Nobody writes tournament reports anymore. Not in the old style, with tales of travelling, mishaps, playtesting, anecdotes, props and slops. And especially not of old school tournaments. I can’t guarantee all of the above, but I’ll take a stab at most. I’ll probably fail.
However, when this tournament started, I still had no plans to write a report, no matter how I finished. I hadn’t got the idea of starting this blog, besides some vague plans for writing more about Magic that I’ve entertained for the last several years. Thus, I took no notes at all, and very few photos, and as I’m old as fuck and my memory is growing bad, lots of details are lost. I won’t let that stop me, but keep in mind that some events (especially when it comes to details of gameplay, or names) might not be quite accurately described.
Anyway. Let’s go.
I play far too little old school magic. In the city of Linköping, where I live, nobody but me is even remotely interested in the format. Almost nobody plays Vintage, and what’s worse, there’s hardly more than one magic player in town I ever have a beer with. So when I heard about Ivory Cup 2, the second installment of a yearly tournament in Stockholm, being held in early June, I know I had to try to go. Stockholm is a bit less than two hours away by train; too much for regular pub play, but easy enough for a larger tournament, also certainly the closest of any serious accessible games. The event was also run by the excellent Gordon Andersson, of Wak-Wak fame, and was bound to attract most of the Stockholm crew along with some notable out-of-towners like Mg, Kalle and a small Arvika contingent.
My first thought was trying to stay at my good friend Olle’s place, maybe hanging out with him and his wife the day before and/or the day after the tournament. He used to live in Linköping and we get to see each other far too rarely these days. However, it turned out that he was bound to be at some kind of family gathering at Linköping that day, but I could borrow his flat anyway. I had done likewise last summer, during Grand Prix Stockholm. So I meet him at the train station in Linköping on Friday night and get the key, and all is set. The flat is even just a couple of stops on the subway away from the site.
Then there’s the question of what to play. Oh, who am I kidding? Of course I’m playing The Deck. This pile, to be more specific:
After N00bCon, I figured I wanted something more against all the midrange decks there, stuff like Serras, Serendibs, and Juzams. I wanted Abyss again; I had a Moat then, but I rarely wanted to bring it in. I also figured that a maindeck Amnesia could be quite strong; it’s only really bad against REB and fast decks, and with no more basic Plains in the deck, I could probably get the UUU cost to work. The Sylvan was for some extra cheap threat in the mirror. Did it work? Read and find out!
So I boarded a train at 8:39 the morning of June 11th. It appears to be summer. Consequently, I had to batter through a light rain to get to the station. Once in Stockholm, I checked out the used book store next door to where August Strindberg spent his last years in life, which turned out to be very bad, before catching a metro train to the site. I got there just before noon, the tournament starting at 13, so first I grabbed lunch at the combined pizza and Indian food place nearby. I was the only customer but their channa masala was fine (and to be fair, they had opened ten minutes earlier, and it was Saturday, so it could hardly be expected to be busy). While eating outside, the rain having stopped long ago and the day turning out to be quite pleasantly warm, I saw a guy wearing a white shirt with a tie crossing the road a few blocks down, heading in what I figured was the direction of the site. It certainly looked a lot like Gordon.
Shortly thereafter, I went that way myself. And lo and behold, outside a building, I saw a number of familiar faces, some smoking, some holding cans of beer, sitting or standing around a bench: Mg, his girlfriend Øyann, Kalle, and some other people. I stop and chat for a while. Magnus says he enjoys an article I wrote for his blog, submitted just the day before, which makes me happy. We talk about the old rumors of an alpha volcanic and other oddities a bit. Then I head inside. There, after climbing half a flight of stairs, I find a bit of a crowd. The tournament would start soon, mostly everybody is here already. I register and get my complimentary beer for having paid in advance (a Brewdog Punk IPA, a pretty good run-of-the-mill IPA as far as I’m concerned). I find some people I should lend cards to, relieving myself of three moxes, a sylvan and a timetwister. I’ve been borrowing cards so many times before in my career, it feels good to be able to give something back, working on that karma for a bit.
Then Gordon gathers everyone, announcing the structure of the tournament (6 rounds of swiss followed by a top 8, no IDs), of the beer system (buying tickets with 10 stamps for 100 kr, then different beers costing different amounts of stamps, leading to myself having a couple of unused stamps at the end of the night; but sponsoring the tournament felt fine at that point, as we shall see), that we’re ordering pizza before the t8, and that there’s a legends single lottery for which everybody got one slot. A few happy people got a Sol’kanar, a Mirror Universe or some other rare I don’t remember. Me, I got an Untamed Wilds, preferring to save my luck for later; it was also oddly fitting as my just-submitted article to Mg’s blog concerned among other things the use of said card in The Deck, and I didn’t even own a single copy of it before.
And we’re off. Cramped seats, hard-to-read pairings, and an ocean of N00bCon playmats. It felt like home. Here, though, things start getting a bit murky. A month has passed, almost, and I did not take any notes at the tournament, just some brief sketches a week later. Details of gameplay are a bit fuzzy.
Nevertheless, the first round I’m paired against UR burn, a matchup I haven’t really faced enough. Probably the hardest matchup for the deck as well, possibly (as Randy Buehler claims) excluding the mirror. I faced it only once at N00bCon this year, and then we didn’t even play it out because Olle needed to go home and get some sleep before doing coverage for fake Nationals the next day. The first game, I take a bunch of damage, keeping the creatures mostly at bay, then narrowly stabilizing after drawing a huge amount of cards with a tome. Possibly involving plowing my own mishra, which for some reason always makes me feel good. The second game, he plays first turn volcanic, sapphire, jet, blood moon. My hand is something like a counterspell, a disenchant, an off-color mox and lands, so I can’t cast anything. I proceed never to do anything at all, flooding badly, not even losing to the blood moon, as my draw just did nothing. Still, I’m prepared to lose to that start; that’s a gamble I gladly take. For the third game, my opponent keeps, reluctantly; I think I mulligan. He shows his hand to his neighbor, not looking very happy. The other guy does something to the extent of rolling his eyes. I’m prepared for first turn wheel or something equally high variance. Instead, he plays lotus, serendib, go. A risky keep against The Deck postboard if I ever saw one. My only piece of removal is a Chaos Orb that I’d love to use once he draws a land, though, but I can just kill that serendib and take the game, right? Wrong. It turns out I miss the flip, the first missed flip in my five 93/94 tournaments. I blame a combination of the beer and it being the first round of the day. Okay … but he still doesn’t draw any lands. And I have two mishras. Let’s see what happens here! It’s a very tight race. He eventually get some islands, but doesn’t cast much; I counterspell a flying men. He attacks, so I attack; in the end, he dies exactly on the point, including me plowing one of my mishras to stay alive. Punishing that keep felt good, but I was still kind of mad at myself for failing the flip, breaking my previously perfect flipping record. Oh well. Just moving on.
The next round, I face Mällroth for the first time ever. The man was the head DCI rep in Sweden for a long time, but those were the years I didn’t play many tournaments, so we never got to interact then. Now I mostly know he wears a kilt, plays the flute and organizes 93/94 in Karlstad. It turns out he’s also very good at trouncing The Deck players with his Lestree Zoo list. I start with a Library on the play; he has a first-turn Sylvan, as well as a Library of his own soon enough. He plays an Argothian Pixies that starts dealing some damage while I first get rid of his Library, then much later the Sylvan, but the damage had been done. My removal lines up poorly with his threats, forcing me to plow his mishras, then drawing dead disenchants against his pixies and apes. The second game, I stabilize on 5 life to his 3 lands, no creatures, 2 cards. Those cards are both bolts. At some point, I get my Lotus shattered, not having any expensive spells in hand but then later drawing into an Abyss I can’t cast on time. Still think it was right to play it, though, against a potential Timetwister or Wheel. The matchup could really use a City in a Bottle, a card I cut from the list I used at N00bCon. As well as more lifegain, possibly even in the main deck. Preparing for The Deck mirrors with two maindeck Stone Rains might have been a bad idea.
Oh well. My beer is done at this point so I get another one. Nothing too heavy, though. The plan here is to win, not primarily to drink. At least not yet. I settled for another Punk IPA as the session IPA they used to have was already sold out. Not alone in craving lighter beers, obviously. Much later, I believe I get a third one, but I don’t recall what kind, unfortunately.
I was distinctly disappointed in my lack of brokenness so far. At N00bCon, I had had several turn 1 mind twists or balances. Here, I had had a Mind Twist in hand against Mällroth, never getting the time to cast it. That was about to change. The next round, I face another URG aggro deck, but this time with Giant Growths and Berserks. That is obviously a much better matchup for me. It helps that I start with a couple of moxes and a Fellwar Stone, leading into a turn 3 Amnesia for four or five cards. None of the games are close. I move on to 2-1, a somewhat respectable record.
Between rounds, people tend to gather outside, smoking, drinking, enjoying the weather, usually occupying some chairs which turn out to belong to some kind of social enterprise next door. I don’t smoke but I always prefer catching some non-magic tournament air. At one of these times, I meet Micke Thai. We share records, both being either 1-1 or 2-1 at that point, I think. What are you running, I ask. I’m playing your deck, he says. Really? Yeah. It turns out he’s on the exact The Deck list I played to the quarterfinals at N00bCon this year, having only changed a few cards in the sideboard. I think my current list is superior, but the old version has some merit, and it’s certainly a lot better against Blood Moon, sporting a total of three basic lands to my none. It always makes me happy to have another horse in the race, so to speak, and discussing The Deck is always good times. Micke is also a fun guy to hang out with.
Next round, I have the somewhat mixed pleasure of playing against Mg, Magnus De Laval, the man, the myth, the legend. It’s great because Mg is a great guy, one of my all-time favorite magic players, which I get to interact with far too seldom. It’s good because I have never lost to him (having played twice in the unofficial Swedish Vintage nationals 2015, including in the finals, as well as in last year’s N00bCon, my decks tending to have an advantage against the midrange builds he usually prefers). But it’s bad because it would suck to knock a good guy out of contention, and one of us will leave this round at a less than stellar 2-2 record. Magnus is also a very good player, so even if I’ve won in the past and might have a decklist advantage, any match will be hard fought.
Magnus is on his signature deck, Project M, built around a bunch of midrange blue and black cards, like Guardian Beast and Vesuvan Doppleganger, power cards, artifacts, and a small red splash. It’s a sweet pile with a number of different interactions and angles of attack. It’s also quite weak against The Deck which can use its removal to get ahead on mana, trading swords for guardian beasts and disenchants for disks or icys (especially if they’re transmuted out), all the while getting ahead on books as UB isn’t the best color combination for removing artifacts. However, what the games were really about was me getting ahead in the power card war. Things like time twistering into lotus + mind twist, just mind twisting and amnesiaing entire hands, and so on. It was not the most fun I’d ever had. Especially not after the last exchange the second game, when Mg has sweet tech like Steal Artifact but I have red blasts, and one mind twist too much leaves him just fed up so he concedes. I felt kind of bad. Casual play is not really my thing, to say the least; if it’s not about winning, I have a hard time caring. Which is a bit odd, considering I’m a huge fan of RPGs where nobody really wins. But anyway. I never ever feel bad about winning. I’ve beaten small children, disabled people, unlucky people, people being far better players than me. But here, I came close. Magnus leaves, telling me he can’t take anymore, going outside for some fresh air. I go get another beer.
Mg returns later, having cooled off, no longer feeling as bad. That helps a bit. We chat a bit about pre-alpha playtest cards and things feel okay. Looking at the store’s inventory, I see some Power Artifacts for about 50 euros. Damn. I sold three copies for 22 a year ago, and I miss them. Some day now, it’s time to start getting the cards for some other deck, and Power Monolith combo is on the short list.
The next round, however, brings another disappointment: I face Micke Thai, probably the only other player running The Deck at the tournament. His only loss is also against Mällroth. And we finish our match in 14 minutes total. That must be some kind of record. In the first game, I believe he stone rains me down to 1 mana source, ancestrals and develops a tome, to which I concede. In the second game, he has two mishras where I draw nothing but counterspells. I die with a hand of 3 counterspells and a mana drain and at least 5 mana, but no removal for the mishras. Oh well. The mirror is what it is, possibly the worst matchup (depending on how confident you really are that The Deck is the best deck in the format by far), and sometimes it can be quite one-sided. 3-2 now, though, which should mean game over. Still one match to go, which I will obviously play out, but it looks grim.
The last round, I face a BRu aggro deck, with erg raiders, underworld dreams, I belive sedge trolls, bolts and blue power cards. The interesting game is I think the second one (I probably win the first one with removal into a book). He plays a midgame blood moon, to which I draw a card with a book. I was considering letting it resolve, having a counterspell, but him hitting me with a mishra I had no answer for. The only problem is me having an Abyss in hand with no black mana once the bloon moon resolves. So when I draw the Mox Jet on the book, I let the moon resolve. I play the abyss, then later I draw into Mox Pearl. In the meantime, he has played another Blood Moon, but he’s not dealing any real damage to me, me getting a CoP: Black out at some point, counteracting his Underworld Dreams. The books do their thing, and I eventually disenchant one copy of the enchantment, then orb or blast the second one, winning on the back of the tome and a bunch of counterspells.
Pizzas are delivered, and then it’s time for the top 8 annoncement. Gordon does it in style, first calling out some prizes for 9th place. And the rag man for last place. Interestingly enough, there’s a tie for that. It turns into a battle for last place, getting a bit more spicy as a N00bCon slot is awarded to the winner! A somewhat excellent idea, even though I’m a bit jealous, lacking a slot for next year and very likely not getting one, missing even a real community to play in unless I start travelling more to the Stockholm events (there’s not even any more sharks awarded before next spring). Anyway. Micke Thai is 5-1, I believe, and thus locked. I tried to do some math, something I should be okay at, meaning something like 2 or 3 out of 6 4-2’s could make top 8. When I’m not in 9th place, or even in 10th (as the 9th place prize got knocked down to 10th, because the 9th place finisher was Gordon’s co-organizer, Paddan), I get my hopes up a bit. Then Gordon announces that there’s a special prize for the top 8, besides the winner getting an Ivory Cup and the runner-up getting if I remember correctly a bagged Duelist life counter: it’s a Black Lotus playmat randomly awarded to someone in the t8, in order to not to make it too much about winning. It’s worth about $200 or so, he tells us, for some reason I fail to comprehend. Gordon is rolling a die. The playmat is awarded to … Svante Landgraf. Wow. Not only do I know I got into the top 8, I even got the best price without having played another game. It turns out Per, who got 7th or 6th place, had already left, needing to get home to Uppsala in time, so one other player was awarded a top 8 spot, meaning I really got 7th and not 8th, giving me a bit of breathing room. Still, it felt great. I even needed some old school playmat, only having this year’s N00bcon playmat when it comes to that.
Maybe that makes me not want to win my quarterfinals enough. I don’t know. If Per’s absence had bumped me up to 7th place, I would have faced the #2 ranked player, Andreas Cermak, who is on some kind of insane streak and whom I had never played. Instead, I stay at 8th, Paddan, who took Per’s place, got 7th, and I’m facing Jonas Lefvert. Now, after having all our decks photographed and the top 8 starting, being bad at both names and faces, I ask Jonas if he’s played a long time, somewhat recognizing his name. He tells me we played in the top 8 of an Odyssey block PTQ in Uppsala back in the days. I remember that tournament; I played UG threshold/madness with Grizzly Fate and Catalyst Stone, losing to Johan Sadeghpour on madness (I think) in the semis, and apparently I demolished Jonas in the quarterfinals. Let’s hope for a repeat here, just fifteen years later. Sadly, that was not to come. Jonas is on Atog Aggro, red with bolts and Su-Chi, I believe splashing blue and black just for power cards, not at all the usual UR aggro style. The first game I don’t remember much of, but I lose somehow. The second one, I keep strip mine, tundra, 2 fellwars. I play a land. He plays land, mox, sol ring, chaos orb, orb my land. I never draw another mana source.
That happens, I suppose.
The rest of the top 8 is Micke Thai on The Deck, Cermak on his signature white zoo, Lefvert with the abovementioned Atog Aggro, Kalle on big URg aggro/midrange, Paddan on a WB deck splashing Erhnams and some red cards, Mällroth on Lestree zoo, and probably a straight deadguy (WB) deck (this will get clarified once the top 8 decks are posted on www.wak-wak.se). I play a casual match against Cermak, who also lost his quarterfinals, me losing 0-2 after having declined his offer for ante, explaining that I’m not really a gambler; for me, ante is -EV, as losing would hurt more than winning would help. Argothian Pixies is a hell of a card, that’s for sure.
I round up my things, get to cheer a bit for Micke in the semis but he loses to Paddan playing the BWrg deck. I don’t understand anything. (It turns out Kalle managed to defeat that deck in the finals later. Congrats!) Then I follow Seb, Micke and some other good guys from the Stockholm crowd out in the light summer night drizzle, catching the metro for just a few short stops before getting off, heading towards my friend’s apartment and some much-needed sleep. The next day I spend buying books, among those Titus Chalk’s excellent Generation Decks about the history of Magic, visiting an art exhibition, grabbing some food and a beer before hitting the train back home. Summer had just begun. Life was good.
So what about the deck I played? Amnesia wasn’t really good enough. UUU is restrictive, and as planned, you need to board it out against anything with red blasts. Life gain would be good. It’s probably time to listen to the Stockholm guys (Berlin and Seb) and add some Ivory Towers back in. I like Abyss over Moat and extra Serras, though, and basic lands aren’t very important. If you play in a casual environment (one where you don’t really need to beat the mirror), one Stone Rain main is enough. So, I’d cut the Amnesia for a maindeck Mirror, in the board cutting the mirror, the cop:red and the sylvan for two Ivory Towers and a City in a Bottle. You don’t need too much sideboard cards for the mirror anyway. Getting early green for the Sylvan is too hard, and you pretty much board out good cards anyway, at least as long as you’re not positive they don’t have Serras, and even then you have enough cards to take out, you just have to keep in some more big blue stuff, or board in a blue blast or two. Beating URx is more important by far.
That’s it. Thanks for reading. Please comment, share, like, scream random profanities at the world, buy me a beer, or just drink a good one yourself. Take care, see you around.
Gordon, for arranging an awesome tournament, and for that Rag Man match.
The Deck, for being love and life. You know, end of turn, draw a card.
Mg, for confirming my status as his nemesis (and of course creating the format), giving me another reason to carry on.
Brewdog Bar, for being all out of Omnipollo Tjockis IIPA when I got there on Sunday afternoon just before catching my train.
Myself, for failing to take notes and pictures, making this report a bit more fictional in places that it really ought to have been.
Myself, for needing a month to write a tournament report. Boy, get your shit together.
Myself, for failing that orb flip. Just unacceptable.