that the Paladin dies a little to often and it makes me sad. There are ways around this, for exemple playing Black Ward or similar spells, but in general it will be a problem. I also notice that while you can create a sort of lock with Paladin/Exorcist it is difficult to beat the opponent down in a fast maner. Therefor I think that the green splash for Whirling Dervisch and perhaps Lifeforce sounds more interesting.
Decent keep, with a touch of darkness.
The last card left in hand was Balance.
Core players.
A rare sight; a Volcanic that's both black bordered and plain black.
Lestree Zoo goes deep.
Some sweet Magic right here!

torsdag 25 juni 2015

Rookie of the Year and PWP update

It has been a while since I updated the PWP standings. Two and a half months, to be exact. I started to calculate the rankings for the new season immediatly after n00bcon 7, but the same issue I've been thinking about for the last two years hit me again. Once we started having tournaments with over 16 players, the rating system would get very top heavy and fairly skewed. I looked at a few options on how we could do it instead. After checking some different ways local Magic Leagues in other formats calculates points, I eventually reached the conclusion that the simplest way to do it is to use something similar to Wizards own Planeswalker points system. The new system is described in some detail at the PWP-page. But I digress.

The ball has started rolling on the Pimpvitational 14/15 tournament. It was originally planned to take place a couple of weeks ago, but it didn't pan out. Deciding on when, where, and most of all how to play it requires some strategic  planning. Erik "Sehl" Larsson is on the case however, and I have confidence that it will eventually get settled. We have 10 months left after all.

There were no less than 89 players competing in 93/94 tournaments in Sweden last year. That's a lot of new faces in the community. With that in mind, it felt like it was time for a "Rookie of the Year" award to the new player with the most points from last season.

It was a tight race. Samuel "Anthrox" Lowejko got off to a great start with his top4 at n00bcon 6, and held the lead for a long time. Felipe Garcia was another strong contender, who won the Playoteket tournament in Scania, top4'd a couple of others, and was a millimetre off a Chaos Orb flip to top8 BSK.

In the end, Felipe and Samuel had to bow down to Jenny "Moxin" Arvidsson. Jenny's top4 at the 27-player Frippan Open tournament in December, along with many solid finishes (including a second place at the n00bcon warmup tournament) was enough to grant her the first rookie of the year award.
Jenny with the trophy at n00bcon 7
A year ago, Jenny was not only an aspiring member of the 93/94 community, but actually fairly new to Magic as a game. She is one of a tiny handful of players that I know off that pretty much started to play tournament Magic with the Old School format. While most players may start their collections with a pre-constructed Duel Deck or a few boosters, Jenny went deep from the start. After borrowing a deck to try the format in a tournament at n00bcon 6, she bought her first Magic card. A Black Lotus. She found one at a decent price, and it was easy to argue that it would go in any deck. And it's pretty damn rad to own a Black Lotus :)
Black Lotus and black stout. A good start for any deck in the format.
Using a few different strategies last season, Jenny's top finishes came piloting monoblack and UR Burn.
Jenny's monoblack from Frippan Open.
UR Burn from the n00bcon warmup tournament.
What else can I say about her as playing casual Magic goes? First thing that comes to mind is that she is a cunning and dangerous opponent in Drinking Cube. Last summer she also picked up Vintage as her second tournament format. We used to live close to each other in Gothenburg, and I had the opportunity to playtest Vintage with her a few times. There were some rough White Trash mirror showdowns over good beer. (White Trash used to be a very strong deck btw, though very few players actually sleeved it up. I started to write a primer about the deck for EC but scrapped it once Monastery Mentor was printed and made the deck much worse).

Jenny is a pleasure to face both in a tournament and in a bar, and I'm looking forward to see new tech :)

tisdag 16 juni 2015

Bottled up

Creating expansions to The Gathering wasn't really the plan. The idea was to let the 10 million cards from Magic: The Gathering fill the demand for the foreseeable months, and then phase them out for Magic: Ice Age about a year later. Instead, the first edition of Gathering sold out in weeks. To saturate the demand a second edition, Unlimited, was printed. It was soon clear that this wasn't enough. The players demanded new cards to fill the void before Ice Age would hit the shelves.

The story of Arabian Nights is a tumultuous one. I'm sure I'm going to write about it in more detail in the future. For now, lets simply state that there were some reservations at WotC about adding cards to The Gathering. Ice Age had been planned as a standalone version of Magic with different card backs. Using different backs was also suggested for Arabian Nights, as well as having a different color on the borders, before finally settling on having an expansion symbol to differentiate the cards. The set hadn't been tested nearly as much as the original core set, and there were worries that players could get alienated. Richard Garfield stated that if you were going to play a deck with the expansion, you would have to get the permission of your opponent first. And to really make sure that the expansion wouldn't break the original game, he created City in a Bottle.
Last year I wrote a post about Serendib Efreet. I think the time is ripe to take a deeper look at another sweet card from the first expansion. Today, let's look through the glass of City in a Bottle.

City in a Bottle is, fairly obviously, the first "expansion hoser". And in Old School Mtg, it's a really good one. It kills a majority of the best creatures in the format, as well as cards like Library of Alexandria, City of Brass and lots of other powerful staples. The card is the main reason that Juzam Smash decks play Sengir Vampire rather than Serendib Efreet. Pretty much any deck that don't rely on cards from Arabian Nights themselves would be wise to include the card, at least as a sideboard option. Killing five of the best lands in The Deck, crippling a majority of the offense in Zoo, or simply holding off Juzams is a bargain at two mana.

So what is a city in a bottle anyway? It is not mentioned in 1001 Arabian Nights for one. When it was decided that Wizards should make the first expansion for Magic, they argued that it would save a lot of time to use an existing mythos as the basis of the set rather than create a new one from scratch. At the time, Garfield had just read Sandman #50, Ramadan. It is about how the Caliph Harun al-Rashid becomes worried that his city of Baghdad will eventually be forgotten. 8th century Baghdad is shown as the most spectacular and awe-inspiring city in the world, overflowing with wealth and mythical beings. The Caliph makes a deal with Dream and sells his city to him. In exchange, Dream will make sure that the Baghdad of Arabian Nights will always live on in the dreams of man. Dream seals Baghdad in a bottle, and we see the Caliph wake up in "real world" 8th century Baghdad with no solid recollection of what transpired.
Garfield was impressed by the story and the setting, and used it as the inspiration for his expansion. When the set was printed, he then sent two copies of the City in a Bottle card to Neil Gaiman, the creator of Sandman. One of them for him to keep, and the other for him to sign for Garfield.

The bottle shown in the comics doesn't really look like the one on the card. This could be chalked up to that Drew Tucker maybe hadn't read the comic. If we dig a little further though, there are some other interesting things about the artwork used.

In 1993, the artwork was mostly up to the artists. Garfield's response to seeing Llanowar Elves for the first time was reportedly "That's not at all what I had imagined." All artwork was used, to the point that new cards were made for unused artwork (like Bird of Paradise). This makes the fate of the original art for City in a Bottle very strange. The art first submitted for the card is the first Magic art I know of that was in fact rejected. Drew Tucker's original interpretation never saw the light of day. As to why it was rejected, I can only speculate. Maybe the colors of the bottle and the background looked too similar to the comic, and WotC was worried about accusations of plagiarism?

The original art for City in a Bottle is owned by "The Godfather of Pimp" Jason Jaco. For those of you that don't know him, his CV includes being the CEO and Content Manager of Eternal Central, as well as one of the early adopters of Old School Mtg in the US. I sent him a message and he was quick to send me a picture of the original art.
The art was later suggested for Urza's Miter ;)
Pretty sweet. It is kind of ironic that this card in a sense removed even itself ;)

City in a Bottle was the only card in Arabian Nights not primarily influenced by 1001 Arabian Nights, but rather referencing a comic from present time. In a similar vein, the expansion hoser from the next set had a fairly odd name reference. Rather than talking of "The Brother's War" between Mishra and Urza, this one had a blantant Bible reference.
"So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha" John 19:17
Creating a card that destroys all the cards in the set and naming it after the hill where Jesus was crucified is kinda crude. A little amusing, especially considering the backlash WotC suffered from Christian groups in the mid 90s, but still crude.

The Crucifixion Bowl is not as versatile and powerful as the Bottle. It has twice the mana cost, with an additional mana to activate, and destroys itself in the process. It also won't hinder your opponent from casting cards like Hurkyl's Recall or Transmute Artifact. It's not a complete dud though. Recently a few players have begun using the Sylex as an answer to Factories and Su-Chis. From what I've heard it works well enough.

The next set took the expansion hosing even less aggressively. Legends gave us Arena of the Ancients. This one only shut down all the new multicolored creatures introduced in the set and left the other cards alone.
This might actually be playable in that newfangled EDH format the kids are talking about.
At this point, it seems like Wizards had begun to accept expansions as a good part of the game, and not something they needed to hose. The Dark had no card that hated on the set or new cards introduced in it. It took until Homelands until we saw another expansion hoser, the Apocalypse Chime. I think that Homelands got the power level of the expansion hoser right. City in a Bottle might be too effective and the Crucifixion Bowl is probably overcosted.
The problem is that it is pretty much the only permanent in Homelands that don't suck, which makes it suck again.
A decade later, the expansion hosers were considered mistakes. Like the dexterity cards, many players viewed them as silly ideas from a bygone era. And the rules around the cards could be a headache. In 2005, I remember asking a couple of judges about them before a Legacy tournament. Sea Stompy was a fairly popular strategy in the area, and I considered splashing City in a Bottle to take care of the deck's Serendib Efreets and Flying Men. I played a deck with a full set of Enlightened Tutors maindeck, so the Bottle could take up a slot in the sideboard without too much hassle.
If you wanna talk real old school, add them to the ante instead of removing them from the game.
Two of the three regular Sea Stompy players had pimped their decks with Serendib Efreets from Arabian Nights. In the store where the tournament took place, you could however obtain Efreets from Revised easily. So if I cast my City in a Bottle, could my opponent switch out his AN Efreets for Revised Efreets while my City was on the stack? Could he change them between turns or matches? The most common reply was that it was OK for opponents to switch between matches but not in the middle of a game, but there was no consensus.

To handle this ambiguity, and encourage sweet basics, we actually used to have a small errata on City in a Bottle. The errata simply stated that the Bottle did not affect basic lands. This was to make the Arabian Nights Mountain playable in the format, instead of just being a much worse alternative to the ABU versions. Some time later, Wizards changed the rules on expansion hosers to solve this issue once and for all. Now the hosers look for cards originally printed in the set rather than checking for the expansion symbol, and Mountain v78 is free to roam the format without any help from us.
Now this is amusing. The first errata of the card available to players (from the first Official Encyclopedia) was misprinted and hence need errata.
All in all, City in a Bottle is damn sweet card. It's easy start pondering what would have become of the game if Garfield hadn't read that Sandman comic all those years ago. Maybe Magic would not have become as successful. If they had followed Alpha with something like Homelands, things could have looked very different. At the very least, we wouldn't have been able to crack open Rukh Eggs and close Libraries for two colorless mana.

onsdag 10 juni 2015

Joypad Open: A study in soot

The phone wakes me up. I stumble to answer it, barley supporting my movements on my newly sprained ankle. A scent of decadence in the room. The physical pain in my foot is second to the psychological embarrassment. Maybe I'm not 20 anymore. Maybe I should not spend 14 hours drinking and dancing in the streets. Maybe two or three punk bands are enough for one evening, and maybe I shouldn't be drinking Jack from the bottle. After I trip down a stair and clearly sprain my foot, maybe I should listen to my girlfriend when she suggests taking a cab home rather than continue running down the streets of Oslo. Sometimes, I'm not a very bright man.

It's Kungmarkus on the phone. He's been travelling from Arvika with JohanGuld and Artelas, and he asks where he can park his car.

13:40. Yeah, it's 13:40. The tournament is scheduled to start in twenty minutes, and I'm a Scathe Zombie away from home.

I'm at Øyann's place. She left a few hours earlier to take a Sunday horse ride with a friend, and I got back to sleep. With a decent walking pace, I should be able to get to the Joy Pad in fifteen minutes. Decent walking pace is not an option with my current ankle though. And I should probably eat something, eventually.

I call Hardy. He knows my pain. Yesterday was the so called Musikens Dag in Oslo; "Day of the Music". It is one of the major yearly festivities in the city, and we celebrated it as such. Hardy has decided to meta-game based on his hangover, and forgoes his newly built Black Machine in favor of his Trick Deck. The amount of triggers and decision trees in Black Machine seems too daunting for the day at hand.

I drink a pint of orange juice and take on the arduous task of walking. Pick up a burger on the road as I stumble through Tøyen and Grønland on my way to the BarCode complex where we live. Did I embarrass myself yesterday, or did I act in an acceptable fashion? Probably went to far with the dance moves during the third concert. Should not have started arguing with Øyann that my foot was fine when it clearly wasn't. Gawd. Other than that, I think I did OK. Had a very nice morning with her before she left, which counts for a lot to make the angst more bearable. Buying a stuffed Scolopendra and reciting the Swedish national anthem to strangers were probably correct plays. My jeans are broken.

I get to the apartment, and I'm the last one to arrive. The others are binder browsing, discussing sideboard plans and game drinks. There's a new face in the room, Thomas, a local man from Oslo who's playing his first tournament in the format. I go for some quick pleasantries before I jump into the shower, change clothes to something that is not ripped, and grab a beer from the shelf. Somewhere I wish that I'd bought something a little lighter than Horizon Tokyo Black as my game drink.

Thomas is drinking a dark red wine. I ask what he's playing, or if he needs to borrow a deck. He says on red/black, and my mind goes to a Trick Deck. I can't place his face yet, and a basic Trick Deck is possible to build on a fair budget and comparably short time. "So, Winds of Change and Underworld Dreams?" I ask presumptuously. He shows me his deck. "Did not know that there was that much more black bordered Power in Oslo" I reply with a grin matching his Juzams. I check his binder. The blue power cards and another Lotus sticks out alongside his casual old school staples, a second playset of Workshops, and cards skilfully altered by himself. A graphic designer who's been in the game for a long time, mostly falling back to playing Eternal and non-sanctioned formats in later years.

This could get tricky for our hero.
We're an odd number of players today, and the burden of the first round bye is mine to carry. It would be sweeter to go 4-0 in the swiss without the bye, and get to play some more Magic, but life doesn't always turn out the way you'd hoped. I sip casually on the imperial stout and check out the game between Thomas and Artelas. Artelas is no scrub. He has only played the format for about a year, but in that time he has top8'd both n00bcon and BSK. A few weeks ago he won the first ever sanctioned 93/94 FNM in Karlstad. If our Norwegian challenger wants a fight, he's in for a fight.

Thomas ends up winning a fairly quick 2-0.
Kungmarkus vs Jhoval. RTC.
I hear some laughing and heavy sighs from the other end of the table. Jhovalking has resolved a Power Artifact on a Basalt Monolith and has a Rocket Launcher in play. KungMarkus reveals his hand containing Steal Artifact and Fireball, which would have been a pretty good answer. I take a picture and they both shuffle up, convinced that Jhovalking just won. He retells the story of how he cast the Launcher and some other stuff with the Power/Monolith combo. I commend his power gaming for pretending to be able to win with the Launcher the same turn he cast it, as it doesn't work that way. Both Jhoval and Markus give a stunning impression of a question mark. They re-read the card, and realize that they both had misunderstood how it worked. After some deliberation, they decide to replay their third match, and Jhoval manages to win.
There are other ways to win.
So, I'm up against Jhovalking in round 2. He goes land, Mana Vault, and I cast turn two Relic Barrier for his Vault. He follows up with Sol Ring and a land, and I proceed casting Sinkholes and Icy Manipulators to deny him mana. Distress is not the kind of deck you use to make friends. Eventually I cast Underworld Dreams and he dies from his Vault and nightmares. Game two is a little more involved, as I miss my Chaos Orb flip on his Guardian Beast. I get to keep him off shenanigans by tapping his Beast with my Icy and blowing up my Disk. I go Demonic Tutor for Demonic Hordes on an empty board, and the rest is academic.
Thomas vs Hardy.
Thomas managed to beat Hardy in two tight games involving impressive spell slinging. He waits for me in round three. Is it possible that he'll just enter the scene from nowhere and beat both me and Hardy? Of course he wont. That would be a terribly impolite thing to do to your hosts, and my deck is as solid as a Bronze Tablet.

My hand is decent, though lacking any threats. That's ok. Threats are not the game plan. Swamp, Strip Mine, Mox Jet, Ritual, Ritual, Drain Life, Howling Mine. Swamp, go on my turn, in the case I would draw a LoA. I draw a turn two Lotus and get to Drain Life his turn two Juzam. Cast my Howling Mine and eventually gets an Icy online to start running away with cards. He keeps producing threats. Multiple Factories, Hypnotic Specter, Black Knights and Triskelion. I keep them at bay the best I can with Icy, Relic Barrier and more cards than him. I resolve a Drain Life for seven and another for six, cast a third Underworld Dreams (the first two got hit with Disenchants) and let him draw himself dead with my Mines. I ended the game on eight life and would have been dead in his next combat step. Gaining 18 from the Drain Lifes (Drain Lives?) was a good plan.
Paralyze, aka Black Swords.
Second game is a little less spectacular. I have the Paralyze for his turn one Hypnotic, and tap out the rest of his team until I get to Tutor for Demonic Hordes. It eats all his lands and proceeds to beat down alongside a Factory.

So, this deck is unbeatable.

Kungmarkus waits for me. A stout man, arms and body covered in tattoos. Organizer of the Arvika Festival 93/94 tournament and winner of last year's Huvudturneringen at n00bcon. He placed second after Artelas at the first 93/94 FNM a month back. Currently, a man of few smiles. This could get rough.

Kungmarkus plays his signature Toolbox Murderers deck. A deck not unlike my Project M, though with a heavier red splash and a fistful of Counterspells. My ankle hurts. My head hurts. I must ignore my pain. To win this, I must meticulously play around his Mirror Universe and Disks. This is the time for subtle, careful commitment.

Or I could just play LoA turn one and a Mind Twist for six turn three. That will also work. Oh well. Magic is a fair game.

In the second game, my hand commits me to mana denial. Markus starts with Island go, and I throw a Sinkhole of a ritual at it. The last black mana gives me another ritual and an Underworld Dreams. My four cards left are something like Strip Mine, Relic Barrier, City in a Bottle and Mishra. Markus next land is a City of Brass, so I stick it in my Bottle. Eventually I find a Howling Mine and start drawing extra cards. Markus has a few Fellwar Stones, but I manage to keep him low enough on mana with my Barriers to make him unable to cast his Sol'Kanar. The Underworld Dreams keep chipping away at his life total. Eventually the dark side emerges victorious, as Markus is unable to cast a relevant permanent during the match. Distress: Sucking up all the fun and having it for yourself.
Should I feel bad? I do have a tingling sense of regret, a splinter in the back of my mind. Is unleashing the Black Magic too much for me? I remember Pastor David L. Brown's 1995 article about the dangers of playing Magic. How it turns you away from what's right and just onto a path of darkened hearts and heresy. Maybe Wizards was right to remove the Demons and occult elements from the game in 1995. Maybe this deck and its relentless ravages is the cause of my thumping headache and distress. Or maybe I'm just very, very hungover. I grab another beer and ponder my choices in life.

The top4 is myself, Thomas, Artelas and Hardy. I'm facing Hardy in the semis. It's the most important game of our lives.

The Distress vs Trick Deck matchup is a hazardous one. The main goal is to get your Underworld Dreams to stick, and my game plan should focus on that. An opposing Underworld will destroy the decks' engines. Always kill his swamps.

I think my deck is slighly favored, due to the virtue of my full set of Sinkhole vs his pair, and my three Icies vs his none. With two colors, he should not be able to hit three black mana without a Ritual. On the other hand, my deck is slower. I can't get wins of a random Wheel or Winds with the Dreams in play. And the Sedge Trolls and Shatters are painful. We shuffle up.

It is a stone cold war. Hardy is first out with the nightmarish enchantments. He starts to gain the advantage. A Sedge Troll joins his team. I manage to tap out his black regeneration mana and clear the board with a timely Disk. Cast a Howling Mine, and we're in double topdeck mode. A Maze of Ith keeps his Sedge Troll at bay. I eventually find Demonic Hordes to seal the deal, but Hardy has the double bolt. I draw more howling mines and barriers. Hardy spins the Wheel. I'm at eleven, he's at 13. He plays some stuff. I get two Underworld Dreams and a third Howling Mine of the Wheel and my drawstep. I ritual out the enchantments and pass the turn, letting him take eight in his drawstep. Hardy laments the fact that he didn't play a land last turn, and casts a Fireball for ten in my face. I draw four new cards to my already stacked hand and consider my options. I tutor for Sinkhole and play Sinkhole, Sinkhole and Strip Mine in his three red mana sources. Hardy reveals the top two cards of his library and shows me the bolt before he draws his third card to put him at zero. Close call.

In the second game I have the turn one Underworld. I keep tapping his threats with my artifacts. Hardy has the Mind Twist for five to take out my incoming Demonic Hordes, but it is too late. Thirteen turns later Underworld has taken him down to seven life, and I can cast Demonic Tutor for Black Lotus to bring him to one with Pestilence. His next draw step is his last.
So this is it. The finals for all the marbles. Or the very least for pride, a signed Kobolds of Kheer Keep, and a signed Khalsa Brain Salt n' Pepper 2-player mat. Had an extra mat to throw in the pot before we started. Time to win it back.

Thomas waits for me in the finals. Will the native Norwegian take home the first non-proxy tournament in the country, or will Distress prevail? I'm off the Horizon Tokyo Black and quench my thirst with a Swedish lager.

The game-drink induced karma hits me in the first game. I keep a decent but slow hand. Nothing in particular to cast before turn three, when I will be joined by my Demonic Hordes. I have the ritual and the Drain Life in case of an early Specter. Before I get to go through with my plan, I find myself with an empty hand. Mind Twist is a card.

This is one of the weaknesses with monoblack, or monogreen for that matter. There is no Balance, Wheel of Fortune, Timetwister or other single card to drag me up from a Mind Twist. I need to claw back the card loss incrementally. With only two Swamps in play, it will be rough.

I draw very well though. I find a Maze of Ith and Relic Barrier to keep Thomas's Hypnotic and Factory at bay, and eventually some more lands and an Icy. I just need a Howling Mine now. Thomas starts to present more threats than I have answers to. Another factory and a pair of Black Knights joins the fight, and I start taking two damage a turn. A Pestilence would save me. My good draws have run out, and a few turns of blanks later Distress has lost it first game of the day.
Deep Magic
Thomas plays well. He had more than a few chances to misplay and give me a couple of extra turns to find an answer which he didn't give me. Could it be that he is the hero of this tale? I wont give him any glory without a fight. I board in a bunch of Paralyze and put my game face on.
Game face?
My hand is below average. Maybe mulligan? No. I have lands and spells, and a possible turn two Pestilence or Icy of a Ritual. It could be good enough.

Thomas has the turn one Hypnotic of a Ritual. I go for turn two Icy. It's a one in four chance he'll hit my Pestilence. If he doesn't he'll have to commit more to the board to handle the Icy, making a future sickness take out more than patient zero. He plays a Scrubland to cast the instant Vindicate splashed in his deck, then attacks to pull my Pestilence. This is a quagmire.
Actual wording against my deck.
I try to crawl back. I draw the black Mox and cast Underworld Dreams and a Factory. But I'm in too deep, and have no card engine nor creature control in sight. Do you know how big Juzam is? There is no time. I came with darkness, and should have expected his visit. Two turns later, the story is at an end.
The jovial champion of Joy Pad Open.
We exchange handshakes and high fives around the table. It's impossible to be mad losing to a Juzam Djinn. It is almost as rad as winning with a Juzam Djinn. Jhoval gives me a sweet crimped Mind Bomb as a consolation prize. We talk about the Oslo scene, anecdotes from glorious pasts and plans for the future. But mostly we just talk, and enjoy having each others to share the passion with. These have been rough weeks at work. An afternoon with old school Magic soothes the soul and nurse the hangovers.

I leave for a late dinner date with Øyann, leaving Jhovalking, Hardy and Thomas in the Joy Pad. It was a great day. I look forward to the next showdown in Oslo. Then, for a lark, I might visit the plains.
Thomas's winning deck.

fredag 5 juni 2015

Joy Pad Open, blags, and California tech

Just a quick heads up.

This Sunday my roommate Hardy and I will host the first non-proxy 93/94 tournament in Oslo. It will take place in our apartment, aka the Joy Pad. We decided on the time last Sunday, and are hoping for around 6-8 competitors, given our meticulous planning and early heads up.

The tournament starts at 14:00, Sunday the 7th. There is no tournament fee, but betting is encouraged and there will be some kind of price for winning. Bring beer.

So what beer you ask? Personally I recommend to match the beer with the deck. You e.g. don't want to be binging Red Stripe playing Stasis, as it would cause problems with bathroom breaks and rounds going to time.
MonoGreen. Works great with American Pale Ales
Creatureless TaxEdge. Something spontaneous fermented and sour, in particular if you don't run Land's Edge and have Feldon's Cane as the sole wincon. Alternatively some kind of hipster beer geek stuff like 2nd edition Red Horizon.
Distress. Horizon Tokyo Black seems like a good choice. 16% ABV, 100 IBU. Darkness in a glass.
If you are in Oslo and want to try the format, I'll be happy to lend out the TaxEdge or Monogreen. Might also be a Trick Deck up for grabs. I'll post some pics and a short tournament report here after the event.

Speaking of smaller and local events, I just got a mail from a Will in California as I was writing this. Will and his friends had started playing pretty close after the beginning, and had been ripping AN-boosters back in the days. I got some nice anecdotes from the past, and a few sweet pictures from the present, when Will and a few friends had brought their cards along on a family vacation to play with them again. It is always a great pleasure to hear that this blog can be a small inspiration for former players across the world to dust of their old cards :)
Eureka beats down with Nicol Bolas, Force of Nature and Lord of the Pit on turn 4. Beer of choice is 805 ale.
Greed gets close, but Eureka steals another victory in California.
I also want to give a shout out to two new blogs. As of last month, this is no longer the solitary old school blag in the webosphere. Two champions of the format across the ocean, Danny Friedman and "Shaman" Ben Perry, have started blogs with coverage on Old School Magic.

Danny's blog, Understanding Ancestral Recall, contains "musings, tournaments reports, information about Old School Magic, and pictures of luxurious cardboard". It also contains a section with Chaos Orb flipping videos, and rad old school design :) Go ahead and send him your best flips.

Shaman Ben's blog can be found at mtgunderground. The focus of the blog is not 93/94 Magic per say, but rather the underground casual scene of Mtg which 93/94 is a major part of. To quote Ben what #mtgunderground is all about:

"[Your DCI-number] keeps you from playing in high stakes Vintage and Oldschool house games with larger buy ins, better pay outs, illicit and allegedly illegal substances, better music, better company and above all better MAGIC. While you were playing FNM last week somewhere in Detroit six men of ill repute were sitting in a basement drinking Scotch passing a pipe and laughing maniacally as they battled out a sealed Ice Age tournament with a $500 prize to first place. While you were cursing under your breath at last Sunday’s Premiere IQ about how awful and lucky your opponent was and about how stale the format was there were sixteen guys in Archbold, Ohio (I had never heard of it either, do not feel bad) playing Oldschool MTG with the Swedish 93/94 Ban/Restricted list in a tournament for a Chaos Orb and a Mirror Universe (the latter of which I won for placing 2nd) and enjoying themselves so much that the guy who finished last is currently reading strategy articles from Scrye #3 and scouring eBay for a good deal on uncommons from The Dark."

That's it for today. Go check out the American blogs, and I'll update with a tournament report from Norway after the weekend.