2020 Retrospective

"2020 is every Nic Cage movie, without Nic Cage."

 - @DadThatWrites, July 19, 2020

Without going too deep into the whine mire, I think we can in good conscious acknowledge that, generally speaking, 2020 wasn't that great. Yeah, I know a lot of positive things happened. The vaccine development was astonishing. Polio got extinct from Nigeria, and with that from the whole African continent. Chile was declared free from landmines. The number of people dying in terror attacks declined for the fifth year in a row, and is now 59% lower than in 2014. Sudan stated they will end child marriage. Many countries started phasing out excessive use of plastic. There was a Brexit deal. And there's some sort of baby boom for lions and elephants in Kenya. And that's of course just scratching the surface. But in spite of all the good, 2020 was pretty rough.

Human interactions were fewer and further between. Meeting people moved from being a necessity to a luxury. And for many of us, we lost jobs, friends or family in the process.  On a lighter note, all that somehow made our small community feel even more important than usual. That we try and stick to our values in sickness and in health and all that. Yeah, there were some interactions I'd rather been without last year, but I can count them on one hand. For the last ten months, the 93/94 community has really helped keeping my head above water. And for that I'm happy and grateful.

It was the surprise cake in the dark night.

The first two months of 2020 was a different world. Arvika, Vienna, New York. The ridiculous awesomeness that was Urza's Chalice. Drinking a way to spicy vodka shot in the company of friends and strangers. Before everything shut down and we had to adjust to a new way of approaching the hobby. But adjust we did.


I'm honestly not sure how, when or where the larger one-day online tournaments started. Was it n00bcoM? Can't remember, and feel free to tell me if I'm wrong. Regardless, at the time of n00bcoM - the Good Friday online tournament spearheaded by Florian von Bedrow - I believe it was the biggest "real-time" online gathering we've ever had up to that point. But it was a title it wouldn't take long to steal. The Havenwood Battleground - hosted by New England hero and shellfish aficionado Dave Firth Bard - would break the record just a month later when almost a hundred players gathered in the digital woods. And if we're going multi-day, the recent Winter Derby obliterated all previous OS attendance records with a vengeance.

Our forced digital age gave rise to wild international tournaments in wilder formats. Sure, we didn't see a team world cup in London, but we saw MobstercoM. We didn't have a Wizards' Tournament, but we did have Nightmare '99 for those looking to break things. And niche formats and house rules grew in ways I couldn't have fathomed just a couple of years ago. Northern Paladin's Alpha League, Ante 41.5, Unified Constructed, Revised40, The Maze of Ith, Alphabet40. That format where you're only allowed to play green cards, and you have to play unsleeved outdoors? Heh. And ALICE is real thing these days, there's a meta and everything.

Ok, so this one might actually have been a 2019 format, but it still deserves a mention. The rare gathering of small groups of people outdoors was very 2020 after all.

With the bars closed, most local scenes also had to move to the home office. Guys like Henk (HW MTG) and Jared of the NEOS kept running monthlies on different sides of the ocean to give us recurring gatherings of familiar faces regardless of time zone. Teams like the Akron Legionaries kept doing their game nights, simply moving them online. And as the year evolved, so did the technology. It has never been smoother to join (or run) an online oldschool meetup than it is right now.

Joining in on the 2020 Charity Battle.

The amount of money the community gathered for charity in 2020 was simply stunning. LobstercoM by itself totaled a staggering $10,520.41, the largest sum of any tournament to date. The largest charity auction by old schoolers last year, The PAC Charity Auction, collected an additional $10,000 or so. The Desert Twisters charity auction before that collected almost $5,000. MobstercoM gathered $4,000 ($2,000 of which came from Jamie Parke alone!). I could go on for a long time. It seems like whenever I looked at an online tournament this year I saw another large chunk added to the tally. Some gatherings, like a A Tournament for Balance, put the causes front and center in a way it almost felt like charity and anti-douchebaggery was the main course, and the sweet Magic was a nice byproduct.

Desert Twisters doing what they do.

I don't know what the total donations from the OS community ended up on, but Bryan Manolakos estimation of around $80,000 is probably in the right ballpark. That's awesome in every sense of the word. Charity tournaments simply wasn't a thing just five years ago, and today we're here. In a personal sense, there's this feeling of warming the bench. This was the first year since 2007 I didn't organize any tournaments in oldschool magic. I guess I was some sort of executive producer at n00bcoM, but basically my rep sheet for 2020 is a blank. I'm not really an online player, and for those of us in that boat, we've mostly spent the year looking at the accomplishments of our digital friends in awe. But even though I haven't been playing much, the work of the community has been an inspiration. We technofobes in the community are legion, we see what you do, and we can't wait to break glasses with you in 2021. The first beer is on us. Ok, time for some shoutouts. 


Blags of 2020

This has become a tradition of sorts around here. Let's start with checking in on the blogoblags from previous years.

2016 blags: Eternal Central OS, MTG Underground, The Wizard's Tower, Argivian Restoration, Vintage Magic OS, Timewalking, NomadGamer, Understanding Ancestral Recall.

2017 blags: 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.
2018 blags: 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, Alpha/Beta Oldschool.

2019 blags: MoxRuby, New Jersey Old School, Unlimited Adventures, Raging Bull, Earthquake League, ShuffleCutAnte, Tales from la Tundra, Timmy Talks, Brightsdaysmtg, Gaea's Avengers Oldschool Assembly, Desert Twisters, For Gold & Glory, I Predoni del Poggio, Order of the Closed Fist, Dwarven Warriors.

Some solid hitters over the past years, and quite a few that still regularly produce content. In particular I must tip my hat to Mano and the All Tings Considered podcast; dude has been doing weekly updates for three years now and shows no signs of slowing down. Timmy Talks has also been on fire for the last year. Well played guys!

So what did 2020 bring to the web ring?

From the top left: MTG Phil, Gandalf the Dark, The Chaos Orb, The Mons Brotherhood, Enntrox Gaming, Northern Paladins, Baltimore Old School MTG, Emerald City Trolls, Pacific Old School, Philadelphia Old School, Monster of the Week, A bitter perspective on Old School Mtg, A Spectacle At Pendrell Vale, Erie Bears Oldschool, Sisters of the Flame, The Alpha Project, Building A Graded Alpha Set, Quest for the Shark.

Yeah yeah, I know PAC technically started in the latter half of 2019, not in 2020. Same with Joel Mick's search for a graded Alpha set. But I missed them last year, and didn't want to continue the trend of accidental non-acknowledgment I set with The Horde, Underworld Dreamers and Alpha Castle a couple of years ago. The Horde is sweet btw, check it out if you've missed it.

It should be noted, perhaps with even stronger emphasis than usual, that these eighteen are the ones I personally encountered in 2020. It is very likely I've missed some. In particular podcasts and YouTube channels are far from my usual habitat. And more general content providers like MagicUntapped, CardMarket and Reality Skewed Gamers put a lot of oldschool in their proverbial binders last year. I guess the the gist of it is that there was a lot of new content and content creators in 2020. Welcome to the webosphere!

Blag of the year goes to Emerald City Trolls. Jesus that is an awesome collection of rad HTML, gnarly tech and funky rules. Boundless creativity in a timeless package.

Deck pick of the year

I mean, clearly this one:

Mike Frantz didn't only create the sweetest deck pick in Oldschool Mtg anno 2020, this might just be the most metal deck picture in the history of game. I'll raise my glass for Mike and pour it on the ground for Dissection.

While this one is approaching a league of its own, have you seen Mike's other deck picks? Dude is a scholar.

Telekinetic Merfolk

Evil Eye Disco

Circle of Artillery

We should also note that apart from being our new Annie Leibovitz, Mike is a stellar guy and a decorated Old Order Old School General. Go get inspired by his interview at All Tings Considered.

Deck of the year

Let's start with a shout-out to Brother Ben's Unified Constructed deck. Ben's Black/White pile that helped him take down MobsercoM is a work of art if I ever saw it. And check out Ben's interview at All Tings Considered if you haven't already. His smooth voice is second only to David Chambers.

But while Ben's list is a masterwork, the most prolific deck of the year still has to be the green stompy. Friend of monogreen jank and man of three initials DFB took this iconic pile of rubbish to a 6-1 finish in an EC rules tournament hosted by The Tundra Wolves:

And if you prefer one-Strip formats, check out Nicolas Imwinkelried who won the 36-player Charity Battle 2020 at the end of December with this pile:

Another lovely pile in that same ballpark won the Raging Bull series earlier in the year. Now this deck, piloted by Lukas Baum, may have some red cards and splashy lands in it, but it also has three Emerald Dragonflies. God damn that's rad.

Which nicely transition us to...

Card of the year

No, that's just stupid. It's this one:

How is this card playable? It boggles the mind. Is it because Magic is awesome? I can't wait for the 12-of Scryb Sprites / Emerald Dragonfly / Fire Sprites deck to start tearing up metas in 2021. Atog decks will have to start splashing green for Hurricane. Green doesn't suck now, dammit.

Card of next year

So we need to go on top of those Dragonflies. And after hearing great rants from The Reindeer, I must say that I'm getting a strong affinity for this guy:

The art is wild, the stats are nice, and it has lategame utility. You can even taunt your opponent to try and read the flavor text for that delicious slice of power gaming. Granite Gargoyle is simply a solid card that looks prime for some time on the battlefield. You probably won't build decks around it, but I wouldn't sleeve up a red deck in 2021 without one or two of these for flavor. Just need the appropriate tools to carve them.

Format of the year

There was a lot of spice last year. Ante formats grew remarkably, of which I much approve. The MobstercoM unified constructed looked like a blast, and I hope to get to try it out myself soon. On the more subtle updates, "Gentlemen’s Monocler's Rules" spearheaded by Legion Urborg (banning LoA, Mind Twist and Ancestral Recall) was very cool, as removing Ancestral opened the doors to a surprisingly different meta. And the Northern Paladin's local B&R looks really sweet as well:

But all tings considered, and with a heavy dose of personal bias, I still have to give the nod to the Paladin's Alpha League rules. We kinda broke Alpha at Wizard's Tournament 2, and I was uncertain if there was any going back after that. Turns out the League rules was the referee Alpha Magic needed, and I'm excited to brew some decks in that space.

Format of 2021

Any damn format where I get to meet people in a bar and play Magic. Here's hoping for some good ol' vanilla 93/94. I'd also like to play Maze of Ith rules at some point.

Player of the year

This was, as always, a very tight race. I should note that when I look at "player of the year", I try to think of a player that wasn't that much of a household name before that year. It is also about more than just playing well. And there are a lot of players that could fit the bill for player of the year in 2020; around ten just at the top of my head. But in the end, my vote goes to the guy who with relentless efforts made many of our tournaments even possible. And while I've known Slanfan for quite a few years now, I believe he might have been a bit unfamiliar to the community outside of Scandinavia before his epic contributions in 2020.

Not only did Slanfan play a lot and well, his coding efforts basically made the larger one-day online tournaments work. His trinket-making skills are the stuff of legends. And his pièce de résistance, Tolaria, looks like Magical Christmas Land for all things oldschool.

Digital community thingie of the year

That would be the aforementioned Tolaria.

Physical community thingie of the year

This one had some stiff competition. Did you see the guy who created a board game out of Shandalar?


But no efforts of crafts and ingenuity could be enough to dethrone Micah of the Raging River from this seat. Dude realized Spectral Chaos. Like, there are Spectral Chaos cards now. I can't begin to imagine the effort and love he put into this project, and the result is a joy to behold.

Best response to a controversy of the year

Ryan Roudolph, aka Mtgcuriousities, shows the trolls how to approach a sticky situation. These are open source btw, so feel free to print out and use as you see fit.


Ok, time to get personal! It's my blag fuckers, so now I'm gonna tell you of my own nerd notches.

Drink of the year

Drinking this will either kill you or show you your death. Hats (or possibly heads) off to Ruaro for the mad alchemy skills in creating this behemoth.

Delight of the year

I mean, Dwarven Warriors as a whole was my nerd delight of the year. Getting the chance to travel and meet friends after five months of Desert made for joyous dissonance that would be hard to top outside a pandemic. But if I would have to pick just one delightful detail among the dozens, and I already showed a picture of the birthday cake, I'd have to give a shout-out to the Dwarven Warrior pastries. Top notch detail.

Gear of the year

Check out this wizard t-shirt brah!

Trinket of the year

Yeah, it is a repaint (same material and stuff as the first one, but about twice the size). It's also an original Shuler piece in my living room, which is supremely rad. I like cards that you flip on other cards, and Falling Star passes for proper art a bit better than Chaos Orb.

Collection completion of the year

Gathering Unlimited. Best coffee table book I ever had.

Chaos Orb binder addition of the year

This one occupies one of the spots in the binder I thought would be impossible to ever fill. The card is from a set that never got printed after all, and the only known playtest versions exist in a single complete set that wont be split. But leave it to Micah to actually realize Spectral Chaos. A few other notable additions this year could be things like the Alpha Garfield alter and the crimp, but Annihilator Orb floors them by pure community affection value.

Proxy of the year

I know the Swords to Plowshares from GloryCon or the New Dawn proxies from Mtgcuriousities should win if I was even a little objective. But I'm not, and this glorious Chaos Orb from Desert Twisters wins. It is insane.

Card I never got to cast, but really hope to get to sleeve up in 2021

Cin cin ragazzi!

My picks for the Swedish Team in OSMTG Deadlift

  • Kaj Laesö Buch: Not sure if he plays OS right now, but I'd borrow him a deck for the occasion. Dude is strong as a couple of horses.
  • Fluffy: Below his calm demeanor and casual villainy, Fluffy is like super ripped. When he flips the table, that table is gone.
  • Anton Glans: Don't let his friendly smile fool you. Feared beer-&-burpies master and Premodern elves craftsman Anton Glans is Overrun.
  • Hardy: I was once at Starkbierfest in Munich with Hardy when he decided to lift a rock. Surprised delight from onlookers and glory ensued.

Some nice posts from 2020

Good netiquette holds that I should mention a few posts from last year. I first want to give a shout-out to Emil Thirup-Sorknæs, Alex, and FloVo, who contributed with posts on Singleton Combo, Dreamy Diamond Walls, a tournament report from a simpler era, and an organizer's report from n00bcoM. Thanks a lot guys! You can follow Emil's further adventures at his new blag A Spectacle at Pendrell Vale. If I had to choose among my own, I think these were pretty nice:

  • 4th Edition is a strange set
    • We are in strange times, and take a deep dive into the odd card choices of 4th Edition
  • Deconstructing print runs
    • This might not be the most user friendly of posts, but it was a fun ride to challenge the preconceived notions on old school print runs. This was a time consuming post to research, but on the other hand I got to use some math.
  • The first Magic sleeves
    • Tested out writing a post almost completely via pictures and image texts, and got to crack some sweet sleeves in the process.
  • Witch Hunter
    • A short and simple "one-card post" about Witch Hunter, but for some reason I liked it quite a bit. Don't have to go deep every time.

The most "wtf?" post from 2021 would probably be when we rated every movie in the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street movie franchises using oldschool Magic cards. The Venn diagram of people interested in those topics is probably approaching a dot. I did have some fun though.


What 2021 will bring to the table is still a mystery wrapped in an enigma, but mostly in a good way. While I'm expecting that n00bcon will have to step aside in favor of n00bcoM again, it is very possible that we'll actually get to gather the world for Winc0n. There might be an Arvika Festival in the autumn. Maybe even some conventions in the summer, or smaller local tournaments before that. We are moving in the right direction, and we'll hopefully exit this era a little older an wiser than we entered. Keep safe, and I'm looking forward to meeting you guys on the other side.


  1. Svar
    1. Haha, fantastic work my friend :D

  2. so many great links and content, so....little...time...

    1. There's really a lot of sweet stuff out there these days! I've gotten a particular affinity for the musings at A Spectacle at Pendrell Vale :)

    2. have done some reading, them danes know their shit!

  3. Thanks for the shoutout! It was great meeting you (and celebrating your B-day) at Dwarven Warriors last year, let's make sure this year will even be better!

    I will keep the monthlies going, at least during the COVID situation but probably after as well.

    Great post, always like the year overview posts!



    1. Thanks a lot Henk, and thank you for all the great work in 2020! Very much hoping for a reunion on Dwarven Warriors 4, if not before that :) Cheers!

  4. Thanks a lot for all you kind words on my musings on the Spectacle. It is all too much, and I wouldn't have written a single word on Old School, if it wasn't for you!

  5. Love it mg!
    Thanks for the trust and confidence in the Swedish Oldschool Strongman team. Pulled 236 kg two months ago, but I think 240 is doable in an OSMTG Deadlift! ;) (Although I'm really hoping for some sort of weight class here). Cheers!

  6. Thanks for the amazing shout out to the Paladins. We've been having so much fun this year even if we can't celebrate in person together. Old School is alive, well, and thriving. Cheers.

  7. Wow lots of cool stuff in one year! Thanks for recognizing my board game as a honorable mention for "Physical community thingie of the year". You have a typo the name, it should be "Shandalar"

    1. Well thank *you* for the awesome creativity!

      And for the spell check ;)


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