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


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…

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Tournament Report -n00bcon X, 30 March 2018 - by Brother Ben

Another report from the recent N00bcon X, this time by Brother Ben

N00bcon X, the World Championships and pinnacle of Old School. Just the name of the event causes me to recall stumbling across Magnus' blog, and life changing forever.

Modern and Legacy staples being converted into ABU duals and moxen. The delight of building the decks we dreamed of in our youth. The relief of turning our backs on brats squealing "juuudge!".  The end of huge unfriendly tournaments under the strip lights.

In their place, camaraderie and relaxed play in pubs with great players who share our values. I was fortunate enough to make the semi-final this year, and this is my report.

Last year I took a relaxed approach to preparations and brought a kooky Millstone deck featuring Land Tax.  I packed a switcheroo sideboard to bring in fourteen creatures including Dakkon Blackblade, Angry Mob, Lady Evangelina, Knights of Thorn, Preacher, and White Knights. I went 3/4, met some great people, enjoyed great beers, and watched a thrilling final. This year I took a version of The Deck with 1 Abyss, 3 books, Spell Blast and 1 Serra. I was helped by Josh (who represented Spain and came close to top 8 himself) and Brother Stebbo who persuaded me to ditch a few lingering pet cards.

Better than a Clockwork Avian
The Alpha-only Wizards' Tournament event was the perfect aperitif. I expected a room filled with Grizzly Bears, Hill Giants, Craw Wurms, and Drudge Skeletons. But instead, this was a showcase of some amazing Alpha goodies.

The pairings system was genius: find another player and find a table. My Tim / Fungusaur deck got lucky against a round 1 Plague Rats/ Hyppies deck, but after that I was outclassed by Time Vaults, Lotuses, Shivans, and so many Sol Rings! A great event and so good to see these cards being played.

Tim in the graveyard leaving a rather meek Fungusaur

Next day, the main event started with a beer at the bar with the Brothers of Fire, a chance to catch up with old friends from last year, and to make new ones.

Brothers Of Fire unite!
I drew round 1 and then hit a hot streak with my deck behaving well enough to go 5.1.1. and make the top 8. It was a truly international field as I enjoyed games against players from Spain, Italy, Sweden, and more. I was impressed all weekend with the Italians in particular and would like to make it to Fishliver Oil to play them again.

One example of great sportsmanship - my opponent declared his own Chaos Orb flips invalid twice. The same guy gave me the benefit of the doubt over a Mana Drain. The true spirit of N00bcon.

My quarter final opponent was robbed. Game 1 I lucked out with a Library on the draw. Game 2 I lucked out with land, Mox, Lotus, and a Mind Twist. I don't advocate banning Library or Twist, but I do like the 'gentlemen's rule' of setting them aside.

I have played a lot of pros over the years, but the semi-final was my first game against Olle. In game 1 it was my turn to get rolled over by an unanswered Library. The second game was a watershed moment for me. He outplayed me, patiently holding back 2 Serendib Efreets on 6 mana, to preserve the ability to double counter. I learned a lot from that game.

That left time for a lot more beer at the bar and an epic ante game with a new American friend.

Thanks again to Magnus for organising, and to everyone who made the weekend so special.

(l-r: Brother Markus, Brother Stebbo, Brother Scott, Brother Jonas, Brother Ben (author))
The other magical side of N00bcon: the Swedish mystic pizza!

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Tournament Report - Wizards' Tournament I, 29th March 2017 - by Brother Scott: "Back To The Beginning"

Editor's note: Apologies for the recent lack of content (I'm in the middle of a major international relocation).  Stay tuned for a series of tournament reports from recent major events.  Today's excellent instalment by Brother Scott below!
On November 10, 2017 Magnus de Laval revealed his idea for the Wizards' Tournament.  A pre-n00bcon warm-up tournament that was *truly* old school: only Alpha cards allowed, playing by the Alpha rules.  No proxies.  No reprints.  No mulligans.  No play/draw rule.  No 4-of limit.  No sideboards.  No triple-sleeving.  Just 40 or more of the very earliest Magic cards shuffled up unsleeved or in old-fashioned clear plastic sleeves.
As soon as I heard about the tournament I wanted in!  Who could resist the chance to go back to the beginning of Magic?  And there was an obvious candidate deck to play…but to explain what deck and why I have to take you back to *my* beginning of Magic. 
Not many players these days (or ever, I suspect) get their DCI number by entering a Legacy tournament playing with an unsleeved deck that includes a main-deck Goblin Digging Team.  On June 21, 1999 that’s exactly what I did:
Black/Red deck by Scott Latham
Type 1.5 tournament - Southsea, Hampshire, 21 June 1999


Erg Raiders
Bog Wraith
Barrow Ghoul
Cadaverous Knight
Dancing Scimitar
Dauthi Cutthroat
Dauthi Horror
Goblin Digging Team
Hidden Horror
Mountain Goat
Searing Spear Askari
Shadow Rider
Sorceress Queen
Squirming Mass
Wall of Diffusion
Wall of Heat
Wild Colos

Lava Burst
Unholy Strength
Drain Life
Kaervek's Torch

Animate Dead
Ashes to Ashes
Bog Rats
Fit of Rage
Haunting Misery
Tendrils of Despair
Trumpet Blast
Volcanic Dragon
Walking Wall

Not only do I have the decklist from this auspicious day, but this was before the digital age of WER and DCI reporter.  This was the age of the paper scorecard.  So I also have my scorecard!

Amazingly my janky Black/Red deck ended up with a 2-2 record.  The tournament winner is however lost to history. I’m guessing it was won by someone whose main deck had more than 2 rares (I had just Dancing Scimitar and Sorceress Queen).  However, what I have never forgotten from that day was the joy at winning some matches (I can play this game!  Against other people!  And beat them!!) and the chastening “headteacher’s study” telling off I got when the judge realised afterwards that I hadn’t de-sideboarded at any point during any round of the tournament*.
(*Side note: don’t explain sideboarding to brand new players as simply “your sideboard is 15 extra cards that you can swap in and out of your deck between games”.)
So of course, when 18 years later the Wizards Tournament came around there was an obvious candidate deck for me – a revival of this original Black/Red deck.  The only trouble was, when you look at that original list, it leans heavily on Arabian Nights and Ice Age.  Only nine of my main deck non-land cards are actually cards that even appear in Alpha.
However, it became clear that I could maintain the spirit of the deck (small to medium-sized creatures backed up by burn) whilst switching to Alpha cards and making the deck a bit stronger too.  Goodbye Incinerate and Lava Burst; hello Lightning Bolt and Fireball.  And - much as I love Goblin Digging Team – goodbye to the pure jank and hello to Orcish Artillery (wildly undercosted in Alpha at 1R) and Sengir Vampire (which being flying, un-Terrorable and beyond Bolt range is a serious threat in Alpha).
The tournament also finally presented an excuse for me to join the 1,100 club* by obtaining my first Alpha rare – Granite Gargoyle.  I actually ended up buying two copies of it, mirroring the two rares of my 1999 deck, and I had a smile on my face every time I got to play one of them. 
(*Side note: about 1,100 copies of each Alpha rare card were printed, hence my - confusing to some people - Facebook reference to “joining the 1,100 club” when I bought my first Alpha rare.  Sadly there isn’t actually a club for people who own Alpha rares, and nor is this a euphemism related to low-flying aircraft).
However, one creature from the original deck just had to stay.  Bog Wraith was one of my favourite cards when I started, but since my original ones were 5th Edition, an Alpha Bog Wraith was the first card I bought the day after the tournament was announced.
Eventually after raiding my existing collection, scouring the trade halls at GP London, a few frantic late-night clicks on MKM, and a hand-delivered card from Magic Madhouse on the afternoon of the tournament (thanks Jason Savage!) I was able to sleeve up (into genuine 1990s clear Ultra Pro sleeves) the following 45 cards to take on the other Wizards:

The final build ended up as 11 creatures, 8 burn spells, and a bit of utility.  From the original 1999 list the only survivors ended up being 19 lands plus 2x Bog Wraith, 2x Terror, 1x Disintegrate and 1x Shatter (upgraded from the sideboard in 1999 to the main deck in 2018).  Very early on in deckbuilding I decided that there had to be 5 Lightning Bolts – not only is it the best red card but I couldn’t pass up the chance to legitimately* play 5 of something in a tournament!
(Side note*: I say “legitimately play” as when I made my Standard debut in 2004 I accidentally played 5 Welding Jars in my Affinity deck - 3 in my maindeck and 2 in my sideboard.)

The tournament was announced as being 5 rounds plus a final.  Having gone 2-2 in 1999, my ideal goal was to better that, although I will admit I was a little nervous as to what crazy decks might be out there, and whether I would win any games at all!
The pairings system for the Wizards Tournament was absurdly amazing: the judge (sorry “referee”) simply declared to the room: “Find someone to play and play them!”  As Round 1 was announced I was standing close to Leo Bruder, a German player.  Leo had come to the UK for a tournament in 2017 but we didn’t get chance to play then, so we both thought it would be fun to play here.  Leo won the match mainly through abusing two copies of Disrupting Scepter, which becomes a bit overpowered when “discard a card” is interpreted under Alpha rules as “discard a card from play if you don’t have a card in your hand”!
Round 2 saw me play another German, and someone I had often played on Skype but never in person.  Florian Von Bredow was as always a charming opponent, although his Fungusaur/Prodigal Sorcerer deck became my Red/Black’s first victim when he unfortunately accidentally revealed a Berserk from hand by starting to cast it and then changing his mind.  I was then able to hold mana up for Terror until the Berserk was finally played, nullifying the lethal strike and allowing me victory.
Round 3 gave me a chance for revenge against Old School scene legend Gordon Andersson.  He had defeated me on his home turf of Stockholm the previous month, and alas here proved again to be the stronger wizard, with his UR deck missing some of its usual Power but still with enough counter and burn to see me off. 

So at 1-2 I was going to have to win both of the final two rounds if Black/Red was to improve on its 2-2 from 1999.
In Round 4 I played the very friendly Braida Andrea from Italy.  We had some very good games - mainly with him playing a lot of Juggernauts and me bolting them.  However, the decisive moment came when I killed his Mahamoti Djinn, but crucially using Disintegrate to remove it from the game entirely.  Though he had Resurrection in hand, his Mahamoti was literally beyond the grave and couldn’t be recalled, leaving me the winner!

Finally, Round 5 was another chance for a re-match from Stockholm as I took on Bjorn.  Bjorn had an amazing deck and was playing his Alpha Power unsleeved - much respect for that!  However, again the Red/Black emerged victorious with Bog Wraith turning out to be good tech in this one against his blue/black deck.  Although I look concerned in the photo below, facing down a two Juggernauts with only my row of mountains, I then drew a Fireball which I split 3-3 to polish them both off and head on to victory.

So I finished 3-2 – improving my score from 1999, and having a lot of fun in the process, both reliving some nostalgia with Bog Wraiths and Disintegrate, and using my newly-purchased Gargoyles and Artilleries.  Marc Lanigra and Andreas Cermak, the two undefeated players, faced off in the final, with Marc’s amazing Alpha collection on full display as he and his 5 Sol Rings took the top prize! 

Reflecting on the day, of course there is a reason that the game’s rules evolved – Magic is not at its absolute best when you’re forced to keep a 0/7 land hand, when your opponent’s turn 1 is to play 2 Sol Rings, or when someone can destroy all your lands with a Disrupting Scepter.  However, it was still a very fun evening and a great excuse to buy lots of Alpha cards.  Whilst the Wizards' Tournament may go down in history as a one-off event, I have a sneaking suspicion that in the future this might turn out to have been “Wizards' Tournament I”.