We Are the Robots: Urza’s Chalice 2020

It’s the start of round 5. There are four of us left undefeated: Brian Urbano, Geoff Willard, my dear friend Paul DeSilva and me. I am going to play Geoff, Paul is playing Brian. And then it hits me: if we both win, Paul and I are going to face each other in the finals. In that case, one of us will win, and we both always come in second place otherwise. Suddenly, life feels fantastic. I shuffle up and draw my starting hand.


I arrived in San Francisco on the Wednesday before the event. I stayed at Mike VanDykes house for a couple of days (thanks you so much!), trying to be a bit of a tourist. I’ve been in the city before but that was back in 2013, one of the better times of my life. This time around, instead of beautiful summer weather in May, we had something close to the current Swedish winter, with +5-+8 C, overcast skies and intermittent rain on at least one day.


Still, I managed to take a look at the ocean, which is mandatory whenever I’m in the area.

Walked through the fantastic SFMoMA.

Had a bunch of proper American food, which I failed to photograph. In fact, far more than a bunch. Surprised I didn’t gain more than two pounds over the week. Was good anyway.

On Thursday night, I meet up with the rest of the Swedes (Jonnie, Fredrik, Leo), Mike and Jason for some games at the regular Beasts meetup spot in central San Francisco. After splitting a bunch of games with Mike’s improved version of the deck he won last year’s event with, I feel quite comfortable with my Singleton deck.


It’s really just a URb midrange deck with a bunch of cards I enjoy casting, like Jade Statue and Azure Drake. I had a streak to maintain, not having lost a match in my two previous singleton events (on the Magic Island Tour and the day before Ivory Cup, but I never told anyone about this, so it’s fine. Nobody reads this blog and keeps track anyway. I also didn’t have to worry about Old School testing since I was getting the entire deck from Will. Everything was good.


On Friday, I met up with Eliot for lunch, before we gathered a few more Swedes and took off towards Chalice along the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway. (At least I think that’s the correct name. It fits, in any case.)

And then we arrived.

Greeted by a bunch of turkeys and nice redwoods.

First of all, let me tell you that the entire organization was top-notch. The Beasts of the Bay did a splendid job. The logistics of pickups and hand-offs at the various airports, the check-ins, the food and especially drinks with the excellent beer selection and the impressive liquor lineup, the non-game events and the tournaments: it was just fantastic.

For example, we did hiking (even though I missed the main, longer, hike, since I wanted to take a nap at that day for some reason, and also avoid some mud, lacking proper boots):

The painting class with Drew Tucker:

and my pitiable results:


Even magic trivia (no picture), where my team managed to get 2nd. I guess that’s my fault, somehow, despite not doing much and letting Stephen Hines carry us (the others being me, Mano and Jeff Liu). As I mentioned, second place is my thing. We’ll return to that.

The best thing of the weekend, as I knew it would be when it was announced, was Urza’s Ante sealed deck. Each player got a 90-card sealed deck of proxied Old School cards, made a deck, played for ante, signing cards lost, and trading was allowed. This meant trading was more important than actual games. I so wish I could redo this, as I failed horribly on trading strategies, but I still ended up on a pretty sweet deck. (First version, last version.)



Got some decent results with it too, but nothing to brag about. It was tons of fun, though. One of the best things I’ve done in a long time.

Along with everything Drew Tucker-related. I mean, just look at the playmat?


I sadly failed to photograph his fantastic assortment of goods for sale. He was also great fun to talk to, and cements his place as one of my favorite Old School artists for sure. Now I’ll dig out the old Duelist with his 1995 interview.

First thing on Saturday, after lunch but before the tournament started, I also got to try to get the Orb flipping patch. For those who don’t know, the Lords of the Pit have an orb flipping challenge where you are supposed to make 50 orb flips, and you can choose and line up a number of shots of the liquor of your choice beforehand, taking a shot to negate a missed flip. If you make it to 50, you have to take any remaining shots. I had initially intended to try this first thing upon arrival on Friday, but got distracted, and I didn’t want to start out drunk, so early Saturday it was. Actually, one or two beers is probably the perfect point, instead, but I also didn’t want to get too wasted from any shots. I know Will Magrann made his attempt with no misses, and so had apparently one other person. My plan was to line up 2 shots, and if I failed that, I could get another attempt later on. Despite me being a bit shaky, I missed first at flip #30, took a shot, then nailed the rest. Two small bourbons was a good way to start off the day, too. Very happy to have that and will wear it proudly, even though I would have preferred to make all 50. :)


So what about the tournaments, you say? Well, I finished 4-2 in singleton. At 2-1, I missed a crucial orb flip on a Land Tax with my opponent stuck at 1 land, but I blame intoxication of various kinds. Due to the same reason, I remember almost nothing about the entire event. I won some games, I lost some games. Steal Artifact is good, Black Vise was good against me, and so on. Nothing terribly exciting going on, but it was fine.

For Old School (Pacific rules), I settled on this, handed to me by Will Magrann at the event, pretty much unseen.


I wanted to take the opportunity to play Workshops as I don’t own them myself and don’t play IRL non-Swedish events that often. Will kept asking me questions about how I wanted the deck to look, but in the end, I just told him I couldn’t say anything really relevant about anything, so he set out to just build the best version of Berlin Shops (the deck first constructed by Martin Berlin for the EC tournament at Fishliver Cup ’18) possible. I think we can agree that he did.

The tension between Disenchant and Gloom is real, especially against control decks where you’d really want both, but besides from that, the deck feels pretty much perfect. Maybe one of the Fellwar Stones could be something else, I don’t know.

Before the tournament would start, after lunch, I had a Richie Tenenbaum moment, having a somewhat involved conversation with my ex/best friend whom I’m somewhat obviously still in love with about her latest date. But apparently, no. I somehow just continued winning. As if nothing really mattered.

Round 1, I play Shane Semmens, who I think is on The Deck since he plays Counterspell, white removal, and a book. I win game 1, then I lose game 2 to a Mind Twist or Balance followed by a bunch of Dibs and a Triskelion quickly finishing me off. Clearly some transformation going on here, but that still doesn’t make me want to board Abyss over Sage which should be good, as I still have my own Balance (one of the real reasons to play white) and 4 Icys against Dibs, as well as just larger creatures. And game 3, I play turn 1 sage, and it proceeds to draw me five or six cards over the course of the game. I just grind him out. Much later, it turns out Shane was actually on some kind of Mirrorball list with a heavy transformation board sporting among other things 4 Shivans. Oh well.

Round 2, I face Ryan Grodzinski on a nice Millstone control build. It included 4 Copy Artifact which means a lot of close Trike fights, but I manage to draw better in both games, once again thanks to a Sage (actually both of them, so one actually attacked once or twice) postboard.

Yeah, this isn’t getting into so many interesting decisions. But I was drawing insanely well over the weekend. Cast first turn Ancestral 4 times, I believe. And a Workshop deck with a bit of luck is nigh unstoppable.

Round 3, I play Scott Bradley who is on a weird 4-color Troll midrange list. I win game 1 on the back of the card advantage of having 4/4s against bolts, basically. Not seeing any blue duals, I figure the blue is just for power, expecting Shatterstorm more than Energy Flux postboard. Therefore, I add a BEB or two, but cut all but 1 of the Disenchants, I believe. Then Scott lands a Flux, killing a bit of my board. But I copy a Mishra’s Factory, and continue topdecking two more of them, while Scott draws nothing but lands. Factories trump mana creatures and Hypnotics.

Round 4, I’m 3-0 and start feeling good. The deck is running insanely smooth. It’s time to play Nick Aiello in a mirror match. I know nothing about that matchup, of course, but Will had said it was mostly about Icys, and it turned out he knew what he was talking about. Nick got an early Icy advantage, nothing much happening, but then I drew into a string of Disenchant, Chaos Orb, Copy Artifact and actual Icy, getting the advantage and then finding a creature to beat him with. Game 2, he turns out to have Relic Barriers, which are fantastic in the mirror, but I believe I mostly drew more power than him, which is a strategy I recommend in most matchups.

So we are back when we started. Round 5. And my deck loves me, and gives me this starting hand, on the draw. It is not very close.


I know Geoff is on some kind of UW midrange flier kind of thing, probably with Moats somewhere. The real question is Sage vs Abyss, but I think I decide on Abyss. The victory is swift and easy. Meanwhile I see Paul beating up Brian with Serra Angel and Energy Flux. Off to the finals we are, and I couldn’t be happier.

So, second place is the story of my fucking life. I’m quite good at what I do, in general, just not good enough to actually get there, almost never. I studied math with excellent grades until I failed to land a PhD position. I did a PhD in literature but my thesis and papers aren’t brilliant enough to land me any good grants or positions. I’ve dated and got to know several awesome girls but none of them stay around. I played on the Pro Tour a few times but never cashed. I ran a 30k once but unlikely I will ever do a marathon. I’ve lost in the finals of more Old School tournaments than many people have played in. I just never win.

But, I’m also facing Paul “DeSilva”, so affectionately called since he gets the silver prize in every tournament, including Lobstercon and Eternal Weekend last year. So what is going to happen? I write in a chat with some friends that California is probably due to be hit by that great, final earthquake, long awaited, sliding the whole state into the sea, ending it all, so the tournament never finishes and we don’t have to pick a winner. But barring that, it’s just time to ruffle ruffle ruffle and draw a starting hand.

And my deck continues to deliver. Seriously, don’t I ever have to think?

Right, turn 1 twister, but it’s not the best thing to do. My plan is to play t2 twister with a workshop up, instead, letting me play a 4-drop if I draw a mox, which should be better. So I play t1 land, mox, sol ring, copy the sol ring, burn for 1. Paul plays land, mox, and disenchants the Sol Ring. And I draw a Tetravus and thus play that instead of the Twister. I’m just massively ahead all game.

Okay, 1-0. For game 2, it’s a bit interesting. I know Paul is on lots of white removal and 3 serras, so I want the Glooms for sure, but I also know he’s on at least 2 Energy Fluxes, not ruling out the possibility of a 3rd, and that makes me want Disenchant. However, if he doesn’t draw the Flux, Disenchant isn’t great. I also want to bring in Abyss and Bottle so I’m very low on slots. In the end, I cut an Icy or two and the Fellwars to lessen my weakness to Flux somewhat (as paying 2 for a 4/4 is decent), and leave in just 1 disenchant.

We fight a long battle. I get two erhnams with a Bottle, electing to take 4 from the first one to try to draw out another threat, kill a Serra with an Abyss and slow him down with Gloom, but he eventually deals with all of my threats and Disenchants or Chaos Orbs my enchantments. Then he lands a Flux, removing lots of stuff. I play out all my lands and Balance away his hand of 6 cards, him being stuck on 7 lands with a Gloom in play at this point, showing a hand of Serras and REBs (which he arguably shouldn’t have brought in). He attacks me a bit with factories, we have 2 each but he’s ahead on mana since I have workshops and had to tap low for Balance. But then I land a threat, which he can’t handle, so he has to Geddon. Because of the Balance, I had no lands in hand, so we do nothing for a while. I rebuild with some factories, and copying one of them, the standard plan vs Flux, and develop a new Abyss and Gloom. About this point, time is called, but Eliot says we should play on. “The whole match?” I ask, pointing out this is only game 2, and he just sighs. Who knows. I do, however, get ahead, slowly, playing out some moxen to get a Su-Chi and paying for it turn after turn, getting some damage in, and eventually finishing with factories. I think. The details are a bit foggy.

So that’s it. I’ve won. It doesn’t feel bad at all. Slightly sad for Paul, but someone has to win. Not as good as it would have been a year ago, or several, as I’m just not that happy of a guy anymore, but it’s certainly not bad.

I win some stuff, like the actual Chalice


a playtest Chalice, my first playtest card, certainly sweet


and this alter/art piece for posting the best combined results in the two tournaments, which I had to orb flip against Brian Urbano for. It wasn’t close.


What else? The deck is insane. I ran even better. Thanks Will, again, for the cards and the list. Thanks Martin Berlin for making the deck in the first place. Thanks my fellow SiaB members Fredrik and Leo for rooming. Thanks all the Beasts for organizing an awesome event. Thanks Mike for opening up his house for me. Thanks everybody else who made this weekend fantastic beyond words, even if I’m not as enthusiastic as I once was. Thanks. See you. #mtgunderground for life.

wp-1580334344866.jpgOh, and Will reminded me that he challenged me to the first Chalice Challenge after the event, me boasting I was 12-1 in games over the day, and then he proceeded to beat me 2-1 with the Dibatog he had played in the event. I guess I still can’t complain. It took him this hand to do it in the final game:

Image from iOS (3)


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