Saturday, November 9, 2019

The Uthden Troll cup

In our country, new oldschool tournaments pop up every year. There's plenty of opportunity to play a game of oldschool over here. One of our Dutch Oldschool Guild members from Leeuwarden decided to make a good start as an organizer by making an entire weekend of oldschool activities, with revised drafts, a mirage sealed deck and an oldschool93/94 tournament. He called this tournament the Uthden Troll cup. I don't exactly know the reason for this, maybe this is because the Frysian language sounds a bit like oi, oi, oi :) No offense but it does :)

Another tournament meant a reason to take out a pile of cards and start brewing. I've been wanting to play a rabid wombat deck for quite a while now and because I had just finished getting my playset of Legends wombats I started building a deck around them. Playtesting the deck against Peter was not very promising, the deck lost 8 out of 10 games against his unpowered U/W dance of many deck (variant 3 or 4 by now), which means it would be completely obliterated against any serious powered deck. Like always, I don't mind losing but I do want to have the feeling I'm in the game and my opponent has to work for a win at least a little bit. After 4 or 5 games I changed a couple of cards and decided the deck could use an extra invisibility and a flight. A moat killed the deck just like that because there is no real way for the deck to deal with it. And then I noticed something: I don't own more than one invisibility and no flights! None. Not even a revised or a fourth edition one. That's when I decided I would not play to wombat deck but in stead try to find the missing cards on the tournament the following day.

So, what to play then? I usually play a different deck every tournament to have as many experiences with old cardboard as I can. Then I remembered being intrigued by Menendian's deck for noobcon with hypnotic spectres, serendib efreets, bolts, psionic blasts and red elemental blasts. Looking at the deck picture, I just could not help but thinking there was something off with this deck. Either that or I completely misunderstood how it was supposed to work. It looked like there would be lot of times where you cannot play the spectres just because you don't have two black mana available, or either you have to take lot of damage because of the cities of brass and the psionic blasts and efreets. And over here in the Netherlands there are also some very good players who have almost none or no blue cards in their decks, so I did not like 2 red elemental blasts main deck either. I decided to use it as a basis to play a deck just to know it feels to play it. I took Menendian's build and changed a couple of cards to fit what I thought would be nice in the metagame. And then I played about 10 games against Peter, including one game in which I beat him, but I was at 6 life even though he had not done me any damage at all. That, plus the fact that he beat me most of the games easily because of his Serra Angels and Mahamoti Djinns, did not do anything to improve my feelings about the deck, but I wanted to know, so I took it with me anyway. I also took the not-even-optimal wombat deck with me to play a couple of games with that between the other games.

On the day of the tournament, I picked up Wouter and Peter and we were off to the far north of our country. We were chatting all the way there, about old cards, the weather, politics, more old cards and the couple of hours driving passed before we knew it.

Start of the tournament

At the start of the tournament, Ron also told us the Uthden Troll artist's proof that was supposed to be the prize for the winner was missing. He also introduced something call Troll Bingo. We were all given a sort of bingo card with magic situations on them. For instance, you win but are on one life, you die by your own cards, a fireball kills multiple of your creatures. For all of these, you could call "Oi, oi,oi" out loud and mark off the situation. In the end, the one with the most marks would also win a prize. I was feeling confident that "die by your own cards" and "Win but you're at one life" were good options for the deck I was playing :) I managed the first one, but not the second.

Ron explaining the tournament and Troll bingo.

Then the pairings were put up, and to my surprise, I had to play the same guy I had played the evening before. And lost to about 70% of the time. This was not a good start, but hey, stuff like this happens.

Game 1: Peter, U/W Dance of the big ones

Peter started beating right away with mishra's factories. I took out one with a bolt, but he already had a second one in play.

I did not draw any blue mana to back up a specter, so I decided to see if I could force the game by playing it anyway. If he had a Swords to plowshares, at least my factory would be alive to block his and I would not get any more damage from that. A theme during the day was playing a specter, which would then be destroyed immediately. I only did damage with a specter to one player during the entire day.

We exchanged blows for a while with factories, with Peter making a copy of his to keep up with my two.

Then Peter did what his deck does, produce a lot of big creatures and copy them. Since the deck I was playing has no way of dealing with something big like a Mahamoti, he crushed me. Also notice the lack of two blue or two black mana here.

The second game was better. Peter played an early Su-Chi, which I took with control magic, backed up with a counterspell.

This put me at an early advantage, but in the end, Peters disenchants and counters took it off the board and put into play a Triskelion, followed up by a copy. The tempo in which his deck comes back in a lull of the game is still pretty nice.

I took out the Triskelion and the copy with a shatter and a red elemental blast that I had boarded in and took 6 damage because of it. Then Peter played a Tome. I had to win quickly. I did not draw a lot of useful stuff. After I had drawn my third psionic blast I decided to just off him with those quickly, before another big creature would come out. Fortunately, he had not drawn a counterspell yet so that won me the game.

The third game Peter tried to take advantage of my decks weakness for missing out on double colored mana by stripping my second turn underground sea.

That stalled me for a while. I tried to put out a Specter, backed with a counterspell, but that was promptly removed from the game, backed up by a counter from Peter. After that I managed to get some advantage by mind twisting him for 3, also backed up with a counter. That worked.

I then finished the game with continued factory damage, followed up with a blast to finish it off. Wow, I managed to get an unexpected win :) A 2-1 I-mindtwist-you win, but a win none the less.

While we were playing, on the table next to us, Jaap was showing Marten during his turn 1 why unrestricting Mishra's workshop would be a horrible idea.

The games against Peter were over pretty quickly, so we had some time to play a game of the less competitive decks. I played Wombat, he played Marten's wall deck. Which is pretty good, actually. Better than you would expect. Peter beat my wombat (which was trying to be invisible, but was stopped by the walls) pretty easily. I could not even say to my self that a flight would have fixed the problem, because wall of swords flies also..  but it was awesome to play these decks against each other. The wall deck won, and I'm not telling how just in case Marten wants to play this deck in another tournament :) It's really cool!

Round 2: Evert, Midrange/goodstuff

To start of niceliy, Evert played a library of alexandria, which really made me want to play stuff to keep his hand from staying full. I went for a quick start with my starting had which had tutor, city, mox ruby in it, figuring I would get some extra stuff with an ancestral and would start running. Unfortunately, the ancestral recall did not produce any lands. I did draw a mox after another turn and played serendib to start beating.

Evert took care of it by blasting it off the board and crumbling my mox.

That stalled me for a while again, and also left me with mana problems because I had nu 2 black or blue available. I was dying from the city though.

Trying desperately to get a win for this game, I played another serendib after I had taken quite a lot of damage from the city of brass and after my hypnotic specter had been bolted out of the sky. I was managing to keep the library from working though, so I guess that was something.

Just when I thought I could squeeze in a win(barely, evert had played a Su-Chi by then which would kill me pretty quickly with my low life total. I attacked with the efreet and then psionic blasted Evert, which would put him on 0. He responded by bolting me. Which left me at 2. And then my psionic blast resolved and we were both dead. A draw on game 1.. interesting.

Being screwed I just that much fun, so I just decided to keep this opening hand. I figured I could try to strip one of his early lands and then start beating with factories. He would probably crumble one, but hey, plenty of land left..

I tried attacking after stripping one of everts lands and he did crumble the factory. It was what he did before crumbling it that was a little unsettling. (when he put in play a land, a mox and a fellwar stone on turn one..)

Again, one of the big weakness of the deck was shown, because it can't do anything about big creatures, except in my case wait for a control magic. 

Trying to draw something that would help with the braingeyser was promptly stopped by a red elemental blast.

Unbelievable but true, I somehow managed to pull out a win in game 2 with the help of a mishra's factory and a bolt, but it was close. The third game would be one of those games where I might have well not been there at all. I mean, look at this turn 2 (he started after losing game 2).

I tried keeping up, but my specter was bolted, my mox crumbled and the chaos orb I tried to use to not be crushed by the Djinn was promptly shattered when I tried to use it.

I thought I might have a chance after blocking with a serendib and bolting the Djinn, after which I played a braingeyser. Oh, Evert had also crumbled my mishra's factory there. But at least the braingeyser came through. I dropped a mox ruby, hoping to bolt the factory that was beating me.

But, of course, that was not meant to be in this game, as Evert had a blue elemental blast. 

Then another Djinn came, I tried to control magic it, and evert had drawn a red elemental blast. It was just one of those games where you have no chance of winning because literally everything you do is destroyed by your opponent. The factory you see here was also bolted when I tried to block his factory.

Trying to not be killed by the djinn, I played the two psionic blasts I held, which were not enough to kill Evert and after this attack, I would not be able to play them anyway, so I just killed the djinn and stayed there on 2 life. And was promptly killed the turn after. I never had any chance of winning this game. I was glad I had added the control magic to the deck to at least be able to hope to do something about a Erhnam Djinn. I still have no idea how this deck is meant to deal with stuff like that. Maybe the deck was originally meant to be in a metagame where people just don't play big creatures. I should have put in terrors in the sideboard in stead of extra control magics I guess, but since there are also a lot of mono black players in the Dutch community, I just did not feel like that would be a good idea. Looking back on the matches of this day, terrors would have been a lot better, because I was not paired against a black deck :) You just can't know how the pairings will turn out I guess.

Game 3: Ron, UWB Agro control

Ron started of strong with land, a mox, and a tutor.

I had kept my opening hand with the ancestral recall in it, and played it in response to his.

He countered my playing a specter, which was unsuprising. I started beating with the factory.

I was still beating with factories when I drew another specter. Figuring Ron would rather remove that from the game then the factories, I just played it. Ron drew a Chaos orb just after that. This time I managed to take an action shot of a falling orb.

We weren't sure the orb had gone round, not even when we looked at the video I made on my phone. We thought it did, so I put the specter in the graveyard. When I came home I wanted to know, so I slowed down the video so I could see.

Turns out we were wrong, I should have kept the specter, the orb did not go round! We just both did not see it correctly. I guess this points out again why this stupid card just should not be in the format :P I was being cautious with the tutor I had drawn a couple of turns ago, since everything was going quite well. I was ahead in life, so there was no need to force the issue. Then Ron went for a big braingeyser to break the game. 

I was happy I had kept the tutor. I went for a mind twist and effectively countered the braingeyser with that.

Then I just kept beating with the efreet and won the game with that.

Maybe this is one of those moments I don't really understand this deck, but when I had a specter and a lotus in my opening hand and Ron had just played an island on turn one, I could not resist.

Even though ron got a City in a bottle out, the specter just did too much damage in life and cards for the turns it was in play. I bolted ron with the red mana I had from the city of brass and kept beating. In the end, it was enough to get ahead so much I won the match.

This gave me some time to take some scenery shots. If you're in one of them and you don't want to be seen playing magic, just let me know and I'll take out the pictures.

Game 4 - Anne with The Deck

Well, I suppose that when you've won a couple of games, you can't help but meet someone playing the deck. Anne usually plays other decks like his awesome reanimator deck which is really, really cool. He said playing the deck was one of his bucket list items. Unfortunately, I just happen to run in to him while he was playing it. And if that wasn't bad enough, look at his turn one:
A land, 2 moxen, a lotus. Really?
That massive opening meant that even while I had a counter to try to counter his tome on turn 2, he just countered back. If you've ever played either with or against the deck, you know you've lost when someone starts drawing extra cards with the tome.

As usual, my attempts to actually damage someone with specters is met with swords to plowshares and other means to get rid of them. Anne was no different. He just kept drawing cards with the book and I was trying to break through that. But with that kind of card advantage it's really really hard.

specters are just in my deck to be countered and removed from the game, obviously.

In the meantime, Peter was turning around the game he was playing by dropping a serra angel which he followed up by not one, but two dances of many. His opponent just managed to counter one.. It's just a matter of timing, and when this works, Peter's deck just produces a lot of creatures in one turn, and that decides the game.

Anyway, while Peter was crushing his opponent, Anne drawing a lot of cards and I was trying to do some damage to him. Not very convincingly, but hey, one has to try right?

I tried blasting Anne with psionic blasts and bolts while attacking with the mishra's factory, but it was not really getting anywhere when he played another factory himself, followed up by an ancenstral recall. I really wanted this game over, but I was not about to concede. Not even in this situation.

While I was trying to actually manage something, Anne played another tome, a library of Alexandria and a Chaos orb. I had nothing and was really, really waiting for him to just finish it.

Which he did after a couple of more turns drawing 3 cards every turn while still doing damage. Anyway, on to game 2. Which was not looking good when this was Anne's opening. I mean, really, does this have to happen after the start he had on game one?

Well, at least he did not have a lotus.. actually, a sol ring is worse for me in this situation :(
Fortunately, no tome yet, so I was pushing it to get everything out of Anne's hand. This specter was not going to last long with that Orb there, but at least that would be gone also, along with the counterspells he was playing here.

With the mana I had on the next turn, I mind twisted Anne to which he responded by taking out both my moxes. Turns out I was lucky he had not drawn a city of brass earlier, or he would have twisted me there. It looks like every time I look back on the games I've played, mind twist keeps deciding games either in my favour or my opponents. I understand the gentlemen players more and more.

The game wasn't over yet, as Anne topdecked an Ancestral to make up for the card loss. This was going to be a hard one.

Anne played an Abyss and bolted away my factory, so the game was not over yet and I would have to do some hard work to have a chance of a third game.

The chance came when I took Anne's tome with the steal artifact I was playing main deck. That really took away the chance and gave me a chance to try and draw some extra cards.

But no, just when I thought this was the breakthrough I had waited for, Anne topdecked again:

In the meantime, Peter was done crushing his opponent with his Dancing Serra Angels and was playing my Wombat deck again. Looking at it makes me smile, even though it's very bad, it is very funny to see it working.

It turns out the braingeyser did not bring enough to win for Anne, so I would have another shot in game 3. Which he opened again with a bunch of mana artifacts which made me question my sanity. Why was this guy dumping all that mana in turn one three games in a row while I was not getting anything remotely resembling that??

I played a factory, and of course, a tome appeared on turn two. I was happy I had kept my opening hand with 2 shatters in it and shattered the tome.

And then, I shattered the second tome which showed up 2 turns later. I might have a chance after all.

In the meantime, in Wombat land, a foaming at the mouth invisible wombat was getting wide eyes from Peters opponent.

I kept beating at Anne with the factories, while he was countering bigger threats like my Serendib efreets. But the damage from the factories and the cities of brass proved to be too much, which meant I had beaten the deck 2-1. Wow! Cool! Even though I still wasn't really convinced the deck I was playing was very good, this time I played out well.

Game 5: Koos Cramer, Lauterdeck

By this time, I was second in the swiss so I was paired against Koos, who was 4-0 by now. I bolted away his first turn Savannah Lions and played time walk to get some extra mana, and my sol ring was countered by Koos to keep me stuck low on mana.

Koos followed up with a Chaos orb en flipped it to destroy one my lands. Fortunately, he missed the flip so I could keep my land.

The specter I played was of course removed from the game as soon as it hit the board while Koos was stomping me with his next lions.

I figured taking one damage a turn would be better than 2, so I played an efreet. Since Koos was ahead in life, attacking with it would make no sense. Then Koos played his efreet to make things worse.

Fortunately, I had my control magic main deck and took the efreet and attacked back to try to get ahead in this game.

Koos disenchanted the control magic on his next turn and I went on the offensive with a psionic blast, took away his efreet and attacked for 5. I thought I was getting somewhere with this.

Then, Koos played a timetwister, to show much restricted cards can change a game (and they would in the next games as well). After the twister, he dropped a mox and a lotus, but nothing else.

I attacked and Koos played a new serendib efreet.

I then tried to get rid of the efreet with a psionic blast, backed up with a counter, but it was not enough. Attacking with my factories would not be happening this turn.

So I attacked, bolted the efreet that had blocked mine and waited for the next turn to see what would happen.I attacked and played a specter, which was promptly removed from the game. I had played it mostly as a lightning rod to prevent a similar fate to my efreet and factories. This proved to be enough to win the game. On to the next.

The next game opened in a similar way as the first, with a first turn lions, followed by a bolt from my side.

Doing nothing is not an option against an agro control deck, so I played a specter, which was again, promptyl removed.

At that point, Koos and I were pretty much at the same point in the game, first creatures played and destroyed. Then Koos played time walk, followed by timetwister again, and came out of that twister way ahead of me.

While I still had done nothing, Koos played extra mana, and a lions. And a Serra Angel. I still had done nothing in the meantime because all I could do is wait for me to get my turn.

This again one of those points where the weakness of this deck are becoming evident. Koos played another Serra Angel and I could basically do nothing about that. Even if I did draw a psionic blast, this would not change much. I tried playing some creatures to block and hopefully kill one of the serra's in a two for one exchange, but it was obvious I was not going to win this game unless I would draw a balance and Koos would not have a counterspell at the time. The balance did not show up, so I was crushed by Angels :)

Well, at least I get to start the next game, I thought. And then Koos played land, mox pearl, timewalk, untapped, played another land and a serendib efreet.

He then proceded to stripmine my second land and played another efreet. This was a very short game because of this. If anyone needs a reminder about what the power cards can do for you in this format, this is a textbook example :) It's also a nice reminder about why complaining about the powerlevel of, for instance, the Mishra's factory, is kind of pointless. Even if you have just one mishra's factory, it is definitely no match for the other unbalanced cards in this format.

To be clear, this is fine by me, oldschool is a broken game and it is supposed to be like that ;) There was no coming back from this heavy beating on the first couple of turns, not from a deck that does a lot of damage to itself as I had noticed during playtesting. So there it was, the first real loss of the day. My travel companions were kind of happy, because that meant we would probably not be leaving at a late hour because I would not make into the top 8.

But, surprise, I had made it into the top 8 with my one loss and I was not even placed last. So I could at least give it a try to see if this deck would be doing anything there.

Top 8, Erwin Demmer, Lauter with a twist

In the top 8, I was paired against Erwin, who played kind of a Lauter deck, with a couple of cards different from what you would expect. So, it was a match of 2 kind-of decks, a kind of Lauter deck against a kind of Menendian deck. I had a first turn lotus, but unfortunately, nothing to do with it. Erwin played an Ivory tower. Yikes!

The tower was followed up by a factory, while I was drawing mainly nothing :)

I managed to remove Erwins factory, but at the cost of a psi blast, then Erwin reminded me again about why I don't like decks that are mostly aggressive with no way to deal with defense like, for instance, maze of ith..

I decided to try building an army to get past the maze while Erwin was gaining a lot of life, but he took the safe route and removed it from the game anyway.

After a while we landed in a factory standoff. Erwin had not played a lot of cards so I figured there was not much useful he could play, probably something like a swords to plowshares and a counterspell, with a land maybe. 

I wanted to break through because pretty soon we would be somewhere where he would have way to much life for me to actually kill him with efreets before I would be dead, especially since he had destroyed my mishra's factory. So I went for a recall and took back a mind twist, a counterspell and a time walk. I figured I would need the time walk later to get some damage through with the maze. I kept open my two cities to counter some gamebreaker he might have.

It turned out, Erwin had not one, but two gamebreakers in his hand and dropped a mox, a lotus and a balance. I countered the balance, but it turned out bad because he followed up with a mind twist. Damn. Careful planning and thinking ahead obviously isn't everything.

I tried bolting his factory after that, but unfortunately, he played one blue elemental blast main deck, and had topdecked it.

The turn after, I was happy to get a new factory, but again, topdecking worked in favour of Erwin, who took it out with a swords to plowshares.

A couple of turns later, in a desperate attempt to not die of the factory and just maybe pull out a win, I dropped two efreets on the table, but by that time I had to hope for some miracle topdesk to get through that much life while I had so little left. But from what there was left in the deck, there was not much else I could do. While I was contemplating how the hell a deck like this was going to deal with what Erwin was playing, he made it juuuust a little bit worse by braingeysering. To gain more life, and more cards.

He dropped an afreet and a lions on the table, and that was pretty much it. On to game 2. 

Erwin opened with a library, fortunately, I had kept my had with the stripmine.

But, things were already going downhill from there because my sol ring was quickly destroyed.

Trying to get some pressure, I played a specter, which was, just like always the rest of the day, removed from the game.

I psionic blasted a serra angel Erwin had played from the table and since I was drawing a lot of lands, I played armageddon, hoping to slow down Erwin.

But it seemed Erwin was very good at drawing mana :) Including a lotus, so the armageddon did not bother him that much.

I our factory matchup, Erwin got his disenchant before I got one of my shatters, and took a big lead in life.

While Erwin was beating me and I was trying to get something useful in play (a serendib efreet was pretty much useless after some of hits from the factory, I would just die slower, but die I would)  Then Erwin went and got an extra threat with the lotus and a tutor, and it was over.

Even though I think I might have had a chance in the first game if Erwin had not held both balance and mind twist, the whole match felt like there really was no chance I would be winning. Erwins deck both gained life and had early damage, both are really bad against the deck I was playing. If I played to controlling, Erwin would gain way to much life. If I tried to be aggressive, Erwin was simply faster. In the end, his deck was just a lot better in this match-up so he deserved to win, and he did. Peter was relieved we could leave now so we would be home before midnight :) Before leaving though, I did have to get my hands on some cards for the wombat deck, and that was mostly succesfull. Even though they weren't all available in UL or older, I got my hands on these to try. 

okay, the green at the bottom is revised, but hey, you have to take what you can get :)

I was also kind of happy with the two UL mahamoti djinns, since this means I now have a playset of them, just in case I would like to play my Eureka deck again with some more flyers. I'm not really sure why I bought the foreign fog, it just looked nice :) 

Even though a lot of players had left by then, there was still some guys left playing more matches. It shows that flopping old cardboard with nice people is something you can do all day, and then all night. Or, in case of some of the players, an entire weekend!

Thanks to all the players and a special thanks to our organizer this weekend with his beautiful showcase in the back! Thanks to all and see you next time!