N00bcon 9 Tournament Report
N00bcon 9, the world championships of Old School, took place in April 2017. The London delegation consisted of me, my brother Ben, Steve, and Karl. We banded together under the banner of The Beasts Of Bogardan, complete with matching t-shirt swag. Our introduction to the event came courtesy of Markus, London Old School’s favourite Swede.
As someone who has played the game on and off since 1995, and co-organiser of a series of Old School events in East London, this was undoubtedly the highlight of my playing career - eclipsing even my winning of a Mox Sapphire at Gencon ‘98(!)
The flight over began auspiciously as Ben and I fought out a single 90-minute game involving no fewer than 3 Timetwisters, and finished with him decking himself while I had two cards left in my library. Was this an augur of the extreme play which we were to see at the event?
Arriving in Gothenburg one day ahead of the start, we decided against sightseeing to focus on last-minute deck preparation and sideboarding. For me this included the generous loan from Karl of a slew of black-bordered goodies to pimp my deck, as well as four gorgeous Unlimited Plateaus to change up my strategy on games two and three. Steve also had the chance to rather improbably lay down three Tims:
That evening we headed to the venue, the Rotary Pub, to check out the eve-of-event festivities and to meet the man who started it all - Magnus. At this point we became aware that we really were at the heart of global Old School. If you’re the kind of player who considers the Savannah Lion to be the high water-mark of one-drop creatures, it simply doesn’t get better than this.
As well as getting in a few friendly games and meeting competitors from across Europe, we were given the card prize for the British delegation. In recognition of our team having an average height of 6’ 9”, Magnus kindly donated a rather unusual Hill Giant from his collection!
After a reasonable number of beers we decided to hit the hotel and save energy for the big event. The next day, our schedule began in a pretty relaxed mode and by the time Magnus came out to the balcony over the playing area to inform us of the approach to the day, we were raring to go.
My “post-Goblin” deck had performed respectably at Bazaar Of Moxen in Paris two weeks before and David, a local Swede, was my first opponent. His deadguy ale deck cast pesky Hypnotic Specters which did for me in both games, despite me getting him down to 3 life in the first, and 4 in the second. I ran out of reach.
This wasn’t the beginning I had hoped for, and Team Beasts of Bogardan had all got off to tough starts. It was obvious that despite the friendliness of the field, and the amazing atmosphere of the event, everyone here knew their way around the format.
Game two I came up against the heavy artifact deck of Carl-Hendrik, also from Sweden. This time, my deck fired - a Blood Moon knocking out his workshop and then Wheel Of Fortune taking him into a Black Vise. Despite a Triskelion pinging off my weenies, my burn got me over the line. On game two, my opponent was affected by mana issues and couldn’t unlock a Mana Vault. Two Ball Lightnings finished the job his Vault had started.
At 1-1, I was back in the event, but was undone by Julia’s white-weenie ‘geddon deck, despite taking the first game. And worse was to come, when my round 4 opponent Max brought out a tightly-tuned Titania’s Song deck that worked a number of strong artifact combos before delivering the coup de grace with animated Winter Orbs and Icy Manipulators. My only relief during that game was Forking his five-point Braingeyser, and successfully activating the coin-flip ability of my Goblin Artisans. I think it’s safe to say I was the only one using that piece of tech!
At 1 win for 3 losses I knew I was out of contention for the Shark, but there was still the Hill Giant to play for, and in the knowledge that trips to the world championship wouldn’t come along every day, I was still determined to make the most of my remaining games. The tiny number of drop-outs at this point showed that everyone was thinking the same way and this is tribute to the spirit of old school which ran through the day. Losing a shot at the title also meant I could get properly stuck into the sumptuous beer selection on offer at the Rotary.
It felt like a few beers agreed with my game, or at least improved my luck. Lennart, my fifth opponent, faced a monstrous opener from me with a turn-two Mox-powered Ball Lightning, followed up by a rare instance of a Chain Lightning being activated back-and-forth. Our second game saw two Wheels and a Winds of Change hitting the table, as my opponent dug in vain for his combo. However I drew into all my bolts and was able to inflict fatal damage before his Underworld Dreams revealed itself.
Wheel: My new favourite card
Match five was my first ever ‘mirror match’ against another player called Jonas. Early Blood Moons disrupted a nice-looking deck - my hunch that I would be witnessing fancy lands all day proving correct - and before I knew it I was on 3-3, which felt like a respectable score. With one round of Swiss left to play, I was determined to see if I could make it more wins than losses.
My final opponent, Nikita, who had come from Russia, had other ideas. Playing a deck I had never before encountered, including the forgotten Naf’s Asp, he overwhelmed me with green weenies and responded to my defensive boltings with multiple Giant Growths and Berserks. It was a chastening two-nil drubbing and a timely reminder of the diversity of old school - I hadn’t actually faced The Deck all day.
With the competition now progressing to the Top 8 there was a chance to meet all the other players from across the world, including the two guys from Lords Of The Pit who had come over all the way from Chicago. I concluded a memorable few games with Craig from that team, who was playing a hardcore reanimator deck complete with some mouth-watering alters. With the generous gifting of a Chicago playmat, we agreed that the London and Chicago Old School scenes should cross over again sooner rather than later.
After that I also had time to play one match against Magnus himself, the man of the hour, although regrettably I had to decline his tempting offer to play “full old school” and play for ante, mindful that I was packing thousands of pounds worth of borrowed cardboard. I also caught up with one of two confirmed owners of both the Ultra Pro 9-piece promo cards: a full Lotus and Chaos Orb. Despite competing against decks encrusted with Alpha jewellery, and spotting summer lands in the wild for the first time, this was arguably the most impressive sight of all.
With another couple of friendlies concluded, I sat down to watch an enthralling final as a fearsome-looking black deck (largely mono but splashing blue) faced off against The Deck. The second game, with the Icelander coming back into the competition, was head-spinningly complicated and underlined the level of skill that top players bring to the table. In the end, it took three rounds to separate the finalists, and black prevailed. It felt appropriate to see the rarely-seen Nightmare make an appearance at the end - once again a testament to the vitality of the format, and a tribute to how the best players are still exploiting value beyond the staple Factories, Sol Rings, and Ancestrals.
With a new world champion crowned there was time for a few more beers before a 4am finish. We had been immersed in elite Magic for sixteen hours and it was time to call it quits.
My teammate Karl took home the Hill Giant as best performer from the British Isles, finishing 42nd out of 102, while I came in 70th. So although I didn’t bring home the Shark, I did have a chance to put my name - quite literally - on the biggest prize of them all in Old School.
A big thanks to all the organisers and competitors for the best Magic experience of my career, and particularly Markus and my fellow Beasts Of Bogardan. Anyone reading this from overseas who fancies getting involved in more international Old School tournaments (albeit considerably less high-profile than n00bcon), then please sign up for updates from our newly-established East London club, Brothers of Fire.