In Exile

It’s been a tough time for our heroes here in Toronto since we lost our usual meetup location last month. We’re fortunate in that the community is strong and supportive so despite lacking our Safe Haven, we’ve still managed to find locations to duel at, albeit while feeling stranded.

We’ve done our best to enumerate our needs so that we can quickly assess possible homes without necessarily having to visit them all. The list is basically:

  • Able to accommodate 15 players
  • Has tables that are stable and large enough for 2 playmats
  • Open Mondays until at least midnight
  • Is transit accessible
  • Is vaguely on the west side of downtown Toronto
  • Food and drinks are easily available

I don’t feel like any of these are really asking for too much, but it’s surprisingly difficult. Toronto is a huge, expensive city, meaning that finding a place that has that many vacant tables is a challenge. Additionally, a lot of places are closed or close early on Mondays. Personally, closing at midnight is a bonus, in my opinion, as I’ll easily stay out until the venue closes, and if that’s at 2am, then I’m not getting any sleep for Tuesday. But that’s just me.

Our first venture outside of the now defunct Bar With No Name was two weeks back at a local bar called Cider House on Roncy. It’s a small place with good tables, bad lighting, ok chairs, and a decent location. They seemed pretty stoked to have the 9 or so of us show up and spend some money and play games. I spoke w/ the proprietor who told me that if we give her notice, she can pull tables together or arrange things for us how we’d like them, and that’s a very good sign. We didn’t have a good turnout that night, so it’s difficult to really make a solid call on this location.

Sling spells at Cider House

This past Meetup, we took over the rear section of our second choice, Pauper’s Pub. This one had some good things going for it, primarily that it’s huge and well lit, but it failed on the comfort and table size metrics. The tables are extremely narrow, so much so that only a single playmat will fit, which also means that all the legs and feet beneath the surface get pretty cozy. The other downside is that it’s all booths with a fairly narrow distance between table edge and booth back, thus making many people not very comfortable to sit at. As for our reception, again we weren’t at full strength, and several people didn’t appear to be spending money which doesn’t do much to win them over. They do have an upstairs that we could reserve, but it sounded like it costed money and/or had a minimum spend, neither of which are ideal.

Where does this leave us?

Quite honestly, I’m uncertain. Bouncing around to various locations is strenuous and seems to result in fewer people showing up; an anti-goal. We need to find a new forever home and get out of Exile, but for the immediate future, we’ll probably still be bouncing around, but we have one solid thing in place. What is that, you might ask?

The first Wednesday of every month, we’ll be playing at Toronto Collective, 389 Spadina Ave, which is a great space, owned by local player and international old school Canadian Ambassador, Shane. He’s graciously offered his shop up, after 8pm, for us to do what we want with it. He’s planning to have a dedicated cam table to stream or play vs non-local folks as a way to help grow the community and unify Toronto with the greater OS community. So, this Wednesday, 1 May, (May Day) will be our first regular meeting there, and we’ll discuss in person what we want to do with these sessions, but it’s been tossed around to have some tournaments there, or cubing, or whatever. I think that this is a great opportunity to have a different variety of games from the usual casual Monday Meetups.

So, keep your eyes on this site, twitter, facebook, and we’ll let you know where the Monday Meetups will be, and in the meantime, let’s play some games on Wednesday.

Alpha 40 – revisited

A while back, I wrote about building my Alpha 40 deck and getting some games in with it over the winter holidays. Well, it’s now Spring, and I’ve gotten to play even more games and picked up a few choice upgrades that I figured I’d share.

So it’s a little more than 40…

The first thing to notice is that it’s definitely more than 40 cards now. To me, an all Alpha format hearkens back to being young, naive, and unknowing about all things Magic, so more cards = larger deck. I am eschewing other colors, which is in itself idiosyncratic of the “I cracked a Starter and some boosters and shuffled up” outlook I try to uphold, but the prices of Islands and the difficulties of 3 colors, let alone 4-5 are enough to keep that in check.

my calling card

An early surprise was finding that my deck was missing a Fog. This is a serious omission, in my opinion, from any deck that runs Green. I know that threats are what win games, but a well timed Fog can make all the difference, and even if not, it generally means you get another turn. I personally love this card in multiplayer games as a way to garner favor from another player by saving them. I’ll give you all a piece of insight into my habits; if I can run a Fog effect in a deck (ie, it’s available in the format and on color), I will.

All around good set of pickups

The next set of cards were what allowed me to really grow beyond 40. I was dangerously low on creature threats, so two more Mammoths and the lands to allow me to cast them, as well as more Mountains to ensure I can cast a Disintegrate when needed, were very much needed. I also made the decision that Paralyze would be the card that I’d run more than four of, since it does a lot of work vs creature heavy builds, which, let’s face it, are most of what is faced in casual A40. Stream ended up not being fantastic but is iconic, so I leave it in, but it might not make the 60 card cut.

Three staple cards

The next set of cards I picked up were a bit more strategic than others which tended to be more “those are on color and affordable”. Giant Growth is the original combat trick, and looks fantastic in Alpha printing. Stone Rain, like Stream of Life, probably won’t make the final 60 card cut as there aren’t that many problematic lands in this format, unlike Old School 93/94. Which leave Drain Life. This card, although tough because it’s basically an X spell that requires B, can be a finisher or as removal, making it a good tool for the box.

Channel + Disintegrate is online

Channel plus an X spell is basically the first combo of Magic history, so being able to pull that off is just awesome. I picked this up off a sale from Face to Face games, and still can’t believe I have it. Every time it comes up in a game, I get excited about what it can do. So far, it’s combined with Disintegrate a fair number of times, but my favorite two plays with it were:

  • Turn two Channel -> Obsianus Golem. I know it’s not a good play, but it was awesome
  • Channel in precombat main phase, play out a Throne of Bone from it, then in combat hit for lethal with Howl From Beyond

I didn’t get to play in The Winter Blast, but I did manage to get in some Alpha games between rounds with Owen, during which we were both giddy to cast Spiders and Elves and such. If I recall correctly, we went 1:1 in our first match up and had a tie breaker, but don’t recall how it panned out. I know I did Channel Disintegrate for lethal in one game, a definite highlight.

gorgeous old cards with good people

At The Tundra Wolves Challenge 2 last weekend, the only decks I brought with me were my tournament deck (Wolf Tribal, obviously) and my Alpha deck, and I was determined to get some games in. When we arrived, I immediately started asking if there were Alpha players and was immediately pointed toward a dude in the corner. I sat across from him and said “I hear you play Alpha”, and within minutes we had a 5 player free for all going. One player was even on a mono black Alpha 60 deck for the tournament! Between rounds we also managed a handful of games where some of the great lines of play included Firebreathing Grizzly Bears made unblockable by Dwarven Warriors getting in for damage, and loads of Sengirs eating creatures and players alike. I even saw a Lord of the Pit hit the board!

casual 5 player a40 game in Montreal

I don’t know what my own Alpha journey looks like at this point in time. I recently won a random ebay auction that I low bid on and ended up winning, which consisted of Fire Elemental, Fear, and Fireball, so I’m certain that the two red spells will go in, and that those three put me at 62 cards, meaning I need to cut some things and should probably look at getting another Mountain or two. I still love white, and fantasize about a Banding deck, but I know that I’d want things like Serra Angel, Disenchant, and Swords in it, all of which are a small fortune to pickup, and I really should be focusing on getting the remaining dual lands I want.

All in all, the Alpha Journey has slowed considerably, but is still moving along. Being able to play something is more important to me than playing an optimal deck, and these niche formats (such as ABU 60 and Revised 40) really go a long way towards getting suboptimal cards into decks. I am surprised to see how many people have gotten in on A40, and really need to finalize my cam setup to get more games in.