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Great Mail Day

A feature that I absolutely love is seeing all of the mail day posts on various social media outlets.  Not only does it show off cool cards, but it also gives insight into the posters’ ideas, plans, and collections.  It’s easy to get caught up in all of the deck pics with full Power and a bunch of black bordered cards and be disparaged by not having those, or feeling a pressure to play those kinds of decks.  The truth of most of the old school world is that there’s a ton of people playing Revised, Chronicles, and 4th Edition cards and having a blast doing so.  But, this post is about mail.  Specifically one package that I’ve been anxiously awaiting for some time now.

Sadly, the ink rubbed off in the envelope, but that says Anson Maddocks Art.  You see, earlier in the year, I came across a fundraiser to help out a fellow Magic player, David, whom I’ve never met, but dude was in need of assistance, and the person who organized the fundraiser had come up with some amazing incentives to donate.  Now, I’m not going to sit here and claim to be entirely altruistic, and I’m sure that loads of us see GoFundMe’s for strangers all the time and scroll passed them, but this one that Kevin had organized, well, it was different.  It wasn’t just a GFM link on FaceBook, no, it was a story about friendships and Magic, written up on a definitively old school looking website.  This spoke to me, and since I had a good job at the time, I sent over some money to these strangers and notified Kevin that I’d done so, in order to be entered into the raffle.  Well, some time passed and I’d basically forgotten about it, but then I received an email from Kevin telling me that I’d won one of the raffle prizes. Not just any raffle prize though, I won the Grand Prize, the Anson Maddocks Visa for Life! Now, I’m not an art collector, and am not overly into autographs or alters, although my opinion on the former has certainly changed over time, but I was definitely excited for this.  I’d entered this before this website existed and certainly before I had started planning any local tournaments.

The contents

That has now changed, what with The Winter Blast coming up in March, as well as some other opportunities in the works, so my mind has been filled with ways to ensure the events are successful, fun, and offer something for everyone.  Spike players will be happy to have bragging rights of winning the tournament and getting some sweet loot out of it.  We plan to reward unPowered decks and spicy decks, to help satisfy the other player types. Chaos Orb flips and another secret challenge will be ways for people to compete without having to worry about their deck/card pool/Magic Skills, so I think that activities are pretty well covered.  Now that I’ve figured out the “what to do”, it comes down to the “how to reward these things” part of planning, and since all proceeds are for charity, I want to ensure that we raise a decent amount of money.  A large chunk of the entrance fee is eaten up by renting the venue, so I’m planning on the side events to have small entrance fees that hopefully will add up to a decent amount of extra for the the Red Door Family Shelter, and this mail day is giving me good ideas.

Wooo!

I did a little research in the old school discord to see what sorts of things folks would like to see as prizes and used that as input into my acquisitions, which should be here soon. You’ll have to wait until (closer to) The Winter Blast to see them though.

Alpha 40

Alpha puppies!

There’s a relatively new kid on the old school Magic block. Well, I guess I shouldn’t say “kid” since it’s actually 25 years old, but I think it’s fair to say that there are more games of Magic happening nowadays with only Limited Edition Alpha cards than there have been since 1993.

I’m not sure how it all got started, but I have a hunch that it started as a funny thing to do, and then the internet got a hold of it and ran with it, as it is wont to do. If you know the actual history, I’d love to hear it. I know that there is the Wizard’s Tournament, first hosted in 2018 in Gothenburg, so I assume there must have been people playing it casually before that. But that was the first I heard about, so that’s my starting point.

At first, I thought it was ludicrous for most of the reasons pointed out by Magnus in the above post. However, it planted a seed. When I got back into Magic, just before Theros, I placed an order for some cards and thought “Jason, you’ve never owned an Alpha card, let’s buy one” so I picked up a Throne of Bone for three Canadian Dollars. Not a playable card, but it was cheap and Alpha. It lived in my binder as a fun thing to look at. Fast forward to 2018, when that tiny Alpha seed was planted and I realized that I’m 1/39th of the way towards an Alpha deck, and so it began.

my first alpha pickups

Anyone who is into Old School, or really any niche collectors even outside of CCGs, will tell you that the hunt is a huge part of the fun. It’s why collectors often sell the things they hunted; once they have it, it’s less interesting, so they’re soon after the next thing. Now, I have no intentions on selling my Alpha cards anytime soon, but damn if the hunt isn’t exhilarating! Granted, it’s easy nowadays to go to any online retailer, add some cards to your cart, enter your credit card details and buy all the things, but that’s not totally fun. Since I didn’t want to break the bank on an Alpha deck, I used a lot of store credit and also hunted for good deals on beat up cards.

Initially, I planned to go mono-black so as to maximize my returns on the Throne, but as I started looking at sweet cards, and thinking back to my early days with Unlimited and Revised, I realized that what I really wanted was a deck that wasn’t quite “cracked a starter deck, cut it down to 40, let’s rock” level, but also no “I bought 18 dual lands, let’s rock” level either. Some happy medium that’s akin to having bought a deck and maybe a few packs, or traded some cards to get a little more consistency out of the deck. Surprisingly, I eschewed my favorite color, White, while unsurprisingly ignored Blue (Islands are expensive!), which left me with RBG. These are three colors that I’m pretty comfortable with and have loads of options. But before that conscious decision was made, I was at a somewhat local card shop and found a beat up Alpha Giant Spider for $2 Canadian and had to have it. That’s how I ended up with Green in my mono-Black deck. As for Red, similarly, I saw someone selling some Disintegrates for cheap, so I scooped those and my RBG deck was born!

initial incarnation

It took me close to 8 months to get to a complete forty card deck, and it’s been absolutely worth it. Due to a strange ebay/shipping/tracking mistake, and my impatience (in my defense I waited more than 60 days before giving up on the card arriving) I ended up with two Alpha Timber Wolves, that bring me smiles and joy every single time I draw them. But enough about the individual cards.

Very first hand

How is playing Alpha 40, you might ask? Plain and simple, it’s a blast. My first games came over winter holiday while in Ohio. I’d made a joke in Discord to someone about “if you can make it to Dayton, Ohio, we can play!” because I didn’t have a laptop with me. Someone else chimed in that they were in fact in that city and would like to play. One night after the kids were in bed, I went out to a LGS and met up with Tylur and his buddy to play some games. I somehow managed to leave the country without my actual old school deck, but had my Alpha 40 with me, so that’s mostly what we played. Let me tell you, facing down Craw Wurms or hordes of Ironclaw Orcs is intimidating in a format where there aren’t really archetypes and answers aren’t necessarily easy to come by. That night, I learned that Fear is a real card, when my T1 Scryb Sprites, which I enchanted on T3, went the entire distance doing 20 damage to my opponent, who was on a mono-green build, with a wall of useless Giant Spiders.

Did not go well for me

The next time I played was at the first Monday Meetup of the year. I got smoked. My opponent has a gorgeous, and lethal deck that is basically a Pink Sligh variant that has 8 Savannah Lions, some similar number of Ironclaw Orcs, Crusades, Swords to Plowshares, Bolt, Fireball, and Disenchants. It’s a thing to behold, and immensely powerful. I think we played 5 games and I didn’t land a single point of damage, and I loved every single game. My opponent was even awesome enough to offer to trade decks for a game so I could pilot it. That’s the real spirit of Magic.

swapped decks

To wrap this all up, Alpha 40 is very expensive, so it deviates quite far from my personal views of “play what you’ve got and have fun”, but there is something special about it. I foresee more economical variants becoming much more commonplace in the coming months, and welcome them with open arms.

Magic as Garfield Intended

Badlands and Good Trades

Editor’s Note: The next Monday Meetup is this Monday, 14 January. Yes, that means back to back Old School, and it means that some folks who work Mondays can now make it.

Our first meetup of the year we decided to explicitly focus on trading, and it did not disappoint. It seems like Mondays are going to settle at around 12 people, which is a nice number, but unfortunately for us, The Bar With No Name was busy last night, so we weren’t all able to get seats right away. No matter though as browsing binders while standing up is easy enough. On to the trades!

Someone picked up some great cards!

I don’t know exact numbers or versions or even what all was traded, but from talking to folks who were present, and my own experiences, the trading was pretty hot. I know that in addition to the above sweet haul, 2 CE and one Revised Badlands exchanged hands, as did a Mirror Universe and some Mana Vaults, with a Yotian Soldier to seal a deal! There were some Tron Lands, and Alpha Fog, Beta Regrowth, and Unlimited White Knights exchanging hands as well. If my Beta Forcefields were in better condition, I might have walked out of the night with a CE Black Lotus, but they were both in the Good range instead of VG, which would have made it possible. Gotta say, even though the trade didn’t happen, it was a thrilling conversation to have.

completed Badlands and Mana Vault playsets, and Soldiers are so underplayed!
Spare Tron lands got me this beauty. Fog is my style.

In addition to the binders being passed around, we did have time to get in a lot of games. I had enough time to play 3 different opponents, starting the night off w/ Alpha 40 and finishing up with Old School Swedish B&R Tron. I’m liking single Strip Mine more and more as time goes on. I started off as a proponent of 4 Strip, mostly because I have a lot of fancy real estate and I want to make sure opponents have a chance to respond to them, but it appears that that’s not as large a concern as I initially thought it would be. A separate Alpha 40 post is forthcoming, but as for the old school games, Arboria/Island Sanctuary Millstone deck didn’t get me this week as I was able to land a Rocket Launcher, but then I got smoked by an Underworld Dreams deck.

And a reminder to sign up for The Winter Blast soon so that I know how many people to expect, currently at 28 out of 48 spots. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Trading Day: 7 Jan 2019

Editor’s Note: Huge shout out/thanks to John Little, http://littlejohnart.com for designing the new banner for the site!  Support your artist friends.

It’s 2019, the holidays are largely behind us now, and we’re looking forward to all that the new year has in store for us. But that’s for another day. Today, I want to talk a bit about trading.

A huge part of the original experience in the early days was “how do I get the cards I want?”. No internet. No ebay. No pucatrade. No online retailers at all.  In small town Ohio, there weren’t many shops selling singles, so the most common way to get specific cards was to trade for them.  At the time, I didn’t even realize that Scrye had prices in them, afterall, why would I buy a magazine when I could use that same money on packs?  With no real idea of the monetary value of cards, trading was a dark art that came down to gut feel, what you’d heard about various cards, how badly you needed the card, and how little you cared about the cards you were trading away.  I remember trading Vesuvan Doppelgangers for Righteousnesses and Castles and being very happy that I could turtle even better.  Now, I’m not going to say that we should all trade for what we want without considering the values of the cards, but I do genuinely miss that simplicity and excitement.

What I am suggesting is that for our first game night of 2019, on 7 January I think that it would be fun for all of us Toronto folks to bring along our trade binders and see if we can all spread some joy as well as get some cool cards for our own collections while we’re at it.  Personally, I know that I have more than a handful of cards kicking around that would be better spent in someone’s deck than languishing in my binder/box.

The schedule for 2019 is still up in the air a bit, but I don’t want to waste any time getting us all back in the same room, playing cards, building bonds, and casting fun spells.

It May Be Winter But These Deserts Are Hot

Last night we had our usual Monday Meetup, and it did not fail to be a wonderful evening.  When I first arrived, there were already 4 people playing, a fifth watching, myself, and before we knew it there were around 14 of us chatting, slinging spells, checking out binders, and having fun.  I was a touch worried as one of our usual tables, a four top, was occupied by people playing Cards Against Humanity, which although fun, isn’t Magic.  Lucky for us, they had to leave about 30 minutes after we arrived, so we got settled in to play.

I’ve been pondering what I’d like to play at The Winter Blast in March, so I decided to brew up something that’s full of cards I like.  Generally speaking, cards I like tend to be lands, and in particular, I’ve always loved Urza’s lands and Desert, so I decided to go mono-brown and see how it goes.

Overall, the deck does a lot of fun things, but it certainly isn’t a competitive winner. I found the Winter Orbs generally hurt me more than my opponent so were often dead in had.  I initially had a City in a Bottle mainboard, but casting it and killing my own Desert bummed me out, so I swapped it for a Relic Barrier.  This proved pretty solid as I used it to control opponent’s moxen and Sol Rings throughout the night.  Some highlights of it were:

  • Rocket Launcher for lethal
  • Turn 1 Juggernaut taking someone down to 5 before they could respond
  • Desert to hold back hordes of Lions
  • Getting 4 Deserts on board in a single game!
  • Drawing into natural Tron two or three times
  • Only 6 cards are outside the Swedish B&R

I, of course, didn’t get any pictures of my games as I was too busy playing and talking.  We had 4 newcomers who I’m fairly certain will be regulars, and I made sure to promote The Winter Blast tournament with everyone so that we can get more people registered. I did however get a picture of this while it was happening:

On the left is a 60 card Alpha deck, in penny sleeves, that was beating up on the UR deck w/ that Elf and causing so much frustration that the UR player took Control of it!  The Alpha player proceeded to top deck another Elf, just to add insult to injury.  I can’t wait until January (my remaining 6 or so cards are waiting for me in Ohio, where I’m visiting over the holidays) to play some Alpha 40 against this deck.

We also briefly discussed what to do about our next meetup, which would be on 17 Dec and initially said to cancel it and restart in the new year, but upon looking at schedules and such, we realized that it’s fine, so it’s business as usual for the next meetup.

Around the World

While I’ve been working on The Winter Blast, I’ve spoken to some other organizers and been paying more attention to the Old School world on the whole a lot more closely.  I know that we are relative newcomers to the community, and as such we have a lot of privilege since so much ground work was already laid, however, there are still a lot of awesome things going on, and I’m hoping to help spread that groundwork some more.  Today, I want to highlight some that I absolutely love.

First up is the Lords of the Pit’s map of Old School groups around North America. It’s been so much fun to see it evolve and notice new groups showing up, and being able to visualize where there are scenes happening. I know that it’s by no means definitive, but it is very handy.

Next up is this rad chart that MTGAlphaCastle linked on twitter as an easy way to know the differences in all of the major Old School flavors.  Getting in a quick Skype match before work and your opponent says JK rules? Now you know what that means!

The last one that I want to mention, which was also the impetus for me posting is the global old school mtg event calendar.  I first noticed it as a sidebar on the old school subreddit and immediately added it to my Google Calendar.  With this in hand, I was better able to try to schedule The Winter Blast without interfering too much with other events going on both locally and globally, you know, in case any of you want to fly in and jam with us *hint*hint*

Hark! A Tournament.

Behind the scenes here at geocitiesofbrass, along with working to foster and nurture a thriving Toronto Old School/MTGUnderground community, we’ve been working towards something a little larger.  At last night’s Monday Meetup, we debuted our plans for the first ever Winter Blast!  What is a Winter Blast? you might ask.  Well, it’s basically a day for Old School players from all around to get together, have a tournament, do some silly side events, buy and trade cards, and raise some money for charity.

So, without further ado, http://thewinterblast.ca or you can click on the Winter Blast 2019 link above.   We hope to see a bunch of our regulars and ideally get some new faces out, and maybe even entice some out of towners to come and jam with us.  It’s scheduled as an all day Saturday sort of thing, but it won’t be difficult to organize some casual side events for Friday/Sunday somewhere in town as well.

Invading the Bay

Note, I’m terrible at remembering peoples’ names, and even though I went into this night with the intent of taking loads of pictures and writing down names for each match, well, neither of those really happened.  The entire night happened so quickly that taking out my notebook didn’t even cross my mind.  I’m also certain that I’m missing at least one match in here, but again, I can’t recall what it was.

I’m fortunate enough in life that I was able to take the summer to spend time with my kiddos and to free up my wife’s time a bit more to focus on her business.  It was fantastic, but it had to end eventually.  Job hunting began in early September, resulting in a company wanting to fly me out to their office in San Francisco towards the end of that month.  I was excited for the job opportunity as well as the possibility of meeting up with the iconic Beasts of the Bay while out that direction.  Well, it didn’t work out on that trip, but it turns out that I got the job and was flown down again in October to do some training, and this time, I made it out for one of the Beasts’ regular Monday night meetups.  Was not disappointed.

I prepared for the trip mostly by contacting folks on twitter to get a good idea of the lay of the land.  Elliot offered me a ride from SF to the bar, but since Monday was literally my first day of work, I was unsure of when I’d realistically get out of the office, so I opted to take CalTrain up and grab a ride share to the bar.  As luck would have it, Dave Firth Bard, aka DFB, was also in town for the week, meaning that I got to meet a lot of rad people that night.  I arrived at the bar around 7:30pm, a bit later than I’d have preferred, but the site that greeted me made it all worthwhile.  There were ~20 people playing Old School!  I got to chatting with some of the regulars and learned that 20 is almost guaranteed and that they have meets that have over 30 people fairly often.  This made me very happy.

Anyhow, I arrived and was quickly ushered to a table where a game just finished, pulled out a deck and got down to it.  I decided to start the night out with my Candleflare deck, which fared poorly.  In one match I was taken down by a Primordial Ooze, in a Juxtapose deck, where I never saw a Juxtapose played in 3+ games! note that this deck went on to place in top 10 most creative at Eternal Weekend! I did manage to get one win in, because my opponent got greedy w/ Sylvan Library, bringing his life down a bit, and the combination of [/c]Mana Drain[/c]ing him, then getting to untap and cast a Fireball for lethal was pretty great. Very fun chatting with the other players and seeing so much nice old cardboard being played.  Next up I played against DFB’s Spice Rack variant.  Holy shit, that deck is so fast and difficult to handle.  I decided to switch over to my Wolf Tribe deck to try and get under him, which came closer to working, but I still went 0-3, iirc.  Fascinating to see how that deck plays out though.  We all know how good Hippies are, but when combined w/ The Rack, Disrupting Scepter, and of course Hymn, this just gets away from you.  Despite being crushed multiple times, I very much enjoyed the games and the company.  During every game, there’d be a couple people taking breaks who would come over, introduce themselves, talk about cool tech, and generally be welcoming and inviting.

I still had some time before my ride back to SF was leaving, meaning that I of course found a new opponent.  He was on a ponza/zoo list that was omg brutal.  In one game he got two Strip Mine‘s and two Ice Storm‘s AND a Mind Twist at me in rapid succession.  Despite my Wolves curving out at 2, I couldn’t get anything to stick.  I believe that I won one game out of three by going wide enough with Wolves to chip him to death.

After that, Elliot was kind enough to drive me back to SF. Well, actually, we were so engrossed in conversation that by the time they asked where I was staying, we’d passed the exit, so we ended up near his place and me just catching BART back to the hotel.  The alone time on transit gave me plenty of time to process just how much of a fun night it had been.  Sweet cards, some awesome swag, fun games, but the thing that really hit me was how welcoming, friendly, and eager folks were.  I’ve been to a few MtG events in my day, and finding pick up games is usually an awkward process of trying to initiate conversation, hoping they play the same format as you, and hopefully at a similar tier.  Not here. Show up, people greeted me and basically forced me into games.  Now that I think about it though, I played someone before I played the Juxtapose deck, and it involved a Spirit Linked Guardian Beast, but I can’t recall anything else about that matchup, but here’s a pic of it.

I also was given some lovely swag by the Beasts as well as DFB, once again cementing just how awesome the Old School community really is.

If You Play Your Cards Right

Last night, Monday 5 October, a group of strangers (well, some friends as well) met up at Bar With No Name here in Toronto to play with 25 year old cardboard.  Leading up to it, I was worried that people wouldn’t show up or that too many people would show up for the space.  We were lucky in that the bar was pretty quiet when we arrived, so we were able to carve out five tables for the ten of us to play.

I arrived to see my friend Chris already hanging out with a fellow old schooler, Joel, so I joined them and chatted for a few.  The few became more, and it soon became evident that it was time to claim our tables, order some food and drinks, and get things going.  In total, we had 9 players and a spectator, with 3 of them being total strangers who heard about it via DaveFirthBard‘s Reddit grooming, posting in FaceBook groups and of course twitter, whilst the others were from my regular playgroup.   I have to say that having your friends show up for you and be present when you’re expanding beyond the usual comfort zone is pretty amazing and went a long way towards making it such a good night.  Unfortunately, I only had the chance to play against one of the new people, who builds mostly Swedish legal decks, so they were gorgeous.  A UW flyers list, complete with Alpha Serra Angels (!) and a Moat, which caught it’s demise on camera.

Retribution came swiftly though as I believe I lost all of these matches and then faced off against his Atog deck, where I recall being hit in the face multiple times by Orcish Mechanics hurling artifacts at me.  They are quite reactionary, those Orcs.

snap keep!

We basically closed out the bar, meaning we played for fiveish hours and I’m pretty sure we treated the bar staff pretty well while we were at it.  It wasn’t all games though as a lot of us voiced opinions on when we can do it again, how often, where at, what rules, etc.  It seemed like Monday nights were pretty decent for most people (sorry Joel’s board game night!), so we’re going to go with every other Monday, 8:30 pm, Bar With No Name, until we outgrow their space.

I want to thank all of you who came out, shared trade binders, waxed nostalgic on old cards, and contributed to figuring out what we want to do up here in the North.  A huge thanks goes out to Joel for literally giving me the playmat from under his cards, and not just any playmat.  Pictured w/ a beautiful Sorcerous Queen I picked up in exchange for the Strip Mine.

And finally, here are a couple of other pics from the night:

getting down to business

 
Atog on Atog

 
Seems decent

 
Flyers! Why’s it always gotta be flyers?

 

PS: Next meetup will be 19 Nov, 8:30pm at The Bar With No Name as shown on our new calendar page!

Bands with other Torontonians


I’m tapping my Helm of Chatzuk to band with some other locals to play the best kind of Magic!

In continuing to try and grow the Toronto Old School scene, I’m publicly announcing that 5 November, 2018, around 8:30pm, some of us will be meeting up at Bar With No Name, located at 1651 Bloor Street West in Toronto. If you have questions, the easiest way to get at me is on twitter as @jasonious.

I’m hoping there’s enough space available for us to take over a few tables and play some games. I’d love to discuss other locations with people who are interested, as BWNN isn’t huge, and with it being cold and wet out, their patio is closed.

Generally speaking, we’ve been playing Eternal Central rules (reprints allowed, 4 Strips, etc) but are open to other formats. In the interest of growing the community, if you are interested at all but your deck doesn’t meet these rules, show up anyhow! Playing games is more important than dogmatic adherence to “rules” in a completely unsanctioned, house rules type of format like Old School.