Argothian Daydreams: Hailing the Leaf in the Oldschool Underground

Part One: The Primeval Forest

sylvan_library

“Things do not change. We change.” –Henry David Thoreau, Walden

My first encounter with green mana was an offering from a Verduran Enchantress. This taste of paradise was contrary to my nature, to my obsession with dark magic and rusted metal relics, but her emerald eyes captivated me. The temptation was too great not to succumb, and the floral sapidity was as sweet as salvation on my trembling lips.

As it filled my lungs, she filled my dreams. As it swam through my blood, she danced with my desires. I lost all correspondence with my gritty, jagged world of metal and violence, and let myself listen to the nuances of its song. She was teaching me of the serenity of nature. I was learning the savagery of the cosmos.

I was standing at the threshold of a pristine and alien world. In the pale light of the Argothian forest, I severed the connection to my past, present, and future. My heart was thunder in a silent landscape, and I could see nothing beyond her encompassing stare. I held my breath and closed my eyes. I needed to be free. To step outside myself. To unravel the threads of my being. And when I did I could step outside myself. I could reach beyond the confines of my worldly form. I could hear murmurs from afar.

It began as the buzzing of insects. I imagined the wings of Scryb Sprites and Argothian Pixies. But slowly it grew closer. It took form. Overlapping whispers and echoes. Discordant. Slowly evolving into words, faint in form. Undefined by my inability to comprehend. I felt like I was spinning, like I had fallen from orbit only to drift through endless nothingness. I struggled to make sense of their message in vain. I began to doubt they were meant for me to hear. I surrendered. I accepted my defeat. And in letting go I remembered only her eyes. Her piercing gaze. And as I was once again encompassed by her presence, I came to understand.

“The forest whispers my name,” I spoke, my voice resonating through the vastness of the tree strewn terrain.

She answered my declaration with laughter. It hung in the air like music. Seductive. Serene. I wanted to be consumed. To live inside of it. I opened my eyes. She was reaching for me. Ready to lead me into her world. My feet were planted. I did not belong. She was taking me too far from home. Too far from the safety of my darkness. But I could not deny her. Restraint was fleeting and gave way to wanting. So I reached out. I took her hand. And I followed her into the forest.

I have spent countless hours in the woods since that day. I routinely draw the green mana from the land and into my body. She taught me to spin enchantments, and now I worship at the naked altars in the heart of the Fyndhorn Wilds. It was still not my world, but when I let myself dance in its mist, I could harmonize with it and forget about the trappings of my earthly enslavement. I have made repeated pilgrimages to show my devotion. Nothing will ever compare to that first visit. To the first Verduran touch. To the first taste of the Llanowar Leaf. But I am never left wanting when I stand alone in the woods.

gmb

Welcome back to the Underground.

Are you ready?

Time to fire up the Green Mana Battery and explore our Primal Nature. We will explore the forests of old, focusing not only on Oldschool Magic but specifically on Mono Green and its unappreciated beauty in the primitive landscape. We will become Disciples of the Wooden Sphere. And while we will not venture into uncharted realms the journey will be unlike those before. This is not your everyday stroll through the woods.

So drink up. Take another hit from the battery and join me as we depart the Adventurer’s Guildhouse. It is time to take on the knightly task of finding the Rainbow Vale. But like all great journeys, the true story will rest in the enchanted places we stumble through along the way.

 

Part Two: Finding the Heart in the Darkness

dark-heart

“”….his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself and, by the heavens I tell you, it had gone mad.” – Joseph Conrad, Hearts of Darkness

Our first stop will be the Hall of Gemstone. We will glimpse into its wonder and examine the passionate art of American Oldschool. It has much to offer, but we must refrain from getting lost in its complexity and focus on a single stone. We will bear witness to the work of the malachite craftsman known as @studderingdave.

Meditate with me.

I learned to listen to the buzz of nature from the forest itself. Now I sit listening to the virtual buzz of the internet, but what I am seeking is the pulse of the MTG Underground. And I have found it. With just a casual suggestion that I wanted to transmogrify the digital flesh of our world into this project, I have summoned the fiercest and finest.

First and foremost, my friend David offered up well-sculpted presentation of love. It was obvious from the start that he was more entrenched in our work than I was, and there was much to learn from him. He was kind enough to offer up an intimate glimpse and discussion of his weapon.

dave-green

Librarian: When did you start playing magic?

David: I started during Unlimited. My first deck was green. There was overwhelming disdain for green even back then. My friends who showed me the game collectively dumped their green cards on me so I could learn, and inadvertently created a Moss Monster.

Librarian: Excellent. When did you first start the revival? When did you first taste the Oldschool poison?

David: Sometime in 2013, as I found the spirit of EDH fading, and Oldschool not only gave me the desire to play again, but it gave me a taste of the early days in a way EDH never could. It was perfect.

Librarian: What is your favorite green card?

David: Berserk. It was the first “chase” card I ever traded for during the old days. It meant more to me than an Ancestral Recall ever could.

Librarian: So now you have the capacity to build whatever you like. Why mono green?

David: Mono green often gets dismissed in just about any format. Every color has its iconic mono colored build, but green’s “ramp and fat” style is underrepresented. And oldschool lets green explore its identity.

Librarian: A few of the cards that you play I have not considered. Fastbond for instance. I have also had reservations about Giant growth, which I understand enables your use of berserk. Most interesting to me are the pair of Titana’s Songs in the sideboard. Tell me about them.

David: Fastbond has some broken lines. As a one of it can enable the multiple land opener into an early Erhnam the way power does in other builds. Giant growth is a personal favorite behind Berserk. The synergy is the stuff my childhood dreams were made of. Titania’s Song is a work around to powered decks that also disables big artifacts. I have a variant of “machine green” that utilizes prison pieces in a green shell with Song as the finisher. If you have not tried it out you should.

Librarian: I will. One last question. What is your best Desert Twister story?

David: I played a game in which my opponent and I were both at low life totals. I had an Elvish archers on board, but he played a Desert off the top of his deck. It was a stand off and we were both trying to draw into something. My library gave me the answer I needed. I drew and cast the Desert Twister to destroy his Desert! The archers finished him off and we were able to laugh about the flavor of the game.

 

Part Three: Chasing Pendelhaven

pendel-art

“I hear that strange melody that only you can speak to me” –Deadboy and the Elephantmen Heart of Green

I returned to the Adventurer’s Guildhouse late one night after a heavy commune with nature. There was a lone traveler at the bar in an otherwise empty hall. I pulled up a stool beside his gaunt figure, bent and beaten, and I glanced at his beer while waiting to order my own.

“Jacques Le Vert,” he said solemnly.

“Excuse me?” I asked, the distortion in my head bending his voice in unorthodox ways.

“My name is Jacques,” he repeated.

“I am the Librarian.”

“Have a drink with me,” he requested.

I obliged. The spirits flowed freely as we spoke at length on many subjects. Jacques was troubled by the life he was leading. He was on his way home to try and find himself, or some purpose. He was looking for a reason to go on, or to settle down. The life as a wandering soldier left him empty. He was drinking away the sins of the sword and the ravages of war.

The existential crisis that was tearing him apart was pouring from his mouth when it was not slamming back another drink. Years of internal conflict left him weary. Weak. Worn out. The cause he took up so many years ago, to fight for those who were too weak to lift a sword, had become an empty shell of mercenary work to cover the costly nights of drinkng it all away.

But that night was different.

“I am going to lay down my sword,” he said as he slapped me hard on the back of the shoulders. “I am going to devote my life to protecting my homeland.”

“Where is that?” I asked curiously, drunkenly thinking about my Plateau of Leng on the outskirts of the Forsaken Wastes.

“Pendelhaven. Not too far from here. Home of the oldest tree in Llanowar.”

“The oldest tree?”

“Yes,” he reiterated. “If you have never seen it, you should abandon whatever it is you are doing in these parts and come with me. It will change your life.”

jacques

So there I was.

Following Jacques le Vert into the woods.

When I decided to craft my Mono Green deck, I decided I wanted to build around my fascination with Pendelhaven. It was going to be a powerless, relatively budget project but I wanted to see if it could keep up or overpower established archetypes with sheer numbers. This likely meant thirty or more creatures.

Fortunately for me, I was given a list by Greg Kraigher, famous for his Tron Shops list that he crushed me with at the Eternal Weekend Oldschool Event. It gave me direction and understanding. I worked my way from his finely tuned composition into a more budget friendly approach. His build contained a Library of Alexandria, Black Lotus and Mox Emerald which I replaced with basic forests. After tampering with the mix of creatures, I replaced one with a second Sylvan Library, and the Chaos Orb with a Desert Twister. While these are clearly not ways to make the deck stronger, they did allow me to complete it and get to playing some games.

green-deck

Within a few nights of having this assembled I was able to grind some games against a few locals and explore the inner workings of it while drinking Malort with my brother. I had moderate success on all fronts, mostly only losing to games where my opponent began with a first turn Juzam Djinn or a well timed Serra Angel. The swarm was largely too much for Deadguy Ale and traded blows well with Red Green Zoo.

Thirty two main deck creatures proved to be a strategy that many foes were not prepared to handle. The Army of Pendelhaven proved problematic when squaring off with other creatures, both the bolstering power of Wyluli Wolf as well as the banding trickery of the more feral Timber Wolves. The Pixies rendered factories and Juggernauts impotent, and the Sylvan Libraries fueled the ranks with their resourcefulness.

But do not let me lead you astray.

This is not the greatest construction of the competitive world.

This is a casual deck, filthy and glorious.

If you cannot understand why you would choose this path, knowing that it is as likely to lead you to maddening isolation in the dark heart of the woods as it is to victory, I can only wonder how you have found your way this deep into the MTG Underground. Green Mana is not a lifestyle for everyone, but for those who choose to Hail the Leaf there is no greater way to peace and prosperity.

When I met Jacques le Vert that night, I saw a man down on his luck. A man crushed by the weight of his own existence. A man drinking away the better hours of his bitter life. But once I followed him into the woods, into the heart of Llanowar, I saw a different man altogether. I saw a man returning home from a long journey. I saw care where before there was only callousness. I saw delight instead of dolor. I saw a peaceful hero instead of a tired mercenary.

So tonight, as I sit here drinking my whiskey, I toast to the memory of Jacques le Vert. He will forever resonate in my blood and memory. For it was he that taught me that when our eyes are busy passing judgment, they are distracted from our search for reverence. He showed me that in the pursuit of Pendelhaven we can find ourselves.

 

Part Four: Selections from the Sylvan Library

The longing for nature does not remove our desire for knowledge. The forests of our immediate surroundings share many similarities with those in the far reaches of distant lands, but no two trees are the same. It would drive the wisest among us mad to pursue an understanding of all things, to expect to touch every branch in a single lifetime.

So when we long for forests too distant to reach by foot, we find ourselves at the threshold of the Sylvan Library. In the pages sculpted from devotion to green mana, we find glimpses into worlds far beyond our reach as if they were blossoming at our fingertips. It is here, in the sacred halls of the Library, that I will show you the majesty of the primeval forest. I offer you not only a deck from the depths of Oldschool Magic. I offer you the prized and personal weapon of the legendary Magnus De Laval.

magnus-green-real

“It came from the woods. Most strange things do.” –Emily Carroll

.There are significant differences in the ideology that goes into crafting this sort of weapon. Coming from a less desolate and war torn landscape, Magnus hails from a world that restricts Strip Mine to keep it from ravaging the landscape and turning nature into little more than a memory.

But that will not hold him back. He is packing three Ice Storms to show his enemies he is not fucking around. And in the revelry of Gaea’s Touch he has brought the Howling Mines and Relic Barriers he learned to love when he worked in the unforgiving power plants of Urza. Here in the woods, he has not become a Ley Druid. It is Survival of the Fittest. Primal Order. It may be his love of nature that drew him into the woods, but it is the malevolent coils of the Craw Wurm that keep him from escaping.

It is easy to see this is not a weapon honed for efficiency. The most obnoxious of observers will point out there are more practical threats than the expensive and overbearing Wurm we all marveled at in our primitive understanding of magic. But remember, foolish children of the underground, before you go mocking Craw Wurms, make sure you have a Safe Haven in which you can hide.

This is magic at its finest. This is homage to our roots.

Part Five: Usurping Ancestral Recall

ifh-art

“Y’all know me, still the same efreet but I been low-key

Hated on by most these genies with no lamp, no wishes and no green

No legacy, King Suleiman won’t even fuck with me

Mad at me cause they misprinted my face on a revised serendib efreet”

-Ifh-Biff Efreet  “Forgot about Ifh”

Wandering out of the library and into Havenwood Battlegrounds, I would like to show you the secret garden of Danny Friedman who is known to some of you from his blog, Understanding Ancestral Recall, others as a vintage curmudgeon, and to me as one of the finest people magic has allowed me to intersect. He is an active promoter of Oldschool Magic in the Chicago area, and his group, the The Lords of the Pit are the natural rival to the Librarians of Leng or at least will be once I expand my gang to properly challenge their obscene dominance of a Midwest scene lacking in proper gang warfare.

Fortunately for you fiendish devotees of my endless slander, he was kind enough to share his Oldschool Green deck with me, in spite of our inevitable clash for turf dominance. And while Danny is predominantly a Blue Wizard, he cannot help but gush with excitement when offering up the finest haze that Chicago Green Mana can offer.

image

The most striking difference from all the other decks we have explored is the presence of the typically forgotten and subtly powerful serpentine threat: Naf’s Asp.

nafs-asp

Just look at that mean motherfucker. Full of venom. Void of fear. A mess of text but an elegance of scales, this is perhaps the most fascinating one mana green threat printed before the era of power creep ruined my interest in playing creatures in magic. But the ability of the asp is unlike any other. You have until the beginning of your next draw step to pay the mana. You may pay it immediately, or during your upkeep, but once you draw your card for the turn, you lose the life. Ali from Cairo cannot save you from the venom of Nafs asp, but tapping your desert for mana instead of murdering the snake for biting you could save your life.

The other takeaway from Danny’s deck is Lifeforce. The power of hate in oldschool magic is strong, and Lifeforce, with its weird art and malicious intent, is one of the strongest. Never mind that black has no way to deal with enchantments. For two green mana, an abundant resource in the forests of Dominaria, you get to counter any black spell. And you can do it as often as your opponent can attempt to cast his evil magic.

By now, if our adventure through the forests of old has not made you want to summon Scryb Sprites or study at the Sylvan Library, nothing will. If you do not hear the howl of the Wyluli Wolf or know the true name of the Ifh-Biff Efreet, perhaps Green Mana is not your drug of choice. I pass no judgment, but I will pass no peace pipe either. There are four other colors and an assortment of artifacts that may better suit your needs.

 

Part Six: The Perpetual Haze of Eladmri’s Vineyard

We have explored Oldschool Mono Green at length today in the MTG Underground. But I would like to take a toke and and take a moment to recognize the compelling force behind building this deck and sharing the work of others with the same passion. The MTG Underground is a community above all else, and the hope of my visit with you today is to not only highlight members of the community and their work, but to also help you understand that there is a place for everyone here, regardless of their tastes.

My decision to build a series of budget Oldschool decks was driven by the desire to expand my local scene. We are a small, dedicated group, but the most frequent roadblock for most players is the lack of a deck or the notion that they must own a full set of power or a vast array of obscure, expensive cards to play. While I constantly refute this, the decks that I typically pilot suggest that my words are empty and the true spirit of the format lies beyond their reach.

So not only did I decide to design some decks that proved otherwise, but I also decided to double down and build them. The idea was to assemble a handful of budget decks that were fun to play, capable of winning games, and drenched in the flavor of Oldschool Magic. If people were interested but hesitant to commit, I would have a range of options to help them get their feet wet.

At this point, I received a brilliant suggestion from my virtual cohort @MasonsMTGDeals. I would build a literal Library of Leng, a selection of decks that compete well enough against each other as well as some of the established archetypes of the format. For anyone who desires to attend an MTG Underground event, the decks are available to check out. By presenting a Library Card (any copy of Library of Leng) anyone can check out a deck from the library. Their card will be signed, dated, and held until the end of the event, when it will be returned as the deck is checked back in to the library.

This idea is still in its infancy, but I have completed four decks so far and have two more in the works. It is a living project at the mercy of my resources, but so far it has proven to be easier than I could have hoped to get started. It requires implementing numerous revised and Collector’s Edition cards (for which I have developed a strong appreciation) as well as expanding my collection far beyond the comfortable three hundred cards I prefer, but it is a worthy sacrifice for the cause.

It is a living project that currently has four completed decks and two more in the works. It requires that I own a greater number of cards, but it is a worthy sacrifice for the purpose of growing the community.

After all, the MTG Underground is all about Love, above any Law. So fuck the constraints. If I must own more than a thousand cards to indoctrinate the curious observer into a full fledged disciple of the underground, then all past rules be damned. The cause is greater than its casualties.

Love Not Law,

-The Librarian.

Transcending Time and Space: Tripping on the Plateau of Leng

Part One: A Taste of What Was

(Written by Ramirez DePietro)

2-card

2 Card Monte

Typically, this would be a good time to write a retrospective of the Year that has passed. The Doctor would rant incessantly about everything that has transpired since he last visited with Vintage Magic Made Me Do It and his time at GP Columbus. I have found his notes, a mad foray into something he lovingly refers to as the “2 Card Summer” though much of it is fragmented and somewhat incoherent. He would seem to write emphatically before giving way to some kind of vision from which he would not return to finish.

I have done my best to summarize his work on this matter, and will include it here for proper documentation leading up to the events of his disappearance. It will serve as a way of looking back for a moment before we cross the threshold to find where it was that he went.

        blazemishrasfactorysummer

“There was a Blaze in the Northern Sky throughout the Summer.

It penned victories in ash and arson wherever the Good Doctor set foot.”

-Boris Devilboon

GP Columbus was a fitting prologue to the legendary and exclusive Team Serious Invitational. In the month between those events, the Doctor cast word of his religion both near and far, making even the most resolute of non-believers cower secretly at the mention of 2 Card Monte. He was sowing the seeds of superstition, and his determination threatened every library built by mortal hands. He converted those close to him, and trampled underfoot those who would not swear fealty. With their blood he scripted the finest details of his new faith.

And when he descended upon the secret headquarters of Team Serious, he rattled the faithless with a Victory like No Other, silencing even the most raucous detractors.

As he preached the gospel on the Serious Vintage podcast, he spoke of the sermon to come from the underground in the days that followed. But the Summer passed, and though we heard tell of the beginning, no further light was shed on the crusade at hand. The devout kept their ears to the earth, waiting for some symbol or sign, but they found only silence.

It was no doubt that he was leading some sort of Holy War, but the finer nuances of his work were kept hidden from the masses. When the listless crowds turned their eyes elsewhere, he poked his head out to start a new fire, giving them just enough sight to disrupt their peaceful slumber.

           mishrasfactoryautumnlitany

“Autumn waxed and waned, but still no word from the Underground.

Rubble remained where libraries once stood, but the Litany was yet to be penned.”

-Rasputin Dreamweaver

The locality of the Underground was in shambles. Everything believed sacred was in ruins. In the early hours of October, the Good Doctor descended upon the KRUGvitational, a secret and exclusive Vintage Tournament in the wilds of Western Michigan that comes up but twice in a good year. The fires that burned after it was over promised that there were tales to be told, but the Underground was still frozen in time.

It seemed impossible. The Doctor was alive with passion about his new weapon and faith, but he offered nothing to his blind and writhing followers. At the onset of Eternal Weekend, it was incomprehensible that he would not want to scream at the scorched earth. It was certainly time for his Legend to be known. Those closest to him were the most zealous believers. Why was he not trying to convert the rest of the godless children wandering listlessly in the Vintage Wilderness?

He and his elite made a showing at the most prominent Vintage Tournament of the year, one that housed many adventures and promised an epic tirade from the underground. Surely it was time for the silence to be broken. Eternal Weekend came and went, but still no words gave life to the secrets lurking in the Underground.

mishrasfactorywinternile_-_annihilation_of_the_wicked

“On the cusp of Winter there is a long and sordid tale to be spun,

But instead of words, the Annihilation of the Wicked has begun”

-Ramses Overdark

When “The Last TSO of Jerry Yang” took place in the nether region known as Berea, Ohio, the Doctor made the trip against all odds. And once again, he was decimating libraries with his 2 Card Monte like he was hellbent on creating history. And he would have, if he would just have taken the time give order and reason the tale.

With another victory and celebration of excess behind him, the first snowfall of the year marred the landscape. Still not a word had been shared about the 2 Card Summer. The truth about the deck and the religion around it were still unknown to those who were far from the Presence of the Master.

Still, some of the stories are known. Legends form in their own right, and when those that live them choose not to speak, they have a way of taking on a life of their own. So the world has become aware of the reckless weapon and the lunatic wielding it. They know of his devoted mad disciples. But for all that they know, they still cannot understand. Perhaps the secrets would have been lost forever, but somehow a page of the Doctor’s notebook, haphazardly used as a life pad, remains on the desk from which he disappeared.

And those words give us some insight into the Litany of Burning Libraries.

I have been dreaming about the Plateau. About the cold and desolate infinity surrounding the landscape. Dreaming my birth. My death. The hazy life in between. I do not yet understand these dreams, but they give strength to the weapon and truth to my faith.

It is still unknown to me why I must destroy the libraries of mortals, but the 2 Card Monte does so with such efficiency and splendor that I am finding the work not only fulfilling, but also gratifying. I will cleanse this world with my superstition, destroying every abomination disguised as a library that litters this ugly human world.

It is not about destruction. It is about cleansing. I am not the bringer of the end, but rather of a new dawn. I take the form of damnation but I have only salvation to offer. I am here to set them free from the lies of their scriptures. We will cleanse this world of false knowledge, of the lies of the kingdoms of men. It is only when the last written words of mortals are erased that my quest can turn the page and move to its next phase. That the truth can be known. Understood.

I dare not dwell too long within the Abyss of my mind. It holds secrets that I am still not prepared for, so I will instead pour myself into my work. I will destroy their libraries with ceaseless fury and fervor. I will bring those that embrace the work into the fold. When the time is right, we will unveil ourselves as what we are. Who we are.

As the Librarians of Leng

There is no question that the Doctor dabbles in madness, but this shows a darker, deeper purpose to the silence than is easily swallowed. It is not the first mention he has made of these Librarians of Leng, originally offered as a response to the Chicago Oldschool group known as Lords of the Pit. Surely it is just some Oldschool Gang rivalry? Delving deep into Understanding Ancestral Recall, there is an endless supply of fascinating material, but no mention of anything to do with the Good Doctor’s new delusions.

Part Two: The Arcades Sabboth Interview

arcades

Arcades: There has not been a single word from the Underground for many days, despite perpetual signs of activity. Why the silence? Where have you been?

The Librarian: I have returned to where and whence I came.

Arcades: Where, and when, is that?

The Librarian: The Plateau of Leng at the beginning of time.

Arcades: That sounds like quite an adventure.

The Librarian: I have unraveled the fabric of existence to become one with myself. Past, Present, and Future. I stared into the Void and saw my reflection as it was, as it is, and as it may yet never come to be. I have ceased to exist, and emerged from Oblivion with not only the knowledge of who I am, but also what I am.

Arcades: Who or what is that?

The Librarian: I am the Librarian of Leng.

Arcades: Would you care to elaborate on that?

The Librarian: In the beginning, there was nothing but chaos, undulating endlessly in all directions, both spatial and temporal. When the first physical manifestation emerged from that cosmic sea, it rose above the infinite sprawl as a Plateau. Solid. Resolute. Defined. Sculpted from the essence of the Void, it became not a Monolith of Basalt, but of existence itself.

It stood without purpose, only presence, and the yearning for something more. It was dreaming of what could be. So just as the cold and barren rock slab manifested from nothing, materializing from wonder and will, the lucid dream of a dead stretch of stone also began to take form. It gave birth to the first consciousness. To the first life in the sea of incomprehensible nothing. When death still had no name, I found myself standing on the Plateau of Leng.

Arcades: What was it like at the beginning of time? How did you know what to do? Was the Library already there or did you build it? Why a library when there was no knowledge or history yet to record?

The Librarian: From my first moment on that cold and lifeless plane, I knew its name. Leng was my home. I was its keeper, and I would be its historian. I would exist to serve the plateau, and it would exist to serve me. We were one and the same. I would scribe the words and they would become the truth. We were inseparable. Symbiotic and Cosmic.

I was given life to record creation. With my words existence would take on life and give definition to time and space. I was both servant and master. And as I understood my purpose, I opened my eyes so that sight itself could come to be.What I saw were great slabs of stone, awaiting the intentions of my hands. And so I came to have hands, so that I could build the Great Library that would give shelter to my work and my body.

When I was done an edifice rose above the landscape where none had stood before. It was my first creation. It would be a testament to all creation that would follow. I stood inside, and I gave birth first to writing, and then to books, and in the process, to history and knowledge. All things that would come to pass were given their first spark in that moment.

So here we are. As I wrote it. As I am writing it. And as I will write it.

Arcades: You have lost your mind. I liked you better as the Doctor.

The Librarian: I am still the Doctor. And the Shaman. I am all that was, is, shall be, never was, is not, and shall never come to be. I am the Cosmic Keys to all Creation and Times.

Arcades: You are fucking crazy.

The Librarian: Of course I am. How else would I properly bear the weight of infinite cosmic responsibility?

Part Three: A Taste of What Shall Come to Pass

library

From its inception, this blog has been a representation of my life and relationship with magic, despite my tendency to write as much about the life as the magic. It has served as a place to give definition to the MTG Underground and its philosophy, and it will continue to serve those efforts in the year to come.

My departure from this blog in the second half of 2016 was not a step away from writing, but rather a need to focus my efforts on some alternative projects. My intention in the year to come is to strike a balance between these projects, as well as my usual social media madness, ensuring that there is not the same level of absence as the last five or so months.

At Eternal Weekend this year, I was fortunate enough to discuss the development of the Lords of the Pit at length with its founding members. For those of you who are unaware, the Chicago Area Oldschool group has fashioned themselves after an old biker gang, and the results have been nothing short of brilliant. But like all gangs, they need an appropriate rival. Instead of falling under their banner and starting a Detroit Chapter, I have begun to assemble my own band of degenerates: The Librarians of Leng.

This will be explored at length in the months to come. It is not a change or abandonment of the MTG Undeground philosophy, but rather a development of where it comes from and where it will go. With much to do in preparation for GP Louisville next weekend, I will leave this for a later time. If you will be in attendance, put forth the effort to find me. You may regret it, but you will not forget it.

The Librarian

Vintage Magic Made Me Do It

Part One: Vulgar Display of Power

vdop

“When you walk around wearing a crown you are likely rouse the ire of peasants.”

-King Suleiman

Welcome back to the MTG Underground.

In the beginning there was no magic. When Alpha and Beta came and went, few were fortunate to discover its beauty. Unlimited opened the door to more players, but the enchanting rarity of the early game lingered in relative obscurity. But the game continued to blossom. Arabian Nights explored a whole new world. Antiquities courted me into the multiverse. It mesmerized me, and my eternal obsession with artifacts came to life. Legends, in all of its overpriced and underprinted wonder, gave us new cards and card types.

The Dark was a foray into weirdness and subtlety. Time has proven that its wonder would forever be tainted by the light of a Blood Moon, but for the Argivian Archaeologists of amongst us, we have found fascination in its dark depths. When we emerged from the Maze of Ith, we were certain the future could only bring us to explore brighter and more fascinating kingdoms.

But instead, when the gates were flung open, the Fallen Empires on the horizon instead opened the gates to magic as a product. The set was thematically superior to its functionality, and what it lacked in power it made up for in availability. These were mixed blessings that are mostly remembered in a negative tone, but it brought about subtle changes of its own that still lurk beneath its mediocrity.

I have discussed this in the past, I will drone about it in the future, but I do not intend to dwell on it here and now. While Fallen Empires has more in common with our worst friends than it does with our heroes, for all of its flaws, it is still from our neighborhood and we take it in as one of our own. At least when we feel like it.

Time has done strange and wonderful things with Magic. There are plenty of people who can tell you all about the new and glamorous products being shoveled into your gullet every few minutes. There are plenty of places you can go to learn about the Modern world of Magic. This is not one of them. I have no interest in any of that. And I do not know the first fucking thing about it. Instead, I am going to rant and rave about Old Cards. Expensive Cards. Iconic and Iconoclastic.

The cost of this game has always been on the absurd side, and as a subject I actively avoid it. , Who the hell wants to talk about their habit? Well, the simple answer is that junkies love to talk about their habit. I am an Oldschool and Vintage Junkie. But when was the last time you heard someone talk about how much they spend on their drugs while they are tweaking on artificial heaven or retching from the hell of withdrawal?

wsb

I do not collect for value. I buy cards to play with them. This is not an investment. It is a hobby. It is not what I do for money. It is what I do for fun. Like many of the worthwhile worldly temptations, it is expensive. Indulgence in it is excessive by nature. I am aware that I play the most expensive formats and that you can play magic without a Black Lotus. But I play magic like I drink whiskey. You are welcome to brown bag it behind a dumpster for less than a pack of cigarettes, but I prefer a finer drinking experience.

I have no idea what my Vintage deck is worth because its useless knowledge. I do not plan to sell it. Putting a price on my cards is like calling out my drinking habits. It is lavish, obscene, imprudent. It would kill a lesser prophet, so the non-believers are quick to cast it in an unhealthy light. But doing so will not change my behavior, so it just makes my critics seem petty and crass. I am a motherfucking professional. My unorthodox lifestyle is a perfect fit for Oldschool Magic Cards, Good Whiskey, Better Drugs, and Aggressive Gambling.

I am not going to stop drinking, tripping, or betting. And I am sure as hell not going to sell my cards. Talking shit about my habits is like talking shit about my music. You can think what you want, but if you some swinging your attitude at me like a weapon, I will pry it from your unwashed hands and bludgeon you into submission with it. Or I will break my teeth on the pavement trying to teach you and your asshole friends some respect. Primal Concrete Sledge.

The bottom line is this. If buying a bottle of Laphroaig is going to keep you from putting gas in your 1996 Chevy Impala SS, maybe you should grab the J&B instead. If the price of a Beta Black Lotus upsets you, do not buy one. It is all empty decadence. There is no point to any of it, so do what you want. The only person who cares if you own a set of Power or forty dual lands is you. If the cost is too great, save your money. Maybe they can bury you with it.

This comes into perspective as I have traded away the last of my Unlimited Moxen for Beta copies. They all do exactly what their white bordered predecessors did. This was true yesterday, it is true today, and it will be true tomorrow. There is no strategic advantage, no significant purpose behind them. I did not need a single one of them.

Guess what?

ancestral reserve

This motherfucker is next.

 

Before there were modern frames, before there were foils, Magic cards were dignified. Majestic. When every card was printed only in English, before the first promotional or alternate art print found its way into the hand of an aspiring wizard, it was easy to see which cards were aesthetically superior to others. While Alpha cards were snubbed because of their corners, Beta cards have always held a sacred place in the hearts and minds of player and collector alike.

From the first time a white bordered card was opened, there was a desire for the black bordered predecessor.

I have no idea if that is true. For all I know, the first person to open Unlimited Cards may have never seen the earlier printing. Even worse, it could have been one of those psychopaths that claims to prefer the crisp, affronting white frame. The kind of dirty bastard who erases the border on Force of Wills to have them match his Lotus (Ok, they were my Forces, but I lost them playing for Ante.) But it is unlikely. And it does not matter. Its not what I am talking about.

What am I talking about?

I will get to it, play along. Or say fuck it and scroll down until you see something that holds your interest. I am not writing this for you anyway. You are a pretty presumptuous audience. No damn respect. I guess that is what you get from the merry band of rejects that this game has left wandering the streets outside of the reaches of mainstream magic.

To sum up and transition, the cards that were naturally superior to others from the beginning are still the cards that tower like mountains over the sea of cardboard mediocrity all these years later. As ridiculous as they are rare, as an ancient as they are austere, these cards are Immortal in the world of Magic (which is no longer Dominaria, but if you want any further insight on that look elsewhere. I only vaguely understand myself.) They were destined to become objects of reverence and vehemence before the ink set on the first print run.

never mind

Of late, the dissonance of the vehemence has drowned out the elegant song of reverence. Some of the loudest detractors have called for their demise in every imaginable way, both symbolic and physical. The most irrational have demanded that the formats where these cards live and thrive should exterminated, as if the mass execution of eternal magic could somehow tarnish and eventually topple the grandeur of Power. For an endless assortment of reasons, not the least of which is the reserve list, Old Magic cards and their climbing value coupled with diminishing supply have been under relentless assault.

For the moment, the clamor has mostly died down. The zealots have been quelled, or are at least exhausted temporarily by their anger and rhetoric. The mob has dispersed, laying down their torches and pitchforks to return to Friday Night Magic and their Planeswalker Point Carnival Games. They will return, no doubt, but for the moment I am enjoying the silence. When I started this piece over a month ago, I could hardly hear this Immortal Technique song over the foul ruckus of the indignant masses.

In the MTG Underground, we do not hate our roots. We embrace where we came from. I will jam my Black Lotus into any and every deck, shuffling it near a glass of whiskey or a Green Mana Battery without a second thought. There is no price you can attach to my possessions to keep me from enjoying them as they were designed. It is one of the few things in this world that I do that can be described as “intended use.” So I will do it with commitment and disregard for popular or unpopular opinion. I do whatever the fuck I want.

Love not Law.

crowley

The fear will be sowed and the hate will flow. Seek higher ground, and look down on those who demand the death of our magic. Revel in the paradise of a finer game, and dismiss their begrudging angst against our pleasure. As they slander your name, as they blame us for the Reserve List, magic’s greatest scapegoat and boogeyman, smile quietly to yourself. Their fury is meant for the predatory opportunism that is ingrained into the fabric of what magic has become, not for the beauty of our formats.

The accusing fingers will wag with facile contempt for our holiest of relics, ignoring the Icatian Moneychangers who have set up shop in their modern temple. As they are sold overpriced product and overhyped promises, the resplendent radiance of our Valhalla shines bright enough to expose the filthy streets of the Police State of their modern Utopia. It will rouse them, but no amount of opposition can crumble our Ivory Tower. Vintage Magic Never dies. It was forged in the days before its detractors learned to walk, let alone war. They are many, but there are dozens of us. Dozens. And we have the Power.

Are you still listening to me?

Look, it is pretty simple:

“For all ya mages that don’t play vintage and oldshcool magic

Don’t get on the internet and talk about vintage and oldschool magic

‘Cause nine times out of ten you don’t know what the fuck you are talking about

Talk about that bullshit magic that you play

And stay the fuck out of mine”

-Ith Cube “Vintage Magic Made Me Do It

But do not misunderstand.

I am not encouraging you to buy old or expensive magic cards.

It is a terrible idea.

But you already know that, and you are going to do what you want, which is the way it should be. You may not need a set of Power, but if you have the means and the desire there is no reason for me to stop you. And likewise, there is no reason for you to stop me. We are a tight-knit band of degenerates, and our mission is to enable each other. Pour another round of shots and help find the last Guardian Beast for your Oldschool deck. Practicality be damned.

And if you cannot afford or do not want to buy expensive magic cards, grab some basic lands and a sharpie. Or fire up your printer. If you play cards with me, you can proxy whatever you want. Just because I do not use proxies does not mean that you must refrain. Contrary to what you may have heard, I do want you to play magic.

Just because I am particular and elitist about my collection does not mean I apply the same ideas to your cards. Not everyone has the means or motive to do what I do, just as I do not have the ability to own everything that others have. My collection is under five hundred cards. And I could probably trade my cards for a nice boat. But I do not know how to shuffle a boat, so that notion is out from the start. I will just keep playing magic instead, which means I will keep acquiring old, rare, and often useless cards. No finance or prestige motives. No warped idealism or compulsory missions. It is about doing what I want to do without regard for the opinions others may or may not have about it.

I will not try to justify my actions. My lifestyle is not something anyone else should live in the shadow of or attempt to recreate. Drinking is bad for you. Drugs are bad for you. Waking up on top of a cooler full of garden gnomes is bad for you. Buying expensive magic cards is bad for you. Buying anything is bad for you.

buy things

Buying a Black Lotus was far from the worst decision I have made, any of the times I have done it. It could be argued that selling and buying back at a higher price is pretty terrible, but timelines blur and the utilization of money gets hazy when taken out of context. I could tell you depraved stories that make the purchase of expensive cardboard seem trivial. In fact I have told you stories, but that is besides the point.

You should do what is best for you. No one else will be able to determine what that is, you have to make that decision for yourself. Right or wrong is for you to resolve. Taking advice from others is a reckless gesture bound to throw you off course. This is your ship, do not let someone else be the captain. People are terrible, so their influence is dangerous. That goes for everyone. Even me.

Never take advice from me.

We each have our own standards for our collection. We forge a relationship with the cards we own. Some things hold sentimental value in spite of a lack of application while others are practical and feel like a necessity. After some tumultuous decisions a year or two ago, my collection changed not only in nature but also in composition. I now have as many Beta pieces of power as I do Dual Lands. I have no Fetch Lands but I have Juzam Djinns. I have more Mox Jets than I do Planeswalkers. It is ideal for me, but this strange and wonderful assembly of cards would service most magic players poorly.

The average Magic Player would sell my collection and buy greedily into Modern or Commander, only to loathe the life they made for themselves in the aftermath. It is easy to pass judgment on others, but when staring at your own cards, they become the Abyss that perpetually stares back. No matter how quickly or violently you gouge out the eyes, it still sees you, and you still see what you have done.

If spending your birthday money from your grandparents on every Narwhal on every website you can think of makes you happy, fuck it. Maybe it is a better idea than grabbing a box of [insert current set name here] or a few grams of Serum Powder. Someone will detest you for it, and they will write terrible condemnations in the vast space of the internet. But you will have a shoe box full of a homelands rare.

Who really wins there?

Just remember, if you decide to buy an ounce of Green Mana instead of your fourth Underground Sea, make sure you do not buy it from a cop. Have some damn sense.

The glee or the guilt of your actions belong exclusively to you.

oscar wilde

If you pursue terrible decisions, I will make the most appropriate company. I will never deter you from your quest for oblivion, and I will be a delightful companion for the ride through hell. I will know many of the demons and devils you face along the way, though I will do nothing but meddle and celebrate. But if you fall asleep and leave me alone in the darkness, I will snort all of your serum powder, scribble an unintelligible thank you note in the sand, probably with my own blood, and disappear quietly into the night. In your newfound abandonment, as you start to curse my name, remember that I left you with a story that few others could offer.

Always remember, the cost of admission to the MTG Underground is only what you choose to give to it. Almost every event I play in allows proxies. Every event I organize allows unlimited proxies. That means if you want to play Vintage Battle of Wits, you can do that without owning a single card. And if you are comfortable with that I will support it. I recognize that not every segment of the community does this. It is not the right approach for every scenario. If unlimited proxies (I am not going to start calling them playtest cards either, they are fucking proxies) is not right for your scene, do something else. In your house, you get to make the rules. But this is what works in my Fight Club.

You are not your DCI number.

If you do not like the magic you play, throw it away and play the magic you like. No one can stop you. If you want to drink beers and listen to loud music while you play, find a few degenerate bastards and start your own scene. You do not have to play cards in a game store, and you do not need WER to jam games against like-minded fiends. Not qualified for the Pro Tour? Hold an MTG Underground Invitational. Make the cost of admission a bottle of whiskey and a prestigious magic card. Invite the guys who you want to drink with or who will bring a deck that is a blast to jam games against.

Manifest Destiny.

The American Dream is not swimming in the mainstream. It is hustling up cash games in a poorly lit basement and hoping you never find out what it did with your sister. And it is not exclusively American either. The beautiful truth about the world we live in is that there are lunatics with an affinity for our passions both near and far. And through this strange and fascinating web if technology, we have found ways to weave our worlds together.

Underground Magic does not have to be all about Vintage and Oldschool. I talk about those formats because typically I play those formats. There is some buzz circulating about Classic (when I ran it we called it Pre-Modern Vintage) that sounds amazing, if you are interested in that sort of thing, check it out here. If you like limited, hustle up your favorite sets and get that shit going. Almost every year for my birthday I get some guys together to draft Mercadian Masques block, because that was when I learned to draft and is still my favorite way to do it. The point is to play whatever you want however you want and not worry about how others want to tell you it is supposed to be done.

Some rainy day in the future I am going to tray to assemble the Haups Cube that was shared with me by Magnus de Laval of Oldschool MTG. I will not go into detail here but if you are not following his blog, you should be. Check it frequently, he posts far more often than I do.

But the Underground Mindset is not just about formats. Deck choices are important, but not for the reasons most aspiring magic writers will try to convince you with their propaganda and rhetoric. The most important thing to do is to play decks that you love. Do not worry about what is well positioned or the best deck. Winning should always be secondary to playing. If someone tells you otherwise, question that monster with extreme suspicion. Those are not the type of people who will enrich your experience. Do not let other people talk you out of your passion. If you give it up, no matter how far you make it there will be no joy at the end of the road. It will lay dead beside the dreams you left behind.

It is no great secret that I dislike Legacy as a format. It has not always been this way, and it was Legacy that helped me get back to where I am. When I moved to California, knowing no one and having no idea what I was doing, I started going to local card shops to get a feel for the game a few thousand miles from where I grew up. What I found was a grassroots legacy scene organized and promoted by an LGS that had a fantastic relationship with its community and shared a passion for Eternal Magic. That store was Knight Ware in Studio City, California, and my chance encounter with Lori, the owner, sparked a lifelong friendship and introduced me to Legacy.

These are different times, and as my love for Vintage is not only rekindled but as strong as it has ever been, as my passion for Oldschool continues to expand and find new limits, my love for Legacy has diminished. But for all the disdain I feel for the format, it is offset by the elation I find in playing my favorite deck in the format. I have practically built a cult around my love for Goblin Charbelcher, aka the People’s Cannon, and in addition to putting up some results with it over the years I have gone to great lengths to share my fanaticism.

As a result I have found many a drunken vigilante who shares my madness. They have that same wild look in their eye and share the belief that the most effective way to play around something on turn two is to win on turn one. While we obviously hold high reverence for a deck that is not the flagship of the format, we are not delusional about its unsound methods or questionable reliability. We just know there is more to magic than winning at any cost. We will do it on our terms.

And we will have time to step out to our car and pound a few beers before the next set of pairings go up. We will be able to explore the vendor tables at a GP or use the restroom every round (a naturally occurring need when you are slamming 24 ounces of salvation over and over) without letting it impact our game. This is part of the Belcher Cult Life. My bias is heavy. The People’s Cannon is the only deck I will play in Legacy because it is the only way I can find pleasure in it.

Belcher gives me a reason to play Legacy. This is why I have devoted my life to teaching others the way of the Cannon.

good guys 7

Did you know I wrote a web comic for a while? Perhaps I will do an update with all of them in it. The Good Guys was far too good for its audience.

 

Part Two: Far Beyond Driven

The Summer is the busiest time of my life. There are precious few hours when I am not working, and for the bulk of the last couple months I have been fortunate enough to spend those hours with my daughter. She visits for a handful of weeks while she is out of school, and I am grateful for the bonding time, even if it is just for a few hours every night and a myriad of planned and unplanned Sunday activities.

This leaves no time for Magic and little time for writing. So before my life vanished into endless toil, I took a weekend off near the beginning of June to attend GP Columbus. I did not plan to play in the main event, and I resolved to avoid the madness that became GP Detroit. This was a casual trip that would be full of relaxation in my favorite two forms: Drinking with friends and playing Vintage and Oldschool Magic.

So now, over two months later, I am finally writing about the Grand Prix. It is not coverage in the traditional sense, so the time sensitivity of most people’s analysis does not apply. If you were looking for mainstream content you should have found that any number of places a long time ago. I never even wandered into the main event area, and I have no idea what happened. It does not matter who or what won the event. The real story, the true spirit of the weekend, was found just tables away, in the hearts and minds of the Underground. We were there, in small numbers, enjoying their event more than they could possibly understand.

There will be nothing conventional about the journey we are about to take together, a stroll through snapshots, musings, memories, and a fair amount of magic that I am finally trying to give some life and order. There will be no corporate slogans. No clickbait articles from your favorite pro player. No store front to sell you cards from hyperlinked deck lists shared exclusively to lure you into buying overpriced singles. I brought nothing trendy back from Columbus. No product. No message. No smoke and mirrors. Just Bullshit. Unadulterated MTG Bullshit.

drunk magic

“I am not drunk, the world is just blurry right now” -Shaman Ben, Any Given Sunday

 

Where do I begin?

I took Friday off so we could head down early, hoping to catch the afternoon Vintage event and scour the vendors for the last few German cards to complete my small, focused collection. But on Tuesday, my driver was detained and I was suddenly not sure I would be attending at all. My lifestyle, even on a toned down weekend, does not allow for me to drive myself to this sort of thing, so it was going to take some work and some good fortune to pull things together.

But as soon as I found myself without a path, my phone rang and a back up driver volunteered his services. In addition to transportation, he arranged for us to stay with a mutual friend and bypass the need for lodging. Everything fell perfectly into place, accept that Jeff had to work Friday and we would head down in the evening instead. Vintage would have to do without me for the day.

We agreed to meet at RIW Hobbies in Livonia, Michigan at six. For once I was prompt, but Jeff is rather small and sometimes his short legs keep him from being punctual. So I grabbed a couple of tall cans from the gas station adjoining the parking lot and wandered in to wait.

I was lurking in the back and drinking a  beer when one of the shirts from the store asked if I wanted to play FNM. I agreed without hearing him, used the restroom, and headed up front to watch for my driver. I was sipping from the can when my first round opponent found me to see if I was ready to play.

What the fuck was I doing?

I sat my beer on the table and fumbled around in my bag for my deck. My opponent did not express any concern, which kept the mood light as I sipped it again and began to shuffle. I won the die roll, he cut my deck, and I drew my hand. I waited for him to keep, and opened with Mishra’s Workshop.

“That’s not legal” he laughed nervously.

“Its pretty good.”

“Yeah but you can’t play that in Standard,” he retorted.

His eyes said he was annoyed, his hands suggested he was unsettled.

“Are you going to tell?” I antagonized.

He was quiet but looked flustered.

” You going to call a judge on me?” I asked. “You like telling on people?”

“Come on dude, this is crazy.”

I held his eyes with my gaze and tapped the Workshop. I played a Grindstone, declared my two floating mana, and slammed a Painter’s Servant.

“Blue.”

“What?” His bewilderment dripped from his lips.

“Blue. For Painter.”

“How the hell am I supposed to play against this with my Standard deck?” he blurted desperately.

Maybe you should not play Standard,” I responded as I casually played my Mox Jet. I tapped it, smiled, and cast Demonic Consultation.

“Far Beyond Driven. I will name Black Lotus.”

I was surprised he was still sitting there. He started to look around for help, for anyone to save him, but I was merciless.

“There is nothing in Standard as exciting as Consulting for a Restricted Card. You should try a better format”

I flipped the top six, and the Lotus was not in them. I grinned and began flipping the cards one by one, when I suddenly forgot whether or not Demonic Consultation exiled itself upon resolution. I flipped up the Lotus, put it in my hand, and tried to read the German text to no avail.

I finished my beer, sat the can on the floor, and called a Judge for Oracle Text. He meandered over and looked at the table in complete confusion. I do not think he heard me as I asked about Consultation. He was too busy telling me that I could not play my Vintage deck at FNM. I think he was more upset than my opponent.

I conceded the game with a First Turn Kill in progress. The judge wanted to talk to me away from the table, and I did not want to leave my deck behind. As we stepped over to the Judge’s station at the front, he tried to stay calm as he asked me what I thought I was doing.

“I am a Vintage Player,” I grinned.

“This is FNM, not a Vintage tournament,” he replied.

I asked him why he would invite me to play if I was not allowed to play my deck. He was at a loss for words, so I shook my head and told him that this was his own doing. I did my best to shame him into letting me continue, but he was having none of it. As we bantered about the matter I opened my second beer, making his life harder. When it was clear that he would not let me go on playing my deck, I agreed to concede the match and drop from the event. As I did so, my Hobbit sized driver wandered into the store like he had a ring in his pocket.

I finished my second beer while we loaded the car and decided to grab two more for the road. We left late enough that we did not plan to head to the site, but instead head straight to David’s place to crash. We stopped on the way at Meijer ( a large Midwest grocery and department store chain) for frozen pizzas, whiskey, and an extra change of clothes for Jeff, given his history with vomiting on himself or others during the course of Magic Weekends.

By midnight we were in the depths of drunken revelry, celebrating the weekend to come. I loaned out my decks and a few assorted cards from my collection, sorted the small stack of cards I brought to get rid of, and made sure my Vintage and Oldschool decks were in my bag. It may have been a Legacy Grand Prix, but it was a vacation for me. I was there to enjoy myself. My day would be full of Unorthodox Social Activity, day drinking, and the best formats in Magic.

Morning flooded through the window a little too swiftly for my liking. I rose before the others and started my breakfast with two shots of moonshine. I chased them with a beer and followed it with another. About this time the others began to stir, so I finished my second bottle in the shower.

We headed to the site early because the rest of my crew was playing in the Grand Prix. This gave me time to head to the RIW Hobbies booth, ensure that both players who were borrowing my Belcher decks were ready, and begin coordinating what promised to be the high point of my weekend.

The Acquisition of my Beta Mox Ruby and Mox Pearl.

When I decided to once again buy power I decided that I would get an Unlimited Set and be happy with it. The rapid series of accessions tested my resources and my comfort, but it hit a roadblock when it came to finding an Unlimited Mox Sapphire locally (I resolved to obtain all of my power from my local community.) A Beta Sapphire fell within reach, and with Eternal Weekend 2014 lingering on the horizon I decided to settle for one black bordered piece, content to downgrade it later.

But the truth was sealed in blood at that moment. It was a year later before it began to manifest, but I found the opportunity to trade my Unlimited Mox Emerald towards a Beta one, keeping me from ever realizing the dream of having a white bordered Sapphire. I decided that I would just have the two of them, but I would go no further.

A year later I began negotiations for the Ruby, and found the Pearl also in reach. To make matters better, the upgrade would help my friend  @sigfig8 obtain his Black Lotus, something that I say I would never help someone do, but in honest disclosure, if you are looking to take the plunge I will be there with a needle and a spoon. We met at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, and with little effort and mutual agreement we made the exchange.

darkpact

After a survey of the room and several appraisals of beautiful pieces of cardboard, I helped Sig settle on the right Lotus and was there to help him celebrate his monumental accomplishment. I was a willing opponent for the first games it would experience with its new owner, and we sat down to battle Oldschool for a couple hours. He was playing Deadguy Ale, a deck that my Electric Head (Counter Burn) tends to do well against, as long as I am not staring down a First Turn Juzam Djinn. As such, I won the majority of the games, but many of them were close victories. In the end it was not about the results but the experience, and we were both soaring on the rush of newly acquired power.

Electric Head

 Above: My Electric Head deck as played at the GP but featuring the more recently acquired Beta Mox Jet

Below: Left: Sig’s Deadguy Ale deck Right: A shot from one of our games featuring my Unlimited Mox Jet

Following our games I signed up for the afternoon Vintage tournament, eager to play some games with 2 Card Monte, my favorite deck I have ever played in the format, except for maybe Worldgorger Dragon in the Pre-Modern era. I followed up by also playing in the Evening Vintage Event, as well as the Sunday Afternoon event.

2 Card

This picture was taken after the event, featuring the Beta Jet I had RIW Hobbies bring back from Pittsburgh for me, but it accurately depicts the deck as I played it at the Grand Prix. This is also not a current build.

The noon event was Eleven or so players, and was stacked to the brim with Talent. I went 3-1, winning a round for each shot of whiskey I did during the event. I defeated Mentor, White Eldrazi, and BUG Fish, losing tragically to Thundermaw Hellkite.

The evening event was ten or twelve players, and I was 4-0 at the end, once again swallowing a swig of Jameson for each victory. I defeated Living Belcher, Dark Petition Storm, Bomberman, and Dredge.

Before the Sunday event, which had something like 28 players, I was enjoying the company of Team Serious when I was asked to Jailbreak a graded card. It was a Beta Mox Sapphire that belonged to @winedope aka the Legendary Matt Hazard, and they even brought a knife (which was fortunate, as it was a rare instance that I did not have one in my possession.)

Ben Jailbreak

That is correct.

They trusted me with a knife and a graded Beta Mox Sapphire. I love these crazy bastards.

But wait, there is more.

There is a video.

I went 3-2 in the event, dropping the first round to Dragon and the third to a Mentor deck that featured Nahiri and Emrakul. I defeated TKS shops twice and Dark Petition Storm.

There are a few other tales I could share from the Grand Prix. One involves some friends after they left the bar in an Uber. I could explain how I watched their car get sideswiped, and how the culprit fled on foot from the Police. But if I did that, I would feel obliged to incriminate a friend by suggesting that he wanted to plant drugs in the man’s car while he was fleeing from the cop (fortunately I was a stranger in a strange land, and out of Serum Powder and Green Mana, not to mention Spore Frogs.) Doing so would be ugly, so I am going to refrain.

Instead I will share my Jet with you once more.

mox jet

This completed the five, and set me on my way to seeking Blue Cards and the most sacred of all, a Black Lotus. I sent some cards with RIW Hobbies to GP Pittsburgh to obtain this wonder, and I am grateful to have such powerful connections as friends. It is greater thanks for organizing and promoting Vintage for them than I could have ever asked for, but it fuels the passion I have for the work that I do. And somehow in the process I retained my Unlimited Jet, and have stuck it thoughtlessly into my Mono Black Oldschool deck. If I can do the same with my Lotus, when that heavy and fateful day falls, I will be able to have two properly powered decks to wield.

In case you needed a reminder that I am a madman and I love my cards.

Up next is my summary of the Team Serious Invitational that was held in mid July. I will save it for the next blog update, as winning the event left me with an endless amount of material to discuss. But before I go, I will share with you the Playlist of Videos and the Serious Vintage Podcast with me as a guest discussing that event and the MTG Underground in general.

So until next time, Drink Whiskey, Play Magic, and Buy Old Magic Cards. Or Do not. It does not matter.

The Doctor has left the Building.

Lemarchand’s Box: Playing the Cannon in Columbus

hands

“What’s your Pleasure, Sir?”

Merchant in the Bazaar of Baghdad

 

Welcome.

This Vulgar Display of Power is not for the faint of heart. If you like to play it safe, this is not for you. Return to your life of coloring inside the lines, and let the fear in your veins keep you from leaving the yard. What lurks beyond the threshold is not to be controlled, and once you have seen it you can never erase it from your mind. If you cling to your artificial importance, defined by your significance in a small, sterile cell, run now while your sacred tenets are still intact. What you will find here will threaten everything that gives you your identity.

Not all words can be safely written. Continue reading

Down the Rabbit Hole: Underworld Dreams

rabindranath tagore

‘In the drowsy dark cave of the mind dreams build their nest with fragments dropped from day’s caravan”

-Rabindranath Tagore

 

Friday Night in Los Angeles. I am in the back seat of someone’s car. Misfits on the radio. Now David Bowie. Too drunk to know where we are going and too stoned to care. Another night, indistinguishable from the week before or the week to come. I sip from my flask and look out at the lights of the 405, thinking about nothing in particular.

The song changes again. Murder City Devils and we are somewhere on or near Laurel Canyon. My flask is empty when we pull up to some place I cannot make out in the darkness. There are cars parked all along the way up to the house and there are small groups of people collected about the front yard. We park on a narrow patch of yard and someone turns up the radio. Is it Mojo Nixon? This night is fucking weird.

Every night is fucking weird. Continue reading

Fear and Loathing at Grand Prix: Detroit

“The Blessing of a hometown Festival is that you know where the opium dens are. The Curse of a hometown Festival is that the opium dens know who you are.”

Boris Devilboon, Letters from the Unholy Citadel

festival

Friday Night Derailed

A simple plan.

Dress up nice. Drink the whiskey. Dance in the Fire. Disappear before Sunrise.

The rhythm was fucked from the start. Problems on a job site put me an hour behind schedule leaving work and traffic kept the freeways at a crawl. I could save time by abandoning the journey home to head straight to the venue, but without my supplies it would be a wasted trip. Reality was threatening my Friday Night at GP Detroit, and my blood was boiling with contempt as I forced my way onward.

I took a shower and shaved my head. I was already behind schedule, but I was not going to look like the savage bastard I intended to act like. I gathered the fresh batch of Green Mana Cookies™ I made the night prior and my binder of extra cards, mostly Oldschool stuff I have upgraded or the remnants of the last collection I inherited. On the other side of the Weekend a Bazaar of Baghdad would be waiting for me, but it would not be free and it would not come easy.

Continue reading

Magic, Mayhem, and Metal: Ramblings from the Underground

“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.”

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of being Erhnam

point break

All of this began with a recounting of the second time I was mugged. But the more I wrote, the more complicated it became. The lines that define began to gray and fade. The story painted me in an unjust light. I was the victim, yet the words seem to suggest I was the villain. As I read it I cursed the writer for his slander, only to bite my tongue in realization that I was the recipient of the lashing.

So for now, it will remain shelved. And for a rare and capricious approach, I will begin with and primarily discuss Magic.

Continue reading