Thursday, April 14, 2022

Paladins of the North report by Carl

 This is a report from the Paladins of the North cup 2 held in Groningen.

No other old school players from Brussels could attend, so I tried to find other Belgian players planning to go but could not find any. Luckily, a few days before the event, the Ghent players (the whole Ghent OS crew consisting of Baptist and Gwen) contacted me and I caught up with them by train. Late preregistration meant that the slots for the Brawl event on Friday evening was already full. But the plan was to go to the pub anyway and see whether there were enough no shows to be able to play.

We arrived well in time, checked out at the hotel and headed for the bar where the Brawl would take place, a nice old dark bar with good beers (Westmalle Triple, please!) and games (chess, go, boardgames). It turned out that there was no place left, but who cares? It was really good to meet pals again. Anyway, I managed to play againt Luis from the Barcelona crew between round 1 and 2, he was with Gwendlyn Di Corci, and my Xira Arien took the upper hand. Then we went for dinner, and came back before round 4: Nick Cramer was nice enough to let me play his last round with my deck. Gwen still needed to build his deck for Saturday, so Baptist went with him at the hotel. My opponent was Arnaud, playing Sol'kanar the Swamp King (almost half of the field was UBR, the third and most powerful commander being Tetsuo Umezawa): he beat me 2-0, gaining some style points when he copied my Tawnos's Coffin with Copy Artifact to combo with his Triskelion in play. I chatted a bit more with some players (the last time I went to an old school event was last November), then went to see how Gwen was doing. He opted to play Guardian Beast as well, but with some robots. After a good night of sleep, I went to the lobby for breakfast at 8 AM, the time Gwen suggested. Baptist was already busy with the breakfast, Gwen showed up 20 minutes late, he had a bad night (something to do with the fan, fortunately no shit was involved). Anyway, we checked out and moved on to the tournament site: Vera, the rock temple from Groningen. There could not be a more suitable place: Vera stands for "Veri Et Recti Amici" (True and upright friends). But the tournament started at 11 AM only, so Baptist and I went for a walk in the streets in the town centre, and Gwen went back to the hotel to get some rest. Some lovely buildings, like the Martini tower, highest building of the city which is almost 100 m high, from the 15th century. We walked for an hour or so, then the Vera was opened, there was already a little crowd and some faces I had not seen for a long time.

Taking a deck pic in the garage :)

I had planned to play Beast Island, a combo deck featuring Guardian Beast (x4) and Chaos Orb already in 2021, but these tournaments were cancelled, so this was a new the opportunity. I took the latest version posted on the Tales from La Toundra blog. The last time I played a game of Magic was in December 2021, but I thought I would discover the intricacies of the deck by playing it. And indeed I made some mistakes... There were 69 players, 6 Swiss rounds followed by Top 8. Most of the OS Dutch guild members were there (Marten Buhler was missing), there were also people from Barcelona, Florian from Germany, Åland from Sweden, and us 3 Belgians.

Since we will go back to Belgium after the tournament, our plan is not to make top 8 to avoid being too late at home :-)

Round 1: Erwin Demmer - Good stuff

Round 1, just started

Erwin to open the tournament, who could ask for more?

He starts strong with a turn 2 Library of Alexandria, but Erwin cannot activate it before turn 5. I am stuck at four mana, and Erwin casts a Stone Rain. I cast Demonic Tutor that he Mana Drains to get out Serra Angel next turn. I play an Icy Manipulator to hold the Angel, but I am hampered by my lack of mana and Erwin kills me with a Fireball for 7.

Game 2 I get a good start with Volcanic Island, Mox, Sol Ring, Mana Vault and Time Walk. In my extra turn, I play Ancestral Recall and Chaos Orb. In the following turns, I draw like a madman thanks to Wheel of Fortune, get back Time Walk, Timetwister and finally Braingeyser for 7. I finally get the Guardian Beast + Chaos Orb combo going, and bash Erwin with Factories he cannot stop.

There is no time for game 3, unfortunately.

1-1, 1 point.

Round 2: Fulco Van der Wees - UBR

I played Fulco already last year as Gaea's Avengers tournament, he is a very kind person, so I am glad to meet him again.

Game 1 is all mine as I assemble the Beast + Orb combo on turn 3. He dies without permanents in play.

Game 2, Fulco Bolts my turn 1 Sage of Lat-Nam, so I play a second turn Beast. He casts Energy Flux, which I will have to deal with. I play a second Sage (this allows me to sacrifice some artifacts and get some mana to cast spell), and Fulco gets out a Sedge Troll, I play a Beast, he answers with a Nevinyrral's Disk. He pops the Disk, which is fine with me (no more Flux in play), so I play 2 Icies and 2 Factories. When he is tapped out, I play Time Walk twice, putting Fulco at 6 life, then cast a Fireball to kill him.

2-0, 4 points.

The tournament runs very smoothly, and we have time to go to lunch. I go with Gwen and Baptist, who both have won their first two matches. We find a nice family-run Thai restaurant, and once sated, we go back to the Vera.

Round 3: David Chroom : monored

David has a predestined name, [mono]Chrome. And indeed, he plays monored, and very well. Our games didn't take more than 10 minutes.

Game 1, he wins the toss and start with Mountain, Sol Ring, Mana Vault, Mana Vault, Triskelion. I lay a land and pass. He attacks for 4, then plays a Black Vise (I am holding Ancestral Recall...). I go to 13, then Divine Offering the Trike (getting pinged by my City of Brass). I take 2 damages turn 3 and 4 (down to 8 life), then on his turn 5 he Bolt me and then Fireballs for 5, putting me at zero life.

I get another had without fast mana, and David has anothe Black Vise for me that he casts thanks to a Factory (do I need to say that I am holding Ancestral Recall again?). Turn 2 he plays another Factory and hits me for 2. I cast Blue Elemental Blast on his Rukh Egg to try to get under the Vise (I am stuck at 2 lands), then play a Chaos Orb, but it is too late already, the fact that I miss my flip doesn't change the outcome.

0-2, 4 points.

Round 4: David Simons - Monoblack

I win the toss, but David opens with Library of Alexandria. Fortunately, I get some mana artifacts this time, allowing me to empty my hand and play Timetwister, followed by Balance with one card in hand. He plays a Disk, but I have a Guardian Beast to protect my Icies. I tap his creatures (Black Knight and Fallen Angel) and continue to lay lands until I can Fireball him for 15, taking game 1.

Game 2 is my time to get a good start: Underground Sea, 3 Moxen, Mana Vault, Geyser for 6 on turn one. David plays a Sinkhole on the Underground Sea. My turn 2 is Library of Alexandria, David does not have another Sinkhole, meaning I draw two cards a turn to his one. He plays Fallen Angel which I keep at bay thanks to an Icy Manipulator. He then plays Hypnotic Specter, so I cast Control Magic on the Angel. I tap his blockers with my Icies to hit him with the Angel, then Time Walk and hit him again, adding 2 Factories to kill David.

2-0, 7 points.

Round 5: Benjamin Van Leerberghe - BR

So there was a fourth Belgian in the room after all, and I have to play him :-(

Benjamin plays his own decks, today it is a black-red brew.

I start with turn 1 Library of Alexandria, but Benjamin has the answer: Underworld Dreams, so I cannot sit on it. I miss a Chaos Orb flip, which probably costs me the game, because I cannot cast the Timetwister I am holding. Benjamin pounds me with a Specter and 2 Factories, I am soon at zero life...

I get an aggressive start in game 2 with a Factory and 2 Sages of Lat-Nam, Benjamin stabilize with Sedge Troll and Su-Chi. I activate the Sages to draw more cards, then get Regrowth to Fireball him to death.

Game 3 is in the same vein: I am holding off a Troll and a Su-Chi with a couple of Icies and have a Beast on my side. Since Benjamin plays Shatter, I don't attack with the Beast because otherwise he could destroy an Icy. Since there is no Underworld Dreams in play, I can take my time. I finally get a Fireball to kill him while he was still at 15 life. Cheesy.

2-1, 10 points.

Round 6: Gideon Evers - White zoo

The winner of the match will likely reach top 8. Gideon plays a GRW zoo with Elvish Archers.

Game 3, he gets a fast start, and I am soon facing 2 Savannah Lions at 3 life. I cast Timetwister, which gives me Mind Twist to wipe his hand and a split Fireball to kill his 2 Lions. Fortunately for me, he doesn't draw any Lightning Bolt (I don't think he is playing Chain Lightning), I kill him with Factories. That as was a desperate one.

Gideon start with a turn one Sylvan Library, which allows to plop an early Erhnam Djinn. He hit me twice with the Djinn and once with a Factory, disenchanting my Factory in the process. My attempt to cast Control Magic on the Djinn meets Red Elemental Blast. I cast Balance at 5 life, then play a Guardian Beast. He attacke with 2 Factories, so I am in Bolt range...

Game 3, I get LoA in my opening hand, but Gideon has a turn one Lion, so I play a turn 2 Sage of Lat-Nam to trade for the Lion. He plays a Serra Angel, I have an Icy but he Disenchants it, same thing happens to my second Icy. The Third Icy will hold off the Angel after a last hit since I only have 4 mana, meaning I am low on life. After a while without action, I cast a Braingeyser to try to come back, Gideon has a Disintegrate to kill me that I cannot stop.

1-2, 10 points.

Top 8 will be announced after dinner. Baptist is 4-1-1 with Lions Dibs control (Lauter deck style), meaning he might be in, so Gwen, him and me go to an Italian restaurant together with Anne Joldersma. Anne and Gwen are riveted to the TV in my back, this must have been some adult content... The waiter switches to some football match, I am glad I am not facing the screen. We had a good time together, Anne is chatty and we exchange our views on Belgians and Dutch.

Then it is time to see whether Baptist is in the top 8 and indeed he is, as 6th seed.

He first beat Wilfred who is on Red with a splash of blue and white, featuring Ironclaws Orcs, Ball Lightning and Blood Moon after an epic game 1 (where Baptist had to mulligan to 5 cards).

Gideon loses to Evert who is playing UWR aggro. Dyan beat Ron, and Mari wins his match.

At this point, Gwen wants to spend the night in Groningen, but all hotel rooms are booked, so we will have to drive back late.

In the semi-finals, Baptist beats Dyan who is on GR Armageddon with only Alpha and Beta cards, and Mari bests Evert.

Baptist plays the mirror match against Mari in the finals, and he beats him 2-0.

The main prize, an original painting by Melissa Benson, went away in the lottery, so Baptist gets the Paladin of the North from Unlimited signed by every player!

Awesome original art!

It is past midnight when the Vera closes, it is difficult to take leave in such a good company. Gwen manages to drive the whole journey back, I get two hours of sleep before we reach Ghent, where I face a dilemma: either Gwen drops me at the station so that I can catch the first train to Brussels (1:45 later), or I go to Baptist's place, but he doesn't have his keys so it is possible that we have to wait for his wife to get up to open the door. I opt the train station, and it was the good call: Baptist had to sleep 2 hours on straw bales in a horse stable before he could get home! I am at home at 6:30 AM and go to bed with a wide smile on my face.

Many thanks to Koos and his crew for organising the event which was run flawlessly. It was great to meet you guys again. Congrats to Baptist and thanks to Gwen and Baptist for a great weekend.