torsdag 9 februari 2017

A night at Alara Games

  "So Mg", the voices say, "why not write something about last weekend in Trollhättan? Still have a blog, y'know."
  "Well," I answer myself. "I just invented the sport Soccer Punch, and I'm trying to read a driver's license book filled with what the kids call 'microaggressions'. I don't know how much time I have to write something good."
  "So you think because you write less frequently now, whenever you do it has to be some kind of masterwork? Get over yourself. Prefection is the enemy of done. Yes, I know that's a typo. See how much I care. Just write some shit so we can collect our PW points."
  "Ok, fuck it."

Soccer Punch is a one-on-one sport. You set up small goals with whatever lies around, find something round enough to be excused as a ball, and strap on your gloves. The goal is to avoiding getting punched out by the other player while winning either via scoring or TKO. It's kinda like soccer, but instead of off-sides and passes you've got complex foot work and blunt body trauma. Can't wait for the IOC to pick it up.

When I got home from the two-hour long session with Peter last Friday, my body had given up on me and my mind was as blank as a 1951 Robert Rauschenberg painting. In this state I decided to buy the tickets to Trollhättan and join fellow old school players in celebrating the opening of Alara Games. It went about as well as expected. A short thirty minutes later I had managed to buy train tickets for the wrong day. Another sucker punch, this time in the form of a 449 Nok train ticket. This is an expensive game. But I might win an Uthden Troll.
First prize of the tournament, here in the process of being upgraded.
Hardy, my partner in crime, had left the day before me. He'd found a bed at his girlfriend's aunt's place, and I was told the day before I left that it was room for me as well. I was even invited for dinner before the tournament (which started at 22:00 in the evening to create a more lax drinking atmosphere at the convention site. "Closed company" and all that). So this time I was to ride the train alone for a change. My company was a couple of books and the Hurloon Minotaur jacket.
Train Jacket.
The karma of the world continued her attempts to thwart my consumerism. On the trip I wanted to make a fairly numerous order from the ChannelFireball store. A bunch of sweet cards for the casual decks I bring out when guests are abound or I'm asked to learn people how to play. Like, have you seen cards like Priest of the Blood Rite? I don't care how "pure" you are as an Oldschool player, that is one sweet card.
According to TCGPlayer, Juzam is more than 1,500 times more expensive. But let's be honest here; Juzam is probably not more than 70-80 times sweeter. At most a hundred and fifty times sweeter. Seems like a deal to me.
The CFB store offers free shipping worldwide once the order passes the $200 mark. And if you live in Norway, that's some serious incentive to buy for over $200. That made my pile of random durdle kinda extensive, and a harsh mistress to order on a smartphone. I first tried to order it using my Visa card, but it was for some reason declined so I completed the order with paypal.

About ten minutes later I got the message stating that my credit card had been frozen due to suspicious activity. Apparently it had been used in Ajman, Dubai, Norway and Sweden in the last week, and now someone was trying to order stuff online from a place called "CinnamonFireball" or something like that. Ain't easy being jetset. It feels like it took half an hour on the phone with my bank before I was ready to roll again.
So it started with some sprinkles of tilt. And I had no idea what to expect going home to that aunt and uncle I'd never met. I don't even think that Hardy met them before yesterday. And I'd never been to Trollhättan before. All I knew about the place was that a couple of guys in Gothenburg used to rage about Trollhättan having the best kebab pizza sauce in Sweden.

I got picked up at the station by Hardy and the uncle. He seemed like a very likeable fellow. I asked him about the rumours of the Kebab pizza. He nodded. Apparently there was a cheap hole-in-the-wall pizzeria somewhere in the city that offered nothing short of ambrosia. I knew I had to find it.

The welcome at the aunt and uncle's house was truly remarkable. I'm a random bearded guy from Norway who's a friend of their niece's boyfriend and they treated me like family coming home for the holidays. They made an awesome dinner (I refilled twice), and left nothing wanted in terms of wine, beer, cognac nor drinks.
Cincin ragazzi!
Four or five hours later we all started to get affected by the hospitality. The uncle went and picked up a disco ball and some lasers, and we continued the evening with the backdrop of VH1's top50 love songs and a suburban light show.
#VisitTrollhättan
Now this is fun. Hardy and I recalled old stories of the road. How Megu left his hotel room in Genoa to give us a few hours sleep before he picked us up and drove us to the airport. When KungMarkus left us with his dog in his old house during the first Arvika Festival and we though that we might have become citizens of Arvika. The random three dark thirty disco at the pizzeria in Växjö. Hanging out at Custer's home in Munich. Play the game, see the world. Ain't need no Pro Tour to find friends with these piles of cardboard.

Eventually we left the suburban home to get to the site. The convention was the brainchild of Yespair, the guy who e.g. did video coverage at n00bcon last year. He and a couple of friends just opened a game store in Trollhättan and set up a weekend of Magic to celebrate the occasion. There were a couple of PPTQs, Vintage, Legacy, truly casual EDH and limited. And there was 13 brave souls that gathered for a nightly 93/94 tournament after the doors had closed for the day.

This was my deck for the evening:
Tried some extra shenanigans and a couple of counterspells in place of the red cards this time.
Hardy was on The Machine, but with some solid upgrades since last. In particular these two cards:
Unlocked.
That's awesome. As a duo, we now own over 65% of all the Alpha Lotuses in Norway. The third one belongs to JhovalKing.

Before the tournament started I picked up a Mishra's Workshop from KungMarkus (I want to sleeve up Crimson Disco and Project M at the same time and looked for a second copy of the land), and bought an Elspeth vs. Kiora duel deck from the store. If you like casual Magic and suboptimal decks I give the duel decks two thumbs up. They might lack some in the nostalgia or "bling" departments, but the fact that you can pick up seventy or so sixty-card decks for the prize of a single Workshop should not be scoffed at. In the world of Alpha Lotuses and Beta duals, it's easy to forget just how entertaining other approaches to casual Magic actually is.

Old school is still the best though.
Game on.
I was paired against a new face match one. Erik started playing back in 94/95 but hadn't sleeved up for a tournament in a couple of decades. Our first game was a little anticlimactic. He mulled to six on the play and kept a one-lander with Black Vise. I probably would have too. Luckily I found a mox at the top of my library and got to play that and a Fellwar Stone turn 1. In the end, I managed to sneak away with just five damage from the Vise, and Erik opted to decline drawing any lands for five turns. I eventually resolved a Vesuvan Doppelganger copying a Mishra's Factory, and then got to cast two Copy Artifacts copying the Doppelganger the following turn. That's some serious Mishra beatdown. Triple Doppelganger isn't an easy act to follow.
Magic!
Game two was a little more involved and we both got to cast spells this time. In the end I went Rube Goldberg with Tawnos's Coffin and Tetravus backed up by Guardian Beast.

Fresh on the winning streak I face Erik's friend, Andreas Lövgren. That's no rookie. Andreas has very explosive starts. I think I'm climbing back in game one, but he blows me out with a well-timed Balance. Game two I he attacks for lethal around turn four.

Next dude is good ol' Berntsson from Arvika with his ErhnamGeddon. It's a very strong deck. In the last couple of years, the players from Arvika have really gotten their hands on some powerful cards. It's a tight game, but Guardian Beast and Chaos Orb do what they do best. Control Magic and Terror gets to shine after sideboard.
Berntsson and KungMarkus. Pioneers of the Arvika 93/94 scene. The Arvika Festival tournament will be hosted on their turf February 25. It's easily one of my favorite tournaments of the year.
So, last match. Might be win-and-in for the elimination round. There's only a final this time, as the ungodly hour works against the prospect of an entertaining top4, but 3-1 might be enough. In my way stands eight-time Shark top8 competitor and two-time PWP Invitational winner Jocke Almelund. He is my god damn nemesis. I actually think he's worse than Sehl at this point. Jocke and I have played numerous 93/94 games starting sometime around n00bcon 3. And I've never beaten him once. He starts game one.
Sure. Why not.
I don't manage to resolve a spell that doesn't get countered or destroyed before I pass the turn. No threats are left unanswered for the entire game. And it's not that I don't draw well; I had awesome hands. LoA, Disks, Tomes and the whole shebang. Yet again he beats me out of contention without breaking a sweat. I will have my revenge. Some day I will.

In the end Jocke's tiebreakers didn't help him to the finals. Instead the last match was a battle between Andreas Lövgren and Martin Lindström. Martin had played three tournaments in the last year; n00bcon warmup, n00bcon 8, and BSK. He finished 1st, 2nd and 1st in those. This weekend brought another title to his résumé. At this point it's starting to get easy arguing he's the best The Deck player in the world.
Congrats!
Hardy and I drifted around at the site for while and eventually found a cab to take us back to the aunt and uncle's house. He was to play the Vintage tournament the next day and I joined him to the site before the train would take me back to Oslo.

I asked Yespair about the rumours I'd heard of the kebab pizza. That cheap pizza place with supposedly the best sauce in Sweden. He knew. The truth of the story was only a five minute walk from the site. He jotted down some directions on a piece of paper. On a backstreet in Trollhättan, hidden between random shops and apartment buildings, it was.
I paid 65 Sek (around €7) for a massive lunch of the local cuisine. And god damn. Play the game, see the world.

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