A bit over a week ago, Stockholm in a Bottle organized the fourth annual Magic Island Tour: King of the Archipelago. This year, I was a small part of the organizing group, but the absolute majority of the workload was done by Elias Gröndal. He handled everything concerning logistics or economy, whereas I just gave some input on tournament formats and schedule.
The trip started on Friday, meeting up with the guys for late lunch and beers at a bar by Kungsträdgården.
Or rather, for me, a bit earlier, first a train ride from Linköping, then buying another kind of mosquito repellent on my way from the central station. It turned out to be a good idea.
After gathering up the people and meeting the rest by the boat in the strong wind and blazing sunshine, we board and start slinging spells. The format for the day was Hajjaj Highlander, and the structure of the tournament was a number of rounds on the boat, then a few more after having eaten dinner once we’ve checked in on the island, cutting to a top 4. This introduced our doubloon system: everybody got a stack of 10 gold coins, we played most matches for doubloon ante (with varying amounts, sometimes forcing the one with more to ante more), and doubloons were awarded for several things other than winning games, too. On Friday, the doubloons also determined who got into the top 4. We were planning to do about 4 rounds on the boat, roughly Swiss-style but with pairings like the Wizard’s Tournament, that is you just find somebody with roughly the same record as you and play them. This turned out to become chaos right away, but the good kind of chaos: everybody just played everybody else, got in as many games as they could, and the doubloons flowed freely. Everything was great.
I played the following list:
It has some glaring problems. As soon as I saw Slanfan and Christian play at the bar, I realized I had totally forgotten Karakas, but as I had chosen to play what I owned for the tournament, I chose not to borrow one (and didn’t want to buy or trade for one). More than halfway through the tournament, it dawned on me that I hadn’t drawn City of Brass all day. Was I really playing it? It turned out I had failed in putting it into the deck when building it, despite it being in the list I started with. And Su-Chi wasn’t very good. Mana burn was too relevant when I’m not aggressive. It should just have been a Phantom Monster, likely. Other than that, the deck was fine. Not the best, that honor probably goes to a version of the control deck Emil and Morgan was playing, but fine. I wanted to primarily play some mid-sized creatures, like Juggernaut and Azure Drake, something I rarely do, and it should do the trick.
I then proceed to win all my games on the boat. Two games against Elias, on UWG, including one where I answer his Living Plane by playing a Triskelion and killing most of his mana. Once against Cermak’s UR creation, once against RG, and once against Emil’s five-color control deck, where I managed to Steal Artifact his Jayemdae Tome while he bricked on artifact removal (of which he had about 5).
Then we arrived at the island. The weather was great, everything was still nice and smooth and summery.
Only problem was the beer at the playing area, which was bad and overpriced, sadly. We should have looked into that better in advance, a mistake we won’t do again. The hamburger barbecue was also maybe not the best, but it was alright. Then time for some more rounds. We were all divided into the richer team and the poorer team, where the top three from the rich and the top from the poor advanced. I was among the richer, after Emil and Morgan, who had racked up a number of bonus doubloons by for example having lots of lands in play or winning with huge Fireballs, and also probably having played more games than me, but it looked pretty good anyway. Two more rounds before the cut. First Fredrik, on mono black, which meant that even though he had a Hymn and a Rack, he couldn’t do much once I got the mana to tutor for Guardian Beast with Chaos Orb in play. And then, I faced Christian, on mono blue, playing for likely the third spot in the top 4. My starting hand had 2 Islands and a Sol Ring for mana, along with an Icy and a Copy Artifact. But then Christian Force Spikes my turn 1 Sol Ring! Things slow down, and I eventually have to copy his Sapphire, then eventually Steal Artifact his Sol Ring to get my Icy and Tome online. But he didn’t even play Steal Artifact and couldn’t deal with my artifacts in play. Into the top 4 I was, even in first place, since Emil and Morgan had managed to lose a few games here and there.
In the semis, I play Emil again. And I land a book to which he doesn’t draw any answers, and I just win. I get in some damage, I think first with a Su-Chi he eventually spirit links, then with a factory. The last turn, I attack with the Su-Chi for lethal, spirit link trigger on the stack. Emil didn’t know it worked this way, and neither did Morgan. These guys even have played magic for 20-something years! Get with the times. Lifelink used to work like this, too. I allowed a takeback, of course, and I even had a burn spell for extra lethal did he not have a counter, but it didn’t matter.
Okay. Finally facing Morgan in the finals. I keep a somewhat mana-heavy hand, I think, and then continue drawing mana, while Morgan has a few cards in hand, having answered my threats, but only 6 or so lands. Then he plays a book. I have nothing, him being at 20; I had attacked once, but also he had gained a few life, presumably from a Divine Offering. So, with my 9 mana and empty hand, I just disintegrate him for 8. He shrugs and take it. Next turn, I topdeck the Fireball. Another 8. He still doesn’t counter, but I think he might have it anyway; there’s not much more burn available, and he presumably has removal for other threats. Honestly running out this fireball was probably just a mistake, but I was likely tired and drunk at this point. Somewhat rejected. Morgan draws another card. I topdeck Psionic Blast, and I have a plan: somehow catching him with no mana open, or me drawing a counterspell, an Icy, something to bait with, or anything. So I pass, he draws, I draw demonic, demonic for counterspell, he reads, I psiblast, and he reveals a hand full of Control Magics and Copy Artifacts. Wow.
Then we left, and Slanfan and I spent about an hour building him a copy of my Twiddlevault list for tomorrow, out of some spare cards in my binder. Our list looked like this:
I really do like Tranquility over Boomerang against the black decks, as they might have multiples of Underworld Dreams, Energy Flux, Chains of Mephistopheles and even Nether Void, and you need to kill them all, even if Boomerang is more versatile and provides better tempo. I also like the third Sylvan I put in over the Fork. Other than that, I think the deck is pretty much perfect. Could maybe see the fourth Recall or a Bazaar to further reduce the risk of fizzling, but I don’t really know what to cut; the Fellwar is good with Transmute so I think I want to keep that. Nothing else should be changed, in my opinion. Playing Mirror or Fireball is just incorrect. For more discussion, see my DOS3.5 report.
First of all, there was breakfast. With an okay view.
Then we had a tipspromenad, a classical Swedish “walking quiz”, answering multiple choice questions spread out along a path, leading towards the play area. Made by Björn Jonnie, the theme of the quiz was Magic art. Slanfan and I nailed all of them, I think, except the number of cards created by the most used artist in Alpha, and one of the references to art on the playmat that was the prize for the event.
On to the tournament. In the first round, I played André, on classic UR but with some added Goblin Balloon Brigades. I take some questionable lines and he beats me, just having too much disruption for me, even though I do manage to dodge the Blood Moons. I also fizzle once, somewhat unsurprisingly. I win one game off of a Library.
Round 2, I play Elias, and he’s on a somewhat similar deck to his Highlander deck, based around stealing creatures. Not the best plan against me, and while I lose one game, again due to fizzling, I do broken things in the other two. Like starting out land, lotus, mox, sol ring, 2 howling, time walk, and then playing another time walk on my extra turn.
Round 3, I face Cermak, on some kind of UB build, and game 1, I go off but fizzle, losing to his beatdown afterward. Then game 2, he goes Hymn, Energy Flux, Sinkhole. Can’t really beat that. Kind of dejected at this point, but not really. I wanted more data, and now I have it. The deck isn’t broken, it’s just good, and weak to certain things. Even with the unrestricted Time Vault. Probably not tier 1, but fun.
The last two matches I first face Slanfan in the 75 card mirror, which is pretty much as stupid as it gets. I somehow get the upper hand.
Then Alban Lauter on mono-white midrange. Nothing more needs to be said. Ending on 3-2 isn’t that bad. Slanfan goes 1-4.
Then dinner, which is good albeit insanely slow. After that, top 8, along with random games of all kinds. Some people play an Urza’s block cube, whereas I jam some fun ante games with Jason. I finish up one Jeweled Bird. Interestingly enough, the 40k Ante format is actually good. If you have missed it, it’s normal Swedish rules, including the reprint policy, but for ante and your deck has to be worth at least 40k SEK (roughly 4300 USD). It’s a budget format (really!) and brings a bunch of interesting deckbuilding decisions. I do like it a lot, and look forward to playing it more in the future. It’s also positively mental which is always a plus.
After a short bit of cube action, and watching the finals being started, I call it a night at about 2 am. Slanfan gets in at 5.11 am, drunk and happy. I quickly get back to sleep, waking up at maybe 9, going for a quick swim before breakfast. Then, we all lounge a bit in the sun before the awards ceremony.
It turns out my team might have won the prize for most doubloons, but due to some miscalculations, we didn’t get the prizes. I got a bottle on the boat, but most of my teammates missed that, I believe. We also never did the chaos orb flip-off for the travel award. I guess this will have to be sorted out at some point in the future.
On the boat ride home, we jam some highlander two-headed giant, while some of the other players get in another Urza cube draft. Then we all go separate ways in brilliant sunshine Stockholm.
All in all, it was a wonderful weekend, full of good games and good times. A big thanks to Elias who did the heavy lifting on the organizing, to Slanfan for once again being a highly enjoyable roommate, to Jason for the ante games and the good vibes, to Emil and Morgan for letting me win some Highlander games, and to everybody else in SiaB and outside of it for coming and hanging out and making the event so good. I enjoyed winning the Highlander event even though it’s not the main tournament, and while I would have liked to perform better with Twiddlevault, it feels good to know that it wasn’t a mistake to unrestrict Time Vault. Staying at one place and doing Magic things for a whole weekend is fantastic, and everybody joining was awesome. We’re doing all this again next year, in some form, and you’re all welcome. Mark this weekend in your calendars already. You won’t regret it.
Next up: easy mode.
Bonus: random photos. Yeah!