The Montreal Tundra Wolves have been toying around with bending the conventional Old school B&R lists for a while. We eventually realized that arbitrary restrictions didn’t stick with us (looking at you, Shahrazad) — so we kept coming back to this.
We used to call it ‘Eternal Central plus Recall and Time Vault unrestricted’ or ‘Beasts of the Bay, with Shahrazad and Time Vault unrestricted’, and ‘Atlantic, but with four Strip Mines’, but that’s a lots of words!
Our pals from the Citizen of Brass (Toronto) and Capital Chaos (Ottawa) shared the sentiment that it would be cool to come up with a nametag that we could all relate to, north of the border. And the name ‘Boreal’ stuck around.
We never really made much fuss about it. But we really do, have been playing it for a while. For instance, Tundra Wolves Challenge 3 was played by it, you probably never noticed. So let’s put it out there.
Whether it is sheer chaos, or organic metagame self-regulation: there’s inevitably something that less restrictions bring us more of. This one goes out to those who believe that less is more. Ironically enough, it means we’re adding one more entry to the list of B&R lists. Sorry.
So here’s what Boreal looks like in a nutshell (edited for Plague Rats, by popular demand!):
Here’s to one very special pile of cards. Thomas Ashby (TA), proud Toronto Citizen of Brass and lover of Magic cards, has built and refined his ‘Blasphemer’ deck over the last couple years. Maybe you came across it at Eternal Week-End last year, or at Toronto’s own Fire Ball and Winter Blast. What’s for certain is, he did not go unnoticed at Montréal Tundra Wolves Challenge 3, where Blasphemer was in fact awarded the Most Creative deck award!
To celebrate this, we thought we’d share some of the rad lore Thomas presented us when he submitted his deck for Most Creative. But before, real quick, let’s travel back in time and have a look at how the project shaped up, in collab’ with past and present Thomas. So, what’s it about?
« The first iteration of my current deck was my own spin on Dead Guy Ale, powerless, Juzamless but unapologetically mine. Ive always loved the juxtaposition of good and evil being allies to shore up each others shortcomings. […] So the pursuit continues. After looking at all creatures in the format, I kept coming back to one card, THE one. […]
[…] Lord of the Pit… the card that is instantly recognizable as iconic yet something that pretty much nobody would play… right?… i mean.. 7/7.. cant be Terrored.. flys.. and tramples… for 7 mana… hmmm… (dies to Swords but ill take 7 life) cant be that bad once his tiny drawback is dealt with.
Its also is in my humble opinion, one of the most metal cards in magic the gathering ever! and placates the side of me that was once also a lord of the pit (mosh/slam pit) » (TA, on the Citizen of Brass blog)
So, without further ado. Let’s have a look at his early work from fall of 2019, at the Toronto Fire Ball — that he friggin’ TOP 8 !!!
I will let you figure the blueprint out, but geez… what a stunner! This was admittedly a more midrangey iteration in comparison with what’s coming up. You can already tell, however, that Thomas has a taste for sweet synergies.
Who’s still doubting Jalum Tome’s power at this point and time by the way? To them I respond: empirical evidence, right there. Jalum Tome Powered Lord of the Pit brew Top 8’ing. A Timmy’s dream, ain’t it?
Going forward, Thomas made some notable changes: -1x Resurrection, -1x Greater Realm of Preservation, -1x Demonic Hordes, -4x Hymns (to SB, he would soon regret); +2nd Serra Angel, +2x Moat, +1x Diamond Valley, +1x Time Walk, +1x All Hallow’s Eve (a dud, he says) and +1x Mox Sapphire.
This led him, in the late fall of 2019, to earn the 15th Most Creative deck award at Eternal Weekend, in Pittsburgh! With this list:
With Moat to stall the board until invincible creatures get summoned or reanimated or plain stolen (!), we can see that Thomas is taking a more controlley route this time, yet still leaning on some very diverse synergies on the center stage.
For winter 2020, he notably opted out on the 3rd Jalum Tome, -1x Sengir Vampire, -1x All Hallows’ Eve, -1x Recall, and then -1x Strip Mine and -1x Factory; opting in on fucking +1 Gwendlyn di Corci (!), +1x Mirror Universe and also bringing +3x Hymns back to the main, while dabbling around with the mana-base. This iteration led him to a very respectable 14th place overall finish at the Toronto Winter Blast:
But in my humble opinion (and the TWC3 Most Creative deck award jury seems to agree), it is really for Montréal’s Tundra Wolves Challenge 3 that Blasphemer went over the top and all the way into juicy synergies territory, RAMPING UP the Spice Factor:
Is it combo or control? Is it midrange or, dare we say, toolbox? YES. I’ll let Thomas break down some of the most interesting synergies of his TWC3 version for us, on top of the quintessential Preacher activation into feeding Lord of the Pit that’s probably archetype-defining:
« Preacher + Diamond Valley = Steal and sacrifice opponents creatures to gain life.
Preacher + Kry Shield = Avoids being bolted.
Diamond Valley + Kry Shield + Lord of the Pit = [gain] 14 Life. 9 with Serra ? [Ditto] with opponents creatures after they are stolen with Preacher;
Mirror Universe + Lord of the Pit = Take 7 during upkeep. Mana burn myself to 7, then attack with the Lord for 7.
Spirit Link + Lord of the Pit = Take 7 on Upkeep, gain 7. Then attack for 7 and gain 7. » (TA) … And the list goes on.
It’s mindblowing that with the effort he’s put in it, Thomas made this work, with completely outside-of-the-box spells. And there’s the massive SWAG… Yet at the same time, Blasphemer perfectly embodies the magic of yore, slinging spells for hours against your best friend on the living room rug. Hats off.
Anyways, before we dive into his lore write-up that will surely make your inner Melvin drool, let’s mention that we will further cover Blasphemer along some other sweet or spicy brews from TWC3, on an upcoming Spice Files podcast, so stay tuned — And shout out to Mike Van Dyke and Dave Firth Bard for the great content, while at it! UPDATE: the Spice File episode where we further analyse Blasphemer, as well as some other spicy brews from Tundra Wolves Challenge 3 is up!!!
So here we go, I’ll leave you to this, which was actually included (both in french and english!) with his Most Creative deck submission (a labor of love, I tell ya!):
« After days traversing the Scrubland, a lone Wizard approached the darkened monestary sitting atop a cliff overlooking the fabled Diamond Valleys.
Noting an absence of life, he wearily approached the rotting wooden drawbridge. It was covered in moss and gave way to a grand Moat. Luckily the bridge was down. He carefully approached. Reaching the door he noted it was etched with a face almost anguished. A symbol he recognized, it was the Kry Shield.
Hearing stories about a mass that was led by fervent Preachers, who coerced the feeble minded to join their unholy clergy. He was almost hesitant to continue.
Resolute to see the validity of this myth, the Wizard pressed on.
Inside the vestibule it was deafeningly quiet, almost too quiet. Artifacts lined the walls of the grand entrance. A large mirrior which seemed to almost taunt him with otherworldly revelations and beside it, an Orb seemingly floating as its chaotic gaze almost beseeched the now frightened Wizard.
Wearily moving along the corrodor to the main entrance, nothing could prepare the wizard for what he saw next. Out of thin air, a hymn arose, disrupting his thoughts as if to empty his mind.
Just then a voice shot out in the dimly lit cathedral.
“WELCOME! We have been expecting you, our guest of honour”
Baffled, the Wizard recoiled in fear. He realized he was beckoned by none other, than the Preacher he wished to speak with.
The Preacher was wearing glasses, his eyes ablaze with a shade of bright amber. His choice of eyewear seemed familiar, something that he had seen only drawings of in ancient Dominarian text.
“They couldnt be…” the Wizard stammered.
They were. The Glasses of Urza.
He felt as if the preacher was staring through his soul. His innermost thoughts no longer his own.
The preacher began reading from a forbidden text. Usually the Jayemdae Tome was the perscribed text for holy ceremonies. This was much darker, the Jalum Tome. Nothing gained without sacrifice.
As the book was read, a deafening crescendo of earthly rubble and the low moan of screams filled the Wizard’s ears. So offensive, he turned and ran to the entrance from whence he came passing the mirror which was now illuminated with an evil presence and the Chaos Orb now turning slowly emitting a fierce red glow from its orifices.
Soon finding himself outside, he was instantly restrained by what he would later find out were Nevenyrral tentacles, rising from the darkness of the Moat. Helpless, the wizard was now forced to witness a true abomination. The Resurrection, a conjuring of the one true Lord.
The Lord of the Pit. An impossibly large and imposing monster.
The wizard knelt in servatude, for this is what he was seeking all along. His soul now a willing offering, to be given wholly to the darkness.
Saturday March 7th, 2020 was held the third and biggest (so far!) Tundra Wolves Challenge at L’Adversaire Pub in Montréal (Canada); a fundraiser Old school 93/94 Magic: the Gathering tournament. 44 players from the New England Old school (NEOS), Toronto Citizen of Brass, Ottawa Capital Chaos, Québec city Brew Crew, and the Montréal Tundra Wolves communities, as well as a few outliers and/or new-to-the-format players gathered for the occasion.
+ Charity and Support +
We are thrilled to announce that we were able to raise a 1000$ sum to support, for a third consecutive year, Montreal’s Sun Youth Organization which has been striving to help children and teenagers in need since 1954. To everyone who attended or donated, it is very humbling to see such generosity. We know that these dollars will have very tangible impacts upon people in need’s life, so you should feel good about this. We know we do. Thank you!
This year, TWC also had the pleasure of being supported by local stores itself. Stores who, frankly, blew our minds! TopDeck Hero graciously donated a Beta Manipulator, a FWB Badlands as well as a playset of ANT Strip Mines, on top of managing tournament logistics. Face to Face games graciously donated a Collector’s Ed. Tundra. L’Expédition offered great deals and general support, once again. Shout out also to Derfington for providing awesome Hymn and Wolves alterations, bringing the prizepool to the next (obscenity) level; to L’Adversaire Pub, for their excellent venue and care. And to Festival de Magic de Montréal (FMM) and Festival Montréal Joue, for helping us reach a little further out from our underground dwellings. Ditto to MTG Podcast Terrain Basique, for offering live coverage of the event. Major props to you guys!
+ EVENT +
6 rounds of Old school Magic were played by the Atlantic + 4 Strip Mines ruleset a.k.a. codename «Boreal», with proxies allowed for the sake of inclusive-ness. We once again followed the «Glamourous cardboard for All» ideology, so besides special prizes for the Top 8 and Champion, Most Creative deck, Best Unpowered and Best Gentleman finish, the bulk of the prizepool value was raffled out — while some other juicy items were auctioned for charity (not pictured):
Now before we dive into the standings and deckpics, a word on the fun add-ons. First there was the North-East Flip-Off, with each of the 5 represented communities sending forth their best Chaos Orb flipper, and from which Montrealite Laurence Boulanger emerged flipping Champion of the North-East. Hats off to you, sir! Until next year. There was fierce competition for the raddest Wolf shirt contest as well. NEOS’er Scott Bradley came out on top, with his on-point scary hairy wolf entry! And there was the poutine afterparty Chez Claudette: has us wondering still, why the hell had we not though of that before? And lastly, for a second year, just the perfect family sunday at the Sugar Shack. What a week-end, eh? Now, on with the honours.
Lastly, props to every single one of you who made it, new and seasoned Mages alike. The Challenge would be nothing without y’all.
Words of gratitude also to you all who support us Wolves, in one way or another: TopDeck Hero, Face to Face Games, L’Expédition, Festival de Magic de Montréal, Festival Montréal Joue, and L’Adversaire Pub.
And mandatory shout out to the TWC3 organizing team: Wolves Derrick Boyce, Mark Seccareccia, Karl Rivest-Harnois, Julien Pouliot, Laurence Boulanger and François R. Derbas Thibodeau.
To all of the above, thank you so much for your generosity. Here’s to many more of those! Hopefully we’ll see you at the Ottawa Dazed and Fused-Con 2020 in April.
Here’s a quick tournament report recounting my surreal adventures piloting the following meme deck for 6 rounds at TWC3:
The big day was approaching and it was time to settle on a deck. For a couple of weeks I’d had the itch to sleeve up my BUG Enchantress deck and attempt to cantrip off some enchantments so the choice was easy. My BUG Enchantress deck is not the deck pictured above. It plays a black package of Hymn, Hippy, Sinkole, Paralyze all in 4-ofs in an attempt to disrupt the opponent enough so that the Enchantress can come out and start generating value out of cute combos like Skull of Orms+Blight+Icy or Skull of Orms+Animate Dead+Trike. The next day I get on “Skype” and start jamming game ones against fellow tundra wolf Nick la Terreur to shake the dust off. Nick wanted to test his “new deck” for the Challenge. It turned out his new deck was state of the art URb Counterburn and he proceeded to whip my ass with it game after game. I went to bed that night feeling a bit disgusted at the clunkiness of my engine so naturally my obsessive magic player brain started to explore alternatives. I’m not exactly sure how but I landed on the above build featuring my favorite creature as the only wincon, the Occhio Malefico. Having learned from my previous mistake I made sure to not try the deck out before the tournament so as to avoid having to get back to the drawing board. My expectation for the tournament was basically to hit the bottom tables fast enough to have some close and exciting battles against the other low tier decks of the tournament.
Round 1 with Kevin V. on “Paul’s deck”
Game 1. The first game of the night isn’t much of a contest because Kevin has all the removal for my Enchant Creature spells and Erhnam Djinn hits pretty hard.
Game 2. This game starts with him drawing lots of cards off of an unanswered Library of Alexandria. I Imprison an Erhnam Djinn then Spirit Link a dib. Feeling like I need to force the action I then proceed to Control Magic his linked dib. This displeases Kevin so he tutors for a Swords to Plowshare to use on his dib. At this point I topdeck the Mind Twist and hit him hard with it to finally push him off the Library train. The game proceeds slowly from this point on. He eventually produces a second Erhnam Djinn which I Control Magic. But lo! Just as the tides are turning Kevin calmly draws his card for the turn, pours 9 mana into his pool and shows me the heartbreaking Fireball. 0-1
Those were fun and close-ish games so we went at it again for fun. To my amazement I actually won this one!
Round 2 with Dylan K. on UWR Skies
Game 1. He Disenchants my T2 Sylvan Library so luckily for me he doesn’t have the answer when I Torment his dib (drawing a delicious card in the process). Control Magic on Serra draws me a second card and this one gets double bolted. Next up for Dylan is a beautiful Unlimited Shivan Dragon. This I use Imprison on, drawing a third card off Enchantress. But when a wild Drake appears, followed shortly after by a dib I need some help quick. The top of my deck delivers an Evil Eye and it appears I might be able to race! Indeed, the dib I’m tormenting has dealt him 8 damage thus far. I peel Chaos Orb to take out the Drake and this puts me ahead in the race! Meanwhile Dylan keeps drawing lands. But nothing’s over yet; I need to fade even more draw steps to close this out. Surely he will get there on the last draw step, they always do; he has SO MANY OUTS! But no! Another blank. And when he flips his top card to reveal what he would have drawn the next turn… it’s his own Chaos Orb! Phew! We definitely dodged a canon ball there! I gotta say, tight games like this are the reason I’m still playing this game after 26 years!
Game 2. We both mull to 5 but he has the combo of Library of Alexandria + Ancestral Recall to bounce back from it. But luck hasn’t forsaken me yet dear reader because Dylan gets stuck on 2 lands and is forced to discard to hand size a few times as I build a mana base and resolve an Evil Eye. He finally gathers enough mana to afford a Serra Angel over which we engage in a Control Magic battle. I win the battle by Orbing his Control Magic and he succombs to his Angel some turns later, flashing me a hand full of Counterspells that he never had the chance to cast. 1-1
Round 3 with Francois R. D. T. on The Pain Train (Blood Ed.)
Game 1. The game starts unusually slowly considering how aggressive François’ deck can be. His first creature is a T3 dib which I immediately take Control of. I follow up with Demonic Turor for Mind Twist but it immediately appears that this could backfire as François candidly goes “Cards in hand? 3? You’re down to 1.” as he puts a copy of Hymn to Tourach into his graveyard. But if you’ve been paying attention to how lucky I’ve been so far you probably won’t be surprised to learn that he missed the Twist. I know I wasn’t. Ok, my turn now. I untap and candidly go “Cards in hand? 5? You’re down to 1.” An Evil Eye soon after joined the dib in the war effort and we were scooping them up in no time.
Game 2. Here François builds a significant board presence but it’s all black so his onslaught is immediately halted when one of my two CoP: Black shows up. Next, I drop an Evil Eye and gear it up with a Spirit Link. I’m feeling good about the situation but then he goes Hymn to Tourach into The Rack into Demonic Tutor so we race Rack vs Eye for a while and it looks like I’m winning but he topdecks a Bolt just as I was about to leave Bolt range! I curse at him savagely but add “no offense” so none is taken. Phew! That was another insane nailbitter.
Game 3. I Imprison his two Specters while he chips at my dice with an Initiate of the Ebon Hand. In the end, the game turns into a race between my trusty combo of Evil Eye + Spirit Link against his 2 Initiates and 1 Order of the Ebon Hand. I hesitate to engage in the race at first because I fear that two Bolts from him could do me in. However I soon find a second Strip Mine to take out his two red sources and engage in the race after getting bolted once. I put him to 1 as he puts me to 4 and casts Psionic Blast for the draw.
Game 4. We have 5 minutes to seal the deal and he has a turbo start where he goes T1 Initiates, Hippy into T2 Hippy. However I’ve got a T2 CoP: Black which is enough to prevent him from killing me in the required time. I win the Orb flip off and marvel at my winning reccord. 2-1
Round 4 with Joel B. on Serratog
Game 1. I know Joel’ss on tog from sitting next to him previously so I’m hoping for no T1 Black Vise as I keep a hand that’s low on mana but has Ancestral Recall. My good fortune continues because he leads on T1 Anhk and I Ancestral into a Sylvan Library and two nonland mana sources. I quickly get up to 5 mana, casting Hymn to Tourach twice along the way on my thoroughly color screwed opponent. I then resolve an Evil Eye and enchant it with Spirit Link. On the following turn I Regrow Hymn and that abouts depletes Joel’s hand along with his hopes of killing the fearsome 3/6.
Game 2. He again has no T1 Vise but I have a T1 Ivory Tower. He chips at me with a tog and throws the occasional Bolt at me but the Tower makes his progress arduous. Then he casts Wheel of Fortune and passes with still no Black Vise to counteract my lifegain. On my turn I double Hymn him and hit… a Psychic Purge! I take 5 down to 11 and pass the turn to him with 2 Savannah up and 5 cards in hand. On his turn Joel simply sacrificed all 5 of his artifacts to make an 11/12 Atog and turned the critter sideways. Hats off to him for making such a daring play!
Game 3. I bottom a redundant copy of Spirit Link off a mull to 6. However my first draw step is the third copy of Spirit Link. This turns out to be just what I need though because Joel has a very fast Lotus-fueled Serra (!) as well as the Disenchant for the first Spirit Link. Afterwards I build a nice fort for myself out of 2 CoP: Red, a CoP: Blue and an Energy Flux but when he finds the Orb for the second Spirit Link Serra does quick work of me. 2-2
Round 5 with Scott B. on The Deck
Game 1. This was a completely unlikely 30 minutes grind in which my dicard spells did some serious heavy lifting. In particular, I made him discard Timetwister, Regrowth and Recall so that when the dust settled, my very last Evil Eye resolved and Scott scooped them up with no cards left in his library able to remove it.
Game 2. In this game also Hymn to Tourach made Scott’s life very difficult when it sniped The Abyss out of his hand. This I followed by dropping a menacing pair of Eyes on him. He Plow’d one of them but the other beat him down to just 2 life as his Tome activations proved futile. It is at this eleventh hour that Scott managed to find the missing Plow off an Ancestral. A Shivan Dragon and a Serra Angel then joined the battlefield on Scott’s side in quick succession but I had Spirit Link for the Dragon as well as 4 Birds eager to chump and a bunch of life to spare so the Angel proved insufficient to close out the game before the 5 extra turns of time. 3-2
Round 6 with Karl R. H. on Twiddlevault(Stasis version)
Game 1. Karl has a reasonable hand of Wheel + Howling Mine + infinite mana rocks but it suffers from not being able to cast the Wheel so I am able to snatch it with a Mind Twist for 3. I get rid of the Mine as soon as I can and attemps to contain his ressources with Strips and discard, going as far as Regrowing Mind Twist instead of Ancestral. I am succesful at this in no small part due to the 3 Enchantresses on which I dump every Enchant Creature that I find in order to cycle through my deck. I dig and dig to find a wincon but as fate would have it my 4 Evil Eyes were hidding in the last 6 cards of my library so I end up decking myself.
Game 2. I play an early Energy Flux which he Disenchants but I have a backup copy just in tow. A few turns later I fire off Mind Twist of 5 and follow up right after with 2 Eyes that do quick work of him.
Game 3. In this game Karl leads with T1 Sapphire, Sol Ring, Howling Mine so my T2 Energy Flux is crippling. I continue attacking his mana with Strip Mines and Chaos Orb and Demonic Tutor’d for an Eye which brought me the “W”. 4-2
So there you have it folks, that’s how I went 4-2 with Enchantress in this altogether pretty spiky field. TL;DR: a lot of luck, but that’s to be expected when you make daily offerings to Tourach. I hope reading the stories was at least half as interesting to you as it was to me living them. And lastly I want to thank all the people who attended the tournament for making it the success that it was as well as all the people involved in the organisation. Stay tuned for François’ TO report aboot the event later in the week.
Greetings, wizards. The mighty Lord Magnus has bestowed upon us, the humble Tundra Wolves community, the privilege of releasing one VERY EXCITING Scryings spoiler to the World. But, well before, there’s one other MASSIVELY EXCITING thing that we’d like to take the opportunity and share with the World: the TUNDRA WOLVES CHALLENGE 3 is coming! It will be MEAN, and held on march 7th, 2020 in Montréal! Come get savage.
And now, on to the Scryings spoiler! The card we have for you today is…
I literally didn’t know this card existed before Magnus showed it to me. My first impression is that it’s a really FUN card. Who doesn’t love using their opponent’s stuff against them? Think Control Magic or Word of Command… but admitedly this resembles more
But is it playable in a competitive sense? Here are some things to think about:
Grinning Totem is best in a multicolored deck because you need to be able to cast your opponent’s spells. City of Brass, Birds of Paradise but also Fellwar Stone go a long way towards maximizing the value you get out of it.
The card’s effect will be quite variable from game to game, sometimes being comparable to Demonic Tutor in its effect while others the most exciting thing to get will be Chaos Orb.
There is some value in taking your opponent’s better cards out of their deck: if you cast their Ancestral it means they can’t draw it or tutor for it while you can still draw/tutor yours.
The totem is super clunky. For instance, casting your opponent’s Ancestral Recall will cost you a hefty 7 mana. Moreover, if you don’t crack it right away your opponent will get a shot at disenchanting it.
The totem’s power lies in its versatility. For examples, if you’re ahead you can sit on it and let it represent countermagic. If the board state is equal and you’re both topdecking you can use their Demonic Tutor to find your Braingeyser and pull ahead. If you’re behind you can get their Balance/Removal.
Some decks where I could see fitting a copy of the totem are Kalle Nord’s N00bcon X deck
or Paul DeSilva’s 5c goodstuff
At the very least I know I am throwing a copy in my Brother’s Highlander deck! 😉
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.
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!
And I now leave you with some deck pics and micro-reports from their pilots :
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.
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.
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 :).
Tourach works in mysterious ways.
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!]
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.
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…
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!
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!
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 unwrittenones 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.
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
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
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
squeezing in a few deckbuilding
and gameplay achievements comes second
If possible, playing a few
Let’s start by looking at the achievements and seeing which ones are not too restrictive on our game win potential:
CAST Boris or dark heart: Doable
Assemble the horde: Unplayable
Dwellers: Unplayable* **
Run 4 walls: Unplayable*
Dark Inclinations: Doable
Back to basics: Unplayable
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.
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
good option would be a 5color control “good stuff” deck, packing all
the best cards, and getting achievements 1, 4, 7 and 10.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then at the 2019 Player’s Ball, Ian Blank brought the following version:
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!
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!