torsdag 29 december 2016

2016 Retrospective

2016 showed the highest literacy rate in history, the lowest percentage of people living in extreme poverty every, and it looks like the lowest child mortality rate we've ever seen. People are healthier, more educated and have more opportunities than any time before in history. We also flew a thing to space and had it land back here again. On the flip side, it has been the warmest year since anyone started measuring these things, and much of the political debate is very divided. All in all, I guess I would grade 2016 at 'B-'. Though flawed, a very decent year if we zoom out to the global scheme of thing. But let's zoom in to our community.
Looks like a solid 'A'.
This is the fourth time I do a retrospective post (click 2013, 2014 and 2015 if you're interested in revisiting previous ones). Every year I am surprised by the steady growth of the community and how much the players create and bring to the format. Skype Magic is a thing now. There are oldschool Instagram accounts approaching 10,000 followers these days. Some guy makes 93/94 art with 93/94 graphics. The oldschoolmtg subreddit is alive and well. I've lost count of the number of facebook groups. There are like seven other blogs with old school content.
These are all things now.
As tournaments go, I think it's cool that ChannelFireball adopted the format this year. As have Bazaar of Moxen and ManaLeak. Among the slightly earlier adopters of the large organizers we have the Ovino series, Nebraska's War and Eternal Weekend; each of them hosting major 93/94 tournaments during 2016. This year, the old school tournament at Ovino X surpassed Vintage in attendance, which is kinda insane. At the US Eternal Weekend, Jason Jaco gathered 86 mages battling, making it the largest 93/94 gathering to date. And we have 100 players from 11 different countries signed up for the yearly 93/94 World Championship in Gothenburg next Easter. I don't think there's been more activity in this kind of Magic since 1995.
Kalle Nord and Danny Friedman contemplating the zeitgeist.
This month is the most visited in the history of this blog. As almost every new month is. It has been a continuous slow and steady progress for over four years. When I started writing this blog, about four and a half years back (I was handed the reins from Christoffer "Stalin" Andersson whom started it a little over half a year earlier), we had around 350 views per month. Today we have around 2,000 per day. This autumn we passed a million views. And this is with me updating no more than once a week, and writing stuff like ridiculously convoluted posts on post-graduate mathematics or tournament reports where I can't remember all the rounds. I have no idea where the ceiling is anymore, or what would happen if we started posting clickbait articles three times a week. Top4 Reasons Mishra's Factory (Probably) Shouldn't be Restricted. 6 Solid First-Picks in Old School Drafting (Number Five Will Surprise You). Seven (Grossly) Undervalued 93/94 Cards You Should Have in Your #MtgFinance Spec Box.
Five Reasons I Need Beta Duals More Than My Modern Collection. My largest trade of 2016, and the largest sum I've ever spent in a single Magic transaction all in one picture.
But that's not what we do. Instead we write 7,000 word pieces on using software development theory to build a Sligh deck and the closest we get to #MtgFinance is that I should check my wallet for gold coins.

We have no ads, sponsors nor stakeholders other than ourselves. Tournaments like BSK, the UK Championships, and people selling cards in the name of #MtgForLife have gathered hundreds of dollars to charities this year. The glorious Party of the Pit Lords tournament in Chicago had an un-wrapped toy as entry fee, which were all donated to a community outreach program working with less fortunate families. Earlier this month in Barcelona, the Spanish players hosted an oldschool event to raise money to buy Christmas gifts for children who might not get it otherwise.
Entry fees collected in Chicago.
That's pretty damn cool, right?

Good netiquette holds that I should mention a few of my favorite posts from the year. I've linked to a few of my own already, but here goes a few other ones from around the web.
You see where I'm going with this? There is no longer a lack of content creators. There are tournaments for people to play all around the world. n00bcon, with it's pretty much negligible prize structure, has grown to the extent that we need qualifier tournaments even after we managed to raise the cap from 76 to 100 players. We have a great sense of community and camaraderie, and take pride in being nice to strangers regardless of whether they are new players in the format or homeless kids that needs Christmas presents. Whatever I hoped to achieve with these weekly updates for the last four and half years, I think it's done.
People flip Chaos Orbs again.
This format and its community is great source of pride for me. It's humbling to stand in the middle of it all. But it has become time for me to step back and acknowledge that dutifully updating this blog isn't necessary anymore.

I've been thinking about it for a long time. Updating this blog takes about eight hours a week. Reading, writing, taking pictures and editing posts and subpages. Some weeks it goes a little quicker and some weeks it takes a lot more. I'm excited to see what I would do with those hours if I were to free them. I've signed up for horseback riding lessons. I have downloaded books I want to read to my Kindle. I want to learn cross-country skiing and how to speak french. Maybe I should learn to play the harmonica or start holding more seminars on software testing. And I'm getting married next year, which is awesome.

The plan isn't to stop creating content, and I will host n00bcon for as long as people want to come. I currently still have three posts still in the works. My idea is rather to severely scale down and cut my output rate down to about 10-15 posts or articles a year; either here or at other sites that want my scribbles. If you want to contribute with a guest post here, don't hesitate to email me at If you want me to write something for you, feel free to give me a nudge.

I wish you all a great 2017. Let's see where we can take it.

tisdag 20 december 2016

Crimson Disco

Things are wrapping up around here and most of the Christmas pottering is done. This year it included a fairly extravagant gift to myself; a rare piece of Magic I've been looking for for some time. I need a few more things before that project is solved, but I'm sure I'll put up a post about it once it's finished. Today though, lets go back to MonoRed.
Three or four months back, I wrote a long post on how to build a Sligh deck using the principles of agile software development. We looked at the "build-measure-learn" loop of Lean processes and ended up with a somewhat solid 75 to show the world. While the deck we built lived up to all the feature requirements, the value I was looking for was to play it with friends and lend it out during tournaments. And after playing with it at a couple of gatherings, I realized that I didn't really enjoy Sligh. I want to play powerful cards and game-changing combinations. I like card advantage and to puzzle together wins when hope is bleak. Sligh did speak to the statistician in me, but playwise it didn't really intrigue me after a few games. So after learning this, I returned to take a few more laps in the build-measure-learn loop.
Colorless card advantage.
Ever since I first opened a Nevinyrral's Disk in a pack of 4th Edition in 1995, I've been a huge fan of the card. It keeps people honest and playing with an untapped disk on the table creates an interesting subgame of careful committing. The "Johnny-player" in me likes its combo potential with bounce-cards, Guardian Beast, regenerators and recursion effects; and the "Timmy-player" in me likes the massive impact of blowing up every non-land permanent on the table. So I figured playing four disks would be a nice start if I wanted to move from monored aggro to monored midrange. Audun's deck from CrowCon was of course a big source of inspiration here.

Creaturewise, Uthden Troll didn't impress me. Sure, they survive a Disk activation, but other than that they're mostly harmless 2/2s. A single opposing Mishra's Factory will keep them at bay and two damage to the opponent when they do get through isn't really that impressive either. So instead I went for Clay Statues. They beat through Factories, are a much faster clock, and can be cast with Mishra's Workshop. Also, the playset cost me $1, which is reasonable.
Creature base. Miser's Shivan Dragon for value.
Rukh Egg is of course really nice with the Disk, but lately it seems that one of the more common ways I've been cracking eggs is using Chain Lightning (and then chaining it forward to a target at opponent's side of the table). In case you didn't know btw, it could be interesting to note that City in a Bottle will destroy the Egg but let you keep the Rukh token, as the token isn't a card.

Lands are the only permanents in the format that will dodge the Disk, so I also wanted a few cards to handle utility lands and keep the sub-theme of mana denial in place.
Ponza packet.
There aren't that many restricted cards in red, but I've found that the Forks make up for that with great effect. Forking Mind Twists, Braingeysers or large Fireballs are obviously awesome, but the value you can get from just forking things like Counterspell or Disenchant are not to be scoffed at. The Forks sometimes justifies keeping an extra land or two in hand btw; every now and then you get to fork a Recall, and you need to be able to discard cards to get to pick up cards from the graveyard. I currently run two maindeck and a third in the sideboard against "restricted-list heavy" decks.
High-end spells.
Other than that, the deck is glued together with eight Lightning Bolts/Chain Lightnings, a couple of Shatters, and some mana ramp (e.g. two copies of Mana Vault). This is the end result:
Crimson Disco.
So is it any good? Yeah, I think so. It could be slightly improved by throwing a lot of money at it and adding Black Lotus and Library of Alexandria, but they are by no means necessary for the deck to function. And I've won more games than I've lost with it which I guess is a good sign. Much more than that though, it is very fun to play.

Sometime next week or so we'll take a look back at 2016 and welcome the new year. Until then, I hope you all have a great holiday.

onsdag 14 december 2016

N00bcon qualifier at Kort i Kubik

Among the Christmas miracles and gingerbread baking, there's another kind of Magic going around in the households. Next year, we'll have the 9th annual n00bcon and the old school World Championship that come with it. As the format has grown a lot and we only have 100 seats available at the venue, qualifier gatherings of different sorts have been popping up around the world to decide whom should represent the different communities at the championships. This the story of the qualifier in Arvika. It's my pleasure to present KungMarkus's witness from Kort i Kubik (translated from Swedish and edited by yours truly). Enjoy! /Mg out

It was with a bittersweet feeling that my dear father and I strolled out to the car last Friday. We were to drive to Kort i Kubik to compete in the local n00bcon qualifier tournament. For my pops, it was mostly about his new deck. He thought he hadn't tested it properly and didn't feel that comfortable with it yet. I had brought a new deck as well, but as I already had secured an invite for n00bcon I wasn't that concerned with my results in the tournament (even though it's always sweet to bring a new trophy back to the shelf at home ;)). I was more worried about not getting to bring all my friends down to the championships at n00bcon next Easter.
Kort i Kubik
My old man and I were the last to arrive at the tournament. We met up with Svetzarn and Frasse who stood outside smoking a cigarette. The four of us went inside to say hi to Artelas, who had just been picked up by Berntsson at the train station, and exchanged some pleasantries with the store owner Dan who would also join tonight's fight for the spots. We ended up with ten proud warriors gathering. Everybody was happy to avoid the Bye and we started playing with smiles on our faces.
The deck of the evening
It was with mixed emotions I realized that my first round opponent was my brother JohanGuld. I hadn't played him with my new deck but I knew exactly what he was playing. The Gun. A deck I've previously had some problems beating but I wasn't certain how my new tech would stack up against. It ended swiftly with beatdown from the opposite side of the table; Savannah Lions, Kird Apes and Elvish Archer both high and low. 0-2 loss.
JohanGuld's The Gun
I took a tour around the tables to check out what the other mages had brought to celebrate the evening, new pairings were posted, and I saw that I was facing Frasse in round two. Frasse is mainly a very competent Legacy-player, but he couldn't keep his hands away from 93/94 for long when he heard that a few of us locals were playing the format a couple of years back. Frasse plays Dead Guy Ale and he's playing well! It's usually a 50-50 matchup whenever we meet each other. Might as well flip a coin at this point :P But luck was on my side today and after three tight games I was victorious. 2-1.

Next in line was Tilyna, more commonly known as CH around here. "Oh, 1-1 for you as well?" I ask. "No dammit, four straight duel wins" he replies with a hint of a surprise. CH plays a hyperbudget monored Goblin/Dragon deck. He only has a single Blood Moon for example.

I would describe this duel as a total blood bath. I was utterly slaughtered by Goblins and Dragon Whelps. After a few minutes of suffering CH stood at the top of the standings without a single duel loss. I, on the other hand, had racked up plenty. 0-2.
CH's Monored Goblins & Dragons
In the last round of the swiss I was paired against Berntsson, my dear friend whom I first started playing 93/94 with four years ago. His deck of choice was ErnhnamGeddon with a red splash for Bolts and Wheel of Fortune. A deck which he usually beats me with when we're playing at the kitchen table at home. But he usually has horrible luck when facing me in tournaments. Today was no exception. After two duels with LoA doing what LoA does I picked up the victory. 2-0.

Well well, I though, it was nice playing four matches at least... But then it turned out that I'd managed to slip into the top4 with my 2-2! Good times. I prepared for the semifinals, and who was waiting there if not CH. He had beaten Johan 2-0 in the last game, and now boasted a record of 8-0 in duels with his monored budget deck! Damn, this could not end well. But after a really tight duel I managed to get the deck to start spinning, and after two Time Walks and a juicy Fireball I finally managed to burst his bubble. 1-0.

I sideboarded in a couple of Abysses, a Mirror Universe and two Blue Elemental Blasts, and soon we were at it again. This time it didn't end as well. CH dropped his Blood Moon early and all I could do was to shuffle up for the final duel. 1-1.

This time luck was on my side, and I got to resolve The Abyss turn three. CH knew he had no way to answer it and scooped up his cards. 2-1.
Dan's MonoBlack
Awesome, finals! Just as I was to pick my deck I saw that Johan had defeated Dan in the other semi. I was hence about to face my little brother again, a guy who had already humiliated me once today... We shuffled up, and I can simply say that my deck just went on autopilot and played itself. First turn Library of Alexandria with no answer from Johan in sight, and I quickly built up a solid mana base and and a solid defense with Lightning Bolts and Counterspells. 1-0.

The next duel I was looking at a starting seven of Library of Alexandria, Strip Mine, Mishra's Factory, 2 Moxen, Badlands and a Lightning Bolt. What could I possibly say? The deck played itself again, and I just leaned back and watched it draw cards and keep his creatures at bay until an Abyss hit the table. Then kept drawing cards in peace until the deck delivered a huge Fireball. 2-0, and the trophy was mine! :)
The handsome champion (photo from Pimpvitational three weeks earlier).
In the bronze match for third place, CH managed to defeat the store owner Dan in a really tight match. While I got to take the throphy with me home, I guess that the real winners were CH and Johan who got the two n00bcon invites. Who wouldn't want the chance to battle against 100 old school mages from all over the globe at the World Championship? I wouldn't miss it for the world!

That's all for me this time, but I hope to see a bunch of you readers at my tournament in Arvika the 25th of February next year when we'll fight for a Giant Shark! How cool is that?!
After seven years at the BSK tournament, starting in 2017 one of the two annually awarded Giant Sharks moves from BSK to the Arvika Festival tournament!

torsdag 8 december 2016

Season's Greetings and 25 decklists

Jolly Holidays! We're in the storm before the calm, hastily tying bows on the tasks of 2016 before the new year is upon us. But somewhere before the turn we have a few glorious days of sloth, gluttony and lust to enjoy with friends and family. If Christmas also makes you greedy and envious, mise well try to stir up some pride and wrath as well to collect the full seven. "Catching 'em all" has after all been an important chapter of 20016.
It's about time to update the Decks to Beat section with some of the tech from the last few months.
Macensci's MonoGreen. Seen at the top tables at BSK, but unfortunately missed out on Top8.
It's not all news though; I think that 15 of these lists have already been published on the blog in one post or another. Nonetheless, I assume that organizing them may be appreciated by some, and there are a few new inspiring lists (like Danhor's Ernhamgeddon and Sehl's Highlander-96 UR CounterBurn). And we see that The Deck at BSK 2016 had its best showing in a tournament in Sweden in four years, so it might be a good idea to bulk up on Haunting Winds and Crumbles. Mise well add some Ivory Towers when we're at it, as UR Burn is far too consistent. If this trend keeps going, restricting Mishra's Factory is starting to look like a good idea.
Axelsson's UWR Awesomeness. A game away from Top8 at BSK.
PWP Invitational 2016
8 players, photos of 7/8 decks. Each year, eight of the highest rated 93/94 players in the PWP standings gather to fight for glory. Keeping in tradition with the old Duelist Invitational tournaments, the format at these gatherings are variations of the more familiar mid-90s Magic. This year, the arena of choice was Highlander-96.

BSK 2016
52 players, photos of 8/8 decks. Let the grunts commence! For once we actually had a dominance of The Deck in the top8; the original boogie man of constructed Magic claimed no less than four spots in the top8. Variations of UR CounterBurn (with and without Electric Eel) claimed an additional three spots, and it's clear why many see these two decks as the top tier when left unchecked. The last spot was grabbed by Danhor's Ernhnamgeddon, and just outside the top8 we saw Distress, Ponza, Zoo and many other archetypes.

Fishliver Oil Cup Ed. 0
34 players, photos of 8/8 decks. Lorenzo, Megu and the other guys in Camaiore organized a tournament taglined with "Italian rules, Swedish style" and the tech was aplenty. We have eight distinctly different decks in the top8, including stuff like TwiddleVault, Nether Void Ponza and BW Party Crasher. In the end, UR ended up on top after a fierce battle against UWR Skies/Control.

In other news, there's no lack of 93/94 content on the web these days. One of my favorite places to delve down is The Wizard's Tower blog. A couple of weeks back Dave Firth Bard (who recently contributed with a guest tournament report here) wrote a very nice post for The Wizard's Tower where he opened a Revised Gift Box his in-laws had saved away for the 22 years. Taylor, who runs the blog, shortly thereafter posted an opening of a The Dark booster. Some nostalgic product right there, I recommend checking it out.

On the other side of the web, the good people at The Library at Pendrell Vale held an original core set draft. Check out part one and part two here.

torsdag 1 december 2016

A champion's report of PWP Invitational

Today I have the pleasure to share Joakim "Jocke" Almelund's recantation of the 2016 "Pimpvitational". Jocke has been playing this format for over six years, and has no less than five n00bcon top8's alongside three BSK top8s to his name. The Shark has been alluding him, but among his achievements in old school Magic is winning the first "Pimpvitational" in 2013. I give you a former Pro Tour player with a great interest and skill of old cards. Enjoy! /Mg out

My name is Joakim. I'm an oldschool "oldschool" player with a love for The Deck that I hope can bring me a Shark one day. This is my story of pimpvitational 2016.

It all started with me getting a late invite for the tournament (as I was #9 in the rankings) and we began to plan everything. Thanks to Mällroth and Kungmarkus we were playing this tournament in Karlstad at Mällroths place. The format ended up with singleton Alpha-Alliances, with the condition that you needed to have 5 cards from each set.

So when we found out what format we were gonna play the brewing began. I was sure about one thing; I will play control. When I  first started to browse through all the expansions, I thought I should play blue-white-black control. But something changed when a friend of mine told me about playing a combo deck with Soldevi Digger + Browse + Time Walk and I was sold.
As a control player I wanted to use this combo in a control shell, so I looked up all the counterspells I could find and filled up the rest with removals and value cards. This was the end result:
Highlander-96 BrowseDigger.
Next step was to get a hold of all the cards. Thanks to my friend Micke that was easy, as he has at least one of every card. We found some last minute techs as well with Desert from Arabian Nights.
Now we were ready to travel to Mällroth and the guys from Varberg (Sehl, Elof and JummJumm) were to pick up me and Kalle (aka Egget) in Gothenburg before we would travel to Karlstad. But when we arrived to our meeting place in Gothenburg Egget was missing and we could not get a hold of him. If this was a normal tournament, like a PTQ, I would get really stressed right now, but I don't and that's what's really nice with these kind of tournaments. You have all day to play and all of the participating people are chill. So we wait a bit for Egget to wake up, and eventually go to his place to pick him up there instead.
When we started our trip we had a nice conversation about how the 93/94 format could be changed up, and we kind of agreed on that restricting Mishra's Factory might be the easy change to make. After a nice roadtrip we arrived at Mällroth's home and we were all ready to start playing, so we all got our playing schedule for the day with a nice bonus of whiskey list for all to try of (sadly I don't drink whiskey).
About the games I don't have that much to say, but I played against these decks:

Round 1 vs Artelas with Red/Blue aggro 2-1
Highlander-96 UR
Round 2 vs JummJumm with Red/Green aggro 1-2
Highlander-96 R/G Aggro
Round 3 MG mono Black Necro 2-0
Highlander-96 Monoblack
Round 4 Kungmarkus Mono White aggro 2-1
Highlander-96 WW
Round 5 Egget 4c Draw-7 Aggro 1-2
Highlander-96 Draw-7
Round 6 Sehl Blue/Red Burn Control 2-1
Round 7 Mällroth Blue/Black/White Control 2-0.

After the swiss I, Egget and JummJumm ended up with the same result, 5-2. Egget ended up in the finals since he beat both me and JummJumm, so JummJumm and I played a semifinal best of one. As I lost in the swiss to his Red/Green aggro I was a bit afraid of not making it to the finals, but I got a bit lucky with an early Abyss in the game and Millstone ending it fast.
Time for finals vs Egget with his 4c Draw 7 Aggro. We had some tight games in the swiss so I knew this wasn't gonna be some easy games. We had 3 tight games were I ended up winning. The last game ended with me taking infinite turns and stripping all his mana away.
Ending up with a second pimpvitational win I'm really happy I got to do this again! Now I will continue my chase for the Giant Shark.
Spoils of victory, 2016 and 2013.
I would like to thank everybody for a nice tournament and especially thank Mällroth and Kungmarkus for making this year's Pimpvitional happen!