Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The road to an Alpha-Beta deck and the first tournament

When I first started out playing oldschool formats, I was mainly in it for play. I still am I guess, I like playing the games with the people of the community. First in Ancient, then in French en Swedish oldschool. And I did like scryings more than most people I think. Over here in the Netherlands you hear nothing about that anymore. I think that's a shame because it's a fun format. A lot more fun than formats with 4 shops/stripmines if you ask me because they take the playing and variety out of the decks you meet. 

Because I like to play a lot of different decks, I also like to have a lot of different cards. My active magic years (94 to 99) I collected mainly cards I liked to play with. Just as I liked variation in decks, I also liked variation in cards. Most of my playsets were 4 different versions of a card, preferably in different languages. I also collected a couple of beta basic lands to play with, but not a lot, because usually I would play about 6-7 different versions of a basic land in a deck. Were is this going? Just bear with me, I'm getting there. 

In Ancient we were okay with playing pretty much any version of a card, as long as it had the right picture and border. It was all about the games and the atmosphere. When I got into oldschool, I had a decent base to start with because I had a P10 (as we then used to call it, with library  the 10th card). I had tried selling them but because of a weird combination of circumstances and timewasters, selling them off never happened. Looking back on it, I'm very happy that never got to be because it was easier to start with an old format in 2004 after my cards had collected dust in a closet. I think I played maybe 10 games through those 5 years or so. From 2004 onwards, it got better and I played a lot of Ancient. So when oldschool came by, i wanted to join in the fun. 

But... I never got around to collecting a lot of unlimited dual lands or other UL stuff, which I needed to compete. I had just 2 UL duals, to be exact. So the first thing I started way too much money on was unlimited cards to be able to join Knights of Thorn and Raging Bull. Then some more to be able to make more than one deck. The more I played the format, the more I liked the look of the older cards, so I started to collect some cards I would not normally play in Knights or Bull tournaments. Just because I had started to like the way they look and the sense of nostalgia. And though I did get a couple of beta cards in this period, I never thought of joining in the AB format. I figured it would simply be to expensive, and I needed the money for UL and other oldschool cards to be able to play different decks. I also had collected some more UL cards just so I could lend them to Peter, so he could play in some of the tournaments too because he wasn't able to buy a lot of them himself. 

Then in 2018 something weird happened. Erwin Demmer, one of the original early OS players of the Netherlands, asked me if I could help him with a decent decklist for an Ice Age/Alliances event. Of course I wanted to help him. Unlike a lot of other oldschool players, I actually like Ice Age block and have played it a lot in my early tournament years. The cards in these sets give me the same sense of nostalgia other older sets give me. I provided him with a decklist, he did well with it and then invited me to Dwarven warriors as a thank you. DW is an Alpha/Beta invitation only event. My first reaction was: thank you, but I don't have a deck. so i could not join in 2019. And then the player in my really wanted to join. I wanted to play because I like playing old cardboard with these guys.

But I did not have a deck. So what to do? Well, I wanted to see what I could do and build a deck.. I started with everything I had in the AB sets. Which was this pile here:

Literally all the AB cards I owned at the time, exept 2 beta islands which were in a deck somewhere.

Then Corona came, and I was not able to join in 2020 as well. But i did want to build a deck, just to be ready for the next time. Because I also have other MTG wishes and a mortgage to pay and you can spend your money only once, I decided to go for the colours in which I had the best/the most cards and then build from there on a budget. The best cards (and most) I had happened to be in the blue/white colour combination. The Alpha and Beta Serra I've had for about 25 years and I like them very much. The Alpha was one of the few Alpha cards that were around in the gamestore so I was happy when I was able to get her in my collection. I figured I probably wouldn't win with just 2 Serra's so I definitely needed more creatures. The first cards I bought were these:

I figured I would need something to start things up a bit in the early game. I don't have a sol ring or on color moxen, so I would need some cheap stuff to make sure I would not be overrun by Elves and Lions. The next card I got was a beta prodigal sorcerer. I looked up some beta prices and figured more Serra angels or swords to plowshares would be out of the question. I also needed some more UL and other cards for swedish legal play and I wanted to also spend some cash on that. And other magic junk, I hope to post more on that later when I reflect on the corona summer. 
Affordable alternatives for the deck were air elemental en phantom monster. A game plan against Serra's, Sengirs, Giant spiders and Juggernauts formed in my head: I would go for banding with my small creatures or use prodigal sorcerers to finish off the bigger blockers that would block my phantom monsters. Also, if someone were to play Elves, Lions or something like will o the wisp, the Tims would be good. Not exactly a top notch strategy, but at least I had something resembling a game plan.
I was talking about building a beta deck with Marten while we were playing some OS games, and he said he would be able to help with some cards. So I bought a pile of blue and white beta cards from him, and the deck was taking form. I then acquired some extra's in the form a control magic and a wall of swords, which also fits good with the banding/tim theme. Unfortunately, 2 of my powersinks I bought from a fellow OS player got lost in the mail :( 
I've always had a pretty big distrust with the post office because they either lose or damage a lot of the mail I got. This year, I decided to give it a try again, but of my last 7 card buys, 1 was lost and 1 was damaged. If you count the last 10 buys, 2 were lost and 1 damaged. The post office really sucks for me. So I picked up most of the cards for this deck up in person, which also gives you the possibility to talk about old cardboard with others and maybe play some OS games. So, I had a game plan and some cards. All I needed after that were some more basic lands. Fortunately for me, these did arrive in time with the mail and I ended up with this, just in time for Richard's online Raging Dwarf AB tournament.

It's not a great deck, I know, but I was looking forward to playing this. Knowing what some other players have, I did not have any illusions about winning this though. I figured a couple of games or maybe a match would be possible. I also figured unsummons would do well against stuff like control magic or plows, but can also used offensively. Maybe they would be not a very bad alternative to plows. Well, that's what I told myself :)

My first match was against Henk with mono green. Henk was off to a reasonable start with some creatures and he was able to hurricane away my Serra Angel. I was able to disenchant his quick juggernaut. The game definitely felt oldschool :) I tried to damage Henk with my mesa pegasus.


We started to exchange blows and I copied his giant spider. I'm not entirely sure what happened in the end but the thicket basilisk had something to do with me losing the first game.

The second game after sideboarding I got out a quick COP green, which was really necessary because I did not want to be overrun by Henk's quick creatures.

The game stalled a bit by the COP, then I got out my first Timmy, which was bad news for the elves.


 After taking out the elves with the Timmy, some bigger creatures showed up.

The phantom monster was killed by a giant growth giant spider. I decided not to use my spell blast in my hand because I really did not want my COP to be taken out by tranquility. Thus, the COP and wall of swords kept me alive through it all, and I ended up with another flyer and another Tim in play.

Eventually, I could finish the game with the tims after blocking Henks juggernaut and countering his lure on the Thicket Basilisk. Also a classic with a definite oldschool feel about it.

The third game also brought back memories. Not pleasant ones though, as Henk dropped a first turn vise, and then another. I frantically tried to get cards out of my hand while the vises were taking lifepoint after lifepoint. Fortunately one of the cards I could play early was a COP green again, otherwise I would have been dead pretty quickly.

Later on I could block his juggernaut with a banding combination and that slowed down the game and turned it in my favour.

There was an exchange of the banding creatures and a Juggernaut with giant growth, so I had to sacrifice two of my creatures eventually to get rid of it in two turns. Then the one flyer I had left eventually won the game. I couldn't believe I actually had won from that initial black vise onslaught, but I made it through match 1. 

Second match I was paired against Robbie, whose collection of beta cards is on an entirely different level than mine, so I did not have high hopes there. I opened with a Benalish hero, he opened with land, sol ring, chaos orb. Well, at least it would be over quick :)

Robbie played a Serra Angel with his Sol ring, and I drew a lotus to also play one. Unfortunately for me, a sol ring has a bit more staying power and another Serra appeared. I disenchanted Robbies sol ring before another could come out.

I made good use of the delay and played an Air elemental. Robbie plowed my angel and attacked. I blocked one, unfortunately, then another angel came out and that was it. 1-0 for Robbie.

The second game I kept my hand with a Serra, Air elemental and 2 plains and two islands.

Robbie threw his orb on my first land, then an Ice storm on the second and then regrowthed his ice storm and took out another land. I took a look at the cards I was drawing (no lands) and knew it was over because I would never recover in time without anything but basic lands, no swords to plowshares or balance. 2-0 for Robbie.

The 3rd game I faces Wouter, who's deck was similar to mine in the way that he also was playing U/W with phantom monsters and tims, but the configuration was a bit different. He also started off with a vise, then copied it, while I was trying to get from under it. Fortunately, I got from under the vise just in time and put down some timmies. They did most of the hard work and eventually won the game. Wow! I really had not expected that.

The second game wouter got out his Timmy first and a psychic venom on my first island, but fortunately I had an unsummon ready, and then could play my tims. I played my black lotus to be able to withstand a powersink from Wouter, and got out two timmies.

Thinking about what i'd seen in the first game, I thought it would be best to just go for it timmy wise, so I played a third and cloned another timmy so they would be able to take care of phantom monsters and phantasmal forces.

This proved to be the right call, because Wouter could not get rid of the Timmies in time to do something relevant, and the Tims won me the game with direct damage :) This game was streamed live by the Timmy Talks youtube channel, so maybe it will show up there as well and I'll put a link to it here.

Time for game 4, against Koos. 

Koos opened the first game with vise, ankh, vise, then bolted and blasted me and the game was over in like 5 minutes. 

The second game he opened with a mountain while I put into play my weenies.

Then, he quickly overtook me with a mox, granite gargoyle and ancestral recall.

I tried to keep up the damage race but after that I pretty much only drew lands, so Koos was able to attack and do some direct damage for the win. Again, the game did not last long, maybe 10 minutes this time. I had drawn a wall of swords and a timetwister, but the last one was quickly countered and i died mostly to burn cards.

Every card I drew in the last game.

Even though I lost spectacularly against the better and more focused decks, it still was fun to play this format. Mostly because of the really old stuff most people in OS don't play, like the cockatrice, phantom monster, etc. In this format, a wall of swords or a mesa pegasus can actually be, well, not bad. Good would be a bit much. I think this format is even better in real life, just like all OS formats, but it still was an evening well spent with my first AB deck. Thanks to Richard for organizing this online event, and thanks to all my nice opponents! You guys are the best, hope to see you all soon on a real life event.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Uthden Troll Online Cup

This year is nuts. The beauty of oldschool for me is meeting others with the same strange hobby, play some cards and laughing and having drinks together. I realized this more and more as I was playing online. I started writing an article about that, but haven't finished it yet because I could not find back the pictures I took while playing online. They will show up eventually :) I'm really happy I organized the Camel Trophy just before the whole corona thing broke out and we all got sort of locked down. Then when it seemed to go down, the rules were eased and we got to play in the deserted cup in the new location our local game store is now in. And these were the best oldschool tournaments I played in. Seeing people in real life, talking, joking, flopping cardboard together. Playing on a screen is an ok alternative, but it's just not the same. That said, i was looking forward to playing in the Uthden troll cup. When corona problems arose in march, I figured it would be over by  the end oktober. It turned out it wasn't, so it was no surprise when Ron's mail arrived that we would not be able to play IRL. But there was an online alternative. Not as cool as IRL, but I decided to join to make Ron's number of players even. I also decided to play uthden trolls in an unpowered deck and went for a R/W build with blood moons. Looking back on the matches, that may not have been such a great idea. The trolls were much better than I expected though! Here's a quick recap of the matches: 


Round 1 Joao with mono green.

I started off the tournament against Joao and it went pretty bad for me right from the start. The first game I was being hammered with sprites although there were 4 bolts, 3 chain lightnings and 4 swords to plowshares in my deck, of which I drew exactly none. Tot top that off, my Chaos orb bounced off my play mat to miss and I was down 1 game without drawing anything useful to fix the assault on me. 

The second game went better, because I managed to get out a troll and one of my blood moons. The moon is not that good, but it at least stopped some extra damage from pendelhavens. Even though I had a black vise against me from turn one, that did "just" 5 damage. I then proceeded to bounce another orbflip off my playmat. I tried to see if I just could not flip anymore because I've never missed an orb more than once in match and proceeded to flip perfectly 5 times in a row. Unfortunately, that did not matter for the game anymore :). 

Things were going pretty badly but I drew some creature elimination and a spirit link on an orc to keep up my life total, so I won the second game. 
The third game I started with disenchant/bloodmoon/orc/spirit link in my hand, so thought I would have some chance of winning but from there I drew only a Savannah lions and no gargoyle, no serra, no creature elimination, I drew land after land after land and ended up losing in short order with having drawn 10 out of my 21 lands. Any one of my flyers would have decided the in my favour, one or more bolts probably would have well, but it was not meant to be. The creatures kept coming at me so I was down 2-1. 

Round 2 Gideon with robots

I went into game 2 thinking how much magic is dependent on luck. Losing just because you draw only land is not really something you can adjust your strategy to. Gideon is a very good player and playing Robots which is a good T1 deck. The first game he started off really, really quickly with some moxen, factories and removal. My deck did not really produce quick start and when I saw what was happening with Gideon copying his factories , I really, really wanted to draw a blood moon. Fortunately for Gideon, that did not happen so the game was over pretty quickly :)

Unfortunately, the second game was not very exciting either. You know when I said something about losing because you just draw land? Well, that also happens to other people. Gideon was drawing lots and lots of land, while I had a blood moon and finished him off with one of my lions, after he had offed my first one. he drew nothing to get rid of the moon or to get rid of my lions, so he just lost this game. Not what I was hoping for.

We were both hoping for a bit more exiting game the 3rd game and fortunately, we got what we wanted. He had a quick Atog, some burn and a Su-Chi. I kept my Blood moon, divine offering and red elemental blast in my opening hand, together with my Uthden Troll. I waited for turn four to have enough mana to play both the moon and counter if he would have a blueblast or counter in his hand. That worked, the moon came out, the turn after that I could put down my troll and keep blocking. I then tried to divine offer his su-chi, which he fed to the Atog, which I fortunately could swords to plowshare away in response. 

Gideon had several bolts to keep my creatures down, but fortunately for me I had both Uthden Troll and Granite Gargoyle out so he could not get rid of them. And in the spectacular last turn, he bolted my troll to prevent it from attacking, and then I could play blood lust for the win: 

Yes! I managed to win this game thanks to a regenerating troll and a blood lust :)  We talked about the match a bit and agreed it was a lot better then the first two matches.

Round 3 Clovis - stasis

I started off with a Mulligan because of no lands, so I was already down a card and the mulligan did not produce a great hand. It was reasonable enough though, so I kept it. My opponent was off to a pretty good and quick start though with first turn land, mox, fellwar stone.

After my opponent put down some more mana artifacts and lands, he removed my only creature from the game and then mind twisted me for every card I had left. Seeing the mana artifacts, the lands and the full hand and 18 life he had, I just conceded. I figured I would have to sit there for a long time while waiting for a control deck to kill me and that felt not like good alternative when you can also just play some actual games. 

Game 2 I got off to a good start with savannah lions. My opponent played a COP red and I followed up with a black vise. 

I got out a blood moon later on and managed to keep beating with my second lions, which brought me the game. He got out some removal but I had more creatures en red elemental blasts. I found also out he was also playing stasis with his serra angels, so I had to use the REB's on those. And I was glad I had not waited out the first game. That would have lasted forever probably and I we might not have had the chance to play a second game.

Game 3 too took forever but was a lot more interesting. I got an early lions out, which put on some pressure. 

Eventually, a stasis showed up and that left me with just drawing cards, putting down land while I waited for the right moment to red elemental blast his stasis while he was low on untapped islands. The REB came through, so I took my turn, attacked and had my opponent down to 2. At this point I thought of my options. He would untap next turn and probably play another Stasis. So doing the math, I played a wheel of fortune with 3 vises, 3 bolts and 3 chain lightnings left in my deck of 32 cards. He was tapped out, I figured I had a good chance of winning the game there with the one land I had untapped. And as most of the time when I do math, it did not agree with me. I did not draw any of the vises or burn cards. On the next turn I red elemental blasted some power, but I did not have disenchant against the stasis that came next. Or the ivory tower that showed up. I had some time left though, because my opponent had only 1 life left, and 4 cards in his hand by then. All I had to do was draw some burn. Or a lions. I did draw the lions, but did not have any white mana untapped by then. I drew a mountain. My opponent played a kismet. Of course, the next turn I drew the plateau I needed, but it was too late. I had an untapped mountain, but no burn showed up and when it finally did, my opponent was back on 13 life, so there was no way I was going anymore, expect the possibility of my opponent running out of cards. 

Which he almost did, but by the time that was close, time was up, so the last game ended in a draw. I hate math :P but this game was epic. 

Round 4 Saul - mirror match

To start the game off well, I had to mulligan because I had no lands. I had no idea what Saul was playing at the time, so I kept the hand with the orb and the one and only thunder spirit in my deck. And that never left my hand because I never drew a second white mana source through the entire game. I bounced another orb flip, but I don't think that would have mattered. He was ahead and won the damage race easily because I did not produce any relevant blockers.

The second game I had some land in my opening hand. We exchanged some removal, but my opponent was ahead because he had drawn more damage sources. My deck then did me the incredible nice favour of producing 4 lands in a row, and then an Uthden troll which would have done great if it had not been disintegrated immediately. The following 2 turns I drew 2 more lands and the game was over. At that point I really felt my deck sucked, even though I had just lost to a similar deck. At least my opponent was a nice guy :) so we talked about the decks a bit and what he was thinking about how to play it the best way.

Round 5 Counter/burn 

My opponent had I first turn library, but fortunately one of my vises had decided to show up, so there was some compensation for the extra cards he was drawing. 

Unfortunately for my opponent, another vise and a blood moon showed up, which was followed up by another vise. Because I thought my opponent would have to draw some counters at some point in the game, I then decided to just attack with my orcs and cast nothing, to make sure his hand would fill up because there was nothing to respond to with the counters. It filled up rather slowly, but a well placed wheel of fortune did the trick. This was mainly because my opponent was stuck without blue mana because of the blood moon. Who can tell what would have happend if he had drawn a basic island or two in the meantime. Serendib efreets maybe? That would have been a whole different game. Even though this game was decided in my favour, I still feel like it was not because of what I played, but more about what my opponent (didn't) drew here.

The second game I kept my opening had with city in a bottle, because I had seen some AN cards and figured he was playing with serendib efreet and flying man. It was a good thing I did, because he opened with a library of alexandria again, and followed up with a second turn flying men. Then it was time for my second turn, and I could play the city. After that I got out a troll. This was another game the regenerating troll was doing really well. Bolts and chain lightning could not get rid of him, and my granite gargoyle was also hard to get rid of with burn. 

I kept attacking, and eventually my gargoyle was blue elemental blasted. Which was something you also cannot kill a troll with :) To keep down the beating of the troll my opponent felt he had to do something. So he shattered my city in a bottle and then played Serendib Djinn when he was at 3 life and I was still on 18. He had to block with the Djinn to keep his life total at 3, but eventually the djinn would start eating his islands. 

Eventually the djinn did start to eat islands and that was it. It turns out the trolls regeneration had won me the game. My opponent had a blue blast in his hand, but that could not get rid of the troll :) Had it been a gargoyle or an orc, the game would have swung the other way. Go troll! A suiting end to an Uthden troll cup I suppose :)

Thanks to Ron for organizing this event! And thanks to all of my opponents for playing. Hopefully we'll be able to see each other in real life in the next year! I certainly can't wait to play some IRL oldschool.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Corona Cups deckpics

Though I'm pretty certain I don't have them all, I thought it would be a nice idea to make a collection of deckpics from the Corona Cups, apart from the blog I'm writing about playing them. It also includes a couple of pictures from decks that were made but not actually played I think, but most of these saw actual gameplay. I will be adding more decks to this list if I spot them.

I'll start off with my own Eureka Deck from CC2
Then this pile which proved to be so bad in playtesting I went with a different tron build. 

And then some more decks that were shared in the corona cup group. Some of them are really, really awesome. 

A wall of ice/pestilence deck. This is just awesome, right?
I was so inspired by this I'm going to build something similar with different colors. 

This deck was not actually played (yet) but it does seem like a good way to cure insomnia :)
Edit: it actually was played in a slightly different list, keep looking for it down below :)

My 123 deck with no complete playsets

As you can see, not all decks where friendly in this cup :)

the proof you can play singleton en still win a lot

My own Tron/fireball deck which by some miracle won more than it lost. 

Part Water!! Awesome tech!!!!! Kudo's to Erwin for this.

This deck was not actually played but it passed in the discussion and it's just so damn cool I added it anyway