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.
Thomas ends up winning a fairly quick 2-0.
|Kungmarkus vs Jhoval. RTC.|
|There are other ways to win.|
|Thomas vs Hardy.|
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.|
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.
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.
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.
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.|
|The jovial champion of Joy Pad Open.|
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.|