söndag 15 december 2013

Legendary cycles

A few months ago, we looked at the worst mana fixers in 93/94. This time we'll look at my personal top5 "worst cycles" from Legends. It is kind of amusing that there are enough weak cycles in the set to make a list like this btw :)

Legends is a very large set. For one, it is larger than Beta. It is also larger than the three other legal expansions in 93/94 combined (Arabian Nights, Antiquities, and The Dark). There is a handful of very powerful cards in the set; like Mana Drain, Mirror Universe and The Abyss, but there's also a vast amount of sub-par cards in there. Lets dive into some of the more infamous parts of Legends.

5. Mana Batteries

The Mana Batteries aren't as horrible as the other cards on the list here, it's just that their casting cost makes them utterly unplayable in every conceivable format. The cards would be actually good if they costed half as much to cast (two mana for these isn't an unreasonable wish either, they were printed between the moxen and Fellwar Stone). The development of Legends however had some issues, and to quote original playtester Skaff Elias:

"One huge factor that allowed the cardset to be completed on time was that, by-and-large, the Legends team didn't care about casting costs. If a card's effect was too powerful or out of flavor for the color, instead of trying to get an agreed upon alteration, or explaining concepts of color theme, we could just overcost the card by a mana or two -- a lot of this can be seen in Legends today."

The Mana Batteries ended up taking five uncommon slots in the set, and never being played in competitive decks.

4. BandsLands

Now we're getting somewhere! Five years ago, the BandsLands would have placed higher up on the list, but due to some more recent changes on the "Bands with other" rule, these lands are pretty close to having an actual effect these days. When printed, a card with e.g. bands with other Merfolk would, counter-intuitively, not band with other Merfolk. It would however band with e.g. a Zombie that had the ability Bands with other Merfolk. There were more strange subsections of this rule, but as even ordinary banding was kind of hard to understand a few years ago (and still is today), I wont go into to much details. Today, the cards actually makes your Legends able to form a band with other legendary creatures, and may at extremely rare and complex board states do something.

3. Glyphs

Glyph of Reincarnation is one of those cards that can make you appreciate the simple design of Raging River. Legends had a big Wall-theme, and I guess someone though that these would be excellent combat tricks. They are not. I can see you contemplating a situation where you donate a Wall of Dust to your opponent with Juxtapose, play a Creature Bond on it, attack with a random creature, play False Orders to make them block with the wall, and cast two Glyph of Destruction for the win. However, Glyph of Destruction can only target walls you control, so that deck isn't as good as you might think.

2. Landwalk hosers

This might be the actual worst cycle in Legends. Comparing this and the number one spot is a little like comparing them with Pikachu and Jack of Diamonds; you can't play either in Magic decks. I guess that Undertow is the one that have an even remote chance of having an effect, and that Great Wall is the worst offender here. No one ever even considered playing the "fixed" version of these cards, Staff of the Ages from Ice Age, and that is an artifact that stops all landwalk for 3 mana.

1. Quicklaces

Dwarven Song. Haha. So you hear it, and become red for a while? I don't get it. Is it supposed to combo with Gauntlet of Might or Blue Elemental Blast? Were the laces from Alpha to powerful, and needed fixed versions? Mana Drain might be uncommon in Legends, but so is Sea King's Blessing :)

One more week until Christmas vacation btw. Looking forward to get back to Gothenburg for a while and play some old school magic over some sweet beer :)

måndag 9 december 2013

Thunder TaxEdge

Christmas coming up! This week we'll take a quick look at a sweet deck in the seasons colors.

There are two main approaches to Tax Edge we've seen a the top tables thus far. One is pretty much just an extension of traditional White Weenie, with some Plateaus and a mountain added to support Land's Edge and Lightning Bolt. The other approach is creatureless, and uses cards like Ivory Tower and full sets of Howling Mine.

The Thunder Tax Edge is somewhat in between those two. It only supports 6 creatures (4 Thunder Spirit and 2 Serra Angel), but is still much more aggressive than the creatureless version, and have a better late game than the version supporting White Knights and Savannah Lions. This "midrange version" of Tax Edge have not been represented in the last few tournaments, but I think that it has a pretty good matchup against most of the decks that we've seen in the last top8s. It may need some tweaks, but it's nonetheless really fun to play :)

4 Thunder Spirit
2 Serra Angel

4 Land Tax
2 Land's Edge
2 Blood Moon

4 Chain Lightning
3 Winds of Change
2 Dust to Dust
1 Stone Rain
1 Wheel of Fortune
1 Balance
1 Detonate

4 Lightning Bolt
2 Disenchant
2 Howling Mine
1 Black Vise
1 City in a Bottle
1 Sol Ring
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby

LANDS (20)
13 Plains
3 Mountain
3 Plateau
1 Strip Mine

3 Red Elemental Blast
1 Land's Edge
1 Stone Rain
4 White Knight
1 Disenchant
1 Dust to Dust
1 City in a Bottle
2 Ivory Tower
1 Maze of Ith

måndag 2 december 2013

The arguments on Fallen Empires

Two topics about legality have been discussed vividly since the format started 2007. One was regarding Chaos Orb, and how we could legalize it while both maintaining the flavor of the card and avoiding messy play areas with spread out cards. The other one is regarding the legality of Fallen Empires. The issue with Chaos Orb was solved about two years ago, and we haven't looked back. The topic with Fallen Empires is still being discussed, and was brought up again during last BSK.

Ah, the days of scanable boosters :)
At its most basic, the arguments against Fallen Empires are the facts that it was easy to obtain as sealed product after 1994, and that it's inherent attainability makes the deck building process much less involved. You can still buy a sealed box with 60 FE boosters for about $150-200, and that very fact makes it less appealing as "true old school". Complex card searching and suboptimal deck building is an important part of the format, and legalizing an overprinted expansion is not really in the spirit of this.

At its most basic, the argument for Fallen Empires is that it would create a great influx of playable decks, that it was released in 1994, and that it is the last of the old school "stand-alone expansions" (it came before the block structure we've had since Ice Age/Homelands/Alliances). As a set, Fallen Empires is still pretty old school, without the new-fanged tap symbol and with it's see-through booster packs. The main argument is however the addition of playable cards. With one core set and four expansions, maybe the meta in 93/94 can't evolve forever. Still, many great games don't need expansions to be fun to play (Civilization, Settlers, Dominion, etc).

A removal-proof and huge trampler, which also fills your graveyard with threats. Reanimate-ho!
The budget concerns are actually not a huge argument against Fallen Empires, as other budget alternatives are already allowed in the format (Unlimited by us, and Revised by e.g. the Nova Scotia players). Also, if you want to build an "optimized" Goblin deck you'd still need other expensive cards. Three years ago, Stalin (this blog's founder) commented on the Fallen Empires discussion:

"I think we should decide where we want to go with the format. If we want Pimp, we should ban Unlimited. If we want 93/94, we should legalize Fallen Empires. If we want Old School, we may want to go as far as Alliances."

It might be worth noting that Stalin is in the (pretty small) "ban Unlimited" camp himself though.

The new Hypnotic runs straight through Maze of Ith.
At BSK, a lot of the players I talked to were open to eventually legalize the Empires. The main reasons is that Fallen Empires could make tribal strategies possible (like Merfolk and Goblins; and possibly Thrulls and Fungi), and improve strategies that might diversify the meta. I've stated before that I consider Fallen Empires to be a superior set to The Dark (and possibly Antiquities) powerwise. I think that most of the sets bad publicity is due to the fact that it was overprinted, and that the best cards were common (Hymn to Tourach, Goblin Grenade, and pump knights).

Both sides of the discussion have valid arguments. At this point it seems possible that Fallen Empires could be legalized sometime in the future of the format. Feel free to give feedback on it's inclusion or exclusion :)

måndag 25 november 2013

Colossus Skull

Ahh, the man that is GaJol. I've written about his tech twice before, once about the old Skull of Orm deck and once about his distress deck. I'm not really sure exactly what he's up to these days, but the word on the street is that he's back in Sweden again for the foreseeable future.

GaJol enjoying a good beer and Schram.
GaJol teamed up with Viktor "Oldschool" to prepare for BSK. The deck he put together is definitely one of my favorites from the tournament. I'm not really sure what is maindeck and what is sideboard here though. I believe that the cards on the last row are most of the sideboard, except for the fourth Priest of Yawgmoth and the Berserk, and that the two All Hallow's Eve are supposed to be in the board.

Lots of shenanigans going on here

tisdag 19 november 2013

Revisting the Grail

At BSK I finalized a trade for a particular card that I'd had my eyes on for over six months. I've wanted the card for as long as I've played, but this specific copy was the one I'd been trying to get since n00bcon. I only know about 4 or 5 copies of alpha Black Lotus in Sweden, and I've only seen two of them IRL, but this was my favorite copy of the few I know to exist :)

Roland bizing moxes, lotuses and duals (it was obviously more to the trade than the cards on the table here).
I know around 15 years of the card's history. It was acquired by a guy in Texas around 97/98, and then sold to Roland Johansson in 2005. Among it's sightings in Gothenburg, Roland played the card to the finals of the Gothcon Vintage tournament in 2007, and won that tournament again with the card in 2008. There is actually a previous picture of the card at this blog as well, from my short deck tech about Roland's machine head ponza from n00bcon 5. I wonder who opened the card, and if that person was more impressed of a Craw Wurm or something from that pack. Not an impossible scenario.

Swamp, Lotus, Scavenging Ghoul, go.
So, now my Project M deck has taken a leap forward, and few steps back. I don't have any moxes for the deck anymore, but I have the card that I though would be the by far most difficult to get my hands on. Moxes, schmoxes.

I did a post a while back about Black Lotus and Holy Grails. Alpha Black Lotus is pretty much as deep as you can go considering the requirements for a "grail", but there actually are some rarities from 93/94 that I assume could fetch a higher price than a (played) alpha lotus, if they were to be sold. Here are three examples for you trivia buffs:
  • High end "pre-alpha" cards, that is playtest cards. There were three editions of the playtest cards (alpha, beta and gamma; easy to mix up the names). I have no idea how much the asking price would be for the Starburst card I showed in my post about Time Walk, but I guess it would be stupid high.
  • High end Summer Magic cards. In particular Serendib Efreet from Edgar is insanely expensive.
  • High end Antiquites/Unlimited double sided test prints. Just crazy.
 I don't really want to own test prints and such myself though. I want to play with my cards, and use my lotus to cast a second turn Vesuvan Doppelganger. I'm really glad to finally have it :)

torsdag 14 november 2013

White winner

This format can at times look somewhat expensive. One could argue that it would be cheaper to play - and get new decks for - Type 2 for about 40 years than to buy a deck like Freespace's 5c Machine Head. That may be true, but nonetheless there are very viable budget alternatives in 93/94. Black Lotus and Moxen are great cards, but they are probably less broken in 93/94 than they would be in any sanctioned format. Playing skill and evaluating the meta goes a long way, even when battling uphill against power.

This hand is unbeatable btw.
One of the players that illustrates this is Henrik "Brorsan" Jerberg. Brorsan is one of the driving players from Varberg, hosting his own Brorsan Invitational each year and contributing greatly to the older casual scene in his town. He does own full power (for his cube, of course ;)), but he doesn't play it himself in Old School tournaments. Nonetheless, he won both Kingvitational in June and BSK 2013 two weeks ago with slightly different takes on white weenie.

He is also a handsome guy
Brorsan's deck does a few things few people have done before him in the format. He doesn't play Land Tax for one. He uses Army of Allah rather than playing maindeck City in a Bottle. He also plays King Suleiman in the sideboard, which is awesome.

Ancestral into Old Man and Jovial Evil seems fruitless against the horde of tiny guys
Since Kingvitational, Brorsan has added Balance to the maindeck, which seems like a fair choice. Here is the winning deck from BSK in all its glory:

If the deck would be completely whiteborded, one might even call it "very affordable".

måndag 11 november 2013

BSK 2013 top8 decks

The decks to beat section have been updated with 7 of the 8 decks from the elemination rounds at BSK 2013. The missing deck is Brorsan's winning WW list, but the other sweet decks can now be viewed in full glory. I'm sure I'll discuss some of these decks in more detail in the future, as well as some of the decks that didn't make the cut (in particular GaJol's reanimate deck was awesome).

The Djinns and Efreets are showing up in big numbers this time. As control has been somewhat weakened, the big Arabian Night's creatures can dominate the board more easily.

Freespace's 5c Machine Head.
 The only card played in all 8 decks is Strip Mine. Some other cards that are played in a majority of the decks include Black Lotus, Sol Ring and Mishra's Factory. The most copies of a non-land card is Berserk, with no less than 16 copies in the top8. I guess that cards like Moat, Terror and City in a Bottle will become more popular soon :)

torsdag 7 november 2013

The Powertwist Dream deck

In the coming weeks I'll be showing some of the decks played at BSK. We'll start with Viktor "Oldschool" Peterson's Powertwist Dream deck.

Viktor mainly builds his decks on his own, and then rigorously tests them against a gauntlet of his other decks to see how his creations play out. The first version of this deck was played at n00bcon 4 (Easter 2012). That version wasn't tested that much, and Viktor opted to play some other strange decks during BSK 2012, n00bcon 5, and Kingvitational. After some more playtesting and tweaks though, Powertwist Dream really broke some backs at BSK last weekend. It looks somewhat yanky and strange, but this version really holds together surprisingly well.

The deck's main win conditions are Underworld Dreams combined with multiple draw7 spells, or Mirror Universe followed by Fireball. Game 2 it also has a group of evasive creatures. As the opponent most probably sideboards out creature removal, cards like Serendib Djinn and Shivan Dragon can be impossible to handle. It ended up in 2nd place in the tournament, giving yours truly a crushing defeat in the quarter-finals, and buring out the opponent in the quarterfinals with a quick Channel-Fireball. It fell short against the White Weenie in the finals, but managed to have a pretty amusing win against WW in the swiss, when Viktor responded to Balance by sacrificing all his lands to Dark Heart of the Woods.

Here it is in all it's glory:

måndag 4 november 2013

A casual report of BSK 2013

Weekends like this really warms up the cold November rain. It included a tour back to the pubs of my old university, learning Roborally with my girlfriend, an awesome Vintage tournament at BSK, and finally getting my hands on the most powerful of the Power. Most of all though, it was time for the annual Old School Shark tournament at Scandic Plaza in Borås.

Hard to see most of the players' signs, but the sign in the text box is Tom Wärnerstrand's. Now that's rare.
I was planning to stay with Honka and Freespace. We were to compete as the dreaded Team Lederhaups, but Honka could unfortunatly not make it due to exams. Instead the third bed in our suite was filled by the amazing deckbuilder and all-round good guy Viktor "Oldschool" Peterson.

Freespace making some last minute adjustments; adding some Vampires to battle City in a Bottle and changing unl Swords to beta dito.
I'm still building on my Project M deck, and I had some new additions for this tournament. Since Kingvitational, I'd added Terror, Time Walk and Forcefield to the maindeck, and updated my sideboard. Turns out that Abomination stops most creatures in the format, and that Copy Artifact is awesome. This is what I had sleeved up:

Abomination is the new The Wretched. Sorry for the blurry pictures btw.
Due to a combination of bad timing and a hard time planning for the event, there were fever players who could make it to the tournament than the last two years. The people who could join were however awesome. Elof has recently become a father, and it was great to see him for the first time since the occasion. Gajol has been away for a long time in Iceland and Greece, and I hadn't seen him since before the summer. Tournaments like this is a great way to meet people. It may also be the best kind of Magic.
Flashed mob
Before the tournament started, the Lederhaups suite got a visit from old school collector Mats "Ottifant" Karlsson. He didn't have the time to stay for the tournament, but he wanted to try out the format and test his deck. Ottifant btw owns about 85 alpha Thoughlaces. As there exists very few alpha cards, that's almost 8% of the entire print run of the card. It's kind of daunting to consider that all copies ever to exist of any alpha rare could fit inside a single long box. Mats proved to have quite a few more alpha cards than laces though.

Sedge Troll might survive the Disk, but Control Magic still works. A few more Trolls from Mats unfortunately turned the tables on our hero later on.
After about five hours of pre-game beer, the tournament was afoot in the Lederhaups suite. Since the restriction of Mana Drain, the format has become much more open. Pretty much all Shark tournaments before this one have ended in a final between two The Decks with 8 Mana Drains between them. This time both creature decks and combo decks had the opportunity to do well in a whole different way. In the swiss, I faced a ponza with Roc of Kher Ridges, a reanimate deck with Bazaar of Baghdad and Priest of Yawgmoth, a Book Deck, a very strange Draw7 deck with multiple Dark Heart of the Wood and Fastbond, and a good stuff Djinn/Efreet/Birds deck. I managed to go 4-1 in the swiss (losing to Elof and the Book Deck), and was off to top8. Rather than writing a proper tournament report, here are some pictures:

First game about to start. Team Lederhaups and new player Axelsson in the couch.
An altered Library gets the Ice Storm. Fair response.

Kungen contemplates his keep.

Pretty stacked graveyard. The Tutor fetched Island btw :)

New player Macensi's Savannah Lions vs Oldschool's Dark Heart of the Woods.

GaJol looks sad after I copy my Chaos Orb with Copy Artifact, and go nuts with help from Guardian Beast. I won that one.

GaJol looks even more slumped during the next game, when I use Tawnos's Coffin on his Colossus of Sardia and attack with a swampwalking Sol'Kanar. Magic!

Kungen managed to place last in the tournament, and was awarded with a playset of each Kobold.

12 players ahead of him in the tournament singed one Kobold each (with a lot of friendly trashtalk about his mediocre skills).

The glorious Top8; Axelsson, Mg, Oldschool, Brorsan, Jokemon, Jhovalking, Elof and Freespace.

Oldschool and Brorsan; finals between the radest dudes on the block.

Erling and Axelsson scorekeeping the finals.

WW facing a seemingly random pile of cards. Oldschool's deck was incredibly well built, and horrible to face.

Brorsan take the trophy after an amazing performance! The newest Shark-winner repeats his dominance from Kingvitational, and shows that powerless WW is a real threat in the right hands.
What else? Elof easily won the swiss with his Book Deck, but lost in the quarterfinals against Axelsson's hasty UG beatdown. I lost in the quarterfinals against Oldschool, and I mean really lost. Oldschool's insane deck left me utterly defeated both factually and mentally. Jokemon lost in the semifinals against a traditionally unfair Channel-Fireball. There are lot's of more anecdotes between the lines, but I guess that some things that happens at BSK stays at BSK ;)

I'll post some more deck tech during the coming weeks, as well as a summary of  interesting discussions about the legal sets in the format. It was a great weekend with sweet people, and I'm looking forward to the next time we'll meet!

måndag 28 oktober 2013

Beware of Magic the gathering!

It's easy for people to find things they don't approve of. Be it jazz music, Elvis's hips, horror films, or Dungeons and Dragons. One of the latest crazes about this have been violent video games. Before the GTA era however, Magic was seen as a dangerous influence by many of the more fundamental groups. As last weekend's tech session in Gothenburg didn't pan out, I'll instead write a little about the dangers of playing Magic. Beware!

The flavortext may be even worse when it's read backwards!
To set the stage, in the mid 90's there actually was quite a big stirring around the morality of RPGs. Magic joined the ranks as the first fantasy card game, and even big media was somewhat worried. Washinton Post had this to say (Under the Spell of 'Magic' by Aimee Miller; Washington Post; 7-27-94.):

"Unlike Dungeons and Dragons, which became an infamous tool for occultists, Magic has not developed an outside mythology. 'This draws on the milieu, the fantasy of Dungeons and Dragons' says Richard Garfield, the creative impetus behind Magic..."

I have a very hard time picturing the good Dr. Garfeild saying that D&D is a "famous tool for occultists", but I guess a quote says more than the thousand words before or after it. It obviously didn't stop here though. Once the more fundamental groups got some wind in their sails, the snowball started rolling. Probably my "favorite" article on the subject is Beware of Magic: the Gathering. Today, it is hilarious, and slightly dated. It spells "InterNet" in italics, and complains about an Unlimited set costing up to $1500. It does not spare the Bible quotes however:

"When anyone becomes preoccupied with thoughts that are an abomination to the Lord God Almighty there is going to be trouble. According to 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 we must reject thoughts that are contrary to God's word, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. If a person refuses to do that Romans 1:21 reveals the consequences -- Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. A darkened heart is serious business!"

So what happened then? Did all these rants have any effect? I think that these two cards from Unglued and Unhinged illustrates it the best:

The joke is the creature types. First one is from 1998, second from 2004.
You may have noted that Wizards decided to take the safe route here, to avoid  additional bad publicity regarding occult references. It's fairly known that they removed the pentagram from Unholy Strenght in 4th Edition, but did you also know that Ice Age was the last set with any clear occult references (or creatures of the type "Demon") for 7 years? The occult discussion around the time of Legends made Wizards remove cards like Demonic Hordes and Demonic Tutor from 4th Edition, and made them very conscious about what cards they could print for the better half of a decade. Today it seems almost funny that people though you could be worshipping the Devil by playing Magic, but at the time of 93/94 it was a real concern for the company.

Misquoting the Bible on printed cards may also be a bad idea when arguing with people who think you are blasphemous. Ecclesiastes 3:19 actually begins “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts..."; the card Revelation instead quotes the Deuterocanonical book Sirach (aka Ecclesiasticus), the typo was fixed in Chronicles. Now THAT is some sub-cultur trivia.
 Next weekend it's time for BSK! I'm planning to play Magic at the actual convention this year, for the first time in about four years. My vintage and legacy decks are complete, and I have a pile of casual decks I hope to try out as well. Most exciting of all though, I'm in the final stages of the biggest trade in my life set up for next Saturday. It will be an exciting weekend :)

måndag 21 oktober 2013

Something BSK this way comes

I felt I needed to do a hat trick on the Shakespeare references in the last three titles. I'll stop now :)

BSK 2013 coming up! In ten days, I'll be going to Borås for one of the two "nerd peaks" of my year. I've got the hotel room booked, my vacation cleared for Friday the 1st of November, and I'm ready for some last-minute tech this Saturday with my team mates. Good times will be had.

It's a little sad that many of the formats old key players wont be able to make it to this BSK though. Kids and work in other countries makes arrangements like this hard to attend (as well as the fact that BSK collides with Bazaar of Moxen this year). Of the 6 old shark winners, only Viktor "Oldschool" Peterson will be able to join, so the field seems wide open. Additionally, at least two more of the usual The Deck-players will be at BoM, so it really looks like some of the more unconventional decks may have time to shine. I assume that the coming DTB update with the top8 decks will be one of the sweetest yet :)

I was actually thinking about writing about building on a budget today. I started to write about the sweet decks that can be built with a budget of less than, say, $500. The format can seem very intimidating to get in to, as many decks may have a price tag of a few cars. It is highly possible (and encouraged!) to play the format with a student's budget though. Time constraints tonight made me save this topic for another week; but among my favorite "cheap" decks are Electric Eel Aggro and Tax Edge. If you have any particular topics you'd like me to write about, feel free to come with suggestions.

Anyway, get some old cards, join us at BSK, have a beer with us in our suites, and marvel at plays like turn one Plains, Black Lotus, Icy Manipulator. To pique your interest, here's a picture of a truly awesome deck used by a truly awesome player, The Book Deck by Elof:

The win condition is "unfairness".

tisdag 15 oktober 2013

93/94 by any other name

I usually try to write my posts when I'm travelling between Oslo and Gothenburg each weekend, but this time sleep took the upper hand of the ride. Currently, I have about 15 topics on my "to write"-list (apart from tournament stuff), but I still aim to update the blog about once a week. I much prefer to have a solid stream of posts throughout the year, than to simply post stuff once a day for a month and then get writers block. Also, posting once a day would be really time consuming ;)

Anyway, as I didn't do any brainstorming at the bus (I think this weeks topic were supposed to be about Goblin decks), I will "wing" this post with something completely different, and write about a topic that comes up quite a lot while discussing the Old School format; the name 93/94. People often ask why we don't allow Revised or Fallen Empires, and I'll try to answer this as good as I can.

An old Team 0-2 drop t-shirt motive. Always Juzam.
In the mid 2000s, I was a part of a fairly decent eternal team. In order to improve our general understanding of the game, we played, and tried to break, a number of odd formats. It was a lot of Mirage Block, Cap-Magic, and Ice Age going on. And we built a lot of strange decks. To make a fairly long story short, at some point early 2007 I built this deck, using only black bordered cards:

4 Erg Raiders
4 Merfolk Assassin
3 Sea Serpent
3 Dandan
2 Phantom Monster
2 Water Elemental
1 Wall of Putrid Flesh

4 Unholy Strength
3 Phantasmal Terrain
2 Unstable Mutation

4 Dark Ritual
2 Terror
3 War Barge
1 Sol Ring

10 Swamp
11 Island
1 Strip Mine

4 Cuombajj Witches
4 Frankenstein's Monster
2 Fallen Angel
2 Boomerang
2 Oubliette
1 War Barge

This is clearly not a very good deck. It is however a deck containing cards that I pretty much never even got to see when I was a kid, and the feeling of nostalgia was awesome. I would of course have preferred to have Mahamothi Djinn and Sengir Vampire over Sea Serpent and Air Elemental, but I didn't really feel that I could spend that money. At this time, I was a student trying to maintain a legacy card pool, and a beta Mahamothi was more expensive than a revised Underground Sea.

My friend Kalle liked the deck, and made an "old school" deck of his own. Kalle had a very impressive vintage collection even at that point, so we used to give my deck a handicap in the form of a handsize of 14 cards rather than 7. Kalle still won most of the time. A few people at our local gaming store Backstab looked interested in the format, and it was at this point we started to discuss which sets we should allow in an "old school" deck.

Rad dudes playing rad cards in the early days of the format
I got my first Magic cards in October 1994. Actually, it was my sister who got the cards, a starter deck of Revised, as a birthday gift from our mom. We didn't really play that much at home the first few months, but once a few friends at school picked up some cards, I was hooked. This was early 1995, in the transition period between Revised and 4th edition, and before Ice Age.

The cards you couldn't find in early 1995 felt mythical. No one at school owned any cards from The Dark or before. I really wanted cards like Goblin Wizard and Frankenstein's Monster, but I'd only read about them in magazines. Revised was everywhere, and of course Fallen Empires had been overprinted and you could buy 3 packs for 20 kr (about $1 a pack) in many stores. I once traded a Howling Mine and a Winter Orb for a single Sage of Lat-Nam, just to get a real old card, and felt great about the trade. This is why my first deck in Old School Magic contained expansions up until The Dark, but not Revised. This was old school to the huge number of players that started playing around that time.

Not pictured: New school.
Kalle had a slightly different vision at first. He started playing a few months before me (we got to know each other in 2004 btw), and he did not consider The Dark old school in the same way. In the end we kept it though, maybe because I refused to let go of my Merfolk Assassin/War Barge combo in my first deck. We also discussed Unlimited at length. On one hand, it was all reprints, but we decided to keep it anyway, as the manabase could become too expensive otherwise. At this point we obviously had no idea that there would be an international community a few years later. It's kind of amazing.

And rad players in Germany!
The name 93/94 became a mainstay first after the Gothcon calendar 2008, when the first tournament in the format was arranged (with 4 players). In the calendar, the format was simply called "93/94", and in many ways it is a much less misleading name than Old School Mtg. Many players considers Urza block, or even Psychatog, old school; it's a very subjective word.

So, we may consider our legal sets to be those that you only could find in stores during 93-94. If it was easily obtainable 1995 (such as Revised and Fallen Empires), it's not on our list. That's the name right there :)

In the end, it's all about nostalgia and your own interpretation though. If you want to play Revised (or Arena) in your local group; by all means do. The pillars of the format include a casual environment, historical eternal decks, a "build-with-what-you-own" mentality, and a huge amount of work and money to get to  your favourite builds. As long as you have that, you're doing it right, even if the Nordic players may jokingly refer to it as "proxies". I've been actively building my 2-color deck for well over year now btw, and I hope to be finished by new years 2014/2015. The journey is sweet.

Let's end the rant with a picture of triple Berserk on Serendib Efreet:


måndag 7 oktober 2013

Time Walk and Hamlet 1:5:190

That's an obscure title.

About 18 years ago, I remember a guy at TV-spelsbörsen pointing at a card on their "Wall of Magic". Tv-spelsbörsen was one of the local gaming stores in Gothenburg in the 90's, and one of the walls in the store was completely covered in color proxies of every magic card ever printed at that point. I remember many days staring at the wall and trying to learn all the cards. I still didn't really know which cards were good, but I do remember this guy talking to a friend of his, and pointing at Time Walk, stating that it was the best Magic card ever printed. I knew he probably had a point, but I didn't really understand why. It felt like Polar Kraken would be a superior win condition.

Two years later, I remember a guy approaching me at BSK 1997. He was looking to sell 7 cards, and asked me if I would give him 2000 kr (about $300) for two Moxes, four Underground Sea and a Time Walk; it was a pretty good deal even back then. 14-year old me obviously didn't have that money to spend, but I felt a little envious to the next guy he went to who accepted the offer. That was the closest I had come to power cards at that point, and the Time Walk felt as mythical as ever.

Time Walk always had a special place for me as magic cards go, and very few cards compare to it. I never owned one before, but just this month I got to finalize my purchase of this gem, from old Shark winner Robert Schram:

It's more expensive now than 1997 btw.
Time Walk may not be the best card ever, but it is certainly one of the true greats. This post will actually be somewhat strategic, on how I perceive playing with Time Walk. As stated, I haven't owned it myself before, but I have certainly cast it, and not the least played against it a huge number of times. And I do think that many players cast Time Walk suboptimally.

I tried to find articles covering strategy on extra turns, but with no luck. So, I figured that I could write one myself. Note that this strategy covers 93/94. In e.g. EDH, an extra turn is has another value than in a one-on-one game, and of course extra turns have more implications in a format with Smokestacks or Planeswalkers.

So, Time Walk is such a great card that it's good even when played far from optimally. Much like newer cards such as Necropotence and Brainstorm, Time Walk will always be at the very least decent. The worst possible Time Walk says "Untap all permanents. Draw a card" for two mana. That is very playable. If you have an additional land to play, Time Walk becomes better. For each thing you may do at your turn Time Walk becomes better. One of the most hyped cards from Visions, and at a point the most expensive card in the set, was Relentless Assault (for all you youngsters; it's a sorcery that gives an extra combat step for 2RR). Time Walks does that one as well. These concepts are mostly intuitive however, and I think the gold can be found once we consider the card Starburst. But more on that later.

First we must face the goldfish.
Lets start with the most basic examples, fighting the goldfish opponent, and always drawing perfectly. Say that you play a deck that consists of a Time Walk, Underground Seas, and the following card

Juzam's Will 3BB
You win the game.

When do you play your Time Walk? Correct answer is obviously at any time between turn two and four, in order to make you win before your (actual) turn five. It's usually not this easy.

Now, consider a more "realistic" deck, consisting of a Time Walk, 20 Islands and 20 Merfolk of the Pearl Trident. You still fight the goldfish and draw perfectly. When do you want to play your time walk? Can Time Walk be a blank? Consider playing it on turn two:

T1: Island, Merfolk
T2: Island(2 in play), Time Walk. Attack for 1.
ExtraT: Island(3),3 Merfolks(4). Attack for 1 (2 damage total).
T3: 2 Merfolks(6). Attack for 4 (6 total).
T4: 1 Merfolk(7). Attack for 6 (12 total).
T5: 1 Merfolk(8). Attack for 7 (19 total).
T6: Attack for 8, kill the goldfish.

Now, consider not playing it at all:

T1: Island, Merfolk
T2: Island(2), 2 Merfolks(3). Attack for 1.
T3: Island(3), 3 Mefolks(6). Attack for 3 (4 total)
T4: Merfolk(7). Attack for 6 (10 total)
T5: Merfolk(8). Attack for 7 (17 total)
T6: Attack for 8, kill goldfish.

So, in this case, if we cast time walk turn 2, it doesn't help us win the game faster or give us more board presence than if we never cast it in the first place. If we cast it turn 4 or turn 5, it makes us win a turn earlier, but the interesting thing here is that a too early time walk doesn't affect this scenario at all.

Casting a random turn two time walk may feel good, but many times, it doesn't really do anything. If you spend a card and two mana to draw a card and untap two mana, your not getting ahead. Your not moving back either, but this the "first turn brainstorm" of power cards. It's often better to cast that Fellwar Stone instead.
Probably would have been more careful if this variant was the printed one.
Your turns get more critical the further the game goes. You usually don't have Juzam's Will, so you need to consider what Time Walk can do for you at different board states. Time walk gives your creatures haste. It let's you combo out with Rocket Launcher the same turn you cast it. It makes you draw an extra card with your book. But this is all goldfish. Interesting aspects of time walk comes when we consider the original Time Walk, the mighty Starburst:

Note that the "2" in the casting cost means "Total cost is two mana"; modern templating would say 1R. Yep, it was red during playtesting.
Opponent loses next turn. The text changed before the card saw print, as some playtesters misunderstood the card (they interpreted it as the opponent loses the game next turn, rather than the he/she loses the actual turn). This is still what Time Walk does, but it's easy to forget the implications of your opponent having to skip a turn. Just as some players have referred to Explore as a Time Walk under correct circumstances, this card has also the same effect as a Time Walk under some circumstances:

A multicolored sorcery? Someone is trying to ruin Magic!
These are both examples of very bad time walks, but even a bad Time Walk is one of the best possible versions of the cards above.

Consider what Time Walk can do if you don't face the Goldfish. Time walk makes you untap Nevinyrral's Disk before the opponent untaps his Disenchant mana. Time Walk gives your creatures vigilance. It makes you use your Mirror Universe before that lethal attack. It taps their Maze of Ith. These are all very important aspects of the card. Just as a control player would cast his Brainstorm differently than a combo player, you should know how your deck best can use Time Walk. If you aim to cast Recall or Time Twister in the midgame, a simple Time Walk in the early game may be correct as well.

The thing with all these examples is again that we assume that the opponent plays correctly. The real blowout is the unexpected Time Walk; if you play to make your Time Walk good. Many players do this intuitively with cards like Balance, tempting your opponent to play in such a way that he or she will create a boardstate where Balance is devastating. If you can create a situation where your opponent's next turn becomes vital, and then make him/her lose it, you've probably won the game. Consider what Time Walk can do to your opponent's game plan. It lets you remove that last card with Disrupting Sceptre. It makes them lose their countermana. It leads them to overcommitting attacks, and have no blocker left for your relentless assault. If the game is tight, Time Walk completely changes the rules.

And you may do the sweet victory dance.
If you play Time Walk in your deck, consider what each turn means to your game plan. If you want to go next level, consider what each turn means to your opponent. It's e.g. usually worse for them to skip a turn after they've cast Howling Mine. Understand that it is very possible to cast a Time Walk that actually does nothing as far as your game plan is considered, and show the card respect to shine. With great Power comes great responsibility.