The Halloween Experiment

It was a fairly long time ago that Francois first mentioned the idea of running a tournament where spicing more than spiking determines the winner [FRDT: In fact I feel like I’ve been harassing them fellow Wolves for months, about this]. But it was unclear how to make it work and we did not talk aboot it much afterwards.

Fast forward to the ride back home from Lobstercon. As we raced on the roads of Vermont overlooking the forest of red, orange and yellow trees, there was an eerie feeling to the scene and the conversation naturally drifted to the card Season of the Witch. For a moment we got excited thinking we found a combo with Festival but upon reading the errata it turns out that, nevermind, it was bad.

Nevertheless, Season of the Witch is sweet. Festival is sweet, and the entire The Dark set is just oozing sweetness too. It’s too bad that the set is underpowered. Ok then, what aboot a tournament where players are rewarded for using cards from The Dark?! With Halloween just around the corner, that was the insight we needed to make The Halloween Experiment happen! But we had to work fast.

After looking around the OS blog-o-sphere, see what had been tried before, we opted for a checklist approach where people could pick items to fit how they wanted to spice their deck up, and the more you picked, the more points you’d get. This way spikes could still play a spike list if they so desired, but even if they did very well in matches they could still place lower overall than someone who got more invested in spicing hard. [FRDT: The key seemed to be reaching some balance between the two strategies, encouraging hybrid approaches.] After some tinkering, and wrapping in all in some sweet Lore elements, we went with this:

There are two types of items on the checklist; gameplay achievements (ex: Control 7+ green creatures) and deck building rewards (ex: put 6 different cards from The Dark in your deck). Each item is worth 1 point and a match win is also worth 1 point — matches consist of only 1 games [FRDT: not only a matter of balance, this would also result in each player getting to see more of the sweetness/jank others came up with!]. The tournament has no timed rounds; the only constraints are that you can’t play against the same player twice and the tournament ends at midnight. The race was on.

Mad props to Karl for designing the achievements cards!

Fittingly, the tournament started with 13 participants so the maximum possible amount of points was 22. In the end it is out-of-towner Louis-Gabriel “LG” Emond who won — by a solid margin! — with 15 points. He took home a signed Dark Heart of the Wood as well as the prized totem of the Tundra Wolves monthly league, an enchanted wolf head carved in wood. Congrats to him!

Somehow every time these Ottawa guys come down here they leave with our swag! }:-(

And I now leave you with some deck pics and micro-reports from their pilots :

Stevo

Even though this event was inspired by Halloween, my brew actually started prior to hearing about “Halloween Experiment” when I bought 4 Su-Chi on a whim for the artwork alone. Once received in the mail, I remembered one of the oldest synergies has been with Priest of Yawgmoth: sacrifice a Su-Chi to get 4BBBB? Yes, please! That was when I got my brew in full swing. Since I blindly assumed that this format was going towards more aggro-based decks, this was my angle. The deck list basically wrote itself; I packed a bunch of Basalt Monoliths and Mana Vaults… Look at that! They work well with Su-Chi in case I got into trouble. With all the artifacts, Xenic Poltergeist and Yawgmoth Demon were auto-includes. But wait there’s more! Xenic Poltergeist kills artifacts really well when paired with Triskelion (or Drain Life!). Then at my upkeep I can sacrifice my 1/1 Trike to Yawgmoth Demon? Genius! The deck was born, though the hard part was to cut cards down to 60 (sorry Su-Chi!). After going 3-3-1, I had a blast! It was really refreshing to play this format mainly because it felt like this is what MTG was intended be like. The deck was fun and I plan to keep iterating on it to play it under the Atlantic and Eternal Central rule sets.

They will be missed… (not really!)

Derrick

My prep time was very limited with my moving to a new house so I identified an approach and just stuck with it. The concept was “avoid the obvious, play the obscure”. I wanted to make the deck as competitive as possible but the main goal was to cast some spells that never see the light of day. Otherwise, I based my deckbuilding off of the following insights:

  • Dark Hearts will be cast as part of an achievement or strategy, use the normally unplayable Power Leak.
  • Gain 15, but not with Ivory Tower or Dark Heart (this was achieved by Magical Hack on a Lifetap to change ‘Forest’ to ‘Swamp’).
  • Slide in some one-ofs to remain competitive: Braingeyser, Sylvan Library, Chaos Orb, Strip Mine, Sol Ring, Maze of Ith (the obscure has no room for the Power 9!)
  • Assume Green will be popular so slot in Forestwalking creatures and Lifetap.
  • Assume Black will be popular so play Thelon’s Chant, Lifeforce and Whirling Dervish.
  • Try to pull off Kormus Bell+Cyclone to destroy all Swamps while checking off the “obscure combo” achievement.
  • Use Magical Hack or Phantasmal Terrain to render cards with land references that are useless in certain match ups useful again.
  • Throw in some walls and make sure The Dark is represented.

Francois

Diamond Lich (10 points)

Deck concept: stall with huge walls & with life gain using Diamond Valley, until you drop an unexpected Lich. All of a sudden, you got a personal wheeling engine up! Obvious synergy with Dark Heart of the Wood.
Unlocked achievements:

  • Cast Dark Heart
  • Control 7 green critters
  • Gain 15+ life in one game
  • Activate off-the-grid combo
  • Run 4x Walls
  • Run 6 different Dark cards
  • No Mind Twist or LoA

Record: the deck went off FTW 3 times (which was a total blast), lost twice to Underworld Dreams which was nigh unbeatable, once to a Bolt-the-Bird + Blood Moon opening, and then had a couple grindier, closer games. Looking back, the game vs Karl’s thallid nation where I got gunned down by The Chungus (that’s Thorn Thallid’s nickname) was especially awesome. 3 wins, 4 loss.

Lore-wise, the deck represents a reality where Boris would have taken hold of the Dark Heart and used it to acquire Lich-level powers from the depth of his impenetrable fortress, at the heart of the Diamond Valley. So when playing the deck, you’re team Boris, really :).

Martin

???

Tourach works in mysterious ways.

Julien C.

Big Red Halloween (10 pts)

My objectives for the night:

  • Swing for 10 every 5th turn. [Editor’s note: w-what?]
  • Smoke the opponent’s army. [Editor’s note: I…]
  • Hope to have a lucky Mana Clash. [Editor’s note: that he got, scoring a 6 pointer!]
  • Cast Boris

LG

Xira ball (15 points)

When my wife Madison told me that her father would be staying with us for a few days and that meant I could play in the Montreal monthly event, I immediately started brainstorming. How does one spike an event like this? My deck needed to be competitive, but it also needed to pick up points for deckbuilding and in-game achievements. Also, with the time-frame I had, I couldn’t really buy any new cards. I did own a Boris so I tried to imagine a shell where he could be good. I immediately scratched off the Zombie+Demonic Hordes achievement: zombies are bad and I felt that trying to chase that achievement would have led to too many match losses. I also did not see a way to make walls good (although François proved me wrong on that point) so I also scratched that plan. I decided that the “Control 7 green creatures” achievement was the direction I would go but that the “mono colored” achievement should be sacrificed in order to maximize the amount of good (read “broken”) cards I could play. 

The first version of my deck was not that far from the final list. The plan was a powerless Fireball list fueled by Birds of Paradise, Elves of Deep Shadows and Dark Heart of the Wood. I misunserstood the The Dark deckbuilding achievent so my first build had only 5 DIFFERENT cards from the Dark. Awkward. (I later added a Scavenger Folk as # 6 and he ended up being awesome!). To bolster the Fireball plan, I added a couple Mirror Universe. Those are fragile so I had 2 Avoid Fate to protect any important permanent. Boris was present in the initial list but eventually cut as he is bad, and I would be able to get the “Cast Boris or Dark Heart” achievement through one of my copies of Dark Heart of the Wood (borrowed from and altered by Kevin Vanier). Sylvan Library and Greed as well as life lost from Elves/Ashes to Ashes could help fuel Mirror victories. I had 1 Guardian Beast to protect the Mirrors and to stumble upon the Orb combo. After a discussion with Lorenzo Foroni, I cut the 2 Avoid Fate for a second Guardian Beast and a Copy Artifact. I also found room for Xira Arien to add some spice in Boris’ absence. The last piece of tech ended up being Master of the Hunt which is basically a better Boris and would help my deck unlock the green creatures achievement.

Karl

Pack it up yall, we broke the format! I always had the –not so– secret fantasy of machine-gunning people with Thorn Thallid + Fungal Bloom so I had to start my deckbuilding with that. Aiming for as many achievements as possible my gaze stopped on booster shaft Dark Heart of the Wood. “How can I use that stupid card?” I asked myself, a Thorn Thallid staring at me from my brewing station. BAM! This bulk Enchantment is a fucking Zuran Orb! If you don’t know already, Zuran Orb is utter gas with Land Tax since you can sack your lands to trigger the tax as much as you want. So we’re gonna jam Tax Tower I guess! Oh wait, Tax tower wants to gain life and Elvish Farmer is a life-gaining machine. Elvish Farmer means thallids… THORN THALLID!!! (full circle, #illuminati) Anyhow, the thallid package is shit, cut it if you care about winning, but the Dark Heart + Land Tax synergy is great and I will brew something more spiky around that for sure in the future…

Mark

Here are some bullet points I guess. [Editor’s note: here we go again!]

  • All Hallow’s Eve seemed like the most realistic choice had to represent the combo (and possibly on achievement i could unlock) of Bazaar + Leng + Sindbad for dirty card advantage
  • Have you ever heard of Animate Dead?
  • Im very happy to have found some lists on facebook because once, i was blind… I got into OS with the intention of smashing faces with Serra and she ended up being the least played card in my collection. I think ive found her home and have/will finally been able to achieve the original goal! [Editor’s note: That’s gold Jerry, gold!]
  • Night was an incredible success and everyone seemed to be enthusiastic and engaged with the evening and their quests!

Pascal

Sitting down to face Pascal he would hand you this piece of paper. What does it mean!?! I don’t wanna die!
When Armageddon Clock got played you had 12 turns to win the game, otherwise the Cave would crumble and kill you both!

My goal was to achieve as many achievement points as I could — this deck had the potential to hit 9 out of 10 points! The strategy was to go long game in order to have a higher chance to claim the points. My tools of choice to achieve this were Stasis, Ivory Tower, Howling Mine and Wall of Air.

Win condition #1: Armageddon Clock. This spicy plan was based on the theory that I could achieve extended Stasis while maintaining more life than the opponent via my Ivory Towers.

Win condition #2: Survive until opponent decks themselves…

RESULT: Armageddon clock didn’t get a chance to shine but Stasis caused serious trouble. The long games permitted enough time and resources for me and my opponents to encounter some unexpected situations!

Arcanist achievement unlocked!

Kyril

Obviously not his cards. (11 points)

My philosophy:

Fun for me was figuring out what the best choice of deck would have been for this event, disregarding any fluff such as flavor. I’m also lazy, so I didn’t quite execute my philosophy for this event. In hindsight, this is what I would have done:

  • Figure out what the parameters are, especially what the unwritten ones are;
  • Make a deck choice that optimizes those parameters.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at those parameters: [Editor’s note: lol]

  • Game wins: each win is worth 1 point. As tournament attendance goes up, game win potential also goes up.
  • Gameplay achievements: each worth 1 point.
  • Deckbuilding rewards: each worth 1 point.
  • Time: the biggest unwritten parameter. You have approx 270mins for all your matches.
  • Early time: this is the potential to play versus players who will leave early or forfeit the event. Getting these precious wins means your game win potential is higher than those who do not play versus them.

So in theory, one would want a deck that does the following:

  • has a high chance of winning versus a random deck (randomness is higher since people are brewing random shit like thallid control)
  • Maximizes gameplay achievements
  • Maximizes deckbuilding rewards
  • Wins FAST.
  • You should choose the players most likely to leave and play versus them first. *evil laugh* AND avoid players like Karl who play Thallid control (game will last forever)
  • has a few silver bullets to negate opponent’s gameplay

Now, since we cannot do all these things, let’s prioritize some over the others:

  • playing a fast competitive deck is priority number 1 as if fulfills most parameters
  • squeezing in a few deckbuilding and gameplay achievements comes second
  • If possible, playing a few silver bullets

Let’s start by looking at the achievements and seeing which ones are not too restrictive on our game win potential:

  1. CAST Boris or dark heart: Doable
  2. Assemble the horde: Unplayable
  3. Dwellers: Unplayable*    **
  4. Survivalist: Doable
  5. Arcanist: ???
  6. Run 4 walls: Unplayable*
  7. Dark Inclinations: Doable
  8. Devout: Unplayable
  9. Back to basics: Unplayable
  10. Nobleman: Doable

The * represents only a potential in an “All Hallow’s Eve” deck, where you could in theory revive 7 green creatures and 4 walls. It doesn’t seem like a deck that would win much so we can discard that.

The ** represents potential only in 1 deck, which I’ll discuss now.

I think the best bet for this event would have been a stasis combo deck with stasis/Time Elemental and Kismet. Although the deck isn’t fastper say, if you establish the combo, your opponent can’t do anything and you can just play out 1 game to achieve all your gameplay achievements. After that, it’s a question of piloting the deck fast enough to establish the combo and have your opponent scoop (fast? 😛)

With only 1 thallid and infinite turns, you could theoretically make the 7 green creatures and get that achievement while only playing 1 green creature. You could also theoretically run 1x ivory tower and eventually gain 15 life.

Another very fast deck is underworld dreams combo, which is what I decided to run. I won most of my games but couldn’t get any achievement points so it wasn’t the optimal choice.

Another good option would be a 5color control “good stuff” deck, packing all the best cards, and getting achievements 1, 4, 7 and 10.

Laurence

Wall disco (12 points)

One day I had forgotten to take my bus pass with me so I had to walk home from the subway station. For a muggle this would have been a pretty boring experience but I was happy to use this time to design my Halloween deck. I went with what I would consider level 0 by playing mono black. It’s a secret to nobody that unpowered mono black is competitive even in a field of powered decks. So it was just a matter of how much I could bastardize a standard black list by checking spice items off the menu and get away with it. By the time I arrived home I figured the above list would probably enable me to win most games off of the raw power of Hymn, Hippie and Disk while netting me 8 spice points. Good enough!

In the end I did manage to score the full 8 spice points but only went 4-4 in matches. I imagine that I could easily have gone 7-1 with a bit more luck and/or skill. The tournament as a whole was a TON of fun to play and we received a lot of positive feedback from the players so it’s a definite do again. In fact, it was decided that our January monthly tournament will be another spice tournament [FRDT: with master brewer Derrick Boyce, as the lead designer,] … but with Ice Age legal, this time: spICE Age!

A look at the Arboria prison archetype

Hello friends! Today I want to share with you my love of the card Arboria and the decks that are built around it. I love turning Apes sideways as much as the next guy but a little change of pace in play style helps keep things interesting. So once again, for those unfamiliar with the latest Legends spoilers, this is the card we’ll be talking about:

Oracle text: Creatures can’t attack a player unless that player cast a spell or put a nontoken permanent onto the battlefield during their last turn.

I encourage anyone who has never considered building around this card to take a few moments to think about how they would go about it because it’s a very interesting puzzle!

And if you’ve tried building with Arboria I’m sure you knows it’s not an easy task, but there have been many heroic attempts. What’s pretty much a given I think is that winning with creature damage is out of the question. This is because like all Enchant Worlds, Arboria’s effect is symetrical. That leaves decking and direct damage as possible paths to victory… unless you want to count forcing the draw and then blasting them in overtime with your mad Orb flipping skillz! 😀

Ok so let’s look at a few sample decklists and see what cool ideas they bring to the table.

Spanish spicemeister Carlos Piélago Rojo’s WBG Arboria

With this build Carlos chose to go the mill route and adopted white as a support color with a black splash. White has a lot to offer the strategy, not the least of which is Island Sanctuary, a card that interacts in subtle ways with a bunch of other cards in the deck.

Oracle text: If you would draw a card during your draw step, instead you may skip that draw. If you do, until your next turn, you can’t be attacked except by creatures with flying and/or islandwalk.

On the surface this is another Arboria-type effect: at the cost of skipping a draw in your draw step, you are protected from ground attackers. But Island Sanctuary is different from Arboria in many ways, most notably

  • it is not an Enchant World so you can stack those on the table for “insurance”.
  • its effect applies until your next turn even if the card leaves play. Not so with Arboria!
  • the cost to be paid in exchange for protection is different from Arboria’s cost. It follows that by having both on the table at the same time, you can alternate between ‘not drawing’ and ‘not playing’ in order to develop your game while being continuously protected (from non flyers & islandwalkers at least).
  • theoretically, it is a wincon in itself. By choosing to skip all draws during your draw step, you can avoid decking yourself whereas your opponent can’t

Island Sanctuary also pairs well with Howling Mine and Sylvan Library because you can choose to decline the extra draw step that they provide in order to benefit from the Sanctuary’s protection while still drawing a card every turn.

White also offers two fog effects in Holy Day and Festival. Fogs are almost obligatory in Arboria decks because they allow you to come “out of the Arboria” to play stuff on your turn and live through your opponent’s next attack step. Here, however, Carlos chose to play more board wipes instead of the white fogs. Board wipes are also a good fit for this strategy because it is natural for the opponent to overextend with the plan of one-shot-ing you after removing Arboria.

Land Tax is pretty nice in this deck because it combos with Sylvan Library and Ivory Tower and it should not be hard to turn it on. In my experience the Arboria player usually has less lands than the opponent.

Before we leave this deck and look at the next one I want to mention two additional Sylvan Library tricks. The first is the possibility of using Millstone on ourselves when we know that our top 2 cards are undesirable. The second is the possibility of floating key cards on top of the library. This deck is not fast and we should expect to get Mind Twisted before the game is over. In fact, a winning play against us is end of turn removal spell on Arboria followed by Mind Twist for 7. If we can manage to float an Arboria and a Fog, or just a Balance we can get right back in the game without skipping a beat. Library of Leng also helps against this nightmare scenario.

The next deck we’ll look at is Matt Mucci’s “Most Creative” home run from 2018.

Matt Mucci’s UG Arboria

This take on the archetype tries to win with Black Vise damage by flooding the board with Howling Mines. Storm Seeker is there to lend a helping hand. A later iteration of his deck had Copy Artifacts which are nice because against some decks you really need a lot of Howling Mines to fill up their hands. Copying Ivory Tower is also an attractive prospect.

Besides the obvious Ancestral Recall, Time Walk and Timetwister, the color blue offers Counterspell as catch-all answer. This role is usually played by Disenchant in the GW version but Counterspell obviously casts a wider net, being able to deal with problematic sorceries like Mind Twist, Tranquility and Fireball.

Note however that Counterspell does not entirely solve the problem of Disenchant on Arboria at our end step because if we counter the Disenchant then we played a spell on our turn and they are free to alpha strike us. This is why fogs and wraths are important.

And speaking of Wraths, how about those Siren’s call in Matt’s deck? Under Arboria they act as 2 mana instant speed Wrath of Gods. The instant speed is the really interesting part here because if we cast a sorcery speed board wipe under Arboria like Wrath of God or Balance and it gets countered, then we’re in trouble.

Oracle text: Cast this spell only during an opponent’s turn, before attackers are declared.
Creatures the active player controls attack this turn if able.
At the beginning of the next end step, destroy all non-Wall creatures that player controls that didn’t attack this turn. Ignore this effect for each creature the player didn’t control continuously since the beginning of the turn.

Then at the 2019 Player’s Ball, Ian Blank brought the following version:

Ian Blank’s WBG Arboria

To my knowledge this is the first time we see an Underworld Dreams Arboria deck in the deck dump of a major event. With a casting cost of BBB, deploying an Underworld Dreams can be a challenge even for mono black decks but having it as our wincon has two serious advantages. First, enchantments are significantly harder to remove than artifacts so Underworld Dreams is a more robust wincon than Millstone or Black Vise. Also, it means that between this and Arboria their enchantment removals are spread pretty thin. Second, it sidesteps all the problems that come with the mill plan such as graciously setting up your opponent’s grave for the perfect Recall or having to play Tormod’s Crypt just to avoid losing to Timetwister.

In order to cast his Underworld Dreams Ian is packing a full playset of Dark Rituals. These are important in my opinion because the longer we take to set up a clock, the more likely it gets that they draw what they need to break through our defenses. Additionally, against counterspells decks, the ability to sneak an early Underworld Dreams under a Counterspell is valuable.

I also love the Turbo Fog package of 8 fogs and 4 Howling Mine here because the velocity granted by the Mines helps us find our enchantments while the fogs hold the fort. Another reason for wanting many fogs is that if they break our Arboria, then even if we have a spare Arboria in hand, we are unlikely to survive without a fog. This is because they will get to attack on the turn they remove Arboria and again the turn after we play our spare one.

Ok so having looked at 3 fairly different takes on the Arboria archetype, where does that leave us? Well that’s entirely up to you but personally I’ve been having a blast slinging and tweaking this version of Ian’s deck:

As we can see I decided to streamline the strategy a little bit more by maxing out on Arboria and upping the fog count by 1. I am also packing 4 artifact removal spells because I am worried by many Artifacts and Enchantments, mostly Chaos Orb, Nev Disk, Ivory Tower, Black Vise and Icy (insolently tapping down our Mine). I ended up replacing the Darkness with Holy Day because, although the art is infinitely cooler on Darkness, there were times in testing where I wanted to hardcast an Underworld Dreams but did not have the requisite BBBB to do so while protecting myself with Darkness. Spore Cloud is a really cool card; it has the potential of being a double fog but if they expect it they can hold back some attackers and it becomes a lot less interesting. On curve with Arboria it is a thing of beauty. I like it as a 1 or 2-of. Some comments regarding the sideboard:

  • I think CoP: Red is important because the way the games play out against decks with red, we often go quite low on life before we finally start to take over with Arboria + Ivory Tower. But for a while we are vulnerable to a medium-large Fireball.
  • Warp Artifact is against control decks with too many answers to Underworld Dreams. Feldon’s Cane virtually doubles our wincons and protects us from a lethal Braingeyser when our library is getting thin.
  • Maze is for decks with Hippies or Serendib/Juzam. Ideally we want to keep the later around since they help our clock.
  • Avoid Fate is to protect our Towers from Shatter and our Arboria from Disenchant.

At some point I would like to work some blue cards in there because the 3 blue power cards look totally amazing in this deck. Recall also seems strong to me and Copy Artifact is interesting. Also, a funny observation: if use Siren’s Call then Festival suddenly becomes better than Holy Day!

Oracle text: Cast this spell only during an opponent’s upkeep.
Creatures can’t attack this turn.

In closing, if you haven’t already done so, give the Arboria archetype a chance if you enjoy long tight games where you’re coming from behind and where the suspense holds until the end. And if you do decide to try it, let me know what you did and how it played out. Have fun brewing!

-Laurence

Untaming the Wilderness at King of the Cage 2019

*** 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

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