Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Looking Back, Looking Forward (49/302)

***Note: Magnus over at the mothership Old School blog was gracious and awesome enough to post this article on the site. This is the same article if you already read it on the Swedish Old School blog. Thanks again Mg!!!! 

Hello again Old School friends. Here in the burbs of Akron, Ohio we seem to have escaped the cycle of torrential downpour and heatwave that has defined the summer and settled into some nice weather. There have been many great evenings for slinging some spells on a patio with a cold one in your hand or taking a long ride to that out-of-the-way LGS you've been meaning to visit. As for me, I am spending some time outside on a breezy, sunny Tuesday  reflecting on roughly six months back in Magic after a 20-year absence. I am also sorting through the exciting ideas swirling in my head to chart a course forward. The Mana Flare my brother Jim gave me is also pretty sweet, but more on that later.

The glorious sunshine...

I mentioned in my first post that Jim and I purchased a booster box of Ixalan while back east visiting relatives Fall of 2018. I am not going to lie, we had a blast in spite of the hideous frames. What had they done to the beautiful card design we remembered from the last time we picked up a Visions booster pack back in '99? Sometimes when one returns to the hobbies or joys of their childhood they are disappointed that they do not find the thrill they once did. That was not the case here. We played marathon sessions. We built multiple decks. We argued over the rules. Imagine two people who had not seen a new Magic card in 20 years trying to play Ixalan. We didn't even know what the stack was. We both resolved to get back into the game and buy more modern boosters. That plan would go out the window one snowy morning after the dawn of the new year.

I almost thew up in my mouth a little bit when I saw the new frame for the first time...

I have always been an early riser.  My wife, like most normal people, will sleep in on weekends or vacation. Not me. After a hard year of professional exams for me in 2018 we decided to take a 2 week "staycation" starting on Christmas Eve. While working on my latest Ixalan deck I had what I thought at the time was a preposterous thought: "wouldn't it be awesome if there were a bunch of people who only played with the cards from the mid-90's?" The overwhelming portion of my and Jim's collection was Revised, Fourth Edition, and Fallen Empires. I googled "old-school Magic" and was floored by what I found. Thanks to our friends in Sweden and other like-minded people around the globe there was a place for those of us who want to recapture the feel of the original game. People who don't want to play in a format where the creatures are so absurdly overpowered that Juzam Djinn would be no big deal. I called Jim. Good times lay in store.

I joined the  Facebook group Old School Magic 4Life and made a post noting that I hadn't played since Clinton was president and wanted some clarification on rules, banned/restricted, etc. American Old School luminary Dave Firth Bard  immediately responded to my post with a ton of encouragement and helpful info. Perhaps more importantly he pointed me in the direction of Matt Shields and Sean Duffy, two Old School players who live nearby. Every other person in the community with whom I have interacted since Dave responded to that Facebook post has also been super chill and helpful. Armed with a bunch of helpful links and a few local players to contact I called Jim and got to working on the first of many Old-School decks I would brew in 2019 before settling into my current long-term build.

I was fairly tentative at first about contacting Matt and Sean via Facebook, but after some back and forth it was pretty clear they were like-minded individuals and not axe murderers. We met up at our local gaming bar and started slinging spells like old friends. I cannot begin to state how instrumental my crossing paths with these guys was to my immense passion for Old School Magic: The Gathering. They welcomed me into their playgroup, were patient with me on the rules ( I had never heard the term stack, thought interrupts still mattered, etc.) and were just generally cool to hang with. After a few weeks my brother began to join and since then we play nearly every week and I have made two great new friends who live within 10 minutes of me. I guess social media can make the world a better place.

One of the best parts about Old-School is the community content. We have all spent some time on Magnus's OS blog and enjoyed the black-bordered mega decks our friends in Sweden are slinging. I spent a lot of time reading Matt and Sean's blogs and thought it would be fun to have my own blog. I also felt the urge to start some sort of fun project to fill the time while I wasn't dueling, and the blog would be a great way to document this. Like most people who have been captivated by Magic's siren call, I love collecting. When I first played I had never seen a card from the original Alpha/Beta/Unlimited sets. Jim and I had a ton of Revised cards, but in the days prior to widespread internet if your playgroup didn't have any of them and you didn't go to tournaments, they were mysterious treasure of times gone by. Remembering this led me to the realization that I had to have a full Unlimited set. I wanted to see and play the original game. An hour spent on Ebay showed that this would be a long and expensive quest, but also a rewarding one. The cost of the endeavor adds to the appeal in a sense since I can truly enjoy every card as I get it. Though I did not set out with the rule that I could not use the internet, once I realized I had gotten them all in person I decided that I would go straight Old-School and get my cards from LGSs, conventions, and trades. It has been a blast so far and I can't wait until Eternal weekend in November.

Since I started my quest in February I have acquired 49 unique Unlimited cards. The breakdown of those cards by rarity is as follows:

Rare----------5(including the Mana Flare)

Breakdown by color is:


I didn't realize until today how many of them were uncommons, that's pretty cool. The color breakdown is about even which is to be expected since I was not specifically seeking any of them. My favorite card so far is the Gaea's Liege I acquired at GP Cleveland in February. It was my first rare, my first convention, and my first tournament. I've never seen anyone playing with one, but I still love it. One thing I've figured out through all of this is I would rather win less and have a deck with cards that I love and don't see as much play than just default to a killer deck. I could build a mono-black discard/drain life deck and do better than my current build, but it would not have the allure of my Dragon Genealogy deck...

Jim came over this week to play a for a few hours. He is my original Magic compatriot and oldest friend. He is also a better brewer than me and has made his childhood R/G deck into something of a feared entity in our playgroup. I've mentioned before that I don't like posting decklists since I think it takes away something of the mystique and mystery of playing, but let's just say that Berserk and Kird Ape now give me sweats and shakes when I see them. He has also been a constant source of advice and encouragement as I have built and trashed multiple decks over the last six months. When we were kids I had a R/B deck that my dad put together quickly and I took apart after a few months to build something of my own. I then ran a B/W deck for the next 4 years that had no real theme and was generally regarded as awful even for a 10 year old. Since getting back into the game I went from White Weenie to G/B ramp/discard, on to mono green ramp, stopped over B/U control, and have finally settled into R/U Dragon Genealogy, which I adore and will never leave. I will expand on these decks in a later post, but building them has been a true joy. I have discovered that I want to win, but not at the expense of missing out on playing with some of my favorite cards. I'd rather win a few less games and still get to include some elder dragon legends and other less optimal spells.

So where do I go from here? Job number 1 is continuing in my quest for a full set of Unlimited cards. I've always wanted to savor all the cards. It would be incredibly easy, but incredibly boring, to just go and pound out all the commons and uncommmons in a manner of weeks. Even with my rule of not using the internet, I am blessed by several LGSs that carry a lot of Old-School. That being said, moving forward I am aiming to accelerate my accumulation of those cards and start going after some heavy hitters. I aim to get a major addition at Eternal Weekend, a lot of that depends on how many new clients I get at the office and how nice I can be to my wife between now and November. Aside from my quest, I also am going be working on putting together a Swedish legal version of the original R/B deck my dad made for me. Get ready for some sweet Beta Hill Giants!! I am still working on completing my collection of The Duelist magazines and have had an awesome time reading through them. My friends and I will soon be dipping our toes into premodern which is really exciting to me because I have never really played with any cards after Alliances beyond a few booster packs of Mirage and Visions Jim and I bought at the end of our original playing. I am also yearning for a more limited play environment to complement our normal constructed play as I would like to see more of the cards used. Perhaps Revised cube? As you can see there is a ton I want to do and a lot more stuff to explore, experience, and write about. Can't wait to see where the rest of the year takes me.

I've seriously wanted this since the days of Ace of Base. Possibly my favorite art.

Getting back into this game/hobby/lifestyle in January after 20 years has been one of the most positive developments in my life. I have a job in finance that I love though it is fairly stressful and this game has become my oasis. When I am having a bad day I drift off to Dominia and think of new ideas for brewing. When I am having a good day, which thankfully is most days, I have to keep myself from drifting there too much lest I become unproductive. My wife and I play together often, in fact I am fairly certain that after 4 months she is a better brewer than I am. I've made new friends and am communicating with people from sea to shining sea and even across the mighty oceans. What more could someone ask for from a hobby? That my friends, is Old-School. Stay tuned for another very special post next time commemorating card number 50! Cheers!

**Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that I've updated the look of the site. I felt that the white text and black background made it much easier to read. Also, I replaced Birds of Paradise with Frozen Shade because Douglas Shulers art on that card was one of the first cards I loved and remains one my favorite pieces of Magic art.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Ten Gracious Gifts (39-48/302)

Goooooood evening Old-Schoolers!!! Since we last got together the weather here in the Akron area has turned from torrential downpour to blistering heat, I've rediscovered the joys of eating cherry airheads at the town pool, and I am pressing forward in my quest to collect a full Unlimited set. I have almost 50 cards now and am having a blast going to local shops and conventions looking for cards. I have not made any blockbuster acquisitions yet, but every quest starts somewhere, and I do have a few rares and cards that were unknown to me since they were not in the Revised set. I am also enjoying the heck out of the three decks I am playing right now with my local group. Old-School fun abounds in the Rubber City.

I have been friends with my brother Jim since the days of MC Hammer and Trapper Keepers, but my new friends Sean and Matt came to me by way of Old-School. They welcomed me and Jim into their world of brewing, collecting, and dueling and have been not only cool to hang out with but also invaluable resources in so far as collecting and rules.Every one of the cards below was gifted to me by Jim or Sean (I mentioned in an earlier post that Matt gave me a couple of very cool cards at the outset to aid me in my quest.) Jim gifted me the land, the COPs, and the Whelp. Sean brought the two walls to me on our weekly game night. I have mentioned that I am in now way interested in soliciting help from people, but if a good friend gives me a gift it takes a place of honor in my binder and further cements our Old-School bond. Thanks guys.

Who doesn't love Dragon Whelp?
Dragon Whelp. God I love that card. I'm not sure how great it is, but isn't he just adorably destructive? Amy Weber's art is perfect, he has flying, and he can use every last bit of energy to burn your butt in one final blaze of glory. When it comes to the two walls, I have always wanted to build a deck featuring walls, and at some point I will do this. With regards to the COPs, we don't play with sideboards in my play group so they wouldn't be much use to me unless I am at a tourney, but I did get them from Jim the same day I just read an enlightening article about them in The Duelist issue 1 from all the way back in January of '94. Apparently they were quite feared in the old days. I do remember another old article in which the Zak Dolan (1st winner of MTG Worlds Championship in '94) discussed trading away a bunch of power for a complete set of COPs. I ran a few at the tournament in my sideboard and they did come in handy. I've always wanted to run a deck with a bunch of creatures like Force of Nature and ignore upkeeps like its my job with the protective glow of a Circle...maybe one day.

I highly recommend picking up old copies of The Duelist. They are like Old-School time capsules. 

Now most people would probably be most stoked about the dragon, but I am most drawn to the mountain. Can we stop and take a look at that beautiful basic land?

Look at how rich that color is? For someone like me who started at Revised and never saw any Unlimited cards except for one until 2019, I am amazed at how some of these cards jump at you. I've noticed that some more than others really pop, especially the red ones.

There you have it folks, I am now ten cards closer to completing my quest. Stay tuned for an article in about a week where I will delve into the decks I have been running in my local play group. I am not into posting or looking at deck lists or deck pictures as I think it takes away from my enjoyment of the game (notice I said my enjoyment. I am all for people being chill and doing whatever they feel.) Until we meet again my friends, enjoy brewing and dueling.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Local Game Shop Bonanza Leads to New Ground Rules (16-38/302)

Hello again fellow old-schoolers. I don't know about you folks, but here in my corner of the Akron, Ohio burbs we have had nothing but rain this summer. It may be disappointing in some regards, but it makes for perfect Magic weather. Just last night my brother, Matt, Sean and I had several hours of serious spell slinging fun. All in all it has been a great time playing recently. In addition to my never-ending attempts at crafting the perfect deck, I of course have not forgotten about my ultimate adventure: the quest to collect a full set of Unlimited. Progress was minimal last month, but thanks to a trip to my local game shop I picked up my biggest haul yet. In addition to this I have made a dramatic change to the rules of my quest.

My brother called me up last week and asked me if I wanted to check out a really awesome LGS in downtown Akron, Full Grip Games. He said they had a ton of Old School stuff, lots of board games, plenty of tables on which to play, and a generally great atmosphere. He did not oversell it, the place is amazing. It was so much fun being able to actually look at and touch a huge amount of Old-School gems at one location. In fact, the amazing amount of satisfaction that this experience gave me has led me to change the rules of my quest: from now on I will only acquire cards in person. Whether that be through a trade, a convention, and LGS, or some other means (prize?) I understand this will make the quest a little more challenging, but I feel it will make it a lot more rewarding. As I've mentioned I am not in a hurry to do this, the quest itself is its own reward. Getting to savor each card is really enjoyable. Before this pickup I had only gotten a few cards online anyway. Here is the breakdown of how my cards have been acquired thus far prior to this post:
                          1995 Issue of Duelist Magazine--1
                          Gifts from Friends and Family---8
                          Bought at Grand Prix Cleveland-2
                          LGS (Not Full Grip)---------------1

I am looking forward to Eternal Weekend even more now! I am not saying I will never use ebay or ABU again, just not for this particular endeavor. I love mail days as much as anyone else. Now onto the haul from Full Grip!!

 I picked up 23(!) cards. It was an amazing day. Since I cut my teeth on Revised back in '94 my absolute favorite cards are ones I have never seen before, cards like False Orders that were taken out of the core set after Unlimited. My other favorites are the ones that left an indelible imprint on me for whatever reason. I mentioned in my first post how Hill Giant is the very first Magic card I remember and I vividly recall how cool the flavor text was about the giant's blind spot being beneath his foot. The art on some cards really spoke to me as well, though thanks to a recent alter I saw I can no longer see Power Sink as anything else but an old man dropping an open jar of mustard.

Though most of the cards I have picked up so far have been commons (I have been doing some home remodeling and other major purchases so MTG has taken a back seat recently) I did manage to get a few some more uncommons and another two rares in addition to the Nightmare and Gaea's Liege I picked up at the Grand Prix in February.

Living Lands and Farmstead have now joined the ranks of my rares. I remember thinking Living Lands was unbelievable powerful as a kid, would love to see someone make that actually work. Although I just mentioned above how much I love cards that were taken out after Unlimited, and don't get me wrong I love the art on Farmstead and the fact that it was previously unknown to me, but man is that a weak card. Red Elemental Blast (and its blue brother) has art that was one of my early favorites. Like I said, this was a great day.

Thank you to all who have visited and taken the time to give feedback, it is highly appreciated. This community is as important to me as the cards themselves and I am truly grateful to be a part of it. I look forward to getting to know more people and play in more tournaments. Stay tuned for my next post!!        

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Powerful Black Commons, Some Thoughts on the Game (13-15/302)

Hello fellow old-schoolers. I hope we are all having a blast dueling and collecting as Summer rapidly approaches. I know that my local old-school group is enjoying our weekly meetings immensely. Since I got into the format in December after a 20 year Magic coma I've made some awesome new friends, interacted with an amazing community, and rediscovered a passion that gives me a great outlet from the rigors and grind of adult life. That being said I plan on posting more regularly than once a month. I will also be expanding the focus of my blog. Each post will now include thoughts on another Old-School related topic in addition to the regular update on my quest to collect a full Unlimited set. Now that I have started to settle into the community I will have a lot more to talk about!

Since my last post I was able to get my hands on three new cards, all black commons, all great cards: Dark Ritual, Drain Life, and Paralyze. I am running both Dark Ritual and Paralyze in my deck right now (some of you may remember that I was playing white weenie but I have blown that deck up and am now running black/white.) Dark Ritual is the poor man's Black Lotus, and it is really a blast to drop 2 of them turn one and lay down a Hypnotic Specter and a Hymn to Tourach or an epic Mind Twist. I nuked my friend Matt's whole hand in a game recently and the look of horror on his face was priceless, especially since he usually beats me. The Paralyze and Royal Assassin combo is also quite entertaining. Speaking of Royal Assassin, I always thought it was good back in the day, but I did not realize as a kid that you could tap it to kill an attacker DURING the assault! How cool is that? I definitely find myself embracing the art, flavor, and play style of black cards the more I play these last 6 months. I think my first major purchase will have to be a Mox Jet, though I am a few pennies (or silver dollars) away from such prized treasure...

Don't they look freakin' awesome?

As I enter the second half of my first year in the Old-School scene I have a lot of ideas all swirling in my head at once. Beyond my overwhelming satisfaction with finding this hobby again after two decades and making a few new friends, some thoughts stick out in my mind. First off, I don't understand why 1994 rules re: Mishra's Factory (and other creatures) are not used when it comes to being able to tap and block. This makes no sense to me whatsoever. I get it that in an effort to not make it too confusing for modern players people want consistent rules, but aren't we underestimating the abilities of MTG players? We play what I would consider relatively speaking to be a pretty complicated game, I think people can handle a few rule changes going to a different format. Allowing Mishra's Factory to block AND give itself +1/+1 is absurd, from both a rule and a flavor standpoint. If a creature is blocking another and engaged in combat how can it also tap itself to do something else? Also, the cards were not designed with modern rules in mind. It is almost as if we have errata'd  every creature from 1993 and 1994 to make it more powerful. Why not just play with 1994 rules if we are playing 1994 cards? In my house rules we even allow the first player to draw, though I understand and agree with the necessity to change that one...

Another thing that has really made this experience enjoyable for me is the complete avoidance of net-decking. I know that my deck building skills are not that great, but at least I know that when I put a stack together the idea came from my noggin'. I am not begrudging how anyone else puts together a brew, nor am I conceited enough to think that when I make a build I am the only person to ever think of it, I just don't get the allure in copying another deck. When I played back in the 90's decks were really personal. You had your deck and you slowly made changes to it over the years. It was yours. My black/white deck does not have a title or possibly even a theme, but it has held its own against my friend's powered blue/white control/flyers deck and even taken a few. Again, the thing I love about the format is everyone does what they feel and is chill about it, I am just saying that what brings me the most joy is sitting there scratching my head over my mediocre builds trying to make them a little bit better so I don't get eviscerated on Tuesday nights...

The last thing on my mind tonight is that I really want to participate in more tournaments moving forward. When I played in the Cleveland Rocks tourney in February it was one of the most fun days I've had in years. Getting to meet people from all over and hear their stories over a cold brew and some sweet cards was awesome. Getting to see cards I had only ever heard of for the first time was really cool. I don't anticipate winning any tournaments, but I do know I will have a blast no matter what, and isn't that the beauty of this thing we call Old-School?

Stay tuned...

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Sprites and Monsters, Plus Dividing Our Collection (11-12/302)

Hello fellow old-schoolers. When I created this blog back in January I had aspirations of posting about once a week. I have been adding a new post about once a month and that seems to be a better pace as it allows more time to not only acquire cards but also to report on other goings-on in my Old-School adventure. Though I did not get too much further in my quest to acquire a complete Unlimited set this month, I have had a tremendous amount of fun dueling and brewing with my buddies here in the burbs of Cleveland.

Those of you who have read my earlier posts know that I started playing with my brother back in March of 1994.  We saved our collection of about 2000 cards from Revised to Visions (the overwhelming majority being split evenly between Revised and 4th Edition.) Having all of our cards together was great when we were younger because whenever anyone wanted to build a deck they had access to the full collection. Now that we are adults this presents a problem, it would not be very convenient for my brother to come to my house any time he wants to brew, or vice-versa. Since he is now getting into the format about as much as I am the shared cards model is starting to be a hassle. After about 5 months of Old-School adventuring we came to a conclusion: it was time to divide our collection.

On the day of the "Great Division" we got all of our cards together on a table, including our binder of rares. We were both aware of the enormity of what was happening. There was never any concept of individual ownership of these cards. Though I kept them at my various apartments and now at my home I always saw myself as a caretaker of shared property. The commons and uncommons were easy, we simply took any card we had more than 1 of and divided them in half. If there was an odd number we talked it over. If there was only 1 copy we took turns picking from the pile with a coin flip to determine who picked first. When it came to the binder we did the same thing. Since there were no dual lands or power in there it was a pretty easy process with no hurt feelings. In fact we both enjoyed it. After 25 years we each finally had our own Magic cards. This was a watershed moment.

As far as my quest for a complete Unlimited set is concerned, there was not much activity in April. The first addition was another generous donation from my brother. I have mentioned before that I am not interested in any gifts from strangers or solicitations since one of the most fun parts of this for me is slowly building up my collection so I can savor each card, but I won't turn down a gift from my brother. Since he only had 1 Scryb Sprites in his collection he wanted 3 more for a green deck and decided to simply get a play-set of Unlimited Sprites. I am now the beneficiary of that decision!

The Sprites are awesome. 1/1 flyer for 1 mana? A great first turn play. The art and flavor text is really cool also. "One thing was certain; they didn't think the Scryb were very funny anymore."

The other card I acquired in April came from an LGS about 25 minutes from me that I checked out. It is always cool to go visit another LGS besides your own. I picked up a really nice Phantom Monster which is cool because my dad had those in his blue and black deck that always crushed me all those years ago.

Wasn't it cool how back in the day they used to put famous poems and literature in the flavor text of the cards? It made them so much more universal. One did not need to be up to speed on all the back story of Ravnica or whatever else to understand and appreciate what they were looking at. For this and many other reason I am glad I kick it Old-School.

Stay tuned for more steps in my quest...

Sunday, March 24, 2019

First Purchases, First Tournament (9-10/302)

I officially crossed the Rubicon into the fun that is Old School Magic: The Gathering on Saturday, February 23rd. On this date Matt, Sean, and I trekked from the burbs to the cold city for the Cleveland Rocs Old School Magic tournament, hosted and planned by Rajah and the good people of the Cleveland Old School scene. The event was held at Bottlefest in Lakewood, Ohio. The venue is a mead house and craft brewery with a decidedly Old School and fantasy ambience to it, perfect for the day's festivities. Before the tournament began, however, my compatriots and I stopped at the convention center where MagicFest Cleveland was being held. We did not journey there to duel with the many folks gathered for Standard play, but to acquire new spells for our various decks and collections. It was fun, it was dangerous, and I loved it.

As soon as I walked into the convention center I was taken aback by enormity of it all. The gigantic room held more than 10 large vendors. These merchants were selling everything from deck boxes to Magic art, and of course, cards. More cards than I've ever seen in my life. I saw a Black Lotus for the first time, not to mention all five Mox and the rest of the Power Nine. These incredibly powerful, rare spells that I've known only from stories since 1994 were right there before my eyes. This was an awesome experience. As I looked through all the cards I was tempted to spend far beyond my means, and that is both the joy and the danger of Old School Magic. I set a rough budget and went to town.

I did not purchase any of the eight cards in my Unlimited collection. Camouflage came in an issue of The Duelist I got about 20 years ago. The other seven cards were gifts from my brother and Matt. I knew that this would be the day that I put some skin in the game. In addition to working on my quest I also wanted to get some cards for my deck. I acquired three Plains from Beta, four Lords of Atlantis from Revised, 4th Edition, and 5th Edition for my brother since he has a penchant for merfolk, a Strip Mine from Antiquities, a deck box, and two rare Unlimited cards. Not only did I make my first Unlimited purchase, I also got my first rare(s)!

How utterly awesome! Nightmare is a card that I used to have in Revised, but along with Wheel of Fortune it somehow went missing over the years. It was reclaimed on this day! I can still remember the first time I encountered it in my dad's deck 25 years ago. I immediately knew I was doomed without even comprehending its ability...the card oozes power and has great flavor. Gaea's Liege may not be as good of a card, but the artwork is outstanding. I love the coloring. I will never forget these two cards, my first purchases and my only two rare cards. One day I will make a Green/Black deck using them, regardless of how effective it is.

After making our purchases the three of us headed west to Lakewood for the tournament. I had some minor jitters along with a great deal of excitement. What if I made an honest mistake and someone thought I was angling? What if I got utterly obliterated? I know that Old School is a casual format, but nonetheless I was a tiny bit anxious. I only have one deck, my white weenies, so that is what I brought:

That is kind of hard to see, so here is the deck list:

Creatures (23)
     1 Preacher
     4 Savannah Lions
     3 Order of Leitbur
     4 White Knight
     4 Icatian Javilineers
     3 Tundra Wolves
     4 Benalish Hero

Spells (11)
     4 Swords to Plowshares
     3 Disenchant
     1 Army of Allah
     3 Armageddon

Artifacts (1)
     1 Jalum Tome

Enchantments (6)
     2 Land Tax
     4 Crusade

Lands (19)
     16 Plains
     1 Maze of Ith
     2 Strip Mine

Sideboard (15)
     1 Black Vise
     2 Juggernaut
     2 Conversion
     2 Mesa Pegasus
     2 Repentant Blacksmith
     2 Circle of Protection: Black
     2 Circle of Protection: Blue
     2 Circle of Protection: Red

Believe it or not, I actually did pretty well. We played Swiss style (I had no idea what that was until the day of tournament) and my first round was a victory because my opponent was late. Turns out he did pretty good so that was OK. Everyone was really warm and friendly which helped to alleviate my concerns; this is truly an awesome format devoted to enjoying the game as it was meant to be played. I ended up finishing roughly in the middle of the pack, which I was thrilled with. I beat one opponent who was a long-time modern and vintage tournament player whose friend gave him a "zoo" deck that I beat 2-1 in a series of really close games. Had I not put Repentant Blacksmith in my board I would not have made it out alive. I got smoked pretty badly by several robot decks and developed a small degree of terror any time someone put out Serendibs, not to mention the schooling I got from Matt when we paired up. Earthquake is the bane of my existence! To be fair Matt did warn me during our weekly play sessions to be prepared for the devastating impact that card would have on my deck and I failed to listen...

After almost three months of playing in the Old School scene I can say without reservation that it has truly enriched my life. I have a high-stress job and knowing that I can escape into the world of Dominia with some good friends, good brews, and good spells has been excellent. I made a point to tell this to Mark Poole when I met him at the convention center. As he signed my old copies of Balance and Simulacrum I thanked him for being a part of a game that thrilled me as a boy and is now a happy escape as an adult. He smiled and thanked me for saying it; by his look I could tell he was aware of  how many people's lives have been enriched by Magic: The Gathering. After 20 years I have come full circle.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Gifts From Friends Both Old and New (2-8/302)

I spent some time in my first post discussing how I encountered the varied planes of Dominia back in the spring of 1994. My brother Jim and I started playing with my dad and sister, though after about a year our "play group" consisted of mostly just the two of us. We played together until 1999 and then took an almost 20 year break. While I will always treasure the thousands of games we played together back in the day, it has been really interesting and exciting having a larger playgroup this time around. When I discovered the Old School Magic community over the holidays I was able to connect with two local players in my area and we have been playing on an almost weekly basis since. They have been playing in the old-school scene for several years and have been truly helpful and patient as I dusted off the cobwebs that go along with an almost 20 year Magic hiatus. This is a game of imagination, strategy, and smarts, but also of camaraderie. I am certain that anyone reading this would agree that the bonds forged through our shared passion are just as important if not more so than the thrill of building a great deck, discovering a killer combination, or winning a close duel. Meeting and playing with Sean and Matt has been a real joy and I am glad that my local area has some excellent, friendly old-school players for me to duel with and learn from.

A few weeks ago I received two gifts. The first of these unexpected bounties came from my oldest friend and original Magic buddy. My brother Jim jump-started my Unlimited collection with a generous offering of five cards, two of which I had never seen!

I have many copies of Evil Presence, Animate Artifact, and Fireball in my Revised collection but never have I encountered Dwarven Demolition Team or Copper Tablet. I've always really been drawn to the art and flavor of black cards. Creatures like Bog Wraith, Scavenger Ghoul, and Frozen Shade always stood out to me. Evil Presence is just such a cool card. For one black mana turn any land into a swamp. It may not be Strip Mine, but it is still a pretty effective way to slow down an opponent early game. The dark powers of the black mage can poison even Dominia itself! Animate Artifact is a card that will always represent frustration to me. It was my dream as a kid to be able to cast and then animate Aladdin's Lamp. Needless to say at ten years old my deck-construction skills were lacking and I couldn't quite figure out how to get the lamp out, let alone draw my one copy. Fireball is one of the quintessential cards of Magic: The Gathering. Watching your opponent build up mana in a stalemate was always nerve racking when playing against the red mage for fear of the coming inferno.

The two heretofore unseen cards that Jim gave to me were Dwarven Demolition Team and Copper Tablet. I must say I am enamored with Dwarven Demolition Team. Everything from the name to the flavor, art, and mechanic of the card makes me happy. I love the idea of a team of dwarves haphazardly blowing up a wall with little regard to the principles of safe demolition. The art on the card is amazing as well, my favorite artists from back then were Mark Poole, Jeff Menges, Doug Shuler and Quinton Hoover, though now I may have to seek out other cards drawn by Kev Brockschmidt. Copper Tablet is beautiful in its simplicity. Two colorless mana to cast and everyone gets one damage per turn. The art and the mechanic are simple. Needless to say this gift from my brother was awesome. It was almost as if he shoved me out the door and told me to get moving on my quest, but before sending me out he gave me some provisions for the long journey.

About a week after the aforementioned contribution from Jim, my new friend  Matt surprised me with two awesome additions to my Unlimited collection:

These are also two of the iconic cards of the original Magic set! I remember vividly my first encounter with both of them, my dad's blue and black deck fielded several Vampires and he pummeled me mercilessly with his army of the undead, each Vampire growing as it cleared my side of the board. Anson Maddocks drew a lot of great cards back in the day as did Douglas Shuler, and their artwork is certainly part of the reason both these cards are so memorable (notice the misspelling of his name on this card, from what I understand this is the case on every card in the set.) I was totally floored by this contribution, Sengir Vampire is the best card in my Unlimited collection! Thanks to two friends, one old and one new, plus an insert in a 20 year-old issue of The Duelist magazine, I have eight Unlimited cards and have not yet purchased one on my own. This will certainly change after the upcoming Magic Grand Prix in Cleveland in a few days...stay tuned.