onsdag 11 april 2018

The n00bcon X top8

The tenth world championship of Old School Magic is in the books! 17 countries, around 40 communities and 122 players packed their spells and went to Gothenburg to show who's who in the format.
This was the craziest weekend of Magic I've experienced yet. From the bag of crazy that that was the Wizards' Tournament, to the largest gathering of old school players yet at n00bcon X, to the smaller main tournament hosted in the depths of Gothenburg the day after. I can find no word for this better than simply "Magic". And that's with me not even playing in any of the events except the Wizards' Tournament. It says something special about the people when I don't feel bad missing out playing the main tournament but rather just feel excited to meet all the people.

I could go on for days sharing the joy I feel being a part of this community. There are so many stories. I don't know where to start, nor where I should stop. A few people have already shared their stories, like Dave Firth Bard at the All Tings Considered podcast. And of course there's hours and hours of the video stream up on Wak-Wak. So right know I'll keep my own anecdotes short and just say this.

Thank you. Thank you for being good people I love hanging out with even when I'm not drawing an opening seven. Thank you for how much you care and how much effort you put into making other people here welcome. And in particular on a personal level, thank you all who provided the wonderful Easter Egg gifts to me. I really did not expect that. My mom wanted to frame the scroll you guys gave me when I showed it to her.

So, with all those lame emotions out of the way, let's go down to cold steel and brass tax. This was a god damned world championship after all. And the gladiators grinding their teeth in the elimination rounds are about as far away from novices as they come.
Andrea's Cermak. Top8.
Representing the Stockholm in a Bottle crew, Cermak hit the scene with a bang two years ago. He won the coveted Rookie of the Year trophy for the 2016/2017 season, picked up a Giant Shark in Arvika, and then followed that up with a Top4 at n00bcon 9. Apart from a slew of truly impressing tournament finishes the season leading up to n00bcon X (including a win at the Horrible Horse gathering, a second place at the 2018 Arvika Festival, and - perhaps most impressive - a second place at The Wizards' Tournament), Cermak is known as a great deck builder, tournament organizer and community profile. His Old School Magic 4 Life group is the largest Old School Magic page at Facebook, and his King of the Archipelago tournament series (an all expenses paid tournament at a boat in the Stockholm archipelago) is one of the more unique gatherings in the format. Combine that with being credited as popularizing the White Zoo archetype and taking down Alphaspelen 3 with main deck Personal Incarnations, and you have a force in the format to be reckoned with.
Cermak's CermakAttack.
Bringing his signature Savannah Lions to battle, backed up by the traditional slew of Efreets, Cermak has opted for some pretty smart choices in his top8 deck. The Su-Chis may look slightly random at glance, but they are proper beat sticks, as well as your best friend when facing down a Blood Moon
Simon Gauti. Top8.
Simon Gauti is one of the earlier adopters from Denmark, representing red and white at the championship since n00bcon 7. The Danish scene has grown a lot in the last year, and so has Simon's gauntlet and training grounds. A highly proficient Vintage player at heart, Simon never ceases to impress whenever he gets to sleeve up Moxen.
Simon Gauti's. The Deck.
The Deck is the premier control deck of the format. It contains a majority of the most effective permission spells ever printed while gaining card advantage using the Jayemdae Tome. It is a though nut to crack for any opponent, in particular when wielded by a veteran invoker like Simon. Simon's beautiful version is fairly straight forward, but nonetheless he has opted for some interesting choices. In particular playing Moat over something like The Abyss. Moat is a somewhat rarely seen card in the archetype these days, and a very gutsy card to use when your wincon is basically the landwalking Mishra's Factories :)
Kalle Nord. Top8.
Kalle is one of the reasons we play this format at all, and probably the single most important reason I still play Magic altogether. He is one of the original founders of 93/94, as well as the guy who pretty much makes all the original art related to this blog and n00bcon. That banner up here is his making, as well as all the yearly n00bcon pins, last year's playmat, this year's t-shirt, and what have you. He is also the host of the "Head Tournament" the day after n00bcon, as well as just a spectacular human specimen. Among the more braggable stats on his tournament resume is a win at n00bcon 7 as well as being one of only two people to hold more than a single Giant Shark.
Kalle's 5C CounterMidrange
Uh, yeah. It takes some effort to have the most blinged out deck at a tournament like n00bcon, but this is probably it. I don't know where to start describing all the unique pieces. All wb cards are Summer btw, except the really crazy ones (like the square cornered test print Wheel of Fortune). The artist alters and reinterpretations are kinda hard to wrap the head around. And he has two Giant Sharks in his sideboard :D If we ignore the share insanity of the deck, it is a midrange deck with some control elements. Four Su-Chi and three Erhnams are the main beatsticks, backed up by sweet burn and a miser's suit of counterspells.

Tibia. Top8.
The only guy with a perfect record in the swiss, Tibia is a son of Gothenburg and another familiar face around the top tables at n00bcon. Last time we saw him grace the top8 was at n00bcon 8, when his weapon of choice was UR Burn. Even though he is supremely versed in the format and has played at this gathering since around n00bcon 4, it is possible that Tibia might be a fairly new face for many readers. I talked to Gordon a little about it during the stream, and yes, there is of course a large native scene in Gothenburg still. They are just kinda low on the social media accounts and rarely travel far to play. The Gothenburg scene randomly hosts 20+ player gatherings with locals, but don't really write about it on facebook. Still keeping it underground, and still one of the weirder scenes. I think the cradle city represented with seven players this tournament, and at the end of the swiss, we found two in the top four of the standings and two in the bottom four. Go hard or go home. Love to the locals.
Tibia's Fantasy Zoo
I'll just quote the pilot:
"
Åland provided the framework for this deck when he first piloted it at BSK last November. I saw the potential of Savannah Lions, and since then we have been evolving the deck together.

White is the best color in 93/94 and Disenchant is the best card in the format. So the build starts with four Disenchants. Then you want cheap and effective threats. The fact that also Savannah Lions, Swords to Plowshares and Serra Angel are white clearly doesn't make things worse.

Blue is the second best color and Serendib Efreet is the best creature. Four of those. The fact that blue also gives you access to Ancestral Recall, Time Walk and Timetwister is also pretty sweet.

City of Brass makes it easy to splash powerful off-color cards like Demonic Tutor and Mind Twist. We back this up with Bolts and Blasts for reach.

The main plan is then to deploy effective threats at the same time as you keep the opponents threats and blockers / factories at bay with the burn. Then we'll just win the eventual race with Serra Angel.

The big advantage of this deck is that it doesn't play counterspells. We can without any hesitation have a very aggressive game plan, and we'll never end up in a situation where we want to play a threat but at the same time keep two blue open for Counterspell.

Sideboard is basically Circles, Armageddon, Red and Blue Blasts, and Shatterstorm.

Win.
"

Yep, that sounds about right.
Valerio. Top4.
Valerio! Valerio was one of the first Europeans, and certainly the first Italian, to write a guest post on this blog. Way back in the dark ages of 2015, when he placed 2nd at the 60-player Ovino Old School tournament (back then without Black Lotus in his deck, something that Valerio seems to have corrected since ;)). Valerio is not only one of the premier Italian players and a content provider, he was also one of the last guys to sneak in an invite to n00bcon. Planning a trip in Sweden with his lovely girlfriend at the time of the tournament, he casually contacted me and let me know that they would be in the city if a spot would open up. His strategy proved fruitful, his tech took him all the way to the top4, and the rest of the players got the chance to hang out with a cheerful Italian lady as the top8 unfolded. Win-win-win.
Valerio's Atog Aggro.
Valerio's weapon of choice is a lethal Atog aggro pile, splashing blue for Serendib Efreets along with some extra power. Praying on greedy mana bases with Blood Moons, keeping card engines honest with his playset of Back Vise, and letting big beaters finish the job alongside some burn. This is a deceptively deep pile with some interesting choices. E.g. the sideboard Juggernauts to turn the beatdown up to eleven when needed (or to switch out the Efreets when boarding in City i a Bottle), as well as the 2-1 split between Detonates and Shatters maindeck are sure to stir some conversations.
Ben. Top4.
From the place where the sun never set, Brother Ben of the Fire made a triumphant return to the Swedish turf for n00bcon X. He first showed up at the tournament last year as a member of the British Hill Giant team (honestly, median height of the team members was something like 9 feet; Ben is taller than an average oak), and piloted a sweet pile of stone cold Legends creatures like Lady Evangelina. This year, Ben earned his invite by winning the Old School Team Championships in the UK, and it seems like that taste of glory may have had him step up his deck to something slightly more powerful this year.
Ben's The Deck.
That's a slight uptick in effectiveness. I do find some humor in that the other control deck in the top8 played with Moat (over The Abyss) and no Serra Angels, where Ben plays with The Abyss alongside Serra Angel. Though I kinda get the idea; I assume that Serra Angel is not really a Serra Angel but rather a replacement of the fourth maindeck Jayemdae Tome, either due to availability or due to the fact that a Serra is better than a fourth book against aggro. Actually had the exact same nonbo in my version of The Deck I played at the last Arvika Festival. My excuse was that I didn't own four books and had to settle with three. What's your excuse Ben? ;) Among the other notable card choices we have the Scrubland and of course the Spell Blast. Countering Black Lotus never felt so good. And it is super techy to have a hard counter you can resolve with only one blue mana up.
Olle. Finalist.
Olle Råde is, like, a super good Magic player. He also stays mostly sober during tournaments, which is a little like doping. (editor's retraction: Well, turns out Olle did in fact down his beers like a viking at n00bcon. It just didn't seem to affect him). Dude has won BSK twice and holds the format's coveted Giant Shark. The title of n00bcon Champion may be one of the few things he may still even consider to be on his old school bucket list. Or just general Magic bucket list for that matter, which e.g. includes PT, GP, PotY and Invitational wins. Olle is a journalist by trade, and when he doesn't share his stories in the Gothenburg daily newspaper he can occasionally be seen freelancing pro coverage at the WotC mothership. He also wrote a sweet guest post on this blog a few years ago. Another random fact is that his father is an actual wizard, so there's always that.
Olle's UR Burn.
UR Burn has become something of Olle's signature deck in 93/94. He took down BSK 2017 with a similar list, and we also saw him wielding it in the elimination rounds back at n00bcon 8. UR is one of the consensus strongest decks in the format, by newer players sometimes described as the "Delver Deck" of old school magic. It combines permission and reach with some of the most effective threats the card pool has to offer. Throw one of the strongest players to pick up the game behind the wheels and we'll have a recipe for top8.
Alban. World Champion!
Alban Lauter has quickly reached a reputation as the contemporary "German Juggernaut" of 93/94 Magic. His recent stats from tournaments in Germany and surrounding countries are just staggering. But as for qualifying for n00bcon goes, high standings in tournaments are only rarely the way to go. Many of the communities have been giving out their invites by things like lotteries, quizzing, or even placing in the bottom of a given tournament. So even though Alban won the German qualifier tournament, that didn't give him an invite for n00bcon. The huge Fishliver Oil Cup in Italy did give out an invite to the winner, but at that one Alban "only" finished second place. A few weeks before n00bcon however, the guy who won Fishliver Oil had to decline his place, and Alban was passed down the invite by the organizers.

Well before that, in fact long before Alban had an invite, he was my bet to win this year. I assumed that he would eventually pick up an invite somehow, and he plays at a level above a majority of the field. He was of course still my bet when Gordon and I discussed who would win the tournament during our commentary on the stream at the start of the swiss. So while I can't say that I was really surprised to finally see the first non-Swede pick up the Shark at n00bcon, I am throughly impressed :) This was Alban's first top8 at n00bcon, though he did finish 9th at n00bcon 8 two years ago.
Alban's UWb Tempo.
Alban is known to many as a highly proficient The Deck player, but this year he went for a home brew. The one-two punch of Savannah Lions plus Serendib Efreet has proved immensely powerful in the format. Alban's list is far more controlling than e.g. Tibia's Fantasy Zoo (which puts more emphasis on speed and burn), and somewhat more so than Cermak's (which can take a much more midrange role with Su-Chis and more Angels). Where e.g. Tibia plays two Swords to Plowshares, Cermak plays three and Alban has the full playset. Alban is also the one guy among the three Lion-players in the top8 to run Counterspell, making his brew somewhat closer in spirit to UW Skies than Fantasy Zoo.

Ninth place player was btw some guy named Seb. Sounds familiar, but I'm not sure who that guy might be.

And there we have it! Thanks for an awesome weekend, and congratulations to all you crazy wizards both in and outside the top8!

tisdag 27 mars 2018

Hill Giant Cup 2018: A guest report from Joep Meddens

These are magical times. In a few days the tenth Old School Magic World Championship will take place in Gothenburg. But it is always you guys who make this format what it is; you the organizer, you the player, you the content creator. This is a story of a player, organizer and creator gathering the first round table in his town of Hilversum, North Holland. This is Joep Meddens's story. Enjoy! /Mg out.


The Dutch old school community has been taking Giant steps lately. The gatherings of the Knights of Thorn have become serious affairs, with the last edition in Deventer boasting 40 players.

I had already entertained the idea of organizing a tournament in my hometown of Hilversum. I had even acquired the prize for the first winner: an alpha Hill Giant (for good measure I acquired 5, if it spikes the tournament will be good for the foreseeable future).

Playing in Deventer and seeing 40 spellslingers ready to travel to that somewhat remote part of The Netherlands (sorry Mari!) swung it for me. There should be a Hill Giant Cup, with the winner being crowned King of the Hill.

Luckily for me, my local game store owner Robert Kerklaan (Vendetta Spellen) is simply a games enthusiast who enjoys having people over. Clearing the store for a Sunday tournament between a bunch of old guys? Sounds like a plan!

When announcing the plan on Christmas Eve, I wished for some positive responses to start of with. After that, I hoped it would be possible to fill 32 spots (and Robert's small store by the way) in the months running up to the tournament. Within a week, the tournament was fully booked.

Serious planning could begin. Craft beer from Hilversum was sourced (www.gooischebierbrouwerij.nl, the weizen is my favourite but the chestnut proved most popular on the day), the brewery being so charmed by the idea of their beer entering Magic the Gathering 93/94 subculture that they gave us a deal on the order. Sweet.

Robert cleaned up the store and Dutch trader Wijnand provided us with some nice prizes (a playset of Beta Hill Giants being one of the nicer things). Some Homelands booster packs were added to the prize pool at the last minute; interestingly they ended up with owners of alpha power who were genuinely thrilled to get pack fresh Homelands cards.

Finally, our local alter master Jordy made us a true King of the Hill, and we were ready to go!
But what to play? My trusted GW Geddonless Erhnamgeddon had brought me to the final in Deventer and to the semi's of Dave's Winter derby on Skype. I love the deck and its annoying Ice Storms. But I really wanted to try something UG this time and so set out to make a new deck without the comfort of 4 Swords and 4 Disenchants.

Life without White is hard! A control version of UG sorely lacked the White removal suite. I then tried and failed at a tempo-counter combination (trying to ramp into Serendib/Erhnam and counter afterwards). After a long and hard evening of play testing with Florian von Bredow ("if you like Enchantress, just play her Joep") the Saturday before the tournament, I settled on what can probably best be described as Suicide Ernham'serk'em.
Suicide Ernham'serk'em.
Sunday morning, 36 players show up and we find seating for the two extra players. Coffee is served, pairings are made and we are off!

Match 1 vs. David Croom (mono-Black)
David is a recent addition to the old school group, but it does not show in the cards he rediscovered in his cupboard. David brings a very nice black bordered unpowered mono-Black to the table. Game 1, I see a T1 Hypnotic Specter from a ritual. My blue mana shows up just after I am forced to discard my second Psionic Blast. Hmm... I summon a Serendib Efreet but can only make it count if my Orb hits his Icy. I miss the flip and do no recover: 0-1.

Game 2 and I get to board in my three Whirling Dervish. I see a Hippie again, but only on T3 this time and my Ifh-Biff makes quick work of it. A Serendib added to the front and Game 2 is mine: 1-1.

Game 3 goes according to plan: I cast Unstable Mutation on my T2 Dervish and never look back. 2-1.


Match 2 vs. Tom Posthuma (The Deck)
Not the best possible match-up for any deck, I usually struggle with The Deck. Today it is in the hands of former Knights of Thorn winner (then piloting White Weenie!) Tom Posthuma. Game 1, I surprise myself and Tom by getting of to an unanswered swift start. Serendib Efreet gets some damage in before going Giant Berserk, having been allowed to resolve that I have no problem finishing off with Psionic Blast. 1-0.

Game 2, I have a slower start and an early Timetwister allows Tom to stabilize. I miss another Orb Flip. The inevitable happens ten or so turns later. 1-1.

Game 3 turned out to be the sweetest of the lot. We see two Timetwisters which seem to help me a bit more than Tom. A third resolves and my hand looks promising. A Mind Twist for seven hits me. I try not to cry as I fill my graveyard. Tom has not found anything to kill me with though. Far too slow for my liking I get him down to 3 with my two Mishra's Factories. Tom manages to stabilize however and things look bleak with me topdecking and Tom on an active Tome. With time running out, I am starting to think about Orb flips (and my misses earlier). Meanwhile, Tom desperately tries to find his Fireball. He resolves Time Walk for a turn and two more cards. Nothing. Next turn the Fireball comes and my 13 life look hopelessly inadequate against Tom's mana reserve. He announces the Fireball. I sigh, resigned to my fate: "OK, tap the mana". Tom obliges and taps out to do 15 damage. I respond with Psionic Blast and, to the amusement of even Tom, steal the game and the match: 2-1.

After the lunch break, we head for Match 3.


Match 3 vs. Marten Buhler (RUG Midrange Explosion)
Marten has a collection to envy (mint beta Volcanic anyone?) that he actually loves to use for play. Why own it and not use it? In keeping with this, he advocates the most lenient reprint policy: more opponents equals more use out of his cards. There is definitely a case to be made there, in Hilversum we had a lenient reprint policy and especially for the dual lands it proved useful.

Game 1 against Marten sees us both starting of with a Library. However, he strips mine (pun intended) and I have to Regrowth it. This sets me back. Coupled to the 8 life I paid to Sylvan Library to get to 7 cards, I get too far behind. Marten gets to use his Regrowth on a Timewalk, and two Bolts mean I am dead. 0-1.

Game 2 and I quickly mulligan to 6. I get what can only be described as the six fingered hand of god. Land-Mox into Timewalk, T2 Timetwister finding my Timewalk again. I can't play it though and I pass for Marten. He scramblers back with a T1 Timewalk of his own that he Regrows on T2. He has to pass though before playing it. I use mine, Chaos Orb his Volcanic in an attempt to block off Blue and put a Serendib on the board. Marten finds City of Brass, casts Timewalk and follows up by casting Su-chi, tapping out and having 18 life left because of the City. I take my turn, and realize my Serendib-Giant Growth-Giant Growth-Berserk is enough for 18... 1-1.

Game 3 and I am under the cosh quickly: T2 Su-chi backed up by a Factory is just too fast. I Timewalk, I even Timetwister, but when my Erhnam is Control Magic'ed, my Pixies get Bolted and my remaining five cards are twisted, the game is up: 1-2.


Match 4 vs. Roy Nijland (mono Black)
Roy is a familiar foe, he beat me with his mono-Black in the Knights of Thorn final.

First game, I am simply quicker. A Serendib gets going and when Ifh-Biff gets in on the act this one is mine. 1-0.

Game 2 and the nightmare scenario unfolds: City in a Bottle hits the table (at this point I realize Roy did not employ any Juzams for this tournament). As my hand fills up with Serendibs I wait for the Crumble I did not board in: 1-1.

Game 3 and I feel I need to get a break on the City in a Bottle front to make it through. I have boarded in the Crumbles, so I do have a shot.

I get some early damage in but my creatures encounter Maze of Ith (Roy plays 4 he tells me) and my clock is slow due to an Ivory Tower adding back to Roy's total every turn. He resolves a City in a Bottle again, but this time I am holding a Crumble. I add Serendib after the Bottle goes, but it does mean I am losing life as well. Knowing Roy plays Drain Life, I am hoping to finish this sooner than later. After some nervous turns, I finally find a way to zero with a Giant Growth: 2-1.


Match 5 vs. Frenk (RUG Zoo)
I am 3-1 and get the feeling one more win will most likely get me in Top 8.

Game 1 sees the classic opener Taiga/Kird Ape. Frenk follows up with a Factory and I am getting some serious beats early on. I am in need of answers and Sylvan Library tempts 8 life out of me in an attempt to get past the lands on top. It helps me find an answer (Psionic Blast), but this also puts me within shooting range. A Chain Lightning ends the first one 0-1.

Game 2 is over quickly as well: I simply fail to match the fast board development and get Bolted to a 0-2 defeat.

I resign myself to my fate, but apparently my losses have come to some really good players (both are in top 8) and I end up number 8 of the lot. This is getting to be somewhat of a theme for me as I ended up nr. 8 in Deventer as well as in David Firth-Baird's Skype summer derby.


Quarter-Final vs. Michel Hollenberg ("That was Easy", UWrb aggro-control by Dyan de Rochemont)
Michel is a laid-back kind of guy from the Alkmaar region where one of the earliest 93-94 playgroups in the Netherlands started. He plays a very pretty deck made by his friend Dyan. It combined Savannah Lions with Lightning Bolts, Swords to Plowshares, Disenchants, Counterspells, Mishra's Factories, Serendibs, Serra Angels and the usual restricted suspects. All of these are clearly staples for a reason and the deck works like a charm as Michel finds the right order of play. I'm not sure whether Dyan will agree, but I'm naming his deck after the Staples company slogan: "That was Easy".
Staples
Game 1 and really, I never get a chance. The Lions pounce on me while the control elements take over. I lose and wonder what on earth I am going to do game 2. 0-1.

Game 2 and I get off to a decent start. Some fast board development followed up by a Time Walk and Timetwister allow me to finish the game up with a pumped and Berserked Serendib. I feel happy to have at least shown Michel what my deck is capable of: 1-1.

Game 3 will decide this and despite winning the last game I feel that this is an uphill struggle. This turns out to be true and in this game I feel like I am always one or two steps behind. Savannah Lions doing damage, as soon as I resolve a Serendib the Lions attack again and being behind in life I have to block into the Bolt, after which the Serra hits even harder. 1-2 and my hopes of becoming the King of the Hill are over.

Being knocked out is never great, but Michel was simply the better player on the day. And making top 8 again was definitely more than I had considered possible beforehand. Time to take another beer and enjoy the semi's.

The semi's saw a great Atog/Shivan list defeated by Robbie van Bakel, who brought 3 Two-Headed Giants all the way to the final (pic below). Amazing to see the Big Beaters both guys played actually beating Decks. In the other semi, Michel defeated Marten Buhler's midrange explosion to set up a rematch (Michel had won in the Swiss) between himself and Robbie in the final.
In a battle between Serendibs, early pressure and Control Magic on Erhnam finally swung it for Michel, who took the final 2-1 to become the inaugural King of the Hill.
Beware, mages at N00bcon, because from Holland comes The King of the Hill to challenge you all!

/Joep Meddens

onsdag 14 mars 2018

The Oldest School: A Wizards' Tournament Primer

Every now and then a stroke of abandon land in the twilight between awesomeness and lunacy. From an outside perspective, going full old school and playing a Magic tournament like it was August 1993 is a perplexing idea. Even if you go zero-wincon-full-budget and build a deck with only mixed basic lands, that pile of basics will still have a price tag comparable to the winning eternal deck from the last Modern Pro Tour. A single powerful card in this format may only exist in a few hundred copies in the world, and will probably set you back more than a tier1 UBR deck in Legacy. Still we don't use proper sleeves nor protection for the cards. And right here you can actually play a deck of 20 Black Lotus and 20 Plague Rats. It is the most expensive, broken and confusing Magic format I've seen. It is also one of the sweetest.
Snap keep!
I don't know how many players we have signed up right now. 50? 60? Somewhere in that ballpark. Over ten countries representing at least. I am yet to find evidence of a larger tournament in August or September 1993, so it is possible that this is the largest event ever playing the purest form of Magic. Now that's something for the 25th anniversary of the game :)

Looking past the card availability issues of the format, one of the biggest things is how confusing it can be to those of us used to modern rules. And as the only info I've posted about the tournament is a text file without the opportunity to comment, I've gotten a lot of questions about how the old rules actually work. And no, it is not just "modern rules with mana burn between steps", or "dying from having zero life at the end of a phase instead of as a state based effect".  Heh, the oldest rules don't have steps, and that "dying at the end of a phase" thingie was a rule change that came with Revised (and was removed again with Sixth edition).

So, let's take a look at the most frequently asked questions about the original rules. We'll divide this into the sections of New rules, Old rules, Turn structure, and Tournament floor rules. Lets go back to 1993!

New rules!

There are a bunch of rules today that didn't exist back in old school times. These are a few of the more important rules that are NOT in effect during The Wizards' Tournament:

Mulligans
The idea of taking mulligans did come pretty early, and in 1994 the all-land/no-land mulligan was introduced. A few years later the Paris mulligan took its place, and then the Vancouver mulligan most of us know today. In the oldest school however, there are no mulligans. You'll have to keep whatever your starting seven gives you.
Yet another snap keep!
Sideboards
No, there are no sideboards. Just put all the sweet cards in your deck from the start. On the plus side, no one will expect that you play Karma.

Play/Draw rule
What is this, late 1995? The starting player gets a draw phase, so it is very much upside to win the coin flip.

Restrictions

Again, restricting the number of cards you could play in a deck was a fairly early tournament rule, but still something that took effect in 1994. No card restrictions means that you can technically play 9 Ironclaw Orcs and 3 Ancestral Recalls if you have them. Minimum deck size is also 40 cards rather than the 60 we normally use for constructed decks today. Real mages play more than 40 though. And please try to have fun and appreciate the atmosphere. A deck with just 27 Lightning Bolts and 13 Mountains seems supremely boring in a format like this ;)
Oldest School Sligh done properly.
Errata
There's no Oracle errata. Uniform errata on card name basis was a surprisingly late addition to the rules; well into 1995 cards like Iron Star had a different effect in the ABU printing compared to the Revised/4th printings. For this tournament, I have added errata to two cards that were misprinted so badly that they would be impossible to use with current wording (Red Elemental Blast and Cyclopean Tomb), and clarified a few more in the Wizards' Tournament document. But the idea here is mostly to read the card and try to figure out what it does. And yes, you may activate Iron Star multiple times for a single red spell.

This being an Instant would make it unable to counter spells. It will be played as an Interrupt.
Then there are a few commonly used words that aren't really defined in the old rules. Like "defending creature" and "target". Basically it works mostly as we'd expect, but you can for example cast a Righteousness on any creature a defending player controls rather than just a blocking creature. This could be useful in the UBW Creature Bond deck I guess.

Some other stuff that might come up is that auras enchanting an illegal permanent won't "fall off" (e.g. you cast Living Lands turning all lands into 1/1s, then cast Control Magic on one of your opponent's lands. If someone then destroys Living Lands, Control Magic will not fall of even though it is enchanting an illegal target, and the opponent won't get their land back), and that an attacker may distribute damage between blocking creatures as they see fit (i.e. no "blocking order" among blocking creatures).

Old rules!

In the original rules we also had a few features that don't exists today. These are probably the most likely to come up.

Mana Burn
From ye old rule book: "You lose all of the mana in your mana pool if you do not use it before a phase ends. The mana pool is also cleared when an attack begins and when an attack ends. You lose a life point for each mana lost in this manner. However, you cannot be deprived of a chance to use the mana in your pool. If a card provides more than one mana, you must draw the full amount into your pool when you use it." This rule (later called "mana burn") changed a few times over the years until it was removed entirely in 2009 with the release of M10. We'll look more at phases and attacks a little further down.

Ante
Ante was an integral part of the original game. At the start of a duel, you would remove the top card of your deck and put it in the ante. The winner of the duel would become the owner of all the cards in the ante after the game.

To avoid too much deck metamorphosis over the course of a longer tournament, the first tournament floor rules introduced something called "fake ante", which is what we'll use here as well. It is described in more detail in the Wizards' Tournament document, but basically you just exile the top card of your library whenever a duel starts, and get it back after the duel. Even though we don't use ante with cards from the decks, you are still encouraged to ante something else (like a beer or the monetary equivalent of the card in Scrye #3 prices).

Tapped cards
A tapped card is basically shut off. When an Artifact is tapped, imagine that it has no rules text. You can't gain life from a tapped Iron Star, a tapped Gauntlet of Might won't boost red creatures nor Mountains, and a tapped Forcefield will offer no protection. Additionally, a blocking creature that becomes tapped during combat will not assign any damage.
Damage prevention
There are no rules covering this; the rules from 1993 are before the introduction of the damage prevention step. So just do what seems reasonable. How does Reverse Damage work when you're at four life and get attacked by a Sea Serpent? How does it work when you're attacked by two? Maybe you survive in one or both cases, but there's nothing to back that up. If in doubt about some damage prevention interaction, ask the referee to make a decision or flip a coin.

Protection
As long as a creature with protection from a color is in play, it cannot be affected by cards of that color. For e.g. a Black Knight this includes, but is not limited to, surviving Wrath of God, punching straight through a Circle of Protection: Black (if such a card would exist...), surviving all damage from white creatures, and being unblockable by white creatures.
Timing (or lack thereof)
To quote the Alpha rule book: "In general, you should try and cast as few spells at once as possible, because it makes things simpler." Yeah. Timing is weird here, but there are some illuminating examples in The Wizards' Tournament document. Four things that may be good to note in particular is:
  • There are no stacks, batches nor queues as we have known them for the last decades. Once an instant or fast effect starts to resolve, everything else will resolve at the same time. So for instance, if someone casts a Terror on one of your creatures and you cast Ancestral Recall, if you draw an Unsummon with the Ancestral you wont get the chance to save your creature with it as Terror resolved as soon as Ancestral did.
  • The last player casting an instant (or activating a fast effect) in a series of effects that would affect a card in play differently depending on the order of the effects, chooses in which order all the instants/effects applies.
  • An interrupt will take precedence over any other effects. If an interrupt removes a card from play, it will counter any abilities activated by that permanent that haven't resolved yet. ("Interrupts take place more quickly, actually being resolved before actions in progress, whereas instants don't take effect until both players have finished reacting to one another.")
  • As all spells and abilities resolve at once and damage is dealt after an effect dealing it resolves, it is e.g. not possible to destroy a creature by casting a Lightning Bolt in response to a Giant Growth or Frozen Shade activations. Damage will not be dealt before the creature is boosted no matter how you try to time it.

The Turn Structure!

The turn is divided into six phases. Most of the time, you wont notice the difference from the modern turn structure, but it can be a good idea to note this just in case. Here's the original turn structure:

1) Untap. Untap all your previously tapped lands, creatures, and artifacts. I will go out on a limb here and state that you cannot do anything before you untap permanents during the untap step. This is by no means defined in the rules, but it is clearly against the spirit of the game to tap your Prodigal Sorcerer to deal one damage to a Knight at the start of your untap phase, then untap it and deal one more damage during that same turn. As it was never intended to be played that way, I'll interpret the rules to disallow it for this tournament.

2) Upkeep. Deal with any enchantment, creature, or artifact that requires upkeep or has an effect at the start of a turn. The card will tell you if a given item requires upkeep. Note that you cannot activate abilities of permanents requiring an upkeep cost before the upkeep has been paid.

3) Draw. Draw one card from your library.

4) Main. You may do several things during the main phase. In no particular order:
 - You may put any one land from your hand into play.
 - You may make one attack against your rival with any or all of your creatures in play except those that came into play this turn. Combat is divided into four turn sequences: Player Declares Attack; Opponent Declares Defense; Fast Effects; Damage Dealing.
 - You may cast any spells in your hand, provided you have enough mana. You can cast spells before and after taking other actions.

5) Discard. If you have more than seven cards in your hand, discard until you again have only seven. Note that Library of Leng make you skip this phase altogether, which means that if you have a Library you go directly from Main to End.

6) End. Let your rival know you are finished. Note that you may cast instants and interrupts after you have discarded.
Super high tech with end phase Ancestral Recall. And I know at least one fellow that just picked up a second Ancestral for this tournament. Craziest deck I've heard about will be playing 20 copies of a certain Alpha rare btw, but I wont spoil which one here. It is a bad one though ;)

Tournament floor rules!

Again, please check out the Wizard's Tournament text file for some more clarifications on the floor rules.

Referee
So back in the days there were no judges in the modern sense of the word. Instead there were so called referees that had a surprisingly large mandate. The referee is the person with final say on interpreting rules, as well as someone that may at will terminate or influence matches he/she finds going excessively long. So if you are the last match playing, the referee might go up to your table and drop a pair of Copper Tablets on the play area to speed up the match or state that next person dealing damage wins, or whatever. The referee will also interpret Declarations of Forfeiture; e.g. disqualifying players that cheat. The ones of you participating at the Wizard's Tournament don't have to worry too much about the referee holding grudges or being unfair though. The referee during The Wizards' Tournament will be none other than the man mostly known as Flax; the man holding possibly the lowest active DCI number in Sweden as well as the friendliest Magic player most of us will ever encounter. He was my clear first choice for the role, and I am surprisingly stoked to have him on the team! He is also one of like three people I know that are versed in the original rules.

Sleeves
If you use sleeves, it is very much encouraged that you use sleeves from the era. This means penny sleeves, toploaders, or something else available in 1993. While you might be frowned upon for using more modern sleeves, you obviously won't be disqualified for doing so. However, if you use more modern sleeves, use clear ones where you can see the back of the card.
The Italian gang use old credit card sleeves for their decks. Dope!
Participation fee
The participation fee is 50 SEK, which translates to about $6 in a more international currency. This almost covers the rent of the pub ;)

Playmats
I did design playmats which I was going to offer for 50 SEK, but didn't find a good way to properly get the paint on the cloth. So unfortunately no. Here's the design though, might be something similar for next year:
Prize structure
Pretty much nothing. You could try and win something sweet playing for ante though. The person who manage to destroy all other players gets a unique artifact however, handmade in a single unit by master craftsmen and painters. It is awesome, and you can use it as a necklace to look supremely dope while summoning beasts.
All n00bs must be discarded.

Bonus FAQ!

Q: Can I come visit and look at the games?
A: Only players are allowed at the site. It would unfortunately be far too crowded if we allowed visitors.

Q: Will there be video coverage?
A: No. We will avoid most modern technology.

Q: Why would anybody play with $25,000 decks for no tangible EV in a dirty pub using only penny sleeves?
A: It seems fun.

lördag 10 mars 2018

Third time is the charm? A guest report from Arvika

So I actually wrote a post about The Deck this week. My experience with it is mostly from the opposite side of the table. It is in fact possible that I have played against The Deck (with card pool including The Dark but not Ice Age) in more tournament matches than anyone else in the world. Playing 93/94 tournaments with high frequency for eleven years certainly has given me a somewhat informed opinion about its presence in the meta at least. But I am by no means a master wielding it; I haven't remotely put down the hours as a pilot to reach the level of the true mages. I actually only ever played it in a tournament once; two weeks ago in the ~50-player Arvika Festival 4. In the first match in the top8 I faced Emil, and it was an amazing experience. My friends (and former Best Men) Honka and Hardy sat next to me to cheer me on, and even they - in a highly drunken state - were utterly impressed after watching Emil play. Emil plays an average turn with The Deck in about ten seconds while he has fourteen lands in play, two draws and six cards in hand, against the mirror. Dude has mental shortcuts for everything and make very few mistakes. He is one of around four people I would consider masters with The Deck. So when he sent over his winning report from Arvika, I figured this should clearly take precedence. His report even had matchup notes and stuff, like a real report. And to avoid a spring over-commit into The Deck, I'll keep my post on the burner for a few weeks and post a sweet Sindbad deck next week instead. Or perhaps some rule clarifications about The Wizards' Tournament. So, without further ado, I give you the words of Emil "MrSinclair" Klintbäck. Enjoy! /Mg out.

Sitting in the car with my long time Magic buddy Morgan “Farsan” Karlsson we both have big expectations for the weekend and the Arvika Festival. We start already Friday night with dinner out followed up with playtesting for hours. Morgan swings back and forth on his deck choice, but ends up deciding for an early version of Cermark Zoo. I stick as always to my old pal "The Deck". I have played at Arvika two times before and been pretty consistent making into the final eight, but never succeeded to pass the quarterfinals. Could this be the where I take it to the next level?
Arvika Festival 4 version of The Deck. Zero Stone Rain, but main deck Mirror.
Round 1: Andreas Cermark, with UWG Cermak Zoo
So, the tournament starts and I see Andreas name on the wall. Andreas started showing up a year ago in the 93/94 community and showed great results from the get go. (Editor's note: Cermak won the Arvika Festival last year with this deck.) Although he is a great guy he is not the player I wanted to face the first round. But I have play tested a lot versus his archetype and think I have pretty good picture of how to play against it and what to keep. I did grind the matchup for three hours just the night before after all.

Game 1
I look down at a quite bad hand but it is still no mulligan. I start playing Mox, Land and pass the turn. Andreas plays three Moxes, Land, Timetwister and smiles!!! I respond by Disenchanting one of his Moxes, and feel that this is not the start that I was looking for. However, after the Twister I look down at a strong hand with LoA, Time walk. This is followed up with an Ancestral on one of my draw. When I finally give the turn back to Andreas I have like 8-10 mana and a full hand. Game is over.

Game 2
I do not remember much of this game but think Andreas did not draw that much of a hand and therefore never really gets to pressure me.
KungMarkus; the engineer behind the Festival.
Round 2: Andreas Andersson with BR Underworld Dreams Ponza
I have never played versus Andreas before and he is quite new to the community for me. So, going into the game I have no idea what I am playing against.

Game 1
Andreas plays Howling Mine turn two and passes to me. I find Time Walk on my draw and follow up with a Regrowth on the Time Walk and take an extra turn. When I finally pass the turn back to Andreas my hand is full, mana base solid and no Howling Mine on board. This becomes too much for Andreas to handle and game is over.

Game 2
We cast a lot of spells and in the end, he makes a Hypnotic Specter stick and wins the game.

Game 3
Unfortunately, Andreas need to mulligan to five cards and the final game never becomes a game.

Round 3, Mällroth with RUG Lestree Zoo
Mällroth is one of the oldest members of the oldschool community and truly a great guy. We have already played during the day in one of his famous "Påsdrafts" which is one of the cornerstones of the Arvika Festival. The Lestree Zoo deck is Mällroth signature deck and he has been playing it for as long as I have known him. (Editors note: Mällroth won the Arvika Festival two years ago with this deck.) This is a deck that I have play tested a lot against and according to me this is one of the decks witch actually have an advantage vs The Deck pre-sideboard, especially if they find Sylvan Library early. However, the deck has one major downside which is its compact creature base from Arabian Nights which can be exploited with the use of “City in a Bottle”. The deck normally also has major problem with The Abyss if they don’t play tranquility in sideboard.
Mikael Mällroth.
Game 1
Mällroth plays on the curve with treats from the start. I cannot find any answers and he pretty much crushes me in five minutes.

Game 2
After sideboard, I have two Abyss and two City in a Bottle. I find LoA in my staring hand and Mällrtoh cannot find an answer. Abyss comes out quite early and game is over.

Game 3
I play out city in a bottle turn two killing an Kird Ape. It takes time for Mällroth to find an answer and when he does I can protect it with a Counterspell. When Mällroth gives up he shows his hand containing six creatures from Arabian Nights.

I really think you should consider restricting the City in a Bottle to boost the creature decks in the format. I cannot really see the downside?
Honka with TaxEdge by the 3-0 table.
Round 4: Thomas Nilsen with Eureka Artifact Madness - The Deck Killer?
Thomas is a strong player from Norway known for his nice manners and his beautiful collection of magic cards all in near mint condition. First time I met Thomas was 4 years ago playing my first Noobcon tournament. He was back then not playing 93/94 and was participating in Gothcon. I was missing a Lotus and a Mox Jet for my deck and was looking for a way to borrow them. My friend Morgan “Farsan” Karlsson knew him from back in the days, but had not seen him for years. We started talking and after ten minutes I asked If I could borrow his jewels. Without hesitating Thomas said yes, only knowing me for ten minutes. I think this a great story of showing what a great guy Thomas is.

Game 1
I look down at a LoA in my starting hand and smiles. However, Thomas goes Workshop, Mox, Su-chi turn one, land Su-chi turn two and land Tetravus turn three. My hand/play is simply too slow and he wins the first game quickly. Sometimes LoA isn’t enough.

Game 2
Thomas plays threats and I have answers. After some turns game stabilizes and I get a Tome to stick and Thomas falls too much behind.

Game 3
I look down at a slow hand without any strong plays. Thomas starts and plays Mishras factory turn one, Mishras Factory turn two, and I can only respond with land, go. Thomas plays Gloom turn three and I must use my only Counterspell to stop it. Turn four Thomas plays Eureka and I cannot do anything. He slams Su-chi and another Gloom into play and I can only play land, Mirror. My disenchant and Swords to Plowshares in hand suddenly looks expensive and slow. Turn five Thomas hits me for eight with two Mishras and Su-chi and I cannot do anything to stop it. However, on my draw I find my only fireball and suddenly there is hope. I pass the turn, Thomas hits me again for eight taking me down to four life. He also plays a Copy Artifact to copy my mirror. But that does not matter during my upkeep I switch life and then fireball him for four. Game is over.
Round 5, Svante Landgraf with MirrorBall Combo Wombo
Svante is known for being the “professor Balthazar” of 93/94. We are both fellow players of The Deck and always love to discuss how you should optimize it in the current meta. However, in this tournament he has a mission to invent/improve a combo deck in the format and I have no clue what he is playing.

Game 1
I look down at an Ancestral Recall in my hand and like my odds. Svante starts and plays land, mana vault.  I start playing land and cast Ancestral during his upkeep. Svante goes land sylvan library. Unfortunately, I have no disenchant in hand and I go land Fellwar Stone. Svante goes Land Mana Vault and Mind Twist for my entire hand, I feel like game is over. Svante passes the turn and in my draw, I find a Time Walk and plays it as cantrip. To my great surprise I find a Time Twister on top. The Twister gives me LoA and from that I can improve the control. I further improve my advantage with a Tome and after a couple of turns Svante gives up.

Game 2
Svante starts Land, Mox, Sol Ring, Timetwister and smiles. However, this is apparently my day. Svante finds like 6 Lands and a Dark Heart. I on the other hand find some power. Svante pretty much does nothing for a couple of turns and I can develop a board that wins me the game.

Round 6, Johan Rådberg with UWB Good Stuff
I have seen Johan in many tournaments but never had the pleasure to play against him. I have never seen him play the same deck, but they are always beautifully black bordered.

Game 1
I find LoA and Johan finds no answer. Game over not more to say

Game 2
Johan plays an early Underworld Dreams and I cannot find an answer for 14 turns. Furthermore, Johan have strong sideboard vs me and keeps throwing treats like Armageddon and Energy Flux. I end up in a situation where I must use my Regrowth to find a Disenchant for another Underworld Dreams. The problem is that my Time Twister and Recall is already in the graveyard from an earlier Mind Twist. My win conditions are running out.
However, with one card left in my deck I can Fireball Johan for 13 damage and kill him. Game was really close, I had no Couterspells left and I had to use three City of Brass to cast the Fireball taking me down to one life.
Cermak in his awesome Lestree outfit fighting back to the top8.
Quarterfinals, Magnus "MG" de Laval with The Deck
I think MG need no further presentation. He is one of the forefathers of the format and a guy impossible not to love, you all know what I am talking about. The atmosphere is really great when we start shuffling and MG's wingman Hardy is playing magic songs (the best at magic!) on his iPhone to boost the atmosphere even more.

Game 1
My hand looks sad without any real power or strong plays. However, the hand is no mulligan and I play land and say go. MG slams Land, Mox, Sol Ring, Fellwar Stone, Ancestral Recall and I feel like the game already is slipping through my hands. I decide to go for Land, Fellwar Stone. If MG's turn one was great, turn two is not worse. He cast Mind Twist and strips my hand to one card, game is over?

After that start, I have/need to go into top deck mode. I get like 3-4 draws until MG plays a Tome. Luckily, I have found a disenchant. Turn after Mg plays a Serra Angel but I have a Swords to Plowshares. I start to realize the after all the draws from MG there may be that he could be missing a Counterspell? So, when I draw my Demonic Tutor and go for an Ancestral Recall I do not get surprised when it goes through. From the Ancestral I find a Regrowth and cast the Ancestral once more. Turn after I find Mind Twist and strips MG's hand down to zero. MG never finds his way back and game one is mine. I was really lucky that MG could not find a Counterspell in his first 20-25 cards.

Game 2
I would say it is a classic “The Deck mirror game” were I win one big Counterspell fight that leaves MG in a situation where he has to pass the turn all tapped out. From that situation, I can go Timetwister into Time Walk and develop a really strong board with solid mana base and a Tome that I can protect. Game two is mine. (Editor's note: Mg won the Arvika Festival three years ago, so with this win our writer has defeated all of the three previous Festival champions in one sitting.)

Semifinals, Andreas Cermark Again!
Game 1
I find a really bad hand and need to mulligan. My new 6 cards are 4 lands, 1 Swords to Plowshares and 1 Mirror, not the hand I was looking for. Andreas start with LoA, Mox Pearl, and a Savannah Lion.
The following turns I play Land and deal with Andreas two first creatures on board. But LoA is LoA and Andreas keep putting creatures on board and stays on a full hand. Turn five I play the Mirror with my Lands and 1 Mox. To my surprise Andreas have no artifact removal and the Mirror sticks.
I do not exactly remember the life scores but in Andreas last turn before the game ends he hits me for three taking me down to six life’s and plays Su-chi. When he passes the turn, he has only two lands untapped which makes me comfortable going down below four lives since there is no threat of a Psi Blast. So, in the end phase of Andreas turn I take two damage from City of Brass and swords to Plowshares his Su-chi. During my upkeep, I take two more damage from City and go down to two lives and use the Mirror. I end the game by hitting Andreas with a Mishras Factory. Again, very lucky that my opponent did not find the answers.

Game 2
This time it is my turn to find LoA in my starting hand and Andreas find no answer to it. I get too much card advantage from the Library and game is won.

Finals, Odd Kjöstvedt with UR Burn
For me Odd is a new face to the community. We actually had some discussion concerning his deck before the tournament started. So, going into the game I have a pretty good picture what I am playing against.

Game 1
I find LoA, a great start. Odd keeps a hand with blue and red Mox (no lands) and plays a Chain Lighting. Turn two I go for an extra card from LoA and play City of Brass. Odd plays no land showing he is “mana screwed” and plays a Flying Men that gets REB:ed. Turn three I go for a bad play when I go Land, Mox, Mox and The Abyss(no longer seven cards in hand). I think my plan was to cast the Timetwister the next turn because I was scared of him casting Wheel or Time Twister before I could get the Abbys out, which I know is really powerful versus his deck (I had no Couterspell in hand). The turn after I draw a Tome and decide to cast it before going for the Timetwister.
Looking back, I can just say it is a poor play for many reasons, but hey it was 3 in the morning and I was tired. However, I do not get punished for my bad play and can pick him down with a Mishras Factory ending the game with a Fireball for 13 damage.

Game 2
Another great start with Ancestral Recall in hand. Odd on the other hand need to mulligan to six. From the Ancestral I can develop into Fellwar, Mox and Ivory Tower. Odd plays a Serendib Efreet and passes to me. I go Time Talk into a Tome. Odd finds answers to both my Tower and my Book, but I handle his Serendib with a Sword. I play a new Tome and pass the turn. Odd add additional pressure with a Su-chi and a new Serendib. My response becomes Balance taking us both down to one card in hand. Again, miss fortune is with me and I find a Braingeyser giving me a Demonic Tutor leading me to a Mirror. Odd hits me down to seven with Flying Men and a Bolt. I take two additional damage with City of Brass before and swap my five remaining life. On my draw, I find a Regrow where I take up my Demonic again finding me my only fireball and the game.
Third time's the charm!
I think I played pretty solid the entire tournament except for the finals where I made some bad plays. I think I never played a tournament where I in so many matches have been so far behind and still managed to turn the table. I guess I was pretty lucky but also played for the outs.

I would not change anything in my main deck, but I think three REB is too much in the sideboard. There where simply no room to put them all in. Maybe cutting one for Amnesia which I think is underplayed in the format. In this tournament I never had the option to put in the Serra Angels either, they could perhaps be switched for something else? 

That’s all, thanks for reading and hope to see you all at Noobcon!

//Sinclair out

tisdag 27 februari 2018

Beware of Magic: the Gathering, part II

Last weekend I played in the fourth annual Arvika Festival. It was a glorious gathering, and a report is on its way. Hopefully one from the winner, alongside some rants about my own foray with The Deck. But today I'd like to quickly first step out and look at surprisingly strange, and perhaps unsettling, trivia from the mid 90s. Tinfoil hats on.

A few years ago, I wrote a short post about the backlash towards Magic by religious groups that deemed the game blasphemous. Beware of Magic the Gathering. 25 years ago, that was kind of a big deal; iconoclasm and heresy were far more frowned upon just a quarter of a century ago. These days most of us find a card like Lich fairly harmless.
Someone at Wizards finds the casual satanism in this card hilarious enough to give it Multiverse ID 666. There's an Easter Egg for you. http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=666
Now, being the heathens that we are, WotC and the great majority of players aren't bothered if we have demons in the game. Demons aren't real, we argue, and there are real issues in the world that need attention. Sexism is real, racism is real, hatred is real. I am very grateful that WotC actively tries to work with representation these days. That there is a gay couple fronting a Commander deck, that a black female planeswalker kills King Brago in Conspiracy II, and that one of the Khans of Tarkir are championed by a transgender woman. That one of the current standard blocks focus on an Indian woman and her biracial daughter. It actually fills me with a sense of community as a player.

Most of us look back at a card like Earthbind and are content that those tropes are mostly a thing of the past. We're glad that Wizards never did characters with blackface in Mirage, painted the Icatian Moneychanger overtly Jewish, or used a nazi artist in the mid 90s and then kept referencing white supremacy on the mothership. So about that...

This post might be NSFW. Let me introduce you to the art of Harold McNeil:
"Society, is a sheeple thing... individuals have their own paradigms, where sheep either follow or get eaten... an individual may see a modern oppression of the freedom to acknowledge that women go to perverse ruin unless disciplined, and that diversity in races means equality is absurd..."
"I knew a kind of Fascism was inevitable, & resonated with aspects from birth, but was also determined to see it never lack Empathy... for that is how the weak, pretend to be strong, by a Talmudic narrowing of Empathy... it is hard to be whole, it is wrong to be less... blinking Unpeople, make things worse... Love is Will, Truth is Honor..."
"Indiscriminate Inclusivity, is a prostitute's motto... Open Borders, as if legs of a whore..."
I wont link to his homepage here, as it is beyond most comfort zones. But after looking at it, we can with no doubt deduce that he is a fairly skilled iconographer and a no holds barred white supremacist. He also likes cats. And butts. The quotes under the pictures are from his facebook page btw, and all of them from the last month. This Hitler Jesus thing wasn't a phase that ended twenty years ago.

Harold McNeil worked with Wizards in the 90s. He doesn't anymore, but in those few years his art made a solid impact. Much like artists such as Drew Tucker and Richard Kane Ferguson, a Harold McNeil piece is easily identifiable at a glance. Without going too deep into art critique and Leni Riefenstahl, his artwork even with Wizards throw some sublime punches.
And once I started to learn about the artist behind the art, it is hard to look at this without imagining wolfsangels.
At this point I don't know if it is ironic or just plain weird that he also got to do cards like Circle of Protection: Black in Tempest.
But OK, lets say that the world was a different place a couple of decades ago, and what today is something WotC wouldn't want to associate with using a pole were things we as a group were more blind to in the mid 90s. These days, one could in good conscience suspect that Wizards would put their work with Harold McNeil behind them. So let me introduce the aptly named Invoke Prejudice.
Here's a bunch of guys in KKK hoodies on a card with the flavor of introducing racial divide. And yeah, it kinda looks like the front guy's robe folded into an odal rune on his shoulder. I have no idea how the design process for his card was done; it is a very odd spell and is the only card in the game with an UUUU mana cost. Also it is named Invoke Prejudice. And of course Harold McNeil is the artist.

This card is a strange part of Magic's history. One could suspect that WotC would try to put this behind them, or maybe not keep assuring that it references white supremacy. Or at the very least not jokingly insert a neo nazi reference in Gatherer search today. Well, they certainly did. Invoke Prejudice has Multiverse ID 1488. Because of course it has. http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=1488. So there you have some unsettling old school trivia from the days when Magic was seen as an unhealthy influence because of the demons, and to say the least a baffling easter egg to still keep on the mothership.

onsdag 21 februari 2018

Zack's tech: Urza’s Command

Today we have a special guest with us. Zack may be mostly known from another corner in the world of old Magic cards; spreading ideas from the first decade of Magic over at his Ancient Mtg blog. The brew master Zack has written around 80 deck techs for the Ancient format in the last four years. Today he looks back even further in the card pool and shares some glorious tech in the 93/94 format. Enjoy! /Mg out

Hey guys and gals,

I thought I'd start today’s article with a quick introduction; my name is Zack and I started playing Magic back in 1995 when I was 8 years old. My buddy taught me how to play(ish) and I immediately adored the game, the art and just the plain awesomeness. I know I know, isn’t that everyone’s story? Well, then Weatherlight and Tempest came around and the 'lore' changed, as did my interest in where the game was going. While I think 'real' Magic concluded with Visions, I absolutely love the Swedish Old School card pool and B/R. I decided to combine this passion with my deck-building hobby and write about a deck I hadn’t really read about or seen in the Old School community. Alrighty, now that we’re done with the boring introduction, let’s dive right into why we’re really here, shall we? I hope you all enjoy today’s tech about a deck I have dubbed Urza’s Command.
Let’s start with the key cards.
Urza’s Command looks to abuse the two cards in its namesake to do awesome things and win the games. Neither card is really considered a staple on their own, however when combined they really can be quite exceptional. Naturally, I am talking about Glasses of Urza and Word of Command. Hey hey hey, come on now, sit down. Yes, you read that correctly and no I am not on drugs. Just think about the two cards together. Really think about them. The applications that are available to these can be incredible and, perhaps shockingly, also quite versatile.

There are two things I tend to associate with Word of Command: 1) Command is amazing, and 2) Command is amongst the hardest cards to play in Magic; but it doesn’t have to be. Or at the very least, you can help minimize this. How? By attaining the advantage via Command and Glasses of Urza. There are actually numerous ways to do so, and I’m sure that there are several I haven’t even considered. Only lands and creatures in their hand? You don’t need to burn your Command on a (second) land that can’t be played; instead, why not drop a creature into The Abyss? The reality is, you can play anything that’s not an Instant to your advantage. Some great examples are Chain Lightning, Control Magic and their second Concordant Crossroads; notice how each example has its own card-type.
The Abyss.
The Abyss is another card that can really help you abuse Word of Command. A main problem with Command is that instants can be played around it. While Glasses does help with those, it also helps you know when and what else is available to you. Remember, 'play' can be a key component as it also includes Lands. With The Abyss doing its thing, playing your opponents' creatures essentially means destroying them. This is not without its drawbacks however, as it also presents you with a challenge; quite simply, this also limits your own creatures, as you want The Abyss to be one-sided destruction. Mishra’s Factory is a staple in Old School, so we obviously want to include a playset. I also went with 4x Su-Chi, and 4x Triskelion. The latter plays nice with our pal Tawnos, giving it some added usage as well. Oh, and don’t worry about their Mishra's, that’s why we have Bolt and Shatter.

The deck has some 4-ofs where you only want 1 in play, and several 1-ofs that you probably only want in certain situations. And no, this isn’t Vintage. It’s actually, [partly] why Greed can be so great in the deck. It, along with Jayemdae Tome, help ensure you always have cards in your hand, and it doesn’t tax your mana when you use it. Not only can both Tome and Geed provide you with some card advantage, but the latter also combines pretty decently with Mirror Universe.
The original Necropotence.
Urza’s Command relies on its mana base due to its numerous high CMC cards, so Armageddon-type decks can be backbreaking. The question then becomes: Dark Rituals or all the Moxen? Upon perusing the deck one might note that only Word of Command and Lightning Bolt don’t use colourless mana to play. As such, going with the extra Moxen route might be wise. In reality, a Mox only ramps you 1 less mana than a Ritual - but you get to keep using it! Because this decks tends to go the long game, adding those extra Moxen seems to be the better decision with Urza’s Command.

Why no Blue? Ancestral and Time Walk are ridiculously good, but are they worth changing the mana base? The short answer is, well, probably. As such, this is almost assuredly not the strongest 75 that the deck can use. It's just a blueprint to get you thinking. So why did I choose not to? Well the thing is, Blood Moon is a serious card, as is general land destruction. Also, I decided not to tread the counterspell path because we want to leave mana open to play Command; trying to leave both UU and/or BB open during your opponent’s turn can be a hard thing to do. Lastly, on a personal note, I mainly enjoy playing with only two colours when I build a deck. I had considered every Bx variation available, but decided that I wanted to try a colour combination that is a bit less commonly played.
Here it is.
Lastly, let’s end today’s article with a peek at the sideboard. I think it’s worth noting that Urza’s Command only plays one Arabian Nights card, a rarity amongst Old School decks, thus making City in a Bottle incredible. Tormod's Crypt is a bit niche, but I put in 2 because they’re good versus graveyard shenanigans. Just remember, the sideboard is based on your meta and as such, is never set in stone. With that written, I want to end this article with these words: tune a deck to how you play and remember to tweak and change whenever you want. Old School is legitimately casual, which makes it a deck-builder’s paradise, so be creative, explore and enjoy. Happy Brewing!