lördag 5 augusti 2017

Rhine is on fire: The Raging River Gathering

It is kinda hard to refer to this as "my blog" anymore. In the last few months stories from all over the world have poured in, and the content ownership these days have pretty much transferred to "the global old school community". Even so, this is a special day. Today we give the soap box to Florian von Bredow, a man based in Hannover but with a record of organizing 93/94 tournaments in both Berlin and Stuttgarten. This time, he not only set Rhine on fire but also shares his story of the first proper 93/94 Ante tournament in a couple of decades. Enjoy! /Mg out

Hello and lots of Mana to all of you fellow Oldschool-players.

For those of you who do not know me, and that may be the majority, I feel like giving a short introduction.

As many others, I started playing back in 1994/1995 when MTG hyped the first time. I can remember buying an Arabian Nights Booster for roughly 2.50 DM back then and only buying one because they just contained 8 cards. From the little money I had available, I had to buy Revised, 4th and sometimes even German Unlimited to increase my collection.

Just after Homelands/Alliances however, there were different things on my mind and the cards available back then were so weak that many of my friends decided to stop.

Thanks to the Website of Fabien Sanglard I stumbled upon the Blog end of 2015 and the rest is history. If you haven’t seen or read the 1994 WC replay-report he posted on his site, you definitely should!

The Oldschool scene in Germany is vibrant, but geographically spread. A good chunk (possibly 50%) of the players lives within the vicinity of Stuttgart, more or less building a community of their own.

The other 50% are scattered all over the country as it seems. Me in Hannover, David Chambers in Berlin for example, I have heard of one or two in Berlin with Swedish legal decks, but never seen them.

As the Stuttgart gang is autonomous and has regular weekly/bi-weekly meetings, I am trying to establish some sort of community for the rest of Germany (including Stuttgart of course!).

My first attempt was after I met David Chambers for the first time mid/end 2016 and we decided to have a small Tournament in Berlin last year. It ended up smaller than I thought with just 3 more players attending, only one of which had a “swedish legal” deck/card stock. It was Thilo who later then attended N00bcon with us.

A second attempt to host a tournament in March at my home, as Hannover is logistically in a sweet-spot, failed and only David arrived. So we had to switch this to a Skype/in-person hybrid event with a whopping 10 players on short notice! After several hours in many different appear.in rooms, the tournament was decided by Chaos Orb flips.

After being able to participate at N00bcon 9, (I was one of 8 attendees from Germany) Thilo told me that we need to start playing for Ante and there is a way to do this without losing cards worth a car. This shall be the report of the very first official 93/94 Ante-games being played in Germany maybe ever!
First game of the day, already playing for Ante.
Jeweled Bird not only provides a new card, but also removes more valuable cards from the Ante. But beware: it is worth 4 usd/euro.

Main Tournament

Why did I choose a Rare card?
After some forth and back 9 players arrived, divided into 4 from Stuttgart, 1 from Orleans (France), one from London (England), one from the Ruhr-area, one from Berlin (David) and me. Nice to see so many nationalities being involved!

As a sidenote: this time we did not have a heavy drinker with us as Richard had to skip on short notice ;)

We played 6 rounds of the well-known Best of Three without any Finals as the plan was to start a second event that would include the Ante-part.

To make this short, we had an undisputed winner in Patric Hiness going strong with a flawless 5-0 (10-0 games) and a bye. The Stuttgart-connection managed to be at places 1-4, showing that experience prevails.
Happy winner
Patric's MaRo Zoo.

Ante-Side event

The main reason for this article, I guess, is the Ante side event.

As said Thilo lured me into the thought of playing Ante games at our next Tournament. I have heard from my old Skype-nemesis Mr. Moss that Ante has been played in the US by the Lords of the Pit where everyone that played Contract from Below had to pay a shot (of alcohol) to his opponent and everybody got drunk was merry. Kinda in the spirit of oldschool, but I liked the "new" idea where we would play Ante like in the days of old and as it has been described in the Alpha rulebook, or at least as close as possible.

The biggest problem is obviously uhm, well, you don’t want to lose a card that has a 3 or 4 or even 5-digit value. So that idea of using an old Magazine from end of 1994 or beginning of 95 and use the prices printed as a guideline to buy back your lost cards.

Just after N00bcon we started and searched for magazines, found scanned copies of almost every old magazine, but not old and accurate enough. Either is had not all the expansions or it was too new and Fallen Empires has already been released.

Marc Lanigra managed to buy a Scrye #3 Magazine from somewhere and truly, it has an announcement on the cover advertising The Dark prices (and Jyhad prices for those who remember). We decided that this shall be the Reference for all Ante events from now.

We all agreed that in an ideal world everybody should more or less leave the event after some rounds of Ante-games with +-0 profit or loss.

It also was Marc who forced me in a friendly (for Germans friendly) way to immediately play the first Ante game just before the regular Tournament started. See pictures above.

The tension was there from the very start. We were sweating before we even started, it was very exciting. As you can see, nobody held back with their "pimp" (mine is more the MP in Pimp, where Marc's collection truly is PIMP all the way) and we played with a deck we liked and not so that it would be very cheap to buy back cards. All in or nothing.
Jeweled Bird is a hell of a card
It was a bit like back in the days when we started playing this lovely game, as we talked about how to determine the Ante card. Over the day it became common that we cut our opponents deck simultaneously with him cutting ours and then slowly removing the card on top of the remainder of the library. Turning them over at the same time as well.

So game one the Ante was Marc's Triskelion vs my Beta Ritual. Nowadays it would be more or less equalled out, but in the end of 94? Let’s find out.
The Median price of an Antiquities Triskelion (the only one existing back then off course) according to Scrye #3 is 6 usd.

The Median price of a Beta Ritual is 0,50 usd. So much for the value of Mana acceleration back then.

But Marc and I continued to raise the Ante-stakes through casting a Contract from Below each, where he had to Ante an Alpha Darkpact (9,30 usd and trending up) and I had to Ante an Alpha Swamp (0,20 usd). It got tense, but I was still pretty chilled looking at those prices.

As a side note: We both played CfB a bit wrong as we kept our hands and drew seven, instead discarding our hands and then drawing seven. The pressure surely had an impact onto our synapses.

Marc however brought this to a new level and thought that two Ante cards were not enough: let’s play Demonic Attorney. Off course neither conceded and we got to Ante the third card in this game alone. Marc was leading again with an Alpha Mox Sapphire (37 usd and trending up) to my Legends Greed (5 usd). The game was more or less tied, but the Ante was potentially at 52,30 usd to 6,80 usd. This is fun. It never was an Ante pool of >50 usd for Marc however as he was able to play three Jeweled Birds in that game, moving his Ante cards to the Graveyard and drawing three more cards. Be careful though, Jeweled Bird is a whopping 4 usd, so the same value as Uncle Istvan, Green Mana Battery, Primal Clay or Bazaar of Baghdad… Let this sink in a while...

Side note II: David asked me to re-read the Text of Jeweled Bird just two weeks after the Tournament. It clearly says we could exchange “ALL” the ante-cards with Jeweled Bird, not only one. So we played this card wrong as well…
Demonic Attorney for the win? not quite, I'll never concede.
The game as such was pretty nice with two mono black decks doing what they can, but it was uninteresting compared to the price difference to today’s value and what one of us could lose in that game.

Marc's Abyss then did the job and he won, leaving me the choice to buy back the cards or pay for the first beer. I gladly did the latter and as beer in Cologne is a mere waterish liquid I also paid a coffee.

During the day, I play 3 more ante games with Marc, losing the second but winning the third and fourth. With him I was pretty close to that “ideal world” and lost officially 20c or so.

However, Mr. Lundqvist from London challenged me to two more Ante games in the evening and despite his efforts to distract me (when my Ante was my Time Walk as I switched back to play with my Tournament deck), I won both of them leaving the day with a 5€ plus in my wallet.
Another Contract from Below
...and another one.
Two parallel Ante games. Chaos Orb (Beta) and Lightning Bold on the left, Time Walk (UNL) and Psi Blast (Beta) on the right.
18€ for a NM Beta Orb? It is possible in 2017...

Summary

To summarise the experience of an Ante game: I’d love to have a small tournament again soon in the near future and play 5-10 Ante games again (we never did best of three but only one game). If you lose it is more or less up to you if you had decided to include the more expensive cards or not. It might open up a small new world to us with some smaller surprises, like Guardian Beast being the most expensive card from Arabian Nights and who would have guessed that Old Man of the Sea is more expensive than Library of Alexandria, Juzam or Erhnam Djinn? You can still build a very competitive deck without excluding the most powerful creatures and still leave out the most expensive cards of some of the sets.

There is a lot of room for improvement and alteration. David, for example, suggested that we should build a deck with a limited budget of Scrye #3 value to build a deck. This can be a very nice addition to the usual deckbuilding, it also increases the knowledge of the prices back then.

To all of you, who are interested in the game and format of oldschool and live in or close to Germany or just like to travel for this game: I am hoping to do another small tournament in Berlin either end of September or sometime in October. There might also be another N00bcon qualifier in November/December, as Marc has promised.

Thanks for reading,
Florian

An additional comment from Marc Lanigra about the Ante-part:

This was an experience unlike any other I've had in my 15+ years of Magic.

Even though I was pretty confident in my deck, even though we had the rules set up to keep the maximum loss (in terms of money) in check ... when flipping over the cards, I was already sweating. It was close to the feeling when playing a big tournament top8, it was a real rush. But way more fun than such a high stakes tournament, because it is not about winning a title or losing your only shot at it for probably a lifetime - it is in the end also very much a fun experience.

Of course, in our very first game, both of us played Contract from Below within the first two turns. One naturally drawn, the other one Demonic'ed for. Of course, both were blackbordered, although that being a clear downside in an ante game! We played the card wrong (no discard) which shows you how excited we were just getting to play it for the first time ever. The only thing that seemed to matter was the additional flip. Everything intensified, but it was not much for both us added to the Ante. I was a little sad to ante my copy of Darkpact, and also quite surprised it was worth some real money in 1994. David told me that both the cards I had ante’d so far recently *spiked*. Still, casual fun, and the goal for the game was anyway just to decide who should pay for the first beer.

Then came the moment that really sold me on this kind of gaming forever: I played a Demonic Attorney. The idea of this card always intrigued me more than any other ante card. You basically ask your opponent: Do you just cut your loss right here, or are you ok with upping the pot by a card each, probably loosing much more? You need to imagine some Juzam Djinn style grin with that question. We flip over the cards, and it hits me like a truck: I ante my Alpha Mox Sapphire. Boom. All the sensation and excitement I've felt before are multiplied. One of the most memorable situations in my whole Magic career, it was absolutely crazy. Not only did I manage to ante one of the most expensive cards of 1994, I did it myself with the greedy Attorney! Absolutely mind-blowing!

So that was the moment, it didn't even matter at that point how the game would end. I was sold. Of course, playing for ante 1994 style is not for everyday gaming, but it is a hell of a lot of fun if you do it only once in a while, with specifically built decks, and you just wanna play a few games with maximum impact. Over the day, I played I think in total 4-5 games with Florian, and the result was as expected: We were always hovering in the /- 5 bucks region. You won't lose a lot of money doing this - but you'll feel like a badass high roller.
All that being said, I urge you to try it out. Wait for a special day, some extraordinary occasion to play, and (most important) build a special deck for it. You'll have crazy situations, high adrenalin and a lot of fun. Will definitely do it again!
^^P.S.: That first beer tasted great, thank you Florian ^^

/Marc

Decks

My Deck. I clearly made an error with the lands, one or more should have been included. I call it: Beauty and the Beast.
Mr. Karl Keks's White Zoo. Placed #4
Leo's Troll Disco coming in at #3
Thilo's ErhnamGeddon
Markus' URB Djinns and Toys
Vincent's Baghdad Reanimator
Marc's Breakfast Machine, finishing 2nd

måndag 24 juli 2017

Gathering the Knights of Thorn

Less than half a year ago, Dyan de Rochemont gave us our first peek into the Dutch 93/94 community. Since then, it seems like the community has exploded. In just a few months, the Dutch mages are already reaching 20 players in their sweet and laid-back tournaments. The Knights of Thorn have truly become a band to reckon with in the world of old cardboard. Today I have the great pleasure to share the story from Erwin Demmer, organizer of and player in The Knight of Thorn tournament in Voorthuizen. Enjoy! /Mg out

In the beginning of this year, I had a playset Unlimited Plateaus for sale and an interested buyer came to my place to see the cards. Normally a sale like this takes half an hour or so; but not this time! We started with coffee and small-talked about Magic and the buyer was talking enthusiastic about his Old School cards, which he played with a couple of buddies. The idea of Old School Magic was growing on me. After years of collecting, this was the time for me to create a nice Old School deck of my own!

We talked and talked, drank beer and had some laughs, and the deal was made!! Oh, not only the deal he came for, but also the bigger deal: an Old School tournament in Voorthuizen, in my backyard. The Swedish rules, + 35 proxies (old border, original art reprints), to give the newbies a chance to play. Each following tournament, the amount of proxies would have to be lower, so more Swedish legal cards are in each deck. The winner of each tournament would win the Knights of Thorn card, signed by each player.  This signed card has to be in his or her deck or sideboard in the next tournament.

Our main goal: organize a kind of N00bcon in Holland. Of course, with a good amount of fun, deck building, trading and... BEER drinking!! The first tournament was with 7 enthusiasts, we had a lot of fun playing several games and had an overall winner who got the first signed Knights of Thorn card. We all committed to play at the next tournament. The date was set, now we 'only' had to organize it.
BRU Trick by Mari Steinhage, including the signed Knights of Thorn Card, won at the first tournament.
Our goal was maybe to have 10 - 14 players but the players kept on entering…
Okay, now I had to find out how many players I could fit in my garden-house and garage. Counting tables and chairs, organizing an extra table or two: yes, it could work for 20 players! We still had to turn down a couple of people though, sorry for that...

In the week before the tournament we got heaps of chips, beer and other drinks, so everybody would have enough to eat and drink. To prepare a lunch for 20 people, my wife helped out the evening before. It was all set; LET'S PLAY MAGIC!
A magical group of people ;)
We started the morning with coffee, cake and greetings. The atmosphere was great! Although it was cloudy the whole day, we didn't have much rain and players where walking from one table to the other to see the several games going on. Every player had his own deck, waiting to draw that one card to hit his opponent in the heart ;) Nice to see so many different people, with the love for Old School Magic.

Two groups of 10 people were playing. Every person was playing 4 games. Out of these pools came a number 1 and 2 who would go to the half finals. Of course there was a final match; who would become the second winner of our signed The Knights of Thorn?
Showdown.
Besides the hosting the tournament, I also played. My first game was against Jimmy, who turned out to be a good opponent, playing The Deck. I lost the first game because of a Fireball of 16 damage. The second game I got my Underworld Dreams up and running, which made it 1 - 1. An exciting last game it would be! At the end of the third game, I was at 14 life and Jimmy at 6. He was counting and counting for his Fireball but came 1 mana short to win the match. My decision to use the Strip Mine for his Mishra's Factory turned out to be golden. On my turn I played a Wheel of Fortune but because of his sideboarded COP: Black, he could prevent the seven damage.
Erwin Demmer's Trick Deck.
Then the tension came on; witch 7 cards would end up in my hand?? Lucky for me I drew 2 Bolts witch I could play. YES the game ended in my favor, I WON!
For me this was the best game of the day, I really enjoyed it. Both Jimmy and I defeated 3 men and lost only 1 game. Unfortunately for us it wasn't good enough to reach the finals.
Jimmy To's The Deck.
The final match was a lot of fun and sweat was dripping from 2 foreheads... Who would win??? Was it Wilfred (playing White Weenie), was it Tom (RUG Jugger-Zoo)? By a hair's length, Tom won and Wilfred took his loss like a man; with a bottle of beer :)
Final game
At the end of the day there where two players who did not win ANYTHING! They had a Chaos Orb shoot-out to see who of them would get the extra prize. What they didn't know, that not the winner of this shoot-out would get the prize, but the loser would. That got some good smiles on everybody's faces!
Chaos Orb shoot-out
Of course we all signed the card for the winner. Wijnand delivered some great stuff to give away to the winners and last player. It was all good!
We finished off the day, looking back on a great tournament.
And the winner is: Tom Posthuma!

Thanks all for coming, until the next gathering my friends!

Interested to see all the decks that where played? Join our Facebook page:
MTG 93/94 - Dutch Old School Guild.

/Erwin Demmer

söndag 9 juli 2017

Stories from the Black Summer

June 1995 was the cruellest month. Breeding snow out of the dead lands. Mixing memory and desire.

I was there when it happened. I never saw the snow as relics, it was always nostalgia from a distant present. 22 years has passed since I opened my first booster packs at Tradition in the lower levels of Nordstan in Gothenburg. Almost a quarter of a century. Maybe it's time to look back.

Erik Sundberg has played the format for as long as most of us remember. He has a solid streak at n00bcon and started the first 93/94 Cap Magic community. He developed the idea of 93/94 Rotisserie drafting. He's one of those guys that don't make to much noise at social media but is a pillar in developing casual old school tech. He wanted to delve into the Ice Age. And if someone should break the 7-set limit we usually hold here, I guess Sundberg is the guy. This is a story of the black summer. This is old school. Enjoy! /Mg out

An invitation; to the past, the present and the soon to be present

I jump off my bus. The sun is shining but I am cold to the bone. IS the sun really shining as it did last year?

As all other stories this one takes place in the past. But what is past? According to the “tyda” dictionary: “earlier than the present time; no longer current”. So history can never occur in the present (current) time. Is it then the past? But how long time is “the present/current” time? And when is the past actually soon the future? We play 93/94 in 2017 and we call it old school, but I think we all see that the actual game we play in 2017 is vastly different than the past 93/94 game. But to most people the 1993 and 1994 is the past.* According to our definition, "the past” is separated from "the present” which is the same thing as saying “the past” is dead or at least inactive/non-present. So this article is about the future and the present but starts in the past. This is magic 1993/1994, 1995, 1996 and 2017.

Ah, there they are... I press my face against the glass in the toy store. So many Booster packs of chronicles, fourth edition and the new frosty set. I slam my money on the counter and demand Ice age boosters. 
If the magic baby was born in 93/94 it started to grow up in 1995 with the new mtg expansion: Ice Age, a snow-themed set. Not every card was painted with a winter motive but almost every card in the set shared the same cold barren feeling. Ice Age introduced new mechanics in “cumulative upkeep” and “snow lands” which further emphasized the cold feeling of despair. This was a long way from cheerful high-fantasy used before. Ice Age was cool, really cool.
Just look at these pieces of cold barren beauty.

A new card, a new love, a new age

The smell of new cards attack my nostrils. I stare with awe at this dark, dark card. Maybe it can complement my beloved Frozen Shade? I read the card text and I feel that the life in my body drains away… Pay life? What a lame card. SO much text to no use. How can I be this unlucky to get this rare? How can they throw away a picture this cool on a terrible card?
But I waited until the november 95 inquest with my final judgment of the card. I really wanted this bad ass looking card to be great. In our community, which had no card shop, all prizes were set by the Inquest magazine. This was our holy bible when it came to card prizes and rating. So it was with real excitement I searched for Necropotence power rating. 1-5 in power rankings; 5 = strongest and 1 = weakest.
Hell’s Caretaker 5/5. Hellfire 4/5. Nether Void 3/5. 
Lich 2/5. Hell Swarm 1/5.

1 point... Necropotence got the same power rating as Hell Swarm. The card was officially shit. 

Same card, same love, another new time

The summer of 96 it all changed...
In the New York pro tour format you were forced to play 5 cards from each of the last 5 expansions and a lot of people thought players would show up with some snow-covered basics but stories soon emerged about something new:

“There is some guy playing with Necropotence downstairs—he just paid five life to draw five cards. I don't know how he won.”

“That guy just cast Demonic Consultation and removed half his library from the game. What is he thinking?”

“Good lord. That guy just cast Dark Ritual and Demonic Consultationed for Hymn to Tourach and Hymned his opponent. He had another Hymn for turn two and then played that enchantment and drew seven new cards on turn three! I think his deck might be good.”

Leon Lindbäck took third place at the pro tour with a mono black deck and to the world’s surprise it used the power of the skull to fuel his dark magic. It wasn’t a trick (or a trick deck) but the 1 star card with the awesome art was not garbage, it was golden. Black was back.

The sun is really strange. Smog in this nice small town? Is the factory running hot again so the pollution have started in the delta?

The ramifications in our playgroup were huge. All those who had donated their necros were furious and we, the suckers who had kept the cards, were really happy. Four necros in every deck. We played mono b, r/b aggro necro, g/b life gain necIro, b/w life and death necro. The cards were different but they were all fueled by the life draining power house. We really didn’t understand the deck but Necropotence was so strong that the card by itself compensated for our flaws. In many ways the Ice age card let us younger kids catch up to the more established players cause the deck didn’t require as much power as the old tier 1 decks.  
In our days of necro decks we got the idea that the theme with necro decks were to lose life...

Start of the Current aka more present but non present time

A rainy day our present necro-less world began it’s timeline: "Necropotence restricted".

Minds shattered, hearts broken. Our souls weren’t burned they were defeated. In our group of friends six of twelve played necro. We launched a last tournament where we still could play our beloved decks. Want all loose all. Unfortunately the red sligh deck crushed us all. Necro was restricted and after some trix in extended it was all over. Necropotence was dead...

A dead thing is supposed to not be part of the present and is scuffed away to the past. But a loved thing will not be pushed away easily, so in some hearts the thing is always in the present (even when some people claim it already to be a part of the past*)...

NO! The sun ain’t shining through. There is something going on here in Vargön... Suddenly I recall that we were warned about the “Devil’s island” when we moved here. Can it be black magic for real? In Vargön? 

The dark skull is back and the Vargön community welcomes you to the black summer of 2017! A time for the present Old school community to meet the frosty dark magic of Ice age!
I was thinking about doing some power level errata on the pictured cards, but we try to stay true to the original printing so we don’t mess the old cards up (but I hope you understand the strange language).
18/8: Necro summer at Vargön 93/94 headquarters (my house) or a bigger location nearby. Black Vise wasn’t supposed to be part of “the present” and is restricted.
19/8: Super secret team unified vintage invitational tournament (dredge banned). Really few slots and it will be a blast (at least 3 people from vintage nationals top 8 will attend).  Mail me at sundberg.erik@gmail.com if you want to participate in a tournament so I can do the proper arrangements.

Special challenge!

Shark winner and hall of famer Olle Råde will be attending Necro summer at Vargön and he has promised that he, besides having a secret tech, will crush the event!!! There is no doubt that the skillful green mage have a lot of power and loads of experience but we wonder if he can truly tame the black beasts once and for all. It is supposed to be a black summer so the whole of Vargön’s 93/94 community (myself) has done a lot of research to help our fellow dark mages. To our satisfaction we have discovered some ancient vods and a pro tour winning decklist.

Special prize = Everyone that loses to Olle Råde will receive a signed copy of Woolly Spider.

This is a tournament that tries to emulate the former current feeling of 1995. You maybe wondering: “But Erik... Why 1995? And how does that feel?”. What can I possible know about the past present (1995) in the present time? I guess 95 is equally depressing and jolly as all other years on planet earth but as a mtg set Ice age adds tremendous depth and skill. And for all you people that just hate literature this tournament is for you! So come and try it out in Vargön and make this summer a black one!

Props:
  • The “old school” community: Never felt so good to buy some ridiculously expensive white bordered cards.
  • Placebo_blue: Nice support with great grammar check (I hope).
  • K.a.o.s aka Karlsborgs Anti Oseriösa Spelförening: the sole reason I started this mtg life.
  • Gothenburg vintage and old school scene: Some people will never stop.
  • My fiance: She didn’t force me to sell my (our tbh) power to finance the house.
  • Cardflopper: Who scanned the inquest number.
Slops:
  • People that always want to ban the first “best” thing and can’t see that there always will be a next, “perceived”, best thing.
  • Too few “oldschool” players are giving vintage a shot. It’s a freaking awesome format where your hated books aren’t dominating ;) 
Notes
*Some things are binary and some things are not. This article doesn’t want to wreck some fellow magicians worldview with some metaphysical claims about the relative dimension about truth, knowledge and meaning. But with safety regulations aside and some big reservations regarding non scientific usage of English words (I am trying to exemplify my thoughts in a “alla ska med”-language. If you want some hardcore thinking try out the links at the bottom).

Who creates the definition of “the present”? Is it a valid statement to state that something is not “the present” (valid in the meaning that it can be true or false). Can something be “the present” that is viewed upon? Cause is really my viewing instant? Isn’t there a lapse in time between me viewing and me experiencing an object? An easy example would be when you are listening to music. Every tone is an experience but when am I experiencing a song instead of single tones? Are the tones then not any longer “the present”? To exemplify this further (without trying to be too complex): If you start a song and pause after the first tone, it’s part of, what a lot of people would call “the present”. If you then play the next tones then they are experienced in context with the first tone (that you no longer are hearing directly) but is the first tone still part of “the present” or is it now part of “the past”? If it’s still part of the present because it is creating the context how long is it part of “the present”? If you think about “Seven nations army” as an example. It is a melody/song that is sung by a lot of crowds. Every time you hear someone singing the melody you are (at least I am) recalling the song from your memory. A memory that was created by an experience when you first heard the song. That experience was given it’s meaning with the “the first tone” (and all the others) so you could argue that when you are experiencing  the crowd sing “seven nation army” then “the first tone” is taking place in “the present”. Even when they aren't singing the “first tone” the “first tone” is active as the context.  But the “first tone” experience is a past experience cause you experienced it years ago so “the first tone” is both “the present” and “the past”.

Another example: If I make the statement “now is the present”. Is “the present” taking place when I start uttering the statement or is “the present” present through the whole speech act when I utter the words? Or only the last part when someone understands what I am saying? Or is “the present” a definition that is up to the agent to make? If that is so, it no longer tries to describe an objective object/state. Then there would be merit to claim that there are multiple “the present” and that it’s “true” that for example a bit of time can at the same time be “the present” and “the past”. Or in other words: A proposition regarding “the present/the non present” have a relative truth value or more simply put: If you view something as present then you can’t be wrong.**

** Yes, I ramble around here and in the article as a whole to promote some philosophical thinking. I wanted to write an article for several years so when I managed, I feel obligated to promote some nice thought provoking articles about truth/knowledge and time) Enjoy :)

lördag 17 juni 2017

On books and bannings

Today we have another glorious guest. Svante Landgraf is one of the most prolific The Deck players in the format. Fresh of a top8 in the Stockholm Ivory Cup, and that's just after picking up a trophy in the n00bcon 9 top8, the dude knows his way around old school control decks. He is also an old Pro Tour player with a few success stories from pretty much all sanctioned formats. Svante likes his control decks, and seriously considered the impact of a Jayemdae Tome restriction last month. The Tome got a stay this time, but that didn't stop him from graciously sharing his thoughts with us here. Let's take the ride. Enjoy! /Mg out

I love books and libraries. I love books so much that I spent the last six years getting a Ph.D in what essentially amounts to Comparative Literature (technically, it’s something called "Culture and Society", but wtf does that even mean), to the dual benefits of now being unemployed and being able to call myself a Doctor of Science Fiction. Eminently worth it, I must say.

Consequently, when it comes to Magic, there are few things I like more than drawing cards. I have a soft spot for broken combo things, but ever since reading about blue-white control in the December 1995 issue of Centurion, Sweden’s finest ever Magic magazine, I was hooked on that archetype. The possibility of playing The Deck again is a huge part of why I’m even a part of the 93/94 community. I know, I know, I’m the bad guy.

So, I’m currently mostly unemployed, and I usually take long runs before lunch almost every day. Sometimes so long, in fact, that I need something complicated to think about in order not to collapse from pure boredom. One day I started building all the basic decks in 94/95, but that’s a topic for another time and another place. And one other day, shortly after n00bcon and before the B&R announcement, I started thinking about what to do with The Deck should Jayemdae Tome get restricted, something I thought quite likely at the time.
That’s the topic of this article. Imagine we live in a world where the Tome got the axe some weeks ago. One day, we might live in that world. What do we do? Is The Deck dead? Do we all have to start playing actual win conditions? Fear not. I will walk you through all the opportunities, starting out with straight-up replacements, working my way towards new directions the deck might take. Who knows, there might be some gems in here which are applicable even in a Tome world?
The most obvious replacement is Jalum Tome. There’s even some argument for including a single Jalum in lists with multiple Jayemdaes, as the two cards are synergistic with eachother. The problem with relying on multiple Jalums is that it doesn’t actually provide card advantage. You can toss excess land or removal, but you never get ahead on resources the way you do with an active Jayemdae. Jalums are best used to quickly cycling through the deck, finding other things that can fill your hand so the cycling can continue. In this way, Jalum plays well with all the restricted cards. Should Recall get unrestricted, this becomes increasingly attractive, as you can use Jalum to find Ancestral or Demonic for Ancestral to draw cards, then Jaluming into Recalls to continue the process for quite the reliable card advantage. With multiple Jalums, I even think there might be a case for running Wheel of Fortune in The Deck. Timetwister is a deceptively powerful card in the deck, after all. Jalum also fits well with the next card on the list: Sylvan Library.
Sylvan Library is one of my all-time favorite cards, easily in the top 5 at least, possibly number 1. I love everything about it: the weird old-school art where it’s hard to make out what it’s actually depicting but everything looks great, the power level, the tricks you can use, the weird wording that has changed more times than I can count. I used to beat people with the Sylvan/Abundance combination back in year-2000 Extended Oath of Druids. I also think Sylvan is criminally underplayed in 93/94. Sure, shuffle effects are hard to come by. The only free one is Demonic Tutor. Still, against decks not hurting you, like the mirror, a Sylvan Library is fine to have on its own in The Deck. But maybe you can get a few shuffles in?
Land Tax is the classic combo with Sylvan, even since the first days of Erhnam-Geddon in 1995, but it requires a bit too many basic lands for what The Deck really wants, I think, not to mention the fact that you have to have fewer lands in play than your opponent. If we had Zuran Orb, Land Tax would work, but now, I’m skeptical. There is another opportunity, however, and that is playing Untamed Wilds. You still need basic lands, but fewer; I think three or four would work. As an added bonus, you get extra insurance against Blood Moon. You only get a few shuffle effects, but timing them correctly, they do provide quite a large advantage. I could definitely see a build featuring some Sylvans and 2-3 Untamed Wilds. The mana base would have to change, using Tropical Islands instead of Volcanic Islands, minimizing the red, probably to only a Fireball and a couple of Red Elemental Blasts in the sideboard, but Ice Storm steps in nicely for Stone Rain.
And you can also get around the Sylvan restrictions by using Millstone on yourself. Millstone also doubles as a win condition, of course. However, as you will be milling yourself occasionally or frequently, as well as drawing more cards than your opponent, winning with just Millstone might be hard. I recommend using one Tormod’s Crypt so you can late-game Timetwister + Crypt and then using Millstone as a finisher. Feldon’s Cane would also work but is much slower.

Another way of handling the downsides of Sylvan is not getting rid of the top cards, either by shuffling or milling, but instead gaining life so you can draw more that way. The best plan is probably Ivory Tower, already fringe playable in The Deck and highly synergistic with the burst card advantage Sylvan can provide. Mirror Universe also becomes a better maindeck card if you play a bunch of Sylvans.
In his original The Deck (or at least in a later version which is what I’m able to find at the moment, a list with Amnesias after the Mind Twist banning), Brian Weissman played 2 Disrupting Scepter and 1 Jayemdae Tome. Randy Buehler runs 2 tomes and 2 scepters in his current The Deck. The latter is horribly wrong, the former only probably so, but maybe there is something here? After all, the scepter does share many treats with the tome, both being mono artifacts converting a bunch of mana into card advantage

However, while the scepter can be effective against control and some midrange decks, it just doesn’t offer the raw power the tome does. It’s not at all an engine for the deck, it’s a very specific tool. It’s not a bad card, and playing fewer tomes might open up slots for other mana-intensive cards like scepters, but it doesn’t remotely do what the tome does for The Deck.

That being said, maybe the best way to handle the loss of tomes is changing the strategy a bit?
I usually play a bunch of angels in my sideboard. When boarding in Serras, I frequently cut one book. There’s just so much heavy end the deck can sustain. I’m not a big fan of Serras in the main deck, because of all the swords being played, but without tomes, they might be worth it. Without the tomes, you can’t count on card advantage as giving you perfect inevitability, so killing the opponent is one possible solution to that. The problem with the Serras is obviously that they are quite weak against anything with white. Trading 5 mana for 1 isn’t where you want to be. If not everybody is playing white, they get better. They also get better with Disrupting Scepters or Amnesia. If you go too deep on the Serras, the deck starts morphing into U/W Skies with multiple Serras, Serendibs, and probably Moat and Psionic Blasts, but then you’ve left The Deck territory and ventured into unknown lands. The same goes for accepting the lack of inevitability caused by fewer Jayemdae Tomes and going for a combo kill, likely Power Artifact. There might be merit to some more hybrid builds in this world, but it’s not really The Deck anymore then.
But when it comes to durdly win conditions, I have to spare a word for The Hive. I first saw it in action at the very first 93/94 tournament I played, at LIGG in Stockholm in early 2016, where I believe Seb Celia ran one copy (probably in the sideboard) of his The Deck. When tomes are eating your mana each turn, it’s hard to justify paying 10 for a 1/1 flier, or 15 for two, but when tomes are out of the picture, maybe it’s time for the wasps to shine? They do provide a very resilient win condition against removal. They are also some of the only win conditions dodging both Moat and The Abyss. I’m still highly skeptical, and it doesn’t really solve the problem of providing you with enough resources to bury the midrange decks, but it is an option.

So, what would this mean for The Deck and for the metagame in general? First of all, are there any other decks than The Deck which are hit by the restriction? Not really. Some U/W Skies lists might play two tomes, as well as some Transmute decks, but those are few and far between. The Deck would be weaker, no doubt about it, but it would still be viable and probably still very good. Fewer people would probably play it and it would be a little bit easier to beat. It would be less about taking complete control and more about beating down with Serras or paying life to Sylvan. This all would strengthen midrange creature decks and combo decks, which are not so good against The Deck, and weaken U/R Burn, which is probably the worst matchup for The Deck. In turn, combo decks would be even better, as they are usually at their best against midrange creature decks. On the other hand, not very many players enjoy playing the weird combo decks, and they tend to be quite expensive. We might see a more creature-heavy format with a slightly larger chance of some combo deck spiking a tournament. And The Deck will continue to put up good numbers, I’m sure.

But what do you think? Am I right in this? Hit me up in the comments!

måndag 5 juni 2017

Jumping Jesus and 32 decks to beat

It has been a while since I updated the Decks to Beat page, but I've finally managed to find most of the lists from the last few months. Check 'em out if you want some inspiration.

One thing about decks-to-beat though is that they are by definition decks with winning records at tournaments. The X-0 to X-2 decks of the meta. At the last gathering I played, the Jumping Jesus tournament in Oslo, I e.g. got the chance to battle against an awesome Elephant Tribal deck in the swiss. I also got my only loss in the tournament at the hands of a powerless Red/White deck with Granite Gargoyles. There are lots of cool things to build apart from the "high end piles"; just try to find something that you enjoy playing with. Speaking of the Jumping Jesus tournament, here are some pics from the gathering:
















Black Vise had a decent showing here, with many different decks trying to make it work. From my experience so far it mostly seems like Sligh and other versions of MonoRed Burn have gotten a tangible boost from the card. And Stasis. I met a Stasis player in Karlstad who was super happy that he now was able to play his deck without constantly going to time ;) Maze haven't really made any noise yet, but I felt good about cutting my single red card in Project M (a Fireball) and replace it with a second Maze. Don't know if it actually works better, but it looks nicer.

Ok, let's dig into the Decks to Beat.

Oslo Jumping Jesus Tournament Top4
9 players, photos of 4/4 decks. Two years after the Joypad Open, the second player-hosted 93/94 tournament in Oslo took place. Oslo is a good city for finding pick-up 93/94 games at the LGS or conventions, but as tournaments with beer and casual ambiance go, we've been far behind adjacent cities like Moss and Drammen. Ascension Day looked as good a time as any for a gathering. Project M managed to take the glorious Jump in the finals against Nether Void Ponza, getting past Sligh and The Machine in the semis.

n00bcon 9: World Championships Top8
102 players, photos of 8/8 decks. Players from 13 nationalities and over 30 communities gathered in Gothenburg for the ninth annual n00bcon and World championship of 93/94 Magic. The Beasts of Borgadan of London faced off against The Lords of the Pit from Chicago, the Time Boaks of Yekatrineburg battled fiercely against the Kanel Fireballs from Varberg. In the end, we had the road warrior Icelander slinging against Hashi from the Växjö Team Kaffebryggers in the finals. The Deck had a big showing in the (fairly sober) hands of old pros from the 90s, but in the end Black Disaster stood victorious hoisting the Giant Shark.

n00bcon Training Day Top4
10 players, photos of 4/4 decks. The weekend before n00bcon, Gordon and Paddan gathered players from the Stockholm area to test out their decks, or just get a chance to play some sweet Magic for those in the area who could not make it to the championship this year. Cermak and his UGW Zoo took the trophy again, cementing him as the new rookie of the year. Two different builds of Power Monolith and a Machine Head Ponza round off the top4.

Arvika Festival 3 Top8
47 players, photos of 8/8 decks (one might be incorrect). The Giant Shark of BSK had swimmed to Arvika, and their 3rd Festival became their grandest yet. Armageddon did a real showing at this gathering, with three of the four players reaching the semifinals playing multiple geddons in their piles. Apart from a couple of Erhnamgeddons and UWG Zoo, we had Power Monolith, The Beast, The Deck, UG Beatdown and Artifact Aggro in the top8.

Kort i Kubik n00bcon qualifier Top4
10 players, photos of 4/4 decks. Players from Arvika and surroundings gathered at Kort i Kubik to have a good time and decide one of the community's last slots for n00bcon. As always, the tech was aplenty. The winning deck in the swiss was a true Goblin deck, playing rarely seen cards like Goblin Hero, but in the end KungMarkus's URB counter/discard deck took the trophy after defeating UGW Zoo in the finals. Monoblack rounded off the top4.

LepreCon 2 Top4
13 players, photos of 4/4 decks. About a year after the first 93/94 FNM, players gathered in the Leprecaun Pub in Karlstad once again to drink Guinness, eat meat and play oldschool for FNM foils. Deadguy Ale managed to snatch the victory from Troll Disco in the end, leaving two very different builds of Kird Ape decks in the semis.

On the "inspirational decks" note, I suggest checking out Eternal Central this month. They do an Old School June promotion where Jaco and the other guys post a new 93/94 deck tech every day. Also, I highly recommend the latest episode of the Tusk Talk podcast, where Danny Friedman joins to talk about Old School.

This coming weekend I'm traveling to Stockholm to sling spells at the Ivory Cup. Hope to see a bunch of you there!