Untaming the Wilderness at King of the Cage 2019 [guest post]

*** Here’s one guest tourney report by fellow Wolf and brewer extraordinaire Laurence-B. He’ll walk you through his latest creation and experience at King of the Cage 2019 — “Arrogant Bastard” FRDT ***

Last Saturday I rode up to Quebec City with a handful of other degenerates to partake in the first gentlemanly tournament to be organized in Quebec (and possibly North America?). To wit, the exact rules to be observed consisted in the following melting pot of strange parameters:

  • Swedish B&R
  • EC reprint policy
  • Mana burn
  • Pre Vancouvert mull with 1 free allowed if hand reveal 0,1,6 or 7 lands
  • Gentlemen OS: Library of Alexandria and Mind Twist are banned

Around the time the tournament was announced a month or two ago, I had been tinkering with the idea of a deck based around the combination of Sylvan Library and Untamed Wilds. For those unfamiliar with the latest spoilers from Legends, Untamed Wilds is a 2G Sorcery with gorgeous artwork that lets you fetch a basic land from your Library and put it into play untapped. It is both a ramp spell and a color fixing spell and has the added bonus of letting you see 3 fresh cards off of Sylvan Library when you’re tired of renting out the same old books:

I figured the way to utilize Untamed Wilds to its full potential (or is it most fun potential?) was to make the deck 5 colors and just jam the juiciest spells in all the colors with no regards to pip requirements. Indeed, after adding 3 Untamed Wilds, 4 Birds of Paradise, 4 City of Brass and 5 Moxes to the stew, we’re already at a virtual 12 sources of each color! We’re playing sweet fatties of course, and the goal is to survive until we get to a point where we can chain these battlecruisers one after the other and they can start taking over the game. With this in mind I opted for the following summons:

  • 4 Triskelion: the first one comes down and cleans up the mess so that the second one can start attacking.
  • 4 Serra: Vigilance means she can start attacking right away which is not necessarily the case for other creatures if the opponent has a full board.
  • 1 Bartel Runeaxe: the second best vigilant fatty.
  • 1 Sol’kanar: 5/5 beats almost everything on the ground.

The motto of this deck is “go big or go home” so we might as well go straight to Control Magic and Fireball for removal! Disenchant and Swords to Plowshares round out the removal suite because we have to be at least a little bit reasonable. Putting it all together, I ended up on something like this:

(Black Lotus would be exceptional here but I do not own a copy of that particular piece of cardboard.) An attractive feature of this build is that it basically ignores all of the most common hate cards. Think City in a Bottle, Blood Moon, REB, BEB, Energy Flux, etc.; none of them seems particularly attractive to board in against us.

THE TOURNAMENT

Upon arriving at the tournament site, a restaurant where we had the whole second floor to ourselves, I ordered a pint of Goose Island IPA (5%) and only had time to chat a little bit with the locals before I was informed that I was paired with honorary wolf Christian Arcand.

Match 1: Christian on WUB Transmute Spicy choices

Game 1: Christian has a strong start of Ancestral Recall into Demonic Tutor followed shortly after by Old School staple Glasses of Urza! After that we both do a lot of draw-go, developing our mana before we start to exchange threats in a very gentlemanly manner: his Trike for my Control Magic, my Serra for his Swords to Plowshares, his Disrupting Scepter for my Chaos Orb, etc. Bartel Runeaxe ends up sticking and manages to swings his legendary axe at Christian’s health, bringing him down to around 8 before an Icy manipulator shows up to slow down his charge. Regardless, connecting with Bartel feels like a victory on its own! Disrupting Scepter gets reconstructed but I have a more than decent trump in Braingeyser X=5. When Christian puts on his Glasses, he sees that the geyser got me Demonic Tutor, Fireball, Regrowth, Birds, City of Brass. Not a bad haul! But he won’t just roll over. Far from it, he replies with a crushing Transmute Artifact for Winter Orb and Transmute Artifact for Icy #2!! He now has all the tools he needs to lock me out of the game but it’s a tricky spot because he also is all tapped out now, save for 1 City of Brass. The combination of Bartel and the Fireball in my hand means he has to tread very lightly. He opts to let me untap a Swamp and uses Icy on Bartel. I topdeck…. Disenchant!! Incredible. I pass the turn and he whiffs on the land he needs to turn on both Icys. I untap a white source and again he taps Bartel so I get to Disenchant Winter Orb on his upkeep and Fireball him for lethal on my turn! What a game!

SB: +3 REB, +1 Dust to Dust, +1 Artifact Blast, +1 Divine Offering, -2 Control Magic, -2 Swords to Plowshares, -2 Trike

Game 2: In this game, we again trade many land drops in the early game but I decide to Disenchant his Factory and blind Regrowth it. When I get to 5 mana the threats start pouring down: Serra? Swords. Serra? Swords. Trike? Disenchant. Trike? Counterspell. REB! Trike sticks and start beating down. He’s joined soon after by Serra and at this point Christian has to use the desperation move of Transmute for Meekstone just to incapacitate the Trike. I do not use the Disenchant because I fear this is bait for something more impactful like a Disk. He does casts an Abyss on his next turn but at this point I have 2 Birds so the math does not work out in his favor. Serra scores the win. 1-0

Match 2: Homie Francois R. Derbas Thibodeau on UBR Guardian Beast combo (aka Beast Island)

This deck falls within the “Pet Deck” category I believe, and Francois has been playing and tuning it for the better part of the last 2 years. So I kind of know what to expect.

Game 1: This time my opponent leads with Demonic Tutor into Ancestral Recall (same cards, reversed order). He then deploys a Sage of Lat-Nam which I opt to Control Magic even though Francois has no artifacts to sacrifice at this point. This may seems weird but I have 3 reasons for making this play. First, I know that the Sage is very synergistic with his strategy and I have often regretted not dealing with the sage when I had the opportunity. Second, I know that Francois’ deck has no good target for Control Magic (only Guarding Beasts and Trikes). Third, I know (or at least I think I know) that Francois is playing a number of Copy Artifacts, so if it comes to that, I want to be able to cash in my own Trike for a card when he tries to copy it… give him a taste of his own medecine, gnomesayin’?

Regardless, after I resolve a Serra Angel, Francois is quick to Recall his Demonic Tutor, find Balance and take my Serra, Sage, Birds + 1 precious land to his nothing. I proceed to draw no more mana sources and die fast to Trike+Factory beats.

SB: -2 Control Magic, -4 Trike, +3 REB, +1 stp, +1 Artifact Blast, +1 Dust to Dust

Game 2: He laments having to mull to 6 but then proceeds to beat me down to 12 with a pair of Sages, doing nothing else. I could have deployed a Serra Angel sooner but I wanted to have REB up while doing so for any shenanigans he might have. As my life starts getting low, he decides the timing is right to take a picture of his hand. Now, don’t get me wrong I love Francois from the bottom of my heart, but he’s an arrogant bastard. So at this point I start suspecting that his hand is full of burn. Sure enough, I know I’m in trouble when he responds to my Serra by Psi Blasting me (!) whilst sporting a cocky grin. I snap use my REB on that since REB is no good against Bolts and Fireballs. Sure enough, he follows up with Bolt to face, Regrowth Psi Blast, blast my face and suicide swing his Sages into my Serra. I block and go to 4. On my turn I drop a second Serra and I answer his Fireball for 4 by exiling my own Serra in exchange for 4 life. With him at 12, I untap, swing, and Fireball him for the rest. He later confessed he felt humiliated by this turn of event and upon hearing that God saw it was good. The now infamous picture:

Game 3: I have a decent opening of Mox, City of Brass, Bird of Paradise but his is Ancestral Recall into Bolt the Bird and Strip the City of Brass. I never see another mana source and perish lamely to the familiar beat of Factory beats. 1-1

Match 3: Max on Pink Weenies

Game 1: Max enjoys a nice curve of Lions into Lions + Strip Mine. I try to contain his assault as best I can but he Swords my Birds and keeps adding more x/1s to the board. Meanwhile I’m sitting on Serra + 2x Trikes which would stop his party dead in its track but despite a Sylvan Library I fail to assemble the necessary mana in time and perish to the ferocious white critters.

SB: +3 Ivory Tower, +1 Stella Cadente (Falling Star), +1 Swords to Plowshares, -2 Control Magic, -1 Mana Drain, -1 Bartel, -1 Sol Kanar

Game 2: I open with Ivory Tower which is met with a Lions on his part. For the next two turns I opt to do nothing and just let Ivory Tower do its thing. But on T3 he has Blood Moon. At this point my hand is blanked but as long as I have this Tower I love my spot: he will need to commit more x/1s to the board and by the time he has enough to really threaten my life I should have Fireballs and Trikes to take over. As it turns out his 2 next plays consist of Orb-ing my Tower and blowing up the word with Armageddon! So much for my Fireball/Trike takeover plan. However, ‘geddon leaves Max with a Mox Pearl as his only mana source for many turn while I slowly rebuild. I Fireball his Lion as I’m getting low on life and I’m weary of getting burned out once he finally finds a Mountain. My next topdeck is Ivory Tower so we’re definitely back on track now. And sure enough the game eventually ends with Trike into Trike into Fireball.

Game 3: Game 3 starts with the same sequence that got me in trouble in Games 1 and 3 VS Francois: Lions into Strip Mine + Swords the Bird! Again, Max has a follow up Blood Moon but this time I’m not bothered at all as I drew into Forest, Pearl and Disenchant. I proceed to Ancestral–>Regrowth–>Ancestral–>Ivory Tower and that’s all she wrote. 2-1.

Match 4: Jessy on UB bots

Games 1: He has Turn 1 Mishra’s Workshops and comes out of the gate swinging with Su-Chi, Juggernaut and Copy Artifact on Su-Chi in quick succession. I do my best to stabilize with Control Magic and Disenchant but he has Geyser for 4 off of Mana Drain to refuel and bury me.

SB: With only 1 shop in the format, I figure taking a controlling stance is promising so I board in all my removal and counterspells with the plan of killing him with his own creatures and large Fireballs. I keep in Sol’kanar and Bartel since they have the upper hand in combat against most of his creatures.

-4 Trike (he can copy them), -3 Serra*, +3 Counterspell, +1 Disenchant, +1 Dust to Dust, +1 Artifact Blast, +2 Swords to Plowshares

*At this point I realize that I lost a Serra from my deck!! We look around but it’s nowhere to be found. 😦

Game 2: He powers out two early Su-Chis thanks to Mana Vault and Copy Artifact. I steal one and plow the other so it’s looking good but Jessy won’t just roll over. Three back to back Mishra’s Factory hit the table and start racing my Su-Chi. It appears that I’m gonna lose the race but Fireball once again comes to the rescue!

Game 3: This game was a pretty good joke. It starts with T1 Mishra’s Workshop–>Sol Ring–>Su-Chi into T2 Triskelion. My turn 2 sees me DT for Dust to Dust but his Turn 3 is… Gloom! *hand shake* 2-2

Match 5: Fred on RW Tax Edge

Game 1: He does an impressive job of denying me mana with a Bolt on Bird, Detonate on Mox twice and Strip Mine (!). Did we change the tournament rules to EC at the last minute and nobody told me?! There isn’t much else to say. I’m unable to get off the ground and I get eaten alive by a combination of lion bites and thunder bolts.

SB*: +3 Ivory Tower, +2 Swords to Plowshares, -1 Bartel, -1 Trike (they too darn expensive!), -2 Control Magic

*Punt of the day!

Game 2: A very uneventful game. He’s mana screwed and my Serra takes him from 20 to 0.

Game 3: A Detonate on my Sol Ring means I’m super slow to get off the ground. Meanwhile, Fred drops 3 White Knights in 3 turns and the Mirror Universe rotting in my hand is no match for the clock  they represent. It is particularly pathetic that my Demonic Tutor has nothing to get that would save me. Stella Candente would have done it but I’m dumbfounded when I realize that I left it in the sideboard(!!). 2-3

Match 6: Yanick on UWg skies

Game 1: We’re both on slow decks so draw-go it is for a bunch of turns. He surprises me with a Land Tax while I have something like 3 more lands than him so he gets to tax out all the basics out of his deck. Then the slugfest begins. Mahamoti Djinns are sent plowing, Trikes are Disenchanted, Serras are tackled by Fireballs. Eventually he find Ancestral Recall and turns that into a combo of Mahamoti + Azure Drake, tapping all but two plains. At this point I’m sitting on Time Walk, Wheel of Fortune, Fireball. I can Fireball him for exactsies but if he has the Plow for, say, his Drake, then it can get ugly. So I choose to Fireball him for only 10, cast Time Walk then Wheel, with the plan of ripping another Fireball to finish him off. My library is pretty darn thin so I think my odds are more than excellent. I get there on the 7th card drawn! phew lol

Sideboard: +3 REB, +2 Swords to Plowshares, -1 Sol’kanar, -4 Trike (he has Moat and no weenies)

Game 2: Not a particularly exciting game. If I remember correctly I Mana Drain a Serra and pump the mana into a huge geyser. To finish things off, I Disenchant Yannick’s Moat and Bartel comes thundering down from Hammerheim to score the win. 3-3

IN THE END

In the end what do I think of the deck? I continue to believe the archetype has potential in the Swedish format, but some tweaks are required and more testing is required to determine what these exact tweaks should be. While Fireballs were the MVP, maindeck Control Magics were pretty underwhelming but not to the point that I think they’re wrong. The real problem of the deck is that the curve is too high. I overestimated the deck’s capacity for reaching 6 mana fast enough against aggro decks. So I think I would fix this by first transmuting a few of those Trikes/ Mirror into Su-Chi (maybe a fun-of Clockwork Avian? I love that card.) and second by adding a pair of Fellwar Stones into the mix. This will help with both the ramping aspect and the color fixing. Another interesting path to help with the speed is to add Channel since Channel and Fireball are pals to begin with.Thanks for reading and let me know how it goes if you decide to take this very fun deck for a spin. I recommend it!

— Laurence

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SWE Gentlemen OS at King of the Cage 2019: Beast Island more

Here’s a quick round-by-round report for the King of the Cage 2019 event that was hosted by the Brew Crew at La Cage aux Sports in Québec city last august 10th. Swedish B&R list was used, but reprints à la Eternal Central including CE/IE cards were allowed. A twist, also: the Gentlemen Old school agreement was in effect, where both Library of Alexandria and Mind Twist are forbidden. It turned out to be an excellent event! Great spells were slung, round after round, and the vibe was amazing.

Four Montreal Tundra Wolves and one Ottawa Capital Chaos afficionado made the trip up north. I was playing my Beast Island deck, initially designed for an EC-environment, now adapted for Gentlemen Swedish OS:

For the first time it was featuring my new flavour-oozing Regrowth (Orb) Alter, just in from AS Alters, Denmark:

The pile really is a healthy mix of equal parts Timmy, Johnny and Spike elements, I believe. I ended up placing 2nd out of 16 mages, losing only to the would-be champion in a heartwrenchingly close match (more details below).

***

Disclaimer: I didn’t take any notes nor too many pictures, so all which follows is off the top of my head. Mileage may vary. This being said, onto the rounds:

For round 1 I am facing the legendary Yves who’s on a UW Birds type thing. Lightning Bolt were zapping left and right and the one time he managed to get some threats to stick around, it’s the Mana Drain for his Armageddon that I did have. Then eventually, the combo to take over, sporting a new classy technique. Postboard, i did get the scare when i saw a Golgotian Sylex go on the stack, but fortunately he had to tap out for it and I found a very clutch Disenchant to prevent him from obliterating my board. City in a Bottle did resolve too, and kept me off my Beasts and splash colors this game. Sages of Lat-Nam and Factories in aggro mode still got him hurt, just enough so that hurling fire at his face would prove lethal.

For a second year in a row, i beat Yves on the opening round of this tournament, which means… that i get a sweet Yves-themed custom card! See for yourself:

This Yves to Plowshares already made my day, and many envious!

Then for round 2 I faced homie Laurence on 5c Fatties. First game sees him trampling me over with giant monsters, but I’m luckily able to find a Balance and turn the tide. Second game is grindier as we both kind of flood with mana and answers. Sages are left unchecked and try to aggro him out, but as you can tell that he’s rather unimpressed…

And down the road, when I do commit to try to burn him dead for exactsies, he Swords his Angel away and survives, untaps and kills me with fire himself on the swingback! I underestimated the versatility of his pile, it seems. Actually not, I had foreseen the line, I just had nothing else lol. Third game was rough for Laurence as, as soon as I saw him miss his second land drop, I went straight for the jugular: Bolted the Bird and Stripped the one land away. Poor lad never recovered. And just like that i prevailed over my opponent from last year’s KotC’s finals! Yay me.

Sitting across from me for Round 3 was Jessy Pouliot on UB Robots. Jessy’s army of Juggies were met by Bolts, Su-Chis by Fireballs. I then summoned the Beasts to guard the mystic Orb of Chaos, but he kept making copies to blow the Beasts away! After trading flips back and forth for a little while, I proceded to outdraw him with Trikes, pew pew ded. Second game was more technical — the mulligan rule for the day were both very nice (for 0, 1, 6 or 7 landers, you had a free mull) and rough at times (no vancouver’ing nor london’ing when you were staring down at a plain bad hand). So it was one of the latter ones. Not having much in terms of fuel, only a couple of answers, at least i had the clarity of not playing out my City of Brass and Mana Vault in the face of his early Manipulator. Which eventually became two Manipulators, and then three! Man, how dead i’d be. With the board totally gummed up, it is the burn that won me the topdeck war once again.

Round 4 i was up against Simon who was piloting RWG Big Zoo. Game one with Bolts taking care of his Lions and Apes, I get to summon some Beasts and get the Orb’ing going, obliterating his manabase fast. Game two grinds back and forth, my mana-flooded hand turns out kind of awesome once he casts an Armageddon around the mid-game. We trade ressources reaaaaal tight and Serra Angel proves too complicated for me to deal with in the timeframe i’m given, even though i had now started chaining Trikes and would surely have gotten there eventually. Argothian Pixies was quite a nuisance too, in this specific situation. “Note to self: side those Psi Blasts in” — I hadn’t because 1. he’s playing burn so i didn’t want to burn myself, 2. I didn’t even know he was playing critters as big as Serras!

Game three was an epic one. On the play, i have no choice but to mull down to a blind six, which gives me a Volc, a Bolt and an Ancestral Recall to start off with, yay! There’s also another land, a Timetwister and a Control Magic. Yeah, the nuts. So the early game definitely tilts in my favor, however playing out my cards looking to Twist asap to gain card advantage, Simon never provides a threat worthy of my Control Magic, so I figure I’ll just ship it to find it again later. Because now is the time. My Twister is however met with two Disenchants attacking my manarocks, impeding my ability to play out what’s coming and effectively use tempo, as well as a Bolt to my face iirw. In other words, the card advantage plan i was pursuing kind of blew up in my face.

From there on, Simon eventually attempts to corner me, casting a couple of Lions and an Armageddon all in one flashy turn. But it turns out I was gripping on two burn spells that I was slowrolling, so I was able to answer swiftly, game basically just started over. The rebuild is long and steady, we trade blows to the face using whatever we can, and lots of answers inevitably come. In retrospect, there’s one Sylvan Library that stuck around that I wish I would’ve done something about.

Anyhow there’s now a City in a Bottle on the board, Beasts are stranded in hand. Sages, Factories, Apes and an Angel are battling it out anyways. The Angel is the real problem, I tell you… But then, Chaos Orb comes off the top to save the day! Adrenalin flowing, heart pounding, coffee, beer, hours of focused effort, the new technique i’m sporting, the crowd watching… blame what you like, but this one doesn’t even come close to flipping one full revolution. Crowd goes silent. Of all flips, this one would be the only one (off 20+) i’d miss during the whole event. Strike one.

Felt like the window was closing for me, but i eventually find a Psi Blast to deal with the Angel. Some of my critters go farming, which fortunately give me a bit of leeway, as far as life count goes. Trading ressources some more, we end up on a board that, except for one Sage (and two rocks to crack), is empty. I just Blue Blast’ed a burn spell away, gripping onto a second one so I know that, at 5 life, I’m somewhat safe from his Fireballs (or eventual Shivan Dragon, would I later learn!) He’s got two cards in hand, at 7 life or so. And like a champ, I topdeck a Triskelion (#ONE TURN CLOCK).

However like a noob, I get giddy and proceed to slam it down on the table in a heartbeat, tapping out. Yep no, not even floating one and cantripping off a rock (strike two), to probably find my seventh mana and keep the Blue Blast up (strike three). To be safe. No. Not even thinking, really. Yup, just like that, I lost to my own punt.

My excitement collapses just as abruptly as it rose, when i realize the mess i made — fast. Simon‘s face features a hybrid form of frown and subtle smirk, with good reasons. From his hand, he then graciously points a Lightning Bolt toward my face. He untaps. Casts and resolves (keyword), a Wheel of Fortune. Salt.

Here is that very mighty pile (champion Simon’s deck) by the way: [his pic]

From the very dark place, I eventually resurface.

I then get to play Kevin from the Ottawa Capital Chaos crew for round 5. He’s on Ernham on Ice. First game he floods BAD, so I don’t really see much except Djinns. I don’t even realize that there’s blue in his pile, so postboard my Red Blast are nowhere to be seen. Second game I’m caught totally off guard by his rad suite of enchantments: Karma, Energy Flux, and Circle of Protection all hit the table, on top of a Sylvan Library that goes unanswered for ages. Ernhams and Iff-Biffs (that’s a thing!) provide massive amounts of pressure while i scramble to deal with all the curses. But with a Timetwister, Kevin allows me to find and cast a *brutal* Balance. I get to crash in with an army of Factories of my own for a couple of turns until he rebuilds quite a merry band that’s just about to stop me, and with the Karma still online, time is running out for me. But he taps out, so I take the opportunity to double Psi Blast him dead, for exactsies again, leaving me at just 1! [his pic]

The day ends with me duelling Fred, who is on an RW Tax-Edge deck featuring knights. Game one i blind-mull into a bad hand and quickly succomb to Vises and Wheel’ing without much resistance. Second game sees me funk a turn 1 Guardian Beast out off moxen, followed up by a turn 2 Guardian Beast, and they would go all the way! Last game was hyper grindy. I basically rode 4x Factories to victory, only disabling (Disenchanting) his Land Tax off pure intuition just a turn before he would have gone off and killed me with Land’s Edge. Very close and strange match!!!

***

5-1 record and second place, worthy of a gorgeous Fire Elemental signed by all the 16 contenders of the day!

Closing thoughts: I found the Swedish ruleset experience less aggro-inclined than EC or Pacific indeed, with the restriction of Strip Mine, and somewhat less than Atlantic too, since you lose Fallen Empire. I still feel like the Strip Mine restriction kind of automatically translates into a Mishra’s Factory driven midrange fest. I did try to make the best out of it however, by 1. using the Factories myself, and 2. maxing out on Lightning Bolts to deal with opposing ones — things i usually do not do in this deck, in favour of going more all-out combo. It did work, but indeed were Mishra’s Factories goddarned prevalent!

At least we didn’t have to deal with multiple Workshops, thanks to the Swedes. Nor did we have Library of Alexandria to deal with (in context, read: die to), as implied by the Gentlemen’s Old school agreement in effect on this day. I did miss playing my own Library though. As well as Mind Twist to some extent. But I can see how playing without them can lead to less feelbad moments experienced, on the receiving end. I don’t mind personally however: IMO it’s part of the Old school wonk and, just like Strip Mine, if you’re in the right mindset, this is all pure radness, an axis of the game that can and should be used and abused! I’ll tell you what anyways: all the times I got to cast Balance on this day were pretty fucking massive feelbad moments for my opponents anyways lol, so… 🙂

Then there’s my deck. Beast Island. After some rougher times in its first couple iterations, i feel like we’re really going places: you saw us at the top table in Ottawa earlier this year, and this time in Québec city. And I’m loving every single bit of the journey. I’ll certainly keep at it in the upcoming weeks, leading up to Boston’s Lobstercon 2, where we will be!

Lastly, some shout outs: one to Yanick Blanchet for hosting the event, which was slick. Thank you man! Another massive one for opening the event to reprints, which effectively allowed many of us to play the cards and decks that we love. It enabled us to drive up and share the good times with you guys, really. It was great, do again! Another shout out to Remi, a Montréal Tundra Wolves rookie with an already promising OS record. Against the odds, he top 4’ed the tournament with a very special unpowered Bad Moon Aggro pile! Wo0t, congrats. And to the winner, Simon, you’ve been a fierce opponent. I bow before your victory. And lastly, to everyone involved, I had a great time at King of the Cage 2019!

Ulululluluuululullululuu [famous Guardian Beast song]

FRDT

Beast Island vs the DFC | Ottawa 2019

I have a slight obsession with Guardian Beast. So I wanted to build a dedicated deck around it, which we rarely see. And let’s face it: flipping Orbs has got to be one of the most fun things ever, bar none. I had been theory-crafting the deck concept for over a year, but it’s only recently that I’ve acquired the fourth and last member of my Beast family: 

Can you hear them, too? «Ululullluuuulululu»

I was then left we no other choice than to make it work. « Beast Island » went through all sorts of iterations. Including the one from my locally infamous Run of Shame at Le Corail (Québec city) in february. What could possibly go wrong with running Power Monolith alongside Beasts and Orb? We’re doing the flashy thing, so why not opt for a Blood Moon transformational sideboard while at it?

Beast Island (v. Monolith Moon Hybrid) @ King of le Corail, Québec city, Feb. 2019

Except Guardian Beast didn’t only protect the Monolith combo, I would soon find out. It also straight up prevented it from happening. And under Blood Moon I locked myself out of more games than my opponents. I now fondly look back to this event as my worst tournament showing ever; a 1-5 record for 21st place finish … out of 22. But it did bear its lessons.

Back to the drawing board, I eventually came up with something less exuberant, more grounded. It was a toolbox-control oriented version that I ran at Montréal’s Tundra Wolves Challenge II in march. There I placed 17th (out of 35 players), with a 3-3 record. It’s fine, if average. We’re improving, at least. Deck pic game also improved:

Beast Island (v. Toolbox-Control) @ Tundra Wolves Challenge II, Montréal, March 2019

Good? But « good » isn’t enough. I kept at it. Also this is lots of fun! But eventually found out the hard way that Beast Island had an abysmal The Deck match-up; I could never out-control them, and they had the artifact hate upper hand to boot. We really had to be the ones who were asking the questions, and they had to be serious questions. A massive overhaul ensued, and a couple nights of playtesting with fellow Wolves later, we put together a version that felt like it had more game across the board. A version that we would streamline for the upcoming Ottawa tourney. World, I present to you Beast Island v. 7.1:

Beast Island (v. 7.1) @ Dazed and Fused-Con, Ottawa, April 2019

Enters Dazed and Fused-Con, the first event hosted by Ottawa’s Capital Chaos crew. Being only a couple hours drive away, we’ve had the pleasure of seeing these guys show up at many of our casual thursdays, monthly tourneys, yearly championship and of course at the Tundra Wolves Challenge. They pretty much feel like part of the family. Saying we were glad to pack a minivan and take the trip up to the DFC would be an understatement. Hyped as hell would be more accurate — fuelled by the amazing N00bcon stream we had watched well into the night, the night before. And the DFC did not disappoint.

For their first, LG and Pat ran a nearly perfect event if you ask me. MC’ing and logistics, smooth as can be. They had secured an amazing location in the Clocktower Brewery Pub. Everything from the food and drinks to the cosy atmosphere, solid wood tables and ample space was top of the notch. Turnout was 24 players, which is spot-on for an event to feel both like a « real » tournament but also like an actual social thing where you get to meet cool people for real. There was an intimate, community feel to the gathering which I very much enjoyed. Sweet lads, sweet event. But how did Beast Island fare?

Round 1 I played Chris, an Old school format newbie, yet competitive Magic player otherwise. He was on a Monoblack Bad Moon aggro brew featuring sticky and recursive critters à la Nether Shadow. Well fast Trike(s) spelled bad-news for them weenies. Guardian Beasts scaling up with his Bad Moon army also formed a nigh impenetrable fortress for him. On top of that, what’s critical to us: there was not much hate to be played around in postboard games. Taking this one home, 2-0.

Round 2 I played David, who was sporting a very personal take on big Monoblack Control, curving out from Wisps and Ritual Specters into heavy hitters such as Tetravus and Nightmare, with Icy Manipulator and Drain Life backup. Most of which was extremely crisp Alpha stuff! Game 1 I somehow managed to survive a Turn 1 Vampire, if barely. Into the grind, my Beasts would brawl with his Factories, and bash-in when the occasion arose. I eventually slung an otherwise lethal Drain Life back to face in Fire form FTW (trick which involved a Mana Drain if it wasn’t clear). Game 2 was another grindy one, but I eventually pulled on top with my unfair cards. Win 2-0.

Round 3 was against Lorenzo, an excellent URb Troll-Disco player. Game 1 was tight; a midrange fest with Trolls and Beasts attempting to out-aggro one another and Lightning Bolts flying around, with Disks more or less collaterally neutered. But Lorenzo eventually put up a wall of countermagic and locked me out of any relevant plays FTW. I would need my Red Blasts. Looking back at Game 2, I think not having worked on this match-up much, if at all, as far as sideboard plans go, did sting us. I basically ended up overboarding, and that’s all she wrote. Takeaway: for these midrange grinds, keep the boarding lean. Loss 0-2.

Round 4 I’m up against Jason, who placed third at Tundra Wolves Challenge II last month. He’s a solid player on a serious deck (UR CounterBurn). I hadn’t tested this matchup much either, but I was expecting it to somehow grind out too. It’s Old school after all. So I kept my boarding lean. And it payed off. To sum things up, I had superior deck velocity thanks to Sages and synergistic elements, I was playing the bigger critters but also slinging the bigger burn spells. With Red Blast backup to punch through countermagic, this time Beast Island prevailed. 2-0 and feeling good.

For Round 5 I’m paired with Pat the Hat who’s rocking big UW Skies. This perhaps was the deepest, chess-like MTG game that I’ve ever played — with layers and thinking turns ahead and stuff. Where we both had the answers to anything anyone of us would present, it ended up being the tiniest of tempo plays that would add up to the win. One game it was a Beast unexpectedly grunting in, that swung the clock around and won me the race. The other it was systematically taxing his City of Brass mana when I could and stalling his Efreets (but keeping them in play). He got cornered into taking inevitable exactsies with actual 16 seconds left to the clock. Heart pounding! Win 2-0.

I walk into Round 6 with a 4-1 record to find out that I will face James D., who is the only player in the room that’s still undefeated. My odds of placing first if I beat him are good. Also, he’s my Nemesis. Bad news is, he’s playing The Deck. Good news is, I’ve playtested a ton against it. The plan is basically to lose Game 1 and catch them off guard with Hurkyl’s Recall and Black Vise shenanigans (which have proven tough to deal with for them) for postboard games. This should give me a fighting chance. But this is my board state and hand on Turn 2 (+ Time Walk turn) of our first game:

Virtual turn 2 active Guardian Beast + Chaos Orb combo, with backup Beast and Braingeyser

James is impressed. He scoops it up a couple turns later. Feeling all giddy, for Games 2 and 3 I move forward with the sideboard plan that I know inside and out and backward. And then promptly proceed to not draw a single mana source for 15 consecutive turns one game and having to mull down to a suboptimal 5 the other. While The Deck is running full steam. Nemesis status maintained, I guess.

I end up placing fourth (4-2 record), my only losses being to James D. who is crowned DFC champion (The Deck, 6-0) and to Lorenzo (URb Troll-Disco, 5-1) who places 2nd. While 3rd place goes to James S. (UR CounterBurn, 4-2). But anyhow, it’s a spiritual victory to me. Taking Beast Island all the way to the Top 4 was already way beyond my expectations for a « brew » status pile such as this. More importantly, I have slung spells that I love, gotten to flip infinite Orbs, chill with amazing people, and just had an overall total blast at DFC. So much so, I wasn’t even out the door that I was already looking forward to our next gathering of Mages!

A bunch of happy Canadians at the 2019 DFC (T.O. pic)

Montréal’s Tundra Wolves Challenge II T.O. Photo report [archives]

Saturday march 23rd 2019 was held the second Tundra Wolves Challenge in beautiful Montreal. Going full-YOLO mode, the Wolves this time opted for a triple event formula: starting on Saturday morning, Mages would be invited to attend a much experimental Old school + Legacy Team Duo Constructed 4-rounder, on site at the Montreal Magic Fest (FMM). Among other prizes, the prevailing Duo would earn a free pass to the Tundra Wolves Challenge II, kicking off in the afternoon at game pub L’Adversaire. The Old school Magic main event would build upon last year’s concept: first, there would be raffles. Heck, glamorous cardboard for all! — The bulk of the prizepool value would go into raffles. Another highlight of the event would be putting up Most Creative Deck entries up on the big screen and submitting them to a popular vote, using a sonometer! Yep, that’s a thing. There would be a Chaos Orb Flip-Off for Charity, too. The Challenge’s champion would earn a bunch of flavour-a-licious prizes: a (locally at least) very symbolically powerful extended art Tundra Wolves, a unique TWC II Champion playmat a well as a free pass to Sunday’s Magic Sugar Shack! Which would be the place to be, on the day after. We’re glad that it all turned out legendary.

35 Mages with ties to the Quebec City Brew Crew, the Toronto Citizen of Brass, Ottawa’s Capital Chaos, New England Old School as well as a couple of Chicago Lords of the Pit and New York Sisters of the Flame dove into battle and ale for 6 rounds of swiss, played by the Eternal Central 93/94 rules and masterfully managed by our own Benjamin Burke. There where 13 submissions for Most Creative Deck; major props to Jimmy Cooney, from Dice City Games, who gracefully acted as a preliminary round judge and provided with next-level analysis to help narrow this number down to a Top 5 + 3 honorable mentions, which you will find below. 10 Mages had the cojones to go unpowered, two of which converted to Top 8 and one earning the Best Unpowered trophy card. And 300$ was raised for Sun Youth Organization this time.

On with the pics: prizepool, action shots, results, and side events.

… Actually, rest of the gallery (including Deck pics & action shots) is best viewed on my IMGUR profile. Trust me. >> https://imgur.com/gallery/NYNWbku

Tundra Wolves Challenge 2018 T.O. Photo report [archives]

Saturday march twenty-fourth, 39 Old schoolers from all around the world (but mostly Montréal, Québec city, Ontario and New England) gathered up for the 2018 Tundra Wolves Challenge and slang some vintage cardboard spells. Epic good times were had, and we’re sincerely looking forward to more. Communities meeting up is a beautiful thing. We also raised 400$ for charity (for Montréal’s Sun Youth Organization). By the way major props to the ‘Strike Force’ who collectively worked hard to set all of this up, and a big thanks to the FMM folks for their support throughout the process. Bit of a photo report enclosed, including Top 8 & many more deck pics. 

1st: Jean-Philippe Goyet (6-0) on The Rack.dec, from Montréal
2nd: Benoit Seveno (5-1) on Transmute-the Deck mashup, from Nova Scotia
3rd: Sébastien Dubé (5-1) on UR Control from Rivière-du-Loup (Québec)
4th: Martin Hebert (5-1) on monoblack Disaster from Montréal
5th: Francois R. Derbas Thibodeau (4-2) the Pain Train (black Sligh) from Montréal
6th: Dave Dupont (4-2) on UB Dreams Prison, from Québec city
7th: Etienne Dupuis (4-2) on monoblack, from Granby
8th: Greg Titcomb (4-2) on RUG Control, from New England

Charity Flip-off winner: François Richard (Montréal)
Guest of Honor // Wanderlust award: Shane Chiasson (Ontario)
Most Creative deck: Louis-Gabriel LG Emond (Ontario)
Best unpowered finish: Etienne Dupuis (Granby)
Craziest play award: Julien Pouliot (Montréal)
Most violent Kill award: Dave Firth Bard (New England)
Worst punt award: Joe Schacher (Ontario)
Read-the-rulebook-again award: Louis-Gabriel LG Émond (Ontario)

…Rest of gallery (including deck pics & action shots) is best viewed on my IMGUR profile: https://imgur.com/a/MNZ6w

King of the Cage 2018 Photo report [archives]

There are match-ups so lopsided it’s not even worth dedicating SB slots to them. At least that’s what i was arguing on the way to the King of the Cage EC tournament the Quebec city crew organized on june 30th. For my deck, Reanimator is one of those. It’s my luck that it’s exactly what i got paired against in R1. The first game was a fine example of this lopsidedness: no matter what i did, his t1 Bazaar and Mox, Recall into t2 more moxen and All Hallow’s Eve for a trio of Triskies and some giant crab action on t4 is pretty much lights out against my fair weenie deck. However I did make the witty play of t3 Mind Twisting my own critter-packed hand and enjoy a nice tempo boost from the mass reanimation spell resolving, so some style points were had, at least. But we all knew what the issue of this game was going to be.

…Rest of gallery (including deck pics & action shots) is best viewed in my IMGUR profile: https://imgur.com/a/JIpE56a