Knights and Dwarves in the Nether Lands

Playing the waiting game somewhere in one of the largest airports in the world. I was here three hours early and did not bring a laptop for this trip. When was the last time I offered myself the opportunity to be bored? It's odd. I remember things that I forgot, and I wonder what things I've forgotten that I forgot. I often find myself living rapidly in the present, a lot in the future, and too little in the past. The past shaped me, and I don't want to forget too much. Which countries border Honduras? What element has atomic number 84? I don't know, but I knew a year ago.
How many memories from this journey will eventually stick? Will the new things keep pushing away the old? Is that why the days seem to grow shorter as I grow older, because I don't focus enough on the present to remember it?

Damn, being stuck with just thoughts is weird. It was a long time ago since last. Maybe I should hang out at airports more often. Clear the head or something.
I have a bad track record traveling to Magic events. Before Old School became a thing I never went further than an hours drive from home. Even that was kinda rare, usually reserved for the BSK convention each Halloween. Instead I mostly opted to hang with the locals, find a scene I was comfortable with in Gothenburg, and never have to worry about being lost in some faraway land with random edgelords I didn't know. The grandeur of the big scene at a GP never really intrigued me. At the end of convention weekends with Magic I was usually tired of the game for weeks to come, in particular if I didn't win or at least top8. Winning was a somewhat bigger deal back then.

I guess the kindle first came with meeting old school players in Regensburg in late 2012. The flame got properly lit when I joined the first Arvika Festival a little over two years later. An old School tournament way further away from home than I was used to, a new setting and a new community. It was brilliant. I became a regular at Arvika's larger gatherings, made sure to book WSK in Växjö each year, and found myself playing Varberg, Stockholm and Karlstad as the scenes start to emerge. When I by chance visited Munich, I got to hang out with local player Custer, and started to realize that traveling too meet oldschoolers maybe held a far deeper value than just playing the game against a new deck.
When the guys in Camaiore announced the first Fishliver Oil Cup two years ago I was there. It was the first time I jumped on a plane to play Magic, bypassing the seas of northern Scandinavia. They promoted it as "Italian Rules, Swedish Style". It was a far stronger lure than than something like "Swedish Rules, Awesome Prizes", or "Italian Rules, Professional Style". It is not the rule set or decks or prizes that matter for me. It is the style. Now, a couple of years later, what was once referred to as "Swedish Style" has perhaps become just plain "Old School Style". And I've realized that that's my allure.

A couple of weeks after last n00bcon, Erwin Demmer of the "4,000" crew in the Netherlands sent me a mail. He was going to host a small tournament in his home with around twelve players. The format was Limited Constructed. Only cards from Limited Edition (i.e. first edition Alpha and Beta), with modern constructed rules. Max four of each card, restricted list, 60-card decks, etc. It sounded awesome, but I was still new to this whole traveling thing. I think I waited a week before I responded to him, pondering it over. Did I have too much work on my plate to just leave for a few days? What about me moving to a new apartment soon thereafter? The weekend that Erwin suggested was in fact at the same time I had to see a man about a horse.
True story btw, I was to deliver a horse I'd been helping taking care of to a man about five hours train ride north of Oslo.
I replied to Erwin that it sounded really sweet, but that it was a bad weekend. He quickly suggested moving it a couple of weeks forward; that way I also got the chance to battle at the fourth Knights of Thorn tournament; the most glorious and brag-worthy tournament series in Holland. It was too good an opportunity to pass. I've met a few of the Dutch players a couple of times a n00bcon, and Dyan, Mari, Joep and Richard have all contributed to this blag, so I assumed that they would be a force to be reckoned with.

Gordon "Ditchy" Anderson also signed up for the party, and KungMarkus expressed interest. Stuff got in the way however, and it was clear that this was a journey I would walk alone. That is another cool thing with the community. I have zero doubts traveling alone to a den of 93/94 players. I pretty much know that they will be good people to hang out with.

So I was going, and I was going to show the aquatic community down there what Scandinavians can do with old cards. Represent, if you will. Step one was to build a deck for Limited Constructed, perhaps the most stupid constructed format, rivaled only by the Wizards' Tournament.

Building a deck in a format like this starts with looking at what you have. It is very similar to 93/94 in that aspect, though even more restrictive on what card you can ever hope to dig up. Luckily, I have a pretty sweet card pool at this point. I traded away a binder of Modern and Commander staples two years ago to get four Beta Scrublands. So I had the mana for Black/White.
80% of my black borded duals right here!
Around the time I got the cards, I decided to try and build a completely black bordered Party Crasher. And before I set out on that quest, I had been dabbling with Party Crasher for a long time, Top8'ing Fishliver Oil, Top4'ing Gothenburg Invitational, placing second at WSK, and winning From Russia with Love with the deck, giving me most of the cards in Alpha or Beta by now.
So Black/White seemed like the best bet to build something, and I started scouring the binder for playables.
It may not look so pretty these days, but I guess it's the inside that counts.
After a few hours of browsing and tweaking, I had this behemoth ready to go:
Dead Guy at the Party.
I believe this is a very strong deck. Basically it is 31 mana sources (10 of which ramps), 12 must-answer creatures, the best removal Limited Edition has to offer, a few card engines, and some solid one-ofs to tutor for in a pinch. The idea was that I always wanted to be able to cast my spells, and that my spells should all be high impact or effective removal. "Jund-style", if you are into the new lingo. The playset Disenchants may look a little off in a meta where Mishra's Factory isn't a thing, but I figured that Control Magic and Icy Manipulator would be staples. Threats like Juggernaut also looks a lot better here - as Chain Lightning and Factories aren't an issue - so the Disenchants come in handy there. Only thing I would change (if I had the cards), is to go to three or four books, probably cutting some combination of Scepter, Dark Ritual, or Disenchant. Black Vise in the sideboard didn't impress that much either, I feel like more Circles is a better route. But I was certainly ready to go. Even given an infinite card pool of Limited Edition, this is probably close to what I would end up with (this or U/W Skies).
Speaking of card pools, I found this in the pocket of my Hurloon Jean Jacket. Suppose I found it on the floor after The Wizards' Tournament when I helped rigging up for n00bcon. If anyone lost it, let me know.
Friday was a long day at work. We had an important release planned for Monday, something that could make or break our team's goodwill at the company, and in many ways my own assignment there. I had started two months earlier as a process coach of sorts, and we had pretty much changed the entire way of working. The deadline at hand had seemed almost impossible, but it looked like we had made it. The final hoops were mostly some bureaucracy.

Due to work I had been almost completely off-line from social media for the last couple of weeks. Not that I was working late, I pretty much never do, but instead due to my head being completely done by the end of each day. I was in no shape to try and plan things beyond work, ultra-sounds and moving to the new apartment. I had my plane ticket ready, but I hadn't planned anything beyond that. I figured that I could solve those problems as they came, throw money at a random hotel, and travel via taxi if I couldn't find out about the local transports. I realized to some chagrin that I was in the odd position where I for once had more money than time, and had to plan the trip accordingly.

The day before I left our host Erwin contacted me again. When he heard that I hadn't booked anything, he said that I was welcome to stay in his home and that he would even pick me up at the airport. That's old school players for you.
I jumped on the train for the airport, had a painless flight to Holland, and landed at Schiphol sometime before ten in the evening. Met up with Erwin, went to his place, met his family, and was mind-blown by the awesomeness of his house. It turned out that he had built it himself. Took him three years. That is some crazy skill. His wonderful girlfriend was a black belt in horses, and the three of us celebrated Swedish midsummer together with beer, anecdotes, magic and some traditional Swedish malört.

I could go on. This could be a really long post. But in the spirit of somewhat digestible brevity, I'll just fall back and show some pictures from the weekend.
Trading stories and playing Magic.
After an early rise, it is time to gather the Knights of Thorn for the fourth time. A little south a fifty players from surrounding areas (along with a guy from Serbia and a Swede).
I'm sleeving up Project M, but the competition is truly fierce! This is clearly among the most skilled communities I've played in, in particular considering how relatively young it is. My opponent here, Wessel, was one of the first seven to gather at the first Knights of Thorn and a veteran in the community.
Pretty sweet turn two on the play right here.
Got the chance to battle Dyan in the second round. Another one of the first seven, along with being an early contributor to this blog as well as one of the pioneers in old school EDH.
The glorious prize.
Mari Stenhage, here sporting the n00bcon X t-shirt, was the organizer and scorekeeper for the event, as well as a former Knights of Thorn Champion.
A playmat showing veteran experience from the Dutch old school scene.
A solid crew awaiting the Top8.
Mari is ready for top8. Here alongside another super nice dutch player I had the pleasure to hang with before the tournament.
Mari breaks the lance and picks up a second copy of the Knights of Thorn. Savannah Lions clearly work well with Stone Rain. Amazingly well played, and congrats!
The after-teaching at Erwin's place go on until around four in the morning. As a presently weak man, I give up already around midnight. There's a fight tomorrow, and I plan to land some blows.
Sunday. The Warriors have gathered.
Trading floor. Should have brought my binder.
Some pre-game bartering with Jason add these cards to my collection. The gauntlet is an inked Unlimited., but the dual is surprisingly sweet for me as a collector of sorts. After 24 years, this one finally puts me at 40/40 ABU duals.
Jason Schwartz. An old school player if I ever saw one.
Game on. This is what's on stake. For all the marbles.
A lot of Royal Assassins and monoblack in the meta. Serra Angel and Circle of Protection: Black delivers.
Facing off against Koos with RG. Pestilence doing a lot of work.
Koos vs Dyan in the traditional beard-off.
After the match with Jason, we decide to play a game for Scrye #3 ante (that is, you must offer to sell any cards you win for the price according to Scrye #3 after the game).
I succefully take down the match, and collect an Alpha Counterspell as my spoils. It is valued at three-fiddy.
I saved the actual coins if you ever feel like selling it Jason. Feels like it might have been a little cheap these days.
Free beer, free krokett, and lovely smiles :)
Fighting against Magic Mike, the glorious Hill Giant Champion. Why so few mana sources brah?
Outdoor Mtg.
The indoor crew.
Tight play in the final rounds.
More Magic.
After a solid 6-0 start, I am finally bested by UW Control for a 7-1 in the end of the swiss. I am uncertain about the actual standings, as we didn't report results anywhere. I don't think anyone of us really thought about it.
Well, nothing to fear there. This is perhaps the most brilliant final standings I've ever seen. They were written way before the tournament was finished. Just play, have fun, and ignore the results; they are already set.
The lucky champions; Jason Schwartz, Mg, and Michel.
For the last night, I traveled into Amsterdam for a chance encounter with an old friend from the military service. It was a pleasure to finally meet Ekman on his turf; he lives on that boat behind him. A solid night's sleep on the waves later, it was time to say goodbye to Holland.
This was a great weekend. Thank you guys so much for all the hospitality and the glorious gatherings. Looking forward to the next time.


  1. Nice read - great airport ponderings! Do I hear ultrasound? Does that mean there's a little devilboon on its way? Well done and congrats! I already noticed a child seat in Erwin's place in one the pics - we're all getting older and new things happen in our lives. My magic lives on the top shelves these days, far out of reach - or so i hope - of grubby little hands looking to tear something up... (Damn those sleeves are tough!) It also means the cards come out less often and brewing energies aren't always available. At the same there's a new dimension to it as well - already imagining what little decks to cook up for aspiring princesses and zombie-firemen.. Be well and take care - hope you find all the joy in the world. May our kids one day meet and play Magic as we did when we were 16

  2. Thanks man! Yes, if all goes well we'll have a minor demon token by mid November :D I'm really looking forward to hopefully join the exclusive club of "Magic Dads". Old school might be a good format for us I guess; we don't really have to play that often if we don't have the opportunity, and the card pool won't rotate if we stay away for a while. Not sure how long I'll be able to wait before I learn her how to play. Would be really cool to have a "bring your kid to 93/94 day" :P I think that the youngest player at a 93/94 tournament yet was a 6-year old girl in UK.

  3. Congrats! However, most likely you will slowly realize that your children have completely different interests than yourself. It is tough to accept, but my attempts to get my two children interested in lego and magic utterly failed. I sold off all my lego but kept magic cards. The only thing we still enjoy together is skiing. But sometimes it is nice to have a hobby for yourself.

    1. Haha, yeah, I guess all bets are off there ;)

    2. So far Lego's been a win! And I believe skateboarding is gaining interest.. Now only for the Old School. Mind you, I'd absolutely settle for skiing together! If only we'd get the opportunity for it in Northern Australia :(

  4. Nice Read, as always.

    Congrats on the minor demon token, man!

    About the Plaque Rat: I know that Alexander Pick played a Deck full of Rats and Rituals at Wizards Tournament.

    1. Thanks!

      I'll check with Alexander :)

  5. Fun read. I miss these stories.

    Congrats Magnus! I got 3 of my own now and it’s tough to play, but glorious when I get the chance. Oldest is 5 and learning to read. I am getting him hyped up about magic so crossing fingers he likes the actual game.

    1. Thanks man! And please let me know if there's anything in particular you'd like to read about, I feel like doing some shorter posts in a more continuous flow again (realized I'm up to an average of every ten days now, so mise well go back to weekly if I get some inspiration or requests ;)).

  6. @Mg: Thank you for posting this as I've wanted Alpha Block to be its own format for a very long time. I have a devastating Zoo deck and some other brews. I would be delighted to discuss them further!


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