“From ancient Yuggoth, Black Rays emit
Evil’s Narcotic Cyclopean Pits
In Dark Babelian Towers Await
Lie Dreaming Until the Time Will Awake”-Electric Wizard "Weird Tales/Electric Frost/Golgotha/Altar of Melektaus"
Where are we?
There is a glass. Is it Ours? Take a swig.
It is gin. It is ours. Take another swig.
This is the Configuration…
…And this is the Key.
This is round two. We are seated across a table from Kurt Crane. We know him. In the old days, long before the Librarian took control, hell perhaps even before the good Doctor was running this circus, we faced Kurt in a Historic Battle in the darkness of Cincinnati. Against his ruthless and cunning magic, we were forced to be reckless. We were driven to madness. Against all odds, we prevailed.When the cannon smoke cleared, the light of a new day shone brightly on our triumph, promising a better future.
Is this that future? What brings us here now?
No. This is something different.
We are in the Shaman’s Trance, and we are not alone.
We close our eyes, and deep within the darkness we feel the shift. When we open them, we are no longer seated across from Kurt. Instead, we are face to face with an old Friend. Foe? Is there a difference? It is Griselbrand. We are back on Saturn. Right where we left him when we started snorting that Phyrexian Rust and left to work for Mishra.
Time is a strange substance.We spent years in the Workshop. Night after night, shift after soulless shift, we tinkered with new ways to turn the Void into a Weapon. Were those years Future or Past? Were we ever there at all? As we slaved away in an artificial Hell, in search of a way to bring the whole system to a grinding halt, all the while surrounded by a sea of unremembered faces trying to find a way to attach their name to some way of streamlining it, was any of it real? As they struggled to find importance by becoming part of the mechanism, were we passing time pursuing a way to manifest the end, or were we just hallucinating from the Rust?
Could we really have carved our way into the heart of the machine, and worked on a way to bring it down from the inside? As those countless days peeled away like skin blistered from exposure, like slag cracking away from new welds, was any of it real?
We assembled the machine. There is evidence that we carried it out into the world and there is a new generation of children worshipping at the 2 Card Altar. The time may be a distortion, but the work was real. As we performed it, Griselbrand was here. Waiting for us to make a move. As if we were gone for no more than a blink of 20 Eyes.
Does he even know we were gone?
He is still waiting. His patience is strained. His teeth are grinding, reminiscent of the work we broke away from to return. His jaw cracks. He can restrain no longer. He demands that we make a move. Demands action. For him, every passing second has been spent inside the game. For us, it has been so long that we no longer remember what we are playing.
But that does not matter. The decision is not ours. The Librarian is in control now. He reaches across the Mushroom, but instead of advancing the board, he picks up Griselbrand’s Knight. With the flick of our wrist, he flings it into the amorphous landscape beyond. The fog is so thick we cannot see where it lands.
This Vulgar Display of Power does not amuse Griselbrand.
“So now that you have returned, you decide to throw the game?”
Maybe time has passed here after all.
“I did not throw the game,” the voice of the Librarian emanates from our lips, “I threw your piece.”
“We can no longer play.”
“We can if you stop conforming to needless rules.”
The Librarian is demonstrating his understanding and control of this arrangement. He will teach Griselbrand that he is bound, that his role is that of a servant rather than a confidant. The Doctor never would have dreamed of such Madness.
But the Librarian is playing a different game.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, there is a different display of unorthodox game play transpiring. While we were gone, the contest of mages has progressed in our favor. We managed to navigate with ease through our first game, and we were well on our way to stealing another. But things became hazy, time convulsed, and we are no longer clear about what is happening.
When the turn began, there was a clear path to victory. We had all the tools we needed. It was a matter of following simple steps. Kurt was hiding behind a Grafdigger’s Cage, meant to stop our sacred Oath of Druids. But we were holding the Nature’s Claim. We had the green mana. He had the token spirit. All we needed to do was unravel his security. It was a matter of going through the motions.
But something was awry.
When we returned from Saturn, we found ourselves flipping over cards to the Oath trigger, with the cage still on the table and the Nature’s Claim still in our hand. Everything was wrong. We were taking action out of order. We set down our deck in the middle of these Unorthodox Steps of Ritual and took another swig of freshly poured gin. In our absence the vessel replenished its drink. After letting it wash away our confusion, we slurred out an explanation to Kurt about what was going on. We explained our intention and showed him all of the components. He went from bewildered by our recklessness to annoyed by our disregard for etiquette, but Kurt is a gracious opponent and did not dissent.
After all, this is Serious Vintage, not the Pro Tour. We cleaned up the stack and let all the appropriate cards rest where they belonged before resolving the rest of the Oath trigger. There is no room for Competitive Rules Enforcement when our Glass is this close to our Lotus. This is about magic. This is about Love. Not Law.
Still upset about his first encounter with the Librarian, Griselbrand did not answer the call when the Oath was complete. This left the gate open for the return of Emrakul, and her tentacled return was as elegant and sultry as the last time we played together. Upon reflecting on the situation as we transitioned through our draw step, we recognized that our opponent would have been well within his right to protest this sloppy series of actions that would lead to his certain demise. But the result would have been the same. Instead of entering play, Emrakul would have remained on top and fulfilled the draw step. We still would have claimed the cage, and cast our Show and Tell to deliver the Queen to the table. We would have less cards in hand, but there is no reward for holding cards that we never play. The Stars were aligned, and the End was a matter of technicality.
There is nothing quite like a Team Serious Invitational.
On February Seventeenth, The third Annual Hazard invitational took place in Columbus, Ohio. It is a celebration of the legendary @winedope‘s birthday held inside Castle Hazard, one of the many secret strongholds of Team Serious. Just two and a half months after the yearly Invitational at the Citadel of Moes in Toledo, Ohio, the excitement around this event buzzed through all of the teams channels and veins from the moment the date was cemented.
Captain Hazard promised that this menagerie would eclipse his prior festivals, a challenge that came with relentless pressure. That was the kind of Hype that Team Serious does not take lightly. Failing to deliver was not an option. The first Hazard Invitational is often spoken of only in whispers, and while we were not present, the buzz of insects emanating from the mouths of those that were leave us aware of its grandeur. But we were present at the second event last year, wielding 2 Card Monte like Gospel from our roving pulpit.
The Doctor had lost control by then, but the Librarian was subtle as he explored his new vessel. We were in a sort of Stasis, and much of our time was spent drifting in the Void. We were not dead, merely dreaming. The Librarian was grappling with the foreignness of having a finite number of limbs, and our means of expressing ourselves was primarily limited to employing the weapons the Doctor crafted in Mishra’s Workshop. It was a crude and grotesque experiment, but with the proper amount of Green Mana, Serum Powder, and Jameson the machine managed to mimic human behavior close enough for Serious Company.
It was not until the Top 8 that the Librarian fully manifested. He was face to face with the seemingly innocuous Nam Q Tran, a foe that we bested in two prior Invitationals. The Shaman defeated him in his first Serious appearance, and the Doctor cast him down on his way to our first victory. We were there again, ready to strike the final blow, when Nam revealed that he was aspiring to be the Greatest Villain in the Multiverse.
For weeks he dreamed of that moment. We advanced to game two after taking down the first one. We quickly assembled the Painter’s Servant and Grindstone, but we could see in the darkness swimming in his eyes that something was wrong. We activated our weapon, and we were met with smugness in place of a concession. Nam Q Tran showed us the trap he set, waiting for us to foolishly stumble into it.
There was madness and cruelty woven into his laughter.
The Doctor might have lost his mind, but the Librarian just smiled. The following turn, we casually cast our Memory Jar and passed the turn. There was more than one way to cleanse this game of evil, and three mana later, Nam was dead to a Memory Jar activation with a Blessing trigger on the stack. As we celebrated our triumph over evil, we watched as Nam erupted into an endless tirade of profanity, which echoed through the background of the stream and onward through the Aeons that followed.
Right now, somewhere in the world, innocence is being corrupted by the echoes of his vulgar curse.
We went on to lose to Kevin Cron in Top Four. We surrendered the dream of being the first Two Time Team Serious Invitational Champion, made all the more bittersweet as we watched Kevin fall prey to Frank Singel in a match we could not possibly have lost. It was a cruel end, but it was reconciled by the screams of the malevolent Nam. Frank took his first win, and the dream of wearing the medal around our neck would have to wait.
And as we kicked off the Third Hazard Birthday Bash, we drank our gin and considered that this could be the day for the first repeat winner. The stars were aligned, and all the known forces were in place. We were clearly the favorite among them, but it would not be an easy fight. But the medal was not all that we were fighting (and drinking) for. There was a Serious prize pool, true to form for such a glorious celebration.
Hidden in the depths of this mess of cardboard luxury was a Russian Foil Khalni Hydra, sporting its plethora of Green Mana symbols like it was writing our true name in Smoke. The sight of it filled us with want, and we honored that moment with a cookie straight from Eladamri’s Vineyard that we had stashed in our bag. We washed it down with a shot of Malort that someone was kind enough to offer us, and at that moment we fell completely under the spell of moment.
I found myself sitting in a chair and petting an old friend, a Cat named Stash. He was the true master of the castle, the host to this Legion of Degenerates. Two drinks later we were still petting his chin as Jaco poured a round of YangTimes (the Team Serious Label for a Jager Bomb, in honor of our mentor Jerry Yang.) After two of those, there was no longer any reason to try and figure out how deep into substance we were. It was time to swim and let the universe find its way.
Unfortunately, that way led to a loss in the first round to our old friend Rolko.
As we loudly repeated stories the majority of the room had heard numerous times, we continued to imbibe and accepted that this was not to be the day we triumphed again. It would be best that a new contender wore the medal, preserving the dream of being the first to wear it twice, but if anyone was to take that dream away from us, at least it would be one of our Serious brethren.
But that all changed a moment later. We wandered about watching games, and we encountered Nam Q Tran, the Walking Unholy Citadel, and the medal was draped around his neck. Our medal. His neck. This was blasphemy.
We recalled the Invitational in December, where we basked in the luxury of Chateau Moes, and how we met Nam in the finals. It was going to be the moment when we set the tone. All we had to do was behead the serpent that we had slain so many times before. But that time was different. As we reconnected with Griselbrand, and rode upon his wings towards victory, we found the fiend ready. He was bearing the Doctor’s Doomsday Weapon, the same 2 Card Monte that sent him over the edge. But during his downward spiral into the infernal coils of his core, he came to embrace and understand the weapon. He took the Machine that was designed to save the world, and used it to instead destroy everything that was sacred.
Including our hope to reclaim the medal.
Fate was on his side. We were carried to that match on a river of Green Mana, communing with Omnath to cope with the throbbing pain of an impending root canal that was scheduled for two days later but needed two days prior. The failings of the human form were frustrating to the Librarian and crippling to the rest of us, and they proved to be an overwhelming obstacle in the face of our cosmic adventure.
As we became one with the Pain, Nam overcame the odds (having lost to us in nearly every top 8 of any TSI we ever played in and wielding a weapon we knew more intimately than should be committed to text) and we found ourselves falling from Grace. In the end, we were left with only agony, the dull throbbing reminder of the life that lay ahead, and it was our nemesis who left with our most coveted treasure.
We watched as he callously dispatched Rajah, and we waited for him to rise so we could greet him, all the while casting a shadow over him as we plotted a way to crawl out of the grave of our round one loss and fight back against his iniquity.
“There are many layers to the intricate Evil that is Nam Q Tran. The first, and most important to understand, is the mask of seeming kindness and good nature that he wears.”
-Anonymous Member of Team Serious (Not Randall)
We toasted him with our freshly poured but already half consumed drink as we awaited another round of YangTimes. As he casually displayed the medal on the middle of his chest like the Q in the middle of his name, we toasted again and I began to formulate a plan. It was apparent what needed to be done. We needed to win this Invitational. Not just to halt the unadulterated depravity of Nam, but also to rescue the medal from him.
But we could not do it alone. Griselbrand was going to have to pull his weight.
It was time to return to Saturn.
When we descended upon the Plateau, we found him sitting with his back to us, staring out into the dust. He was ruminating on his betrayal, his refusal to answer the call. He was wearing his defiance like a broken crown, bitter at the ease with which his tentacled Bride so willingly replaced him in the moment of truth. He was wading through a quagmire of emotion, and did not hear our return. Nor would he have cared to in that moment.
Though the Librarian was in control, it was the Shaman’s voice that called out the demon. A tone long unheard by the winged monstrosity, it was a surprise to us as well. The Librarian knew all too well how to pull the strings of each player, crafting the most masterful performances on the stage of the present. It should have been no surprise. The scene was unfolding as he penned it. He was the author, and we were the words.
“Griselbrand,” the Shaman spoke.
“Are you hungry, my friend?” The Shaman pulled some baked green mana from his bag. “I have some cookies. They are some of my best work.”
“The last time I ate one of your cookies,” Griselbrand shared, “things did not unfold in my favor.”
It was true. In the early days of their friendship, Griselbrand and the Shaman were trying to form the slowest, heaviest, noise-crusted Doom metal project ever to sting the ears of mortals. Things would have gone better if the Shaman would have bothered to learn an instrument. Instead, he spent his time breaking things with power tools to capture the sound. He would mic it through distortion pedals and open amps to capture as much feedback as he did sound, and then spend hours altering the tempo during playback, trying to craft the perfect atmosphere for their soundscapes.
Griselbrand would have objected if he had taken the time to digest it. But he was so frustrated with his own problems that he did not pay much attention to his partner’s lack of talent or obsession with improper application of instruments. He was constantly snapping the strings on his Gibson Epiphone Bass Guitar. He liked to blame to strings, but it was primarily the result of having hooks for hands.
One afternoon, the Shaman came in with some freshly captured sounds he felt fortunate enough to have recorded while witnessing a traffic accident. When he burst through the door in a raving fit of excitement, he found his poorly equipped friend on the verge of tears with frustration. It nearly broke his heart to see Griselbrand suffer so needlessly, so he took a moment and decided there was only one way to cheer up his friend.
He pulled out his stash of Green Mana Cookies and offered to share. Griselbrand was quick to object, insisting that he was Straight Edge and proud, along with some other garbled nonsense that the Shaman did not hear, but his stomach was growling and his appetite did not share his philosophical stance. After some insistence from the Shaman, Griselbrand ate the best cookie he had ever tasted.
They put on a record and started discussing the future of their project. The heavier the sound, the more Griselbrand wanted another cookie. The Shaman obliged, and before long his whole stash had disappeared into Griselbrand’s maw. All of the frustration was gone. They were at one with the music, the moment, and the madness of the life they were trying to live.
What happened next is a little hazy. Griselbrand got the munchies and decided to go get some food. The Shaman remained behind, trying to sync the sound of his car crash to play in unison to the sound of him breaking a stolen wheelchair with a sledge hammer. Hours passed and his bass player did not return, so the Shaman took a nap on top of a pile of broken furniture in the center of the studio.
When he awoke, there were a bunch of messages on the answering machine, but he did not bother to listen to them. He was hungry for some of his finest green mana, but discovered once again that Griselbrand had left him dry. So he set out on an adventure to get all the necessary supplies to bake, and it was not until he returned that he realized that his friend was still not back from his quest for food.
Still, he did not play the messages. Instead, he baked. And as he was cooking, he had an epiphany. He would use recordings from his answering machine as the vocals for their album instead of hiring a singer. In the throes of excitement, he set up to capture his first sample.
When he played back the messages, he struggled to make sense of them. The first one was from Griselbrand. He was raving about meeting Mayhem, and how he was going to record vocals for an upcoming album they were working on. This was a terrible way to start. The last thing the Shaman wanted was for the first song on his album to be about his bass player singing vocals for some other band.
The second message was also from Griselbrand. He was on his way to Helvete to record with Mayhem. Once again, all this discussion of another band felt like a betrayal. Not just because it was a member of his project heading off to work for someone else, but also because it was ruining the genius of capturing vocals.
The third message was more promising. Griselbrand was in some kind of trouble, captured by police and being forced into some compromising situation. It felt perfect for the project, until he asked the Shaman to call someone in Mayhem and let them know he was detained and would be there as soon as possible. Ruined again.
The fourth message was from some woman explaining that she managed to lock up Griselbrand, who was high as a kite, and that he would not be home for dinner. Apparently, when he thought he was on his way to join Mayhem at Helvete, he as in fact being imprisoned by Thalia for his mayhem inside of the Helvault.
That high motherfucker could not tell the difference between Thalia and Euronymous. And that was how he got locked up. All that time in the Helvault could have been avoided if he would have been more loyal to the project. And maybe if he had not eaten all of the cookies. The Shaman would have felt bad for his friend, maybe even would have gone to save him, but his mess of messages caused him to burn the fresh batch of cookies.
That’s the truth.
Griselbrand got trapped in the Helvault because he was so fucking high he thought Mayhem wanted him to do vocals on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. And in the process, he broke up the band. And worse, he caused the Shaman to burn a batch of cookies. All these years later, he never apologized.
But this was no time to pick that fight. There was a TSI to win. And a Nam Q Tran, Scourge of all Things Sacred, to defeat. We were wasting time.
The Shaman decided the best approach to lure the sulking demon back into the fold was to give him a purpose.To show him the face of the enemy. To share with him accounts of the crimes against time and space so carelessly executed. He showed him pictures of the monster as he unfolded Tales that made Thalia seem polite in comparison, that made Gaddock Teeg seem more like a mosquito than a tyrant. In the end, he presented him with a complete understanding of the True Nature of Nam Q Tran, who flaunted our medal about his chest while bragging up the supremacy of Mishra and the Doctor’s Doomsday Machine.
Griselbrand was outraged. The knowledge of how the maleficent Nam had bragged of his victory just months before, mocking Griselbrand for being powerless once again when presented with unfortunate circumstances (bringing a fresh sting to the old Helvault Wound) was enough drive the demon berserk. The more he heard of the exaggerated and callous exploits of Nam Q Tran, the more he felt driven to set things right. He could not remain idle on Saturn and let this Agent of Diabolic Machinery continue his reign of mocking terror.
There was nothing Griselbrand wanted more than to crush another stream of unsolicited fucks from Nam’s sinister and smug lips. He wanted to see the pain of defeat on his face. While his master reclaimed the medal, he would reclaim his dignity. And in the process, the world would be safe once more from its most heinous aggressor.
So Griselbrand broke away from Saturn’s Haze and ventured back to the TSI. First they would drink, and then they would slay their next opponent. As they did, the Librarian quietly resumed control, ready to chart a course to the end they were all so desperate to find.
Brother Andrew shares his Braingeyser in an Oldschool battle against the fiend himself, Nam Q Tran.
The Fog of War is often too thick for memory to find clarity, and the details of the battles that followed their return are too obscure to reconstruct. Somewhere in the parade of bloodshed and revelry, we faced down our recently acquired and well loved friend, Rajah, who had already found himself victimized by the tyranny of Nam. It was unfortunate that he would have to suffer defeat again in our pursuit to right the wrongs of such an Infernal Denizen, but it was a door that had to be forced open.
While we planned to best him on the field of battle, we made peace by offering our opponent one of Eladamri’s baked goods and a few shots of whiskey. We gave him ample warning not to consume the whole thing. But, much like the unassuming victims of Nam Q Tran, he found its seemingly innocent presentation and palatable flavor too alluring, and it was only when he was too far gone, somewhere in the depths of our third game, that he understood our warning.
He fell to us in battle before falling to slumber. There would be many hours and the most glorious nap of his life between that moment and his return to normal. This was unlike those who befell a fate at the hands of Diabolic Nam, who would be little more than a heap of bones on the other side of his offerings, never to return to the world they know and love.
“Rajah has fallen deep into a Shaman’s Trance after facing the Librarian in the thickest part of the smoke. It is a merciful slumber, and it will spare him the wrath of the beast known to mortals as Nam Q Tran”
When the final round was paired up, we found ourselves face to face with the Baleful possessor of the Medal. But it was a battle that would serve no purpose this early in the day. No matter how strong the Librarian’s want for victory or Griselbrand’s hunger for the flesh of this foe, it was necessary to defer the bloodshed for a more meaningful exchange in the hours ahead.
So they separated and spent the next hour doing what they do best. The Librarian kept us hydrated and danced about spreading Love and Merriment. Meanwhile, Nam Q Tran lurked among the people as he plotted his next odious scheme. The time passed as quickly as the booze, and after a blur of an afternoon the Top 8 contenders were determined.
We would face Kevin Nelson, who was Dredging up an army of Zombies and punishing the unprepared all afternoon. This would be perhaps our greatest obstacle, but there was no reason to let it break our determination. He would have the luxury of playing first, so we would need to ensure that it was us that played last.
It took the proper alignment of Stars, but we emerged triumphant.
Nam spent so much of himself spreading evil that he had nothing left to fend off the justice Kevin Cron was dealing. Frank also emerged Victorious, along with the dreaded Rolko who defeated us at the start of our journey.
That left three of the four possible Serious Aficionados who could win a second Invitational, and only Rolko to spoil that feat. As it was written, we would face him again, and this time everything was on the line.
Our match can be viewed Here.
Upon removing the last upset from the tournament, we ventured upstairs to replenish our drink, and in the process we found Kevin and Frank battling it out. We tried to watch, but no amount of substance could prepare us for what we found. In these months that have followed, Lands has become more common in Vintage, but on that day, we had no idea what was going on.
But we would soon have the luxury of facing one of these fiends to take the medal back to the Library.
In the end, Frank prevailed. He would take the stage before us. He would perform the King in Yellow. He would trade sanity for power, and call forth Marit Lage to tear us under. But such plans were destined for folly. Lage was an old friend, greatly indebted to us from the time before the ice. We would not fall to Frank. The medal would be ours again.
But not until after copious amounts of alcohol and some of the most ridiculous magic went down. Spend a little time in the heart of Serious and watch as we stumble our way to Victory. You already bought the ticket. Its time to take the ride.
After a lot of nonsense the tournament was over. Somehow we emerged with our coveted treasure, and as we all gathered to divide up the donated spoils, I also took the only thing in the prize pool that held my interest.
That’s right motherfuckers. We took the Foil Russian Khalni Hydra.
Our contribution to the pool was the most coveted, and not without reason.
The high water mark of the Hazard Invitational was not winning the event. Instead, it was watching with delight as Kevin Cron selected our prize and let the secrets unfold before all of Team Serious. It was a moment within our tribe that will be remembered long after the medal has been lost gambling on spore frogs.
Kevin would take home the Beta Forest instead of the Jace the Mind Sculptor, along with his small trove of things found in the Library of Leng. It was a good day for all, individually and as the Team Serious Collective. The Shaman was reunited with Griselbrand. The Doctor was reunited his Superstitions. And the Librarian smiled upon all of it, for it happened just as he had penned it.
The Jace the Mind Sculptor was not lost or forgotten. In the month that followed, an opportunity presented itself to do the most possible good. When peddling cards to finish raising the capital for an undisclosed project, a card was sold to @VorthosMike who asked if I would throw in something for their upcoming Charity tournament to raise money for World Central Kitchen to feed people in Puerto Rico. This the sort of thing I love to be involved in, and since the Jace had already been donated once, it was with little consideration that it was donated again.
The end result of what came from the gesture means more than can properly be expressed in words. Watching Twitter over the weeks that followed became a joy unparalleled. Every day showed more drive and charity from the community. It was spreading like Phyrexian Oil, and when it finally coated everything, numerous decks were donated and the Tournament day was a smashing success. It was reward beyond measure to be a part of and witness it come to fruition.
The time has once again come for us to part ways. In less than Twelve Hours the Librarians will be heading west to meet the Knights TAPlar and numerous members of the Lords of the Pit to battle it out at Kumite, the first of an annual series hosted by the Knights in Jackson, Michigan. Having failed to drum up three underground seas this week, the test project for this tournament will be set aside and a streamlined build of Eureka will be piloted as intoxicated as possible.
Until Next Time
Love Not Law.