Saturday, 17 February 2018

“In Praise Of” Part 5: Clone, by Mg

An ongoing series where Old School players reflect on their favourite cards. For this iteration we have a very special guest post by Magnus, the Father of Old School and convener of n00bcon

In early 1995, around the time Revised was phased out in favor of 4th Edition, Magic in Kikås, Mölndal, was an endless sea of discovery. The handful of us versed in Magic played with whatever cards we managed to scrape together. The meta was as small and local as it got. There was no local game store to speak of, and for sure we didn't have access to any comprehensive card lists. For the majority of the world, this was the pre-internet days.

The first true chase-card I ever encountered was Clone. I don't know why we hadn't opened any of them at our local scene; most of us owned at least a couple of Sol Rings and other uncommons from Revised. Juggernauts or the odd Demonic Tutor wasn't that unusual to run across. An outsider would surely even find the occasional dual among our chaff, but none of us had ever seen a Vesuvan Doppelganger.
I believe that I first came across Clone when I ventured out of the comfort of my local scene and visited Björn Albihn. Björn was an old friend, as old as they get. His parents are my godparents and my parents are his, so our families have been close since way before Magic - or the two of us - entered the equation. Björn doesn't play these days, but he is still an important part of my life. And my ventures in Magic for that matter. He is the sculptor responsible for the champion trophies at both The Wizards' Tournament and n00bcon X this coming Easter. But back in 1995 he was living in his parental home the next town over. Our families would often celebrate the holidays together - Easter, New Years, Walpurgis and others - and I believe this was such an occasion. Maybe the Easter of 1995.

I heard that he played Magic, so I brought my cards. And I got my first taste of the power of Clone. When he was behind, Clone would even out the battlefield. When I got a Sengir Vampire, he would easily match it with his Clone. When the board was at a stall, Clone would turn it into his favor. And when he was ahead, Clone would make his Mahamothi Djinn into two and my chances to recover would be null.

These days the matches aren't focused on creature combat in the same way, but whenever we start swinging this is still true. Clone will always be the best creature on the battlefield. For only four mana (a price we didn't really consider back then), the greatest foe or the strongest champion in sight will join your ranks. Clone could also be used as mana acceleration in a more controlling deck, casually copying an activated Mishra's Factory. Or go nuts in decks like The Machine, playing the part of either an extra Hell's Caretaker or the second Triskelion needed to go off. Always doubling its duty by matching an opposing Juzam Djinn or Serra Angel whenever defense is needed.

I might never have wanted a card like a wanted that Clone. But it was not for trade, and as such I would have to search elsewhere for it. When I got back, I knew I needed to step out of my comfort zone and see what the deeper parts of Möldal could offer. One of my closest friends, Oscar, told me that a certain Viktor had a collection far beyond ours. Viktor had been our old scout master and was older than us by five or six years. When you are 11 years old, that is a lot. Viktor smoked and had relationships we were yet to comprehend. But he knew me from the scouts, and I knew where his family lived.

I think I just went to his house and knocked on the door. They were a fairly large family of seven, living in the Lackarebäck part of Mölndal. We got to talking and playing, and Viktor's collection truly was at another level than the ones I've seen before. Not that he had Power or stuff like that, of course, but amazing creatures and effective spells were abundant. I don't think I ever had seen a Serra Angel in play before; our small playgroup had decided to ban white from our games as the protective nature of the color was deemed "chicken". Viktor had a Clone that I managed to trade for, probably getting seriously ripped off value-wise in the process (as was the custom of the time). I don't remember that much of our trades other than that I traded a Birds of Paradise for a pair of basic lands. But those cards never really mattered to me, and now I had a Clone. As a small sidenote, I also had a better relationship with Viktor, which would prove fruitful a few years down the line when I needed help to buy spirits from Sweden's heavily ID-enforced liquor stores. Clone surely helped lay the groundwork for my youth. Come to think of it, my improved relationship with Björn via Magic got me invited to a middle school dance where I got something most people would describe as my first kiss. But that story is neither here nor there.

My Clone was soon a card to fear in our local meta. Even David, the local mister suitcase with the best collection of all of us, couldn't hide his envy. David had all the big cards; Lord of the Pit, Force of Nature, Island Fish and Colossus of Sardia. But with my Clone I also had them. I could just wait for him to cast one of his monsters and immediately match it. He offered me piles of cards for it, multiple beasts, strong spells and two or three duals just for that single Clone. He really wanted to be the guy with all the best cards. But I wouldn't budge.

Soon thereafter I got the chance to take a trip to Gothenburg city where I found a game store selling Magic in both packs and singles. I was astonished at the prices of some of the cards; both high and low. A dual land was almost a shocking €9. But on the flip side, they had two Clones in store for only €2.50 apiece. On of them was horribly off-center, but I could hardly care. It was time for my first ever singles purchase.
So now, thanks to my travels, I had three Clones. David still offered me piles of cards for just one of them. Well, any one of them except the "misprinted monstrosity" ("det feltryckta fanskapet"), which he didn't care for. Even though I had seen the prices of dual lands in that store in Gotheburg, the personal value of my Clones and the joy they gave to my games was more than any cards he could offer. I still have those three clones today.
What happened next are many stories of life, friendship, and kitchen table Magic. Ice Age was released and we found out about Polar Kraken and Leviathan; a 4th edition card we somehow had missed earlier. We learned of Vesuvan Doppelganger, to this day my favorite creature in Magic next to Juzam Djinn. The mysteries of Magic grew a little smaller as our community grew a little bigger and we ventured more and more into the city of Gothenburg to play. I eventually got my hands on two Vesuvan Doppelgangers, a Deflection and a Mana Drain to make my blue deck a glory to behold.

I traded away the Mana Drain for an Underworld Dreams, but the day after that my deck got stolen. It was not the first nor the last time I had cards stolen back in the 90s, but it was one of the more heartfelt ones. It would take me almost 15 years before I got another Doppelganger, this time for my ventures in Old School Magic. I upgraded it to black borders five years ago, and to this day it has a place whenever I play a blue deck in 93/94.
Glory be to the Doppelganger, but in the end it was Clone who showcased the ability to most players. Clone is truly one of the most iconic cards from the early days of Magic. It is one of very few cards I can think of that got proper homage to the original iconic art when it was reprinted many years later. You can't say that about Sol Ring, Hypnotic Specter or Juggernaut from that same era.
Clone has given me a lot of great victories, but a few shame-inducing mishaps as well. One evening in 2014 I got unusually drunk. I woke up the morning after with a heavy hangover, but as I puzzled together the pieces of the evening before I couldn't recall doing anything stupid at the party I attended. I wandered around in my apartment in haze for an hour before I realized that I had gone online to drunk-shop Magic cards. I checked my emails and saw a list of the cards I had bought; mostly harmless (though kinda odd) things like eight Uncle Istvan. 

But then I found what had triggered my shopping; I had found a Summer Magic Clone which I had to get my hands on. It was the most money I had payed for a single purchase thus far (I guess that I mostly had been prone to buy small and trade up before) and my account balance showed that I had made a costly blunder. I presume that it might be slightly cheaper these days, as Summer cards have become much more abundant in the last couple of years, but I guess that it is fun to have one of the Edgar cards that most certaily came from a pack.
I felt shameful over buying it for the next week or so. It was money I couldn't afford to spend at the time. But when the card eventually arrived I could only smile. I have vehemently promised myself not to buy cards while drunk anymore, but thanks to my bad judgement I have another Clone with a story, just like the ones I've kept from Revised. It has seen a lot of play since I got it, both during 93/94 Highlander tournaments and in my crappy Biovisionary deck. That Clone is the only Summer Magic card I own, and if I'm only going to have one, I couldn't ask for a better. All these years later, it feels cool to have completed the journey and have a "linear playset" of Clone, with one from each Swedish-legal expansion in 93/94.

Apart from tearing up kitchen tables, Clone was played in the first deck that won the Magic World Championship in 1994. I can't say if that was the best card for that particular deck, but it is never the less something to consider.

These days a Clone on the battlefield is a rare sight to behold. I've seen it played in the odd Merfolk list and sometimes to top the curve in Suicide Blue, but that's about it. I believe there are more stories to be told from the two pondering soldiers. It might not be as raw in its power as Serendib Efreet, or as swift as Mahamothi Djinn, but it will always stand its ground as the best creature on the battlefield. In an era where people keep exploring the fringes of the 93/94 card pool, I look forward to see more people experience the subtle power of Clone.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Tournament Report - COPcon V, 27th January 2017 - organiser's report by Brother Jonas

With Channel Fireball announcing Grand Prix London at an enormo-centre in the East of the city, it seemed only right for Brothers Of Fire to put on an unofficial off-campus event at a nearby pub.  After a bit of location scouting, and a lot of goodwill from attendees old and new who came together to guarantee our bar tab, we found the perfect venue:

Squint and it looks close enough....

There was time to hob-nob with a few attendees prior in the convention centre.  Although I pay tribute to the organisational chops of CFB, being stuck in a stuffy room under striplights with no access to booze has no appeal for me these days.  I was relieved to make it to our venue after picking up a few items at the Magic Madhouse stall.

Advance ticket sales had been healthy but by the time everyone arrived, it emerged that together we had assembled the biggest-ever attendance for an Old School event in the UK, with 32 players!  Not only did we have people coming from the length and breadth of the British Isles, but we also had attendees from Sweden, Denmark, and the USA - of which more later.  Given that a few months ago we played COPcon 'round robin' in a corner of a pub, this felt amazing - even if the logistics are now rather more intense...

As if this didn't feel like enough of a milestone, I was also debuting a special piece of Brothers Of Fire merchandise:

Before anyone says it - yes, the hat-tip to the Lords Of The Pit in Chicago is very much intentional and has been OK'd by them!  In the future these jacket patches will be available to anyone competing in three COPcons (or anyone winning a Brothers Of Fire or COP at one of our events).  Sadly, like a fading Hollywood starlet at the ball, my brand new jacket was upstaged on the day by this little number:

In London, Old School doesn't stop at the cards - check out the 93/94 swag! (Photo credit: Daniel C)

There was also a moment to pause and reflect on a rather significant acquisition made by one of our Brothers who put his time in the convention centre to very good use:

Sweet Sweet Cardboard
With this much out of the way it was time for some announcements - not least that one spot at N00bcon, the Old School World Championships, would be up for grabs.  This would go to the winner of a Chaos Orb flip-off contest, admission to which would be decided by blending performance in the main event with performance in a mysterious quiz (again, of which more later).  

As someone desperate to return to N00bcon after my debut last year, I took the highly unusual step of slowing my drinking in a bid to remain in the running for the prize.

All that stood between us and the start of the tournament was the group photo - a chance to sit back and take in quite how many people had come!  

The prize pool (First prize is the Brothers Of Fire for the player who demonstrates the Spirit of COPcon, theWanderlust is awarded to furthest-travelling player, and the COP:Artifacts is awarded to the tournament winner.  The Citanul Druid print was sourced direct from Jeff Menges's personal archives by Brother Stebbo - and the Samite Healer was for an MIA attendee).

With that, we were into round one.  I was playing a relatively conservative red burn deck with a larger-than-usual number of artifacts playing off the back of my traditional MVP, Goblin Artisans.  

With the pan-global nature of the field I was hoping to get drawn against one of our exotic attendees, but when I was paired against London scene stalwart Bev, I could hardly be disappointed because my games against her are always such fun.  Today she was playing UW with the Psychic Venom / Icy Manipulator combo as well as some serious countermagic.  In game 1 we were both hit by crazy land floods.  At one point she managed to put a Venom on my City of Brass - not a mistake I would make again after a few hits for three!  In the end I was beaten down by an Angel.

In game 2 she put down an early COP:Red.  I was able to draw out her counters and Disenchant it, but too much energy had gone into removing that brake and again I was finished by Angels.  Not a good start to my personal quest to go to Sweden.

For match 2 I was hoping to play one of our visitors, and my number came in when I was drawn against Daniel Chang of Vintage Magic, visiting all the way from Seattle USA.  Needless to say I've watched a lot of his videos and Daniel was even more charming in person than on the small screen.  

Our matches were non-stop good fun and Daniel very good-naturedly listened to me talk at length about my love of the artwork of Drew Tucker.  I've played some fairly serious Old School collectors in my time but Daniel's was without doubt the most tricked-out deck I have ever seen - from lushly-altered basics to almost everything else in full Summer mode.

Summertime - bring your bucket and spade to the Underground Sea

We enjoyed two fun games full of banter and I managed to launch a few surprises of my own by making some successful coin flips off my Goblin Artisans.  In the end Daniel was one turn away from getting an Ali From Cairo onto the table when I was able to finish him with a Bolt and take the match win.

My third matchup was back to the London crew, but once again a player I always enjoy playing, Brother Scott.  His turn-one Library of Alexandria had me worried but I kept the pressure on him with a Ball Lightning.  When he Ancestral-ed up to ten (!) cards I feared death by card draw, but was able to respond with a trick of my own by playing Wheel of Fortune into my Lotus and delivering burn to finish.

For game two I knew we would both be packing our share of Red and Blue Elemental blasts.  At this point, I'm packing four Disenchants and effectively four Counterspells, plus up to three Forks, so my seemingly 'straightforward' deck has become a totally different beast.  For me, this is where playing "dark pink" gets really fun because the whole approach to the game is different and you can start to get really creative in terms of keeping your opponent off-balance.

We exchange the oldest turn one/two in the book as Scott tables a Dark Ritual and Hypnotic Specter, and I respond with a Bolt.  I'm able to put through a Ball Lightning to, as he memorably puts it, have him "in the yellow zone" early on.  But he wrestles back control and two Underworld Dreams and a Su-Chi to deliver the finish.

Game three feels like an anti-climax - my early City In A Bottle is only a speed bump on Scott's route to victory and I am now 1-2.

Match four is against Brother Oli - a guy I have known for thirty years!  I resolve to ensure I get plenty of casual games in against our new attendees once the competition is done.  Oli knows my playing style back-to-front and we play three games in about ten minutes, with him coming out as 2-1 victor.  His white weenie is a well-oiled machine and impervious to the disruption offered by my Blood Moons and City In A Bottle, giving me dead draws.  With the unusual choice of main-deck Black Vise his build also has its fair share of innovation.

This leaves one game to go against first-time attendee Andrew Klein.  His All Hallow's Eve build is an absolute delight, tabling Hazezon Tamar, Adun Oakenshield, and one of my all-time favourite cards, Master of the Hunt.  My Blood Moons, however, have a field day against his rather diverse mana base:

The red lock is on!
We finish up with me edging it at 2-1.  My main regret is that on any other day, Andrew would have strolled away with the Brothers Of Fire prize - but even a deck featuring Master Of The Hunt has nothing on the incredible winner of that award, Stephen Lister, whose deck simply beggared belief:

As Shawn commented online after the event: "The longer you look at the deck, the crazier it gets. Standing Stones? Wall of ICE? Silhouette?! Tawnos's WAND?! GLYPHS?!?!?!?!"
Stephen was also a legend to us tournament organisers - as Brother Oli and I struggled to calculate the Swiss pairings, he got stuck in delivering results slips after a few early baths in his match-ups.  A worthy winner.

Meanwhile, I ended the event on 2-3.  Hardly stellar.  At the top of the event, though, some serious Old School has taken place (deck pics at the end of this post).  The fifth round of Swiss effectively becomes the final and is contested by Brother Ben and Andreas Cermak.  It's been a pleasure to meet Andreas who is a major part of the Old School community online and in person.  Eventually though, it's the home competitor who takes the win.  

Ben has now won three COPcons, but with our field expanding every event, it's hard to see him maintaining that forever.  Crucially he keeps alive the COPcon code of winners changing up their decks for each event.  

To the victor, the spoiled card

Amongst the results, overall standings also reveal that Sveby - one of the founders of Old School, no less - achieved a top eight finish with a borrowed deck!

We then awarded the key prizes - with Daniel C taking the Wanderlust - and moved onto the Old School Quiz.  This would form part of the calculation for the Chaos Orb flip-off, with the winner getting the N00bcon spot.  Here it is:

Now, my performance in the tournament was pretty ropey but I do like to think I know my way around Old School trivia and indeed my score of 8/10 puts me in first place, getting me a seeding in the Orb-flipping.

What we are then treated to is the spectacle of thirty full-grown adults gathering in a circle to watch two of their number attempt to flip one piece of cardboard on top of another.

It's nothing less than Fight Club meets POGs in the school playground!  Markus lends his Beta Chaos Orb and Lotus for the proceedings.  Meanwhile Daniel gives the event some much-needed Hollywood glamour with a US-sports-commentator overview of the action:

After a nervy first round where I edge out Jason (feeling rather guilty given his impressive number-two placing in the tournament), I then enter the final against Sebastion.  For those of you interested in the rather unedifying spectacle (I sense perhaps one had to be there), here follows a video of the final (NB: audio track is NSFW, but the video is fine).

And with that, your gentle author manages to spawn his way onto the team for the World Championships.

All that then remains is - well - the important part of the day: casual games.  I've been talking to Rod Smith online for months and today we finally get to enjoy some fun games against each other.  Sadly there's no time for me to experience Stephen's 'Wall of Wonder / Poison' deck but there is a chance to play some of our visitors and to generally soak up the good vibes (even though these are strained a little when Oli and I inadvertently play rather complementary decks during a game of two-headed giant):

I provide the creatures on the left, you provide the Crusades on the right...  And in front - unimpressed opponents!
Well - that was a mammoth report.  Your reward for getting to the end - some 'plays of the day' and an array of deck pics.

Thank you to everyone who came, especially Oli for running the computing, Damien for being the good sport of the day, and especially all our non-British visitors who made the event seem truly cosmopolitan despite the rather unflashy surroundings!

We hope to welcome more readers to our next event.

1st place: Ben

2nd place: Jason


Bryan M

Daniel O-E

Matthew H

Richard B

And finally:

Scott and Ben get warmed up for some "proper Magic" - i.e. Alpha-only!

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

"Coming Back Home" Part 1, by Brother Robert

The first chapter in an occasional series where members of the London community reflect on their experiences coming out of Magic retirement to play Old School.

I hadn’t picked up a Magic deck for 18 years. I’d glanced through my folders a few times while having a sort-out, but hadn’t slung spells in anger or even mild disapproval since the last century. And then I found Old School...

But rewinding to before that, I can remember vividly when I fell out of love with Magic. It happened in a pub in Liverpool where I went an event that had been billed as friendly meet-up. I’d just moved to the city and was looking forward to meeting some new people.  I took along my mad multicolour deck, packing all 9 dual-lands, dragon legends, and dragon arches. 

I went in, I sat down, said “Hello” to several people who barely acknowledged my existence ( I wasn’t a clique member) and finally managed to coax someone into giving me a "friendly" game. He was probably 17, not friendly, and beat me in three turns… and smirked. He didn’t laugh at me, or say “Unlucky, do you want to try again?”, he just smirked at me. I decided to move on. I left the pub, left the game, and didn’t look back.

The model for a welcoming Old School community

It wasn’t just that experience. I’m a big boy and not a particularly bad loser - it just added to a growing recognition that I couldn’t afford to keep up with the release schedule, a new set every three months or so, and anyway I had the Star Wars CCG to play (of which more later).

Rewinding again to the very beginning, I’d been introduced to Magic in 1994, through friends, one of who had been given a black lotus for winning one of the first UK championships (in a deck without one… imagine that!).  I enjoyed introducing others to the game, but I had put my cards away and found other things to do with my time (again, imagine that!!).

Magic had always been a social activity for me, playing ten-player games in the pub, making new friends and using all the cool cards, not just the ones that could kill your opponent as fast as possible. I missed that side of magic in the late 90s. I also loved SW:CCG, getting a card fix with all the characters from my youth. I played that a lot and met many people who I still consider friends. Then that game died, and my life changed. I grew up, got married, and had a family.

Then one day I saw a Facebook friend, Brother Scott, whom I’d met playing SW:CCG, (I told you that would reappear later), was going to an “Old School” Magic event - COPCON III. I liked the sound of that, but didn’t know what it was. So I looked it up (what did people do before the internet?) and when I found out there was a place I could use all my old Magic cards again, I thought it worth a go. I’d know at least one person there.

I went to COPCON IV, and had a blast. My deck wasn’t that competitive, a Red and Green aggro build with no power and three Taiga probably isn’t going to be, but I did win one match, and I had fun. Remember that? That’s why we all started playing Magic in the first place, right? 

I met new players, who welcomed me with metaphorical open arms, and who loved the “flavour” of the cards in my decks, (anyone for Cat Warriors?). I won the Brothers Of Fire for most original deck in the competition, and I rediscovered why I loved the game in the first place. And that’s what Old School is about for me.

I’ve never felt an emotional connection to the new card design.  I don’t want to start buying new packs (although I miss the thrill of opening them), but I am happy to pick up a few of the cards I wanted but never got when I was a student. I’m going back to COPCON V on Saturday, this time with four Taigas and two (Chronicles - let’s not get too carried away!) Cities of Brass, as well as a few other reasonably-priced improvements to the deck.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Editor's note: Thanks to Robert for his article - we're looking forward to seeing some new faces at this weekend's COPcon V. 

Friday, 19 January 2018

“In Praise Of” Part 4: Underworld Dreams, by Brother Scott

Long before Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker duelled their lightsabers atop a rock floating on a river of lava, a similar location played host to the curious sight of a blond medieval merchant trying desperately to convince an official with a red iPad to not issue them with a parking ticket.
Underworld Dreams

“Honestly officer, that sign is so confusing about where I can park my caravan for the day”

But even if you don’t want to play Underworld Dreams for the art, there are a lot of good reasons to play it in Old School, as I explain below.

The first time I saw the card Underworld Dreams was in 2003, when Mark Rosewater published on Wizards’ website an article about which cards he had selected for the 8th Edition core set to celebrate Magic’s 10th anniversary:

“While I was looking through Legends, I stumbled upon Underworld Dreams. I was around when the card was first restricted, so I remember the terror it used to be. But times have changed and cards like Timetwister and Wheel of Fortune were no longer staples in every deck. Maybe, I thought, Underworld Dreams could come back. No one would expect it. It would be quite cool.”

I was immediately inspired to go out and source myself a playset of four 8th Edition Underworld Dreams (later upgraded to Legends once I got into Old School) and put together a casual Vintage-legal Underworld Dreams combo deck. This deck marked a personal Magic milestone for me as in 2004 it inspired me to purchase my first ever piece of Power to go in the deck: a Mint condition Unlimited Timetwister for £125 (sadly sold again in 2006, for £124.90 of all prices).

Fast forward a decade, and imagine my excitement when it transpired that in Old School my Underworld Dreams deck was essentially not just casual-worthy but a potential Tier 2 deck, every bit “the terror it used to be.” But why exactly is Underworld Dreams such a great card in Old School? Well…

  1. It gives you inevitability

Once a new Magic player I’m teaching has mastered the basic rules and is moving on to tactics, one of the first things I advise is to look at the board state and ask yourself “if no-one plays any more cards, who will win?” The answer to that question is the first step in working out whether you need to deal with the opponent’s threats ASAP, or whether you should be pressing for the win.

An Underworld Dreams played onto an otherwise stalemated board it puts the opponent on a clock. All of a sudden their priority becomes removing Underworld Dreams, or creating a faster clock. The pressure is on! Underworld Dreams might be a slower clock than Serra Angel or Serendib Efreet, but as we’ll see below it’s a more reliable one, and it’s a clock that you can speed up.

In addition, a cheeky side-effect of Underworld Dreams is that your opponent is now virtually checkmated on 1 life rather than 0, as once they get to 1 life only an Instant in their upkeep or draw step can stave off their doom – they won’t survive to their Main phase for a lethal Fireball, let alone their combat phase for an alpha strike.

  1. It’s hard to remove

The only frequently-played card in 93/94 that removes Underworld Dreams efficiently is Disenchant. Nevinyrral’s Disk takes out all your opponent’s stuff at the same time (and isn’t that widely played) and if they use their one Chaos Orb on one of your four Underworld Dreams, not only is something of a temporary fix but it means your other cards are safe from the Orb.

  1. It’s still hard to remove in Games 2 and 3

Chances are, your opponent doesn’t have many good sideboard options for Underworld Dreams. Most of the common sideboard options (Red/Blue Elemental Blasts, Gloom, Energy Flux etc) don’t pose any threat to Underworld Dreams. As long as your deck is built correctly with plenty of swamps (and maybe a little help from Dark Ritual) even things like Blood Moon shouldn’t spoil your party.

Circle of Protection: RedEnergy FluxGloomRed Elemental BlastCrumble

Your opponent’s sideboard is probably packed with answers…but not to Underworld Dreams!

Occasionally you may be lucky enough to have an opening hand with Dark Ritual, Underworld Dreams and Hypnotic Specter in hand. Although an un-answered Hyppie can be back-breaking, just remember how many answers there are to Hyppie compared to Underworld Dreams. A first turn Underworld Dreams can deliver a lot of damage in a slowish format like Old School and it can’t be bolted, plowed or bogged down by Maze of Ith.

  1. It doesn’t use resources after you’ve played it

Lots of other “inevitability” cards in Old School put your opponent on a clock, or give you an ever-increasing advantage, but also tie up your gameplay in the meantime. For example, Jayemdae Tome uses 4 mana per turn, Millstone 2 mana, Library of Alexandria forces you to keep hold of cards, etc. However, after the initial investment of BBB, Underworld Dreams lets you play whatever you like. Play your Juzams, Su Chi’s, The Abyss, Fireballs, etc. In the meantime Underworld Dreams grinds relentlessly on.


More than one mage was driven insane by losing to Underworld Dreams before they could mill you out.

  1. Timetwister and Wheel of Fortune ARE still staples in every deck

Playing Timetwister or Wheel of Fortune with Underworld Dreams on the table is the icing on the cake. Not only do you get 7 new cards but you also deal 7 damage at the same time. Suddenly Braingeyser becomes not just “Draw X cards” but “Choose one – Draw X cards or Deal X damage”.

Finishing your opponent off with Braingeyser, Timetwister or even Ancestral Recall is not only amusingly satisfying, but it happens more often than you’d imagine. Just don’t forget that they draw ALL the cards first, then all the Underworld Dreams triggers go on the stack, then they have a chance to play any Instants they just drew before they die – be wary of a cheeky Lightning Bolt to kill you or Swords to Plowshares that gains them a bit of life and makes your Timetwister non-lethal.

Another bonus is that Underworld Dreams acts like a “rattlesnake” deterrent to the opponent playing all of those great cards themselves. With Underworld Dreams out, if they play Ancestral Recall they have to suffer 3 damage too. With two copies of Underworld Dreams out, Ancestral Recall does 6 damage: perhaps enough to (probably foolishly) put them off playing it at all, leaving their critical cards forever un-drawn.

In conclusion

Underworld Dreams is one of my favourite cards, and I hope you are inspired to crack out some swamps and give it a try. A nice part is that there is also no single “Underworld Dreams deck” - my current deck (photo below) is a midrange build splashing red and blue for Timetwister and Wheel of Fortune, but also full of chunky creatures like Juzam Djinn and Sengir Vampire.

You can go more aggro with Mono-Black (Black Knights, Drain Life), control with Deadguy Ale (StP, Icy Manipulator), or full combo as a Trick deck. My next project might be to try pairing it with The Abyss and artifact creatures. Keep us all posted with your own ideas and successes!

In your end step, Ancestral you for 3.  My turn?  Untap, draw, Timetwister you for 7.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

“In Praise Of” Part 3: Land Tax, by Brother Ben (plus December roundup)

This has been a great month for Old School in London. 

Chris Cooper attracted some criticism in advance of his Team Cup event for charging a hefty entry fee and involving a judge. I confess to have had my reservations, but I was wrong - it transpired the 'judge' was more of a jovial compere, ably keeping the pace up and tracking scores so Chris could participate with his innovative mono brown deck. The entry fee included a three-course meal which was a highlight; eating together was a bonding experience enabling us to get to know the other players from around the world. The traders at Magic Madhouse had a great selection of old cardboard goodies ready for us, and kindly converted my unused legacy staples and junk rares into a beta pearl. A first class event, well done Chris.

Markus hosted the London Christmas gathering and sourced old product for us to draft. A great crowd of relaxed players any of whom I'd be glad to play cards with all day long - not something that can be said of some of the attendees at standard GPs. Indeed, escaping obnoxious punks is a big draw for Old School. Which is why I am troubled by the recent chatter from spikes who are vocal on social media about banning cards that aggrieve them and trying to rewrite the format before they have played it for long enough to appreciate the subtleties. There is a joy to getting a basic deck and gradually improving or pimping it over time, inching towards a Swedish legal version. 

Optimised decks aren't necessarily the most fun to play. At the Brothers Of Fire COPcon events our most coveted prize is awarded for the most interesting deck. I fell in love with N00bcon piloting a deck including Dakkon Blackblade, Lady Evangelina, Knights Of Thorn, and Angry Mob. 

It also included Land Tax, which, like Blood Moon, is a great card for anyone who doesn't have playsets of dual lands. So in keeping with the series of articles at Brothers of Fire, I will blast the trumpet for Land Tax!

I love drawing three cards from Ancestral Recall, and Land Tax can give that happy feeling every turn. It means those have to be basic lands, but this enables easy splashing for non-white cards - including one of my all-time favourites: Braingeyser.  

The card also enables hand and library manipulation.  Your spare basics can be converted to business cards with Jalum Tome.  And searching your deck with land tax is one of the few ways to shuffle away the unwanted top two cards after using Sylvan Library.

Of course, Land Tax is also your best friend against evil decks - I'm thinking here of two in particular.  Firstly, those that try to destroy your mana base, largely negating classics such as Ice Storm, Stone Rain, and Sink Hole.  Secondly, a fistful of basics weakens the power of Hypnotic Specters and nullifies Disrupting Sceptre.

On top of these generic benefits, Land Tax interacts beautifully with a load of my favourite cards in the format. A glut of land can be used to good effect with Land's Edge, Dakkon Blackblade, Ivory Tower, Library of Alexandria, and Armageddon.

Land tax thins your deck so you are more likely to draw non-land cards in the late game, and even allows you to play Blood Moon without drawback.

Truly a card to love!

Happy Christmas one and all.