Fishliver Oil Cup - Columbus Night: Notes from an improbable winner

Genoa. One of the true strongholds for mages of old. A couple of weeks ago we saw the third annual Fishliver Oil Cup take place in the ancient buildings of northern Italy. And to commemorate the Columbus Night celebration, the evening before the main event saw the wizards borrowing inspiration from their brethren in The New World. That meant Eternal Central rules, and 70 mages joined for the most anticipated EC-rules gathering this side of the ocean yet. It is my pride and honor to share with you the words of a master wizard. I give you our Columbus Night champion; Daniele Brunazzo. Enjoy! /Mg out

Hey ho, let's go! It was a cold and stormy night... Ok, never mind, it was actually quite sunny when I landed in Italy the day before the Fishliver Oil Cup in Genova. You see, even if in my veins runs pure Italian blood (some would say Nebbiolo at this point, but whatever), I am living in Germany since five years. And before that I made sure to enjoy the life of quite a few different countries; six months in France, a couple of years in Switzerland, and last but not least six months in Sweden.

It is therefore with pleasure that I start to write this report - on the Swedish blog that brought me back actively into Magic: The Gathering. You see, even while I was busy switching country, job and companies, I had a few things that always accompanied me; an insatiable lust for life and alcohol (yes, the two are strictly related, believe me), music and Magic. It is not hard to imagine how I was immediately attracted to the gorgeous pictures of old cards being tossed on pub tables, close to large beer glasses. This was roughly the summer of 2015.

Needless to say, I did not have a single old school card nor any Power in my card collection. But my Legacy collection sat unplayed in some box, so after some hesitation I decided to trade most of it and voilà! After a couple of months I owned four Juzams, and three Moxen - Jet, Emerald, and Pearl. I started playing mono Black, splashing white and green from time to time. With time and patience I was finally able to get hold of an unlimited Black Lotus in another colossal trade, and I was ready (or so I thought) for my first large Old School Tournament - the 2017 edition of the Fishliver Oil Cup. I brought a mono Black (Hymns, anyone?) on Friday night and a Black\Red\White midrange on Saturday, without any luck - a couple of Blood Moons proved to be too strong against my brew, that contained at the time almost only duals.

Finally I decided it was time to complete my P9 collection, and bought myself a huge Xmas present last year (special thanks to Giulio Trapani - simply the best Italian trader); an unlimited Mox Sapphire, and the remaining three blue pieces of the P9. While time was passing I even managed to bring some old friends - I can be quite persuasive when I want - into the game, and therefore in the past three years I was able to play and enjoy what I believe is the most beautiful game ever.

I have always been a black mage - seeing pictures of mono Black decks got me really excited, and for a while that was all that I played. That is why I decided to run a mono Black deck with a blue splash in the main event on Saturday - that was already decided. But I wanted to play something different on Friday. As I just moved close to Stuttgart one month ago, I had the chance to train briefly with some of the best German Old School players; the one and only Marc Lanigra, a real Alpha man, Leo Bruder, Patric Hiness, and Philipp "Karl" Steinisch. Some of the best players and people I could wish to play with were now just 30 minutes away! In our last testing together, I decided to go for Arabian Aggro, thinking that in a format allowing four Strip Mines control decks would be an uncommon choice. As City in a bottle can utterly destroy this kind of decks, I inserted a main deck Crumble and was unsure about the black splash for a while, but in the end I decided for it given the high number of silver bullets this deck plays.
Such a sweet pile of cards!
Man, every cool card is in there! Demonic tutor, almost a complete P9, Braingeyser, Wheel of Fortune, Sylvan Library, Regrowth... the only notable card missing is Library of Alexandria, as the abundance of Strip Mines and the speed with which the deck empties its hand just make it a suboptimal choice in my opinion. The sideboard is super sweet; I will never leave with less than four Red Elemental Blast ever again when playing red.

Finally, the day of the tournament came. I started the journey by car with one of my long-time friends - Matteo Giorgio Malisan, whom I've known since the age of 10. We were really close once, and Magic gave us another occasion to reconnect on many levels in the past few years. Another aspect of the game that I just love.

One last important detail before starting the trip. As we all know Mr. Lanigra is a gentleman of taste, so as promised I packed (with some pride) a bottle of Nebbiolo, by far one of mine and Mark's favorite “beverages” from my home region, Piemonte. This bottle were to give me a nice energy boost before the Top8 on Friday night, so another detail just clicks in place. We arrive at the Hotel after a couple of hours, check in rapidly and proceed with the rest of the people towards the Lighthouse. Man, what a cool place for a Magic tournament! I immediately start to see familiar faces while gulping down local wine and focaccia - after a few glasses I am already a bit tipsy, so I start the fist game knowing that whatever result I make, I will have fun.

Match “Ooops” - Miguel Diaz Gonzalez with The Deck

It looks like I have to play against THE DECK in the 1st round of this tournament. Luckily (for me), the organizers recognized an issue with the pairings and so the match was simply cancelled a few seconds after its start. Oh well, I will have the chance to play again against Miguel in the Top8. But as often happens in Old School, I can already tell that he is a real gentleman, in addition to being a very good player - two Top8s in the two days can attest to that.

Match 1 - Matteo Savioli (IT) with a BUR, 2-0

Tastes like home!
One of the "few" Italians participating on Friday! We had a chat while drinking a few minutes ago, so the start is quite relaxed. I do not remember too much of the first games, with the exception of the start of our game one. Land, Lotus, Erhnam, quickly followed by... an Unsummon from Matteo. Ouch. He is playing four Hymns; they are always good but not so great against such an aggressive deck as mine. We finish quite rapidly and I rush over to the focaccia & wine tables, to get some energy for the following games.

Match 2 - Mathieu Derothe-Renaud (FR) with White weenie, 2-0

Another thing that I like about international tournaments is that they give me the chance to speak all the languages that I love. I always felt a deep connection with France, as I spent quite a few summers there when I was a kid - and I had the chance to learn the language later when I was a student in Grenoble. So merci Mathieu!

I win the first game using two Erhnam and bolting every small critter that is played by Mathieu. My deck really does what it is supposed to without any issues. The second game is much longer; Mathieu sides in his single City in a bottle, and of course manages to destroy one Kird Ape, one Serendib and one Erhnam with it. Nice! He was however already low on life, even with three Crusades in play. I risk losing the game when he attacks with a Spirit Linked Order of Leitbur. I have to thank the alcohol running in my veins here, as it grants me a steady hand for the most important Chaos Orb flip of the tournament. Had the Order connected, Mathieu’s life total would have skyrocketed quickly outside of bolt range.

After a couple of Timetwisters thanks to Regrowth and one Wheel of Fortune, the opposing wizard lays burned on the ground. On with the 3rd match!

Match 3 - Ben Twitchen (UK) with monoU War Barge, 2-0

What a match! This gentleman from London definitely knows how to brew a deck. MonoU playing War Barge to give opposing creatures islandwalk, Merfolk Assassin, and some main deck Energy Flux. If I remember correctly I won 2-0, but it could have been 2-1 - the wine runs strong within this one! As Ben asks me to sign his Fishliver Oil card (yes, he is playing one main deck!), I decided to ask every opponent tonight to sing the Fishliver Oil mat from 2017 that I just bought before the match from Francesco, one of the organizers of the event.

Match 4 - Alessandro “Zigo” Sagoleo (IT) with Black Aggro, 2-0

Even before the match is started I know this will be a blast, as I receive a bottle of Fishliver Oil Stout Beer from Zigo. Look at that happy face!
Fishliver Oil Beer - how cool is that?
Zigo is usually a dedicated Arabian Aggro/Zoo player, but decided to play a black deck splashing Blue and Red. Well, I am doing exactly the opposite, and here the fortune favors the drunk - I just always have the right answer or the right threat, and I bring home another victory with two fast games. (PS - if you can read Italian, here's the report from Zigo!)

Match 5 - Philipp “Karl” Steinisch (DE) with Black Aggro, loss (0-2)

Well, this is a surprise. One of the good German players with which I have now the honour to play regularly. He is a very good deck builder and a very good player, and I know this will be a hard match. The combination of all the best black cards plus the blue P9, and the best removal of the format, are quite a nightmare for me. And so as expected - he destroys me 2-0 or 2-1, between Juzams, Hypnotic Specers, Royal Assassins and Swords.

At this point I am starting to feel sleepy - the famous "Pizza Coma" after having eaten one pizza in approximately 0.05 seconds while watching my mate Giorgio losing to a MonoW prison after the third match. We walk back towards the hotel, where the last round of Swiss will be held.

Match 6 - Joep Meddens (NL) with… ehm… I won anyway (2-0? 2-1?)

I drank half a bottle of Nebbiolo while waiting for the tournament to continue at the hotel. The God Baccus was on my side, but unfortunately this means that I cannot remember much of the last match of the Swiss. I remember clearly the gentleman from the Netherlands playing some Initiates on the Ebon Hand and some Order of the Ebon Hand, so I know that he was playing black at least, but not much more. At this point I was at 15 points, and definitely in the top 8.

Really happy and ignoring the call of the bed - I am actually feeling quite good and relaxed, as I usually do when I am in the middle of something intense. Another thing I love about this game.
Twiddle party - together with some Pre-Modern goodies.
At this point I have a small break, and finally have the chance to met Paolo, who came after an extremely tough working day to meet me. Kudos! This way I actually get some sweet old cards for my next deck - can you guess what it is?

Top 8

Quarterfinals - Miguel Diaz Gonzalez with The Deck, 2-0   

So Miguel and me met again in the quarterfinals. At this point we know what everyone is playing, so we start after wishing each other good luck (or better, "in bocce al lupo" and "mucha mierda" - simply wishing good luck to Latin people is supposed to bring bad luck). Unfortunately for my opponent, he mulligans down to six in the first game and down to five in the second one.

Both matches were done in no more than 10 minutes, with a Mind Twist for two settling the score in the last game. Well, I have to add that Miguel beat me to death on Saturday when I was playing my monoB with U splash. But that is another story!

Semifinals - Phillip “Karl” Steinisch with Black Aggro, 2-0

Agh, my nemesis! Seriously, it is not a nice feeling when you have to play against an opponent that already defeated you. On the positive side, Karl is a great guy and a great player - if my deck can keep up with his Juzams, I definitely have a chance to advance to the Final!

The firstst game is over pretty quickly and there is not much that he can do. I do not remember exactly how I won as it was already quite late, around 3:00 a.m., but I know that the second game involved quite a bit of Control Magic on one of his Royal Assassin. Between this back and forth accompanied by some serious Mishra beating, I manage to burn him out. He admits that he has been a bit too greedy, waiting with a Disenchant in hand for the best moment to blow my Control Magic and get back his Assassin - but it did not work out as intended. On the positive side, he can finally go to sleep - and he is even happy that I am swearing in Italian. Klasse.

At this point there are just a couple of people left in the room - drunk Gordon, drunk Jason, Gene, Martin Berlin still playing against Patric Hiness, and of course Matteo and Megu. I watch the last minutes of the other semifinal, noticing how Martin has a City in a bottle in play. Ouch. "Well, hopefully he sided that in after the 1st game", I think. Nah, no such luck, as I will learn on my skin during the finals.

Finals - Martin Berlin with Robots

The man that invented Pre-Modern, aka the other format with which I am currently in love. And he is also playing a super sweet deck featuring no less than four Mishra’s Workshop thanks to EC rules - just have a look at the deck in all its magnificence! (And notice the quantity of City in a bottles. Exactly what I did not want to play against. Oh well...) We chat a bit and I manage to use the few words that I learnt while I was living in Stockholm - a city that will forever remains in my heart.

Looking at his deck list after the match, I realize that at least I was able to sideboard correctly. Energy Flux, Argothian Pixies and Red Elemental Blasts were all I needed to bring home this match and win the tournament. As the staff was kind enough to stream the match online, here we go with the links and a detailed description.

Game 1
Not a very good start. Martin starts due to ranking, opening in the first turns with a Strip Mine, Mishra's Factory and the dreaded City in a Bottle while I had a Bayou, a Sol Ring and a City of Brass in play. Back to one land. Then he proceeds to play a second Strip and to Orb away my Sol Ring. Oh well, in response I crumble away his City in a bottle. Back in the game - so to say. He plays a Fellwar Stone and starts attacking with a Mishra while I cast Regrowth off a Taiga to take back my Sol Ring. Mana, need mana. Life: 22 to 15 for Martin.

A turn later, while I go to 13 thanks to his Mishra, Martin plays a Mana Vault and strips away my only two lands. I am lucky enough to top deck a Lotus, which I quickly sacrifice for blue to cast Sol Ring and Timetwister. One blue mana left floating, I manage to play a land and a mox to cast a Serendib Efreet. Woaaah!

Martin replies with a Library followed by a Sol Ring and a Su-Chi. He passes and I drop to 12 from the Efreet. I play a Kird Ape, pass, and got a Volcanic stripped. Then he taps my Efreet with an Icy, and beats me with his Su-Chi. I draw and scoop - there was no way out of this game, in the worst case he could have just waited and let my own Efreet do the killing.

Game 2
I side out my Efreets and the Apes, afraid of more City in a Bottle. I leave the Erhnam in as they are bigger than Su-Chis and Triskelions, boarding in some killer cards: three Energy Fluxes, two Argothian Pixies and three Red Elemental Blasts. At this point I also realize that the first prize is a Transmute Artifact Artist Proof with a super cool artwork on the back from Anson Maddocks. Wow. I am playing for the sake of it, to have fun, but at this point (it is almost 4:00 a.m.) this gives me another motivation to concentrate. Finally a stroke of genius - beer. The audience (aka Gene and Jason) are super cool and pour me glass after glass of refreshing Italian beer, Moretti. Cheers men!

Martin starts with a strip mine, but I follow up with a mox and a 2nd turn Pixies. Martin tries to start the race by playing a Tetravus off a Lotus, but I have the right answer - a Crumble that brings him up to 26, but allows me to stay in the game. Then I tutor for Energy Flux and pass with some mana open. This is crucial, as I wanted to avoid being screwed by anything before I could play the Flux. Martin tries an Ancestral, but unfortunately for him I was waiting with a Red Elemental Blast. He is forced to Copy Artifact my Mox Jet, while I bolt him to bring him back below 20.

I finally untap and cast Energy Flux. From here it is quite an easy win, as I drew a couple of Mishras that were able to kill Martin together with the Pixies while he was stuck without mana. Flux and REB won me this game.

Game 3
On with the final game! The most intense of the three, swinging back and forth with powerful plays from Martin and some bluffing from my side. I start with a mulligan as my 1st hand consisted of something similar to Bolt, Bolt, and lands. Not what you want to see when you are facingg 4/4 robots on the other side of the table!

My second hand is better: Time Walk, Chaos Orb, Mishra, Land, Chain Lightning and a Mox. Martin goes first and play a Mishra. I draw the Strip Mine I kept on the top, reasoning that my biggest hope is to go for the mana denial route hoping to see some beaters or enough bolts to close the game before he manages to cast some of his large threats. So I go land, Mox, Time Walk. I see Lotus, strip his Mishra and cast Chaos Orb. Second Mishra for Martin, I play one myself and flip correctly destroying his after playing a Sol Ring.

Martin plays Mox Pearl plus a Mana Vault while I start the Mishra beating. He resolves an Ancestral, and the taps his Mana Vault plus Mox Pearl to cast an Icy Manipulator. Ouch. Not to mention the freshly casted Mox Jet, so he can activate the Icy right away.

At this point Martin started to tap my blue sources during my upkeep, to prevent me casting an Energy Flux should I draw one. Not a bad play seeing how I won the last match with that card, but this forced him to lose some quite some life to my Mishra. This proved fatal at the end, but to be honest it was already 4:15 a.m. - just by looking at our faces it was easy to understand how fatigue was starting to play also a role. I wanted to continue attacking, therefore I kept all the blue sources in my hand hoping Martin would continue tapping my Tropical Island. 20-15 for me. He copies my Sol Ring and strips away my Tropical, finishing the turn with a nice City in a bottle. Wow. Not bad Martin, not bad.

I play another Tropical Island and bolt Martin down to 12. 11 due to the tapped Mana Vault. Then he tries to turn back the game casting a Triskelion using a Mishra’s Workshop. Oh well, I had a Psionic Blast waiting for that. 15-11 still in my favour.

Once again he taps my Tropical Island, and I bring him down to 9 using my Mishra. He plays another Triskelion and strips away another Tropical Island, not knowing that I am keeping a Lotus in my hand since the beginning of the game. I just did not draw any Energy Flux, that’s all!

Volcanic Island. Pass. Down to 11 due to his Triskelion. 11-9 - we are getting even, and I know that I have basically two turns left as he just needs to attack twice and to send three damages direct to my head. With an active Icy, blockers should also not be an issue. I play a second Mishra and Martin here still decided to tap my Volcanic Island. He will admit the following day that it was a bad decision, but I understand completely why he did it - losing the last game from that card had quite a spooky effect, and let us not forget it was not past 4:30 a.m. I attack and he decides not to blow it up with his Triskelion, going down to 6 as I pump it hoping to see some card draw the following turn.

I go down to 7. Untap. Braingeyser. I had seven mana on the table, but hey - I still have an unused Lotus in my hand! I play the Lotus getting three blue mana, and tap my two Mishras plus Sol Ring to draw five cards. The tension is high, but the odds should be on my side - I play 10 burn spells after all. That is why I keep three mana sources untapped - I could need as much as four mana to cast a bolt and a Psionic Blast. Just think if I lost with an uncasted blast in my hand! Losing to Martin would have been ok, but not like that. Oh no.

Mox. Red elemental blast. Regrowth (wait! That counts as a Bolt!). Lighting bolt. I realized then I could win this match, unless Martin his holding a Blue Elemental Blast in his hand. Oh well. Let us try.

Bolt. Down to 3. Regrowth. Ok. Bolt. Game over.

It was an amazing match, well played on both sides considering the late hour. It was truly an honor playing against Martin, it is clear that "he knows how to hold the cards in his hands" - how we say in Italy. Sa tenere le carte in mano. We shake hands and display our decks before finally going to sleep. It has been a long and incredible day, and it takes quite a while to get rid of the adrenaline so that I can sleep the sleep of the unjust.
Tired but happy
Saturday I wake up as my room mate Giorgio decided to put the alarm clock at 9:00 in order to have breakfast. Agh. He went to sleep after the quarterfinals, and is quite happy to discover that I won the Columbus Night tournament. His unspoilered Goblin deck was not so lucky, but hey, that is life. We wait for the arrival of the other players from Torino - Beppe Rinaldi, Simone Merlo and Marco Amateis. I decide to follow Martin and get myself a nice Mishra’s Workshop - Hell yeah. I will not spend too many words on the main tournament, as I was basically a walking zombie. Nonetheless, between coffees, water and nicotine I managed to arrive 21st with a 4-2 losing to Miguel playing the deck and Marco Rocchetti with monoB with UW splash.

With Miguel we had some very cool games. In one I had two Underworld dreams on the table, and yet he managed to turn that game around playing his Mirror Universe. At that point I had to blow everything using my Disk, but he still won the match thanks to his Serra Angels and Moats.

Marco’s deck was simply better than mine - quite the same, but playing Swords and Disenchant in this sort of mirror match is quite nice. I thought about that, but wanted to avoid any Blood Moon related problems - my bad.

Between jokes, trades, opponent from Israel, the Netherlands and Switzerland, I finally collapse before the top 16. What can I say? The atmosphere at the tournament was great. The organisers are incredible. The local stereotype of the typical Ligurian man in Italy goes a bit like this:
Notice any similarities with Megu, Lorenzo, Matteo and the crew?
This could not be further from the truth. They proved once again to be incredibly generous, and true gentlemen. They even managed to rally 1300€ thanks to a Chaos Orb raffle to help the people affected from the collapse of the Morandi bridge in Genova. Just amazing.

Well, I am happy and still rejoicing from the memories I got at the 2018 Fishliver Oil Cup. The prizes are now on display, some here with me in Germany and some in my hometown close to Torino.
New playmat signed by every opponent on Friday night and from THE PRESIDENT Megu, Fishliver Oil Beer, the Lighthouse of Genova and an amazing Artist Proof. Awesome.
Before closing this report, let me thank all the incredible organizers, the players - without you this format would not exist! - the guys from Torino, and the German team for all the support and the training. Not to mention Magnus for letting me put this long post on his blog. Hej, tack! And yeah, even my girlfriend Christine that was waiting for me in Torino while I was playing. At the moment we live in different countries - seeing each other when time allows it - not easy, but she was still cheering for me. Half-British and half-Italian, she can actually play Magic herself - and has the bad habitue to crush me with her Affinity deck. Oh well, that is another story.

One thing is sure - Old School spirit is alive and kicking, and I will be back in Genova next year!