Part One: Guerillas
On March 8th, 1994, just four days after the release of Antiquities, Nailbomb’s “Point Blank” record debuted. They were similar in many ways. Stripped down. Aggressive. An expansion and a side project. Unpolished. Unapologetic. And I knew nothing about either of them when they were introduced to the world. But that would change. Did I hear the music first? Or shuffle the cards? Either way, it was not long before I discovered both. And my life was forever changed.
I was not new to metal. The year prior, in March of 1993, I attended my first concert. I was thirteen years old and my life lacked any meaningful adult supervision. I was supposed to be at a sleepover but instead I was at the State Theater in Downtown Detroit.
I saw Pantera.
It was A Vulgar Display of Power.
Max Cavalera was not unknown to me either. The first cassette I bought, with a gift certificate to the long dead Harmony House given to me by an older cousin for my 11th birthday, was Sepultura’s Arise. At that time, I had no idea what it was. But the album cover mesmerized me. I could hear it calling my name.
I had to have it.
I stared at the art, I played it over and over, unsure of what I was hearing or why I was hearing it. But the more I gazed upon the image and the more I listened to the primal energy, the more I fell in love. It was the first spark of the inferno.
With these occurrences sculpting my primal clay, I was evolving. Growing. Tempered by Metal. Driven by Demons. Mere days before the fateful day when I bought my first packs, I bought a ticket to see Pantera again. This time with Sepultura. Another night of my youth with no one having a clue where I was. No one caring where the fuck I was. Except me. And that was all that mattered.
I would have to wait another two months.
Enter: Magic the Gathering. And Nailbomb.
The school year was rapidly decaying. I was getting by with as little effort as possible, spending the moments when my peers were doing homework reading H.P. Lovecraft and listening to the same handful of albums over and over. Before long, I would be avoiding my responsibilities by slinging cardboard at every opportunity. I was counting the days until Summer, not because of the break from classes but because of the anticipation for the concert.
I looked at the ticket every day. At first, I kept it tucked inside of a copy of Moby Dick. Eventually, it was folded carefully inside of a Revised Starter Deck Box. The days would pass. The cards would be strewn across cafeteria tables. Hallway floors. Any flat surface in the library until they threw us out on account of noise. The songs would blast. From my Walkman. From my rigged together stereo in the basement where I lived. From the tape deck and speakers of my Grandfather’s rust eaten Ford truck.
Both were a countdown to the show. I was living for that moment.
Somewhere in the midst of this Portrait of the Librarian as a Young Fiend, I was introduced. Once again wandering through Harmony House, I had a little bit of money to spend (either because I had not yet discovered Magic or because packs were sold out everywhere like usual) and was looking for something to satiate my appetite for metal. I was thumbing through the Sepultura albums even though I already had all of them. Secretly hoping that somehow, some way, there was something I missed (without the internet definitive knowledge of such things was not always available.)
A guy in a Crowbar shirt noticed and asked me if I liked the band. I made eye contact and looked back at a copy of Beneath the remains. He asked if I had heard that one. Giving up on the silence I hoped would send him and the stench of bong water that emanated from his clothes to some other part of the room, I told him that I had. I emphasized that Sepultura was my favorite band.
He told me about how great they were live and I told him I was going to see them. He related that when he was my age his favorite band was Black Sabbath, and while I was a huge fan myself I did not want to keep talking to him. I set the record down and started to move away. As I did, he grabbed a disc and thrust it my way.
“Have you heard this?”
The artwork was unsettling. A real photo. Not the dark, macabre art of H.R. Giger or Michael Whelan. It was not the gruesome work of Anson Maddocks. It was the ugly side of humanity. Of War. And it made me uncomfortable. It was supposed to. It meant something. I stared at it without words.
“This is Max Cavalera. Its not exactly like Sepultura, but if they are your favorite band, you will love it.”
Looking back on that moment and comparing it to the day I bought my first cards, there were far too many times when strange old men appeared to offer me the weapons I would need on the road ahead. I took it from him with some hesitation, and though my memory would suggest that he vanished in a puff of smoke, it is more likely that he walked away as I made my way to the counter with my newest fetter.
I handed the disc to the girl at the register. She was a little older than me, and she smiled as I approached. But her lips curled with disgust as she looked at the cover. She paused, and I wondered if she was going to refuse to sell it to me. I was not supposed to be able to purchase it without parental supervision. Her body language roused my ire. I was ready to counter, but it was her move.
I rode my bike for an hour to get there, and I was not leaving empty handed. I watched her eyes, felt her hesitation, and when she finally looked at me I froze. I was prepared for confrontation, but I did not know what to expect. As she looked at me, she sensed the fight in me, and with a sigh she thought better of it. She rang up my purchase and took my money. An hour later I was locked in my room and listening to one of the most powerful albums I have ever heard.
It remains among my favorites. And it was the only thing I listened to during those early Dominarian escapades.
Part Two: 24 Hour Bullshit
How does this relate to Eternal Weekend twenty three years later?
In the usual MTG Underground way.
Nailbomb played one live show. I would have given anything to see them. It was the Dynamo Open Air Festival in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. In 1995. I was fifteen and I was four thousand miles away. Needless to say, I was not able to make it. But if that show was next week, I would be there. Even if I had to sell my Black Lotus to make it happen.
I can buy another Black Lotus.
But time can be merciful. On the Wednesday night leading into Eternal Weekend 2017, on the outskirts of Detroit, in a dive called the Token Lounge (though it was the Mosquito Club in my younger days, and I often interchange the names) I was given the closest thing to a ticket to that show in 1995 that I could ask for. Soulfly, another Max Cavalera side project, played Nailbomb’s Point Blank album in its entirety.
I did not have to travel to the Netherlands. I did not have to sell my Black Lotus. And I did not have to travel backwards in time, unraveling the fabric of this life quilt we have collectively woven. All I had to do was drink whiskey, throw some elbows, and scream my throat raw as we kicked off the biggest magic celebration of the year.
The sun rose to find the world cold and damp. I spent the morning hours digging holes to prepare for my next work project. The afternoon was given away to moving materials and setting posts. Just before the sun vanished beyond the horizon, I headed home to clean up. I should have been exhausted, but I was too high on adrenaline to feel it.
My brother arrived just as I finished cooking dinner and after our meal we threw down some games of Oldschool Magic with our decks, pretending to test for the following day but really just delighted by any opportunity to battle. He has continued to tinker with his Blue White Skies deck, and I was ready to show off the changes I made to Eureka since the last time we battled. I won most of the games, but his deck was growing closer to complete and proving more and more difficult to overcome.
This is the deck as he played it that night and the following day for the Eternal Central Oldschool event. He has since made some strong improvements, and I fear the day when he settles down and decides to buy a Moat.
After a couple hours, drinking what Jameson remained in my apartment and ensuring that we missed the bulk of the opening acts, we cut across town to kick the night off proper. We arrived at the venue as Cannabis Corpse took the stage. I found myself with a drink in each hand so that I could continue what I started at home, and I nursed them for a few songs. But I put them both to rest when I saw the forming of a mosh pit. I rushed the crowd like an overfed Atog. I was ready, but my enthusiasm scared off the mob and the circle dissipated as quickly as it started.
I made my way out to the smoking patio after dispensing the aftermath of my whiskey consumption. I found a couple of old cohorts celebrating Eladamri’s Vineyard and graciously accepted the green mana offering. We passed it around and talked about some upcoming shows, and when it was properly spent we made our way back inside.
The band was pouring themselves into the music and having a good time doing it. It was enjoyable even if not my taste. I have never cared much for humor or parody in music, but these guys did it better than most. After ten years and multiple albums in a scene that has more bands than there are magic cards, it deserves acknowledgment that they were some talented motherfuckers and their music was infectious. With the skyshroud buzz swirling about my head, I felt better aligned with their set and more in tune with their target audience.
Their set came to a close and I rushed the bar to find myself waiting behind a thirsty and demanding crowd. It took a while to get served, but when she found her way to me, I made it count. One more Jameson and Vernors and it was time to show this place what Leng was about.
From the moment Nailbomb, or rather, Soulfly, took the stage, I was little more than a drunken manifestation of adrenaline. The first blast of the drums was synchronized to the first clash of my shoulder against another body. We erupted into a frenzy of love and aggression, and for the next hour my body and brain were unified by the music into one glorious theme: Violence for the sake of Violence.
When it was over, I transitioned from berserker to ascetic. The set was perfect, and All I had I Gave. The time for celebration came to a close, and as we made our way from the venue I was swimming in serenity. I wanted and needed nothing. Everything was right in the world. As my brother drove back to my apartment near the freeway, I watched the night sky and listened to the hum of the tires on the pavement.
Part Three: Sick Life
Five hours later, our Hero and his accomplices hit the road again. They scoured the blasted landscape of Michigan under the cover of darkness, and slipped through Toledo beneath the rising sun. It was a grueling journey. A blur of abandoned dreams staining the concrete, the Ohio Turnpike was an unwitting accomplice to many adventures before and would be witness to many still to come. The Librarian was intent on making this one of the stranger ones, but there was a long and sordid history to outshine.
Still hungover from too much drinking and too little sleep, he leaned the passenger seat back and turned up the music. He sipped his potion, a blend of Monster and Gin, and closed his eyes to hide from the sun. They were in the third hour of their trip, and his consciousness was undulating with the crooning of Leonard Cohen.
Brother Andrew pulled into a rest stop so he could stretch his tired mortal legs and grab a bite to eat. It was an unplanned stop but they were making excellent time, still projecting to make it to their destination nearly an hour ahead of schedule. The Librarian drained his cup, slipped his shoes back on to his feet, and made his way inside to take a piss.
The leering and enthusiastic Hunding Gjornersen crawled out of the back seat and hopped up onto the hood of the car. He folded his legs beneath him and began sucking away at a cigarette. Brother Andrew tried to usher the heathen down from his perch, but he was oblivious to his surroundings. He pulled out his cell phone and began texting Jedit about the likelihood of being revised out of another story. He was a late addition to the adventure, and he felt like such a minor character in a larger tale that he assumed his fate was the cutting room floor.
Brother Andrew was famished, his eyes bloodshot and his ears still ringing, so he gave up on Hunding and stumbled inside groggily alongside the Librarian. He was grumbling about life choices and side board inclusions and the need for a toasted bagel slathered in Lox. The Librarian heard none of it.
They parted ways at the food court, and our Hero made his way into an empty restroom. The lights flickered as he entered, and half of them did not come back on. It was merciful to his tired eyes, but it made the last stall on the left that much darker as he fulfilled the needs of the mortal vessel he was inhabiting.
When he emerged to wash his hands, he looked in the mirror. The lights that remained on flickered again, and when they steadied there were fewer still. The restroom, still deserted, was growing increasingly occupied by shadows. The Librarian looked at his reflection, but the mirror slowly faded to a different scene. It was a ghostly landscape, and in the distance a figure was making its way across the plane.
The Librarian watched, waited. The lights in the room continued to flicker until they went out completely. The frame of the mirror dissolved, and before long the porcelain floor beneath him melted into the amorphous earth of the world he was exploring with his uncertain eyes. The figure grew in size as it closed the distance. For a while it seemed to be riding a mount, some sort of Nightmare. Proximity gave it definition. One moment it was a Phoenix, the next some variety of Dinosaur. When the rider was close enough to have a face, the mount became an idea that never was and he approached the Librarian on foot.
When close enough to call out, the landscape started to falter. It was no longer the ghostly plane, but it was not the public restroom either. Instead, it was a space somewhere in between. It was the Void. At its threshold, upon which mankind dances so carelessly, unknowing and uncaring, the chance encounter was predetermined, written unknowingly by the hand of the Librarian himself.
He stood face to face with Tuknir Deathlock.
“Never mind the scenery,” Tuknir said.
The Librarian smiled.
“It is good to see you, my friend. It has been a while.”
“Has it?” Tuknir asked. “Time passes differently out here. I have grown tired of walking the planes. But walking between them is a different kind of trip.”
“I have spent too many days in this mortal shell to remember clearly,” the Librarian replied. “But I can hear the Void calling my name. It pulls at my flesh. It sings to my blood.”
“It misses you. You have been away too long.”
“I have work to finish,” the Librarian countered.
“I am not asking you to abandon your quest,” Tuknir emoted. “But you could visit. There would be much rejoicing and revelry in your return, even if it was momentary.”
“I am not sure I could find my way home right now,” the Librarian confessed. “I have been gone so long, and I am weary.”
“I cannot carve you a path, but I can open a door.”
“Show me the way,” he said. “If but for a glimpse, I am hungry for the trappings of familiarity.”
Tuknir reached out to the Librarian, and placed a small piece of paper-like material into his hand.
“Place it on your tongue. Like Aldebaran when it lurks in the sky, this will guide you to where you seek.”
The Librarian complied, and as the tab dissolved in his saliva, Tuknir dissolved into the Void.
The lights flickered. A few of them returned to life. They flickered again. This time, more light was restored. The shadows began to scatter, fleeing for the sanctity of another time and space. They flickered a final time, and the room was too bright for his tired eyes. The Librarian washed his hands again, this time with cold water to help him place his feet firmly back on the tile floor.
An old man entered the restroom and before the door could close behind him the Librarian made his way back into the common area. He met brother Andrew, who was gnawing like a plague upon his bagel shaped breakfast, and they returned to the car together. They found Hunding smoking another cigarette, which he promptly put out as he climbed into his nest in the back seat. The Librarian replenished his drink from a flask and another can that he had in the trunk, and a few moments later the band of weary travelers were back on the road bound for Pittsburgh.
As they drove on, the Librarian thought about his prior encounter with Tuknir Deathlock. He thought about the first time they met. Tuknir always offered him a path to a place where he came from, not knowing that such a place did not exist. The Librarian played along, never betraying the secret that he came from a time before there were places. That he came from the moment before there was time. The doorway home that he offered could lead to anywhere, and even if Tuknir was unaware of the boundless power he offered as a gift, the Librarian was not naive to the possibilities that were laid out on the road ahead.
He remembered every time he took a hit from Tuknir. He dreamed of every time he would take a hit in the Aeons to come. He felt every collective trip coalesce around him. They echoed through his mind. They screamed with delight and terror from his lips. They crawled around in his mouth. They jacketed his tongue. Dissolved into his saliva. They left the metallic taste of Mirrodin, scarred and broken, as a residue on his taste buds.
He opened his eyes. He longed to see, but in place of his vision he found only The Abyss. He was ceasing to be. An endless cycle of trips, all at once, and not at all. He was becoming one with the past. With the present. With the future. He was riding the wave of the most profound and prolific trip ever crafted.
Tuknir was not the creator. But among his kind, he was the best there was. He was an Agent of Oblivion.
He never failed to deliver.
Part Four: Blind and Lost
When they arrived at the site of the largest Oldschool Magic Tournament in History, none of his accomplices knew of the secret work the Librarian had undertaken. Nothing in his tone alerted them, and as they met with an already gathering army of fiends, it would have been too late for any of them to have made any precautionary efforts anyway.
The room was alive with activity. The excitement was tangible. It did not take long for a mix of friends, admirers and adversaries began to swirl around the Librarian. First came Bazaar Traders and the Icatian Moneychangers, swapping and endless mix of goods and services with the Librarian, from cardboard to cash to bottles of the infamous Malort. In the blur of these exchanges our hero made a hasty departure from the venue, leading a small and discreet group of allies to his room, where some transactions that required more sensitivity (or at least a handful of goods that the Librarian forgot in his less than grounded state) took place.
With the help of these friends he made it back to the venue, still possessing enough time to start feeding the thirst of the room with the first of his bottles. The most devoted wore his name on their armor and drank willingly, but even the most knowing and reluctant of fiends did not decline a drink with the Librarian. Before the opening announcements were made, an entire bottle of Malort was consumed.
Some knowing, some indoctrinated, but none spared.
Round One would be the easiest for the Librarian. Not because of the battle at hand, but because it would be the last one that he had even a tangible connection to the room in which his body was dwelling. It would be the only time in the hours to follow that he would find his way to the table on his own, and when he did, he found himself paired against a familiar and friendly face. Any battle against a member of the Lords of the Pit was a good battle.
There is no good way to record the chaos that took place, but when the smoke cleared and the blood dried, victory was penned in the Librarian’s name. It was a raucous occasion full of merriment, and before he left the table the second bottle of Malort was flowing. There was a significant amount of time remaining, and it was the opportunity for the Librarian to abandon all restraint, get loud, and find more mouths to consume the demon nectar he was so eager to share.
There was no lack of willing imbibers. This was truly a revelry of fools and the foolhardy.
Things grew more distant. Ethereal. Mortals gathered around him, but as he looked out he could see the desolate Plateau of Leng where he built his Library at the beginning of time. It was comforting. Fulfilling in its emptiness. With a blink and a sip of his poison, he was once again in the room, hearing himself tell stories of The Existentialism of Floral Spuzzem and other such nonsense, and he knew that he was in good company.
He phased out again, and when he came back into alignment with mundane stars he was seated across from his second opponent. He was up a game, having brutally assaulted the Zoo with his army of Mahamoti Djinns. It was his turn, his second of the game. He looked at his hand. He could cast Eureka. But he was holding three Force of Nature and little else, so doing so would lead to certain death. He was under no pressure. He had all the time in the world. This game was his if he simply passed the turn.
It was his voice. His hands tapped the mana. There was no turning back. He could choose not to deploy the Forces, to somehow try and recover from his reckless behavior. But it was not their fault he could not afford to pay. They were not to be held back by his lack of resource. He would do what must be done.
As he played the third Force of Nature, his opponent stared at him blankly. This apparent gesture of suicide begged for any other interpretation, but there was none to be found. It did not make sense.
“That’s it?” His opponent confirmed through the confusion.
“So you will just die on your turn? Am I missing something?”
“The Forces are not to blame because I cannot afford to pay. It was written and so it shall be.”
After drawing his card, his opponent quickly, yet nervously, passed the turn. The Librarian marked down the 24 damage from his three Forces, and gathered up his deck to shuffle for game three. At this point he found himself wandering in the mists on the edge of his Plateau once again, listening to the mad piping of flutes from somewhere in the distance. He reflected on how far those sounds were carried through the Void.
“Outside the ordered universe is that amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity—the boundless daemon sultan Azathoth, whose name no lips dare speak aloud, and who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time and space amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes.” – H.P. Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
He put it from his mind and returned to the waking world of mortals. He found himself on the cusp of losing round three, at the hand of his own Lord of the Pit, and he smiled in amusement. He offered his opponent a drink and took another swig of the Malort. Three rounds complete, and while he was only victorious in one of them, he was the Cause of Death in all of them.
It meant little to the Librarian. He was elated to be among the children of a world he helped sculpt and grow, even if his connection to it was frail and shadowy at the moment. The celebration was roaring about him, and he was dancing in the unseen stars of a universe beyond. But through the everflowing chalice of Wyrmwood Schnapps, they were one in an obscene, Phyrexian like unity.
When he phased in again, he was standing in the back of the room near the close of round seven. There was little of the fourth bottle of Malort left, but the magic of Tuknir Deathlock was coming to a close. An awkward inquiry uncovered that he was 4-3 with one more round to play, a round he would likely be forced to be present for in a way no other had required. It would prove to be the most difficult of all.
The only thing harder than playing Magic from the Void is playing Magic after a sudden return from the Void. To further complicate matters, the Librarian would square off against the Legendary Randy Buehler for the final showdown of the day.
This is what it looked like from the other side:
The theme of the day was Ritual Suicide. Only fitting that it would end in perfect harmony with that theme.
This is the Deck as it was played at Eternal Weekend. Below is the Deck as it has evolved in the aftermath.
Part Five: Wasting Away
Dawn on Friday.
The Librarian was dressed and watching the crisp morning light wash over the city as it slowly came to life. It reminded him of the first time the Sun rose over his Ancient Plateau at Leng. In that moment, he was burdened with a purpose. He was tasked by the birth of time to record all that would come to pass, and this sunrise mimicked its progenitor by delivering a need for action.
He was tired, and the work did not offer the charm and wonder it held in the early centuries, when Chaos still crawled across the sky, dancing to the flutes, existing beyond sight, beyond understanding. But time would not record itself, and it could not move forward without his observation. Without his endless scribbling of fates. So he drew a breath and allowed the world to breathe. He watched so the world could wake.
In a few hours, he would sit down to battle in the North American Vintage Championship. A more arrogant, self-serving author of all things that come to pass may have written himself as the victor, but the Librarian did not give a single fuck about that. This year, Eternal Weekend had something bigger at stake. Something more important in play. But it had yet to reveal itself. And it would not serve him breakfast.
He woke Brother Andrew and the breathing heap of limbs and blankets in the corner that he took for granted was Hunding. As they began to stir, the door closed behind the Librarian as he headed down to eat in the common area, his deck and minimal necessities tucked in a small travel bag over his shoulder.
Shortly after he sat down with a plate of fresh fruit and biscuits doused recklessly with honey, Brother Andrew joined him. They conversed about the day ahead as they sketched out their deck lists for record keeping. The Librarian spread his cards out for last minute inspection.
Everything seemed to be in order.
The rank and file began to fill the room. A blur of greetings and exchanges took place over the remainder of breakfast.
“What happened at the end of the Oldschool Event?” Ramses Overdark inquired as the Librarian shoved a piece of pineapple into his maw. He chewed, looked his friend in the eye, and waited until he swallowed to reply. In the moment of silence that transpired, a few others gathered to hear the gory details.
“At the end of round seven, when I returned from my otherworldly journey,” the Librarian began, “I was gathered near the back with a group of some of Dominaria’s Finest. We were sharing stories and passing around a bottle of Malort.”
He took another bite of his fruit, chewed carefully, and let the silence linger for a moment.
“I saw the Security Agent enter the room. He was looking around, and he spotted me. He made eye contact. He walked past numerous other denizens, as if he was looking for me specifically. When it became apparent that he was bent on confrontation, I paused my conversation to acknowledge him. He raised his hand and pointed at me.
“He looked foolish in his ill-sized suit. ‘Do you need something?’ I asked. I could see the fury in his face.
“He ignored my audience and demanded to know what I was doing. I explained that I was conversing with friends, and he once again chose to ignore my audience. To amplify his crass form, he was still pointing at me, or rather, I noticed, at the bottle of Malort.
“He was possessed. ‘What is that?’ he asked in an offended tone. I explained casually that it was Malort, and even turned the bottle so he could see the label. He was bewildered. ‘Is that alcohol?’ he grilled further. ‘Are you openly drinking alcohol?’
“His disregard for etiquette and his authority posturing were too much so I stopped being cooperative. I asked him to make his own suppositions and stop demanding information. He wanted to know who was in charge, and then he stormed out of the room.
“At that point I suspected it was only a matter of time before police were involved and I had no intention of being around to find out. I made my way to the front to let Jaco know what just transpired, and I changed my costume to prepare for my departure. As a more upstanding portion of the community made their way out of the room, I nestled myself in the center of their exodus and after a little bit of effort I was on the sidewalk in front of the hotel.
“Having made the journey back to my hotel earlier, even if I was partially phased out, I was at least familiar with the path ahead. I barrelled down the block and cut into the alley. It seemed like the coast was clear, but I saw a figure dart by and it startled me.
“It was Jaco. He was carrying his computer and TO supplies and yelling “FUCK THE POLICE” in mockery of what went down. I was too far gone on the Malort to do anything but mimic his behavior, and after our brief encounter I made my way back to my hotel room without incident.”
Ramses told the Librarian about some of what transpired after he left the scene, and it reinforced the necessity of his departure. He finished his breakfast as Ramses carried on, so when a group of locals walked by, our Hero wasted no time in introducing them to the overbearing Legend. As they exchanged introductions, the Librarian quietly slipped away from the table and out of the hotel. Brother Andrew was not far behind, and they made a stop at the convenience store to stock up on caffeine to mix with the two bottles of rum in the Librarian’s bag. After that, they were off to the site to check in.
During the player’s meeting, it was announced that the event would be ten rounds. The Librarian knew that it was unlikely he would bother playing that many, and was grateful that he sold his entry fee to a local sponsor long before he arrived. As such, he pulled a neatly baked Green Mana Cereal Bar from his bag and set about his voyage in a Shaman’s Trance. There was no point in being serious about an event he did not intend to finish.
The first couple rounds blurred together. The consumption of Rum began early, and happened often. Somewhere in the third or fourth round, the Librarian found himself paired against an opponent who seemed to be playing on his level. They were both having a good time with little idea of what was going on. On the second turn of the game, his opponent cast a Rest in Peace. The Librarian looked at the Helm of Obedience in his hand. He had 4 mana on the table. If he drew a mana source, the game would be over.
He did not draw mana.
But he cast the Helm anyway. They shared a mix of laughter and the Librarian was forced to pass the turn. His opponent had the fortunate resources he needed to close the game out with a Helm of his own, and they mused about the insanity of playing the game that just took place. Gracious in defeat, the Librarian was happy to congratulate and encourage the kind of monster who was out doing the same type of work as he was in the world beyond.
He packed up his things and began to wander. At this time, some friendly faces seeking an accomplice for fiendish activity collected him and lured him into the hall. They stood about a bench like Grave Robbers in the incriminating moonlight, preparing for the task at hand.
Moments later, an Alpha Mox Jet was free from Prison. The world was a better place.
This liberation and accompanying madness took far longer than the Librarian’s distorted understanding of time was able to comprehend, and as such he failed to make it to the following round. In the past this might have caused him great sorrow, but on this day he had little concern for the consequences.
No longer existing within the confines of the event, he used his newfound freedom to conduct a variety of activities previously inhibited by the round clock. After an hour or two of buying and selling cards, he found himself polishing off the last of the first bottle of rum and sitting some of his west coast friends. They made plans to organize dinner, so the Librarian asked them to wait until he found Brother Andrew.
When he did find his brother, instead of inviting him to dinner, he told him that he was going to head back to the room and take a nap. They made plans to regroup later and plan out the evening once the Librarian was rested. Without a second thought or even a considerate word, he left the hall and made his way down the block in pursuit of slumber.
Behind the Wall of Sleep he found a ever shifting array of dreams and nightmares, and in them he found the closest thing to rest that he would feel over the whole span of the adventure. It was better than anything that rounds Seven through Nine could hope to offer, and it was worth the abandonment of his friends in their time of hunger. There will always be more magic. There will always be more friends. And by the Grace of Yawgmoth, there will always be more to eat.
When he rose from his torpor, the Librarian found that Brother Andrew and Hunding Gjornersen were dining on food from some nearby establishment. Upon inquiry, he discovered that they had not brought him anything, and despite his own casual disregard for the well being of others, he took the opportunity to pretend to be offended. After a quick shower he dressed for the evening. He scavenged up his leftover dinner from the day prior, ate little of it, and the three of them set off in search of their favorite assembly of magicians: Team Serious.
It proved to be quite an adventure. They were first led to a hotel a few blocks away, but upon arriving there it was revealed that their friends had left for dinner. After a long and convoluted trip to meet them at the bar where they were gathered, they found that it was just a block from their own hotel, and they could have met their friends an hour earlier if anyone responsible would have been in charge of coordinating.
One Thousand Percent Serious.
There was no shortage of celebration inside of the bar. Twenty or so members of Team Serious were stretched from one end of the bar to the other, arguing incessantly about who got to pay for the next round of shots, as if it was the sort of privilege worth fighting a brother over. The Librarian started by introducing Hunding to the masses, while Brother Andrew stood at the end of the bar and recounted last year’s fiasco involving an uncountable number of shots of Old Crow and singing Karaoke.
When he was sure everyone was properly introduced, the Librarian found himself beside the Brass Man with a glass of Jameson in one hand and a Jager Bomb (one of the many official drinks of Team Serious, known to their ranks as a YangTime, a name that will be used for the rest of this narrative, as they drank nearly ninety of them before the night came to an end,) in the other. It was like many nights before with said company, but there were more of them in one place than there had been since the last Team Serious Invitational, and it would be months before they would converge again, many miles away, in even greater numbers.
By the tales that they shared over numerous beers and YangTimes, it seemed that none of Vintage’s most Elite and Serious Team fared well in the Vintage Championship. Some number of them followed in the footsteps of the Librarian, others abandoned the cause when they grew hungry. In the end, none of it mattered, because those who prospered were not there to partake in one of the most decadent evenings ever to not be remembered.
After they closed the bar, it took multiple Lyfts to carry Team Serious to their secret lair somewhere in the Night Sky. Upon arriving at the compound, the drinking continued, at first in the kitchen but then on the rooftop. YangTimes were replaced with Malort, and somehow there were so many bottles present that the Librarian was able to trade some of his trademark Green Mana for a few more to take back with him when the festivities came to their eventual end.
A long night of partying and deep philosophical discussion is better left without sharing too many details. So just before the Sun started to find its way back to the Horizon, the Librarian collected his crew and they took the long ride back across town to where their hotel room was waiting for them. Just as they hit the sheets, the first ray of light crept across the earth below. It would be an hour, maybe two, before they would hear the call and rise to face a new day. But for the precious minutes in between, they slept.
Part Six: Shit Pinata
What kind of psychotic nonsense is this?
Whoever signed me up for this event is an asshole.
Oh right. That was me.
Even having sold my entry to a sponsor, this is a terrible idea. This will be longer than Day One of a Grand Prix. The last time I came close to playing this much legacy was at Grand Prix: New Jersey, and the fate of the world was at stake. Today the fate of my sanity is at stake. This is madness. Eleven rounds is exactly the number it takes to make me want to bail and do anything else.
If there was any chance of me playing this event in its entirety, I would need to do less drugs, or more drugs. I have not even played a game of this format in a year. There have been changes to the Ban List. The entire landscape has changed, and right now, I cannot help but feel like it has left me behind.
My name is not on the board for the Player’s meeting.
Entropy is merciful.
The Wheel of Misfortune is playing with my emotions. I am listed under one of my many aliases. There is no escape.
I make the trip to the Judge’s station, and then a late arrival to a chair in a far off section. It could all be worse. I am aware of that. But I still feel like I am wildly flailing a Null Rod in a desperate attempt to smash through the shell of a Shit Pinata. Success is just a doorway to greater regret.
At least I am not well rested or prepared for this nonsense.
I almost registered a Taiga by mistake.
I find myself across from my first opponent, and I spend more time greeting him than I do dispatching him. The most Mercyful Fate I can offer him is an expedient demise, in the hopes that he will make better choices with the day ahead. With forty three minutes left on the clock at the end of our match, at least he will have plenty of time to think about it.
Still tired from my adventures with Team Serious, it would be reasonable to take a nap, but instead I spend the hour of downtime before I face another foe exchanging cards with vendors. It vaguely reminds me of my days working at the Bazaar of Baghdad, and it also makes me grateful that I no longer do it from necessity. Just before it is time to charge into war again, I take a long, painful swig of Malort from my flask, so that my mouth will taste the bitterness my soul feels over my decision to play at all.
Round two is the beginning of my absolution. I am paired against a member of Team Serious, and we joke about how long it has been since we last saw each other. We chat about the future and the length of the event, and when he confirms that he intends to carry fire up the mountain, to find the end of this maze that has already removed me from attacking, I make the decision to concede to him, knowing that my pursuit of glory will come to an end as soon as I am sufficiently Thirsty and Miserable.
My concession is meaningless anyway. I manage to win one game through a Force of Will, but I lose both of the others to a Chalice of the Void. A fitting toast. I find amusement in the similarity between the card and my flask, and make a mental note that I need to acquire another flask and label it with the name of the card. After my friend packs up his possessions and heads to turn in the record of his victory, I pull my flask from my bag. I nod to a passing judge and bring the decanter of bitterness to my lips.
The normal repulsion I feel drinking Malort is somehow refreshing as it washes away the taste of playing in the event. It revives my spirit. I take another sip. And then another. With one more the flask is half empty. But the aether is restored. All is well and right in the room. I am dancing at the threshold of the Abyss.
There are scribbles in my notebook that suggest that I played a few more rounds of the event, but I have little or no recollection of it. Without a doubt, I know that I should have spent the day playing Vintage side events, and I remember spending at least a small amount of time admiring my friends that chose to do so. It is nothing specific against legacy, the format seems like a prosperous and healthy world for budding Deathrite Shamans, but I come from a more ancient, archaic line of Shamans. And we prefer the Flower to the Petal, The Recall to the Vision, and the Walk to the Warp.
By early afternoon I found myself sitting by the river with some old accomplices smoking green mana and musing on the state of things in the unseasonably warm October air. I was just a stone’s throw from the convention center, from where the North American Legacy Championship was underway and still exciting for so many, but I could have just as easily been out in the Void conversing with Tuknir Deathlock.
I was in no shape to decide whether it was the size of the event or the format itself that left me with such a strong aversion, and though I surmised that the answer was somewhere in between, I did not feel compelled to figure it out just yet. The important thing was that I was able to walk away when it was no longer fun, and I did not let my outlet for joy become the source of my pain.
Instead, I was taking in Nature in the great Steel City.
Epilogue: While you Sleep I Destroy Your World
That was all weeks ago. I am home now and it is all behind me.
Some things have changed since then. The kitten (Bodhi) we are fostering is getting bigger, and has taken to wearing bow ties. I ran a 19 player Oldschool Event over Thanksgiving Weekend where we gave out a set of The Dark and Fallen Empires (there will be a write up on this in time, but considering how long it took me to get around to writing this I would not hold your breath while waiting.) Oh, and I lost my Legacy Deck.
Not lost as in I do not know where it is.
Lost as in I was gambling on games with the Spore Frog Duel Decks. It did not start with betting my Legacy Deck, but it escalated over the course of a heavily inebriated evening. It started small. Pavel Maliki was in town and stopped by for some drinks. An advocate of playing the game for Ante, we began betting on our casual play and quickly polished off a bottle of Sambuca (its not always Malort) that he brought with him.
He started pulling things from his bag, and among them was a pile of sealed Odyssey tournament decks. Within an hour I had won them all (and once I hustle up a box of Torment, there is going to be a serious MTG Underground resurrection of 2002.) I was delighted with my haul and I was feeling invincible. Nothing could stop me. It was only a matter of time before I was going to pay for my hubris.
When most of the rum was gone, I began calling him by the wrong name and challenging him to larger, more reckless bets. He was in a sideways state, and I wondered if all of this was just another way of carrying out the work with which he was cursed:
We all know the legend: Pavel wanders the realms, helping those in greatest need. But is this a measure of his generosity, or of his obligation to atone?
I wanted to remind him of his burden, but I bit my tongue. After all, it was I who cast him into wandering. It was I that branded him with his purpose. He lost a bet to me in those primordial days, and he owed me a debt he could not pay. So I stole the order and rule from his life. I took away the instruments of his decadence, and sent him out into the world to sow Love and spread Charity. It betrayed his very nature, and it would teach him to never make a bet he could not cover.
In this moment, I wondered if I was pushing him to make the same mistake again. Pavel still had a Bazaar of Baghdad, and I decided it would be the next thing he would lose. So I challenged him by offering up my Legacy Deck.
And now, after centuries of wandering, Pavel Maliki fulfilled his debt. My poor decision to cycle through my lands, frantically searching for a Pendelhaven that was too deep in the woods to save me, was his only hope for salvation. When it came to pass and I lost, he became the owner of the People’s Cannon, the last thread of the fabric that tied me to Legacy.
The greatest act of kindness, the one that absolved Pavel of his servitude, was to free me from the Prison I myself had created. In the darkness of the past, when I placed the burden upon him, I myself was oblivious to the importance of my actions. But I had already written it, and it was destined to come to be. In essence, I was freeing myself, and Pavel was but an unfortunate pawn in a game of chess that dragged on far too long.
But none of that mattered in the moment.
At least not to me.
I handed him the deck and he dropped it in his bag.
It was gone.
I was free.
And so was Pavel Maliki. For the first time in Aeons, he was free to do whatever he wished. I watched as his weathered lips twisted into a smile. It was a moment he believed would never come, and now that it had he was overwhelmed by it. I poured him the last of the rum to celebrate. He swallowed it in a single gulp.
I went to bed some hours later, once we consumed every drop of alcohol from my abundant collection. When I woke, heavy headed and oppressed by the morning light, my friend was gone, and the deck was gone with him. It marked the end of an era, and I would have shed a tear if I was not so wryly aware that I penned our story this way, sometime later than when it transpired, perhaps even after the moment I realized it. Existing in more than one time and place has a way of clouding moments that would otherwise be swollen with nostalgia.
The day may come when I venture back into the sordid landscape of Legacy. Maybe, in some future year when I have forgotten how uplifting this liberation from its confines feels, I will hear them announce some absurd number of rounds to kick off another hazy Legacy Champs. And when I look around with regret, across the covered tables and through a sea of limbs and faces, I will see my friend. I will nod his way and smile, knowing that as I lifted one curse from him I gave him another. He will curse my name as he wields the cannon against an army of fiends, fighting tirelessly to dispense justice in a world sculpted entirely of the grievances of its occupants.
I will want Nothing in Return. I will Walk Away.
Love Not Law.