Sunday, February 2, 2020

Perhaps the First IRL Scryings tournament in the world: an Ode to Scaled Wurm

To be honest, I was not that thrilled with the whole Scryings expansion thing. I mean, if I wanted to play with newer cards, I would just go back to playing more Ancient like I have been for over 10 years now. Which is also fun, but we already discovered in Ancient years ago that adding mirage and newer cards was not really the best of ideas. It just did not really add that much and the cards just did not have the same nostalgic feeling the cards from Ice Age did have, at least, that's what our experience was. That said, I was kind of looking forward to getting together with some of the Dutch oldschool guild to have our first tournament with Scryings. I have no idea if this is true, but some of the guys mentioned this might be the first IRL Scryings tournament in the world. Even if it wasn't, it certainly was one of the first and a good way to test out how this would impact playing Oldschool Magic.  

When I started thinking about what kind of deck I would play, I first was going in the direction of making an Oldschool version of the Kjeldoran Outpost deck I played in standard in the '96-'98 era. That certainly brought back memories. I won quite a lot of tournaments with that deck, including a tournament with over 150 participants with literally every top magic players in our small country present. It was the first top 8 I played were pretty much everyone had already left when we were finally finished. But the thrill of beating every top player in our country was something I have never forgotten. But there is something about oldschool that also makes me want to play wanky decks that make me laugh instead of just winning. And when I was looking through the cards in the Scryings expansion, I noticed a card I have alwas been a fan of. In fact, I was such I fan I even played this card in several Type 1 (as Vintage was then called) decks. Nature's lore. 

I've always loved multi-color decks with 4 or 5 colors, so a card that enables you to get just that color mana you need is definitely something I like to play with, even in a deck where green is not my primary color. I thought about playing a green/white/blue/red deck with both Nature's lore and Tithe combined with multiple sylvan libraries to get the most out of shuffling my deck and being able to get the colors of mana I needed. But when I was browsing through my cards that would be legal in Scryings events, I ran into these: 

I pulled these Scaled wurms from boosters when I was just a novice player (I started playing late '94, one week after my game store ran out of Legends boosters. I keep asking myself why I did not just go there a week earlier :P). At the time, I did not play with sleeves, as you can see from the state of the cards. And I really tried to get them to work with Tinder Walls and Orcish Lumberjacks. But I never really got to kill someone with them. Most of the time someone would just terror it or I would gain 7 life for, usually a three for one trade-off. I tried for a couple of months, but decided I could not get this to work without any counters. If only I had heard of Avoid Fate :) But I had no idea that card even existed. So I put them back into the green section of my card box and there they have been for the last 24 years. And I really felt like I owed them another chance because they never got to off one of my opponents. And then an idea formed in my mind: If I played a deck with moxen, there would be a very real chance I would play a first turn Nature's Lore, which would make turn 2 casting cost 4 spells an option. I kept looking for what other cards I had from the era that had been dormant in my box for 20+ years and pretty soon I had the basis of my deck. 

It did not sound to bad in theory: play turn one nature's lore with a mox, play another land on turn two and cast eureka. Play 2 or 3 big monsters and win. Of course, this would have the same problems as my Orcish Lumberjack deck long ago, but I figured if there are two really big monsters on the table instead of one, my chances would improve a lot. The thought of actually doing damage with the big wurms after so much time already brought a smile. So instead of just going for a good deck, I went with a pretty mediocre Eureka deck that would at least make me laugh if when it worked. Then I needed to go on with the sideboard. Control decks would be a big problem for this deck, so I decided to put a lot of this stuff in my sideboard just in case I would run into something like The Deck. 

On the day of the tournament, I went to a wooden hut in the middle of nowhere. The last part of the road really was something I would have to drive over really carefully since I was not driving a 4x4. I met mostly familiar faces and some new. We talked a bit about how we were doing and cardboard, and then it was time to start. Ironically, I was matched against Nick, who was playing the good deck I was thinking about playing myself: Outpost control. Ouch. I figured my chances of winning would be about 10% here. Lots of basic lands also, so my sideboard would not be that good against him. 

Swords to plowshares, Disenchants, Counterspells and outpost tokens to block my ground forces. And Nick was pretty good at drawing the Swords to plowshares, as you can see from the picture above.. and for good measure, my Sylvan Library and Concordant Crossroads also were taken care of.  Meanwhile next to me, Roy was showing why falling star has been become such a stupid card in the oldschool format. I mean really, why would anyone try to play a weenie deck when this can happen? 

four for one.. talk about card advantage.. 
In the meantime I was trying to beat Nick with my big creatures, but really, what was I going to do against counters, swords to plowshares and wrath of god? So it was 1-0 for Nick. 

I really felt I had a chance when Sylvan Library made it possible for my to draw extra cards and drop Ihsan Shade on the table with Black Lotus while Nick was low on land. 

The Shade also had protection from white, so I really felt I had a chance of taking this game, when Nick also drew his Black Lotus, and played Wrath of God and disenchant on my Library in short order. Bummer. 

I had at least attacked with the Shade a couple of times, so I decided there still was a chance while Nick had not played Gerrard's Wisdom. My Dwarven Miner was removed from the game as quickly as it came but I did manage to get out a City of Solitude. At least something to keep Nick busy while I was trying to build up another option for a big creature to start beating with. 

I first played Johan, which was not really a problem for Nick with his Outpost. I then followed up with a Mahamoti Djinn to see if I could do some more damage. He was at ten, so there was still a chance, right?

Some removal spells later my Djinn was removed from the game and Johan was buried with a Wrath of God. Thinking Nick would not be able to play another Wrath at this point in the game, I went for it and cast Eureka. 

Nick did his best to find something on his turn, but it was not enough to stop me from attacking with my Scaled Wurms and Vaevictis Asmadi, which brought the match to 1-1. Yes! My wurms had not only done damage, they had actually finished off an opponent! Cool! I was pretty much all smiles after that, even though I did not really expect to win this match. But this showed it was possible, so try I would. 

The next game, I was off to a blazing start with a pretty weird opening hand I decided to keep. There was a Black Lotus in it, with two nature's lore and most importantly, Ancestral Recall. Nick opened with Thawing glaciers. So after my first draw I did not have a big creature to cast so I just went for it, dropped the Lotus, played both Nature's lores and Ancestral Recall. 

Nick then strip mined my Tropical Island to keep me from getting to four mana. I played Chaos Orb, which, in a very bad twist of fate for me, bounced off this Thawing glaciers and landed just next to it. 

The bouncing of the Orb would be the defining moment of the match. I played a City of Solitude and went on collecting land (I had not drawn Eureka by then) to play a Shivan Dragon. But because Nick had gone on to collect more lands with his glaciers, he was able to play Wrath of God immediately afterwards. 

He disenchanted the City on his turn, which abled him to cast Power Sink on my hard casted Scaled Wurm. If only I had drawn an Eureka :(

I kept trying though, by following up with Mahamoti Djinn and hard casting Nicol Bolas. This was not enough. Nick could have countered the Nicol Bolas, but this was not necessary, because he also had removal in the form of Wrath of God. There was no way I could have won this one. He cleared the board and started beating me with soldier tokens. That took only a couple of turns to finish me off. 1-2. Damn, I really felt I had a chance there. But on the upside, I had killed Nick with Scaled Wurms in game 2, which he thought was an absolute first for him. At last, my wurms had done something decisive in a game for the first time in 25 years :)

In the time we had left between the rounds, I looked around to see what the others had brewed. As I had expected, there was also a goblin deck with grenades and forks. 

And I was not the only one who thought playing Dwarven Miner was a good idea. Roy had built a red deck that was running several of them main deck. 

Anyway, on to the next round. I was paired against Erwin, who was playing mono green. I thought I was off to a pretty good start with this. Erwin expressed his feelings about this good start by giving me the finger :) 

But, looking at his start, I'm not really sure that was called for. I mean, look at this blazing turn one:

I used my library once, then played nature's lore for the nice shuffle effect I had in mind, but Erwin made sure I would not make good use of that by playing creeping mold on my library and strip mining one of my lands after that. 

On my turn, I did not draw a land, but I did get a nature's lore to fix some more colors. 

Erwin wanted to make sure I did not get much land, so he played regrowth on the strip mine, and used it again, this time on my taiga. 

After all the landdestruction it took quite some time for me to get to six mana, but I managed to pull it off to play Mahamoti Djinn while Erwin was slowly beating me to death with his elves. And the elves helped getting rid of the Djinn right away. 

From there I kept playing bigger creatures, so I was able to win game one, even though Erwin had no idea what I was up to with all those big creatures. We both did not have a blazing start in game two. 

We did however, both play a Sylvan Library on turn two, so we would be having some options at least. 

Erwin played Shanodin Dryads while beating me with factories. I was playing cautiously, mind twisting him first before daring to play eureka. I mean, I did not see much of his deck as well, but I did see a lot of ramp, so he might have a couple of big creature in his hands. 

I took another beating from the factories and then played Eureka, and again my two Scaled Wurms hit the table. It's funny that they stuck together in both round one and two. 

The next turn, I drew a spirit of the night. Figuring I might as well go for overkill, I played Regrowth on my Eureka, and dropped the spirit as well. 

Looking at the cards on the table and in his hand, Erwin decided there was no way to win this, so he just let the wurms and the spirit do 20 damage to get it over quickly. Damage done with Scaled Wurm, check. Damage done with Spirit of the Night, check. Damage done with Ihsan Shade in the match before, check. Achievement unlocked :) 

The match against Erwin was quick, so I had plenty of time to look at other decks, including a land tax/stormbind deck. I think that was the most interesting deck I saw that day. I know Koos also played Jokulhaups with it, but since we did not get paired, I did not get to see it in action up close. But it looked like a fun deck to play. 

There was also someone else in the room playing big creatures, Rob was playing reanimator with deep spawn :)

On to match 3. I was paired against Johan playing the deck. The deck, with a quick (and active) library of Alexandria. This was going to be pretty awful. I played nature's lores as quick as I could, drawing some extra cards with the Sylvan Library, but I did not get anywhere because I got no creatures somehow. 

In desperation to stop the library from working, i played mind twist. I figured if it would get countered, I would lose anyway, so I might as well go for it. Amazingly, it worked. Only for Johan to topdeck a Jayemdae Tome the turn after that. 

I just kept pushing, hoping to get something through. Johans deck took care of a Shivan Dragon, a mirror Universe and another Shivan Dragon before finally Bartel Runeaxe could do some damage.

I Johan took care of Bartel though, and after that he took out Nicol Bolas with Chaos orb.

With a working tome I did not know what to do other than just play the timetwister I had drawn, figuring I could keep up with some card draw from my Sylvan Library and see if that would do it.

It did not do it, the advantage was too great, so I was down one game.

The second game I thought I had a pretty good opening with Dwarven Miner. That never did anything though.

The good part about using the swords to plowshares on the miner was that I could play Bartel Runeaxe again and do some damage.

I added Shivan Dragon as well, still wondering why I still had that Ancestral Recall I kept in my opening hand while I was playing 4 tropical Island, 4 City of Brass and 4 Nature's Lore in my deck. And I drew exactly none of those. 

But the damage was to hard for Johan to come back from, so it was 1-1 quickly. On game 3, I had an opening hand with 2 dwarven miner, a goblin vandal and City of Solitude, with a Nature's lore as well. I figured this should add up to something. 

But this was one of those games were it does not matter what you have, because your opponent just has everything he needs to get rid of everything you have. The vandal was bolted. 

The dwarven miner was Swords to plowshared.

The next goblin vandal as well, and then Johan stone rained my third land.

My Chaos Orb was countered. 

After that, Johan tutored for his Ancestral Recall and played it.

Then my Nature's lore was countered.

After that, my second Dwarven Miner was also removed from the game. I got stuck on two land and never got to recover from that. It kind of sucks if you look at that cards drawn. If only for that 4th land.. 

But this just shows how good the deck is. Even after I sideboarded in all of this, I still had no chance of winning. And there was not a single Scryings card in The Deck here.. 

Feeling a bit weird about sideboarding all of that and still losing, I went on to match four against Thijs, who was playing mono G. 

While I was looking for my land, next to us a mono red Uthden Troll/Disk deck was showing how good it is against permanets. Ouch :(

In the meantime, I had drawn Eureka but not enough big creatures, so I figured I need to slow Thijs down with strip mine. 

And then, 2 turns after that, I was satisfied with my creatures and went for it. 

Thijs also had some creatures to play however. 

Fortunately, Bartel Runeaxe does not tap to attack, so I could keep attacking confidently and the game was over. 1-0. I had a first turn Library of Alexandria on the start of game 2, but Thijs also had a pretty strong start with Gazban Ogre and started beating right away. 

Figuring he would need to finish me quickly, Thijs played Llanowar Elves and attacked for 2. The next turn however, he played Giant Growth and Berserk on the Ogre, putting me back 10 life, down to 8. After that, he crumbled my mox Jet, so I needed to work hard to win this one, because even with a lot of card draw with the Library, I would still need to pull this off quickly or just die. 

I was playing cautiously and made sure to mind twist Thijs to prevent another berserk scenario so I was at two life when I went for the Eureka and dropped these on the board.

And then, when Thijs played another creature that I needed to block, I demonic tutored for Johan for the first time in my life, to win with his ability. I probably would have won without that, but it would have taken longer and it was cool to do none the less. 

Some extra scenery shots: 

On round 4, I got to play another mono green deck again, with artifact and landdestruction. This was the first time I actually got to play a Nature's lore on turn one. 

It was also the first time my mox got crumbled and a land ice stormed after that, preventing me from doing anything while being beaten with weenies and factories. 

To beat back on the onslaught, I played Shivan Dragon, taking 2 damage in the proces and my opponent still had forestwalking dryads on the other side. Figuring I would die anyway if a giant growth/berserk would come, I just started attacking with the Shivan and hoped for the best. 

And that worked. 1-0. Game 2 started quickly for my opponent with lots of Elves and a Pendelhaven.

Also an Ice Storm put me back a bit but I was able to play Eureka on turn 5 or 6. 

That also gave me the opportunity to do something really nasty, drop a control magic to take his Elves of the Deep Shadow. 

I could then use the Elves to play Mind Twist, preventing a giant growth/berserk scenario. 

After my victory, we played some games with me on my Wombat Deck, which still sucks but it's nice to try to make it work. I lost most of the games, this was the only one where I had a real chance. 

After which there was some more time for scenery shots. Here's Roy sacrificing a Rukh Egg to an Abyss. That's also something you don't see often :) I really wanted Roy to win this one with that play. 

He had to win with playing another Dragon Welp though :)

In the meantime, Peter had 2 of my favorite cards on the board in his River Boa/Statue/Disk deck.

So, where was I after 5 rounds? In 4th place :) perhaps there was still a chance of a top 3 finish.

I was scared I might be paired against Rob, which would be a big hassle with al his big creatures. His reanimator deck would work good against mine, but not the other way around. So when I was paired against Ron, I thought that would be the better matchup. However, that was not the case. It was worse. Much, much worse. Turn 1:

I played Sylvan Library on turn one. To add insult to injury, Ron played Chains of Mephistopheles on turn 2 :( To rub it in, my Sylvan Library gave me a Ancestral Recall, which was effectively worthless. There was no way I was going to win this, because getting cards in my hand was not possible with this deck. 

Then another Stupor hit me on turn 3, meaning I was effectively dead. I would not get to hoild more than 2 or 3 cards in my hand and in the meantime I was dying from racks. On to game 2.

Game two I figured I would be able to beat Ron with a spirit of the night.

With nothing else to do ( I drew Nicol Bolas the next turn), I regrowthed the Eureka and played Nature's Lore. I went for it and played Eureka again. Ron played an Abyss, but I was confident I would win because the Spirit of the Night has protection from black. 

And then, that moment came where it does not matter what you do, because your opponent gets that one card, the only one, that could save him. Had this come only a turn later.. but no :(

So from there I just died from the racks. With two out of six matches being decided by opponents just drawing everything they needed exactly when they needed it, I did not feel bad about my deck going 3-3. The Scaled Wurms had had their revenge after having to wait for 25 years to actually kill an opponent. 

One of the interesting things about Scryings is that you see people doing this quite a lot: 

Eh, what does that card do??
Playing way after dark :)

After the tournament had been won by Johan, playing The Deck with no Scryings cards in it, we all felt that we should have a finale because Johan had only ranked over Nick because of resistance points. Johan had no time however, so he left the winner of the tournament. I than played a couple games against Rob, to see how that would have worked out. Turns out it were exiting games, but I do have a good chance against his deck. I actually won 2-1. 

Because Rob also has played a lot of Eureka games, we discussed decks for a while. I also talked to Ron about his Puzzle Box deck because Wouter (a player who I think has quit quite some time ago) and I used to play a Chains/Teferi's puzzlebox deck back in the day. It was not that good, but that was also because then you could play only one underworld dreams. With 4, I'm positive it would work much better. 

Anyway, the first Scryings tournament was a succes for me because I did damage with all the big creatures I did not get to use the last 20 years or so and it was great fun. As always, I had a lot of fun playing other members of the Dutch Oldschool Guild, but I don't really think I needed Scryings for that. The tournaments I play are usually a lot of fun, also without Scryings. But I see why people would like the change of scenery. The deck winning however, shows that Scryings probably won't have that much of an impact on decks. I really hope to see some development in that in the coming time. 

Thanks to everyone for showing up, for bothering to actually thinking about what Scryings cards to play and for the good company and nice games! See you all next time!