n00bcon 9 (2017) – A Belated Tournament Report

2017. Yesteryear and a lifetime ago. A spring the world remembers to the tune of Despacito rather than health warnings. A time when nobody knew what Tiktok was, and we looked forward to The Last Jedi with curious wonder. That Easter, n00bcon 9 was visited by its first road warrior from the Netherlands; Alex. And some weeks ago he stumbled upon a tournament report of his, lost in the folders of his computer for over three years. It's time to look back, so that we may look forward. This is Alex's story from n00bcon 9. Enjoy! /Mg out.

I have a recurring nightmare; my friends are standing around me with faces like grinning demons, mocking me for trading away my precious Juzam Djinn for a Planeshift booster box. This is not just a terrible dream, it really happened when I was a teenager. The Djinn only intimidated people who looked in my binder and had no other function, therefore I decided to let him go. Once I had made the trade, I immediately opened all the boosters and tried to convince myself and my friends that this was not a bad deal, pointing at the Flametongue Kavu and the Orim’s Chant I opened. The box also contained a Phyrexian Scuta, which was obviously an upgrade of the old Djinn. “Am I right, fellas?”, I tried to reason with them. They were not convinced.

As the years went by, I always regretted this spontaneous decision. My friends were right. Even though Juzam Djinn would probably be an uncommon nowadays and is barely playable outside the Old School format, for me and many others he is still the most badass looking creature in the history of the game. 

Being able to play with iconic cards like Juzam Djinn is obviously one of the allures of the Old School format. It is part of a kind of nostalgia that led me to play in a 1996 Tournament in the Netherlands, way back in 2012. In those times, the Old School scene in the Netherlands was really small. There was – and still is – a group of people playing ‘Ancient Magic’. Their 1996 Tournament, in which you could play cards from 1993 till 1996, was my chance to play Eric Tam’s deck from Pro Tour 1996 in New York, the very first Pro Tour, which used the trifecta of Autumn Willow, Serra Angel and Orgg. One iconic creature in each color. What’s not to love? I just changed a few bad cards, because Tam was obliged to play cards from each set, but I kept the list almost intact. Besides, since I was still a student back then, I didn’t have the funds to buy dual lands, let alone a piece of the Power Nine. Nevertheless, I had a blast and actually won the tournament without dropping a game! Stormbind was very powerful and this deck had a wide range of answers. With the store credit I won, I bought a City of Brass from Arabian Nights to replace one of my copies from Chronicles. And so the journey began…

Eric Tam’s beautiful brew from Pro Tour 1996

Years later, I caught wind of the Swedish Old School scene and of the n00bcon tournament. When I read somewhere that a few extra slots would come available for the upcoming n00bcon 9 tournament, I responded and was able to obtain a place. I was really excited, but there was one problem: I didn’t have a deck yet! With only a few months left, I had to figure out what I liked and acquire all the cards. Thankfully, I now had a job, which meant I could spend some money, although I had to trade a lot of cards and had to look at semi-budget decks that did not use too many Power Nine pieces or Blue dual lands. I started with buying an Ali from Cairo, one of my favorite cards. Protected by a Spectral Cloak, he could be part of a control deck.

Cloaked Ali

However, I soon came to the conclusion that the combo would be too weak, since it got destroyed by Wrath of God, Nevinyrral’s Disk, Earthquake and was still vulnerable to Disenchant and Chaos Orb. It also seemed a bit too slow and not powerful enough if I could not combine it with a full playset of Volcanic Islands and some Power Nine pieces.

Looking for another deck, I stumbled upon Troll Disco, which also had sort of an ‘Inquest Killer Combo’ with Disk and regeneration. It looked sweet and in 2017, the Black and Red version of the deck was relatively cheap to build. I started to acquire all the cards I needed and made this first configuration of the main deck:

My first build

This build proved to have some mana difficulties. While I was trying to build the Ali from Cairo control deck, I already noticed that it is difficult to consistently play spells with two colored mana symbols, for instance an Ali (2RR) and a Spectral Cloack (UU), even if you own the matching dual lands. In general, many of the mana bases of Old School decks seemed suboptimal. 4 Mishra’s Factory, 1 Strip Mine and 1 Library of Alexandria are staples, but only make colorless mana. If you play those six cards, you probably need to play 4 City of Brass in two color decks in order to timely cast your spells. In the above build, the mana was not consistent enough. For instance, if you want to play your Sinkhole consistently on turn 2, Frank Karsten advises you to play 20 Black mana sources. This seems like a stretch for the Old School format. Only a mono Black deck would be able to reach these requirements for Sinkhole. Now that I think of it, this might be one of the reasons that mono Black has had a lot of good finishes over the years. This deck might not play all of the most powerful cards like The Deck does, but is a lot more consistent than other decks.

My Troll Disco build didn’t even get close to 20 Black mana sources. Adding more Swamps would make Sedge Troll happy, but I did not want to do this, because I didn’t play that many Black cards in my main deck. In the end, I decided to focus more on Red, and swapped most of the Sinkholes for Stone Rains, and a Swamp for a Mountain. Since I thought mana issues would play an important role in the format, I decided to fill my sideboard with stuff like Blood Moon, Gloom and Sinkhole. The remaining Sinkholes were still hard to cast consistently, but I figured I needed to have some extra disruption to have a chance against more power(9)ful decks like The Deck. This was my final build for n00bcon 9:

Final main deck 
Final sideboard 

Now that I was happy with my deck, I and Wander, a good friend of mine, were ready to make our trip from Amsterdam to Gothenburg. We decided to leave on the same day as the tournament, because it only started in the afternoon. When we are together, we are laid-back, rather careless lads, who like to wander around as if we have all the time in the world. Being at a crowded airport made no difference. When we joined the uncommonly long line before the security check, we still had an hour before the gate closed. Nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, things went very slow. We just patiently waited and since I travelled with Ryan Air many times, I thought that those gate closing times are always misleading. When we finally got to the security scanners, a stressed-out woman behind me asked: “Can I go before you, because my plane leaves in twenty minutes!” I calmly replied that mine leaves in fifteen minutes. She let me go first and at that point, I did start to worry a bit. We made a little sprint and when we finally got to the gate, we were told we just missed the flight. Apparently, there is a significant difference between KLM and Ryan Air, go figure. We ran to the service desk and got extremely lucky, because we were offered a free rebooking because of the Easter madness. Our new flight left in 1,5 hours, which would mean we would arrive in time in Gothenburg for the tournament. Now that we had plenty of time, we played some games and bought some Dutch Jenever to bring along. Once we arrived in Sweden, we immediately travelled to the infamous Rotary Pub. More than 100 players were gathered to play in one of the largest old school tournaments ever. I wrote my name on the Giant Shark and looked my name up in the pairings.

In Round 1, I faced Andreas, who played a WBR control deck with many artifacts. In game 1, he had no White mana and my Trolls crushed him. In game 2, he started with three Mana Vaults and a COP: Red, which shut me down completely. My Nevinyrral’s Disk got successfully Chaos Orbed before it untapped, but I had a Demonic Tutor to search for another one, which cleared the board. I aimed my Stone Rains at his White mana sources, and without them, he could not play meaningful spells and lost. (2-0)

To be honest, I was already quite fatigued after this round. I only slept a few hours and it was already late in the afternoon. Thankfully, I had my own ‘personal coach’. Wander, who wasn’t playing himself and came along for the ride, ordered beer and pizza for me, while I started Round 2. 

In that round, Michael, who was a friend of Andreas, played a Monolith combo deck. The first game was close. I had to activate Chaos Orb for the first time in my life. I tried the flip at home, with success, but now I felt the pressure. When I tried to Chaos Orb his Underground Sea at the start of the game, I screwed it up. My mana disruption plan failed, but I was able to play a Nevinyrral’s Disk when he had a Basalt Monolith and a Candelabra of Tawnos. I added a Sedge Troll to my board and decided to not activate the Disk. Waiting until he went for the combo seemed like the best plan, and until then, I could just attack and Lightning Bolt him. When he had only 5 life left, he had to act. He played a Power Artifact and in response I blew up the Disk. I was able to regenerate my Troll, but I lost all my artifact mana, so I was left with only two lands. My opponent played a Demonic Tutor and passed the turn with 4 cards in his hand. On my turn, I attacked with the Troll and he went to 2 life. In my second main phase, I asked myself what he could have searched with the Demonic Tutor. This was relevant, because I had a Fireball in my hand. If I pass the turn here and he searched for an answer for the Troll, I could Fireball him for lethal next turn if I draw a land. But if he searched for a removal spell, for instance a Lightning Bolt, he would have cast it immediately, because he still had some mana left and I could not regenerate my Troll a second time. I figured out that he probably was going to try to combo out on the next turn. At this point, I looked at his mana: he had multiple sources of Blue and Black mana and two City of Brass for the other colors. I decided to Fireball him for X = 1, putting him on 1 life, hoping that he did not have an answer for the Troll and that he needed mana from his City of Brass for the combo. This proved to be the right decision, because he had Basalt Monolith + Power Artifact + Fireball in his hand. He ended up making infinite colorless mana, but could not make one red mana to cast his Fireball. We both laughed, because my Fireball for a mere 1 damage prevented his infinite ball of fire!

In the second game, Michael cast a Braingeyser for three cards on the fourth turn with his 4 lands and a Mox. This gave me a window to land the Blood Moon I had in my opening hand and did not play on turn 3, because I did not want it to get countered. After that, he was completely shut from the game. He only had four non-basic Mountains and one of his five Moxes, which happened to be a Mox Ruby – or should I say: ‘Mox Rub It In’? (2-0)

Winning the first two rounds of my first official Old School tournament felt good. I was also glad to notice that mana issues indeed played an important role in the outcome of matches, which meant that mana disruption strategies can be potent.

In Round 3, I faced the nemesis of the format: The Deck. In the first game, I got owned by a flurry of Disenchants, Counterspells and card advantage. The Trolls were outclassed. Thankfully, the second game was a lot closer. On the third turn, I decided to cast a Mind Twist for two, which got countered (of course). On his turn, he Mind Twisted me for 3. A savage move. I had nothing left at that point. I drew a fourth land, and the turn after that, I drew a Sedge Troll. A Demonic Tutor off the top got me another Sedge Troll, and those two Trolls brought him down to a low life total, because he had some poor draws. Unfortunately, both Trolls got exiled before they could finish him. This left us both out of gas. Luckily for me, Sedge Troll’s little brother, Uthden Troll, showed up to close the game. 

In the third and final game, I only had one Red source. This was annoying, because I had two Red Elemental Blast in my hand, but could not play and protect my cards at the same time. Should I pass the turn and hope to counter something or play my cards unprotected? I decided to do the latter, since the late game did not seem favorable for me at all in this match up. I used my Red mana to play a Troll and passed the turn. My opponent was happy to see me tapped out and of course was going to punish my play! He spent his turn casting Ancestral Recall, a Regrowth, and another Ancestral Recall. Oi! Oi! Oi! My pet Troll went back to hide in his cave, terrified by this display of power. I could not recover from this and bought another beer. (1-2)

In Round 4, I faced The Deck again. My opponent Jokke won the first game with a painful déjà vu for me: Ancestral Recall, Regrowth, Ancestral Recall… Really? C’mon, that ain’t fair! I won the second game and in the deciding game, my opening hand was: Sedge Troll, Gloom, Nevinyrral’s Disk, Shatter, a Mox and two lands. He starts with land, Sol Ring and Chaos Orb, which I immediately Shatter on my turn. On his second turn, he plays a COP: Red, which is very good against my deck (I only have 4 Disks and a Chaos Orb to get rid of it). I try to bait Counterspells and Disenchants before I play the Disk. I play the Sedge Troll first, which gets countered. Then I play Gloom, which gets disenchanted. He then tapped out to play Serra Angel. I was really happy with these turns of events. Everything was going exactly as planned! He even added an Angel to his board for me to blow up. I play my Disk and pass the turn. He draws, plays a land and casts a… Disenchant. At this point, we are both empty-handed. He attacks with the Angel, and passes the turn. I draw a land and pass the turn. He draws a card and attacks me again. I draw my card for the turn: another Disk! I immediately cast it and he flashes me the Counterspell he just drew. Oi! Oi! Oi! (1-2)

Montag, my Round 5 opponent, used semi-transparent sleeves, so when he drew his opening hand, I happened to notice the remarkably round edges of his cards. ‘Is that an all Alpha deck?’, I asked. My opponent declined to give a direct answer, not wanting to give anything away yet. I soon found out that he indeed played a full Alpha deck, using the colors White, Black and Red. It was not only beautiful, but also very good against me. His Terrors and Swords to Plowshares easily took care of my Trolls and he even had a Healing Salve to prevent his Hypnotic Specter from my Lightning Bolt. I lost both games, but the second game was really close and interesting. In that game, I faced a ‘Magic: The Puzzling’ situation that I want to share with you. This was the board state when he passed the turn, having just cast a Hypnotic Specter. 

Opponent (12 life, 0 cards in hand): 2 Mountains, 2 Swamps (tapped), 4 Plains (1 tapped), Sengir Vampire (tapped), Hypnotic Specter.

Me (9 life, 3 cards in hand: Terror, 2 Chain Lightning): 2 City of Brass, Badlands, Swamp, Uthden Troll.

I start my turn and draw a Lightning Bolt. What is the play here?

If I attack him with the Troll and he does not block, I can drop him down to 10 life. Unfortunately, I can only do 9 damage with my three ‘bolts’, so burning him out does not seem like an option. If I want to win this race, I have to deal with his creatures. The best play seemed to me to ‘bolt’ the Specter and ‘double bolt’ the Sengir. The City’s will deal me two damage in the process and the copied Chain Lightning another 3, which will take me down to 4. This did not feel very great, but at least I would have a Troll left against an empty-handed opponent with only lands in play. 

First I attack him with the Troll, which brings him down to ten life. I then tap my Badlands to play Chain Lightning on the Specter. He decides to copy it and deal 3 damage to the Troll instead of me. This I did not expect, because I can just regenerate it with my City of Brass, which will cost me 1 life instead of 3. Apparently, he rightly figured out that I had more plays to make that turn and was limited in my mana options. He probably also saw that if I regenerate the Troll, I drop to 8 life, which leaves me dead to two Sengir Vampire attacks, so putting me to 5 or to 8, does not really make a difference for him. I want to regenerate the Troll, but this would mean that I can’t kill the Sengir this turn and that it will attack me down to 4. I also want to cast my second Chain Lightning now, because he can’t copy this one as well. So I decide to let the Troll die and destroy his Sengir with my Chain Lightning and Bolt. This leaves me at 7 and him at 10. In the end, I was not really happy with these plays and I lost the game when he drew a threat. (0-2)

I don’t remember much from Round 6. My opponent played a BUR control deck which was weak to my mana disruption spells. (2-0) In Round 7, my opponent did not show up, which meant that my tournament was over with a 4-3 finish. 

However, this was not the end of it. When the darkness came, Wander and I decided to stay around. We like afterparties and are used to dwelling till the early morning. We played some matches with my deck and his fully proxied deck. He used terrible proxies: small pieces of paper inserted in a sleeved Modern deck. He even had a modern layout Plains in it with a piece of paper that said ‘Plains’. These proxies felt a bit out of place in a room filled with black-bordered Lotusses and dual lands, but we had fun nonetheless. We watched the semi-finals, which showcased a nice zoo deck. It was getting rather late, and we agreed that we would base our decision to leave or stay on the matchup in the final. I warned him for The Deck mirrors, which could take all night! I glanced at the deck of one of the players and I saw a Juzam Djinn grinning at me. “We’ll stay,” I said without hesitation, and we ordered some Dutch beers. The final was really tense. A mono Black deck with a Blue splash (Time Twister and Underworld Dreams!) faced The Deck. The mono Black player won and there were beautiful moments featuring a Nightmare and a lethal Drain Life. Wander and I watched the match closely, thought about which lines we would take, and if we would make the same decisions as the players. After the finals, we walked to our hostel in the city center and laid down our heads when the sun started to rise. 

The next day, we explored Gothenburg and arrived back at the hostel around eleven. We drank our Jenever and pondered about life. We talked about how to escape mediocrity and how important it is to do supposedly ‘random things’, like buying an Old School deck just for one trip to Sweden. Our rather philosophical discussion was interrupted by a girl from Austria, who heard us talking in the general living room. “Are you Dutch? I recognize your accents! There are many Dutch guys here.” Apparently, the hallway was filled with fellow Dutchies. Perhaps not a great surprise, since this was the cheapest hostel in town… “We are going out to party. Do you want to join us?” We paused and thought about it. “You don’t have your party clothes on,” she said, pointing towards our woolen vests. She was right. We changed our clothes and joined the group.

No one believed that we went sightseeing in Gothenburg, which was rather dull in their eyes. They were not very fond of Sweden and came here for study and work purposes. Wander then explained that I had to play in a WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP yesterday, of a card game called Magic the Gathering. They seemed impressed, but also confused. We handed them our bottle of Jenever. The youngsters didn’t like it. “You will like it in five years or so,” I told them, which made me feel really old school… Nevertheless, we went out dancing till 4 AM – another late night. A tall Dutch guy left quite an impression by dancing like a T. rex, holding his hands close to his chest. We partied at a night club called Valand, in a room that was filled with Andy Warhol quotes, such as: “You have to be willing to get happy about nothing.”

On Sunday, we went to a nearby island with the ferry. We walked around in the nature reserve and almost joined an Elvis and Beatles Pub Quiz, but it was sold out. In the ferry, Wander utterly destroyed me with the game Citadels, anticipating all my moves. 

The island Brännö

And that was the end of an amazing weekend. I enjoyed the format, but when I got home, there were not many opportunities to play with my deck, so I sold and traded most of the old school cards, which spiked afterwards. For instance, I sold my The Abyss at a Grand Prix and two weeks later, it doubled in price. The nightmares returned again… I now had a history of bad deals! Thankfully, I kept a few sweet cards that I put in my cube, such as the City of Brass I once won and the Ali from Cairo. Now, a few years later, the corona crisis hit us all. This crisis, combined with the rapid production of new Magic sets and the general power creep, caused me to reconsider the role Magic plays in my life. I figured out that I wanted to invest in cards I really like and focus more on playing with friends on a regular basis than trying to qualify for a major event. One step in that direction was to upgrade my cube, which showcases cards from all the sets from Alpha till Scourge. The Arabian Nights section still had some space left and the Phyrexian Scuta in the Planeshift section was too painful to look at. There was only one thing left to do. It was time to invite an old friend over.

This gem is now part of my collection. I acquired it from someone in the Old School community in the Netherlands, which has grown in the last couple of years. This growth and this purchase inspired me to get back into the Old School format and now I’m trying to assemble a mono Black deck featuring one or more evil 5/5’s, because this time I’m not trolling around. 

(P.S. Until recently, I did not know there were special playmats made for n00bcon 9. If someone has one for sale or trade, please reply here. (Kalle does not have any left.) It would be a nice token of remembrance for me.)


  1. Look, the hypocrite is back. Yes, this one. The guy who doesnt want to play against anyone having the latest banned cards but NEVER SAID OR DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT WHEN NO ONE CARED.
    Turn off comments here too. You prefer that to answer why you are such a hypocrite.

    1. If you have greivances you want to vent, please send me a mail at delaval@gmail.com. I'd be happy to hear you out, but this is a blog, not a discussion forum.

      Further anonymous off-topic comments will be deleted, but again, feel free to reach out using other channels.

  2. haha good times, i still hate to play against blood moon but Always good to be trolled ^^ //Michael Jhovalking


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