Sunday, 19 May 2019

Tournament Report: Fishing in Sweden: my first Noobcon - by Brother Jordan

About five months after Andrew, Pieter and I won the Team World Cup and got our first ever n00bcon invites, the day had finally arrived! I put quite a lot of thought into my deck over that period, and was pretty happy with what I'd come up with given my constraints - namely that most of my collection is Revised / FBB, which are allowed under UK rules but considered proxies in Sweden.

I couldn't afford to upgrade any of the expensive stuff (duals etc), but I was happy to buy Unlimited random stuff. So that meant I had to go mono-colour, and because I'd recently acquired a Time Walk, an Ancestral, and a Sapphire, I figured I should go blue. Unfortunately I certainly couldn't afford to get Swedish-legal Dibs and although Brother Ben had kindly offered to lend me some, I personally think it's bad mojo to borrow cards. I also don't like playing obviously sub-optimal versions of a given concept (happy to play sub-optimal concepts though), so I wanted to find a mono-blue deck that didn't even want them. I toyed with some weird Ghost Ship / Giant Tortoise control deck, but Ben gave me the sensible advice to play something quicker / easier so I'd have drinking time. I eventually settled on fish!

The only lists I'd seen running the Pearl Trident crew were pretty classic suicide blue builds including Dibs and Unstable Mutations, and generally few to no counters. Some early playtesting convinced me that Unstables suck (mostly because it's so easy to get two-for-one'd, and they're a dead draw when you have an empty board). I also really like countering spells, so I decided to go more in that direction. Ben helped once again by suggesting main-deck Energy Flux (good call!), and then I wanted to play Psi Blasts and a couple of Control Magics (strong card I think). With six three-drops already, I was able to tell myself the deck didn't want Dibs because they'd ruin the mana curve (and in retrospect I think that may have been true!). Anyway, after a lot of thinking and a fair bit of testing, I settled on this list:

I got to Gothenburg around 6 on Thursday evening and ended up having a great first day and drinking until 3-ish. After breakfast and then pizza, we got to the pub a bit early and quite thirsty, only to find that it wasn't open yet! But there was a great atmosphere already and before too long they let us in. At that point I was feeling quite excited and moderately optimistic, but basically I was hoping to win more matches than I lost. Anyway, after a fair bit of waiting, much chatting and a couple of beers, we finally got our first pairings.

I remember shockingly few details from the day's play but here's a rough overview of what happened. Round 1 was against Will, who'd I'd been chatting to earlier and had come all the way from America. He was playing (as I would later discover) the same 75 as Svante and Brian - a finely-tuned and rather potent Atog build. But as luck would have it, I got lucky - or rather, Will got unlucky. I think he drew something like 4 or 5 lands total in two games and the fish came out on curve and made good use of Energy Flux in game 1. Will was a total gent about it, but nobody likes getting mana screwed. I was quite relieved to win my first match, in part because I figured my deck would actually do better against the higher end of the field (things like white weenie or green ramp would have wrecked me I think).

I ended up winning my next three matches as well, one of which was against Svante. I didn't yet know that it was exactly the same list, but it was clearly Atog. This time round we did actually have real games, but luck smiled on me again. Flux did some good work for me, and City in a Bottle did some good work for him. I think I managed to win one of the games after Svante's deck didn't give him a single land on a Timetwister, allowing me to finish it with my seven new cards. In the last game, a lengthy back-and-forth led to the point where Svante had nothing much on the board, and I had a DanDan and two flying men, with one Counterspell in hand. He played a Bottle, which I obviously had to counter, but he followed it up with a Balance - his last card in hand (I had several). Luckily for me I went on to draw a few fish while he drew vices and land, allowing me to sneak the win.

In round 5 I was paired up against Bryan, who finally got revenge for the Atog list. In the first game he had to mull down to 4, ultimately keeping a hand with no lands. He was on the play, so his first turn involved doing literally nothing. Needless to say I was pretty confident of the win at this point, but it wasn't to be. I had kept a hand with just one land and a Sapphire (a reasonable keep on the draw for my deck), but I ended up drawing only one more land in the game. He dropped an early vice (turn 2 maybe), and I happened to have a hand with mostly counters. The net result was that I couldn't play enough cards to get under the vice, and didn't have much by way of pressure. The vice and a bit of burn ultimately did me in, for a rather embarrassing loss. The second game was another sound beating, leaving me on 4-1 and bringing my winning streak to an end.

At this point I knew I couldn't afford another loss, and fortunately I managed to win round 6. The final round of Swiss was incredibly tense, since the winner would make the Top 8 and the loser wouldn't. I was paired up against a gentleman whose name now escapes me, and I had no clue what he was playing. In contrast to the rest of the day, this match involved minimal chit-chat - we were both focussed on getting the win. In the first game he played a Sylvan, duals of various colours and quite a few restricted cards, but his deck didn't really do anything. I had a fairly aggressive start and won it quite quickly with a swarm of little dudes, but I was left with no idea of what he was playing. Having seen that he played islands, I boarded in two more DanDans and left it at that. In the second game it quickly became apparent that he was in fact playing Twiddle Vault, and despite drawing loads of extra cards off his howling mines, I wasn't able to finish him before his deck went off big time, taking about five turns in a row by recurring Time Walk before eventually dropping the Vault with multiple Twiddles in hand, at which point I scooped (although in retrospect I maybe should have made him play it out - he still needed to kill me somehow). 

Having now seen what the deck did, I boarded out my Unsummons and Control Magics and boarded in more Energy Flux (for the Mines) and a few other things. I played first and dropped a 1/1 dork, followed up by two more on my second turn. But there was a nasty surprise waiting for me on his second turn: Mana Vault into Erhnam, follwed by another Mana Vault and another Erhnam on turn three! Turns out he had a transformative sideboard that made it more of an Erhnageddon type thing. Suddenly my hopes of victory were dashed, having taken out most of my answers to big creatures. 

After a turn or two of me swinging with little dorks and him swinging with big scary Djinns, I managed to kill one of them by blocking with a Pearl Trident and then Psi Blasting, leaving me on 3 and him on a lot more. As luck would have it, I top-decked Chaos Orb. This was probably the highest pressure flip I've ever had to make, but I made it and took out the second Djinn. Miraculously he drew no further threats, and over the next few turns I managed to kill him with a few fish.

To my amazement, my tiebreakers meant that I finished the Swiss in second place! My quarter-final match ended up being a bit of an anticlimax, losing fairly quickly to an opponent playing a different Atog build with Su-Chi and some other stuff. In retrospect I think I was playing quite badly (there was a long delay before the Semis, during which the adrenaline wore off and the beer started catching up with me), but I'm not sure if my misplays were decisive. Of course I would have loved to go further, but I was totally happy to have gotten so far and walked away with a trophy and, fittingly, a copy of Deep Water!

Finally, I wanted to share some thoughts about the deck, having played it quite a lot against a wide range of opponents (both at n00bcon and in preparation for it). Overall, I'm certainly not going to pretend it's a Tier 1 deck - I wouldn't have gotten as far as I did without quite a lot of luck. But it's relatively affordable, fun to play, and stronger than it looks at first glance.

In terms of the creature suite: Flying Men are great (pity they die to Bottle), and the Merfolk (mainly the Lords) are possibly even better. The DanDans proved surprisingly strong, even in main deck (though again the Bottle thing really sucks!). At worst, they're a 4/1 wall for UU, which trades with pumped Factories, Su-Chis, and various other things. At best, they're a pretty fast clock! The Serendib Djins didn't pull their weight (extremely situational), so I plan to cut them for two Clones (mainly to copy Lords). I'm not certain Dibs would actually make it better, but they might.

In terms of mana base: It felt about right overall. Not sure about the Sol Ring - it should maybe be a 4th Factory or another Island).

In terms of other spells: I was VERY glad to be playing counters - you need them against all the higher-impact cards out there. Adding a Mana Drain (mine is Italian) probably wouldn't hurt, but the Spell Blasts were pretty great (so many of the things you want to counter are only 1 or 2 mana). The two main-deck Energy Fluxes were very useful, as were the Control Magics. And the one main deck Phantasmal Terrain was pretty handy, mainly as another answer to Library, Maze, and Factory - but occasionally to make an Island for the fish. A second one wouldn't hurt, but there isn't anything I'd cut for it.

I hope someone out there finds this useful! Happy Fishing!

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Tournament Report, n00bcon XI - Brother Jonas

What, a hundred, man?
- Henry V
Henry IV, Part I, [II, 4]

This year's n00bcon was shaping up to be the largest festival of Old School ever held, thanks to the ongoing growth in the popularity of the format and the fact that in addition to the World Championships, a series of independent side events in Gothenburg presented an overload of gaming and socialising opportunities.  On top of that, the list of attendees was a veritable Who's Who? of global Old School.

With so much to look forward to, all I could think beforehand was that the only danger was that expectations would simply be too high.  In accordance with the scale of the event, I decided to set myself a personal Everest: to complete 'The Century of Bolts' by casting Lightning Bolt 100 times in real play over the days we were out there.  A handheld clicking-counter was duly purchased on eBay for the purpose.

Qualification for n00bcon is tough - there simply isn't room for everyone who might want to attend.  But thanks in part to success in the World Cup, the Brothers Of Fire was again a large delegation this year, with plenty of first-timers in our team.  As a result, a large group formed on Thursday morning at Stansted Airport for Roc of Kher Ridges Airways to ferry us to our destination.  After, that is, the now-traditional full English breakfast:

Stebbo keeping it tight in 1993 swag
With time for some in-flight warm-up games against Brother Ben, I was able to make the first two entries in my quest to scale the Century.

After a quick stop-off at the hotel, we headed on to the Rotary, the spiritual home of Old School.  It's always an experience to walk in, but this year felt even headier than usual.  In the early 00s Weezer made a music video in the form of all the current memes of the time, inviting the participants back to a large studio to recreate their moments of fame.  The participants commented afterwards that it "felt like walking into the internet", and there was something of this for me, especially given the growth of podcast content in the last year which has brought people's voices to eager ears.

We also had the chance to see David M's incredible contribution, the Old School Heroes card game!  Probably the first and last time I will be immortalised in cardboard form, complete with Minor Threat flavour text...

With that done, we were into the Wizards' Tournament 2, a chance to turn the clock back to 1993 and enjoy the game in full throwback style.  With a very meagre Alpha collection myself, I was assisted heavily by a 'Mysterious Benefactor' who lent me my deck.  By bringing my own Alpha bolts to the table, we were able to unleash 'the DecaBolt', which meant I was packing 10 bolts in my 40-card deck.  If you're going to break the four-of card restriction, then you may as well do it properly! Plus, it's a common card - so, you know, " Garfield intended", right?

Brother Pat and I in obligatory backpatch mode
Seeing as they were his cards, I'll leave my Benefactor to discuss the exact makeup of the deck in a future article, but suffice to say, for a "cut-me-and-I-bleed-red" burn mage like myself, this was the Old School equivalent of driving a drag racer.  But then, performance was secondary to the richness and fun-factor of the event. For my first game, I was lucky enough to be seated next to Jason Schwarz and to watch his jaw-dropping fully-powered deck in action, all without basic compromises to modernity like, er, sleeves.

Chaos Orb countermeasures, Deckmaster-style

As well as a frankly indecent number of 93-era Orcish Artilleries, I cast a fair few Lightning Bolts in the course of the action, and tracked every one on my trusty Bolt-counter on my way to a solid 3-2 finish.  My running total provoked a few moments of mirth, although I did feel sorry for Alex P who was on the end of no fewer than eight of them in the course of one short game.  I don't think I will ever cast so many again.  I also learned that in 1993, Iron Star was absolutely busted!

By the end of the day, I retired to grab dinner with a number of the others, and was pleased to reflect on a very healthy count:

While eating, we learned that Brother Stebbo had heroically made it to the final of the event, which was the subject of some celebration.  That he was beaten by an unbeatable deck was perhaps a shame.  Personally I consider Alpha-only Magic to be even more of a "who gets the joke?" format than Old School, which in itself ought to be played very much in recognition of the absurdity of the game.  On that basis, the fielding of the kind of deck we whispered about in school playgrounds seemed amusing and fitting.  On the other hand, the complete removal of chance maybe took it too far - with similarly insane resources at my disposal, I would have been tempted to run with the mythical Benalish Hero / Crusade megadeck.  But each to their own - I felt that the winner had proven his point, but for Stebbo to reach the final using his own cards, and only singles of many of the power (including Chaos Orb) was a notable achievement even by his spiky standards!

Few of us wanted to overdo the festivities that night, conscious that tomorrow was the big event (no, not the Ryder Cup, although more on that later).

In traditional style, this began with MG's balcony address, much good cheer and anticipation, and the signing of the greatest prize of them all:

Upon picking up my name tag I also noted that I have finally entered the select coterie of nicknamed n00bcon attendees...

This year was an evolved version of the deck I have fielded twice at n00bcon - every year I add more white to the red base, which means I am now pink and will presumably soon be turning a whiter shade of pale. By 2023 I will be running a certain WWW Arabian Nights card with a risque title...

I built this deck to ensure interactive games - in Bolt, Disenchant, Divine Offering, and Swords it has answers to pretty much everything, but plenty of early threat value in the form of Lions, and then some mid-range power in the Su-Chis and Angels.

Unfortunately, its performance in the tournament fell below expectations - I came out 3-4.  Despite this, I had some brilliant games against Charlie H, the dapper Martin Berlin, Alex Raja, Vincent Protic, and a particularly memorable (and close) final match-up against Francesc Montserrat. I was also able to cast a LOT of Lightning Bolts, taking me to 74 for the weekend:

With the formality of this event out of the way, we proceeded to the Ryder Cup - the annual Chaos Orb flip-off contest initiated by the UK and competed for by delegations from our side and from the USA.  (It has since been commented that the 'other' Ryder Cup - in golf - is actually competed for between the US and Europe - in fact this has only been the case since 1979).

While the trophy had been in possession of the US team, its custodian, Shane, had given it the mother of all makeovers.  I was rendered speechless upon seeing the formerly humble prize now elevated to something closer to its full status:

With the US holding the trophy from last year's narrow win, I once again captained the British delegation.  Unfortunately, our colonial cousins were once again stronger, edging the prize 3-2.

It was an emotional defeat, but with the consolation of knowing that with the new trophy and this fresh infusion of interest in the competition, its international future feels assured for the coming years.  I congratulate my opposite number as captain, Danny - although it's fitting that our personal head-to-head score as captains remains 1-1.  (This ongoing contest also doesn't dim the spirit of fraternisation between our countries - with Shane made Brothers of Fire's first-ever honorary member and Will M and Mano becoming official trial prospects for membership).

Even now, the fun was not over, with Markus's much-anticipated '40K' ante tournament taking place. This was one for the serious players, but made good watching.

Too rich for my blood, even with all those Jewelled Birds flying about!
The World Championships ran late - with Svante's Atog build (co-authored with Mano and Will M) competing in the final against Fluffy's The Deck. The fact that the meta in Sweden is still evolving feels to me like incredible validation of the depth of Old School as a game in the purest sense, which remains 'unsolved' even after the collective engagement of millions of brain-hours.

By day three, it was time for something different and the Brothers Of Fire held our own side event: the Venarian Gold Social.  Guest of honour was Brother Jordan, who upheld the honour of our entire club by absolutely smashing it at n00bcon - going to 2nd in the Swiss and bowing out with much acclaim in the quarter-finals.  Not only this, but a feat he achieved without any borrowed cards, and running mono-blue Merfolk!  An achievement for the annals.

The Venarian Gold Social was a chance to step back from usual Old School and to take in the sights of Gothenburg while playing some Brothers' Highlander (our house format of 100-card singleton).  Needless to say, this was a great day.  I even managed to add to my bolt count, although I still lay some way short of my century:

The day unfolded perfectly to plan as we were joined by a succession of people who also fancied a change of pace.  What wasn't in the plan was a considerable late-night escalation as the Venarian Gold Social achieved lift-off and became a major karaoke party in a downtown bar.  Much hilarity ensued (some of it captured elsewhere on the internet).  Some things are maybe left better in the memory, but personal highlights included a group singalong to Bryan Adams's 'Summer of 93', a live rendition of the All Tings Considered podcast theme tune by its host, Mano, and some incredible hi-jinks from Gordon Andersson.  For me this was possibly the highlight of a weekend full of them.

The winners of the Social: Hunter P (Gold), Mano (Silver), and Florian von B (Bronze)

Gordon giving it everything

Two brothers doing Weezer

With our flights home booked for the evening, we had one day left.  Thankfully the amazing chaps of the Urborg Legion had organised a final day event at a pub - ABU only.  Upon arrival, we also discovered that Christian had banned Mind Twist to keep the day fun - this went down less well with some of our group:

Let's (not) Twist Again
As well as wanting to do well in the event, I also had one eye on completing the century.  Brother Stebbo agreed to play games in the departure lounge if that was what it took - but I wanted to achieve it in open play if I possibly could.

For this event I wanted to give some play to Goblin King as well as air a few under-appreciated core set cards - but crucially I wanted to see plenty of bolts.  I had fun matchups with Elias, Bjorn Johnnie (who avenged our last match with a clinical 2-0 win), Brother Stebbo, and Martin J.  With one match to go, I was achingly close to my goal at a total of 96, with this photo taken shortly before:

Cometh the hour, cometh the man - Christian himself stepped up for my final game in the tournament.  After he was forced to Berserk my Dragon Whelp in our first game I feared I wouldn't make it, but fortunately there was enough in the tank and I crossed the line just in time, bolting him to the face at the start of game two just to make sure.

With that milestone done, and the ceremonial raising of the bat, it was time to complete the tournament (won overall by Brother Stebbo), and after final handshakes we returned home, complete in my case with a LOT of new swag:

Reviewing the other reviews and podcasts about the event, I am struck by a strong shared theme of people feeling an incredible sense of connection to the event. To those who weren't there from our community, this probably feels disappointing to have missed out on. And to those who might read this someday who have no idea what Old School is, the whole thing might feel baffling, overly-sentimental, or even a bit weird.  I guess, on both counts, it really was one of those things where "you had to be there", but after all the cards are cleared away what stays with me are three things:

Firstly, the sense of people getting together in real life to share something they are passionate about. The internet is becoming a more crowded and, with that, a less-pleasant place to discuss Old School. But what happens online isn't really Old School - it is at best something that keeps you going between bouts of the real thing, which is sitting down and sharing a beer with a stranger but walking away with something gained on both sides. When that happens, good vibes are inevitable.

Secondly is the sense of continuity. We know that the format of the World Championships is due to change soon, and that this may be the last year that n00bcon takes on this kind of form. If this really is the end of this phase of Old School, I feel that everyone there will have drunk deeply of this spirit and it will continue to flow through the other events round the world that will continue to take place. And hopefully part of that continuity will continue to be the dozens of little traditions including our (very-unserious-honest!) biker gangs, the Easter Eggs, the Gentleman's badge, and the Ryder Cup.

Thirdly and finally, it's about good people getting the joke. My deck featured cards of not insignificant value gifted to me in the days before the event, both by people in my team, and by people I've never even met in the flesh. We are all grown adults rotating cardboard, but within the envelope of that, there is so much scope for the things that matter in life - meeting new people, showing kindness, and enjoying a shared passion. In the end, 'getting the joke' isn't about sarcasm or the need to put up a barrier between your 'serious' life and your 'fun' hobby.  'Getting the joke' and committing to the community is what sets the stage to enjoy - without the need for irony - the pure fun of events like this.

If that sounds mawkish or over-sentimental well, I guess maybe you did have to be there!

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Old School Rules FAQ May 2019 - By Brother Scott

In the glorious sunshine of the Urborg Feast outdoor tournament in Gothenburg this April this year I had the pleasure of doing something I’d never done before – judging at an Old School tournament.
This was, I admit, not an onerous exercise – I think between us the three judges only had ten judge calls all day.  However, the recurring themes about what was asked – and questions I’ve seen from other puzzled mages posting on the internet – guided me into thinking that it would be helpful to set out some tips about the Old School cards and rules that cause the most confusion.
I hope that you will be able to use this article in two ways:
  1. To dip into now to give you some ideas of possible extra fun ways to use your favourite cards (or play cards correctly with confidence that you’ve always been a bit unsure about).
  2. As a future reference source if you’re in the middle of a game and suddenly think “oh – how does THIS work?”  (add this article to your Favourites!) The tips are all alphabetised by card name/ability to help with this.

Just one warning: the rules of Magic change from time to time – these rulings are all correct as of May 2019 and apply if you’re playing Old School using the current Magic rules.  If you’re playing Alpha 40 using the original Alpha rules, or playing some other local variation, then of course these answers may not all hold true. I have deliberately used some old school terminology  because I find that phrases such as “fizzle,” “summoning sickness” and “removed from the game” are not only more evocative but clearer – but that’s just description: the outcomes are those produced by the current Rules.
Finally, huge thanks to Dave Firth Bard and Chris Cooper for their proofreading and valuable suggestions and additions.
The Abyss
Q1: Can I regenerate my Sedge Troll to save it from The Abyss?
No – The Abyss says on it that creatures it targets can’t be regenerated!  (You can pay one black mana if you really want to use the regeneration ability, but the Troll will still die.)
Q2: Can The Abyss destroy a White Knight, bearing in mind it has Protection from Black?
No it can’t – The Abyss requires a target, and a black card can’t target something with Protection from Black.  Another target must be chosen, if possible.
Banding boils down to two things:
  • When attacking - Any number of creatures with banding plus up to one creature without banding can be chosen to form a band when attacking.  Then (a) if one creature in an attacking band is blocked, the whole band is blocked, but also (b) the controller of the band gets to decide how damage from the blocking creature(s) is distributed among creatures in the band.  Point (a) is a drawback, but point (b) can be quite useful to you in combat.
  • When blocking – If a creature with Banding is blocking a creature, either alone or with other blockers, the Banding creature’s controller chooses how any damage dealt by the blocked creature is assigned.
For some attacking examples let’s imagine as an example that you choose to form a band consisting of two creatures: Mesa Pegasus (1/1 flying banding) and War Mammoth (3/3 trample), and then attack.
Q1: Can a creature without flying block my band?
Yes.  The mammoth doesn’t have flying, and if your opponent blocks it (say, with a 5/4 Water Elemental) the whole band is then blocked due to point (a) above.
Q2: If he does block like that, can I choose all 5 damage of the Water Elemental’s damage to be dealt to the Pegasus?
Yes.  Point (b) above means you get to assign the damage, and can assign all 5 to Mesa Pegasus even though that’s more than enough to kill it.  The Water Elemental will take 4 damage and die, so you’ll end up trading a Pegasus for the Elemental, and the War Mammoth will survive (you could also choose the Mammoth to take the 5 damage if you preferred the Pegasus to survive).
Q3: What happens if I block a creature with Trample using a creature with Banding?
Let’s say a Force of Nature (8/8 trample) is attacking, and you block with your Mesa Pegasus and War Mammoth.  Normally your opponent would choose to deal 1 damage to the Pegasus, 3 to the Mammoth, and 4 trample damage to you.  But with banding YOU get to choose how damage is done. So you can choose to assign all 8 damage to the Mesa Pegasus (or the Mammoth).  If you do, none will trample over to you or kill your other creature. Even if you chump block with just the Mesa Pegasus you can still choose for it to take all 8 damage, with none trampling over.
Blood Moon
Q1: My opponent plays Blood Moon and in response I activate my Mishra’s Factory to make it a 2/2 creature.  What is it once Blood Moon resolves?
Until the end of the turn it’s a mountain that’s also a 2/2 artifact creature. Note that it will no longer have its other abilities, including the ability to give an assembly worker +1/+1.   From the next turn onwards it becomes simply a mountain, and no longer a creature.
Q2: My opponent has both Blood Moon and Library of Alexandria in play.  I play City in a Bottle. Does my opponent have to sacrifice her Library?
Yes.  Although it’s now a mountain, its NAME is still “Library of Alexandria”, and because Library of Alexandria was first printed in Arabian Nights it has to be sacrificed.
Chains of Mephistopheles
The effect of this card is best visualised as a flow chart, such as this one created by the user “silvercut” on mtgsalvation:
Chaos Orb
Note also the most commonly used errata for Chaos Orb in old school does not “target”, but rather says “1, Tap: Choose a nontoken permanent on the battlefield….”.  This means that when activating Chaos Orb you don’t need to say what you’re going to flip it at until the ability actually resolves. If your opponent responds to the Chaos Orb’s activation (for example, by removing counters from the Triskelion you were thinking of destroying, say) you can change your mind and flip it at something else.  You only have to say what you’re aiming at just before you flip it.
Q1: My opponent activates his Chaos Orb – if I Disenchant it in response, will that stop its ability?
Yes.  When the opponent activates the Orb its ability goes on the stack.  If you disenchant the Orb in response then when its ability resolves there is no Orb in play any more to flip onto the table.  The Orb’s ability will therefore fizzle.
Q2:  If I play Disenchant to destroy the Orb, is my opponent allowed to respond by using it?
Yes.  Disenchant goes on the stack, and they can use the Orb in response – in which case the Orb will do its flip and potentially destroy something before Disenchant resolves.  By the time Disenchant resolves the Orb is gone and Disenchant will just fizzle.
Q3: My opponent’s Chaos Orb flip has landed so that just the very edge of the Orb’s sleeve is touching the very edge of my Serra Angel’s sleeve – is it still destroyed?
Yes – card sleeves count as the card, so the Angel is destroyed.
Q4: Can I wait to see what the Orb is aiming for and whether it hits before I use Triskelion’s counters / pay B to regenerate my Sedge Troll / sacrifice something to pump my Atog etc?
No.  Once the Orb is flipped the ability has resolved, and if it hits then the chosen card is destroyed.  If you want to do any of those things you have to do it in response to the Orb being activated, not after the flip has already happened.
Q5: I want to use Chaos Orb to destroy a wasp from The Hive, but my opponent is using a dice as a token.  Does she have to switch it for a card for the purposes of the flip?
Chaos Orb can only target cards and not tokens – you can’t use it to target a wasp!
City in a Bottle
Q: My opponent is using Mountains from the Arabian Nights set.  Does she have to sacrifice them when I play City in a Bottle?
No.  Only cards first printed in Arabian Nights are sacrificed, and Mountain was in Alpha/Beta and Unlimited too.
City of Brass
Q: I’m on 1 life and my opponent is on 3.  Can I use a red mana from City of Brass to kill them with Lightning Bolt or Chain Lightning, or would that kill me?
You can tap City of Brass to generate a red mana.  This will put a trigger on the stack for you to be dealt 1 damage.  You can respond to that trigger by playing Lightning Bolt to kill your opponent.  However, you CANNOT respond to that trigger by playing Chain Lightning, because it’s a Sorcery, so it can only be played when the stack is empty.
Copy Artifact
TIP: I find it easiest to think about any copy effects (Copy Artifact, Clone etc) as if the copy is literally a copy of the card, rather than a copy of what’s on the battlefield.  So just imagine that rather than copying it, you’ve ripped open a pack, taken one out, and put it into play.
Q1: Can I copy a Mishra’s Factory that’s currently activated and hence is an artifact?  If so what’s the copy?
The copy is an (unactivated) Mishra’s Factory, exactly as if you’d just played a Mishra’s Factory fresh from a pack (except that it's also an enchantment as well, because Copy Artifact says so).
Q2: If I copy a Triskelion with no counters left, how many counters does the copy have?
Three.   Again, just imagine you’ve played a brand new Triskelion.
Q3: If I play Copy Artifact hoping to copy a Su Chi, but the opponent destroys Su Chi in response, when Copy Artifact resolves does it fizzle or can I/must I choose something else?
You only choose what to copy when it resolves (it doesn’t target) so if there’s another artifact in play, you must choose to copy that instead.  If there are no other artifacts in play at all then Copy Artifact will come into play as a blue enchantment that does nothing (it will NOT fizzle and go to the graveyard!). However, if there are one or more artifacts in play you MUST choose one of them to copy – you can’t say “well that only leaves Copper Tablet and I don’t really want another copy of that.”
Q: I’m on 3 life and my opponent is on 5 life.  I cast Earthquake for 5. What’s the result of the game?
It’s a draw.  The damage happens at the same time, so you go to -2 and your opponent to 0 simultaneously.  When the game checks the situation it simply sees that both players are dead, and so calls it a draw.  Psionic Blast and Hurricane can cause the same effect.
Energy Flux
Q1: Can I not pay the upkeep on Su Chi, then use its 4 mana to pay for other artifacts?
Yes.  If Energy Flux is in play all your artifacts have a trigger that says "At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice this artifact unless you pay  2." You can stack those triggers in any order you like, which means you can stack them such that Su Chi’s resolves first, and you can sacrifice him to get 4 mana to pay for other triggers.
Q2: If I destroy Energy Flux in my upkeep (i.e. in response to the triggers) do I still have to pay 2 or lose each artifact?
Yes.  Even if the Energy Flux is destroyed, its triggers will still be on the stack.
Q: Can I kill a 2/2 or 3/3 Fungusaur with Triskelion, or does targeting it just make it bigger as fast as I damage it?
You can kill it if you’re crafty.  Remove a counter from Triskelion to deal Fungusaur 1 damage.  This creates a trigger for Fungusaur to get a +1/+1 counter. However, you can then respond to the trigger to remove another counter to deal another 1 damage before the trigger resolves. That will kill Fungusaur if it’s a 2/2. If it already has a counter, you simply repeat the process to deal it a third damage.  Multiple Prodigal Sorcerers can kill a Fungusaur in the same way.
Icy Manipulator
Q1: My opponent activates his Icy – if I Disenchant it in response, will that stop its ability?
No.  You can play Disenchant targeting the Icy in response to the activation if you want to, and the Icy will be destroyed, but its ability is already on the stack, and when the ability resolves it will still tap whatever was targeted even though the Icy is now gone.
Q2:  If I play Disenchant to destroy an Icy, is my opponent allowed to respond by using it?
Yes.  The Icy will be destroyed, but its ability will still resolve and tap whatever was targeted.
Island Sanctuary
TIP: Don’t forget that you’re allowed to skip any card draw that happens in your draw phase to get this effect. This could be your normal card draw for the turn, but could equally be any other Instant-speed card or ability that would otherwise draw you a card, such as: Howling Mine, Sylvan Library, Jayemdae Tome, Library of Alexandria etc as long as it occurs in your draw step.   Note that if an effect causes you to draw multiple cards you only need to skip one (for example, you can play Ancestral Recall and draw two of the cards before deciding whether or not to skip the third one to use Island Sanctuary).
Land Tax
You can only search for basic lands with Land Tax, so you can’t search out dual lands such as Savannah (yes it’s a Plains and a Forest – but it isn’t a BASIC Plains or a BASIC Forest).  You need to reveal which lands you chose to your opponent to prove it really was basic lands that you searched out.
As long as Land Tax triggers you have the option of searching through your library and shuffling it afterwards.  “Up to three” lands can be zero, which means that you can ‘search’ your library even if you know for sure that there aren’t any basic lands left in it or don’t want to take any, for example if you just want a reason to shuffle your library.
Cards searched out by Land Tax are not “drawn,” so they don’t trigger Underworld Dreams, they don’t interact with Chains of Mephistopheles and they can’t be put back onto your library with Sylvan Library later in the turn.
Mirror Universe
Q: My opponent activates their Mirror Universe – if I Disenchant it in response, will that stop its ability?
No – you aren’t allowed to play Disenchant here!  Mirror Universe is sacrificed as part of using its ability, so there is nothing left in play to Disenchant.  
Nevinyrral’s Disk
Q1: My opponent activates the Disk – if I Disenchant it in response, will that stop everything being destroyed?
No.  You can Disenchant the Disk in response if you really want to, but it’s probably a waste of a Disenchant because the Disk’s ability will still resolve and destroy everything.
Q2:  If I play Disenchant to destroy the Disk, is my opponent allowed to respond by using it?
Yes.  If you try and Disenchant an untapped Disk, then Disenchant will go on the stack and the opponent can therefore respond to Disenchant by activating the Disk.  You need to destroy the Disk whilst it’s still tapped (or whilst the opponent has no mana available) to prevent the world being blown up.
Sylvan Library
Q1: Can I play a card in between my normal card draw and using Sylvan Library?  For example, if I draw Disenchant as my normal card draw for the turn, can I use it to disenchant Underworld Dreams before I use the Library?
Yes.  Your normal card draw is always the first thing that happens in the draw step.  In this example, if you’re lucky enough to draw a Disenchant you can disenchant Underworld Dreams before Sylvan Library’s trigger resolves.  Note that you will still suffer 1 damage from the Underworld Dreams in respect of your normal card draw, as you drew it before the Dreams was destroyed.
Q2: There is a Howling Mine in play, and I have a Sylvan Library. Both trigger in my draw step. Am I allowed to choose which order their triggers happen in?  
It depends!
  • if the Howling Mine is yours, both triggers are yours and you can therefore choose the order.
  • if the Howling Mine is your opponent's, the Howling Mine trigger resolves first, before you can use the Sylvan Library.  This is because when two sets of triggers would happen at the same time, the active player’s triggers go on the stack first, with the non-active player’s triggers above them (and so the non-active player’s triggers resolve first).  This is often known as the “APNAP” rule (“ActivePlayerNonActivePlayer”).
Q3: If the Howling Mine ability resolves first then can I use the card I drew with Howling Mine as one of the 1-2 cards that I put back on my library with Sylvan Library?
Yes.  It’s a card you drew “this turn” and Sylvan Library’s only requirement is that cards put back are drawn this turn.  You could also put back cards drawn from any instant-speed source such as Jayemdae Tome, Ancestral Recall, Sage of Lat-Nam, that you have activated before the Sylvan Library trigger resolves.  Note that once the Sylvan Library trigger resolves and you draw 2 cards from it, you must then finish resolving it by deciding to put 0-2 cards back (you can’t, for example, draw 2 with the Sylvan Library, then – before deciding what to put back – play Ancestral Recall to draw 3 more).
Just a general reminder – DON’T shuffle in Timetwister itself!  After it finishes resolving place it in your graveyard (it is NOT removed from the game) and also be careful not to shuffle in any cards that HAVE been removed from the game (eg Recall, or creatures exiled by Swords to Plowshares).  Just casually wandering around tables at the Urborg Feast I saw all three of those errors made!
Transmute Artifact
Q1: Can I tap a Mox, Sol Ring or other mana-producing artifact that I am sacrificing to help pay the cost difference between itself and the artifact for which I am searching?
Only if you float the mana from the artifact that you intend to sacrifice BEFORE Transmute Artifact begins to resolve. You won’t be able to activate the mana ability while Transmute is resolving.
Q2: Can I sacrifice a Su-Chi to Transmute Artifact and use the mana generated by the Su-Chi to pay the difference in costs?
No, you cannot. The mana generated by the Su-Chi is a triggered ability that will resolve only after Transmute has finished resolving.
Underworld Dreams
Q1: My opponent and I are both on 1 life and they have Underworld Dreams in play.  I draw a card and it’s a Lightning Bolt! Am I dead or can I bolt them?
You can bolt them! When you draw the card an Underworld Dreams trigger will go on the stack.  In response to that trigger, you can bolt the opponent. They will be dead before the Underworld Dreams trigger resolves and kills you.
Q2: My opponent and I are both on 1 life and we BOTH have Underworld Dreams in play.  I play Wheel of Fortune. Who wins?
Hang on a minute – we need to come at this one slowly, because it’s complicated!
Firstly, note that you both discard your hand and draw 7 cards before we can even start to think about who might have won the game.  That’s because you need to fully resolve Wheel of Fortune before anything else can happen.
Secondly, 14 Underworld Dreams triggers go on the stack.  Because of the APNAP rule (see Sylvan Library above) your 7 triggers go on the stack first with your opponent’s 7 on top of them.
Thirdly, both players (starting with you) will have the opportunity to respond to the first trigger with Instants or abilities.  This could be very relevant if one of you has drawn an Instant that gains life or deals damage!
Finally, once both players pass priority, the first trigger will resolve.  As your opponent’s triggers are on the top of the stack, the first one that resolves will kill you, and they win.  The other 13 triggers never get to resolve.
Note that you will in fact lose the game if you have any amount of life between 1 and 7, because all 7 of your opponent’s triggers will resolve before any of yours resolve and start dealing damage to them.
Wheel of Fortune
Q: I have 2 cards left in my library and my opponent has 5.  She plays Wheel of Fortune. What’s the game result?
It’s a draw.  You both try to draw 7 cards.  Neither of you is able to do so, so you both lose the game, making the game a draw.  It doesn’t matter that you run out of cards “first” – the game only checks to see who’s won or lost once Wheel of Fortune is completely finished resolving, by which time you’ve both lost.