[MORE GOLD] But at the end it is "just" Bronze! – N00bcon X report by Valerio Gregori

Today we have a treat! Valerio Gregori is one of the most skillful and active players in the Italian old school scene, as well as a returning contributor to this blog. A month ago he made an impressive run at the World Championship, and decided to contribute with a deep report of his adventures. He did in fact write this post a couple of weeks ago, and the delay to post it here is all on me. So without further ado, let's check out Valerio's report from n00bcon X. Enjoy! /Mg out

[TAKE A CHANCE ON ME] or a great idea to spend Easter Holydays
Planning a five days visit of Stockholm during Easter Holydays with Valentina, I got a hit reading a post where my best Magic pusher, Luca Di Santo, was saying that he was going to meet people at N00bcon X. A short diving in my memories remembered me that N00bcon – the Old School World Championship! - is supposed to happen exactly in the same time.
So why not to try to get a wild card? And make a short deviation to Gothenburg (at the end becoming the arrival point in Sweden, with Stockholm finally reached by train)? In the worst case, we will be able to have a deeper view of Sweden! So I contacted Mg, informing our Master that 1) I was needing a N00bcon badge – and 2) I was needing to visit him, to thank him personally, more or less something like a religious need at this level of capital investment :). And 3) why not, possibly a spot! 
Through the infinite ways of our Magnus, a spot finally was found and opened, so I had to correct just a little bit the original route and start the preparation for the event. A dream was becoming true. 
Going wild, last time it worked well
[KNOWING YOU, KNOWING ME] or building a deck to beat The Deck aka BepAttack®
But the story of this deck had commenced a little bit before N00bcon X events.
  • Christmas 2017: my friend Giuseppe “Zio Beppe” Rinaldi wants to try an Atog list heavily blue-splashed, for Serendibs, Psionic Blasts and Blue Power. Playtesting is very funny, with an interesting abuse of Ankh of Mishra, but results is not fully consistent vs. Troll Disco, CermakAttack and UR, at least till side-boarding. With Blood Moon finally in, win rate starts to go up. 
  • Early March, 2018: we see an under-powered version of UR from a Swedish guy, Odd, going to lose the Final in Arvikafestivalen (almost 50 players) piloting a deck with a limited number of Volcanic Islands (1), no full Moxen suite (just UR), neither P9 (no Time Walk f.i.) – but with Blood Moon (3) main-deck and a lot of hate vs. artifacts, Detonate shining above all. The potential is very visible, at this point we understand that we are working in the right direction – just need to optimize and merge solutions from the many UR builds under the radar. And Su-chi, we want the full set into the MD too.
  • Mid March: we develop a list with a black splash for Demonic Tutor and Mind Twist. Win rate above 70% vs. CermakAttack; approx. 60% vs. The Deck. What is clear from play-testing, is that you want to cast Blood Moon as soon as you get in hands; and this is not fully consistent with Black Power. We were needing a fix.
UR Atog burn list, first update
  • Later on March: I have been informed by Magnus that a spot in N00bcon X is open and mine. Great! We imagined that all the Swedish Juggernauts they would use The Deck for the World Championship –  and my list need to be focused accordingly. To do that, my friend Simone has prepared the most hated version of The Deck, the one with The Abyss and no Serra Angels MD. We proceed with a compulsive play-testing (at the end, more or less 4 hours per week :), three weeks total), discovering at the end that Detonate is an incredible card vs. Jayemdae Tome :P. Black Vise even more. Blood Moon incredible. And Gloom providing help too, after side-boarding.
There is Old School and Older School; Simo's shot takes a typical and friendly confrontation of Older School members (me and Beppe) trying to reach an agreement about the Black splash
  • Latest March, last Sunday before N00bcon X: Beppe performs very well in a local tournament in Milan (30 players), Top8-ing and losing first game (and first match) just in the quarterfinal by a consecutive mana screw. The build is just UR, very clean – but 61 cards...
UR Atog burn list, ver. 3.0
  • The night before my flight to Gothenburg: fixed the list like below (play-tested just SB matches vs. Simone piloting The Deck. Winning rate above 60%, games > 20. We call this deck BepAttack® (as Beppe should be the Italian answer to Andreas :)). Blood Moon, Black Vise, Detonate, all top performing. Juggernauts are replacing Serendibs to escape from The Abyss, from REBs and eventual Cities in a Bottle. REBs in, together with an additional Shatter, replacing Vaults and Triskies. This is the strategy vs. the tier-1. 
BepAttack®, final version played at N00bcon X. Next step now, it is to found somewhere place for additional hate vs. Lions
  • The day before N00bcon X: I am not allowed to touch cards :). More or less the final preparation consist on making the full of calories in Gothenburg – from meatballs to fish soup, from oysters to salmon. And beer, rivers of beer!
Nutrition: an athlete preparation has to take it into the good consideration!
[WATERLOO] or why not to play the World Championship into meat-grinder mode since the very 1st turn?

As it seems to be funny ;) [cit.]

1st round, vs. Dave Firth Bard [USA] with a Copy Artifact home brew, 1-2
Game 1, I mull to 6. He starts with LoA, me too. Blocked at 2 mana for a while, then I am finally able to put a Serendib into the battlefield, followed soon by a second one. Key of the match is about Dave’s transmutation of a Fellwar into City in a Bottle, that destroys my creatures along with my whole game plan. A good move from Dave! (0-1) 
Typical Old School opening, it happens more often than you think… Usually followed by a Strip Mine, at least from one of the sides
Game 2 is again LoA vs LoA. But this time I am able to deploy a second turn Blood Moon that stops him from developing almost anything in the board. A Serendib Efreet together with Mishra's Factory provide lethal damage in 5 turns. (1-1)

Game 3, I have again a mulligan to 6, suffering mana screw with remaining with just a Mox Ruby and a land for almost the entire duration of the game (also thanks to a Strip Mine from Dave, if I remember well). At the end Dave is able to finish me with a bunch of Triskelions, thanks again to multiple copies of Copy Artifact. Great brew! (1-2)

[MAMMA MIA] as promised, here it is the 6-wins streak
The day before departure to Sweden, I am speaking with Simo during our play-testing, about a premonition for N00bcon regarding a first round loss followed by an unstoppable winning run. The plan is perfectly respected til this moment…

2nd round, vs. Hart Prendergast [USA] with Reanimator, 2-0
Another US guy! Well, a good opportunity to establish equilibrium – or die!
Game 1, he starts with a fast Juzam. But I am quite ready to answer at this stage, so a Black Vise and a Su-chi  from my side fall down for an interesting damage race; after 3 turns and at 5 LPs, I finally have the chance to stop his attacks with a Mishra blocking the demon; following Lightning Bolt from my side put an end to the black menace. Then I have just to finish the work with my stuff (1-0)

Game 2, his land-go is followed by my first turn Black Vise, and then again by a Serendib Efreet. The pressure on him is very high since the start of this game, he plays All Hallow’s Eve but without enough turns to have it really resolving. (2-0)
6 more Americans to go!

3rd round, vs. Mari Steinhage [NED] with Ponza, 2-0
But, announced by his special play-mat, the following match is vs. a Dutch guy from the confraternity of the Knight of Thorn, Mari. He will be very unlucky. 
Game 1, practically he is able to play just a Bayou before I slam down a Blood Moon, on my very first turn. The game more or less ends here, from this point I am able just to see some additional duals deploying  on his side, but just able to give red mana; in the meantime Serendib Efreet and Su-chi are quickly ending the job. (1-0)

Game 2 is not so different from the first one. Again I put down a fast Su-chi, that is able to make coast to coast 5 times for the win. And again, thanks to a very fast Blood Moon. (2-0)

4th round, vs. Martin Jord [SWE] with Mirrorball, 2-0
Very funny game! And finally facing my first Swedish opponent.
Game 1, he tries to develop a typical control board, with a couple of Moxen and Fellwar as well. First part of the game is about Martin that is trying to stop a very sneaky Serendib Efreet from my side – that at the end get a Fireball, unfortunately for him just after some damage brought home. A second Efreet from my side is more lucky, finding Martin not able to propose an answer. And providing me the first game. (1-0)

Game 2, the game passed through endless turns, with his board growing in permanents turn by turn (reaching the record of 28 pieces, on just his side..). He is searching for combo (simply, a Mirror Universe activation followed by a Fireball; so the name of the deck!), but needs to use his first Mirror Universe to save his life when at 7 LPs. Going again up to 18, he continues digging, but continues as well going down in LPs, as an unanswered Juggernaut is pushing him faster again in the red zone. With him at 2 and me at 7 LPs he feel himself comfortable for the win. So Martin decides to play a Timetwister to then start the combo, but with an elaborate preparation before: third Mirror Universe (as one has been Detonated in the meantime, very funny) and most, Time Walk. After the Twister, a Fireball is following for 7 damages. My answer is in form of Psionic Blast, that finds him surprised, but still not defeated. Smiling, Martin is digging on the full board searching for 2 red mana, and casts Fork on his Fireball. But lucky is again on my side, and the Fork meets a second Psionic Blast, enough for my win. (2-0) 
24 permanents and something like 48 life-points gained by Martin, to reach in any how such glorious defeat!

5th round, vs. Jimmie Hansen [SWE] with BR, 2-0
Second Swedish opponent, and now facing the creator of the Atog deck itself!
But not our UR version! Taking the seat and making presentations – excusing itself for the near-to-drunk state, once I revealed I’m Italian he remembered me that a lot of Italians have had, in the recent past, a lot of success with his mono red Atog list... And he asked me what I was going to play... Jimmie, I am playing Atog, what else? :)

Game 1, to let him feel comfortable, I decide to open, after his Land-Dark Ritual-Underworld Dreams, with a Mox and a Mountain, then an Atog. Welcome master! Atog survives just one round, to be replaced by a Serendib and a second Atog. In the meantime I starts to go down, both because of Underworld Dreams and Serendib Efreet drawback. Soon after a second Underworld Dreams falls down for him. With the scorecard seeing Jimmie at 11 and me at 10, he taps all his mana (including a City of Brass) to Fireball me for 6. Now Jimmie is at 10 and me at 4 LPs, going to 1 because of the Dreams and the Efreet. He passes, I have 8 damages for him into the battlefield + an empty hand but a lot of outs. My draw is Chaos Orb… I think a couple of seconds, before realizing that the card is good to be eaten by the Atog to reach 10 damages needed to grab the first game. With a Fireball for 5 he should had won the game, we agree together (1-0)

Game 2, his opening is land-go, and is followed by my first turn Black Vise. He plays something like 3 (or 4) consecutive Sinkholes, but my starting hands was something like 3 spells/4 lands… Game moves then smoothly for me, with a Su-chi not encountering any opposition from him. And giving me the victory (2-0)

6th round, vs. Yuri Ancarani [ITA] with UBW midrange, 2-1
Facing this Italian guy for the first time, as we have never met before (and please remember that Old School community is quite big in Italy!). Making presentations, we discovered that he is one of the original members of the Quintet game club, in Ravenna, that I was used to visit when I was young (15 years ago more or less) to play board-games and Magic… and we met for the first time today in Gothenburg!

Game 1, he starts with a monster hand (the first I had really to face till now) with Black lotus, land a couple of Moxen, Energy Flux, Timetwister. My following hand - that I cannot mulligan! – shows just one land and a Mox. I try anyway to play, but his Juzam completes fastly my destruction. (0-1)

[S.O.S] or how to save 2 match-points 
Losing the next game, I will be out from the contention. I knew very well.
Game 2, I open with an Atog, followed by a Su-chi. He casts Sengir Vampire, on his very first turn, that dies very soon, thanks to Psionic Blast. My remaining Bolts go all directly on Yuri, letting me to at least remand the elimination. (1-1)

Game 3, it has been totally crazy. I starts again quite well, better than him, with a Black Vise and a first Mishra attacking. At the end he is able to re-enter into the match, with a Mishra also on his side supported by a Juzam. My sided-in Maze of Ith is doing a great job at this point, but the race originally in my favor, after a bunch of Swords to Plowshares and Disenchant from his side on my creatures, is slipping from my hands, with me going down 2 LPs per turn, and him just 1.
With the life-score reporting Yuri at 2 and me at 4 LPs, I cast Bolt on him, he answers with a Swords to Plowshares on his Juzam, saving himself for a while. A Blood Moon (to stop eventual opportunities from Yuri’s side to put anything into the board) and few additional Bolts seal at the end the match on my favor. At this point, I am still alive and still in good shape! (2-1)

7th round, vs. Francesco Delfino [ITA] with The Deck, 2-0
Again an Italian, this time for the win-and-in. I saw previously Francesco beating Elof at the top tables, The Deck vs. The Deck, thanks to some special modifications that Francesco has put into his brew (most notable, the interaction among Karakas & Rubinia Soulsinger).
Game 1, he opens with LoA. I answer, as you can imagine, with LoA, then draw again, cast a Mox, cast a Black Vise. The game proceeds with me drawing more or less every turn one card more than him. After few turns, with Francesco having just three cards in hand, and already spent a couple of Swords on my Atog and Mishra, I play a Serendib, still remaining with a full hand. The game ended soon after (1-0)

Game 2, he starts this time with an Ivory Tower first turn. His LPs start growing fastly, but I am not feeling the need to concede, and with him reaching top level of 33 LPs I finally start to hit him with a Mishra, soon followed by Su-chi, and after some turns by Juggernaut. At the same time, his lifescore finally starts to go down: some bad draws are stopping him taking control of board; and soon he needs to use Rubinia as a blocker, to be bounced in hands by Karakas (to survive) and let him survive as well. A Blood Moon from my side stops quite early this strategy, and again, Bolt by Bolt, I am able to complete the job (2-0)
When you are drawing really bad, remember that your opponent can do even worse...
With a 6-1 score, I entered the top at 7th place, claimed by Magnus top8 presentation with one the worst spelling of my name ever heard. Check-it out on the streaming! 
Over 80% of games won. What an incredible and intense 10 hours run!
Best picture I have about the Top 8 players together…  at least the shot takes our commentator! 
[GIMME! GIMME! GIMME! (a man after midnight)] my best match of the day
Quarterfinal, vs. Simon Gauti Rokkjaer [DAN] with The Deck, 2-1

Game 1, forced by his great opening, I try to use this match to understand his special The Deck brew. As Simon’s is one of the toughest version I have ever faced, with both The Abyss and Moat main-deck, as well as Ivory Tower! A real nightmare for aggro-people. And a very focused opponent, despite that midnight has passed.

His opening indeed is something like Land-Mox-Mox-Timetwister; or Sol Ring instead of a Mox, I don’t remember perfectly, too confused by this huge slap into my face, welcoming me in the top8! Making a long story short (as my new hand was incredibly weak) after more or less half an hour, his battlefield shows both The Abyss and Moat, a couple of Mishra’s Factory, a couple of Jayemdae Tomes. And me, all my stuff in hands, ready to do nothing. He had to Disenchant his own Moat to attack me, and put an end to this debacle. (0-1)

Game 2, full set of Juggernauts entering in place of Serendibs, and also Shatter and Red Elemental Blasts, in place of Mana Vaults and Triskies, according to original plan. I start very fast, with Black Vise working well on the first rounds. I remember also a very satisfying Detonate on his Jayemdae, and a final Bolt to tie the contention. (1-1)

Game 3, is representing the apical point of my day.  On the first turns my notes reporting just presence of Juggernaut, meeting Swords. The contention early moves towards a confrontation of Black Vises Vs. Ivory Towers. I have to destroy one of them with Detonate to get advantage, and soon after he does the same, Disenchanting my Black Vise. At the very end, low in LPs, he is able to gain the control of the board… but he is unfortunately in the reach area. More or less the board state on the picture below. 
Black Vise vs. Ivory Tower. What a match! Thanks to the latest Swedish B&R, the match-up is finally in equilibrium, Black Vise can compensate effectively OP drawing engines; I guess, there is no need of further changes, as the number of Lions is outnumbering by far the number of Jayemdae Tomes! And going towards a 100% aggro meta is for sure not healthy. 
Later on, dead drawing after dead drawing – maybe on both sides, we arrive to a status on which he has 2 Ivory Towers, 1 LP, a Circle of Protection: Red still active and me a couple of Lightning Bolts in hand. Arriving to a point, 3-4 turns later, where if I pass doing nothing, he will reach 3 LPs – remaining still in the reach of a Blast. But I draw Blood Moon, again not the out I need. He passes, ready to exit from the red zone. And finally it happens, I finally draw the Psionic Blast I need. So I proceed casting firstly Blood Moon, that resolves, then Blast. And Simon finally saying he is dead. Cannot believe to what has happened, as well all the crew surrounding us that has assisted to a very intense match.

So, at this point, I am in the top 4 of N00bcon X!
Top 4, from left to right: Olle, Alban, Valerio & Ben
[THE WINNER TAKES IT ALL] my worst played match of the day
Semifinal, vs. Alban Lauter [GER] with The Lion, 0-2 
Do you know why Alban seems to be so happy? He is going to draw Black Lotus, a land and Mindtwist on his opening hand. And he is going to start first!
I was very tired at this point, but more, the last game with Simon, really very intensive, it has taken out almost all of my combat spirit.

Game 1, I mull to 6. He starts with a tremendous opening, Mindtwist for 3 turn 1. But it is not a real drama, at the end it resulted in a 3x2, and on second turn I am already able to re-enter into the match with a Timetwister. Unfortunately, it meets his Power Sink. Both boards found some difficulties in development, at the end a Serendib on my side is facing his Lion. I top-deck a Lightning Bolt that I use very badly, waiting his turn before playing against his 2/1 – and consequently encountering his Counterspell thanks to second blue mana top-deck from his side. But my deck wants to give me another chance, in form of Psionic Blast, targeting again, this time successfully, his Lion. The race continues, but he finds the mana for Serra Angel. My deck gives me, again, a Lightning Bolt top-deck. So I attack with Serendib, encountering his fast block by Serra and I am ready to Bolt the 4/4, when he says to me he intends to not block anymore (Bolt still not played). Guys, at this point I was feeling not possible to negate this play to Alban, despite, at the end, this costs me the match, at least in the fast way it has been! Indeed 4 damages later from the Angel, that meets the death just one turn later than I need – plus a Psionic Blast from his side complete the job for Alban.

Game 2, it has been a very strange game. I have felt to have the game under control since the starts for most of its complete duration, but I do not know why, at the end I lost also this one. At the end my first turn Atog met a Demonic Tutored Blue Elemental Blast from his side. Following Serendib Efreet and Su-chi from my side met Swords the first, and Dust to Dust the second. Alban was top-decking an answer for every single treat I was able to put in the board, that is the story. Great build, great side-boarding, well trained in playing. Chapeau, he will win later on the World Championship and the Shark, beating Olle Rade.

For me, my Top 4 cup, but more, hugs from Mg, and more again the N00bcon X badge, that is witnessing that I have participated to the most incredible event I have ever had.
More or less 3:00 AM, after almost 12 hours of battle – with reduced vision capability and almost no more cerebral activity, but still able to lift up an arm to drink from my Graal. And our Mg still in great shape! There is a reason if he his our Master!

[THE NAME OF THE GAME] my top cards of the day & short comment on current B&R
Black Vise: This is the superstar; very strong in the opening, still valid in late game thanks to Timetwister and Wheel of Fortune; last year correction of the B&R I think has centered the target. When well play-tested, when your build is taking into the correct consideration Control decks (and The Deck above all of them), then the match-up is more than playable, and it becomes also very funny. I’m fully convinced that current B&R has not to be touched again, a further limitation in control decks options will ruin the meta – now really healthy (something like 10 different deck, under Swedish rules, have won last 10 tournaments, I remember this statistic one week ago posted somewhere).

Detonate: Incredibly funny, this understated pieces of antiquities is able with the same mana to Fireball your opponent destroying at the same time his Jayemdae or his Mirror Universe. Useful also vs. Sol Ring :P

Blood Moon: Sometime able to win games by itself. Not a lot to add, my build was set appositely vs. greedy tri-or-more-colors mana bases. 
Serendib Efreet: top creature of the format, every time a pleasure to see him on the first or second turn.

Psionic Blast: Top performer too, I do not remember how many games I have been able to steal thanks to the blue bolt. That is able, by the way, to take down also opposing nightmares in terms of Serra Angel, or Sengir Vampire, or Su-chi, or Serendib Efreet itself…

Thanks to Beppe, Simone, Piddulin, Mario and Valentina for supporting, deck-building and play-testing. Without you guys, this result would not have been possible. I would like also to thank the Italian crew in Sweden: Luca, Jacopo, Megu, Lorenzo, Francesco, Yuri for supporting me (and losing when paired :P, well done!) during the Tournament. And thanks, again and again, to Magnus, Gordon and all the other participants (playing or not) for the great persons you are, and for the great community you have been able to develop, consolidate, let grow – at worldwide level. 

What a crazy experience! Thanks!


  1. Awesome story. Would love to be able to compete in this one day. What an experience.


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