Playing ball(s) in a field of power…

… Or how I learned to reanimate my balls and almost got away with it…

It was finally again such a time. I had been looking forward to it almost since the last time, back in November. A roadtrip. Playing Old School Magic. Old friends and new. Spicy brews and powerhouses. Powerplays and blunders. It was time for yet another actual, real-life tournament with real-life people around. I loved it.

On Saturday 18 2023 DOS 8 went down. DOS is the longest running major tournament series in Denmark, if I recall correctly it started all the way back in 2018 or maybe even 2017 in rather small numbers with around 20 players.

In this years’ showdown, we were 70 players. Not the biggest turnout at a Danish Old School tournament (which says a lot!) but up there. The DOS series is hosted by the great guys at Tier1MtG and is as such a tournament within the setting of a professional business. I am not sure it matters a lot, since the tier1mtg is such an integral part of the Danish OS milieu that the only real difference, is that there were a couple of people there in official looking tier1mtg t-shirts. Working. On a Saturday? Heresy!

But also great. Because it meant that we were offered quite a tournament. Of course most of us were there for a good time playing old cards, but the day also featured a bar and a Spanish cook making us both tapas for lunch and two different paellas for dinner.

The last couple of DOS tournaments have had a distinctively competitive feel. DOS 7 was hosted in Malmö, Sweden if memory serves, and was held together with a lot of other tournaments. I didn’t attend because it felt off somehow.

I did attend DOS 6, which was in a hotel in Copenhagen, but it was also almost too professional. Again: I got some vibes I didn’t want to associate with playing Old School magic. Luckily Tier1MtG has listened to the friendly, well-meaning feedback, they’d got for the missing Old School feel. And thus, DOS 8 was in a small venue and Old School exclusively.

The DOS series is probably the most competitive OS tournament series in Denmark. There is such an insane amount of power that I can’t really believe it. There are also a lot of great players in the setting, there to win.

I was also there to win – of course – but I also had some other goals for the day. But first:


Yep, not The Deck. Haha, no one ever gets tired of that joke. “My deck” then.

Some time ago I stumbled upon a really great looking deck featuring Ball Lightning, Unsummon and Animate Dead along with some robots, some lightning and The Abyss. Unfortunately I cannot remember where I found the deck, or who had designed or played it. If you know, please let me know, so credit can be given, where due. I really like how someone has thought out basically all the best synergies there is with Ball Lightning. It is a show of dedication that I would like to praise rightfully! Unfortunately, my Google foo is just not strong enough! Help me, dear community!

Because this was a deck, I instantly fell in love with. I knew I had to assemble the cards for it. This January my fourth Badlands hit my binder (I am a mailday post short, I realize!) and I was ready to go:

As a sweet humble brag status-thingy side note: more and more often I find that when I assemble decks I want to play, they turn out to be Swedish legal! Yay! Hooray Unlimited Duals.

Anyway. This is not exactly like the deck I stumbled upon. I always have to dumb things down a bit, when I netdeck. I think I have added the fourth Unsummon and probably also the Mishra’s Workshop – maybe a couple of other cards – but the large part of the deck is very much stolen from this mystery brewer of pure greatness from the Internet.

The sideboard probably also has some resemblance to the original deck – especially the Blood Moon / monored robot plan. Only in the original deck, the designer opted for a slew of Shivan Dragons. Beautiful. But not what I wanted to do here.

So this was the deck I chose. It is very much on the spikey side of what I would normally gather – it is basically a Red-Blue-Black Robots deck with some not-so-optimal choices. But playing DOS is also a bit on the spikey side anyway, so I figured it fit.

The deck is rather straight-forward: you often play the aggressive game with some fast damage through Ball Lightnings and maybe an early Su-Chi, and then you are able to play the bit longer game when re-using your Ball Lightnings and start playing Triskelion and The Abyss. And then there are a lot of restricted cards to bind it all together. I will get a bit more into some details about the deck, at the end of this post. So stay with me, or scroll past the write-up of the games that is almost about to happen.

Goals and getting in the mood…

But first: we have to set some goals for what we want to achieve, and get in the mood.

As always, when I attend a tournament, I had mapped out some goals I wanted to achieve throughout the day. These were it:

  • Start a game by playing Black Lotus into Ball Lightning (in the extended version also Unsummoning the Ball Lightning in the same turn.
  • Animate Dead a Ball Lightning and then play Unsummon on it.
  • Animate Dead something relevant from the opponents graveyard.
  • Use Unsummon on an opponents’ creature for a game-defining turn.
  • Unsummon a hostile creature and then play Wheel of Fortune, Timetwister or Mind Twist.
  • Win at least three matches (I thought we would play six matches in all – it turned out we played seven).

I can already spoil, that I managed to achieve several of these goals. Uuuuh, cliffhanger, I know!

But before any words on how my games went, we have to get in the mood for some tournament Magic. On the Saturday in question, I had set my alarm clock rather early. It didn’t matter much, as my kids woke up before it got off anyway.

Out of bed. Into the shower. Clothes on – of course the Alpha Edition print of the Metageyser team-t (you can recognize it by the fact that it is white…). Bake some Saturday-morning buns for the family. Eat a couple with the kids. Wake up the wife. Open the door for fellow Metageyser team member Casper. Close the door behind us, and get in my car at 8-o-clock. Pick third Metageyser team member Teis up at 8.15. Teis had made some killer coffee for all! Put on the Old School Spotify playlist and tell Google were to go.

Ahead we went!

The tournament

Before we went into the fray, there was the obligatory round of high-fives between players who hadn’t seen each other in some time, or simply had to share or learn some last-minute tech.

Also: Free cake and coffee! My kind of event, let me tell you. I ate so much cake, I was almost ashamed of myself. Almost.

Then there was the gathering of players for info on the tournament. There were some prices. They were of the old school kind with something along the lines of four Double Signed Revised Swords to Plowshares to best non-power, four Signed Beta Merfolk of the Pearl Trident for best spice deck. A two-player playmat signed by all players to the champion. And finally an Alpha Plains to be signed by all top8-opponents along with free bar for every top8-attendant.

And then there was a random raffle between all players featuring the opening of a sealed Revised Starter and a couple of Fourth Edition boosters. A Savannah and an Ankh of Mishra was opened. I got the ever elusive Fourth Edition Circle of Protection: Black. Mint condition – except for centering, which would probably be a clear 7.5. Score!

Finally Tier1mtg had commissioned a bust of their mascot dwarf, Edgar: It was quite cool.

This picture really doesn’t do the little guy justice. And the Dwarf is also much better looking in real life…

And then it was finally time to get into it! Some confusion arose about the number of rounds, but we were to play seven rounds. This is how they went for yours truly:

Round 1: Sonny Nielsen

The first round was against Sonny Nielsen. Not a guy I know well, but I had a feeling I had seen his name before, and maybe even played against him years ago. I was probably right, as we found out he also played Vintage 20-or-so years ago.

Anyway, it was a couple of short, brutal games, where Sonnys UWb control deck did evil things against me. The first game was looked good, when I created a turn one Su-Chi. But it was to no avail as Sonny had already played a Lotus and continued to Drain my robot. I tried to reanimate it. I was Wrathed away. Then I played a stream of Triskelions and got Sonny to 16 life, when he played a very defining Balance that both killed my Trisks (getting him to 10 life) and made sure I screwed for the rest of the game.

I lost that game with two Ball Lightnings in hand and only two red mana sources.

Out went four Unsummon, four Animate Dead and one Mana Drain.

I opted for three Blood Moon, two Shatter, three Red Elemental Blast and a Fireball.

I kept an okay hand with five lands, a Mox and an Ancestral Recall. I played recall first turn into Su-Chi turn two. Sonny had played a Library of Alexandria in his first turn, and managed to counter my Su-Chi. From there on it wasn’t really much of a game for me. LOA is strong. So is Mind Twist for three. I never really had much chance here, and the deck – once again – didn’t find much reason to be able to produce three red mana in one round. Sad.


Round 2: Lasse Sløk

Of course, I would not let such a beating ruin my mood, so I wandered around looking at peoples’ great decks. For instance, I saw this board state:

Infamous brewer and member of the Drain Life Crew Kenneth Ringkjær had made a monstrosity of sheer beauty with Howling Mines, Chains of Mephistopheles, Island Sanctuary and Underworld Dreams! What a man! I guess he must already have a full friends list…

Okay, round two was ready, and I was up against Lasse Sløk. I am not sure if I have met him before, neither of us was really sure.

Lasse played a really cool Blue Red aggro deck with Flying Men, Dib, Unstable Mutation and a lot of burn.

He ran flaming out of the gates, and double bolted me in his turn one. Turn two he played a dib. I was rather shocked, but managed to pull myself together, and pull some relevant cards. Not least because Lasse wanted to refill his hand in his turn three, and played a Wheel of Fortune. Off of which I drew these slightly powerful cards:

I was already able to make four mana, so my next turn would be crazy. Before that, Lasse just wanted me to get some more damage in the form of an Unstable Mutation on his Dib. Ouch! Down to 6 life!

In my turn I drew a Ball Lightning and basically played my entire hand taking an extra turn and attacking Lasse down to two life via Ball Lightning and then Animated Ball Lightning in the extra turn. Niiiice.

I had also Orbed Lasses Dib, so he had a clear board, except for lands. In his turn, he Bolts me down to one life, and then shows me a Chain Lightning, which I was able to copy, killing him before it would kill me. He plays his Timetwister looking for another Bolt, but alas, no Bolt, only another Chain Lightning, which he plays.

I boarded out four Animate Dead and one Mana Drain, and took in three Red Elemental Blasts and two Shatter (which was a mistake, but I thought he was playing Su-Chi and/or Black Vise).

Game two was also rather close. Lasse begins the game with a Flying Men. In his turn two he mutates it. I play an Abyss to get rid of the threat. He Orbs the Abyss and from there it is a bit more grindy. I manage to land a Trisk, which is Psionic Blasted more or less on sight. I Strip Mine his only red source, which keeps him from burning me too much, and then manage to play no less than two Trisks more, and at a defining moment I Unsummon his Dib to remove his blocker, just long enough so I am able to kill him with trisk beatdown and burn. I was at four life!


1-1, and I had already achieved my goal of using an Unsummon on an opponent’s creature at a defining moment.

Round 3: Tor Daniel Nielsen

On to round three then, where Tor was waiting. I had never met Tor before, and he did also mention that this was his first Old School Tournament, so it was not too surprising…

I had no idea what I was up against, but I kept a hand of Ball Lightning, two Unsummon, a Timetwister and three red mana-producing lands. After muliganing one, Tor leads with a Savannah Lions.

I Unsummon his Lion to Time Walk Tor. He plays it again along with a Black Vise – the aggro was on! I play a helluva lot of evil cards, with The Abyss, Library of Alexandria and Su-Chi among them, and then play my Timetwister:

Tor mana-screws completely – even after the Timetwister – and I am very free to play a lot of great cards, not least the Ball Lightning twice.

I was still very unsure what I was up against because Tor had basically only played Savannah Lions, Black Vise and a Bolt. I boarded one Earthquake in instead of a single Animate Dead.

In game two both of us mulligans, making Tors turn one Black Vise a bit worse. I play turn two Ball Lightning (Mox Ruby is CRAZY in this deck), but lack black mana to play my Animate and my Abyss. It is okay, I guess. I land a Trisk turn three, Tor plays Tax – which was somewhat surprising, but he was actually playing TaxEdge! Who would have known?! He then plays Wheel to refill his hand and find a combo piece more, but alas: He bricks, while I find a Time Walk, a Su-Chi, a Bolt, an Animate Dead and a Black Lotus. I then continued to remove the last 10 life Tor had.

Great! Even though the match was somewhat colored by the fact that Tors deck was not really up to playing Magic at the time, it was of course nice to win. Ball Lightning – Animate Dead is a lot of fun!


Round 4: Benjamin Rochette

On to round four, where I was up against yet another new friend. This time even from a completely other country. Benjamin Rochette from France is living in Denmark, and plays Old School. He had also found his way to DOS 8.


Ah yes, that was a great fun turn!

This sums up the first game, which I won (I had also Twisted away his hand of five cards, after he had only played a couple of Factories and Moxes and had started the game with a mulligan…)

It was, though, – as Benjamin so beautifully put it – a true Vivaldi game. He played all four seasons of the factories. But in the end, they were not enough to help his URb(?) control/aggro deck win against my horrendous onslaught of Ball Lightnings. At least not in the first game…

I am unsure how I boarded this game. I think I took out four Animate Dead and a Mana Drain. I must have put in three Red Elemental Blast, but not sure what else.

In game two, I did not do much, and Benjamin countered most of my threats and at one point Twisted five cards away from my hand. It was difficult to get back from, and Serendib Efreet backed up by both counters and Energy Flux, showed to be too much.

Game three was more interesting than game two. I keep a rather strange six-card hand, that is capable of fielding a turn two Trisk. I hope it will be enough to make me some time to get into it. Alas not. Benjamin is once again on the control train, and my deck runs out of steam to battle him. So instead, I lose.

But that was not a problem at all. It was a great pleasure to play against Benjamin, and even though our games had been somewhat decided by restricted cards, it was fun and challenging games that could have gone either way.

Benjamin was even nice enough to praise my blog – I am a sucker for such things – and he even remembered one of the sentences I wrote in an article some time ago, that “winning is great, and losing is just having a good time.” He most certainly lived up to this, making my loss a good time anyway.

2-2 I am still on it – a winning record is within sight!

Round 5: Axel Lerstrup

In this round I was up against wall-to-wall good-guy Axel Lerstrup. I have played against Axel in various tournaments a couple of handfuls of times throughout the last 20-or-so years. It is always a pleasure. 10 out of 10: can recommend.

His LionDib deck, it seemed, was not very much up to play a lot of Magic in our first game. He mulliganed to five, played a land and a Black Vise.

My deck, on the other hand, was even less prone to do anything remotely reasonable, even though I had kept an okay hand, with promises of more:

Unfortunately I never really got to play anything. My mana didn’t fit my cards in hand, and I never reached six mana for the Trisk before Axels second Vise and two bolts had finished me. He only ever drew and played one land. More would have been overkill, I guess?

That was stupid! Out went two draw7’s as I figured he was also very aggressive, maybe even more so than me. The Drain also hit the bench once more. I boarded in three Red Elemental Blast.

But alas. All my clever thinking did not matter. Even though our second game was very much more interesting than the first – I even managed to resolve several spells! – I succumbed relatively quickly to Axels horde of Vise, Lions, Factories, Chains, Bolts and well-timed Disenchants (he kept it in hand to kill my Trisk, instead of killing the on board Abyss – it was a very good play from his part).

Yrdk! 2-3, now I had to win the next (at this point I still thought it was a six-round tournament, as no other notice was given).

Round 6: Brian Amdisen

And then I was up against Brian Amdisen. I don’t think I have ever actually played against Brian before, but he played on an Alpha40 playmat. That always stirs in me some amount of awe and fear… I asked him if he plays Alpha40, and he said only a little; he had only assembled a “budget deck”… There is no such thing as a budget Alpha40 deck. But his deck sounded really cool being black and green with Spiders, Craw Wurms and even a couple of Sengirs, if I recall correctly. I would love to see that pile some day!

But it was not to be this day. He started the first game playing a Lotus a Sapphire and a Factory into an Erhnam Djinn. A rather aggressive start, I reckon. I play first round Library into turn two Su-Chi, which was hurriedly sent to the fields plowing. My next turn Abyss stuck for a couple of turns, and kept Brian from deploying some of his threats. I Tutored greedily into Ancestral Recall which got me some pressure in the form of Ball Lightning.

Brian Armageddons the board at some point afterwards, and we are down to a standstill where he leads with Factory and Ancestral. I play two Unsummon on his factories to gain some much needed time, until I gathered enough resources to start building big, stupid robots. I may have missed a Chaos Orb flip on Brians Serra Angel (my notes are not very easily readable), but end up winning the game after playing three Triskelion in a row. I was a six life. It had been a close and fun game indeed.

After much debate among myself, I ended up not boarding anything. Brian did not play Dib, so I didn’t want my Elemental Blasts only for a couple of blue Power cards. Shatters seemed underwhelming to kill jewelry and Factories. The rest of my board wasn’t better than my main board either.

In game two, I mulliganed once, but kept a good six cards. I start by bolting Brians first turn Pixie. In my turn two I Mind Twist Brian for three cards. Turn three I go completely fair by playing Ancestral into Time Walk and start beating him down with a Ball Lightning in my extra turn. A Ball Lightning I Unsummoned. Yes!

Brian manages to land a Whirling Dervish which hit me a couple of times. But he was hit hard by the Mind Twist, and he didn’t draw much after that. I even Unsummon the Dervish and played my Ball Lightning again, and finally Animated it to beat Brian down to three life (goal achieved!). Just perfect for my Bolt.

I attacked with the same Ball Lightning three times! That was awesome.

3-3 is a very acceptable record. But then I found out I had yet another game to play. Great! It was against…

Round 7: Lars Salvarli

I also played against Lars the last time I went to DOS – you can read about it here. This time he had swapped the RGb aggro deck with, what I believe was a take on Lion Dib. Even though I am actually unsure if I ever saw an Dib, so I may have been another take on a UWb deck.

Anyway, his deck was strong, and he is a great player.

But that was not enough for him in the first game. Lars mulligans to six. I keep these seven:

A great hand indeed. Again: Mox Ruby is ridiculously powerful in this deck!

So the game goes like this from my side: Turn two Ball Lightning. Turn three Ball Lightning which gets a sword. Turn four Trisk. Turn five Su-Chi. Turn six The Abyss and then a Ball Lightning to finish things off. Lars played a couple of Lions a factory and a Balance. But my stream of threats was simply too much.

I was very unsure what I was up against, so I only boarded in three Red Elemental Blast and a single Earthquake instead of one Unsummon, two Animate Dead and a Mana Drain. In game two Lars’ deck was much more up to the task, and my deck was not as insane. I try to put pressure on the board in the form of robots, but Lars has three Swords, a Disenchant and a couple of Counterspells, and I had two Animate Dead stranded on my hand, with a lack of possibility to produce black mana.

Lars ended up administering me a dose of my own medicine, when he shoved a Su-Chi down my throat. On to game three.

I thought that the Moon plan might be a good thing to do at this point, because I had primarily seen duals and Factories on Lars’ side of the table. So I boarded out four Unsummon, four Animate Dead, two The Abyss and a Mana Drain. Instead I opted to play three Blood Moon, three Red Elemental Blast, two Shatter, two Chain Lightning and an Earthquake.

Game three ended up being rather crazy. I think it is safe to say that both Lars and I were rather tired at this point. It is a long game where we exchange threats and answers, even though Lars mulliganed to five. He plays at least two Divine Offering, and one or two Disenchants and Swords. All of my robots disappear… I play a Blood Moon, but Lars managed to play around it with relevant moxes and more basic lands, than I had anticipated.

It all comes down to a situation, where he is able to produce six red mana, I am able to produce nine. He is at 12 life, I am at 11. I have a Red Elemental Blast and a Lightning Bolt in hand. And a Chain Lightning.

From this point things got really weird and strange. He returned the lightning, which I then returned back. We did that a couple of times until Lars asked if he could counter my latest copy. I was unsure. Both of us were too tired and confused to just look up the answer on our phones. We just played on, and he simply stopped the chain. He was a three life. I tried the Bolt. He Mana Drained. I Red Elemental Blasted, but he also had two Psionic Blasts in hand, which killed me, and sent him to one life. No. It would have sent him to -1. So this line of play didn’t make much sense.

We had both lost our cool at this moment, and a more knowledgeable guy had come along to tell us how Chain Lightning worked an whether it could countered. It can. It makes copies. This tilted both of us a bit. But I guess the line of play would have been along the lines of me going to eight and Lars going to nine with the Chain. Then Lars could double Psionic me and I could try to counter one, but would get countered right back by Lars’ Blue Elemental Blast… Lars would then end the game at two life after I would bolt him in spite, as a dying move…

Rather. Epic.

3-4 and what a tournament it had been!

The deck, and goals achieved

Okay, wow. I am always surprised at how many words seven rounds of Old School Magic requires even if I try to be brief.

But I just want to say a couple of things about my deck.

First of all: it was a fun and cool deck. I can recommend playing it. Again: Much kudos to the designer! It is capable of both playing very aggressively but also a rather controlling part. The Blood Moon sideboard plan is cool, but I didn’t really get to profit from it. Blood Moon is on the list of cards that look great but often are rather lackluster when actually played. I do think, though, that it is relevant strategy to play the first game of a round as a three-color deck, and then switch into an almost mono-red Moon Robot deck.

Then: the deck had some rather big problems. Or at least one rather big problem: the mana base. I had of course play-tested the deck a bit, and gold fished and so on, and I expected some trouble with mana requirements. But I encountered it more than I had anticipated. It cost me the game in at least two instances. I may be enough to change the Workshop for a Mountain. Maybe even the Island too. But I also had trouble with both Black and Blue mana throughout the day. I simply needed the Underground Seas! Playing a card that costs RRR in the center of a three-color deck is a huge strain. I don’t say it can’t be done, but in a long tournament, you will have to prepare for the very real possibility, that you will lose a game or two simply to not being able to play your cards. I am pondering if one should remove one of the colors, but the coolest thing about the deck is the fact that you can play a Ball Lightning. Next turn Animate and Unsummon it. That is  what dreams are made of.

And then the last point about the deck: Unsummon is a great card!

It really is. It is the first time I have played it in a tournament, but if you play an aggressive deck, Unsummon can be huge! Especially if it is also relevant on one or more of your own creatures! Unsummoning your opponents’ Factory out of nowhere is a huge tempo boost that one shouldn’t sneeze at!

 Did I manage to reach all my goals? No, sadly not.

First of all, I should of course have had a goal of a number of Ball Lightnings I wanted to play/animate throughout the day. I would probably have set the goal at around 20, and I think I got to about 22 so that is a half win, I guess.

I would have loved to Unsummon an evil creature and then make it go away by either a Draw7 or a Mind Twist. It would have made my praise of Unsummon above even greater. I would also really have liked to Animate something cool from my opponents’ graveyard, but there never seemed to be a better target than in my own bin.

And then of course, I would have been over the moon to play a Lotus and then slam a Ball Lightning into a completely unprepared opponents’ face.

But it should not be so this time. Maybe next time then!

Thank you to all my opponents for being stand-up great guys all around. Thank you to Tier1MtG for hosting an awesome event. Thank you to my teammates Teis, who had built a cool BU aggro deck, but didn’t have the luck on his side, and Casper who piloted a GB Nether Void Aggro deck to a 3-4 finish, for riding with me in my car. Thank you to all participants and hangarounds at the tournament.

And thank you, my dear reader!

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