Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Tournament Report - King of the North 29th July 2017 – by Richard Stebbing


06:55 Saturday 
The alarm sounds and it's time to roll out. Never mind the 5.5 hours’ sleep. My flatmate, this website's proprietor, ranks the explosive efficiency of my morning routine up there with turn-one Mox into Sol Ring into Fellwar Stone, so we're good to go in no time at all!

07:51
I board the train to head north.






An artist's interpretation of the Virgin Train to Edinburgh

07:59:30
We depart, surprisingly ahead of schedule. I nestle down into my standard-class seat with my Prêt coffee and sandwich (which are quickly dispatched) before indulging in an eighty-minute nap. 



Coffee Mana Battery online




09:50
Having awoken, but not having the space across two seats to set my cards out for a fine-tune of my deck, I read several Magic articles before inevitably succumbing to boredom and heading to eBay to acquire a couple of mis-cut cards for my cube, taking advantage of the final hours of a Nectarcard points promotion! 

11:30
The train has thinned out and I fine-tune my 75 for the tournament and give some thought to sideboarding. The expected meta is black-bordered and nostalgia-filled, but otherwise unknown! 

I am playing The Deck which is ostensibly the original control deck in Magic, heavily UW splashing RGB.




12:20
The train rolls into Edinburgh. After a brief sojourn into the tourist information office to collect some timetables for my timetable-obsessive father (don't ask!) I head over to the venue in good time for the 1pm start. Naturally I expect the tournament will start late in any event, in the tried-and-tested fashion...

13:15
The tournament begins...!

There are 8 of us, so 3 rounds of Swiss, then a Top 4. But to create more Magic, a "quarter-final" has been built in. The first placed player gets an automatic berth in the semi-finals, with places 2-7 battling it out in single-elimination to fill the other 3 semi-final places. The prize pot was £80 - divided £50/£30 between the finalists...

Round One 2-0 vs. Sebastion on Grixis Aggro Dreams

Sebastion is one of the pillars of the UK Old School scene, and had feathers positively in his cap, having won a tournament in Birmingham in the spring. As such I was expecting a tough match-up.

Game One
A relatively tense opening saw a Black Vise do some early damage before being Disenchanted. I was able to establish mana rocks but was somewhat light on Factories. Sebastion had seen several creatures either countered or sent to the farm, but had a Shatter for my early Jayemdae Tome.

Running low on card advantage, I plumped to Timetwister despite the risk of recycling Bolts etc. for Sebastion. I was able to Twister into some reasonable spells, a Balance included, however unwittingly allowed Sebastion to set up a Demonic Tutor into Mind Twist to take my hand away! Sebastion compromised on developing his board (as one would) to Mind Twist, however this would be an unfortunate line as I promptly top-decked my own Mind Twist and decimated his hand, hitting several threats.

So we were weaponless again. However it would not be for long, as I drew into Jayemdae Tome (was it ever thus?) and took control of the board. Sebastion meanwhile was drawing 3 Black Vises, which unfortunately did little as I was able to empty my hand of non-counters and manage a hand size of four or less. This did lead to an interesting moment where Sebastian tried an Ancestral Recall targeting me for what would have been a lethal 9 damage, pushing my hand to 7 at the end of his turn. However I had the Counterspell and shortly after a huge Fireball ended the game.





The Deck

Game Two
This game saw a more aggressive start with two Black Knights from Sebastion. However I had the perfect answer in a split Fireball to kill both.

I was here able to establish a lock of sorts, with Greater Realm of Preservation and Jayemdae Tome enabling me to edge ahead. Using two Hyppies, Sebastion could deal with one Serra Angel, but not the second! Game two ended shortly thereafter.


Sebastion's Grixis Aggro-Dreams

Match 2 - 2-1 vs Bryan Connolly on ErhnamGeddon

Game 1 saw Bryan establish a clock with Argothian Pixies, despite my having drawn counters/removal to deal with a pair of aggressive early Savannah Lions. I was struggling to establish my board presence whilst dealing with these threats, and was quickly left "needing a Balance" after a Serendib Efreet hit the table. With my life total dwindling rapidly, an Armageddon from Bryan saw me scoop.

Game 2
Bryan had a less aggressive start in game 2, which coupled with a timely Counterspell on an Energy Flux moved the pendulum towards me. A painful Mind Twist saw me then take command, before eventually drawing an out – a Serra Angel - that saw me over the finish line.

Game 3
The most concerning game with Bryan on the play post-board. I was able to deal with early threats before starting to chip away with Factories. Fearing an army of Djinns, I'd resolved a City in a Bottle, and crucially could out-draw Bryan with Tome. Being able to trade one-for-one with Bryan's threats I could then slowly inflict enough punishment with the Factories.



Bryan's GWU ErhnamGeddon

Match 3 - 2-0 vs Rod Smith on Troll Disco

Game 1 saw a long period of draw-go, as the growing manabases of two black-border purists stared menacingly at each other from across the playmats. A pattern emerged with Rod either Swordsing or Disenchanting my Factories and me Swordsing his Trolls.

Unfortunately for Rod this meant that he was not putting me under any pressure. This led to my restricted cards doing what they do best. With Counterspell back-up I Braingeysered for 4, and then took three turns in a row off Time Walk into Recall fetching Time Walk, developing my board to epic proportions. Then like an anaconda squeezing the life out of its prey, I was able to use my Tome draw engine and edge ahead, with a grip of answers and disruption.

Rod fought on valiantly, seeing for instance a Disintegrate for 9 Mana Drained, before I locked up the game with a huge Fireball.


My keep in game 1

Game 2 saw Rod stutter on mana early, meaning that my Chaos Orb, Stone Rain and Strip Mine did brutal work. A pair of Mishra's Factories then quickly put the game away before Rod could recover.


Rod's Troll Disco

Being top of the Swiss at 3-0 meant that as top seed I had the honour of an automatic berth in the Semi Finals, whilst places 2-7 fought on in single elimination games to fill the remaining three places...





Semi Final - 2-1 vs Bryan Connolly on ErhnamGeddon

Bryan is a skilled veteran operator, and probably my toughest opponent of the other semi-finalists (Rod had graciously knocked out the UR player, Karl!). So my heart sank a little being paired against Bryan, knowing that I would have to go through him (again!) to make the final.

Game 1 saw early Savannah Lions apply early pressure. Despite it being likely suboptimal, I was forced to Timetwister in search of answers. Suffice to say they didn't appear and I was duly 0-1 down.

Sideboarding was interesting here, as I wanted to keep my City in a Bottle threat. However by this point it seemed unlikely that Bryan had all his Arabian Nights fatties in his deck (if any at all...) Moreover he appeared to be favouring a more controlling build, relying on his white creatures and disruption towards my manabase via Energy Flux. However the City in a Bottle had such potential potency that it had to stay in...

Game 2 was probably the most interesting- I traded answers for early creatures, before an Energy Flux caused both our manabases issues (however my manabase moreso), and I was forced to sacrifice my Tome after only one draw. Unfortunately for Bryan he had "gassed" and seemed to stop drawing threats. So I was able to pick off his Energy Flux with a Disenchant and then go to work with a second Tome.

It seemed very much a game of marginals. For example, we exchanged Mind Twists, but I probably hit the more significant cards. I was also able to draw a two-for-one with Balance to take out several threats in one hit. Ultimately Bryan seemed to run out of creatures, and without an Armageddon landing, died at the hands of a Factory and a Serra Angel.

Game 3 saw my most broken start in recent memory. A hand of 3 Moxen, Black Lotus, Regrowth, Mind Twist saw me Mind Twist Bryan for 6 (his entire hand) on turn 1.

A devastating play, but his response, a turn two Savannah Lion off the top put me under early pressure, as I lacked the Factory nor a Swords to deal with it. I established my Tome and was drawing two cards each turn. However whilst I could counter additional threats the Lions continued to scratch away at my life. Finally on 6 life, after 7-8 turns, salvation came in the form of a Factory! Not wanting to fall any lower I immediately took the trade.

From there, now with two Books doing the Lord's Work, I moved further ahead, although I did fall to 2 off an end-step Psionic Blast from Bryan whilst I was tapped out.

From there I set-up the kill with counter back-up with Demonic Tutor and moments later an enormous Fireball for 13 put me into the finals!


What a Fireball for 13 with counter back-up looks like


Final - 2-0 vs Rod Smith on Troll Disco

Our first game was unnervingly similar to our previous game 1. Rod was unable to exert enough pressure early, before succumbing to the vice-like grip of the Tome, which provided me with unrivalled card advantage.

This time I was able to protect my Factories, before producing a Fireball for the win.

Game two saw me mulligan to 5, but fortunately into a hand with Ancestral Recall, almost immediately restoring parity with Rod in terms of cards in hand.

I was somewhat choked on lands, but had a vital Balance in hand. This was to prove devastating, as I set up a Tome on board, whilst opposite Sedge Trolls were amassing and each dealt me three damage a turn. My plan was to Balance to leave us with 0-1 cards in hand, but with my Tome handing me the advantage in an empty board. This worked perfectly, with Rod losing his Trolls and 5 lands (due to the 3-8 land disparity).

From there, the Tome saw me race ahead, with Factories drawing the concession soon thereafter.

I was duly crowned King of the North!



I was particularly chuffed: this was my first victory in a tournament outside of a GP side-event, having made the semi-finals in several. This win also comes with an invitation to Noobcon 10 in April next year, where I will be representing the UK!

An aside to congratulate Rod on organising a great event. Rod had done much of the initial publicity and had generously donated an Unlimited Jayemdae Tome to the prize pot, which was randomly assigned to one lucky Karl Hagan by way of a die roll!

It is a testament to the UK Old School community that people are prepared to travel across the country to play in events like this, in truth not because of the promise of exorbitant prize support, but to socialise and indulge in a much-loved format with like-minded friends who "get the joke". Long may it continue.

My congratulations also to Gabor on hosting a great event and firing a sanctioned Old School tournament at the first time of asking. The players were made to feel very welcome throughout the weekend. Even if you do not play Old School, I would recommend checking out a tournament at Mox in the Hole if you are ever in the Edinburgh area. 




Some other action shots of Ben vs. Chris in the Swiss. Amazingly innovative decks and check out Ben's beautiful altered Howling Mines! 

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Grand Prix Birmingham

A Brothers Of Fire delegation will be attending GP Birmingham to participate in the Old School event which is being organised there on SUNDAY 13th from midday.  More details on the UK Old School Magic Facebook group.

Current indications are that this event will follow Channel Fireball's Old School rules, which means mana burn will be in effect - and Fallen Empires will be legal.  

Personally I'm a fan of mana burn being part of the rules in Old School.  Firstly, whatever its faults, it is a part of the original game's heritage and flavour.  Secondly, getting rid of the rule means that some cards like Su-Chi and Mana Drain (and even Black Lotus) don't have a balancing drawback which was clearly intended when they were released.  

I'm assuming the Vancouver mulligan (scry mulligan) will not be in effect.  On this I'm with the innovators rather than the traditionalists, as it balances out bad luck on the draw.  

This feeling - of half-welcoming the modern age, and half wanting to escape it - seems to be at the heart of Old School, and the philosophy and appeal behind it.  I prefer to look at the format as Magic's most 'perfected' form - a quest to isolate the form of one of the greatest games ever, rather than purely enjoy it as a throwback attraction trading exclusively on the past.

Whatever your thoughts on the matter, it should be a great day.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Tournament Report - COPcon III

1st July 2017 and time for Brothers Of Fire to reconvene an assortment of old and new Old School faces at our familiar home of Mirth, Marvel, and Maud in North-East London.  This would be our third COPcon, with players competing for two prizes. Firstly, the traditional signed Circle of Protection - this time, in black.  Secondly, a Brothers Of Fire awarded to the player representing the spirit of Old School with the most original deck, outlandish play, or sportsmanlike gesture.




This would be our first event since the unrestriction of Black Vice and Maze of Ith - changes which have been favourably received in the community.  With seven attendees (Ben, Markus, Oli, Richard S, and myself from previous iterations - and two new faces in the form of Ross and Graeme), we had the perfect number for round-robin against a fairly relaxed clock which allowed plenty of opportunities for trips to the bar. It wouldn't be London Old School without a few relaxed ales.

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I was playing a further-tweaked ‘post-Goblin’ red - shooting for burny early kills and inflated creature damage, supported by key disruptive cards in the core to unsettle my opponents’ strategies.  Having previously been cooling in my attitudes towards it, today Fork re-established itself in my mind as one of the best cards in Old School red.


My first match-up was against Graeme, a veteran of the Gravesend Magic scene and relatively new to the format.  His deck was a work of art with some tasty black-bordered goodies, all fresh from the loft.  It’s great to see classic cardboard resurrected and getting playtime again.  Given that my deck is capable of some pretty explosive starts, his own kick-off to game one really put me in my place: a turn-three channel fireball, powered by a Lotus and a Mana Flare.  Crucially, the Lotus meant he only had to descend as low as four life - making my in-hand Bolt a useless gesture.


I hoped for better luck next game.  When the Mana Flare hit the table I was ready with two Forks in hand: the first copying a six-point Disintegrate, the second duplicating a Drain Power.




With two Drain Powers resolving in sequence - mine first - this led to an interesting situation.  We consulted Gatherer to confirm that the ‘drained’ player could choose which kind of mana to draw from their dual lands.  Crucially this enabled my opponent to tap his Taigas for green - so although I was able to pump his red mana into my Goblin Balloon Brigade, I was unable to squander the green, which then drained back to him and allowed him to forge ahead with his schemes, supported by his native artifact mana.  Despite reducing him to one life in both games, I was beaten 2-0.


My next match-up against seasoned contender Markus went better.  After Chaos Orbing his much-loved Juzám Djinn off the table, he was forced into a Timetwister.  When I followed up with a Wheel of Fortune, I was able to dig easily into my burn.


Game two Markus put down another of his fast Juzáms but I responded with an outrageously lucky top-decking of my City In A Bottle, and then followed up with multiple Ball Lightnings for the kill.  This was my first ever match win against Markus! I expect revenge next time, half for the win, half for the violence I inflicted on his Djinns.


At 1-1 I faced a friend I have known since I was five, but I expected and received no quarter.  Oli is the master of the white weenie and his first-strikers pre-empted any hope of forcing a Ball Lightning through.  In the first game I was beaten down by two Serra Angels. In the second, a critical mass of Thunder Spirits meant I went down 2-0 in games, and was now running 1-2 in matches.


Next up was my brother Ben, the birthday boy, who is running 4-0 and needs some stiff opposition.  Sadly, my deck fails to provide it.  Game 1 he gets down an early Ivory Tower - a card that I reflect we are going to see more of after the end of the day’s play, given its Vice-nullifying properties.  In game 2 I manage to get him down to 3 life before he stabilises and takes the win. This feels like revenge for my win at COPcon II.

At 1-4 I am entering the territory of needing to salvage my record. My opponent, Ross, is a COPcon newcomer but Magic veteran. Unfortunately on his first game he risks a bad keep on the draw, and is rapidly destroyed by a Black Vice. On game 2 I get another early Vice down and topdeck a Chaos Orb to clear the way for multiple-Goblin beatdown and a Bolt to the head.


Image result for goblin artisans
These guys are highly underrated

By the time of the last round of round robin, it was safe to say that the spirit of Old School was flowing in our veins, supported by copious pints of the Raspberry Wheat Beer on offer at Mirth.

My final matchup of the day’s competitive play is against COPcon's black-border purist resident Richard S, who has moved away from The Deck for this event, and is playing a gorgeous fully black-bordered UBR Guardian Beast synergy deck. Thankfully we enjoy three superb games.


The first game is something of a classic as I kick off with a Mox and TWO Vices (see below).  He eventually stabilises on 1 life and holds me at 20 until he Transmute Artifacts my most hated card (after Mind Twist): Mirror Universe.  Just when it seems he is about to effect a 19-point swing I trust to luck and top-deck the bolt!  Justice is done.




Game two I swing in with Ball Lightnings and take Richard to 1 life again before (you guessed it) a second Mirror.  This time it earns him the win as the only thing I can top-deck is another Black Vice.


In game three, Richard’s Ivory Tower adds precious life before I Disenchant it.  He hits back with fast Mana Vaults but once tapped, he is running Atog-less and unable to get them off the table.  Once again I take him down to one life before he re-asserts control and our old friend Sol’kanar the Swamp King storms through for the win.  I can’t argue with such a tight match being finished by a card of such rich flavour. It does make one wonder why the Legends playtesters didn't do a better job of costing the other Legends in that set.

Sol'kanar the Swamp King



All but one of the games is complete, so the final game is something of an exhibition match. Ben is facing up to Richard, but with an unbeaten record, he is already champion. He duly defeats his opponent to win COPcon III and take the COP. On his birthday he has managed to go undefeated in matches, and drop only two games all day. No mean feat.

Newcomer Graeme's "Flower Power" finishes a strong second, with Oli's white weenie finishing in third.

Celebrations and some light trading continue for some time, before a hard core of attendees proceed to local nightspot the Victoria for a pool comp (in which Ben's team is also victorious - he was on a roll that day).

COPcon IV will be taking place on 21st October 2017! Put the date in your diaries. All are welcome.

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A note from our winner:

No full report from me this time, for good reason. I started the day with a pint of 6% raspberry wheat beer at 1pm and followed up with one or two more for each of the 6 rounds. One pint even arrived with candles attached – thanks guys!  After the event we even had a pub crawl/ shots/ kebabs until about 2am. I was on autopilot after a while but my deck seemed to have all the right answers at the right times. For example Markus opened Library, Lotus, Juzám. I sheepishly played Mox, City In A Bottle. Ouch! 


The hands say it all!

Great variety of decks and good interactive games with sound, relaxed guys. A superb day. My MVP was Ivory Tower, which saved my bacon many times. Serendib Djinn over-performed too, defeating Graeme’s gorgeous beta Shivan Dragon. Thanks to Joey for organising another great event; looking forward to the next one.



Some highlights from across the matches:
Richard and Oli in full “Ali vs Frazier” mode as both decks throw their full formidable power at each other - 5/5 Thunder Spirits up against every broken artifact in the book, protected by double Beasts



Birthday boy Ben receives his special ‘cake’.





Two Flares and a Candelabra - Graeme’s Flower Power deck unlocks mana madness



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Deck pic roundup:


Champion Ben - Quirky WUbr Millstone Control







2nd place Graeme - “Flower Power” (Mana Flare combo) [Winner of the Brothers Of Fire, for most original deck]




Richard S - Guardian Beast synergy




Ross - WR creature



Me (Jonas) - “Post-Goblin”





Thursday, 25 May 2017

Tournament Report: Brass Man I by Scott

Brass Man I – 20 May 2017
Nine UK Old School Magic players descended upon the Craft Beer Company pub in central London last weekend to enjoy playing some classic cards and sampling the wide range of great beers on offer.  
The tournament was instituted by myself and Markus Lundqvist, who suggested Brass Man as a prize and (inspired by the Swedish Giant Sharks) a handicap for the winner, as Brass Man winners must play their Brass Men in their 75 cards for all future Brass Man tournaments!
I took my UR Counterburn deck, which had previously won COPcon1, although since then Serendib Djinn had been removed for a fourth Flying Man, and the sideboard reworked, as well as some pimping out with Alpha Psionic Blasts and a couple of Unlimited Volcanic Islands.
Round 1 – Richard Stebbing (The Deck)
Richard is a familiar face at Old School tournaments, and his fearsome build of the classic The Deck is always a challenge to face.  Richard’s mulligan in Game 1 gave me a glimmer of hope, and with his mana base of 3 City of Brass clearly as much on my payroll as his, I ended up winning.  Game 2 was my turn to mulligan, and when my turn 1 Sol Ring was disenchanted I was unable to play threats quickly enough to trouble Richard, who soon drew his way to too many cards to overturn.  Game 3 was a little weird, as Richard drew only 1 land (a Tundra) that got strip mined, so he was operating on just moxen and fellwar stones, whilst I had a surfeit of land but struggled for damage with Greater Realm of Preservation hampering my burn.  The game descended into a topdeck war of extremely swingy proportions, as my Braingeyser for 5 and Ancestral Recall put me 6 cards ahead, only for Richard to cast Balance as a 10-for-1, destroying all 8 of my lands, plus Flying Men, plus a card discarded!  However, with 2 lands still in hand and Richard still mana-screwed I was able to recover first and win 2-1 in the nick of time before he could re-establish control.
Round 2 – Tom Cadden (Blue/Black/White midrange)
Landlord Tom Cadden not only reserved two big upstairs tables for us but made his Old School debut in the tournament as well!  After a bye in Round 1 I had the honour of playing Tom in his first ever two games.  Alas both games unfortunately weren’t that close as Tom got badly manascrewed; my strip mining land and Shattering moxen not helping matters.  A friendly game afterwards proved much the most fun, with me still winning but down on 5 life.  The match highlight was arguably Tom casting Mind Twist for my whole hand of 5 cards with a Revised Mind Twist he had bought from me for £3 at the start of play; the fact it was countered probably summed up the match.  Tom’s post-game observation that the absence of fetchlands means Old School decks need more mana sources than Vintage was shrewd, and he duly enjoyed more success in the subsequent rounds having added a couple.  
Round 3 – Ben Twitchen (U/W midrange)
A recent n00bcon attendee and another UK Old School stalwart, Ben is another customer who has earned a healthy respect when his name appears in the pairings.  Not so much U/W skies as U/W midrange, his deck had Savannah Lions and White Knight joining the fray alongside Serra Angel.  Game 1 was a highly cagey affair with every threat on both sides answered promptly, including (to my great satisfaction after missing last time I played Ben) the destruction of his Serendib Efreet with Chaos Orb.  In Game 2 I always seemed to have the upper hand, but thanks to Ben’s Ivory Tower it still seemed to take an age for me to turn the card advantage of Library of Alexandria into a game win – my Psionic Blast taking him from 4 to 0 being his 18th life change of the game.
Ben's deck

Round 4 – Markus Lundqvist (Trick)
The match against my event co-host proved easier than I might have expected, with Markus digging frantically for threats in game 1 (I think we had Timetwister, Wheel of Fortune and Winds of Change!) without ever getting one to stick, whilst a dodgy keep in game 2 rather handed me the match.  A fun practice game afterwards finished in real Old School style when on 4 life I stole Markus’s Juzam Djinn with Control Magic, only for the egg to end up back on my face as he bolted me down to 1 and I lost to the Djinn in my own upkeep.
Round 5 – Karl Hagan (Red deck wins, splashing Black and White)
Our decks were so aggressive that we actually had time to play four games, although I won the official two 2-0.  Hampered somewhat by never seeing Ankh of Mishra in the match, Karl managed to get plenty of damage in with Ball Lightning and Black Vise, but was not quite quick enough to beat the UR Counterburn in either game, although we did go 1-1 in the practice games afterwards.
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So with a 5-0-0 match record (and 10-1-0 in games) I was the clear winner, with Ben second on 12 points and Markus in third, very narrowly indeed on tie-breakers ahead of Tom in 4th.  A satisfying victory, and one well worth the albatross of having to pack Brass Man in my deck next time.
Six of us stayed on after the official tournament to crack open my Old School cube for its fourth outing, where after some classic old school drafting (including severe overdrafting of black and underdrafting of red by the pod) Ben Twitchen emerged as the 3-0 victor.  His reaction to “opening” a pack that included two Moxen, Shivan Dragon, Serra Angel, StP and Fireball was a sight to behold.
Ben's Old School booster "god pack"

The winning Old School cube deck


All in all, an excellent day was had by all, and with further events in the calendar in London and Edinburgh, a UK summer of Old School promises much to look forward to.
Scott Latham
May 2017




Black Vise unrestricted - the inevitable turn-one aftermath!





Wednesday, 10 May 2017

COPcon III date announcement

This event is planned for July 1st 2017.  All welcome.  Full details here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/439866896389967/

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

n00bcon9 Tournament Report by Jonas

N00bcon 9 Tournament Report
N00bcon 9, the world championships of Old School, took place in April 2017.  The London delegation consisted of me, my brother Ben, Steve, and Karl.  We banded together under the banner of The Beasts Of Bogardan, complete with matching t-shirt swag. Our introduction to the event came courtesy of Markus, London Old School’s favourite Swede.
front.PNGback.PNG

As someone who has played the game on and off since 1995, and co-organiser of a series of Old School events in East London, this was undoubtedly the highlight of my playing career - eclipsing even my winning of a Mox Sapphire at Gencon ‘98(!)
The flight over began auspiciously as Ben and I fought out a single 90-minute game involving no fewer than 3 Timetwisters, and finished with him decking himself while I had two cards left in my library.  Was this an augur of the extreme play which we were to see at the event?
air magic.PNG   
Arriving in Gothenburg one day ahead of the start, we decided against sightseeing to focus on last-minute deck preparation and sideboarding.  For me this included the generous loan from Karl of a slew of black-bordered goodies to pimp my deck, as well as four gorgeous Unlimited Plateaus to change up my strategy on games two and three.  Steve also had the chance to rather improbably lay down three Tims:
tims.PNG
That evening we headed to the venue, the Rotary Pub, to check out the eve-of-event festivities and to meet the man who started it all - Magnus.  At this point we became aware that we really were at the heart of global Old School.  If you’re the kind of player who considers the Savannah Lion to be the high water-mark of one-drop creatures, it simply doesn’t get better than this.
magnus.PNG
As well as getting in a few friendly games and meeting competitors from across Europe, we were given the card prize for the British delegation.  In recognition of our team having an average height of 6’ 9”, Magnus kindly donated a rather unusual Hill Giant from his collection!
hillgiant.PNG
After a reasonable number of beers we decided to hit the hotel and save energy for the big event.  The next day, our schedule began in a pretty relaxed mode and by the time Magnus came out to the balcony over the playing area to inform us of the approach to the day, we were raring to go.
balcon.PNG
My “post-Goblin” deck had performed respectably at Bazaar Of Moxen in Paris two weeks before and David, a local Swede, was my first opponent.  His deadguy ale deck cast pesky Hypnotic Specters which did for me in both games, despite me getting him down to 3 life in the first, and 4 in the second. I ran out of reach.
This wasn’t the beginning I had hoped for, and Team Beasts of Bogardan had all got off to tough starts.  It was obvious that despite the friendliness of the field, and the amazing atmosphere of the event, everyone here knew their way around the format.
Game two I came up against the heavy artifact deck of Carl-Hendrik, also from Sweden.  This time, my deck fired - a Blood Moon knocking out his workshop and then Wheel Of Fortune taking him into a Black Vise.  Despite a Triskelion pinging off my weenies, my burn got me over the line.  On game two, my opponent was affected by mana issues and couldn’t unlock a Mana Vault.  Two Ball Lightnings finished the job his Vault had started.
1room.PNG
At 1-1, I was back in the event, but was undone by Julia’s white-weenie ‘geddon deck, despite taking the first game.  And worse was to come, when my round 4 opponent Max brought out a tightly-tuned Titania’s Song deck that worked a number of strong artifact combos before delivering the coup de grace with animated Winter Orbs and Icy Manipulators.  My only relief during that game was Forking his five-point Braingeyser, and successfully activating the coin-flip ability of my Goblin Artisans.  I think it’s safe to say I was the only one using that piece of tech!
At 1 win for 3 losses I knew I was out of contention for the Shark, but there was still the Hill Giant to play for, and in the knowledge that trips to the world championship wouldn’t come along every day, I was still determined to make the most of my remaining games.  The tiny number of drop-outs at this point showed that everyone was thinking the same way and this is tribute to the spirit of old school which ran through the day.  Losing a shot at the title also meant I could get properly stuck into the sumptuous beer selection on offer at the Rotary.
1beer.png
It felt like a few beers agreed with my game, or at least improved my luck.  Lennart, my fifth opponent, faced a monstrous opener from me with a turn-two Mox-powered Ball Lightning, followed up by a rare instance of a Chain Lightning being activated back-and-forth.  Our second game saw two Wheels and a Winds of Change hitting the table, as my opponent dug in vain for his combo.  However I drew into all my bolts and was able to inflict fatal damage before his Underworld Dreams revealed itself.

Wheel: My new favourite card


Match five was my first ever ‘mirror match’ against another player called Jonas.  Early Blood Moons disrupted a nice-looking deck - my hunch that I would be witnessing fancy lands all day proving correct - and before I knew it I was on 3-3, which felt like a respectable score.  With one round of Swiss left to play, I was determined to see if I could make it more wins than losses.  
My final opponent, Nikita, who had come from Russia, had other ideas. Playing a deck I had never before encountered, including the forgotten Naf’s Asp, he overwhelmed me with green weenies and responded to my defensive boltings with multiple Giant Growths and Berserks.  It was a chastening two-nil drubbing and a timely reminder of the diversity of old school - I hadn’t actually faced The Deck all day.
With the competition now progressing to the Top 8 there was a chance to meet all the other players from across the world, including the two guys from Lords Of The Pit who had come over all the way from Chicago.  I concluded a memorable few games with Craig from that team, who was playing a hardcore reanimator deck complete with some mouth-watering alters.  With the generous gifting of a Chicago playmat, we agreed that the London and Chicago Old School scenes should cross over again sooner rather than later.
After that I also had time to play one match against Magnus himself, the man of the hour, although regrettably I had to decline his tempting offer to play “full old school” and play for ante, mindful that I was packing thousands of pounds worth of borrowed cardboard.  I also caught up with one of two confirmed owners of both the Ultra Pro 9-piece promo cards: a full Lotus and Chaos Orb.  Despite competing against decks encrusted with Alpha jewellery, and spotting summer lands in the wild for the first time, this was arguably the most impressive sight of all.
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With another couple of friendlies concluded, I sat down to watch an enthralling final as a fearsome-looking black deck (largely mono but splashing blue) faced off against The Deck.  The second game, with the Icelander coming back into the competition, was head-spinningly complicated and underlined the level of skill that top players bring to the table.  In the end, it took three rounds to separate the finalists, and black prevailed. It felt appropriate to see the rarely-seen Nightmare make an appearance at the end - once again a testament to the vitality of the format, and a tribute to how the best players are still exploiting value beyond the staple Factories, Sol Rings, and Ancestrals.
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With a new world champion crowned there was time for a few more beers before a 4am finish.  We had been immersed in elite Magic for sixteen hours and it was time to call it quits.  
My teammate Karl took home the Hill Giant as best performer from the British Isles, finishing 42nd out of 102, while I came in 70th.  So although I didn’t bring home the Shark, I did have a chance to put my name - quite literally - on the biggest prize of them all in Old School.  
A big thanks to all the organisers and competitors for the best Magic experience of my career, and particularly Markus and my fellow Beasts Of Bogardan.  Anyone reading this from overseas who fancies getting involved in more international Old School tournaments (albeit considerably less high-profile than n00bcon), then please sign up for updates from our newly-established East London club, Brothers of Fire.
Peace out.

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