måndag 29 juli 2013

Warcon 2013, aka Kingvitational 0.5

The initial plan was to take an early train to Varberg to get to the convention around 11 am. My weekend began with a trip from Oslo to Gothenburg, and as my girlfriend was leaving Gothenburg for Stockholm early Saturday morning, the idea was to get to the central station early with her and get to Warcon in time for their legacy tournament. A few weeks ago, we learned that Warcon would not host a 93/94 tournament like last year however, so the timing restrictions were suddenly off. As a community, we are not adverse to finding our own solutions for these kind of things, and Kingen took the initiative to host Kingvitational 0.5 in it's place.

Erling, aka Icelander, initiated this years road trip from Gothenburg, and around lunch the car consisting of him, me and Åland were on the road. This is what I had sleeved up:

Double Sol'Kanar!
 We arrived at the convention site at 3 pm to meet up with some old faces. Elof and a few more were playing the legacy tournament, and Pefken had travelled down to Varberg for vacation with his fiancée and would join us tonight as well. After some friendly greetings and light trash talk, I, Åland and Erling took the car down to the central station to meet up with Rafiki and Honka who'd come from Skåne and Halmstad respectively. Freespace from Gothenburg decided to join up as well, which meant good times and a few more hours of nerd-slacking while waiting him in.

Gathering magic and beer.
Our dinner included a very coincidental meeting with Kingen and the others, as it turned out that he lived right next to the place where we ate. Kingen's home was a nice apartment where, for some reason, the windows could not be opened. As 12 guys inside a not-huge apartment during a very hot summer day may get a little dank, Kingen had placed fans throughout the place. These fans turned out to be sneaky.

Game one I faced Rafiki, who was the bartender at last n00bcon and now played in his first old school tournament. Game one I take a mulligan to 6, and get to learn why power cards are called power cards. I've never cast either my lotus nor my ancestral before, but get to break that streak by casting ancestral at the end of Rafiki's first turn, and then play Land, Sol Ring, Fellwar Stone, Lotus, Guardian Beast on turn two.

I later transmute my stone into a Chaos Orb to get the Orb/Beast combo going and close out the game. What I did not consider was however the moving fan right next to our table, and my Orb blows away and misses it's target completely. This gives Rafiki enough mana to fireball my Guardian Beast, and suddenly the game isn't a lock anymore. As luck would have it though, I draw a Recall and can pick up Ancestral, Guardian Beast and the Orb, and get to close the game. During the game, I also managed to resolve both Mirror Universe and Mind Twist, so it felt slightly unfair.

Second one is unfair for our hero though, as I mull to three, and never come back. Third one is even more anticlimactic, when I mull once again and manage to resolve about one Su-chi as the total number of spells in the match, and most of my other cards were lands. Rafiki had a very good start in the third game anyway, but mana problems are still annoying. Guess I'll just win my next three matches for top4.

Second match is against Honka who plays No-win. How much no-win you ask? He plays two Feldon's Cane. Not even Millstone.

Three dudes playing Howling Mines.
 Me and Honka are terribly good friends and old sports. We do go way back, and initially got to know each other by working in the same pub; playing magic together actually came far later. One of his first decks when we started playing casual together had no wincons whatsoever, and only aimed to make the opponent scoop in disgust. He succeeds with this during our first game as well; after exiling pretty much all my relevant spells, a Wheel of Fortune gives me both Juzam and Doppelganger. Honka is at about 50 life, but I slam them both as they should be able to take the game and they are among the coolest cards ever at the same time. When Honka laughs and casts Balance, my scoop is inevitable. Turns out the rounds are untimed however, and I manage to beat him in the next two rounds. This time Kingen helped me by blocking the room's fan before my Chaos Orb flips btw. Still alive for top4.

Elof does the sideway face palm.
 In match three, I face the host himself, Kingen. At n00bcon he was sporting a Power Artifact deck, but I'm not sure what to expect this time. I keep a sketchy two-land hand (with a stone though), and Kingen proceeds to cast Relic Barrier followed by Ice Storm. Land destruction it is. I turn out to be a very skilled magic player, and draw lands for three rounds to keep the game alive. After a few tight rounds, I manage to let my second Sol'Kanar stick and take the game. The next game is completely skill based. Kingen starts with Library of Alexandria, but I have black mox, mishra, lotus and Mind Twist to pull four cards from him, shutting down his library. The cards turned out to be two city of brass, island and relic barrier. Not only did I manage to get all his blue sources, that was all his lands, and he had a hand with ancestral which would make his library even more reliable. Those cards never see play though, as I turn two tutor for Sol Ring, cast Su-chi turn three, and follow up with another Su-chi turn four.

Easy game. Slightly lucky.
Match four then, facing Åland's The Deck for a win and in. If nothing else, it would be nice to win just to have another game to report on. Åland came second at Warcon last year, and went top8 at n00bcon, so he's not an easy opponent. I take home game one by having the control magic for his Serra Angel, and he wins game two off two fireballs and some damage from tapping my city with his Icy. Game three is very tight, but I resolve a Disrupting Sceptre and can Transmute a Fellwar Stone into a Jayemdae Tome for a lot of card advantage (pretty nice against The Deck). Eventually I find an answer to his Moat, and my Mishras and a big guy (I want to say Sol'Kanar) manage to beat past his Maze. I'm off to top4 :)

Eyes on the prize!
Top4 does surprisingly not contain a single The Deck, nor Elof. It also just missed Viktor "Oldschool" Petersson new Smoke/Winter Orb/Icy Manipulator deck with triple Millstone. It does however contain Erling (monoblue), Brorsan (ww), and Pefken. I can't remember a tournament since Pefken started playing 93/94 in 2010 when he hasn't been in the top4 btw. Pefken was the only player to 4-0 the swiss, and his deck is just beautiful. It's a 4-colour Juzam/Sengir/Detonate/AvoidFate deck. (Kingen took pictures of the decks again btw, and I'll post them here later.)

Half the top 4; Erling and Pefken.

The other half; Mg and Brorsan.
 I face off against Erling's mono blue in game one. His Floods are highly good, as they keep "turning off" my Guardian Beasts. He manage to Mana Drain a big artifact from me, and then cast double Serendib Efreet to close the first game. I start the second game with a Library, but still have some problems after running into Force Spike, and the fact that Erling had a Boomerang for my Guardian Beast in response to Disk. I gain some life of my Sol'Kanar though, and resolve two Terror to seal the game in my favour. Last game is very tight, but I manage to resolve Mirror Universe to keep it drawn out. At the point I got to activate my Mirror, I was at four and would've lost to a Psionic Blast. He didn't have the Psiblast though, and the insanely good Mirror makes me able to beat him down with my Mishras.

Brorsan's white weenie (without Land Tax!) managed to beat Pefken in the other semi, and we face off in the finals. An interesting note is also that Brorsan actually owns full power, but didn't play any in his deck. Here's the list:

No Land Tax, and Balance isn't even in the sideboard. Very next level.
Game one, Brorsan puts on pressure with two Lions, Tundra Wolves, Crusade and Thunder Spirit. I have a Su-Chi and a Doppelganger to keep the fort, but as the Doppelganger wont copy the colour of creatures, his Thunder Spirit is larger than a copied one would be due to Crusade. He does have the Disenchant for my Disk, but I manage to active my Mirror to keep the game going. He eventually finds Armageddon and his second Crusade before I can do something even more unfair, and the weenies takes down game one. Game two is very tight. I manage to cheat Armageddon with my Fellwar Stones, and resolve an Abyss. It is still ridiculously tight, and I just manage to Transmute my book to a Mirror Universe, with me at 4 life and Brorsan with one plains, thunder spirit, lion and crusade in play. Maybe I should have gone for the forcefield, as he could very well have a Crusade in hand and draw a plains for the win. He doesn't however, and I get to activate my Mirror and beat down with Su-chi.

Last game, for all the marbles (or at least a signed Relic Barrier). I manage to create some early board presence, and have at least one relevant terror. Brorsan is blisteringly fast however, and it looks very tough, even though I get both Old Man and Ancestral early. The weenies laugh in the face of my Jovial Evil, and Brorsan deservingly takes the title of Kingvitational 0.5 Champion!

"Sure, Jovial Evil resolve, I take 8. May I attack for 14?"
Very sweet tournament, and we sit around in Kingen's apartement and chat for an hour, when the clock strikes 4 am. As our host is slightly tired; I, Elof, Honka and Rafiki walks the Varberg night to Elofs apartment where we get to borrow beds and mattresses.

Varberg Night Nerd Thugz!
I have to get up early in the morning to travel back to Gothenburg to catch my bus to Oslo, and I leave Honka and Rafiki at Elof's. It's a calm ride home, and I really appreciate these tournaments. It's a great excuse to hang out with sweet people, and I'm already looking forward to see you again at BSK in the autumn!

tisdag 23 juli 2013

Oracle updates and small notes

A little over a week ago, WotC posted a Magic 2014 rules bulletin. The changes in comp rules and Oracle errata affected both of the two cards that we had a previous errata on in 93/94.

City in a Bottle didn't receive functional errata, but the comp rules changed in in a way that makes our errata unnecessary. Expansion symbyl is no longer a characteristic, and now City in a Bottle instead removes all cards originally printed in Arabian Nights. This includes e.g. Revised Kird Apes, but it does not include Mountain, which was originally printed in Alpha. We hence remove our errata on City in a Bottle (as it's no longer relevant), and use the Oracle version from now on.

Chaos Orb actually got functional errata! This is the new Oracle text on Chaos Orb:

1, Tap: If Chaos Orb is on the battlefield, flip Chaos Orb onto the battlefield from a height of at least one foot. If Chaos Orb turns over completely at least once during the flip, destroy all nontoken permanents it touches. Then destroy Chaos Orb. 

The change is that the Orb no longer can destroy tokens, so Sand Warriors from  Hazezon Tamar and Dance of Many copies no longer have to fear it. It seems fair, and I never once seen a situation when someone wanted to flip the Orb on a token anyway, so we update our errata accordingly. This is the new 93/94 errata for Chaos Orb (adding "nontoken" in the first sentence):

1, Tap: Choose a nontoken permanent on the battlefield. If Chaos Orb is on the battlefield, flip Chaos Orb onto the battlefield from a height of at least one foot. If Chaos Orb turns over completely at least once during the flip, and touches the chosen permanent, destroy that permanent. Then destroy Chaos Orb.

Further, you no longer need a Google account to post comments on the blog. Feel free to post any comments, questions or requests after each post  :)

Finally, here's a very sweet Ponza deck (courtesy of Pulverstam):

Good decks play Juzam.

söndag 21 juli 2013

Holy Grails

Every collectible genre has a "Holy Grail", some item that will be the crown of the collection. These holy grails are often known by people that don't know about many other aspects of the hobby, and are such a part of pop culture that they all have sections on Wikipedia. These items are extremely rare, but obtainable if the buyer has a big enough wallet and enough time to search.

Inverted Jenny, a Holy Grail of philately. It's cheaper than the single existing Treshilling Yellow, but on the other hand not unique.
 For Comic Books, the Holy Grail is Action Comics #1 from 1938. This may not be the single rarest or most expensive to buy comic book ever (e.g. the insanely rare ashcan edition of Flash Comics #1 has an asking price of $5 million), but it is still the most coveted comic book of all time, and it would be the crown of any collection.

10 cents well invested in 1938
Video game collecting, like most other, also have some actual unique items, such as Nintendo Campus Challenge 1991. The Holy Grail of video game collecting is however generally considered to be the 1990 World Championship game.

Gold one is about 4 times more rare than the grey.
For general collectible cards, the most coveted would probably be the T206 Honus Wagner from 1909, but you all know what I'm leading up to. Readers of this blog should be very familiar with the Holy Grail of collectible card games.

Forest, Lotus, Giant Spider, go.
That one in the picture is mine. I got it two days ago, and it's actually a pretty strange feeling. I bought it from a friend as something of a 30-year birthday gift to myself, a few weeks in advance. The borders are white, but nonetheless I now own the most famous card of all collectible games. It would have been cheaper if I got it when I got this magazine early 95:

Still wanted it 18 years ago apparently. The Lotus and Bad Moon are the ones I've circled as "wants".
Looking through the price list of that old Scrye Magazine, I found some more funny prices (these are Beta btw):

Price of Beta Twiddle: $10. Price of Beta Underground Sea: $12.75. Twiddle was not reprinted in Revised, and was actually very sought after once upon a time.
Anyway, Lotus. A rough estimate would put around 15000 lotuses in existence. 1100 alpha, 3400 beta and 15300 unlimited were printed; and it's not an exaggeration to estimate that 25% of these have been lost to time; thrown away, ripped apart or lost in the woods. Collecting game pieces like these in 1993 would have been comparable to collecting Monopoly pieces, there simply was not a market as it is today. Magic as a hobby have increased immensely the last few years. Ten years ago, in 2003, the player base was estimated to be 6 million players by WotC; today it could probably be around triple that. That means that, using very rough numbers, there's less than one Black Lotus for every 1000 magic players. Compared to Action Comics #1, that's a lot. Compared to most other things, that's very few. It's a very small, and very nerdy, piece of history. I really can't wait to cast a first turn Juzam with it :)

Next week, after a week of work as my current summer vacation is coming to an end, I'll travel to Varberg and play 93/94 next to the Warcon Convention. There will be beer, barbecue and sweet people; join up if you have the opportunity!

söndag 14 juli 2013

Spotting fakes

Today's topic is a little different than usual. Most of the examples and the pictures that I write about today have been taken from the page Apathy House (http://www.apathyhouse.com), but I feel that everyone should be aware of the basics on the topic, so I summarize it here. For some more info on tests and such, see the post Spotting fakes part II.

93/94 is a format with very expensive and rare cards, many which fetches sums up to and above a thousand dollars. A friend once said that even though there were only 4300 black bordered Lotuses ever printed, and that a lot of them may be lost to time, there probably exists more than 4300 black bordered Lotuses. Faking magic cards is both easier and more profitable per unit than faking e.g. $100 bills. So how do we spot fake cards?

There are two obvious rules we can start with. First; fake cards tend to be in very nice condition, as it's both harder and less profitable to fake a card in a worn condition. Second; fake cards are pretty much always cards that have a secondary market value, you don't have to worry about your Giant Sharks being faked as it's simply not worth it.

Very good fake Ancestral. Example found at apathyhouse.com
After that, most bets are off. Even real cards may have different looks, especially the older ones, as the printing procedure wasn't always perfectly similar even in the same sets at Carta Mundi. Maybe they forgot to clean the presses between printings; a gloriuos example of that are the Tempest Medallions, which in some cases have signs of Peanut Comics in the text boxes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RTqnR5_his). A well known fact, from the days before you had to play with sleeves, was also that the first printings of Mirage was far more glossy than other sets (same with some printings of Antiquities), which made Mirage lands sough after by semi-cheaters who wanted to be able to see if the top card of their library was a basic land. I was concerned about my alpha Demonic Tutor I got a year back, as the back of the card was slightly brighter than other alpha cards. After some rigorous testing I realized that the card was real, but probably simply had been slightly bleached on the back by lying in sunlight for a period.

One way to creating fake cards is to start with a real magic card, and then make it look like a more expensive version of the card. This is most commonly done by inking the borders to make a newer card look like a beta card, or by 're-backing'. Inked borders can be spotted fairly easily, as beta cards have a kind of 'double border', where only the out-most part of the border is completely black (there's also a white dot in the lower corners of the card between the borders). Re-backing is done by taking e.g. a Collectors edition card, cutting the corners, peeling of the back of the card, and then gluing a backside from a legal card to the CE card. If you have a card with a worn front, but a NM back, odds are that it has been rebacked. Re-backed cards tends to be slightly thicker than a regular card, so they can usually be detected via a bend test. Also, real cards tend to have thin blue line through the middle of the edge. When a counterfeiter have access to a high quaility printing press, things get a little harder though.

A clumsy attempt to black-border a Revised card. Picture from apathyhouse.com.
When I get a new, expensive, card, I start by comparing it to other cards that I know are real from that same set. Printing differences may actually be fairly obvious by just holding the cards next to each other. Magic cards are printed using four colours; black, cyan, magenta and yellow. If you look closely at a card you can see a pattern that resembles rings that all blend into each other to form the colors on the image. They are not dots, and they are not lines.

Fake to the right. Picture from Apathy House.
Second, I do the light bulb test. Real cards are slightly see-through in bright light, and a fake card can be spotted by noting that it lets through to much or to little light.

Real Armageddon to the left, fake one to the right.
Speaking of light-bulbs and things like that; real magic cards will illuminate under a black-light. If you have a black-light (they are usually very cheap), you can easily spot some fakes by looking at the cards under the light (note that Alternative 4th Edition cards will fail the black-light test however).

Fake card to the left, real one to the right.
Finally we have the bend test. All real magic cards can be bent from end-to-end without creasing, while a fake card may crease or completely break. A big issue is however that even real cards will be strained after to many bend tests. Any non-foil card should be able to handle at least 10 bend tests, but as you usually won't know how many times a card may have been bend-tested before, I urge some caution before you bend your Alpha moxes.

Bend-testing a Mana Leak. As usual; picture from Apathy House.
In 1998, a series of very convincing fakes of sought-after cards from Beta, Unlimited, Arabian Nights and Legends was distributed on the Internet. Here are some examples of how to spot them:

Fake to the left. The real card has very defined black edges around the Magic logo, where the fake blends together.
Fake to the right here. Again note how the borders around the text is much more defined in the real card.
That's it for today! As the subject may be a little heavy, I'll end by posting a sweet blue aggro deck to lighten up the mood:

4 Lords works well even without the Pearl Trident crew.

söndag 7 juli 2013

Alpha pimp

Personally, I can go either way with the rounder corners of alpha cards. I usually don't care that much about black or white borders either, as long as there is consistency among the cards in the deck (e.g. I would much prefer to play four autumn Mishra's Factories than two autumn and two winter). However there are some cards in alpha that I really think are much sweeter than the beta or unlimited versions. Today I'll show off three of my favourites; maybe you've missed them.

There are some very well known differences between particular alpha and beta cards. The uncommon Orcish Artillery is about 5 times more expensive in alpha than in beta due to the misprinted mana cost (1R rather than 1RR), and the same huge relative prize difference can be seen in Elvish Archers (which is an 1/2 in alpha, and a 2/1 in beta). One less known 'misprint' from alpha is however a card that currently is correctly printed, and the beta (and subsequent) versions have been errated to correspond to the Alpha version. I think this is one of only two cards intially was misprinted, but as the rules changed the misprinted version turned out to be correct (the other would be Daring Apprentice from Mirage, that when printed accidentally missed the now unnecessary "Play this ability as an interrupt."). If you missed it before, check out the Alpha Red Elemental Blast's card type:

Originally misprinted as Instant rather than Interrupt, which would make it unable to counter spells in pre-6th rules.
The difference in cost between an alpha and a beta REB is almost insignificant today, even though there exists 3 beta REBs for each alpha, and the 'misprint' is really sweet.

The second card is one of the most hyped uncommon cards of it's era, a card that once upon a time fairly easily could be traded for a mox. After it's reprint in Ice Age, much of it's legendary status vanished, but it's still a very good card in 93/94. The alpha version have a cleaner text box than the beta version, and is much nicer to look at. I don't own this card in beta, so once again I'll give you a comparison between alpha and unlimited (the beta text is the exact same as the unlimited text):

Oddly, once again the alpha version is actually closer to the current wording.

Last I'd like to show off one of the only cards in alpha that got different wording in beta due to how easy it was to misunderstand the alpha version. There are lots of cards in alpha and beta that are kind of fuzzy in the wording (e.g. Rock Hydra and Raging River comes to mind). Channel was however so oddly worded that they decided to rewrite it for beta. Note that this was at the time the only card that made you pay life, and the assumed interaction between Channel and Circle of Protection: Green made them initially print the "Life spent this way is not considered damage". Good stuff, and somewhat hard to grasp.

Alpha to the right. Alpha version is awesome.