Friday, 20 July 2018

Event Announcement: COPcon VII, plus ATC round-up

Three pieces of news for the post:

1. COPcon VII will take place on Saturday 15th September 2018 at a venue in North East London.  A Facebook event has been set up here.


If you're a regular, we hope to see you there.  If you're new, we hope to see you there even more!  Please reach out to any of the organisers if you have any questions at all.

2. Several weeks ago Brother Jonas was interviewed by Bryan Manolakos for his excellent podcast 'All Tings Considered'.  If you have yet to check out Bryan's podcast, you should - it's brilliant and its direct character makes it a nice complement to the existing podcast on the block, Flippin' Orbs.  You can listen to the full interview here.

3. The original art for Shahrazad has been put online for auction (link).  Although our club won't be bidding, anyone wishing to endow Brothers Of Fire's art collection with this piece is welcome to donate it.  (The hi-res scan of the art is worth checking out if, like me, you like that sort of thing).

Peace out.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Event Report - GP Vegas 2018, 13-17 June 2018 – by Brother Jonas







I have got to find the river 
Bergamot and Vetiver 
Run through my head and fall away 

REM, 'Find The River'


I packed up my whole Magic collection and took the plane to Seattle, on a work contract of undisclosed duration.  But more spiritually, I was obviously drawn there by fate.  My quest: to hunt down the source of Old School.



If Gothenburg's Rotary Pub is the Mecca of Old School, then Seattle is its Jerusalem, and in my time in the city I enjoyed many fine games with the welcoming local tribe.  But one event - still on the horizon when I decided to come out here - attracted me more than other: GP Vegas.  This year, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the game.  A trip was essential.

I caught the plane down on Wednesday, the day before the 'sanctioned' Old School event at the Las Vegas Convention Centre.  After getting settled at my hotel, I made my way to meet up for dinner with Daniel and his Vintage Magic crew.  If you believe what you read on the internet, then this would have led to a night plotting Machiavellian buy-outs while lighting cigars with crimped Hypnotic Spectres.

Instead I spent the evening in the company of some very welcoming - and very hardcore - Magic nerds, and was able to give my deck a run-out back in their hotel suite.  As they wound down before the business of the GP, I then headed over to the Encore casino.

Here I met up with members of the Stockholm In A Bottle crew who had joined us all the way from the Old Continent, as well as meeting up the Beasts Of The Bay.  It felt a bit like that scene at the start of The Warriors, only the grime of Coney Island was replaced by waitresses in barely-there dresses bringing us beers and eyeing our cardboard with a palpable sense of disdain.  In fairness, my altered Plateau only signals "high-roller" to the most discerning of eyes.  (And in the company of these pimped-out collectors, barely even then!).

I was reunited with Dom from N00bcon who gamely rolled out a sweet Gauntlet/Candelabra deck which left the door open to this rather cheeky finisher:

The lesser-spotted pair of 7/2 Ball Lightnings - now with added toughness!

The next morning I took the short but scorching walk to the venue.  Everything in this country is maxi-sized, from the waistbands to the polarisation of the politics, and this was no different:



Karn made an appearance. Presumably Obsianus Golem was busy


The Old School tournament kicked off at a prompt 11am, complete with a couple of slight buzzkills: deck lists and CE/IE banned.  This was all understandable, but along with the enormo-dome venue feel and the lack of convivial drinking, this didn't set things up to scream 'Spirit of Old School'.

This said, everything else about the event was bang-on.  From an international cast list including my fellow Londoner Jason, to some heavy-hitting big names from days gone by, to the rather luscious playmats laid on by the organisers.



I was running an American-friendly build of my pet deck, but making full use of the liberal US system.  Most importantly, my Goblins were exercising their Second Amendment privileges in the form of four Grenades.  And the deck had additional spike in the quad Strip Mine configuration:

(98% right - I think the final build had three Shatters)
Having taken a similar Swedish-friendly build to 4-3 at Noobcon, I had a feeling that it could do some damage and I was running at a cheerful 2-0 before I was undone by The Deck, piloted by Erik - a player newly-returned to the game but who played very tightly to make the semis.

Thereafter I enjoyed some fun games, in particular against Steven of Beasts of The Bay, whose foiled-out protest against the banning of CE brought a tear to my eye - and went all the way to a Chaos Orb flip-off.  Although not the ideal way to finish a match played in great spirit, I was glad to participate in another American tradition.

This deck is great fun to play - the Balance alleviates the 'glass cannon' effect of mono-red, and with plenty of red mana, Fork continued to provide a lot of value.  My play of the day against Erik occurred a turn after he had painstakingly got his Library back online.  He unleashed a five-point Mind Twist on me, to which I responded with two Bolts to the face and a Fork of the Twist.

More prosaically, a Forked Grenade is an obviously devastating play, but not one that can be mindlessly fired off.  The Goblins on the ground need to be given time to do their crucial early damage to ensure the deck doesn't run out of reach.  A number of players were holding back creature-removal against me and waiting for a Goblin King to hit the table.  In the UK and Europe that card never sees serious play, despite its special place in my heart.  This was one of many instances of the subtle differences between the two systems that ripple out from the different approach to Strip Mine.

After five rounds of Swiss I was running 4-1 and mildly annoyed not to be facing into another couple of rounds of pairings to really separate the field.  But it wasn't to be, so I came away with a reasonable 13th place out of 92.


'Cermak Attak' vs. Brian Weissman.  He eventually came out victorious with an absolutely brutal Energy Flux to which Brian couldn't find an answer.  The Old School event also featured Randy Bueller and Luis Scott-Vargas.




My 200 "tix" (urgh...) barely scratched the surface at the prize booth and left me feeling like a Dickensian urchin, my breath steaming at the window the sweete shoppe as I beheld some of the goodies on offer:




Arabians are my favourite set and busting a pack one day is firmly on the fantasy bucket list.

The UK and Sweden representing (picture credit: Patrick, the now-traditional 'candidate' member of the SiaB crew) 

Speaking of beautiful cardboard, it was then time to check out the stalls.  Even discounting the gaudy new-bordered wares, the range of merchandise on display was staggering.  There were, however, very few bargains - it's obvious that the floor has been well and truly sealed up on Old School and given the constantly-rising prices, most traders appear happy to hold onto their stock rather than offload it.  I think this is a moment that all of us in the community knew was coming, and given the limited amount of cards out there, it is surprising it didn't happen sooner.  But I feel glad that the big purchases are mainly already behind me, even though I don't anticipate growing my collection in the carefree way I was able to do a few months ago.  This is sad, but it's partly a reflection of the success of the game and people wanting to play.

Summer madness!

I've noted in the US that not only is CE and IE tolerated, but proxies are also more common.  I've always had mixed feelings about this.  So much of the fun of the game is about waiting to acquire the cards you want, not to mention the feeling of actually holding the genuine article in your hand, as well as observing the care and attention put into people's decks (particularly in the States where signed and altered cards are more common).  I sense that Old School is now likely to become a fairly closed community - which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing as long as it continues to be played in the way it has been up to now. 

However it also seems likely that in the absence of being able to acquire new cardboard at affordable prices, there will be more pressure to relax restrictions on CE and potentially on proxies.  This will lead to differences of opinion.  My own perspective is that diversity should be welcomed.  I love the challenge of collecting Unlimited cards with a view to playing them when I visit Sweden, and it rankles when people online confuse the purism of the Swedes with blind elitism.  Anyone who has played there can see this isn't the case.

This said, I also enjoyed blasting out cut-price CE blue power while I was in the US.  And in Seattle I played a ten-year-old girl at a casual event, whose lovingly hand-made proxy Mox Jet was in no danger of harming the community within the confines of Redmond Public Library.  There's room for everyone to play the game in their own way as long as we respect each other's love of the game and present a united front against counterfeiters and spikes.

Ok, time to get off my high horse and back to the GP...

Meeting artists is a rare opportunity in Europe, and I then made the rounds of the big Old School names in attendance: Dan Frazier, Douglas Shuler, Mark Poole, Ken Meyer Jr, and many others were there.  While some were more open to conversation than others, it was still a blast to get some white-bordered stuff signed.

However the highlight was meeting Drew Tucker, whom regular readers will know is my favourite Old School artist, and was an absolute gent.  I was also able to commission this quickie-alter from Anson Maddocks - my very own unique Blood Lust featuring Fallen Angel...




The ludicrous fanboying didn't stop there, as I then met up with Brian Weissman, inventor of The Deck, who gamely agreed to play a match against me in EC rules.  Needless to say he was a top bloke and although I took the first game off him, his sideboarding blew me apart.  I was particularly struck by the way he analysed every situation on the board and was able to anticipate my threats as though he knew my deck inside-out.  I figured getting taken down 2-1 by one of the legendary players of the format wasn't too bad a result!  He was a gracious victor and his passion for and understanding of the game, as well as his enthusiasm for Old School, was exactly what I had imagined.




That evening, Stockholm In A Bottle hosted their own casual event at the Westgate Casino where we played round-robin and I took away a very casually-awarded second prize.


Not pictured: hordes of dead-eyed gamblers


More precious than 200 tix, at any rate

The next day was low on Old School.  I tried my hand at qualifying for the Beta draft, not counting on my total ignorance of the Dominaria set being a serious impediment.  However, there was still the evening to play some Old School and to hang out with the Beasts of the Bay and some of the soon-to-be-monikered Seattle squad.  I also managed to put out this frankly obscene starter from a mull to six:

Sorry Neil


In terms of Old School, the weekend finished off Downtown the next day at the Beasts Of The Bay event.  Although the venue sadly couldn't accommodate everyone, its location in a brewery was perfect for our needs. 

The class of the event was evident immediately.  While other tournaments give you a participation card, these guys hand out participation playsets.

... and playable playsets, at that!

With 5-6 rounds of Swiss (the local IPAs slightly obscure my recollection), this was a great tournament.  My Goblin deck was fortified with blue power for this one, but didn't perform on the day.  The concept evidently needs some work as I ran out 1-4.  But the highlight was meeting everyone and enjoying the game as - in my view - it ought to be played: giving take-backs, beer-in-hand, and putting enjoyment over competition.


The event was also held under Beasts' house rules which meant I was running a Falling Star, and making the most of their errata (quoted here from their website):
  • We have special errata for Falling Star. Falling Star's errata is as follows: "Choose any number of non-token creatures on the battlefield, then arrange them in the playing area in any way except that none of them may overlap. Flip Falling Star onto the playing area from a height of at least one foot. Falling Star deals 3 damage to each chosen creature it lands on. Tap all creatures dealt damage by Falling Star. If Falling Star doesn't turn completely over at least once during the flip, it has no effect."
As self-appointed captain of the (defeated) UK Ryder Cup Chaos Orb Flipping Team, Falling Star has always been one of my favourite cards.  So I was hugely in favour of this change:

Take that, pesky Nether Shadow!

Personally I quite like the idea of these kinds of 'house rules'.  Too many of them and the game will become impossible to play, but a spot of local colour doesn't do any harm, especially on a fringe card or two.

The next day it was all over and I headed back to Seattle. My time there has now come to an end and I'm back in London.  

So did I find the source of Old School?  GP Vegas may have been marking the 25th anniversary of the format, but anyone who witnessed the Beta draft can see that those days have gone.  The game is played in a fundamentally different way these days - from people's understanding of the power of cards, to the strategies, to evaluating the now jaw-dropping value of the cardboard.  

Talking to the Old School artists, and others from the early days, gave echoes of that time - but it's passed.  

But then, to me, the point about Old School is that it isn't a throwback format.  I've never wanted to go back to the game as it was played in '93 (apart from maybe the odd game of Alpha-only at the Wizards' Tournament).  The real source of the game is the groundbreaking genius of the early days and the early sets, when Wood Elemental and Moat could be released by the same development team.  That sense of innocence and enthusiasm is what makes the format and community special, and it was something I felt connected with throughout my time in Vegas.  If that's as close as you'll get to the source, then that's enough for me.

Thanks for reading this mammoth post - and I hope one day to cross paths again with some of the great players I met at the GP.  And to anyone who hasn't been, I recommend trying the American way.  In fact, I may even be a convert to the four Strip Mine way of thinking...



---


(Some additional pictures from the trip follow) 



Kevin's Library Of Leng coaster.  If were in the 90s rap community then this would be a diss track.  Ether anyone?
Holding a trophy card with Skype Mtg luminary Jeff W - we competed for the first ever Fire Mountain vs Brothers of Fire, which he took down 3-2.  Next year! 

Tuned in to this back home.  A nice touch by Wizards but I was mystified by the ill-informed commentators and the lack of Beta lands for the players to use!
Mark Poole puts the finishing touches on a small commission


The players at the Beasts' side event

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Tournament Report - Ivory Cup 2018, 16 June 2018 – by Brother Stebbo

Ivory Cup - Winner’s report – by Brother Stebbo



“A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full numbers”

- William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing


Prologue

One of my favourite elements of the global Old School community is that everyone supports each other - both in building Old School communities across the world and in building your individual relationship with Old School. Your own personal obsession.

Both of these were evident as two plucky Brothers, myself and Brother Karl, joined the vibrant Stockholm community for Ivory Cup 2018.

Brother Karl and Brother Stebbo, representing the Brothers of Fire on foreign soil

Before all of that I had some special cardboard to deliver to a Swede in search of furthering his own obsession. The Brothers of Fire courier service™ was on hand to deliver these from GP Birmingham, safe and sound.




I’m sure you’ll agree receiving these cards is a special day in anyone’s life, and it was an honour to be involved! I was rewarded with some whisky, called Millstone, and some 94-era product - so very generous!

Karl and I arrived on Friday and were hosted by Gordon for some casual games until 4am! The Swedes definitely Old School hard.

The Ivory Cup itself was on the Saturday, and was a real festival of Old School in a hall filled with great beers, music and old schoolers.




Gordon and Seb commentating, as Bjorn and Jonas watch on

The prize support – the Revised Ivory Cup has square corners, and was for best foreign-community player (on the basis that it couldn’t be won by a Swede, as it’s not Swedish legal!!)

The Ivory Cup itself!

I’ve been enjoying playing URb of late, so running it back was an easy choice. I spent about an hour discussing sideboard strategy with Karl over breakfast before settling on this pile.

One of the key considerations with the deck is understanding when to shift gears within a match-up, and what your role is at any given point. This 75 tries to play to that philosophy, along with a few blowout cards, naturally...



Swiss Matches


Match 1 - 2-1 vs Candelflare

Kaj my opponent, was a really friendly guy from Gothenburg. I was able to take game 1 comfortably, but got unstuck in game 2. I used Timetwister to try and set-up a kill, but only succeeded in giving Kaj what he needed to win in a massive Fireball with REB backup. Game 3 saw Kaj’s Mana Flares become temporarily under the employ of the Brother of Fire, as I returned the compliment with a massive lethal Fireball, after a board stall.


Match 2 - 1-2 vs UG

The first of two games vs UG (see below!). Jesper was a great, very technical player and a formidable opponent. He also had 12 one drops and 4 Argothian Pixies, so is very much the ‘beatdown’ (or so it turns out...)

I took game 1, narrowly, and mistook his list for RUG (I’ve not faced pure UG before). This probably contributed to me losing game 2, along with a misjudged draw 7, which was partly down to underestimation of the power of the UG deck, and also pure greed. Naturally I didn’t learn my lesson, and in game 3 I eschewed holding up counters to instead cast a Serendib Efreet. I was duly punished by Jesper resolving Ancestral Recall, which ultimately led to him closing out a very close game.

You can check this game out on stream over at Wak-Wak’s Twitch - https://www.twitch.tv/videos/273922646


Match 3 - 2-0 vs BU

My opponent, who I think made last year’s final, was on a spicy UB list. Sadly it was no match for the brutal efficiency of my own deck and was quickly dispatched.

My opponent noted he had an ‘Arabians Obsession’ and even had custom-made sleeves - incredible!


Match 4 - 2-0 vs Atog

Two very tight games with another tourist, Jason S, who hails originally from the USA and is simply an Old School fanatic! He’d kindly donated the Unlimited Berserk prize you saw earlier.

Sadly for Jason, despite attacking my hand with Black Vise, and attacking my real estate with Ankh of Mishra, my deck was able to take control and close out the win.


Match 5 - 2-1 vs Mono B Prison/Artifact control

This was a rematch from Noobcon, where Jonas (not that Jonas...) had put me away with a controlling brew utilising the Parfait ‘spine’.

Jonas was on a similar build today and raced away with game 1 under a Howling Mine/Relic Barrier which I couldn’t deal with.

Unfortunately for Jonas he couldn’t deal with my Energy Fluxes in games 2 and 3. Energy Flux simply wrecked him (along with a powerful Mind Twist for 5 on turn 1 of our decider!).


Top 8 Matches

These matches are all on the Twitch stream link, as above, in case you’re interested…


QF - 2-0 vs WRU

These were very fast games, as my deck really hit top gear. My opponent’s good grace, and a nasty Mana Drain into a lethal Fireball is all I can remember.


SF - 2-0 vs UWb

Game 1- my opponent Max got off to a good start with a Serendib Efreet and a Mishra’s Factory, but wasn’t able to capitalise on this, and I was able to take control, and clock him with a run of direct damage. Game 2 saw a nice curve into a flock of Flying Men, who promptly did some heavy lifting. We were into the finals in record time!


F - 2-1 vs UG

Ah, that UG deck from earlier - turns out it was quite good and we were to meet it again in the final! This is how I remember it.

Game 1 was a slaughter, and even saw me miss a Chaos Orb flip on camera! Echoes of Gareth Southgate in ‘96! 0-1.

Game 2 and I’m sure Gordon had summoned a Priest of Yawgmoth to perform the last rites on my Ivory Cup run. The irony is that Jesper and I spoke at length about how the draw 7s are risky for me to execute successfully, without passing the turn to him and promptly dying (as I did earlier that day…). But in game 2 I had to use both to survive - with the second, the Wheel of Fortune, seeing me deal 7 in one turn, with another 7 damage sat in my hand unused. Very much snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. 1-1.


Game 3 saw me make some additional changes to the deck, and understand the match-up better. I saw that I needed to take a more controlling role than I had been taking before. Fatigue and rising alcohol levels in my blood saw me not play the tightest game of my life, but it was good enough, and after stabilising the board, 2x Flying Men and a Mishra’s Factory crashed home for the win!

Brothers of Fire take home the spoils
Epilogue


The first packs of Magic I opened had Ice Age written on the front. But all those years later I’m still learning how to play the game. This tournament demonstrates this - I really feel that I evolved and developed my game through the day, and that’s the most rewarding part of the win!

JUST KIDDING! Clearly this awesome prize swag trumps all! But I do believe that you do still keep learning and improving, if you allow yourself to. This event is a good example for me - you can always play more games, and work on your own personal obsession.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Format announcement: Introducing Brothers' Highlander

Remember the good old days? Before Recall got unrestricted? What about the good old days before that - kitchen table magic? Real flavour. Jedit Ojanen taking on Jasmine Boreal. Electric Eel vs Water Wurm. When you included your prized new card in all your new decks - just because.

Brothers’ Highlander is the casual house format of the Brothers Of Fire club. We are putting this out there simply to see if it resonates with others. It’s designed to encourage fun cards and unusual interactions and the rules may be tweaked periodically to keep the format fresh.

Brothers' Highlander rules version 1.0 - June 2018

All decks of 100 cards exactly.

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

ALL cards are RESTRICTED apart from basic lands.

The following cards are BANNED: Library of Alexandria, Mind Twist.

Players have 10 points to spend per deck on the following CONTROLLED cards:
Ancestral Recall - 7
Balance - 1
Black Lotus - 7
Demonic Tutor - 4
Jayemdae Tome - 2
Mirror Universe - 7
Mox (any) - 3
Sol Ring - 3
Time Vault - 6
Time Walk - 6
Transmute Artifact - 1
Karakas - 7

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

Printing legality: 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).

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Tournament Report - COPcon VI, 19 May 2018 – by Brother Stebbo

~~ Breaking News ~~
Our illustrious founder Brother Jonas has left London for a trip to the New World of as-yet-unknown duration. Amongst the spare copies of Fork scattered around his flat, we found some parchment saying he has gone in search of new sweet tech, and to preach the word of a solitary Strip Mine amidst myriad Mazes of Ith.


Filling in for Sir Alex

With the assistance of Brother Ben, I am ostensibly the ‘caretaker manager’ of COPcon in the interim. Ahem. To continue the football analogies, the bad news is that history tells us that replacing great leaders can be pretty tough (see: Sir Alex Ferguson, or if you’re reading this in after the winter of 2018, see also: Arsène Wenger…). The good news is that this is the perfect excuse to peer-pressurise your cardboard fanatic mates to take the plunge into Old School!

For COPcon VI we returned to our spiritual home of a pub serving-up amazing beers and greasy burgers in North East London. The day had the feeling of one with a special significance to it – it was the same day as the FA Cup Final AND the Royal Wedding. Even better than all of that, the pub’s playlist was seemingly stuck on 80's College rock – early REM and U2 aplenty. It soon becomes evident that throwback indie music is the perfect soundtrack to throwback magical cardboard.


The Tournament

We had 9 players – an excellent number given that it was also the third Old School tournament in four weeks in the UK! This meant that a few of the regulars were absent with their families, partners or, heaven forbid, other interests…

Brothers Karl, Ben, and Stebbo, and regulars Graeme, Shawn, and Matt, were joined by two COPcon newcomers. Phil, who has played for around 15-20 years but was only attending his second Old School event, and Joe, who has played for around 10 years. Joe was also attending his second Old School event, but notably he also attended the first ever event on UK soil, in autumn 2015. A reluctant founder of sorts!
Joe using his Sylvan Library to great effect

We played 5 rounds of Swiss, with some great pick-up games of Premodern and Brothers’ Highlander – our very own 100-card singleton format with its own points list.

As always we were playing for some sweet brags and the epitome of sweet brags in cardboard form:
COP: Artifact for the winner of most matches, accompanied by the real first prize: Spirit of COPcon 
We even got Mark Tedin to sign this extra-special Brothers
 of Fire, although Mark sadly couldn’t make the event itself due to other commitments…

Action Shots



A shameless attempt to curry favour with the Spirit of COPcon judges, but it worked! 
-
Phil walked away with the Spirit of COPcon for this beautiful maindeck inclusion. Not everyone can say they managed to upgrade a card in their deck to black-bordered with an Old School tournament prize, but Phil can!!



Match Report and Decklists

I’d managed to come third on breakers at Brass Man, and lost the finals of Flying Man in a URb mirror. I took some advice from a Swede who I know has a bit of experience with the deck I’d been playing, and made a few upgrades to give myself a better UR mirror match.

As a result, and much to my embarrassment, I managed to reign undefeated. COPcon was awash with UR decks this month, and my newly-tuned deck beat three of them on my way to victory in the Swiss…

I’ll keep the crowing to a minimum, but to make up for it here is a great shot from my game vs. Joe.
A stacked stack (Joe had a Disenchant in hand, btw)



Some Deck Pics
Brother Stebbo’s URb Counterburn


Brother Ben’s Mono Green Glarefest


Damian’s URb Counterburn


Joe’s GWb Geddon

Matt’s UWR Prison


Phil’s UR Counterburn

Epilogue

Thanks to everyone for coming along and for a great event of Old School played in fantastic spirit. We’ll be hosting COPcon VII in a few months’ time so stay tuned for the announcement once we’ve finalised the date.

For Brother Ben and I, the fun didn’t quite stop there. We gamed into the evening with some Brothers’ Highlander. Perhaps the only format where you can still cast Lich on 1 life!
A Lich amongst all his books, a natural habitat of sorts


What’s all this about Brothers’ Highlander, you ask? Well you’ll you just have to keep reading this blog…