Sunday, 14 October 2018

Deep Flavour Decks - Part One - By Chris Sartin

Crank up the spice! The first in a series of articles in which contributors will share their pet decks, with a strong emphasis on the flavour of the decks and the stories behind their construction.  The series begins with a story from Chris about his Brothers' Highlander deck (full details on our house singleton format here).

That Brother’s Highlander deck - by Chris Sartin

I was lucky enough a few weeks ago to attend COPcon VII, an Old School gathering hosted by the powerful Brothers of Fire and I loved it: beautiful cardboard, great venue, and supercool people – everyone. I can safely say it was the most fun I have had at a Magic event. The casual nature of the day and the laid-back attitude of all of the competitors was a breath of fresh air from the usual Standard/Modern grindfest punctuated with yells of ‘Judge’ all over the room. I was also chuffed to bits to receive the spirit of COPcon award and a Brothers of Fire signed by all the competitors, a prize I will really treasure.

I had seen Brother Jonas’ article on the Brother’s Highlander house format on Facebook and I was instantly sold on the idea. I love ways to give unloved cards the light of day and there are so many Old School cards which don’t make the top tier but deserve their time in the limelight - I mean, I had a headless horsemen across the table from me!

So I played around with a few ideas. Initially I looked at trying to build RG because I had a copy of Stangg from Chronicles. Maybe I could even stretch it to RGW so I could include my Palladia-Mors. These cards had sat in a binder for probably twenty years and were opened from Chronicles boosters some-when in 1995. So I started looking through my first ever binder and shoebox of Magic cards and pulled out cards to fit the deck. Then I started looking at the pile of Goblins... I also had a Revised Goblin King...  Could there be a tribal goblin deck?

Well, no.

In the legal sets there are 21 cards that mention Goblin and only 14 are creatures - not enough for a 100-card deck.
(Oh yeah, they have a cave troll)

But Goblins often go hand-in-hand with Orcs. Could this be the theme - Red Orcs and Goblins?

Well, no.  There are only 12 cards that mention Orc and only 9 are creatures
(Yep there is a bad moon here - Orcs only fight at night unless you cross-breed them…)
But, suddenly the theme hit me – Mordor, the realm of the Dark Lord Sauron!  After that, the ideas came thick and fast.

First, there is Sauron himself:

(Or, to be honest, it could be the one ring)

The realm of Mordor is surrounded by blighted marshes and mountains – perfect:

(“Don’t follow the lights... or little Hobbits go down and light candles of their own”)

I like the idea of the Ebon Stronghold being Cirith Ungol or even Mount Doom:

There are lots of Goblin caves and Dwarven ruins as well, which fit right into the theme:
"Drums. Drums in the deep. We cannot get out."

By extending the theme to cover a bit of The Hobbit I can also have Smaug and his Dwarven Ruins:

And then there is Moria and the evil that Lurks in the deep:

“You Shall not pass”

Ok, so we have the locations fairly well covered and the mass armies of Orcs and Goblins. But what about the truly terrifying followers of Sauron, the Ringwraiths?  I just chose nine black creatures here.  The Bog Wraith and Murk Dwellers could also be denizens of the blighted marshes. There may be better choices but these are all wraithy enough:

There were several spells I thought captured the essence of the Ringwraiths as well, especially their overwhelming terror and power:

The dark Lord draws allies from all across Middle earth:

Above, the Harad or Easterlings.  If I can find my Desert Nomads, they will defiantly have to go in. I remember around 1995 really wanting any card from Arabian Nights. I would have settled for a Camel but with no internet, no eBay, no online card sellers, it just wasn’t possible. Years later I built a Pauper cube and as a tribute to this dream I bought a Desert Nomads (and a Moorish Cavalry). The Nomads have a new home now.

Oh yes and then there is 'Golem' - can’t forget poor Smeagol!
And the machine they use to smoosh him with: “Shiiire, Baaagins”. Poor Smeagol.

Ok, so the last few cards are not really on theme, just some good cards and spells to round the decks out. I couldn’t leave out Tor Wauki in a RB deck.

So that was the deck!  I’m a little sad there wasn’t an on-colour Mammoth or Giant Spider, but I think it would have been a little excessive to splash green for these two cards.

I managed to play two games against Brother Jonas and Brother Stebbo and had a blast with both of them. This format really does capture those early days of Magic when our decks were one big pile of all the cards we had.

So, where next? I think I want a deck to fight the good fight against Mordor, although the good side is a little harder. I think I may go with a WG Elves, Ents, and Men.

So what do you think? Any glaring omissions?

The format is super fun and great to brew, and I hope this inspires a few of you to dig through those old shoeboxes to find that revised Sea Serpent and jam it into your new Brothers' Highlander mono-blue Oceanna deck. Actually, wait a minute... Deep Spawn, Hormarids, Merfolk... This might work!

Hope to see you at an Old School gathering soon.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Format announcement: Brothers' Highlander Autumn 2018 B&R&C update

Our house Highlander format, Brothers' Highlander, has been going from strength to strength as a chance to play fringe cards and enjoy the greater variability of the singleton format.

Check out this smattering of deep flavour action shots!

With a number of games under our belt, here is a revised Banned, Restricted, and Controlled set.

Brothers' Highlander rules version 1.1 - October 2018

Deck sizes: 100 cards exactly.

Legal sets: ABU, AN, AQ, LE, TD, FE, 93/94 promo cards. (Note: Fallen Empires is legal).

RESTRICTED: All cards apart from basic lands.

BANNED: Library of Alexandria, Mind Twist, Karakas

Players have 10 points to spend per deck on CONTROLLED cards:

The Controlled List

Ancestral Recall - 7
Balance - 1
Braingeyser - 5 (new entry)
Black Lotus - 7
Demonic Tutor - 5 (+1)
Icy Manipulator - 1 (new entry)
Jayemdae Tome - 3 (+1)
Maze of Ith - 2 (new entry)
Mirror Universe - 8
Mox (any) - 3
Recall - 4 (new entry)
Sol Ring - 3
Time Vault - 6
Time Walk - 7 (+1)
Transmute Artifact - 1

Rules: Swedish Old School rules (i.e. modern but with errata for Chaos Orb)

Printing legality: Standard UK reprint policy, i.e. any non-proxy non-foil card with original art in the original frame is legal. Revised Serendib Efreet and Plateau are also legal.

Mulligans: Paris Mulligan is not played. Instead, after drawing their initial 7 cards, either player may declare a Gentleman’s Mulligan and show their hand to their opponent. In the event that it contains 0 or 1 mana source, or 6-7 mana sources (i.e. a mana screw or a mana flood), that player can shuffle their deck and draw a fresh 7. There is no limit to the number of Gentleman’s Mulligans that can be declared. (A mana source is any zero-converted-mana-cost card which produces mana - i.e. a land or a Mox, or similar).

Friday, 28 September 2018

"Coming Back Home" Number 2, by George

The second chapter in an occasional series where members of the London Old School community reflect on their experiences of getting into Old School.

"The Old School Child" by George G

Let me start off the article by introducing myself: Hi! My name is George and I love playing a format that is older than I am! Throughout this article I will be explaining my journey into Old School, the great people I have met along the way, my views on the format, and my hopes for the future.

My journey into Old School started in mid June 2016, in the wonderful city of Prague. I was playing in the main event (which was Legacy). I was celebrating my 21st birthday, receiving my university results and accepting a position at Magic Madhouse (the UK’s biggest and best online Magic: the Gathering store!). I had a lot to celebrate, and did so by setting myself a challenge: I wanted to collect a full set of Unlimited power in one year, which would enable me to get into Vintage, a format that at the time I was very interested in. That weekend I picked up a Mox Ruby, and thus started my momentous journey.

The card that started it all

My position at Magic Madhouse is Social Media and Market Outreach Coordinator, which basically means I create a content for a variety of platforms, including Facebook. The position also includes being a buyer for Magic Madhouse at European GPs and other events. As a result, I attended the Pro Series Grand Finale in Blackpool, which included a 93/93 UK Championship side event.

At the time I had no idea what Old School even was, but after a four-hour drive to Blackpool with my colleague Jason I was well and truly educated about the format!  I purchased my second part of power, a Time Walk which I needed for Vintage, and had a busy weekend selling more cards to the Old School crowd then every other format combined.

I also managed to pick up a few Loti in Blackpool. Sadly they were a little oversized

I met a few people in Blackpool which helped me in my journey towards Old School, the main one being Rod Smith. Rod and I began talking online in the weeks and months that passed, and he showed me the first deck I eventually went on to play, a RWG Blitz deck that I soon started trying to assemble so I could play some games.

This brings me to a part of Old School in which I love - the collecting. Seeing Rod’s collection made me green with envy, but also showed me cards that I did not even know existed, alongside some of the iconic cards. I have always enjoyed the collecting and trading side of Magic.  In Old School, it's enough of a thrill to even locate some of the rarer cards - let alone getting a good price!

At this point I was lucky enough to meet Julian Snape, an ex-WOTC employee who had a lot of cards that I was after, alongside some very rare sentimental cards such as an artist proof Lotus and a Splendid Genesis. Julian provided a much-needed kick start to my Old School collection, and ever since that point I have been hooked.

My first Old School Mail Day - I started off with a bang!

In the following months I would carry on picking up some pieces of power here and there, but most importantly I would get a chance to play the game that I was collecting. At first this was done through Skype with Rod.  But pretty soon I wanted to play without a computer screen in front of me, and here’s the second reason why I have fallen in love with a format older than me: the community.

Not long after this, I met Markus, who invited me to come to London, play some games and drink some beers. Games and beers: the basics of any Old School meet-up, and just the thing I was craving. He showed me the ropes, and explained the mentality behind Old School, his views on the format and what he loved about the game.

My eyes were now well and truly open: the whole mentality of Old School is completely different from every other form of MTG I have played before. No longer was my happiness based on my win/loss (something that normally led to me being unhappy!), but just playing a game the way it should be played, jamming Juzams and Savannah Lions into combat. In my eyes, everyone I have met has similar (or very close) enthusiasm for the game and format, and are extremely welcoming, even to an ‘outsider’ like myself.

By the end of 2016 my collection had blown up! Just a few more pieces of power to go!

After a large amount of testing with Markus and Rod, I decided to attend my first ‘Big’ Old School event. Accordingly, Jason drove us up to Birmingham to play in Mana Leak’s Eternal Weekender, with Old School on the Saturday and Vintage on the Sunday.

I was surprised at first at the size of the Old School event - much bigger than I expected - but it was a great day.  As I looked around I saw everyone having so much fun, meeting old friends and reminiscing about when they used to play as kids.  And of course I finally got to compete against a lot of new decks!  I ended up losing my 'win and in' for the Top 8, but being able to watch some of the top 8 games instead felt like good compensation.

On the second day I played Vintage, and this was the last time I played the format.  For me, Vintage has all the bad things about Old School, and very little good, leading to worse games and an overall worse time.  I duly decided that I would drop my original reason for picking up power, and turn all of my efforts into Old School.  My journey had come full circle.

The majority of the players of the Birmingham event holding the signed participation card: Boomerang!

Since then I have only been lucky enough to both complete my set of power and attend a few events, the latest of which was COPcon VII, where I ran a deck that has taken me a full year to collect.  I recently had a ‘Eureka’ moment and realised that I now have a fairly decent Old School collection, and it needs to get more use outside of deck boxes and binders.  My plan for the future (2019) is to try and attend and play as much Old School as I physically can around the UK, and even possibly travel to Europe for a few games and beers. Ever since I heard about N00bcon I have wanted to attend. And hopefully with some more practice and a bit of luck at a qualifying event I may one day make it!

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

"Wanderlust" Part 1: inc. King of the North 2 Event Report - by Brother Stebbo

Editor’s preamble – this summer our roving envoy Brother Stebbo left London to discover Old School communities to the north and (very far) west.

This is part one of his journey…

Community /kəˈmjuːnɪti/

  • Noun
  • ~ A group of people living in the same place and/or having a particular characteristic in common ~
  • For example: (i) a group of people could be "Insane Magicians" (ii) the same place could be "planet Earth" and (iii) the particular characteristic could be "Old School Mtg".
Refreshed after our successful raid in Stockholm, it was now in the spirit of the UK Old School community that Brothers Stebbo and Karl made the trip North to Edinburgh, to the far-flung icy wastes of UK Old School. Where an Island might just still tap for Blue mana, as long as it hasn't frozen solid.

Edinburgh has always been good to me. I earned a place at Noobcon last year by winning the inaugural King of the North and had some great games along the way. It would only be right and proper to return as reigning King and attempt to defend my crown.

~~ the Horn of Deafening sounded!! ~~ Time for the Brothers to depart to the North. 
Brother Stebbo: So you're on the 7.30 from Euston right?

Brother Karl: Yeah.

It's profound chat, but it's also 6:38am. But this is what you do in the spirit of community. Nevermind the fact that you had a work party the night before and barely got 5 hours' sleep. But my Old School and Brothers' Highlander decks were packed long before. We are prepared.
~~ We're now aboard the train ~~
Brother Karl has enterprisingly reserved the seat next to mine. Lucky he like aisle seats!

Brother Stebbo’s URb aggro-control
My usual train diet of a Pret sandwich and a nap takes us through the Midlands. Just enough time for a quick chat about sideboard strategy. I'm set on running URb, but through my Celestial Prism I've been seeing concerning images of decks focused on creating towers made of ivory, meanwhile creating the unwelcome bureaucratic levy, or 'tax’ if you will, for making your land drops. These monstrous decks appear to win through excessive lifegain and cruel inevitability in a manner that makes the Deck look like a zaney combo deck!

My biggest concern heading into King of the North II

I muse adding a further Shatter to the maindeck and/or a Shatterstorm to the sideboard to combat this menace. But then what to take out? The choices before this humble mage are never simple.

We also consider who we might see in Scotland. One name crops up who Karl remembers from his past as a PTQ grinder. A former Scottish Nationals Champion no less. It's almost like one of the ancient Scottish kings has returned to attempt to seize the crown from this upstart Southern baron and reigning king (me). Well, they never said this was going to be easy…

~~ Arrival ~~

We arrive in Edinburgh and are greeted by the fringe festival. Brother Karl leads the way as we fight through the revellers. We resolve to take in some of the entertainment later, but first more pressing matters are at hand.
Brother Karl, rocking the denim as we make our way through the crowds that had seemingly gathered to greet our arrival…
Upon making it to the games store – shoutout to Mox in the Hole and Gabor – we are greeted by none other than Brother Scott and Sister Bev! They too have ventured north in search of fame, glory (or seeing their pal in a fringe festival show)…

~~ The tournament ~~


Round 1 - one of the joys of travelling to play in an event is not being drawn against your buddy who you play every week. So imagine my satisfaction when I got to play Rod Smith first up, organiser and Global Old School phenom.

Rod has always had an eye for creative and punishing brews, and since our last encounter clearly the icecaps of the north have thawed, as he has added some blue to his deck, which we'll call "Good Stuff Control".

Alas even his Ivory Towers are not enough, and he is dispatched 2-0.

Credit to Rod for this action shot.

Round 2 is against another seasoned Scottish Old School player, Seb, who is running UB midrange.

We play some tight games, with the most memorable play being Seb casting a Timetwister with Underworld Dreams down. Game over? Not so fast! I am able to Boomerang the Underworld Dreams and avoid taking 7. I squeak over the line 2-1.

Round 3
is against Ed Ross – a relatively new player on the Old School scene. But you remember that ancient Scottish king I was talking about? Well…

Ed is playing The Deck and we shared two warped games and one fantastic one. Game 1 sees me lead off with Land, Mox, Lotus, Mind Twist. Some introduction. Ed is almost able to claw his way back, but I'm able to take the win. Game 2 sees Ed lead with a LoA. He wins that one.

Game 3 saw some brilliant back and forth. He has the Abyss and COP Red. I have Energy Flux and Blood Moon. We go to time, but I'm able to find a way through to take the match 2-1.

Round 4 sees me playing Brother Karl on his traditional UR. He had been considering playing a more unconventional brew on the train, before being talked out of it by me.

These games are played in good spirits, but we know each other's games very well, so control battles ensue. I take game 1 and Karl takes game 2, before we go to time in game 3. 1-1-1

Round 5 sees me face off against Brother Scott. He's playing a BR Artifact control/midrange deck.

Despite an encouraging start, Scott is able to take down game 1, with his volume of Trikes and Su-Chis proving too strong for my defences. However games 2 and 3 go my way. 2-1.

Top 4

Semi Final.

I'm drawn against Brother Karl in the top 4. Game 1 goes to me as I'm able to exert 'Efreet Dominance' on the board. Game 2 is a real squeaker and comes down to me having to Timetwister whilst on 3 life, with Karl on a similarly low score. Both of us need one bit of direct damage to connect… I draw Mana Drain and a Bolt. Karl has drawn two Psionic Blasts. Unfortunately he blinks first and loses with his lethal Psi Blast on the stack. 2-0.


Predictably I have a rematch with Ed on the Deck for the marbles.

Unfortunately for Ed, I used to play the Deck extensively so know the match-up well.

Unfortunately for me, only one of us is a former PT player/champion (him) and he's visibly becoming a more powerful Old School mage with every draw step.

I take game 1, with my arsenal of direct damage proving too much for the Deck pre-board. 1-0.

Game 2 sees me board in 14 cards. A grindfest is forecast. Rod managed to snap this shot of my opening hand. I've drawn my LoA…

We have an interactive game, with a highlight being a battle for control of Ed's Serra Angel by way of a Control Magic/Disenchant etc. However the card draw of Library is too great and Ed is gamely defeated. 2-0.

And stilllllll, King of the North!

~~ Epilogue ~~

After a year of peace over the plane, the Brothers noticed a disturbance in the northern lands. So they dispatched a regal, powerful mage to restore order.

A great tournament, where I was able to meet new players and re-connect with old. Scotland has a fantastic Old School community.

Brother Karl and I went on to enjoy a curry with Rod and Sam (our gracious host), before enjoying some of the sights of the fringe.

In hindsight it was a journey which inspired me to go even further in search of Old School goodness.

As some of you have read, Rod recently injured himself practicing some of this new-fangled 'blue magic'. So we awarded him this community prize to wish him a speedy recovery. 

Stay tuned for Wanderlust, part 2, coming soon…where Brother Stebbo packs his Strip Mines in search of Old School adventure!