tisdag 29 juli 2014

Jet Black

Back in the mid 90's, monoblack was my favorite archetype. Maybe it was something special with the scary-looking artwork, the flavour of cards like Lord of the Pit and Royal Assassin, or just the fact that my black deck could actually beat most comers during the lunch breaks at school. Back then, Nettling Imp (or Norrit) plus Sorceress Queen and Sengir Vampire was seen as a deadly combination. The old school players of today have optimized the monoblack strategy quite a bit from that.

One route to take is the suicide school, which heavily utilizes Greed to generate card advantage and overwhelm the opponent. A great example of this can be seen in Heiner Litz's tournament report from Eudemonia. Another path is that of monoblack control, which use control cards like Icy Manipulator and use Underworld Dreams as a primary win condition. An extreme example of this is GaJol's Distress deck from BSK 2012, which I unfortunately don't have any pictures of (a later version of the deck splashing red can be seen here though). A more recent version of monoblack control is Danish player Jimmi Kristiansen's sweet deck from n00bcon 6:

Icy Manipulator is probably a better card to use with Royal Assassin than Nettling Imp ;)
Jimmi's deck has som great synergies. Agressive creatures with Icy and Meekstone; Pestilence and Mishras; and Tabernacle backed up by Icy and Sinkhole, to name a few. It does however lack the darkest of all the black creatures...


Expect my visit when the darkness comes,
The night I think is best for hiding all;
If the heavens felt the love I feel for you,
The sun would not shine, nor the moon rise,
Nor the stars travel in their nightly journey.

-Ouallada 

There's some random trivia for you; the flavour text on Juzam Djinn is actually part of a poem. It was written by an eleventh-century princess of Andalusia, most commonly known as Wallada bint al-Mustakfi. Enough about that though, let's check out the latest and greatest tech in monoblack tempo today; Sehl's finalist deck from Warcon 2014.

The small plastic Tiger was btw found in the second place prize of the tournament; a Kinder Egg :)
Now this is a really cool deck, and one of the best version I've seen on tempo-based monoblack this far. Since n00bcon, Sehl had gotten his hands on a playset of Juzams and a black mox, and he used them to great success. His deck combines the control elements of four Underworld Dreams and no less than three Disks with the explosiveness of a turn 1 Hypnotic or Juzam. I just hope that the hidden card in the sideboard is a Jovial Evil...

torsdag 24 juli 2014

Warcon pics and WSK top4

The top performing decks from WSK are finally up in the Decks-to-beat section. The top4 consisted of a The Deck, a Zack Dolan Control, an UGR Burn and a "4-color black" beatdown. I haven't seen all the lists from Warcon yet, but I can tell you that the finals was between a monoblack deck (played by Erik "Sehl" Larsson) and a monoblue (played by Elof). Amnesia has really shown itself as a powerful card the last few months, in particular with plays like turn 1 Mana Vault, turn 2 holding up two islands for Counterspell, and turn 3 Amnesia. I'm hoping for a tournament report from Elof, but for now we can take a look at a few pics from the tournament (thanks to Kalle, Elof and Freespace for the pics).
The Fellwar Orb, first price in the tournament.
Glenn, aka Gnell, from Varberg is playing monoblue against Axelsson, an awesome player from the South.
BSK 2013 winner Henke playing creatureless Tax Edge vs Gnell's monoblue Stasis. A crawling slow match; game one took 50 minutes before Henke scooped in disgust ;)
Amnesia hits for 6. Lots of Amnesia-tech during this tournament, maybe influenced by Elof's n00bcon top8 deck and by the fact that they are easier to cast without power now (with Mana Vault legal).
Turn 1 Library is responded to by turn 1 Library.
Jenny's RG beats playing Elof's monoblue artifacts for the top4. That's a distracting playmat btw.
Orb vs Juzam, a fair sight for old school players. Freespace also uses the secret tech of a distracting plamat.
Blood Moon vs monoblue artifacts. At least it takes care of the library ;)
Aggro-sprites!
Munchhausen vs Brorsan.
Stasis facing an opposing Feldon's Cane :)

I'll be posting decklists from Warcon as soon as I get them.

onsdag 16 juli 2014

Priorities and luxury

Sometimes, I need to take a step back. Most of us know that playing an expensive deck in competitive formats is a luxury, and not a right. Even in casual formats, not all cards are accessible unless you make a conscious prioritization and decide that owning these cards are more valuable to you than using that money on something else. It could be due to the joy of the game, the joy of owning a piece of history, or simply the joy of luxury. "Luxury is a necessity that begins where necessity ends", to quote Coco Chanel. Sometimes you need to ask yourself 'why?' though. A week ago I got one of the very last cards for my Project M deck, and the question was more present than ever.


The card on the left is my old Mox Sapphire, which I obtained just after last New Years Eve. The card on the right is my new one, a moderately played Alpha version of the card. The nice thing is that I'm now up to seven of nine in black bordered power cards, and that I have all the cards for Project M apart from a pair of duals. The slightly disturbing thing is the very large price difference between the card on the left and the one on the right. I think I got a fair price marketwise, but I can't help to think about why I prioritize spending all the extra money to make a wb card I own into a black bordered version of the same card. There are a lot of things I could have done instead of "upgrading", e.g.
  • I need a new suit. I could actually fly with Norwegian Airlines from Olso to Munich, buy a new Hugo Boss suit in Stachus, do some minor tailoring on said suite, and then fly home.
  • I could draft every week for a year, and still have money left for all of the year's pre-releases.
  • I don't own a tablet, so I could have bought a 4th generation iPad Air. Then I could also have bought Kurio tablets for both my nephew and my niece to have someone to play scrabble with.
  • On the more humanitarian side of things; I could have bought goats to 28 different families in Bangladesh or the Philippines. Thinking about these kind of things really makes you question your need for luxury.
So, does owning an Alpha Sapphire make me happy? Yes, most definitely. Even if I didn't play 93/94, I would find use for it in a casual Homarid deck, Vintage, or my drinking cube. Would I be happier owning 10 new pairs of good shoes instead the card? Maybe. It's a priority.

Here's an interesting thing though; if I would buy a decent Canali suit for $1000, very few people I know would question that expense. If you would buy a used car for $5000, pretty much no one would blame you for spending the money (Fun fact btw: Roland, the guy I obtained my Lotus from, recently sold a large part of his eternal collection and bought an amazing sports car with the money). However, with cards like this, you can't avoid feeling that you wouldn't want to talk about the expense with everybody. Would you tell your colleagues or spouse, or do you feel "nerd shame"? I know I'm very open about it today (yep, even have a blog about it ;)), but eight or nine years ago, I would be hard pressed to tell most of my friends about my nerdy prioritizations. Well, this post isn't about "nerd shame" though, it's about the fact that we prioritize spending our (often hard-earned) money on Magic cards. And we don't really have to, at least not to play this format.

Brorsan's Shark-winning deck from BSK 2013. Cheaper than many Standard decks.
Quorthon's monoblue deck from WSK last weekend. No power, and looks really fun to play.
There's something deeper here. We don't play to get rich or find high-level success in the game, we play to have a good time with like-minded people. That's probably why arguments on allowing reprints are not heard at n00bcon, and why nobody at 0-2 dropped during the swiss at WSK. Winning is far second to playing.

I guess I could have had the new suit. I played this format for 3 years before I got my first power card. I think that I agree with fashion designer Marc Jacobs though, "Luxury is about pleasing yourself, not dressing for other people." And owning black bordered cards makes me glad, it's a part of history which I can use as an excuse to both hang out with old friends and meet new ones. I think it's cool to own game pieces that have their own wikipedia page. Working on my deck over the last two years have been very relaxing in times of stressful work. And it is fun to play Magic. It is a great luxury.

onsdag 9 juli 2014

Pictures from WSK

Last weekend the Wexio Gaming Convention was held in Växjö, Småland. Around the board games, steam punks and NES consoles there was old school Magic going on. I'm aiming to write a longer report about the weekend, but for now we'll have a look at some pics from the tournament.

Freespace playtesting the Chaos Orb in our hotel room before the tournament.
After we felt comfortable with the flipping, we went down to the local Bishop's Arms pub to relax. With 4 Juzams and skill with the Orb, Freespace's shape is looking good.
We did however have some additional tech against the Juzams, with the powerhouse that is Riven Turnbull. If you haven't looked at this card's design and flavortext, I can simply tell you it's hilarious. It's also a 5/7!
The hotel trading floor. Kenneth marvels at Mats' plastic bag of trading cards. An awesome old school way of storing cards if I ever saw one.
To be fair, some of the cards in the trading bag did have sleeves. Not the alpha Stasises or duals, but some did ;)
Elof is playing 4-Vault Mud and started our first game with turn 1 Library. I luck out with Demonic for Strip Mine, and after some Recall shenanigans I have double Chaos Orb and Guardian Beast in play. Elof casts Copy Artifact on the Orb to kill my beast, but misses his flip. Clearly an important card to playtest ;)
Game 2, Elof has turn 1 Su-Chi, which I respond to with turn 1 Sol'Kanar. Elof goes turn two Unsummon and Juggernaut though, and it's a quick affair.
Fat Mothi blocking the way for Sengir. The monoblue deck looks really cool with multiple Mahamotis (and Spell Blast!). Unfortunately I didn't get much time to see it in action.
Åland vs Arkanon. Åland is playing a modern version of Weissman control, where Arkanon took inspiration from Zak Dolan's Stasis control from from worlds 1994.
Ottifant vs Sehl; Juzams vs enchantments. Beautiful decks :)
Mishras vs Apes and Disk vs Enchantments
Juzams and Sengirs facing Hypnotics, Erg Raiders and Black Knights.
There has been no disruption or removal here, this is simply turn two for Enchantress. This was a very funny match btw, with no less than nine Timetwisters resolved during the three games.
Top4 players: Arkanon facing Matte, and Jokemon vs Åland.
Joakim "Jokemon" Jansson facing Niclas "Arkanon" Johansson in the finals. A very interesting game to watch with lots of exciting plays. Throughtout the day, it looked like Jokemon's two maindecked Ice Storms did a huge amount of work.
Arkanon finishes second and gets a futuristic calendar from the year 1998, and three copies of Flood (Växjö is the second most rain-heavy city in Sweden).
Jokemon, a great guy and skillful player, takes home the trophy. Jokemon is one of the driving forces behind the WSK convention, so we both congratulate him to his victory and thank him for a great weekend :)
Jokemon's winning deck. Manabarbs in sideboard and maindeck Ice Storms for vaule :) I'll post the other top4 decks in the deck's to beat section here soon.
This coming weekend it's time to battle again, this time at Warcon in Varberg. I unfortunately can't make it to this tournament myself, but I hope that those of you that join will have a great time and that you take a lot of pictures to show the rest of us!