Third time is the charm? A guest report from Arvika

So I actually wrote a post about The Deck this week. My experience with it is mostly from the opposite side of the table. It is in fact possible that I have played against The Deck (with card pool including The Dark but not Ice Age) in more tournament matches than anyone else in the world. Playing 93/94 tournaments with high frequency for eleven years certainly has given me a somewhat informed opinion about its presence in the meta at least. But I am by no means a master wielding it; I haven't remotely put down the hours as a pilot to reach the level of the true mages. I actually only ever played it in a tournament once; two weeks ago in the ~50-player Arvika Festival 4. In the first match in the top8 I faced Emil, and it was an amazing experience. My friends (and former Best Men) Honka and Hardy sat next to me to cheer me on, and even they - in a highly drunken state - were utterly impressed after watching Emil play. Emil plays an average turn with The Deck in about ten seconds while he has fourteen lands in play, two draws and six cards in hand, against the mirror. Dude has mental shortcuts for everything and make very few mistakes. He is one of around four people I would consider masters with The Deck. So when he sent over his winning report from Arvika, I figured this should clearly take precedence. His report even had matchup notes and stuff, like a real report. And to avoid a spring over-commit into The Deck, I'll keep my post on the burner for a few weeks and post a sweet Sindbad deck next week instead. Or perhaps some rule clarifications about The Wizards' Tournament. So, without further ado, I give you the words of Emil "MrSinclair" Klintbäck. Enjoy! /Mg out.

Sitting in the car with my long time Magic buddy Morgan “Farsan” Karlsson we both have big expectations for the weekend and the Arvika Festival. We start already Friday night with dinner out followed up with playtesting for hours. Morgan swings back and forth on his deck choice, but ends up deciding for an early version of Cermark Zoo. I stick as always to my old pal "The Deck". I have played at Arvika two times before and been pretty consistent making into the final eight, but never succeeded to pass the quarterfinals. Could this be the where I take it to the next level?
Arvika Festival 4 version of The Deck. Zero Stone Rain, but main deck Mirror.
Round 1: Andreas Cermark, with UWG Cermak Zoo
So, the tournament starts and I see Andreas name on the wall. Andreas started showing up a year ago in the 93/94 community and showed great results from the get go. (Editor's note: Cermak won the Arvika Festival last year with this deck.) Although he is a great guy he is not the player I wanted to face the first round. But I have play tested a lot versus his archetype and think I have pretty good picture of how to play against it and what to keep. I did grind the matchup for three hours just the night before after all.

Game 1
I look down at a quite bad hand but it is still no mulligan. I start playing Mox, Land and pass the turn. Andreas plays three Moxes, Land, Timetwister and smiles!!! I respond by Disenchanting one of his Moxes, and feel that this is not the start that I was looking for. However, after the Twister I look down at a strong hand with LoA, Time walk. This is followed up with an Ancestral on one of my draw. When I finally give the turn back to Andreas I have like 8-10 mana and a full hand. Game is over.

Game 2
I do not remember much of this game but think Andreas did not draw that much of a hand and therefore never really gets to pressure me.
KungMarkus; the engineer behind the Festival.
Round 2: Andreas Andersson with BR Underworld Dreams Ponza
I have never played versus Andreas before and he is quite new to the community for me. So, going into the game I have no idea what I am playing against.

Game 1
Andreas plays Howling Mine turn two and passes to me. I find Time Walk on my draw and follow up with a Regrowth on the Time Walk and take an extra turn. When I finally pass the turn back to Andreas my hand is full, mana base solid and no Howling Mine on board. This becomes too much for Andreas to handle and game is over.

Game 2
We cast a lot of spells and in the end, he makes a Hypnotic Specter stick and wins the game.

Game 3
Unfortunately, Andreas need to mulligan to five cards and the final game never becomes a game.

Round 3, Mällroth with RUG Lestree Zoo
Mällroth is one of the oldest members of the oldschool community and truly a great guy. We have already played during the day in one of his famous "Påsdrafts" which is one of the cornerstones of the Arvika Festival. The Lestree Zoo deck is Mällroth signature deck and he has been playing it for as long as I have known him. (Editors note: Mällroth won the Arvika Festival two years ago with this deck.) This is a deck that I have play tested a lot against and according to me this is one of the decks witch actually have an advantage vs The Deck pre-sideboard, especially if they find Sylvan Library early. However, the deck has one major downside which is its compact creature base from Arabian Nights which can be exploited with the use of “City in a Bottle”. The deck normally also has major problem with The Abyss if they don’t play tranquility in sideboard.
Mikael Mällroth.
Game 1
Mällroth plays on the curve with treats from the start. I cannot find any answers and he pretty much crushes me in five minutes.

Game 2
After sideboard, I have two Abyss and two City in a Bottle. I find LoA in my staring hand and Mällrtoh cannot find an answer. Abyss comes out quite early and game is over.

Game 3
I play out city in a bottle turn two killing an Kird Ape. It takes time for Mällroth to find an answer and when he does I can protect it with a Counterspell. When Mällroth gives up he shows his hand containing six creatures from Arabian Nights.

I really think you should consider restricting the City in a Bottle to boost the creature decks in the format. I cannot really see the downside?
Honka with TaxEdge by the 3-0 table.
Round 4: Thomas Nilsen with Eureka Artifact Madness - The Deck Killer?
Thomas is a strong player from Norway known for his nice manners and his beautiful collection of magic cards all in near mint condition. First time I met Thomas was 4 years ago playing my first Noobcon tournament. He was back then not playing 93/94 and was participating in Gothcon. I was missing a Lotus and a Mox Jet for my deck and was looking for a way to borrow them. My friend Morgan “Farsan” Karlsson knew him from back in the days, but had not seen him for years. We started talking and after ten minutes I asked If I could borrow his jewels. Without hesitating Thomas said yes, only knowing me for ten minutes. I think this a great story of showing what a great guy Thomas is.

Game 1
I look down at a LoA in my starting hand and smiles. However, Thomas goes Workshop, Mox, Su-chi turn one, land Su-chi turn two and land Tetravus turn three. My hand/play is simply too slow and he wins the first game quickly. Sometimes LoA isn’t enough.

Game 2
Thomas plays threats and I have answers. After some turns game stabilizes and I get a Tome to stick and Thomas falls too much behind.

Game 3
I look down at a slow hand without any strong plays. Thomas starts and plays Mishras factory turn one, Mishras Factory turn two, and I can only respond with land, go. Thomas plays Gloom turn three and I must use my only Counterspell to stop it. Turn four Thomas plays Eureka and I cannot do anything. He slams Su-chi and another Gloom into play and I can only play land, Mirror. My disenchant and Swords to Plowshares in hand suddenly looks expensive and slow. Turn five Thomas hits me for eight with two Mishras and Su-chi and I cannot do anything to stop it. However, on my draw I find my only fireball and suddenly there is hope. I pass the turn, Thomas hits me again for eight taking me down to four life. He also plays a Copy Artifact to copy my mirror. But that does not matter during my upkeep I switch life and then fireball him for four. Game is over.
Round 5, Svante Landgraf with MirrorBall Combo Wombo
Svante is known for being the “professor Balthazar” of 93/94. We are both fellow players of The Deck and always love to discuss how you should optimize it in the current meta. However, in this tournament he has a mission to invent/improve a combo deck in the format and I have no clue what he is playing.

Game 1
I look down at an Ancestral Recall in my hand and like my odds. Svante starts and plays land, mana vault.  I start playing land and cast Ancestral during his upkeep. Svante goes land sylvan library. Unfortunately, I have no disenchant in hand and I go land Fellwar Stone. Svante goes Land Mana Vault and Mind Twist for my entire hand, I feel like game is over. Svante passes the turn and in my draw, I find a Time Walk and plays it as cantrip. To my great surprise I find a Time Twister on top. The Twister gives me LoA and from that I can improve the control. I further improve my advantage with a Tome and after a couple of turns Svante gives up.

Game 2
Svante starts Land, Mox, Sol Ring, Timetwister and smiles. However, this is apparently my day. Svante finds like 6 Lands and a Dark Heart. I on the other hand find some power. Svante pretty much does nothing for a couple of turns and I can develop a board that wins me the game.

Round 6, Johan Rådberg with UWB Good Stuff
I have seen Johan in many tournaments but never had the pleasure to play against him. I have never seen him play the same deck, but they are always beautifully black bordered.

Game 1
I find LoA and Johan finds no answer. Game over not more to say

Game 2
Johan plays an early Underworld Dreams and I cannot find an answer for 14 turns. Furthermore, Johan have strong sideboard vs me and keeps throwing treats like Armageddon and Energy Flux. I end up in a situation where I must use my Regrowth to find a Disenchant for another Underworld Dreams. The problem is that my Time Twister and Recall is already in the graveyard from an earlier Mind Twist. My win conditions are running out.
However, with one card left in my deck I can Fireball Johan for 13 damage and kill him. Game was really close, I had no Couterspells left and I had to use three City of Brass to cast the Fireball taking me down to one life.
Cermak in his awesome Lestree outfit fighting back to the top8.
Quarterfinals, Magnus "MG" de Laval with The Deck
I think MG need no further presentation. He is one of the forefathers of the format and a guy impossible not to love, you all know what I am talking about. The atmosphere is really great when we start shuffling and MG's wingman Hardy is playing magic songs (the best at magic!) on his iPhone to boost the atmosphere even more.

Game 1
My hand looks sad without any real power or strong plays. However, the hand is no mulligan and I play land and say go. MG slams Land, Mox, Sol Ring, Fellwar Stone, Ancestral Recall and I feel like the game already is slipping through my hands. I decide to go for Land, Fellwar Stone. If MG's turn one was great, turn two is not worse. He cast Mind Twist and strips my hand to one card, game is over?

After that start, I have/need to go into top deck mode. I get like 3-4 draws until MG plays a Tome. Luckily, I have found a disenchant. Turn after Mg plays a Serra Angel but I have a Swords to Plowshares. I start to realize the after all the draws from MG there may be that he could be missing a Counterspell? So, when I draw my Demonic Tutor and go for an Ancestral Recall I do not get surprised when it goes through. From the Ancestral I find a Regrowth and cast the Ancestral once more. Turn after I find Mind Twist and strips MG's hand down to zero. MG never finds his way back and game one is mine. I was really lucky that MG could not find a Counterspell in his first 20-25 cards.

Game 2
I would say it is a classic “The Deck mirror game” were I win one big Counterspell fight that leaves MG in a situation where he has to pass the turn all tapped out. From that situation, I can go Timetwister into Time Walk and develop a really strong board with solid mana base and a Tome that I can protect. Game two is mine. (Editor's note: Mg won the Arvika Festival three years ago, so with this win our writer has defeated all of the three previous Festival champions in one sitting.)

Semifinals, Andreas Cermark Again!
Game 1
I find a really bad hand and need to mulligan. My new 6 cards are 4 lands, 1 Swords to Plowshares and 1 Mirror, not the hand I was looking for. Andreas start with LoA, Mox Pearl, and a Savannah Lion.
The following turns I play Land and deal with Andreas two first creatures on board. But LoA is LoA and Andreas keep putting creatures on board and stays on a full hand. Turn five I play the Mirror with my Lands and 1 Mox. To my surprise Andreas have no artifact removal and the Mirror sticks.
I do not exactly remember the life scores but in Andreas last turn before the game ends he hits me for three taking me down to six life’s and plays Su-chi. When he passes the turn, he has only two lands untapped which makes me comfortable going down below four lives since there is no threat of a Psi Blast. So, in the end phase of Andreas turn I take two damage from City of Brass and swords to Plowshares his Su-chi. During my upkeep, I take two more damage from City and go down to two lives and use the Mirror. I end the game by hitting Andreas with a Mishras Factory. Again, very lucky that my opponent did not find the answers.

Game 2
This time it is my turn to find LoA in my starting hand and Andreas find no answer to it. I get too much card advantage from the Library and game is won.

Finals, Odd Kjöstvedt with UR Burn
For me Odd is a new face to the community. We actually had some discussion concerning his deck before the tournament started. So, going into the game I have a pretty good picture what I am playing against.

Game 1
I find LoA, a great start. Odd keeps a hand with blue and red Mox (no lands) and plays a Chain Lighting. Turn two I go for an extra card from LoA and play City of Brass. Odd plays no land showing he is “mana screwed” and plays a Flying Men that gets REB:ed. Turn three I go for a bad play when I go Land, Mox, Mox and The Abyss(no longer seven cards in hand). I think my plan was to cast the Timetwister the next turn because I was scared of him casting Wheel or Time Twister before I could get the Abbys out, which I know is really powerful versus his deck (I had no Couterspell in hand). The turn after I draw a Tome and decide to cast it before going for the Timetwister.
Looking back, I can just say it is a poor play for many reasons, but hey it was 3 in the morning and I was tired. However, I do not get punished for my bad play and can pick him down with a Mishras Factory ending the game with a Fireball for 13 damage.

Game 2
Another great start with Ancestral Recall in hand. Odd on the other hand need to mulligan to six. From the Ancestral I can develop into Fellwar, Mox and Ivory Tower. Odd plays a Serendib Efreet and passes to me. I go Time Talk into a Tome. Odd finds answers to both my Tower and my Book, but I handle his Serendib with a Sword. I play a new Tome and pass the turn. Odd add additional pressure with a Su-chi and a new Serendib. My response becomes Balance taking us both down to one card in hand. Again, miss fortune is with me and I find a Braingeyser giving me a Demonic Tutor leading me to a Mirror. Odd hits me down to seven with Flying Men and a Bolt. I take two additional damage with City of Brass before and swap my five remaining life. On my draw, I find a Regrow where I take up my Demonic again finding me my only fireball and the game.
Third time's the charm!
I think I played pretty solid the entire tournament except for the finals where I made some bad plays. I think I never played a tournament where I in so many matches have been so far behind and still managed to turn the table. I guess I was pretty lucky but also played for the outs.

I would not change anything in my main deck, but I think three REB is too much in the sideboard. There where simply no room to put them all in. Maybe cutting one for Amnesia which I think is underplayed in the format. In this tournament I never had the option to put in the Serra Angels either, they could perhaps be switched for something else? 

That’s all, thanks for reading and hope to see you all at Noobcon!

//Sinclair out


  1. Great read. This just shows you the warping effects of LoA and how many games it reared its ugly head. Would like to see some local tournaments ban LoA. Weissman said when he would play ante matches, both players would replace LoA at the start, and this was in a 4 Wasteland, 1 Strip environment!


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