Following a Swampy Brick Road to the Festival of Friendship

by Wendall Marvel

I’ve always wanted to write a tournament report, but have never taken notes well enough to be able to feel like I could do one sufficiently. That’s also the case for this tournament but I figured I’d give it a go anyway.

I had just joined the Romancing the Stones discord group and saw that a Secret Santa was being run, and when we all got on discord to open the presents, I found that Rob Connolly had shipped me almost all of a mono black rack old school deck - and I already owned most of the cards needed to fill it out. He said he hoped to lure me in to playing old school and I can gladly state that his plan 100% worked, and I thought the gift was awesome (to say the least). Rob sent me a photo of the deck he played in a previous old school event. I started hunting through card boxes and binders, looking for EC reprint-policy legal copies of the cards I needed.

Mishra’s Factories, Strip Mines, Demonic Tutor, Sol Ring, and an Animate Dead from the binders I thought they’d be in: Check.
A Hypnotic Specter to add to the three he sent me, found after a too-long hunt through boxes: Check.
A Disrupting Scepter or two found during the above box hunt: Check
Ten Revised Swamps: I have a box full of lands, somewhere, and they surely contain enough revised and/or unlimited Swamps for the deck, but I could not find it. I did find ten as I was hunting for them, though.

So that left a few cards for me to pick up.
Urborg and Swamps: Wonko’s had ‘em.
Mind Twist and another Greed: Card Traders.
Royal Assassins: From the internet.

I then dropped two Swamp from Rob’s list and put in my Mox Jet and Black Lotus, put the list into XMage and started goldfishing against the AI playing a random The Deck list I hunted up from the internet.

That AI plays factory in the stupidest manner possible, but those goldfish games left me thinking that maybe I wanted a disk in the board, because I have exactly zero ways to get rid of an on-board The Abyss. So I asked Rob if he ever felt like he wanted a Disk in the board and he said he’d wanted one or two and considered swapping the Animate Dead for one, or even playing it main.

During this time he also told me that if he had a Mox Jet he’d get rid of the Sol Ring for it, since it doesn’t actually pay for much more than scepter and factory activations and a colorless here and there. Given that during my goldfish games I’d had spots where I was mentally tracking mana burn damage due to Sol Ring floating mana and having nothing to sink it in to, I agreed.

So: Sol Ring out, put a Swamp back in, take Animate Dead out of the board for a Nevinyrral’s Disk. I don’t know the meta at all, other than knowing that The Deck is a deck, so I’m just going to run it and trust what Rob gave me to start with and the idea that I want a Disk. Which makes the deck I ran essentially ‘Take out a Swamp and Sol Ring for Black Lotus and Mox Jet main, take out Animate Dead for a Disk in the board’ off of the deck photo I started with.

Friday night I took a photo of the deck to send in for registration. Saturday morning I put my playmat on my desk and manually Knuth shuffled my deck. This is pretty much the same as the software algorithm, just with physical cards instead of randomizing an array: I set my 60 down on the playmat to my left and pulled up to get a random number in the range of 1 to 60, inclusive. I then counted to that card from the deck on my left and put it as the bottom card in a new deck on my right. Get a random number from 1 to 59, count to that card in the deck on the left, put it on top of the card in the deck on the right. Then do that 57 more times, then put the only card remaining in the deck on the left on top of the deck on the right and you’re done.

This was the first time I’d tried it and took me around twenty minutes. It was a great time killer while waiting for the player meeting to start but obviously will never, ever be used as a shuffle in a match.

Then it was time for the player meeting and my first tournament ever playing with a 94/95-ish card pool, as back then I only ever played at kitchen tables.

Round One

I wrote notes in my phone from what I remembered from this match after it was over, before the next match started. I always intend to do this for every match in any tournament I’ve played in, but it has never actually happened for any of them. We chatted a lot at the start and during this match - he’d built his deck to come play just for fun, I talked about how Rob had given me my deck as a gift, etc, and I enjoyed that.

Game One:
I had a turn one Rack and a turn two hippie. A Giant Growth on a Scryb Sprites dealt with my hippie, but if I remembered right at the time I took the notes, Hymns and a mind twist let The Rack take me to victory.

Game Two:
I got a hippie out and the next turn hymned. This hit two Giant Growth and I swung with the hippie into a Birds of Paradise to find out if he had a third, and he did. He played a Cockatrice and I played a Sengir Vampire, I put a rack on the board. I drew a Demonic Tutor and tutored up a Terror to kill the Cockatrice and then vampire beats and some rack triggers closed it out. 2-0 in games, 1-0 in matches.

The rest of the tournament I did not take notes on, and the rest of this report will be much more subject to bad memory.

Round Two

In round two I was paired against Brian Tweedy. We know each other from playing vintage and legacy here in Austin, and I am pretty sure that he’s always won the matches where we’ve been paired. This match was very, very close, with a lot of back and forth, but I remember a few specific things. Opening with ritual/hippie, they die to Swords. Spending the entirety of game one with a useless Paralyze in hand. The turn where he played Braingeyser for six, I untap and played Mind Twist for five, things like that. Game 3 we went to turns, and I played Dark Ritual/Demonic Tutor for Lotus to make exactly seven mana so I could drop Sengir and a Black Knight to try to get some damage in under The Abyss, and he untapped and played Balance - I loved that, despite being on the wrong end of it.

I remember how I sideboarded. I didn’t really have a fully formed sideboard plan and sort of just winged it based on what I saw in all my matches. Out: 3 assassins, 2 paralyze. In: Greed, Disrupting Scepter, 2 Drain Life, Disk.

I don’t know if that’s right. Later on I thought ‘well, assassins can actually hold off a factory’. The other side of that is, they can’t do that effectively under The Abyss. Taking out the Paralyze is obviously 100% correct.

It came down to orb flips after turns. I’ve never flipped an orb ever, he seems very good at them (I only saw him miss one orb flip all day). My flip missed, his hit. 3-2 in games, 1-1 in matches.

I next got paired against Nate. I won the one game where Sylvan Library did not hit the board. In the other two games, Sylvan Library did what Sylvan Library does and it was awesome to watch even though I was losing to it. 4-4 in games, 1-2 in matches.

Round 4 vs. Tim Everett / Round 5 vs. Jimmy Locatelli

The next two rounds are kind of fuzzy and melded together in my memory. In one match, at some point there was an Electric Eel on the board doing some damage to me, and post-sideboard, a pro-black 1/1 that gained a counter every time it hit me. Land’s Edge hit the board in both games of one match, with my having the lands in hand to dome my opponent for lethal in game 1. Game 2 against that deck went to turns, and in one of those turns I was very, very careful to make sure my opponent had only two cards in hand and it was safe to Greed down to five for a card but spent an inordinate amount of time before I realized that the two lands I had in hand were lethal once I drew that card from Greed. I am smart and dumb sometimes. I won both round four and five 2-0 to finish swiss at 8-4 in games and 3-2 in matches.

I jumped in the voice chat to wait for Stu to announce top 8, figuring at 3-2 I had some shot at it.

He started by saying that there were two people at 3-2 who did not make it on breakers.

He announced Ty in tenth place. He then announced me in ninth.

So I did not top 8 - but I noted to myself how much fun the whole thing was and decided I’d hang around to watch some top 8 matches. I talked in the voice chat on discord about how it was essentially justice that Rob Connolly beat me for 8th on tie breakers, since his Secret Santa gift was the entire reason I was there playing.

and then … and then …

Two of the players at 3-2 who had made top 8 dropped and left before top 8 was announced.

Which ended up meaning that Ty and I, who had both missed on tiebreakers, would both actually play in top 8.

So let’s do this!

First Top 8 Match vs. Chris Taylor

We had some issues with Chris seeing my video that were resolved by both he and I restarting discord and jumping back in the voice room that had been set up for the table. In game 1 I had to mull to five. The five I had was decent, but he got a Mirror Universe on board, I didn’t know what else to do other than to try and beat him down and sink mana into a Greed when he swapped our life totals, but it didn’t matter because after he popped it he fireballed me out.

Game 2, was similarly a blowout - the paper I recorded life totals on has me at 20 at the end of the game.

Game 3, he kept a hand with two moxen and a Strip Mine. He countered the first rack I played, and I stripped his strip and he did not draw land for a long time. I was ahead, beating him down with creatures - but he played a Balance, clearing my board of both creatures and land. This led to a few turns where I drew swamps and rebuilt my mana and looked to start doing damage again, and also drew and played the rest of my racks.

He spent a turn using Recall to get his combo pieces back in hand (I think Power Artifact & Fireball, with a Basalt Monolith on board, but I might be remembering wrong), with a Counterspell to boot - but this left him without the blue open to stop me from untapping and playing a Mind Twist for two on my turn.

That Mind Twist for two hit both combo pieces. I submit that we should add this to a growing list of evidence that I’m a lucksack. I made a mistake on my next turn where I could have just killed him because he couldn’t actually counter the Drain Life I had in hand without dying to 3 onboard racks on his upkeep, because he only had three cards in hand, but I got there anyway.

Second Top 8 match

This was a rematch vs. Tweedy, and The Deck did what The Deck does and he got there 2-0 after some potentially scary openers from me that he managed to deal with. The Rack is not great when your opponent has one or two tomes on board. I 100% opened wrong in game two by playing land/lotus/hippie when I should have played land/lotus/Black Knight/Order of the Ebon Hand - but that Disk I put in the board? In game two it held his factory off for a good long while after it had beaten me down to 4 life, until I popped it so I could clear The Abyss and try and get some creatures down again. So I felt like it was a good call to have that Disk.

I then hung around to watch Tweedy play Ty with Ty taking the whole thing down - yay for sneaking in to top 8 after missing on tiebreakers!

I ended it all in fourth as I understand it, and I picked a Mind Twist as a prize when the prize draft got to me - whenever I play old school or vintage going forward, if the deck plays a twist I am running that twist, because playing the Mind Twist that I won at my first ever old school event seems perfect.

To sum up

Some of the above might be wrong because it’s mostly from memory and I’m getting old.
When someone gives you most of a deck to lure you in to playing old school, take them up on it every time.
If you can play in a Festival of Friendship, do it. Hearing about the nice chunk of change that was donated to Central Texas Food Bank from our entry fees and the raffles and auctions that were run leading up to the actual tournament was one of the highlights of the day.