Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Gaea's Avengers

August 3rd, and already it's time for another oldschool event. This time it's in Hasselt, Belgium for the first Gaea's avengers tournament. In my last tournament I played a fun deck and had a lot of fun, but I also wanted to try a bit of competitive play again. I had no time or inspiration to build something really original (not to mention no time to playtest it beforehand) so I decided to just go in full Spike mode, build a deck that could win and go for a top 8 finish.

I made a plain old "the deck" variant with some surprises in the sideboard. Looking back I was happy with the decks performance, but I probably would make some changes for a next time. On the day of the tournament I picked up Thijs from Arnhem. I'd asked him if he wanted to go and needed a ride since he has no whatsapp, so he missed the fact there was a tournament at all. He wanted to go so I picked him up in the morning and after a little over two hours we were in Hasselt. Which was bigger than we expected, we actually had to look for an affordable parking place. Hasselt is apparently growing in population quickly. We parked somewhere on the edge of the center and passed several apartment blocks that were still under construction but had signs on most of the apartments that they were already sold. There must be something really nice about living in Hasselt besides an opportunity to play oldschool and good Belgian fries.

The playing area was upstairs from a bar and there were plenty of tables and space to play. It was a bit hot so all the windows were open. As far as I know, no cards flew out the window due to a draft since there was virtually no wind at all. Which also meant it was quite hot in there, so I would not only be sweating because of the tense games :) There were some of the people I know but also some faces that were new to me, so there would be a chance to play some guys I had not played before. Wouter was also there, and he had brought my Angel that had accidentally stayed over in his deck after the last Knights of Thorn tournament after he took it from Peter. Thanks Wouter, for taking good care of her :)  After the first pairings were called, I was to play against someone I had not seen before, but he had a lot of old cards and told me he didn't know a lot of people who played oldschool. So he was happy there was an occasion to do so. 

Round 1 - Nicolas

For my first game, I had a pretty nice opening hand with 2 moxen and a lotus, but nothing to do with it, so decided to go for first turn demonic tutor and then second turn braingeyser 4 to get the game started. My opponent would only have one bayou and a sol ring by then, so I was not to worried that something really bad would happen.He surprised me with this on turn 2 :)

Eureka! Awesome!
He played a couple of basilisk and cockatrice with that eureka. I put down a tome. I quickly started drawing cards as fast as I could to prevent me from being overrun. I managed to get rid of the creatures one by one and then stabilize and start beating back with factories. On the second game, I sideboarded in something he probably did not expect, and with concordant crossroads in play, I got to do this (I had gotten rid of his creatures by then). 

He also played a couple of other classics that don't see enough play:

Fortunately for me, the creatures in his deck weren't the biggest ones available, or I would have been in trouble. I sideboarded in both Djinns and Abyss to have a good chance of playing either of those if an early eureka would come. In the end, the djinn, factories and fireball won me the match.

Round 2 - Stan 

Stan played a deck he normally plays with fallen empires (probably French Oldschool then). I think this deck is called something like Temple of Sped, I've seen Carl or Antoine play it a while back in the Draconian Cylix Series in Eindhoven. This was a version where orders had been replaced with Thunder Spirits since FE is not allowed under Swedish rules. 

It was a pretty long match, with the first match going to me after I got a tome working, the second game he ran over me with Lions, Serendib, Spirit with counter backup and direct damage before I could stabilize. The third game I won after I could stall him a bit and then kill him with some factory damage and a fireball. It was an intense match so I did not have a lot of time to take pictures. It was hard work, but I managed to squeeze out a 2-1 win.

Round 3 - Wouter

Wouter was playing a red kind of Tron deck and he told me he was actually quite surprised he had won 2 matches with it. There were some surprises in it with which he had managed to overcome his previous two opponents. 

Shivan Dragon! Rock!
Other things were less surprising :) but of course an excellent choice

I managed to get some control with extra card draw from the book, but the game was really over after this (isn't it always)

Fortunately Wouter told me he was all for the card in the format so I didn't have to feel guilty. To be honest, I probably would have won without the mind twist. Another thing that I almost never have in play all at once is this playset, but when I do, it usually means I'm winning :)

The second game he had an early tron complete:

and started playing bigger spells fast. In the meantime I was trying to get ahead by drawing extra cards with the tome. That worked and eventually the game was decided in a nice good old counter battle:

I won this one 2-0 and with a 3-0 showing I was pretty confident I would make it to the top 8. After the game, I put all my stuff in my bag and chatted with Frenk. And took some pictures of others playing:





When the new pairings were called out, it turned out I was to play Frenk on table 2 :) I could have just stayed there and not put away my playmat, lifecounter and deck :) 

Round 4: Frenk
Frenk getting out his stuff
The first game was not much of a challenge for Frenk. I did not draw counters or swords to plowshares to take care of his fast weenie horde. There are just those games when you don't seem to be able to draw anything useful. To be honest, I did have one counterspell in hand when Frank disenchanted my Mox Sapphire, but it would not have a lot of difference, since he then would have played the Djinn and killed me anyway:

The second and third game were a little bit better, though I was not really pleased with drawing three early game cities of brass, than one other land, and than another city of brass. That's not the best land draw against a pretty aggressive deck.

I managed to pull out a 2-1 win with the factories and a fireball in the end so I was at 4-0 by then. Top 8 would be not problem now. This meant I had to play against Antoine in round 5. He has shown to be one of the most competitive players of Oldschool in this area and has won several tournaments. He's a very frequent top 8 player. I've played him in a couple of top 8's before and these were always tense but great games so this would be an interesting match, even though Antoine told me he felt no pressure as we would both be in top 8 anyway. This did not mean he would not play his best though. Another interesting remark he made was that guys that win every game in Swiss usually don't win the tournament. He himself had never managed to do that.

Round 5: Antoine

The opening was interesting from both sides. I had kept the hand to play this on turn one. 

and Antoine played this on turn one:

I had to act quickly or it would get out of hand fast. I followed up destroying the libary with my orb, and I drew this a couple of turns after that. 

That left my had pretty much without anything, so we would go into topdeck mode from there. It was a pretty insane match where a lot of crazy plays followed each other.

I don't exactly what I thought, but wanted to push for a win in game 2, so I drew five cards, but then Antoine literally did this next turn

He had drawn the tutor from the top of his deck, searched for mind twist and then took my entire hand from there. And then this happened while all I was drawing were moxen. That was over quickly. 

The next match was also tense with both of us drawing on lots of cards. I was trying hard to  keep up with the working library Antoine had dropped shortly after playing an ancestral.

My library was not working yet, so spending a lot of mana to keep up.

It was a tough match, with lots of power going back and forth, but in the end I managed to squeeze out a 2-1 win for a 5-0 perfect swiss record. Achievement unlocked :) So this was the top 8. Special mention for Roy, who reached top 8 in spot 5 with a Land tax/Land's edge deck with almost no power, just one mox!

Now I had to try to get as far as I could from here.

My quarterfinal game was against a mono black dreams deck with howling mines. I do like to draw a lot of cards, so that's not really the best of matchups for me. But since drawing cards is what the deck has to do, I just went for it even though my opponent had played dark ritual/dreams on turn one. I cast a tome, copied it and just kept drawing cards in spite of the damage that was eating at my life. Eventually I found a disenchant and from there I was able to take control of the game.

The second game, I was not so lucky though. I started with a library and a city of brass, expecting to draw more lands. The library was quickly destroyed though, and this was what I ended up with:

I was losing life fast, but not fast enough that I couldn't make it back and eventually we ended up here

He did kill one of my moxen with that poltergeist. Cool :) That's a first in Swedish Oldschool  for me I think.

The COP black was protecting me and I counted on him sideboarding out all of his creature elimination, so I had sided in my djinns as a quick win, and it worked. As soon as the djinn was there, the match was over in a couple of turns. 

In the semi-finales I met Alban Lauter, and there my luck ran out. I got ahead with a 1-0 win after he scooped when I got a tome working, but the next two games were not much of a competition. Alban mindtwisted me early on game two and had an active library of Alexandria. Game 3 I was trying to get some cards out of my hand to play balance since Alban was drawing cards with a library again, but I did not drew enough lands to actually cast the cards with. I think I was at two lands (he had destroyed my factory) while he was at five lands and had just more opportunities. I couldn't play my balance quick enough with any impact, and by the time I had managed to get some cards out of my hand (one per turn) he countered it easily and that was game. So I ended up Top 4, not bad.  It would have been nice to see what would have happened in that third game I had had drawn 2 more lands, but it was not meant to be.

In the meantime Antoine was winning his semi-final with the Serra Angel he had animated from his opponent:

So the finals would be Rottiers against Lauter from there. The finales were a set of insane plays. 

Game 1, turn 1
Turn 2

That's a balance right there on Albans side.

Suffice to say, Antoine won game 1. Then it was time for Alban to do broken stuff:
Look at the graveyard. And yes, he has just played regrowth on the ancestral he's playing
Antoine was also a bit low on land, so Alban won the second game. It would be up to the third game now. In game 3, it was a bit of a repeat of game 2. Antoine was a bit low on land, and in the meantime Alban was drawing major broken stuff he played in quick order. 

I mean, you only have to look at the graveyard to see what Antoine is up against here:
and this was like, turn 5... 
With a card advantage that big (I think it was more than 10 cards with the mind twist, ancestral and braingeyser) it was impossible for Alban to lose, and so he didn't. He won 2-1 and the first Gaea's avengers had it's first winner!

While all that was happening, I actually did some trading. I think I haven't traded for over a year now, and last time it was with professional trader Robbie, so I didn't trade a lot of cards with other players. And I was happy my second Ramirez which has been in my binder for over 15 years found a new owner in Roy, who I know will take good care of him :)

I also traded a couple of weakstones which I plan to use in my multiplayer deck (yes, I still play old fashioned multiplayer decks with my best friends, with none of that commander/highlander stuff.) It's the small trades like these that make you feel good :)

After the tournament I was kinda hungry, (it was also around 8PM) so we wanted to have some food quickly. Fortunately, Belgium is famous for it's fries and Peter Monten pointed us in the right direction, so went with Fries and burgers. 
waiting for the fries to arrive :)
After our dinner we walked back to the car and drove back home for 2 hours, only to find out the last part of the road to Arnhem had been closed due to maintenance. Usually I check that kind of stuff first, but this time I'd forgotten it, and there we were, driving back around the city to actually get in from the other side. It was around midnight when I got home, and I could look back upon another amazing oldschool journey. Thanks to Peter and Simon for organizing this event, thanks to everyone I played, traded with or just chatted with. This great community makes me really happy I never sold my cards after I stopped. In about 3 weeks I'll have another go at oldschool cardboard in Hilversum, were Joep Meddens has organized one of his Giant tournaments again. You can still join, so send him a message if you want to. You can mail him from the upcoming events section of this site. Thanks to all and till next time!

The insane KOT side event

The side event for Knights of Thorn would be something different, an oldschool-no-core-set event. This meant you could play only cards from AN, AQ, LE, DK. The upside would be all of your cards could be 4-offs, so you could compensate for the lack of staples.

Of course, this also calls for a lot of abuse, since you can play restriced cards from those sets 4 times. My first thought was: 4 libraries of Alexandria, cool :) (I don't actually own 4 libraries, but some of my friends who own libraries were not going, so I could borrow them). My first thought was a control deck but since that would make looking at grass grow more interesting for my opponents, I wanted a more active deck. I thought about red:

But I decided that though this would be a quick deck, it would also not make a lot of use the libraries. There are not a lot of cards to fill your hand with, as the only tome in the format does not let you actually gain more cards and I do not own a knowledge vault (which would have been quite sucky at best, with all the artifact destruction in this format), i decided to let red go and went for blue, since Sindbad can make you draw extra cards in case your hand becomes emptied for some reason. It would be kinda slow, but hey, why not. After some thought about wanting an active deck, I came up with this:

There are no artifacts in there to make artifact removal from my opponents useless. There is the killer combo of mana drain + amnesia and boomerangs to get rid of everything. Boomerang also works nicely with amnesia, as does hurkyls recall. You do want boomerangs especially for enchantments, since there are no other ways of getting rid of those in this format. Getting rid of abyss can be done with the concordant crossroads, but there is no other way of doing that. And I wanted to play with rubinia soulsinger, just because she's cool and think she does not see enough gameplay in oldschool. 

So, while the finale of the main event was still going on, it was time for the side event. 

The finale of the main event

These are the sort of hands you get while playing this deck:

I already have one in play here, in case you're wondering

You basically go for massive card advantage, use the sylvan and sindbad for even more card advantage, boomering some stuff that gets in the way and then you run over your opponent. It's always cool when your opponent does not mind this kind of abuse :)

Thanks Edo, I appreciate you smiling looking at this :)
This went on for a couple of matches, and the deck was doing well. When this deck works, you literally draw more cards than you can handle. I started tapping libaries for mana to cast the djinns and efreets.
The match against Roy

I had made some more pictures of the other two matches, but unfortunately, my phone (or my shaky hands at the end of the day) fucked those up, but you get the idea I think. And after the third match win, I had to play the finale. By then, my friend Peter really wanted to go home (it was getting quite late by then) and I was hoping to at least win so he would not have waited for nothing. The first game of the finale was going as expected, with the deck starting off at 1-0. Then disaster, karma or my awful shuffling skills kicked in, and I was stuck with two mana screws in a row, one because my early library was destroyed and I did not draw any other lands, not even with sindbad (which I just tapped every turn before or after my draw, depending on what I thought was statistically the most correct) so I ended up losing 1-2 in the finale. Too bad, I really thought I had a shot at winning this really nutty format. In the end, as always, my opponents were not taking this shit too seriously, we had a lot of nice chats and laughs. Should this format pop up somewhere, I think I have some ideas on how to improve the deck a bit, but I don't think it needs a lot of changes to do well. 

Thanks to Mari for coming up with this insane idea for a side event, and thanks to all who played! And of course, thanks to Rene for lending me his two libraries of Alexandria.. I could not have done it without you. On to the next one :)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Knights of Thorn VI

So, keeping up with the tempo I set for myself to finish this post before last Saturday (which I almost made.. just forgot to post it :)), my report for the knights of Thorn. Because the long matches I sometimes played, I did not take as much pictures as I normally do. I'll compensate with a decklist, something I normally don't really do because I like to keep with the spirit of home brewing. Although I admit, sometimes when I have no inspiration at all, I like to scroll through decklists to get some inspiration and too just look at old cardboard, so I like to stare at decklists every now and then. I also did not take notes of all my games somehow, but I have some memory of how everything went. If I miss something my opponents said or did, sorry guys!

For the knighs of Thorn, there is a different restriction than other tournaments in that 10 reprints with same art and same border are allowed. This leaves for a little more room for Peter and me to build 2 decks that are to our liking without having to worry about rares we don't have. This mainly goes for dual lands by the way. We built a skies deck for Peter with Serra Angels and Ghost Ships, and since I promised Timmy the Sorcerer from the Timmy Talks youtube channel to play a deck with Timmy (prodigal sorcerer, for those that don't know :)) this year, I started off with 4 prodigal sorcerers. And then you start thinking, what can I do with those? I mean, they're not aweful, but they're exactly top tier either. I played with the idea in my mind for a while and started off with thoughts about colors. I ended up with green being the best option, because I could play living plane with Tim, and sylvan library with Sindbad, a creature I also love a lot. After a couple games and some card shifting, I ended up with this.

Obviously not a top tier deck. But good enough for me to want to give it a try, and since winning was not the object here, I went for it. And then changed some things in my head as we were driving to the tournament.

I figured meekstone would be good with only 1/1 creatures and I did not want to miss out on Chaos Orb and Strip mine. I might have changed one or two more cards, bit since I did not take a deck picture before stripping the deck I'm not entirely sure this was the final list, but close enough for this report I think. There was absolutely no way I was going to get into the Top 8 with this deck, so I had prepared a deck for the interesting no-core-set side event in which I would be entering after (probably) losing all my matches.

Unfortunately, in round one I was paired against Marten, who's not only an excellent player, but also one of the few people I had shown my deck to before the tournament, so there would be no element of surprise in this match.

You do want an element of surprise when playing this guy.

And apart from playing as good as he is, Marten then proceeded to play some pretty obscene plays right from the start. 

stuff like this..

In game 2, after having lost game one, I thought I would have a pretty good opening seeing my hand. Then this happened:


Yes, he dropped a land, 2 moxen, a sol ring and then played wheel of fortune on turn one. Well, that's not good when you want to take a mana advantage :)

He then proceeded to play Sol'kanar the swamp king and started swinging. When I tried to stop the onslaught with the control magic I had sideboarded in, Marten played balance (which is kinda of a killer because of his mana advantage with the moxen), then Su-Chi and the beatings continued. He finished it off with a recall on his timewalk and his fireball (he had played the Time Walk before the balance) and finished me of with a forked pyrotechnics. 

And here I was, thinking I actually had a chance :)

Well, that wasn't a good start...  I was expecting to lose, but this was a massacre :)

In round 2, I was paired against Anies, who played Erhnam/geddon. And Djinns there were plenty. He played a quick Djinn, which I killed with pyrotechnics and Timmy after being attacked once. The turn after the first Djinn was killed, he played another. I fireballed it and pinged with Timmy to kill it. And then the turn after that, you guessed it: another Djinn.. By then I was out of firepower and he just ran over me before you know it I was down two matches.

In round 3, I think I played Edo, but I didn't note a name with the game. He was also not playing his best deck, because he had borrowed that to one of the other players. That did not mean there was no punch though:

Fortunately for me, my deck was running as it was supposed to:

Drawing cards with Sindbad is nice by itself and amazing with Sylvan library. And I was able to win the match by attacking someone with a maze of ith :) Doing damage with a maze of ith is strangely satisfying. At least I could say I won one match that day :)

Round 4 I played Hero, also a Oldschool/Ancient veteran who was playing some cards he had not played before, Gauntlets of Might.  Game 1 I was able to win because my deck did what it was meant to do:

In this game, I just used Sindbad to gain some card advantage by drawing a couple of lands. Still pretty good, even without the Sylvan Libary. 

Game 2 and 3 were a different matter though. Even though I played some basic land and moxen, I was not able to get them fast enough to get over this:


He basically just burned me to death with lots of mana from his mountains which all produced RR instead of R, in game 3 there was not much difference: he played blood moon, a couple of mana vaults, then first fireballed me for 7, and then disintegrated me for 13. He even had an earthquake just in case all of that wasn't enough :) 


In Round 5, I played Thilo who was playing a twiddle/vault/stasis mix. In game 1 I played an early 1/1 (I no longer remember it that was either an Elf or a Sindbad, after a while you get less focused :)) and he played a Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. I thought about it a bit, and decided to just go for it and played Living Plane. I figured there wasn't much of a problem stalling my opponent while I was waiting for the right cards to show up. He proceeded on his turn, passed the upkeep, and drew a card. When I pointed out to him that all his lands would be dead, he flinched. He asked me about the upkeep and I explained about the effect of the Tabernacle and the living plane together, and asked him if he wanted to turn back and pay the upkeep. He thought about it for a while and then conceded. I hadn't figured out what he was playing by then, but it makes sense. You're not going to do anything useful with your extra turns or keep up your stasis in play if all your lands have an upkeep. 

Game 2 was more exiting and he kind of surprised me with his stasis because I thought he was just playing twiddle/vault. I just kept playing, waiting for the right moment and the right cards. Waiting does not really hurt the deck I was playing. When the time was right, before my turn, I played Red Elemental blast, backed up with a counterspell. He countered back twice, but was then left without any untapped lands. So I drew a card, passed the turn and waited for the stasis to go away. I then played Energy Flux to keep his howling mine and time vault busy, and waited for a couple of extra lands to show up. I powersinked something and then played Living Plane and Pyrotechnics in one turn. That was what it was supposed to do and enough to win the match. 

So, a 2-3 at the end of the swiss. Not bad for something that is basically a fun deck :) And then it was on to the side event while the top players were going for Top 8.  I will write a separate post about the side event as soon as I find the time. Like always in oldschool, there was lots of nice guys (are there no ladies playing oldschool? I remember seeing a lady participant in an Ancient Tournament I organized, but I think that was the last one I met..), lots of good games. Oldschool is amazing. May it live forever :) Thank to Mari for organizing this event and thanks to all who showed up to play. Till next time!

a large part of the Dutch oldschool community and some foreign friends :)