Pictures of Genoa

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It started way too early, with the customary 6 am flight out of Linköping.
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Then some hours’ layover in Amsterdam, trying to get some final work done, before the weekend’s insanities began. Mostly chatted about the upcoming events though.
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Arriving in Genua, the weather was already a little bit worse than advertised, the sun already mostly gone for the day. It was about to get worse.
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Having checked into my hotel, I wander around in the old town for a while, meeting up with Gordon Andersson at the cathedral.
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I like the city, or at least the old part of it. The amounts of extremely narrow alleyways are approaching infinity. This kind of eclectic architecture, like putting a tower just like the one belonging to the neighboring church on a random residential building just because, is fantastic.
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After lunch, we go for gelato, of course.
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Eventually, we meet up with Jason Schwarz and Björn Jonnie Myrbacka and head for a bar Gordon had found, the Kamun Labs, a sweet brewpub. We have time to get in a few beers.
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Gordon even got to utilize the for-a-Swede strange and wonderful concept of the beer-to-go.
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The last part of that day, being Thursday, was a small dinner with about 30 players, organized by Megu and Lorenzo and the rest of the Fishliver crew. The Tiramisu finish was excellent.
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Friday started with a trek through narrow alleyways in search of a place to have coffee and brew and/or playtest. Eventually, we found Jalapeño, in what appeared to be the red light district, serving bad food and good beers. We also was joined by the excellent Martin Berlin, freshly flown in for the day.
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The main event of the day was the EC tournament at the Lighthouse of Genoa, the third oldest one in the world, built in 1543. Situated at the port, not far from the site of the main Fishliver Cup event hotel but farther from the old town, we split up, some of us (me, Charlie, Jonnie) walking there, others taking a cab.
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It began with a small reception with wine and focaccia, held at the garden at the base of the lighthouse. It hadn’t started raining yet. A great place to meed friends, old and new.

 

 

 

 

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A bit late (and who was surprised?), Lorenzo and Megu announced the structure of the tournament: 6 rounds of swiss, followed by a top 8 to be held at the hotel. Eventually, we got delayed enough that the last round had to be held at the hotel, too.
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This is the deck I played, called Troll Rack, based on the Spice Rack played by Bryan Manolakos at LobsterCon. As I cut the Copy Artifacts and Gwen, it’s not so spicy anymore. (Hit by glare are the 4 City of Brass, and in the upper right corner, it’s 1 Underground Sea and 3 basic Swamps, to battle Blood Moon mostly through my trolls.) The list is strong, but it has some glaring weaknesses. One is its low power level, eschewing Timetwister, Wheel of Fortune, Library of Alexandria, any kind of card draw besides Ancestral Recall, and more. Still, the synergy of its various parts make up for most of this. Worse is a certain weakness to creatures with more than 3 toughness. Serendib can usually be raced, and handled post-board with REB, CiaB and Terror, but a Serra Angel is a nightmare, as is large artifact creatures like Su-Chi, Triskelion, or Tetravus, especially pre-board. To solve this partly, I think the deck wants a few Psionic Blasts maindeck, although that means cutting the basic Swamps for Underground Sea once again. There’s also of course the option of just biting the bullet and running Swords to Plowshares, even if I hate that in chip damage decks like this. Well, I won’t play this anymore in the immediate future, as I play so few EC tournaments and there’s lots more for me to explore in that space (Power Goblins and Atog, especially). To sum up, I think this might be the best Hymn deck, but it isn’t tier 1, more like high tier 2.
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There’s a certain beauty to the symmetry of this game state, I think. I also believe I won this game, despite his start meaning he’s up 20 to 14, as I’m firmly under the Vises at this point. I just wish I had used my own Lotus playmat, identical to his.
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In the end, I managed to go 5-1 in the Swiss, hitting the top 8, before falling to Shark holder Martin Berlin’s Ub robots in the quarterfinals. Now, it was way past 1 am, and I was not unhappy to head back to the hotel for some sleep. Especially not since I had won a quite epic match against reigning 93/94 World Champion Alban Lauter, playing for the top 8 earlier. I did miss an orb flip against Martin, which hurts a bit, but I can live with it. I wished Martin the best of luck and moved on.
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Next morning, we woke up way too late even for the breakfast ending at 10.30, so we headed out for the main event, picking up a quite good Italian lunch along the way. And making the finishing touches on Jonnie’s UWb robots deck which he would eventually play to a 17th place, missing the top 16 on the tiniest amount of tiebreaker. It’s quite interesting, especially with the possibility to board out the Serendibs for The Abyss and City in a Bottle. Also Icy Manipulator/Copy Artifact seemed excellent all day. The picture above is a general view of parts of the venue, a series of linked conference rooms and lobby areas.
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This is what I played to a 4-2 finish with very bad tiebreakers, losing to a turn-1 erhnam and game 2 a fast serra out of some kind of UWG control deck, and once to Arabian Aggro where I couldn’t find a sb City in a Bottle. Again, big creatures is a problem. This deck is a bit too complicated for its own good, having to fight the tension of bottle/city/serendib as well as opposing blood moons. Moving forward, I think I’ll just cut the bottles as well as the white and green splash, being prepared to board out serendibs against bottles, but handling big guys with some combination of control magic and terror. I’m still searching for the optimal Swedish atog deck, and Dibatog like this is just one direction. I’ll test it out a bit more soon.
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I chose the deck partly so I could finish the rounds quickly and have some time to socialize, and in that regard I was successful. I even had time to get into the coverage booth with Gordon a few times which was awesome. In the future, I need to decide whether I want to play or comment the most. Should the internet work, that is. There were unfortunately recurring internet issues during the event. And that is not even mentioning the blackout caused bu the thunderstorm which I unfortunately didn’t catch on photo.
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The last day, the excellent weather continued. The tournament of the day was the European Championships in Premodern, a format I had never played before, but I borrowed a deck from Jocke Almelund which seemed sweet: four-color control with a UW base, splashing Gaea’s Blessing and Red Elemental Blast. I dropped at 2-2-1 but with some taste developed for the format. I just don’t have the need for more formats to think about, but I’ll very likely be back again.
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Then I was starved for some Old School games, so when we had gathered some good people (Jonnie, Gordon, Erwin, Alexander, Jason) and went to a pub (Kamun Labs once again), I started getting in a match with Gordon. I was playing Bryan Manolakos’s Field of Dreams control deck, which is probably the hardest deck to play in the entire format. Most games are decided by you doing a small mistake on turn 23 and then losing on turn 28 as a result of it.
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Of course, sometimes you can get power starts, too. I proceeded to draw Time Walk and Land Tax off of that Ancestral.
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Meanwhile, they were doing their own kind of broken things at the nearby table. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the part where they were throwing unsleeved alpha lotuses at eachother. Yes, for real.
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Also, this imperial stout panacotta was the best thing I’ve eaten in a long while. All in all, the evening was excellent. All this hanging out with people and having some casual games was really the best thing with the weekend for me, as much of a spike as I am.
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Uncharacteristically, I didn’t buy or sell a single card during the event, so this amazing flask was all the loot I got. I will make sure to put that to good use, though.
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The next day, I managed to get on the last plane out of Genoa before they closed the airport down due to the thunderstorm. Taking off after waiting for a gap in the clouds for 45 minutes was a big relief.
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And once I reached Schiphol, still a 1.5 hour flight from Linköping where I live, felt like coming home. It was over. Tired, but happy. (And I messed up the shot of Linköping being cold, pitch dark, and rainy, when I did land at 11 pm that night. You just have to imagine.)

 

 

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Atog Pride

Three weeks ago, I went to Gothenburg to play in a small Old School side event at Swedish Nationals. It was held at GG Bar, Sweden’s first esports bar, a five-minute walk from the Nationals site. Ten people showed up, but it was a great crowd, with many old-timers and some new faces. Organizer was Åland who did a great job. We played four rounds of swiss followed by top 4, with tiebreakers being game-win percentage, beucause nobody bothered with DCI Reporter and we ran the tournament from some crappy website. Nevermind. Let’s get into the matches. I took no notes, as I had forgotten a pen and kept life with dice, but at least I have a few photos as help.

Oh, maybe I should mention what I played. It’s this pile:

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Basically a five-color Atog deck with Serendibs, partly in honor of the concurrent Europride event in town. The deck started out as the Combo shell of all the restricted cards and abusing them with several Mana Vaults, but with aggression as the payoff rather than for example the Mirrorball shell. However, along the way I gradually cut all the Mana Vaults, Su-Chis, Triskelions and Copy Artifacts, eventually realizing it’s better to just run straight-up Atogs with Serendibs. Five colors is because Regrowth and Balance are insane when you’re looking to dump your hand and get a draw-7. Balance is a reverse draw-7, and Regrowth is another one once you’ve drawn something like Ancestral, Twister, Wheel or Tutor. Well, Balance wasn’t main, but it could easily have been, over the fourth Serendib. What scared me the most was opposing Atog decks with Blood Moon, as my mana base wasn’t exactly rock solid and I didn’t have enough sideboard cards to take out all the symmetric cards which are bad in the mirror, even with 3 BEBs, but hey, you can’t beat everything.

In game 1, I faced Martin Jordö, of Mirrorball fame. We had discussed his deck not ten minutes earlier as we share a lot of preferences. An interesting one to be sure. He was on a maximally fast Twiddlevault list, with Fastbonds and more lands instead of any Counterspells or Power Sinks, and also a maindeck Fork. In game 1, I have Library on the play. He plays something like land, mox, Mana Vault. I draw, draw with Library, play a Volcanic Island and pass with Ancestral up. It’s slow, sure, but the card advantage is hard to pass on. Martin then proceeds to do something like mana vault, time vault, twiddle, land, mox, braingeyser for 7,fastbond, twiddle. It looked like this:

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The tapped Demonic Attorney was a proxy for the Time Vault at that time.

I did not win that one. Then game 2, I resolve a Blood Moon which Martin can’t really handle outside of maybe Chaos Orb, and just win. Game 3, he plays an early Mirror Universe. I have an Atog and a Serendib, beating him down to 11. He thinks, but does not swap. I have a Factory as well. On my turn, I start by playing Time Walk, which he Forks. Neither of us knows how this works, so we ask around, and everybody tells us they just cancel eachother out. Okay. Then I Chain Lightning him to 8, attack with all and sacrifice an artifact to the Atog for letha. Martin, however, has a BEB on his last mana. I obviously should have saved the Chain Lightning until post-combat. Still, he’s on 3, switching life, with me at 17. I have two more attack steps, and attacking for 6 on each, plus any potential artifact draws; with some good draws, like an artifact and a bolt, I think I take it home. Then Martin draws what is probably his only Fireball in his draw step. Okay. He is good at doing broken things to me, I’ll have to grant him that.

Only that I later realized that the Time Walk ruling is all wrong. The turns are resolved in reverse order, so I would have gotten my extra turn first and won. A bit sad, but that was much later, the next day, on the way home. But now I know for the future, and so do you.

Round 2, if I recall correctly, I’m paired up. Against Olof in any instance, a friend I first met on the Boat a couple of months ago. Now. he’s on some kind of UWB artifact brew with some white removal, Abysses, Transmutes, and the usual power stuff, in addition to Su-Chis and Tetravuses and Triskelions. Game 1, he had a slow start, where I had a turn 3 Timetwister into Vise. That finishes him somehow. Game 2, I think I win off of a Blood Moon as Olof plays no basics as I saw. I don’t remember very much, honestly.

Round 3, I face my old friend Åland. I knew he was on UWGb aggro, having just acquired Savannahs and Tropicals. Game 1, I get two Vises and two Ankhs, apparently, while he plays a Lion, a Pixies and a Serendib. That is not a race I win, I think. Game 2, it looks like this: he played turn 2 serendib off of a mox and a city, and I play a Bottle. That’s pretty much game. Game 3 is the really interesting part. I start with Library and a Vise, keeping it very controlling. Then I keep 2 bottles and 2 moxes in hand, after losing Library. Wait, this doesn’t make sense. Anyway, I know I misplayed. I had the choice between playing out a preemptive Bottle or keeping it in hand, and kept it, wanting to snag something; but I should just have played it, as I had a backup one should he remove it, as I want to keep his hand full when I have a Vise. Instead, he Timetwisters, getting back into the game. Eventually, I am able to land a Gloom to turn off his CoP: Red, as well as a Blood Moon. I also topdeck a Demonic Tutor to find Timetwister when I almost knew he had BEB in hand from the way he played. Could have gotten Wheel, but Twister was the play, and he revealed the BEB. That felt good.

(Sorry, I know this round doesn’t make any sense, but I only have some photos and some short notes to go on, as well as my fractured memory, and both the tournament and most of this writing is done while drunk, so you’ll have to excuse me.)

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A rare Ali from Cairo sighting.

Anyway. I win that one. Time for round 4. I am facing Kristoffer, a new acquaintance. He’s a Vintage and Legacy player who’s new to the format, and naturally gravitates towards UR although he tells me his tastes really lie elsewhere. He’s 3-0 at this point and a lock for top 4, whereas I feel pretty much out. But I don’t care. Let’s play. Game 1, he plays turn 1 ancestral into turn 2 mox, serendib. That’s pretty much game when I don’t have anything similarly broken myself. Then, game 2, I win on bottle. His deck is UR with 4 flying men, 4 dib, and 0 city, but my bottles still rock. Game 3 I misplay horribly. I have a weird hand with no red mana but bottle and maze. Then he resolves Energy Flux after which I draw Ruby, but I have to choose between keeping the Ruby and the Bottle. I do have a REB but no mana untapped, and choose to keep the Bottle after destroying the Flux. Then I proceed to never draw a red mana again. I should just have kept the Ruby as I had a Maze for any potential Serendibs anyway. That was bad.

So I’m 2-2. Apparently 5th place. Doesn’t matter that much. But the guy who got 4th had already dropped and gone home (I don’t know his name, he was probably the only one in the tournament I never got to speak to or knew before), so I sneak into the top 4. Knowing I had really won that first round against Jordö, that feels a lot better in afterthought when I actually somewhat deserve it.

In the semis, I face Kristoffer again. This time, it wasn’t as close. In both game 1 and 3, I lead on a Library that never gets answered. In game 3, I have library along with Lotus and Wheel. I never play those, having them as backup should he destroy Library or empty his hand while I draw into multiple Vises, but it’s very likely I should just have played those out on turn 1 to get one card ahead and take out his hand. What do you think?

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This is a totally fair game.

I also end up with 2 serendibs and 2 bottles in the deck post sideboard. I actually think this is correct. Obviously, the plan was to take out the serendibs when bringing in bottles, but I figured that if I had a bottle active I should win against Kristoffer, and if I didn’t, a serendib is actually really good against the red deck.

And then, in the finals, it’s time for a rematch with Olof. Due to Bonnie, this match is actually on video (part 1 and part 2). Not sure if they are public but some of you can probably watch these anyway if you’re interested. It also means I can comment on my plays in far greater detail. Thanks Bonnie!

Olof is on the play, due to finishing higher in the Swiss. He plays turn 1 factory, jet. I play land, mox, vise. He plays tundra, chaos orb. I play city, serendib. End of my turn, where the video starts, Olof flips the orb on my serendib and misses! On his turn, he plays another factory and a Su-Chi. I have a hand of three mana and two bolts; not really what I want. Some way to turn off the Vise would have been great, because this race I’m not winning. I consider double bolting the Su-Chi but decide on potentially doing it in his attack step, otherwise perhaps killing the Factories. And so I do, when he attacks with everything. I then draw an orb and kill the su-chi as well. Olof draws a third factory and passes. I just attack and play a fellwar, but Olof draws Ancestral. Otherwise, I thought I could win this race. He then mind twists my hand, but that just contained two lands. I go down to 9 life, and finally draw something good: a second dib. Attacking Olof down to 6. He then plays Braingeyser for 3, followed by a Time Walk, but takes 2 damage from his cities in the process. On his extra turn, Olof plays a Tetravus. Any damage and I win, but I do draw a factory. I’m on 7, with two serendibs, facing down Tetravus, a factory, and some cards in Olof’s hand. I have to attack. The next turn, Olof can just make tokens to block with, otherwise, and wait for the dibs to kill me together with the backswing if I do attack then. So I do. One dib dies, Olof going to 1.Actually, now I see I’m just dead here: Olof can attack with factory and tetravus, strip mining my factory, getting in for 6, then me dying to the dib in my upkeep. But instead, Olof just attacks with the Tetravus and casts an Abyss. I get another draw step for a bolt, but I do get a mox. On second retrospect, I was dead on board when I attacked with the serendibs into the tetravus, or rather, when I played that factory instead of bluffing removal (which is impossible as every removal would have killed him there, I think). So the correct play from my part should have been to keep the serendibs back and trying to draw into 4 damage, a tall task as Olof would then likely build tokens in his upkeep, putting his number of blockers at 4. I would have had one draw step to get something like a draw-7 or Ancestral before his attacks and my dibs killed me. But it still would have been correct not to attack there.

Time to be on the play. Olof takes a mulligan. I keep. No Vise, but Island into Ancestral in Olof’s upkeep. Olof has land, two moxen, Sol Ring and a book. Good thing I didn’t have a Vise hand here, huh. But it’s my time to play some power. On the second turn, I play emerald, factory, sol ring, time walk, chaos orb. Next turn, I play lotus and shatter the tome, having basically infinite mana, but just attacking for 2 with the factory. Olof plays a Transmute for a Su-Chi, which I promptly Orb and hit. I play another Factory and attack for 3. Olof has no play. I attack for 4 with the factories. Same next turn. Olof is at 6. Hitting his 6th land (a second City), Olof still has no play. That seals it. He must have been heavily flooded here.

Okay. On the draw, my Vises are so much less effective. We both keep, but I dearly wish I was had been on the play. Olof plays factory, ruby. I play island, jet, sapphire, 2 vise. Getting in for 2 damage is alright, I guess, but it would have been 6 on the play. Oh well. Olof just plays another factory and attacks for 3. Okay, that means I get in another 2 damage. I don’t have another play and just pass. However, I have a Hurkyl’s Recall in hand.

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And Olof bites. He plays a third factory, attacking with the other two. I for some reason play Hurkyl in the combat phase, effectively trading 4 life for 2 damage as Olof can replay his Ruby, which is horrible. But, as it turns out, still quite good. Next turn, I Orb Olof’s remaining Factory. Olof finally plays a book, but the Vises take it down, about four damage a turn. I have a REB and a wheel in hand, never drawing red mana, but that doesn’t matter. Vise + Hurkyl against the artifact deck is too strong. 500 SEK in bar credit is mine, and I buy beer for everyone and some snacks for my non-oldschool-playing friend who arrived late, waiting for me to finish so we could check into our hotel.

Conclusions? This is close to the best Atog deck in the Swedish format, I think. With 4 Strip Mines, it’s better to minimize the splashes, but in Swedish, Serendib is almost too strong not to play. I really like this list if I want to play aggro and will likely run it back with minimal changes at some point in the future. It also felt great to finally win a tournament in the format after something like 9 top 8s (or top 4s) in total, even though it was only 10 players. Good times were had. Thanks to everybody who attended and especially to Åland and GGBar for organizing and hosting.

High Tides Forever

Hello.

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(This was meant to be a photo essay. Then I forgot to take most of the photos.)

It was a day like any other. Meeting David, a friend and business associate at the Stockholm central station, slipping the small white nondescript package into my bag, between a couple of pages of a binder, hardly even looking at it. We briefly discuss its contents, the state of the trade in general; as a courier, I prefer knowing what I carry, how hot it is, was it seven? eight? who benefited from the deal, really. Then a mutual friend, who we can call Johan, shows up, and as always when some of us meet, we share stories about the trade, about the trends, interesting leads we might have, our eternal dream of quitting, liquidating the stock, getting out clean. Like that would ever happen.

We were on our way to the Magic Island Tour III, a cruise from Stockholm to Helsinki and back, a two-day trip sporting two old school tournaments. Anyway, David needed to get back to work, me and Johan having lunch and a couple of excellent Belgian beers at Belgobaren not far from the station. The usual banter about finance, sideboard slots, mana costs. Johan’s approach to mana costs remind me of Cruel Control, which, for those who are blissfully unaware of anything Standard, was a Type 2 control deck sporting the casting costs of WW, UUU, GGGG, and UUBBBRR in the same deck. Johan is a fan of BB, UU, and WW. I’m not. Nothing being settled, we head out to the harbor, me happy for not having to navigate the Stockholm public transit system. I’m honestly more at home in Madrid’s metro system than Stockholm’s, just because when I’m there, I usually either just walk around downtown or go by car to some godforsaken suburb.

Getting off the train, walking for ten minutes through an industrial wasteland, pleasantly drunk, in the end finding a suspect-looking spiral staircase leading up to a covered walkway which seems to head in the right direction towards the ferry terminal. Which turned out to look more like an airport than anything ship-related. Teeming with people everywhere. After some confusion, we find the VIP lounge upstairs, the place for high rollers, big fish. Finally. Sinking down into a comfortable chair, playing a few games where I took 95 % of the game time against a poor casual player who I proceed to avoid as best as I could going forwards. And dropping off the package. No fee for me, just credit in this complicated system of benefits and favors which is a large portion of our trade. But it always feels good. To be relieved of it, no longer carrying the hot stuff on me.

Reuniting with the crew. Keys handled out, some information given, beers were drunk. We enter the ship, which is huge, like a mall with a hotel put on top of it, drop off our stuff at the cabin and head to a bar for the first games. The format of the first tournament was a bit strange: normal 93/94, but with a point system to determine the final scores. I don’t mind too much, as it allows for playing the usual decks in contrast to strange banning lists or otherwise limiting deck building, but I just don’t think it promotes fun gameplay or deck building. Playing mono-colored powerless decks is just not my concept of fun. I’d much rather see a normal tournament with heavy prize emphasis on the most creative builds, for example.

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Not my points, obviously. Image credit to Elias.

Myself, I am running this list.

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Basically, I wanted to try out multiple Recalls since it’s unrestriction a couple of months ago. And Twiddlevault is one of the combo decks I haven’t tried yet. In fact, I hadn’t played Howling Mine at all in the format before. I mostly looked at Felipe Garcia’s lists, and also one list Danny Friedman posted the other week. The main change I did was adding more lands. I also wanted to try out a Fork as Fork + Time Walk + Recall allows you to backdoor into Fork Recursion combo if your Time Vault is unavailable. Finally, I felt really smart when I found the Guardian Beast plan, which I hadn’t seen anyone play. It basically protects the whole combo, both Howling Mine and Time Vault (and also sideboarded Ivory Towers), from artifact destruction. At the time, I had completely missed that the great Martin Berlin had ran both more lands and sideboard Beasts in his Twiddlevault list from the 2016 Fishliver Oil cup.

As usual, my memory isn’t the best, and I’m writing this with no access to my notes because of bad planning on my part. Therefore, lots of details of the matches are lost, even though it’s only been a week this time. You’ll just have to excuse me.

In the first round, I face Mats, to whom I had just lent out a set of unlimited moxes. He turned out to be on mono-red Atog, and he crushed me soundly. I already knew that my deck was weak against lots of stuff, like Underworld Dreams, Energy Flux, and Blood Moon, in addition to the usual countermagic, red blasts, and artifact destruction, but here I got to add Copper Tablet and Winter Orb to that list, as well as Tormod’s Crypts after sideboard. Had Mats not dropped two Tablets the turn before I went off in the first game, I think I would have gotten there. And then I board in the Guardian Beasts, expecting to face 4 Shatters, whereas he actually played zero copies. I wasn’t happy. Especially not losing to my own Moxes. Is it bad manners not to concede to the player who just lent you 8k worth of cards? I don’t know, I certainly didn’t think about asking for it, but it made me feel kind of bad.

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For about five minutes. Then I grabbed a Brewdog Jackhammer (the beer selection at the bar was really quite alright) and went out in the sunshine in the rear of the ship, watching the beautiful Stockholm archipelago drifting past, swapping stories with fellow magicians.

In the second round, I face Simon, a new acquaintance. He’s on some blue-green monstrosity which never really works, but he does present a Fastbond which makes me too scared to ever play the Timetwister in my hand. I do lose one game but take home the other two. I thought he was playing Enchantress but it turned out to be Living Plane–Ashnod’s Altar with lots of lands, Sylvans, and Sindbads.

Then it was time for dinner. A huge buffet in a huge but extremely crowded place. This reminds me why cruises aren’t really my thing: too many people everywhere. The food was alright; as at most buffets I’ve had, the cold stuff much better than the main hot dishes. Also free beer and wine. I’m usually one to complain about tasteless pale lagers, but together with food, especially free, (well, all the buffets were for us included in the total cost for the trip), it was okay.

After dinner, we play three more rounds, this time in the dinner area, which was gradually emptied and eventually closed off for our benefit. I don’t recall the exact order of matches, nor much of the games, but I did face RG land destruction, BR budget pile, and mono-black. All were quite easy wins. I managed to go off from minimal resources multiple times, having a howling, taking another turn, and just snowballing from there. Undisrupted or virtually undisrupted, the combo is powerful. In one game against Björn’s mono black, I played two Twiddles to empty my hand, then Balancing away his board and hand. Many turns of topdecking later, he has drawn lands and I’ve drawn Mana Vaults and finally get a Braingeyser.

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The late-night playing area

So I end up 4-1. Unfortunately, I stopped drinking for a bit after dinner, having a glass of water, and then sobering up before getting into fetching another beer, turning me off the concept altogether. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow. It’s running late, possibly because in planning, they had failed to count for the one-hour time zone difference between Sweden and Finland, so it was decided to cut to top 4 instead of top 8. It didn’t turn out to matter for me, as my 4-1 record netted me a 11th place out of 20 when the above-mentioned points are factored in.

So where does that leave this deck? It’s not bad. It can certainly beat weak and budget decks, even with a sub-optimal sideboard like mine. Because that certainly was weak. Neither Ivory Tower, Guardian Beast nor Fog, my whole plan against different flavors of aggro, worked very well at all. What I do need is 1-2 maindeck copies of Disenchant, and I’d also like another action spell, probably the third Sylvan but possibly a Bazaar. I could also see another land, because I did take a lot of mulligans due to not having enough initial mana sources, even with 14 lands compared to the 11 in some of the crazier lists I’ve seen. Maybe a Fellwar should be a land. I also did take a lot of mulligans for other reasons, but that’s to be expected with a combo deck which both can have very expensive starts and also plays a bunch of dead cards like Twiddle. I do believe the third Recall might be a win-more card and could be cut, and the Fork is likely more cute than necessary (although I did board it out most of the time and rarely drew it, so it might be my fault not giving it enough of a chance).

However, all the time I have to ask myself why I’m playing this deck over something like Powerball (Power Artifact–Basalt Monolith combo), which just wins instead of forcing you into complicated uncertain combo turns. One reason is that you play fewer dead cards. Fireball is almost dead against non-aggro decks, Howling Mine might very well be a better card than Basalt Monolith while not going off, and even Twiddle can be a blue-to-colorless Dark Ritual with a Mana Vault out or at worst a pseudo-Fog or denying the opponent a Howling card. Another is that Twiddlevault is just a blast to play. I enjoy it tremendously and will certainly revisit it in the future. Especially if Time Vault gets unrestricted, which isn’t that unlikely. For the record, I would never play more than two copies.

The sleep was not plentiful. Before heading to the cabin, I played a few more games against Emil’s UWR aggro deck, and I was just too slow to race his Lions and Factories when not getting a very broken start. And this was him not playing any Counterspells. It made me feel a bit worse about the deck in general, but now, when some time has passed, I think that is still something that could be solved with the right board plan. Then I put together my deck for tomorrow and played a few games against Cermak’s mono-blue control list. I didn’t really know which time I should wake up, and the time zone change didn’t make it any easier. Anyway, I woke up too early, before the alarm, I think, with my roommate Mattias/Slanfan still asleep, so I mostly got dressed, headed up to sun deck for some fresh air, seeing Helsinki in the distance, before once again braving the crowds for breakfast.

Breakfast was also alright. The usual inedible stuff they called scrambled eggs at most Swedish hotels, some interesting Finnish dishes like Karelian pierogis, and not terribly inspiring bread, but the bacon was fine, a kind of potato–leek pie quite tasty, and all in all, not bad. We arrived at Helsinki, staying put for seven hours, most people leaving, but we magicians gathered in an empty nightclub for some early games.

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My weapon of choice for the day was Atogs. I’ve discussed the list a lot with Will Magrann and Bryan Manolakos, although they are mostly playing with EC rules where the deck is much stronger (it’s one of the decks most benefiting from unrestricted Strip Mine). I wanted to try out the Howling Mine/Relic Barrier package, omitting Copper Tablet. I’ve also never played Atog, Ankh, Vise or most of those things in a tournament in this format yet.

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Round 1, I face Greg on some kind of budget GW deck. When I play a turn 1 Vise and he just plays land, go, I know I’m way favored here. He never casts any relevant spells except for a Fellwar Stone and maybe a Disenchant, so for the next game, I mostly bring in the Glooms. It turns out he is on Erhnam-Geddon, so not having all the City in the Bottles could hurt, but he takes too much damage and succumbs to the Vises and Atogs quite fast. Interestingly, I get to kill him with a Spirit Linked Atog, due to Spirit Link being a triggered ability, not working like Lifelink, although that didn’t really matter here as I was almost guaranteed the win anyway.

Round 2, I play against Björn. In game 1, he plays something like Plains, Tundra, Disenchant, and a blue restricted card like Ancestral Recall; I probably win with a Black Vise. So what to make of this? I’m putting Björn on some kind of white-based control deck, not The Deck but something more white-heavy, which is wrong but probably because I’ve been watching so much brewing in the Land Tax/Ivory Tower/Dust to Dust space lately. So I sideboard accordingly, and in game 2 Björn plays Moat, Serra Angel, and Serendib Efreet, while I kept in my Atogs and cut my Cities in a Bottle. Still, I manage to come away victorious. After the match, Björn tells me he never drew one of his two maindeck Energy Fluxes. Oops. I hadn’t even boarded in my red blasts. But I think broken Vise/artifact/burn starts go all the way.

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This was a quick match, so I get some time to run ashore during the lunch break. I’ve actually never been to Finland before and would like the chance to actually say I’ve visited the place, if only briefly. It turned out there was a huge Pride parade through the city and everything was insanely crowded, but I still got to grab some lunch from a street vendor and catching a quick glimpse of the city.

Having returned in time, round 3 I face Morgan, who is on a much slower Atog deck with Mana Vaults and Triskelions. He’s Vising me, and on the play I think he got me game 1. He also thinks Blood Moon is good against me because I have all dual lands, not realizing how shallow my splashes are. I wonder if it’s a good plan to board out some of the splash cards like Time Walk when I have reason to suspect my opponent will keep in, or even bring in more, Blood Moons? I do manage to swing one game with a couple of Relic Barriers for his Triskelion and my Howling Mine. There’s also a point in which I have two Black Vises and Morgan has for some reason a Mirror Universe. He asks me how that works. I tell him the Black Vises trigger at the beginning of upkeep but nothing more than that, and he tells me he doesn’t understand what that means. I tell Emil, who is watching, to shut up, and proceed to explain nothing. I don’t really know how much of a douchebag move that is. I’ve known Morgan since the turn of the century when we were grinding the same PTQs, so he’s not some kind of newbie kid. At the same time, old school isn’t supposed to be about powergaming. I just believe in giving players opportunities to misplay. I also don’t think it would have mattered in this game, as I eventually finish Morgan off with something like six straight bolts, including four Chain Lightnings in the same turn. I also got to end of turn Hurkyl him, into my Black Vise and him having attacked me with a Factory, and then topdecking Wheel for the maximum rub-ins. Hurkyl is quite insane in these Vise lists, and if not for me being light on blue mana, I’d certainly run more of them.

Now I’m 3-0, and I face Emil on his usual The Deck. I’ve never beaten Emil. He beat me in the quarterfinals of N00bCon last year, and he was my only loss in the swiss at Arvika in February. I put up a fight, resolving a Relic Barrier which forces him to counter all my Howling Mines, but in the end, The Deck is too much for me. In game 2, I think I start with some Vises while Emil mulligans, but then he proceeds to play something like Ancestral, Time Walk, and three consecutive Disenchants, followed by a Swords for my Atog. Whatever. Starting 3-0 should mean top 8 even with a loss in the last round, and I just move on.

In the last round, I face Jason, another new friend. At some point in game 1, we have something like five copies of Ankh of Mishra on the battlefield. Jason’s also on the Vise/Ankh/burn plan, but he’s UWR to my Rbu, splashing white removal and blue power cards in addition to Psionic Blast, and he’s also creatureless, telling me that he tried out Atogs and Lions but didn’t like it. The result is that Blood Moon is very deadly against him, Gloom is quite strong, whereas he has no such trump on his part. I win fairly convincingly, although he might have Vised me out one game.

At 4-1, I finish the swiss in third place. There are announcements, about prizes and shit, but I’m skipping that now just like I skipped all the other preliminaries. That’s not why you’re here. Suffice to say there are some prizes, the tournament is really well organized, and you all should come next year. So, time for the top 8, for real this time. In the quarterfinals, I face Jason again. A bit boring, and we were discussing our sideboard plans not ten minutes ago, but whatever, it’s a good matchup. Consequently, I Vise and Blood Moon Jason out in two quick games.

In the semifinals, however, I get another rematch, and this time it’s against Emil. He’s on the play due to finishing higher in the swiss, and has a starting hand of land, Lotus, at least 1 Fellwar Stone, and Disenchant, planning to Disenchant my first play and play a Fellwar. Unfortunately for him, I start on Library on the draw, and he bricks on lands for a couple of turns, so that game was pleasantly unfair from my side. I then lose game 2 to some The Deck things, maybe involving me mulliganing. But I am on the play in the final, most important game. I don’t think I have a Vise, nor an insanely broken start, but keep anyway. Emil has Library, but I get to resolve a Gloom, and then, barring a BEB, will get to resolve Blood Moon as well next turn, as Emil just has a single blue mana up. I have no blue or black mox, though, and my hand has just a Demonic and a Timetwister (yeah, okay, my hand was fine this game), except for possibly a bolt. If he has the BEB, I might want to tutor for another Moon, but if he doesn’t, I can’t cast the Tutor. So I float B and play the moon. I tutor, having a single mana left. What to get? I have two options: either a Black Vise, with Emil at 8 cards and 17 or so life, and likely not many outs to the Blood Moon except for 2 moxes and 1 or 2 basics. Or I can get Lotus and cast Twister with one mana floating, likely drawing into a Vise and a bunch of other good cards.

I choose the latter, drawing no Vise, with Emil getting both Sapphire and Pearl on the Twister, killing off the Blood Moon and Toming me to death quite quickly afterwards. Was it a mistake to go for the Twister? Very likely. Even had I gotten the Vise, the odds are so high it would draw Emil into the answers he needs. It’s not guaranteed, and everybody doesn’t agree, but I think it’s pretty bad played by me. So Emil gets a well-deserved win, facing Alban Lauter in the finals and securing that much-coveted N00bCon invite. I need one myself, but there’s lots of time left, and I’m pretty sure Emil wanted it many orders of magnitude more than I do. That he failed to stop the German for taking another Swedish trophy is a greater problem, though.

Before calling it a day, Daniel asked me if I wanted to play a match for 3/4th place. Sure, why not, it’s not like if the prizes matter anyway (if we didn’t play I would likely get 3rd on higher Swiss standing). Daniel is on Vises, bolts, some other Atog stuff, Islands, and Blood Moons. I lost game 1, probably due to him being on the play and leading with Vise. Then, having seen Island and Blood Moon but no other blue cards, I fail to catch he’s on Serendibs, even boarding out one City in a Bottle instead of bringing in the third copy, and losing a very tight game to a couple of the Sri Lanka natives despite me leading with dual Vises on turn 1. Oh well, that’s one is totally on me.

The night is finished off with dinner, drafting a very unbalanced Revised cube, and some clubbing, watching the red sea horizon of the Nordic summer night non-darkness. The next day, there’s just time for breakfast before reaching Stockholm, me rebooking to an earlier train and getting home in the early afternoon.

Oh, what about the deck? I really like it, and it’s quite strong, definitely one of the better Lightning Bolt decks out there. I’ll likely keep it as my aggro deck of choice for the times when I just want to watch the world burn. For possible improvements of the exact list, I did feel a bit low on wincons sometimes, so I will try out 2 Copper Tablets over one Howling Mine and one Relic Barrier, but the Howling plan worked out fine, too. The sideboard might see some small improvements, and I should get a Mind Twist into the 75, Howlings or no. But that’s a topic for another day.

All in all, it was an excellent weekend. Next year, if there’s another cruise, you should all go.