Gathering of the Knights of Thorn V

Joep Meddens is a venerable name in the halls of old mages. A gatherer of fellow wizards in the Netherlands, a content creator of note, and a master brewer in most formats. At the last Fishliver Oil Cup in Genoa he reached the elimination rounds in both the main tournament and the EC event; innovating with his signature Geddonless Geddon in the main event and razing opposition with a blue/black pile that I can only refer to as "Joep School" in the EC event. This is the third time we get to hear one of his stories on this blag; be sure to check out the previously regaled tales from his Frost Giant Cup and Hill Giant Cup. It is my pleasure to share Joep's experience from the latest showdown with the Knights of Thorn. This is a tale of a man and his ghoulish horde of  zombies. Enjoy! /Mg out

Are we on 5 of these already? This old school thing seems to definitely be sticking in The Netherlands. After October's Frost Giant Cup, December could not come quick enough for Dutch players looking for the glory to be found in Deventer. As the dust settles, 51 mages have turned up to battle it out; a fresh record for The Netherlands.

Personally, I was facing a veritable dilemma. Would I return to the deck that I know and love, or should I pick up a different 75 for a change? I had played my Geddonless Erhnamgeddon for four of the last five big tournaments I entered, switching to UG Arabian Berserkers only for the Hill Giant Cup. Geddonless Erhnamgeddon got me into a final (GotKoT III), a semi-final (GotKoT IV), a tournament win (Frost Giant) and Top16 (Fishliver Oil). Arguably more important: I really enjoy playing the deck. Casting Llanowar Elves into Ice Storm and Erhnam or switching into the control role on the back of Swords and Disenchants: the deck gives you different ways to play depending on match up and starting hand. The puzzle is never quite the same. This is especially what draws me to Magic.

But. I really felt like playing a different deck. To make matters more complicated, the spike in me really wants to win GotKoT one day. I considered Enchantress again (as I had before the Hill Giant Cup), but in the end I settled on...

Powered Zombies! Considering that Walking Dead, Cyclopean Mummy and Headless Horseman are all Zombies in this modern era, this was a deck waiting to happen and I sleeved my version up. After careful consideration, I chose to run Scathe Zombies over Headless Horseman.
All those beautiful Zombies

Round 1 vs. Marten Buhler
Marten is a familiar foe: we played no less than three matches in the last two tournaments. This morning, he was the first but definitely not the last to be surprised by my brew...

The first game proved that Savannah Lions and Serendib Efreet are probably better creatures than Cyclopean Mummy and Scathe Zombies in a vacuum.
The second game, the pressure is on early. Serendibs and Factory Workers are coming in, but after a timely Timetwister I manage to summon a Zombie Master and a small army to serve him. We race towards the end and I get one shot at swinging for lethal before the Serendibs will end me. I find an Evil Presence and for a moment it looks as if my Zombies will swampwalk to victory. Unfortunaltely, my Timetwister had also given Marten 7 fresh cards and one of them turned out to be a Disenchant. Interestingly, Disenchant on Evil Presence proved to be the winning play this round.
Marten's WUb Zoo

Round 2 vs. Jason Schwartz
It was fun to see Jason again so soon after we had both attended Fishliver Oil Cup. He turns out to be on a Hatog list today. Interestingly, that means in our match-up he is the one with the soul. A soul full of rage and hatred, but still.

The first game sees me get somewhere near, but when my one regenerating Zombie guard is bolted out of duty a hungry Atog swings in for the win.

The second game I get to board in my Blue Elemental Blasts and Terrors, so I feel confident. We get to a topdecking mode with both of us skirting the zero-line. I get a Book online though, so I am looking good. Unfortunately, the Tome only draws me extra lands and just as I prepare to deliver the final swampwalking blow, Jason uses his Disenchant on my Evil Presence instead of on my Jayemdae Tome. It works. He stays alive and subsequently finds the Lightning Bolt to finish me off. Again, Disenchant on Evil presence proves to be the winning play.
Jason's pile

Round 3 vs. Roy Neijland
The games against Jason were heartening and disheartening at the same time. The Zombies came close against a real deck, but if you can't finish a game with Tome-advantage... In the meantime, a more amusing comment I overhear is one about "all those GW Ice Storm decks" around, with one player having faced two in the first two rounds. Poor guy.

Anyway, I may be 0-4 in games, but I did get to cast a fair number of Cyclopean Mummies, Walking Deads and Zombie Masters. And casting Scathe Zombies in a competitive tournament was probably a first since 1993.

So how did former GotKoT champion Roy get into the 0-2 bracket you ask? Like me, he felt the need to switch around. From mono-black into an Atog-build in his case. Other than Jason though, Roy chose Love over Hate and added Howling Mines to his build. It turns out that Zombies and Howling Mines are a very good match. Game 1 sees Roy deploy a Mine fairly early. I manage to keep Roy low on usable mana and factories with a pair of Evil Presences and a Strip Mine. His Atog gets plowed and Bad Moon powers up my Cyclopean Mummy and Walking Dead slamming into Roy. I then get the immense pleasure of ending the game by casting a Zombie Master, allowing my army to swampwalk to victory. 1-0.

Game 2 I get to board in the Blue Elemental Blasts and Terrors again, and I can only hope that Roy keeps his Howling Mines in... Obviously, I am favored here as there simply isn't a good sideboard plan against Zombies yet. I manage to deploy a Bad Moon again and this proves tricky for Roy, especially as my Evil Presence deals with his Maze of Ith. I am already in the driving seat, when a Time Walk means an extra swing with the undead army and basically the decision.

I have my one win for the day!

Round 4 vs. Wouter Janssen
Wouter Janssen first joined the Dutch old school scene at Frost Giant with a flex-a-geddon deck. Today, with only 10 reprints allowed he is on an unpowered suicide blue list. He is also on 1-2 for the day with his one win coming against my brother's Tron deck which turned out not to be so good against multiple Phantasmal Terrains.

Game 1 and I draw the nuts. Library of Alexandria into Mox Sapphire, Mox Jet and Ancestral Recall. Turn 3 I then find a big enough Mind Twist to rid Wouter of any ideas he might still have had. Assuming you get to draw two cards each turn, start of with an extra mana source and see your opponent three cards down, Scathe Zombies is actually a house of a card. 1-0.

Game 2 and Wouter is unfazed. He has lots of early damage, and I tell myself to remember to keep some excess lands in hand for the feared Mind Bomb. Nevertheless, the 8 damage he gets in with his unchecked Air Elemental before I stabilize means I am at 2 life and basically doomed. 1-1.

Game 3 and Library of Alexandria comes to my rescue again, accompanied by an early Mox. In a situation such as this one, the power of these cards is very evident for all to see. My notes reveal Time Walk and Mind Twist were also both played this game. With the extra removal from the board, it means I move comfortably to the second win: 2-1.

It means I am 2-2 for the day and if I didn't know better, I'd swear I saw one of the Scathe Zombies smile at me...

Round 5 vs. Antoine Rottiers
Round 5 will be the last of the day for me, as somehow the top8 was already out of reach. I get to play Antoine Rottiers.

Antoine is a super friendly guy from Belgium who plays an unfriendly deck in UR counterburn. Antoine points out that one of us will end on 3/2, or Hasran Ogress as he calls it and the other on a Hurloon Minotaur (2/3). I point out that Zombie Master is actually strictly better than Hurloon Minotaur and in my view a better poster boy for those going 2/3 for the day. Antoine decides not to argue the point, although why anyone would bring up Zombie Master is beyond him at that point. Fast forward two games later and Antoine is a Zombie Master fan for life, but I get ahead of myself.

Game 1 I actually get closer than I had ever thought. It turns out that Cyclopean Mummy deals three a turn too if you also count the 1 damage Serendib Efreet does to its controller. Unfortunately, the math goes bad against two Serendib Efreets. 0-1. I am confidant in my sideboard though: out with that useless Disenchant, in with Blasts and Terrors!

Game 2 and I get going with a Bad Moon before casting a Zombie Master that is out of Bolt range. Two Chain Lightnings do fry the Master, but hey, I have anther one! I am holding a Terror to deal with any pesky fliers and I am feeling quite smug. Then. The Unimaginable. Control Magic hits my Master. My Disenchant is a Terror. With my Bad Moon shining on, the 3/4 beat down is real. I feel relieved temporarily as I draw another Zombie Master to block the one opposite. As I ready to cast it, I realize that Zombie Master is also a Zombie these days. And I have swamps. His Master will like swamps once he sees my Master... To much amusement of both players and the players seated next to us, I lose the final game of the day to Zombie Master.
The raindeer on my sweater is smiling, but I am crying a little inside as my Zombie Master finishes me off...

After some games in the single elimination powerless ABU-side event (losing out in the third round of four to eventual winner and organizer - are you reading this Manolakos? - Mari Steinhage), I pick up the main event again at the semi- final level.

Amazingly, returning mage Dyan de Rochemont has made it into the semis of a 51-player tournament with his Eureka-list of absolutely stunning beauty. There is hope for players of Jank everywhere.

Dyan is playing Robbie van Bakel who is on my Geddonless Erhnamgeddon list. The games were very tight, and a Nicol Bolas (a two-off obviously) did indeed hit the table. Perhaps the deciding difference that Robbie was able to bring in Preacher. It proved to be absolutely Golden against the deck full of fatties. "Activate Preacher? Ehm..., sure, have a... Mahamoti Djinn I guess?" Robbie managed to take it 2-1 and thus secured Llanowar Elves another big final to appear in.

In the other Semi, Marten Buhler saw yet another convincing run pair him against "bearded lady" Anne Joldersma, playing in his first offline old school event. After some tight battling, Anne came out on top playing a hybrid between The Deck and Troll Disco. The brew apparently went by the name "The Dick" for quite some time before someone had the decency to suggest "The Disco" as a more appropriate name. That's the old school creativity for you.
Anne Joldersma's The Dick / The Disco - note the single Shivan

In retrospect, Robbie was of course hugely favored in this match up being able to Plow the Trolls, Disenchant the Disks and deploy more threats than can be answered. Two Erhnams and a Serra Angel proved this point, and Robbie took the whole thing down. After his win, I was able to ask Robbie some questions. I must point out that the original interview was conducted in Dutch and by me. As a result, some of Robbie's answers might have been - if not completely lost then at least - somewhat altered in translation.

JM: Robbie, congratulations on a well deserved win. Many people will agree with me when I applaud your choice to run Llanowar Elves, an absolute evergreen that even today is a standard legal card. Could you shed some light on the number of Bolts, Plows, Chains and other nastiness the Elves had to endure?

RvB: Thank you. To be honest, I was thinking of going for Birds of Paradise but was strongly urged to play the Elves by the spiritual father of the deck. I felt a solid case was made for the Elves and went with it. The rest, as they say, is history. The Elves are a solid source of damage, especially early on. Dealing 5 before a blocker is deployed is a real thing. I'd say T1 removal hits the Elves one in three times. Somehow, they do not get removed so much after T1...

JM: Thank you for that one, I think we agree that Llanowar Elves is a broken Magic card. Another fantastic pick are your two Preachers. Did you put these in specifically with the Eureka-heavy Dutch meta in mind?

RvB: In fact I took two Argothian Pixies and Ifh-Biff Efreet out of the original 75 and replaced them by a Black Lotus and two Preachers. Although Eureka is indeed a pressing concern that needs to be addressed by any deck aiming to win a tournament, I added the Preachers for their sheer value. It is an undervalued card I feel. The Holy Father wins you games because people start to play around it, he clears the board for as long as the opponent has no way of sending him to his maker. In Legacy, people tend to Plow your Mother. I think in Old School, we might be en route to seeing Plow your Father becoming a thing. I guess that's probably a good thing, it's inclusive.
JM: Right. Let's move on from this. Looking at the last two big events in The Netherlands, would you agree that it is fair to say that Green is in fact the best colour in Old School Magic at the moment?

RvB: I would say so, yes. Green has easily the best creature suite apart from maybe Juzam Djinn. But let's face it, no one plays Juzam. Some people would bring up Serra and I really like her too, but in fairness she requires two white mana and her ability to attack and block will not help against the 4/5 Erhnam Djinn. He is the King of the Battlefield. If you add staples such as the aforementioned Llanowar Elves, Ice Storm, Regrowth and Sylvan Library and look at their efficient costs it is easy to see that Green is indeed the number one colour in Old School. Did I mention that Eureka is green as well?

JM: You fail to mention Ifh-Biff Efreet there, is that deliberate?

RvB: Unfortunately: yes. He does some work, I will not deny. But in an ever Greener meta, the Ifh-Biff needs to sit out more games I think.

JM: Fair enough, with the green mana flowing so freely everywhere it can indeed be a liability. What would you say to those people who play this deck without the Lotus?

RvB: I would say Black Lotus is Magic, Black Lotus is Old School. These days unfortunately affordability is not one of its main qualities, but truth is Old School without Lotus is a dinner without seasoning, a film without sound, Christmas without snow. It can be done and in fact has been done, but the alternative is just strictly better.

JM: You are probably correct. A final question now that you have added a Knights of Thorn to your collection. Would you say it is maindeckable in this list, or would you deploy it in sideboard?

RvB: Knights of Thorn is a solid sideboard card for me. It has some power, but I really would not be able to identify what to pull from the 60 to give it a spot.

JM: Thanks for this one Robbie, best of luck in the coming tournaments
RvB: And to you!
The winning list

Robbie is a regular Top8 player and he always adds some spice to the decks he plays. Whether it's Old Man of the Sea or Two-Headed Giant in Arabian aggro, or Preacher in Geddonless Erhnamgeddon. So a worthy new Knight of Thorn in my book. Also, seeing him take the Elves and Ice Storms to another tournament win was of course pleasing. One more tournament win for the deck and Mg might have to start considering restricting Llanowar Elves...

As for the Zombies: I can fully recommend trying those out. It is just so much fun to go Underground Sea - Mox - Cyclopean Mummy and look triumphantly at your opponent. The deck needs some tuning obviously, but 4 - 7 in games and 2/3 in matches is a start to work from.

As has become the norm, this one was again much fun to play in. Nice people all around. Finally a shout out to Sander Jagersma for recording his first ever Top8 with his favorite Troll Disco deck. Sticking with it pays off!

Great thanks go to Mari Steinhage for putting the work in again, and for providing all the players with a sweet playmat. Next up: Groningen in February and before we know, on 7 April 2019 the Hill Giant Cup will return to prepare the Dutch mages for n00bcon Eleven. 


  1. Nice read! +1 for going zombies and hurray for monocoloured piles (personally trying to get gobs working). Good to hear the Dutch meta is healthy and interestingly green is the colour of choice - green generally demands committment and is not too overly represented in other metas? And hot damn that Eureka pile is plain eyegasm..!

  2. Hi, please what is the SB card in Zombie deck between Disenchant and Crypt?
    That deck looks incredibly awesome - yesterday I ordered my Zombie Masters. :-)
    Do you have any suggestions for the built? Thank, Petr

  3. A second Disenchant, would have been superbly useful against that Control Magic.

  4. Thanks! :-)

    Do you have any tips/improvements for the deck?

  5. This was amazing. It really brought warmth to my heart which is strange coming from heartless zombies. Evil Presence + Zombie Master is awesome in a meta full of Library, factories, and Maze of Ith.

    1. I really like playing as much of the broken stuff available and therefore playing the Moxen, but I could imagine a World in which you forego those and Main board Energy Fluxes instead. You'd probably have to also use Dark Rituals then, which is solid card disadvantage in a deck where some cards in themselves could be considered a form of card disadvantage. In this iteration, I would probably try straight UB, with some Countermagic. That would also enable playing Drowned, which would be infinitely better than Scathe Zombies, if somehow it were Black :)
      One more Evil Presence is definitely on my list. That card is much better than it seems. Cutting a Bad Moon would be possible if you also cut the Scathe Zombies. Note though that a single Bad Moon protects the Master from any form of Lightning. It's a difficult deck to Master, but the Dead have much time available for practice.


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