torsdag 9 februari 2017

A night at Alara Games

  "So Mg", the voices say, "why not write something about last weekend in Trollhättan? Still have a blog, y'know."
  "Well," I answer myself. "I just invented the sport Soccer Punch, and I'm trying to read a driver's license book filled with what the kids call 'microaggressions'. I don't know how much time I have to write something good."
  "So you think because you write less frequently now, whenever you do it has to be some kind of masterwork? Get over yourself. Prefection is the enemy of done. Yes, I know that's a typo. See how much I care. Just write some shit so we can collect our PW points."
  "Ok, fuck it."

Soccer Punch is a one-on-one sport. You set up small goals with whatever lies around, find something round enough to be excused as a ball, and strap on your gloves. The goal is to avoiding getting punched out by the other player while winning either via scoring or TKO. It's kinda like soccer, but instead of off-sides and passes you've got complex foot work and blunt body trauma. Can't wait for the IOC to pick it up.

When I got home from the two-hour long session with Peter last Friday, my body had given up on me and my mind was as blank as a 1951 Robert Rauschenberg painting. In this state I decided to buy the tickets to Trollhättan and join fellow old school players in celebrating the opening of Alara Games. It went about as well as expected. A short thirty minutes later I had managed to buy train tickets for the wrong day. Another sucker punch, this time in the form of a 449 Nok train ticket. This is an expensive game. But I might win an Uthden Troll.
First prize of the tournament, here in the process of being upgraded.
Hardy, my partner in crime, had left the day before me. He'd found a bed at his girlfriend's aunt's place, and I was told the day before I left that it was room for me as well. I was even invited for dinner before the tournament (which started at 22:00 in the evening to create a more lax drinking atmosphere at the convention site. "Closed company" and all that). So this time I was to ride the train alone for a change. My company was a couple of books and the Hurloon Minotaur jacket.
Train Jacket.
The karma of the world continued her attempts to thwart my consumerism. On the trip I wanted to make a fairly numerous order from the ChannelFireball store. A bunch of sweet cards for the casual decks I bring out when guests are abound or I'm asked to learn people how to play. Like, have you seen cards like Priest of the Blood Rite? I don't care how "pure" you are as an Oldschool player, that is one sweet card.
According to TCGPlayer, Juzam is more than 1,500 times more expensive. But let's be honest here; Juzam is probably not more than 70-80 times sweeter. At most a hundred and fifty times sweeter. Seems like a deal to me.
The CFB store offers free shipping worldwide once the order passes the $200 mark. And if you live in Norway, that's some serious incentive to buy for over $200. That made my pile of random durdle kinda extensive, and a harsh mistress to order on a smartphone. I first tried to order it using my Visa card, but it was for some reason declined so I completed the order with paypal.

About ten minutes later I got the message stating that my credit card had been frozen due to suspicious activity. Apparently it had been used in Ajman, Dubai, Norway and Sweden in the last week, and now someone was trying to order stuff online from a place called "CinnamonFireball" or something like that. Ain't easy being jetset. It feels like it took half an hour on the phone with my bank before I was ready to roll again.
So it started with some sprinkles of tilt. And I had no idea what to expect going home to that aunt and uncle I'd never met. I don't even think that Hardy met them before yesterday. And I'd never been to Trollhättan before. All I knew about the place was that a couple of guys in Gothenburg used to rage about Trollhättan having the best kebab pizza sauce in Sweden.

I got picked up at the station by Hardy and the uncle. He seemed like a very likeable fellow. I asked him about the rumours of the Kebab pizza. He nodded. Apparently there was a cheap hole-in-the-wall pizzeria somewhere in the city that offered nothing short of ambrosia. I knew I had to find it.

The welcome at the aunt and uncle's house was truly remarkable. I'm a random bearded guy from Norway who's a friend of their niece's boyfriend and they treated me like family coming home for the holidays. They made an awesome dinner (I refilled twice), and left nothing wanted in terms of wine, beer, cognac nor drinks.
Cincin ragazzi!
Four or five hours later we all started to get affected by the hospitality. The uncle went and picked up a disco ball and some lasers, and we continued the evening with the backdrop of VH1's top50 love songs and a suburban light show.
#VisitTrollhättan
Now this is fun. Hardy and I recalled old stories of the road. How Megu left his hotel room in Genoa to give us a few hours sleep before he picked us up and drove us to the airport. When KungMarkus left us with his dog in his old house during the first Arvika Festival and we though that we might have become citizens of Arvika. The random three dark thirty disco at the pizzeria in Växjö. Hanging out at Custer's home in Munich. Play the game, see the world. Ain't need no Pro Tour to find friends with these piles of cardboard.

Eventually we left the suburban home to get to the site. The convention was the brainchild of Yespair, the guy who e.g. did video coverage at n00bcon last year. He and a couple of friends just opened a game store in Trollhättan and set up a weekend of Magic to celebrate the occasion. There were a couple of PPTQs, Vintage, Legacy, truly casual EDH and limited. And there was 13 brave souls that gathered for a nightly 93/94 tournament after the doors had closed for the day.

This was my deck for the evening:
Tried some extra shenanigans and a couple of counterspells in place of the red cards this time.
Hardy was on The Machine, but with some solid upgrades since last. In particular these two cards:
Unlocked.
That's awesome. As a duo, we now own over 65% of all the Alpha Lotuses in Norway. The third one belongs to JhovalKing.

Before the tournament started I picked up a Mishra's Workshop from KungMarkus (I want to sleeve up Crimson Disco and Project M at the same time and looked for a second copy of the land), and bought an Elspeth vs. Kiora duel deck from the store. If you like casual Magic and suboptimal decks I give the duel decks two thumbs up. They might lack some in the nostalgia or "bling" departments, but the fact that you can pick up seventy or so sixty-card decks for the prize of a single Workshop should not be scoffed at. In the world of Alpha Lotuses and Beta duals, it's easy to forget just how entertaining other approaches to casual Magic actually is.

Old school is still the best though.
Game on.
I was paired against a new face match one. Erik started playing back in 94/95 but hadn't sleeved up for a tournament in a couple of decades. Our first game was a little anticlimactic. He mulled to six on the play and kept a one-lander with Black Vise. I probably would have too. Luckily I found a mox at the top of my library and got to play that and a Fellwar Stone turn 1. In the end, I managed to sneak away with just five damage from the Vise, and Erik opted to decline drawing any lands for five turns. I eventually resolved a Vesuvan Doppelganger copying a Mishra's Factory, and then got to cast two Copy Artifacts copying the Doppelganger the following turn. That's some serious Mishra beatdown. Triple Doppelganger isn't an easy act to follow.
Magic!
Game two was a little more involved and we both got to cast spells this time. In the end I went Rube Goldberg with Tawnos's Coffin and Tetravus backed up by Guardian Beast.

Fresh on the winning streak I face Erik's friend, Andreas Lövgren. That's no rookie. Andreas has very explosive starts. I think I'm climbing back in game one, but he blows me out with a well-timed Balance. Game two I he attacks for lethal around turn four.

Next dude is good ol' Berntsson from Arvika with his ErhnamGeddon. It's a very strong deck. In the last couple of years, the players from Arvika have really gotten their hands on some powerful cards. It's a tight game, but Guardian Beast and Chaos Orb do what they do best. Control Magic and Terror gets to shine after sideboard.
Berntsson and KungMarkus. Pioneers of the Arvika 93/94 scene. The Arvika Festival tournament will be hosted on their turf February 25. It's easily one of my favorite tournaments of the year.
So, last match. Might be win-and-in for the elimination round. There's only a final this time, as the ungodly hour works against the prospect of an entertaining top4, but 3-1 might be enough. In my way stands eight-time Shark top8 competitor and two-time PWP Invitational winner Jocke Almelund. He is my god damn nemesis. I actually think he's worse than Sehl at this point. Jocke and I have played numerous 93/94 games starting sometime around n00bcon 3. And I've never beaten him once. He starts game one.
Sure. Why not.
I don't manage to resolve a spell that doesn't get countered or destroyed before I pass the turn. No threats are left unanswered for the entire game. And it's not that I don't draw well; I had awesome hands. LoA, Disks, Tomes and the whole shebang. Yet again he beats me out of contention without breaking a sweat. I will have my revenge. Some day I will.

In the end Jocke's tiebreakers didn't help him to the finals. Instead the last match was a battle between Andreas Lövgren and Martin Lindström. Martin had played three tournaments in the last year; n00bcon warmup, n00bcon 8, and BSK. He finished 1st, 2nd and 1st in those. This weekend brought another title to his résumé. At this point it's starting to get easy arguing he's the best The Deck player in the world.
Congrats!
Hardy and I drifted around at the site for while and eventually found a cab to take us back to the aunt and uncle's house. He was to play the Vintage tournament the next day and I joined him to the site before the train would take me back to Oslo.

I asked Yespair about the rumours I'd heard of the kebab pizza. That cheap pizza place with supposedly the best sauce in Sweden. He knew. The truth of the story was only a five minute walk from the site. He jotted down some directions on a piece of paper. On a backstreet in Trollhättan, hidden between random shops and apartment buildings, it was.
I paid 65 Sek (around €7) for a massive lunch of the local cuisine. And god damn. Play the game, see the world.

onsdag 1 februari 2017

The Skype Old School Challenge

Those extra hours away from the keyboard each week add up. Since last, the wedding planning is in full form, I found myself in the Arab Emirates, and I've kicked up my mentor work a gear or two. And I've had the time to read a book for just the joy of it, without the hidden agenda of trying to learn something.
Activating Jalum Tome with an empty hand if you will.
I wouldn't call this one a proper post either by the way. I do have a couple in the pipeline, but this is more of a status update. Some things are exciting enough to just shout along as a messenger, and what's going on in the Skype community right now is one of those things.

Last weekend, the Skype community held the elimination rounds in their n00bcon 9 qualification tournament. The guy joining us in Gothenburg this Easter is renowned Skype player (and, from what I've heard, all-round good guy) Gregory from Switzerland. That also gets us up to 13 or 14 nationalities at the Championship, which is braggable.
Getting closer...
But the reason that I'm updating today is more due to how they've set it up. The matches last Sunday ended up in the top5 Magic streams on Twitch. And there has never been a better online coverage for 93/94 Magic than what Markus and the gang are doing right now.
www.twitch.tv/OldSchoolMTG
Markus and a few more of the first adopters of OldSchool Skype have started an invitational league called Old School Challenge. It's a weekly Twitch broadcast, playing one game a week in a round robin style tournament. For their first weekly show, they brought in two international tournament organizers in Gordon Anderson and Chis Cooper to do the commentary while the players on camera battled from different corners of the world. They raffled out cards, collected donations for good causes, and over all had a production value we've rarely seen for MtG streaming. Animated Lightning Bolts and Land Taxes and whatnot. And this is still "baby days" according to Markus. I must say again that I think these kind of community efforts and sharing is what makes the format awesome.
That, and Juzam Djinn.
From what I've heard, this Old School Challenge will be a recurring event during Sundays from 2pm EST / 7pm GMT / 8pm CET at twitch.tv/OldSchoolMTG. I highly recommend checking it out if you're into odd decks and commented live matches. You can replay the games from last weekend at Twitch, though note that the sound is kinda bad in the first few minutes before they got it set up properly. If you're a netdecking kinda person, most of the list played can be found at imgur. Check it out!

fredag 13 januari 2017

Magic: The Puzzling

According to scientific consensus, the causality dilemma of the chicken and the egg has a clear answer. The egg came first as most of the arthropods, vertebrates and mollusks in the history of known life have been laying eggs. At some point a "not-quite-a-chicken-bird" laid an egg containing the first chicken. So what came first of the playing card and the playing card sleeve?

Back in the dark ages of 93/94, we ain't had no fancy ass sleeves. We played our cards straight on packed snow while eating soup with our hands. When night fell we used the least water damaged ones as kindling to keep playing until the soup ran out. It was a simpler time, apart from the banding rules.
I'm getting there.
In early 1994, Japji Khalsa and Jeff Brain came up with the idea of making play mats. That turned out well. But sleeving playing cards was still under the radar for a long time. The closest thing were the "top-loader" and the penny sleeve created for the sports card industry. They were respectively a pair of sturdy plastic sheets bound together and a thin, flimsy thing that couldn't possibly be shuffled for an extended period without breaking.
Enter the pro's.
In 1995, when Magic was two years old, Ultra-Pro entered the CCG scene with their Deck Protectors. Deck Protectors were made of tougher polypropylene and were the first sleeves specifically designed for playing cards. But there wasn't a sudden revolution. Few people used them initially, and still years later it wasn't unusual for players to play un-sleeved constructed decks at high level events. It could be worth noting that during the first years of sleeves, all of them had clear backs. Before opaque sleeves eventually took over the market, they were frowned upon or outright banned as they hid the product logos.
The first sleeves made to conceal play wear.
So Ultra-Pro realized they needed to give players some extra incentive to buy their product. When Khalsa and Brain first sold their play mats, they included a booster pack of Arabian Nights with each purchase (a first edition Khalsa-Brain mat and a booster pack of Arabian Nights would be quite the bargain for the $10 they charged btw). Stuffing each pack of sleeves with a booster would be a daunting task, but maybe they could do something even more cunning, something that would hook players into buying loads of product? What if buying enough sleeves could get you a Black Lotus?
The Black Lotus Quest.
In the packs of 60 individual sleeves and the eight-packs of binder pages, Ultra-Pro put a puzzle piece. The nine pieces of each puzzle were the size of an ordinary card, so if you placed them correctly in a binder page they would depict either Black Lotus or Chaos Orb; two of the most iconic and sought-after cards of the time. And if you did just that and mailed the puzzle to Ultra-Pro, they would give you money to go buy a real copy of the alluring card.

Back in 1996, the $100 rewarded for the Chaos Orb or the $250 for the Black Lotus would cover the expense to buy an Orb or a Lotus respectively. Today, 20 years later, you wont find a Lotus for $250 anymore. But if you managed to complete a puzzle you could still easily trade it for the card depicted. In fact, for far more than that.
Let the hunt commence!
A 60-pack of individual sleeves or an 8-pack of refill pages wasn't that expensive in 1996. Let's say that maybe $2.50 of each sale at a store went back to the manufacturers as profit. If buying 18 packs would have you complete the puzzles, that would have been a pretty bad marketing strategy. When you sent in both puzzles, you’d receive $350; $250 for the Lotus Puzzle and $100 for the Chaos Orb puzzle. The expected value of just the puzzle piece in each pack would be $20, and Ultra Pro would technically lose $17.50 for each unit they sold. The idea of treasure hunting and laying puzzles was enticing, but to make the sales promotion viable they had to load the die.
This idea had been used before. Perhaps most famously by the McDonald's Monopoly promotion held around the world since 1987. Customers at McDonald's would get tokens corresponding to property spaces on a Monopoly board with food purchases. Gathering certain combinations of streets would grant you different prizes, with cash rewards ranging up to the millions. But for the most desirable combos one of the tokens was almost impossible to find.
The odds of finding #621 (Park Place) are 1 in 11. #622 (Boardwalk) are 1 in 513,591,720. I.e. a 99.999997-0.000003 split giving the owner of Park Place 3 cents of the million dollar price would still be mathematically unfair to the owner of Boardwalk.
So Ultra-Pro took a page from that book and made one corner-piece of each puzzle rare. No, rarer than that. Even rarer. You know how they estimate that there were only 1,100 Alpha Lotuses and Alpha Chaos Orbs ever printed? That's not even the ballpark here. If you remember seeing a complete puzzle in your younger days, odds are that you remember wrong.
I might spitball a guess to which pieces are missing.
Collecting the eight "common" pieces of each puzzle is doable for most people so inclined, though not really a cakewalk. The average sales price of the eight common Chaos Orb pieces at places like magiccardmarket.eu still totals above the $100 you got for sending the complete puzzle to Ultra-Pro back in 1996. But for the few "completists", it's all about the rare pieces. For those who deal with the rare pieces, the other eight are often viewed as trivia or throw-ins, and usually not even mentioned in the price for the rare piece.

So how many puzzles are out there? My network of high-end Magic archaeologists is by no means all-encompassing, but it has grown to be fairly extensive, so I hope I can give a decent estimate.

I'd previously heard some off-the-cuff rumors that the total number printed in 1996 were just 12 for each of the rarer pieces. But after more digging even that seemed to be high. A certain European high-end collector, who is the only confirmed person to own both puzzles, said that 12 each surely was an exaggeration. He had been puzzling for two decades, and the only Lotus puzzle he had seen apart from the one he owned had been donated directly from the director at Ultra Pro. He had heard about a third one, but hadn't seen it himself. Chaos Orb is possibly a little more common, but still just ridiculously rare. The best estimate I've found is six copies of Orb piece #7 in circulation (the German collector had previously owned two of them by the way, but sold one in 2003). Additionally, I know of one Chaos Orb puzzle that was completed in 1996 and sent in to Ultra Pro for the $100.

It seems very possible that there were fewer Lotus puzzles made than Chaos Orb puzzles. It could also be possible that there are fewer total Lotus puzzles out there than Chaos Orb puzzles simply due to a few more Lotus puzzles having been redeemed as the reward was higher and players hunted them more fiercely. I've tried to get in contact with Ultra Pro to clear some of these things up, but I haven't been able to draw any answers yet.
But yeah. To put it in perspective; the number of known puzzles is less than the number of known Summer Magic sets by a good margin. As for how many were made? Let's try on the shoes of an executive at Ultra Pro. When they do these kind of give-away promotions, the rare pieces control how much money they are willing to donate to the cause. Sleeves weren't particularly popular in 1996, and they probably didn't earn that much per unit sold. So a few thousand dollars perhaps? I would be surprised if there ever existed more than 18 of the rare pieces total, probably skewing towards a few more Orb #7 than Lotus #9.

Many players seems to remember that these puzzles weren't that rare and want to recall that "friend of friend" who completed it. History and research seem to indicate that that is wrong. But I am still positive that one or another real rare piece is being tucked away in a collection somewhere, the owner being oblivious to the fact that this piece has a far higher price tag than an actual Black Lotus:
Luckily the rare piece is the least exciting one.
If someone bought sleeves for the cards in 96-97 they probably bought Ultra Pro, and the puzzle quest was a popular promotion. It is not unlikely that a random collection from the mid 90s will contain a few of the pieces. Perhaps even a rare one. There have after all been a non-zero number of cases of a player realizing that what he thought was Revised cards in his collection were in fact Summer Magic. It's "a needle in a haystack" to quote one of the German collectors. But if you have a haystack laying around, might be fun to look for some needles every now and then.
Like a major collector in Sweden did a year ago. How's that pic for an Easter Egg btw ;)

torsdag 29 december 2016

2016 Retrospective

2016 showed the highest literacy rate in history, the lowest percentage of people living in extreme poverty every, and it looks like the lowest child mortality rate we've ever seen. People are healthier, more educated and have more opportunities than any time before in history. We also flew a thing to space and had it land back here again. On the flip side, it has been the warmest year since anyone started measuring these things, and much of the political debate is very divided. All in all, I guess I would grade 2016 at 'B-'. Though flawed, a very decent year if we zoom out to the global scheme of thing. But let's zoom in to our community.
Looks like a solid 'A'.
This is the fourth time I do a retrospective post (click 2013, 2014 and 2015 if you're interested in revisiting previous ones). Every year I am surprised by the steady growth of the community and how much the players create and bring to the format. Skype Magic is a thing now. There are oldschool Instagram accounts approaching 10,000 followers these days. Some guy makes 93/94 art with 93/94 graphics. The oldschoolmtg subreddit is alive and well. I've lost count of the number of facebook groups. There are like seven other blogs with old school content.
These are all things now.
As tournaments go, I think it's cool that ChannelFireball adopted the format this year. As have Bazaar of Moxen and ManaLeak. Among the slightly earlier adopters of the large organizers we have the Ovino series, Nebraska's War and Eternal Weekend; each of them hosting major 93/94 tournaments during 2016. This year, the old school tournament at Ovino X surpassed Vintage in attendance, which is kinda insane. At the US Eternal Weekend, Jason Jaco gathered 86 mages battling, making it the largest 93/94 gathering to date. And we have 100 players from 11 different countries signed up for the yearly 93/94 World Championship in Gothenburg next Easter. I don't think there's been more activity in this kind of Magic since 1995.
Kalle Nord and Danny Friedman contemplating the zeitgeist.
This month is the most visited in the history of this blog. As almost every new month is. It has been a continuous slow and steady progress for over four years. When I started writing this blog, about four and a half years back (I was handed the reins from Christoffer "Stalin" Andersson whom started it a little over half a year earlier), we had around 350 views per month. Today we have around 2,000 per day. This autumn we passed a million views. And this is with me updating no more than once a week, and writing stuff like ridiculously convoluted posts on post-graduate mathematics or tournament reports where I can't remember all the rounds. I have no idea where the ceiling is anymore, or what would happen if we started posting clickbait articles three times a week. Top4 Reasons Mishra's Factory (Probably) Shouldn't be Restricted. 6 Solid First-Picks in Old School Drafting (Number Five Will Surprise You). Seven (Grossly) Undervalued 93/94 Cards You Should Have in Your #MtgFinance Spec Box.
Five Reasons I Need Beta Duals More Than My Modern Collection. My largest trade of 2016, and the largest sum I've ever spent in a single Magic transaction all in one picture.
But that's not what we do. Instead we write 7,000 word pieces on using software development theory to build a Sligh deck and the closest we get to #MtgFinance is that I should check my wallet for gold coins.

We have no ads, sponsors nor stakeholders other than ourselves. Tournaments like BSK, the UK Championships, and people selling cards in the name of #MtgForLife have gathered hundreds of dollars to charities this year. The glorious Party of the Pit Lords tournament in Chicago had an un-wrapped toy as entry fee, which were all donated to a community outreach program working with less fortunate families. Earlier this month in Barcelona, the Spanish players hosted an oldschool event to raise money to buy Christmas gifts for children who might not get it otherwise.
Entry fees collected in Chicago.
That's pretty damn cool, right?

Good netiquette holds that I should mention a few of my favorite posts from the year. I've linked to a few of my own already, but here goes a few other ones from around the web.
You see where I'm going with this? There is no longer a lack of content creators. There are tournaments for people to play all around the world. n00bcon, with it's pretty much negligible prize structure, has grown to the extent that we need qualifier tournaments even after we managed to raise the cap from 76 to 100 players. We have a great sense of community and camaraderie, and take pride in being nice to strangers regardless of whether they are new players in the format or homeless kids that needs Christmas presents. Whatever I hoped to achieve with these weekly updates for the last four and half years, I think it's done.
People flip Chaos Orbs again.
This format and its community is great source of pride for me. It's humbling to stand in the middle of it all. But it has become time for me to step back and acknowledge that dutifully updating this blog isn't necessary anymore.

I've been thinking about it for a long time. Updating this blog takes about eight hours a week. Reading, writing, taking pictures and editing posts and subpages. Some weeks it goes a little quicker and some weeks it takes a lot more. I'm excited to see what I would do with those hours if I were to free them. I've signed up for horseback riding lessons. I have downloaded books I want to read to my Kindle. I want to learn cross-country skiing and how to speak french. Maybe I should learn to play the harmonica or start holding more seminars on software testing. And I'm getting married next year, which is awesome.

The plan isn't to stop creating content, and I will host n00bcon for as long as people want to come. I currently still have three posts still in the works. My idea is rather to severely scale down and cut my output rate down to about 10-15 posts or articles a year; either here or at other sites that want my scribbles. If you want to contribute with a guest post here, don't hesitate to email me at delaval@gmail.com. If you want me to write something for you, feel free to give me a nudge.

I wish you all a great 2017. Let's see where we can take it.

tisdag 20 december 2016

Crimson Disco

Things are wrapping up around here and most of the Christmas pottering is done. This year it included a fairly extravagant gift to myself; a rare piece of Magic I've been looking for for some time. I need a few more things before that project is solved, but I'm sure I'll put up a post about it once it's finished. Today though, lets go back to MonoRed.
Disco!
Three or four months back, I wrote a long post on how to build a Sligh deck using the principles of agile software development. We looked at the "build-measure-learn" loop of Lean processes and ended up with a somewhat solid 75 to show the world. While the deck we built lived up to all the feature requirements, the value I was looking for was to play it with friends and lend it out during tournaments. And after playing with it at a couple of gatherings, I realized that I didn't really enjoy Sligh. I want to play powerful cards and game-changing combinations. I like card advantage and to puzzle together wins when hope is bleak. Sligh did speak to the statistician in me, but playwise it didn't really intrigue me after a few games. So after learning this, I returned to take a few more laps in the build-measure-learn loop.
Colorless card advantage.
Ever since I first opened a Nevinyrral's Disk in a pack of 4th Edition in 1995, I've been a huge fan of the card. It keeps people honest and playing with an untapped disk on the table creates an interesting subgame of careful committing. The "Johnny-player" in me likes its combo potential with bounce-cards, Guardian Beast, regenerators and recursion effects; and the "Timmy-player" in me likes the massive impact of blowing up every non-land permanent on the table. So I figured playing four disks would be a nice start if I wanted to move from monored aggro to monored midrange. Audun's deck from CrowCon was of course a big source of inspiration here.

Creaturewise, Uthden Troll didn't impress me. Sure, they survive a Disk activation, but other than that they're mostly harmless 2/2s. A single opposing Mishra's Factory will keep them at bay and two damage to the opponent when they do get through isn't really that impressive either. So instead I went for Clay Statues. They beat through Factories, are a much faster clock, and can be cast with Mishra's Workshop. Also, the playset cost me $1, which is reasonable.
Creature base. Miser's Shivan Dragon for value.
Rukh Egg is of course really nice with the Disk, but lately it seems that one of the more common ways I've been cracking eggs is using Chain Lightning (and then chaining it forward to a target at opponent's side of the table). In case you didn't know btw, it could be interesting to note that City in a Bottle will destroy the Egg but let you keep the Rukh token, as the token isn't a card.

Lands are the only permanents in the format that will dodge the Disk, so I also wanted a few cards to handle utility lands and keep the sub-theme of mana denial in place.
Ponza packet.
There aren't that many restricted cards in red, but I've found that the Forks make up for that with great effect. Forking Mind Twists, Braingeysers or large Fireballs are obviously awesome, but the value you can get from just forking things like Counterspell or Disenchant are not to be scoffed at. The Forks sometimes justifies keeping an extra land or two in hand btw; every now and then you get to fork a Recall, and you need to be able to discard cards to get to pick up cards from the graveyard. I currently run two maindeck and a third in the sideboard against "restricted-list heavy" decks.
High-end spells.
Other than that, the deck is glued together with eight Lightning Bolts/Chain Lightnings, a couple of Shatters, and some mana ramp (e.g. two copies of Mana Vault). This is the end result:
Crimson Disco.
So is it any good? Yeah, I think so. It could be slightly improved by throwing a lot of money at it and adding Black Lotus and Library of Alexandria, but they are by no means necessary for the deck to function. And I've won more games than I've lost with it which I guess is a good sign. Much more than that though, it is very fun to play.

Sometime next week or so we'll take a look back at 2016 and welcome the new year. Until then, I hope you all have a great holiday.

onsdag 14 december 2016

N00bcon qualifier at Kort i Kubik

Among the Christmas miracles and gingerbread baking, there's another kind of Magic going around in the households. Next year, we'll have the 9th annual n00bcon and the old school World Championship that come with it. As the format has grown a lot and we only have 100 seats available at the venue, qualifier gatherings of different sorts have been popping up around the world to decide whom should represent the different communities at the championships. This the story of the qualifier in Arvika. It's my pleasure to present KungMarkus's witness from Kort i Kubik (translated from Swedish and edited by yours truly). Enjoy! /Mg out

It was with a bittersweet feeling that my dear father and I strolled out to the car last Friday. We were to drive to Kort i Kubik to compete in the local n00bcon qualifier tournament. For my pops, it was mostly about his new deck. He thought he hadn't tested it properly and didn't feel that comfortable with it yet. I had brought a new deck as well, but as I already had secured an invite for n00bcon I wasn't that concerned with my results in the tournament (even though it's always sweet to bring a new trophy back to the shelf at home ;)). I was more worried about not getting to bring all my friends down to the championships at n00bcon next Easter.
Kort i Kubik
My old man and I were the last to arrive at the tournament. We met up with Svetzarn and Frasse who stood outside smoking a cigarette. The four of us went inside to say hi to Artelas, who had just been picked up by Berntsson at the train station, and exchanged some pleasantries with the store owner Dan who would also join tonight's fight for the spots. We ended up with ten proud warriors gathering. Everybody was happy to avoid the Bye and we started playing with smiles on our faces.
The deck of the evening
It was with mixed emotions I realized that my first round opponent was my brother JohanGuld. I hadn't played him with my new deck but I knew exactly what he was playing. The Gun. A deck I've previously had some problems beating but I wasn't certain how my new tech would stack up against. It ended swiftly with beatdown from the opposite side of the table; Savannah Lions, Kird Apes and Elvish Archer both high and low. 0-2 loss.
JohanGuld's The Gun
I took a tour around the tables to check out what the other mages had brought to celebrate the evening, new pairings were posted, and I saw that I was facing Frasse in round two. Frasse is mainly a very competent Legacy-player, but he couldn't keep his hands away from 93/94 for long when he heard that a few of us locals were playing the format a couple of years back. Frasse plays Dead Guy Ale and he's playing well! It's usually a 50-50 matchup whenever we meet each other. Might as well flip a coin at this point :P But luck was on my side today and after three tight games I was victorious. 2-1.

Next in line was Tilyna, more commonly known as CH around here. "Oh, 1-1 for you as well?" I ask. "No dammit, four straight duel wins" he replies with a hint of a surprise. CH plays a hyperbudget monored Goblin/Dragon deck. He only has a single Blood Moon for example.

I would describe this duel as a total blood bath. I was utterly slaughtered by Goblins and Dragon Whelps. After a few minutes of suffering CH stood at the top of the standings without a single duel loss. I, on the other hand, had racked up plenty. 0-2.
CH's Monored Goblins & Dragons
In the last round of the swiss I was paired against Berntsson, my dear friend whom I first started playing 93/94 with four years ago. His deck of choice was ErnhnamGeddon with a red splash for Bolts and Wheel of Fortune. A deck which he usually beats me with when we're playing at the kitchen table at home. But he usually has horrible luck when facing me in tournaments. Today was no exception. After two duels with LoA doing what LoA does I picked up the victory. 2-0.

Well well, I though, it was nice playing four matches at least... But then it turned out that I'd managed to slip into the top4 with my 2-2! Good times. I prepared for the semifinals, and who was waiting there if not CH. He had beaten Johan 2-0 in the last game, and now boasted a record of 8-0 in duels with his monored budget deck! Damn, this could not end well. But after a really tight duel I managed to get the deck to start spinning, and after two Time Walks and a juicy Fireball I finally managed to burst his bubble. 1-0.

I sideboarded in a couple of Abysses, a Mirror Universe and two Blue Elemental Blasts, and soon we were at it again. This time it didn't end as well. CH dropped his Blood Moon early and all I could do was to shuffle up for the final duel. 1-1.

This time luck was on my side, and I got to resolve The Abyss turn three. CH knew he had no way to answer it and scooped up his cards. 2-1.
Dan's MonoBlack
Awesome, finals! Just as I was to pick my deck I saw that Johan had defeated Dan in the other semi. I was hence about to face my little brother again, a guy who had already humiliated me once today... We shuffled up, and I can simply say that my deck just went on autopilot and played itself. First turn Library of Alexandria with no answer from Johan in sight, and I quickly built up a solid mana base and and a solid defense with Lightning Bolts and Counterspells. 1-0.

The next duel I was looking at a starting seven of Library of Alexandria, Strip Mine, Mishra's Factory, 2 Moxen, Badlands and a Lightning Bolt. What could I possibly say? The deck played itself again, and I just leaned back and watched it draw cards and keep his creatures at bay until an Abyss hit the table. Then kept drawing cards in peace until the deck delivered a huge Fireball. 2-0, and the trophy was mine! :)
The handsome champion (photo from Pimpvitational three weeks earlier).
In the bronze match for third place, CH managed to defeat the store owner Dan in a really tight match. While I got to take the throphy with me home, I guess that the real winners were CH and Johan who got the two n00bcon invites. Who wouldn't want the chance to battle against 100 old school mages from all over the globe at the World Championship? I wouldn't miss it for the world!

That's all for me this time, but I hope to see a bunch of you readers at my tournament in Arvika the 25th of February next year when we'll fight for a Giant Shark! How cool is that?!
After seven years at the BSK tournament, starting in 2017 one of the two annually awarded Giant Sharks moves from BSK to the Arvika Festival tournament!

torsdag 8 december 2016

Season's Greetings and 25 decklists

Jolly Holidays! We're in the storm before the calm, hastily tying bows on the tasks of 2016 before the new year is upon us. But somewhere before the turn we have a few glorious days of sloth, gluttony and lust to enjoy with friends and family. If Christmas also makes you greedy and envious, mise well try to stir up some pride and wrath as well to collect the full seven. "Catching 'em all" has after all been an important chapter of 20016.
It's about time to update the Decks to Beat section with some of the tech from the last few months.
Macensci's MonoGreen. Seen at the top tables at BSK, but unfortunately missed out on Top8.
It's not all news though; I think that 15 of these lists have already been published on the blog in one post or another. Nonetheless, I assume that organizing them may be appreciated by some, and there are a few new inspiring lists (like Danhor's Ernhamgeddon and Sehl's Highlander-96 UR CounterBurn). And we see that The Deck at BSK 2016 had its best showing in a tournament in Sweden in four years, so it might be a good idea to bulk up on Haunting Winds and Crumbles. Mise well add some Ivory Towers when we're at it, as UR Burn is far too consistent. If this trend keeps going, restricting Mishra's Factory is starting to look like a good idea.
Axelsson's UWR Awesomeness. A game away from Top8 at BSK.
PWP Invitational 2016
8 players, photos of 7/8 decks. Each year, eight of the highest rated 93/94 players in the PWP standings gather to fight for glory. Keeping in tradition with the old Duelist Invitational tournaments, the format at these gatherings are variations of the more familiar mid-90s Magic. This year, the arena of choice was Highlander-96.

BSK 2016
52 players, photos of 8/8 decks. Let the grunts commence! For once we actually had a dominance of The Deck in the top8; the original boogie man of constructed Magic claimed no less than four spots in the top8. Variations of UR CounterBurn (with and without Electric Eel) claimed an additional three spots, and it's clear why many see these two decks as the top tier when left unchecked. The last spot was grabbed by Danhor's Ernhnamgeddon, and just outside the top8 we saw Distress, Ponza, Zoo and many other archetypes.

Fishliver Oil Cup Ed. 0
34 players, photos of 8/8 decks. Lorenzo, Megu and the other guys in Camaiore organized a tournament taglined with "Italian rules, Swedish style" and the tech was aplenty. We have eight distinctly different decks in the top8, including stuff like TwiddleVault, Nether Void Ponza and BW Party Crasher. In the end, UR ended up on top after a fierce battle against UWR Skies/Control.

In other news, there's no lack of 93/94 content on the web these days. One of my favorite places to delve down is The Wizard's Tower blog. A couple of weeks back Dave Firth Bard (who recently contributed with a guest tournament report here) wrote a very nice post for The Wizard's Tower where he opened a Revised Gift Box his in-laws had saved away for the 22 years. Taylor, who runs the blog, shortly thereafter posted an opening of a The Dark booster. Some nostalgic product right there, I recommend checking it out.

On the other side of the web, the good people at The Library at Pendrell Vale held an original core set draft. Check out part one and part two here.