Eight weeks ago I was lying in a hospital bed. I had a sharp, stabbing pain in my side. Ultimately, that pain has resolved itself into a chronic condition, not life threatening, but enough to cause me difficulty for the foreseeable future.
As I lay there, I kept thinking about one thing: I hope this doesn’t screw up my plans for the World Cup next month.
I had taken the bold step of trying to organise a fairly major tournament all under my own steam. I love playing Old School, a format that only allows the oldest of Magic: the Gathering cards, and I wanted to come up with something extravagant that was a bit more than just some guys in a pub, or even an event hall or local store. I wanted to hold a tournament where who was playing mattered to the players, where friendship and bonding was more important than the game. I wanted it to be less about the Magic and more about the Gathering.
I settled on the idea of a team world cup fairly quickly. I wanted to encourage the international community to come along and play with a sense of pride, but the team format would give it an air of cameraderie and togetherness that individual events lack. London seemed like the best place to hold it due to the nearby airports, and Magic Madhouse kindly stepped up and offered us the use of their facilities. This included, thanks to their partnership with EXP, use of a bar and its kitchen.
One thing that has irritated me slightly about Magic tournaments for a while, especially big ones, is the lack of good food available while you’re playing. A lot of stores now, Atlantic Games among them, will offer food while you eat, but it is often standard gamer fare: burgers, chips, crisps, chocolate, etc. But I wanted extravagant. I had the opportunity to do something bigger, and so, in the middle of our tournament, I arranged for a three-course roast dinner to be served to our players. The team at EXP did an amazing job, with a spicy tomato soup, melt-in the mouth pork, delicious roast veg and a fruit crumble worthy of anyone’s mother.
This gave us a chance to pause mid tournament, a chance to chat over some of our tales from the day so far, to sit back and take things at our own pace. There wasn’t the stress of trying to co-ordinate people to go to this restaurant or that one, or the cat-herding task that is trying to get three other people to actually end up in the same restaurant as you that’s only down the road, yet someone has ended up three towns over. We all sat down, we all ate together and we were able to share in the gathering of Magic players.
Speaking of which, I should probably introduce you to some players and their decks.
Back row: Christopher Cooper & Partick Van Beek (Team West England); Andrew Klein, Pieter Loubser & Jordan Boyle (Team South Africa); David Firth Bard, Steve Rich (is actually that tall) and Jason Savage (standing on a chair) (Team USA); Ben T (Team London England).
Front Row: Chris Aston (Judge); James Griffin (Team West England); Leo Bruder, David Chambers & Marc Lanigra (Team Germany); Tom Brown, Bryan Connolly & Karl Hagan (Team England Midlands aka Team Scotland aka Team Chaos Orb); Stebbo & Scott Latham (Team London England)
Not Pictured: Team South Africa Deck C Jordan Boyle- Black Red Artifact Aggro
The format of the tournament was 5 rounds Round Robin: each team would play each other teams and the decks would have fixed seating of A, B and C decks, playing against the corresponding decks of the opposing teams. The decks would be built follwing the old Unified Constructed rules, which basically mean that if you put all three decks with their sideboards in a pile you’d still get a legal deck. This gave a little more flexibility to the teams than the newer rules which don’t allow a card to appear in two different decks. We went with the older rule set as it gave more flexibility with cards like Disenchant, Mishra’s Factory and City of Brass where there are very few direct replacements available in the format and it felt better to be able to share these out.
The best two teams would go through to the final, with ties being settled by virtue of Head to Head record (with other tie breaks available if needed- and they nearly were!). The winners of the final would be crowned champions of the inaugral Old School World Magic Cup. They would receive a trophy each, along with a copy of Presence of the Master, with the runners up getting a sealed booster of Japanese Chronicles. All players also recieved a copy of Moss Monster signed by all participants.
We would also have a few individual prizes available in the form of a sealed booster of The Dark to the best overall individual record, the Rod Smith Memorial Award for Best Deck Design was a foil City of Brass and finally, generously donated by Marc Lanaigra was a knock off Juzam Djinn life counter for the Least Swedish Legal Deck.
As for a tournament report, I’ll leave that in the capable hands of my team mate, Patrick.
Round 1 Team Germany. They have the most pimp decks I have ever seen. All three decks were Alpha and original printings. Easily tens if not hundred of thousands worth of cards. There was DiscoTroll in the A seat and MirrorBall in the B seat (not playing forks and with at least 3 Dark Heart of the Woods plus all the power of the team I think).I played against Mono-Blue which I did not think was a going to be a good match-up until my opponent played out Howling Mines too and landed a Stasis after I had Fastbond out! His plan is to win with Black Vice. However he is limited to the mana he had when he first played stasis due to its upkeep and I keep playing land drops, knowing the only way I lose is to black vice or decking (unlikely as I played my mine first), but also knowing I have no main deck answer to Stasis.Here the main deck Shatters and Flash Counters prove decisive. I destroy the first Black Vice fairly early on, then we play a lot of draw go. I sculpt a hand to go off should the Stasis ever leave the battlefield. My opponent lands a second Black Vice and I Shatter at end of his turn. He counters and I Flash Counter. My opponent is now constrained on two mana and once I draw the next Flash Counter that is game. I can counter any instant he has to try to reset the Stasis, and if he does let the stasis expire I can win through one counter. The game ends with a lethal Fireball.Game 2 I sideboard three Red Element Blasts and Mana Short, the game ends in turns when I try to go off but need one more turn to win (and almost lose to Black Vice). Unforrtunately, I was the only player on our team to win and our team fell to 0-1.
Round 2 Team England Midlands. Seat A is playing Blue white control, Seat B is on BantamGeddon and I’m playing against artifact red deck (with a splash of black, blue and green based on the lands but I don’t remember seeing spells of all these colours).Game 1 I die to a turn 2 Shivan Dragon. Horribly. I can’t use Sylvan Library effectively as has enough red mana to put me on a three turn clock. Game 2, I prepare for a difficult match as I need to respect that I can be burned out at instant speed, and he has Shatters for the Mirror Universe. He makes a play error on turn 4 though and taps out, I play my 4th land and Channel Fireball for 20 leaving me on 1 life – he had Lightning bolt in hand so this is lucky on my part.
For game 3 I decide to sideboard in the Mahamoti Djinns (one of my all time favourite cards) as an alternative win condition to Mirror Universe as an opponent on bolts makes going too low on life potentially risky. My opener looks good with both Sylvan Library and Dark Heart of the Wood, I drop a land, pass and then see a card that wrecks my deck – turn 1 off Black Lotus. He has has land desctruction for my basic before I draw into any sideboarded Blue Elemental Blasts so I’m drawing to Black Lotus as my only out. Fortunately, I’m able to keep his Su-Chi’s in check with shatters and he hasn’t drawn into much else, while I have a lot of land (all kindly basic Mountains) I finally draw into Black Lotus – and use the three blue and my abundant supply of mountains to Time Walk, retaining priority, Forking twice, Recall (returning Black Lotus and Time Walk) leaving blue floating for Flash Counter. I then untap, Black Lotus, Time Walk with Fork, using the two blue to summon a fat Mahamoti Djinn and win on my fifth extra turn with a third swing of the djinn and a Fireball. Sadly yet again my team mates lose out and we end up at 0-2, though still live for the Final.Round 3 Team South Africa. I’m playing against black/artifact with a red splash. I lost two games in quick succession. Game 1 I lost despite a Sylvan Library, I don’t draw any other business and die to the horde of black creatures. Game 2 I have a mulligan, but I have Fastbond, Demonic Tutor and three lands in the six and tutor up Wheel of fortune. I then play Dark Heart of the Wood on turn two, as I figure that it gives me an important life buffer, but I do think this is a risk as he could have Mind Twist. He has it and I Fork the Mind Twist back, but that leaves me with no cards and I don’t draw anything else.With hindsight I should have either gone straight for the Wheel of Fortune on turn 2 or let the Mind Twist resolve and not Fork leaving a 1/3 chance he doesn’t hit the Wheel of Fortune. Teammates both win their matches so I don’t feel so bad about this play. Chris’ game 1 win came off the back of a sweet turn 1 play of Triskelion, which his Mono-green opponent couldn’t beat. 1-2.
Round 4 Team London England. I’m playing a player who I’ve played several times. He usually plays ‘The Deck’ with lots of beta cards, but today, due to the constraints of the team format he’s playing artifact black with a splash of red. Here I get lucky, both games I draw 7 into Time Walk. Game 1 involves aggressively drawing cards with Sylvan Library and Dark Heart of the Wood, he ends up being the one to play the draw 7 (Wheel of Fortune) and I wheel into Time Walk and double Fork, followed by Regrowth on Time Walk to talk a further extra turn with which to cast consecutive large Fireballs. In game 2 I get even luckier as I only had one mana out following my Timetwister but draw the land and the Time Walk which then lets me untap, drop lands with Fastbond, play Mana Flare, Fireball for 7 and Fork it twice for 21. He told me afterwards he was holding Mind Twist so if I hadn’t had the land and the walk in the 7 my hand would have been twisted away the following turn. Team wins 3-0 to go to 2-2 and we were on a roll.
Round 5 Team USA. I’m playing Blue Red CounterBurn. In both games my opponent played Black Vice. With hindsight I should have perhaps mulliganed more aggressively for Fastbond. He gets quick Serindib Efreets, Lightning Bolts and Chain Lightning and has the Shatter with counter back-up for the Mirror Universe and that’s all she wrote. Chris fought hard to tie his match up and retain his dignity (he had a bet going where if he lost he would have to have his picture taken in Dave Firth Bard’s Buffalo Bills cap, Chris is a Patriots fan! For the English readers, this is like asking a Liverpool fan to pose in an Everton shirt), but ultimately a 2-0-1 loss ended our chance at the final.
The Final. Germany vs. England. A stone’s throw away from the new Olympic Stadium it felt like a long fought football rivalry. However, this one couldn’t go to penalties (Chaos Orb flips I guess?!). Bryan Connolly battled valiantly with his aggressive ErhnamGeddon deck, but a lack of counter magic left him vulnerable to the combo of MirrorBall. A quick 2-1 to Marc Lanigra put Team England behind the 8-ball.
The next match to finish was Karl Hagan vs. David Chambers, the New Zealand representative of the team who currently lives in Germany. Another close fought match saw Karl take the deciding game and put the tournament down to the last match still playing: Tom Brown vs. Leo Bruder.
Tom had already taken game 1 by this point, and built up a commanding position with a hand full of counter magic, a Circle of Protection: Red to stop Leo’s creatures and a Karma in play which was winning the race against Leo’s Mishra’s Factory. Even a Lightning Bolt to the face was allowed to resolve as “not important” as Tom played around losing his winning position, making sure that he wasn’t weak to a Disenchant from Leo off his Plateaus. So concerned was Tom to protect his Karma, his only win condition left, from being Disenchanted that he was playing around it as hard as he could. It was only when he mentioned it once victorious that Leo exclaimed “Oh, no, I don’t have any Disenchants. The Plateaus are only there so that I don’t have to run basic Mountains.”
Congratulations to Team England Midlands on their World Cup win and tickets to N00bcon!
We also had a few other awards to give out:
I was incredibly thankful to our judge for the day, Chris Aston. Whilst there was very little to do in the way of rules queries, I was grateful to Chris for his organisation of the tournament, for his quick and efficient scorekeeping which allowed us to proceed at the pace we wanted to. He set the light-hearted tone for the day by explaining his approach to the REL he was enforcing during the player’s meeting: Competitive REL-axed, and carried this through the day joking with players for playing the awful old art on cards and enjoying the day as much as anyone else did.
After the dust settled we did what all Old School players should do and retired downstairs to the bar for drinks. I was overwhelmed by the international flavour we had at the tournament, with 6 different nationalities present during the day. all with one thing in common: their love of Old School Magic. I was honoured to have been able to organise such a diverse and successful tournament.
Roll on next year!