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