torsdag 14 december 2017

49 decks to beat

Heya!
If one would argue that I have been lazy updating the Decks to Beat page, one would have merit. Of course, I have a sack filled with excuses to for that very purpose.
I was busy hunting Fungusaurs.
But excuses is not why we're here. We're here for tech, and I've sorted the top decks from Ivory Cup 2, Scandinavian Championships, Alphaspelen 3, The Horrible Horse Gathering, Fishliver Oil Cup Ed. 1, and BSK 2017. Three lists are still missing, but nonetheless we have 49 new Decks to Beat collected.
Kalle Nord's Parfait.
Ivory Cup 2 Top8
35 participants, photos of 7/8 decks.
The second edition of Stockholm's annual Ivory Cup was a smashing gathering. The attendance had risen since last year, as had the powerful cards. Erhnam Djinns faced of each others in the finals, leaving strategys like Atog Burn, The Deck and Dead Guy in their trail.

Scandinavian Championship Top8
48 participants, photos of 6/8 decks.
The first edition of Scandinavian Championship in Arvika was hosted in the familiar area we know from the Arvika Festival. As always when visiting that community, great ambiance and good people were aplenty. Jimmie's mono Red Atog Burn took down the championship, with Parfait, Disaster, Power Monolith, and different variants of Zoo and control also showing up in the top8.

Alphaspelen 3 Top4
12 participants, photos of 4/4 decks.
Alphaspelen is one of the more local tournaments in Stockholm. This gathering was home to some creative tech in the top4, including a new take on White Zoo with Personal Incarnations, CandleFactory, and some sort of ErhnamBurn'em midrange with Sedge Trolls.

The Horrible Horse Gathering Top8
27 participants, photos of 8/8 decks.
The Horrible Horse Gathering pitted Norwegian spell slingers in the largest 93/94 gathering in Oslo yet. The final was battled out with Lions and Efreets on both sides, leaving Troll Ponza, Athopher, Titania's Song Control, Juzam Smash and other sweet tech in the elimiation rounds.

Fishliver Oil Cup Ed. 1 Top16
86 participants, photos of 16/16 decks.
One of the major European gatherings, the Fishliver Oil Cup has quickly become home to some of the best that the format has to offer. The people, the atmosphere and the brews truly puts a smile on your face. Rather than having a top8, Lorenzo and Megu opted to go for a top16 in the elimination rounds for this one; with 14 different archetypes among the 16 decks.

BSK 2017 Top8
38 participants, photos of 8/8 decks.
BSK is the second oldest annual tournament in the format, and one of the most revered by the "old school old school" players. This was the eight annual Halloween gathering in Borås, bringing foogies from different corners of Sweden to dust of their old cards in chance of winning a The Fallen. Once again, Master of Magic Cards Olle Råde claimed the trophy, using his URb Burn to defeat MirrorBall in the finals. Combo had good showing here, and the top8 also included e.g. TwiddleVault and PowerMonolith.
Giacomo Zorzan's Erhnam Burn'em. Love this strategy, and haven't seen it played for many years.
Is there something we can see here? Piles and piles of awesome cards! But I guess some people are interested in the top-tier meta trends as well. We see an impressive number of different archetypes at the top tables. Aggro, Midrange, Control and Combo are all well represented, along with a handful prison decks and some sweet weird pet decks. Seems like unrestricting Maze of Ith didn't kill the format after all ;)

Perhaps we don't need to analyze the meta. It looks healthy and fun, so delving might be unnecessary. But I guess it could be worth noting that The Deck's presence in elimination rounds of mid-size to large tournament has declined further since last year. In the 49 top decks here, variants of The Deck has dropped slightly from around 18% to 16% (down to around 14.5% if we don't look at the 9-16th place finishes in the Fishliver Oil cup). That's like, very low for a supposed boogie man. There's also a fairly low number of pure UR Burn strategies this time. Many aggro decks seem more inclined to combine their Serendib Efreets with Savannah Lions than with Chain Lightnings at the moment.

Teching with the aggro angle is not that strange. Though I believe the URb version that Olle won BSK with is still one of the most powerful decks in 93/94, trying out new attacks are very much in the spirit of the format and I don't believe the shifting meta is "solved". It seems like a lot of players got their eyes on the power of Savannah Lions around the same time; much like many of us sleeved up Flying Men a year or two ago. But the continuous decline of control seem a little odd. I mean, The Deck, the supposed end boss of the format, hasn't won a tournament in Sweden or Norway in over a year at this point. It averages around one The Deck per top8, where we a couple of years back had two or three. There were a total of 34 Jayemdae Tomes in the deck lists above, which is less than the number of Savannah Lions (36). And far less than the number of Su-Chis, which clocks in at an impressive 52 copies (about the same number as Serendib Efreet).
I'm not saying we necessarily need more The Decks in our tournaments, but it could be interesting to try and find out why control keeps falling out of favor and Su-Chi has become a far more popular 4-drop artifact than the book. Are the control players suddenly more interested in different strategies, have we all learned how to play better against it, or are we as a community cowing people out playing control as some deem it "unfun"? Any The Deck players out there, current or former, are very welcome to give their take on the situation :)

If any other tournaments across the continents would like to add their decks to the decks to beat here, please go ahead and email me a list and a short description and I'd be happy to add them.

Next time we'll check out another guest report from Gathering the Knights of Thorn 3 in the Netherlands. Really impressive community down there :)

fredag 1 december 2017

This month in oldschool: November 2017

November has passed, and for those of us living in the North the darkness is truly upon us. As Old School goes, this month included among others the first 93/94 Team Championship in London, the long established Swedish BSK tournament, the French National Championship, the Horrible Horse Gathering in Oslo, and one of the final tournaments in Liga Catalana Old School in Spain. Lets take a dive.

From around the Web

n00bcon X
The web page for the upcoming World Championship at n00bcon is up and running. A stunningly modern collection of hypertext compared to last year, and a casual surfer might feel like it's 1998 already.

Music City Old School Mtg
We have a new blag in the blogosphere! Music City Old School Mtg chronicles the budding community in Nashville, Tennessee. Four posts and a lot of musings in the last month. Check it out!

Stasis: The unspoken elephant in my deck (Old School Ron)
Hey! Another new blogoblag in the blagotubes! Old School Ron has posted a lot of content this month, starting with a report from Eternal Weekend and most recently about his, perhaps overabundant, attachment to the card Stasis. Check it out!

A Fruit That Can Talk (The Wizard's Tower)
Taylor at the Wizard's Tower take a journey to the mysterious Island of Wak-Wak. A great chronicle about the flavor of a peculiar card.

Flippin' Orbs: Episode 9 (Wak-Wak)
Grant, Gordon and Seb talk about removal and highlander formats, and invite Felipe Garcia for his take on TwiddleVault combo and the Playable Certification Kickstarter.

Tomato, Tomato: Three styles of Old School Magic in three weeks (OldschoolMtg)
Marty Silenus flies around the world to play 93/94 with EC rules in Pittsburgh, Italian rules in Genoa, and Swedish rules in Gothenburg. Highly recommended read if you haven't checked it out.

Brewing the CandleFactory (Wak-Wak)
Gordon takes us through the evolution of his tricky CandleFactory deck.

Tournament reports

BSK 2017: Organizer's Report (End of turn, Draw a card)
Svante Landgraf sleeved up something other than the deck, organized the tournament, and convincingly took his combo to the Top8. Well played Svante! The second place deck in the tournament is beaut btw :)

Better late than never ;) Gordon Andersson reports on the second edition of Stockholm's flagship tournament; The Ivory Cup.

Report of Fishliver Oil Cup (The Magician's Blog)
Hey, here's blog that I've completely missed! I has been active for a year and somehow it has flown under the radar until now. Could be that french is like my fourth best language and I have some linguistic trouble following the french communities. But I guess I could always go google translate when I'm over my head. Apart from the tournament report, there are a lot of posts in the backlog here.

Trials of a n00b Magic player (The Wizard's Tower)
I'll just quote Taylor on this one: "Jack Ryan had never played a tournament before and his first one happened to be the biggest Old School tourney in Old School history. It’s certainly interesting and funny as he weaves his way through the tournament. He ended up doing quite well despite his lack of experience. Here is his experience first hand."

Create your own Heroes (MtgUnderground)
Dave Wojtkowski takes the stand at the MtgUnderground blag and shares his story from Eternal Weekend. His weapons of choice is the Forest.

Stephen Menendian top8'd the Eternal Weekend 93/94 tournament for the third time with his UR Burn. Here he goes through his matches and reflects on the meta.

David at the Timewalking blag tells his story from the Fishliver Oil Cup.

User andthisisthewell at Reddit posts his experience playing Fallen Empires constructed at the set's 23rd birthday. Four Thrull decks in a field of nine, which must translate to an awesome gathering.

The Norway crew gathers in Oslo to battle for the title of Horrible Horse Champion.

I'd be amiss to overlook the 93/94 World Cup in London, the first team championship in the format. It has yet to have a report written, but I can at least share a picture of the winning team:
See you guys at n00bcon!
Among the other cool gatherings we also had a 29-player n00bcon qualifier in Denmark, the 21-player French National Championship, and sweet highlander tournament in Norway. The communities are really growing around the world.
Prize for the French national champion.

n00bcon Qaulifier in Denmark.

Highlander in Norway.

Upcoming tournaments

Hey! There are so many upcoming tournaments these days that I can't really keep track of everything lest I set up camp at facebook. If you are missing an event here, feel free to comment or email me, and I'll add it to the list :)

Gathering the Knights of Thorn #3 (Netherlands) December 3
Mari Steinhage gathers the Knights of Thorn once again, this time without a cap on the number of participants. The Dutch Old School Guild is one of the fastest growing in the world. Check out the tournament report from Knights of Thorn #2 here if you want some inspiration.

2 Magical Hacks Charity Old School 93/94 Tournament (South Carolina, USA)
Now, I may occasionally frown upon using proxies in 93/94, but if this tournament actually manages to make me excited about it. 2 Magical Hacks hosts their second charity tournament for Toys for Tots, and for every set of 15 proxy cards you play you'll have to donate $5 to give kids some toys. That is awesome. Also a bunch of Unstable drafting going on that day, so take the trip if you have the chance.

Lucia Legends (Sweden) December 16
In the words of Gordon Anderson of the Stockholm community: "We're going to have a tournament on the 16th of December and there will be a n00bcon invite to fight for in some way.  More info will come soon!". More info has arrived if you follow the link.

Madison Offensive (USA) January 20
I'll just cut and paste: "The Lords of the Pit and Eternal Central are proud to announce the second annual Madison Offensive, a charity Old School Magic 93-94 event in Madison, Wisconsin, on Saturday January 20 2018. [...] Entrance Fee will be donations for Citizen Schools, a Chicago based organization that attempts to close the opportunity gap for underserved populations." Good stuff :)

Copcon V (UK) January 27
The Brothers of Fire in London will host the fifth Copcon Gathering early next year. Expect beer and sweet tech.

The Wizards' Tournament (Sweden) March 29
The Wizards' Tournament plays Magic like when it was first released in August 1993. Alpha is the only allowed set, and no modern stuff like mulligans, sideboards, oracle text, B&R lists or proper sleeves are allowed. There is an initial cap at 40 players, which has already been filled, but if you are interested, feel free to contact the organizer and they might be able to expand the venue.

#OldSchoolMail of the Month

Can't complain to the postman this month either. As some of you might know, I am a sucker for Chaos Orbs. I guess I am what people call a "global collector", which basically means that I'm trying to collect every different printing and promotional version of the card. So Alpha, Beta and Unlimited of course, but also more weird things like the Ultra Pro puzzle and the playtest card. This month I finally got the third square cornered one, a card that is over 100 times more rare than the other two square cornered Orbs in my collection.
Front.
Back.
I didn't really plan to buy this last month, but it suddenly came up for sale in an Artist Proof group and it is rare enough that I figured I had to pull the rope when opportunity arose. So now I have all the official printings of Chaos Orb. Time to start looking for alters and obscurities.

This month's topic: #SetThemFree

Don't know if that's a real hashtag. It probably is, but for something terrible. Let me check twitter.
...
Ok, so that hashtag is actually about 668 babies that are currently in prison in Turkey, violating human rights. Damn. That is not cool. You can check out more about that here on twitter. I could just change the section header and delete this paragraph now that I know a little better, but I think that we could lift our sights to topics affecting people's lives every now and then. So now you know about that. You're welcome, I guess?

But, what I was actually going to talk about here, was the current trends against PSA and BGS grading of playable cards. There actually was a proper hashtag for that when I dug a little deeper; #CardsAreMeantForPlaying.

Ever since I first saw Elof swinging wildly with a meat cleaver at the Rotary Pub kitchen back at n00bcon 3, desperately trying to get to a pair of Earthquakes out from their a PSA prison before the swiss started, it has been clear to me that certifying cards with BGS or PSA doesn't always work for us players. Many of us even started taking some pride in breaking graded seals, in particular in the old school communities. One of the Easter Eggs at n00bcon 7 e.g. contained a PSA 10 graded Black Vise, just so that the guy who opened it could get the chance to break it. And it has escalated from there.
One of the more hardcore; Kalle building a deck before Arvika Festival 2 two years ago.
One of the more recent posted a couple of days ago on Facebook. Around 100 likes btw.
The thing that grading cards does well is ensuring that the card has had its quality assured by a third party and is traceable. It also gives a professional verification on condition, or at least the condition the card were in when it was graded (it is possible for the card to get nicks or faded colors from inside the case). But you can't play with it anymore, so rogue characters in the MtgUnderground often find it a good solution to just break the cases and set the cards free. From a player perspective, that can be seen as admirable, and from a collector perspective, it can be seen as stupid or barbaric. Personally, I wouldn't break a '10' (not again) as I would consider those cards to have passed the treshold to pure collection pieces (like the AP Chaos Orb), but an 8 or 9? Sure man.

So we have to make a choice. Either have a 3rd-party verification and some traceability on our cards, or be able to play them. The card grading industry have its roots in technology from the 70s. It is great for Baseball cards, and good enough for comic books, but as playing cards go it arguably misses the mark sometimes. Otherwise people wouldn't take pride in breaking the cases after all.

So a few players in the 93/94 community decided to address this issue using modern technology. Spearheaded by Felipe Garcia, the team also consists of community organizers Lorenzo Novaro, Marc Lanigra and Gordon Anderson. Instead of placing the cards in the more traditional clunky cases, they are working on using small sleeves with a physical termo seal, an electronic NFC seal, and a cloud digital seal. These "playable certification" sleeves then fit in outer sleeves, so that you can shuffle up the certified cards in a normal deck alongside non-certified cards. It is a pretty cool idea!
Would I personally certify my cards this way? I honestly don't know. I probably wouldn't do all the cards in a deck, more likely a handful of my power cards and a Chaos Orb or two. But what I can say is that I am much more likely to use this than any other way of certifying my cards. And I really like both the idea and the people behind it. They have a kickstarter up and running right now, and I just pledged $50 because their plan seems solid (did not personally ask for any perks). So if you think that this sounds interesting, go ahead and support their kickstarter as well. If nothing else, for a few bucks you get to stay in the loop and test the platform once it goes online. It is low risk and in case they don't reach their goal you'll get your money back regardless. Check out their video and the campaign here.

This month's deck

This month's deck is Audun Døssland's Top4 deck from the Horrible Horse Gathering. It is a sweet pile of Titania's Song, Jade Statues and Manipulators. Well played Audun!

torsdag 23 november 2017

Tomato Tomato: Three styles of Old School Magic in three weeks

Let me share a story again, as has become my privilege. Let me give this soap box to Marty Silenus to stand on. A man whom recently concluded a three week pilgrimage from the tournament at Eternal Weekend in Pittsburg; to the Fishliver Oil Cup in Genoa; to some casual spell slinging in the apartment of one of the format's founders in Gothenburg; before turning his eyes back across the Atlantic. This is the core of oldschool found in curiosity and wanderlust from one of the players we have the honor to call a fellow. It's my pleasure to share this story. /Mg out

Q: Can my opponent do something that doesn’t make sense, such as casting both Holy Strength and Unholy Strength on his Air Elemental?
A: Yes, these effects are magical, after all.
 - Alpha rule book

   If I meet you for the first time and I find out that you play Magic: the Gathering I can probably assume that you enjoy using your imagination. If I then find out that you are a reader of this blog I can also probably assume that you have a propensity to be creative. But, I try not to assume too much nor presume to have a firm grip on the cosmos, the world, the current American political regime, or opening seven draw probabilities. Certainly there are others that have a deeper knowledge than me in the realm of Magic: the Gathering and there certainly are people that can build a better deck.
I wonder what combination of 60 cards Einstein would favor?
   But, I am not writing here to expound on such discoveries. Rather, I would like to share my experience of playing Old School Magic, a whole lot of it, over a short period of time in three different nations that play three different styles.

   For the record I am a casual player, a modest collector that never really had a format to hang my hat on. For a long time the decks I played had more than 60 cards. Gaea’s Liege, Instill Energy and Hidden Path was THE tech.  A one on one game with the people in my circle would take, minimum, half an hour. We spent the first ten plus turns amassing a magical army, where one player’s field usually consisted of 2x Doppleganger, 3x Mahamoti (one with Invisibility) and a Merfolk Assassin on one side, standing watch against the other player’s field of 3x Nightmare, 2x Royal Assassin and a Lord of the Pit with a Breeding Pit somewhere in play with two swamps permanently tapped underneath it; a statement that they will be feeding the beast until death do they part.  Someone would always be the dick and attack before the other could amass four copies of their favorite creature. Having an Icy Manipulator in play worked much like the dynamics between budding boys and blossoming girls in elementary school; openly you would tell your friends you hate them and anyone who likes one, but secretly you wanted one for yourself. And my God the things you would do with one if you ever got one of your own to play with.

I’d tap that.
  Yes, I learned a bit about how to better build a deck and yes, I now have a keener sense of how to win more. At the conclusion of my travels though I find that I have more questions than answers. I find that my imagination seeks more card possibilities, that there are more card synergies - before this trip unknown to me - to try out. The effects of this game on me in the last month have been indeed, magical.

    For example, about a week after returning to the states I found myself browsing the Alpha rules book. I would not have done this prior to my recent travels. I came across the above insert and, being amused, I wondered if I ever put both strengths on a single creature at one time and successfully swung in. If I never tried to halo/pentagram a creature how many other odd or cool techs have I not tried or seen or remember doing? Most likely this strategy is anything but a winning one, but dumb fun like this is sometimes what this game is about, and musings and conversations like these have been going on much more recently for me.

    To the point, I am not a seasoned magic player that has competed and competed well. I was a sub par Standard player and never played the part of genius drafting a deck. Legacy had my attention for a while and five years ago I longed to find a local group of players that played Vintage. After sampling the popular formats around me though, I came to the realization that if I played any of them that would not allow the best cards in the game, the truly powerful and legendary, I was cheating myself out of a hell of a lot of fun. I just wanted to play Vesuvan Doppelgänger again against an opponent that would not straight up tell me the card sucks. I was tired of watching my opponent Fauna Shaman into Vengevine and rolling me over when all I wanted to do was cast Gauntlet of Might so next turn I could play Shivan Dragon for half the cost and still have enough left over to cast my puppy love, Icy Manipulator. These were dark days.

    Then, the Old School format presented itself to me in the form of this blog. I could not tell you exactly how or when I stumbled onto this site. It may have been a google image of a top 8 deck at a tournament. But I was hooked. Nostalgia. I was back in middle school where bodily functions ran wild. My eyes dilated, my nipples hardened, my pants got tight; please do not make me come to the front of the class, not now. Holy mother! People out there were playing with Just the old stuff. I went all in and hawked any cards I had with a copyright printed underneath the name of the illustrator and I began collecting the old stuff. This year, eager to see what others were doing with the format, I went searching for events and groups to play. They had to exist, if there is a large following of an American game in multiple countries where English is the second language, then I can surely find some who play it where it is the first. I mixed into the Chicago crowd, a great crew called The Lords of the Pit, and they also liked the old stuff. A few weeks ago the season culminated at Eternal Weekend where the majority of the Lords made their presence, and I was a part of the madness. But I could not ignore the thought, why stop there? I needed to get overseas and see how the old world plays this game. It was about damn time I found out what kind of magic goes down at the pubs in the far reaches of the world.
We did agree that this game was not for ante, right?
   The Fishliver Oil Cup was the obvious choice. It was the weekend after Eternal Weekend in Pittsburgh and I wanted to keep the gaming high going. I would go there to play... if I could get in. Fortunately, Lorenzo Novaro was kind enough to not only hold a spot for me in both events, but also host me and the other visiting players in early for the tournament to dinner. I had never been to Italy before so everything was new. I was well greeted and warmly hosted. To my surprise I was not even the only American! I learned quickly what is appropriate, and more importantly, what is inappropriate to put on top of your pastas and pizzas. Tsk, tsk if you dare to put parmesan cheese on top of your seafood pasta, you creatures! How dare you make a pizza that are any colors other than red and white, you savages!  And of course, there was Magic.

    The pre tournament was a perfect transition to the overseas meta I knew little about. The night before the main event a selection of the seasoned foreign crowd tried out the EC style, strange waters for them, familiar for me. It was a glorious gathering. The beer flowed like wine, or rather in Italy, the wine flowed like beer. That night was the first time I put together a record that had more wins than losses. Boom! Olle Rade, watch your six. The tournament proper the next day was a hungover haze. My eyes opening only after realizing, hair of the dog in hand, that I had gone 0 - X in the tournament. My only public saving grace was that one of my opponents dropped, specifically, he drunkenly disappeared into the night, vaporized into the air like a strong cognac. There were bad beats, good beats, but none that I would discuss with you without having to fill up your tip jar that says “Insert $5 to tell me your bad beat story.” One fun beat story though happened between me and Jan Juon, the winner of the raffled Mox Ruby, during the swiss. I lost gloriously, horribly in two straight games that each lasted less than two minutes; two minutes including the multiple mulligan reshuffles I needed to still draw a piss hand and two miffed Chaos Orb flips. Jan and I did not speak a common language but we still found a way to have a riot of a time, communicating through exclamations and our mutual love of the game. Magic! I then found myself with 46 minutes free to me to observe my surroundings... and to crack a beer, and how I needed one. As I walked around I mused over my colossal failure and the possibility that there were valuable lessons. Pieces of knowledge floated around my wet brain, later to be dried and assembled when the priority was not where I was to get my next beer. Eventually, I would come to a more certain understanding, maybe even a magic related epiphany. But, later would be the time of thought sorting, because the present was the time to check out the game between the games.

    I think the best thing I witnessed was how to make a trade properly in Liguria. Luca Di Santo, a dedicated dealer at both the Friday and Saturday events, was my instructor, and in solid form. I had the pleasure to observe trades he conducted on both days and both trades were discussed in Italian, a language I am not familiar with, but all the better witnessed in the native tongue; because it was the animation of the interaction, the emphasis on words I could not decipher that gave the scenes flavor. And the hand gestures. No Italian trade I saw was made without emphatic hand gestures. To the outsider viewing the act of Italians trading magic cards, one is sure to believe it an emotional event with most sincere and severe stakes at hand.
Your price is very high. You offer me a card that looks more HP than the HP my fingers made inside of your mother’s panties last night.
   I genuinely felt that someone was being insulted, that someone might get a tooth knocked loose in front of me while negotiating for a playset of Field of Dreams. But, after negotiations that went on with input, solicited and unsolicited from outside individuals, trades were concluded peacefully, ending with mutual agreement, handshakes and genuine smiles.
I have much to learn
    Playing Kalle Nord in Gothenburg rounded out my experience of international magic. I got in touch with him asking to play with short notice. BSK was going on the same night we met up which limited the local available players to just him. Had I known that BSK was going down while I was in Sweden I probably would have tried to attend that event. But, it did not matter. After having the chance to play magic and meet Kalle I would not  trade the experience. I got the chance to not only see what kind of powerful, black bordered and beautifully altered 60 he put together, but how many other cards he compiled with the advantage of being at the forefront of the format years ago.
Kalle establishing a momentum shifting board state with his Su-Chi. I can’t be mad though since it is one of my favorite cards; so often it’s the things we love that end up bringing us down, or maybe it is just that white border cards do not have the Juju.
   Fortunately, Kalle still had a picture of a game that night and sent it to me. I am terrible at taking photos during magic games. I think I am a bit self conscious about taking photos in general. Being half Asian I feel that most expect me to take pictures of everything; food, scenery, board states; and when I do I would somehow fit myself in making double Asian Scissor fingers. Perhaps I will add unguarded, confident photos of sweet tech and insane plays to the short list of things to be better at next year. But I digress.

    I think we played five games, Kalle taking the majority. It does not matter. Mostly, we spent our time talking magic and non-magic related stuff. It was amazing. We were relative strangers only brought together by the game, but our shared interest bridged the gap. One of the things I remember talking about was how the artists of the early sets sometimes did not know what the card was going to do when they were given the task of painting it, while other artists had never even experienced a game like the one they were illustrating for. Kalle had mentioned that he remembered an interview in which the artist of Reverse Damage, Dameon Willich described what the art meant on that particular card. He said it was a portrait of his ex-girlfriend. Huh? Because, he states, ‘reversing damage’ according to him would be to undo the damage that his ex-girlfriend caused him. Priceless fucking Magic knowledge.

Whip cream:
    The next day I headed over to Mindstage games to meet up with the owner, William Ljungberg. After seeing all the beautiful black bordered hotness at the tables the last two weeks in Europe and Scandinavia I wanted to see what a shop’s collection looked like. I was not disappointed. Agreements were made and hands were shaken; Swedes conduct their trades a little less emotionally than the Italians. But, the openness and fairness of trades with William were second to none. I came away with this:
A toast to the beauty
   I traded nearly 80% of my collection to get that Lotus, but after what I saw the last couple weeks I had to make the effort. Perhaps I am a purist at heart, a fan of the Swedish aesthetics regarding Magic: the Gathering. Regardless, I have been a collector and a player of the game a long time and it was time to get on the level.

   The next morning I was on a plane home. Days passed and after the alcohol cycled its way out of my system, the remaining brain cells beginning to work again and neurons beginning to fire, I was able to take a step back and see if I learned anything from those three weekends of magic.

    End result, I still do not think I can construct and pilot a tournament winning deck yet, dreams of filling all fifteen slots in my sideboard up by Giant Shark is a dream that must be put on hold until I crack that first victory egg. But, I did come away with a better sense of the diversity in the three styles of the format. No one particular style seemed better than the other. The excitement of the players at the Lighthouse Friday night of Fishliver Oil Cup getting a chance to play Hymn to Tourach and multiple Strip Mine did not define anything except that they embraced the diversity of a different style. The Italian meta is close to the workings of the US counterparts, allowing more sets to the card pool for easier access to players trying to get into the game. But, should they allow CE/IE? No. Talking with Kalle about what he would build in EC style that he has not seen anyone else try yet, how he would like the chance to run 4x Workshops did not make him forsake the Swedish style even though he has a sweet tech to try and loves Workshops. And what of my longing to play Su-Chi regularly without dealing with the significant downside of taking four mana burn when my opponent destroys it at an inopportune time? I have no plans on starting the campaign to remove mana burn from EC rules to satisfy my card tastes. Similarly, I like the concepts behind troll/disco, knowing that it will not get over the top often enough in EC's heavy aggro meta with Maze of Ith restricted and Strip Mine not. Am I tickled with restricted Maze of Ith and unrestricted Strip Mine? Not really, but the game is not over when my opponent drops a first turn Library of Alexandria if I run more than one Strip Mine. Although I do not get to take troll/disco to the top in the EC meta I alternatively do not have to play games around here where The Deck floods the field. There are just too many creatures in the average EC deck for The Deck to handle, too many Strip Mines knocking off Mishra’s factory for The Deck to be ‘the deck’ in the US. Shit runs wild over here.
When playing cards with me you keep those hands above the table, pardner.
    Conclusion? The US styles are still developing, younger by years than the Swedish style. Yeah, the US is the wild west once again; the new guys blazing a trail across uncharted country. Aggressive deck builds are in vogue.  And, in order to grow we’re letting everything inside the borders;  we bring in the poor, the hungry, the square cornered. So what? The villages are growing, linking the major cities together; sometime in the future the west will be surefooted and established.

   Someday someone here will discover that yet undiscovered country. What overlooked card will even the field, what tech?
Probably not
    I like that there is a distinction between one style versus the other, it keeps daily magic musings interesting. One magic player will favor Swedish and one will favor EC, just like one pizza maker says tomayto and the other says tomahto. Each style makes for fun games just like either tomato makes a good pizza sauce. Embrace the variety.  And yes Lorenzo, some pizza I like here is topped with cheese that is yellow, and it is fucking awesome!

    Thank you to all those I have met this year in Magic. Thank you to all that hosted me and that shared their knowledge of the game. Thank you William for trading me the mother of all mtg cards. And thank you Magus for hosting this blog. Without it, yes I may have had a larger bank account and a higher I.Q. making it larger, but never would I have had the joy and experiences this year that arose from getting out and playing some Magic.

Peace,
-Marty Silenus

torsdag 16 november 2017

Fungal Bloom at the Horrible Horse Gathering

A few weeks back, a couple of guys from the Oslo community asked if I could help set up a 93/94 tournament during the Oslo Eternal Winter. That was an easy yes. It had been a while since I hosted a Gathering, especially as Svante Landgraf took over the recent BSK, so it felt like a good time to get off the horse and do something.
I think I might have a slightly different approach for hosting tournaments than most real organizers of proper formats. But I guess that the core obstacles are the same. Location, location, location. Participants. Refreshments, prizes, something unexpected. This might be as good a time as any for me to rant about some of my experiences hosting, so let's start with that.

Location is the most arduous task. You need a place with a lot of tables and chairs, sure. That's easy enough as long as the head count is below 70-80. But then you want the option to drink beer, which whittles down the options. You also want to be able to drink without having too many unknown drunks swaggering about. An intoxicated nerd with a $20,000 pile of cards left on a table somewhere might get uneasy if faceless thugs straddle about. Then you want the location to not throw you out when the top8 is afoot. Most pubs in the Nordic countries close around 1 am, and you'd be hard pressed to find any place that aren't required by law to throw you out around 2:30. Acoustics is a thing as well, access to Internet, and stuff like that. And you don't really want to pay for the location, at least not a large sum, which makes finding a location something of a treasure hunt.
Our location for the Horrible Horse Gathering might have been slightly overdone in the "treasure hunt" sense though. The place wasn't marked with a street number, and you had to go in to a shopping mall, find a coffe shop, find an elevator in said coffe shop, and then contact me to buzz up said elevator to a restricted floor. And there were no signs. But people managed to eventually find it, and it turned out a sweet place to play.
I'm personally not that big on promoting tournaments online. The locations I use are more often than not hard to find unless you know about them, and I rarely post much about the tournaments I help out with on social media. If I do, I mostly opt to create private events. Why? I don't really have a good answer. I guess I don't feel the need to promote them that way, and prefer word of mouth. Social media can skew a large portion of the community away from the discussions, as many players aren't that active on facebook or twitter, and instead include a lot of people who are mostly looking at the tournament from a non-player perspective. If I want to host a local tournament, one of the most important things for me is that the locals feel that it is for them. Other people view this differently, and it is clearly possible that we could gather even more players if we would spread the word a little more (e.g. by posting about it in the 93/94 facebook group or OldschoolMtG4Life group), but I kinda like focusing on the locals.
I rarely have any real prizes in the tournaments. Not for the Top8, nor even for things like "best unpowered deck" or lotteries or similar. I do think that lotteries and such are nice, in particular as an alternative to give someone else than the winner more value, but it is not something I usually do myself. Instead I mostly try to keep the participation fee - and the stakes - a little lower. I do have Easter Eggs with random gifts at n00bcon, but that's more an exception than a rule. I always buy trophies though. And a card to sign for the winner, but that's rarely more than a dime's worth.
This one is ten bucks though! Crazy. I had it lying around since last Invitational, and it was a Horrible Horse if I ever saw one, so it seemed like a good fit regardless of the somewhat higher price tag.
At the Horrible Horse Gathering, we were 27 players. A solid gathering of spell slingers by any standards. I thought it was particularly cool that 21 of those players were locals from the Oslo area, including Drammen. One guy (Honka) came from Gothenburg, another one (Glenn) traveled from Varberg, one person represented Stockholm (Cermak), and three guys came from Arvika (KungMarkus, Svetzarn and Loff), but other than that it was all locals. It was the biggest 93/94 tournament in Oslo yet, with a fair margin, and the first time I saw almost all of the local players at once including a handful new faces. That's sweet.

The Oslo crew is fantastic. Great people, cool decks and just a very pleasant atmosphere. These are guys I would hang out with for 12 hours without a Magic card in the room. There's no power gaming and people are quick to help out with anything they can. I didn't have a proper swiss calculator, but Michael helped me install and used his credentials to set up Wizards Event Reporter. We didn't have a judge for the tournament, but HaiWei took it upon himself to make sure everything ran smoothly, log the match results and fix pairings.

My deck of choice was Mycosis; aka GB Fungusaur. Fungusaur is the new big tech around these parts. It gets ridiculously huge, and it is a Fungus Dinosaur. It is somewhat amusing that Jhovalking, myself and Gordon Anderson all had built different Fungusaur decks over the last few months, without knowledge of the other's tech.
You know you're getting deep when you start upgrading to black borders.
This has escalated even further in the last couple of weeks, and by this point there are so many people building Fungusaur decks that Gordon has taken it upon himself to host a Fungusaur Invitiational tournament early next year. I claim an early seat on the bandwagon, as I think that my deck might have been if not the first, at least one of the first around these parts (yeah, the Scania players beat us). I was originally working on a Verduran Ponza with Enchantress, Blight and Kudzu, which somehow morphed into a Fungusaur deck last summer. I will call the pile Mycosis, as that is a fungal infection disease. The deck use Pestilence and Fungusaur to win after all, so it's about as flavourful as it gets.
Mycosis v2.3
I have some ideas for upgrades 'til next time. I should probably go even harder on the Greed / Ivory Tower combo and I want to fit one or two Maze of Ith in the sideboard. And Avoid Fate was a lot better than I expected. But all-in-all it was a pretty solid deck that went X-X in duels, 2-3 in matches. It should be able to cross the "wins more than it loses" threshold pretty soon.
Fear the mighty summon!
Let's check out some pictures from the event.
Starting up the registration. Michael, a well known character in the community working in the Outland store, guides us through Wizard's Event Reporter.
Speaking of local heroes, one of the new faces at this gathering was none other than Simen, the owner of Outland and one of the core pillars in the Olso subculture gaming communities.
Bjørn-Einar Bjartnes, local player and colleague at work, tries to settle a deal with Andreas Cermak to take his deck to the next level before the first round starts. Scandinavian Championship winner Jimmie following the bartering.
And it's a deal! Bjartnes finds himself with his first power cards, 20 years after he first picked up the game. The Oslo community can add three new moxen to their chest of Power. Cermak opts to take the payment in cash, which leads to some nightly shenanigans at the ATM.
The game is afoot!
I'm facing GW Elephants game one, and it is an uphill battle. Those bastards have banding! Combined with Elephant Graveyard and Maze of Ith, not even Kudzu can strangle the onslaught.
Duel two my 10/10 Fungusaur kills the Elephant Master before Eye for an Eye gets to resolve. These things grow quick!
Facing my old room mate and Best Man bro Hardy with The Machine in round three. It's a fairly quick 2-1 in his favor. I have serious trouble beating him in tournaments ;)
The ol' City in a Bottle / Oubliette standoff.
Refreshments and air between rounds.
HaiWei was our impromptu Judge, and is one of the main community organizers in the city. He is currently brewing new plans for conventions.
Moxen, Gauntlets and Trolls.
Savannah Lions did a huge showing this tournament. Here we have Thomas Nilsen and Hasthi working out a stack.
This would get pretty strange with pre-batch timing rules.
Hardy facing down Audun's Jade Statues. Audun also made great work of Wrath of God during the tournament, a card that seems somewhat underplayed in the current meta.
Fist turn LoA, meet first turn Sinkhole. Who needs unrestricted Strip Mines? ;)
HOW ABOUT SOME FUNGI YOU BUFFOON.
There was a n00bcon invite in the pot for this tournament, offered by Thomas Nilsen. Rather than simply giving it to someone who placed well in the tournament, the winner of the invite would be decided by a game of trick-flipping Chaos Orb Horse after the swiss.
JhovalKing doing the double-flip.
Honka preparing for a nonchalant Jenga-flip.
Hashti and the dreaded Tower-flip.
Audun casually approaching the FlipCup-flip.
Last man standing and the winner of the n00bcon invite: Andreas Lövgren! Here posing in his final challenge, the long-distance sitting thumb flip. Andreas picked off a lot of players by challenging to what he called the "Standard flip". As pretty much everyone have different standard flips, trying to adopt another player's personal flipping technique was perplexing to say the least.
Top8: KungMarkus's MonoRed Ornithopthers vs Audun's Titania's Song Control. Behind them, off camera, a brutal battle of Tribelander between Soldiers, Shapeshifters, Witches (Shamans) and Rats are taking place.
Finals! 2016 Rookie of the Year Andreas Cermak vs 2015 Rookie of the Year Thomas Nilsen. Strong players surprisingly on top of things, in particular considering that the clock is well past 3 am.
The gravity of the situation begins to take hold. The finalists, Honka, and yours truly are eventually the last clover standing. Savannah Lions doing a lot of work here.
The proud winner of the Horrible Horse Gathering: Andreas Cermak!
Cermak's Winning Deck. Personal Incarnation shows that it is no one-trick pony.
That's it for today. Next on my list is to update the Decks to Beat with a bunch of decks from recent gatherings, and after that it is back to the drawing board with the Fungusar deck. Thanks for an awesome gathering, I had a great time!