By Ty Thomason
This past weekend, I participated in the Festival of Friendship, and Old School MTG event put on by the great people at Romancing the Stones. I played a fairly standard DibAtog list and was extremely fortunate in many spots and ended up winning the event! The event raised over $1000 for charity so it was a great success all around (more on that from Stu insert link here).
The format was going to be Eternal Central rules with no proxies. The RTS community generally plays unlimited proxy Vintage, so I knew the metagame might include more decks either without full power or no power at all. I hadn’t played Old School since Mobstercom back in July so I was very excited to play some games. I hadn’t been idle thinking about the format though. I worked with Simon Christie behind the scenes on several of his OS ventures in the past few months, but I was ready to do it myself.
I knew that I wanted to play as many restricted cards as possible, and that meant playing something that could use both Wheel of Fortune and Timetwister. If the unpowered meta was skewed towards Hymn to Tourach, these are the best ways to recover from the kinds of starts the black deck can bring. A burn heavy Atog build was appealing, and I began to look at various lists. In the end, I registered this:
The maindeck is pretty much locked for about 52 of the spots. The artifact threat spots beyond Black Vice can vary from Ankh of Mishra to Copper Tablet and Relic Barrier. Of these, I prefer Ankh, but didn’t think it would be stellar in the expected meta. Additionally, I wanted to have more than the minimum 26 mana sources from the lists I had seen, especially in the 4 Strip Mine environment (one of these days I’ll finish writing my anti-Strip Mine article). The solution for me was to play 1 Copy Artifact and 1 Fellwar Stone as additional artifacts for Atog that can be also mana sources 27 and 28. What’s old is new again, as Copy Artifact kind of works like a Glasspool Mimic or Kazandu Mammoth.
My experience from Mobstercom also showed me that this deck can flood easily if you don’t draw a draw-7 or Ancestral, or if the game isn’t over in the first few turns. I included again a pet card Jalum Tome. It was even better this time that before and I think all Atog decks should consider playing one. The Library of Alexandria in the sideboard was something I saw someone else do. The idea is to only bring it in on the draw, and I think it is reasonable to do but maybe a bit too cute. There are still two ways to get back to 7 cards in hand, so maybe its worth playing main. There were definitely situations where I wanted it even on the play game three in certain matchups where I was taking a more controlling roll.
Balance in the main was originally going to be Braingeyser and the Tundra to be an Underground Sea. Simon convinced me last minute to switch to Balance because it was so strong against under-powered decks. I think Balance is worth playing and the cost to the manabase isn’t that high. I moved the Braingeyser to the sideboard instead of a Winter Orb. I never cast the Braingeyser despite boarding it in just about every matchup, so I can’t say whether or not you want access to it.
I played 4 Psychic Purge to target Hymn to Tourach decks, but this is probably not necessary at all. I just like to have my sideboards have clear plans even if they are narrow. The City in a Bottle was only in the sideboard because I had acquired one and wanted to play it. It probably hurts me more than my opponents outside of specifically Arabian Aggro matchup, which would be the only time I’d bring it in. I was very excited also to acquire a Falling Star, since Falling Stars is the name for the Houston Old School club. Because I now own one, I actually practiced some flips of both Star and Chaos Orb before the event and can now flip with much more confidence than before.
I think there were only 18 players in attendance. Five rounds of swiss and then a top 8.
Round 1 - Joseph Kendall on White Weenie
Joseph is from Oklahoma City and I had met him there just over a year ago at the Grand Prix. I won game one after using Bolt and Chain Lightning on his creatures and then using Jalum Tome to pull ahead late game. Game two I Lotus out a Serendib that is Plowed and I only have one land that gets Stripped. I draw only one more land and die without casting any other spells. Game three I probably mis-sideboarded and draw three Black Vise which do nothing and by the time I find Demonic Tutor for Balance I’m at 4 life and die to a topdecked creature in two turns. If the Vise had been Shatter or Psionic Blast I think I would have stabilized.
Round 2 - Stuart Ziarnik on RW Tax Tower
Game one takes an incredibly long time. I was basically never going to win because he had multiple Towers and a full grip for a long time. I was hoping that after he cast Wheel of Fortune he might not have enough lands left to kill me before reshuffling his graveyard with Feldon’s Cane. I had to draw my own Wheel or Ancestral and hope he was low enough on library to deck him. He had activated Land Tax a few times and Library of Alexandria many times. Eventually he was down to 8 cards left and digging for the Cane. He found it with 4 cards left in library and I never found my draw spell to kill him anyway so I conceded about 30 minutes in. Game two he draws three Blood Moon but no white source and I do almost the full 20 with a single Atog. Game three he once again draws Blood Moon and I have no answer and he can actually play spells so I lose before running out of time.
Round 3 - David London on Goblins
I don’t remember much about this match. I win in three games, losing once again with a Lotus Serendib one-lander. He didn’t draw Blood Moon which was good for me.
Round 4 - Ian Files on Erhnageddeon
I win game one with a forest-walking Atog. Game two he has no forests and I’m trying to race a Serra plus Erhnam. I make a mistake of holding lands in my hand so when I draw Copy Artifact for my Factory and attack with two Atogs, I can sacrifice everything to put him to 3 life. My hand is Volcanic plus Chain Lightning but I have already used my land drop for the turn. I have to pass and hope he doesn’t have a way to gain life, but he Demonic Tutors for Spirit Link and I lose. Game three on the play my hand is Strip Mine, Black Lotus, Mind Twist, Demonic Tutor, Black Vise, Atog, and Psionic Blast. I keep, but can’t decide what to do turn one. Eventually I decide I should just Mind Twist for 3. Eventually some more Strip Mines set us both back, and I draw more land first and win. I’m not really sure how it ended.
Round 5 - Tim Everett on UR CounterBurn
Both games he gets stuck on low mana after I Strip Mine his land and Chaos Orb his Sol Ring. It was over really fast.
So after the swiss ended, I was in 10th place, once again on tie breakers. I made the joke that I keep missing out on top 8 in the Romancing the Stones events after 9th on breakers here and 10th on breakers here. Maybe the universe was tired of the cruel joke, or maybe my luck changed, but while we were waiting for Stu to announce the top 8, two players ahead of me decided to drop. This put me in 8th place and fighting for the title!
Quarterfinals - Patrick Vincent on Guardian Beast Disco Troll
Game one is the craziest game all day. My opener is Black Lotus, Fellwar Stone, Ancestral Recall, Atog, and a few lands. He goes first however and plays Mox Badlands Demonic Tutor Black Lotus and passed the turn. I lead with Lotus which resolves, but my next play of Fellwar Stone is countered by Mana Drain. I use the floating blue mana to Ancestral Recall and play a Mishra’s Factory for the turn. He uses the mana from Drain to play a Mana Vault and then Mind Twist me for 6 cards. I’m left with only an Atog in hand, but I draw a Strip Mine and start attacking with my Factory. He’s taking one a turn from the Mana Vault and only has three mana available. I draw another Factory so I can Strip one of his lands and continue attacking. He draws another Mana Vault and uses it to cast Guardian Beast. I draw the blue source I need to Psionic Blast it and then resume attacking with Factories. I draw a Lightning Bolt to finish him off before he can stabilize and untap his Mana Vaults. Beating a turn two Mind Twist for 6 feels incredible! Game two he has a slower start and I have a couple of Moxes and a Timetwister. I don’t remember how it ended but he couldn’t overcome that explosive start.
Semifinals - Robert Wilson on three color Hymn deck
Game one we trade resources early and I’m getting some beats in with Factories and an Atog but he drops a Shivan Dragon and I’m about to die. I topdeck Wheel of Fortune and cast it, but he responds with Swords on my Atog. I draw Demonic Tutor and another Atog. I Demonic for Time Walk to cast the Atog and then I need to draw a Bolt or other answer for his Sedge Troll blocker so I can attack with lethal Atog. I don’t so I die. Game two I’m a bit faster and burn him out before he can stabilize. Game three I draw three Strip Mine and keep him pretty low on mana, but his Hymn to Tourach when I have four cards in play takes my Timetwister and Mind Twist leaving me with Bolt and Psychic Purge. Eventually he sticks a Sedge Troll and then draws a Maze of Ith to slow my attack. I draw Library of Alexandria and get up to seven in hand but his Troll starts attacking me. I’m at 7 life and he’s at 9. My hand is three Pyschic Purge, a Lightning Bolt and a Psionic Blast and thanks to a Black Lotus I can cast it all. I want to wait for him to make a move so I don’t end up drawing the game with Blast, but when he casts Lightning Bolt in my end step I discover Psychic Purge is a Sorcery. I now have to live through his turn. He attacks with Sedge Troll and I block with a double pumped Factory after he Disenchants one. He Lightning Bolts me down to 1 life. I draw a blank for my turn but activate Library and draw the fourth Strip Mine. I use it on his Maze and attack with Factory, and he uses Swords to Plowshares to remove it. This gives me the two life cushion I need to burn him out with my spells in the second main phase and I’m on to the finals!
Finals - Brian Tweedy on The Deck
Hot take: I don’t think The Deck is a tier one deck in Old School, at least not in Eternal Central rules. I think there are at least three decks that have highly favorable matchups against The Deck without sacrificing too much power vs the field. Anyway, game one I play a series of threats and he can’t answer a Serendib that does about 12 points to him. I also resolve Ankh of Mishra and he takes two from that. I have a few Factories and I draw Balance to force a discard of 3 cards or he must counter it and take 2 from his City of Brass. He lets it resolve and the next turn my Earthquake finishes him off. Game two I have another good start with some Mox and a Wheel of Fortune. He’s stuck without White mana for a while and dies to something.
It’s always great to win a Magic tournament, no matter the stakes or format. This is my first real-ish success in Old School (it helps to play a legit deck). I’m still very much in love with this format and the community around it and I hope to play more in the upcoming year.
- Simon for helping me with the decklist
- Stu and the RTS guys for putting on a great event and raising money for charity.
- The two people that dropped and let me sneak into top 8
- All of my opponents
- Everyone in the event
- None this time