torsdag 17 maj 2018

Tales of Green and Black.

Today we have another friend returning to the bloggoblag! Constantine first shared his stories a couple of years ago in The Россия Perspective and have since become something of the face of Russian oldschool Magic. He is not only a community organizer, but also an avid deck builder and skilled player that always manage to end up with a winning record at n00bcon with his creations. Today he'll guide us through the murkiest paths of the woods. Enjoy! /Mg out

I like a challenge. Being an underdog is always fun. It makes every victory even more sweet and stories more colorful.

When we talk about going uphill in oldschool magic, it usually means playing an unpowered and/or mono-colored deck. But this article I wrote right after n00bcon X is generally not about that. At least not only about that. I will speak about just two colors: green and black. Why those two?

Exactly one year ago I sold all my unlimited cards (power and a lot of 93/94 staples; enough to build almost any deck imaginable) to fund the "all a/b black-green-red land destruction deck". And because in Russia we live poor lives in old houses where we burn firewood, ride steamrollers and dem bears steal all the food, eventually I had to give up on one color. The choice was easy as my all-time favorite combination is been black-green. So now I own swedish legal cards only in these two colors and I will tell you what I managed to build and test during 2017.

Usually these two colors are not paired together in 93/94. At least without a complementary one (white being the most popular of course). You play green and black either as dominant colors or just splash for a couple of powerful cards like Regrowth, Demonic Tutor or Mind Twist. But we’ll try to come up with something much more interesting.
If we search the card database, we'll find 250 black and green cards legal in 93/94 (that's including the ante cards) and one strictly bg card, Dark Heart of the Wood. Plus we have all the artifacts in the world! Of course, most of the cards are unplayable but some really fit in the basic strategies. Let’s start with aggro for now. And if you enjoy this kind of article, I’ll try to continue with combo and control arch-types.

Two obvious choices come to mind: monoblack and mono-green. We all know the good old monoblack tempo deck with its core of Juzams, Hyppies, Knights and Sengirs so we’ll just pass to monogreen aggro. I’d say there’re 2 main routes you can go with monogreen: Big Guys and Small guys. For the first one, a good example is MG’s deck supporting relic barriers and howling mines as a card drawing engine and a semi-prison side strategy.
This deck has a very nice curve supported with enough ramp and 2-drops, so it acts as a well-oiled machine most all the time. I’m not sure about Gaea’s Touch though, because it is 100% the weakest card in the deck. But sometimes it enables just enough ramp to overwhelm a midrange deck. That leads me to another problem - “the midrangeness”. Midrange monogreen just doesn’t have unfair hands against control. The tempo swing of an elves+ice storm doesn’t really matter vs. counterspells and swords. Most of the time you’ll find yourself playing just one not really impactful spell each turn and that’s what a control deck doesn’t fear to face.

The second route is Nikita Sehelest’s Green Stompy.
While this deck doesn’t have impactful threats either, it has all the tempo in the world. It plays mostly 1 cmc creatures which renders your opponent’s counterspells useless, and the uncounterable pump-effect from Pendelhaven become a thing you should reckon with. The deck’s weakness is of course the general puniness of individual creatures. But it is not the reason to underestimate them. A 1/1 + Pendelhaven and a giant growth eats Juzam, Erhnam, Juggernout and Su-Chi to name a few. A scryb sprite + Pendelhaven stops Hyppies and Flying Men. And of course being resilient to Lightning Bolt/Chain Lightning, Serendib Efreet still dies to a Sprite + Giant Growth!

If you see this deck in action, you’ll be surprised how hard it is to play against it. It taxes opponents’ mana base with Ice Storms, Crumbles, Scavenger Folk and Nafs Aasps while attacking with difficult (i.e. unworthy of your removal) threats.

Finally, let’s discuss both colors together! So, I will not tell you about generic B/G which, to be fair, doesn’t look too much different from mono black. I will tell you about my special way to build a deck with this combination of colors.

I’ve been experimenting with Nether Void in Swedish 93/94 since I saw Sean O’Brien’s bg prison from Eternal Weekend 2016. His deck was clearly very good, but mostly because of 4 Strip Mines, and we can only play one by Swedish rules so this deck here is nigh unplayable.
Anyway, the common sense tells us that we have to play a lot of land destruction to make Nether Void good. But I think it is a very big misconception. After excessive testing with 4 sinkholes/4 Ice Storms etc. I came to realization that Nether Void is more of a tempo card than it is a prison card. That means, you don’t really need a lot of land destruction to build a deck around it. So what really do we need instead?

I’d say good creatures, which we can cast of Mana Vault (because obviously, it has the best synergy with Nether Void); ways to destroy your opponent’s utility lands, mainly factories and mazes; and extra mana ramp to play our key enchantment as fast as possible.

In ways of mana ramp besides Vaults and Sol Ring, we have Moxen and Lotus, but I generally don’t like them with Nether Void. Thanks to them we’ll have unanswerable hands sometimes, and when the Void is down we just want to draw lands and threats to close the game. And that’s where mana elves come to help us! They ramp us to 3 mana for Ice Storms, to 4 to cast all key creatures like Erhnam Djinn and Su-Chi and they most definitely can kick some ass with Pendelhaven! Then, to answer our main enemy, factories, we have some Argothian Pixies and Crumbles - all very castable under the Void and highly effective in the current meta.
So where is all this going, you ask me? It is quite simple. We try to force our opponent to play according to our pace instead of trying to keep up to fast and broken power-9 plays. Most of the time under the Nether Void both players are able to play just 1 spell a turn and it is perfectly fine because decks loose the ability to keep countermagic up while advancing the board. The trick is to make every card in our deck more impactful in this scenario. How can we do this?

For starters, let’s make our manabase good, which is a pretty hard thing to do in 93/94. I generally prefer not to play double-colored spells in my decks unless my game plan is to cast something broken like Eureka/Moat/All Hallow’s Eve. And that is the reason I stopped to use City of Brass. Especially in this deck! Not only does it make our life more miserable against agro decks (and the matchup is very tough on its own), but it also makes our mana-choke side plan worse. Just imagine how the deck’s manabase will improve when you play City of Brass; Fellwar Stones will turn into a magical Christmas manarock with absolutely no drawback!

Ok, to make our best play we need to cast first turn Elf into second turn Mana Vault+Nether Void. What we need for that is a green source on the first turn and a black source on the second. According to Frank Karsten, there should be 14 and 13 mana sources respectively. 4 bayous, 2 Pendelhavens + 8 forests are enough for green, and 4 bayous, 4 Elves of the Deep Shadow + 5 swamps for black, +4 obvious Mishra’s Factories and 1 Strip Mine. That gives us 24 lands and 33 mana sources including 4 Mana Vaults and a Sol Ring. For my taste it is a bit too much and testing proves me right most of the time. So I just remove 1 swamp and 1 forest and hope for the best. And that’s why we don’t play double colored spells - we’ll need something like 6-8 more lands to consistently get our colors or play City of Brass and suffer in 50% or more of the games.
Let’s get back to the creatures. A good aggressive deck usually needs around 20 creatures to be successful. And our deck with all its midrangeness is more of an aggro deck at heart. So 4 Elves, 2 Pixies, 4 Djinns, 4 Su-chi and 4 Mishra’s give us 18 good threats and it is almost enough. Sure, we can add 2 more Pixies in the main, but at this point there’re not many flexible slots for that.

Then we have our utility. 4 Ice Storms and 4 Crumbles are a no-brainer. Without them we’ll be overwhelmed with unfair plays consisting of a million moxen with factories support. Main targets are always Mishra's, not mana sources, because under the Void the opponent will play just one spell a turn anyway. Three Paralyze are perfect removal for our deck as they give us some tempo by forcing our opponent to untap their creature if they want to interact with our game plan. Additionally they don’t give precious life points as swords do! There’s a torturer’s pleasure to paralyze Juzam or Serendib and then keep them from the fourth mana, hehehe. In this situation our puny elf with Pendelhaven can deal whooping 3 damage a turn! I don’t know if four copies are better, but I just own 3, so I play 3.
And after that we have just a couple of free slots after adding our precious 4 Nether Voids. These slots are usually taken by Demonic Tutor, Chaos Orb, Mind Twist and 1-2 special cards like Bazaar of Baghdad/Jalum Tome to dig and one optional copy of Titania’s Song. A couple of words about the Song. Most of the time Titania’s Song acts like the 5th Nether Void against power-dependent decks or as a game-breaker against Troll-Disco decks as usually they have no answers maindeck for it. And of course, out deck has a pretty nice synergy with it: Mana Vaults and Sol Ring become extra beaters with Pendelhaven! And one more thing. This deck doesn’t play Regrowth. It just doesn’t.

That’s it for the main deck. For the sideboard we have A LOT of options:
1. Usual color-hosers Gloom, Tsunami and Whirling Dervish.
2. Transform into control-kill’em’all deck options like Drop of Honey, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale and Terror.
3. Transform into a weird enchantment deck with Skull of Orm, Animate Dead and Triskelions.
4. More artifact hate cards like Titania’s Song and Scavenger Folk.

To be honest I’m not very good at sideboarding so I usually just add cards I like and hope for the best!

Aaaand finally, the matchups (I realize that I’ve probably lost good portion of my readers 500 words ago).

The Deck:
We have all the action needed to win maindeck, but Moat will be a problem because we have just one Chaos Orb against it. The main strategy is always the same; try to overwhelm your opponent with threats and make them play just one spell a turn. Most of the time we need to concentrate our efforts on the deck’s manabase. Blue/white moxen and Mishra's being two main priorities (remember, we don’t play Cities so Fellwars won’t do shit). Sometimes you also need to destroy Library of Alexandria, but it depends on how well your opponent’s draw steps are and how many threats we can offer. We’ll probably win most of the games with Pixies/Elves under the Void.

Sideboard in:
- Avoid fate. Very impactful on the play with “second turn Mana Vault into Erhnam” hand. Sometimes countering the first swords on our big creature wins the game.
- Tranquility. Only if we sideboard out our Void, which we absolutely can do on the draw. But I prefer Glooms over Tranquility, because a good the Deck player will setup the board to protect the Moat anyway. Btw, we don’t fear the Abyss too much for obvious reasons.
- Gloom. Acts as additional Voids. Nothing more to say.
- Titania’s Song. Pretty good, but I’d sideboard it only on the play against white decks. Again, Glooms are better.
- Tsunami. If you’re opponent’s name’s Danny Friedman, Tsunamis are the way to go! But most of the time it is 2 for 1 at maximum, so I usually don’t use them. If you do, sideboard out some Ice Storms.

Sidboard out: Paralyze!

Zoo/UR Tempo
The same here: I designed my BG-deck to beat this kind of decks. So everything you need is the main 60. You best friend is Paralyzed Serendib Efreet and your worst enemy is probably Erhnam Djinn. Although, if your opponent plans to play a big guy with the help of Sol Ring or Black Lotus, Paralyze will probably save your ass. These decks rarely have maindeck ways to remove Nether Void so most of the time we can just win by installing it on the second turn (just pray for them not having 1st turn Kird Ape).

Sideboard in:
- Terrors. Against opposing Erhnams. But it is sometimes a correct play to even kill Kird Ape/Flying Men with it (especially if you’re planning a fast Nether Void).

Sideboard out:
- Argothian Pixies. They can only fend off opposing Mishras and trade with unpumped apes which is pretty bad.

Black midrange decks
The strongest play these deck can offer against us is first turn Hypnotic Specter, other things we don’t really fear that much. If we’re lucky we’ll have a Paralyze for the Specter. If not - we’re screwed :)
Juzams may be a problem just because we can’t trade them with any of our creatures. But we still have an option of double block (at least before sideboard when Terror becomes an issue). We try to kill opposing mishras with Ice Storms and save Crumbles for Nevinyrral’s Disks.

Again, resolving the Void against non-white versions is a gg most of the time. Dead Guy Ale builds are a totally different story though. Armageddons and Disechants are real problems and I guess the support of Specters and Juzams make that matchup pretty bad. The only advice I can give is to be lucky and have a turn 2 Void :) As always hehe!

Sideboard in:
- Whirling Dervish. No-brainer against Mono Black, but not that good against BR and BW builds. 2 Copies Maximum though — getting two green early may be a problem.
- Hurricane. Just for the Specters, because otherwise we might as well try to sideboard in some Scryb Sprites (We still play pendelhavens!)
- Gloom. Against Dead Guy Ale because we only really care about white cards.

White weenie/White Zoo/Erhnamgeddon
Maybe the worst matchup imaginable. These kind of decks usually have everything in the world to make our life miserable. Small creatures are still castable under the Void, Swords and Disechants are still the best removal you can have, and although we can combat these things separately, together they screw our game plan 100%.

Sideboard in:
- Drop of Honey. This card in combination with Nether Void and Skull of Orm can win us the game, but the timing should be perfect.
- Gloom. Again.
- Terror. For obvious reasons.
- Sylvan Library. A good strategy if you try to install more enchantments than they have disenchants. And it pretty much draws us a million cards thanks to Swords to Plowshares.

Sideboard out:
- Argothian Pixies
- Elves of the Deep Shadow
- Some Crumbles

Combo decks (Twiddle Vault/Power Monolith etc.)
I don’t usually consider sideboarding against this kind of decks, but we can still add more artifact hate like Titania’s Song and Scavenger Folk. The trick is to land Nether Void as always.

Eureka decks
I’d say we don’t stand a chance against those:) The worst matchup, maybe even worse than white zoo, because all our creatures are smaller and we don’t have effective ways to prevent eureka from resolving. Void? VOID!

Ok, I’d say it is enough for now! If you’ll be in the mood for more deck-teching in black and green I will be back with control and combo builds! Until next time!

/Constantine

söndag 6 maj 2018

[MORE GOLD] But at the end it is "just" Bronze! – N00bcon X report by Valerio Gregori


Today we have a treat! Valerio Gregori is one of the most skillful and active players in the Italian old school scene, as well as a returning contributor to this blog. A month ago he made an impressive run at the World Championship, and decided to contribute with a deep report of his adventures. He did in fact write this post a couple of weeks ago, and the delay to post it here is all on me. So without further ado, let's check out Valerio's report from n00bcon X. Enjoy! /Mg out

[TAKE A CHANCE ON ME] or a great idea to spend Easter Holydays
Planning a five days visit of Stockholm during Easter Holydays with Valentina, I got a hit reading a post where my best Magic pusher, Luca Di Santo, was saying that he was going to meet people at N00bcon X. A short diving in my memories remembered me that N00bcon – the Old School World Championship! - is supposed to happen exactly in the same time.
So why not to try to get a wild card? And make a short deviation to Gothenburg (at the end becoming the arrival point in Sweden, with Stockholm finally reached by train)? In the worst case, we will be able to have a deeper view of Sweden! So I contacted Mg, informing our Master that 1) I was needing a N00bcon badge – and 2) I was needing to visit him, to thank him personally, more or less something like a religious need at this level of capital investment :). And 3) why not, possibly a spot! 
Through the infinite ways of our Magnus, a spot finally was found and opened, so I had to correct just a little bit the original route and start the preparation for the event. A dream was becoming true. 
Going wild, last time it worked well
[KNOWING YOU, KNOWING ME] or building a deck to beat The Deck aka BepAttack®
But the story of this deck had commenced a little bit before N00bcon X events.
  • Christmas 2017: my friend Giuseppe “Zio Beppe” Rinaldi wants to try an Atog list heavily blue-splashed, for Serendibs, Psionic Blasts and Blue Power. Playtesting is very funny, with an interesting abuse of Ankh of Mishra, but results is not fully consistent vs. Troll Disco, CermakAttack and UR, at least till side-boarding. With Blood Moon finally in, win rate starts to go up. 
  • Early March, 2018: we see an under-powered version of UR from a Swedish guy, Odd, going to lose the Final in Arvikafestivalen (almost 50 players) piloting a deck with a limited number of Volcanic Islands (1), no full Moxen suite (just UR), neither P9 (no Time Walk f.i.) – but with Blood Moon (3) main-deck and a lot of hate vs. artifacts, Detonate shining above all. The potential is very visible, at this point we understand that we are working in the right direction – just need to optimize and merge solutions from the many UR builds under the radar. And Su-chi, we want the full set into the MD too.
  • Mid March: we develop a list with a black splash for Demonic Tutor and Mind Twist. Win rate above 70% vs. CermakAttack; approx. 60% vs. The Deck. What is clear from play-testing, is that you want to cast Blood Moon as soon as you get in hands; and this is not fully consistent with Black Power. We were needing a fix.
UR Atog burn list, first update
  • Later on March: I have been informed by Magnus that a spot in N00bcon X is open and mine. Great! We imagined that all the Swedish Juggernauts they would use The Deck for the World Championship –  and my list need to be focused accordingly. To do that, my friend Simone has prepared the most hated version of The Deck, the one with The Abyss and no Serra Angels MD. We proceed with a compulsive play-testing (at the end, more or less 4 hours per week :), three weeks total), discovering at the end that Detonate is an incredible card vs. Jayemdae Tome :P. Black Vise even more. Blood Moon incredible. And Gloom providing help too, after side-boarding.
There is Old School and Older School; Simo's shot takes a typical and friendly confrontation of Older School members (me and Beppe) trying to reach an agreement about the Black splash
  • Latest March, last Sunday before N00bcon X: Beppe performs very well in a local tournament in Milan (30 players), Top8-ing and losing first game (and first match) just in the quarterfinal by a consecutive mana screw. The build is just UR, very clean – but 61 cards...
UR Atog burn list, ver. 3.0
  • The night before my flight to Gothenburg: fixed the list like below (play-tested just SB matches vs. Simone piloting The Deck. Winning rate above 60%, games > 20. We call this deck BepAttack® (as Beppe should be the Italian answer to Andreas :)). Blood Moon, Black Vise, Detonate, all top performing. Juggernauts are replacing Serendibs to escape from The Abyss, from REBs and eventual Cities in a Bottle. REBs in, together with an additional Shatter, replacing Vaults and Triskies. This is the strategy vs. the tier-1. 
BepAttack®, final version played at N00bcon X. Next step now, it is to found somewhere place for additional hate vs. Lions
  • The day before N00bcon X: I am not allowed to touch cards :). More or less the final preparation consist on making the full of calories in Gothenburg – from meatballs to fish soup, from oysters to salmon. And beer, rivers of beer!
Nutrition: an athlete preparation has to take it into the good consideration!
[WATERLOO] or why not to play the World Championship into meat-grinder mode since the very 1st turn?

As it seems to be funny ;) [cit.]

1st round, vs. Dave Firth Bard [USA] with a Copy Artifact home brew, 1-2
Game 1, I mull to 6. He starts with LoA, me too. Blocked at 2 mana for a while, then I am finally able to put a Serendib into the battlefield, followed soon by a second one. Key of the match is about Dave’s transmutation of a Fellwar into City in a Bottle, that destroys my creatures along with my whole game plan. A good move from Dave! (0-1) 
Typical Old School opening, it happens more often than you think… Usually followed by a Strip Mine, at least from one of the sides
Game 2 is again LoA vs LoA. But this time I am able to deploy a second turn Blood Moon that stops him from developing almost anything in the board. A Serendib Efreet together with Mishra's Factory provide lethal damage in 5 turns. (1-1)

Game 3, I have again a mulligan to 6, suffering mana screw with remaining with just a Mox Ruby and a land for almost the entire duration of the game (also thanks to a Strip Mine from Dave, if I remember well). At the end Dave is able to finish me with a bunch of Triskelions, thanks again to multiple copies of Copy Artifact. Great brew! (1-2)

[MAMMA MIA] as promised, here it is the 6-wins streak
The day before departure to Sweden, I am speaking with Simo during our play-testing, about a premonition for N00bcon regarding a first round loss followed by an unstoppable winning run. The plan is perfectly respected til this moment…

2nd round, vs. Hart Prendergast [USA] with Reanimator, 2-0
Another US guy! Well, a good opportunity to establish equilibrium – or die!
Game 1, he starts with a fast Juzam. But I am quite ready to answer at this stage, so a Black Vise and a Su-chi  from my side fall down for an interesting damage race; after 3 turns and at 5 LPs, I finally have the chance to stop his attacks with a Mishra blocking the demon; following Lightning Bolt from my side put an end to the black menace. Then I have just to finish the work with my stuff (1-0)

Game 2, his land-go is followed by my first turn Black Vise, and then again by a Serendib Efreet. The pressure on him is very high since the start of this game, he plays All Hallow’s Eve but without enough turns to have it really resolving. (2-0)
6 more Americans to go!

3rd round, vs. Mari Steinhage [NED] with Ponza, 2-0
But, announced by his special play-mat, the following match is vs. a Dutch guy from the confraternity of the Knight of Thorn, Mari. He will be very unlucky. 
Game 1, practically he is able to play just a Bayou before I slam down a Blood Moon, on my very first turn. The game more or less ends here, from this point I am able just to see some additional duals deploying  on his side, but just able to give red mana; in the meantime Serendib Efreet and Su-chi are quickly ending the job. (1-0)

Game 2 is not so different from the first one. Again I put down a fast Su-chi, that is able to make coast to coast 5 times for the win. And again, thanks to a very fast Blood Moon. (2-0)

4th round, vs. Martin Jord [SWE] with Mirrorball, 2-0
Very funny game! And finally facing my first Swedish opponent.
Game 1, he tries to develop a typical control board, with a couple of Moxen and Fellwar as well. First part of the game is about Martin that is trying to stop a very sneaky Serendib Efreet from my side – that at the end get a Fireball, unfortunately for him just after some damage brought home. A second Efreet from my side is more lucky, finding Martin not able to propose an answer. And providing me the first game. (1-0)

Game 2, the game passed through endless turns, with his board growing in permanents turn by turn (reaching the record of 28 pieces, on just his side..). He is searching for combo (simply, a Mirror Universe activation followed by a Fireball; so the name of the deck!), but needs to use his first Mirror Universe to save his life when at 7 LPs. Going again up to 18, he continues digging, but continues as well going down in LPs, as an unanswered Juggernaut is pushing him faster again in the red zone. With him at 2 and me at 7 LPs he feel himself comfortable for the win. So Martin decides to play a Timetwister to then start the combo, but with an elaborate preparation before: third Mirror Universe (as one has been Detonated in the meantime, very funny) and most, Time Walk. After the Twister, a Fireball is following for 7 damages. My answer is in form of Psionic Blast, that finds him surprised, but still not defeated. Smiling, Martin is digging on the full board searching for 2 red mana, and casts Fork on his Fireball. But lucky is again on my side, and the Fork meets a second Psionic Blast, enough for my win. (2-0) 
24 permanents and something like 48 life-points gained by Martin, to reach in any how such glorious defeat!

5th round, vs. Jimmie Hansen [SWE] with BR, 2-0
Second Swedish opponent, and now facing the creator of the Atog deck itself!
But not our UR version! Taking the seat and making presentations – excusing itself for the near-to-drunk state, once I revealed I’m Italian he remembered me that a lot of Italians have had, in the recent past, a lot of success with his mono red Atog list... And he asked me what I was going to play... Jimmie, I am playing Atog, what else? :)

Game 1, to let him feel comfortable, I decide to open, after his Land-Dark Ritual-Underworld Dreams, with a Mox and a Mountain, then an Atog. Welcome master! Atog survives just one round, to be replaced by a Serendib and a second Atog. In the meantime I starts to go down, both because of Underworld Dreams and Serendib Efreet drawback. Soon after a second Underworld Dreams falls down for him. With the scorecard seeing Jimmie at 11 and me at 10, he taps all his mana (including a City of Brass) to Fireball me for 6. Now Jimmie is at 10 and me at 4 LPs, going to 1 because of the Dreams and the Efreet. He passes, I have 8 damages for him into the battlefield + an empty hand but a lot of outs. My draw is Chaos Orb… I think a couple of seconds, before realizing that the card is good to be eaten by the Atog to reach 10 damages needed to grab the first game. With a Fireball for 5 he should had won the game, we agree together (1-0)

Game 2, his opening is land-go, and is followed by my first turn Black Vise. He plays something like 3 (or 4) consecutive Sinkholes, but my starting hands was something like 3 spells/4 lands… Game moves then smoothly for me, with a Su-chi not encountering any opposition from him. And giving me the victory (2-0)

6th round, vs. Yuri Ancarani [ITA] with UBW midrange, 2-1
Facing this Italian guy for the first time, as we have never met before (and please remember that Old School community is quite big in Italy!). Making presentations, we discovered that he is one of the original members of the Quintet game club, in Ravenna, that I was used to visit when I was young (15 years ago more or less) to play board-games and Magic… and we met for the first time today in Gothenburg!

Game 1, he starts with a monster hand (the first I had really to face till now) with Black lotus, land a couple of Moxen, Energy Flux, Timetwister. My following hand - that I cannot mulligan! – shows just one land and a Mox. I try anyway to play, but his Juzam completes fastly my destruction. (0-1)

[S.O.S] or how to save 2 match-points 
Losing the next game, I will be out from the contention. I knew very well.
Game 2, I open with an Atog, followed by a Su-chi. He casts Sengir Vampire, on his very first turn, that dies very soon, thanks to Psionic Blast. My remaining Bolts go all directly on Yuri, letting me to at least remand the elimination. (1-1)

Game 3, it has been totally crazy. I starts again quite well, better than him, with a Black Vise and a first Mishra attacking. At the end he is able to re-enter into the match, with a Mishra also on his side supported by a Juzam. My sided-in Maze of Ith is doing a great job at this point, but the race originally in my favor, after a bunch of Swords to Plowshares and Disenchant from his side on my creatures, is slipping from my hands, with me going down 2 LPs per turn, and him just 1.
With the life-score reporting Yuri at 2 and me at 4 LPs, I cast Bolt on him, he answers with a Swords to Plowshares on his Juzam, saving himself for a while. A Blood Moon (to stop eventual opportunities from Yuri’s side to put anything into the board) and few additional Bolts seal at the end the match on my favor. At this point, I am still alive and still in good shape! (2-1)

7th round, vs. Francesco Delfino [ITA] with The Deck, 2-0
Again an Italian, this time for the win-and-in. I saw previously Francesco beating Elof at the top tables, The Deck vs. The Deck, thanks to some special modifications that Francesco has put into his brew (most notable, the interaction among Karakas & Rubinia Soulsinger).
Game 1, he opens with LoA. I answer, as you can imagine, with LoA, then draw again, cast a Mox, cast a Black Vise. The game proceeds with me drawing more or less every turn one card more than him. After few turns, with Francesco having just three cards in hand, and already spent a couple of Swords on my Atog and Mishra, I play a Serendib, still remaining with a full hand. The game ended soon after (1-0)

Game 2, he starts this time with an Ivory Tower first turn. His LPs start growing fastly, but I am not feeling the need to concede, and with him reaching top level of 33 LPs I finally start to hit him with a Mishra, soon followed by Su-chi, and after some turns by Juggernaut. At the same time, his lifescore finally starts to go down: some bad draws are stopping him taking control of board; and soon he needs to use Rubinia as a blocker, to be bounced in hands by Karakas (to survive) and let him survive as well. A Blood Moon from my side stops quite early this strategy, and again, Bolt by Bolt, I am able to complete the job (2-0)
When you are drawing really bad, remember that your opponent can do even worse...
With a 6-1 score, I entered the top at 7th place, claimed by Magnus top8 presentation with one the worst spelling of my name ever heard. Check-it out on the streaming! 
Over 80% of games won. What an incredible and intense 10 hours run!
Best picture I have about the Top 8 players together…  at least the shot takes our commentator! 
[GIMME! GIMME! GIMME! (a man after midnight)] my best match of the day
Quarterfinal, vs. Simon Gauti Rokkjaer [DAN] with The Deck, 2-1

Game 1, forced by his great opening, I try to use this match to understand his special The Deck brew. As Simon’s is one of the toughest version I have ever faced, with both The Abyss and Moat main-deck, as well as Ivory Tower! A real nightmare for aggro-people. And a very focused opponent, despite that midnight has passed.

His opening indeed is something like Land-Mox-Mox-Timetwister; or Sol Ring instead of a Mox, I don’t remember perfectly, too confused by this huge slap into my face, welcoming me in the top8! Making a long story short (as my new hand was incredibly weak) after more or less half an hour, his battlefield shows both The Abyss and Moat, a couple of Mishra’s Factory, a couple of Jayemdae Tomes. And me, all my stuff in hands, ready to do nothing. He had to Disenchant his own Moat to attack me, and put an end to this debacle. (0-1)

Game 2, full set of Juggernauts entering in place of Serendibs, and also Shatter and Red Elemental Blasts, in place of Mana Vaults and Triskies, according to original plan. I start very fast, with Black Vise working well on the first rounds. I remember also a very satisfying Detonate on his Jayemdae, and a final Bolt to tie the contention. (1-1)

Game 3, is representing the apical point of my day.  On the first turns my notes reporting just presence of Juggernaut, meeting Swords. The contention early moves towards a confrontation of Black Vises Vs. Ivory Towers. I have to destroy one of them with Detonate to get advantage, and soon after he does the same, Disenchanting my Black Vise. At the very end, low in LPs, he is able to gain the control of the board… but he is unfortunately in the reach area. More or less the board state on the picture below. 
Black Vise vs. Ivory Tower. What a match! Thanks to the latest Swedish B&R, the match-up is finally in equilibrium, Black Vise can compensate effectively OP drawing engines; I guess, there is no need of further changes, as the number of Lions is outnumbering by far the number of Jayemdae Tomes! And going towards a 100% aggro meta is for sure not healthy. 
Later on, dead drawing after dead drawing – maybe on both sides, we arrive to a status on which he has 2 Ivory Towers, 1 LP, a Circle of Protection: Red still active and me a couple of Lightning Bolts in hand. Arriving to a point, 3-4 turns later, where if I pass doing nothing, he will reach 3 LPs – remaining still in the reach of a Blast. But I draw Blood Moon, again not the out I need. He passes, ready to exit from the red zone. And finally it happens, I finally draw the Psionic Blast I need. So I proceed casting firstly Blood Moon, that resolves, then Blast. And Simon finally saying he is dead. Cannot believe to what has happened, as well all the crew surrounding us that has assisted to a very intense match.

So, at this point, I am in the top 4 of N00bcon X!
Top 4, from left to right: Olle, Alban, Valerio & Ben
[THE WINNER TAKES IT ALL] my worst played match of the day
Semifinal, vs. Alban Lauter [GER] with The Lion, 0-2 
Do you know why Alban seems to be so happy? He is going to draw Black Lotus, a land and Mindtwist on his opening hand. And he is going to start first!
I was very tired at this point, but more, the last game with Simon, really very intensive, it has taken out almost all of my combat spirit.

Game 1, I mull to 6. He starts with a tremendous opening, Mindtwist for 3 turn 1. But it is not a real drama, at the end it resulted in a 3x2, and on second turn I am already able to re-enter into the match with a Timetwister. Unfortunately, it meets his Power Sink. Both boards found some difficulties in development, at the end a Serendib on my side is facing his Lion. I top-deck a Lightning Bolt that I use very badly, waiting his turn before playing against his 2/1 – and consequently encountering his Counterspell thanks to second blue mana top-deck from his side. But my deck wants to give me another chance, in form of Psionic Blast, targeting again, this time successfully, his Lion. The race continues, but he finds the mana for Serra Angel. My deck gives me, again, a Lightning Bolt top-deck. So I attack with Serendib, encountering his fast block by Serra and I am ready to Bolt the 4/4, when he says to me he intends to not block anymore (Bolt still not played). Guys, at this point I was feeling not possible to negate this play to Alban, despite, at the end, this costs me the match, at least in the fast way it has been! Indeed 4 damages later from the Angel, that meets the death just one turn later than I need – plus a Psionic Blast from his side complete the job for Alban.

Game 2, it has been a very strange game. I have felt to have the game under control since the starts for most of its complete duration, but I do not know why, at the end I lost also this one. At the end my first turn Atog met a Demonic Tutored Blue Elemental Blast from his side. Following Serendib Efreet and Su-chi from my side met Swords the first, and Dust to Dust the second. Alban was top-decking an answer for every single treat I was able to put in the board, that is the story. Great build, great side-boarding, well trained in playing. Chapeau, he will win later on the World Championship and the Shark, beating Olle Rade.

For me, my Top 4 cup, but more, hugs from Mg, and more again the N00bcon X badge, that is witnessing that I have participated to the most incredible event I have ever had.
More or less 3:00 AM, after almost 12 hours of battle – with reduced vision capability and almost no more cerebral activity, but still able to lift up an arm to drink from my Graal. And our Mg still in great shape! There is a reason if he his our Master!

[THE NAME OF THE GAME] my top cards of the day & short comment on current B&R
Black Vise: This is the superstar; very strong in the opening, still valid in late game thanks to Timetwister and Wheel of Fortune; last year correction of the B&R I think has centered the target. When well play-tested, when your build is taking into the correct consideration Control decks (and The Deck above all of them), then the match-up is more than playable, and it becomes also very funny. I’m fully convinced that current B&R has not to be touched again, a further limitation in control decks options will ruin the meta – now really healthy (something like 10 different deck, under Swedish rules, have won last 10 tournaments, I remember this statistic one week ago posted somewhere).

Detonate: Incredibly funny, this understated pieces of antiquities is able with the same mana to Fireball your opponent destroying at the same time his Jayemdae or his Mirror Universe. Useful also vs. Sol Ring :P

Blood Moon: Sometime able to win games by itself. Not a lot to add, my build was set appositely vs. greedy tri-or-more-colors mana bases. 
Serendib Efreet: top creature of the format, every time a pleasure to see him on the first or second turn.

Psionic Blast: Top performer too, I do not remember how many games I have been able to steal thanks to the blue bolt. That is able, by the way, to take down also opposing nightmares in terms of Serra Angel, or Sengir Vampire, or Su-chi, or Serendib Efreet itself…

[THANK YOU FOR THE MUSIC]
Thanks to Beppe, Simone, Piddulin, Mario and Valentina for supporting, deck-building and play-testing. Without you guys, this result would not have been possible. I would like also to thank the Italian crew in Sweden: Luca, Jacopo, Megu, Lorenzo, Francesco, Yuri for supporting me (and losing when paired :P, well done!) during the Tournament. And thanks, again and again, to Magnus, Gordon and all the other participants (playing or not) for the great persons you are, and for the great community you have been able to develop, consolidate, let grow – at worldwide level. 

What a crazy experience! Thanks!

måndag 23 april 2018

Adventure Island

A couple of months ago, I marveled at the Serendipity of Sindbad. I had been looking for a new project, and the inconspicuous sailor had caught my eye.

We all have our reasons to play and cards to invoke our zeal. Personally, if I am to truly enjoy a deck over a period of months or years, it should have strange angles and creative lines of play. I like to have an "oops, I win" factor in the deck, but I don't want that to be the only plan. My deck should have a fighting chance against most comers, but it shouldn't be consistently broken. Playing with it should be an experience.
Project M was built with all that in mind. That decks basically has three game plans. Go for Guardian Beast combo with Orb, Disk and Transmute; play control with factories, books and permission cards like Icy Manipulator; or just smash face with beasts like Juzam and Mahamothi. Depending on what you draw and how the opponent plays, your game plan can change many times during a single duel. It is a highly satisfying pile to pilot.
Project M, version that won Arvika Festival 2015.
That deck is my pet deck if I ever had one, and I have no intentions of retiring it. But I do like building new things, and I had a plan for a deck that could potentially hit many of the marks I aimed for with Project M.

Now, I'm not getting that much younger and with a more proper adult life comes more expenses. My wife and I are moving to a new apartment this summer and the new loans will chip away on the nerd budget. In a few years I might want to slow down my work schedule a little in the name of work/life balance. And there might be an expansion of the family somewhere on the horizon. These things combine to a weird sense of nerd-FOMO; a sense that this year, 2018, might be the last year I am fully able to spend money on high-end cardboard rather than proper life events.

So I went a little nuts. I decided that I should be able to build the best version I could of this new deck without moving cards from Project M. I wanted to be able to bring both this deck and Project M to a tournament with no cards overlapping. So Power went back on my want-list. In this weird state of mind, 9/9 suddenly didn't cut it anymore.
It had been a long time since I last went looking for power. Deciding on which cards to get was a little daunting and I clearly couldn't afford everything. Fortunately - or perhaps rashly - I had actually bought some coincidental power cards about a year ago. I had saved some money for a different (non-magic) project that didn't pan out, and by a chance got the opportunity to spend that money on an Ancestral Recall, a Mox Sapphire and a Library of Alexandria instead. I found the cards at a good price and decided to take the opportunity. The original plan might have gone down the drain, but I did have some sweet, sweet cardboard instead.
And after all, these are very nice cards.
Stuff happened, months passed, and after a lot of mental back and forth about my priorities I managed to get my hands on this last n00bcon:
She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts.
This is, like, the best card ever! And now I have two, so I'm beyond living the dream of twelve-year old me. Owning two Lotuses is as sweet as having an elevator in the house, or having multiple lavatory facilities made out of gold.

Anyways, Adventure Island. Power and Libraries may be pretty relics, but they don't add actual personality to a deck. Save a deck like Fork Recursion, power cards are never really needed, they just help you turn the dials up to eleven. Having a lucky clover of four power cards is sweet, but it is not the core. This is the core:
Snap keep!
Yeah, this is a somewhat unconventional pile. Let's start with the main engine; our inconspicuous sailor. For those of you unfamiliar, Sindbad is a 1/1 for 1U with the ability "Tap: Draw a card and reveal it. If it isn't a land card, discard it." That is some sweet oracle wording. It would have been so easy for the template guys at WotC to errata this card to "reveal the top card" instead of actually drawing it. But they held the ball high here and we are drawing, which makes a world of difference.
Treasures and hidden libraries on our island.
Sylvan Library pretty much goes without saying. It is one of the strongest green cards in the format even without any additional synergies, and with Sindbad it is just awesome. Most of the time, Sindbad simply taps to draw an extra card whenever a library is in play, but the fact that you can also self-mill unnecessary cards shouldn't be underestimated. Also, as the deck has a lot of synergies and a few different game plans, so card selection is very valuable. The Library is an easy 4-of.

The other two cards might look a little more odd. Aladdin's Lamp is a 10-mana artifact that says that whenever you you draw a card, you can instead tap the lamp and pay X mana to look at the top X cards of your library and chose one of them to draw, putting the rest at the bottom. So here is another neat synergy with Sindbad; as the sailor actually draws a card, you can replace the Sindbad draw with activating the lamp to get all the benefits from the lamp and zero of the drawbacks from Sindbad. The ten mana price tag might look like a lot, but I have certainly hard cast this during playtesting even without the Power Monolith up and running. As the deck plays a lot of mana sources and has a solid late game, this is not as steep a cost as it may seem. And once the lamp is active, life is easy. In particular if we have managed to have a Power Monolith combo going, then all your draw steps are replaced by Demonic Tutor (which should end the game immediately if you have unlimited mana).

The other card might be even less familiar than the lamp:
The first Wish.
Again, we have a replacement effect on a draw which Sindbad is more than happy to help out with. The ring really over-performed during playtesting and I should try to find space for a second copy. Again, this card will just win if you have Power Monolith going, fetching Fireball if you have a City of Brass in play or Stream of Life if your mana is more constrained. During more normal circumstances it can fetch removal (Tranquility, Crumble, Control Magic), protection (Mirror Universe, Forcefield), or just a big spell on curve to close out the game (Force of Nature or Amnesia). It can also fetch a part of the Monolith combo if needed. This is a deceptively strong card somehow.
Power Monolith package.
The Power Monolith package is not necessarily the main wincon, but rather something that can win out of nowhere and the opponent must spend resources to defend against. Stream of Life is very sweet with Sylvan Library, as you will be able to ignore the life payments on extra cards if the combo is assembled. The Power Monolith win can often look kinda convoluted, one example from play testing was gaining unlimited mana while on the ropes and having Sindbad, two blue and one green mana available. I could then Transmute the Monolith to Aladdin's Lamp, replacing the Sindbad draw with tutoring for Stream of Life via the lamp, and use the last green mana to gain a few Graham's Numbers wort of life. Sometimes you want to wait out a combo that actually wins you the game on the spot, but when time is of the essence the Stream is a very solid Plan B. This is the transmute package:
I think I will replace Tetravus with Triskelion to get a better game against weenies, but other than that this feels good enough. Transmute have a nice synergy with Sylvan Library as well, giving you a shuffle when the top cards fail to deliver.
We will occasionally mill a relevant card or just lose a synergistic permanent to removal, so to mitigate this we have a suit of resurrection spells as well:
Reconstruction is another deceptively capable card.
I should probably test out playing two Recalls main deck now that it just got unrestricted. At the very least, I should have a second copy in my wish-sideboard. But they are kinda hard to find right now, and I don't have a playset of them yet (I have an extra copy in Project M, but again, one of the plans here is to not move cards from that deck). Some more testing will have to decide if I should take the plunge and buy another one for the main deck here. Other than that, these cards make it easier to be aggressive with Sindbad and trade resources with far less fear for the late game.
Playtesting at a local pub in Oslo. 
So, we can win with Sindbad advantage or Power Monolith combo. That can't be all now, can it? Of course not. Let's take a look at the star players of the battlefield:
The glorious Master with his graceful wolves. Yep, clearly wolves.
Before someone (looking at you, Gordon) comes in to say that these cards are bad and I retort by telling that person to suck both my dicks, I'd like to argue why the Wolfmasters are actually kinda solid. Step one is synergy. In a deck where you can get infinite mana, paying GG to get a 1/1 with something close to banding is good. The hunters doesn't tap to create a token, which makes them far superior to things like The Hive or Serpent Generator as swarmyards go. Another part of the synergy equation is that they can run under Meekstone, a Transmutable sideboard card in this deck.

Second, they are deceptively good at handling removal. They don't die to Blasts nor City in a Bottle, they laugh in the face of an Abyss, and the cards that actually kill them will often have to decide between targeting them or Sindbad. If they are removed by a Swords to Plowshares, that is a Sword that didn't hit Sindbad, and if we got to build a wolf or two in the process, we are back in value town. A weird but kinda fun fact is also that Chaos Orb can't kill tokens. I don't know if that will ever be relevant, but it is at least something I guess.

Third, the wolves keep coming and they all have Bands with other. While not fully as strong as proper banding, this can make combat a nightmare for the opponent. They will pretty much never be able to kill more than a single wolf each combat. If you have four or five wolves, there are very few summons that can stand in your way. If you get to untap with Master of the Hunt a few turns things easily get out of hand.

With that into account, I'm not saying that they are obscenely powerful nor that they should be played in every green deck. They are four-drops that die to Lightning Bolt after all, and they take a lot of mana before they win the game. But in a pile like this they offer another attack plan that demands an answer, and they strike from an angle that may be hard to defend against. They have not disappointed during playtesting, and I believe that they may be underestimated in the format.
A few more cards on the defensive side, and a stellar draw spell.
So all-in-all we find ourselves with an UG deck with a wish-board that can take the control role when necessary, randomly win with an infinite combo, smash down with bands of tokens, do stupid things with draw steps, transmute into strange artifacts and recur broken spells. Every now and then a Force of Nature enters the battlefield, and every now and then we get to cast Stream of Life for value. A sailor traveling to a tropical island to dig for rare artifacts and hidden libraries in the company of wolves. I present the latest voyage to Port Durdle:
Adventure Island, v1.6
For some additional Sindbad discussions, check out this episode of All Tings Considered. Some solid tech right there. And when you are surfing around, I can't reccomend the post Not even Venarian Gold from Music City Old School Mtg enough. It is a fairly short post, but really manages to capture the spirit of the format in a fantastic way.

Next time we're gonna look at a proper tournament report from one of our friends in Italy. Until then, I wish you brisk winds on your travels.

söndag 22 april 2018

Banned and Restricted update 2018

Yep, it's that time of the year again!
Yet another snap keep!
So last year we tried and recorded the announcement on the Flipping Orbs podcast rather than posting it here and typing out the discussions. That was pretty fun, so we did the same thing this year (and now it's a tradition I suppose). The episode turned out at an horrendous two hours, complete with my sound dropping off at places. So for those of you that just want to get to the brass tacks, here's this year's update:
  • Recall is unrestricted
...and that's it! As always it will be exciting to see how this works out and what kind of tech people come up with, if any. Feel free to scream your opinions in the comments :) If you have some time, I recommend giving the podcast a listen. It goes into some depth about around twenty cards that were up for discussion this year.

Cheers,
Mg

onsdag 11 april 2018

The n00bcon X top8

The tenth world championship of Old School Magic is in the books! 17 countries, around 40 communities and 122 players packed their spells and went to Gothenburg to show who's who in the format.
This was the craziest weekend of Magic I've experienced yet. From the bag of crazy that that was the Wizards' Tournament, to the largest gathering of old school players yet at n00bcon X, to the smaller main tournament hosted in the depths of Gothenburg the day after. I can find no word for this better than simply "Magic". And that's with me not even playing in any of the events except the Wizards' Tournament. It says something special about the people when I don't feel bad missing out playing the main tournament but rather just feel excited to meet all the people.

I could go on for days sharing the joy I feel being a part of this community. There are so many stories. I don't know where to start, nor where I should stop. A few people have already shared their stories, like Dave Firth Bard at the All Tings Considered podcast. And of course there's hours and hours of the video stream up on Wak-Wak. So right know I'll keep my own anecdotes short and just say this.

Thank you. Thank you for being good people I love hanging out with even when I'm not drawing an opening seven. Thank you for how much you care and how much effort you put into making other people here welcome. And in particular on a personal level, thank you all who provided the wonderful Easter Egg gifts to me. I really did not expect that. My mom wanted to frame the scroll you guys gave me when I showed it to her.

So, with all those lame emotions out of the way, let's go down to cold steel and brass tax. This was a god damned world championship after all. And the gladiators grinding their teeth in the elimination rounds are about as far away from novices as they come.
Andrea's Cermak. Top8.
Representing the Stockholm in a Bottle crew, Cermak hit the scene with a bang two years ago. He won the coveted Rookie of the Year trophy for the 2016/2017 season, picked up a Giant Shark in Arvika, and then followed that up with a Top4 at n00bcon 9. Apart from a slew of truly impressing tournament finishes the season leading up to n00bcon X (including a win at the Horrible Horse gathering, a second place at the 2018 Arvika Festival, and - perhaps most impressive - a second place at The Wizards' Tournament), Cermak is known as a great deck builder, tournament organizer and community profile. His Old School Magic 4 Life group is the largest Old School Magic page at Facebook, and his King of the Archipelago tournament series (an all expenses paid tournament at a boat in the Stockholm archipelago) is one of the more unique gatherings in the format. Combine that with being credited as popularizing the White Zoo archetype and taking down Alphaspelen 3 with main deck Personal Incarnations, and you have a force in the format to be reckoned with.
Cermak's CermakAttack.
Bringing his signature Savannah Lions to battle, backed up by the traditional slew of Efreets, Cermak has opted for some pretty smart choices in his top8 deck. The Su-Chis may look slightly random at glance, but they are proper beat sticks, as well as your best friend when facing down a Blood Moon
Simon Gauti. Top8.
Simon Gauti is one of the earlier adopters from Denmark, representing red and white at the championship since n00bcon 7. The Danish scene has grown a lot in the last year, and so has Simon's gauntlet and training grounds. A highly proficient Vintage player at heart, Simon never ceases to impress whenever he gets to sleeve up Moxen.
Simon Gauti's. The Deck.
The Deck is the premier control deck of the format. It contains a majority of the most effective permission spells ever printed while gaining card advantage using the Jayemdae Tome. It is a though nut to crack for any opponent, in particular when wielded by a veteran invoker like Simon. Simon's beautiful version is fairly straight forward, but nonetheless he has opted for some interesting choices. In particular playing Moat over something like The Abyss. Moat is a somewhat rarely seen card in the archetype these days, and a very gutsy card to use when your wincon is basically the landwalking Mishra's Factories :)
Kalle Nord. Top8.
Kalle is one of the reasons we play this format at all, and probably the single most important reason I still play Magic altogether. He is one of the original founders of 93/94, as well as the guy who pretty much makes all the original art related to this blog and n00bcon. That banner up here is his making, as well as all the yearly n00bcon pins, last year's playmat, this year's t-shirt, and what have you. He is also the host of the "Head Tournament" the day after n00bcon, as well as just a spectacular human specimen. Among the more braggable stats on his tournament resume is a win at n00bcon 7 as well as being one of only two people to hold more than a single Giant Shark.
Kalle's 5C CounterMidrange
Uh, yeah. It takes some effort to have the most blinged out deck at a tournament like n00bcon, but this is probably it. I don't know where to start describing all the unique pieces. All wb cards are Summer btw, except the really crazy ones (like the square cornered test print Wheel of Fortune). The artist alters and reinterpretations are kinda hard to wrap the head around. And he has two Giant Sharks in his sideboard :D If we ignore the share insanity of the deck, it is a midrange deck with some control elements. Four Su-Chi and three Erhnams are the main beatsticks, backed up by sweet burn and a miser's suit of counterspells.

Tibia. Top8.
The only guy with a perfect record in the swiss, Tibia is a son of Gothenburg and another familiar face around the top tables at n00bcon. Last time we saw him grace the top8 was at n00bcon 8, when his weapon of choice was UR Burn. Even though he is supremely versed in the format and has played at this gathering since around n00bcon 4, it is possible that Tibia might be a fairly new face for many readers. I talked to Gordon a little about it during the stream, and yes, there is of course a large native scene in Gothenburg still. They are just kinda low on the social media accounts and rarely travel far to play. The Gothenburg scene randomly hosts 20+ player gatherings with locals, but don't really write about it on facebook. Still keeping it underground, and still one of the weirder scenes. I think the cradle city represented with seven players this tournament, and at the end of the swiss, we found two in the top four of the standings and two in the bottom four. Go hard or go home. Love to the locals.
Tibia's Fantasy Zoo
I'll just quote the pilot:
"
Åland provided the framework for this deck when he first piloted it at BSK last November. I saw the potential of Savannah Lions, and since then we have been evolving the deck together.

White is the best color in 93/94 and Disenchant is the best card in the format. So the build starts with four Disenchants. Then you want cheap and effective threats. The fact that also Savannah Lions, Swords to Plowshares and Serra Angel are white clearly doesn't make things worse.

Blue is the second best color and Serendib Efreet is the best creature. Four of those. The fact that blue also gives you access to Ancestral Recall, Time Walk and Timetwister is also pretty sweet.

City of Brass makes it easy to splash powerful off-color cards like Demonic Tutor and Mind Twist. We back this up with Bolts and Blasts for reach.

The main plan is then to deploy effective threats at the same time as you keep the opponents threats and blockers / factories at bay with the burn. Then we'll just win the eventual race with Serra Angel.

The big advantage of this deck is that it doesn't play counterspells. We can without any hesitation have a very aggressive game plan, and we'll never end up in a situation where we want to play a threat but at the same time keep two blue open for Counterspell.

Sideboard is basically Circles, Armageddon, Red and Blue Blasts, and Shatterstorm.

Win.
"

Yep, that sounds about right.
Valerio. Top4.
Valerio! Valerio was one of the first Europeans, and certainly the first Italian, to write a guest post on this blog. Way back in the dark ages of 2015, when he placed 2nd at the 60-player Ovino Old School tournament (back then without Black Lotus in his deck, something that Valerio seems to have corrected since ;)). Valerio is not only one of the premier Italian players and a content provider, he was also one of the last guys to sneak in an invite to n00bcon. Planning a trip in Sweden with his lovely girlfriend at the time of the tournament, he casually contacted me and let me know that they would be in the city if a spot would open up. His strategy proved fruitful, his tech took him all the way to the top4, and the rest of the players got the chance to hang out with a cheerful Italian lady as the top8 unfolded. Win-win-win.
Valerio's Atog Aggro.
Valerio's weapon of choice is a lethal Atog aggro pile, splashing blue for Serendib Efreets along with some extra power. Praying on greedy mana bases with Blood Moons, keeping card engines honest with his playset of Back Vise, and letting big beaters finish the job alongside some burn. This is a deceptively deep pile with some interesting choices. E.g. the sideboard Juggernauts to turn the beatdown up to eleven when needed (or to switch out the Efreets when boarding in City i a Bottle), as well as the 2-1 split between Detonates and Shatters maindeck are sure to stir some conversations.
Ben. Top4.
From the place where the sun never set, Brother Ben of the Fire made a triumphant return to the Swedish turf for n00bcon X. He first showed up at the tournament last year as a member of the British Hill Giant team (honestly, median height of the team members was something like 9 feet; Ben is taller than an average oak), and piloted a sweet pile of stone cold Legends creatures like Lady Evangelina. This year, Ben earned his invite by winning the Old School Team Championships in the UK, and it seems like that taste of glory may have had him step up his deck to something slightly more powerful this year.
Ben's The Deck.
That's a slight uptick in effectiveness. I do find some humor in that the other control deck in the top8 played with Moat (over The Abyss) and no Serra Angels, where Ben plays with The Abyss alongside Serra Angel. Though I kinda get the idea; I assume that Serra Angel is not really a Serra Angel but rather a replacement of the fourth maindeck Jayemdae Tome, either due to availability or due to the fact that a Serra is better than a fourth book against aggro. Actually had the exact same nonbo in my version of The Deck I played at the last Arvika Festival. My excuse was that I didn't own four books and had to settle with three. What's your excuse Ben? ;) Among the other notable card choices we have the Scrubland and of course the Spell Blast. Countering Black Lotus never felt so good. And it is super techy to have a hard counter you can resolve with only one blue mana up.
Olle. Finalist.
Olle Råde is, like, a super good Magic player. He also stays mostly sober during tournaments, which is a little like doping. (editor's retraction: Well, turns out Olle did in fact down his beers like a viking at n00bcon. It just didn't seem to affect him). Dude has won BSK twice and holds the format's coveted Giant Shark. The title of n00bcon Champion may be one of the few things he may still even consider to be on his old school bucket list. Or just general Magic bucket list for that matter, which e.g. includes PT, GP, PotY and Invitational wins. Olle is a journalist by trade, and when he doesn't share his stories in the Gothenburg daily newspaper he can occasionally be seen freelancing pro coverage at the WotC mothership. He also wrote a sweet guest post on this blog a few years ago. Another random fact is that his father is an actual wizard, so there's always that.
Olle's UR Burn.
UR Burn has become something of Olle's signature deck in 93/94. He took down BSK 2017 with a similar list, and we also saw him wielding it in the elimination rounds back at n00bcon 8. UR is one of the consensus strongest decks in the format, by newer players sometimes described as the "Delver Deck" of old school magic. It combines permission and reach with some of the most effective threats the card pool has to offer. Throw one of the strongest players to pick up the game behind the wheels and we'll have a recipe for top8.
Alban. World Champion!
Alban Lauter has quickly reached a reputation as the contemporary "German Juggernaut" of 93/94 Magic. His recent stats from tournaments in Germany and surrounding countries are just staggering. But as for qualifying for n00bcon goes, high standings in tournaments are only rarely the way to go. Many of the communities have been giving out their invites by things like lotteries, quizzing, or even placing in the bottom of a given tournament. So even though Alban won the German qualifier tournament, that didn't give him an invite for n00bcon. The huge Fishliver Oil Cup in Italy did give out an invite to the winner, but at that one Alban "only" finished second place. A few weeks before n00bcon however, the guy who won Fishliver Oil had to decline his place, and Alban was passed down the invite by the organizers.

Well before that, in fact long before Alban had an invite, he was my bet to win this year. I assumed that he would eventually pick up an invite somehow, and he plays at a level above a majority of the field. He was of course still my bet when Gordon and I discussed who would win the tournament during our commentary on the stream at the start of the swiss. So while I can't say that I was really surprised to finally see the first non-Swede pick up the Shark at n00bcon, I am throughly impressed :) This was Alban's first top8 at n00bcon, though he did finish 9th at n00bcon 8 two years ago.
Alban's UWb Tempo.
Alban is known to many as a highly proficient The Deck player, but this year he went for a home brew. The one-two punch of Savannah Lions plus Serendib Efreet has proved immensely powerful in the format. Alban's list is far more controlling than e.g. Tibia's Fantasy Zoo (which puts more emphasis on speed and burn), and somewhat more so than Cermak's (which can take a much more midrange role with Su-Chis and more Angels). Where e.g. Tibia plays two Swords to Plowshares, Cermak plays three and Alban has the full playset. Alban is also the one guy among the three Lion-players in the top8 to run Counterspell, making his brew somewhat closer in spirit to UW Skies than Fantasy Zoo.

Ninth place player was btw some guy named Seb. Sounds familiar, but I'm not sure who that guy might be.

And there we have it! Thanks for an awesome weekend, and congratulations to all you crazy wizards both in and outside the top8!