Saturday, January 1, 2022

That Alpha to Alliances thing, you know, previously know as..

First off, happy new year! I wish all of you a healthy, happy new year with a lot of in real life OS games. 

Second off: I know some people in de OS community have strong views and feelings about formats and cards. If you are one of those people, please know I don't mean to offend anything or anyone with what I'm writing here. It's just some thoughts about  my magic history, the A2A and the Ancient format. And some pictures, like I always do. At the end of the post, there are some inspirational pictures for people who are getting into Alpha 2 Alliances or Ancient. 

When I stopped playing magic ages ago somewhere in the 1999-2000 era, I also had some strong feelings about Magic. I thought it had come way to competitive and way to unoriginal. I decided to quit in the middle of a national qualifier after I played 3 or 4 rounds against the same deck. I also had the feeling I had been playing the same guy several times, namely the guy that behaved like a dick and didn't say a word or smiled the whole match. Even though I had a good chance of qualifying, it just didn't do it for me anymore. I didn't have a good time like I used to. So I went to the judges' table and just dropped and went home. And I quit shortly after that. I tried to sell all of my cards twice, but twice the buyers that showed up just didn't have the cash they said they'd have. Being in a busy job I decided I didn't want any more timewasters, so I stuck my cards in a safe and left them there for 4 years, in which I did play the Vampire card game, played some Dark Age and a lot of tabletop RPG from the World of Darkness, but no Magic, with the exception of being dragged to a Vintage tournament once just because some of my friends were going . The strong feelings returned after some gave me a card with the new card frame. I think it was an enchantress, but I'm not really sure. I thought the new card frame was ugly. And after I was shown some more cards with the new frame, I also thought the artwork was pretty ugly and bland. 

It was a trigger for me to open the safe and go through the cards that I used to love playing with. Seeing my playset of moxes was not what made me smile. It was cards like Erhnam Djinn, Juzam Djinn, Nether Void and Living plane that gave me a nostaligic and happy feeling. If only I could find some people that felt the same way. I found some guys that still had old stuff lying around and  I started playing again at our local game store. Pretty soon we had our first tournament with only old cards. It evolved into the Ancient format, in which we wanted to play like we used to. With all the pros and cons that were in play at the time, like the ridiculous banned and restricted list, but also stuff like mana burn. Because that's the way things were back then. I had a lot of fun organizing some events in Arnhem and Eindhoven for years, and I very much liked the creativity and laid back style of play. Even in tournaments, people were just there for the fun. Every now and then spikes shows up, and than they'd win. Or not, because old magic is a very unstable format in which anything can happen. 

You know, like, channel fireball :)

So when OS became a thing, I initially was sad that it seemed to push out Ancient, but it was just another reason to flop cardboard, and people did not seem to take very seriously. It was just play for the nostalgia and fun, and the love of old cardboard. So in my events, French OS (with mana burn) and Ancient took turns and were both played. Eventually, Swedish became the dominant OS format and people just wanted more of that and less and less people wanted to play Ancient. Which is fine, I suppose. I was a bit sad, but mostly just happy there were still reasons to meet people and play with the old cards and have fun. 

So when Anne told me some people had stumbled upon my website somewhere in the summer of 2020, I didn't think much of it. He sent me some screenshots of the comments:

The main conclusion for some people however, was summed up in this set of comments:

My thoughts at the time were mainly: I'll let Beth Moursund know what you think of her work :) But they're right, Magic rules were a bit messy for a long time. And you know what? That didn't stop me or anyone in the Ancient events from having a good time. We didn't give a damn if the ruleset was good or not. We understood the intentions of the rules and we just wanted to enjoy ourselves flopping old cardboard together, in the way it was done when we used to play it a lot. When that is your mindset, it does not matter whether or not rules have been chewed out until you need an actual lawyer to understand what the rules say. You just play, have fun and laugh together. 

So, the comments didn't give me a lot of hopes for the idea of Ancient catching on. It seemed like people were put off by the rules, because god forbid Su-Chi or Mana drain becoming worse cards because of mana burn, or Mishra's factory becoming less good because it would do no damage if it tapped to make itself a 3/3. I don't see a problem there, by the way :) 

But what struck me most is that these comments were made by people who find no objection in have a match being decided by whether or not there is a draft in the room when you flip your chaos orb. Or playing formats in which you can play 4 Mishra's workshops, which is much worse than playing 4 mana crypts, if you ask me. 

My point being: guys, it doesn't matter. Don't get stressed out about rulesets en whether or not they're good, bad, messy or elitist. OS in any form is there to enjoy with likeminded people. So when I heard (again from Anne) that people had decided to play Ancient anyway, but give it a different name and some rulechanges, I was fine with it. 

Play and enjoy the cards while playing A2A guys. I hope you have as much fun as we had when we played the same cards, and called it Ancient! You can even play the Ice Age basic lands for a change. I don't know about you, but I do like the artwork of those :)

For your inspiration, some pictures from different tournaments to get you started, enjoy!

Now start deckbuilding! Grab your Orgg or Stormbind and enjoy!!

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Spice for the love of wombats: Combat Wombat

This is a post without a tournament report. It's just some ramblings about things that I like in oldschool magic. 

Those of you who have read all the tournament reports or have played me in real life know that there are some cards that I love but really are not that good. Or sometimes just plain bad. I love Hell's caretaker, for instance, and I'm also a big fan of Eureka with Elder Dragons. But this post is about something even worse than that, but I'm not letting go of the idea. It's about Rabid Wombat. 

A deck with Rabid Wombat is, like the decks I mentioned earlier with Hell's caretaker, something that goes back to the time of Chronicles. I've a single real Legens Wombat ever since I got one in a trade somewhere early 1995. I thought it would be fun to build a deck with it, but I never got around to it until Chronicles came out and I was able to get 3 more wombats for about nothing in value. Which, by the way, is precisely what they're worth if you look at how good they are. I built a deck with wombats, and it sucked very bad. I mean bigtime. Spirit link (a renaissance or 4th edition one at the time) was of course the enchantment of choice you would play with a wombat, but every time I got around to playing it on the wombat, my opponent would have something like a Sengir Vampire out. Or a thicket basilisk. Yes, really, people played with that card at the time. And the wombat would just suck because you would net a lot of cards just to get through and do something useful. And usually with 3 or more enchantments on it, it would just get terrored. After a while, I just gave up on the idea, but like many nostalgic deck ideas, it got back to me when I was playing oldschool.  

The deck has been part of some of my tournament reports, but always as a sidenote when I took the deck with me to tournaments and played with it between rounds. You may have seen action shots of me or Peter playing it in between rounds of the Uthden Troll Cup or The first IRL Scryings tournament. I also had it with me on several occasions of Knights of Thorn or Hill/Frost Giant tournaments. But, like I said, it was always as an afterthought and I love the deck so much I think it deserves it's own post. 

After I got a second and a third LG wombat I felt I could start building a new version of the wombat deck. The goal would not be a tier 1 of 2 or even 3 deck, but a deck that would not always lose like my Leviathan/Colossus of Sardia deck. Maybe I'll do a post on that useless creation (if you ever want to win) somewhere in the future. 

I started off with 4 wombats and then started trading for SL enchantments, starting off with spirit links of course. After a couple of games with the first version of the deck I realized my wombats were pretty much always destroyed the moment I tried to play an enchantment on them, so I added power sinks to tap out my opponent to make sure I could at least attack with an enchanted wombat at least once. The first version tried to utilize unstable mutation and berserks which I thought were fitting for the foaming at the mouth wombat. The deck would win on occasion, but that would be one in about 15 times or so against tier 2 decks. After an afternoon of playtesting, I put in the other card I had been thinking about giving a place in this deck: Verduran Enchantress. When I first thought of the OS deck with wombats I tried to remember what my old chronicles version looked like and I remembered I had 2 enchantresses in that version. I do like enchantresses, to give you an idea how much:

This is the number of Verduran Enchantresses I needed at any given time in the 1995-1998 era, because she would be in several decks in multiples, all the time. So much that most of my usual magic opponents were pretty much sick of her after I while, which is when I put her away for a while. Enchantress and Wombat do seem like a match made in heaven, and version 0.2 with Enchantress in there was much better. Then there was the trying out of what enchantments to use, how to get my opponent to tap out, etc. etc. At first I tried to play the deck as a combo deck, meaning I would try to get enchantress in play, than dump a wombat and a whole lot of enchantments in play (including instill energy) and then kill my opponent in one turn. That usually did not work. The enchantresses would get removed, or the wombat, or both. Or it would take more than one turn, and then unstable mutation was getting much worse quickly, even killing my wombats and occasional enchantress. After a while I started playing it more like a deck that would need several turns and be more careful and patient. Unstables went out for holy strength, I added flight after an encounter with moat and invisibility after several instances with regenerating nuisances like Trolls and Wisps. And then, to make sure my creatures would stay in play, spectral cloak. These are also great against other stuff that targets wombats to ruin my party, like mazes and icies. 

In the best scenario there will be at least 2 enchantments on the wombat, one being a spectral cloak. A 4/5 you cannot target is pretty ok. If it is 5/7 because the other enchantment is a holy strength, even better. 

The dream: invisible life-gaining untargetable wombat

I also tried other enchantments in the deck, like dance of many and fastbond, but those tend to go towards the combo idea, and the more patient version just seems more reliant. There was one logical choice after some more testing, and that was animate dead. Both the Wombat and Enchantress have this big bull's eye on them, because cards like that are never in a deck by coincidence. They usually have this "kill it now before it spreads" reaction from my opponents, so animate is a good addition to get one or the other back if you're not up against swords to plowshares. I also tried multiple versions of Sylvan Library, but I left one and took out the other in favor of more wombat enchantments. 

Wombat back from the dead after being bolted

After I already had 4 LG wombats, I got a nice signed version that is now happily in my deck. The wombats have made for some great wins, it's really funny when it works because you can just see how clunky it is, even when it works. 

here my opponent gives up after 2 attacks. I'm on 52 life :) Oh, and a big THANK YOU to the makers of Tolaria. You guys are doing a great job!

The deck still loses more than it wins, but there are some pretty good matchups. It seems to have a good chance against mono green and decks that rely only on bolts to get rid of creatures. Others are a lot harder to win, but hey, one does not play OS to win, but to play with the cards you love. And I certainly love this deck. Here it is, in all it's Swedish legal glory: 

What other deck could contain invisibility, flight and holy strength and still win every now and then? :)

Just in case you're wondering: the basic lands are in there, because blood moon kills me instantly otherwise :) I hope you like my ramblings about old cardboard, let me know if you do on I will be posting more on less competitive decks in the future.  Till next time!

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Gaea's Avengers 2021

I can't really remember when I signed up for the gaea's avengers. In my memory it is somewhere in spring when we still thought that Covid would be over by the time it was November. Turns that took a lot longer than we thought. In the meantime, after I had already committed to playing in Belgium in November, I heard Ron was going to hold the Uthden Troll cup in the same weekend (on the same day). So I also would have to miss that. Too bad, but stuff doesn't always turn out the way you want to. This also was the case for my reanimator deck with All hallow's eve I had built, thinking that would never reach top 8, but at least win some games. 

After being thoroughly crushed 0-15 in a test afternoon against Peter (who wasn't even playing tier1 decks to test against) I decided not to take this deck to Belgium. If I'm going to drive a couple of hours to a tournament I want to win one match at least and this was not going to happen with this deck, obviously. So I built something else, some good stuff deck with a couple of Erhnams, Su-Chi's and my newly found Two-headed Giant of Forys. I didn't do a lot of testing with it and it was a deck I had not played before, but I had a feeling that it would be okay. Maybe good enough to reach Top 8. I wanted a deck that at least had that potential because I was going to go together with Fulco, and he wanted to go for a T8 spot with a Deadguy on steroids deck. That way we both would at least have to potential to reach for a top spot. 

On the day of the tournament, we showed our QR-code to get in. We were early, so I played a couple of games against Fulco with my green reprint budget brew while other people were coming in. I spotted a lot of familiar faces and it was good to see them all again in real life. I was also happy I had put on some warm clothing as the mandatory venting meant it was not that warm if you were close to the open windows :) But hey, anything for a nice OS tournament! Playing IRL is the best. 

Round one I got to play against Christoph, whom I met online somewhere during the 2020 corona crisis and we played several evenings online. This was the first time I was meeting him in real life and we got to play in the first round. Chris was playing a red guy ale deck, so a Deadguy ale with bolts as an addition. I won the diceroll and was off to a strong start: 

I was also able to quickly remove the hypnotic specter which would have ripped away my hand, which meant the Su-Chi could do a lot of damage very quickly, and that was game 1. 

Game number 2 was, ehm, ... how shall I put this: 

I told myself to remember there was also something like gentlemen's rules, and offer my opponents to play without the instant win cards. Here I had forgotten and it was very much in my favor, the library gave me like 5 extra cards or so and the effect of that is very bad. Pretty soon an Erhnam showed up on turn 3 and that did a lot of damage. 

I took out one of Chris his lands with a Chaos orb to keep him low on mana. Did I mention how stupid Chaos orb is? Can we please ban this stupid thing?

But, undeterred, Chris use the one weapon that would mean a big blow, balance!

I had taken into account that that might happen, so I had kept my Ancestral recall which I had fetched with my demonic tutor in my had, just in case he would play balance. That meant I would be able to get back in the game pretty quickly after he did. It also gave me that other tremendously stupid card that should be banned in this format to make sure I would win this one. 

So after I had gotten back from the balance, I was able to stay ahead and beat Chris with factories and eventually an Erhnam and a Su-Chu:

Round 2, RW Ankh Vise burn. Unfortunately, I forgot his name. I was expecting to write this piece the day after, but since it's a couple of weeks ago now, I have forgotten :( What I did not forget was how fast this game was over. I had kept an okay but not so fast opening hand without moxes or a sol ring, and that came to beat me over the head when he dropped a first turn vise. No disenchants showed up also, so I took a massive amount of damage from it, which was accompanied by a lot of burn and factories. I tried stopping the onslaught with a Su-Chi, which was plowed away immediately. I was just not drawing enough threats between the lands which meant I was too far behind to get back. 0-1. 

The second game I was again taking damage from a black vise from turn one, and I weant all in on a surprise: playing time walk, which came trough, and then dropping Erhnam Djinn and Serra Angel for 8 damage. 

I would have taken the second game the next turn, if not for: 

Balance indeed. Such a balanced card :p

I was too far behind in damage and he just drew some more burn cards, so it was over very quickly. So after 2 rounds, I was 1-1. 

Round 3: Malte with Dragonfly weenie

I don't know when I first saw this deck with emerald dragonflies in it, but from the moment I first saw it, I was sold. I loved the deck with the chance to first strike a Serra Angel or a Su-Chi to death. So of course I have a great deal of respect for Malte, who has a good claim of coming up with the idea. It was an honor to play the inventor of a deck that I really like. This time I did remember the gentlemen's idea, so I proposed removing library and mind twist from our decks. Malte does not play a library, but agreed to move the twist from his deck and I took out both the Lib and the Twist. I was happy we did, this made for much more interesting games. Malte started off by destroying one of my lands. 

He then produced some weenies, of which I was able to stop one with a swords to plowshares, and then I played an Erhnam Djinn. Malte was afraid I would produce more, so he took out my Mox Emerald to prevent me from getting more and bigger creatures. 

I took some more hits from a forestwalking and flying dragonfly, but then able to cast the Two-headed Giant of Forys, which is of course quite awesome against a weenie swarm. It game me the opportunity to attack with the Djinn, and then dimish his group of weenies with a balance. 

Malte kept the kird ape and the dragonfly, so I would have to be mindful of a giant growth somewhere. I decided that if he had one, it was going to happen anyway, so I went on the offensive with the giant and the Djinn. That gave me the first game. 

The second game Malte started off with a mox emerald and a forest, playing both an Elf and a scavenger folk. Off to a quick start there!

I did not want an onslaught quite from the beginning so I decided to control magic his Elf to make sure I wouldn't take too much damage from creatures plus the copper tablet he had sideboarded in. This was a good decision, because it came very, very close. I had to swords to plowshare my own Su-Chi to make sure I didn't die. In the deciding turn I had a fireball on hand tried to see what he would do. I attacked with Su-Chi. If he had blocked, I could have taken out the other creatures left with the fireball. If he didn't block, I would be able to fireball him for 3, and that was also enough. Malte decided not t block and try and kill me next turn, but fortunately for me, I had the deciding fireball on hand, and that was game. 

These were very tense and long games, it was really a pleasure playing against Malte. We chatted on for the rest for the round about the ideas he had for the deck and then it was time for the next round. This would be a lot less exiting. 

Round 4: Carl with Troll Disco

I was so busy shuffling I forgot to ask Carl to play gentlemen rules, and because we didn't, that decided the game. Game one is summed up in 1 image: 

We both had a library, he had a strip mine, I didn't. That was basically it. I tried to keep up with a Sylvan library, but Carl countered that. From there all I could hope for was getting a mind twist with my Counterspell, because it took Carl a pretty long time to get to more than 2 blue mana on the board. But I did not get the Mind twist, so that was it. Carl drew somewhere between 10 and 20 extra cards, so there was nothing I could do but lose. 

Game 2 was decided by an early mind twist which took pretty much everything I had, so that wasn't much of a game either. 2-2 after 4 rounds and the match against Carl was not much of a game because I could not do anything. Less exiting than I had hoped for. Carl is an excellent player and  I was looking forward to some good games, but that's magic for you. 

Round 5: Benjamin with B/W life-gain deck with Serra Angels. This was a really interesting build with walls, diamond valleys, Ivory Towers and Greed for card draw. Greed and Ivory tower is one of those combo's I tried in the past but never seemed to work, but he got it working very well. He also agreed to play gentlemen's rules so no twist or library to make sure there would actually be game from both sides. 

The first game I tried getting through but since I did not draw any disenchants and my opponent had started off with Ivory Tower, he as gaining a lot of life. I decided to call it quits after he played a Greed with another tower and conceded the first game. Even if I had creatures on the board, it would not matter. He was drawing 3 times the cards I was, and gaining life on top of that. There was no way I would win that and then still have time for second game. I would have to go for game 2 and 3 to win this. The second game, he took out quite a lot of my offense, removing my Su-Chi's and disenchanting my control magic. The upside was that way he did not have that may cards in his hand, so if  towers showed up, at least he would not be gaining a lot of life. 

Eventually he started gaining some life, but I got beating with both a Serra and a Djinn, so he did not got to draw a lot of cards with the greed. 

In the end, I got to win the second game because of the pressure kept on. The third game was also with an early Ivory Tower. He also did not play a lot of lands, to keep cards in his hand I supposed. Meanwhile I was wondering if my decision to keep a hand with an Ancestral Recall but no colored mana was a mistake. I was on the draw, so I figured there was plenty of opportunity to get lands, but that took a while. 

All the while, he was gaining life and it was a bit frustrating to not draw into blue mana (or any many for that matter). Fortunately in turn 5 or 6, a Mox Sapphire showed up. I played the Ancestral Recall, and got some more mana to work with. But at first, no creatures. So I played a braingeyser for 3, and again, no creatures. By that time I was a bit miffed because more and more life was accumulating across the table, causing my opponent to wonder why I was not satisfied with drawing that many cards. Fortunately, A Su-Chi showed up to get in some damage. 

He plowed my Su-Chi, my two headed Giant and disenchanted my factory, keeping the damage I could do low. I had kept in my control magic because of the Serra Angels I had seen in game one, but decided to use it on his wall of light instead to be able to keep beating with my Djinn. 

That proved to be the winning play, because the Djinn went all the way to win the game and match 2-1. Wow, that were really long games and even though I thought his deck would be vulnerable against mine, it proved remarkably resistant. I never felt sure I would take the match, so that made winning it feel so much better and exiting. I figured a top 8 would be out of the question, and it was. I was in for a surprise though! There were some raffle prices handed out and the last one was for the guy that ended 9th and would not play top 9, and that was me! It was quite a prize too! An unlimited Sol Ring! Wow! I had not expected that! Thanks to Simon and Peter for this amazing prize!!

This is what you get for ending 9th!

I also gathered some more SL cards, a couple of glooms (just in case I ever decide to play black in a SL tournament) and I think probably the last of the really iconic cards from unlimited I never actually owned, but, like the Two headed Giant, had a strange attraction to me. I'm looking forward to playing the Blaze of Glory with my Cockatrice :) 

We stayed around for a couple of more games and see how the Top 8 turned out. Since it was a couple hours drive and I had to drop of Fulco first before going home, we did not stay until the final, but we were able to see some of the quarter and semifinals games. I got to cheer on Tim, who had reached another top 8 with his monogreen build, with almost no power (just one Mox Emerald). There was also a new face in the top 8. 

how it feels to play your first OS Top 8 :)

Turns out, there were more mono color decks in T8, here mono red artifacts goes head-to-head against mono black:

And here are of course, some shots of mono green in the Top 8:

And Carl playing Troll Disco against something that looks like 5-color-green. 

By this time, it was getting a bit late and we had not had dinner yet, so we started our journey home. I dropped off Fulco after a great day, and put these back into the binder. 

Fulco told me that when they showed up and actually stayed on the board, they did great. Unfortunately, showing up and staying did not happen that often. So in the end, we both did not enter the top 8, but had a lot of fun, met a lot of nice people and had great games and talks over old cardboard. I'm already looking forward to the next one, thanks to Peter and Simon for organizing this great day and thanks for all the people that showed up to flop some old cardboard. You guys are the greatest! Thanks and until next time!