At twenty players, today's attendance was the healthiest it has been for a free-standing event in our spiritual home of Mirth Marvel and Maud in Walthamstow - although lacking stalwart attendees Markus (stag do) and Ben (injury). To compensate, we were welcoming back Brother Stebbo from his recent trip as Brothers of Fire's emissary to the Old School communities in the New World. (See a future piece on this blog for a round-up which will hopefully rival Alexis de Tocqueville in both scope and importance).
The importance of the day obviously wasn't lost on our hosts. Among the fine ales on offer was what could only be described as a coded warning against overly-casual Chaos Orb flippers:
|In fairness I've probably been guilty of a few of these, after a few of these...|
With initial niceties out of the way, we set down to tackle five rounds of Swiss, all watched over by Brother Oli in his now traditional role as stats guru. Having been running WG Enchantress in the run-up to the tournament, I fancied something a bit spikier on the day so I rebuilt a variant of my Atog deck:
The original form of this deck took its inspiration from David Chambers's original Trinket Repair Shop. However I have cut Orcish Mechanics (fun but, in my opinion, overrated) and Ankh of Mishra (powerful but not much interaction). Instead, I've gone for a blend of Parfait elements. This, and the use of Blood Moon and City In A Bottle, brings it closer to what some might term hatog than lovatog. I have yet to see this exact approach elsewhere, but I won't claim it is original because it strikes me as pretty obvious. This said, the task of calibrating the exact weighting of Copper Tablets, Black Vises, Howling Mines, Winter Orbs, Mana Vaults, and Relic Barriers is what makes this deck interesting to me.
In its own way, this deck often played out quite controlly - frustrating the opponent's early-game strategy, disrupting the tempo of the game with a Copper Tablet and Winter Orb (or Howling Mine and Vice), and then creating inevitability by Bolting and Chaining my opponent into oblivion in the late game. (The latter experience feeling not dissimilar from playing The Deck and getting to its equivalent: the three-Counterspell-in-hand tipping point).
As a result, my MVP on the day was Winter Orb, which was absolutely brutal against opponents running lean mana bases. I only landed a handful of monster Atog hits all day, but the threat value, particularly with two on the table, is enough to bully opponents even when you don't really want to feed your artifacts to him. More commonly, the Atogs sucked up the hate and cleared the path for Factories, which made them feel like something of a 'control' card in many situations. If you believe the mark of an interesting deck is that it has several paths to victory, then I would say that this cuts the mustard.
On to the tournament. It began with setting up a Skype console for Brother Ben to remotely play whoever got a bye. Unfortunately for him, we had an even number of players, but it was good to know that we can host a virtual player in future - something I'd love to make happen for anyone who can commit to playing the full 5-6 rounds of Swiss as a full participant.
|COPcon embraces Skype|
My first pairing against Chris Cooper (of extensive Skype fame) was a re-run of our earlier preparatory match in the week. Thankfully he was not packing his semi-infamous 'Cooper-school extreme recursion' deck from UK nationals! His mono blue was tight and featured a number of Mahamotis - so unlike his prior deck, it had plenty to love. Fortunately for me, I was on a strong start. In game 1 I sneaked through an 11-point Atog hit, and a Su-Chi did most of the work in game 2 after he knocked out my Library with a Chaos Orb.
|Not pictured: our first use of the venue's overflow area!|
Round 2 against scene veteran Graeme was highly entertaining. His first turn in game one consisted of laying two Howling Mines on the table. When I then played my Library of Alexandria, I had the rather surreal task of having to work hard to get my hand size down far enough to make it usable! He took game one with a Stasis lock.
After sideboarding I was able to wield the all-important Red Elemental Blast, and a Ruby, Sol Ring, Winter Orb, and Factory came together to provide the beatdown.
In game three I made an early Vice stick and although he took me to 12, I finished with a large Fireball. All three games were by turns aggressive and defensive, with the lead changing hands a lot.
At 2-0 I was feeling pretty good but Stuart, playing his first COPcon in Walthamstow, overcame me 2-1 in another enjoyable match. Even with the white splash in the sideboard, my deck was vulnerable to both Moat (which was in his 60) and Serra Angel, which is a real pain for RW to get off the table (for obvious reasons, I'm not playing Swords).
My spotless win record was further sullied by an additional 2-1 loss to Jordan. The contents of his deck have been lost to this ale-tinged mists of time in my brain, but the good vibes of our match and his gentlemanly enquiries as to whether I wished to use my Relic Barrier in his upkeeps remain strong in my recollection.
Like many players with an appreciation for spicy decks, just because I am a member of the Enchantress Fan Club doesn't mean I don't still like to win more than I lose, so at 2-2 I faced George with this objective at stake.
Befitting his professional role at the UK's leading trading house, his deck was a pimped-up beast which always seemed to find an answer for my threats. In game one, the top four cards at one stage consisted of his full complement of three Swords to Plowshares! However my early Blood Moon was too hard to overturn. George had revenge in game two which levelled the scores with brutality: a turn one Juzam, a turn 2 Time Walk and Spirit Link, and a turn three Strip Mine.
As with every match since round one, it came down to a deciding game. This time I squeaked through with the assistance of City In A Bottle. Leaving aside my gratitude towards it for this particular game, I'm still firmly opposed to the renewed calls online from people saying it should be restricted. As my brother has said, if you don't like CiaB, play Artifact Blast.
I finished fourth, and having played different and unpredictable decks in every round, and every match having been close, this felt like the most high-quality day of "competitive" Magic I've played in a long time.
|Note to self: taking losing games to 2-1 is ideal for coming in at the top of a points bracket!|
Note to readers: Your humble writer appears at number 4 under one his aliases
After five rounds of Swiss we had a clear winner and a play-off would have been gilding the lotus. It was time to award the prizes. Bryan Connolly, running URB, stormed through to be unbeaten in the Swiss and take the COP:Artifacts, which will now adorn his seventy-five at all future COPcons. (Watch out, you Armageddon Clockers!).
The main prize of the day, the Brothers Of Fire for Spirit of COPcon, went to newcomer Chris S who was visiting with a delegation from the recently-formed South of England group. It's great to hear of new groups emerging in Old School and I'm hoping Brothers Of Fire can make the return trip to an event of theirs soon. Chris's several off-kilter selections in his WB deck, combined with peerless sportsmanship, clinched the prize on a day that was strong with flavourful decks and good spirit.
Stories circulated of some memorable plays, of which the following three struck me as winners of Play of the Day under many circumstances:
- One counter war after boarding saw 2 Counterspells, a Flash Counter and FIVE Elemental Blasts on the stack
- Ehrnam Djinn triple Giant Growthed in the face of a single untapped Island seemingly for lethal damage... only to be Unsummoned
- A mulligan to five on the play was offset by dropping a land, Mox, Sol Ring, Lotus, Timewister
For those who could remain, we then proceeded to power through the Five Inch Drops and onto the fun games. My Verduran Enchantress got an airing against Graeme's incredible five-colour Elder Dragon deck. I was able to "enjoy" a Magic career-first of losing my whole hand to a successful Nicol Bolas attack. Only two cards, but it counts. Well - it was certainly more fun than being Mind Twisted.
Next up I was eager to play BoF-winner Chris, who had brought a 100-card singleton deck in to our house format: Brothers' Highlander (rules here). I'm hoping to persuade him to write an article about it, so I won't share the full details. But suffice to say it was as close as Magic will ever get to a Tolkein set, realised in the rich palette of Old School. A thing of beauty.
Finally I had a chance to play UK N00bcon 2019 entrant Patrick using his tournament deck from earlier. At this stage we were running on fumes but I had the chance to witness his lovely new alters up close (see deck pic below). I was also able to exact partial revenge for the 5-0 drubbing meted out to me by his wife on our last meeting! In Old School, family pride counts.
With that done, it was all over. Thank you to everyone who came and made it a really great day. I hope to see as many as possible at the next COPcon which is going to have a couple of surprises planned.
|Group photo, minus two|
Chris Cooper - Mono Blue
Patrick - RB (see Maze, bottom right!)
Brother Stebbo - WR "Jetlag control"
Brother Scott - Deadguy Ale
Stuart S - UWb Skies (extra card is a Moat)
Brother Jonas - Atog Parfait