n00bfest 2023 – A tribute to the greatest and best tournament and travel report in the world (by Alex and Wander)

We shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads converged in a pub, and we—
we took the ones less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

(after the poet Robert Frost) 


Preface

We will soon give you, dear reader of this old school blog, a meaningful choice. Legends say, there once was a great report of n00bfest 2023, the mysterious event that marked the end of n00bcon, but also a new beginning. It was a travel report, full of adventures, hope and tragedy. In fact, it might have been the greatest tournament report ever written. But it never came to be. Memories of all participants almost instantly flowed away in an ocean of expensive beers and shots. People passed out. And now, months passed. We were there as well, but simply can’t remember all the parts. So the best we can do at this point is a tribute to that report. Nevertheless, it’s going to be one hell of a tribute. 
 
Where to start our story? When we talk about life as a whole, it is common to think of a journey from A to Z, from the cradle to the grave. We continually move forward, step by step, and overcome obstacles. This way of looking at life, is also apparent in storytelling. Take, for example, the opening lines from Dante’s famous Midway upon the journey of our life / I found myself within a forest dark, / For the straightforward pathway had been lost.’  Sometimes, when we look back, the trajectory of our lives seems to be similar to that of others: first primary school, then education, followed by jobs, a relationship or marriage, maybe children, and so forth. But when you’re lost in the moment, the path of life doesn’t seem that clear. And this is why interactive storytelling is so interesting. During interactive storytelling, the audience actively participates in the way the story unfolds. This gives us the ability to depart from the straightforward path. It gives us the power to shape our own fate or that of the protagonist. In this tribute, we want to embrace this interactive view on storytelling and share the feeling of being lost in the moment. Together, we can ‘Play the Game, See the World’. You can join us on our journey and decide how you will read this report. 
 
But before we will ask you to make a decision, first some context. We, Alex and Wander, have been traveling from the Netherlands to n00bcon since 2017. Back then, we were still young and naive, and rather carelessly took the plane. But nowadays, we both avoid flying as much as we can. This means long days though, and many challenges ahead. If you don’t take the common roads, you have to be creative, perhaps also a bit crazy. Determined for sure. But this year, we had an ill-fated start: we couldn’t travel together towards Gothenburg. Since the travel part of this annual, belated tournament report wouldn’t be complete without our trusty companionship, we decided to both write our own part. This means that you have a choice: you can either travel with Alex or with Wander to Gothenburg. Or screw it, and just join both, for instance if you have infinite time because you’re facing an opponent playing Twiddle Vault. Both of us took roads less traveled in Scandinavia. Whichever path you chose, don’t worry: the roads converge again at the infamous Rotary Pub, where the real Magic happens.
 
Long time ago me and my friend Wander here, / We was hitchhiking down a long and lonesome road. / All of a sudden, There shined a shiny demon, In the middle of the road […] He asked us, / Be you angels? And we said nay, We are but men! / Rock!
(after 'Tribute' from Tenacious D)


The Road Towards Gothenburg – Alex’s Part

Each year, I grow more fond of Sweden. When I stepped in the train towards Gothenburg for n00bfest 2023, it was going to be my fifth time visiting Sweden in 1,5 year. In 2022, I went hiking there for over a month with my girlfriend and our daughter. Almost directly afterwards, I returned to Sweden to work as a volunteer at two bakery’s to improve my bread and pizza baking skills. I start to feel more at home in the Swedish culture and landscape, also getting more acquainted with Swedes. I am still not entirely sure about how ‘assertive’ you can be and if Swedes are able to say ‘no’ when you ask for a favour. When I worked at the bakery and suggested I would hitchhike home to my cabin, I was told by a colleague: “We don’t do that over here.” She probably felt responsible for my fate because she then got her parents to drive me home. Sadly, this meant that I couldn’t try out hitchhiking – I am fairly certain it would have worked out fine. 
 
The first time I visited Sweden was in 2015, when I went on a hiking trip with Wander. Of course, I instantly fell in love with a Swedish singer-songwriter with long blond hair. I was trying to act ‘old and wise’ and was determined to no longer indulgence myself into naive, romantic illusions. But… after she urged me to write a letter to her, I simply couldn’t resist. Love letters followed. I can’t share them here, but trust me, they are almost as enchanting as those of Keats. My romantic thoughts got the upper hand again: I thought about moving to Sweden and bought some books to learn the language. I flew back to Sweden to visit her, but before I even got there, the whole premature affair crumbled down. I stayed by myself in an uninspiring hostel in a Swedish village. Even though it was over from the start, I still got invited to a family brunch. Her grandpa jokingly called me ‘the Flying Dutchman’. I went back home, rejected, but ‘hej’, what can you do? You start over again. I have a wonderful girlfriend now and a daughter we named after a Swedish children’s book. We seriously considered moving to Sweden a while ago, but decided against it. I still have to learn the language by the way. Seeing Olle Råde getting better at Dutch, has been an inspiration. I still have those language books on the shelf and I applied for a course last spring, but it was cancelled due to too low demand.
 
n00bfest wasn’t my first visit back to Sweden in 2023: Arvika and n00bfest were planned pretty close to each other, which was convenient. This meant that I could book an Interrail card for 10 days of travelling within 2 months, which I could use for both Arvika in late February and n00bfest in April. Arvika was a great event on its own. After getting my full set of Moxen last December with the help of a kind friend, it was finally time to try my hands on The Deck. It has always been ‘the deck to beat’ and you know what they say: “If you can’t beat them…” I piloted it to a 6-2 finish in the Winter Derby (which had 4 Strips), and 5-2 in Arvika with 4 Serra Angels main. It was a great event overall, that might have gotten its own report, but I have to restrain myself and not turn this report into a booklet. I can’t refuse to give some small highlights though:
  • Mari showing up with a bottle of booze that he shared with me, Drew Tucker and Simon Christie on the first night. We stayed up way too late.

  • Meeting Drew Tucker. He was really friendly and made a nice alter for my friend Frank, who last-minute had to cancel his trip to Arvika due to illness.

  • Getting absolutely demolished by Thomas Nilsen’s innovative and powerful The Rack brew, which he also used to top 8 the Raging Bull Series later.

  • Meeting Felipe Garcia for the first time, years after we made a trade through the mail.

  • Getting a nice drive back to Gothenburg from Fluffy, Kaj and Jocke, while talking about Magic and Swedish culture.

  • Staying and travelling with Olle, who won the event with his trusty Counterburn deck, beating a string of very strong opponents. You can listen to his story on the All Tings Considered podcast

Arvika.

Drew Tucker.
 
After my extensive train ride to Arvika, n00bfest was on the menu. Even though there was no official ‘n00bcon’ this year, they still used the good old Rotary Pub, so maybe it was mainly semantics? I left on Wednesday the 5th of April, the day before the festivities started. Having travelled with the train before to Gothenburg and the Fishliver Oil Cup in Italy, I noticed that trying to pack 16+ hours in one day is pretty exhausting. Risky as well, because you will probably miss a connection or two. To make life a bit easier, I decided to limit it to 12 hours on Wednesday, making Malmö as my final stop for the day. Another benefit: when I arrived there, it was not too late, about dinner time. I went to check out Spoonery, a nice, very small restaurant which I discovered last time I was there with my family. Lucky enough, it was still open half an hour and I could grab a bite to eat. During dinner, I texted Wander, who was apparently also eating at that moment. We got to share some dinner pics and were getting closer to our reunion in Gothenborg. 

After dinner, I made a stroll through the city parks, which were way nicer than I expected. I then returned to my hotel. Since I only had to stay in Malmö as a brief in-between stop, I booked the cheapest hotel room in town, next to the train station. It was a room without windows. I totally underestimated the negative impact of such a ‘room without a view’, even for one night. So next time, I will definitely avoid sleeping in a broom closet.
 
 View at Kungsparken, Malmö. Did you know the Dutch influenced the architecture of Sweden, for instance in Gothenburg?

The next morning, I was sceptic about the coffee. When a brownish goo travels at lightspeed through a mat grey plastic machine, it can’t be good. It indeed was terrible, so after one highly unpleasant nip I got some proper coffee at the station and two ‘kanelbullar’ (cinnamon rolls). Now I was on my way again! After a few hours in the train, I arrived in Gothenburg.
 

 The first key problem in our story…
 
At the hotel, I had some issues with the door (see picture), so I had to change to another one. I shared it with the fellow Dutchman Thomas, well-known for his awesome channel ‘Timmy Talks’, who flew in that morning. I met him before at several events, but we didn’t have a chance to talk that much, so it was nice to be able to hang out with him. Wander soon joined us. I brought his cards with me, since he didn’t want to go hiking and camping in Norway with them, which made sense, especially since he doesn’t triple sleeve his cards. Reunited once again, I was looking forward to hearing about his adventures in Scandinavia and creating some new ones together.
 
 Our hotel room in Gothenburg did have a nice view: Skansen Kronan!

 

The Road Towards Gothenburg – Wander’s Part  

This year, my Scandinavian adventure started out very differently. My starting companion was Ieke, a long-time friend. Our way of traveling would include hitchhiking and a boat trip. Unfortunately, our boat to Norway got cancelled at the last minute. This meant that, between going to a nice concert from Florist (with a familiar old school MtG player) and finishing up some work, I only had a brief moment of time to plan a way to get to Norway without a plane. I looked up some options, including a cargo ship from Ghent, but they did not want us if we went without a car. It was soon clear that I had to settle for a flight to Oslo this time if I wanted to get there within a reasonable time.
 
Ieke and I wanted to go to Norway to hitchhike our way to the Lofoten. We have hitchhiked long distances before, but we were warned that Norway would not be as easy. Well, there is only one way to find out… 
 
After our landing in Oslo, we find ourselves having a rough day one start. Maybe the warnings were justified? We only got a small ride from Norwegians after we talked with them for a long time, or from non-Norwegians. But after multiple short rides, we get our first comfortable Tesla ride that brings us near Gjøvik. When the sun slowly hides behind the mountains, we decide to call it a day. 
 
When I open the curtains the next morning, I see fresh snow everywhere and a fully frozen lake. With -15 degrees Celsius outside, I doubt I‘ll be using my tent anytime soon. I brought it with me because I learned that with these kind of trips you never know where you end the day and it is good to have extra options available. Luckily for us, the sun keeps us a bit warmer. And today we start out with some nice rides to Biri and then Lillehammer. There we find our second fashionable Tesla ride and make some new friends along the way: Hugo and Trumi. They take us very far to the coastal area, passing some great Trollstigen views. They seem sad to let us go in Åndalsnes. We walk to a room rental place, where the owner is busy making dinner. While chopping onions, he quickly checks us in and tells us to just leave some money on the table. 
 
This night another heavy snowfall happens. There is so much snow, that it is hard for us the next day to find a good hitchhiking spot, where it is safe to stand and safe for cars to stop for us. We discover a nice spot at the side of the road, near a roundabout, but our next ride decides to stop in the middle of the road, blocking the entire roundabout. Thankfully, it isn’t as crowded over here as in Amsterdam. We are happy with the ride of course, and we get a ‘snowball effect’ for the rest of the day: we travel way faster than expected through these local roads and we enter Trondheim with still half a day to spare! Trondheim is a lovely city, and after some sightseeing, the beer tasting at the microbrewery is an excellent end to a fruitful hitchhiking day. 
 
‘Why travel this way?’, you might think. Well, it is a way to see the beauty of a country. You meet people that are willing to help you further or have some advice or just want to chat for a while. This is my first time in Norway and I love exploring all the landscapes. Getting to Lofoten this way gradually builds up the whole experience. Locals show us some extra’s and tell us what Norway and their life in Norway is all about. Hitchhiking is not for everybody, but for me, it is a true adventure.

 

 Der Wander(er).
 
Apparently, it gets more easy up North. On the fourth day, we start slow, but then we make a lot of kilometres with different people. The last ride is in a campervan with a few German photography enthusiasts. We have fun and stay the night at a camping. It is a clean night for northern lights action, so the Germans work their magic and some great shots are taken. I am just watching the dancing waves of light.
 
We planned that they would take us to the next city in the morning, but the weather forecast changed overnight. They decide to stay at the camping, which means we have to speed up a little because we really wanted to catch the ferry from Bodø to the Lofoten later today. One of the first cars we see turns around for us and brings us to a gas station. There, we quickly find another ride. It seems we are still in range of getting to Bodø in time. We get off at a tank station with no other cars and then we walk to a so-called ‘highway’, but we don’t see any cars there as well. It dawns upon us that we are starting to get far up north. Suddenly, a guy named Guy drives by. He wears ski glasses and seems like a quick ride. He is. He even talks fast. While we race through the absurd scenery of the salty mountains, we get to know the life of a hunter up north. He drops us off at the train station. After a short train ride, we make a run for it and get to the ferry with just two minutes to spare. Nice!
 
Getting to see the final destination is a special feeling. After seeing a lot of beautiful sights along the way, I could not believe that the strange mix of sea and snowy mountains would be this amazing. These past few days, I feel overwhelmed by the feeling of wanting to share this joy of traveling with my friends and family.
 
In Lofoten, we meet with Do, a friend of Ieke who is on workation there, and the three of us explore the archipelago. Every view looks surreal. We are here for a couple of days, filled with hikes, sun, snowstorms, cod, sauna’s, stunning views and nice talks. It makes for a special ending to 1600 kilometres of hitchhiking.

But an end is also a beginning. After Ieke and I say goodbye, I take the train all the way back to Oslo. From the train window, I can see some of the places I have seen by car. In Oslo, I find a cosy bar to relax for a while. While listening to a lo-fi DJ, I see a ‘no-plane’ sign at the wall. It fittingly reminded me of my preference for using the train and of the exception I had to make this time. It was a perfect time to overthink my trip thus far and write these journal notes. It is nice to be alone after a week of meeting people and traveling with a friend. I feel regenerated but also a bit tired of meeting so many strangers. I now also had to prepare myself for a week of Easter Magic! Thankfully, I had a few days left in Oslo and know some Magical friends who live there. Trygve shows me around the opera house, which is very impressive. I also meet with the rest of the ‘local squad’, a perfect way to get into the mood of playing some cards and test some local beers. Testing my own deck is unfortunately not possible, since I don’t have it with me: Alex will bring my decks to Sweden. Which decks? Well, I am glad you ask. Before I started building an old school deck myself, I was mainly watching and discussing deck options with Alex. We came to some nice list options that fit my ‘tempo’ playstyle. Green was my first Swedish legal love. And this year I liked her to go berserk in a maze. But before I got to play my Swedish 93-94 brew on Friday in Skansen Kronan, it was time to explore Scryings in the Rotary Pub. For this first event on Thursday, my goal was to cast Natural Order into Scaled Wurm or Autumn Willow.

 Wander’s Scryings brew.
 

Trying out Scryings (Thursday 6 April)

So here we are again, walking to the infamous Rotary Pub. Our fellow Dutchies took cabs, but because we had to wait in turns, Wander and I decided to walk instead. This time, the pub event would focus on Scryings, an expansion with cards from 1994 to 1997. It was less crowded in the pub than in previous years, which made it more comfortable. Since I have been playing The Deck recently and have always liked the card Sacred Mesa, my deck choice wasn’t that complicated. Finally I got to put some good use to a pile of German Mesa Pegasus I had lying around.
 
 Alex’s Scryings brew.
 
In round 1, I face Luis from Spain. He’s a really friendly, positive minded player. Lately, I have had a lot of problems beating the kind of deck he plays: Gb Aggro. For instance, I lost against it in the semifinals of the Uthden Troll Cup In game 1, I mulligan to 4 cards, but I have Ancestral Recall. On turn 3, I play Recall on Ancestral Recall. But before I can cast it again, he has Mind Twist for my whole hand. After that, he uses Strip Mine and Ice Storms to take my lands away, and an Uktabi Orangutan on my Mox. When I have no artifacts left, he even plays 2 more orangutans targeting his own Moxen, so he can take me down with an army of apes. In game 2, I manage to get control early. I bolt an early elf and play a Braingeyser for 4 with a Black Lotus. He uses Sylvan Library to draw 2 extra cards before I Chaos Orb that one. When I drew Recall, the game is over. I utilize Mishra’s Factory and Disintegrate to finish it. In the third game, I play a turn 1 Demonic Tutor into Ancestral Recall. After that, I Mind Twist him, play Braingeyser, and play Recall for the Tutor to find Sacred Mesa and win from there. It turns out that the matchup versus green is pretty good if you draw all your restricted cards… 
 
In round 2, I play against Jason Schwartz, another very kind opponent. I got an altered set of Swords to Plowshares from him at the last n00bcon, and it is nice to be able to use them against him now. Unfortunately, the match is pretty lopsided. He starts fair with a land and an elf, but I Mind Twist him for 4 on the first turn. After that, I play Ancestral Recall and a Wrath of God when he has Llanowar Elves, Spectral Bears and Quirion Ranger. I simply draw all the answers. In the second game, I have an early Sacred Mesa, but he has an Emerald Charm! However, I draw a Regrowth for the Mesa and since this is the best card in the matchup, I am able to easily win from there. With all these fortunate draws, it seems like luck is on my side today. 
 
My round 3 opponent Robert plays RUG Aggro and starts fast with a Kird Ape and other beaters. My life total drops fast, but I am trying to take back control with Time Walk and Braingeyser for 6. The board state stabilizes, but I am on a mere 2 life against a burn deck! I draw a Sacred Mesa, which helps me survive. He draws and plays Ancestral, but I counter it. Then he plays Psionic Blast, but I calculated this risk and deliberately didn’t attack with my Factory. Now, in response to the Blast, I animate my Factory, pump it, and Swords to Plowshares it to go to 5 life and survive the Blast. I win with Pegasus tokens before he draws another burn spell. In game 2, I Mind Twist him and follow it up with a Sacred Mesa. It looks great for me, but he topdecks an Emerald Charm. Now the board is rather empty. This game also takes a long time, with not much action on both sides. After a while, he Mind Twists my whole hand away, but I don’t have that many interesting cards (only lands and BEB’s). I topdeck Regrowth for Sacred Mesa, but he has another Charm and I lose. After these two grindy, exciting games, time is up, so we end in a draw. 
 
In the next round, I face RUG Aggro again. My opponent is Morgan, the eventual winner of the tournament. In game 1, he mulls to 3! Nevertheless, it is still pretty close and I win at a mere 5 life. In game 2, he starts with Mox, Lotus, Chain Lightning, Wheel of Fortune. Too bad, because I drew an amazing opening hand. After the draw 7, he still has a land drop to make: Library of Alexandria. Luckily, I drew a Strip Mine to even things out. Alas, too many tiny creatures follow and I lose. In the deciding game, I again have trouble with getting rid of all his creatures such as River Boa and I lose rather quickly. The matchup against RUG is tough, but very close and fun to play. 
 
In round 5, I play against Markus. It is his first OS tournament! He already owned some power, because he played Vintage. He upgraded some duals and other stuff for this event. We play a control mirror and both win one game. In the third game, he starts with a turn 1 Tundra into Ancestral. On his second turn, he plays only a Factory. It looks to me like he has suboptimal mana available, so I decide to Orb the Tundra. It was a bit of a gamble play, but it turns out that Factory was his only other mana source! He probably kept a hand with only 1 land (Tundra) and an Ancestral. Meanwhile, I also have mana issues: I only have a Factory and a Mox. I have 2 Fellwar Stone, but they don’t work anymore because he only has a Factory now. I end up attacking him many times with my lone Factory, while he has to discard to hand size. He finally draws a Mox Jet, and plays Demonic Tutor for Tundra. But now my Fellwars are back online and we both can play cards again. My Sacred Mesa gets Mana Drained. He draws Chaos Orb but misses the flip on my Factory. He stabilizes at 6 life, but I Disintegrate him for the win. 
 
After my match, I get to see the ending of an epic mirror match between Olle and Wander. They play a really grindy game with multiple Mazes. Wander wanted to make a lethal attack with the help of Berserk, but Maze of Ith made it really difficult. Finally, he gets a window of opportunity. Wander plays Giant Growth and Berserk on his attacking Scaled Wurm that got chump blocked! But Olle is prepared for this and plays 2 Giant Growths of his own to soak up enough trample damage to survive. Close call! Their match ends in a draw.
 
 The Mono Green Mirror Match: Olle vs. Wander
 
It is time for round 6, the final round. I am 3-1-1 at this point and get to play a win-and-in against… Wander! In game 1, I have an early Mind Twist for a large chunk of his hand. It is still a close race though. I manage to remove his creatures and stabilize at 5 life. I draw Sacred Mesa and start beating him down with pegasi. But then he draws a River Boa and with a timely Giant Growth he sneaks in the last 5 damage just before my winged horses can finish him.
 
 My opening hand in game 2 versus Wander. Please note his multifunctional traveler’s ‘play-map’.
 
Game 2 is awkward. I have an early Sacred Mesa, but he just has too many creatures: Factory, Wyluli Wolf, Quirion Ranger and Pixies. Because he can pump twice with his Wolf, I don’t have good defenses. This means that Sacred Mesa can’t keep up and that I have to pull the emergency brake: cast the Balance that I had in my opening hand. It is painful though, because it costs me 3 lands and my Mesa, because I can’t use my remaining mana each turn to just pay the upkeep. It feels like a losing play, especially since he gets to bounce a Forest in response with his Quirion Ranger. He also gets to keep a Factory. But luckily enough, I draw an answer to the Factory and after a long time, I end up squeezing out the win with a Disintegrate.
Wander’s playmat had some intriguing features, like this advertisement for an unique, ‘once in a lifetime’ experience.
 
In game 3, we both have to play fast to finish the game in time. He plays an Autumn Willow, but I have Zuran Orb and again a Balance, this time with no cards in my hand. That was a brutal play. He draws 2 Primal Orders that he sideboarded in, but I knew he had those in his arsenal and saved my Disenchants and Counterspells for them. Right before time is called, I win with Factory’s and Sacred Mesa. Hurray, top 8!
 
 9 angry men. It turns out that I am the only non-Swede to get into this insanely powerful, Shark-heavy top 8. (Mitja photobombs.)

In the top 8, I get paired against one of the founding fathers of old school, Shark-holder Kalle. Surprisingly, he is not playing his beautiful Su-Chi’s and Bolts today! Our match is quick and dirty. In game 1, he starts with Mox Sapphire, Ancestral Recall, Tundra, Savannah Lions. I have a Swords for that one, but he has another Lions and Time Walk. He then Mind Twists my hand away and that was that. In game 2, I open with Factory, Sol Ring, Fellwar Stone. He plays a Mox Pearl and Tithe to fetch some lands. Sweet play. I have a Jayemdae Tome and another Factory, but he has a Divine Offering for my Tome. Now, the coast is clear though, for my 2 Factory’s to attack. They get him all the way down to 1 life! His own City’s helped me get there, but now I can’t seal the deal. He gets rid of 1 Factory and draws his own Factory and a Lion. Surprisingly though, he attacks me next turn with everything, leaving no defenders at home. At that point, he has 3 cards in hand. I am thinking about his play, and determine that he probably has Disenchant and Counterspell, because he was feeling so comfortable to attack while being on 1 life. In my turn, I draw Sacred Mesa. I am not in a position to play around everything, so I decide to attack with my Factory to ‘lure’ the Disenchant from his hand and then play Mesa, hoping he doesn’t have another answer. He indeed Disenchants the Factory and Counters my Sacred Mesa, so I lose.
 
After the quarterfinal, it was too fun to call it a day already. I didn’t feel like watching many matches, so I mainly caught up with Swedes or other international travelers. Wander left a bit earlier and gave his cards to me again, since he was staying in a hostel. My roommate Thomas also left earlier, so around 4 in the morning I walked back alone to the hotel to get a few hours of sleep. 
 
Later, I hear that Wander had some troubles that night with finding the tram or bus station to his hostel in the northern parts of Gothenburg. Apparently, his ‘play-map’ couldn’t help him find his way home. He ended up taking an expensive cab to his cheap hostel, only to be kept up all night by his cheerful roommate, who decided to smoke a cigarette at 4 AM and snore like hell. 

n00bfest at the Fortress (Friday 7 April) 

On Friday morning, I was hungover. I bought a big box of fresh fruit and some coffee. Thomas and I walked to the fortress. Wander, who had a rough night himself, was running late. Saving money on a hostel didn’t seem like a winning formula, so in the morning, he decided to switch to a hotel. He texted me that he also had problems with his door key. He couldn’t close the door and had to switch to another room. Time was running short, because the tournament was really going to start on-time this year. Since I had his cards with me, I asked for a picture of his deck. This way, I could assemble his deck at the last minute, making sure he was ready for battle when he arrived. He sent me a picture of a nice brew with 4 Berserk and 4 Maze of Ith (!) and, of course, Wanderlust. 

 Wander’s First Swedish Legal Love: Gu Berserk/Maze.

Fortunately, Tolaria had some start-up issues, so Wander, sweaty from running up the hill to the fortress, arrived just in time to play round 1. I was playing The Deck today. Normally, I play multiple Serra Angels main, but this time I wanted to try out a more classic build with Mirror Universe.
 
 The Deck.
 
(Before I will delve into the broken, twisted games of old school Magic again, I want to remind you, reader of this blog, that you can still, at any time, decide to take an alternative route or shortcut. For instance, if you don’t feel like reading about the nitty-gritty of the games, you can go straight to the aftermath of all the n00b-festivities.)
 
My first opponent of the day is Jocke, who I also met in Arvika. We are sitting on table 1 and it looks like it will be my lucky day today: I have a sick opener with Library of Alexandria, Ancestral Recall and Time Walk. I even draw Recall to get Ancestral and Walk back. But Jocke actually has some very good responses: Black Vise, Ankh of Mishra and City in a Bottle. Since I draw none of my artifact removal, it turns into a really close game that I manage to win. Mainly because he didn’t draw a red source the whole game. Otherwise, I would have lost for sure, despite my insane draws. In game 2, he gets to do the broken stuff: turn 1 City in a Bottle into turn 2 Su-chi, with 2 Mishra’s Factory’s in play. This means that he gets to attack for 8 damage on turn 3. I draw all my copies of City of Brass and lose quickly. In the final game, I can play a turn 1 Balance with 3 Moxen, followed by efficient removal (Swords and Disenchant) and a Serra Angel to finish it.
 
In round 2, I play against Anton Glans, who I also saw before in Arvika. I kept a nice hand with Tundra, Factory, Sol Ring, Tome. He starts with Library and I play my Tome on turn 2. After that, I don’t draw extra mana during the first couple of turns, despite drawing some cards with Tome. Meanwhile, he draws 2 Disenchants to take care of the Tome and Sol Ring. I get too far behind. I draw a Stone Rain for the LoA, but it is too late. Serra beats me to zero.
 
I am not sure what he was playing. I know that Anton usually plays UW midrange ‘Skies’, and since I saw the Serra, I put him on that. He surprises me in game 2 by opening with a Savannah Lions and Argothian Pixies. I play Serra Angel. He has a Psionic Blast, but I have a REB. He has another Blast though. Lotus into Braingeyser quickly wins the game for him.
 
In round 3, I play against Albert. I keep an interesting hand with 2 Mox, Sol Ring, 1 land, Swords, Divine Offering and Mind Twist, but no black mana. He starts with Library and eventually Twists my whole hand away, the turn before I draw my black source… 
 
In game 2, I do some broken stuff: turn 1 Ancestral, turn 2 Mind Twist for 5, while he has 6 cards in his hands. Now he only has 1 Plateau in play and 1 random card left in his hand. On turn 3, I play Serra Angel. When he finally draws his second land, he shows me the 1 card he got to keep with the Mind Twist: Balance! I did draw a Counterspell though, so my Serra is able to seal the deal.
 
I had no real idea what he was playing. I didn’t see any creatures at all during our games. Only reactive cards and burn, so I thought he might be on ‘The Burn Deck’, some kind of brew. In game 3, I play Braingeyser for 4, but he responds with a Wheel of Fortune. After that he drops a Savannah Lions and Atog… It turns out he plays LionDibBolt! I lose to the beatdown.
 
Round 4 was definitely the most fun and exciting match of the day. I got to play against Claudia from the United States. I keep a nice hand, but she starts with Tropical Island, Black Lotus, Timetwister. My Library of Alexandria is now shuffled back in my deck and she draws her own Library with the Twister. I play Mind Twist for 4 to stop the card draw engine, but she has Wheel of Fortune to get back to 7. I draw Ancestral Recall and Strip Mine though, to even things out. Then suddenly, she plays People of the Woods. I have to read that one! She plays another one and enchants both of them with Spirit Link. Awesome! She gains a ton of life with these and Dark Heart of the Wood. I realize I have to think carefully about how I can win this match, because Recall, Fireball, Regrowth and all of my removal spells are already in my graveyard! So I have to win with Mirror Universe and multiple Factory’s. I manage to get there with only a few cards left in my library.
 

 
In game 2, we both have a turn 1 Ancestral Recall. She slams a turn 2 People of the Woods. I have a hand without ways to remove permanents, but with 2 Counterspells. I play the first one on Sylvan Library and the second one on Verduren Enchantress. The turn after that, she taps 6 mana and I am afraid of what would happen since I ran out of answers. Mind Twist? No, she plays Gaea’s Liege. I didn’t see that one coming! Neither did I see the Eureka coming the turn after that. With Eureka, she put Lich into play and started drawing a lot of cards with Dark Heart of the Wood, playing more lands with Fastbond. This time, it was her turn to win with Mirror Universe. Time is up and instead of a draw, we decide to flip Orbs on Gaea’s Liege to determine a winner. After about 30 flips each, her Orb bounces of the Liege and I win. I didn’t care much about winning or losing though. It was a lot of fun to watch this original deck in action and our match felt in line with the true spirit of old school Magic.
 
It is a pleasure to see Rasmus again in round 5. He is my Danish nemesis piloting his pet deck Mono Green. It lost to him recently and now try to get some revenge. In game 1, I draw all 4 Counterspells. My Jayemdae Tome sticks arounds and I just have too much control and card advantage. In game 2, I trade 2 Swords to Plowshares for 2 Elves. Then I play Fireball on two other critters. But the creatures just keep coming and there is nothing I can do. Game 3, I have an Ancestral Recall, but my draws are awkward. I have a Serra Angel and Mirror Universe in my hand, but only 5 mana total, of which only 1 is white. I have 3 turns to draw something to get into the game, but draw blanks and lose to the small green creatures – again!
 
In round 6, I face another player from the United States: Charles Klein. He starts with Library on the play with a mulligan, whereas I kept a funny hand with 3 Mishra’s Factory and a Time Walk. When I attack him with 2 Factory’s, he plays Hurkyl’s Recall! He then plays Underworld Dreams. I think about what to do here. I take into account that he can play a Timetwister, but since I am not low on life, it seems better to not play Disenchant on the Dreams and just attack him down to 9. On his turn, he plays Tutor for Twister, which is fine for me, but directly after the Twister he plays Time Walk into Wheel of Fortune… Well, that was too much! 
  
The second game, I keep a hand with Counterspells and Serra. It seems perfect, but he is able to sneak in a Hypnotic Specter on turn 1 with a Dark Ritual before I get my Counterspells online. This is horrible for me. He discards my Serra and I fall too far behind quickly. I was unsure about his tactics and only kept 2 Swords to Plowshares in. I like these Underworld Dreams decks a lot and it is nice to see them working well.
 
In the final round of the day, I meet yet another American player: Pez. We laugh, because we both are playing top tier 1 decks but have a 2-4 record. I start with a Library, but he has an aggressive opening: 2 Savannah Lions and a Factory. I have some removal spells, but he finishes me with Psionic Blast and 2 Bolts. In game 2, I win in a rather uninspiring way with Mind Twist. During game 3, he starts beating me down with Factory’s, but I have a Mirror Universe with Mana Drain backup. I take some damage from my own City’s, and swap life with him: 8 versus 19. Now my Serra Angel only needs to attack 2 times and it’s done.
 
After the Swiss, I watched a few games and got to see artist Jeff Menges at work. It was great that he was there. He finished a set of altered Divine Offering for me.

 A well-guarded Jeff Menges altering cards.
 
It was amazing to see War Mammoth in the finals, piloted by Luis. Please note that he played a full playset of War Mammoths mainboard. He was the ‘people’s champion’, but it was also nice to see Leo Bruder put up another win with his trusty Robots. It was too bad that the Dutchies didn’t make it in the top 8: we covered the 9th, 10th and 11th place! Wander narrowly lost his win-and-in match. Still, he had an honorable 11th place finish and got a nice trophy card, extra mutated with some googly eyes. After the announcements were over, I was tired from all the games and the loud noise in the fortress. I was nice to go back to the hotel a bit early and take some quiet rest.
 
 "I didn't think Mammoths could ever hold a candle to a well-trained battle horse..."

 
Looking back at this day, perhaps Martin ‘Fluffy’ Lindström was the ultimate ‘winner’ of the tournament. He went ‘Double O Seven’ (0-0-7) in the tournament with the help of the recently unrestricted Shahrazad, further establishing his reputation as the ‘Bond villain’. He did this during his ‘sabbatical leave’ of playing The Deck. I am not sure what impressed me the most: this unique tournament result or his conclusion that 2 is the correct number of Shahrazads you want to play when you aim to get only draws all day. He also played a Divine Intervention by the way. Such a sweet card. It reminds me of my early Magic days as a teenager, when I hated the duration of multiplayer games and taunted my player group by playing a deck with Shahrazad + Fork and Divine Intervention.
 

The Daunting Height of a Foot (Saturday 8 April) 

On Saturday morning, my roommate Thomas and I had some coffee on a bench outside. The spring sun is always so nice during the Easter weekend in Gothenburg. It must even feel nicer for the Swedes, after living in darkness and tough weather for months. We went for a walk and decided to meet Wander at the fish church (‘Feskekôrka’). Back in 2017, Wander really wanted to check out this ‘church’ in Gothenburg. Sadly, back then, we arrived there shortly after closing time. So, this year we had another go at it. It turns out the church is under construction though and has been closed for many years. 
 
Thomas and I couldn’t find Wander. Apparently, he was wandering about, trying to get a haircut but failed to do so. Meanwhile, Thomas and I did some second hand shopping. He travelled light and had a family get-together directly after n00bfest, so he could use another shirt. We finally met up with Wander and got some pizza at the Stora Saluhallen (market hall). We walked to John Scott’s, a sports bar with a nice rooftop terrace. Last n00bcon, we used the same location for some casual hungover gaming and it was great. I was looking forward to chill-out there again. Somewhere else in the city, the infamous Wizards’ Tournament was happening, but since I don’t even own one Alpha card, it wasn’t an option for me.

 
Simply the fact of being able to sit outside feels so nice after playing in a dimly lit fortress the whole day. At the terrace of John Scott’s, I got some nice Höga Kusten beers, from the region where I hiked with my family in 2022. We hosted a small tournament with 4 rounds. When I won against Charles Klein and Micke Thai, I was well on my way to defend my ‘title’: I won last year’s small tournament at this pub. In the third round I faced Wander. This seemed like a fortunate pairing, because he was playing Mono Green and I brought a deck full of removal, Serra Angels and 2 Falling Stars sideboard. Of course, he beat me 2-0. Green continues to be my enemy color. 
 
In the final round, I played against Seb. I had a nice turn 1 play on the draw with Mox, Sol Ring, Fellwar Stone, Chaos Orb. Since I didn’t have any other mana sources, this seemed like a solid play. What’s the worst that can happen, right? Bam! He slammed a Shatterstorm on turn 2. It turns out he played the Seb Special: an artifact-heavy deck that played a combination of Nevinyrral’s Disk, Trikes and multiple Shatterstorms. It was definitely a fun way to loose. After our match, we played some ante games with the ‘Reinvitational’ decks we got from Christian some time ago. The games were very grindy, but my newly traded Kormus Bell won me both games.
 
 Reinvitational decks. More Mammoths!
 
Meanwhile, it was getting dark and the music noise was getting louder and stranger. Since we were on a rooftop, we could hear the music of John Scott’s and the music of the neighboring bar. This eclectic remix was a bit much. We soon ended up going to the Contrast Public House to meet up with the others who played Alpha all day. During our walk there, we found a place called Notting Hill, the perfect spot for Wander, but there was nothing to see there.
 
 Things start to get fuzzy.
 
At the Wizards’ Tournament, it was nice to be able to catch up with the other Dutchies and look at the orb flipping contests. Wander and I saw Trygve win a Chaos Orb patch on his birthday: 50 flips, no misses. Wander wanted to try it as well, with 4 shot glasses. He put his ‘play-map’ on the table and chose a Wanderlust as the flipping target. Three piled deck boxes and Brother Stebbo were there to make sure the Orb was flipped from a height of at least one foot. The crowd was going wild, expectations seemed to be mixed. Wander flipped truly horribly to be honest, but it was exciting. The shot glasses were empty before we knew it.
 

 
After seeing this train wreck, I was full of confidence, because I only missed 1 flip in tournaments the last years. I decided it was my turn now. Before you start, you have to determine how many shots you want. You have to get to 50 successful flips and for each failed flip, you can take a shot and continue. I wanted to use only 1 shot, but Micke Thai stepped up as my personal trainer and convinced me to take more, preferably way more. We settled on 3 shots, even though Micke looked at me like I was a mad man. 
 
Before I got to start, people were ‘betting’ on the result. Danny wasn’t sure and asked me to demonstrate how I flipped, to get a better feeling of my flipping skills. I had some fun with it and deliberately did a bad flip that barely hit. Danny had seen enough: I was destined for failure. I myself was still full of confidence though. I tried to get in a nice flip flow: 1 hit, 2 hits, 3 hits, 4 hits, 5 hits, 6… What was that! The sixth one bounced off in a way I’ve never seen before. I looked at total disbelief at the two cards on my playmat and the large empty space between them. I did like 30 flips in a row yesterday versus Claudia without any troubles, and now this happened. Was the table perhaps very uneven? My confidence took a hit and fear started to get the upper hand. If this already happened now, how could I ever get to that 50? My hand was trembling a bit. The pressure grew and when I held the Orb a bit too low, our judge Brother Stebbo watched closely, further adding tensions. Before I got to 20 hits, I was out.
 
I soon was able to process this failed attempt, because the atmosphere was great and more shots and drinks were handed out. It was sad that the bar had to close soon thereafter, but not before they put up a catchy song. Wander and Micke Thai seized the moment and started dancing on the table, while the staff of the bar was looking slightly worried, but also amused. As I learned later, both Wander and Micke fell asleep that night in the comfort of the cold, marble tiles of their hotel bathrooms. Micke slept in a running (!) shower and Wander on the toilet.
 

 
I guess I already noticed before that Wander wasn’t on top of things (outside tables), because that evening I suggested to take his deck to my hotel again. I didn’t want him to worry about it and emphasized multiple times that I had his deck safely in my bag. I told him this again right before we split up that night. Of course, half an hour later I get a call from a stressed-out Wander, who had already walked back to the bar to check if his deck was still there. “Yes, I have it.” 
 
Thomas and I arrived at the hotel past 3 AM and I had to get up at 7 to catch my train. It was a way too short night, but I manage to pull myself together and walk to the train. At the train station, I was very surprised to see Wander there on time as well! I was even more surprised, when he told me he fell asleep on the toilet and didn’t set an alarm clock!
 
Wander was still in good vibes. The train ride offered some space to sober up and overthink our trip thus far. Wander was literally crying of joy, thinking of the good times he had this Easter and during his hitchhiking trip in Norway leading up the n00bfest. I was happy for him and glad we could end this adventure together again.
 

Dancing in Denmark (Sunday 9 April)

 The long journey home.
 
But the end wasn’t in sight yet. Because of maintenance issues, our journey home was way longer than normal: about 33 hours, with a stop in Kolding, Denmark. Of course, one train connection was cancelled and we had to take a multiple hour bus ride. That was a bit much for the early Sunday morning, so when we ascended into a tunnel, Wander was feeling worse by the minute. I looked around for a plastic bag to help my friend, but only saw our bread bag that still had a cinnamon roll in it. Time was evidently running very short, so I decided to sacrifice that poor cinnamon roll for the greater good and gave the bag to Wander so he could have his relieve.
 
When we finally arrived in Kolding, we found some new energy after some sleep along the way. We explored this nice city for some sights, had some fun and danced to the music that was played outside at several places for the holidays. Finding a place to eat was not that easy during the Easter weekend. Thankfully, we found a nice restaurant that was still open and had a spot for us. Our Airbnb was great. We basically had a whole house for ourselves. We talked a bit about tournament reports in general and decided we were going to team up for this n00bfest report. I had to set an alarm clock around midnight, because I was bidding on 4 signed Su-Chi for my collection. After I won them, I was glad I could close my eyes again for a good night sleep. The next morning, I did some research and found a good bakery that was open early on Monday. Right before we had to catch our train, we were able to pick up some nice focaccia and sourdough bread for the long, but satisfying ride home to the Netherlands.
 
 Wander, still dancing. Kolding, Denmark.

 Alex, a 93-94 player at heart. Old school Magic: a bunch of ‘odd fellows’?

 Good bread is always a treat. The only way this could have been better, was if it was Ålands Surdejsbageri. 

 Magic the Puzzling: writing a report with poorly structured notes.
 

The End of the Road 

There is something special about Sweden. I will continue to come back, explore Sweden and also other Scandinavian countries. Maybe one day, I can reply for a request for an officious naturalization, just like Åland became Dutch. If you ask me, I think ‘Ålex’ has a good sound to it. My last name, however, apparently means ‘rotten’ in Swedish. Maybe that means I have to switch to playing Zombies to live up to it? Anyway, a first step towards getting to know a country and culture better, is always to start learning the language. So I will try to apply again for a Swedish language course and hope there are enough applicants this time.
 
Wander himself had such a good time during his Scandinavian adventure that he is already pondering about what other odd travel options there are available to Gothenburg. Maybe via Gdansk, taking the boat from there? Or an even longer route through Estonia and Finland? 
 
We both decided we need to prep more if we ever want to obtain a Chaos Orb patch. We will flip pancakes for breakfast more often and try to attend an orb flipping bootcamp to be able the perform better under pressure.
 
Writing this report together has been a joy. This ‘monster of the year’ grew and grew. As the stream of words flowed naturally, we relived the moments. It truly was a ‘fest’, so much more than a game or tournament. Old school Magic feels like one big, international family with a special bond. This report, no matter how lengthy it may be, doesn’t do full justice to the feeling of being part of that family and experience. The best we could do after all this time was pour all our ‘bloed, zweet en tranen’ (‘blood, sweat and tears’) in a tribute. Thank you, select few readers, who followed us on our journey all the way to the end. We hope you enjoyed our adventure story. Maybe we will see you one day, playtesting in the train, flipping orbs in the pub, or hitchhiking down a long and lonesome road.

Kommentarer

  1. Thank you so so much for this great read Alex and Wander! Looking forward to see at least half of you in a couple of months for n00bcon 15! <3

    SvaraRadera
  2. Very nice read! See you at Easter!
    /Bond

    SvaraRadera
  3. I have finished / swedished your report.
    Seems like you had a spectacular time.
    Have great days you all folks Mg and company!
    Jirka

    SvaraRadera

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