söndag 31 maj 2015

Rausch's tale: A story from Card and Board

Today I have the pleasure to share a report from the first old school tournament at Card and Board in Archbold, Ohio. Let's give the word to Nicholas Rausch. /Mg

McIntosh: Hey Rausch?
Me: What’s up?
McIntosh: So Mishra’s Factory is the best unrestricted card in ‘94 right?
Me: Debatable but yeah probably
McIntosh: What happens if you Copy Artifact an animated Mishra’s Factory?
Me:..uhm..

And that’s how it started.

Well that’s not how it started. Let me rewind about a year.

I've always been a cube enthusiast. My powered 720 cube has been an ongoing project for about 5 years running. New sets come out. New cards go in. Old cards go out.

Old cards go out. That part hurts. I have fond memories of my foil Japanese Spiritmonger and my English Legends All Hallows Eve, and my Arabian Nights Serendib Djinn and Serendib Efreet. But, for the sake of ever increasing power level and making sure that new cards got their chance to be included, cuts had to be made.

It was in discussing these cuts and swaps that McIntosh had a stroke of genius. “What if I built a cube.” He said suggestively. “A cube that didn’t require cuts and additions every time a new set drops. A cube that let us play with all the fresh and dope shit we used to play with. A cube with only cards from the first sets of M:tG, ABU, Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, and the Dark. A cube that was nostalgic and, above all, fun.”

Now I could get into all the details and research that went into building that cube. Card selection. Making sure colors were somewhat balanced. Supporting different draft archetypes. But that’s McIntosh’s story to tell.

This is my story.

While doing research for McIntosh’s cube project, we stumbled upon a website. http://oldschool-mtg.blogspot.com/. What we saw was a growing, living, breathing community of M:tG players dedicated to playing the game as if it were 1994. We both immediately fell in love with what we saw. Hundred of decklists. Tournament reports. Beer. Deck techs. Game theory articles. Beer.

We went right to work building decks. It didn’t matter how good or bad a deck was, we wanted to build it and play it. Any spare time we had was spent playing this ‘93/’94 Old School M:tG format.

But it wasn’t enough. We wanted more. We introduced the format to some of the local regulars, some of which have only been playing a few years and had never even heard of a Juzam Djinn let alone seen one, at the card shop we run. They loved it! Many of them began doing their own research, building decks, tweaking those decks, and brewing. The format was infectious.

Yet, it STILL wasn’t enough. We needed something to satisfy the thirst for more ‘94. Something that could connect us with other players who love the format. Something that would allow us to reach out and introduce Old School MtG to other players.

“How do you feel about proxies?” I asked.
“Well, we want people to come and play in this right?” Mac quickly answered back “If we don’t allow them, no one locally will be able to play. This is primarily for enjoyment. We don’t want card availability to hinder that.”

“Ok. What about prizes? It has to be something that players who play will use and appreciate.”

“I know. I’ve got that covered.” McIntosh reached in his grandfather’s army utility bag, which served as the main carrying case for all the ‘94 decks, and pulled out a small deck box. He opened it and exclaiming “what do you think about..THESE” withdrew 2 cards. An Unlimited Chaos Orb and an English Legends Mirror Universe. They were perfect!

We set the date of the tournament for Sunday, May 17th. This was significant as it was weekend of the 1 year anniversary for the store. If we couldn’t celebrate the way we wanted to celebrate by playing Magic the way we wanted to play Magic, what was the point? Saturday would have been better but we had already scheduled a Starcitygames.com Invitational Qualifier that day. It had to be Sunday.

We understood that the format was going to be new territory for most players. Being unfamiliar with something tends to make people shy away. In order to try and make the tournament a success, I blasted Facebook anyway that I knew how promoting the event, and telling people about the format. McIntosh made calls to all of his contacts that might even be remotely interested in playing. One such contact was a huge boon in getting this event off the ground. Ben Perry. Ben has so many contacts in the Magic Universe it’s crazy. He spread the word to other players and groups that he knew who already played Old School MtG. With his help, we were pretty much guaranteed at least 8 players for the event.

About a month before the tournament, I had settled on playing the mono green deck. Ernham Djinns, Gaea’s Touch, Ice Storms, Howling Mine + Relic Barrier. Not because it was necessarily the most powerful deck, but because I had fun playing it. Mono green was it. That was until that conversation happened.

McIntosh: Hey Rausch?
Me: What’s up?
McIntosh: So Mishra’s Factory is the best unrestricted card in ‘94 right?
Me: Debatable but yeah probably
McIntosh: What happens if you Copy Artifact an animated Mishra’s Factory?
Me:..uhm..
McIntosh: It comes in play as a copy of the land right?
Me: *quick google search*...Sure does.
McIntosh: That means you can ostensibly play with 8 Mishra’s Factory right?
Me: Sure does.
McIntosh: Why in the fuck has noone done this?!
Me: You mean, no one until now.

Rule 706.2. When copying an object, the copy acquires the copiable values of the original object’s characteristics and, for an object on the stack, choices made when casting or activating it (mode, targets, the value of X, whether it was kicked, how it will affect multiple targets, and so on). The “copiable values” are the values derived from the text printed on the object (that text being name, mana cost, card type, subtype, supertype, expansion symbol, rules text, power, toughness, and/or loyalty), as modified by other copy effects, by “as . . . enters the battlefield” and “as . . . is turned face up” abilities that set characteristics, and by abilities that caused the object to be face down. Other effects (including type-changing and text-changing effects), status, and counters are not copied

It is this rule, and interaction between the 2 aforementioned cards, that became the backbone to my new deck. ‘94 aficionados know that winning the factory war is a HUGE advantage in any given match. We had found a way to make sure that achieving exactly that was not only probable, but assured.

Next was the shell to build around it. Being blue meant we got to play with all the good restricted cards. Starting with The Deck was a logical choice. Because Copy Artifact was primarily copying Mishra’s Factory, which is a mana source, it made sense to remove Fellwar Stones. Hell, worst case scenario, I could always Copy Artifact one of my own or my opponents moxen. With less colored sources of mana from the lack of Fellwar Stones, I had to make concessions on the number of colors I could play. Blue and White were locked in and even though I love me some Red Elemental Blast out of the sideboard, I wasn’t about to give up the power of Demonic Tutor and Mind Twist. This same situation with more colorless sources led me to me trading out some of the Counterspells for Power Sinks and playing a few more situational artifacts. It didn’t bother me though. Copy Artifact could always become a copy of those situational cards if the time was right. The Abyss made it’s way in the deck as an additional avenue to combat creatures that also happened to not interfere with the factory plan. Having The Abyss in turn meant Serra Angel was out. Triskelion took its place to due to favorable interaction with not only The Abyss, but also with, you guessed it, Copy Artifact. After a few games I ended up with the main deck I played at the tournament.

2 Triskelion

1 Black Lotus
1 Chaos Orb
1 Icy Manipulator
2 Jayemdae Tome
1 Mirror Universe
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Sol Ring

1 Ancestral Recall
2 Counterspell
4 Disenchant
1 Mana Drain
2 Power Sink
4 Swords to Plowshares

4 Copy Artifact
2 The Abyss

1 Balance
1 Braingeyser
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Mind Twist
1 Recall
1 Time Walk

1 Island
1 Plains
4 City of Brass
1 Library of Alexandria
1 Maze of Ith
4 Mishra’s Factory
1 Strip Mine
4 Tundra
3 Underground Sea

For the Sideboard there were some options that I knew for sure I wanted. 4x Blue Elemental Blast was a given. I wanted 3 dedicated slots to fighting additional artifacts which meant some number of Dust to Dust and Divine Offering. I settled on 1 and 2 respectively. UR burn was a very popular choice in the local metagame so 2 Ivory Towers were added to strengthen that matchup. I wanted an additional non-creature way to win grindy matchups like the mirror. McIntosh suggested Millstone so I threw a couple of those in. These also served double duty as a way to win the game should the opponent resolve a Blood Moon. The WW and Black Aggro matchup could sometimes be problematic if they got off to an aggressive start so a Wrath of God was added to shore up that problem. The last 3 slots were tricky though. I went back and forth between including some Circle of Protection Red and Black or a tiny Transmute Artifact package. In the end I decided on the latter as it gave me a way to also find the situational one-ofs I already had in my main deck.

Sideboard:
4 Blue Elemental Blast
1 Disrupting Scepter
2 Divine Offering
1 Dust to Dust
1 Forcefield
2 Ivory Tower
1 Millstone
2 Transmute Artifact
1 Wrath of God

6 o’clock am. I was laying wide awake in bed. It was two hours before I needed to be up to get around and ready to open up the shop. It didn’t matter. My excitement could not be contained. I’m sure if my fiance Melissa had woken up and rolled over, she’d have seen me staring at the ceiling with the biggest shit eating grin on my face. The day of our ‘94 tournament had finally come.

I got to the shop about 9:30 am. Due to the number of players travelling for this event, McIntosh and I decided it would benefit us all if we opened early and got the event started as close to noon as possible.

Players started rolling in. There were 7 of us local guys, 2 players from Toledo, 4 from the Detroit, MI area, and 3 from Chicago for a total of 16 competitors! McIntosh found an oversized Chaos Orb and we had everyone sign it as a memento for the event. It is now prominently on display in the store. Everyone was super nice and very easy to talk with; it seemed as though the group got along very very well despite so many of us never meeting one another before. After a very brief players meeting thanking everyone who came out and opening up future discussion about the vision and future of this format, round 1 began.

Fan-freakin’-tastic. I get to start right off the bat with one of the biggest ‘94 enthusiasts this side of the pond. This is going to be rough. Danny and I made some small talk about the format in general before deciding who went first. We decided to kick it old school by comparing bottom cards of our deck, high card goes first. Well, it took us about 6 cards deep before he finally hit a higher cmc.

Danny was on his signature Stasis deck, updated from his top 4 finish at the Eternal Central Old School MtG event from Eternal Weekend 2014. Game one progressed as normal with both of us establishing our mana base. That is until I hit Library of Alexandria. The card went about 8 turns unimpeded before a Strip Mine took care of it. By then it was too late. My 3 Mishra’s Factories were able to outrace his Ivory Tower. Game two saw me mulligan to 5, which wasn’t all bad considering Danny opened up with a Black Vise. He stumbled on lands which allowed me to catch up. After Danny went for a soft stasis lock, which I was able to disrupt with a timely Disenchant, a Mind Twist from me put me back in the game. Danny was able to fire right back with a Sylvan Library off the top. Turn after turn, he blanked, only finding lands while I was able to find a Millstone. This was an interesting position. On one hand, this Millstone could win me the game should I be able to bin his Timetwister. On the other, it would allow Danny to see a fresh set of cards each turn with his Sylvan Library. Fuck it. Mill 2. Draw. Go. Mill 2. Counter your relevant stuff. Draw. Go. Mill 2. BOOM! Hit the twister with 4 cards left in his deck! 1-0

The adrenaline rush was insane. I was still riding high on it when the pairings for round 2 went up.

Fan-freakin’-tastic. Another ringer. “Shaman Ben” Ben Perry. He can be a pretty intimidating guy at first sight but once you get to know him a bit, you realize he’s all about the same thing you are. Hanging out with peers and having fun playing Magic. Ben is also a man of many stories. If you ever get the chance to ask him about his toaster and Kevin Sorbo, do so. I promise you won’t be disappointed. I decided to run back the bottom card, high card goes first. Ben and his sandwich bag deck box obliged. Me? Disenchant. Ben? Shivan Dragon.

Ben was playing UR Burn but instead of playing Juggernauts or Su-chi’s he opted for Clone, Vesuvan Doppelganger, and Old Man of the Sea as a way to deal with larger creatures like Juzam Djinn. He also had a playset of Counterspells in his deck which is atypical of the archetype and could cause me some issues. Game one I start off with a Library of Alexandria and that was that. I let his first few burn spells resolve bringing me to 10 life before countering his draw sevens and addition burn. A factory and his copy went the distance. Game two Ben jumped out of the gates with a turn 1 Serendib Efreet. I answered back with an Ivory Tower to try and counteract the genie. A few turns went by with us playing land-go until Ben went for a Blood Moon. My attempt to Power Sink it was stifled by a Red Elemental Blast. No worries. I can just sit in my tower until I find the appropriate basic or Mox to get out of it with my own Blue Blast or Disenchant. Ben found a Chaos Orb first. I was helpless against his onslaught of forthcoming burn spells at that point. Game 3 went exactly the same way as Game 1 did except I was on the bad end of Library. His card advantage completely overwhelmed me. 1-1

Max is a friend from the Detroit area who came down for the whole weekend to play in the ‘94 event as well as the SCG Invitational Qualifier we had put on the day before. He wasn’t super familiar with format but found a deck he found a deck he thought he would have fun playing. That deck was a mana denial deck based around Sinkholes, Stone Rains, Nether Voids, and main deck Blood Moons. On paper this looked like a nightmare matchup

Game one, Max ritualed out an early Juzam Djinn on turn 2 which quickly met its demise with a Swords to Plowshares. The next few turns Max played running Blood Moons. Unfortunately for him, I was able to disenchant one of them by floating mana and then Chaos Orb the other one. Max was out of gas. I dropped a Triskelion and copied him twice the following turn for lethal the next. Game 2, he had one of his best openings by ritualing out an Underworld Dreams. I dropped a Pearl and a Tundra. Max went for a Sinkhole his following turn which was stopped by a Power Sink. Soooo glad I chose to run that card. My turn two I played a Mishra’s Factory and a Black Lotus. After shipping the turn, Max followed up with an Energy Flux. Annoying but not the end of the world. The flower paid for the mox and animated the factory. I got in for 2, played a land and passed. On Max’s turn all he could do was shrug and ritual out a Nether Void. My Pearl gave it’s last breath to the factory and the beats continued. It was now a race. I needed to kill Max with factory before he found a Bolt to either kill the factory, or kill me in conjunction with the Underworld Dreams slowly ticking away at my life total. 10 turns later, the factory prevailed. 2-1

Standings were posted along with round 4 pairings. Turns out everyone with 6 match points could draw into the top 8. It’s unfortunate that some of the top 8 slots weren’t decided by nailbiter bubble matches but it didn’t seem to affect anyone. I was paired against local player and man of many nicknames Joel “senior slow-roll” “hippy joel” Draggoo. We signed the slip but decided to play out a match for fun. At this time I look down at my notebook where I do my scorekeeping and see a lovely note my fiance must have left for me before she left.


 
Murder your Goomba from Mario Bros? I dunno what it means. Anyway.

Joel made a last minute switch from his normal UR Burn deck to Juzam SMASH! His reasoning? “Dude! Have you played Juzam SMASH before?! It’s fucking awesome!” Fair enough. Game 1 started off with me playing a Copy Artifact on a Mishra’s Factory on turn 2 off of a Mox Sapphire. Joel put in a Juzam. I then went for a Mind Twist for exactsies on his hand, but he sneakily cast an Ancestral Recall in response trying to protect his draw 7. It worked. His next turn saw him cast a Timetwister to try and kill me with berserks he had to find. He missed his Berserks but did hit a Strip Mine to take care of my now turned on Library.  What I found though was a Swords to Plowshares to exile the Djinn. A few turn laters, 3 factories (2 of them copies) ended the game. Game 2 was over just as quickly as it started. Joel went turn 1 Lotus, Ruby, Bayou, Juzam leaving up the Bayou for Avoid Fate. I went Lotus, Pearl, Jet, Factory. Factory animates himself, crack Lotus for 3 blue, copy my factory, tap my remaining mana producers for total of 4 mana (1 floating from lotus) and play The Abyss. “I hate you Rausch” was the only thing Joel could say while shaking his head and scooping up his cards. “Good luck in the top 8” 2-1-1

“Oh Hai Joel!”

“Are you serious?!”

It was clear Joel did not think he had a favorable matchup vs. me in the quarterfinals. And rightfully so. Juzam Smash only has 8 relevant creatures in it. It was very easy to keep them off the board between Swords to Plowshares and various counterspells not to mention The Abyss which is practically unbeatable. We wished each other luck and got down to business.

Joel won the roll and started game one out with a Library of Alexandria to which I responded with 2 moxen and an Underground Sea. After drawing a card for his turn, and drawing an additional card with Library but finding no land, Joel went for broke with a Lotus into Wheel of Fortune. His follow up was a Bayou and a pass. With my fresh new hand of 7, I made my land drop and plopped down an Abyss. Oddly enough, Joel didn’t seem too worried about it. His hand was tipped on his turn when he made another non white land drop and played a Birds of Paradise into The Abyss. Instead of tapping out to play an Icy Manipulator, I elected to leave up counter magic for the Disenchant he most assuredly had. After his upkeep disenchant got countered, Joel made a land drop, Regrowth-ed his Disenchant and summoned another Birds of Paradise. He was determined to get the enchant world off of the table. On my turn, seeing no countermagic in hand, I opted to just play a Copy Artifact on my Mishra’s factory and pass leaving up UU. It was clear Joel was still going to go for the disenchant but I wanted to 1) perhaps prevent him from trying to play anything else the turn and 2) hide the Icy in my hand in hopes he played a Juzam so I could make him stick himself. Joel went for the Disenchant on upkeep which resolved. He tanked for a minute and saw right through #1 from above and slammed a Juzam. #2 was what was really happening. A game of Land-Go ensued for a couple turns while my factories and his Djinn took a chunk out of his life. When a second Juzam made an appearance, I decided to stop attacking and let them do the work for me.

Joel took the play for game 2. Looking at his hand, he shrugged and quoted “no guts, no glory.” I kept my opener as well. Bayou, Ritual Ritual Sengir. He was banking on me not having Swords. I didn’t What I did have was an Ivory Tower to stem the bleeding while Joel missed land drops. I found a second Ivory Tower in Copy Artifact to actually start pulling ahead. It wasn’t long after that that I drew the Swords to clear the vampire from the table. It was elementary after that. My life total was too high and my card advantage was too much to overcome.

In the Semifinals I got matched up against another local player, Cayden “Hunk” Blaisdell. While shuffling we talked about how much pressure we actually felt in this matchup. Even though this was a casual tournament put on solely for all of our enjoyment, it still felt as though there was something on the line. Cayden, who went 4-0 in the swiss rounds with his Mono Black splash White deck, got the choice to go first as he was the higher seed going into the top 8.

I started the game off with a mulligan but that is quickly negated by the Library of Alexandria I rip for my first draw. Cayden’s first play was a turn 3 Hypnotic Specter which I did have an answer for in Maze of Ith. I wasn’t super confident in this answer as Cayden could very easily play other creatures and swing past it or draw one of his 4 Sinkholes at any point. Still on 3 lands, he fired right back with a Dark Ritual allowing him to cast a Sengir Vampire. Now I had a choice to make. Continue to Maze the hippy but be on a much faster clock from the vampire, or Maze the vampire to extend my life but risk losing key cards in my hand. I chose to maze the hippy. I thought I was in trouble when Cayden summoned a second Hypnotic Specter but a Chaos Orb from the top dealt with it. The next turn I finally found a Swords to Plowshares for the Vampire to stabilize. That’s when Cayden drew his card for the turn and asked that dreaded question. “How many cards are in your hand?” Fuck. I got Mind Twisted for all of them except one. A Mana Drain was the lone card left. Then Cayden made a crucial mistake. He Demonic Tutored for an answer to my Maze of Ith that was still keeping his Hippy at bay. He chose Sinkhole completely forgetting about the Strip Mine still in his deck. This obviously met the Mana Drain still in my hand but I needed to top deck something good soon to pull ahead. Oh look! My own Demonic Tutor. I Dt’d up Ancestral which set me up for the next few turns. Cayden was still in decent position hitting a Factory to keep the pressure on. My trike hit the board. Cayden played a second Factory. I played a second Trike in the form of a Copy Artifact. Cayden played a third factory. I did some quick math and we both decided It was fine to attack trade one of my trikes for 2 of his Factories. After that my own factories took me home.

Game 2. We both started off with reasonable openers with me getting 2 copies of a factory of and him with an early Sengir and a Hippy and a Sinkhole for the real Factory. I wasn’t drawing any land to further develop my board so I was forced to Balance clearing the board of all his creatures and all but 3 lands but leaving me only 1 card in my hand. The lone Mana Drain again. It countered his next spell (I think an Underworld Dreams) and enabled my man lands to enter the red zone. I found another Copy Artifact to make my third Mishra’s Factory which eventually closed out the game. Onto the finals!!!

We meet again! Who else but Ben Perry. Ben was very happy about the recent unrestriction of Mirror Universe and had made posts on twitter about how jacked up he was to build his Lich deck. Well, I was more than happy to help him walk away with the 2nd place Mirror Universe prize instead of the Chaos Orb.

Ben was on the play so of course that meant my opening hand had a Library in it. In the midst of the good hearted ribbing of how lucky I was, I forgot to activate it before I played my Mox Pearl putting me to 6 cards in hand. Doh! That of course prompted even more ridicule. The beauty of it was that it didn’t matter. Normally I would go on tilt after such a boneheaded play but I was having too much fun! The plan was the same as before. Let all the early burn spells resolve and then counter the draw 7s and late game burn. However, even with Library, I wasn’t drawing any of my counter magic. Just Swords and Disenchants. That's when Ben went for a Wheel of Fortune when he had something like 5 cards in his hand. He must have also drawn his bad cards or too many lands too. Deal. We both got a new 7 but I got to use mine first. Mind Twist! Gotcha.

The plan for game two was exactly the same but with less dead cards and more countermagic. I really wish I could tell you we had a super epic back and forth final game but we didn’t. Ben got stuck on lands early for multiple turns. I had DT for Ancestral. His burn got me to 4 life then my grip full of countermagic and back up StPs for my own factories shut it down. Always a class act, Ben extended his hand with a smile on his face.

I’m sure the smile on my face was a sight to see as well. I let out a sigh of relief and let it sink in. You might think I’m being over dramatic but let me tell you this. Coming from someone who’s won a Star City Open, someone who’s had a string of top finishes playing the World of Warcraft

TCG, and someone who’s been playing this game more than half their life, I can honestly say I’ve never had more fun playing this game than that day.

Oh! To those claiming “scumbag” that the shop owner won his own tournament and is keeping his own prize. Wherever and whenever the next Old School MtG tournament is that I can attend, that Chaos Orb is getting donated to the prize pool. And I’m going to do my damndest to win it back!

onsdag 27 maj 2015

Haupsdeck Distress

Finally getting to play a deck is a pleasure. I started teching on my own take on Monoblack Distress in November last year, and yesterday I finally got the last pieces of the puzzle for a solid 60-card maindeck. Apart from my very first deck - which was a pile of Sea Serpents, Erg Raiders and Phantasmal Terrains - building decks in 93/94 has always been measured in months or years for me. Yeah, it goes faster once you've gathered a few staples, but it's still not a speedy process. Them Sinkholes, Icy Manipulators, Rituals and Demonic Hordes will still be a visible expense.

They can actually be pretty hard to find as well; for each one of these there are e.g. more than four Unlimited Lotuses printed.
The idea of my latest pile is that of black Distress; make most of your opponent's removal useless, count on them having no more than 4 Disenchants, and bleed them out in the long game with control elements and slow damage. The strategy was first popularized by Daniel "GaJol" Nilsson after his top4 at BSK 2012, though his deck was more into Warp Artifacts and didn't use e.g. Pestilence nor as much mana denial.
Haupsdeck Distress. No holds barred.
The ideal start is a Ritual or Lotus into Underworld Dreams, and then just follow up with Sinkholes, Icy Manipulators and Relic Barriers for control. Pestilence combo well with the Factories, as you can activate them after Pestilence has dealt damage to keep the enchantment in play.

There's definitely some work to be done. For one, I need a sideboard. Current sideboard is something like 4 Glooms, 10 Swamps, and an altered Disenchant. I would like to play Hypnotics or Juzams in the board to take in after the opponent has sided out a majority of the creature removal. Having a transformational sideboard is also a solid excuse to complete a playset of Juzams. Need them Juzams.

As for the maindeck, the most glaring omission is The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. Turns out that they are kind of expensive. If I get me a Tabernacle or four, I could use them for a future Mana Vortex deck, so it isn't a complete silver bullet aquisition. If you haven't seen Heiner Litz last article on Mana Vortex decks at Eternal Central btw, I highly recommend giving it a read. Heiner is one of the pioneers of Old School tech across the ocean, and has contributed with reports and articles both for this blog and at EC.

Just checked the price for Tabernacle at Starcity Games. Seven hundred bucks. Might have to settle for Paralyze in that slot for the foreseeable future. I also noted that Chas Andres just posted an article about Old School Mtg at SCG. Pretty cool. I'm not much of a fan of Magic finance, but Chas Andres is still my favorite Magic writer, at least as far as writing skills goes. I don't have SCG premium, but every Wednesday his articles from a month back go live for everyone, and every Wednesday I read about what happened in Magic finance five weeks ago. I'm really not interested in speculating on Dragons of Tarkir cards, and I don't play sanctioned non-eternal formats, but the dude really can write. Looking forward to read the article in a month.
Solid keep and solid game drink.
So, the Distress deck. I think my next acquisition for the deck will be an Alpha Cyclopean Tomb. Very powerful card and sweet flavor. I do own the card in Unlimited, but something about the aesthetics hinders me from playing a single white-bordered card in an otherwise BB deck. That is a pretty funny thing with 93/94 btw; had I owned the Scrublands or Badlands to splash a color in the deck, I'd most assuredly would have played the Unlimited Cyclopean Tomb, as most of my duals are white-bordered as well. Instead I go "budget" and play mono colored, but that opens a whole other bag of snakes. Now I want an Alpha Cyclopean Tomb and a playset Beta Hypnotic Specters.

On that same note, pretty much the only reason for me to play Demonic Hordes in the deck is that I happen to own it and it has a sweet misprint in Alpha, where the black mana symbols in the rules text have been exchanged for 'B's. It is a solid card and it can give a few wins, but it is usually a bad idea to give your opponent a target for their Swords to Plowshares.
Worth it.
So what's next? I originally planned for Project M to have the Power Artifact / Monolith combo. Now that Power Artifact is unrestricted, I might try to rebuild the deck to fit the combo. I also have some plans for a Lich/Mirror deck and a Martyrs of Korlis pile. I guess my focus should stay on the duals though. I'm up to 23/40 now, and it woul be cool to unlock the 40/40 duals achievement.
Good 'ol land, Lotus, Icy is twarted by Shatter.
But first I'll crush the meta with my new Distress deck. It is awesome to play, and I highly reccomend testing the strategy. If you want to go black but still want to turn creatures sideways, I otherwise recommenced checking out this post on monoblack from last summer or Axelsson's monoblack from Kingvitational 1.

tisdag 19 maj 2015

Brews, casualties, and scanners

This escalated quickly. International tournaments in Italy with 30 players, multiple facebook groups about the format, and a lot of opinions about what people like or dislike about the format. It's often the about same things; the legal sets, how we approach reprints, and the B&R are cause of a lot of discussions.

It is fun to see that people share the passion. The guys who are organizing the facebook groups are doing a great job to help players in the community connect. It is more fun to build decks if you actually have someone to play against, and a tournament is usually more fun if you are twelve players than if you are four.
Kind of like that a board state is more fun with three Triskelions than one.
For me, it's important to keep it on a casual level though. I'll of course keep updating this blog as I've done for the last three years, and I'll keep hosting n00bcon Championships and smaller tournaments as I've done the last seven. But I wont go too deep and try to organize the format in other locations in a more structured way. Partly because I don't have the time, and partly because I don't really feel the need to play #mtgunderground in a more structured setting (thanks for the hashtag, DrSuperstition). One thing that I think is worth mentioning though is that allowing proxies will make the experience of the format quite different from what we've been doing here. I think it's important to ask yourselves what you are looking for in the format when deciding on local variations of 93/94. Is it Vintage style tournaments with a smaller card pool, or is it an excuse to hang out with good people and enjoy old beautiful cards and beer? I guess both are viable options, but the choice is easy for me. Proxy tournaments where I can use any cards I want and actually get something valuable out of winning doesn't really do it for me in this format. If I'm playing a tournament with mostly new players, like a month back in Oslo, I'd rather leave my Project M and power at home and play my less powerful monogreen to get more interactive matches. And if there would be "real" prices at stage, I would be much more inclined to add my Lotus and Library to the deck, maybe even a set of Tropicals to get access to blue power. The ambience is different when you are playing for a Mana Drain or Juzam compared to when you are playing for a Relic Barrier autographed by the players.
Can't deny the great ambience caused by playing monogreen :) Black Vise into Ice Storm into Erhnam is bound to make some friends.
If I want to play against opted decks with power, I play Vintage. My goal here is to block Juzam Djinn with Riven Turnbull and turn Factories into Swamps with a Cyclopean Tomb, preferably one without the casting cost printed on it. Maybe transmute a Fellwar Stone into Primal Clay or Channel out a Mirror Universe.

Speaking of Mirror Universe, a few readers have asked how we decide how to change our B&R. Basically we have a smaller Swedish forum at svenskamagic.com where we invite anyone who has organized a 93/94-tournament and a few of the more prolific players in Scandinavia. We also ask around quite a lot, and look at tournament results (both from Scandinavia and other groups). Eventually we reach some sort of consensus, though everyone don't necessarily agree on everything. If I were to roam completely free, I would probably legalize Rebirth. You don't have to ante if you don't want to with that card after all ;)
It is sorcery speed life gain at a cost of six mana (and potentially hundreds of dollars). How can this not be ok?
So anyway, I've spent the last three weekends in London, then in Montenegro, and last weekend celebrating the Norwegian national holidays with friends staying over. I hence haven't had that much time to write something well researched or though out. Being the master planner I am though, I did prepare a post three weeks ago. When I read it again today I felt uncomfortable posting it. It was about me trying to understand how to scan boosters, sorting defects of Legends boxes, and how to find out what's in sealed product from before 4th Edition. I found it fairly entertaining as an historical curiosity about how lousy the packaging and sorting processes used to be, and I did manage to tear a Legends booster in the process (along with seriously wrinkling a The Dark booster), but in the end I don't want to spread the word on how to properly do it. Judging by the emails I've received after my posts on fake cards, booster scanning could be a very touchy subject.
Though I did open a sweet Willow Satyr in the process.
So, instead I started to write a post about which beer you should pair with which deck, and how to metagame by looking at what your opponents are drinking. Did not manage tie the bow on that one yet though. I can tell you that a player drinking something non-alcoholic has high probability of playing The Deck and that a player drinking Double Dog or an American barley wine have pretty good odds of being on some black Bazaar combo (like Colossus Skull or The Machine). It's all very scientific.
Ah, yes, Yeti imperial stout. Clearly Underworld Dreams and/or Juzams ahead.
Let's end today's rant with a couple of decklists from n00bcon 7. Enjoy Ehrnamgeddon and The Burning Abyss.
Macensi's Erhnamgeddon
Axelsson's Burning Abyss

måndag 11 maj 2015

Banned and Restricted update 2015

People are really passionate about these things :)

I think that we have better data this time than any of the years before. We've had a couple of 40+ player tournaments along with a bunch of smaller ones in Sweden. We've also had a lot of tournaments outside of Scandinavia, some of them with different B&R-lists than the one recommended here, and we've gotten good info from players in other communities.

There are a couple of things important to consider regarding B&R updates. One is that everyone won't agree with everything. It's a nostalgic format, and as such players are passionate about being able to play their favorite decks to the greatest extent. There are players arguing for restrictions of cards like Moat, City in a Bottle, Lightning Bolt, Mishra's Factory, Transmute Artifact and Underworld Dreams, which of course would lead to a lot of disappointment in others. This can also been seen when discussing unrestrictions. A card like Fork might be fine in Erhrnam Burn'em or a BR trick deck, but it gets silly in a goodstuff deck and simply broken in a Fork Recursion deck. If you play burn, it can sometimes be hard to see the "splash damage" done by unrestricting it.

Another important thing is that this list is a recommendation. Local variations of the rules or legal cards are not uncommon, and not discouraged.

The meta during the last year have been healthy, and I would not say that it is dominated by a single, or even a few, strategies. Since the last update, the tournaments in Sweden with 8+ players have been won by UGR Tempo, Monoblue artifacts, WW, Atog Smash, Next level WW, The Deck, Lestree Zoo, Project M, Nether Void, UWB Skies, WW and The Deck, in that order. Monoblack, CandleFlare, Stasis, Erhnamgeddon, and a bunch of other strategies are also seen at the top tables.

Maybe we didn't have to make a change to the list this year. We still did though. These are a few of the cards that sparks debates, and how the arguments have gone.
Snap keep, though a couple of things about this hand don't seem to be "in the spirit of the format" ;)
Black Vise: Black Vise has a couple of issues. One is the "Oops, I win" effect of the card. If you start with a Vise on the play, it easily deals 6-7 damage even if your opponent curves out reasonably well. A start of e.g. land, mox, double Vise is silly, and would make cards like Timetwister and Wheel of Fortune even more insane. As many players have noted, there are very few cards that simply win you the game in 93/94 without having to commit a fair share of strategy, and if we can avoid non-interactive games, most players think we should. Another issue with Black Vise is the splash damage an unrestriction would do to other decks. I would most certainly play the full set in my green deck, and probably a couple more in my Tax Edge, and rebuild the decks around them. This would in part lead to more linear strategies among decks, but in particular, it would lead to even more artifact removal in decks to combat the Vises. More players having Shatters and Crumbles maindeck would in turn hurt many of the more fringe strategies, like monored Atog, Martyrs of Korlis decks or Parfait. In the end, it seems like it would narrow down the amount of viable decks rather than expand it. We have also seen that unrestricted Black Vise is not necessary for decks like Nether Void or Stasis to be viable. Lastly, a lot of players really dislike playing against the Vise, and that counts for something as well. Black Vise stays restricted.

Four versions of Aq Strip Mine.
Strip Mine: A few players like to argue that Strip Mine in 93/94 is pretty much the same as Wasteland in eternal formats. That is a big stretch though. You play around Wastland using fetches or basics. You don't play around Strip Mine, except maybe by using moxen. We really don't want people to be unable to cast their spells due to lack of jewellery. We've also seen Strip Mine is not necessary to build a functional Nether Void prison deck (as witnessed by Oldschool's win at the Mindstage convention). A solid alternative to Strip Mine, which has been seen a lot in the Nordic meta in the last year, is the inclusion of cards like Sinkhole, Stone Rain and Ice Storm as value spells. E.g. Munchausen's Lestree Zoo (which he played to a 7-0 record at Sehlskapsspelen in December) used the full playset of Ice Storms. There are alternatives to Strip Mine in both prison and aggro decks, the deckbuilding process just becomes a little more involved. Strip Mine stays restricted.

Mana Vault:
Not much to say here. Unrestricting the vault last year seems to have opened a number of new viable, but not dominant, archetypes. Decks like Atog, Monoblue Artifacts, and Nether Void have entered the stage in the wake of Mana Vaults unrestriction. Mana Vault stays unrestricted.

Mirror Universe: Mirror Universe is insanely powerful, but in most decks it has highly diminishing returns. It is usually bad to draw more than one Mirror in a game, and can't blow up in early game like e.g. Mindtwist or Balance. I'd probably play two in Project M, but most of the control decks in the format would stay on 0-1 copies of the card. On the other hand, it looks like it can make some crazy combo decks a little more viable. The Mirror combos very well with cards like Greed, Sylvan Library, Channel, and Book of Rass. And it is a very cool 2-card win with Lich. We'll see what will happen, and combo could use a boost in the format. Mirror Universe is unrestricted.
Unlimited mana ;)
Power Artifact: Power Artifact is a scary card. The interaction with Basalt Monolith was deemed so good that the Monolith received power level errata in 1994 to make the infinite mana combo impossible. As a blue card, it easily fits into a control-combo deck with Transmute Artifacts (to find both the Monolith and wincons like Rocket Launcher), alongside both power and counters to protect the pieces. On the other hand, it's a three-card Rube Goldberg machine combo, where the enchantment has very little effect on its own. It has not showed any great results as a one-off card in the Scandinavian 93/94 tournaments yet, though the combo is obviously much harder to assembly when you only have a single copy of the only non-transmutable part of the win. The Eternal Central B&R has the card unrestricted, and Danny Friedman played a goodstuff Power Artifact deck (without Transmutes) to the top4 of the Eternal Weekend Old School tournament in Philadelphia, so it's clear that the card has potential. Again though, it looks like a fun deck and it would be interesting to give a solid combo some more room in the format. Hopefully nothing will break, and if it does I guess we can always restrict it again in a year. Power Artifact is unrestricted.

"Oh, lovely! Especially the part about the grime of daily living."
Summer Magic: To recap the discussion on legal expansions, the sets originally included in 93/94 are the those that were distributed in 1993 or 1994 and were not easily available as sealed product in 1995. They are the under-printed sets that were already considered old school by a majority of players in 1995 (which is the main reason why we don't include Fallen Empires or Revised here). Another big reason is the aesthetic charm of the older and more rarely seen cards. Even though Revised was printed before Legends, most players from the nineties would agree that Legends feels more old school than the third edition of Gathering. In that same vein, Summer Magic is a set which was printed after Revised, but obviously wasn't easily available as sealed product in 1995. It was never easily available, and a great majority of players have never even seen a Summer card. After my post about the set a couple of weeks ago, a lot of players have commented that they want the Summer to be legal for play in 93/94. I seriously doubt that legalizing Summer would have an impact on the meta or deck building decisions as there exists so few copies of the cards. The set also pass the "pimp test" with flying colors. I guess that legalizing Summer Magic in 93/94 will lead to some random irritation from some players outside of Scandinavia who want to play with Revised, and think that legalizing this set is just silly. Well, it's a casual community, and I can assure that almost all of you wont notice the difference. Summer cards are few and far between, and players willing to actually put them in a deck are even rarer. For the small minority of players that both have access to the cards and really want to use them however, you are welcome :) Cards from the Summer Magic set are legal in 93/94.

The changes will take effect June 1st. Hope you like the updates, and happy brewing!

söndag 3 maj 2015

Gatherings and decks

I've realized that I hadn't updated the Gatherings page for a while. It's actually kind of hard to keep up these days.

These are a few from the last couple of weeks, or soon to come. Another one coming up soon is a sanctioned 93/94 FNM in a pub i Karlstad May 15. Pretty cool :)

The biggest one was the Ovinospring tournament in Milan. I unfortunately couldn't go myself, as I was off to London to run a 12-mile mud race yesterday (yep, my everything hurts today). The Italian scene is very active, and if you know the language or just want to look at some pictures of sweet tech, I recommend checking their facebook page. And you know you want to pick up the first price of that tournament:
A goddamn Metal Juzam
I've realized that I don't really have the time nor information to update the page properly with all the gatherings around the world, so I'll remove it for now. If you have something going on, like planning a tournament, feel free to send me an email and I can post a notice about it on the blog instead. Also feel free to send pics or tournament reports from local events if you want to show off :)
Showing off: Sveby's Eureka combo versus Oldschool's Living Plane combo. Look at those playmats!
I have done something relevant this week though, apart from running through mud, working, and drinking British ales in wooden taverns. I finally took the time to gather a majority of the scattered deck lists from the Mindstage convention, Stabcon 1 and the n00bcon Warmup tournament. I've posted them in the decks-to-beat section along with the decks from n00bcon 7. Go check out the latest tech here.
n00bcon Warmup finals. WW versus UR Burn.