Rereading Centurion, issue #8

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The cover illustration is probably a detail of some Mutant Chronicles image, by Paolo Parente (or Studio Parente) by the look of it.

Time for another one of these. Since it’s been a while since the last one, I might have to do a quick introduction: Centurion is an old Swedish gaming magazine from the mid-90s, mainly focused on Magic, and I’m rereading it one issue at a time. Today: issue #8, May 1996.

After a page of assorted news, none of them very interesting in retrospect, we arrive at the first major article: three pages of coverage of GothCon XX, the twentieth annual gaming convention in Gothenburg, Sweden, held at Easter each year, and familiar to some of you because nowadays, N00bCon is held parallel to that. In Type 1, Black Vise had just been unrestricted, so most people were expecting “bolt decks” with 12 bolts (Incinerate), 4 Black Vise and 4 Strip Mine. This also seems plausible with modern eyes. The author of the report (Dan Hörning) claims that there’s a certain Stockholm bolt deck, without going into details, perhaps implying that the rest of the country had been slower to catch on. He himself chose to play a deck with just 7 bolts, backed up by Blood Moon and The Abyss, as well as Jester’s Cap to remove Disenchants. His creatures were two Jade Statues, a staple of the Chang (Warren, not Daniel, thankfully; we’ll return to the Schools of Magic in the next issue) School of Magic, as well as a Clockwork Beast! This also merits no explanation. Apparently a mainstay with Abyss and not a kind of crazy tech.

The Type 1 tournament had 160 players, played out in groups of 4, with a somewhat random cut to top 32 (must suck to win your group but fail to advance). Hörning plays against Marcus Lagerström, with another bolt deck, Martin Jordö with a “Mana Crypt deck” (you didn’t have to flip a coin if it was tapped during upkeep, as it’s an artifact that gets turned off by the rules, so those probably had a bunch of Jayemdae Tomes or Disrupting Scepters, but apart from that, there’s no hint of what the deck contained), and some kid with BG land destruction, Nether Void, Erhnam and Juzam. Hörning wins it all, mostly because his board is build to beat Juzam decks with Meekstone and City in a Bottle, which is probably the first time I’ve seen that card mentioned in this magazine. Then, in the top 32 he beats a kid with RG because of his Abysses, and in the top 16, another Juzam deck. Here, there’s a brief aside on the Stockholm crew not liking Psionic Blast in their bolt decks because it’s bad in the mirror. And there’s a certain merit to this. I do like boarding a number of them out when playing Atog or RUG vs UR or Atog, for example.

Then, in the top 8, we find something awesome. Hörning is playing against the deck that just beat his friend Thomas Andersson with a similar bolt deck as Hörning. A Juzam deck, apparently. But then, it seems like it isn’t. “His deck was built around Serendib Efreet and wasn’t a Juzam deck at all. There were Serra Angels, black knights, Hymn to Tourach and Psionic Blast.” Sounds like a pile a lot of people would love to play today! Notable is that from the t16 and on, the matches are best of 5. Hörning wins, but doesn’t really remember how.

In the top 8, he faces Micke Magnusson, who’s still an occasional Old School player in Stockholm but doesn’t own a deck as far as I know. Micke had a Juzam deck that played Soldevi Simulacrum, and as that card is quite good against the anti-Juzam package of Abyss, Meekstone and Bottle, they do take down Hörning. Micke then proceeds to lose the finals to Martin Lepic, playing The Deck. No decklists are unfortunately provided. But the rest of the top 8 is listed as Johan Disenborg, Andreas Dahmm, Albert Alshamn, Niklas Persson and Patric Johnson, which might interest somebody.

Well, that was the type 1 tournament. I chose to go into some depths here because it’s close to Old School content. Very briefly, there’s a mention of the Emperor tournament. If you don’t know, Emperor is a 3 vs 3 multiplayer format where the player in the center of each team is the Emperor, with more life, and players can only attack the player next to them. The best decks in the tournament were “land destruction and burn” (which sounds horrible, but apparently won the tournament, going 8-0), Land’s Edge/Necropotence (often killing on turn 2, with both enchantments in play), and Eureka (the non-Emperor players having no mana, just big creatures (examples: Craw Wurm, Craw Giant, Scaled Wurm!), Nether Void, Gloom, and Sword of the Ages, and the Emperor playing 4 Eureka, 4 Demonic Consultation, and fast mana). Sounds glorious.

The next part of the article concerns the Type 2 tournament, and here, Necro and WG Erhnam-Geddon were all the rage. Hörning, along with most of the Stockholm crew, chose to play a red-splashing version of the latter. Unfortunately, again, there are no decklists supported. Creatures are being played and swordsed. Not many necros are played (this was probably a month too early for that? Or people just suck). A mention of Land Tax being good against The Rack — yes, this is still applicable. A guy with Order of the Ebon Hand, Sleight of Mind and The Rack made the finals, but lost to mono black (I assume Necro, but wouldn’t count on it). The winner got a beta Mox Pearl. “Not bad”, as Hörning puts it. Indeed. These are the top 16 after the swiss:

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After that report, we have an interview with Steve Jackson (of Steve Jackson Games, not Games Workshop), with only the vaguest of card game focuses. Some random news bullentins, like the results from Pro Tour II in Long Beach, won by “Hammer” Reginer, and with no real Swedish results to speak of (they didn’t play much limited, and the PT was some kind of sealed, IIRC). Some random Stockholm tournaments called Magicon were played, won by Finns, in one case playing the finals on the boat ride home. In the second one, seven out of the top 8 were playing Necro …

Then, we finally get some deck lists: two short deck techs, one on Maysonet School in type 1, one on GW Erhnam-Geddon in type 2. This is the first thing we hear about Schools of Magic, besides Hörning’s small alluding to the Chang school in the report earlier. For those of you who don’t remember, the Schools of Magic was a number of influential Type 1 deck philosophies associated with various players and collected by Rob Hahn, first on newsgroups (rec.games.trading-cards.magic.strategy is referred to in the article) and later on The Dojo. (Note while writing this: classicdojo.com has apparently disappeared during the past few days. I hope it will come back up at some point, but in the meantime, there’s a lot of info on wayback machine for the dojo or the above mirror.) The most famous one is the Weissman School, also known as The Deck. The Maysonet school, created by Adam Maysonet who’s also famous for making one of the decks that got Balanced restricted in the first place (which might be the topic for another post and another day), is UW control with Millstones and Jester’s Caps instead of the usual Mishra’s Factories and by-then standard Serra Angels of The Deck. This is the list:

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No Fellwar Stones and thus far too little mana, only 24, but otherwise a powerful deck. And maybe, with unrestricted Mana Drain, the correct number of mana sources is probably just 26-27 anyway. Other notables are the maindeck Circle of Protection: Red, as well as only really winning on Jester’s Cap and Timetwister + Tormod’s Crypt main, with the Millstones in the board. And no red for the Red Elemental Blasts of The Deck. But Jester’s Cap is a fun card, I have to give them that. One more gem: “The sideboard cards can be hard to understand. Against creature decks, you add another Moat, Abyss, and Swords.”

This Type 2 Erhnamgeddon (“Lilywhite”) isn’t as spicy though. Mostly an update on the PT1 decks without the 5-cards-from-each-expansion restriction. But is probably just worse. In particular, the sideboard looks like a random assortment of color hosers.

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A sidebar has a few thoughts on some undervalued cards: Mana Vault, Memory Lapse and Stunted Growth. Definitely interesting, as well as claiming Jester’s Cap, Jester’s Mask and Recall are overvalued. As the former two are pretty much unplayable, that makes sense, and the point about Recall is that it’s mostly good at returning restricted cards, or as a lategame weapon in control decks, something we’ve figured out by now. But good observations anyway. Well written by David Linder.

Then, suddenly, there’s a 2-page deck tech on type 2 Necro. The chronology of the magazine makes things complicated for me. The list is horribly bad as it doesn’t run Demonic Consultation (is the article written before or after the Pro Tour? Nobody knows), and the text is mostly about explaining that it’s a good idea to play huge Drain Lifes and Soul Burns powered by Dark Ritual so you can draw more cards. But for me, at the time, who know nothing about Necro, it probably explained a lot.

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A long article introducing Middle-Earth: The Wizards — the CCG built on the Lord of the Rings — is probably not very interesting to cover here. I tried the game a little bit, but it was uncommonly terrible to play with just a handful of starters and boosters, as it really benefitted from well-tuned decks to be able to actually do anything and not just dick around outside of Rivendell with a couple of no-name hobbits and rangers.

The sidebar article on this page is a report from the playtesting that was initiated in the last issue. The concept of playtesting is still something new, apparently, and maybe they ought to have applied that a bit before going to the Pro Tour. Oh well. No real results here, partly because they were testing suboptimal builds…

Over to the price guide. Beta cards are more popular than ever. Normal beta basics have been sold for $2! WotC have introduced something called the Reserve List, which made some of the very rare cards have increased a bit in price, “a trend that probably will continue.”

Spoiler: It did.

Some B&R list updates. Split lists for type 1 and type 2! Meaning, among other things, that Recall is no longer restricted in type 2. Maze of Ith, Feldon’s Cane, Candelabra of Tawnos and Copy Artifact are still restricted, Channel is banned (I had even forgotten about this! Power level banned, along with Mind Twist), whereas Mana Drain and Strip Mine are 4-ofs.

Following a FAQ for the Kult CCG, and a short deck tech for the same game, we arrive at a report from the first Pro Tour, New York 1996, by Thomas “Power T” Andersson. It is very obvious certain articles were written at very different times. There could be a narrative, where Necro is dominating some tournaments but not others, but all that is left to the reader. To begin with, the Swedish delegation to the 1995 Worlds were all invited, but not Andersson; he solved this by phoning in a registration. There were 256 slots in total. Time to test: the format is Type 2, consisting of Fallen Empires, 4th Ed., Ice Age, Chronicles, and Homelands, with the additional requirement of running 5 cards from each expansion in the 75. Andersson also points out that there will be a 90 minute time limit for each match. This clearly rules out blue-white control, he writes. Too bad. They have to build some new decks.

After briefly mentioning some sweet brews like RWu Zur’s Weirding and RGx aggro splashing Derelor and Balance, they quickly find the power of Necropotence, especially since it doesn’t seem to have been very big in the US yet. Various splashes are discussed and dismissed (as the mana base wants all black mana for Necro, Hymn, and Drain Life, as well as playing Strip Mines and Factories which aren’t really mentioned much), the most interesting one being blue for Sleight of Mind to sleight Gloom back to white against UW decks.

Time for the tournament. Wandering around in NYC, mostly playing magic, learning that the tournament format is Swiss in matches instead of duels — times are starting to get modern! A snow storm forced JFK to close, and delayed the start until past noon, instead of the morning; this meant only six of the seven rounds of the tournament could be played day 1, the last one being moved to day 2, just before the top 16. Well, maybe not so modern after all.

Pairings were apparently shouted, and not printed — for 256 people. Or handled by name tags put on the tables. Our reporter won round 1 against a girl, who he immediately assumes is just a groupie, being there with her boyfriend and not really knowing how to play. Although this is being somewhat playfully addressed by an editor’s not as not being the view of the magazine. Unfortunately, she also did make a mistake by forgetting about first strike on Andersson’s Order.

Anyway, his deck does what it should, Hymning away things, drawing cards with Necro. Some highlights: locking down Erhnam Djinn with Meekstone, animating a hymned Orgg with Dance of the Dead (both of these cards out of the sideboard), killing a RWg Titania’s Song deck with his own Disks and Serrated Arrows. Andersson ends the day on 6-0, being a lock for top 16, and when Leon Lindbäck wins the last round (next day), he’s the second Swede there. Andersson got a feature match that round, even though it doesn’t matter since he’s in with a loss, and also has to explain to the readers what a feature match is (and he doesn’t use this term). Because he doesn’t want his decklist to be publicly known, he manages to get moved off camera. And then loses to George Baxter’s bad Brg pile with no Necro. Furthermore, Andersson loses in the top 8 to Preston Poulter’s Erhnamgeddon, largely due to not drawing enough lands: as this was pre-Paris, the only mulligan system was the “all-land or no-land” one, which is obviously horrible.

For the rest of the top 8, Leon loses to Bertrand Lestrée due to his Karmas and infinite creatures with protection from black — both Orders and Whirling Dervishes, all of this backed up by 4 Strip Mines as well as Icys and Armageddon. In the finals, between Lestrée and Michael Loconto’s UW Millstone deck, game 1 takes 90 minutes, where Lestrée almost manages to turn the tides around with a Sylvan Library after having sat under Ivory Tower all game and being on 80 life, and just running out of cards just before his creatures could do Loconto in. Andersson is complaining about Lestrée’s choice of not playing Feldon’s Cane. Not even in the sideboard. Of an aggressive GW Erhnam-Geddon deck. Eh. Anyway, after the second game, as long as this one, they decided to play the finals as best of 3 instead of 5, and also to split the money, already being three hours deep. Then Loconto wins. Playing this pile:

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By the way, the following is presumably Thomas Andersson’s deck; at least it’s Leon Lindbäck’s.

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I was sure they had started playing some Demonic Consultations by now, but apparently I was wrong. This does look horrible, and the sideboard is just a mess (containing the dead Chronicles cards necessary, but still). Better than Loconto’s Hallowed Grounds, but that doesn’t say so much.

Probably nobody cares about a report from the Swedish Doomtrooper nationals, but it did have 31 players, and you had to qualify to get there. Won by Michael Bartov with a deck based around Negative Karma. Some deck techs as well, and a FAQ for the Warzone expansion.

And, finally, one last Magic article. (This issue is just jammed full.) “Card economy”, a very basic study in card advantage. Here we learn that Balance is good, that Disrupting is weak against aggro unless backed up by The Rack, that Jayemdae Tome is good but Jalum isn’t bad either, that Mind Ravel is worse than Hymn to Tourach, and that you should never (“NEVER”) play first if you have Library of Alexandria in your deck. Thanks, Dan.

Yeah, this issue was a good one. Not as good as the next, though, which is probably my all-time favorite issue of the magazine. I might even get in a review of that one before I have to get into tournament reports again, but who knows. So many other things I could write about as well. Stay tuned!

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