2018 Retrospective

Wait, are we a thing now?

Abject confusion cortesy of Kalle Nord and Honka. (Scandinavian Championships in Arvika)

Last week I was perusing a few customary end-of-the year articles as I'm wont to do when December draws to an end. One over at Channel Fireball caught my eye.

"Hey", I said. "They're ranking nische formats this year. Maybe Oldschool will get a moment in the sun? It is a format." I read through the article and got the status on Two-Headed Giant, BattleBox and the likes, but nothing about 93/94. Oh whelp. Then I stumble upon this one:

And behold.

When did that happen? Apparently some straw broke the camels back this year. While we certainly crawled from a deep underground to a more shallow soil, I did not expect us filthy casuals to rub elbows with actual supported formats. But now it appears that we are a thing in the eyes of The Grander Community. This brings great responsibility. I think we might need to start wearing hats.

Tuck in that shirt mister! And where is your life pad and tournament petunias? (Gaasa in Oslo)

It seems we've reached a point where the format has a mythos. Sometime in December - around the time of the unveiling of the Atlantic Rules - I saw a discussion where a guy asked Dave Firth Bard (the most prominent face behind the new rule set) if there had been another rule set with restricted Strip Mine and unrestricted Mishra's Workshop. Dave replied something in the lines of that he didn't know, as he was "no Old School historian". Now Dave is one of the the most informed and active players in the world, so this was something of a reality check for me.

At the birth of the first old school community as we now know them, Magic was 13 years and some change. That was almost twelve years ago now. A lot of things have happened in the format since then, and a lot of it is oral tradition. I still often assume that people I play with have a similar history as me in the format, but how could they? Apart from reading way too much on the subject, I've written over 350 articles about old school on at least half a dozen different sites in the last seven years, and odds are that I can count the people who've read it all on my fingers. And even those crazy bastards I can't assume would remember everything.

Oh reddit, you. Combining lack of facts with certainty of solutions like only you can. (Internet, yesterday)

So a weird thing hit me. I think I am an Old School Magic historian if that is a thing these days. I can point to rule sets with one, two, three and four Strip Mines if you want. Wanna know the differences between PWP Invitational Highlander formats compared to Brothers' Highlander or Norwegian Highlander? Hit me up bro. Uncertain about who first laid out their 93/94 deck list as a dick? Well let me direct you to FreeSpace's deck from WSK 2014. I am not claiming to have wisdom here, but my head probably host more factoids about contemporary playing with collectible cards from 1993-1994 than any reasonable person would need to know. I knew forgetting math would open space for something.

The Legendary Jonas Twitchen, DFB, myself, Dom, Charlie, Gordon "Gordon Anderson" Anderson and our own BetaSedgeTroll. (BBB in Gothenburg)

But with all these lofty nuggets of trivia aside, one thing seems to be an universal truth these days, something that every player now knows. The Style. Three years ago Megu and Lorenzo stated that the inagural Fishliver Oil Cup used "Italian Rules, Swedish Style". What was once called "Swedish Style" has now pretty much turned into plain "Old School Style".

It is a good style. (Somewhere below ground)

It is more common than not that a tournament in this format have access to beer. It is rare that you win any actual prizes for placing high in the tournament. We put more emphasis on joy of the game than final standings. Durdling will give you high fives. We truly appreciate the cards themselves as artifacts of a bygone era. We don't create content or host gatherings for personal gain, we do it for the community and charities. We look each other in the eye and mean it when we say "Good game".

This is the core that actually matter.

KungMarkus challenging Might Stone's place on the Stone Scale. (Casa Hardy, Oslo)

So I know I write this every single year in the retrospective posts, but 2018 was indeed a great year for those of us slinging the oldest of spells. It seems like new communities pop up every other week, and the larger tournaments have gotten large. In 2017 n00bcon 9 and Eternal Weekend 4 broke the mold and became the first 100+ player tournaments. They both expanded further this year, and Fishliver Oil Cup Ed. 2 joined their ranks as a third 100+ gathering. Then we have stuff like LobsterCon, Player's Ball, Scandinavian Championship, GP Vegas and Lanterna in the 70-100 player size, and a plethora of gatherings around the 50-player mark; Knights of Thorn, Arvika Festival, Nebraska's War, and the list goes on. Seems like you can't throw a Chaos Orb without hitting an Old School player these days.

Jason Schwartz knows all about that. (Dwarven Warriors in Voorthuizen)

But I'd still argue that the biggest thing this year is the local scenes. In Oslo, we have pretty much weekly meetups these days. Gothenburg as well, with the awesome GG-ligan spearheaded by GaJol and Olof.

The inaugural trophy. (GG-ligan in Gothenburg)

This is just mentioning the two cities I have a strong personal attachment to. All around the globe you'll find new groups claiming territory at the local dive bar, creating continuity and an open arena for anyone who dares join. Three people turning into five, five into ten, and suddenly the community has its own legs. It is really cool to see scenes like the one in Finland evolving.

Picture stolen without permission from Quantitatively Old School. (Kaamos Cup in Helsinki)

And there are just so many opportunities these days that tournament organizers may have issues finding open weekends, and players may have to pick their battles in a way completely alien a year ago. Like last week, when I threw down at the Romjulsturning in an underground bunker turned microbrewery in Oslo. I talked to Varberg native Michael "JhovalKing" Ahlberg, who mentioned that he missed the yearly Sehlskapsspelen tournament in Varberg at the same time, about four hours away. And for those in Europe interested in a size larger tournaments than those, e.g. picking between the Arvika Festival and ViennaGeddon both taking place February 23rd may be a hard nut. These are "problems" we would never have had to face a year ago.

Similar to how Audun would have had more room to move his arms if the expected eight people had shown up rather than the 14 that did. 2018 problems.

I could write for days about all the explorations of the card pool, community initiatives and innovations. I really don't know where to start or stop. So I think I'll resort to list form, as is the retrospective posts' prerogative.

Top 3 Personal Thingies of 2018

Hah! It's my blog fuckers, and now I'll tell you about my life.
3. After five sweet years at the Norwegian Broadcasting Company (NRK), it was time to try something new. New job, new challenges and new colleagues followed at DNB. The NRK team got me a heartfelt Beta Clone signed by the team. The guy lurking in the back, Ståle, is nerd basher btw, preparing to give me and Stian a swirly for holding Magic cards.

2. I learned how to ride a horse somewhat decently this year. The black one, Skuggfax, was the one I was taking care of. Pretty rad.

1. Yeah, this one wins this year and every year before it. Yay! Inspiring, isn't it.

MtG Achievement Unlocked of 2018

Score. Almost 24 years in the making I finally reached 40/40 this year. The feeling of reaching 40/40 ABU duals is not that far off 9/9 Power cards as completions go.

Best New Gear of 2018

This table. Oh how I've thirsted for it since I learnt of its existence five years ago. It looks a little more battle-worn today as an inebriated mage spilled beer on it at n00bcon and messed a little with Jeff Brain's coloring, but that should be seen as natural evolution due to intended use. So much love to fellow wizard Danny Friedman of The Lords of the Pit who managed to carry this hunk of wood from the US.

Fanboy Moment of 2018

...tell this to 13-year old me and see what happens.

Geek Circle Completion of 2018

I first found out about Magic in an article in the Swedish newspaper GP in 1994. Now I'm the one talking about Magic to unsuspecting mugglers in that same paper, 24 years later.

Combo of 2018

Maybe this one? It is sweet, and I didn't see it before 2018.

Deck of 2018

This was more easy. Presenting The Librarian Ben Perry's deck at the Players' Ball. Fantastic deck with a fantastic story. The old shaman is raising the bar.

Format variant of 2018

Uuuh... Brawl maybe? Yeah, let's say Brawl. Honorable mentions to Brother's Highlander, Limited Constructed, and a few new EDH variants.

Brother's Highlander with Brother Stebbo and The Legendary Jonas Twitchen (BenCon in London).

Norwegian Highlander is also sweet. (Teknikens Hus, Oslo)

B&R update of 2018

There have been a few of note this year apart from the annual update of the Swedish B&R. Beasts of the Bay certainly built a nice one, unrestricting a couple of cards from the EC list and adding errata to Falling Star. Gothenburg's version of OS95 seems to gain interest. And the new reprint policy for Italian/Ravenna rules is certainly a welcome for many. But I think the winner, certainly in terms of internet outrage and love, is the new Atlantic rule set.

The Atlantic rule set is the brainchild of a handful very experienced players and organizers, including DFB, All Tings Considered host Bryan and End of Turn, Draw a Card writer Svante Landgraf. In many senses it bridges the gap between the traditional Swedish B&R and the popular EC B&R. Or to quote one of the creators, "this is what the Swedish B&R will look like in five years". Hehe, I guess could envision a timeline where that is the case; unrestricting Time Vault or Workshop one year, the other the next year, legalize Fallen Empires with Hymn restricted, unrestrict Hymn, finally unrestrict Shahrazade for teh lulz, and then suddenly in five years we're pretty much there ;)

"Format" of 2018

This is a thing now. "Magic", we call it.

Least Unexpected Champion of 2018

Marc Lanigra, destroyer of n00bs.

Tournament location of 2018

Lanterna tournament, Genoa.

Decklist Photo Photo of 2018

Appreciate the dedication!

Blags of 2018

This part has become a tradition of sorts; it is the third year running with new stuff from around the webosphere. Let's first check up on the blags of 2016 and 2017 and see what wind-scarred survivors we can celebrate among the earlier adopters.

Blags of 2016

Kinda dry here these days unfortunately, except for Eternal Central of course. None of the other pages have been updated with old school content since at least half a year ago. Keeping content running is a though nut. What about the class of 2017?

Counterclockwise from the top: French Boars, Wak-Wak blog, Brothers of Fire, Old School Ron, Music City Old School Mtg, End of Turn Draw a Card, 52-Week Beta and The Magician's Blog.

Boom! A solid stew of creators right there. In particular I tip my hat to 52-week Beta; End of Turn, Draw a Card; Music City and Brothers of Fire for keeping up updates at least monthly throughout last year. And an extra shout out to Alpha/Beta Old School which I missed last time. Keep rocking :)

So what about new sites or podcasts in 2018 then? 2017 impressed with eight new places to bookmark, but 2018 hits it out of the park with twelve. And I'm pretty sure I've missed something.

GeoCities of Brass, Stockholm in a Bottle, Quantitatively Old School, Baltimore Old School, Deep Spawners, The Sentinel, Liga Madrid, Urborg Buffet, All Tings Considered, Lords of the Pit, Beasts of the Bay, Gunnarson's Bag.

Welcome to the blogosphere!

Apart from these new harbors, we can also see new content at e.g. Ready to Role and Strictly Average, and a plethora of new stuff at YouTube. This has certainly been the most content-prosperous year of the format yet.


Where do we go from here? I usually try and wrap up with a few of my favorite posts from the last year, but it feels like it has been so much sweet stuff around the world that I'm afraid to leave something out. Personally, I got the chance to try a few new formats this year which was fun. Though there may be some providence in that the perhaps most curios post on this blog is also the least read. The six of you who both found it and understood it knows which one I'm talking about at least ;)

I offer this picture without further comment.

That said, I'll namedrop one. Not Even Venerian Gold at Music City may well have been the post that best captured the spirit for me personally this year. But none is forgotten, and everyone who helped make this format what it has become have my sincere gratitude and appreciation. I tip my hat to the organizers, content creators and players that create this hot mess of a format. It has been a fantastic year to be a part of the community.

I wish you all a great 2019. Let's see what it may bring.


  1. A very entertaining read, Magnus, that brought back some fun memories! I was delighted to be involved in one of the highlights of 2018, and I'm going to introduce myself now as "the guy taking the photograph in decklist photo photo of the year" ;)

    1. Haha, hopefully you can be some inspiration to others ;)

  2. Great read Magnus, Internet at its best!

  3. Yrch! Fallen Emps... -Shivers-. Glossy CGI copyrighted newschool shit. 4th was bad but FE was the point it all went to shits. Just for Hymn and a few knights? Monoblack and WW don't really need a boost as they're competitive enough yeah? Ah well it was bound to happen - add another few years and ''Oldschool" will be anything pre-2010! Heels in the dirt everyone. Thanks for keeping this going despite everything Magnus every post is a blast - keep em coming! Nice1 on the 40 duals btw did I see 3x beta volcanic? Your retirement fund right there... How's the little devilboon? Gettin' some sleep? Happy 2019 all!!

    1. Haha, thanks!

      Don't think you'll have to worry too much about FE, if that happen I envision it in the far future. And odds are probably even more unlikely now that Atlantic rules already exists as a 1-Strip plus FE environment ;)

      Only scrublands and a badland are beta; volcanics are Alpha-cut and altered unlimited versions. Might have to work a few more years on that retirement fund...

    2. It'd sure be something if they were proper alpha volcanics..! ^^

      FE... Obviously there's some lethal cards in this (almost forgot about ye gob grenade!) and later sets and obviously the game has developed immensely and in a positive way since - BUT personally I feel in the aesthetics department it was over and buried once FE was released. New age high gloss lacking personality - designed to draw the flash kids in. Made in China. Compare that with a bb Mana vault, Guardian beast or Transmute: no contest - that shit just breathes eternity. Like my 40yo storm lamp made in West-Germany, never picky and still running strong whereas shiny new purchases tried to keep up yet sputtered and died.. Never bought a booster since. Now - I'm an whingeing old fart who loves hand-drawn comics/cartoons of bygone ages and cringes over newer CGI/enhanced stuff that's so much cleaner - and I realise that's not for everyone, simultaneously I'm convinced the stone-age feel of the older sets is one of the drivers why people like playing and appreciate oldschool magic so much (forking out ridiculous amounts of $$ in the process). It's probably a bit difficult to understand for Americans - lacking a history of their own (that's a joke) but Europeans tend to be a bit more retentive in their traditions. FE? tough call. Not for me though.

  4. Good Work! :D It was nice to read :)

  5. Man just looking at these cards brings me back. Gonna dig out my ol' Ice Age deck from wherever it might be.


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