måndag 23 februari 2015

Arvika Festival

The preparations for the trip wasn't really stellar. When KungMarkus announced that they would host a tournament in Arvika a few months back, of course I signed up without much hesitation. Didn't really know what to expect from the weekend, how I would travel, or how far it was between Arvika and Oslo. I did however know that the Arvika players are great people to hang around, and that they approach the format with sweet decks and a few beers.

My roommate, Hardy, used to play Magic a few years back. I think that his last tournament was the Odyssey prerelease back in 2001. We'd been talking a little about 93/94, and generally about doing more things together during the weekends, now that I don't commute to Sweden every week. Representing the Norwegian capital in Arvika seemed like a fun idea. We decided to go together, and the weeks started to fly by.

Suddenly, the tournament was two days away. We still hadn't looked at tickets, accommodations or playtesting. I have a pretty good grasp of my Project M deck (as I've been building and playing it for two and a half years), but we did need to see how the new build of the monogreen worked. So, last Thursday, after we had attended three after-work lectures on architecture CPR, business culture and COBOL (not a joke), we decided to bring out the cards and the Jack.

Hardy testing MonoGreen vs TaxEdge. Highly intricate.
As first rounds of playtesting goes, it went really well. We got a decent grasp of the deck, and could discuss some sideboarding strategies. Some sleep and work later, we were happily surprised to see that the train trip between Arvika and Oslo only took a little over two hours. We got our tickets, but didn't really feel it necessary to start looking up accommodations. We figured that there had to be some kind of hostel or hotel in the city, or worst case, we could buy a tent and sleep outside. We do need a new tent anyway, and we considered ourselves outdoorsy types.

Saturday then. Beautiful weather, and even a hint of spring in the air. The week before we had temperatures at -15C (5F). After burgers and beer in Oslo and a train trip to Arvika, some local player met us at the station to give us a ride to the site. Rather than trying to write a proper tournament report here, I'll make it easy for me and share some pictures from the event.

KungMarkus welcomes us to his turf. When he heard that Hardy and I hadn't sorted out sleeping arrangements, he offered to host us in his home :) Very nice guy.
Trophies and prices. In Sweden, the city of Arvika is probably most famous for the Arvika festival. The obvious first price of the tournament was hence a Festival. Also a Tedin signed beta Tome, but all eyes were on the Festival ;)
The glorious Festival after signatures from the participants.
Cheers! Beer at the site were 10 SEK apiece. To put that in perspective for any non-Norwegians, that's somewhere between a third and a fourth of the price of a beer in a convenience store in Oslo.
The tournament has started.
Steal Artifact on the Icy was good, but the Doppelganger really worked overtime this duel. It started out as a Guardian Beast, then became a Sol'Kanar to gain some life and beat down, then turned into a Gwendlyn Di Corci to strip Markus of his Counterspells, then back to a Sol'Kanar for the win. Markus did have a Nicol Bolas in hand, but it's pretty bad against Icy+Doppelganger.
Monogreen vs Leprechaun. Awesome matchup.
Tripple Gloom vs WW. Looks like a win for the Serendib.
Hypnotic Specters vs Killer Bees.
RG Berserk punching trough the Relic Barrier.
Former DCI manager of Sweden, Mikael Mällroth, helped out with organizing the rounds and making the tournament run smoothly. After the swiss, he contributed to the ambience with some sweet flute music. Surprising, but appreciated :)
Mällroth also brought an impressive selection of whiskey samplers to the tournament. Very next level.
RW vs Monoblack. A couple of new faces.
Sol'Kanar and Triskelion are stopped cold by Spirit Link and Moss Monster.
Monogreen vs Atog Burn. The Atog Burn deck was really solid, and I think I got lucky to beat it in the swiss.
Yeah, so this happened. Second game in the semi-finals against KungMarkus, and I had boarded in Riven for value. With a little help from Urborg, Riven blocked the way for Sol'Kanar and Juzam, and eventually won me the match. I even got to use him to generate mana to activate my disk when my lands were all tapped. Believe the hype!
Some good cards a player wanted help with evaluating.
Mällroth went 3-1, but missed top4 on tiebreakers. He got a Quagmire as a consolation price.

Kungmarkus and Svetzarn placed 3rd and 4th.
The happy owner of a new Festival; yours truly.
A beautiful morning in Arvika.
Thanks a lot for a great tournament! I'll be posting the top4 decklists in the coming days. Hope to see a lot of you at n00bcon in six weeks!

tisdag 17 februari 2015

Old school of thought

For this week, I tried my wings a little and wrote a short article for Eternal Central rather than writing a post here. You can read the article here.

I'll admit to a few rad pics though. Statistics tells me that the most popular posts are those with casual tech, tournament pics, or how to spot fakes. So, here goes:
Erik Sundberg appears to be teching with of the Uncle Istvan / Giant Shark deck. Yet again, he'll break the format.
Next level monogreen. Actually not a bad deck.
Kalle goes into the tank at Frippan Open. Need to loosen up the nerves for that Orb flip.
Lotus passes the rip test.
Go check out the article at EternalCentral, and feel free to give feedback. Next weekend I'll be in Arvika, battling it out with the local players and some other road warriors. I'll see some of you there!

söndag 8 februari 2015

n00bcon 7: World Championships

So, what's new?

The Italian scene is growing quickly, and the fourth tournament in Ravenna took place last weekend. This time the winner was none other than Italian 93/94 pioneer Jacopo Borelli. Go check out his sweet tournament report at the Magic Time homepage :)

This Friday I got to do some playtesting in Oslo. I've been working a little more on monogreen since last, and it's starting to look like a deck. I considered playing it in the MindStage tournament, but instead opted to go for TaxEdge last weekend. I think that this decision was mostly due to my playtesting with TaxEdge against Felipe's Stasis deck before the tournament. I know it sounds horrible, but the Stasis/Tax Edge matchup is actually really interesting and fun to play. I didn't get to play that matchup in the tournament though, and instead went for the 1-3 against a bunch of Underworld Dreams. I think I'll have to represent with Project M in the Arvika tournament in two weeks, but I hope to test monogreen in a tournament the week after that, at the StabCon convention in Gothenburg. There really are a lot of opportunities to play mid-sized 93/94 tournaments in Sweden these days. This is all preparation though.
In less than two months, the big one is coming. Get your deck, get to Gothenburg, and gaze at Aisling Leprechauns with Green Wards, or plays like turn one Workshop, Mox, Icy Manipulator.
Or turn six, five Icy Manipulators.
What: n00bcon, aka the World Championships in 93/94. The first 93/94 tournament ever was hosted at Gothcon in 2008, the years after that we've rented an adjacent pub to hold the tournament in. This is the 7th annual n00bcon. It's the place to show that you have what it used to take to be a master at Magic, but mostly to drink craft beer, look at amazing decks, and enjoy the fun side of magic tournaments.

When: Friday the 3rd of April, starting 14:00. Rounds in the swiss are 60 minutes, the top8 is un-timed, but expected to be played at a reasonable pace. Note that this is during the Gothcon weekend. There will be a lot of interesting tournaments in Gothenburg the days before and after n00bcon, including Vintage tournaments during Thursday, Saturday (nationals) and Sunday, a PPTQ and a GPT to name a few. You can check out the full schedule for Gothcon here.

Where: Rotary Pub in Gothenburg. About 8 minutes walk from the Gothcon site.

Who: Anyone who has a deck are welcome to come and play. Players who just want to come and watch and have a beer are unfortunately not allowed, due to a combination of alcohol serving laws and security. At the time of writing this, with almost two months left until the tournament, about 30 people have signed up. This is probably the most international n00bcon yet, as we have a 93/94 player from Russia joining us for the first time :)

Registration: The registration fee is 150 sek (about €15) to cover expenses for hiring the pub, prices, and such. If you're a member at svenskamagic.com, post in the n00bcon 7 thread in the Old School forum table. Otherwise, send me a mail or comment here, and we'll put you on the list.

Prices: The winner gets a Giant Shark. Top8 gets some sort of trophies. Everyone will get a slightly altered (format legal) card as a memorabilia, and I've created three pretty sweet Easter eggs as additional prices. Note that all prices except the trophies and the Shark will be given out at random, regardless of standings after the swiss. I guess we'll give a Blaze of Glory to the ninth place player though ;) Of course everyone gets a rad convention pin.
You can check out some pictures from n00bcon 6 here, or pics from n00bcon 5 here. Hope to see you this Easter!

onsdag 4 februari 2015

Void of the Underworld: A report from MindStage

Last weekend Vasa Gaming celebrated new owners and a name change with a Magic convention in Gothenburg. What was formerly Vasa Gaming is now MindStage. The new owners had the great taste to hold a 93/94 tournament at their convention. The eventual champion was none other than n00bcon 3 winner and tech aficionado Viktor "Oldschool" Peterson. This is his tournament report (translated from Swedish by yours truly). Enjoy! /Mg
To the Viktor belong the spoiled.
The birth of a concept
Void of the Underworld took shape after many years of secret teching with land destruction. What eventually made it see the light of day was the contemporary discussions on Mishra's Factory. Many players claim that the Factory is simply too good, and some even argue for a restriction. I wanted to build a deck without the Factory, to prove that they are easy to overcome if you just change the way you build your deck a little. Additionally, it had been a while since I won a tournament, and I hence wanted to build something that could put up a good fight against The Deck.

Step I: Red - Green - Black
Early versions of the deck started with the trio of Stone Rain, Sinkhole and Ice Storm. This combination however turned out to have a hard time actually winning the game. We need room for proper win conditions in the deck, alongside cards that can handle opposing permanents that manage to enter the battlefield.

Step II: Red - Green

RG brought a lot of interesting ideas to the table, e.g. Kudzu. Alongside Icy Manipulator, which can handle both lands and moxen, I think that there is potential for a really cool ponza deck here (you heard it here first! ;)). An RG deck also has a huge advantage over RGB in that the mana base supports Blood Moon. Blood Moon is the best mana denial card in the format, and it single-handedly makes a lot decks unable to cast spells at all.

Step III: Red - Black - Blue
In my opinon, Energy Flux is the best artifact sweeper in the format. Most of my attempts to fit blue in the deck failed though, as Blood Moon is a more important card than the Flux. Fitting a third color in a deck with Moons is pretty hard, in particular when your preferred win condition is Underworld Dreams with triple black in the mana cost.
Step IV: Nether Void
Like in most of my home brews, I wanted to create a lock down. I've been dabbling with Nether Void in my brews for quite some time. The biggest issue with Nether Void is that it's an Enchant World, and will destroy your best defensive card, The Abyss.

Developing a strategy
Whenever I build a deck, I start with a few simple parameters and then develop the concept. This is of particular importance while building combo decks, where cards that are usually regarded as "too good not to play" must be neglected. So, let's look at the given parameters for Void of the Underworld:
  1. Maindeck Blood Moons. Blood Moon is at its strongest in game 1, as the opponent will have a minimum amount of answers to it. Those who play it safe with Blood Moon in the sideboard will usually face a lot of additional answers to it game two, like e.g. Blue Elemental Blast.
  2. Mishra's Factory is not almighty, and I'll prove this by beating them without joining them.
  3. Lock down with Nether Void, as I haven't seen anyone else manage to do this in a consistently successful way yet.
  4. Fit Energy Flux in the deck to get that last edge needed to win the final duel.
Balanced deck construction
The core of Void of the Underworld was pretty easy to put together. As usual, the idea was to optimize the deck for game 1. Anything that wouldn't help me win the game with Underworld Dreams and Nether Void had to go. At this stage I e.g. cut the Abyss and Hypnotic Specter, which in turn opened the door for some badass Juzam Djinns.
The main focus of the deck is to heavily attack your opponent's mana base. The small creatures that manage to hit the board before that will be handled by Bolts and Fireballs.

The bad match-ups are still the weenie decks. As I don't play blue or green maindeck I also lack good card advantage. The solution to this was to include the good old Ivory Tower - Greed combo. The towers will give weenies an uphill battle, and Greed will provide a huge card advantage during late game. The weenie decks also have a fairly fragile mana base, which will make them vulnerable to land destruction if I get to survive long enough.

Against The Deck, Blood Moon and Energy Flux are MVPs. If you resolve a Moon that disrupts your own lands against The Deck, it's usually still the correct play. There are a few cards that you wont be able to cast yourself, but it will be back breaking for your opponent.

Sideboard from Hell
A good sideboard is the difference between a good and a great deck. For the Void of the Underworld deck, I didn't want to change too many cards between each game, as I could otherwise lose the ponza edge. Only the few best cards for each matchup were good enough. This made it possible to build a very dynamic and flexible sideboard where I could fit both Energy Flux and Power.

Usually I try to have synergy between the card in my main deck and sideboard. In this deck it's quite the opposite in some cases; we have cards like The Abyss mixed with non-bos like Nether Void and Juzam Djinn. We have Blood Moon alongside a third color. On the other hand, this made me able to successfully change the attack pattern of the deck to handle a broader spectra of opponents. The only card in the sb I never used was City in a Bottle. It was supposed to be a third copy of The Abyss, which I unfortunately had misplaced somewhere and couldn't find before the tournament. Doh...
Void of the Underworld
Entering the battlefield
In a rare flash of punctuality, I arrived just in time to the MindStage tournament. Sehl welcomed me with open arms, "Oldschool, I'm so glad you could come!". The tournament started promptly as everyone else was already good to go. It was nice to be back in the sweet old place where we've been playing in Magic conventions for the last couple of decades.

Match 1 - Refefe
Void of the Underworld kickstarted the first duel with the old Swamp, Black Lotus, Juzam Djinn. This prompted a lot of laughter, and Refefe could just agree and shuffle up for game two.
Refefe played WW, which made sideboarding easy. In with The Abyss and Earthquake. In game two Void of the Underworld played nicely, and promptly delivered the whole combo.
More Magic.
Match 2 – Erik_Sundberg
Erik played an awesome Howling Mine - Underworld Dreams deck with all the good cards. He did a slight miscalculation turn two though, when he played Library of Alexendria instead of a blue land. This made me able to resolve a Blood Moon, and Erik could just sit and watch as Void of the Underworld assembled the hard lock and won.

In duel two, I sideboarded no less than nine cards. Five good blue cards and 4 REBs joined the party. As Erik played a lot of lands, I felt confident sideboarding out a lot of land destruction, Nether Void and Greed and instead use his own cards against him. Erik did not make it easy on himself though, as he mulled to 4. He tried to resolve an early Timetwister to get back in the game, but I got to Blast it and eventually claim the victory. This was btw one of the most fun games of Magic I've played in a very long time, which unfortunately made me forget to take any pictures of our match.
Here's another pic though: Erik resolves Time Walk + Fork against Mg, and promptly casts Recall for 5, then Time Walk + Fork on his extra turns. By his fifth turn in a row he resolves three Underworld Dreams and cast Timetwister for the win.
Match 3 – Myfz
Myfz is playing the same deck he recently took to the finals of BSK, a black horror with Underworld Dreams backed up by a menagerie of strong creatures. He managed to win a duel, but was hard pressed by land destruction, The Abyss and my own Juzams. Some post-board Power eventually made Void of the Underworld pull the longest straw.
Monoblack facing Underworld Dreams and Juzam. Karma :)
Match 4 – Sehl
Team Leatherjacket hates white... Sehl was at the top of his game. He came into the match with 3-0, won the coin flip, and started to pour out White Knights. Void of the Underworld won the second duel, but Sehl kept up fast tempo, and managed to take home the match with his great WW build.
"Haha, I'm so glad you could come!"
Semifinals Myfz
My second match against Myfz was similar to our first. Void of the Underworld won the Underworld Dreams race on the back of Ivory Towers, and made life hard for creatures with The Abyss.

Finals Sehl
At this point, Sehl retracted his statement that he was glad that I could join the tournament (with a smiling wink in his eye of course). Our last match had been tight, and so was the final. Very tight! In the first duel, Sehl ran out of threats, got locked down by Nether Void, and lost against his nightmares.
In the second duel, Sehl had sideboarded in more white mana sources to avoid getting locked down. It felt like he played no less than 17 Abyss-proof White Knights, which eventually won him the duel.

The third and last duel would however be a real nail biter. Void of the Underworld kept a nice and solid tempo, and only let a single Tundra Wolves resolve... The wolf however managed to stick a around for a long time, and chewed up 16 life before I could handle it. I resolved a Mind Twist to transform Sehl from White Weenie to White Whiner, and felt that I had already won the game, even though I only had four life left. Sehl went into a strong topdeck mode though, and a few turns later he had a Thunder Spirit backed by two Crusades on the table. Go... This time it was Sehl who started celebrating an impending victory.
C'mon topdeck!
Void of the Underworld only had one draw left to get out of it. The audience is cheering as I activate my library, and slowly look at my last card. It's a Demonic Tutor!!! Getting The Abyss!!! Aha…

Three Stone Rains and a Strip Mine depleted Sehl's mana sources, and his life ticked away under the Underworld Dreams. After an intense finals, I got to close out the tournament with triple Lightning Bolt for the win.
Sehl and Oldschool.
A great thanks!
Thank you all who contributed to create an event with a very sweet and amusing ambience. Everyone shared their joy of the game, and it was a true pleasure to play. Props to MindStage who organized the tournament very nicely. Finally an extra thanks to Myfz who beat me in a duel, and to Sehl who was so happy I could come ;)