måndag 28 mars 2016

Videos and pics from n00bcon 8

n00bcon 8 and the World Championships of Old School Magic is in the books! It was a great gathering with some awesome people and sweet Magic. People from all over came to battle. It was a pleasure to hang out with aficionados like American old school pioneer Danny Friedman, former Vintage World Champion Marc Lanigra of Germany, and the super friendly David Chambers of San Francisco; people I've had interactions with online but never got the chance to meet in person before.

We had people with resumes ranging from decades of nothing but kitchen table play to Pro Tour winners. Even though we don't really care about the number of participants, I must say that it's pretty cool that we filled up the pub to maximum capacity already in December. This is a casual format with a big barrier of entry, and we are fighting for a damn Giant Shark. The 76 players competing this year actually made it necessary to get a lot of extra tables and chairs to the pub to give everyone a place to sit. A few people have asked me how to qualify for the championships this year, now that there were a few people that didn't make it due to lack of space. Well, everyone who had a deck and found out about it were qualified, and after that it was just a matter of first-in-last-out. We expected it to fill up this year, so a part of joining was simply to find out about it or ask; people deep in the old school mire or long time players maybe had a better idea of were to look. Maybe you found out about it  at the end of a guest post at the mtgunderground. Maybe you found the info on on a private forum. Or maybe you simply found this hidden page at the blog. I had twenty spots ear-marked for players outside the different Swedish groups until the last couple of weeks before the tournament to give a slight advantage to players from communities outside the country.

As for next year, I don't know. We could most certainly have been over a hundred already this time if we would have had the room, and I don't really see that we'll be less players interested next year. So we'll just see how we'll solve that. Ideas are welcome ;) (We don't want to move to some more sterile location just to fit a bunch of people in a room. Ambiance is very important.)

Our local heroes Yespair and Jokemon streamed the seven rounds of swiss and the top8, and we already have a few sweet match videos and decktechs up. Check them out!

Round 1: JummJumm (Vault Burn) vs. Sveby (Eureka)

Round 2: David Chambers (Coffin) vs. Jhovalking (CandleFlare)

Round 3: Gajol (Distress) vs. Berntsson (ErhnamGeddon)

Round 4: Nikita Shelest (MonoGreen) vs. Felipe Garcia (Blue Artifacts)

Round 5: Freespace (Atog Smash) vs. Axelsson (BGW Skies)

Round 6: Logai (Enchantress) vs. Paddan (BWR)

Round 7: Loff (TaxEdge) vs. Thomas Nilsen (Power Monolith)

Quarterfinals: Olle Råde (UR Burn) vs. Patrick Hiness (Artifact Aggro)

Semifinals: Martin Berlin (The Deck) vs. Farsan (Lestree Zoo)

Finals (and interviews): Martin Berlin (The Deck) vs. Martin Lindström (The Deck)

 ...and some random highlights from the stream for you guys:

Decktech and Easter Egg with David Chambers (Easter Egg after pause at 12:37)

Decktech with JhovalKing

Decktech with Felipe Garcia

Rookie of the Year with Thomas Nilsen

There are a few other notable moments in the stream. Around 11:02 Mällroth and myself plays some flute, rants about old cards and cracks a sweet The Dark booster pack. Especially after the first seven rounds, there are a lot of ranting and random tech between the games. You can check out the entire 12.5 hours long stream at https://www.twitch.tv/yespair/v/56533281.

Thursday preparations at Kalle's place. Building decks and Easter Eggs.
We met up with a few of the long way players at the Rotary Pub the day before the tournament to get a head start on the competition. 2012 Vintage World Champion Marc Lanigra has found a German-sized glass of helles.
Jokemon and Jespair are ready to stream like it's 1994.
Russian and German trading. Binders full of lands, but kinda good ones.
Elof Gottfridsson, Danny Friedman, David Chambers and Marc Lanigra. Hardcore old school profiles.
Round one is about to start!
Hypnotics versus all the permanents.
First turn LoA. First turn Strip Mine. Second turn Strip Mine. Second turn LoA. Ok, now let's start the real game.
David found an easter egg with a playset of Stone Rains, one from each legal set in 93/94 (Alpha, Beta, Unlimited and Summer).
Arvika Festival winner Mällroth wants Rookie of the Year Thomas Nilsen's altered BoP for his collection.
A few of the Swedish Magic elite of the mid 90s.
Constantine Prishvitsin and Nikita Shelest from Russia shows up to battle. Wicked nice Team T-Shirts for the Time Boaks, though it takes both some knowledge of old Magic cards and skills in the Russian language to get the pun ;)
Lennart Guldbrandsson with Markus "KungMarkus" Guldbrandsson from Arvika. Some father & son Magic.
Simon Gauti of Denmark's Sengir Vampire can only watch in horror as the Doppelganger gets joined by Mahamothi.
Former Rookie of the Year Jenny versus JhovalKing. Note that they are playing on a Khalsa Brain playmat from Worlds Toronto :) The guy in the cap, Sveby, is btw the only player apart from myself who has been to every annual 93/94 Easter tournament (and n00bcon) since 2008.
Facing off against last year's National Vintage champion Landgraf who just got into old school Magic. He beat me in the finals of the Vintage Nationals, and now he beats me in the swiss of n00bcon. He's on a good roll to become my new Magic nemesis ;)
Andreas Lorenz, Simon, Freespace and Loff.
Socializing in the pub area between rounds.
Facing of against Kalle and his beautiful Copy Deck in Round 7.
Thomas Nilsen of Norway won Rookie of the Year and celebrates with some Titan IPA in his new chalice.
Sideevent The Main Tournament (Hövveturneringen).
Eneas casually wins Høvveturneringen and picks up a Rukh Egg.
Gordon Andersson is yet again dreamcrushed by Berlin in the elimination rounds. Flying Men are somewhat smaller than Serra Angel.
The Old School Magic World Champion of 2016: Martin Berlin!
The champion's deck. The maindeck Stone Rain looks like really solid tech.
We scribble a new year on the Shark that has been nailed behind the bar in the pub for over half a decade, and say goodnight to n00bcon for this year. A big thanks to everyone who came, played, hung out and shared this with us!

torsdag 17 mars 2016

RTFC

Between early 2006 and late 2008 I played various Time Vault combo decks. In the span of these 30-ish months, the card lived with no less than four completely different erratas. Each update changed the card's functionality enough to make me either seriously rebuild or to scrap my deck. Time changes most things, even the seemingly inanimate.

In the last decade, in particular since Magic 2010, functional or power level errata have been almost completely absent from the game. It's easy to be nostalgic about how some cards worked a few years, or decades, back. Remember in 2005 when Brass Man still could be untapped as many times as you wanted during upkeep? I used to have a sweet deck built around him with Quicksilver Dagger, with a Mind Over Matter / Dagger combo as eventual wincon. Or in 1999 when you could cast Waylay during the opponent's end step and basically play it as an upgraded white Ball Lightning? It used to be one of the best decks at the Pro Tour. I think that the most odd corner case for me was when I played casually against a man called Flax during Gothcon 2011, and he asked me if we could play using the late 1999 Phasing rules (which I for some reason was well versed in). He played a sweet Floodgate/Vanishing combo in his deck, and if you know what both those cards do without a google check, you're probably in too deep. We have rose-tinted glasses when it comes to our pet decks.
We try to avoid "official" power level errata in this format. Yeah, Twiddle gets a little different when you can't use it as a combat trick to reduce a blocking creatures power to 0. But if you want to use Twiddle that way, you are obviously free to do it. You don't need permission to play cards as your local group wants. We've never attempted to do anything but to provide the baseline. In Bazaar of Moxen tournaments, you get to chose two creatures and get two "fair flips" with Falling Star. At Eternal Central, Winter Orb turns off when tapped. At East Cost Gaming, you can switch life totals while at zero with Mirror Universe. In a town in Denmark, Alpha Orcish Artillery and Orcish Oriflame cost 1R to cast instead of 3R. An experienced player named Gael recently emailed me a well-written argument for reducing Mishra's Factory's power to 0 if it would become tapped. There are many more examples.

But walking down the path of power level errata could lead to a slippery slope. People have different ideas of what's fun and when errata is needed. Winter Orb Parfait won the 34-player n00bcon 4 without power level errata on the card. Mirror Universe combo placed in the top4 of the 55-player BSK 2015 tournament. Falling Star is a very quirky card, but playing it as written hasn't been a problem yet. If we started doing errata it's hard to find where to draw the line, and players would regardless have to learn an additional set of rules or corner cases.

Anyway, this is not about ranting on errata; this is about ranting on the printed text. I think it was a good thing that WotC started to remove power level errata in 2006. If a novice picks up a card and reads it, it should work as written, they argued. But there are some cards from 93/94 that really don't play as written, even if we adhere to the current comp rules. The cards where "written intent" and the ambiguous wording of the mid 90s meet. Some are pretty funny. Lets delve down :)
This looks terrific!
Relic Bind looks pretty damn solid with the original wording. Put it on a Basalt Monolith and you'll deal all the damage in the world and gain all the life ever. Power Artifact has proved very strong with the Monolith, even if the double blue mana can be a little rough (in particular if you want to hold up a few counters) and you'll need an additional wincon to actually close the game. So why hasn't anyone ever built a deck with Relic Bind in the history of the game? Well, Basalt Monolith used to have its fair share of power level errata. First, it stated that you couldn't use mana from a Basalt Monolith or a Mana Vault to untap a Basalt Monolith (or Mana Vault). Then, in February 1995, they stated that the untapping of Basalt Monolith wasn't an activation cost. In June 1995 they relaxed the untap rule a little and just stated that you couldn't use mana from a Monolith to untap a Monolith, but Mana Vault was okay. Finally in September of that year, they changed it to the errata it would hold for over a decade; that the untap ability was indeed an activated ability, but that it didn't untap the Monolith until the end of the phase in which you paid to untap it. In July 2006 this restriction was removed, and players were finally free to abuse the Monolith with Power Artifact for the first time since before Worlds 1994 (depending on local rules).

But the Relic Bind then? That one got errata as well, and was printed with new text in 4th Edition 1995.
This looks terrible!
When wizards did their "play cards as written"-errata of a bunch of cards in 2006, they figured that there were a much greater number of Relic Binds printed with the 4th Edition text than the Legends text, and never changed it back to the original wording.
The big dude from Sri Lanka is a really good card. Alongside his Efreet brethren, it was the main beatstick of the UR Burn Deck that took down BSK 2015 and has wrecked havoc in multiple top8s during the last year. It wasn't that frequently played in the mid 90s though, as the drawback was considered too restrictive. Some players still took it to the to battlefield in local groups, but in those cases they often tried to bypass the drawback by using Consecrate Land.

See, in the mid 90s we didn't really care for grammar, rules or consistent use of vocabulary. We listened to Melvins while sacrificing cards from our hand and discarding cards from the battlefield. Have you noticed that Bazaar of Baghdad doesn't say that you "draw 2 cards" in its text or that the Alpha version of Birds of Paradise just says that you'll get one mana, not that it can be of any color? That was just how we rolled. It was a rad time.
So, while "sacrifice" was an action in the game (see cards like Lord of the Pit), a whole bunch of cards used it interchangeably with "bury" or "destroy". And as written, the Djinn destroys lands. As Consecrate Land makes a land indestructible, you can just slap it on a Factory and keep targeting that with the Djinn to ignore its drawback. One can argue about written intent here for hours. Should this combo work? In some playgroups it did, but in a majority it didn't. (Sidenote: It's pretty weird that The Abyss still uses "destroy" rather than "sacrifice". There were even official rules in place in 1995 that stated that if the creature you targeted with Abyss left the battlefield, you had to choose a new one to destroy. That's pretty much exactly how it would work if it had a "sacrifice" clause, and it was the only card that forces your opponent target a creature to "destroy". Also, this was way before indestructible became a keyword, and before the rules for protection were clear, so "sacrifice" would have been a much more logical choice. But I digress. It made Autumn Willow sweeter I guess.)

Hey, remember how we just talked about how we often used "destroy" instead of "sacrifice"? Well, this one actually worked:
No, not Reflecting Mirror. We used small bodies of water as mirrors in the 90s. Luxury, we though.
Do you realize how awesome this is? Energy Flux is one of the best hoser cards in the format, the major issue being that it is symmetrical and you have build your decks around it. With many decks playing 15-20 artifacts, it can be hard to build a deck that can abuse it properly. Enter Guardian Beast. I play four Guardian Beasts in my pet deck and would absolutely throw in a bunch of Energy Fluxes maindeck if the guy would make the card one-sided. Unlike cards like Relic Bind that were changed already in its next printing in 4th, Energy Flux was a combo with Guardian Beast in each of its printings in Antiquities, Revised, 4th Edition and 5th Edition. It wasn't until its last reprint in Mercadian Masques in 1999 they decided to rewrite it and destroy the dreams of a Prison Project M.
Actual facial expression of people playing against this card.
Where to start? The rules for face-down cards were first updated properly in 2002, alongside the release of Onslaugth with its Morph mechanic. Before that they were, to put it mildly, weird. Lets go back to 1994. Illusionary Mask. The creature you hide is the exact same card face-down as it would be face-up. That means that, even if it's completely hidden information, all its rule text still applies.
"Attack with Digging Team". "I block". "You can't". "Oh. OK, I take one." "You take two."
Say I begin a turn with a face-down card. During my upkeep I activate my Mishra and sacrifice it. My opponent asks why, and I look at her clueless. Given some knowledge of the card pool, she might deduce that the card I have is a Yawgmoth Demon, Lord of the Pit or a Serendib Djinn, but I wont tell her. Maybe I boosted an Atog. Or say I have two facedown creatures. In the beginning of my turn I say that her Su-Chi gets forestwalk. During her turn she attacks with the forestwalking creature, but I block with my previously hidden Erhnam Djinn. Why she asks. I don't know. Maybe I can block creatures with forestwalk. Maybe my other creature is Lord Magnus. It is god damn hilarious.

I recently got my hands on two Masks, and just thinking about these interactions is reason enough for me to put the Masks in a deck. Yeah, I know that face-down creatures are just lame 2/2s without text with the current rules, but it might still be amusing enough. And it's not strictly bad in combination with creatures with upkeep costs, like Djinns and Efreets.

In other news, it is like one week left to n00bcon! It will be awesome. I'm much looking forward to meet a bunch of players from the international stage for the first time; guys like Marc Langria from Germany, David Chambers from the US and Danny Friedman. And returning international players like Constantine from Russia and Simon Gauti Rokkjær from Denmark, this time flanked by more of their countrymen. Teams from all over Scandinavia, like the Arvika crew, the Stockholmers, Kanel Fireball of Varberg, Scania players, the Eternal Vikings of Oslo, Squattlehaups, and a bunch of others will gather in Gothenburg next Friday to determine who is the Master of Magic Cards and crowned the World Champion of Old School Magic. We will btw provide a stream this year, hosted by Jesper "Yespair" Djinn flanked by the 2014 WSK Champion and all-round good guy Jokemon for commentary during the event. I'll update the blog with more info when it draws near.
This might have been the face-down card two pictures up. Also the first price in a tournament in Quebec this weekend!
Before n00bcon though, there's a sweet tournament coming up this Sunday in Quebec City; Le Roi de la Chope. The first group to organize tournaments in the format outside an 80 mile radius from Gothenburg were btw Canadians; the first report from Toronto on this blog is from back in 2012. Anyway, this will be the first tournament of old mages in Quebec, and this one will take place at the restaurant La Chope Gobeline ("the goblin's mug") rather than at a kitchen table or game store. The entry fee is a Summon Goblin of any kind legal in the format, and the winner will get a Goblin King signed by all participants. If you are in the area and are interested in the format, check out their Facebook event. If you are going, I'd be really happy to get some pictures or a report from the gathering :)

tisdag 8 mars 2016

The Arvika top8, part 2

Let's step right in.

Top8 players: Gordon Andersson, Alexander Hasthi, Thomas Nilsen and Mikael Mällroth.
Gordon Andersson has dabbled with cards since close to the dawn of Magic. He remembers the days when we didn't want to spend $3 on a Revised booster as the fresh 4th Edition packs just had hit the shelves. In his magic career, he has been very active in the "grown-up Magic" community and helped starting a few initiatives in his home town of Stockholm. For some reason though, it took a while until he crossed paths with the 93/94 community. In the last year the Stockholm scene has grown a lot, and Gordon is one of the main characters in the new arena. This summer he'll start up the first annual 93/94 tournament in the Swedish capital, The Ivory Cup. Join if you have the chance, it looks like a sweet gathering!

He played his first old school tournament at Nebraska's War in December last year when he and Berlin travelled down to swing Eternal and show southern Europe how we tap old school in the north. He faced Berlin in the finals of the tournament. A few months later, he played his second tournament, this time at L.I.G.G. in Stockholm, where he again faced off against Berlin in the finals. In Arvika he got stopped cold by KungMarkus in the quarterfinals, but he can still brag about reaching the elimination rounds in three out of three tries with his UR Burn deck. The deck has some nice innovations, in particular that Gordon plays the full set of Flying Men; here without Unstable Mutations to back them up. In his deck they pretty much act like Lightning Bolt 9-12. He can usually land one early and get in at least three points of damage before anyone will consider doing something about it.
Gordon's UR Burn
Alexander Hasthi is also a fairly new addition to the format. You'll occasionally see him swinging his cards in Oslo's main LGS Outland during Tuesdays, but I think that this was his first actual tournament in old school Magic. Throughout the swiss, he seemed somewhat baffled by the power level of his deck. In the end, he was the only guy to go through the swiss with a 6-0 record. Dead Guy Ale is an awesome deck though. The first guy I saw play it, Eneas, took his build to an 8th place finish at the 40-player BSK 2014. Second time I saw it was in the hands of Andreas Rośen in the top8 of the 55-player BSK 2015. The deck is clearly good. It plays four Juzams after all.

Hasthi takes the denial strategy of BW a step further and complements his beatsticks and spotremoval with Armageddon. It looks like a really solid addition.
Alexander Hasthi's Dead Guy Ale.
Speaking of Norwegian rookies, few can hold a candle to Thomas Nilsen last season. He was the first native Norwegian to compete in a 93/94 tournament when he showed up (and won) Joypad Open almost a year ago. After that, he travelled with me and Hardy to Växjö to battle in the annual 93/94 tournament at Wexio and ended up at second place there. He continued to promote the format back in Oslo, and even hosted his own tournament with Vintage and 93/94 to help bring the local community a little closer together. He finished last year by reaching the semi-finals in Moss and successfully completing his Beta P9 before new years. Among his other skills, he works as a graphic designer and is a very skilled card alterer.

Thomas keeps on breaking the Power Monolith deck a little further with each go. The version of the deck he took to the finals of Arvika looks like an immensely powerful build. May look slightly durdly, and may have a price tag comparable to a small house in the suburbs, but I must say I prefer this version to the one I played during the tournament. Even if the power levels would be similar, this one looks a lot more fun to play :)
Thomas's Power Monolith
And finally we have Mikael Mällroth, the master of Magic cards, flutes and whiskey. Mällroth has been a core player in the Swedish Magic scene for decades. The former National DCI Manager is currently responsible for Magic at the local gaming store in Karlstad, and have organized event such as the first ever Old School FNM. Mällroth is a welcoming and generous member of the community, and was one of the biggest (and earliest) contributors to the #MtgForLife campaign. He also has one sick collection of Magic cards and wiskey. His wife is also a player, which may be a good thing, as his collection takes up a room and includes (at least) a playsets of every card printed since Revised. His current goal is to build a players collection of 93/94; i.e. 4-ofs of all legal non-restricted cards in that format as well, which at this point is finished to 95%. That is one daunting project. It will require a person to obtain 4-ofs of cards like North Star, Urza's Miter and Pyramids after all.

Mällroth's pet deck is UGR Zoo, commonly referred to as Lestree Zoo by the 93/94 players these day. Before the tournament, he cut three Ice Storms to make room for two Shatters and a Fork maindeck, which he used to great advantage throughout the day and eventually won him the Festival. This is one sweet deck. It really feels like old school Magic. 
Mällroth's Lestree Zoo

lördag 5 mars 2016

The Arvika top8, part 1

We're getting deep into the n00bcon preparations, but for now let's keep the focus on the latest gathering in Arvika. I must say that I really like the tech from the elimination rounds. The eight decks are all very distinct from each other, and combo, control, aggro and tempo are all represented. Winning should not be the top concern when playing this format, but it's still nice to see that we're at a point where no deck is the obvious best one, and that people get the chance to sleeve up a myriad of different strategies and still have a chance to top8. Maybe there's a build of Power Monolith lurking somewhere that will tear the field apart; maybe it's the one that placed second in this tournament. Maybe Deadguy Ale, which was the only deck to 6-0 the swiss, is much stronger than most people give it credit for and could take a real tier1 position in the near future. Or maybe it's all about the players, owning their pet decks from the inside out and just playing them really well against the field.
Top8 players: KungMarkus, Audun, Emil and elof.
KungMarkus is the mastermind behind the Arvika Festival and a great guy in the community. He successfully defended his third place finish in last year's Arvika Festival with a third place finish in this one as well. Markus and Berntsson were the first two guys from Arvika to travel down to Gothenburg and defend their city in a different turf during n00bcon 6, and since then the city of Arvika has become a major player in the 93/94 community. Markus have been building on his Toolbox Murderers deck since I first met him. Over three years of trading and waiting are paying off, and at this point he only lacks a Time Walk before he considers himself done (as he said a year ago; "My fiancee knows what a Lotus costs and what it looks like; there's no way I'll buy one" ;)). The deck is of course brilliant. Probably the second sweetest deck in the format after Project M. It has quite a few similarities in play style to my own pet deck, but use a heavier red splash and a full set of Counterspells rather than Guardian Beast shenanigans.
KungMarkus's Toolbox Murderers
Emil worked as barkeep during the Arvika Festival last year and got his eyes open for Magic back then. He started his career with playing a slighly newer format though, Modern. He was interested in trying out 93/94 properly, so Markus contacted me and asked if Emil could borrow my Distress deck. MonoBlack Distress is a cheap deck by the formats standards, in particular a build like this that doesn't play Power (or even Chaos Orb or Library here). Still, it's a very powerful deck if the correct pilot gets their hands on it. It takes a certain kind of person to play though, as it is so damn evil. Few things are more painful than to slowly bleed out from a Warp Artifact. Emil played the deck to great success, and I hope we get the chance to see him crush souls again next year.
Emil's MonoBlack Distress. (Yes, all cards are legal. I acetoned the Aq Strip Mine and the Maze)
Norwegian Audun Døsseland is fairly new to the format, having picked it up last summer. Though a relative rookie in 93/94, he is an Eternal Viking with high skill and lots of experience in most Eternal formats. He is also a sweet bass player :) (check out AlphaTross at Spotify). Audun has played in two larger 93/94 tournaments the last few months - Moss and Arvika - and he has top8'd both of them. In Moss he took help from Nether Void, but this time another black Enchant World helped him ride to victories. His BRW Artifact Beatdown uses full sets of large colorless 4-drops backed up by three maindeck copies of The Abyss. Very cool deck!
Audun's BWR Artifact Beatdown.
So, to the surprise of absolutely no one, elof decided to top8 this tournament as well. His accomplishments in the format are unparalleled; including winning gatherings like n00bcon, BSK and Pimpvitational, and holding a record three Giant Sharks. During the last year he has gone deep into the tech pool, and usually shows up with a new deck with some rarely seen cards. E.g. Artifact Smash, Troll Disco and Monoblue Artifacts are examples of decks where he was the first to the party, finishing among the top with each. This time he decided to go all in with Time Elementals and bounce. Sweetest tech in the Deck? Probably that he plays two Moats when his wincon is the ground walking Mishra's Factories.
Elof's Time Elemental Control
In other news, Italian good guy Filippo Caccia have recently started an initiative for Old School Magic tournaments via Skype to help people in smaller communities find new opponents and playtest, while at the same time giving a much closer experience to "real" Magic than a game of Cockatrice would do. If you are looking to playtest or find some new opponents across the globe, you should check out the Oldschool 9394 Skype Tournaments group at Facebook. In particular, next Saturday Filippo will organize the first tournament of the group, giving all the proceeds to charity in the name of #MtgForLife. So if you're aching to play some Old Shool while at the same time helping out a good cause, there's a great opportunity for you. The entry fee is €10 and the winner will get a special signed #MtgForLife card :)