lördag 28 mars 2015

Gift of the the States

Yesterday I came home to a letter I'd been looking forward to for a long time. I did not now exactly what to expect, but I'm truly amazed right now.

Some of you are probably familiar with Danny Friedman. He is a long time Vintage player and one of the real pioneers for old school magic in the US. He is also a pimp aficionado with an amazing collection and a very skilful artist. As a big fan of Alpha cards combined with his altering craftsmanship, he was the first (and so far only) person I've heard about who has attempted Alpha altering of his cards. I first saw some of his work at his Twitter account and was thoroughly impressed. About six weeks ago, I contacted him to see if he would be interested in altering three cards for me on commission. He did not do it on commission though, but instead did it for free as gift and a sign of friendship from the old school community across the ocean.

Apart from the three cards I sent to him for alters, he gave me some very cool extra gifts as well. As you might know, two cards were left of from the Alpha printsheet and first appeared in Beta (apart from additional art on the basic lands). One of those two cards was Circle of Protection: Black. That makes this alteration pretty unique as Circles go:
Alpha-cut CoP:Black.
The most coveted price in the largest 93/94 tournaments in Sweden is a Giant Shark from The Dark signed by all the competing players. It is the first price at the yearly n00bcon and BSK tournaments. If you win one of these, you are pretty much required to play it in your deck from that point on to show it off. This year for n00bcon, we'll have the first ever Alpha Giant Shark as the first price.
Double black borders and the white dots are present :)
This next card will have a permanent place in my Project M deck. I discussed the Eternal Weekend old school tournament with Danny, and stated that I would have loved to win one of those Fellwar Stones signed by the players. It is a very hard card to pimp, and the only card I play as 4-off in my deck. To my surprise, I now have an awesome Fellwar Stone with greetings from the US :D
Will always tap for red, white and blue.
And finally, the three cards I contacted him for altering in the first place. As stated, there were two cards in Beta that didn't appear in Alpha. One was the Black circle. The other was Volcanic Island. These are altered Unlimited versions, and pretty much the coolest U/R duals I've seen.
Thanks a lot Danny, this was truly awesome! Hope to see you and the other US players at Eternal Weekend in Philadelphia this year or the next!

onsdag 25 mars 2015

From scratch

It was one of those weeks with a full plate. Evaluations, meetups, n00bcon preparations and things at work that should be done before Easter sets in. I started to write three different posts in the last two weeks, but I've realized that all of them needed a few more hours of research before they were done. That is not really time I have before the weekend though, so I'll just rant today. One of the top things currently on my mind in Old School Magic is the emerging community in Oslo, so lets talk a little about how to build a deck in the format.
Usual deck list, circa 1994.
Building your first 93/94 deck can seem like a daunting task. Most people don't own any cards legal in the format, and it's not like you can go to your local card store to buy a starter of Unlimited and a couple of Legends boosters and start cracking. Decks in the format can easily hold price tags well above $10,000. So, where to start?

Well, my own first deck in 93/94 looked like this:
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

It's really not that good a deck. Pretty sweet though. At the time, I was a university student with part-time income (at best) who also attempted to maintain a legacy card pool. The cost of a beta Mahamothi Djinn was that of a playset Wastelands, and the Sea Serpents would have to do in Fat Mothi's place.

It is however more fun to have a deck that at least occassionaly can win a game, and preferably to have a deck that you can grow with and update over the years. Working on my pet deck over the last three years have been surprisingly sweet and satisfying.
Project M, three years ago. Already had a three of the expensive cards when I started. Wrote the first deck list on an airplane from Dubai, and Gwen Stephanie songs were on repeat on the plane radio, hence the title.
Four months into Project M.
n00bcon 5 two years ago.
n00bcon 6 one year ago.
With a starting capital of, say $300, you can get a decent version of a majority of the strategies in the format. The best "budget" strategies often include Underworld Dreams, Savannah Lions, Mana Vault, Serendib Efreet, Land Tax or Howling Mine as the more expensive cards. There are exceptions, such as Arvid Grahn's winning mono blue control deck from Gothcon 93/94 2008 or GaJol's Colossus Skull from BSK 2013.
The main idea is to abuse Priest of Yawgmoth, Animate Dead and Skull of Orm. You could e.g. cut Bazaar for Jalum Tome, Abyss for City in a Bottle and Berserk for Concordant Crossroads here.
So, I guess that the very first step in building a deck is to decide what kind of deck you want to play. After some testing, you usually get a majority of the more common cards from online retailers. If you like prison, you should probably look at cards like Underworld Dreams and Howling Mine. If you want to go aggro, Lions, Efreets and Chain Lightning are good cards. The Efreets can pretty easily be exchanged for Phantasmal Forces for a fraction of the cost though.

One thing that's pretty important when building a first deck, if you want it to be good, is to have some kind of early-game plan or acceleration. If you are playing one land a turn and have fairly expensive spells (manawise) it can easily feel like your opponent gets to start playing two or three turns ahead you. If your opponent goes turn one land, mox, Fellwar Stone and your turn one always is land-go, you're probably in for a rough time.

A majority of the successful powerless decks still try to cheat on the mana curve. Monoblack can cast a ritual into Underworld Dreams or Hypnotic Specter, Tax Edge casts a Land Tax and then operates on 1-3 mana for the game, Monogreen have Elves and Gaea's Touch, Atog and many other decks use Mana Vault, etc. Decks like WW, Suicide Blue and Electric Eel Aggro have such an agressive curve that they don't really care if the opponent has twice as much mana as them; they will have the threats. The aggro decks can then use the top of their curve (cmc 3+) to make sure that the opponent can't hit back, using cards like Blood Moon, Dust to Dust, Armageddon and Energy Flux.
The Mine/Barrier packet are surprisingly strong in builds outside the obvious Prison or Trick decks. Relic Barrier is a also very good answer to Mishra's Factory and Mana Vault.
One of the more entertaining things with playing 93/94 are the extremely powerful spells available. Cards like Strip Mine, Mind Twist, Sol Ring and Black Vise are crazy powerful, and still very affordable. Other spells like Balance and Wheel of Fortune can help you reclaim games that looks all but lost. I would try to include at least one or two of the restricted cards when I build a new deck. If nothing else, they are really fun to cast.

So, this was mostly opinions, and maybe not that informative. I guess that the reason is that it is kind of hard to tell people how they should approach building a 93/94 deck. There are so many possibilities and so many different ideas of why people play the format. If I would try to summarize how to build a deck, it would go something like 1) Figure out what kind of deck you want to play. 2) If you don't have friends with large collections, buy the bulk of the deck at some online store. 3) Get a few of the cheaper restricted cards to stick in the deck, they are restricted for a reason. 4) Slowly improve the deck.
An evolving trick deck.
What else? I'll start my Easter vacation on Friday, and a week from that we'll be playing at n00bcon7. The Italian scene is crazy awesome, and Jacopo Borelli and his crew are really evolving the format down in Ravenna. Manuel Sternis will host a tournament in France this Saturday. Freespace will host a n00bcon warmup tournament in Gothenburg this Sunday. I hope to play in my first 93/94 tournament in Oslo the weekend after n00bcon, April 12th. And I'm really looking forward to come home to Gothenburg this Friday, as I have a very sweet letter waiting for me. I'll be sure to post some pictures of its contents when I come home.

måndag 16 mars 2015

Starkbier and Goats

Ah, Bavaria!
Me to the left, the friend we squatted at to the right. Good times.
Starkbierfest lives up to its name. The beer is stark and it's clearly a fest. Germans in lederhosen lifting rocks and chopping wood, dancing on tables and drinking 9% ABV beer in one-litre maß glasses. I'd highly recommend anyone to give it a try.

Morning after then. Woke up at a friends place with Hardy and a next level headache. Still worth it though. We went to Munich best burger joint, the legendary Burger House to nurse our hangovers. A few burgers and vanilla shakes later, we were back on track. The next step was to meet up with Andreas "Custer" Schneider, a local old school player who had invited us to his home for some weissbier and card slinging.

This is one of my absolute favorite parts of old school Magic. It may be a small community, but it's tightly knit, and the players I've met around the world are always so friendly and inviting. Maybe surprising, but the shared passion for the origins of Magic opens a lot of doors.

Andreas met us at Thalkirchen before we went to his place. He'd built his deck with the EC B&R list, and this was the first time he got to test the deck live. Andreas expressed an interest in updating the deck for the classic 93/94 B&R, and hopefully visit n00bcon next year. That would be awesome, we haven't had any Germans at the event yet!
Custer's monoblack.
Custer, Hardy and weissbier.
Winning with the Drain Life, posing with the Juzam.
Exchanging some signed cards as memorabilia of the event. Hardy got a Kobold, Custer got a Lord Magnus, and I traded one of my Winds for a signed one from Custer.
Mox Emerald vs Xenic Poltergeist.
I actually did cast that Emerald after my opponent had played Xenic Poltergeist. Not the best of my many great plays, as it got eaten about a second after it hit the table. Speaking of eating presumably inedible stuff, goats are known to be eating a lot of things. Tin cans, ivory cups, candelabras, rocket launchers and such. Also, goat is an anagram of Atog.

In the summer of 1994, Atog wasn't really a popular card. The ability seemed narrow and unimpressive, almost like a drawback. If you wanted to destroy one of your artifacts each turn, Yawgmoth Demon looked better than a 3/4 without flying. Combine that with the fact that it was the most common card in Magic during the summer of 1994 (c4 in Aq and then immediately a common in Revised), and you can understand why it wasn't considered a powerhouse.
"The bane of all artificers, the legendary Atogs devoured intricate tools to further their own twisted growth."
It was iconic though. The flavor of the card and the artwork was still pretty cool, and it was one of the very first "Magic-only" creature types. Creatures before the Atog built on the lore of Dungeons and Dragons or 1001 Arabian Nights. It was also instantly recognizable due to its prevalence, and became the predecessor of cards like Foratog, Necratog, Psychatog and, of course, Atogatog. Another interesting trivia about Atog is that about 1 in 4 Atogs from Aq have a print defect of an 'x' in the artwork. As it was a c4, it seems like there was a problem on one of the copies on the print sheet. Those in the know call these misprinted Atogs "crossed Atogs". So there's some useless knowledge for you ;)

Anyway, Atog decks. They started showing up about 6 months after Mana Vault was unrestricted here last year. Last autumn, Felipe Garcia and Freespace tore up the Swedish meta with their Atog Smash and Atog Flare decks. More recently, Artelas, a player from Karlstad, created a monored Atog deck which he took to the top4 of StabCon two weeks ago. It looks like a blast to play. If you are a vintage player with a set of power to spare but without that many duals, this could be a sweet deck to try :)
The monored Atog Burn

måndag 9 mars 2015

The work here is done

Updating this blog is mostly a pleasure. Every now and then though, I feel like I don't really have the time to write an interesting post. This was one of those weeks. There has been a lot of travelling on the agenda, and I'm working on a presentation for a meetup this Wednesday evening. 93/94 teching had to take a back seat to socialising and work.

This was pretty good week to be low on time for blogging though. Two great articles about 93/94 have been posted at Eternal Central in the last seven days. The first one is a report from the tournament during eternal weekend, with great pictures and a whole bunch of sweet decks. It is really hard to pick a personal favorite of the decks played there, but one of them that sticks out is David Schooley's MonoBlack. As many of you probably know, there is a rule stating that unless you play with opaque sleeves, you can't play with cards from Alpha unless all of your cards are from Alpha (due to the visibly rounder corners). David plays with clear sleeves. This is the first all-Alpha deck I've ever seen somebody actually play. Very impressive.
Who needs Underworld Dreams in real monoblack?
Check out all the decks at and the full article at Eternal Central.

The second article at EC is written by Danny Friedman, and takes a deep look at different Stasis prison strategies. It's a great guide for anyone who wants to take their control game to the next level, and gives a lot of history and insight to the archetype.
Kalle Nord's Stasis from Stabcon two weeks ago. Went 1-3, but a very nice looking deck :)
What else? It looks like a 93/94 community in Oslo is starting to emerge. It seems that the first meetup will be next weekend, though I unfortunately wont be able to join myself. My roommate Hardy and I are travelling down to Munich for Starkbierfest during the weekend. Our Saturday in Munich is pretty open btw, so it would be really sweet if we could meet up with the Regensburg players again. We'll bring a couple of decks just in case.
Hardy teching in Oslo.
It doesn't look like there will be a report from StabCon unfortunately. From what I've heard, there were 15 players competing, and the top4 consisted of The Deck, UWR Skies, Mono Red Atog and Nether Void Prison. The eventual champion was Carl "Tibia" Olzon with his UWR Skies.
Tibia's winning deck from StabCon.
So, now go and read about Stasis and Eternal weekend at Eternal Central :)

söndag 1 mars 2015

Sunday updates

As I type this, there's a 93/94 tournament going on at the StabCon convention in Gothenburg. I unfortunatly couldn't make it to the tournament myself this time, but Freespace just sent over a picture from when he managed to exchange from 1 to 20 life with Mirror Universe against WW. So there's that.

Mirror Universe really is a ridiculously strong card in many matchups. In the Arvika tournament last weekend I went 6-0 in matches, and at least three of those wins would have been massive losses without the Mirror. It is somewhat amusing that it is close to broken in 93/94, but pretty much unplayable in all other formats. Kind of like Recall.
To the left, a restricted card in old school Magic, and a former a chase-rare from Legends. To the right, an unplayable bulk rare from 2002 ;)
The StabCon tournament is probably the last 93/94 tournament in Sweden before n00bcon. It looks like this year's n00bcon have the potential to be the biggest tournament in the format yet. We're about 40 people signed up now, with 5 weeks to go. It will be awesome. Kalle has finished this year's pin design now btw; a Dragon Whelp hatched from an Easter egg.

 At that same date, April 4th, I've heard that the LandLotusJuzam guys will host a Magic '95 tournament in New York. Legal sets are up to Ice Age, and the tournament will have a dress code of mid-90s clothes. If you haven't checked out their website yet, have a look at www.landlotusjuzam.net. It is funny on so many levels.

Back to 93/94 Magic, the Ravenna scene is going strong. You can check out a lot of sweet videos and tech at the Magic Time homepage or at their Facebook page. They use an unusual but pretty cool Chaos Orb flipping technique btw, an overhand 2-finger flip:

I also hear that some local players in Oslo might be interested in the format. I hope to get together with some locals in the next few weeks for some casual gaming. Getting started with 93/94 usually take some time, but it should be fun to see where we can take it. It would be sweet to not have to travel to Sweden everytime I want to play old school Magic with more than one or two players ;)

I've updated the PWP standings and decks to beat with the results and decks from Arvika. Hope to get some sort of report and decks from StabCon in the near future as well :)