onsdag 14 mars 2018

The Oldest School: A Wizards' Tournament Primer

Every now and then a stroke of abandon land in the twilight between awesomeness and lunacy. From an outside perspective, going full old school and playing a Magic tournament like it was August 1993 is a perplexing idea. Even if you go zero-wincon-full-budget and build a deck with only mixed basic lands, that pile of basics will still have a price tag comparable to the winning eternal deck from the last Modern Pro Tour. A single powerful card in this format may only exist in a few hundred copies in the world, and will probably set you back more than a tier1 UBR deck in Legacy. Still we don't use proper sleeves nor protection for the cards. And right here you can actually play a deck of 20 Black Lotus and 20 Plague Rats. It is the most expensive, broken and confusing Magic format I've seen. It is also one of the sweetest.
Snap keep!
I don't know how many players we have signed up right now. 50? 60? Somewhere in that ballpark. Over ten countries representing at least. I am yet to find evidence of a larger tournament in August or September 1993, so it is possible that this is the largest event ever playing the purest form of Magic. Now that's something for the 25th anniversary of the game :)

Looking past the card availability issues of the format, one of the biggest things is how confusing it can be to those of us used to modern rules. And as the only info I've posted about the tournament is a text file without the opportunity to comment, I've gotten a lot of questions about how the old rules actually work. And no, it is not just "modern rules with mana burn between steps", or "dying from having zero life at the end of a phase instead of as a state based effect".  Heh, the oldest rules don't have steps, and that "dying at the end of a phase" thingie was a rule change that came with Revised (and was removed again with Sixth edition).

So, let's take a look at the most frequently asked questions about the original rules. We'll divide this into the sections of New rules, Old rules, Turn structure, and Tournament floor rules. Lets go back to 1993!

New rules!

There are a bunch of rules today that didn't exist back in old school times. These are a few of the more important rules that are NOT in effect during The Wizards' Tournament:

The idea of taking mulligans did come pretty early, and in 1994 the all-land/no-land mulligan was introduced. A few years later the Paris mulligan took its place, and then the Vancouver mulligan most of us know today. In the oldest school however, there are no mulligans. You'll have to keep whatever your starting seven gives you.
Yet another snap keep!
No, there are no sideboards. Just put all the sweet cards in your deck from the start. On the plus side, no one will expect that you play Karma.

Play/Draw rule
What is this, late 1995? The starting player gets a draw phase, so it is very much upside to win the coin flip.


Again, restricting the number of cards you could play in a deck was a fairly early tournament rule, but still something that took effect in 1994. No card restrictions means that you can technically play 9 Ironclaw Orcs and 3 Ancestral Recalls if you have them. Minimum deck size is also 40 cards rather than the 60 we normally use for constructed decks today. Real mages play more than 40 though. And please try to have fun and appreciate the atmosphere. A deck with just 27 Lightning Bolts and 13 Mountains seems supremely boring in a format like this ;)
Oldest School Sligh done properly.
There's no Oracle errata. Uniform errata on card name basis was a surprisingly late addition to the rules; well into 1995 cards like Iron Star had a different effect in the ABU printing compared to the Revised/4th printings. For this tournament, I have added errata to two cards that were misprinted so badly that they would be impossible to use with current wording (Red Elemental Blast and Cyclopean Tomb), and clarified a few more in the Wizards' Tournament document. But the idea here is mostly to read the card and try to figure out what it does. And yes, you may activate Iron Star multiple times for a single red spell.

This being an Instant would make it unable to counter spells. It will be played as an Interrupt.
Then there are a few commonly used words that aren't really defined in the old rules. Like "defending creature" and "target". Basically it works mostly as we'd expect, but you can for example cast a Righteousness on any creature a defending player controls rather than just a blocking creature. This could be useful in the UBW Creature Bond deck I guess.

Some other stuff that might come up is that auras enchanting an illegal permanent won't "fall off" (e.g. you cast Living Lands turning all lands into 1/1s, then cast Control Magic on one of your opponent's lands. If someone then destroys Living Lands, Control Magic will not fall of even though it is enchanting an illegal target, and the opponent won't get their land back), and that an attacker may distribute damage between blocking creatures as they see fit (i.e. no "blocking order" among blocking creatures).

Old rules!

In the original rules we also had a few features that don't exists today. These are probably the most likely to come up.

Mana Burn
From ye old rule book: "You lose all of the mana in your mana pool if you do not use it before a phase ends. The mana pool is also cleared when an attack begins and when an attack ends. You lose a life point for each mana lost in this manner. However, you cannot be deprived of a chance to use the mana in your pool. If a card provides more than one mana, you must draw the full amount into your pool when you use it." This rule (later called "mana burn") changed a few times over the years until it was removed entirely in 2009 with the release of M10. We'll look more at phases and attacks a little further down.

Ante was an integral part of the original game. At the start of a duel, you would remove the top card of your deck and put it in the ante. The winner of the duel would become the owner of all the cards in the ante after the game.

To avoid too much deck metamorphosis over the course of a longer tournament, the first tournament floor rules introduced something called "fake ante", which is what we'll use here as well. It is described in more detail in the Wizards' Tournament document, but basically you just exile the top card of your library whenever a duel starts, and get it back after the duel. Even though we don't use ante with cards from the decks, you are still encouraged to ante something else (like a beer or the monetary equivalent of the card in Scrye #3 prices).

Tapped cards
A tapped card is basically shut off. When an Artifact is tapped, imagine that it has no rules text. You can't gain life from a tapped Iron Star, a tapped Gauntlet of Might won't boost red creatures nor Mountains, and a tapped Forcefield will offer no protection. Additionally, a blocking creature that becomes tapped during combat will not assign any damage.
Damage prevention
There are no rules covering this; the rules from 1993 are before the introduction of the damage prevention step. So just do what seems reasonable. How does Reverse Damage work when you're at four life and get attacked by a Sea Serpent? How does it work when you're attacked by two? Maybe you survive in one or both cases, but there's nothing to back that up. If in doubt about some damage prevention interaction, ask the referee to make a decision or flip a coin.

As long as a creature with protection from a color is in play, it cannot be affected by cards of that color. For e.g. a Black Knight this includes, but is not limited to, surviving Wrath of God, punching straight through a Circle of Protection: Black (if such a card would exist...), surviving all damage from white creatures, and being unblockable by white creatures.
Timing (or lack thereof)
To quote the Alpha rule book: "In general, you should try and cast as few spells at once as possible, because it makes things simpler." Yeah. Timing is weird here, but there are some illuminating examples in The Wizards' Tournament document. Four things that may be good to note in particular is:
  • There are no stacks, batches nor queues as we have known them for the last decades. Once an instant or fast effect starts to resolve, everything else will resolve at the same time. So for instance, if someone casts a Terror on one of your creatures and you cast Ancestral Recall, if you draw an Unsummon with the Ancestral you wont get the chance to save your creature with it as Terror resolved as soon as Ancestral did.
  • The last player casting an instant (or activating a fast effect) in a series of effects that would affect a card in play differently depending on the order of the effects, chooses in which order all the instants/effects applies.
  • An interrupt will take precedence over any other effects. If an interrupt removes a card from play, it will counter any abilities activated by that permanent that haven't resolved yet. ("Interrupts take place more quickly, actually being resolved before actions in progress, whereas instants don't take effect until both players have finished reacting to one another.")
  • As all spells and abilities resolve at once and damage is dealt after an effect dealing it resolves, it is e.g. not possible to destroy a creature by casting a Lightning Bolt in response to a Giant Growth or Frozen Shade activations. Damage will not be dealt before the creature is boosted no matter how you try to time it.

The Turn Structure!

The turn is divided into six phases. Most of the time, you wont notice the difference from the modern turn structure, but it can be a good idea to note this just in case. Here's the original turn structure:

1) Untap. Untap all your previously tapped lands, creatures, and artifacts. I will go out on a limb here and state that you cannot do anything before you untap permanents during the untap step. This is by no means defined in the rules, but it is clearly against the spirit of the game to tap your Prodigal Sorcerer to deal one damage to a Knight at the start of your untap phase, then untap it and deal one more damage during that same turn. As it was never intended to be played that way, I'll interpret the rules to disallow it for this tournament.

2) Upkeep. Deal with any enchantment, creature, or artifact that requires upkeep or has an effect at the start of a turn. The card will tell you if a given item requires upkeep. Note that you cannot activate abilities of permanents requiring an upkeep cost before the upkeep has been paid.

3) Draw. Draw one card from your library.

4) Main. You may do several things during the main phase. In no particular order:
 - You may put any one land from your hand into play.
 - You may make one attack against your rival with any or all of your creatures in play except those that came into play this turn. Combat is divided into four turn sequences: Player Declares Attack; Opponent Declares Defense; Fast Effects; Damage Dealing.
 - You may cast any spells in your hand, provided you have enough mana. You can cast spells before and after taking other actions.

5) Discard. If you have more than seven cards in your hand, discard until you again have only seven. Note that Library of Leng make you skip this phase altogether, which means that if you have a Library you go directly from Main to End.

6) End. Let your rival know you are finished. Note that you may cast instants and interrupts after you have discarded.
Super high tech with end phase Ancestral Recall. And I know at least one fellow that just picked up a second Ancestral for this tournament. Craziest deck I've heard about will be playing 20 copies of a certain Alpha rare btw, but I wont spoil which one here. It is a bad one though ;)

Tournament floor rules!

Again, please check out the Wizard's Tournament text file for some more clarifications on the floor rules.

So back in the days there were no judges in the modern sense of the word. Instead there were so called referees that had a surprisingly large mandate. The referee is the person with final say on interpreting rules, as well as someone that may at will terminate or influence matches he/she finds going excessively long. So if you are the last match playing, the referee might go up to your table and drop a pair of Copper Tablets on the play area to speed up the match or state that next person dealing damage wins, or whatever. The referee will also interpret Declarations of Forfeiture; e.g. disqualifying players that cheat. The ones of you participating at the Wizard's Tournament don't have to worry too much about the referee holding grudges or being unfair though. The referee during The Wizards' Tournament will be none other than the man mostly known as Flax; the man holding possibly the lowest active DCI number in Sweden as well as the friendliest Magic player most of us will ever encounter. He was my clear first choice for the role, and I am surprisingly stoked to have him on the team! He is also one of like three people I know that are versed in the original rules.

If you use sleeves, it is very much encouraged that you use sleeves from the era. This means penny sleeves, toploaders, or something else available in 1993. While you might be frowned upon for using more modern sleeves, you obviously won't be disqualified for doing so. However, if you use more modern sleeves, use clear ones where you can see the back of the card.
The Italian gang use old credit card sleeves for their decks. Dope!
Participation fee
The participation fee is 50 SEK, which translates to about $6 in a more international currency. This almost covers the rent of the pub ;)

I did design playmats which I was going to offer for 50 SEK, but didn't find a good way to properly get the paint on the cloth. So unfortunately no. Here's the design though, might be something similar for next year:
Prize structure
Pretty much nothing. You could try and win something sweet playing for ante though. The person who manage to destroy all other players gets a unique artifact however, handmade in a single unit by master craftsmen and painters. It is awesome, and you can use it as a necklace to look supremely dope while summoning beasts.
All n00bs must be discarded.

Bonus FAQ!

Q: Can I come visit and look at the games?
A: Only players are allowed at the site. It would unfortunately be far too crowded if we allowed visitors.

Q: Will there be video coverage?
A: No. We will avoid most modern technology.

Q: Why would anybody play with $25,000 decks for no tangible EV in a dirty pub using only penny sleeves?
A: It seems fun.

lördag 10 mars 2018

Third time is the charm? A guest report from Arvika

So I actually wrote a post about The Deck this week. My experience with it is mostly from the opposite side of the table. It is in fact possible that I have played against The Deck (with card pool including The Dark but not Ice Age) in more tournament matches than anyone else in the world. Playing 93/94 tournaments with high frequency for eleven years certainly has given me a somewhat informed opinion about its presence in the meta at least. But I am by no means a master wielding it; I haven't remotely put down the hours as a pilot to reach the level of the true mages. I actually only ever played it in a tournament once; two weeks ago in the ~50-player Arvika Festival 4. In the first match in the top8 I faced Emil, and it was an amazing experience. My friends (and former Best Men) Honka and Hardy sat next to me to cheer me on, and even they - in a highly drunken state - were utterly impressed after watching Emil play. Emil plays an average turn with The Deck in about ten seconds while he has fourteen lands in play, two draws and six cards in hand, against the mirror. Dude has mental shortcuts for everything and make very few mistakes. He is one of around four people I would consider masters with The Deck. So when he sent over his winning report from Arvika, I figured this should clearly take precedence. His report even had matchup notes and stuff, like a real report. And to avoid a spring over-commit into The Deck, I'll keep my post on the burner for a few weeks and post a sweet Sindbad deck next week instead. Or perhaps some rule clarifications about The Wizards' Tournament. So, without further ado, I give you the words of Emil "MrSinclair" Klintbäck. Enjoy! /Mg out.

Sitting in the car with my long time Magic buddy Morgan “Farsan” Karlsson we both have big expectations for the weekend and the Arvika Festival. We start already Friday night with dinner out followed up with playtesting for hours. Morgan swings back and forth on his deck choice, but ends up deciding for an early version of Cermark Zoo. I stick as always to my old pal "The Deck". I have played at Arvika two times before and been pretty consistent making into the final eight, but never succeeded to pass the quarterfinals. Could this be the where I take it to the next level?
Arvika Festival 4 version of The Deck. Zero Stone Rain, but main deck Mirror.
Round 1: Andreas Cermark, with UWG Cermak Zoo
So, the tournament starts and I see Andreas name on the wall. Andreas started showing up a year ago in the 93/94 community and showed great results from the get go. (Editor's note: Cermak won the Arvika Festival last year with this deck.) Although he is a great guy he is not the player I wanted to face the first round. But I have play tested a lot versus his archetype and think I have pretty good picture of how to play against it and what to keep. I did grind the matchup for three hours just the night before after all.

Game 1
I look down at a quite bad hand but it is still no mulligan. I start playing Mox, Land and pass the turn. Andreas plays three Moxes, Land, Timetwister and smiles!!! I respond by Disenchanting one of his Moxes, and feel that this is not the start that I was looking for. However, after the Twister I look down at a strong hand with LoA, Time walk. This is followed up with an Ancestral on one of my draw. When I finally give the turn back to Andreas I have like 8-10 mana and a full hand. Game is over.

Game 2
I do not remember much of this game but think Andreas did not draw that much of a hand and therefore never really gets to pressure me.
KungMarkus; the engineer behind the Festival.
Round 2: Andreas Andersson with BR Underworld Dreams Ponza
I have never played versus Andreas before and he is quite new to the community for me. So, going into the game I have no idea what I am playing against.

Game 1
Andreas plays Howling Mine turn two and passes to me. I find Time Walk on my draw and follow up with a Regrowth on the Time Walk and take an extra turn. When I finally pass the turn back to Andreas my hand is full, mana base solid and no Howling Mine on board. This becomes too much for Andreas to handle and game is over.

Game 2
We cast a lot of spells and in the end, he makes a Hypnotic Specter stick and wins the game.

Game 3
Unfortunately, Andreas need to mulligan to five cards and the final game never becomes a game.

Round 3, Mällroth with RUG Lestree Zoo
Mällroth is one of the oldest members of the oldschool community and truly a great guy. We have already played during the day in one of his famous "Påsdrafts" which is one of the cornerstones of the Arvika Festival. The Lestree Zoo deck is Mällroth signature deck and he has been playing it for as long as I have known him. (Editors note: Mällroth won the Arvika Festival two years ago with this deck.) This is a deck that I have play tested a lot against and according to me this is one of the decks witch actually have an advantage vs The Deck pre-sideboard, especially if they find Sylvan Library early. However, the deck has one major downside which is its compact creature base from Arabian Nights which can be exploited with the use of “City in a Bottle”. The deck normally also has major problem with The Abyss if they don’t play tranquility in sideboard.
Mikael Mällroth.
Game 1
Mällroth plays on the curve with treats from the start. I cannot find any answers and he pretty much crushes me in five minutes.

Game 2
After sideboard, I have two Abyss and two City in a Bottle. I find LoA in my staring hand and Mällrtoh cannot find an answer. Abyss comes out quite early and game is over.

Game 3
I play out city in a bottle turn two killing an Kird Ape. It takes time for Mällroth to find an answer and when he does I can protect it with a Counterspell. When Mällroth gives up he shows his hand containing six creatures from Arabian Nights.

I really think you should consider restricting the City in a Bottle to boost the creature decks in the format. I cannot really see the downside?
Honka with TaxEdge by the 3-0 table.
Round 4: Thomas Nilsen with Eureka Artifact Madness - The Deck Killer?
Thomas is a strong player from Norway known for his nice manners and his beautiful collection of magic cards all in near mint condition. First time I met Thomas was 4 years ago playing my first Noobcon tournament. He was back then not playing 93/94 and was participating in Gothcon. I was missing a Lotus and a Mox Jet for my deck and was looking for a way to borrow them. My friend Morgan “Farsan” Karlsson knew him from back in the days, but had not seen him for years. We started talking and after ten minutes I asked If I could borrow his jewels. Without hesitating Thomas said yes, only knowing me for ten minutes. I think this a great story of showing what a great guy Thomas is.

Game 1
I look down at a LoA in my starting hand and smiles. However, Thomas goes Workshop, Mox, Su-chi turn one, land Su-chi turn two and land Tetravus turn three. My hand/play is simply too slow and he wins the first game quickly. Sometimes LoA isn’t enough.

Game 2
Thomas plays threats and I have answers. After some turns game stabilizes and I get a Tome to stick and Thomas falls too much behind.

Game 3
I look down at a slow hand without any strong plays. Thomas starts and plays Mishras factory turn one, Mishras Factory turn two, and I can only respond with land, go. Thomas plays Gloom turn three and I must use my only Counterspell to stop it. Turn four Thomas plays Eureka and I cannot do anything. He slams Su-chi and another Gloom into play and I can only play land, Mirror. My disenchant and Swords to Plowshares in hand suddenly looks expensive and slow. Turn five Thomas hits me for eight with two Mishras and Su-chi and I cannot do anything to stop it. However, on my draw I find my only fireball and suddenly there is hope. I pass the turn, Thomas hits me again for eight taking me down to four life. He also plays a Copy Artifact to copy my mirror. But that does not matter during my upkeep I switch life and then fireball him for four. Game is over.
Round 5, Svante Landgraf with MirrorBall Combo Wombo
Svante is known for being the “professor Balthazar” of 93/94. We are both fellow players of The Deck and always love to discuss how you should optimize it in the current meta. However, in this tournament he has a mission to invent/improve a combo deck in the format and I have no clue what he is playing.

Game 1
I look down at an Ancestral Recall in my hand and like my odds. Svante starts and plays land, mana vault.  I start playing land and cast Ancestral during his upkeep. Svante goes land sylvan library. Unfortunately, I have no disenchant in hand and I go land Fellwar Stone. Svante goes Land Mana Vault and Mind Twist for my entire hand, I feel like game is over. Svante passes the turn and in my draw, I find a Time Walk and plays it as cantrip. To my great surprise I find a Time Twister on top. The Twister gives me LoA and from that I can improve the control. I further improve my advantage with a Tome and after a couple of turns Svante gives up.

Game 2
Svante starts Land, Mox, Sol Ring, Timetwister and smiles. However, this is apparently my day. Svante finds like 6 Lands and a Dark Heart. I on the other hand find some power. Svante pretty much does nothing for a couple of turns and I can develop a board that wins me the game.

Round 6, Johan Rådberg with UWB Good Stuff
I have seen Johan in many tournaments but never had the pleasure to play against him. I have never seen him play the same deck, but they are always beautifully black bordered.

Game 1
I find LoA and Johan finds no answer. Game over not more to say

Game 2
Johan plays an early Underworld Dreams and I cannot find an answer for 14 turns. Furthermore, Johan have strong sideboard vs me and keeps throwing treats like Armageddon and Energy Flux. I end up in a situation where I must use my Regrowth to find a Disenchant for another Underworld Dreams. The problem is that my Time Twister and Recall is already in the graveyard from an earlier Mind Twist. My win conditions are running out.
However, with one card left in my deck I can Fireball Johan for 13 damage and kill him. Game was really close, I had no Couterspells left and I had to use three City of Brass to cast the Fireball taking me down to one life.
Cermak in his awesome Lestree outfit fighting back to the top8.
Quarterfinals, Magnus "MG" de Laval with The Deck
I think MG need no further presentation. He is one of the forefathers of the format and a guy impossible not to love, you all know what I am talking about. The atmosphere is really great when we start shuffling and MG's wingman Hardy is playing magic songs (the best at magic!) on his iPhone to boost the atmosphere even more.

Game 1
My hand looks sad without any real power or strong plays. However, the hand is no mulligan and I play land and say go. MG slams Land, Mox, Sol Ring, Fellwar Stone, Ancestral Recall and I feel like the game already is slipping through my hands. I decide to go for Land, Fellwar Stone. If MG's turn one was great, turn two is not worse. He cast Mind Twist and strips my hand to one card, game is over?

After that start, I have/need to go into top deck mode. I get like 3-4 draws until MG plays a Tome. Luckily, I have found a disenchant. Turn after Mg plays a Serra Angel but I have a Swords to Plowshares. I start to realize the after all the draws from MG there may be that he could be missing a Counterspell? So, when I draw my Demonic Tutor and go for an Ancestral Recall I do not get surprised when it goes through. From the Ancestral I find a Regrowth and cast the Ancestral once more. Turn after I find Mind Twist and strips MG's hand down to zero. MG never finds his way back and game one is mine. I was really lucky that MG could not find a Counterspell in his first 20-25 cards.

Game 2
I would say it is a classic “The Deck mirror game” were I win one big Counterspell fight that leaves MG in a situation where he has to pass the turn all tapped out. From that situation, I can go Timetwister into Time Walk and develop a really strong board with solid mana base and a Tome that I can protect. Game two is mine. (Editor's note: Mg won the Arvika Festival three years ago, so with this win our writer has defeated all of the three previous Festival champions in one sitting.)

Semifinals, Andreas Cermark Again!
Game 1
I find a really bad hand and need to mulligan. My new 6 cards are 4 lands, 1 Swords to Plowshares and 1 Mirror, not the hand I was looking for. Andreas start with LoA, Mox Pearl, and a Savannah Lion.
The following turns I play Land and deal with Andreas two first creatures on board. But LoA is LoA and Andreas keep putting creatures on board and stays on a full hand. Turn five I play the Mirror with my Lands and 1 Mox. To my surprise Andreas have no artifact removal and the Mirror sticks.
I do not exactly remember the life scores but in Andreas last turn before the game ends he hits me for three taking me down to six life’s and plays Su-chi. When he passes the turn, he has only two lands untapped which makes me comfortable going down below four lives since there is no threat of a Psi Blast. So, in the end phase of Andreas turn I take two damage from City of Brass and swords to Plowshares his Su-chi. During my upkeep, I take two more damage from City and go down to two lives and use the Mirror. I end the game by hitting Andreas with a Mishras Factory. Again, very lucky that my opponent did not find the answers.

Game 2
This time it is my turn to find LoA in my starting hand and Andreas find no answer to it. I get too much card advantage from the Library and game is won.

Finals, Odd Kjöstvedt with UR Burn
For me Odd is a new face to the community. We actually had some discussion concerning his deck before the tournament started. So, going into the game I have a pretty good picture what I am playing against.

Game 1
I find LoA, a great start. Odd keeps a hand with blue and red Mox (no lands) and plays a Chain Lighting. Turn two I go for an extra card from LoA and play City of Brass. Odd plays no land showing he is “mana screwed” and plays a Flying Men that gets REB:ed. Turn three I go for a bad play when I go Land, Mox, Mox and The Abyss(no longer seven cards in hand). I think my plan was to cast the Timetwister the next turn because I was scared of him casting Wheel or Time Twister before I could get the Abbys out, which I know is really powerful versus his deck (I had no Couterspell in hand). The turn after I draw a Tome and decide to cast it before going for the Timetwister.
Looking back, I can just say it is a poor play for many reasons, but hey it was 3 in the morning and I was tired. However, I do not get punished for my bad play and can pick him down with a Mishras Factory ending the game with a Fireball for 13 damage.

Game 2
Another great start with Ancestral Recall in hand. Odd on the other hand need to mulligan to six. From the Ancestral I can develop into Fellwar, Mox and Ivory Tower. Odd plays a Serendib Efreet and passes to me. I go Time Talk into a Tome. Odd finds answers to both my Tower and my Book, but I handle his Serendib with a Sword. I play a new Tome and pass the turn. Odd add additional pressure with a Su-chi and a new Serendib. My response becomes Balance taking us both down to one card in hand. Again, miss fortune is with me and I find a Braingeyser giving me a Demonic Tutor leading me to a Mirror. Odd hits me down to seven with Flying Men and a Bolt. I take two additional damage with City of Brass before and swap my five remaining life. On my draw, I find a Regrow where I take up my Demonic again finding me my only fireball and the game.
Third time's the charm!
I think I played pretty solid the entire tournament except for the finals where I made some bad plays. I think I never played a tournament where I in so many matches have been so far behind and still managed to turn the table. I guess I was pretty lucky but also played for the outs.

I would not change anything in my main deck, but I think three REB is too much in the sideboard. There where simply no room to put them all in. Maybe cutting one for Amnesia which I think is underplayed in the format. In this tournament I never had the option to put in the Serra Angels either, they could perhaps be switched for something else? 

That’s all, thanks for reading and hope to see you all at Noobcon!

//Sinclair out

tisdag 27 februari 2018

Beware of Magic: the Gathering, part II

Last weekend I played in the fourth annual Arvika Festival. It was a glorious gathering, and a report is on its way. Hopefully one from the winner, alongside some rants about my own foray with The Deck. But today I'd like to quickly first step out and look at surprisingly strange, and perhaps unsettling, trivia from the mid 90s. Tinfoil hats on.

A few years ago, I wrote a short post about the backlash towards Magic by religious groups that deemed the game blasphemous. Beware of Magic the Gathering. 25 years ago, that was kind of a big deal; iconoclasm and heresy were far more frowned upon just a quarter of a century ago. These days most of us find a card like Lich fairly harmless.
Someone at Wizards finds the casual satanism in this card hilarious enough to give it Multiverse ID 666. There's an Easter Egg for you. http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=666
Now, being the heathens that we are, WotC and the great majority of players aren't bothered if we have demons in the game. Demons aren't real, we argue, and there are real issues in the world that need attention. Sexism is real, racism is real, hatred is real. I am very grateful that WotC actively tries to work with representation these days. That there is a gay couple fronting a Commander deck, that a black female planeswalker kills King Brago in Conspiracy II, and that one of the Khans of Tarkir are championed by a transgender woman. That one of the current standard blocks focus on an Indian woman and her biracial daughter. It actually fills me with a sense of community as a player.

Most of us look back at a card like Earthbind and are content that those tropes are mostly a thing of the past. We're glad that Wizards never did characters with blackface in Mirage, painted the Icatian Moneychanger overtly Jewish, or used a nazi artist in the mid 90s and then kept referencing white supremacy on the mothership. So about that...

This post might be NSFW. Let me introduce you to the art of Harold McNeil:
"Society, is a sheeple thing... individuals have their own paradigms, where sheep either follow or get eaten... an individual may see a modern oppression of the freedom to acknowledge that women go to perverse ruin unless disciplined, and that diversity in races means equality is absurd..."
"I knew a kind of Fascism was inevitable, & resonated with aspects from birth, but was also determined to see it never lack Empathy... for that is how the weak, pretend to be strong, by a Talmudic narrowing of Empathy... it is hard to be whole, it is wrong to be less... blinking Unpeople, make things worse... Love is Will, Truth is Honor..."
"Indiscriminate Inclusivity, is a prostitute's motto... Open Borders, as if legs of a whore..."
I wont link to his homepage here, as it is beyond most comfort zones. But after looking at it, we can with no doubt deduce that he is a fairly skilled iconographer and a no holds barred white supremacist. He also likes cats. And butts. The quotes under the pictures are from his facebook page btw, and all of them from the last month. This Hitler Jesus thing wasn't a phase that ended twenty years ago.

Harold McNeil worked with Wizards in the 90s. He doesn't anymore, but in those few years his art made a solid impact. Much like artists such as Drew Tucker and Richard Kane Ferguson, a Harold McNeil piece is easily identifiable at a glance. Without going too deep into art critique and Leni Riefenstahl, his artwork even with Wizards throw some sublime punches.
And once I started to learn about the artist behind the art, it is hard to look at this without imagining wolfsangels.
At this point I don't know if it is ironic or just plain weird that he also got to do cards like Circle of Protection: Black in Tempest.
But OK, lets say that the world was a different place a couple of decades ago, and what today is something WotC wouldn't want to associate with using a pole were things we as a group were more blind to in the mid 90s. These days, one could in good conscience suspect that Wizards would put their work with Harold McNeil behind them. So let me introduce the aptly named Invoke Prejudice.
Here's a bunch of guys in KKK hoodies on a card with the flavor of introducing racial divide. And yeah, it kinda looks like the front guy's robe folded into an odal rune on his shoulder. I have no idea how the design process for his card was done; it is a very odd spell and is the only card in the game with an UUUU mana cost. Also it is named Invoke Prejudice. And of course Harold McNeil is the artist.

This card is a strange part of Magic's history. One could suspect that WotC would try to put this behind them, or maybe not keep assuring that it references white supremacy. Or at the very least not jokingly insert a neo nazi reference in Gatherer search today. Well, they certainly did. Invoke Prejudice has Multiverse ID 1488. Because of course it has. http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=1488. So there you have some unsettling old school trivia from the days when Magic was seen as an unhealthy influence because of the demons, and to say the least a baffling easter egg to still keep on the mothership.

onsdag 21 februari 2018

Zack's tech: Urza’s Command

Today we have a special guest with us. Zack may be mostly known from another corner in the world of old Magic cards; spreading ideas from the first decade of Magic over at his Ancient Mtg blog. The brew master Zack has written around 80 deck techs for the Ancient format in the last four years. Today he looks back even further in the card pool and shares some glorious tech in the 93/94 format. Enjoy! /Mg out

Hey guys and gals,

I thought I'd start today’s article with a quick introduction; my name is Zack and I started playing Magic back in 1995 when I was 8 years old. My buddy taught me how to play(ish) and I immediately adored the game, the art and just the plain awesomeness. I know I know, isn’t that everyone’s story? Well, then Weatherlight and Tempest came around and the 'lore' changed, as did my interest in where the game was going. While I think 'real' Magic concluded with Visions, I absolutely love the Swedish Old School card pool and B/R. I decided to combine this passion with my deck-building hobby and write about a deck I hadn’t really read about or seen in the Old School community. Alrighty, now that we’re done with the boring introduction, let’s dive right into why we’re really here, shall we? I hope you all enjoy today’s tech about a deck I have dubbed Urza’s Command.
Let’s start with the key cards.
Urza’s Command looks to abuse the two cards in its namesake to do awesome things and win the games. Neither card is really considered a staple on their own, however when combined they really can be quite exceptional. Naturally, I am talking about Glasses of Urza and Word of Command. Hey hey hey, come on now, sit down. Yes, you read that correctly and no I am not on drugs. Just think about the two cards together. Really think about them. The applications that are available to these can be incredible and, perhaps shockingly, also quite versatile.

There are two things I tend to associate with Word of Command: 1) Command is amazing, and 2) Command is amongst the hardest cards to play in Magic; but it doesn’t have to be. Or at the very least, you can help minimize this. How? By attaining the advantage via Command and Glasses of Urza. There are actually numerous ways to do so, and I’m sure that there are several I haven’t even considered. Only lands and creatures in their hand? You don’t need to burn your Command on a (second) land that can’t be played; instead, why not drop a creature into The Abyss? The reality is, you can play anything that’s not an Instant to your advantage. Some great examples are Chain Lightning, Control Magic and their second Concordant Crossroads; notice how each example has its own card-type.
The Abyss.
The Abyss is another card that can really help you abuse Word of Command. A main problem with Command is that instants can be played around it. While Glasses does help with those, it also helps you know when and what else is available to you. Remember, 'play' can be a key component as it also includes Lands. With The Abyss doing its thing, playing your opponents' creatures essentially means destroying them. This is not without its drawbacks however, as it also presents you with a challenge; quite simply, this also limits your own creatures, as you want The Abyss to be one-sided destruction. Mishra’s Factory is a staple in Old School, so we obviously want to include a playset. I also went with 4x Su-Chi, and 4x Triskelion. The latter plays nice with our pal Tawnos, giving it some added usage as well. Oh, and don’t worry about their Mishra's, that’s why we have Bolt and Shatter.

The deck has some 4-ofs where you only want 1 in play, and several 1-ofs that you probably only want in certain situations. And no, this isn’t Vintage. It’s actually, [partly] why Greed can be so great in the deck. It, along with Jayemdae Tome, help ensure you always have cards in your hand, and it doesn’t tax your mana when you use it. Not only can both Tome and Geed provide you with some card advantage, but the latter also combines pretty decently with Mirror Universe.
The original Necropotence.
Urza’s Command relies on its mana base due to its numerous high CMC cards, so Armageddon-type decks can be backbreaking. The question then becomes: Dark Rituals or all the Moxen? Upon perusing the deck one might note that only Word of Command and Lightning Bolt don’t use colourless mana to play. As such, going with the extra Moxen route might be wise. In reality, a Mox only ramps you 1 less mana than a Ritual - but you get to keep using it! Because this decks tends to go the long game, adding those extra Moxen seems to be the better decision with Urza’s Command.

Why no Blue? Ancestral and Time Walk are ridiculously good, but are they worth changing the mana base? The short answer is, well, probably. As such, this is almost assuredly not the strongest 75 that the deck can use. It's just a blueprint to get you thinking. So why did I choose not to? Well the thing is, Blood Moon is a serious card, as is general land destruction. Also, I decided not to tread the counterspell path because we want to leave mana open to play Command; trying to leave both UU and/or BB open during your opponent’s turn can be a hard thing to do. Lastly, on a personal note, I mainly enjoy playing with only two colours when I build a deck. I had considered every Bx variation available, but decided that I wanted to try a colour combination that is a bit less commonly played.
Here it is.
Lastly, let’s end today’s article with a peek at the sideboard. I think it’s worth noting that Urza’s Command only plays one Arabian Nights card, a rarity amongst Old School decks, thus making City in a Bottle incredible. Tormod's Crypt is a bit niche, but I put in 2 because they’re good versus graveyard shenanigans. Just remember, the sideboard is based on your meta and as such, is never set in stone. With that written, I want to end this article with these words: tune a deck to how you play and remember to tweak and change whenever you want. Old School is legitimately casual, which makes it a deck-builder’s paradise, so be creative, explore and enjoy. Happy Brewing!

onsdag 14 februari 2018

The Serendipity of Sindbad

"Nevertheless, by the time I had buried the last of my companions my stock of provisions was so small that I hardly thought I should live long enough to dig my own grave, which I set about doing, while I regretted bitterly the roving disposition which was always bringing me into such straits, and thought longingly of all the comfort and luxury that I had left. But luckily for me [...] an idea struck me. [...] Why should I not build a raft and trust myself to its swiftly flowing waters? If I perished before I could reach the light of day once more I should be no worse off than I was now, for death stared me in the face, while there was always the possibility that, as I was born under a lucky star, I might find myself safe and sound in some desirable land."
 - Arabian Nights: The Sixth Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor

And so Sindbad set out on his raft and woke up in the land of Serendib. A place that was twenty-four parasangs long by twenty-four wide, and held the highest mountain in the world, on which the first man Adam had lived for certain on his days. He met with the king and was bestowed many gifts, including a cup carved from a single ruby and a bed made from the skin of the serpent that swallowed an elephant. Sindbad's discovery of the land of Serendib (called Serendip by the Persians) became such a part of old pop culture that the word "serendipity" hails from the name of the country and the fortunate happenstance in finding it.
The naming of Serendib through the years is complicated enough that Wikipeida has a page covering just that subject. But basically it was known from the beginning of British colonial rule in the 1810s until 1972 as Ceylon, and these days it is known as Sri Lanka. On a temporary leave from the frozen icescape of Norway, this is where I find myself today.
The streets just outside my apartment in Oslo in the late afternoon a week ago. It's a frozen dark city. Winter has come.
I find the darkness of the Nordic winters kinda rough, and this time I had the best of excuses to leave. So my wife and I packed our bags and went to Sri Lanka to drink out of coconuts and chill with giant turtles. The in-flight magazine showed we were in Sindbad's tracks.
As a nerd of sorts, I did bring a couple of Djinns and Efreets with me to their home turf.
Chilling out at a tea plantation.
In a Buddhist temple about half a parasang above sea level.
By Adam's Peak, the highest mountain in the world(?) (Yeah, we climbed it, and yeah, I'm still sore.)
I've spent the evenings mostly away from Internet connections and had the time to read a few hundred nights in an early version of Arabian Nights btw. That's some damn weird stories. Some really good stuff, but a lot of strange filler and perplexing morals. Three stars, I guess?
Anyway, Sindbad, this is supposed to be about Sindbad. Sindbad is one of the most legendary non-legend cards in the history of Magic. There are like three Sindbads in Arabian Nights - the sailor we all know and love, as well as a porter and a king with the same name - but I strongly assume this guy is The Sailor, and we should shake our heads in distrust towards anyone who plays more than one. Surprisingly rarely do we see even one at the battlefields these days however.

Looking at the stats, Sindbad is a 1/1 for 1U. Not exactly breaking any records, but not overpriced in the way of a Quarum Trench Gnomes or Ichneumon Druid either (if you didn't have to google those two cards, you might consider yourself deep in the old school mire). Sindbad then has the ability to tap to draw about two fifths of a card, assuming that you play 40% lands. So every second or third turn or so he will draw you a card for no additional investment. Though not amazing, it is pretty decent. And flavor is clearly A+, in particular considering the very simple rules text. Sindbad goes away searching for land, and whenever he finds it value happens. Serendipity.
Sindbad becomes really solid when you can combine him with other cards. Field of Dreams might be the most obvious example. With the Fields in play, you can easily draw your extra lands from the top of your library, or just filter away cards by milling the ones you don't need. On top of that, Fields also give you some control over what your opponent is drawing. Combine that with a Millstone and you've built yourself an old school Lantern Control deck (it's a deck that won the last Modern Pro Tour for all you old foogies).

Thing with the Field is that it is kinda weak on its own. Sindbad at least give us some value on his own; he is a not-weirdly-overcosted body that draws you 40% of a card when tapped. Field does almost nothing and is a fairly useless play outside dedicated combo decks. So where do we go? To the Library of course!
Now here's a sick engine. UG Al-Qarawiyyin. Or something. With Master of the Hunt to abuse all those extra lands and play around City in a Bottle. Could even add some Transmute Artifact to fetch Meekstones and add extra shuffle effects for the Library. Or something less durdly, but the power of the Sindbad / Sylvan engine looks real. Both cards are playable without the other, but the sum is much greater than the parts.
Master of the Hunt is a sweet card, but it has one of those "once you see it, you can't unsee it" deals. The jovial sheep-dogs in the picture are some damn weird "wolves".
So that might be my next deck-to-build. Probably Serendib Efreet for flavor, if not for power. It's funny, I've played this format for eleven years now and it never seizes to amaze me just how deep the first year of Magic, August '93 to August '94, really is.

I wish you a great evening wherever in the world you might be on this Valentine's Day. Cheers from the island of serendipity :)

måndag 5 februari 2018

Noobcon X qualifier in Arvika

These days we can find a good amount of gatherings where a community spot for the n00bcon championship is on the line. While it sucks that we can't fit everyone at the championship, it is really sweet to see communities around the world find yet another reason to gather and play. This is a story from Arvika, from the pen of David "Svetzarn" Strandberg. See you at n00bcon Svetzarn! /Mg out

I'm not used to this writing stuff, but as the winner I had to write some kind of report so here we go.

The day that many of the oldschool players in Arvika was waiting for were getting closer. My schedule was tight, working away from home during the weekdays and celebrating Christmas like 3 times. I managed to use some time to playtest with Markus 'Kungmarkus' one or two times and one time with Jimmie 'Polers'.

After some testing with my ponza deck using Evil Eye of Orms-by-Gore as win condition - trying mono black with splash blue power as one version and Serendib Efreets and power as another - I finally settled on the deck I would play during our tournament; five-color artifact aggro.

The playtesting against mono red or U/R burn did not give me much. It was hard to decide what deck I should build. I knew that 10-15 people would show up (ended up with 11) and I figured it would not be any 'The Deck' showing up, but White wheenie, Trolls, Erhnamgeddon and stuff like that. I got a feeling that a couple of maindecked The Abyss, a playset of Bolts and some StP would be great a night like this.
Ready to rumble.
Match 1 - Henrik Berntsson (Erhnamgeddon)
Game 1:
When I was looking down at my starting hand I saw like three mana sources and some other decent cards, I drop my land and pass the turn over to Henrik. If i remember this correct he drop land and play Sol Ring... Well that's okay, but then 2 moxes and Erhnam efters the table in his first turn.

I dont have any answer to that creature and no mana acceleration at all. I pass my turn after a landdrop and he attacks for four and drops mishra and Serra Angel... 0-1

Game 2 & 3:
Better starting hands with moxen and early Juggernaut or Su Chi drops, answers for his creatures with StP and disenchant. And so on. 1-1 and then 2-1

Match 2 - Emil Vernersson (Trolls, Hypnonic & Disco)
Game 1:
I got a lot of mana out on the board very quickly, I played Wheel of Fortune – Timetwister and then wheel once again in the first couple of turns until I got everything I needed to. Emil did not manage to do much at all before he died. 1-0

Game 2:
Think I dropped Su-Chi om turn 1, The Abyss turn 2 and Juggernaut turn 3.. Figure out the rest :) 2-0
Some freeplay pinball between rounds.
Match 3 - Markus "Kungmarkus" Guldbrandsson (Mono red)
Game 1:
Markus drops a Mishra's Factory and pass turn to me, I drop land and a mox, pass the turn over and hope to trap him. He drops another land and activates mishra that I now can disenchant. Next one out is Chaos Orb to flip on his mountain with success. Then I cast some artifact creatures and Abyss. 1-0

Game 2:
Land - Sol Ring - Mox Ruby - Wheel of Fortune; I draw 1 or 2 moxes and Ancestral Recall, passing turn (casting ancestral on his turn). Now on my turn I drop Juggernaut that I think had to eat a Lightning Bolt. He cast Goblin Baloon Brigade and an Ornithophter, I cast two Su-Chi and then they beat him down over the next couple of turns. Didn't need that sideboarded CoP: Red. 2-0 in less than 10 minutes.

Match 4 - Olof 'Loff' (Blue sweet pile of cards)
Loff's Monoblue deck. (2nd place).
Game 1:
A couple of counterspells and psiblasts stopped me from an "easy win", but it still went down pretty fast. I had not seen his deck in action so I did not really know what to sideboard or expect to see in the next game. 1-0

Game 2:
I held a decent starting hand, but then it felt like I only drew mana. When he reached six mana, a Triskelion came into play. The next round he unfortunately received visits from his two brothers in form of two Copy Artifacts. 1-1

Game 3:
Very close game, and anyone of us could have won this. In the end I think it was a fortunate Wheel that gave me a Lightning Bolt or two so I could deal the last damage. 2-1

Match 5 (Semifinal) - Johan 'Johanguld' (Troll Disco)

Game 1:
I played early removal on both Johan's Mishra's Factory and a troll, and followed up with Chaos Orb on Badlands. With that mana denial, the rest of this game played itself. 1-0

Game 2:
Turn one or two I dropped a Juggernaut that got killed by a Chain Lightning, and then cast a Su-Chi that got eaten by Shatter. Lots of bolts and stuff was thrown in my face but after a while I was saved by an Abyss. I was able to rebuild a small artifact army that finally could take him down. 2-0
JohanGuld's deck. (3rd place).
Match 6 (Final) - Olof 'Loff' (Blue sweet pile of cards)
Game 1:
Game one was a quick affair. Lots of early moxen and a Sol Ring was followed up by a top decked Mind Twist that he could not recover from. 1-0

Game 2:
This time Strip Mine and Chaos Orb ruined it for Olof, he did not seem to find more than one or two lands. After that and I could beat him with my Su-Chi and some burn. 2-0.
The winning deck.
 /David "Svetzarn" Strandberg

onsdag 31 januari 2018

The Knights of Thorn and how it all started

Today our illustrious company is a true force in the Dutch 93/94 guilds. Mari Steinhage is one of the brains behind the honorable Gatherings of the Knights of Thorn, and a pillar in the explosive growth of bearded wizards in the Netherlands. These are some good people, and I hope to soon get the chance to visit the Netherlands to sling some spells. Enjoy! /Mg out

This report will cover the third Gathering of the Knights of Thorn. But I'll start from the beginning, how we even arrived at this point. At this moment we have already had three gatherings of the Knights of Thorn and our community grew over the last eight months from seven up to 39 people.

Over the years I collected numerous old cards. Whenever possible I put them in EDH decks. But this wasn't enough for me so one day, 5 years ago or so, I decided to build myself an old cards cube. This was my best idea ever. Because
the sets I put in the cube where the ones released in '93 and '94. I started with lots of Revised to get to the desired number of 360 cards, but during the following years I acquired power and black bordered staples until I stumbled over an old school blog. n00bcon 6 (or 7; I'm not sure) had just passed and I learned about a whole new world of people being fond of the same thing. So I started brewing with my cube and bought playsets of some crucial staples. Whenever I played magic I tried to shuffled one of my pet decks consisting of only old cards. Most of the time I was met with amusement and laughter. They weren't ready yet...

I tried to find people to play old school with but I was without luck until last February. I visited a guy to relieve him of a playset unlimited Plateaus and we chatted a bit about old cards and how I regretted that no one in the Netherlands played a format called Old school. In hindsight I think that the possibility of playing with Juzams pushed him over the edge. This chatting continued for several weeks and in the end Erwin and I decided to organize something ourselves. Via Mg I got hold of the e-mail address of Dyan and we held our first "Gathering of the Knights of Thorn" in April. A staggering number of 7 persons participated.
There can be only one first winner!
As Erwin wrote an article about the second gathering I'll fast forward to my preparations for the third gathering.

Preparations for the third gathering
The months prior to the tournament are half the fun in my opinion. The deckbuilding and searching for cards brings back memories of the old times. Since we had several months between the gatherings I had the possibility to really dive into brewing. After playing creatureless in the second gathering (and performing horrible) I decided to make a creature based deck once again. I wanted resilience and consistent creature removal. So I built a Fungusaur/ Whirling Dervish/ Pestilence deck and tried hard to get it running. But it wasn’t competitive enough so I decided to put the project on hold and go for a more proven concept; Erhnamgeddon. When reading about the Erhnamgeddon deck and the possibilities I got greedy and assembled this monster.
Erhnamgeddon with blue power and Serendib Efreets.
How did it perform? Not very well actually. The meta where I tried it was control heavy, resulting in me keeping the Efreets on the bench. Together with the Cities they made the deck a little bit to suicidal. So once more it was back to the drawing board. What I did learn from playing the Erhnamgeddon deck was its raw power. The combination of aggro and control due to the use of Armageddon. So I decided to go back to the more classical WG color combination. By staying at only two colors the Land Tax - Sylvan Library filtering engine was a possibility once again. So this was the first powerhouse I decided to incorporate. Secondly, after having played with the Efreets, I learned once more that evasion is not to be underestimated. So my sideboard would be tailored to exploit flying creatures to the max. If I would match up against a creature heavy deck they would be in for a nasty surprise.
The Erhnamgeddon deck I played at the tournament.
Besides building the deck there where several other things to organize. We had grown out of our previous location. So a location capable of hosting around 40 players (our most positive prediction) had to be found. Game stores are always an option but the requirements of drinking beer and being able to organize however we wanted it made us choose a local bar/ restaurant. In hindsight a great place because we now have a location at which we grow even up to maybe 64 participants (a little lobbying for the next one is allowed right?).

With the challenge of finding a suitable location out of the way I focused on the remaining tasks; getting a reliable score/ pairing program, designing buttons with a picture of the Knights of Thorn on it and (most important) ordering custom playmats.
The spoils before the war.
Day of the tournament
My day started real early (7:00 am) with a WhatsApp from Florian. One of our two German contenders in the tournament. He had woken early and was wondering if I needed a hand with the last preparations for the tournament. Because everything was taken care of already I proposed to join him at the hotel. Nothing beads a few games of early morning old school. I shouldn't have pushed my luck. My opening hand was flawless and the deck was running like hell. He never stood a chance and I was boosting with self-confidence that this deck would earn me my second Knights of Thorn. Probably the best moment of the day result-wise.
Board state somewhere at the beginning of game one.
Unfortunate from there on it all went downhill. We played a second game which I lost. I blamed it on a bad draw from my side and because Florian admitted that his opening was near perfect I didn’t see any problems. After two games time was running out so I left the hotel to go to the side. On my way to the tournament side I picked up Wessel, one of the initial seven, who would help me organize the tournament. At the location we made the last preparations and started signing everyone in. Out of the 41 interested persons 39 turned up.

Round 1My first opponent was Robbie who played a WGU deck. His deck of choice had some overlap with my deck and the previous version of it. But he had chosen control; Efreets and blue power over Armageddon if I recall correctly. His deck was fast enough to withstand the power of my Armageddons and after a miss-timed Balance from my side, which he countered, it was a done deal at 0-2. I shouldn’t have wasted my perfect opening hand on some early morning playtesting :)

Round 2My second opponent was our other German contender, Thilo. The first game was running smooth when he suddenly played a Stasis. This was my first encounter with an old school Stasis deck and with the limited answers I had it looked grim. Luckily I drew into power and with the filtering ability of the library I was able to generate enough mana to land a Serra Angel. From there on the future looked bright again and I secured my first win of the tournament. After sideboarding in my remaining Serra we started our second game. I think he boarded in some more Counterspells because he was able to stall the game long enough to get a Stasis live. From that moment on the game dragged on. Eventually time was called and I hoped to sit out another 5 turns to steal a win but luck had left me. With no time left to start a third game it was Chaos Orb penalty shootout. I missed, 2-1.

Round 3This round I played against Nick who played a really solid mono black deck. He must have had some nasty match-ups otherwise he shouldn’t be playing me in the all-is-lost regions. The first game I had a slow start, he removed my Ernhams and against his Black Knights my swords were useless. I think he eventually grinded me down with a combination of Underworld Dreams and the Knights in the first game. However I felt confident. Because this was the moment to open all registers. I boarded in the pair of Whirling Dervish and went flat out with my flying creatures. Knights don’t fly right? Unfortunately Nick also had answers against white, being Gloom. I used my Disenchants on the Dreams leaving his Glooms untouched. When they became multiple the weight of the additional mana was dragging me under and sealing my fate, 0-2.

The remaining 2 rounds of the tournament I didn’t take any notes. So I’ll fast forward to the top eight elimination rounds. Initially we had intended a top 4 but because of the tournament seize a top 8 was better suited.
Top eight playing round one
We had a healthy mix of deck types contesting for the big price. Wessel and Dyan, both three time Knights of Thorn veterans, made it by playing aggro. Jimmy, the first player ever in our tournament playing “The Deck” had also made it. The remaining five where all newcomers to our playgroup. In the first round, out of the three “experienced” players, only Dyan didn’t get slaughtered. Also my first opponent of the day, Florian, found his Waterloo. Upside of that is the certainty that the big price remained in the Netherlands. There would be no foreign winner of the Gathering of the Knights of Thorn. For now...

The Final was between Roy and Joep. Joep played Erhnamgeddon with blue. His deck only "lacks" the Armageddons but if he wants he can borrow them from me next time we have a tournament. Roy played a powerless control version of mono black choosing Su-Chi over Juzam. Being familiar with a more aggro version of mono black, back then, I didn’t see the upside of his choices. But now, after he has won the tournament, I can only say that I’ve learned new things about mono black. Respect for trying this new approach and congratulations again.
The winning deck
The new Knight of Thorn