måndag 4 september 2017

Boating, flipping, and catapulting on the Stockholm archipelago

Webmaster's note: This post has been written, edited and posted by David Chambers, currently of the Berlin community. I haven't touched this post apart from writing this disclaimer to help credit go where it's due ;) 

There are many points of contrast when travelling from Berlin to Stockholm.

I left my apartment late on Friday afternoon and travelled by train to Schönefeld, Berlin’s ramshackle secondary airport which would have been retired in 2010 had the construction of the new airport gone according to plan (we're still waiting for BER to open). While in line for security I noticed plastic bottles huddled by a wall and balanced on a radiator due to the lack of a receptacle for the contraband. After getting through security (which is nerve-racking when travelling with hundreds of pieces of cardboard whose value is lost on the airport staff who inspect them) I discovered that all the departure gates were closed, forcing people to sit on the floor or on their suitcases in the hallways. The flight delayed itself (as one says in German) but we did eventually depart for Sweden.

The experience at the other end was very different. No lines. No plastic bottles balancing on radiators. No radiators. Within minutes of landing I had bought my ticket for Flygbussarna and was on my way to Cermak's place in the heart of Stockholm. The bus dropped me across the road from his apartment. Inside were Gordon, Björn, Daniel, and my roommate for the night, Jimmie.

It was already after midnight. Gordon, Björn, and Daniel soon finished their drinks and left. I had a few games against Cermak then stayed up a bit longer discussing the possibilities for mono red with Jimmie. We slept for about six hours.

By the time I got up at 8:30 Cermak had cooked a breakfast of oatmeal, eggs, toast with avocado, and orange juice. I love the Swedish commitment to frukost!

We took a taxi to the harbour and met several other players at a cafe by the water. We were soon aboard the charming Norrskär, in its elegant dining room, with a waiter and a waitress to serve us food and local beers.

Blue skies and calm waters
Table settings soon made way for play mats, dice, and cards
Proof that Magic and fine dining can mix
16 happy faces

Pairings were announced as the first round of drinks arrived, and the tournament was under way! I don’t recall the details of the first three rounds of Swiss, but action shots are better anyway.

Every player got a badge made specially for this event
Libraries are worth fighting for
I hope there’s a Clockwork Beast under those Berserks
Yes, that’s an Iron Star (Atog isn’t a picky eater)
The green sweeper
Nothing says Fuck the System better than “Swing with Sengir, Juzám, go”
A completely fair turn one
Every asset is a liability, my farfar used to say

In the fourth and final round of Swiss I found myself at 3–0 and paired against Johan Råberg, who was playing Mono Black Mono Beta! In game one he stabilized on a low life total, and was able to prevent attacks with Will–O–The–Wisp. I played Orcish Mechanics, which threatened to end the game in a couple of turns, but Johan played Pestilence and activated it for one. The game stalled until a Hypnotic Specter appeared a few turns later. I tried to answer it with Chaos Orb, but I couldn’t find my sea legs. I misjudged the swell, and the Orb bounced awkwardly, slid, and came to rest harmlessly an inch from the target.

Game two wasn't quite so close, but again Johan was victorious. I was very impressed by the power of a deck featuring only cards from Beta. I asked Johan whether he had played against the Mono Alpha deck that David Montag played to a 4–3 finish at n00bcon 9. Apparently they’ve had several tight matches. A format in which cards from Magic’s first expansion are considered too new? Now that is old school.

Johan Råberg’s Mono Black Mono Beta

The tournament had 16 players, and only four would continue to compete for the one-of-a-kind play mat illustrated by Dan Frazier. The other 12 players were not out of luck, though. The bottom four competed for another Dan Frazier play mat, while the remaining eight players had a three-round single-elimination tournament: mellanmjölk.

Apparently Sweden, like New Zealand, values being “average”

I snuck into the top four thanks to good tiebreakers. I met Ceb Selia in the semifinal. Ceb was playing a WUR deck with Savannah Lions, Flying Men, and Serendib Efreets backed by Bolts, Geddons, and Power. I only recall our final game. Ceb and I had one Factory each, but I had Atog and a pantry full of snacks. He played Spirit Link on my toothy monster, played a land (taking two damage from Ankh of Mishra), and passed the turn. I started thinking about ways in which the Atog might still be useful. It could block a Factory, I thought, or… I then realized there was another possibility. I remembered a silly deck I built in my youth which aimed to enchant Orcish Artillery with multiple Spirit Links to gain lots of life. Seb regretted his decision the instant I asked how Spirit Link works. I animated my Factory and sent it into combat alongside the original Dr Teeth. Seb animated his Factory, which I promptly bolted. He scooped up his cards in frustration: he could have played Moat that turn rather than Spirit Link. Ouch. Seb’s post on the game and the tournament as a whole is well worth reading.

Seb Celia’s WUR aggro-control

I met Cermak in the finals. We split the first two games. I had access to three Blood Moons and four copies of City in a Bottle after sideboarding, but Cermak's deck was resilient: he could remove some AN creatures for Uthden Trolls and Su-Chis which could be summoned even with both my hateful cards in play. Plus he had a sweet Beta Fire Elemental in his starting 60.

There she is!
Blocking a Factory with three Atogs (there’s a first time for everything)

Game three was very interesting. I resolved a Blood Moon, and Cermak spent the rest of the game with ample red mana but only a single green source to complement it.

At one point during the game I did some quick calculations and realized the game was mine. I sent Chain Lightning at Cermak and attacked confidently with Atog, which was threatening lethal. Cermak blocked with Erhnam Djinn. Forestwalk! I exclaimed, pointing at his Taiga. Cermak pointed at my Blood Moon. Oops. I was able to sacrifice a couple of trinkets to defeat the djinn, but I felt pretty silly about the Chain Lightning. I hoped that wouldn’t come back to burn me.

Later in the game the life totals were still fairly even, with both of us hovering in the low double digits. His only threat was Argothian Pixies, which could not attack into my Atog. My Atog could not quite threaten lethal. It was a stand-off. (A Chain Lightning would have been really useful at this point!)

I made a bold and quite possibly incorrect decision: to attack with my 1/2 to deal just one damage, knowing that I’d take two damage from the counter-attack. My thinking was that if I could trade four of my life points for two of Cermak’s over the course of two turns I would force the pixies to chump-block the turn after. It was a risk, though, as I would drop below 10 in the process and could easily lose the game in a flurry of lightning.

Inflection point

I got in for one damage and, as expected, Cermak attacked back for two. Then, he surprised me by pointing a couple of burn spells at the Atog, forcing me to sacrifice three artifacts. This was an interesting decision on Cermak’s part, as he was very close to lethal damage himself. So, we went from a high-pressure, high-variance situation in which any given draw step could end the game, to a situation in which both of us were several draw steps away from victory. With the battleground bathed in soft red moonlight I felt favoured.

Fortunately for me Cermak was not able to summon another Erhnam Djinn and I was able to end the game before he could unlock the powerful blue cards in his hand.

I had won my first Magic tournament since being joint winner of one of the flights of the Onslaught prerelease in Auckland 15 years ago. The prize? A one-of-a-kind play mat illustrated by Dan Frazier specifically for this event!

These goblins may be thieves, but at least they’re respectful
Andreas Cermak’s Fire Elemental Zoo
David Chambers’s Trinket Repair Shop
Jocke Falk’s Mellanmjölk-winning Bu deck

After getting back to land we broke into small groups and ventured in search of food and beer (this is Sweden, after all). I went with Seb, Björn, and a couple of others to a nearby outdoor event where a band was playing very loudly for an unappreciative audience. We stood in line for “Mat & Dryck”, which I understood thanks to Duolingo (which also taught me how to tell Swedes that I don't eat turtles). There was apparently no menu, though, so even the locals were in the dark as to exactly what “Mat” might be on offer. It turned out they were out of “Mat”, so we escaped the loud music and found a good burger place. Well, I liked it. Gordon, who joined us there, is a man of exquisite taste whose enthusiastic reviews are not so easily acquired.

We were also joined by Dan Pettersson, long-time Stockholm Legacy player. We ate our burgers, drank more beer, and sat around talking about the games we’d played that day, Dan’s Legacy brews, and possible names for the old-school band Gordon, Björn, and Johan formed recently. The best of the names? Bands with Other Legends.

We wandered to a different part of town where we drank more beer, Gordon ordered a shot of something expensive enough to raise a bartender's eyebrow, Björn helped me with my self-assigned German homework, Dan shared his various hacks for making himself work towards his life goals, and I dropped to the floor a few minutes before midnight to get in a dozen press-ups before I’d lose health in Habitica.

The thing that has stayed with me in the month since the event is something Björn said that night: despite being in our thirties and having played this game for more than twenty years, we’re still making friends through Magic.

Our tournament organizer

Thanks so much to Andreas Cermak for arranging the most well-run and enjoyable Magic tournament I’ve ever attended. I love n00bcon, and hope to attend for many years to come, but it’s hard to compete with a tournament on a goddamn boat!

Thanks again to Cermak for having Jimmie and me to stay at his apartment, and many thanks also to Björn for letting me crash at his place on Saturday night. I consider myself very fortunate to have made many friends in Sweden over the past 15 months.

fredag 1 september 2017

This Month in Oldschool: August 2017

Welcome to the first iteration of This Month in Oldschool!

Eight months ago I argued that Old School Magic had reached some kind of escape velocity. Three or four years past one could argue, perhaps with some sliver of merit, that if we stopped working on the BSK and n00bcon gatherings and stopped giving time to this blog, Old School Mtg would retract to the fringest corner of the casual tables. Some seats up from Highlander Gold perhaps, but far south of the more accessible retro formats like QL Magic, Block Wars and Pre-Modern. After all, if there were no content created and no tournaments organized, it would be hard for people to join (or even know about) the community.

But we're clearly not there anymore. I don't think any single person, nor group of persons, could have a heavily detrimental impact on the format or its core values these days. Today our name is Legion, for we are many. This was the main argument for me to stop with the weekly updates and spend some time learning how to ride horses instead.
That's me in 2018.
There's a lot of things going on in the communities these days. And I figured that if WotC can have a daily Magic update on the mothership, and ChannelFireball can have a weekly status check, we should be able to produce a monthly update without to much hassle. So here goes :)

Tournament reports

King of the North (Brothers of Fire)
Richard Stebbing of the London School of Magic board a northbound train to Edinburgh, Scotland, to battle for glory and an invite to the World Championships. A very good report in log form, where Richard actually talks about lines of play and matchups.

Tales from GP Birmingham (Atlantic Games)
As you might have heard, all Grand Prix tournaments these days offer 93/94 sideevents at the site (using ChannelFireball Rules). Chris Cooper recants his tale from the GP in Birmingham, and even if you're not into all the formats he played, you should scroll down and read about his experience in the 93/94 tournament. The dude sleeved up playsets of both Erosion and Psychic Venom in his starting 60, which is clearly braggable.

Rhine is on. Fire (Oldschool Mtg)
If you're here you've probably seen this one, but in case you missed it I highly recommend checking out Florian's report from the first oldschool Ante-tournament in Germany (and probably the world, at least for the last 20 years or so). They also had a "proper" tournament during the weekend, and the deck lists and tech are plenty.

Old School Player's Ball 2017 (Eternal Central)
The Old School Player's Ball was another major tournament hosted by the Chicago players, known as the Lords of the Pit. With 58 players and an abundance of tech, there's no doubt that Chicago is one of the Meccas for 93/94 players around the world. The Player's Ball joins an exclusive list of gatherings that have attracted over 50 players without being associated to other major tournaments; these players are all ballers. Check out sweet tech and pictures at Eternal Central.

Other than those reports, I would be amiss not to mention the first 93/94 tournament in the Philippines. I haven't had the chance to interact with anyone from the Manila Crew yet, but they recently held a seven-man gathering. You can check out some of their decks here. Only around 70 followers on that instagram account thus far, so they are still kinda secret tech ;)

From around the Web

The Mulligan Effect (The Wizard's Tower)
Jon-Michael steps up on Taylor's soap box to tell his story. For some reason it took me a long time before I sat down and read his post. As I am more into being amused and told a story from Magic articles than to read about mulligan theory, the title didn't attract me as click-bait. Boy was I wrong. This is a captivating story by a master penman, and he name-drops Thrull Champion and posts pictures of Juzam Djinn. Can't recommend it enough.

Reading old Magazines (The Wizard's Tower; End of Turn, Draw a Card)
As you might have seen, Taylor at The Wizard's Tower reviewed The Duelist #1 in June/July (far better and more in depth than my own mention of it a year ago). This month he got back on the train and reviewed both Scrye #1 and Inquest #1. On that same note, notorious control player Svante Landgraf has been reading Centurion #3 (the first Swedish magazine to mention Magic) as well as Centurion #4. Wicked tech, and brings back a lot of memories.

Brewing with Chambers (Flippin' Orbs)
Gordon and Grant of the Flipping Orb podcast say it best themselves: "In this episode we talk to player and brewer David Chambers from New Zealand. We pick David’s brain on how he thinks when he start brewing a new deck and we also take a closer look on three of his unconventional creations." The duo is once again flanked by 93/94 veteran Seb Celia, and the episode might be their best yet.

Old School Mtg: The Basics (PucaTrade)
Hey, did you know that PucaTrade had an article about 93/94 already in 2015? They interview me about #MtgForLife and the oldschool format. So I guess they kinda covered their basics already, but it's always fun to read different perspectives and introduction articles to the format :)

The Last Bike from Gothenburg (MtgUnderground)
Ok, so this might not be about tech or 93/94 or even that much Magic per say, but it is an article on a mainly 93/94 blog, and it is pretty much the only thing I wrote last month so it could be worth sharing. It's about shame and tribulations of daring. Maybe you like it, maybe it makes you annoyed. But I'm kinda glad I wrote it.

Fishliver Oil Cup 2017 (Web 1.0 homepage)
Last year, the "Italian rules, Swedish style" premise of the first Fishliver Oil Cup made me pack my bags and jump on a plane to play a Magic tournament far away from home for the first time. And did it ever deliver. We were 34 player last year, and to say I had a great time is an understatement. The word about it spread, and just the side event the day before the tournament already have around 50 players signed up (the side event is on Colombus day btw, so we'll use EC rules during that one). The main event this year will probably attract around 100 players from 10-12 nationalities. And the winner gets a Fishliver Oil card and some actual oil. Check out their awesome webpage for more info.

Upcoming gatherings

Scandinavian Championships (Sweden) September 23
The Swedish Nationals title has moved from Borås to Arvika, and with some cooperation from the Norwegian players, the Arvika Crew will host the first Scandinvian Masters tournament. It is a Giant Shark tournament without a Shark (this year, as Arvika already gave away their yearly Shark), but it comes with the glory of being a multi-national champion and of course with an invite to the World Championship next Easter. This is the major Swedish tournament this autumn.

Berlin 93/94 Gathering (Germany) September 23
For those of you closer to Berlin than the cold North, September 23 will still be a date to mark in your calendars. Florian von Bredow (the guy whom hosted the Rhine is on Fire gathering) will set up shop in the restaurant Dicker Engel in Birkenstraße 44. The flames start fanning at 13:00.

GP Providence (USA) October 1
Well, you say, every GP these days has some side event for 93/94. Well, I retort, not every GP is in the home of Dave Firth Bard. Dave is one of the most active 93/94-fans on the other side of the ocean, and has previously contributed to this blog about his exploits in Providence. The upcoming GP will be sure to host some familiar names in the format and sweet tech.

Fishliver Oil Cup 2017 (Italy) October 27-28
I already mentioned Fishliver Oil in Italy, but if you have your weekend around October 28st free, this is the tournament to join. Ragazzi!

Team Championship (UK) 25-26 November
The UK crew, in particular Christopher Cooper, will host the first 93/94 Team Championship. The format is unified oldschool. i.e. if you put all the team's decks on top of each other, the resulting pile should still be a legal (though large) deck when using the baseline B&R. The winning three-player team will get invited to the World Championships.

Gathering the Knights of Thorn #3 (Netherlands) December 3
Mari Stenhage gathers the Knights of Thorn once again, this time without a cap on the number of participants. The Dutch Old School Guild is one of the fastest growing in the world. Check out the tournament report from Knights of Thorn #2 here if you want some inspiration.

I don't have any details about it yet, but the US Eternal Weekend will most certainly be adjacent to one of the major 93/94 gatherings of the year. Last year they gathered well over 80 players. If you live in the US, mise well mark October 19 in your calendar. Also if you happen to hang out in Gothenburg, people are trying to get together more frequent gatherings at GG Bar. Same is true for Amsterdam, where Dyan and the crew are starting a tradition of casual spell slinging at Twee Klavering at the time of this post being published.

#OldSchoolMail of the Month

I've seen people post their #OldSchoolMail on various sites, so I'll take the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon. It has been a few sweet packages this month, but one particular card really takes the cake. I've just completed a playset that was almost three years in the making. I hoped to eventually complete this set since I got my first one from Danny Friedman before I met him. And I recently got the last one completely by surprise in the mail.
Unlocked! Four player-altered Fellwar Stones from four different countries.
Thanks a million Andrea Braida! I really appreciate it!

On a decent second place, this was also a glorious mail day:
Now to force-pick Booster Tutor in the next Haupscube draft.

This month's topic: Buyouts

I'm pretty bad at responding to notifications on social media, and I thought this could be a good place to share some responses I've failed to write on Facebook or Twitter. This month, the largest topic by far was the latest stream of 93/94 price increases. I don't have a single correct answer here, so all I can offer is an opinion.

First some context. I am horrible at following the consensus on card values.  While I do have the luxury to spend some money on Magic each month (though usually far less than last month), I mostly use my own, highly personalized, estimation of card value. I do not intend to sell my cards for profit, so the price I am willing to pay for a card is proportional to the joy I think I'll get from having it. I valued a playset of Juzams to €1,000 three years ago when I completed my set. Back then they had a price tag of around €150 each, so I was still happy when I "overpayed" a little and got the set for around €700. When I got my Alpha Lotus for around €2,700 in cards and cash four years ago, one fellow player who were looking for one asked how much I would value it. After being pressed I reluctantly agreed to €10,000, and he looked at me like I was out of my mind. "So if someone, right now, would offer you €5,000 for your Alpha Lotus, you are saying that you wouldn't sell it?!". And I said that it was correct. I didn't have a particular use in mind for the €5,000 at the time, and if I sold it, where would I find another one?
I value this above what a reasonable person would pay for it. I want my nine flips while playing under Drunken German Rules.
When people buyout cards like North Star and Stone Calendar I guess none of us can really complain. Who would ever play North Star? How many of us even knew what Knowledge Vault did a month ago? Many of us are kinda weird like that.

So what do I value Stone Calendar at? Still €3. Master of the Hunt? €25. Drop of Honey? €60. Sol'Kanar the Swamp King? €40. My evaluations aren't helping anyone except myself. And I'll guess I'll save some money by not buying Drop of Honey as it has passed my buy-in point. Cyclone is almost as cool anyway.
I the mid 90s I refused to trade a Clone for a stack including two duals. Haven't really learned that much since then.
What I'm trying to say is that these buyouts doesn't actually change the format. Not this particular format. We still get to play with what we have, as we always did. I do have a pretty solid collection at this point, but I'm not by any means one of the guys who has everything. Would I like to have a few copies of The Abyss at its pre-spike price? Sure. Will me not being able to afford The Abyss prevent me from sleeving up a Distress deck? Of course not. I'll just play Pestilence or Icy Manipulator or Paralyze instead. I'm not entitled to a bunch of Abysses.

The best time to buy cards is still, as always, two years ago.

Yeah, that rant didn't help anyone. But one guy did do a slightly more competent analysis on the buy-outs, one which I completely agree with. So I'll let him take the wheel instead of me driving us into a ditch. If you want to understand the buyouts from a fairly sober perspective, check out Saffron Olive's article at MtgGoldfish.

This month's deck

Let's finish up with a deck of the month. KungMarkus's deck of choice is a very impressive take on the Sligh archetype with some interesting choices. It is also pretty much only Alpha and signed stuff. And it looks fun to play.
Ydwen + Immolation is serious tech.
If you have any input or feedback (like, if these kind of posts are a good thing or not) or have something to contribute for next month's summary, feel free to hit me up in the comments or send me a mail.