Arvika According to Wheel

It is my extraordinary pleasure to get to share Will Magrann's notes from the last Arvika Festival. Please enjoy! /Mg Out

After the Arvika Festival in 2023 I did not think I would be back. I had gotten second place, the Shark was likely a one time thing, I did not have anyone to travel with, and there are just too many good events to travel to. As the 2024 event calendar filled out I initially thought that I would be attending the Team World Cup which fell on the same weekend as Arvika, but then I talked myself out of that and had settled on not going to an event in February. Towards the end of December the FOMO started to set in as I began hearing of people’s plans for Arvika and the World Cup.

In one such conversation with Danny Friedman it all clicked for me. Danny was telling me how excited he was to be getting back to Arvika and that he and Shane Semmens were planning to take a train from Oslo to Arvika and back. I asked if I could ride their logistical coattails, Danny was fine with that, and so I began entertaining the possibility of a return trip to Arvika. 

My biggest stumbling block for the tournament was that my fiancé Lucy and my two year anniversary was on February 22nd, the day that I would fly out to Oslo for the tournament. Luckily for me, when I told Lucy that I was excited at the idea of traveling with Danny and Shane, going back to Arvika to see my friends, and getting another chance to play in a very large and well-run event she instantly gave me the green-light. She told me that if it was important to me that I should go for it; you never know how many opportunities like this you will have and it seems like it means a lot to you. I am eternally grateful that I will soon be lucky enough to call her my wife; I imagine that there is probably more negotiation around these kinds of things in most relationships.

After Lucy gave me the go-ahead I booked a flight and day by day the excitement began to build up. I was able to get a room at the Scandic where the event was held with Fredric Düring whom I had stayed with at Winc0n and found an Airbnb in Oslo for Sunday night where I could stay before my flight back home on Monday morning.

At this point I have taken enough solo trips across the Atlantic for Magic tournaments that I am no longer daunted by solo travel, especially if it is to somewhere I have been before and I have plans to meet up with friends along the way to lessen the logistical burden. About a week before the trip I reached out to Danny to formulate a plan for Friday. My flight was to depart from Newark on Thursday night and arrive in Oslo on Friday morning. My hope was that there might be enough time for me to go to a museum in Oslo before meeting up with Danny, Shane, and their host MG to take a train to Arvika. At first, Danny told me that everything was still completely up in the air but then a day or two later he let me know that their plans had changed due to MG needing to provide childcare while his wife was at work on Friday. He implored me to find my own way to Arvika to avoid getting roped into a potentially frustrating situation. I thanked Danny for his candor and pivoted to a new plan.

In 2022 at n00bcon I made a fast friend in Steinar Lauritzen. Steinar and I shared a tight but banter filled match towards the end of the day and the conversation from our match continued throughout the evening. We kept in touch after the event, swapping Beta Healing Salve alters and checking in with each other about various Magic coming and goings. Knowing that Steinar both lived in Oslo and was attending Arvika Festival, I reached out to him to see if we might be able to coordinate travel. I was able to book the seat next to him on the train to Arvika and so we were set and ready to go.

Magic-wise I was in a bit of a weird spot leading up to Arvika. I had played The Deck for every 1 Strip event for the last year and a half, but after getting three consecutive unintentional draws at winc0n and then going 4-4 in the Winter Derby I realized that I needed a change of pace. I had not really played particularly poorly at either event, but I was feeling burnt out and really did not want to play The Deck. At first, I was intrigued by a Robots list that my good friend Svante Landgraf had supplied me with, but after sleeving it up and taking a deck picture I changed my mind. The list seemed good, but I felt like it was more likely that I would want to play a burn deck than Robots at n00bcon and figured I could use the practice since it had been a while since I had played a burn deck. In talking to Svante he told me he planned to run back his exact 75 from the Marzipan tournament that he won with Fantasy Zoo. After looking at the list I knew that was what I should play. Everything was well thought out and I really had no complaints about any of the choices which is a rarity for me. I built the Fantasy Zoo deck, took a deck picture, did some goldfishing, and discussed how to approach sideboarding and general heuristics for the deck with Svante.

My weapon of choice for Arvika 2024

While assembling my deck I realized that I was two interesting Chain Lightnings away from a playset. Most of my deck as you can likely tell from the photo has some level of uniqueness to it whether that be signatures, alters, prize cards, etc. For big events I have made a habit of picking out a card in my collection to personalize in some way to memorialize the occasion. As my travel for Arvika coincided with our anniversary, I decided to get Lucy to help me to alter one of my Chain Lightnings to give my deck a bit more personal significance.

In the two weeks leading up to the event I was unfortunately dealing with a sinus infection from a cold that would not go away. Originally, I figured it would go away after a week or so, but as I got to a week out I started to worry that despite taking cold medicine that I might need to go see a doctor to bring in the heavy artillery. Thankfully, it all started to clear up on Tuesday and by Thursday morning I was good to go. On Wednesday night I got myself totally packed up, worked until 3PM on Thursday, and then headed to the Newark Airport for my flight.

The day of travel logistics got off without a hitch and before I knew it I was on my way to Oslo. Unfortunately, I sat next to a wife and her son with her husband and two other sons sitting behind me on the flight. The children were predictably annoying with one clicking his seatbelt for what felt like an hour and despite it being a red-eye I think I got no more than 30 minutes of sleep before arriving in Oslo at 8AM. Over the years I have grown accustomed to this pattern with travel where I am too excited or otherwise prevented from getting a meaningful amount of sleep on the way to my destination. My solution is to power through the day despite being tired and then just go to sleep when it is normal for everyone else to and I usually get a good night’s sleep and avoid jet lag. This approach is certainly not the healthiest in the long term, but for the time being it does the trick and avoids me getting my sleep schedule totally out of whack when abroad.

My plan for Friday morning was to hit the ground running by taking a train into Oslo proper, walking over to the National Museum to check it out as soon as it opens and then returning to Oslo to meet up with Steinar for our 12pm train. I got some breakfast in the airport, caught a train into Oslo, and enjoyed a scenic walk along the harbor to the National Museum. In the National Museum I put my bags in a locker and then had a little over an hour to speedrun through as many rooms of paintings as possible. I really enjoyed this approach as I did not feel guilty totally disregarding a room if it contained art that did not interest me; e.g. a room of Norwegian politicians from the 19th century. I saw everything I wanted to in the hour I had allotted including Edvard Munch’s The Scream and then went on my merry way to meet up with Steinar. 

Mission accomplished!

Upon meeting up with Steinar and his friend Marius we exchanged small talk about my journey and what they were planning to play in Alpha 40 that evening and then made our way to the train platform, or so we thought. Upon getting up to the platform we learned that our train had changed platforms at the last minute and so we ran to another track and made it onboard with little time to spare. We settled into our seats with me unwittingly taking the seat of the woman who was supposed to be sitting next to me; Steinar thankfully was able to talk through everything on my behalf, apologize, and make it so that we could sit next to each other and catch up. The two hours train to Arvika flew by. We talked about life, Magic, our decks for the weekend, n00bcon, and even managed to work out a trade. Steinar had been looking to upgrade one of his Beta Savannah Lions which had a small amount of damage on the front of it and conveniently I have been working to downgrade the condition of my cards so that I can take some money off of the table and feel less guilty if I get my cards altered or signed. Steinar sent me $150, we swapped Lions, and we both were happy to have made the deal. 

Swapping Lions en route to Arvika

Shortly thereafter we arrived in Arvika, walked out of the station into sideways rain, and made our way to the Bristol hotel where Steinar had booked a suite. We sat around and shared stories about old Magic friends whose lives had gone off the rails while Steinar and Marius enjoyed a beer or two and then headed over to the Scandic where the event would be held. Fredric gave me my room key, I dropped off my bags, caught my breath, and then rejoined the masses. As I was neither playing Scryings nor Alpha 40 I had a lot of time to spare and jumped at the opportunity to walk over and get Indian food for dinner. With our bellies full of curry and other Indian goodness we headed back to the Scandic.

Outside the Scandic I saw a strange sight as MG, Danny, Shane, and Kalle had somehow trapped themselves in the fenced in parking lot for the hotel. They were completely baffled at how to get out of the parking lot until on a whim I tried my room key on the gate and magically it opened and set them free. This was particularly strange insofar as I was supposed to have traveled with them to the event and if I had then who would have opened the gate for us? On the walk into the hotel Danny told me about their near death experiences with ice and moose on the dark backroads from Oslo to Arvika which further reinforced my belief that I had made the correct decision to take the train with Steinar. Add in the fact that MG’s wife’s car was very small and there would almost certainly not have been room for me and my bag and it’s really no contest.


While Svante and others played Scryings I caught up with old friends Leo Bruder and Philipp Steinisch whom I had traveled with via train to winc0n in 2022. The conversation zigged and zagged from Leo explaining how by bringing chocolate to his coworkers he gains favor in decision making to Philipp and I realizing that February 22nd is a significant day for both of us as it is my anniversary with Lucy and his twins’ birthday. Later I got to hear the story of how BJ Eagle came to get his name which he had begun trying to tell me in Arvika the year prior but never got around to telling.

Later on that evening I went to check on how Steinar was doing in Alpha and had the pleasure of getting introduced to Tor Skogen and Joakim Sørmo. Joakim very excitedly showed me a quite graphic and honestly disturbing alter that Tor had done which caused me to laugh so hard that I started crying. While looking at the alter, an Italian guy who I did not know asked me if I could hold it up so he could take my picture with it to which I replied, “Absolutely not!” and handed it back to Joakim. I still do not know why he wanted to have a picture of me holding this lewd alter, but it seems like the kind of thing that could be used to blackmail me if I ever made the bad decision of running for public office.

Zoom in at your own risk

Tor and I played a handful of warmup games which I won; partially powered Titania’s Song prison seems like a favorable matchup for fully tricked out Fantasy Zoo, at least in our small sample size. After finishing our games I ventured out to see how the rest of the world was doing and was greeted with a lot of utter nonsense which confirmed for me that it was time to go to sleep. I went back to my room, took a shower, and enjoyed  a wonderful night’s sleep.

I started Saturday morning off with a tasty breakfast at the hotel and some delicious Amaretti Chocolates courtesy of Leo then went on a walk with Svante, Leo, Danny, Shane, and Steinar which Steinar later dubbed the “Spike Walk”. More chats about life were had, Svante and I contemplated a bit of finer points for sideboarding against Robots, and soon enough we were back to the Scandic and getting ready to play. Just before the event started I remembered that Simon had handed Winston a stack of bandanas that he’d made for me to hand out at the event. I grabbed them from my room and got to work handing them out. Even got a fun photo of the whole endeavor.

Blue steel

In the first round of the tournament I got to face off against Reindeer. We swapped non-games with me flooding horribly in the first game and then him getting mana screwed in the second while I opened with Ancestral into Tutor for Library. The third game was interesting and ultimately regrettable for me. I mulliganned to five cards on the draw and had a first turn Library. I was feeling decent about this until Reindeer cast a second turn Demonic Tutor into a third turn Chains of Mephistopheles. At this point I should have probably just concluded that my Library was not meant to be and forgotten that it does anything other than tap for colorless mana, but I did not. I gave up way too much tempo to get myself back to the Library, passing up opportunities to do sensible things like Bolt his Lion or play a second blue land so I could Counterspell the Serra Angel that killed me. Instead, I tunnel visioned into getting back up to Library and died in the process. Chains is a weird card, but I should have read the writing on the wall and pivoted to my backup plan of casting my spells which very well may have won me the game due to Reindeer flooding out.

Like that my back was against the wall if I wanted to make the Top8; likely needing to win my next seven rounds. In the second round I played another friend in my roommate for the weekend, Luring. We had a strange three game set which saw me take ten straight damage from Serendib Efreet after he locked down the board with Mazes and Ghost Ships. In the second game I opened with the absolute nuts; Sapphire, Ruby, Time Walk, Volcanic, Chain you. On my TIme Walk turn I played Plateau, Savannah Lions, and then cast Wheel of Fortune which made Luring discard his Library and drew me into my own as well as other gas. My hand for game three was not quite as strong, but I opened with Ancestral on the first turn and then Demonic Tutor for Library which I played and activated on the second turn. The game was not particularly close from there unfortunately even though Luring did resolve a big Geyser at one point because I answered it with a Mind Twist for hand.

The absolute nuts

In the third round I faced off against Andreas aka Fork in a full Beta Fantasy Zoo mirror match. He had all of the power in the first game while I had it in games two and three; unsurprisingly, whoever had Ancestral managed to pull out the win. The fourth round saw me face off against Kenneth of the Drain Life Crew who was playing a unique black white deck. My mid game Library pulled me away in the first game, a weak mulligan to six in the second game spelled my downfall, and in the third game he got mana screwed while I had a strong hand and ran away with it.

After the fourth round was the dinner break which is one of my favorite parts of the event to be honest. Unlike most events, David Strandberg gives two hours for the dinner break which gives me time to eat and then go out for a walk so I can digest and feel comfortable for the last four rounds. After an enjoyable meal I went outside and socialized a bit with my new friends Joakim and Tor before heading out for a walk during which time I caught up with Lucy on the comings and goings back home. After an hour or so of aimlessly wandering the streets of Arvika I found myself back at the Scandic ready to go for the second half of the event.

I faced off against Trygve in Round five for an interesting match. I thought I was going to run away with the first game because I had a Library and Ancestral, but Trygve’s first turn Black Vise had other plans. I traded life for cards and then got myself out of the Vise and thought I was in the clear until Trygve Hurkyl’s Recalled me at the end of my turn. I responded by cracking my Black Lotus to Psionic Blast him. Unfortunately, Trygve followed this up by miscounting his mana and my cards in hand, targeting me for a not quite lethal Braingeyser which put me down to one from the Vise in my upkeep. With the six cards his Geyser had gotten me I was able to kill him and felt like I had really dodged a bullet. The second game was a back and forth affair which ended with me dead and him at four life. In the third game I curved out perfectly on him with all of my cards lining up perfectly against his including a REB for his Dib and a Chant for his Factory.

Round six saw me face Glenn and lose two long and grindy games. In the first game I thought I had it in the bag when I activated my Chaos Orb forcing Glenn to remove the counters from his Triskelion. I correctly read that he had an Animate Dead in hand and opted not to Orb his Triskelion because my Serendib Efreet would fly over it and I would win the race. Unfortunately, the other card in his hand aside from the Animate Dead I had predicted was a Divine Offering. Glenn gained a massive six life by targeting his Triskelion with Divine Offering and then Animate Deading it, completely swinging the game in the process. For the second game I had a first turn Library, but Glenn had a Chaos Orb to answer it after I drew one card. My hand relied heavily on the Library and without it I had awkward mana and little to play. Without the Library I gave Glenn way too much time to develop and he punished me by dropping four Underworld Dreams into play. Hard to be mad when you lose in such a stylish way.

Sweet Dreams!

In the penultimate round I squared off against Glenn’s buddy, Pål (pictured above). I had an aggressive start with a Lion and Orc as well as a Chant for his Factory and I ran him over. I had a feeling that due to the Orcs Pål would board in Circle of Protection: Red, so I cut my Orcs and a Chain Lightning for an Armageddon, Counterspell, and Su-Chi. The second game did not go so well for Pål as he missed an Orb flip and then after casting an Ancestral Recall and dropping a Library with six cards in hand I blew him to smithereens with Armageddon.

The last round of the swiss was a real treat as I got to do battle with the current Old School World Champion, Andrea Bianconi. I mulliganned to five on the draw, but still managed to take the game thanks to an unanswered Savannah Lion combined with burn for me and mana flood for Andrea. We both had Libraries in the second game, but after trading answers for Library I ended up on the backfoot to Andrea’s Serra Angels which I was unable to answer. We both mulliganned in the third game and I was able to take him out due to burn combined with a Serendib Efreet who dealt him too much damage. Earlier in the day Andrea earned my respect when I walked by and saw him with his Shark in play.

Let that Shark swim!

At the end of the swiss I had rallied back from 0-1 to 6-2 and finished in a very respectable 13th place out of 133. I wish I could replay my game three against Reindeer, but as the day went on I got more and more comfortable with Fantasy Zoo list and how to play it. No way to tell for sure, but I felt like if I had to play out a Top8 I could have definitely done so. There is real value to playing something quick and straightforward; you know when you need to pay close attention and when you can check out.

After I was done playing I was free to drift around the venue to my heart’s content. I watched some of the Top8 matches which were a bit slow and tense for my liking at the moment and mostly just shot the breeze with friends while the tournament wrapped up. My time as a spectator was not wasted insofar as I found a Disenchant on the floor after the semifinals which belonged to Juice. No clue how it ended up there, but was glad to have returned it to him in time for the finals; it seemed to come up big for him when he was going with the man-plan and disenchanting Abysses left right and center against Steffen in the finals. I don’t think I had ever met Juice before, but after watching him play the finals I can say for certainty that I enjoy the way that he plays Magic. First off, he kept announcing that he was going to second main before playing his spells which is a really good habit which people ought to but seemingly never do, myself included. The highlight of this practice for me was when he announced he was going to second main and cast a spell despite not having mana up to cast Mana Drain! I cracked up laughing when I heard him announce that he was going to second main when I saw what mana he had up and we had a funny exchange about it. The second moment which really made me like Juice was when he cast the Mind Twist to seal the finals. He put it on the stack and exclaimed “Vaffanculo!” and threw the Mind Twist onto the table. For those unfamiliar with this Italian phrase I will let you look it up and add it to your vernacular. I loved the mix of seriousness and emotion that he played with; when I am really clicking I like to think that I have a similar energy.

Drain Life Crew with the goods

From here, the quality of the conversation and evening as a whole really seemed to deteriorate. I don’t drink, but I heard from several people that the beer at the hotel is mediocre at best which seemingly led to a lot of people having bottles of various liquor in their bags to take shots of throughout the day. The cumulative effects of this extracurricular drinking plus a long day in general seemed to have taken its toll. The conversation spiraled into drunken nonsense not dissimilar from Friday night and I once again took that as my cue to get some sleep.

I did some light packing on Saturday night, woke up, and headed to the hotel breakfast to reconvene with the remaining wizards. While eating I was presented with two divergent paths for the rest of my trip. On one hand was my original plan to hang out with Bonnie and Svante in Arvika for a few hours, take my scheduled train to Oslo, and go from there. On the other was an offer from the godfather himself, MG, to carpool back to his house with Danny and Shane. I needed to get packed up regardless and while packing I came to the realization that this offer to go back to MG’s house and hang out with him was one of these once in a lifetime opportunities that I just couldn’t say no to. I had really no idea what would follow from there, but the road trip seemed to promise a good story if nothing else and that’s really what I had come back to Arvika in the pursuit of.

Like that we set off to MG’s house in his wife’s tiny car. Danny drove while I navigated for him and overall the trip was smooth. The car was too small to fit into the normal tire tracks through the ice on the backroads that the GPS took us down, but we made it work nonetheless thanks to minimal traffic, the weather slightly improving, and ample daylight. The drive was fairly normal aside from seeing a guy peeing out in the open at the gas station.

Nature called, he answered

When we arrived at MG’s we were greeted by his wife and two daughters all clearly excited that Magnus had returned. This wholesome moment was a welcome contrast to the drunken nonsense which had taken place in Arvika. We sat down as a group and had a lovely lunch of pancakes with an eclectic spread of various toppings and accompaniments. I generally love pancakes and am always into trying new things so I welcomed it all; I had never had cheese before on pancakes, but I would have it again if the opportunity presents itself to me. 

After lunch Danny, Shane, and I decided to take a train into downtown Oslo in search of good food and drink. Shane took us to Fiskeriet where we were able to snag a table. I mostly sampled what Shane and Danny ordered as I wasn’t particularly hungry. Everything that came to our table which I tried was tasty and I especially liked the salmon tataki which was served with roe, sesame seeds, and mayonnaise. It had a texture similar to corned beef but tasted like salmon which is a big win in my book.

We followed up our meal with a walk to Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri. I don’t really drink and thus am not a beer guy, but upon entering I knew exactly why Shane had picked it out, this bar had some seriously cool vibes. Danny and Shane got a bottle of lambic beer which they let me taste a bit of after decreeing that it might be the best beer in the world. Despite not really liking beer, I have to say that it tasted better than I thought it would. We sat and chatted about life for a while as Danny and Shane enjoyed the beers while I took in the ambience and good hangs.

Lords of the Pit

Once we got our fill of city life we hopped on a train back out to MG’s to catch back up with him. At this point the rest of his family was asleep and so we headed to the basement to hang out. Danny had spent much of the day talking up a Masques block draft which I begrudgingly agreed to. As a general rule of thumb I do not play limited. Growing up I had always chosen to play constructed over limited because the $20 my parents would give me for the card store would go further if I only spent $5 to play in the event rather than $15. While others were drafting I would pick through the long boxes of commons and uncommons, get Chinese food, and then come back and play Type 2. The result of that is that I am far more comfortable playing constructed than limited and generally avoid limited like the plague. I figured that if there is ever a place to make an exception it is at MG’s house when he invites you to do a four man Masques block draft on his Khalsa Brain table with the winner getting a coin from his collection.

Upon opening the first pack I was reminded of just how terrible creatures were back then. I did not see any obvious bombs, but it became immediately clear to me that the creatures in green were significantly less terrible than the creatures in just about every other color. I took a green creature, passed my pack, and kept repeating that process. At the end of the draft I had just enough playables to be mono green which seemed pretty solid and after beating MG and Danny without losing a game I concluded that my deck was indeed pretty solid. 

What’s not to like?

Shane and I were both done with playing our decks so we decided to break them down instead of playing while MG and Danny duked it out to see who would get to challenge me for the title of Masques block draft champion. MG ended up taking Danny down and due to time constraints we decided to resolve our tiebreaker the American way via Orb flip off instead of by playing Mario Kart 64 which I had originally hoped would be our tiebreaker. I think that MG realized that his claim of the title was fairly diminished by the fact that I had crushed him in our games and his flipping was half hearted to say the least, but I won nonetheless and MG awarded me a silver coin commemorating the Kalmar Union.

I also got to get MG to alter the Savannah Lion that Steinar had traded me on the train ride to Oslo by putting a gold crown on it. This seemed particularly fitting given that MG’s great grandfather was Swedish nobility and he is basically the king of Old School Magic. We shared a lot of laughs as MG did the alter with only a few slightly harrowing moments where I was worried that my gold pen had let me down by dumping ink all over the Lion. When all was said and done I had an awesome Savannah Lion to commemorate the trip and MG even memorialized the evening by inking his one of a kind playmat table with my gold pen. I guess I now have my side of the table reserved if I ever find myself playing in the feature match area at n00bcon. 

King of the Jungle

With the Masques block draft and Lion alter complete MG decided to head off to bed, but not before insisting that we play some Mario Kart 64. He setup the television for us in his office which is where I would be sleeping and Danny, Shane, and I did a few races as a nightcap. I was the only one with any recent experience playing the game and won the handful of races we did fairly handily before we decided to call it a night. I took a shower, packed up, thanked the heavens I had agreed to drive back with MG instead of taking the train, and went to sleep a happy man. 

In the morning I finished packing and walked with MG’s wife, Øyann to the bus station so I could head to the airport. She thought it was absolutely hilarious that to me MG is a demigod of sorts as the founder of Old School. I thanked her for her hospitality, we parted ways, and away I went to OSL. My flight home was easy and I even got some sleep for a change. I guess the adrenaline from the weekend had finally started to wear off. When we hit some turbulence on the flight home I thought about how I do not want to die anytime soon, but that if I did die on the way home from Oslo it would be as a happy man who was at peace with the world. 

I have no idea if I will be back to the Arvika Festival next year or in general. There are so many other events that I want to get to, but the event has made a really compelling case to me, especially if it lets me take up MG’s offer to make a tradition out of staying with him on the way back home. David Strandberg runs a really tight ship and I love the idea of having the event in the hotel that everyone stays at as well as the two hour dinner break. For anyone who hasn’t attended, I cannot recommend the Arvika Festival highly enough. As DFB put it so eloquently in his Arvika article last year, Swedish events just hit differently.



  1. Great read and to revisit the good times in Arvika. Your very respectable 6-2 finish made me feel less bad about you escaping my Titianas prison :) Hope to see you again next year. Meanwhile I will expand my Gallery of NSFW old school alters.

  2. Great report Will! Arvika is such a nice tournament and place. Glad you enjoyed the adventure and thanks for sharing your experiences. - Alex

  3. Thanks Will! Great read :)


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