Until You Call on The Dark in Detroit (An MTG Underground Tournament Overview)

On Sunday, November 26th, I hosted an Oldschool (93/94) Magic tournament at RIW Hobbies in Livonia, Michigan.

We had a set of The Dark in the back of the store, desperate for a purpose. When I stumbled foolishly upon this information, I set the gears in motion. We would hold a tournament. But not just any tournament, we would hold an Oldschool tournament. All we needed were a handful of Scarwood Bandits to show up to make it worthwhile.

I could make that happen.

With the Thanksgiving holiday just ahead, I set the date so that it would follow a long weekend in the hopes that a post-festival afternoon would lure out even the most lazy Oldschool enthusiast. It quickly became evident that I would have no shortage of participants, and excitement around the event was growing. Inspired, I crept into the darkness of my closet, in search of some forgotten lore. There, behind some stranger skeletons than the ones buried beneath the City of Shadows, I found a set of Fallen Empires. Disregarding its maleficent origins, I decided it would make a perfect pairing for the occasion.

Now more than ever I needed to draw eight Cave People out to play. The Lurkers promised success in whispers across the vast dead space of the internet. We would meet and exceed expectations. My excitement difficult to contain. I wanted to do more.

I was drinking scotch for breakfast and hanging out with my Uncle Istvan and my curmudgeon of a cat, Monte, checking the date on my Stone Calendar. It fell from the table, and as it struck the floor with a loud din it scattered a pile of decklists that I never bothered to type up. Who looks at deck lists anyway? Beneath them, gleaming with Holy Light, was a relic from better days, begging to be added to a growing prize pool.

book of law

Strategy from the immortal George H. Baxter, a pioneer from the grim days before the internet brought the far reaches of the world to every Apprentice Wizard‘s fingertips. But who would benefit from this earthly manifestation of the Book of Rass?

The unfortunate Rag Man who would walk the Sorrow’s Path into last place would be the most fitting recipient.

The night before the tournament I went to a party with the Sisters of the Flame. After too many drinks out of the Skull of Orm, and enduring the worst Dire Straits covers I have ever heard forced through a Bone Flute by a Coal Golem and the Scarwood Goblins, I found myself full of regret. I wandered out of the Tower of Coireall in search of a Safe Haven, but all I found was a group of Marsh Goblins trying to steal a War Barge that was chained up in the back.

I decided not to get involved.

I managed to make my way home after a nearly catastrophic encounter with some Electric Eels, just in time to grab my deck and wait impatiently on the Standing Stones for my brother to pick me up. Upon his arrival, I had grown bored and wandered out into the woods, where I was trying to negotiate a peace treaty between a Fire Drake and some Land Leeches. I was forced to abandon my efforts and let them figure it out for themselves to avoid being late to my own event.

Needless to say, it was a smashing success. We ran six rounds for nineteen players, and everyone played out every round, some pure love of the game shit. Oldschool is a truly beautiful format in this way, a perfect mix of casual and nostaligic cardboard contests played out in a simpler way from seemingly better days.

With only a smattering of nonsense dedicated to each one, I present the Nineteen lists in order of Final Standings:

1st Place – Jon Wilkerson – Budget Rack Black

1st Jon Wilkerson - Budget Black

This elegant deck was a quick pile I threw together the day prior for around Forty US Dollars, with primarily heavily played 4th edition cards. If I was going to build it again, I would include a third meek stone in the sideboard, and perhaps replace the Ashes to Ashes and one of the Terrors with two more Paralyze. The Animate Dead was going to be a Demonic Tutor, but in the Fissure of time between construction and event I was unable to procure an extra copy.

Also, the main deck Sengir Vampire was a last minute addition by Jon, replacing a second Animate Dead, but would have been better if it was Eater of the Dead as the Sengir did little to improve the composition of the deck. This build was a bit of a Frankenstein’s Monster, but in the end it was mostly the right pieces that were stitched together.

2nd Place – Greg Kraigher – Goblins

2nd Greg Kraigher - Goblins

This is dedicated Oldschool. The inclusion of Ball Lightning was a perfect fit for this day dedicated to The Dark, and his performance with an unorthodox approach to deck building was rewarded with the most coveted of ancient treasures: A complete set of Fallen Empires straight from my personal horde. I have no doubt that the Blood Moons in the sideboard put in some serious work, as the deck I played could hardly beat a resolved copy if I did not already have birds of paradise in play, just begging to eat a lightning bolt.

I have played against Oldschool Goblins before, facing everything from Goblins of the Flarg to Goblin Digging Team, but Greg eschewed the chance to be a Goblin Hero and left his Goblin Rock Sled at home in the Goblin Shrine. The single copy of Goblin Wizard did not escape my attention, and I hope he was given the opportunity to employ it at some point during the day.

3rd Place – Chad Teuscher – UR Burn

3rd Chad Teuscher - UR Burn

Chad came prepared with his main deck Maze of Ith looking to rain some Fire and Brimstone down on his unsuspecting opponents. This deck was one of the first things I played when I jumped head first into the format, and after swimming in the deep water of one of the best decks around, I am not surprised to see Chad fall so in love with it and perform so well. He has stumbled upon the Hidden Path to victory in this primeval world, and it has rewarded him with a proverbial Fountain of Youth.

My favorite inclusion in his list is the Time Elemental. I do not know why it is there, but even staring at the art as I hold it in my hand would be reason enough for me to include it in just about any deck.

 

4th Place – Stephen Paul – RUG Zoo

4th Stephen Paul - RUG Zoo

Stephen’s deck was completely lacking cards from The Dark, but it made up for it by being full of fun and value. People of the Woods love to cheer for a feel good deck, and this one gave cause for the song of the Whippoorwill every time a resolved berserk brought a game to a timely end. I will not pretend to understand the presence of the Mana Vault in the sideboard, but it is again one of my favorite pieces of oldschool art, and I am no stranger to the unorthodox application of sideboard slots.

5th Place -Brother Andrew – UW Skies

5th Andrew McLennan - UW Skies

Brother Andrew managed to stick an Amnesia, Dust to Dust and a Maze in his sideboard, but he refused to follow my suggestion of playing Ghost Ship and Dance of Many over Serendibs and Clones. In hindsight, the last minute removal of Tivadar’s Crusade from his board proved to be costly when facing the full onslaught from Greg’s Goblin Caves. He is always working to improve this deck, and is currently in pursuit of a moat and a mana drain, but he does not let their absence hold him back.

6th Place – Matt Wareham – The Deck

6th Matt Wareham - The Deck

The Inquisition that is led against players who choose to pilot The Deck in oldschool is often loud and hostile, but it ignores that the pursuit of a perfect control deck is the Eternal Flame burning in the heart of some players that keeps them alive, that keeps them from being sucked away by the riptide of despair. So as the Witch Hunters gather about to wage war against the oldest and most refined villain in Magic History, it is worth taking a moment to admire the beauty of The Deck. This is especially true of Matt’s build. I have known him for many years, and I have always been enamored by his collection of cards.

7th Place – The Librarian of Leng Ben Perry – Eureka

7th Ben Perry - Eureka

This Diabolic Machine is a work of art. In hindsight, I should have taken the time to include a few gems from The Dark myself, and even if Leviathan fails the Eureka plan, there are certainly cards that could have offered some range of play. This would have been a fine time to try Fellwar Stone over Llanowar Elves, or even Tormod’s Crypt in the sideboard to help against the troublesome builds of Reanimator, but fortunately such was not a concern for the day.

It is strange to look back at this deck a month later and see how much has changed. I added a third Shivan Dragon and upgraded some Duals, and finally did the right thing and spiked a 61st card into the main. Not including Braingeyser was a terrible oversight from the start, so I dusted off my alpha copy and set things right. I am looking forward to playing my updated build in about a week for my first Oldschool event of the year.

8th Place – Steve McGrew – UWG Zoo

8th Steve Mcgrew - UWG Zoo

Steve was a riot to play against during the event, never losing Morale despite the odds stacked against him. In the end he was held down by the Tangle Kelp of playing a fair deck against my Mind Bomb of relentlessness, but he tried his best to be a Miracle Worker and put up a good fight.

He came in like a Giant Shark but in the end was washed away by the Flood like another forgotten Water Wurm. The last time Steve and I played Oldschool together he took down the Oldschool Players Ball, so it was an even more glorious victory in the shadow of his Trophy.

9th Place – Brad Jekel – Nether Dreams

9th Brad Jakel - BR Nether Dreams

Brad’s deck calls back to my youth. It is a work of nostalgic art, sculpted from the Worms of the Earth. I always enjoy seeing Land Destruction strategies in Oldschool, they are a sorely missed part of the game that have suffered a Cleansing from modern design and become too dated to be effective in the overpowered Season of the Witch that is current day Eternal Magic.

I did not get to see much of this deck in action, but when I did, it was like watching a Bog Imp douse an unsuspecting band of Pikemen with his most heinous emission of Marsh Gas, letting it nauseate and consume before putting his prey to rest. It was a sight for certain eyes.

10th Place – Marland Moore – Power Monolith

10th Marland Moore - UBR PowerMonolith

Marland and I battled it out in second round, and played a long series of strange games. Our game one took well over half of the round, with both of us flooding out on Mana and neither of us being able to close. I eventually lost to a fireball. In game 2 I smashed him like I was stomping on a Marsh Viper with a protected Eureka early in the game. In game 3, it came down to being on the draw. He had just enough counter magic to keep me from winning outright, and just enough unsummons to slow me down. He killed me the turn before I would have killed him, like some ritual known only to the Nameless Race in a close and hard fought game on both sides.

I could play this match with Marland every day and never grow tired of it. There are so many things that can go right or wrong, and he appreciates the finer nuances of both. We are both old time vintage Murk Dwellers, and Oldschool feels not only the perfect place for us to play, but also the perfect place for us to play each other.

I played a version of Marland’s deck early in my oldschool adventures, trying out everything from Rock Hydra to Banshee to keep it interesting. In the end I was not so far from where he settled, like Brothers of Fire desperate to feel something. I eventually escaped from the Sunken City in search of brighter skies, but I do not fault Marland for still surfing the Mana Vortex. Its a hell of a ride.

11th Place – Russ Strawsine – BR Disco

11th Russ Strawsine - BR Troll Disco

With the relentlessness of Grave Robbers Russ brought his Walking Dead and Company to the battlefield. He let nothing hold him back, and wielded his deck like a Runesword against enemies of many names. It is unfortunate that we did not have the chance to play at some point throughout the day, as my deck can find itself struggling under the weight of an untimely disk. My Forces and Djinns would have bellowed the Martyr’s Cry to try and overcome, but barring the aid of Concordant Crossroads or Time Walk, they would have fallen in due time like the Sarpadian Coast to Erosion.

A relatively budget build in the grand scheme of things, there is a lot of raw power in the framework of this deck. I loved the time I spent playing a build of my own, which shared the delightful and interactive Rukh Egg. In the end, the rally cry of the Orc General could not save him, but there was no uncertainty that he had fans on the fringe of The Dark around the battlefield.

12th Place – Jay Krusac – Mono Blue Coffin

12th Jay Krusac - Mono Blue Coffin

This is the kind of deck that will make your mildest Psychic Allergy flare up. It is hard not to get excited by High Tide, used here primarily as a blue version of Dark Ritual. With a pair of maindeck Hurkyl’s Recall allegedly to protect against Curse Artifact and Scavenger Folk, they also help serve as both rituals and Reset buttons for Triskelions.

An attentive Tracker will take note of the Forcefield in the sideboard, a card that is criminally underplayed possibly due to rarity and lack of awareness. Its a card that can fare well against my army of monsters, so I tend to pay it more attention than your average wizard might. The consequences of staring too long into the Reflecting Mirror I suppose.

13th Place – Paul Fiero – Dread Pirate Tim

13th Paul Fiero UG Dread Pirate Tim

Of all the decks I faced throughout the day, this was the most terrifying.

Sitting across the table, I had no idea what might happen. I did not know if I would be eaten by a Carnivorous Plant or be drowned in the residue of a Spitting Slug. In the end, I was victorious despite the limitless possibilities that I imagined could become my fate, and though my opponent became The Fallen he was gracious enough to not only share with me his master plan, but also his enthusiasm.

If I could spend time piloting one deck from this tournament, it would still be my Eureka Deck, because its awesome. But if I had to pick something else, it would be this.

14th Place – Marcel Moore – Mono Green

14th Marcel Moore - Mono Green

Marcel could have played Scarwood Hag or Gaea’s Touch. He could have suited up in his Living Armor and showed everyone in the room his Wand of Ith. Instead, he brought Craw Wurm and Giant Growth. If he was able to resolve one Tsunami on the day, it would avenge every time Berserk was countered. Slightly geared towards Pendelhaven without being overly devoted, the lack of Erhnam stands out more than anything else. As a Green Mana specialist, I have dabbled with this archetype more than most, and I fear that this build gets caught up too much in the middle, not quite all in on Berserk or the thirty two creature swarm. It should be noted that there are no artifacts in the 75, a rare thing in the Oldschool World.

15th Place – Joe Hosking – Magic Cards

Niall_Silvain_640

I do not have a deck list for Joe. I have his information, I could contact him and request it, but instead I will share with you a picture of Niall Silvain. There is a lot going on here. Do you know that his creature type is Ouphe? Do you know that he was not the first? The first one was the Brown Ouphe of Ice Age, who blanked the canvas for Niall to have his very history rewritten. But it was not enough. Niall would endure a further crime, by having Shelkin Brownie from Legends also changed, robbing him of being the first for no reason other than to insult him.

But why?

Well, I once held a tea party in the Dark Heart of the Wood in the vast expanses beneath the Plateau at Leng, beyond the road that leads to the Dreamlands. Among my guests were many elves, including the Elves of Deepshadow and numerous Savaen Elves. This led to an invite being extended to Niall, who at the time was beyond classification and assumed to be an elf due to the shape of his ears, despite the fact that no clan, even the most savage of the Llanowar, would claim him.

Niall arrived wearing nothing but Lotus Petals, which he proceeded to snack on as he waited for tea to be served. Initially it just seemed like poor manner s, but as this activity continued it began to cause a problem, as he began to expose a strange rash on his left thigh. When questioned by the Knights of Thorn, he told a tale of an encounter with some Bog Rats that caused panic and immediate rumor of some sort of Phyrexian Plague, as the story shifted and grew disproportionately as it was shared from mouth to ear.

At the time that this was taking place, I was back at the Library checking the recipe for a special elixir in the Jalum Tome. By the time I returned, he was locked inside of a prototype of Barl’s Cage. The brainwashed masses were screaming for Blood of the Martyr while rallying around the Preacher. They were waiting for the Exorcist, as if they would somehow be able to expel the demon rash from the thigh of the Ouphe.

I think I gave them the wrong tea.

In the end, I was able quell the mob and set Niall free. Instead of thanking me, he stole a Dark Sphere and took off running into the woods. I let him go, and when I had some free time a few years later, I wrote him into an unimportant and forgotten development of an otherwise fascinating species, instead of giving him the lead role that he was born to fill.

16th Place – Ryan Jean – 4c Nether Void Land Destruction

16th Ryan Jean - 4c Nether Void Land Destruction

Ryan was my first round opponent. I took down game one with an early Eureka, and we moved quickly to game 2. I kept a mana light opening hand, but I felt confident that I could draw into exactly what I needed before I fell behind. Instead, I found myself with my Bird struck down by lightning and my land blown up, and I was not able to get to four mana to win the game before I died. Game 3 involved resolving mulligans until I was not repeating the same situation, but the combination of this and a well timed mind twist kept me from ever really getting into the game. It was a fun match against a great opponent, and it is unfortunate that I did not end up with a picture of his deck (probably my fault.) I was curious to see if he was running a copy of Orc General.

17th Place – Marcos Quilanton Luna – Merfolk

17th Marcos Quilantan Luna - Merfolk

When I heard that Marcos was playing Merfolk, I was hoping to hear of the exploits of Merfolk Assassins, but I would later discover that it was on the cutting room floor underneath two copies of Word of Binding. When we were given the chance to play, I unleashed an Inferno, my creatures were too large, too fast, and too brutal.

18th Place – Kyle Lenox – White Prison

18th Kyle Lenox - White Prison

 

Kyle could have played Fasting but he did not have any hunger counters, so he cut it for a Squire, which failed him until he cut it for a Moat, a fine place for his Mishra’s Factories to post up behind instead of being useful. When I asked Kyle about his decision, he dressed up like a Scarecrow and stole my beer. But it was not enough to beat me in games, and I came away victorious, even if it meant having less to drink. I learned a valuable lesson about questioning the lifestyle of Kyle, a mistake I will not repeat.

19th Place – Charlie Mcguire – Stasis

19th Charlie Mcguire - Stasis

Charlie borrowed Stasis from Marland, instead of playing one of the weirder brews, including one built around Mana Clash. In the end this did not bode well for him, but he did leave with a new book, so not all was given over to the Necropolis. There is always someone that has to finish last. I have been there many times, and I have never won a book for doing so, despite my assertion that I am a Librarian.

So there you have it. One event. Nineteen decks. And a report nearly Two Months later. Why? Because I decided I needed to reference and link every card from The Dark in this mess of a summation, and now, I have nearly done so. As of this point, I have only left out one card.

What is missing?

The motherfucking Malort Elemental.

wormwood

Thats right.

Wormwood Treefolk. Their Blood is Malort. Their Saliva is Malort. Their Soul is Malort.

You can make Malort from their remains.

They are Malort incarnate.

And here, we close another chapter of the #mtgunderground in the Library of Leng.

Love Not Law.

 

 

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