Lotusless: A report from Milan

The 93/94 scene in Italy has exploded in the last couple of years, with strongholds of old school players in Ravenna, Milan, Liguria, Tuscany and Veneto. A few weeks back, the Ovino XI tournament in Milan gathered 60 mages from Italy and neighboring countries. This is the Ovino XI story, as told by Valerio Gregori. Enjoy! /Mg out

I discovered Old School Magic 93/94 thanks to this blog, two years ago, following a link shared on one of my friend's Facebook page. And since that first reading, I have been time twisted 20 years back to the Golden Age of Magic, when it was a very different game than now. After some browsing on the page, I guess it took just half an hour before I called my brother Mario, who lives in our family house 400 km away from my place, asking him to start scavenging old card boxes in our closets and look for ancient treasures. From there, we built a couple of decks to playing during the rare weekends when I was visiting my family. And we have started collecting P9, month by month, til now, when we are still missing both Black Lotus and Mox Pearl. So first of all, thank you and thanks for this great community. This report is a just a little attempt to give you something back, in form of my little experience.

At the last Sunday of September, I finally had the chance to have my first attempt to play in a large Old School tournament; Ovino XI in Milan. An event I had to skip in the past years due to family and work.

First question was what to build without Black Lotus available. First part of the answer is what you cannot build: the perfect weapon. But you can respect the 93/94 Magic spirit, so you can try to assemble all the best cards at your disposal, build the something as close as possible to and getting top satisfaction doing this.

As I like control, I would like to play The Deck, but I don't want to play it without Pearl and Lotus. Too much handicap. And damn, for the same card availability reasons I cannot afford Undead Party Crasher either.

So I changed my plan to Blue-based Aggro to play the best creature in the format in my opinion; Serendib Efreet. To do this, I decided to follow two lines to be able to "compensate" the Lotus absence: fill the deck with Birds of Paradise or with Dark Rituals. With complete sets available, these cards are able to fuel your starting hands with a great boost.
Why use Black Lotus when these rockets are fully available?
First option was Lestree Zoo: 3 RUG Moxen + all the blue P9, incredible raw power, a lot of bolts & fast threats. Also, Sylvan Library and good answers in the side. With Birds and Moxen, there were really good chances to have a Serendib Efreet, or why not an Erhnam Djinn, in play by turn 2. Nobody will notice the Lotus absence. I tested it for almost a year, and this deck has an indubitable power, but very little interaction with your opponent. It is a real aggression with a plain strategy;
overwhelm the opponent by creatures and finish with red and blue bolts. No need of Lotus here!

At the same time, I was really in love with another build I was testing. It could cast, also without Lotus, a turn one Juzam Djinn by relying on the explosive power of Dark Ritual. Same power of RUG, with 3 URB Moxen and all the blue P9. Even more, thanks to two of the greatest rockets in the format, Mind Twist and Demonic Tutor. And more again, able to gain real advantage of Twisters, thanks to Underworld Dreams. So this soon became the main-main-stream and the Thursday before the event I was able to join my friends Simone and Giuseppe, former Ovino Old School Champion, in a Turin pub for some play-testing.
Smile to Death
The strategy is less plain than Zoo, but not too much. If you are lucky you can go with Library of Alexandria and play around card advantage, relying on a superior card quality (Mind Twist, Juzams, Efreets, Sol’kanar). Most of times indeed, you will be able to play T1 Specter or T1 Underworld Dreams, putting a very early clock on your opponent, then continuing to deploy menaces turn by turn. Underworld Dreams indeed can be a real nightmare once combined with a Wheel of Fortune or Timetwister, giving you the chance to exchange positions in the race of life points.
Van Damme's Double Impact best transposition in Old School.
At the end, the deck with Rituals was elected. The Evil Deck is its name.
The Evil Deck, only the scariest monsters can join this party
First build shown a complete sets of dreams and sinkholes. After a night of playtesting, the final build shown -2 Dreams and -3 Sinkhole. Dreams are great, but on a triple black deck more than one in your starting hand can be an issue. Sinkhole is also great, and provide a sub-strategy to the deck, destroying opponent's mana base, but a lot of time I top-decked them in middle/late game, finding their effect too marginal. So these cards were substituted before the event by Psionic Blasts, Chain Lightning and Terror, mostly to free the path to Hypnotic Specter and to provide final damages.

From now is about how I reached the final at Ovino XI (please don’t forget it has been a large event, gathering 60-players!).

Turn 1 I had to face Michele Donà, with Monogreen Berserk. Game 1 I have to mull (as on all the other games) but I won the die roll. Michele start to build a little army of 1/1, that I welcomed with lightning bolts, til deployment of a Specter and a Sol’kanar that easily sealed the first match. In the second game I was assaulted by an army of accelerated Ernhams. 1-1.  Let’s start the third; scrying a Bolt, I opened very slowly, and a Llanowar Elf come on the other side, soon joined by a Timberwolf (bands.. who remember this rule? 5 minutes was needed to have a clear picture of how it works!). I played a specter, he an Erhnam, then me a Serendib. But banding with the Timberwolf, the Ernham is a really big problem. At one point, I started the turn with 10 life, he was at 13, his side of the board with Elf, Wolf and Ernham, me just with the Specter and the Serendib, 1 card in hand for him, 2 lands and a Timetwister on my side. Going for the Twist, to open the game to different options, giving him the chance to start with a full hand, was my finals decision. The renewed hand shown a Time Walk and a Bolt, meaning victory without letting him play a single card from the new hand. I started to think this is a lucky day 1-0

For the second match I have been paired Vs. Guido Citino, with UWB parfait. A draw engine fueled by Howling Mines, that he is able to tap before my turn to turn them off thanks to Relic Barriers and Icy manipulators. The strategy is completed by The Abyss, that is controlling creatures business, and Underworld Dreams that should put an end to the game. Indeed Dreams did it, but on my favor as on my side of the battlefield, as he started to take 2 points of damage all the turns, because of the Mines. On second game instead, his draw phase has soon became like an Ancestral Recall, drawing 3 each turn, and I had soon to scoop. Last game, finally, I have a rocket. With less than 10 minute to play before turns calling, I played specter T1, and Serendib T2, sealing the deal. 2-0

In the third match I have encountered my nemesis of the day, Filippo Caccia, driving The Deck. Game 1, I have started very strong, something like a T2 Juzam, and a Control Magic from his side indeed close the match soon after. Game 2, again I went behind him because of Control Magic on Serendib Efreet. But a dreams on my side, followed by Time Twister and Psionic Blast with him at 4 recover all the gap. Game 3 has been dramatic for me, as every threats from my side met an answer from him: T1 specter met Maze of Ith, dreams met Disenchant, following creatures met Swords to Plowshares, then Lotus (damn) + twist against me as a prelude to Serra Angel hitting the board, closing the game. 2-1

From turn 4 I went in meat grinder mode, and went to face a Swiss guy, Lorenzo Dudler, with BWR mid-range. He had built the same deck that won Ovinospring in April this year, piloted by my friend Giuseppe, for which I had tested a lot just two days before. So I start with T1 specter, followed by Juzam on his side, and a Sol’Kanar on mine. Swampwalk ability plus his hands reduced soon to zero gave to me the first match. Second was not so different, with a rain of bolts going towards him, followed by Serendib for which he has no answer. 3-1

Facing Ernhamgeddon on turn five, piloted by Michele Bargiacchi and under the feature match camera, we know very well that whoever is going to lose will be out of the contention. Indeed both the matches have been not so close, as I was lucky cast bigger treaths than him, and before him.

In the first match a Juzam Djinn on my side overcame his Serendib Efreets attacks, and in the second an early Specter was able to get the advantage. So 4-1 and hopefully in the upper side of Swiss Top 8.

Ended 4th of the Swiss drawing last match with Stinfo, just to finally get a little time to make some business… and trade for a beta Mox Pearl!
It’s time for the elimination rounds.

In the Quarterfinal I met Stinfo (Stefano Maggio) with The Deck. Game one my line is to destroy his mana base, thanks to an opening hand with Strip Mine and Sinkhole, and an early Library of Alexandria. I boosted into the game some threats, giving him no possibility to answer without white mana. Game 2 instead he is in total control with The Deck, I don’t remember anything but the final Fireball. Game 3 is a brutal aggression, something like turn one Specter, followed by a Strip Mine. No white from his side and another Specter on the field, and Stefano scooped. Let’s advance to Semifinal, to face the first of the Swiss!
Beating the Organizer, what else?
Luca Zanon had won the Swiss, winning 5 consecutive matches, driving famous UR burn shell splashing black and erasing all The Decks in its path. Thinking about it, I have a good match-up. Instead Game 1 has been a mess, with me not able to get around his Counterspells, with Efreets and Bolts hammering me. Game 2, an early Blood Moon from his side, with just an Island in play, put my Mishras at bay, but also his Library. I also had an Island in play, so it was just time to wait one of my four basic Swamps or the Mox Jet to take the match (two days earlier, a couple of Blood Moons were main-deck in my build). With a Dark Ritual I started to put in the battlefield Hypnotic Specters, Sol’kanar and the rest of the party. Game 3 was a copy of my Game 3 in the Quarterfinal, and even better without the fear of Swords to Plowshares. Specter and Efreet came very soon into the battlefield and very soon my opponent had to concede.

So it is time for revenge, as the only deck able to stop me during the Swiss is waiting for me at the final table.
Mask of Concentration or too many cards to handle?
You can see video of the infamous final in the many 93/94 groups and in the Ovinotournaments' Facebook page thanks to Simone Esposito's massive spamming :) After a very lucky day, I found again that Filippo is a guy luckier than me :P

Game 1 I had my great start with Specter met again Maze of Ith, and following on the match I encountered something like six consecutive lands draws, a dumping by Mind Twist and so on. And Game 2, again despite a strong start from my side, in form of turn one Gloom of Dark Ritual followed by T3 specter, I met his turn three Balance, played thanks to... Black Lotus... that rapidly overturned the battle, destroying my board. With an hand full of Specters and Efreets I was not able to get a third land in time to stay into the track.

At the end, I got a great beta Mind Twist.
My precious
It is not the Lotus, ok, but Mind Twist has been great, mostly against me, during the whole tournament. But this rocket, perhaps the best card in the format, is not the protagonist today. It is the Lotus. I won a lot of games without Lotus, and I lost the most important one because of it. What can I say, its power is indisputable, but it is possible to play competitively without it, even in a competitive field like the Italian one!

It was, despite no Lotus, a great day. Thank you for reading!


  1. Thx for your report. Where are the videos ? On facebook I find only the video of the final (I think).

  2. Unfortunately just the video of the final has been uploaded..other feature matches have been put in streaming nd recorded, hopefully videos will be uploaded in ovinotournaments.com website!

  3. Amazing report Vale! :) Nice build and an amazing price. Now increase statistic to show it was not just luck! ;) Simone


Skicka en kommentar