Tuesday, 9 May 2017

COPCon 2 - A report by Richard and Ben

COPCON 2 4th March 2017 – Tournament Report
By Richard Stebbing and Ben Twitchen

Part One - Introduction (Richard)

The second North London Old School meet brought much anticipation.

Several players attending are going on to compete at Noobcon next month. As such, this event provides a valuable opportunity to test decks. And this is important – Noobcon is undoubtedly the premier event in the burgeoning European Old School scene, and naturally there is a group of plucky Brits ready to take it down!

Another consideration is the sheer joy that comes with being able to play Old School. This primarily is driven by the players and the beautiful old cardboard available to them.

Rogue sideboard choices aside, the community does not tolerate sharking or angle shooting, instead choosing the chilled-out low stakes vibes of tournament play which offers as much to a creative brewer as it does to a competitive player on a tier one deck. Accordingly this is an excellent use of a Saturday afternoon.

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A rogue-sideboard pun

It would be remiss of me to fail to mention that London is very lucky to have a fair number of Old School players around, which means that meet-ups are not infrequent. We also have in Markus Lundqvist a founding light in the Old School Skype community. Time commitments and technology deficits mean that I have yet to make my debut in this form of the game, however I can't wait to give it a go. For this tournament however we had Markus in attendance in his physical rather than virtual form, which is probably better than his Skype persona! I would encourage anyone interested in learning more about the format to visit Wak-Wak.se which has all the information and Skype footage links you could possibly need.

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The second most-knowledgeable place in Arabian Nights?

Part Two - Deck selection

Ben's Musings

Until last year my favourite format was pre-release. Instinctive card evaluation, the novelty of the interactions, and the relaxed spirit of the games. I have since discovered old school 93/94 and love the immersion in nostalgia, the art, and a similar relaxed spirit. I've met Richard in finals twice now and enjoyed close matches against his premium variants of The Deck. We have different play styles, I lean towards a few unorthodox cards, so I hope our two perspectives will be helpful.  I know some commentators feel the format is solved and The Deck is the best, but there are plenty of players brewing away and maybe I've stumbled across a chink in The Deck's armour.

A nut Zoo draw on the play, supported by Lightning Bolts, is one way to beat The Deck. Others use situational crippling cards like Titania's Song, Black Vise, and Blood Moon.

Image result for Titania's SOng Related image Image result for Blood Moon the dark
Answers to The Deck

The Deck has answers to everything; Moat/ Wrath of God / The Abyss, Ivory Tower, Counterspell and Disenchant, with card draw to find them. So my plan was to do the same thing but more quickly with a book that gets left in the cold while Jayemdae Tome gets all the praise:
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Jalum Tome

5 mana and two cards to draw one card doesn't sound fast or effective. But it is faster than its expensive cousin and dovetails with two particular synergies. First it allows me to swap Land Tax fruit for business cards. Secondly it allows me to hedge my bets and play cards that clash but cycle the redundant ones. (In a similar way to Sensei's Divining Top in Counterbalance decks allowing you to play as the control deck or the aggro deck). With Land Tax thinning the deck, Jalum Tome digs me into haymakers faster than The Deck player can find his. So I can play situational cards like Mirror Universe, Serra Angel, The Hive, The Abyss, Wrath of God, Ivory Tower and Maze of Ith. Land Tax of course combines well with Ivory Tower, Library of Alexandria and Ancestral Recall.

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Land Tax

All this comes at a price of course; I have to manage without counterspells and Jayemdae Tomes. This leaves me vulnerable to sideboard cards that are designed to cripple artifact-heavy decks like Shatterstorm and Dust to Dust. I have a plan for that but it will have to wait for another article…

Richard's continued musings...

My choice of deck was partly inspired by the above Wak-Wak resource – as I wanted to try something a little different to my usual control builds. I also wanted to play something that is likely to appear at Noobcon, which players may have not faced before.

With its synergy of counters and classic creatures, my perusals led me quickly to UW Skies – a deck built on most of the cheap control cards of the Deck and blurring the creature-based win cons of The Deck and UR CounterBurn - namely Serra Angel and Serendib Efreet - creating a viable mid range/control strategy.

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Angels of death

I had seen lists that run a Serendib Djinn (a card I've had mixed results with) or a full playset of Serras. However I chose two Serras and a mighty Mahamoti Djinn - in part as I wanted something of a surprise factor and I had literally never cast the Djinn before.

My copy of Mahamoti Djinn is from Unlimited and had accrued some early (unsleeved) flying hours from its previous owner(s). However of late he has languished in a binder, having not been touched in at least half a decade - until today!

I think the control/removal suite from The Deck is about as good as it gets in Old School, so picking the build-around cards was simple. However I wanted to have a little more reach, and access to Red Elemental Blast from the Sideboard, so I also included a red splash for Lightning Bolt. In part this was why I didn't want to run any more than the two Serras, so as to not be overly reliant on white.

Here is my final 75. The decision to play all 8 "Blasts" in the Sideboard was based on my previous trouble of UR CounterBurn, which had taken down the previous event. However that deck didn't end up featuring at the event (!) and probably 3 of each Blast is sufficient for our purposes.

I had a single Sideboard copy of Moat. I think I would want to run two in future versions - either a 1-1 main/side split or both in the main deck, probably at the expense of a Swords and a Bolt. This might mean changing the mana base, and possibly cutting red entirely (which probably means going up to 4x Serra Angel).

Moat (and The Abyss) are extremely powerful in Old School and basically only can be removed by 1) Disenchant 2) Tranquility 3) Chaos Orb and 4) Nevinyrral’s Disk. Consequently I think any control deck wants one or both of these excellent cards, which can generate insane amounts of card advantage by having an immediate answer to multiple attacking threats. Indeed both have been mainstay options in The Deck for over 20 years. But more on this and the power of The Deck another time.

Otherwise I kept some form of artifact hate in Divine Offering - a card which is more flexible but has less upside than Dust to Dust - which I think suits a control deck looking to play Disenchant copies 5-8.

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My other choice of two Wrath of God speaks for itself - the premier mass-removal spell which has game against the majority of decks in the format, and can again generate insane card advantage.

Part Three - Match Report

Ben's match report

6 players made it to North London for the second COPCON event, which was played round robin. Markus missed out on tiebreaks last time and was keen to do one better. We had two new faces, Markus' brother Frederick, and Ollie who recently got back into magic after a 20 year break. So the perfect format for him as his card pool, freshly retrieved from the loft, was all legal!

R1 - I got crushed 2-0 fast by Jonas's goblins, backed up with blood lust, ball lightning and bolts. I don't know why this deck isn't more popular; it is savage. I suspect it is harder to play well than it looks.

R2 - I won 2-0 against Fred's white weenie. His version uses Armageddon, which I can survive with Land Tax. We neutralised each other, got to top deck mode, and my blue cards did unfair things.

R3 - I won 2-0 against Ollie's white weenie. This version eschewed Armageddon for mana hungry late game cards like Serra Angels and Blessing. I think he stalled and gave me time to abuse Library of Alexandria. I saw his Spirit Links do impressive work against Richard's Serendib Efreets however, showing the versatility of the deck....

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R4 - I won 2-0 against Markus. Using Millstone, I milled both Timetwister and then Recall away, which was lucky as either would have saved him.

R5 - Richard was also only beaten by the goblin deck. I lost in short order game one with Serendib Efreet doing the legwork for Richard. Game two I won with an attack from Dakkon Blackblade, my favourite card, getting me back in contention. Game 3 I managed to resolve a hive and spend a total of 25 mana to make 4 scryb sprites, but they did the job and won me the signed COP white.

Thanks to everyone who turned up, and I look forward to next time!

Richard's match report

Match 1 vs. Ollie (1-0)

Game 1 was a very interesting affair indeed and the perfect start to the day from an intrigue perspective!

Ollie generated some early pressure before I was able to stabilise using my Swords to Plowshares on Thunder Spirits and successful blocks on Tundra Wolves and White Knights using a tactical Disenchant on a Crusade to kill the opposing creature with my stalwart Mishra's Factories. Ollie however was able to stem my oncoming tide of creatures, Swordsing a Mishra's Factory, a Serra Angel and a Serendib Efreet.

I was then able to assert command of the game, running Time Walk into Timetwister into a fresh Time Walk! 

From there, despite Ollie's best efforts, Swordsing a Serra Angel, I was then able to make a Serendib Efreet stick on an empty board. However Ollie had another surprise in store! Spirit Link enchanting the Serendib meant that I not only could not profitably attack, but that as I lost life each upkeep from the Serendib, Ollie gained it!

With our life totals moving in opposite directions, I desperately dug for a Disenchant or Swords to Plowshares whilst Ollie hopelessly whiffed on creatures! I finally found my answer, a Swords, and bought myself some turns, moving back to 7 life, to Ollie's 34! 
Ollie, still unable to establish a board presence, was then smashed with a fresh Efreet and a Mishra's Factory, with my life total (with Swords in hand) a precarious 1 as the fatal blow was dealt.

Due to TfL issues we didn't have time for a game 2, but with all due respect to my opponent, I fancied my chances with a Moat and two Wrath of Gods in the Sideboard...

Match 2 vs. Frederick (2-0)

Game 1 saw Frederick start to establish a presence, but then unfortunately stumble. This allowed the lethal combination of Flyers and Lightning Bolt to quickly put the game out of reach, with Frederick lacking a removal spell for my creatures.

Game 2 saw Frederick lay down some early beats, but ultimately he over-extended into a Wrath of God, in part due to me sandbagging it for two turns to coax out more creatures. This allowed me to set up the might of Mahamoti Djinn, a card I have literally been waiting two decades to cast! He got some beats in, before like any true genie, disappearing - to tend to his allotment. However the pressure of his supporting cast of flyers was too great and the game was put away.

Match 3 vs. Marcus (2-0)

Marcus plays an interesting deck that is Grixis control, switching effortlessly between Underworld Dreams combo and Juzam as its win conditions. "Grixis Tricks".

Game one saw Marcus lead with the classic Land, Lotus, Juzam. However my Land, Swords to Plowshares was an easy countermeasure.

From there I recall Marcus stalling as I was able to deploy a Serendib and Serra Angel for a quick win.

Game two saw a similar theme, as an early flyer put Marcus under too much pressure. I recall him having some mana trouble, as due to Strip Mine and Disenchant, I was able to cut him off of a colour, and from there the game was done through the power of my flyers.

Match 4 vs. Jonas (1-2)

Game 1 saw Jonas start with pressure through little red men and direct damage. My own Serendib Efreets were able to do some good work and start clocking Jonas, however the one point of damage a turn proved costly, and with Jonas on 1 life he was able to force through a lethal 3 damage burn spell for the win!

Game 2 saw an early position from Jonas met with a Wrath of God and from there he was promptly dispatched by my flyers. A crucial Chaos Orb miss on one of my creatures may have also accelerated his demise...

Game 3 proved a classic. Jonas led with a backbreaking turn 1 Black Vise! This left me effectively starting on 17 and in trouble with no Disenchant in hand. I luckily played out a creature into a counterspell, and I drew a Disenchant maybe three turns in, stabilising on 9 life.

I was able to develop my position, whilst pecking away with Mishra's Factory, but it was very precarious as I was not regularly able committing lands to the board, and I only had a finite number of counterspells and removal spells to deal with Jonas' upcoming threats. 

I ended up falling short, Jonas forced through a burn spell with him otherwise dead on board, sealing my fate. Unlike my first game of the day, here I was not able to cheat death and snatch victory from defeat whilst on one life point!

Match 5 vs. Ben (1-2)

This all set up a thrilling "final" against Ben, who was the other 3-1 player.

Ben is a longstanding eternal competitor and we have faced off several times before at the end of big events.

Game 1 was a bit of a non-game, with Ben having mana problems and being promptly dispatched by my Serendib charges.

Game 2 saw Ben race to an early start before I was able to deal with his attacking threats of a Serra Angel and a Mishra's Factory, as I encountered early mana problems. However I was able to stabilise – in part due to Ben's reluctance to over-commit to the board and leave himself vulnerable to a Balance or Mind Twist. As such, the pendulum then swung back to me, as I was eventually able to clear the board and get a Serendib Efreet to stick, which promptly began to peck-away at Ben's life total.

Probably however my failing was being unable to target the right spells to fight over, and this wrongful prioritisation allowed Ben back in – by resolving a huge 'do or die' Braingeyser. Buoyed with resources aplenty, Ben was back in the game and was able to make a huge Dakkon Blackblade stick, fighting off my attempt to Control Magic it with a Disenchant!

Game 3 was not quite as close, but saw a similar ebb and flow, as we both jockeyed for an early board position. Fundamentally however I was unable to find an answer to The Hive – a card I have used myself to great effect in the past – despite a deck full of fat flyers! – and I was dispatched to little fanfare!

Congratulations to Ben – who I think goes 2-1 up in our own mini-series (previous results at the inaugural London meet-up in March 2016 and GP London 2016). I look forward to trying to level the score again next time!

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