On not playing pirates in Hannover. For some reason. I don’t get it. Pirates?

(Editor’s note: The latter parts of this report was written under increasing levels of intoxication.)

I should have known better. We’ve been here before.

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It’s so much better now: I play both Icy Manipulator and Relic Barrier, making Howling Mine actively good almost every time. And true, that was not the problem. There are others, though. Tons of them. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Last week, I was in Hannover, playing in the Appetite for Destruction tournament, the German N00bcon qualifier, co-hosted by Florian von Bredow and Marc Lanigra. Flight, Schiphol, beer, hotel, you know the drill. Suffice to say that Florian picked me up at the airport and had booked a table for us and some assorted Germans and other accomplices at a nice Indian place. Before that, however, him and I played some games at the airport while waiting for Björn Jonnie to arrive from Stockholm. I was on UWx copy prison for the event and Florian was on a Ubr robots build which I think originally was created by Leo Bruder. At one point, I had almost complete control of the game, drawing 3 cards a turn with a couple of howling mines, while tapping down almost everything Florian had with a winter orb and some icys. But I didn’t draw enough factories to kill him quickly, and I never copied the winter orb for extra protection, so when he managed to land a copy of his own, making a barrier, he could get out of the winter orb lock, switfly killing me with something like a bunch of triskelions, copies and animate deads. And another game, as I didn’t play very many counterspells and the lock was only partial, he EOT hurkyl’d me into a mind twist for 7. Not great, Bob. I somewhat solved that with a few more win conditions, like the fourth factory and a titania’s song in place of the strip mine (yeah, I know) and the one kismet I had. At least so I thought. This is what I arrived at:

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The event was held at a pirate-themed restaurant, and there were points given out for a number of achievements, like this:


Then, after 5 rounds of swiss, the point winner got an invite, the tournament winner after a top 4 got an invite, and a third invite was given out randomly among the rest of the players. I chose to ignore the points because I like playing with more of the good cards, and I also already have an invite (from writing posts like this one). The first match, I faced Mari Steinhage, playing Uwg merfolk. I did filthy things to him and won very quickly. Then I faced Florian again, and everything went to hell. He deserved that, though, considering all the brokenness I’ve unleashed upon him over the years. I regularly take multiple turns in a row against him, and that is with playing only one recall, maybe a sylvan, no howlings, etc. We both mulligan, I’m on the draw with a library, 2 disenchants and a white source. Turn 2, when I can draw, I’m facing down two su-chis and a sage, not having any mox, so I can’t even draw, having to disenchant twice in a row, falling to 12 in the process. When Florian then plays a triskelion and has a factory, it’s very quickly over. The next game, I believe I am mind twisted. Alright. The lighting was horrible, I couldn’t see my cards, so I was kind of glad I could escape that place. Also Florian did deserve the win from organizing an awesome tournament. Next up was a good schnitzel luch. After that, and after having traded for a beta ankh of mishra (only need 3 more now. why do I do these things?), I face Peter Monten who I know from some skype games way back, I think. Peter is on RG budget aggro and he crushes me. I mind twist his hand of a couple of factories, making my hand of 2 relic barrier worthless. In the end, my hand is 2 relic barrier, a titania’s song and a recall, having an icy in play and getting killed by a llanowar elves and a scryb sprite or something. About the same thing post sideboard. The lock never materialized and I saw 0 abysses. I mean, there isn’t any real lock as long as i have to tap down creatures as i would need a shit ton of icys. Yeah. Not even with kismet. Fuck this.

then I proceed to annihilate THe Deck never seeing a book. So there’ s that

in the last match, I face Bw midrange where I miss an orb flip (for the second time of the day) on a juzam that proceeds to deal 20 to me. Good times were had.

Fuck prison. I hate this deck. The answeres are too narrow (icy against weeneis, relic barrier against anything), the threats are too (takes forever to win, still vulnurable to a random hurkyl or disenchatn or whatever). Compare to The Deck running counterspells, disenchants (versatile answers), books (versatile threats). These things are good against anything. Prison isn’t working.

There might be a version with Nether Void that can actually lock people out. Especially with hurkyl. But that’s a completely different story. Also not for me, at least not right now.

And then we had nice dinner with an impaled chicken and Florian proceeded to lose the finals because it’d look bad if he won his own tournament, and I had some great games of Ice Age/Alliances constructed with David Chambers’s decks, and we left and went to the Dutch guys’s hotel and had some cognac since apparently nobody in Hannover knows how to serve a decently hoppy beer. And I lost some more with prison. And we got some sleep at last, and another great breakfast, and a tour of the city with Florian, and a late flight home, and the weekend was excellent but I’m never playing prison again. Bye.

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yeah at least the breakfast was good
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On Swedish Tectonic Stability

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Here in Sweden, our mountains are very old, low and eroded, home to various trolls and giants but altogether stable. It’s a very tectonically uninteresting part of the world. No earthquakes anywhere near, not ever.

And it turns out, the same applies to deckbuilding in the 93/94 format under Swedish rules. In the ongoing Winter Derby, an online tournament played over Skype and the second-largest Old School tournament ever with over 140 participants, I faced a gentleman from the United States who was playing URB Troll Disco. He had an Earthquake maindeck. After our match, I told him I didn’t think Earthquake was even a playable card in the Swedish format, whereas it’s an all-star maindeck card in the EC or Atlantic format. Why is that? Everybody knows that the inclusion of Fallen Empires helps aggro decks, be it white weenie or black aggro with the Orders, black with Hymn to Tourach, or goblins getting Goblin Grenade and becoming a real deck. And the EC format has its 4 Strip Mines to further cement an early aggro board advantage. Sure, an anti-aggro card like Earthquake should be less of a necessity under Swedish rules, but unplayable? Don’t you still face aggro sometimes?

You do, but the kind of aggro you’re likely to face isn’t affected by Earthquake very much at all. The thing is, the 1-toughness creatures most affected by Earthquake are all from FE or belong to a FE-based deck: Order of Leitbur, Order of the Ebon Hand, Icatian Javelineers, various Goblins (because of the presence of Goblin Grenade). What do we have in Swedish? Savannah Lion, and that’s it. White Knight and Black Knight are rarely played and very bad anyway, then things like Kird Ape which make Earthquake look quite bad.

So Earthquake goes from being a slam-dunk maindeck card to an almost unplayable sideboard card. What else? A friend played a WGR midrange deck to something like a 0-3 start. Why? It was full of good cards, using Lightning Bolt, Disenchant, Swords to Plowshares and Fireball, and probably some number of Earthquakes, to clear the way for Erhnam Djinn, Serra Angel and Shivan Dragon. What’s wrong with that? Well, this kind of deck really preys upon low-curve creature-based aggro. You have a ton of removal to stay even in the early game and then midrange threats to take over the midgame. When facing Atog, or UR burn, or god forbid The Deck or some combo deck, this just isn’t effective. The weenie aggro decks this sort of deck is meant to prey upon just isn’t there, rending the archetype almost unplayable.

The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t just consider which cards are available to you. You should consider what this means for the metagame as a whole and what decks you are likely to face. If everybody will play Hymn to Tourach and 4 Strip Mine because it’s a rare EC tournament in Europe and people will want to experience what’s new to them (seriously, at the EC Lighthouse tournament in Genoa, I faced something like 3 Hymn decks in 6 rounds), maybe a Land Tax deck is better than in usual EC. If you’re playing a spiky tournament in Sweden, you should know many of the old ringers like their The Deck and probably shouldn’t bring Troll Disco to beat all the random artifact decks. And please, don’t maindeck Earthquake this side of the pond. It’s just way too tectonically stable here.

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Tournament report time! 23 people at Biljardpalatset in Stockholm, organized by Gordon Andersson, with a N00bCon invite up for grabs, although it turned out that about ten people attending were already invited. Let’s see if I remember anything about the matches. I was playing Field of Dreams:

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It’s basically a Swedish port of this EC deck played by Bryan Manolakos to a 4-2 record in a side event at GP Hartford last spring, I think:

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Don’t know where I saw it but it stuck with me so I saved it. The plan is basically 93/94 Lantern Control for those of you who are familiar with new border cards: millstone/field of dreams lock with synergies like field/tax, tax/tower/sylvan, sylvan/millstone etc. You’re building up a board with slowly turns off what the opponent is doing, including moat to completely turn off most creatures. You care about less and less cards and answer them and then mill them out.

It’s an offshoot of the whole tax/tower school. There are so many possibly builds and nobody knows which is the best: midrange with flyers like Will Larson and Bryan Manolakos played at the Summer Derby, combo/prison like Randy Buehler’s winning deck from the same tournament, control like the present deck, probably some prison options with howlings, relic barriers, icys and copies for the towers, maybe even underworld dreams since there’s so much overlap between tax/winds/dreams. I have no idea which one is optimal. The field/millstone lock is strong, and there’s a lot of synergies, but at the same time, many of these cards are weak in themselves. Especially millstone and field which do actual nothing on their own.

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Will Larson’s  Summer Derby deck
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Randy Buehler’s Summer Derby deck

What I do like is that much of this is enchantments. Like the Danny Friedman school of enchantments being the best permanents because they can’t really be punished except by tranquility which nobody plays. With tower and millstone, this is still a bit weak to hurkyl and flux, which we well get to. But it’s something to consider. Dreams is a way to make it even more so, possibly. Just that BBB fucks your mana a lot.

 

For the rest of the deck, it’s usual defensive UW spells and power, up to and including wheel, which is included mostly to jump-start the towers and because you have a lot of cheap permanents to empty your hand of.
But yeah, matches.

Round 1, I face Martin Berlin. I’m eager to get revenge for my quarterfinals loss to him at the EC tournament at Fishliver Oil Cup, partly on my failing an orb flip. This time, he’s on strictly BW tax/dreams.

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This is going to be a long game. The cards in the upper right corner, as well as my moats, are cards in hand previously revealed by field of dreams.

There turned out to be a metric ton of underworld dreams decks in the field. Berlin on BW, Pefken on BWu dreams parfait, Gordon on BU prison with candelabra and transmute, Björn Jonnie on classic howling/winds dreams combo, Råberg on the same but with a machinehead transformative sideboard, and probably somebody else, not to forget me on dreams of the fields variety. That’s 5 or 6 out of 23, making over 20 %. Insane. Almost what Danny Friedman claims all Swedish tournaments are. Anyway, Berlin starts with tower but no tax, whereas I have a field and we both start keeping revelead cards face up. I do get millstone and control what he does. Although there’s still plenty of opportunities for me to misplay, when I have a full hand and his is empty (from me grinding through, or just mind twist as a help, maybe), he concedes at 61 life to save time. He did find a greed at one point, but that just drew him one card before I disenchanted it because he was low on black mana most of the game.

 

Game 2, I am expecting some kind of creature but have still kept 1 or 2 swords at most, because I have my own serras as well as balance. I start on a tower. However, his disrupting scepter makes my tower moot when I’m stuck at mana. I do balance his hand away. Then he plays a dreams, and I believe a second one, so my life is dwindling, then a serra. But I do manage to recall the balance and find the cop black and take control. Or at least something along those lines.
Round 2, I face someone I don’t know on arabian aggro. He starts with turn 1 and turn 2 kird apes. I have three mana sources, a couple of swords, a counterspell and a moat. I take the hit once, then I decide to swords one ape should I not draw the 4th source for the moat. But I do, just in time, stopping at 14. He has a dib which I swords. Then I just have to starve off the burn, and I find a tower in time. It’s never close from there on out as I get fields/stone too. At one point, I’m not milling him just to see more of his deck and not make him think I’m in as much control as I am. He is running a hybrid list with both birds and the black splash, as well as chain lightnings. Also a maindeck artifact blast, maindeck crumble and some number of psionic blasts. Post board, I also get moat, I think, at 13, as well as a cop red, but two psionic blasts take me down to 5 right away. I do get out a serra, which really should just get double bolted at this point, but somehow that does not happen. I know I do stabilize at 1 life after having to swords my serra when he finds another psiblast, or something along those lines. The details are a bit fuzzy, but I did have to topdeck exact the answers, like the swords for a mishra with a sylvan. Wait, I can’t have had moat this game, but rather bottle. You see I don’t lie when I say I have a bad memory? I’m writing this literally less than 24 hours later. Anyway, I don’t drop a game. Oh yeah, there’s also an interaction where I have field, he has sylvan in play (of which he’s far too cautious with, never paying life), with my top card being disenchant. I go to demonic, wanting recall to return regrowth and time walk, sealing the race with my serra, but of course I had boarded out recall as I usually do against red decks, anticipating REB. So I go for disenchant instead, as the sylvan needs to go. Sometimes you say the card you tutor for was the top card of the deck, but not often are you aware that is the case before you play it. Oh well.

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A random view of the tournament area, probably before round 1 to be honest. But it fits better here.

Round 3, I face Seb who’s on some kind of Eureka build. Game 1, he mostly draws mana, but not lands: sol ring, a mox, an elf and a birds, so my land tax is annoyingly far from being active. It’s one of those insanely complicated games where I try to get above 4 cards in hand while milling him out of threats and taking 1 a turn from the elf, not being able to draw cards or develop my mana base. Eventually, I start getting ahead, probably including time walk/braingeyser which is often the case. He concedes with me at 4 and him at 25.

Game 2, he’s mana screwed, having only a strip mine and a volcanic, I believe, when I play turn 1 field, turn 2 millstone. Easy game, right? Not exactly. I of course try to get rid of some lands first, and I know this will backfire later on, but what should I do? His hand is full of gas, mostly erhnams, and he does get the mana finally, when I’m not doing much. I never find a moat and succumb to random beats in a game it feels like I should have won. When not drawing enough power, this deck is somewhat lacking in the card draw department. One interesting thing is me not fighting over his blood moons. I had an island and I believe a sapphire in play at this point, and could just eventually draw into one of my 4-5 white sources or a blue blast. It definitely was correct once the second moon shows up. Mooning a tax deck is not always the best plan.

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Omnipollo Fatamorgana, probably my favorite beer that’s widely available

And then time is called as we shuffle up for game 3, so a draw it is. I didn’t go to time any of the other rounds, but I still had very little time between rounds to run to the bathroom, order beers or food. I knew this, of course, and that’s why I chose this deck for a tournament like this and not one like Fishliver where I would like to interact a lot with new friends and new environments, but it still kind of sucked. There were lots of people like Slanfan and Berlin I should have hung out with more, and I should have had more beers, not the least because their selection was unexpectedly Omnipollo-heavy and thus excellent.
So, round 4. I think I’m paired down, against Pefken, who’s one of the real old school old schoolers, boasting a Giant Shark and several more big event t8s, among other things. He’s also known for liking Parfait, and this time, he was on a dreams-based version. (Or is is just prison then? We really have to dive into old school deck names at some point.) I’ve been considering a deck like that, myself, but I never thought you could run dreams and factories at the same time, as dreams pushes you towards a mana base with only black-producing lands. Apparently it worked, and Pefken even played the single workshop allowed under Swedish rules.

Game 1, I start out with a turn 1 sylvan, turn 2 paying 8 life just to get more cards as I haven’t found much relevant yet, turn 3 paying 4 more, going down to what felt like a reasonably healthy 8. But I see no tower, and Pefken’s factory is threatening. He plays a steady stream of pieces I have to handle, like icys and howlings, probably allowing relic barriers to resolve, and I run out of answers, making him resolve a winter orb and locking me out. There was more to it than that, a number of hard decisions with a field and/or sylvan, me wanting to mill myself and my opponent simultaneously, being too low in life so I had to keep up white mana during his combat step should he tap a land or artifact before activating the factory, and it just didn’t work out.

Game 2, I think I did broken stuff, something like a turn 1 timetwister off of a land, a mox and a sol ring. I see Pefken having brought in hypnotics. I expected some kind of creature but didn’t keep in many swords even though he had factories, as my own serras can handle that just fine, and also disenchants. His creature plan being trumped by mine is a huge advantage and he can’t find enough swords in time. Game 3, from my life pad it seemed like I got an early Library, supplemented by a tower, just ignoring his dreams and finding a serra, him never really being into the game.
Now I’m 3-0-1 and likely into the top 8 even with a loss. In the last swiss round, I’m paired against Jocke Almelund, the lone 4-0. I didn’t know what he’s playing, but it’s usually some kind of combo deck, Jocke being a man after my own heart. Instead, it appears we’re sharing more tastes than that, as Jocke is on atogs. But what I consider a quite weird build, strictly UR, eschewing all splashes and also probably chain lightnings for mana vaults, su-chis and copy artifacts. Game 1, I mind twist him about three times, turning off his factories (and the rest of his creatures should he ever draw one) with a moat and his burn with a tower. I gain control with field + stone and get to see most of his deck before he concedes. Game 2, I bring in one or two serras but not all of them since I’ve seen a bunch of psionic blasts. This turns out badly as I get him down to 8 with a quick serra which he then kills and it doesn’t really matter anymore. Jocke even copies my tower to get out of reach. He plays a library, and while I manage to mind twist him, I then do nothing for the five turns it takes for him to get back to activating it. I do eventually succumb to that card advantage although both of us drawing mostly lands the entire late game.

Game 3 then. I bring in all the angels. And I never go below 15 life. However, Jocke controls magic one of the angels, and my only real answer is trading with another. Then, however, I recall both of them, and that’s it. It might also have involved some power start from me. I was very good at drawing ancestrals throughout the tournament, and didn’t take a single mulligan until the semis. That’s how you get good results in tournaments, folks. It’s the days the luck breaks your way you get your finishes.
With that, I win the swiss, and it’s on to the top 8 after having had a short break for some decent food. The rest of the top 8 is Jocke, Berlin, Pefken, Li on white weenie, Fork on UR, Micke Thai on The Deck and Råberg on his dreams combo deck. I get a rematch against Pefken in the quarterfinals. I did lose a game where I did have most of what I needed in the swiss, and he’s also a very good player, so it doesn’t feel that good, but I just assemble everything I ever want here. Except the millstone. I have a tower and go above 30 life, then 40, sitting behind a sylvan and a library, and Pefken doesn’t concede until I start librarying in order to have enough time to mill him out before I have to twister or something.

Then I board about the same as before, cutting the moats and all swords but possibly one, bringing in serras, dust to dust, cop black and maybe something more. I could have left two swords to handle any potential hypnotics but they aren’t coming out so fast in his list so I think balance, cop and serras should be enough. Probably cut a tower too, even though he has dreams, as he’s so slow too. I do get an interesting hand on the draw: lotus, ancestral, disenchant, some assorted stuff but no land tax and no other mana source. I keep, of course, but it could backfire. Pefken then plays turn 1 howling mine with some moxes and no barrier, so I draw two. Still no land, but a demonic. So I can ancestral, and then disenchant the howling if I draw either a white or a black source. But I think I’m ahead enough with just the ancestral in hand, being up a bunch of cards, and another disenchant as backup, so I just lotus demonic for tundra and disenchant the mine, then ancestral next turn. Was it correct? I think so. Bricking on the mana on the ancestral seemed like the most likely way to lose that game. But I’m not positive.

Anyway, somehow the game ends up being way closer than anticipated. I have cards, and assemble field+stone, but Pefken keeps drawing only gas: barrier, icy, disenchant, disenchant, and the stone costing me mana all the time, stuck at 4 mana with 4 cards for the tower. He also plays out two hypnotics, to which I have a cop black, but that ties up two mana each turn, and he starts hitting me with a factory. I can disenchant it but don’t want to tap out since he has a disenchant and can break something up, so my life is slowly dwindling. Would have loved to be able to rewatch this game. I also have a sylvan this whole time and am sometimes milling myself instead of him, he tapping my millstone with barrier in my upkeep. Then I can assemble braingeyser + time walk to get above 4 cards, giving me some breathing room, and once I’m on 5 life, Pefken concedes.
Thai has beaten Jocke and is facing Fork in the semis. Actually, this is much later, as the Fork vs Berlin matchup in the quarters takes literal ages. But anyway.

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Semis ongoing

I’m playing Li, who’s new to the format, having played for two months but being an old veteran from the Vintage scene ages ago, apparently. I knew he was on white weenie with a blue splash, which isn’t a very good deck in Swedish, as you have to play cards like tundra wolves to make crusade good enough. I also knew he played energy fluxes so I was already planning to cut most of the millstones as they’re just so expensive to pay for. Towers are another thing, and most of the rest of the deck is enchantments. I’m more scared of hurkyl I think.

Game 1, he plays a lion, which I swords, and then a tundra wolf which starts taking small bites out of my life total. Some other creatures also get sworded or countered. I counter one armageddon and let the second one resolve, as I have pearl, sapphire, and emerald in play at this point, as well as a plains in hand. That turns off my drain in hand, but if I counter it, it’s gone anyway. I do draw a tax, and we do a little dance around that for a while. However, I never see any tower or moat, and eventually, Li resolves a crusade and kills me with some 2/2, either the wolf or a clergy of the holy nimbus he drew afterwards. Had I gotten any kind of permanent defense, even a field, as I had a stone a long time, I would have gotten there, and I was quite close to just milling him out anyway. I milled all four of his disenchants, for example. From this, I also knew he played a bunch of psionic blasts so my serras weren’t safe. But I went for them anyway, as that plays around fluxes so well. Game 2, everything goes according to plan. I resolve a serra with counter backup thanks to a lotus. He has a flux and some small creatures but nothing interacts with the angel at all. Game 3, I finally took my first mulligan, keeping a Library start. Li doesn’t do anything offensive, having a hand full of disenchants and fluxes, so my library does its thing while I take 1 a turn from a tundra wolf. Eventually, a serra arrives backed up by a counterspell or two. Li expertly waits on a swords, trying to get two answers and resolving them, taking some damage, so I counter it when I mind twist his hand away. This leaves a 1-turn window for him to draw another answer but he doesn’t, and I time walk, demonic, time walk for the win.
Time for the finals. And the n00bcon invite was decided by the other semis as I have an invite but nobody else in the top 4 did. I was in something of a hurry, having to leave in less than an hour if I wanted to catch my bus home, and also not playing for much. But maybe I’m just making excuses. I’m facing UR and I’m fairly certain that it’s a bad matchup. Much worse than atog. They have REBs, counterspells and lots of artifact hate to break up any kind of field/stone/sylvan/tax engine, a quick clock to make sylvan bad, moats are only stopping factories, and the serra plan which is my usual defense against reb/flux/shatter etc is horrible against counterspell + psiblast. Sure, they die to bottle, but that’s not game enough. I don’t even know how to solve that. Probably just counting on atog killing them before I face them, but that’s not great Bob. Taking the loss and moving on? Well, I’m getting ahead of myself, but I really just get rolled. The interesting thing is in game 2 where Fork plays a Library with 6 cards in hand. My board is emerald, trop, city, with a hand of bottle, swords, disenchant, serra, probably something else white. He might have a vise in play, with me on a tower. Anyway, I choose to play the bottle, instead of letting him have an extra card and me having white mana for a turn. But then I proceed to miss white for ages, him getting a flux, destroying my stuff, before I can ever kill his vise. That probably lost me the game, although it wasn’t looking great anyway. The deck probably has a white source too few, to be honest. I’m never really into this, flux was too early and too strong there. Those things happen.

Verdict? The deck is fun, slow, and complicated. I didn’t get to drink as much as I had planned, probably because I was just too concentrated on the games, but I also didn’t misplay as much as I had expected. The margins are very small and I did draw a whole lot of power starts and rarely mulliganed. The angels in the board were amazing. Maybe the 4th counterspell isn’t necessary. I’d like to have some more way of turning on ivory tower, possibly even a single book. A third tax is also on the list, along with another basic or two, but can be hard to activate sometimes without something like an armageddon in there. I just don’t know if this kill is the best. Other ways of abusing the engine might be stronger, even if it’s less of a lock without field/stone. I’m kind of curious about trying out a Buehler list in the future. Other random thoughts: REB might be really good as they kill hurkyl and flux and stop counterspell and psiblast for handling serras. Maybe even a fireball somewhere if I do add red. A second recall is not out of the question. The good thing about field is that it’s an enchantment, but as it’s blue it dies to REB, and millstone is bad against hurkyl, flux, and dust to dust. And maybe the lock isn’t powerful enough, as it isn’t a real lock unless you have multiple millstones and a lot of mana, as countless games illustrate. Losing that package also makes wheel better; now I boarded it out most of the time. There’s some work to be done here.

Rereading Centurion, issue #7

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Time to continue the dive into old Swedish magic magazines. This time, from March, 1996. Homelands had been released last fall, Alliances was still just a rumor. What was happening in the Magic world at the time?

Well, straight up, we learn that for the upcoming issue, we would have a report from GothCon and its Nationals qualifier, a report from the Black Lotus Professional Tour (that is, PT1), and an article about Necropotence, “the latest trending card”. But for this issue? The first major article is a report from a Grand Melee tournament held at a convention in Stockholm. It’s a huge multiplayer game with 35 people, where you attack left, affect the players 2 steps in each directions with spells, the rounds are taken somewhat synchronously (one out of every five players were playing at each time), and, quite importantly, Enchant Worlds were global effects. How this works with timing, the story doesn’t tell. All in all, the game took eight hours, and the stories are glorious. Somebody sends a Kudzu around. A couple of players to my taste play Timetwister, Tormod’s Crypt and Argivian Archaeologist to deck people. Somebody else plays Howling Mines and Mana Flares to be friends with his neighbors. Somebody else ran Energy Flux and Blood Moon and Mana Barbs and was promptly killed. Unsurprisingly, the blue-white control decks were the most successful, and in the end, the organizers had to ban Abyss and rule that every creature got +1/+1 each upkeep to put an end to it.

To continue the less serious vibe, there’s an article on Throat Wolves, which are an old Usenet meme, I suppose, about cards which turned out not to exist. I did not know about the meme at the time, so the whole thing felt a bit pointless to me then. Here they are updated to Homelands. They all have Double First Strike, which isn’t doublestrike (something that wouldn’t exist for a long time still) but rather Firstest Strike. And it’s full of interesting jokes like cards with holographic print (how could they every imagine doing such a thing!).

Then comes some of the meat of the issue: a 5-page article about so-called Serendib decks. It’s RUG aggro with Unstable Mutations and Giant Growths and probably Berserk, thus a lot more creature-based than our 93/94 Arabian Aggro decks. First, catering to the budget crowd, there is a list with a wonderful 6/6/5 mana base, made possible (they claim) by 4 Barbed Sextants. Ambitious, to say the least. A much better approach would have to leave the budget version straight UG and splash later.

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the budget list

And there’s sadly no complete list for the power deck presented. Of interest is that they quite correctly prefer Scryb Sprites over Flying Men, even though City in a Bottle seems to be a non-factor. They also recommend no offcolor moxen, and also running a Nevinyrral’s Disk (unclear whether sb or main). And one or two Power Sinks. That is an underused strategy even now. Also Storm World as an answer to The Abyss.

Argothian Pixies is mentioned, but as “generally worse than Elvish Archers”, which is also deemed too weak for this deck, mostly because of Fireball. Juggernaut dies to everything, to nobody’s surprise. Ornithopter isn’t good even with Unstable Mutatins. Thanks. Oh, and Recall is too slow. Something to remember.

Over to the price list. There’s a rumor somebody in Gothenburg bought a Beta Lightning Bolt for $10; other than that, we don’t get any indication of Alpha or Beta prices, sadly. Time Vault is worth $30-40, half as much as Forcefield or Gauntlet of Might. The most expensive cards in Homelands, the newest expansion, are Primal Order at $12-16 and Autumn Willow at $10-12. In general, I don’t think much has changed since last issue.

Oh, there’s also a price guide for Doomtrooper, the most expensive card being Mortifikator Crenshaw at $11-17, except the promo Nepharite Warlord for $30.

In the calendar of upcoming tournaments, we learn that you have to qualify for the 1996 Swedish Nationals for the first time. I know this, since one of those qualifiers was my first sanctioned tournament ever. But that is a story for another time.

There’s also a really strange qualifying system in place where the top 30 in each of four qualifier makes it through, but only if you haven’t played any qualifiers before. Yes, you only got one shot. This should make the last qualifier very easy, I suppose, unless everybody games the system and nobody wants to play the first one. Also that is 30 people regardless of number of players. Weird stuff was going on, all at once, everywhere.

We also learn that the club SPIF in Helsingborg “has activities almost every day”. So much room for them.

Now it’s time to go full on meta: a review of Scrye #1. It somewhat amazes me Scrye isn’t older. After a bunch of information on new games like Spellfire, Jyhad and Sim City (the card game), there follows a bunch of reports from different US stores. “Some of the more sought after cards are Gaea’s Liege, Mindtwist, Island Sanctuary, Will-O’-The-Wisp, Black Lotus and Goblin King with prices in the $50 to $100 range.” Wait, what is this? Alpha Lotus is $25 in the price list. The entire magazine clocks in at 32 pages. Oh, of course. Dan Hörning is trolling the audience, and, consequently, me, 22 years later. They bought the magazine two years earlier, in mid-1994, which he dutifully reveals at the end of the short article.

Then some riddles! How do you make a Maze of Ith into a Juzam Djinn? (Doesn’t really work, but nice try: Living Plane, 2 Giant Strength, Wanderlust, Deathlace. Still is affected by enchantment removal, land destruction and more, but that has to count, I suppose.) How do you make Elves of the Deep Shadow into Castle? (That’s the final one, setting up the joke. The answer? Play Castle. Bolt the elf.)

A short note explains that some players intend to play the best Type 2 decks against each other, 10 games of each, 7 of those postboard. Wow. Playtesting is actually a new concept? In 1996? No wonder the decks were so bad back then.

An article about the Kult CCG, newly released, is probably not very interesting to you.

But then, another short report from “the first event in WotC’s Black Lotus Professional Tour”. The first prize was $12000. A removed from the $50000 you get today. And top 16 gave $500, compared to $5000 today. At least some things are not worse now. More will be said about this tourney in the next issue. The most interesting thing is a note that “a similar series will be held in Europe, organized by the WotC Belgium office”. That never happened; instead we just got a pro tour a year, usually, and even that took a little while to become reality.

Four pages of general advice about organizing a tournament could be relevant even today. Wait, one if the first points is that people will ask about the telephone, so make sure to have access to one, or at least know how to give directions to the nearest pay phone. Yeah, alright. More: somebody should be a “rules guru” or have access to the latest WotC list of errata (can be found on the internet). No mention of actual judges. A tournament should start as early as possible — something I am still missing in old school tournaments today. Direct elimination is recommended if you are tight on space. And if possible, arrange a side event parallel to the top 8. Also, this traditionally has a Bazaar of Baghdad as the prize. Oh, those were the days. Also, 4 or 5 dollars is a fair price of admission to the tournament.

Another curiosity is an ad for a tournament in Fisksätra in the outskirts of Stockholm, where a large part of the ad is a somewhat convoluted description of how to reach the site. “Walk across the bridge until you see a large sculpture, then turn slightly to the right.”

And the final article is about how to build decks in Doomtrooper, a game I’ve never tried. More about that in another issue, I believe.

That’s it for this time. Maybe next issue won’t take quite as long to review, but don’t get your hopes up.

BSK 2018: Organizer’s Report + Losing with Lich

Organizer’s Report

This past weekend, for the second year in a row, I was the organizer of the 93/94 tournament at the BSK gaming convention in Borås, Sweden. We had 26 players, running 5 rounds of swiss with a top 8, starting at 5 pm. In my opinion, 26 players is maybe the perfect size for a tournament. Top 8 makes sense, it doesn’t take all day, and you can talk to everybody you want to. It is a bit sad that BSK has fallen so much; two years ago, it used to be the second yearly Shark tournament after N00bCon and likely the second largest tournament in Sweden and the world before old school became a thing in the US and Italy. But it still exists and it usually brings out a lot of good people, including parts of the original Gothenburg crowd. There were a large number of Sharks in attendance, I can tell you that.

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Fluffy vs Olle on table 1, eventually ending in a draw
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Stattin vs Lindén
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Two quarterfinals in action

This is the final standings after the swiss:

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Olle Råde decided to drop and have dinner instead (he was playing a straightforward UR serendib/atog burn deck), but these are the decks of the actual top 8:

Stattin
Jonas Stattin’s RUG aggro, 1st place. Note the maindeck Storm Seeker, which was almost as good as a Fireball on several occasions.
Lindstrom
Martin Lindström’s The Deck, 2nd place. The sideboard Tranquilities are the real tech here, as is Icy over maindeck Stone Rain (handles Library a whole lot worse, though).
Karlsson
Micke Thai’s The Deck. Basically Åland’s list from Arvika with the two maindeck Serras and only 3 books, the third being kept in the board.
Schram
Robert Schram’s Lauter.dec. Have I mentioned this is not the spiciest top 8 ever?
Nilsson
Mattias Nilsson’s Underworld Dreams Midrange. I have no idea how that BBBUURR manabase works, but at least it’s a somewhat novel concept.
Lofgren
Hannes Löfgren’s BWu midrange, to further build Danny Friedman’s case that everybody plays Underworld Dreams in Sweden.
Linden
Mikael Lindén’s Fantasy Zoo. So many lightning bolts and disenchants in this top 8!
Jansson
Andreas Jansson’s artifact midrange. Especially note the rare Yawgmoth Demon sighting here.
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In the end, we had one happy Jonas Stattin as the winner. The 2nd place finisher got a Sorrow’s Path, and we also randomly gave out two The Dark boosters, one to somebody in the top 8 and one to somebody outside of it.

 

Losing with Lich

Now, over to my personal experience with the tournament. First, the documentation of the necessary pre-event burgers and beer.

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Now, this is the deck I played:

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I have been brewing with Lich for a while and I believe this mirrorball shell is the best home for it. Basically, you just replace Mana Vault with Dark Rituals and play a few more black lands. Lich gives you a true combo finish against control, where the mirror plan is slow, clunky, and vulnerable, as well as another path to brokenness. I’m not saying it’s better than normal mirrorball but at the same time it isn’t strictly worse either.

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I also did get off a Lich kill the very first match of the tournament, against Jocke Almelund’s sweet Enchantress/Mana Flare/Candelabra build. He finished 3-2 on the day.

However, after that round 1 win, the wheels quite literally soon fell off. I did have a combo turn where I went ancestral, wheel, recall wheel, drawing 17 cards and still not finding what I needed. I played against The Deck where he kept in 4 Swords when I brought in my creatures. I also did some grave misplays. These kind of combo decks are some of the harder to play in the format for sure. I ended on a 2-3 record.

I think the list is mostly fine although my cutting of Pearl and Balance are likely wrong. The real bad thing was however the sideboard. I went too deep here, trying the Erhnams against control, the Trolls as additional threats when transforming and also defense against midrange, and finally Disks to get rid of all the troublesome permanents like Underworld Dreams and Blood Moon. But that’s just not good enough. It doesn’t work the way it should. I probably ought to play some other removal, likely a combination of Disenchant and The Abyss, possibly with some Mazes thrown in, and then at least one Mana Short against control. And I need to do more work on how to board in different matchups. I could also see another Fastbond and/or Dark Heart maindeck. The slots are tight but some things will have to go.

I’m not unhappy, though. Maybe with my plays, but not really with the result. I chose the deck because I had played a bunch of very spiky decks the past few events (The Deck, Troll Rack, Dibatog) and wanted to combo a bit, and also that I didn’t really want to try to win the tournament I TO’d that much. Success in that respect at least.

Now a very busy period with 3 events in 4 weeks have passed, and I’ll write about some other things. If nothing else, there’s a half-written Rereading Centurion post laying around here somewhere. Stay tuned.

Pictures of Genoa

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It started way too early, with the customary 6 am flight out of Linköping.
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Then some hours’ layover in Amsterdam, trying to get some final work done, before the weekend’s insanities began. Mostly chatted about the upcoming events though.
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Arriving in Genua, the weather was already a little bit worse than advertised, the sun already mostly gone for the day. It was about to get worse.
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Having checked into my hotel, I wander around in the old town for a while, meeting up with Gordon Andersson at the cathedral.
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I like the city, or at least the old part of it. The amounts of extremely narrow alleyways are approaching infinity. This kind of eclectic architecture, like putting a tower just like the one belonging to the neighboring church on a random residential building just because, is fantastic.
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After lunch, we go for gelato, of course.
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Eventually, we meet up with Jason Schwarz and Björn Jonnie Myrbacka and head for a bar Gordon had found, the Kamun Labs, a sweet brewpub. We have time to get in a few beers.
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Gordon even got to utilize the for-a-Swede strange and wonderful concept of the beer-to-go.
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The last part of that day, being Thursday, was a small dinner with about 30 players, organized by Megu and Lorenzo and the rest of the Fishliver crew. The Tiramisu finish was excellent.
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Friday started with a trek through narrow alleyways in search of a place to have coffee and brew and/or playtest. Eventually, we found Jalapeño, in what appeared to be the red light district, serving bad food and good beers. We also was joined by the excellent Martin Berlin, freshly flown in for the day.
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The main event of the day was the EC tournament at the Lighthouse of Genoa, the third oldest one in the world, built in 1543. Situated at the port, not far from the site of the main Fishliver Cup event hotel but farther from the old town, we split up, some of us (me, Charlie, Jonnie) walking there, others taking a cab.
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It began with a small reception with wine and focaccia, held at the garden at the base of the lighthouse. It hadn’t started raining yet. A great place to meed friends, old and new.

 

 

 

 

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A bit late (and who was surprised?), Lorenzo and Megu announced the structure of the tournament: 6 rounds of swiss, followed by a top 8 to be held at the hotel. Eventually, we got delayed enough that the last round had to be held at the hotel, too.
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This is the deck I played, called Troll Rack, based on the Spice Rack played by Bryan Manolakos at LobsterCon. As I cut the Copy Artifacts and Gwen, it’s not so spicy anymore. (Hit by glare are the 4 City of Brass, and in the upper right corner, it’s 1 Underground Sea and 3 basic Swamps, to battle Blood Moon mostly through my trolls.) The list is strong, but it has some glaring weaknesses. One is its low power level, eschewing Timetwister, Wheel of Fortune, Library of Alexandria, any kind of card draw besides Ancestral Recall, and more. Still, the synergy of its various parts make up for most of this. Worse is a certain weakness to creatures with more than 3 toughness. Serendib can usually be raced, and handled post-board with REB, CiaB and Terror, but a Serra Angel is a nightmare, as is large artifact creatures like Su-Chi, Triskelion, or Tetravus, especially pre-board. To solve this partly, I think the deck wants a few Psionic Blasts maindeck, although that means cutting the basic Swamps for Underground Sea once again. There’s also of course the option of just biting the bullet and running Swords to Plowshares, even if I hate that in chip damage decks like this. Well, I won’t play this anymore in the immediate future, as I play so few EC tournaments and there’s lots more for me to explore in that space (Power Goblins and Atog, especially). To sum up, I think this might be the best Hymn deck, but it isn’t tier 1, more like high tier 2.
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There’s a certain beauty to the symmetry of this game state, I think. I also believe I won this game, despite his start meaning he’s up 20 to 14, as I’m firmly under the Vises at this point. I just wish I had used my own Lotus playmat, identical to his.
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In the end, I managed to go 5-1 in the Swiss, hitting the top 8, before falling to Shark holder Martin Berlin’s Ub robots in the quarterfinals. Now, it was way past 1 am, and I was not unhappy to head back to the hotel for some sleep. Especially not since I had won a quite epic match against reigning 93/94 World Champion Alban Lauter, playing for the top 8 earlier. I did miss an orb flip against Martin, which hurts a bit, but I can live with it. I wished Martin the best of luck and moved on.
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Next morning, we woke up way too late even for the breakfast ending at 10.30, so we headed out for the main event, picking up a quite good Italian lunch along the way. And making the finishing touches on Jonnie’s UWb robots deck which he would eventually play to a 17th place, missing the top 16 on the tiniest amount of tiebreaker. It’s quite interesting, especially with the possibility to board out the Serendibs for The Abyss and City in a Bottle. Also Icy Manipulator/Copy Artifact seemed excellent all day. The picture above is a general view of parts of the venue, a series of linked conference rooms and lobby areas.
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This is what I played to a 4-2 finish with very bad tiebreakers, losing to a turn-1 erhnam and game 2 a fast serra out of some kind of UWG control deck, and once to Arabian Aggro where I couldn’t find a sb City in a Bottle. Again, big creatures is a problem. This deck is a bit too complicated for its own good, having to fight the tension of bottle/city/serendib as well as opposing blood moons. Moving forward, I think I’ll just cut the bottles as well as the white and green splash, being prepared to board out serendibs against bottles, but handling big guys with some combination of control magic and terror. I’m still searching for the optimal Swedish atog deck, and Dibatog like this is just one direction. I’ll test it out a bit more soon.
commentating fishliver
I chose the deck partly so I could finish the rounds quickly and have some time to socialize, and in that regard I was successful. I even had time to get into the coverage booth with Gordon a few times which was awesome. In the future, I need to decide whether I want to play or comment the most. Should the internet work, that is. There were unfortunately recurring internet issues during the event. And that is not even mentioning the blackout caused bu the thunderstorm which I unfortunately didn’t catch on photo.
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The last day, the excellent weather continued. The tournament of the day was the European Championships in Premodern, a format I had never played before, but I borrowed a deck from Jocke Almelund which seemed sweet: four-color control with a UW base, splashing Gaea’s Blessing and Red Elemental Blast. I dropped at 2-2-1 but with some taste developed for the format. I just don’t have the need for more formats to think about, but I’ll very likely be back again.
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Then I was starved for some Old School games, so when we had gathered some good people (Jonnie, Gordon, Erwin, Alexander, Jason) and went to a pub (Kamun Labs once again), I started getting in a match with Gordon. I was playing Bryan Manolakos’s Field of Dreams control deck, which is probably the hardest deck to play in the entire format. Most games are decided by you doing a small mistake on turn 23 and then losing on turn 28 as a result of it.
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Of course, sometimes you can get power starts, too. I proceeded to draw Time Walk and Land Tax off of that Ancestral.
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Meanwhile, they were doing their own kind of broken things at the nearby table. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the part where they were throwing unsleeved alpha lotuses at eachother. Yes, for real.
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Also, this imperial stout panacotta was the best thing I’ve eaten in a long while. All in all, the evening was excellent. All this hanging out with people and having some casual games was really the best thing with the weekend for me, as much of a spike as I am.
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Uncharacteristically, I didn’t buy or sell a single card during the event, so this amazing flask was all the loot I got. I will make sure to put that to good use, though.
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The next day, I managed to get on the last plane out of Genoa before they closed the airport down due to the thunderstorm. Taking off after waiting for a gap in the clouds for 45 minutes was a big relief.
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And once I reached Schiphol, still a 1.5 hour flight from Linköping where I live, felt like coming home. It was over. Tired, but happy. (And I messed up the shot of Linköping being cold, pitch dark, and rainy, when I did land at 11 pm that night. You just have to imagine.)

 

 

Consider The Deck

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I think I will try to write something on the blog about my complicated relationship with The Deck

It takes me into weird territories on the spike/fun scale

It’s not even a scale really, it’s a map of a roadless country, with weird places to disappear into

(I played it at the Scandinavian Championships in Arvika a week ago, trying to win that Giant Shark, finishing in 10th place, at 5-2. And not having the best of times really)

Is the deck fun to play? Do I have fun while playing it? Do I care enough or too much? Do I want to drink? These questions are so hard now.

They used to be easy.

I basically want to maximize my fun in any tournament. That’s the great goal. But so many different things are fun, and some are conflicting

If I feel like I have to win, and I don’t win, I’m not having fun. But winning is fun, so it’s not fun to lose. Etc.

The answer might be that I should continue to play The Deck a bit more, and lower my expectations a bit, so I can be totally satisfied by going 5-2.

I mean, there were several great players playing The Deck at 4-3 at n00bcon.

(I’m never fully satisfied when I miss top 8 in any tournament, but still. A bit more than I was.)

Just that those things happen

I think the problem is my attitude to the deck. If I think it’s tier 0 and I ought to win the whole thing when I play it, I’m setting up for disappointment

So maybe I should not just save it for the tournaments I really want to spike, but just randomly play it sometimes. If I win, cool. If I don’t, I’m not more of a failure than usual

Sure, it’s better than Lich, but not that much better than Powerball or Atog

Almost all of this is just about my attitudes, I believe

If I take The Deck a little bit less serious, and play it and drink a bit and see what happens, I might be happier

Might not be that I should play the deck less, at all

Heh. Might skip writing that blog post altogether. I might have solved it here, instead

Just ranting is good sometimes

Solving it by caring less. I like the sound of that

Also maybe that The Deck is a bit worse than we thought as of late

Lots of things can go wrong. Especially the mana base isn’t so good. Playing the epic 9-game set against ErhnamGeddon at the post-Arvika lobby games and going 4-5 proved that a lot. The Ice Storms did a lot of work

(Also his Library)

But I felt that during the tournament as well. It’s easy to miss UU, or WW, or something like UUR postboard

Somebody raised the point: that The Deck might not just be quite as good as we make it out to be

It has the results, sure. Even here. But in general.

I’m not so sure it’s the consistency. Lots of hands don’t do anything as you draw the wrong reactive cards against the wrong threat, or too much or too little mana. It’s the combination of all the power and all the acceleration and an almost unbeatable late game.

There’s a midgame point around turn 3-5 where The Deck isn’t very consistent at all, I’d argue

before the books are really online, and after the first answer has dealt with the first threat

A deck like UR or Arabian Aggro is more consistent

maybe not Atog, as it’s so dependent on vises and power for the good starts. but those other Rx aggro decks

hmm

maybe I should just copy this conversation, remove the names and some lines by other people, and post it as a blog post on The Deck

edit into a true monologue

might even be fun, if just a little bit demented

 

Failing with Fork

I’ve been playing a bunch of Fork combo lately. Mostly this list, which I played at a small gathering the day before Grand Prix Stockholm this past weekend.

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I went 1-3 at the tournament, and I don’t think I won a single game when we were playtesting at Belgobaren over lunch before, so I won’t say much about the individual matches. But the deck is interesting. It started out as Fork Recursion, one of Gordon Andersson’s favourite decks, and one I’ve been itching to try since the unrestriction of Recall. My first stab was in a Mirrorball shell, looking roughly like this:


I tested it a small bit, with limited success. It had too little red mana for the Forks, I think, but in the end, it comes down to one thing: I hate Howling Mine. I know, I played it at both Twiddlevault and Atog at The Boat, but in the former it was a (maybe, somewhat) necessary evil, and in the latter mostly a liability, at least in retrospect. It boils down to this:

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Yeah. Fuck that card. So I wanted to try to build the Fork engine without having to play as many naked Howlings and getting them destroyed. If you play four copies of the card, there will be situations when you just have to jam it and hope. And Relic Barriers just don’t belong in combo decks. Sure, you can tap mana artifacts too, and that makes Mana Short much more of a plan post-board, but it’s so hard to find the slots. I did consider it for Twiddlevault and will continue to do so in the future but I have no high hopes there. Rather, I was looking into other ways of building resources in your time walk turns. One idea I’ve been toying with is going heavy on Transmute and Copy Artifact, so you can search for your one or two copies of Howling Mine when you need them and then copy them a bunch of times. Another thing is regular books, although Jayemdae is very expensive, especially when you have Fork + Time Walk instead of Twiddle + Time Vault. Multiple books is out of the question. Sylvan is still good, of course. Bazaar isn’t bad, but you still need some way of getting actually ahead on resources. (And the additional problem of me not owning any, but those could certainly be borrowed in a tournament and proxied for playtesting.)

So I want to cut some Howlings. Another idea I’ve been keeping in the back of my mind is a Blood Moon-powered combo deck, being heavy red with a bunch of islands, using the Moon to buy time and disrupt control. This should in theory work well with the heavy red mana requirements of the Fork deck. I did something I rarely do: I brewed in physical space. Spreading out the various combo parts I was considering, I went to work. A small Candleflare component could also work here, also defended by Moon making giving opponents mana less dangerous, and allowing for more ways of generating the mana for a large Fireball + Fork. Another option was a small Twiddlevault hybrid package, like a Time Vault and three Twiddles. In the end, what had to go was the disruption. No Counterspells of any kind here besides the Mana Drain.

So what happened? Going off is hard. Sometimes you just never find Time Walk or Demonic Tutor. But there are enough smaller combos to abuse Fork to make that no deal breaker. The mana felt a little bit off, I would have needed 1 or maybe even 2 more Island to support the Blood Moon. I had that initially, but then I felt a bit low on red for Fork. Moons are sometimes great, of course, but maybe they belong only in the board. Speaking of which, I should have more Shivans. Now I never got to board in my sweet Alpha Phantasmal Forces, which are actually not bad against control or non-red midrange, but Shivans are the real deal. Good with Blood Moon and all the acceleration, good against aggro in general, reasonably easy to defend against BEBs with REBs. One Power Sink could have been good, maybe just in the board, as a way to interact more when cutting some of the combo. Maze is laughingly bad with Blood Moon which I should have anticipated. The draw engine seems to work alright when going off. I’d like to take a stab at that Twiddlevault hybrid, I think. Maybe something like this, based on the changes suggested by Mattias Berggren after the tournament:

The deck is still no killer. It’s worse than several other combo decks, I think, not to mention the real tier 1 decks like The Deck and Atog. But it’s sure fun. And the raw power level is high. Having access to Blood Moon and City in a Bottle along with the Shivans might mean this has a better board plan than most other combo decks in the format. The main problem is the lack of interaction or threats against real control or highly disruptive decks, like UR with Counterspells and tons of blasts. Especially with the current board. But that’s a gamble maybe worth taking. Another build would probably cut the Candleflare package for Counterspells and try to fit in Mana Short in the board, for example.

Now it’s time to experiment with some Lich, I think. If anything interesting turns up I’ll be sure to write about it. See you around.

Atog Pride

Three weeks ago, I went to Gothenburg to play in a small Old School side event at Swedish Nationals. It was held at GG Bar, Sweden’s first esports bar, a five-minute walk from the Nationals site. Ten people showed up, but it was a great crowd, with many old-timers and some new faces. Organizer was Åland who did a great job. We played four rounds of swiss followed by top 4, with tiebreakers being game-win percentage, beucause nobody bothered with DCI Reporter and we ran the tournament from some crappy website. Nevermind. Let’s get into the matches. I took no notes, as I had forgotten a pen and kept life with dice, but at least I have a few photos as help.

Oh, maybe I should mention what I played. It’s this pile:

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Basically a five-color Atog deck with Serendibs, partly in honor of the concurrent Europride event in town. The deck started out as the Combo shell of all the restricted cards and abusing them with several Mana Vaults, but with aggression as the payoff rather than for example the Mirrorball shell. However, along the way I gradually cut all the Mana Vaults, Su-Chis, Triskelions and Copy Artifacts, eventually realizing it’s better to just run straight-up Atogs with Serendibs. Five colors is because Regrowth and Balance are insane when you’re looking to dump your hand and get a draw-7. Balance is a reverse draw-7, and Regrowth is another one once you’ve drawn something like Ancestral, Twister, Wheel or Tutor. Well, Balance wasn’t main, but it could easily have been, over the fourth Serendib. What scared me the most was opposing Atog decks with Blood Moon, as my mana base wasn’t exactly rock solid and I didn’t have enough sideboard cards to take out all the symmetric cards which are bad in the mirror, even with 3 BEBs, but hey, you can’t beat everything.

In game 1, I faced Martin Jordö, of Mirrorball fame. We had discussed his deck not ten minutes earlier as we share a lot of preferences. An interesting one to be sure. He was on a maximally fast Twiddlevault list, with Fastbonds and more lands instead of any Counterspells or Power Sinks, and also a maindeck Fork. In game 1, I have Library on the play. He plays something like land, mox, Mana Vault. I draw, draw with Library, play a Volcanic Island and pass with Ancestral up. It’s slow, sure, but the card advantage is hard to pass on. Martin then proceeds to do something like mana vault, time vault, twiddle, land, mox, braingeyser for 7,fastbond, twiddle. It looked like this:

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The tapped Demonic Attorney was a proxy for the Time Vault at that time.

I did not win that one. Then game 2, I resolve a Blood Moon which Martin can’t really handle outside of maybe Chaos Orb, and just win. Game 3, he plays an early Mirror Universe. I have an Atog and a Serendib, beating him down to 11. He thinks, but does not swap. I have a Factory as well. On my turn, I start by playing Time Walk, which he Forks. Neither of us knows how this works, so we ask around, and everybody tells us they just cancel eachother out. Okay. Then I Chain Lightning him to 8, attack with all and sacrifice an artifact to the Atog for letha. Martin, however, has a BEB on his last mana. I obviously should have saved the Chain Lightning until post-combat. Still, he’s on 3, switching life, with me at 17. I have two more attack steps, and attacking for 6 on each, plus any potential artifact draws; with some good draws, like an artifact and a bolt, I think I take it home. Then Martin draws what is probably his only Fireball in his draw step. Okay. He is good at doing broken things to me, I’ll have to grant him that.

Only that I later realized that the Time Walk ruling is all wrong. The turns are resolved in reverse order, so I would have gotten my extra turn first and won. A bit sad, but that was much later, the next day, on the way home. But now I know for the future, and so do you.

Round 2, if I recall correctly, I’m paired up. Against Olof in any instance, a friend I first met on the Boat a couple of months ago. Now. he’s on some kind of UWB artifact brew with some white removal, Abysses, Transmutes, and the usual power stuff, in addition to Su-Chis and Tetravuses and Triskelions. Game 1, he had a slow start, where I had a turn 3 Timetwister into Vise. That finishes him somehow. Game 2, I think I win off of a Blood Moon as Olof plays no basics as I saw. I don’t remember very much, honestly.

Round 3, I face my old friend Åland. I knew he was on UWGb aggro, having just acquired Savannahs and Tropicals. Game 1, I get two Vises and two Ankhs, apparently, while he plays a Lion, a Pixies and a Serendib. That is not a race I win, I think. Game 2, it looks like this: he played turn 2 serendib off of a mox and a city, and I play a Bottle. That’s pretty much game. Game 3 is the really interesting part. I start with Library and a Vise, keeping it very controlling. Then I keep 2 bottles and 2 moxes in hand, after losing Library. Wait, this doesn’t make sense. Anyway, I know I misplayed. I had the choice between playing out a preemptive Bottle or keeping it in hand, and kept it, wanting to snag something; but I should just have played it, as I had a backup one should he remove it, as I want to keep his hand full when I have a Vise. Instead, he Timetwisters, getting back into the game. Eventually, I am able to land a Gloom to turn off his CoP: Red, as well as a Blood Moon. I also topdeck a Demonic Tutor to find Timetwister when I almost knew he had BEB in hand from the way he played. Could have gotten Wheel, but Twister was the play, and he revealed the BEB. That felt good.

(Sorry, I know this round doesn’t make any sense, but I only have some photos and some short notes to go on, as well as my fractured memory, and both the tournament and most of this writing is done while drunk, so you’ll have to excuse me.)

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A rare Ali from Cairo sighting.

Anyway. I win that one. Time for round 4. I am facing Kristoffer, a new acquaintance. He’s a Vintage and Legacy player who’s new to the format, and naturally gravitates towards UR although he tells me his tastes really lie elsewhere. He’s 3-0 at this point and a lock for top 4, whereas I feel pretty much out. But I don’t care. Let’s play. Game 1, he plays turn 1 ancestral into turn 2 mox, serendib. That’s pretty much game when I don’t have anything similarly broken myself. Then, game 2, I win on bottle. His deck is UR with 4 flying men, 4 dib, and 0 city, but my bottles still rock. Game 3 I misplay horribly. I have a weird hand with no red mana but bottle and maze. Then he resolves Energy Flux after which I draw Ruby, but I have to choose between keeping the Ruby and the Bottle. I do have a REB but no mana untapped, and choose to keep the Bottle after destroying the Flux. Then I proceed to never draw a red mana again. I should just have kept the Ruby as I had a Maze for any potential Serendibs anyway. That was bad.

So I’m 2-2. Apparently 5th place. Doesn’t matter that much. But the guy who got 4th had already dropped and gone home (I don’t know his name, he was probably the only one in the tournament I never got to speak to or knew before), so I sneak into the top 4. Knowing I had really won that first round against Jordö, that feels a lot better in afterthought when I actually somewhat deserve it.

In the semis, I face Kristoffer again. This time, it wasn’t as close. In both game 1 and 3, I lead on a Library that never gets answered. In game 3, I have library along with Lotus and Wheel. I never play those, having them as backup should he destroy Library or empty his hand while I draw into multiple Vises, but it’s very likely I should just have played those out on turn 1 to get one card ahead and take out his hand. What do you think?

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This is a totally fair game.

I also end up with 2 serendibs and 2 bottles in the deck post sideboard. I actually think this is correct. Obviously, the plan was to take out the serendibs when bringing in bottles, but I figured that if I had a bottle active I should win against Kristoffer, and if I didn’t, a serendib is actually really good against the red deck.

And then, in the finals, it’s time for a rematch with Olof. Due to Bonnie, this match is actually on video (part 1 and part 2). Not sure if they are public but some of you can probably watch these anyway if you’re interested. It also means I can comment on my plays in far greater detail. Thanks Bonnie!

Olof is on the play, due to finishing higher in the Swiss. He plays turn 1 factory, jet. I play land, mox, vise. He plays tundra, chaos orb. I play city, serendib. End of my turn, where the video starts, Olof flips the orb on my serendib and misses! On his turn, he plays another factory and a Su-Chi. I have a hand of three mana and two bolts; not really what I want. Some way to turn off the Vise would have been great, because this race I’m not winning. I consider double bolting the Su-Chi but decide on potentially doing it in his attack step, otherwise perhaps killing the Factories. And so I do, when he attacks with everything. I then draw an orb and kill the su-chi as well. Olof draws a third factory and passes. I just attack and play a fellwar, but Olof draws Ancestral. Otherwise, I thought I could win this race. He then mind twists my hand, but that just contained two lands. I go down to 9 life, and finally draw something good: a second dib. Attacking Olof down to 6. He then plays Braingeyser for 3, followed by a Time Walk, but takes 2 damage from his cities in the process. On his extra turn, Olof plays a Tetravus. Any damage and I win, but I do draw a factory. I’m on 7, with two serendibs, facing down Tetravus, a factory, and some cards in Olof’s hand. I have to attack. The next turn, Olof can just make tokens to block with, otherwise, and wait for the dibs to kill me together with the backswing if I do attack then. So I do. One dib dies, Olof going to 1.Actually, now I see I’m just dead here: Olof can attack with factory and tetravus, strip mining my factory, getting in for 6, then me dying to the dib in my upkeep. But instead, Olof just attacks with the Tetravus and casts an Abyss. I get another draw step for a bolt, but I do get a mox. On second retrospect, I was dead on board when I attacked with the serendibs into the tetravus, or rather, when I played that factory instead of bluffing removal (which is impossible as every removal would have killed him there, I think). So the correct play from my part should have been to keep the serendibs back and trying to draw into 4 damage, a tall task as Olof would then likely build tokens in his upkeep, putting his number of blockers at 4. I would have had one draw step to get something like a draw-7 or Ancestral before his attacks and my dibs killed me. But it still would have been correct not to attack there.

Time to be on the play. Olof takes a mulligan. I keep. No Vise, but Island into Ancestral in Olof’s upkeep. Olof has land, two moxen, Sol Ring and a book. Good thing I didn’t have a Vise hand here, huh. But it’s my time to play some power. On the second turn, I play emerald, factory, sol ring, time walk, chaos orb. Next turn, I play lotus and shatter the tome, having basically infinite mana, but just attacking for 2 with the factory. Olof plays a Transmute for a Su-Chi, which I promptly Orb and hit. I play another Factory and attack for 3. Olof has no play. I attack for 4 with the factories. Same next turn. Olof is at 6. Hitting his 6th land (a second City), Olof still has no play. That seals it. He must have been heavily flooded here.

Okay. On the draw, my Vises are so much less effective. We both keep, but I dearly wish I was had been on the play. Olof plays factory, ruby. I play island, jet, sapphire, 2 vise. Getting in for 2 damage is alright, I guess, but it would have been 6 on the play. Oh well. Olof just plays another factory and attacks for 3. Okay, that means I get in another 2 damage. I don’t have another play and just pass. However, I have a Hurkyl’s Recall in hand.

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And Olof bites. He plays a third factory, attacking with the other two. I for some reason play Hurkyl in the combat phase, effectively trading 4 life for 2 damage as Olof can replay his Ruby, which is horrible. But, as it turns out, still quite good. Next turn, I Orb Olof’s remaining Factory. Olof finally plays a book, but the Vises take it down, about four damage a turn. I have a REB and a wheel in hand, never drawing red mana, but that doesn’t matter. Vise + Hurkyl against the artifact deck is too strong. 500 SEK in bar credit is mine, and I buy beer for everyone and some snacks for my non-oldschool-playing friend who arrived late, waiting for me to finish so we could check into our hotel.

Conclusions? This is close to the best Atog deck in the Swedish format, I think. With 4 Strip Mines, it’s better to minimize the splashes, but in Swedish, Serendib is almost too strong not to play. I really like this list if I want to play aggro and will likely run it back with minimal changes at some point in the future. It also felt great to finally win a tournament in the format after something like 9 top 8s (or top 4s) in total, even though it was only 10 players. Good times were had. Thanks to everybody who attended and especially to Åland and GGBar for organizing and hosting.

Total Recall

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Recall has been unrestricted in the Swedish format for a couple of months now, but there haven’t been many tournament results or even published decklists sporting multiple copies yet. I’m mostly aware of this Instagram post by Danny Friedman and my own report from the Boat. Even missing much data, I think there’s some merit to discussion the correct number of copies of the card in various decks. Specifically, I think a lot of decks used to run Recall since it was on the restricted list, and since it’s there, it should be played, right? And now, you have to instead justify why you want exactly 1, why not 2, or 0? So let’s look at why you would want Recall and why you would not.

  • Recall is good when you have powerful cards to return. The more restricted cards you play, the better Recall gets. Specifically, running Wheel of Fortune and the black cards is important here.
  • Recall is only good when you have access to a lot of mana. Unless you regularly want to spend 5 mana on a sorcery, it’s not so good, and you want to be able to play it for 7 sometimes as well. This makes it better in Fellwar- or Mana Vault-powered lists, and way worse in low-curve aggro decks.
  • Recall is only good when you have cards to discard. It’s better with Howling Mines or Jayemdae Tomes or Land Taxes, and worse in aggro or midrange decks where every card is useful. It’s also better when you play many situational cards, so better in Swords to Plowshares or Abyss decks than Lightning Bolt decks.
  • Recall is particularly good when acting as a win condition in very slow decks, allowing you for more copies of single cards than would otherwise be possible. Most The Deck lists only run the 5 hard counters (the 1 Mana Drain and 4 actual Counterspells) but with a late-game Recall, you can get complete control by returning three more in exchange for lands, often sealing the deal.

So where does this leave us? Recall is definitely good in slow control decks like The Deck. I could even see the correct number be somewhere between 1 and 2 copies, so experimenting with 2 certainly has some merit. However, it is a very bad draw early in the game, and I frequently board it out against red decks anyway (because it’s so bad to play expensive blue spells against Red Elemental Blasts), so for now, at least, I’m sticking to the one copy in my lists. It might also be good in Troll Disco as you have cards like Lightning Bolts against control to discard, a lot of mana, and a lot of restricted cards, often including Wheel of Fortune. The new wave of Land Tax/Ivory Tower decks could also potentially use more than one copy, but that is mostly a thing in EC at this point.

Recursing-based combo decks, like the above-mentioned Twiddlevault lists or Fork Recursion combo, obviously want more than one Recall. In Twiddlevault, I am unsure whether you want 2 or 3, leaning towards the former. Other combo decks, like Powerball, Mirrorball, or Dreams, might benefit from 2 copies, but that is not really a high priority and likely won’t make the cut. In Reanimator, Recall has the additional benefit of being a discard outlet, but Reanimator sucks in 93/94. If there was a format with Recall unrestricted and Fallen Empires legal, maybe?

Then there are decks which should consider cutting Recall altogether, now that it’s less of a given as it’s not restricted anymore. (And should obviously have done so years ago, too, then.) I’m thinking of the old UR Serendib Efreet/Flying Men/8 bolt deck. It doesn’t run too much mana or card draw, so I can imagine cutting Recall here. In general, if you do fair things, you might not want any Recalls at all.

But then again, who wants to do fair things anyway. Right?

(And finally, please tell me if I missed something or if I’m just plain wrong in any respect. There might definitely be decks I haven’t thought of which should play more or less Recalls than currently is the case.)