Editor’s note: Today we have a guest report by my friend Will M, with whom I teamed up for the Mobstercon tournament. I might say something about the format later, but probably not. In the meantime, feel free to take a look at my instagram @svantelandgraf if you want to follow my travels. /Svante
I absolutely loved the team dynamic having never played in a true Team Unified tournament. Before the event, Svante and I spent an ungodly amount of time bickering like an old married couple over what to play before settling on Arabian Aggro, The Deck, and Mono Black Distress. We gave my friend Mark of 2011 Vintage World Championships fame Arabian Aggro which was built with a low curve and tons of burn. We figured this would be the best deck for someone who had never played Old School before but was a good Magic player as it plays lots of guys and burns hard. Plenty of decisions, but your game plan is linear which is good for someone with minimal experience. Svante ended up playing The Deck with most of our power rather typically because he always tells me “That deck cannot beat the Deck”. All I have to say to that is “scoreboard”. I played the following Mono Black Distress deck which I am trying to coin “Ebony and Ivory”.
Origins for this build are Svante suggesting a first list that I really disliked and then me reading up on MG’s escapades with this deck in Swedish and deciding to play Ivory Tower and Greed. Ivory Tower was the MVP for me without a shadow of a doubt. Amazing how many games you go Swamp Tower, gain 1 pass, gain 2 pass, gain 3 pass, gain 3 play a swamp pass and win. We designed this deck to beat the hell out of aggressive decks, take forever to win (usually) and generally make things miserable for my opponents which is always my number 1 goal of playing.
Naturally, I almost audibled off of the deck as I per usual played very few actual games with it and really started wondering if we were making a huge punt by not running Hymn, Hyppie, Juzam, and The Rack. Thursday night I was semi-close to audibling and made sure to pack up all the cards to play it should I decide to make the switch. Mano told me that spice should be my tiebreaker so I went with my heart and played what could be a 0-6 or a 6-0 deck and ended up somewhere in between, but more on that later.
Two months ago I booked a suite which had two individual bedrooms and a pull out bed at a hotel 15 minutes from the venue because my girlfriend, Veronica, and Mark’s wife, Erica, were coming with us and then going to New York City to see a Broadway musical and neither of them had any interest in staying at the E Hotel. Not really sure why though…
Friday was among the slowest days of my life, I spent so much time wishing it was time for me to get out of the office to run my errands before hitting the road for Edison. After a bit of drama with some missed turns, a U-turn that was basically a dirt path on the side of the highway we made it to Somerset and got into the hotel room. Mark promptly booted up MTGO and proceeded to scream and yell at his computer like a small child while the ladies discussed more civilized things and I made some finishing touches on our decks. Svante was supposed to be staying with us and the hype/gossip between Veronica and Erica was palpable. I’m not sure why, but I figured Svante would show up at 10 or so which is when we arrived, but alas, no. He showed up at 1am, well after Veronica and Erica had gone to bed and apparently we yelled pretty much nonstop for the next hour and a half according to them.
In our defense, we had to figure out who was sitting where. Ultimately we opted to put me in the middle because I was the most unsure about how to play my deck because it was brand new and this way I could solicit help from everybody. This ended up being far more important anecdotally than I would have imagined as something like 7 of the teams had Mono Black Rack in the C seat. The other mission critical thing was figuring out what to do because Mark somehow lost his Ruff Ryders t-shirt … He bought a “Yo MTV Raps” shirt, but it’s no Ruff Ryders shirt and I went to bed a bit uneasy at the prospect of having weak team swag. Another key piece of team swag was the dice which I had procured in Japan which depict various sex positions. I told both Mark and Svante that if they wanted to use different dice to see who goes first they could play their own cards (since they were borrowing mine). They reluctantly agreed. [Editor’s note: I don’t recall any reluctance here.]
Fast forward 7 hours and I’m in the shower enjoying a beer and the lightbulb goes off in my head to go shirtless with my Camo vest and an R on my chest. I hop out of the shower and get Svante to work practicing Rs on the back of some work papers I have so he can draw it on me. Just as he’s complaining that he doesn’t think he can, Mark emerges from the shower and I throw down the gauntlet. Same as Svante, he bitches out. I curse a bit, then put on my Ruff Ryders shirt and use the cap of my sharpie to trace the letters on my chest, take the shirt off and just do it live. Turns out better than expected, I put on another t-shirt, give Mark my Ruff Ryders shirt and Mark orders an Uber.
Mark tells us that the Uber will be here in 5 minutes which apparently is 30 seconds in Will time as before I know it I am running out the door and clamoring to put the “No Maid Service” sign on the door as Mark left his laptop right out on the table. Naturally, when Veronica and Erica got back they were furious that the maids hadn’t come and I got an earful, but which would you rather have, a freshly made bed and new towels or a laptop? Apparently not everybody would split that the same way as I would …
Our Uber driver is possibly the most “New Jersey” woman I have ever met. Within a few minutes of our Uber ride she shows us a really nice honking/middle finger combo where you use your elbow to hit the horn and flip a middle finger simultaneously which I promise to use. As we pull up to the venue our driver realizes that this is also the location of the Polo Lounge “That’s where all the hookers hang out”. I told her this seems like a perfect place for an Old School event, thank her for the ride and head into the room where it all happened.
I shake hands, kiss babies, and mentally prepare myself and my teammates to go to battle. Before the event starts I see Adam M and he asks me to autograph his Hero card bearing my likeness in black sharpie and I ask if I can use gold. He tells me he really wants to get a complete set in black and I pull a power move and tell him I’m either signing in gold or I’m not signing at all. After a lot of audible sighing Adam agrees and I sign using my gold Sharpie. Sorry Adam! I double check with Mano that I am allowed to take my shirt off and he says that I can only do it after I’ve had 3 drinks.
Mano announces the round 1 pairings and what do you know, we get to play against The Wizards of Mano Parke… No big deal, just playing against Jon Finkel, Bryan Manolakos, and Jamie Parke. I guess it’s go time. For the record, on Friday night I insisted that Mano was going to be the middle seat and lo and behold, that’s who I played against in Round 1. Story of this game is mulligans and Hymn to Tourach. I mulligan to 6 all 3 games, win the first one on the back of Tower and a well-timed winter Orb. Game 2 I get rolled and Game 3 I mulligan to 6 and keep a decent hand which is matched by Turns 2 and 3 Hymn from Mano. I end up dying with 4 cards in hand and 2 Ivory Towers which do nothing because I had to discard 4 cards. Mark loses a close-ish 3 game set to Finkel who opened with Library in the two games he won and Svante stopped before game 3 against Jamie because we’d already lost 0-2.
We dust ourselves off, get some beers and before we know it we’re playing Round 2 against I think the New York Kird Apes featuring John who I was playing against. While shuffling up for game 1 Svante sees Power Artifact and Basalt Monolith and whispers in my ear, “He’s playing Powerball, you’re fucked”. Naturally I open a hand of Factory, Swamp, Ritual, Ritual, Tetravus and ride a turn 2 Tetravus to the win. In Game 2 I open with a quick Underworld Dreams and John proceeds to discard a Wheel and Timetwister to hand size dying a slow and painful death where he didn’t see a Basalt Monolith in 20 or so cards. So much for a bad matchup! This win basically convinces Svante that his assumption that Powerball sucks is sadly true. John was playing fully powered but just couldn’t get it done against an Underworld Dreams. Mark and Svante both won their matches as well which is a pretty awesome feeling and just like that we’re back to 1-1.
Round 3 we play against Don’s Goblins Raiders and I play against Ian. I know Don aka Dom Perignon and Ben, but had not met Ian before. He’s on U/R Counterburn and the turning point of our first game is the Bottle which I land and accentuate by improving on the “bird honk” by doing it with both arms to form a DMX “X” and flipping him off with both hands. This move practically causes him to scoop on the spot. Game 2 Ian answers my Ivory Tower with Energy Flux but I am able to fight through his defenses and get a win. Unfortunately, our team falls after Mark and Svante succumb to Don and Ben bringing us to 1-2.
Our saving grace at this point is the lunch break. Mark is done his match first and I tell him to go to Harold’s to get us some pastrami for the lunch break. I’ve never had a pastrami sandwich before as for the last 6 or so years I’ve had a beef sensitivity which I recently kicked by micro-dosing on Lebanon Bologna which has sparked a beef renaissance for me featuring In-N-Out, a Filet Mignon, Shake Shack, and now per Mano Harold’s is tier 1.5 pastrami. I’ve obviously never had Katz’s but this supposedly is not as good as that, but is quite good. [Editor’s note: I had Katz’s yesterday and am now convinced Harold’s is ahead at the pastrami game.] I definitely give it high marks as it completely hit the spot.
Post lunchbreak I sit down to play against Mike’s team whose name I completely forget. Mike’s on White Weenie and I was in a commanding position and then I *gulp* missed an Orb flip… I realized I need to turn the tide in this match so it naturally was the moment where I decided it was time to take my shirt off what do you know, I ended up winning. I don’t usually miss Orb flips, while in Sweden for n00bcon I made all 167 Orb flips I attempted. Too bad that doesn’t count for anything when you go to flip in a tournament. This was another matchup where Svante and Mark both won already by the time I did which is always nice as you have no pressure.
Round 5 I play against Tom and his team whose name I again forget. He is playing powered DibAtog and I lose to a turn 1 Black Lotus into Ankh and Vise, a play I’m all too familiar with. I realize that I basically can’t beat this without getting and keeping around 2 Ivory Tower which I don’t have. Second game is more of the same and I predictably lose quickly, though Tom notably elects to find Timetwister instead of Psionic Blast with me at 4 which I stupidly call out before he plays what he gets. He acknowledges this was a punt and then draws straight fire and roasts me like a pig naturally. Svante succumbs to an Order of the Ebon Hand in his 3rd or 4th matchup of the day against Mono Black dropping us to 2-3. We need to get a win to end with some dignity at 3-3.
Final Round of the day I sit down to play against Robert Westergaard III aka BW3. I proceed to lose the die roll, mulligan to 5, and …. win the game at 60 life! Naturally Mark and Svante have already won by the time we finish Game 1 because I mulled to 5 and used Ivory Tower to gain life. This game had a LOT of action; I set up an early lock with 3 Maze and a Tabernacle in play until BW3 Geddoned, then Geddoned again, and then Balanced me in addition to playing 3 Disenchants. At one point I had the sick combo of two Ivory Towers and a Greed in play. Eventually I got an Underworld Dreams in play and Bob’s life total dropped from 20 to 19 to 18 etc. down to 0 while mine increased up to 60. This was an amazing game to end the day with, Ivory Tower is a hell of a card.
The awards ceremony was a pleasant surprise as we got rewarded for our relative spiciness with 3rd place Team spice because “This was not a spicy room”. Riding high from this victory I decide to splurge and join the Tempest Stronghold Exodus draft because I figure I’ll never do this again. This was a big mistake in hindsight as I don’t like drafting, have no nostalgia for this time period, know no cards, and am practically brain dead from playing the card Ivory Tower for the first time in my life today. I kind of got screwed in hindsight too by opening a Capsize which I had to take, but pot committed me into a difficult deck, especially for someone who played virtually no buyback. Aside from that though I had a wonderful time, my opponents were both amazing and I did get to cast Capsize… WITH THE BUYBACK!
As the draft was ending the hotel staff told Mano to GTFO, we tried to go to the Polo Lounge to see what that was about but it was closing so we instead shot the shit in the lobby before getting an Uber back to our hotel.
Woke up, ate breakfast, went for a walk, got packed up, and headed over to Mano’s for a BBQ. On the way we stopped at a garage sale which had a bike which looked promising but was rusted out and had destroyed tires because mise. Mano crushed the BBQ food game and then everybody just hung out, swam, played a hackeysack-esque game with a very bouncy volleyball and caught up. Highlights of this were LePine showing us an unforgettable photograph as well as Veronica telling LePine that he had 1 minute to finish his story because, “I’m not paying the LePine tax”. Finally, it’s time to go, we say our goodbyes and away we go back to the greater Philadelphia area. 10 minutes into the ride I realize somehow that I have Svante’s bags in my car, pull a questionable U-turn and drop them off before heading home for real now.
Mobstercon was one for the books. I cannot begin to thank the Mano family especially Janine, Jenna, Paige, Will, and Tessa enough for all the hard work they put into this. The cookies Janine baked were straight fire and having the kids go around selling them all day was amazing, a delicious treat was just an arm raise away.
Unsure when the next time I play Team Unified is, but I’m looking forward to it regardless. Mark told me that this was one of his favorite Magic tournament memories despite our finish and I couldn’t help but agree more. Teams adds another level of comradery and fun to Old School that adds more complexity which if you ask me is always a plus.