Notes from the Underground: Everyday is Halloween (A Guest Appearance from Magnus de Laval)

halloween

“Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.”

-William Shakespeare, Macbeth

The toils of every day life tend to be a blur, easily forgotten or drowned in the similarity of moments once they pass from the present into memory. The details of an average day are rarely noticed while they happen, so it is no wonder that we do not recall them after they are gone.

We live for the festive moments. We mourn the tragic ones. The strangest among us blend the two like a poisonous and sweet nectar, and let life intoxicate us not only in anticipation and memory, but also in the moments as they happen, embracing the ecstasy and the agony without discrimination.

For us, the celebration never ends. Every day is Halloween.

ministry

But not all days are the same. In the Church of the MTG Underground, it is not always about the Orator, and it is not always about the Sermon. But sometimes it is about both. We carve those days in this digital flesh, hoping to spread the word far and wide, that all may taste the Spoils of the Vault. And today is a more festive day than any we have celebrated together so far.

Today I host the Sermon of an Honored Guest.

But not just any Guest.

Today’s MTG Underground is brought to you by Magnus de Laval, the Grand Architect behind Oldschool MTG and the #MTGforLife campaign. He needs no real introduction, but I enjoy my voice, even when translated into text, and he deserves the accolades.

The founder of the 93/94 format has brought you his Sandals of Abdallah, and with them he offers you a trip into his world. Succumb to temptation. Pour yourself a glass of whiskey, inhale the vapors of Yavimaya, and let yourself go. In the immortal words of Hunter Thompson:

buy the ticket

With ecstatic fervor, I give you our MTG Underground Guest of Honor:

Borås is disorderly and depraved

“I don’t think she was looking to buy cigarettes. I think she was looking for you two to buy her.”

Scathe Zombies everywhere. When did the “slutty zombie” look become a thing? It’s All Hallow’s Eve, and two counters have been removed.

Borås. Damn, still in Borås. We are abruptly dragged from our graveyards as Simon casts Disharmony at our hotel room door. 6 PM. Time to meet the day again.

Our first run-in with this particular October 31st occurred about eight hours earlier. Kalle had woken up before me, after a solid four hours of sleep, and gone outside to grab a smoke. There he ran in to a group of mages on their way to compete in the Legacy nationals. Turns out that our day had started on a lie and that the registration would close 10 AM rather than eleven. It’s 9:48 when he rips me from my night terrors.

The site is a 15 minute walk from the hotel. My body is that of a Spitting Slug and I don’t have 1G in the pool. At least I had some lunch, yesterday. Kalle does not share that luxury. We tap a box of apple wine to get the mana needed for first strike, and start running.

Somehow we arrive in time. Kalle is playing monored goblins. His pile is all foil except for a one-off Fire Imp and his full set of Arabian Nights Mountains (“easier to find when fetching”). Fire Imp seems like a weird inclusion, not only that it doesn’t exist in foil, but it’s not a Goblin. I wont let that bother me. Time for some Aleister Crowley shit.

I’m on Black Necrotic Ooze. BOoze. The main reason I wanted to play today is that the tournament will feed #MtgForLife with $12 for each participant. But if I’m going in, I’m going in to win, and win in style.

First match is against UR Delver. Rogue mulligans, and he’s got Daze. Second game I have a potential turn three win of another mulligan, but run into Daze again. Who keeps Daze on the draw after sideboard? UR Delver I guess.

Second match is against Stax. It’s the best matchup ever. People walk by and tell us that they love seeing us play. Someone gives me flowers. I topdeck a Liliana of the Veil to kill my own Dark Confidant for the win. Bloodghasts keeps eating soot from the Smokestacks. I sideboard in Vengeful Pharaoh. It’s all good. For the length of three games, we are the best of friends.

Am I hungover? I don’t even know anymore.

Next is Painter. I pull a Goblin Welder and something random with a Hymn and cast turn three Ooze. He wants to combo, but I welder away his Painter with my Ooze. Thoughseize myself to discard a Phyrexian Devourer and attack for all the damage. Herbert West would marvel at my abuse of the dead.

In the midst of the glory, I find Kalle. It’s time to drop. We’re in the early stages of an 8-round swiss and far removed from beer. The time since we last ate is measured not in hours but in days. And tonight, we will face our monsters in Hövveturneringen.

Hövveturneringen, loosely translated to “The Main Tournament”, has been a staple of 93/94 Shark tournaments since n00bcon 5. When the attendance grew, our tournaments became a little more structured. The fight was raised from the deep underground to a slightly more shallow soil. At Hövveturneringen, we dig deep again.

We leave a note at a table. Somewhere at our hotel tonight there will be a showdown of champions. Those who dare can try and find us.

Simon bursts into our room with a huge vat filled with beer and ice hoarded from the floor’s ice machine. He is drunk, but highly functional at it. In tow, he’s got Brorsan and Magnus. Also drunk, but not quite as functional. I’m in a haze but I think that they are discussing my beard. Simon had decided to grab some dinner, and as a man of high taste he decided Borås was the place for fine dining. He ran into Brorsan and Magnus, and treated them to a $250 meal with an abundant supply of nectar.

We need to catch up. Few things are more mentally decaying than hanging out with drunk Magic players while sober. And it’s soon time for The Main Tournament. We need a montage.

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Some cutscenes involving Varm & Kall apple wine, Yeti Imperial Stout and piles of old school cards thrown around at the hotel room floor, we’re ready to face Ivan Drago. Ivan Drago is a ridicoulsly close anagram of Shivan Dragon. It can’t possibly be a coincident.

Player starts rolling in. Iceman, Oldschool, Homer, Axelsson and Eneas. We wont fit in here. Simon takes charge. Elof and his crew is still battling in the Legacy nationals, and their room should be empty. Simon has probably had more to drink than a minor Polish village after Dyngus Day, but his words are velvet. He will fix this, he will get the key to the empty room and create our battleground.

I’m in deep tech mode, mixing Imperial IPAs with cheap lager and Storm Seekers with Cockatrice. We enter a pre-game trading of sorts. I trade away a Beta Lightning Bolt for a playset altered unlimited Bolts with Felipe. Homer gives me a Beta Volcanic Eruption for #MtgForLife. We scrape together cards to give to the winner in the tournament. I’m not really sure what we ended up on, but I think it was a Fireball, a Wheel of Fortune, and maybe something else. It’s not that important; it’s not like we play for EV. We fight for glory.

Simon returns, key in hand. I don’t know what just transpired downstairs, but somehow a visibly and audibly drunk guy just got the key to some other peoples’ locked hotel room from the front desk. He’s good.

Up at the new Arena, we realize that we need another table to play in some comfort. Just so happens that Oldschool has an extra folding table in his car. Life keeps giving apples. Oldschool had donated over $500 to the #MtgForLife campaign, and is a big fan of signed stuff, so I give him a signed Dan Frazier playmat and tagged one of his altered Underworld Dreams as a thank you.

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I’m up against Iceman game one. He’s on some red/blue pile with Lord of Atlantis and burn spells. I’d like to see what the balls a Serendib can do against a Cockatrice. The answer turns out to be two bolts. I cast a Desert Twister in his Efreet, but he has the Unsummon to save it. I manage to burn him out with Storm Seeker and Erhnams in one game while he burns me out with conventional fire and blue weenies in two others.

At the table next to ours, Simon calmly resolves a Ball Lightning for the win against Kalle, and I’m up to face him game two.

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So I’m up against Kalle. Kalle is the reason I play today, and most other days. My relationship with Magic would be much different without him. We met in 2004, after I had had a long break from the game, and started to explore the Eternal scene together. Much more than that, we shared the angst and decadence of the 20-somethings together. Kalle knows most of my stories and has heard all of my post pubescent whine. He has heard the stories that qualified as bragging when 22, but just sounds utterly douchy at 32. The first game of the Old School Mtg format was played between us. I really like the guy.

So why am I screaming and cursing at him and his deck again? I think that I have something like a sweet spot with friends, and when I like people too much, I start to get really antagonizing with them while drunk. On a scale of 1-5, knowing me at a 3 or 4 is probably the sweet spot. If you’re hitting the BFF spot in my book, I’ll just drop all my guards and safety mechanisms. If Kalle, Honka or Rafiki asks me how I’m doing, I’m sure as fuck going to tell them in excruciating detail rather than interpret the question as a simple greeting. If someone I kinda enjoy hanging out with start with first turn LoA, I’ll sigh and attribute it to bad beats. If Kalle starts with first turn LoA, drunk MG will take it as a personal insult on his character and family.

So he starts with first turn Library of Alexandria. Didn’t have it in my deck myself today, as books are for nerds, but I convincingly go green on my first turn with Forest, Emerald, Gaea’s Touch, Forest, Llanowar. Follow up with Erhnam turn two and bash away. Try to win out the game with Storm Seeker, but Kalle has Power Sink and gets to win with Mirror Universe into Fireball. Thwarted by a white-bordered Power Sink. At least it was from Summer Magic.

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Earthquakes and Mirrors goes a long way game two, and a short while later I’m looking at a 0-2 record. I hear that my next faceless obstacle is the bye. I’ve been given a few breaths to find a purpose outside the realm of mages, and the wanderlust grabs hold. The bottom layers of the Maslow Pyramid is screaming. Maybe I can find some food? It’s a night of ghouls and drunks, but Simon will accompany me on my quest downstairs.

The woman working at the front desk looks absolutely graceful. An archetype of the Nordic blonde, sharply dressed and smiling with her whole face. I start to realize how Simon got the key. Drunk Simon can charm the paint of a wall. Something about his presence makes his stupor sound like brilliant plans, and disagreeing with him is never a part of the equation. She regrettably informs us that the hotel restaurant closed at midnight. To get warm food we must expand our journey outside the cradling walls of our Overlook Hotel.

Scathe Zombies everywhere. When did the “slutty zombie” look become a thing? Warm Bodies and Zombie Strippers made it more abundant, but intuition tells me Italy in the late seventies, maybe eighties. My thoughts dwell on Michele Soavi’s masterpiece DellaMorte DellAmore. That one was released at the same time as Antiquities though, so it must be further back. Dario Argento played a lot on sexuality in his movies, but didn’t delve into Zombies. Fulci had an abundant theme of zombies, but was never much for slutty monsters. Uncalled nudity though, he knew that. The diving scene in Zombie Flesh Eaters is still a crown jewel of cinema. A submerged fight between a zombie, a topless diver and a fucking shark. Need to dig that one up from the VHS cellar if I get home from this. Maybe I should just stop writing about old school Magic and start a blog about decades old grindhouse movies instead.

magnus 5
Atlantis Interceptors (1983), by Magnus “mg” de Laval
Ruggero Deodato is mainly famililar to the Fangoria fanboys for his vociferous and realistic pile of kino that is Cannibal Holocaust, but has trifled with most of the popular genres of Italy’s seventies and eighties. His resume includes gritty cop flicks, sleaze, barbarian bashes, and not the least a few pearls of the post apocalyptic. PostApoc, as we in the know calls it, was popularized in the wake of Mad Max (1979) and Escape from New York (1981). The flicks every so often take place after a nuclear war or engineered plague have decimated the world’s civilian population. Left are a few steely badasses – without fail named Trash, Mace or Snake – waiting out encores of the fat lady. Atlantis Interceptors isn’t a PostApoc in the only sense of the word, as it doesn’t actually take place after an apocalypse and hero’s name is Mike. Mike sounds dangerously close to Mace though. Also, I have the movie on the same VHS as my copy of Escape from Bronx and there’s a lot of MC dudes fighting with chains in a dystopic city going on here, so it’s close enough.

I’ve seen the damn movie three times and I still don’t get the storyline. It’s something about a group of beefwits who find a relic which accidentally rises a sunken island from the waters. Judging by the film’s title, I suspect it is Atlantis. Said beefwits then stumble around the island and get attacked by hairy men on rad bikes. Something blows up. Christopher Connelly has a huge boomstick. Fin. (‘Beefwits’ might not be a word by the way. As English is my second language, I claim the right to invent my own words when my vocabulary runs dry.)

Anyway, the film is a study in win. A friend once told me that if you have seen Atlantis Interceptors, you can never reach total lameness as a person again. The film is in so rad that it’ll make you have at least one Gregory Peck-point until you die regardless of you spending the rest of your life starting flamewars in YouTube comment sections. Three stars?

Like so. If I’d blogged about grindhouse movies, maybe I would still be able to get my last Serendib Efreet for $35 rather than $150. Maybe this tournament, The Main Tournament with its nine players, would have been the only 93/94 tournament at BSK and the mere concept of more structured gatherings with over fifty players in the format would be laughed at. But maybe not, and in the end it’s a net positive. Without the blog, I wouldn’t have come in to contact with characters like Shaman Ben or Danny Friedman, wouldn’t have found the players in Munich or Oslo, and we wouldn’t have gathered over $10,000 for Doctors without Borders. Fuck it, I’ll just play Phantasmal Forces instead of the last Serendib and count my wins.

One does not simply walk into a snack bar. Not after midnight during All Hallows Eve. We try to fend ourselves past a group of Sirens in the middle of a heated conversation, but Simon can’t resist their call. Without hesitation, and without knowing what they are talking about, he passionately joins the argument and firmly takes side. Opportunity is rarely a cost in the hour of darkness. I use up a portion of my cunning and a burning resolve to save us from being shipwrecked. After wandering past Ulgrotha rejects of the Sengir clan and Abominations raised under bad moons, we find our Oasis. A shining street tavern in the midst of frozen shades. Standing in the haunting winds, we feast. A lady of the night approaches us, but at this point we have used up all our cunning for mortals. Her hints and implications are far too subtle, and eventually she gets furious and walks away. The woman working in the snack bar window try to explain what transpired to us, but her words doesn’t make sense anymore. It all smells like a trap. We need to find ourselves back to Overlook before round four of the tournament starts.

Back at Elof’s hotel room, my next opponent is none other than Oldschool himself. Last time I faced him at BSK was in the top8 two years ago, where he eventually made it to the finals with his Powertwist Dream deck. That time his deck not only crushed my dreams for the Giant Shark but also most of will to live. I described playing against him as swimming upstream in feces. Oldschool took note of this, altered his Mind Twist to a distressed picture of me wearing my traditional Lederhaups Magic hat, and changed the rule text to “Simma motströms” (swim upstream). This doesn’t bode well.

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He has a somewhat slow start game one, opening with Sylvan Library and filtering his draws with a Bazaar of Baghdad. I get an early Howling Mine / Barrier combo going and get to draw a bunch of cards and produce a litter of threats. Oldschool keeps picking them off but doesn’t find his Underworld Dreams until very late. After forty minutes or so, the green team is up 1-0. The second game is drawn out as well, some thanks to a grip of Tranquilities from the sideboard. All is not fair though, and a Mirror Universe plus Fireball from Oldschool eventually forces me to shuffle up for game three. I honestly think I’m getting pretty lucky here. Maybe Kalle infected me with his fluke while we slept in the same bed earlier. Oldschool is by no means drawing bad, but he’s more on Swords to Plowshares than Balance. More Ancestral Recall than Timetwister into Mind Twist. When he hits The Abyss, he’s got no counters for my Tranquility.
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We’ve played for well over an hour. The other players are lying in a pile on the bed, solving the worlds problems and discussing my immaculate beard. Every now and then they ask us if we’re done so that the top4 can start, and every time we tell them that we are out of contention, the top4 already is decided, and that they can just start playing. This goes on for half an hour or so. Eventually Oldschool runs out of Forests to sacrifice to his Dark Heart of the Woods, and the Craw Wurms reign supreme. This was an intricate and satisfying game of Magic. The feel of swimming upstream in feces is absent for now.

The time is out of joint. I’m back at my hotel room after a short but mind-cleansing shower and have crawled into my sleeping quarters. There’s a sound of thunder as Homer, Kalle and Elof burst in. Elof has the audacity to enter someone else’s hotel room without explicit invitation. What a jackass.

The trio have reached that perfect zenith of inebriation where they are the best of friends and clearly understands the words coming out of each others mouths. For a man with blood/alcohol level repressed to the single digits, they are the 6 am construction crew during a serene eulogy.

I calmly yet ravenously ask them to leave, but it’s like talking to a wall. Well, no it isn’t. A wall would be silent and let me go back to sleep. Fuck, a wall would actually keep these blackguards and heathens out of my bathing suit area. I wish there was a wall here. We would have wonderful conversations.

Eventually the trio grabs my drinking cube (The Haups Cube) and leaves. This can only end well.

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I have some weird dream of a skulking shade walking around in the room, taking stuff and watching me as I sleep. When I wake up I realize I’m alone in the bed and the room has been ransacked. I find an SMS from Kalle stating that he shotgunned back to Gothenburg with Oldschool in the middle of the night. If I find any spare cards or decks between couch pillows he’ll be grateful if I bring them back. Finder’s keepers.

I pack up my stuff. Walk to the train station to get to Gothenburg and from there back to Norway and Oslo. I’m tired, but I don’t have the Magic fatigue this time. Often, I feel excited to get to conventions and play, but after I’ve spent an intense weekend in the name of Magic, I reach some sort of fatigue. I usually don’t really feel like playing in the weeks after a Magic trip. This is one of the reasons I don’t feel the urge to travel to GPs; in the end the hassel around the playing probably would outweigh the actual playing experience for me. But this time, I just feel like I’ve had a good wekeend with friends. The Shark tournament was awesome. Legacy nationals was great. The Main Tournament was whatever the main tournament is. I really like the people. Kalle once said that Magic is such a good game that it he wont really mind playing it with people he don’t like. He would never sit down and play Monopoly with a random douchebag, but in Magic it both happens and is acceptable. This weekend I pretty much only played with people that are good to hang out with from the start and the wizardry was just a bonus.

I’d like to thank Shaman Ben for lending me his soapbox today. It’s a pleasure and an honor. I’ve begun the “planning” for for the 93/94 World Championships at n00bcon 8 btw. If you’ve managed to read this far, you might be interested in coming. The pub where we play has a cap of 70-75 players due to fire safety. It is likely that we’ll reach this cap. As such, I’ve set aside 20 spots for international players lest a raging gang of Scandinavians at our local forum fill up the slots. I’ve already recieved mails from Russians, Italians and Germans asking about when and where the tournament takes place. So here goes: It’s the 25th of March in Gothenburg. It will cost about $15 to compete, and if you win first price you’ll get a Giant Shark from The Dark. It will be an experience unlike most Magic tournaments you’ve been to. Two guys from Russia already booked their flights, and two guys from different parts of Germany signed up as well via email, so if you’re interested in one of the remaining spots, send me a mail at delaval@gmail.com.

Cheers,
Mg

And with that, my friends, enemies, and secret lovers, we scribe the end. Its your time now. Spread the word. Make sure everyone you know reads this. I want your grandmother to know about this.
Superstitious Final Art.
Shaman Ben.
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