I decided to challenge my comfort zone, and participate in an online Old School tournament this June. The DOOM – Danish Online Oldschool Magic. Even though I am a very experienced tournament player, before the DOOM tournament, I had only played one (1) match of magic through a webcam. And it was with one of my closest friends throughout the last 20 years. Hence the challenging of comfort zone…
The June tournament had some very spicy rules, namely the following:
Games are best of 3, with decks of minimum 60 cards, and no sideboards. Every card besides basics are restricted. Oh, and these cards are banned:
-City in a Bottle
-Greater Realm of Preservation
-All Circle of Protection
And then something about Ring of Ma’ruf being able to fetch any card legal in the Swedish ban list (including cards on the above-mentioned ban list and cards you already had one copy of in your deck).
Well, I am not that big of a singleton-player when it comes to Old School – I do play a lot of commander and a little Canadian Highlander but the Old School card pool is just so small, I never really tried it out. I have, though, for a year or so, had an old brew lying around for a Singleton Old School Deck. Of course not built with the restrictions mentioned, but with some other restrictions, namely these:
The deck must contain the following
- At least one of each dual land
- At least one of each basic land
- At least one creature of each color, artifact and gold
- At least one non-creature of each color, artifact and gold (hello Dark heart of the woods…)
I had this pile:
It is not exactly optimized, but you get the gist of it: Slam almost all the restricted cards into a pile, add the best creatures and removal, and see where it gets you.
I tried the same for this tournament:
A few thoughts on the deck
Yes, of course I should have run a demonic tutor, but for some reason, I simply read the above-mentioned list as if it was banned!
I should also have run a single Karakas instead of the second Plains. And I should probably have done a lot of other things differently too, but I really like how the deck turned out!
It contains almost all my pet cards, some of my all-time favorite creatures (Sol-Kanar!) and some very potent combos and just strong cards all around. The strength of playing all colors is, of course, that you are then also able to play all the best cards – not least all the best answers, which is paramount in singleton! The downside, and this is a major one, is, of course, that it is potentially very difficult to get the mana right!
Luckily most of the great Old School cards only require one colored mana to cast, which makes it A LOT easier to actually play all five colors instead of just dying to mana screw (but I should not have played Fork. I just really love the card, and I anticipated a lot of fireballs!).
My main concern about the deck, was its apparent lack of a singular strategy – there are both control, combo and some minor aggro/burn elements – but I hoped the high general power level of the cards, would make it a mood point. And then the mana base. I have tried to mitigate the trouble of the mana, by adding the best fixers Old School has to offer: Mana bird, Untamed Wilds, City of Brass and Fellwar Stone. This also forced me to play a bit heavier on the green side, than I would otherwise have done (and I should probably have played another Forest instead of the third Island).
But, I must admit that I was quite certain my mana would kill me up to maybe 40% of my games. I had no idea about the format, what to expect, how long the games would be, what cards I would face and so on. I figured there would probably be a lot of blue/white goodstuff/control decks and some red/green aggro/burn. But what else?
was against one of the grand old men of Danish Old School, the Infamous Mr. Juice himself. I have played against Juice maybe 10 times in tournament play (Vintage, Legacy and Old School) over the last 15 years or so, and I am not sure I have ever beat him! This could be the day!
Juice plays a heavy control strategy in White-Red-Black. I am surprised there is no blue in the mix. I think it is the first time ever, I have played Juice, and he is not playing blue. His deck is very potent, though, but also very slow.
The first game is very long. We exchange spells the good old fashioned way, where I Animate Dead my own Clone who had earlier cloned his Trisk. Oh the shenanigans of round 32!
He Aladdin’s ring my Serra Angel, and it is looking very grim, but then I find my fireball and burn him to death! He complained somewhat about the lack of blue and, especially, counterspells in his deck.
Second game is also long. I go turn 1 Birds into turn 3 Erhnam. Juice plays an Ivory tower turn 1.
I play a sedge troll with mana open to regenerate it. Next turn Juice tries to Earthquake away my djinn and troll. I mana drain the earthquake to save both my beaters and have a nice Jayemdae come down in my turn, but it was probably a big, greedy mistake. I should probably have let the Earthquake resolve, regenerating my troll – that would have reduced Juice’s life total to 12, I think. Then I would have had my Mana drain for his coming play. Which was a demonic tutor into wrath of god…
From there it is downhill. I try to chaos orb and copy artifact the orb, but Juice has the disenchant in response. I Regrowth my troll, but only to see a Moat! Recall my Chaos orb to tear down – fill up? – his Moat. He finds a maze of Ith. I am unable to find my burn spells.
He is able to find his…
In game three I keep a 2 lander. Juice plays turn 2 Sylvan Library… Bummer…
I find my third land, but not my fourth. I play Wheel to try and find something. Nothing shows up. Juice Orbs one of my lands, as the gentleman he is J
Aladdin’s Ring and Fireball take me out of my misery
0-1. It was probably a mistake to Mana Drain his earthquake. Maybe I could have won the game. Sometimes you just want to slam that drain. Oftentimes you really just want to make Juice tilt J.
is against another of the grand old men of Danish Magic, Andreas Hirszhorn (aka Bondafong or Bonda for short).
Bonda is on a really vicious blue/white control deck. It is a really good deck full of very great cards. Almost all the cards he is playing are some kind of staple in the format.
I don’t play my 3rd land until turn 4. That’s annoying. Especially when Bonda plays his disrupting scepter. I manage to fight my way back, and land a turn 5 Erhnam Djinn. He has Control Magic.
I play Terror. That didn’t really go my way, if we count it…
From around turn 4 I sit with my Channel and Disintegrate laughing at me in my hand. At the beginning I don’t have the mana needed. Then Bonda gets some life, and I take some damage.
We fight the good old fight a la Serra Angel – Clone – Swords to Plowshares – Vesuvan Doppelgaenger! Damn. I mean, excuse my French, but: DAMN! That is some very true old school schoolyard magic right there. It was fun. But when Bonda had both Scepter, Jayemdae and Icy it is very much over for me!
I keep 5 lands Animate Dead and Disenchant. I draw another couple of lands. Disenchant Bondas scepter. Bonda stalls somewhat on his lands (3 if I remember correctly) and doesn’t do much. I play turn 6 Serra. That was soon sent to a field somewhere, plowing. Bonda plays balance and I Psionic blast his Su-Chi – that clears the board, and we are pretty much in top-deck mode. I Animate Dead his Tetravus (discarded with Balance), and along with a Sedge Troll, Bonda is under a lot of pressure. I manage to find a regrowth to find my Psionic Blast and kill Bonda. Phew. Close game.
I mull to 6. An aggressive Balance gets rid of an Azure Drake and make him discard some cards. I play Su-chi, he plays Moat. I play the good book and start drawing a lot of cards. Bonda is in trouble with his lands again, and it takes him a while to get to 5. Then comes land tax! That is a great card!
The game goes long. There is fighting over a Sengir Vampire – Control Magic – another Control Magic, but alas there is so much text on Tawnos’ Coffin, that I simply misplay and end up just throwing away a Control Magic.
Bonda draws a lot of lands with Land Tax. I play Sylvan Library and Dark Heart of the Woods. Now there is a combo! I let Bonda draw too much from his Land Tax. If I had sacked my forests aggressively to Dark Heart, I could have hindered at least two activations, to prohibit his searching. But I was trying to built up a massive amount of mana to be able to Channel-Fireball him to death.
So at one point this is my board (I’m at 18 life):
This is my hand:
Bonda has 2-3 cards in hand, 6 mana open and 28 life.
So what happens is this:
I play Channel. Then I tap my remaining lands for 9 mana of some combination of colors. I need UU and R to cast Mana Drain and Disintegrate. That leaves 6 generic mana. I know he plays both Swords to Plowshares and Divine Offering, so I need to burn him for 32 to be on the safe side. I do as follows: Sac my three forests to gain 9 life. Now I have 27 life and 6 generic (+ RUU). I play a Disintegrate on 32 at his dice. I am now at 1 life. He Mana Drains. I Mana Drain. He Power Sinks (x=3). I scoop my cards. … … ! … ?
And that was, of course, a ginourmous mistake! I should have just sacked my Savannah or Taiga to gain more life, and use Channel to pay for the Power Sink. Absolutely idiotic! In my defense it was late, I had lost my ability to count, and had a lot of difficulties in overviewing what was going on (because the communication through online media is not as great as face to face), I somehow forgot what Channel does and I was really, really bad. No excuses, no defenses, I just played badly…
Neither me, nor Bonda, nor Juice, who was watching the game, noticed my giant misplay at the moment. It only occurred to me later. Quite an annoying way to lose an otherwise great game.
0-2. If you are still with me, I thank you! And I assure you, that the next 2 matches were not as long.
Against Ebbe Nielsen, whom I have never played against before. It was an absolute pleasure.
Ebbe is on MonoBlue. Quite the bold choice, because of the lack of answers to a lot of things – especially artifacts. His deck seemed okay though, but he wasn’t the luckiest guy, I have ever met!
First game is a slow land-go for both of us for some turns. Then I play turn 4 Ice into turn 5 Sol-Kanar into turn 6 Tome! We fight a bit over the Swamp King. He gets a backfire, then I play Spirit Link on him. Then he is unsummoned. So sad my face was!
It was a VEEEERY long game, where Ebbe keeps finding lands, I draw two cards each turn (a land and a creature, pretty much), and it simply overwhelms Ebbe even though he played both Coffin, Maze, Wall of Water and Mahamoti Djinn! I must say I love seeing these cards in action!
In game 2 I mull twice into 2 blue lands-Wheel of Fortune-Mana Drain-Icy. NOT TOO SHABBY!
I continue to draw mountain and Factory. I Mana Drain his Pirate Ship. Then play Ice and Wheel into 4 lands, Divine Offering and Channel. I draw regrowth to get back Mana Drain. The Factory beats is rolling. I manage to kill his disk before it untaps. He is almost back in the game with Icy Manipulator and Air Elemental, when I Channel-Disintegrate him with Mana Drain back-up! I swear I shuffled my deck a lot between games and rounds. But that Channel was there for me!
1-2. Nice! Finally a win. Finally I didn’t throw it away like an idiot!
Against Henning Østergaard, a man who has actually opened alpha power from packs! That says something about a dude. I had never played him before, but I had met him a couple of times at different tournaments. Great guy – really, really beautiful cards!
Henning played 4-5c (can’t remember, sorry) Legends Tribal… NICE!
Game 1 is mostly about his Ring of Maruf. He plays turn 1 Mana Vault into turn 3 Basalt Monolith – Ring. I can’t really find my colors, but I do have white and black mana available, and I am able to find my orb to try and kill his Ring. He Disenchants. I am afraid and next turn I recall for orb, to destroy his Ring. This time it works. There is not really much more to this game. I end up finding Channel and Fireball to end it. Hennings mana didn’t really work, unfortunately.
And game 2 is more of the same – just worse for Henning.
I play turn 2 Sylvan Library. He plays Underground Sea and as his second land… Maze of Ith. That is really not what you want in a mana hungry 4-5c deck! I am a gentleman by heart and find my Chaos Orb. And my Copy Artifact. I miss my Orb on Maze, but I hit his Sea. I cheat a bit more by playing Dark Heart of the Woods (a card that really surprised me. It was only in the deck, because I had made a clause to play at least 1 non-creature multicolor card. Dark hearts is the only one…) – it is just too good with Sylvan. Henning has no way to recover and I play an angel, Clone it, then I Animate Dead his Axelrod Gunnarson (YEAH!) and put him out of the misery, that is his deck not wanting to play magic.
2-2. That’s it.
The deck and some (SHORT) conclusions
The deck actually seemed very strong. The pilot, not so much unfortunately. I should have gone at least 3-1. Maybe even 4-0. That is simply not very impressive.
But I really cannot blame the deck. It really wanted to play some magic. I never really mana screwed. Yes I had some luck, but the real strong part of the deck is that you can literally play ALL the best cards the format has to offer. This means that I had an abundance of artifact removal, a lot of great creatures and a nice handful of shenanigans to top it! Because the format is very slow (apparently) you have a lot of time to assemble the mana you need. You don’t necessarily have to have the exact lands you need in your opening hand, you just have to play enough lands (or drawspells) that you will find them eventually.
The lack of a singular strategy was never a problem. It was maybe even a force sometimes. I could chose, somewhat, whether I played the control or the aggro. Mostly I simply played midrange with a lot of answers, and great beaters.
And I had A LOT of fun. Both with the strange format, but also just trying out the wondrous world of online Magic!
8 (my 2 misplays must account for something) out of 10. Would play again. Thank you for reading, if you are still with me this far!
Big shoutout to the Doom Crew for hosting the tournament (and for publishing my never-ending ramblings!)