onsdag 26 mars 2014

Got there! A report from Kingvitational 1.

Preparations
I had updated my my deck since BSK. I'd traded away my black mox, but I had found a blue one and a workshop. In particular, I'd been tuning the pile to get a more stable midgame, maindecking two transmutable answers to creatures in Icy and Tawnos's Coffin. Large creatures, and Berserks, seemed to be the new big thing. After some reflection, it was clear that many games were lost by the opponent doing something completely broken early in the game; e.g. Library, Mind Twist or Balance, and I wanted to add some strong topdecks that would have impact enough to even out loss of card advantage. Had I been a slightly more strategic player, I would probably have splashed white or green for Balance or Regrowth. Being more of a flavor-player, the obvious choice was splashing red for Sol'Kanar the Swamp King. Two Sol'Kanars this time. Nothing beats Sol'Kanar. Maybe Juzam.

The journey of Project M continues.
The evening before the tournament, I had traveled from Oslo and was home alone in Gothenburg. I decided to go out and have a beer with some friends. This turned out to become more than one beer, and I came home around six in the morning. I sent a strategic SMS to Honka, and nonchalantly fell to sleep.

Half a nights intensive sleep later, I woke up when Honka called. Time to put the game face on. I drank all the water in my apartment, bought a coffee at 7-11, and skulked into the city. Met up with Honka, and we went back to my place to have a pizza, watch The Legend of Fong Sai Yuk 2 on VHS, discuss Buster Keaton, and discuss tech. I claim that Honka is a horrible player, and could not win a match if his opponent mulls to two and wont draw lands. Honka claims my deck is awful, and matches my face. We both agree that Buster Keaton is the greatest action hero in the history of film.

If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and see this movie.
Varberg
To Gothenburg central, and get some train tickets to Varberg. I'm on the phone with Team Leatherjacket, aka Oldschool and Gajol, who are to drive Oldschool's car to Varberg. Oldschool's car is an old mirth mobile and fueled by love and coin flips.

Honka and I get our tickets, and we're on the road. We sit next to an older lady who seems to be amused by the piles of playing cards we're shuffling about during the trip. Honka trash talks me and Thrull Champion. I call Honka a Trotskyist. A woman with a café tray walks by and I shine up like a sun. Buys all her juice, and feel that I'm soon back at zero.

We enter the city of Varberg and walks along a long street that randomly changes name three times during our stroll. Buys some more juice. We discuss the problem that black and white movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood are regarded as classics even if they are both boring and overacted. We agree on about five movies from that time that are actually good and stand the test of time (12 angry men, The great Dictator, To kill a mockingbird, The treasure of the Sierra Madre, and one more). Honka claims that Witness for the persecution is good as well, but he's wrong. I claim that the Marx Brothers' movies are pretty amusing, and he thinks I'm slow. We agree that all other black and white soundies from Hollywood between 1927 and 1959 are mediocre at best.
It is pretty much the exact same acting as in All about Eve.
We come across the pizzeria in Varberg. I assume that there's more than one, but this was the one we were looking for. Kungen, Elof and Brorsan is there and finish up their lunch. Kungen has recently started training for marathon running, and looks surprisingly fast. Axelsson joins up a while later, after some delays with his train from Scania. We engage in some casual chatting about bandy and the likes, and then walks to Kungen's place where Erik and Munchhausen awaits.

The new Casa Kungen is a really sweet place, with effective tables and windows you can open (I had some mishaps with fans and Chaos Orb flips during Kingvitational 0.5 last summer). Additionally Kungen has even prepared coffee; a sight for sore eyes with my present pulse. Honka and I change to our lederhosen team outfits and have a pre-game beer. Axelsson brough a pile of different sweet decks and ponders which one he should play. A few moments later, Åland and Team Leatherjacket joins, and we're good to go.

The Kingvitational 1 team selfie
Game 1, Erik Larson
Erik plays in his first tournament in over 15 years, and was recently lured back into the game by Oldschool and the Varberg crew. His deck of choice is Erhnamgeddon. Our first duel is long and complex, with plenty twists and turns. I manage to achieve some sort of control with Icy Manipulator and Maze of Ith, and stabilize around 3 life for a few dozen turns. Two geddons and at least three disks clears the board during the game. In the end, with few cards left in my deck, I resolve Mirror Universe, go down to two life with City of Brass, tap down the last blockers with Icy, and beat with Guardian Beast ftw. Second duel starts out tight, but eventually I get the beast/orb lock down. At this point, I think that the game is locked in my favor, and I start playing sloppily. I miss inf flips, tap the wrong lands, and don't keep counter mana up for the inevitable Balance. Erik starts to reclaim the game, but we go to time before one of us claims the victory. 1-0.

Honka: "Mox, Land Tax." Oldschool: "I'll see that mox." Honka: "I will not raise."
Game 2, Munchhausen
Munchhausen is another sweet player from Varberg who just picked up the cards again. He plays an aggressive UG Berserk deck, but with the full set of Mishras instead of more Djinns and Efreets (apart from Erhnam and Serendib). Duel 1 he plays all his 4 Mishras pretty early, and it's a quick affair. Giant Growths and shenanigans kills the few creatures i manage to resolve, and we're soon off to duel 2. The second duel takes a little more time, but I still play very shaky. I miss Chaos Orb flips, count wrong, and plays my deck on autopilot instead of thinking properly. Munchhausen plays the full set of Psionic Blasts, which easily kills my Guardian Beasts. When a Crumble destroys my Forcefield, he can attack for 17 with Giant Growths and Berserks boosting Erhnam and Mishras, and the game is over quickly. I feel that I've played pretty bad the last three duels, in particular considering my flipping and transmuting, so I drink a couple of beers and ponder my strategy before round 3. 1-1

Gajol and Axelsson.
Game 3, Elof
Ah, Elof. This should be easy ;) Elof plays the Nether Void deck. Duel one is very interesting, and we go back and forth 3-4 times switching the upper hand. At one point the game looks good for Elof, he's got a couple of Hypnotic Specters and a Nether Void in play, I've got a Guardian Beast, Forcefield, and a lot of mana. Skilled as I am, I topdeck a Chaos Orb and start flipping (good flips this time). I kill off his Hypnotics before he exiles the Orb and my blue mox with Dust to Dust. We have some more back and forth before I land a Sol'Kanar and swampwalks him to victory. The second duel is a little more one-sided. I get a good start and can keep board position enough for Elof not to be able to profitably cast Nether Void. He Disenchants three relevant artifacts, but then proceeds to draw all his four Nether Voids rather than something exciting. I transmute into Jayemdae Tome, and cast Sol'Kanar for the win. 2-1.

Game 4, Kungen
Kungen plays the Kobold deck, and hence have 11 maindeck 0-mana Kobolds he won last BSK. He also plays some good cards, but most of them are in his sideboard. He has been losing the first duel in all his matches, but has then proceeded to win most of his other games. Very amusing. I win the first duel when Kungen plays a bunch of 0/1's and no Taskmasters or Gauntlets of Might. In the second duel, Kungen is very light on lands, and I get an early disk to remove his moxen. I resolve a turn five Sol'Kanar after than, and the rest is a formality. I looked at his decklist after the game, and it looked very strong, so I think that I could have been in deep water if he hadn't been stalling on mana in duel 2. He did btw sideboard 15 cards between the first and second duel. 3-1.

The King of the Kobolds.
Semifinals, Munchhausen
3-1 and off to top4. Munchhausen did beat me in the swiss, but I feel like I'm in a little better shape now. Honka throws a lot of friendly trash talk at me before the game. I drink a beer and contemplates. I know that I need to play around Munchhausen's Psiblasts, and that I need to respect his Mishras.

Duel one i start with land, go. Munchhausen goes land, Sol Ring. I follow up with land, copy artifact on Sol Ring. Munchhausen plays a land and cast Erhnam, and I can follow up during my turn with swamp, Mind Twist for four. Next turn I can transmute my copied Sol Ring into Nevinyrral's Disk and clear the board. I win a few turns later by attacking with Su-Chi and a Mishra. Next duel Munchhausen starts with land, Birds. I go land, Mox. He casts an Unstable Mutation on the bird, but doesn't play a land. I see an opening, and Strips away his land. He draws another land and cast a second Unstable Mutation on the bird. I cast Recall for my Strip Mine and take away his other land, but he draws a new one and beats me down to 9. I cast Fellwar Stone, and the turn after I hit six mana to cast transmute into Chaos Orb, Demonic for Guardian Beast and Time Walk. Cast the beast and start flipping during my extra turn. My flips are back to being 50/50 though, as I clearly haven't been practicing them enough lately. Transmute another Stone into Triskelion and starts going for the beats. Munchhausen resolvs a Psiblast to ge me down to 4, but I have the Mana Drain in case of a second one, and Triskelion goes all the way. Honka trashes and congratulates all at once, and I'm off to the finals.

Facing off against Munchhausen.
Finals, Åland
The second semi-final is between Oldschool (who went 4-0 in the swiss with The Dragon) and Åland with The Deck. Åland manages to win after an epic battle, and we're facing of in the finals. Last time I and Åland met in elimination rounds at a tournament was in the semi-finals of Warcon 2012, where he managed to sneak himself to the victory. Duel 1 is very one-sided, when Åland starts with Library turn 1, and builds up a huge card advantage with answers on everything i do. When he plays his second Mishra I scoop, as there at that point was no reasonable line of play left in my deck that could beat his cards combined with a 5-turn clock. Duel two is pretty similar, but this time it's I who start with the Library. Åland never catches up, as I transmute into Tome and Scepter to increase my card advantage even further.

Duel three is the most exciting one, as none of us have the Library. My first transmute-target in this matchup is clearly the Scepter, to keep down his card advantage and make him unable to hold counters. Eventually I get the Orb/Beast combo going as well, and hits a pair of flips before he can sword my Beast. I still have my Orb though, and cast a Copy Artifact to double up. I destroy another pair of lands, and can safely cast a Sol'Kanar. Nothing beats Sol'Kanar, and he is forced to scoop up his cards shortly afterwards.

Aftermath
We have a period of high fives, and I'm immensely happy over my new Relic Barrier (and my first 93/94 tournament victory!). That Barrier will surely be in the deck for n00bcon! After a few more beers and some happy pictures, me and Åland gets a ride to Varberg central station to take the night-train to Gothenburg. The other players stay and play casual into the early hours, but as the clock has passed midnight after a long day, I need to get home to get some sleep. It was an awesome tournament with sweet decks and happy faces, and I'm looking forward to see you all this Easter!

onsdag 19 mars 2014

Erhnamgeddon

At the very first Pro Tour, 1996 in New York, the "best European player" took an interesting deck all the way to the finals. The top8 for the event was stacked with the pros of yesteryears, including names like Mark Justice, Shawn "Hammer" Regnier and Leon Lindbäck. The French player who ended up in second place was none other than Bertrand Lestrée, famous for losing against Library+Ivory Tower against Zak Dolan in the finals of Worlds 1994.

Bertrand's deck was an early version of the so called ErhnamGeddon deck. The idea is to drop an early fatty, like Ernham Djinn, and then follow up with an Armageddon and pound the opponent while they struggle with mana. Add some Land Taxes and mana elves for consistency after geddon, and the deck can be a real hassle to handle.

During Kingvitatational, Erik "Sehl" Larsson played in his first tournament for over 15 years. His deck of choice was Erhnamgeddon, one of his favourite decks from when he first started playing. I faced off against Erik during the first round of the tournament, and our game was nothing short of epic. Two Armageddons, Balance, and at least three activations of Nevinyrral's Disk occured during our first game, clearing the board whenever one of us got ahead. I stabilized at 3 life for a long time, using Maze of Ith and Icy Manipulator, and eventually managed to squeeze in the win with Mirror Universe and attacking with Guardian Beast, with something like 7 cards left in my library.

The deck looks like a blast to play, and I hope we'll see more of it at n00bcon.

torsdag 13 mars 2014

The return of The Deck

Twenty years ago, two guys named Brian and Matt lived together in Santa Cruz. This was at a time before the web was common knowledge, and before the printing of Legends. Brian and Matt playtested relentlessly between their classes at UCSC, and their creations would change the face of Magic decks forever. Before a tournament in San Francisco, they had created a monster of a Deck with 4-offs of the two cards they though were the most powerful non-restricted cards in Magic at that point; Mind Twist and Library of Alexandria. They first named it "The Mind Twist Deck", but Matt then shortened the name to simply "The Deck". It was miles ahead of it's time, and Brian described Matt's journey in the tournament as "a hot knife through butter". It easily won the San Francisco tournament and then crushed their local scene during the coming months, until Mind Twist and the Library eventually got restricted. With the printing of Legends however, The Deck got access to Mana Drain, Moat and Recall.

"One down, three to go!" -Magic, April 1994
 At that time, playing a deck - any deck - with 2-3 win conditions were unheard of. Matt and Brian's deck rewrote the conceptions of what a deck should like. This early 1995 version of The Deck, which won DundraCon, is probably their most famous version:

4 Disenchant
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Mana Drain
4 Counterspell
1 Red Elemental Blast
2 Moat
2 Disrupting Scepter
1 Jayemdae Tome
2 Serra Angel
1 Chaos Orb
1 Regrowth
1 Demonic Tutor
2 Balance
1 Mind Twist
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Timetwister
1 Recall
5 Moxen
1 Sol Ring
1 Black Lotus
4 City of Brass
4 Tundra
4 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island
2 Scrubland
2 Strip Mine
1 Library of Alexandria

Robert Hanh, who wrote some of Magic's first real strategy articles, got hold of of Brian's tech, and named one of the "Schools of Magic" after him. Even today the name Brian Weissman is synonymous with maybe the most important deck of all time. Matt didn't play as much after the first few years, and didn't have the same success at the Pro Tour. I recently read an interesting post by him from 2003 at a (non-magic related) forum though:

"I don't play any more. My college roommate and I were fanatics. We got in at the tail end of the first expansion set (Arabian Nights, I think it was called). My roommate, Brian Weissman, was quite famous in that little circle -- he did the M:tG commentary on ESPN2, was one of the contributors to the first magic book, etc. I myself won the first Manafest tournament in San Francisco. I was playing a blue/black Mind Twist deck, before that card was restricted. I didn't get to go to the national qualifier, but I heard 15 of 16 of the final 16 decks in that match were more or less copies of mine.

Brian and I invented what we called 'The Deck' - it was the first blue/white permission deck. I beat Zak Dolan, who was the first world champion of M:tG, 11 out of 11 games when I played him at Stanford. (Not that this was a real accomplishment; his win at the championships was quite the fluke)"


Ah, Zak Dolan. I should email him for an interview some day.

In Old School Magic, up until the restriction of Mana Drain a year ago, different versions of The Deck were utterly dominant. It was described as though "the only tier1 deck is The Deck, and no other deck is even tier2". Even though winning isn't the main goal for our tournaments, it was a little disheartening to know that you simply wouldn't win a tournament unless you played control. After the restriction of Mana Drain, the Deck seemed to take a backseat in our format, and both Kingvitational 0.5 and BSK 2013 was won by White weenie. There were very few control decks at both tournaments.

Åland's 2nd place deck from Kingvitational 1 last weekend.
This year we've seen a resurgence though. Two players have competed with new versions of The Deck in tournaments the last months, and both times they've showed again how powerful it really is. Jocke Almelund crushed the Pimpvitational with his The Deck, and Mikael "Åland" Johansson took a very similar version of The Deck to the finals of Kingvitational 1 last weekend. Without the 4-off Mana Drain, it's no longer the only viable choice, but it is certainly one of the absolute top decks in the format when piloted correctly. Åland has stated that he has improved the deck further in preparation for n00bcon, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the top8 again this year.

On that note, we are already 30 people signed up for n00bcon 6, a week after it first was announced and with over a month left until the tournament. It might be the largest and sweetest 93/94 tournament yet. Join if you have the opportunity!

måndag 10 mars 2014

n00bcon 6: World Championships

Last Saturday Kingvitational 1 was played in Varberg. It was a great event; beer and good magic was aplenty, and a couple of new faces showed up for the first time with sweet decks. I wrote a quick tournament report about the experience in Swedish, which I'll probably translate and post here later. The host himself, Kungen, also have a proper report in the works for the blog. I'll post it here as soon as I have the opportunity.

Kungen referred to Kingvitational as "the dress rehearsal for n00bcon". In just over a month, it's finally time again for the World Championship in 93/94. Get your deck, get to Gothenburg, and gaze at plays like turn 1 Plains, Lotus, Tundra Wolves, Thunder Spirit; or at Birds of Paradise with Unstable Mutations.


What: N00bcon, aka the World Championships in 93/94. The first 93/94 tournament ever was hosted at Gothcon in 2008, the years after that we've rented an adjacent pub to hold the tournament in. This is the 6th annual n00bcon. The last two years we've had 26 and 34 players attending. It's the place to show that you have what it used to take to be a master at Magic, but mostly to drink craft beer, look at amazing decks, and enjoy the fun side of magic tournaments.

When: Saturday the 19 of April, starting 14:00. Rounds in the swiss are 60 minutes, the top8 is un-timed, but expected to be played at a reasonable pace. Note that this is during the Gothcon weekend, and there will be a pretty big Vintage tournament at Gothcon the Friday before, and a PTQ the Sunday after, to name a few.

Where: Rotary Pub in Gothenburg. About 8 minutes walk from the Gothcon site.

Who: Anyone who has a deck are welcome to come and play. Players who just want to come and watch and have a beer are unfortunately not allowed, due to a combination of alcohol serving laws and security.

Registration: The registration fee is 100 sek (about €10) to cover expenses for hiring the pub and such. If you're a member at svenskamagic.com, post in the n00bcon 6 thread in the Old School forum table. Otherwise, send me a mail or comment here, and we'll put you on the list.

Prices: The winner gets a Giant Shark. Top4 gets some sort of trophies. Random prices will most probably be handed out as well. Of course everyone gets a rad convention pin with the Eastery Disenchant above.

Force of Nature will be there.
Ps. If you want to see some inspiring Old School and Vintage pictures, you should check out http://instagr.in/u/mtg_gbg.