Joypad Open: A study in soot

The phone wakes me up. I stumble to answer it, barley supporting my movements on my newly sprained ankle. A scent of decadence in the room. The physical pain in my foot is second to the psychological embarrassment. Maybe I'm not 20 anymore. Maybe I should not spend 14 hours drinking and dancing in the streets. Maybe two or three punk bands are enough for one evening, and maybe I shouldn't be drinking Jack from the bottle. After I trip down a stair and clearly sprain my foot, maybe I should listen to my girlfriend when she suggests taking a cab home rather than continue running down the streets of Oslo. Sometimes, I'm not a very bright man.

It's Kungmarkus on the phone. He's been travelling from Arvika with JohanGuld and Artelas, and he asks where he can park his car.

13:40. Yeah, it's 13:40. The tournament is scheduled to start in twenty minutes, and I'm a Scathe Zombie away from home.

I'm at Øyann's place. She left a few hours earlier to take a Sunday horse ride with a friend, and I got back to sleep. With a decent walking pace, I should be able to get to the Joy Pad in fifteen minutes. Decent walking pace is not an option with my current ankle though. And I should probably eat something, eventually.

I call Hardy. He knows my pain. Yesterday was the so called Musikens Dag in Oslo; "Day of the Music". It is one of the major yearly festivities in the city, and we celebrated it as such. Hardy has decided to meta-game based on his hangover, and forgoes his newly built Black Machine in favor of his Trick Deck. The amount of triggers and decision trees in Black Machine seems too daunting for the day at hand.

I drink a pint of orange juice and take on the arduous task of walking. Pick up a burger on the road as I stumble through Tøyen and Grønland on my way to the BarCode complex where we live. Did I embarrass myself yesterday, or did I act in an acceptable fashion? Probably went to far with the dance moves during the third concert. Should not have started arguing with Øyann that my foot was fine when it clearly wasn't. Gawd. Other than that, I think I did OK. Had a very nice morning with her before she left, which counts for a lot to make the angst more bearable. Buying a stuffed Scolopendra and reciting the Swedish national anthem to strangers were probably correct plays. My jeans are broken.

I get to the apartment, and I'm the last one to arrive. The others are binder browsing, discussing sideboard plans and game drinks. There's a new face in the room, Thomas, a local man from Oslo who's playing his first tournament in the format. I go for some quick pleasantries before I jump into the shower, change clothes to something that is not ripped, and grab a beer from the shelf. Somewhere I wish that I'd bought something a little lighter than Horizon Tokyo Black as my game drink.

Thomas is drinking a dark red wine. I ask what he's playing, or if he needs to borrow a deck. He says on red/black, and my mind goes to a Trick Deck. I can't place his face yet, and a basic Trick Deck is possible to build on a fair budget and comparably short time. "So, Winds of Change and Underworld Dreams?" I ask presumptuously. He shows me his deck. "Did not know that there was that much more black bordered Power in Oslo" I reply with a grin matching his Juzams. I check his binder. The blue power cards and another Lotus sticks out alongside his casual old school staples, a second playset of Workshops, and cards skilfully altered by himself. A graphic designer who's been in the game for a long time, mostly falling back to playing Eternal and non-sanctioned formats in later years.

This could get tricky for our hero.
We're an odd number of players today, and the burden of the first round bye is mine to carry. It would be sweeter to go 4-0 in the swiss without the bye, and get to play some more Magic, but life doesn't always turn out the way you'd hoped. I sip casually on the imperial stout and check out the game between Thomas and Artelas. Artelas is no scrub. He has only played the format for about a year, but in that time he has top8'd both n00bcon and BSK. A few weeks ago he won the first ever sanctioned 93/94 FNM in Karlstad. If our Norwegian challenger wants a fight, he's in for a fight.

Thomas ends up winning a fairly quick 2-0.
Kungmarkus vs Jhoval. RTC.
I hear some laughing and heavy sighs from the other end of the table. Jhovalking has resolved a Power Artifact on a Basalt Monolith and has a Rocket Launcher in play. KungMarkus reveals his hand containing Steal Artifact and Fireball, which would have been a pretty good answer. I take a picture and they both shuffle up, convinced that Jhovalking just won. He retells the story of how he cast the Launcher and some other stuff with the Power/Monolith combo. I commend his power gaming for pretending to be able to win with the Launcher the same turn he cast it, as it doesn't work that way. Both Jhoval and Markus give a stunning impression of a question mark. They re-read the card, and realize that they both had misunderstood how it worked. After some deliberation, they decide to replay their third match, and Jhoval manages to win.
There are other ways to win.
So, I'm up against Jhovalking in round 2. He goes land, Mana Vault, and I cast turn two Relic Barrier for his Vault. He follows up with Sol Ring and a land, and I proceed casting Sinkholes and Icy Manipulators to deny him mana. Distress is not the kind of deck you use to make friends. Eventually I cast Underworld Dreams and he dies from his Vault and nightmares. Game two is a little more involved, as I miss my Chaos Orb flip on his Guardian Beast. I get to keep him off shenanigans by tapping his Beast with my Icy and blowing up my Disk. I go Demonic Tutor for Demonic Hordes on an empty board, and the rest is academic.
Thomas vs Hardy.
Thomas managed to beat Hardy in two tight games involving impressive spell slinging. He waits for me in round three. Is it possible that he'll just enter the scene from nowhere and beat both me and Hardy? Of course he wont. That would be a terribly impolite thing to do to your hosts, and my deck is as solid as a Bronze Tablet.

My hand is decent, though lacking any threats. That's ok. Threats are not the game plan. Swamp, Strip Mine, Mox Jet, Ritual, Ritual, Drain Life, Howling Mine. Swamp, go on my turn, in the case I would draw a LoA. I draw a turn two Lotus and get to Drain Life his turn two Juzam. Cast my Howling Mine and eventually gets an Icy online to start running away with cards. He keeps producing threats. Multiple Factories, Hypnotic Specter, Black Knights and Triskelion. I keep them at bay the best I can with Icy, Relic Barrier and more cards than him. I resolve a Drain Life for seven and another for six, cast a third Underworld Dreams (the first two got hit with Disenchants) and let him draw himself dead with my Mines. I ended the game on eight life and would have been dead in his next combat step. Gaining 18 from the Drain Lifes (Drain Lives?) was a good plan.
Paralyze, aka Black Swords.
Second game is a little less spectacular. I have the Paralyze for his turn one Hypnotic, and tap out the rest of his team until I get to Tutor for Demonic Hordes. It eats all his lands and proceeds to beat down alongside a Factory.

So, this deck is unbeatable.

Kungmarkus waits for me. A stout man, arms and body covered in tattoos. Organizer of the Arvika Festival 93/94 tournament and winner of last year's Huvudturneringen at n00bcon. He placed second after Artelas at the first 93/94 FNM a month back. Currently, a man of few smiles. This could get rough.

Kungmarkus plays his signature Toolbox Murderers deck. A deck not unlike my Project M, though with a heavier red splash and a fistful of Counterspells. My ankle hurts. My head hurts. I must ignore my pain. To win this, I must meticulously play around his Mirror Universe and Disks. This is the time for subtle, careful commitment.

Or I could just play LoA turn one and a Mind Twist for six turn three. That will also work. Oh well. Magic is a fair game.

In the second game, my hand commits me to mana denial. Markus starts with Island go, and I throw a Sinkhole of a ritual at it. The last black mana gives me another ritual and an Underworld Dreams. My four cards left are something like Strip Mine, Relic Barrier, City in a Bottle and Mishra. Markus next land is a City of Brass, so I stick it in my Bottle. Eventually I find a Howling Mine and start drawing extra cards. Markus has a few Fellwar Stones, but I manage to keep him low enough on mana with my Barriers to make him unable to cast his Sol'Kanar. The Underworld Dreams keep chipping away at his life total. Eventually the dark side emerges victorious, as Markus is unable to cast a relevant permanent during the match. Distress: Sucking up all the fun and having it for yourself.
Should I feel bad? I do have a tingling sense of regret, a splinter in the back of my mind. Is unleashing the Black Magic too much for me? I remember Pastor David L. Brown's 1995 article about the dangers of playing Magic. How it turns you away from what's right and just onto a path of darkened hearts and heresy. Maybe Wizards was right to remove the Demons and occult elements from the game in 1995. Maybe this deck and its relentless ravages is the cause of my thumping headache and distress. Or maybe I'm just very, very hungover. I grab another beer and ponder my choices in life.

The top4 is myself, Thomas, Artelas and Hardy. I'm facing Hardy in the semis. It's the most important game of our lives.

The Distress vs Trick Deck matchup is a hazardous one. The main goal is to get your Underworld Dreams to stick, and my game plan should focus on that. An opposing Underworld will destroy the decks' engines. Always kill his swamps.

I think my deck is slighly favored, due to the virtue of my full set of Sinkhole vs his pair, and my three Icies vs his none. With two colors, he should not be able to hit three black mana without a Ritual. On the other hand, my deck is slower. I can't get wins of a random Wheel or Winds with the Dreams in play. And the Sedge Trolls and Shatters are painful. We shuffle up.

It is a stone cold war. Hardy is first out with the nightmarish enchantments. He starts to gain the advantage. A Sedge Troll joins his team. I manage to tap out his black regeneration mana and clear the board with a timely Disk. Cast a Howling Mine, and we're in double topdeck mode. A Maze of Ith keeps his Sedge Troll at bay. I eventually find Demonic Hordes to seal the deal, but Hardy has the double bolt. I draw more howling mines and barriers. Hardy spins the Wheel. I'm at eleven, he's at 13. He plays some stuff. I get two Underworld Dreams and a third Howling Mine of the Wheel and my drawstep. I ritual out the enchantments and pass the turn, letting him take eight in his drawstep. Hardy laments the fact that he didn't play a land last turn, and casts a Fireball for ten in my face. I draw four new cards to my already stacked hand and consider my options. I tutor for Sinkhole and play Sinkhole, Sinkhole and Strip Mine in his three red mana sources. Hardy reveals the top two cards of his library and shows me the bolt before he draws his third card to put him at zero. Close call.

In the second game I have the turn one Underworld. I keep tapping his threats with my artifacts. Hardy has the Mind Twist for five to take out my incoming Demonic Hordes, but it is too late. Thirteen turns later Underworld has taken him down to seven life, and I can cast Demonic Tutor for Black Lotus to bring him to one with Pestilence. His next draw step is his last.
So this is it. The finals for all the marbles. Or the very least for pride, a signed Kobolds of Kheer Keep, and a signed Khalsa Brain Salt n' Pepper 2-player mat. Had an extra mat to throw in the pot before we started. Time to win it back.

Thomas waits for me in the finals. Will the native Norwegian take home the first non-proxy tournament in the country, or will Distress prevail? I'm off the Horizon Tokyo Black and quench my thirst with a Swedish lager.

The game-drink induced karma hits me in the first game. I keep a decent but slow hand. Nothing in particular to cast before turn three, when I will be joined by my Demonic Hordes. I have the ritual and the Drain Life in case of an early Specter. Before I get to go through with my plan, I find myself with an empty hand. Mind Twist is a card.

This is one of the weaknesses with monoblack, or monogreen for that matter. There is no Balance, Wheel of Fortune, Timetwister or other single card to drag me up from a Mind Twist. I need to claw back the card loss incrementally. With only two Swamps in play, it will be rough.

I draw very well though. I find a Maze of Ith and Relic Barrier to keep Thomas's Hypnotic and Factory at bay, and eventually some more lands and an Icy. I just need a Howling Mine now. Thomas starts to present more threats than I have answers to. Another factory and a pair of Black Knights joins the fight, and I start taking two damage a turn. A Pestilence would save me. My good draws have run out, and a few turns of blanks later Distress has lost it first game of the day.
Deep Magic
Thomas plays well. He had more than a few chances to misplay and give me a couple of extra turns to find an answer which he didn't give me. Could it be that he is the hero of this tale? I wont give him any glory without a fight. I board in a bunch of Paralyze and put my game face on.
Game face?
My hand is below average. Maybe mulligan? No. I have lands and spells, and a possible turn two Pestilence or Icy of a Ritual. It could be good enough.

Thomas has the turn one Hypnotic of a Ritual. I go for turn two Icy. It's a one in four chance he'll hit my Pestilence. If he doesn't he'll have to commit more to the board to handle the Icy, making a future sickness take out more than patient zero. He plays a Scrubland to cast the instant Vindicate splashed in his deck, then attacks to pull my Pestilence. This is a quagmire.
Actual wording against my deck.
I try to crawl back. I draw the black Mox and cast Underworld Dreams and a Factory. But I'm in too deep, and have no card engine nor creature control in sight. Do you know how big Juzam is? There is no time. I came with darkness, and should have expected his visit. Two turns later, the story is at an end.
The jovial champion of Joy Pad Open.
We exchange handshakes and high fives around the table. It's impossible to be mad losing to a Juzam Djinn. It is almost as rad as winning with a Juzam Djinn. Jhoval gives me a sweet crimped Mind Bomb as a consolation prize. We talk about the Oslo scene, anecdotes from glorious pasts and plans for the future. But mostly we just talk, and enjoy having each others to share the passion with. These have been rough weeks at work. An afternoon with old school Magic soothes the soul and nurse the hangovers.

I leave for a late dinner date with Øyann, leaving Jhovalking, Hardy and Thomas in the Joy Pad. It was a great day. I look forward to the next showdown in Oslo. Then, for a lark, I might visit the plains.
Thomas's winning deck.


  1. Haha, "a man of few smiles" Carolin skrattade så hon höll på och dö när hon läste det och sa "det är alltså inte bara jag som har insett att du är bitter!" Tackar mg ;) Tack för en sjukt kul turnering och hoppas vi kan/hinner ses och lira i sommar under semestern!!


  2. Hey, I know this guy Thomas! I played against him on Bazaar of Moxen and on legacy tournament at GothCon this year :) Congrats to him!

    - Constantine

  3. Fantastic! This was a pleasure to read.

  4. Thanks for a great day/tournament!And nice read, hope too see you guys soon again, im going to sweden to opt my deck until next time // Jhovalking

  5. Haha, thanks! Nice to hear that I can make your fiancée smile as well Markus ;)

    @Constantine: Cool! Yeah, he told me that he had been at Gothcon and been travelling to play Vintage in Europe. From what I've heard, the Eternal scene in Oslo is almost non-existent at this moment, but hopefully we can get something started eventually now that we are a few new players with old cards :)

  6. Such a good read :) A big thank you to all participants and the hosts. Nice to hangout with you guys, and I´m really looking forward to more 93/94 spell slinging.


  7. Nice read, in particular the parts describing the hangover :). Being in the early 40ies with two schoolchildren, those days are more or less over, except for 2-3 weekends a year when me and three of my boyhood friends meet in Oslo or our hometown for Magic and extensive beer drinking....
    Anyway, it would be nice if there would be some kind of forum on this site where one could interact with other players and collectors of 93/94 MTG.
    I live in Bergen myself, but since I travel to Oslo occasionally, it would be nice to meet for a matchup and/or for trading premium cards.

    1. Thanks! Feel free to send me an email before next time you come to Oslo if you and your friends want to throw down some spell slinging and drinking.

  8. Well there is a couple of facebook Groups feks Oslo 93/94 Oldschool MtG, if you want to play in Oslo // Jhovalking


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