n00bcon 13 - A Tournament Report by Alex

We may not always be wizards of tradition here - what with a tapped Black Vise dealing damage, that Maze of Ith stopping Serra Angel, and a Triskelion gladly throwing any counters it got from Dwarven Weaponsmith - but a few things still appear as immutable law. One such tradition is apparently the belated publishing of n00bcon reports from Alex. While arguably not as delayed as his last one (which covered n00bcon 2017 and was published in 2020), we're still quite a few months after the fact. And this time Alex is nowhere to blame, as this glorious long-form report has been in my hands for almost a month. But now it is high time to go back to the near past for some tales from n00bcon 13. It is my great pleasure to give back the soap box to Alex. Lean back and enjoy. /Mg out 

In the spring of 2020, me and my good friend Wander decided to set a goal for ourselves: we were both going to assemble a Swedish Legal deck to play with next year at n00bcon. We only had a few older cards at that time. Although I once played my first old school 1993-1994 event at n00bcon 9 (2017), I sold almost all of my cards after that. Back then, Wander came along for the ride, but was only allowed as a special spectator, since there was no chair left for him. Now we decided it was time for the both of us to return to the Rotary Pub and battle side by side. After first having a go at the budget friendly Mono Black, we both realized the predominant power of blue in the format. I was soon temped by the versatile and powerful UR Counterburn deck and Wander went for an UG Aggro deck with Berserks, secretly hoping to one day slowly kill someone with a spicy Wanderlust.

While we were doing our best to assemble a Swedish Legal deck from scratch within roughly a year time, we already knew the pandemic put a stop to almost all the physical get-togethers and all plans were unsure. It was still a real bummer when we learned that n00bcon wouldn’t be a live event in 2021. At the same time, the postponing of the traditional Easter event gave us additional time to collect more (power) cards for our decks. During the course of 2020 and 2021, I managed to assemble the Counterburn deck with all the staples expect for Black Lotus and the black splash. Missing Badlands and Mox Jet felt acceptable, but the omission of a Lotus, the most infamous Magic card, a card that you can always find a good use for in every deck, started to gnaw at me. The "play with what you have" part of old school is something I really appreciate, but in the end, when I settle for an archetype, I prefer to play with an optimal build. From a gaming perspective, I like both players to have equal chances, also with regard to the cards to can chose from. So when Ron Dijkstra, the organizer of the Uthden Troll Cup, put a Black Lotus up for sale, I knew I had to act. When I talked to him about this same Lotus one and a half year earlier, I passed on the opportunity. Now it nearly tripled in price (!), but I still wanted to see if it was possible. So I traveled to the North of the Netherlands and Ron was kind enough to take as many cards in trade as possible. This meant I had to part with a big chunk of my UR deck, but I figured I could get those cards back at a later moment in time, whereas a card like Black Lotus was way harder and less comfortable to acquire in the future. I now finally owned the holy grail!

After this move, I was unsure about what I could and wanted to build. I was trying to see which decks were feasible with my remaining cards and budget. The most obvious way was to try and play without blue, so I tried out WR Tax Edge and WRb Midrange. The latter I played late 2021 during Ron's Uthden Troll Cup, the first live event after two years of social isolation, and one of the most memorable tournaments I played in. I had a blast, but it stung me that I lost a couple of games due to the card advantage my opponents got from their blue cards. It didn’t feel like a fair battle sometimes; having the power cards seem to have more impact than skill. I came to the rather sad conclusion that you are more or less ‘required’ to at least splash blue of you want to make top 8 at a big event. There are decks that can put up a good fight, like WGb Erhnamgeddon, Mono Red Artifact, Mono Green Aggro and Deathguy Ale, but you are putting yourself up for a quite a challenge if you dream of winning an event. So my inner spike eventually concluded that I simply had to join the club and play with blue myself. After many, many lists and financial calculations, I came up with a Tax Edge list that played white, red and blue, but didn’t use any dual lands, but 4 City of Brass instead. This was perfect, because this way I could spend money on power cards instead of lands, while still believing this was an optimal build and not necessarily a budget version. So now I finally settled for an archetype. But, since I also wanted to play with iconic cards like Braingeyser, Mana Drain, Fireball, I kept my UR deck mostly intact and during the next months I managed to get almost all the cards back which I had to trade away for the Lotus! Not sure anymore how that all went down, but I guess the pandemic period was a blooming time for gathering cards. A lot of people were building decks, selling, buying and trading. It felt like a crazy chase that took a lot of time and energy, but when the dust settled in 2022, I somehow ended up with enough cards to build not one, but two Swedish legal decks! So after two years of chasing cards, I was more or less done and Wander also managed to assemble his UG deck, only missing a few power pieces. Conveniently, during the Spring of 2022 covid was more or less under control, which meant there was an Easter party in Gothenburg waiting for us. It was finally time for us to return to Sweden!

Although Wander and I both play Flying Men, we actually are two men that don’t fly. We try to avoid it if there is a reasonable alternative. So after some puzzling, we found a train ride from The Netherlands to Gothenburg that was doable: 15 hours outward, 17 hours return. This meant we had a lot of time to test! On Wednesday early morning we met each other at the train station and started our journey. Before we arrived in Denmark, we first had to go through Germany, which still required to wear a mouth mask in the train. I didn’t even bring it, happy to be able to breathe freely again. I had to buy one in the train and was so glad we didn’t have to wear it the entire 15 hours! It felt like a "relic from the past", one that I didn’t miss at all. In general, the train ride was really comfortable. We used proxy decks, drank a bear, and even got some so-called Arnbitter to try out from three Danish men who more or less opened a pub in the four-sitter next to us.

When we finally arrived in Gothenburg late at night, we met up with Reindeer, Mitja, and other Dutchies that also just arrived. All of us wanted to play some games, and we found a sports bar that was open till one o’clock. Unfortunately, it was already quite late and we couldn’t convince the bartender in charge to stay open just a tiny bit longer, even though he also happened to play Magic when he was younger. So after all, I just got in a few games against fellow countryman Dyan, before we returned to our hotels. Maybe it was for the better, since we could surely use the extra sleep for the remaining adventures.

Siab00rg

On Thursday morning, we found out that the other die-hard Dutchies already went to the same sports bar when it opened at eleven to drink beer and further test their decks. Wander and I opted to spend the ample spare time we had to walk around the city. We already did some sightseeing in 2017, but back then, the so-called "Fish Church" was closed when we got there. So Wander wanted to walk there again, only to find out it was under construction this time. That one is still on his bucket list for a future visit. We bought some vintage clothes, had lunch in a science fiction book store and couldn’t resist playing some games there as well. During our stroll around the city, we could clearly see an elegantly shaped fortress dating from around 1700, towering over Gothenburg. That building would in fact be our venue for the tournament later that day: the Siab00rg event, a.k.a. "n00bcon warm up festival", hosted by Reindeer. In the afternoon, we climbed the stone stairs and followed the red carpet inside the thick-walled fortress, to play some matches in the midst of century old canons, with bottles of beer and lit candles next to our playmats.

Skansen Kronan, Gothenburg

I brought my two decks to Sweden: Tax Edge and Counterburn. I struggled to decide which deck to play at which event. With Tax Edge, I recently got a second place finish (6-1) at Dadbodcon, a large tournament in Utrecht, but I didn’t know for sure how solid that deck was, whereas Counterburn has its weaknesses, but has repeatedly proven itself to be a tier 1 contender. So in the end, I decided to play the more "original" and "fun" deck at Siab00rg and the more "safe" or "competitive" Counterburn at n00bcon, not in the least because I had been assembling that latter deck for n00bcon for about two years now.

WRu Tax Edge.

In round 1 of the Siab00rg tournament, I faced Leo Bruder, whose name I recognized from multiple top 8s. I knew he had good results with artifact-based decks. In game 1, I had 2 Savannah Lions in play and when he tapped 6 mana it suddenly dawned on me that Triskelion would be a blow-out card versus multiple Lions. Thankfully, it was a "mere" Tetravus and I had a Swords to Plowshares ready. He had some bad draws apparently, since he didn’t play anything relevant and the two Lions simply took care of business. The second game he did have the Triskelion and an Animate Dead to deal with my Lions and with me. Now the third game really was crazy. I opened with Mox Pearl and Land Tax, one of the best starts my deck can have. I thought this opening would surely get me three lands, but he opened with his own Pearl, a Mox Sapphire, a Copy Artifact on one of his Moxen, and a Mana Vault. I decided to not play a land and just said ‘go’ in my second turn. On his second turn, he played a Triskelion, but I had a Swords to Plowshares that I could cast with my Pearl. On my third turn, I drew a second Land Tax and played it. Leo took 1 damage from his tapped Vault and used Chaos Orb to kill my Pearl. Now I only had 2 Land Tax in play, but since he had a tapped Vault and only three other mana sources, it felt good to keep this situation as it was and hope to draw either one of my Winds of Change or Lotus + Land’s Edge, so I could win on the spot when he needed to play a land. Leo realized the potential danger of (double) Land Tax, so he declined to play a land. We just stared at each other, passed turns, and eventually I had to start discarding cards to hand size. Finally, on his eight (!) turn the first land of the game was played and he cast a Su-Chi. I got to search for lands, but since I didn’t drew a payoff card like Winds of Change, this whole turn of events ended rather anticlimactic. I tried to get back in the game with a Balance, but fell short and lost to the big Robots.

"Look ma, no lands!"

For round 2, my opponent was Peter Monten, whose pet deck is RGu Aggro with Emerald Dragonfly and Wyluli Wolf. He made top 8 with that original deck at n00bcoM II. This is a difficult matchup for me, since he only needs like one land to function and has many small threats. When I previously played my Tax Edge deck at Dadbodcon, my only loss was to Monten. We played some epic games back then, and this time I could take revenge. Game 1 was another wild game. He had a good start with Pendelhaven and Scryb Sprites. I Stripped his Pendelhaven, but he had Wyluli Wolf and a Factory. He started pressuring my life total and I only had a Lion for defence and a non-active Land Tax in play. When I finally managed to remove the Sprites and stabilize the board, he drew and played another Mishra’s Factory, forgetting for a split second that this would trigger the Tax. I got to search for lands and play a Winds of Change, which severely improved my chances, but I could not turn the game around immediately. During his next turn, I fell to 4 life and he was still on 16. He had one card in hand, but thankfully it wasn’t a Psionic Blast. I Taxed again on my turn and since I was dead on board, I had to go for it. I played Land’s Edge, discarded all seven lands in my hand to put him down to 2, and then I cast Wheel of Fortune. In response, he discarded the last card in his hand (a land) to Land’s Edge to put me on 2 as well. So now we were both on a mere 2 life and just had to see which one of us would be the most fortunate… I drew a hand with three lands and went for it: “Discard a land, deal 2 at you.” Peter responded by discarding a land himself. I discarded my second land in response, but so did he. I finally discarded my third and last land in response, but he also had a third land! I did have one more trick up my sleeve though: I had drawn a Swords to Plowshares and played that one on my own Savannah Lions to go back up to 4. As it turned out, Peter also drew exactly three lands and no burn, so I was lucky enough to win this very tight and long game. 

I actually told Peter in advance of the tournament that I made some adjustments to my sideboard to deal with green aggro decks, specifically 2 Earthquake and 1 Falling Star (I would play 2 of those now by the way – awesome card!). For game 2, my hand contained a Lion and an Earthquake. He started with Llanowar Elves and I didn’t play my Lion, hoping to two-for-one him. It paid off, since his two drop was not a flyer, but an Argothian Pixies. I played an Earhquake for x=1 and my Lion. From there on, it was a really close race where I pressured him on the ground with my Savannah Lions and he attacked me in the air with a Dragonfly. After a Wheel of Fortune and a topdecked Lightning Bolt, I managed to close the game just in time, again standing on 2 life myself.

In round 3, I played against Mia. I opened rather fair with a Plains and a Lion, but on her turn things got out of hand quickly: she played Library of Alexandria, Pearl, Lotus, Sol Ring, Mana Vault and… Air Elemental! I didn’t see that last one coming. I thought that I could handle that one in time, because Mia didn’t seem to have any other pressure cards, but even after some Land Tax activations and multiple Winds of Change for 9 or 10 cards (!), I could not find my Swords to Plowshares or Chaos Orb, so the flyer simply killed me in 5 attacks. 

In the second game, she had another very good start with a turn 1 Serendib Efreet, but this time I had the Swords to Plowshares ready. On turn 2 she played another Serendib Efreet though. I tried to race the Dib with a Lion and Factory. A timely Time Walk from my side turned the tables and I managed to win the second game on 2 life. The third game I had a turn 1 Library of Alexandria and a lot of advantage, but because the first games took a lot of time, we couldn’t finish the match.

After this, I played Lorenzo in round 4. His deck had perhaps the most greedy mana requirements I have ever seen: he played a UR deck with Ghost Ship and Ball Lightning! I had a perfect opening game 1: Factory, Black Vise, Pearl, Lion. After that I played and activated Land Tax and killed him with Land’s Edge. His deck was original and worked quite well actually, but it was a bit too slow and weak to Land Tax, so I won the second game pretty straightforward as well. 

I faced Fredrik in round 5. On turn 1, I had Mountain, Black Vise, Black Lotus, Wheel of Fortune. I love these explosive starts that Lotus enables. I never played Vintage before, so one of the appeals of old school is getting to play with the Power Nine cards and getting to experience their power yourself instead of merely appreciating these cards from a distance as iconic but "unplayable", which was my position for a long time. I was feeling good about my opening, but on his turn 1 he played Land Tax and Ivory Tower. I didn’t expect to play a Tax mirror today. On my turn 1, I draw my own Tax, but I only had a Mountain in play. I could play a Plains and cast it, but this didn’t seem beneficial, so I played the Plains and a Savannah Lions instead, to get some pressure on the board. He searched up three lands, played a City of Brass and a Demonic Tutor. Maybe he searched up Armageddon, because on his next turn he cast that one. We both had two lands in play, but he also had two Moxen. If I now would play a land, he would get to Tax again. I had to though, because relying only on my Lion seemed too bad. The Lion did do a lot of work and my Vise nullified his Tower. I was really hoping that he wouldn’t draw another Tower. When he finally drew it, I drew a Lightning Bolt just in time to finish the game before he got to gain life.

During that first game, I thought about how he was going to win in the end, since Land’s Edge works both ways and he seemed to play the five color version with only the Edge as a win condition. I concluded that the only card that could really turn the game in his favor was Ivory Tower, whereas I had more options available to close the game. So in game 2, I conservatively saved my Disenchants for the Towers, letting an active Land Tax and Sylvan Library stay on the board. This strategy worked and I managed to win the second game, which was also very grindy.

I was now 3-1-1 in matches and in the sixth and last round, I got to play a "win-and-in" against the aforementioned Ron, who usually plays Atog and/or Rukh Valley brews. We knew the games could get grindy and didn’t want another draw, so we decided to really keep up the pace from the beginning. I won the die roll and kept a hand with Factory and Vise, but when he mulliganned down to 5, my hand and Vise plan also got worse. I didn’t get to put much pressure on him. He removed my Factory, played a Triskelion and won pretty quickly. 

Snap keep?

The second game was great. I kept a somewhat sketchy hand with only one Mox Sapphire as a mana source, but it had Ancestral Recall and Time Walk and multiple very good white cards that only needed one white source. I started with Sapphire into Ancestral, but only drew one Mountain and no white mana. To make things worse, Ron had a turn 1 Relic Barrier that shut down my Mox, so on my second turn I could only play a Mountain and actually had to discard to hand size. I decided to throw the Time Walk away. Things got worse, because Ron had a Chaos Orb for my Mountain. I was really lucky though, because I drew a Black Lotus that allowed me to play Land Tax and Savannah Lions with no lands in play. He responded with a Shatter on my Sapphire and a Gloom, which was pretty devastating. Basically, the Gloom meant that I couldn’t cast anything unless I played like four lands in a row. For now, my only real plan of action was attacking with my sole Lion. Because Ron saw I had an active Land Tax and pressure on the board, and he had nothing going on except for the Gloom, he decided to play his Timetwister. He then cast Lotus, Mana Vault and Triskelion, that took care of my Lion. This game was starting to look really good for him. I did have an active Land Tax, which allowed me to play multiple lands to get back into the game, but Ron played a timely Winter Orb when I had most of my lands tapped. This, combined with the Gloom, gave my almost no outs and he was still on 15 life. He played a Shivan Dragon and I was dead on board. I did realize, however, that I could still win through Land’s Edge. On my turn, I had only two lands untapped and I got to search for three lands with my Tax. I could then play a land and cast Land’s Edge, but if I would, I would only have seven lands in my hand left to deal 14 to him and he was on 15! I did drew the Time Walk again that I had discarded earlier, so I played an Island and a Time Walk. This allowed me to Tax one more time, and start the turn again with two lands untapped. I played a Mountain, Land’s Edge and this time I had exactly eight lands left to deal 16 to Ron, who, considering his commanding position, was quite baffled by this comeback. 

After this really close game, there were just a few minutes left in the round, so we played really quickly. Due to these circumstances, I was secretly hoping that he would play more lands than me, so I strategically kept two Land Taxes in my hand as a surprise. When he had five lands and multiple creatures in play that would kill me in two turns, I pulled the trigger and dropped both Taxes. The next turn I got to search for six lands, played a massive Winds of Change, removed all his creatures and played two Lions, which got there just in time. Top 8! 

In the quarterfinal, I played against Morgan with a white and blue artifact-based deck. He started with Tundra, Sol Ring and I with Mox Pearl into Land Tax. He had a Factory and played a Su-Chi, so I was already under a lot of pressure. I searched up three lands, played a  Mountain and a Winds of Change. After that, I played another Tax. He Disenchanted one of them, but I still got to play another Winds of Change for ten cards on my next turn and drew and answer for his Su-Chi and another Tax. I played a Mishra’s Factory as my third land, hoping this would lure him into playing a third land himself. He did, and when he tapped out for a Triskelion and Copy Artifact – probably feeling pretty safe, still standing on a healthy 20 life – I saw a window to execute my plan. At that moment, I had Land’s Edge, Lightning Bolt, Swords to Plowshares and three lands in my hand. On the end of his turn, I animated my Factory and played Bolt on it, which meant I got to search for six lands in my upkeep. I had to go for it, even though I knew I could ‘only’ deal 18 damage for sure. I was actually quite bummed that I had to Bolt my Factory. If I could have played my Swords on it, I would have won with the Bolt, but I spent my only white mana source to cast a Savannah Lions. After I got my six lands, I unfortunately didn’t drew another land or Bolt. I did draw a Winds of Change though. I played the Land’s Edge, discarded nine lands to put him on 2 and after that I played the Winds of Change. I shuffled the Swords back into my deck, but didn’t drew a Bolt or Land and lost. 

During the second game, I had another good, but risky start: Lotus, Lion, Land Tax. Unfortunately, he played a Mox, Tundra and a Disenchant on my Tax. This wrecked my plan, and quickly after this he had a Mind Twist for my entire hand, followed up by a Su-Chi and a Triskelion. It was time to call it a day.

At Siab00rg the ambiance was excellent and I had some really epic games versus great and kind opponents. I was quite impressed by the Tax Edge deck. It performed better than expected and the combo engine of the deck combines multiple elements that are rare to find in old school: card advantage, card selection and shuffle effects. Because you play 4 Winds of Change, Timetwister and Wheel of Fortune, there are many times you can "spin the wheel" and this leads to very exciting scenario’s. Also, Land Tax allows you to have great comebacks in games that can look unwinnable. It functions like a white Ancestral Recall in some cases. Apart from that, the card Land Tax makes both players very aware of each land drop, which can lead to an interesting Tax subgame. 

While it was a lot of fun, it was also pretty exhausting. With this deck, every decision matters. You really have to think about every land, every mana, think ahead and decide how you are going to win the game. Shuffling your (triple-sleeved) deck a lot also takes time and I had to close multiple games in the last 5 turns. This meant that I didn’t have a lot of time for chatting or breaks between rounds. This strengthened my decision to play Counterburn at n00bcon the day after.

After my quarterfinal match, I got to watch fellow countryman Henk win the semi-finals and then finals with a nice "BB8" deck with eight Bolts and eight Bots. I also played some casual games against Wander, and when the night fell, we descended the stairs to the city centre, and went back to our hotel beds for a good night’s rest.

n00bcon

On Friday, Wander and I took our time for breakfast and decided to have a long walk to the Rotary Pub, instead of taking public transportation. We got ourselves an ice cream in the Spring sun. In search of the Rotary Pub, we somehow ended up in a rocky, hilly area. We still had some memories from 2017 and knew the pub could be a bit hard to find. When we found our way through the trees, we saw some familiar faces standing outside a building and soon found the renowned pub, that got to open its doors again after a long while.

The road less traveled to the Rotary Pub.

The Counterburn deck I brought for the tournament had one Blood Moon mainboard and three sideboard. I thought this was a bit of overkill to be honest, but my idea was that against really greedy decks with no basic lands, you don’t mind having four ‘instant win’ cards available. Also, since I didn’t play black and had six Islands, this shell seemed very good to try out the full power of Blood Moon – a decision that was also inspired by the intriguing art that Kalle made for the event. 

UR Counterburn

In round 1, I faced ‘Purple’, who was playing a blue, black and red midrange deck – I guess you get the colour purple when you mix those? I started with Island, Flying Men and on turn 2 I had Volcanic Island, Sol Ring and Timetwister. On his second turn, he played a Blood Moon, which I just shrugged away, but it turned out to be pretty annoying, since he followed it up with an Icy Manipulator to lock down my only Island. Multiple turns passed where I was unable to utilize blue mana. He cast a Sengir Vampire and an Air Alemental. The game was close, but the turn before I tried to squeeze out a victory, he played an Earthquake for 3 when I was at 3 life and he at 4.

During the second game, I had a tough decision when he was outtapped. I had four lands in play and no extra lands in hand. I had three cards to choose from: Serendib Efreet, Counterspell and Braingeyser. What to do? This is a typical puzzle for the Counterburn deck: are you going to hold up mana for the Counterspell, ideally hoping to draw a fifth mana source to be able to play Dib with Counterspell backup, or are you going to put pressure on your opponent by playing the Dib? I don’t remember my exact reasoning, but I decided to play the Dib and got punished: on his turn, he played Terror on it and then a Blood Moon. I thought that he would sideboard the Moons out, but he didn’t, and actually this one had a huge impact on the game because I didn’t drew any of my five remaining Islands nor my Mox Sapphire. When I finally drew an Island, he once again had an Icy to lock that one down. I lost the game with multiple uncastable Counterspells and a Braingeyser in my hand. 

This rough start got me thinking about how good Blood Moon actually is in my deck. Before the tournament, I was already worried that six basic Islands might be one too few, but at the same time many of the stock URb Counterburn lists only play five Island and they play Blood Moon as well. Besides that, playing six basics is already quite exceptional in old school, because most players that play more than one color have really greedy mana bases. Still, all those UU-cards can be a pain to cast sometimes. Maybe this was just bad luck? I came to the event with a deck that wanted to exploit the power of Blood Moon, only to lose the first two games to my opponent’s Blood Moon! That felt crazy. 

You can’t play Blood Moon without breaking a few eggs. (Artwork by Kalle.)

In round two, I played Tommy ("Artelas") who was on an interesting BRw Troll Disco deck. I had a nice start with two Flying Men and a Counterspell, but he got to resolve a Disk and had a Strip Mine and Sinkhole to remove my only two lands. I didn’t draw another land and the Disk made sure I had zero permanents in play. I couldn’t recover from that. During the second game, he again had Strip Mine plus Sinkhole and early pressure in the form of a Hippie and two Factories. When I finally got to three mana, he had a Red Elemental Blast for my Serendib Efreet and a Mind Twist for the win. So now I lost four games in a row and mana issues played a huge role in all of those games. When I played in 2017, I came with a mana denial plan myself, playing a BR deck, but now I was the one struggling to cast my spells.

Next up was Juan, a good friend of Purple. He played Pink Weenie, so when I started with City of Brass, Library of Alexandria, 2 Flying Men and a Serendib Efreet, I was really, really afraid of City in a Bottle. He didn’t seem to have it though. When he finally drew it later in the game, I had the Counterspell ready. Game 2 he started with two Ironclaw Orcs, but I Bolted both of them. After that he drew a lot of lands and my Serendib Efreets closed the game.

In round 4 I got to play Daniell, who brought a Mono Black deck. When he was still on 17 life, he played Greed, which I decided to Counterspell. It was a tough decision and I got punished for it, because the turn afterwards he played an Underworld Dreams, which I could only remove with Chaos Orb. Normally, this enchantment isn’t that annoying, but I had planned to play my Timetwister and now I couldn’t anymore. He also had a Maze of Ith for my Serendib Efreet. This was another difficult card for me to deal with and now I lost 2 lives per turn. When I finally drew the Orb and used it on the Maze, he cast a Drain Life for 4 on the Serendib Efreet and after that a Drain Life for 7 on me. I couldn’t recover from these life swings and the Dreams got there.

In the second game, I started with Island and Flying Men. He Strip Mined my Island. I played Volcanic Island and another Flying Men, and he had a Sinkhole for my Volcanic. Man, is everyone in this pub playing land destruction!? Thankfully, I already deployed two treats that he didn’t seem to have an answer for. He played an Underworld Dreams and, surprisingly, a Warp Artifact. Those put me on a clock, but mine was faster: the Flying Men, combined with some burn spells, gave me the upper hand this game.

In the final game, I had a Library of Alexandria in my opening hand, but he started the match with a land, Sol Ring and City in a Bottle. Ouch! I played an Island and passed. He Strip Mined my Island (of course!) and later cast a Greed, which he used to draw three cards. Apparently, he was not to worried about burn, so probably he had a Drain Life or even Ivory Tower. He then had a Sinkhole for my Volcanic Island (do you start the notice the recurring trend this year?), but thankfully this time I drew enough blue sources to stay in the game. When he cast a Hypnotic Specter, I stole it with Control Magic. It didn’t do much for me though, because he had a Maze of Ith. But since he didn’t seem to draw anything relevant for a couple of turns, I won with burn. 

In round 5, I face Hall of Famer Olle Råde. It was exciting to play the mirror against him, since Counterburn is his pet deck, one that he has had many good results with over the years. He started with a turn 2 Dib, which I had to remove with a Lightning Bolt and a Chain Lightning. Sometimes you have to two-for-one yourself. After that, I played my own Dib, which he Counterspelled. The turn after, I tried to cast a Braingeyser for 4 and it resolved. I drew Ancestral Recall, Serendib Efreet and got ahead rather quickly, but even though I was way ahead in cards, it still felt close. My own Dib put me on 7 life and I had to be careful not to lose to a Psionic Blast + Lightning Bolt from his side. A Fireball for 8 closed the game in time for me. In the next game, we both had two Serendib Efreets in play. They stared at each other for a while, but Olle cleared the way with 2 Red Elemental Blasts and since he also had 3 Mishra’s Factory’s in play, I was totally outclassed this game.

In game 3, I started with Island, Flying Men. He started with Ruby and 2 Factory’s and killed my Flying Men with a Bolt. It was clear to me that he didn’t have a blue mana source, but he probably kept his hand because of the Factory’s and removal. He decided to play Chaos Orb on my only red source to clear the way for his Factory’s, but I drew another Volcanic Island and cast Wheel of Fortune, the last card in my hand. This gave him blue mana though, and soon we both once again had not one, but two Serendib Efreets in play. This meant we both took 2 damage a turn and it wasn’t profitable to attack. When we were both at 8 life, I drew and played a Black Lotus when I only had two other blue sources in play. This prompted a reaction from Olle: he Bolted me, which resolved. He bolted me again, which I Counterspelled, but he had a Mana Drain. This interaction dropped me to 1 (because I had to tap a City of Brass). I still had an out though, because I had a Timetwister in my hand and he was now outtapped. I sacrificed the Black Lotus and cast the Twister. If I drew 2 Bolts I could get him down to 2 life and make him lose to his own Dibs (if he didn’t drew a Lightning Bolt to kill me in his upkeep in response to the triggers). I flipped the top 7 cards of my library one by one… No 2 Bolts, unfortunately, but there were some interesting cards there. We both analyzed and discussed the situation, seeing how the game would unfold and quickly concluded there was no way for me to win.

Mirror match against Olle Råde. So many Dibs!

In the sixth round, I faced a deck you can always expect to play against at n00bcon: The Deck. This one, build by Simon Gauti Rokkjær, was extra special, because it contained many amazing (Cthulhu) alters and a surprising addition in the form of Clay Statue. Game 1, I had a really nice hand with Library of Alexandria, Lotus and Wheel, but he was on the play. This mattered a lot, since he started with Strip Mine (!), Sol Ring and Fellwar Stone. I went ahead with my plan anyway. He had a Jayemdae Tome, but I had Shatter for it, and I decided to play my second Shatter on the Sol Ring. I only had one blue mana source, which was annoying, since I had 2 Counterspells but I had to let Simon cast his Demonic Tutor into Ancestral Recall. It still was pretty close. For the first time in this tournament, I finally got to put my own Blood Moon to good use and things got really grindy. Later in the game, I Counterspelled his Ivory Tower and then he cast a Clay Statue, which my deck can’t remove. I decided to go with a burn plan: I played three Psionic Blast on him and a Chain Lightning, to put him at three life, but after that, I fell one burn spell short to finish the game, and the Clay Statue killed me with the help of a Factory.

The second game, I once again had a crazy opening hand: Volcanic Island, Mox Sapphire, Lotus, Wheel of Fortune. After that blistering start, I played an Energy Flux and a Blood Moon. During the game, I cast a Timetwister and later the Wheel of Fortune once more. So many draw-sevens! I had multiple Energy Fluxes and those were too much for him to handle, so I won this one. In the third and final game, I had a Flux and Moon, but no pressure. He removed my Moon and cast a brutal Mind Twist that got rid of my Wheel of Fortune and Timetwister… exactly the two cards I wanted to draw after the Twist! I couldn’t recover from this and lost to Factory beats.

In round 7 of the tournament, I played Kristian who brought an original Living Lands brew. I had a very good turn 1 (Island, Flying Men, Lotus, Serendib Efreet), but he had a crucial Balance. A bit later in the game, I drew my maindeck Blood Moon, which really shines in this matchup, but he had a Chaos Orb for it. I cast a Braingeyser and managed to close the game with burn, because I had two Counterspells for his two copies of Living Plane. I boarded in all my Blood Moons and during the second game I had to play one of those, even though I didn’t have an Island myself. This was difficult for me, especially since I didn’t draw a blue source for ages. We were both limited in our resources for a while and he managed to get the upper hand. 

In the final game, he locked me down with a City in a Bottle and he also managed to get his combo on board: Living Plane + Tabernacle + Karakas. All my lands now had an upkeep of one mana and he could bounce his Tabernacle in my turn, so the effect would only be one-sided. I did have an answer available though: I could Bolt the Tabernacle and when he would use Karakas, I could Bolt it again. I was not sure, however, if this was a winning line. If he had another Tabernacle, for instance, this play would be really bad. So instead, I tried to use the Enchant World effect to my own advantage. I Bolted his Tabernacle on the end of his turn and he of course bounced it. Because he had to tap a few lands, I could now attack with almost all my lands. It was still a puzzle though, because he had a Maze of Ith, which he used to block one of my lands and untap another attacking land. I managed to squeeze some damage in there, and put him on six. I then played another Bolt on him. Since I still had a relatively healthy life total, my plan was to keep my lands alive by paying the untap cost until I would draw a burn spell for the last 3 damage. Maybe it was too risky of a line though, because I forgot that he also had other options to kill my lands, like Triskelion or Falling Star. Luckily enough I drew another Bolt the turn before I would lose all my lands. 

I went 3-4 in matches at n00bcon. I am still not sure about how to evaluate Blood Moon, because I had a lot of mana issues myself. At the same time, if I had just drawn one Island in multiple situations, most problems would have been over and the game would have played out differently. Blood Moon underperformed for me and the 6 UU-cards in the deck were difficult to cast too many times. Svante, however, made top 8 at both Siab00rg and n00bcon with a tweaked URb Counterburn deck that played 2 Blood Moon main (and two Orcs!). The Moons contributed to that success and he believed that they are even better in the preboarded games. He did remove some Counterspells though, so that could also fix some of the mana issues.

I myself am a bit unsure at the moment about the general power level of UR(b) Counterburn. Even against unpowered decks, the games are generally really close, something Svante also noted before. Cards like Dibs, Blasts and Cities also pressure your own life total and not having many answers to enchantments or big creatures, makes you vulnerable. I guess this is also a nice aspect of the Counterburn deck: usually, all the games are pretty tense and skill intensive. The decisions you make really matter. 

After the Swiss, I got to see the very memorable quarterfinal between Svante and Richard, who was so drunk he couldn’t shuffle his deck anymore, but still managed to play almost perfectly. He played the same deck that Henk used to win Siab00rg. After the quarterfinal I once again played some games against Wander. And just like five years before, we stayed until the sun came up. We chatted with the remaining people there and had a nice midnight stroll back to the hotel.

The Day After

On Saturday, we met up in a big pub with endless corridors, floors and a roof terrace. Purple and Juan were there, together with a few Dutchies, Åland, Seb and Joel Larsson, who won n00bcon this year with The Deck. Joel brought a fancy Tribal Cube to the pub and we played a small tournament. I didn’t do that well, but Wander won the finals with Faeries. After the cube games, we hosted a casual old school tournament with nine people. I am not sure if the tournament was called "Poseidon Cup" or "Raging ODOL", but anyway, I decided to play Tax Edge again and somehow I got to play against all three Swedes in the room: first Seb with Eureka, then Joel with the BB8 deck that he borrowed from Richard, and last but not least, Åland in the finals, who was on Green Aggro. He was playing on his chili stout covered playmat, the result from a small beer accident at yesterday’s n00bcon event. The games were really close and we had a great time. I managed to go undefeated and take home a Hasran Ogress, signed by all players. We moved to the roof terrace and for a long time, we were the only ones there. It was a superb location and we stayed at the pub the entire day till around 2 A.M. After that, Wander and I had a few hours of sleep and then had to get up really early because our FlixBus to Denmark was leaving at 7.10. During the long train ride that followed, we made some new proxy decks. I thought that a WRU version of Counterburn – better known as "Fantasy Zoo" or "LionDibBolt" – was probably better than UR(b), but somehow I of course lost all the games we tested. After that, we were crazy enough to play The Deck mirror for a couple of hours, inspired by the finals of n00bcon, which showcased an extraordinary quick mirror match between Joel and Kaj. Wander was feeling pretty good with his Serra Angels mainboard, but since I lost multiple games in a row that were not really close, these mirrors were not so much fun.

When we finally arrived in the Netherlands, I almost forgot my backpack in the train. I was so focused on keeping an eye on the smaller bag that held my precious cards, that I forgot my other stuff. I ran back to the train, which luckily was still there. Because our next train passed by the city where Wander’s family lives, he arranged that his mother would come to the station to hand him over his mobile phone, which he apparently had left there. Wander quickly jumped in and out of the train when it stopped, and when he returned to our seat, I was baffled by the condition of this old school machine that he apparently still used.

Wander’s phone.

We arrived home around midnight. The nicest part of being in Sweden was getting to meet fellow enthusiasts from all over the world, many of whom I chatted with before, sometimes when I "politely stalked" them about their Richard Garfield signed or altered cards... It was great to personally experience the warmth and generosity of the old school community. It felt different than five years ago, not in the least because this time so many people from the Netherlands came along. I guess we put our little country on the map. I wish to thank Reindeer and Magnus for organizing two amazing tournaments. I am also thankful for the amazing altered cards that I picked up for my decks.

In Sweden, I also got some design sketches from Kalle that he used for the n00bcon 9 playmat in 2017 and for the Blood Moon inspired art he made for this year’s n00bcon. For me, these are a great memento for two tournaments that hold special value for me.

During n00bcon, there was an announcement: winc0n, the long-awaited new world championship in Genoa, Italy, was finally going to happen in September! Guess where Wander and I are riding the rails to next?

Kommentarer

  1. Nice report. The Sapphire-Ancestral-hand normally is a hand you normally get vexed about when you keep it - but nevertheless the temptation to keep it is to big :-))

    SvaraRadera
  2. Hello, I have a royal assassin 4th edition artist proof. Please get in contact s ..b ..burner ..email ..@Gmail no spaces or periods

    SvaraRadera
  3. Nice report, thx for sharing!

    - Loekie Mtg

    SvaraRadera

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