A Single Leaf

Across a vast ocean of unseen depths lies the Ocean State. In this land of revelry and confusion, the Mountains of Madness are no home to blind penguins, but sleeved up to conjure those smiling devourers of intricate tools. And in his house at Boston living Dave Firth Bard waits dreaming. It is my pleasure to present Dave's witness of Providence. Enjoy! /Mg out

Here in the United States, there has been an upwelling of interest in 93/94 and related Old School Magic variants, especially over the past year or so. But despite the increasing momentum, outside of a few established and well-known playgroups in Chicago, the Bay Area, and recently New York, most American fans of the format still find themselves few and far between. In my own case, there were several months when I was doing a lot more daydreaming about 93/94 (“Which card should I buy or trade for next?” “I wonder how this tech would work?”) than actually sitting down and playing the game, mostly for lack of a local group to jam with.**

(**This is one of the reasons why I became a member of the incredible 93/94 Skype community, a very international group of Old School players who frequently connect for pick-up games via webcam. For more information, check out Bjørn Einar’s post -- join us!)

I don’t live in some far-flung corner of the countryside, though. I live in Boston, in a metro area of several million people. Surely we could pull a group together, right? I decided to go looking for other fans of Juggernaut and Serra Angel.

First, I got out on the road. Over the summer, I played in a 20-player tournament with the New York 93/94 group and a few guys from the Eternal Central crew, at a side event to the NYSE IV Vintage tournament. After that, I got my first glimpse of large-scale organized play by checking out SCG Worcester, a Legacy tournament where I was able to find a couple of Old School players and get some more games in. As I traveled, I started putting together a list of 93/94 players in New England -- some found through Facebook, some through Instagram, PucaTrade, some on Skype, some in person. I saw that a little group had sprung up near Hartford, Connecticut. There were definitely enough of us here in the region... it was time to just put something on the calendar and see what would happen. I decided that I would just go for it and plan an Old School meet-up to coincide with GP Providence in October.
 "Then I saw / How order might--if chaos wished--become:
And saw the darkness crush upon itself” ...
“What else, when chaos draws all forces inward
To shape a single leaf?"
-- Conrad Aiken

Providence seemed like an ideal spot, as it is rather centrally located in New England: less than a three hour drive from the vast majority of the region’s population, and within just an hour and a half for most of us living in or near cities like Boston, Worcester, Hartford. The GP would provide some additional enticement for Magic players of all stripes, even though the main event was Standard, as there would be vendors and side events in other formats as well.


Rhode Island’s capital and largest city, one of colonial America’s oldest settlements, known for institutions like Brown University, RISD, and Narragansett, “the Pabst Blue Ribbon of New England.” And home to H.P. Lovecraft, one of history’s greatest horror writers, known especially for his Cthulhu Mythos.

“I want the familiar Old Providence of my childhood as a perpetual base for these necromancies & excursions—& in a good part of these necromancies & excursions I want certain transmuted features of Old Providence to form part of the alien voids I visit or conjure up.”
 “I am Providence, and Providence is myself—together, indissolubly as one, we stand thro' the ages; a fixt monument set aeternally in the shadow of Durfee's ice-clad peak!” 

After reading tournament reports from 93/94 scenes around the world, I knew that some details were mutable, but two traditions must absolutely be preserved: we would duel in a tavern, rather than the sterile convention center of the Grand Prix, and we would compete for nothing more than a format-legal bit of jank signed by all participants. On a scouting trip to Providence, I visited no fewer than seven bars and found one that would fit the bill: Union Station Brewery. As for the trophy, in homage to Lovecraft, I chose Cosmic Horror, utterly unplayable yet dripping with the flavor of the ancient and unspeakable.
The prize pool, with the “Golden Horror” in the middle.
The day arrived, and there we were: ten spellslingers, representing Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin. I had no idea of what to expect in our newly formed local metagame, so I brought a version of the list I had been running in the 93/94 Skype tournaments:
Dave Firth Bard’s Mono-Red Atog
This list revolves around two of my favorite cards in the format: Ankh of Mishra, which often deals a sneaky six or more damage for two colorless, and Blood Moon, because it’s only right to punish the greedy. The sideboard is admittedly confused, as I had little idea of what to expect. I mostly hoped that I would come up against players with 4- and 5-color mana bases, and hopefully not have to deal with Erhnamgeddon, which I knew from testing to be one of my toughest matchups.

A few notes on what transpired:

Round 1 - Franz - Connecticut - Mono-Black Aggro
Franz is an active player in the Connecticut group, and raised an eyebrow when I said that I was “honor bound” to keep my first hand. Truth was, I was on the draw, and I had Library of Alexandria. I thought, “LoA on the draw? I can’t lose!”

I got run over. He had T1 Ritual and Hippie, T2 Ritual and Su-Chi, and just like that, I was flattened.

I quietly sided out my Blood Moons.

Game two I mulled to 5, kept a no-lander with some bolts in it, scryed a Sapphire to the bottom. (Should have gone down to four, but in the heat of the moment, who wants to go down to four?) I eventually drew the Mountain I needed, but he promptly hit me with a Sinkhole, and I was indeed sunk.
Franz’s Mono-Black (2nd place)

We had time to play a few more that were more competitive and fun, including one where he got three Underworld Dreams on the battlefield against me… quite the clock!

Round 2 - Brian - Connecticut - Reanimator
Brian is the organizer of the Connecticut group. It was nice to meet him in person, he’s a mighty Vorthos indeed. Loved seeing his brew: a Fallen Empires-enabled reanimator in base blue, using Mind Bomb and Jalum Tome to get things in the yard, and looking to Animate Dead targets like Mahamoti Djinn and Deep Spawn. I admit that I am certainly not used to seeing Fallen Empires cards across the table and don’t use them myself, so I was frequently picking up his cards and asking, “so what does this do exactly?”
Brian’s Fallen Empires Reanimator
Game one, I had a pretty hot start, two Ankhs down on T2, burned him out very quickly.
Game two he landed a reanimated Deep Spawn right off the bat, I believe on turn two or three, and I had no way of dealing with a six toughness trampler that can gain shroud on demand.

Game three was much more back and forth. He landed a Mahamoti Djinn, which I think I was able to remove with a Disk I had sided in. I had to play around the Blue Elemental Blasts that he had sided in. I eventually got him (casting no fewer than three Earthquakes over the course of the game) after he tapped out to hard-cast a Deep Spawn.

Very fun games against a unique brew, I improved to 1-1 on the day.

Round 3 - Ben - Wisconsin - Erhnamgeddon
Ben easily won the award for greatest distance traveled to reach our little Gathering -- he was in town for the GP from Wisconsin, visiting friends in Boston and Providence. Stand-up dude, and I am glad he found us, as it was very cool to have someone who has played with the Chicago group in our midst. I was unhappy, though, to realize that he was running Erhnamgeddon, easily my deck’s toughest matchup, as a lot of 4- and 5-toughness targets make for a rough day. A typical situation came up right away in game one, I had to 2-for-1 myself with a Bolt and a Chain to kill an Erhnam, but of course there was another big green beater right behind it.
Ben’s Erhnamgeddon (1st place)
I couldn’t keep him off of four mana, and Ben coasted to two easy victories. We had plenty of time left in the round for a few more games, just for fun, and at this point I brought out my UG Tempo deck just for a change of pace. All very fun games.

Round 4 - Ash - Maine - GW Storm Seeker
This was a long-awaited opportunity to play an in-person game against a fellow member of the 93/94 Skype group -- technically we were “meeting” for the first time, but Ash is certainly no stranger, and neither was his deck of choice. As usual, he had an innovative brew involving the color green -- Ash is a fellow green sympathizer, always doing what he can to push the limits of 93/94’s weakest color. This particular list had all of white’s greatest hits (Swords, Disenchant, Serra Angel) and notably also an engine based around Howling Mine and Storm Seeker, with the novel goal of trying to fill the opponent’s hands up before hitting them for massive damage with a Seeker.
Ash’s GW Storm Seeker
Our first game felt rather long, as we were both stuck in “draw, go” neutral with little to do for a few turns at a time. I did eventually gain the upper hand, as Howling Mine enabled me to keep my hands filled with burn spells toward the end.

Game two I had Library of Alexandria on the draw, but he was able to Ice Storm it on turn 2. Things took a turn from there, though, as he was unable to find a white source over a few turns, and I was eating chunks of his life, swinging for 11 on one turn with a Ball Lightning and an Atog with +4/+4 from an artifact snack.

With the win, I reached my final record of 2-2 on the day, good for 5th place out of 10.

After four rounds of swiss and three players (Ben, Franz, and Scott) at 3-1, top honors narrowly went to Ben based on strength of opponents. He definitely showed us a thing or two about how Old School is played in the Midwest, and took New England Old School’s first ever “Golden Horror” back home with him.
Overall it was a very interesting field, with two Erhnamgeddon, three Mono-Black variants (including one from Taylor of the Wizard’s Tower blog), a Power Artifact/Transmute Robots build, a nice WBR Goodstuff list, and then the Reanimator, GW, and Mono-Red Atog decks mentioned above. Our meta is still obviously very young, and we welcomed some rather new players, too, so I was glad that we provided a welcoming environment with beers, low stakes (no stakes?), and, to a man, a group of guys who were mature, simpatico, excited about the hobby, and more than happy just to to show up and play.
This guy played Mono-Black without sleeves, like a complete savage.
This was just the beginning for us -- a green shoot, a bud, a leaf -- for our new regional playgroup, but everyone left the event exchanging phone numbers, connecting via Facebook, and eager to plan our next Gatherings!


  1. Holy cow! I'm 20 min outside of Hartford, CT myself and have been looking for a local group.

    If possible, I'd love a hookup with the Hartford group and your New England group.


  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yw7Xm-hwMAA

    beware of new 93 94 proxies. they are even faking SUMMER MAGIC cards (serendib efreet)

    1. https://i.imgur.com/kjEzfD3.jpg



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