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.
Now, I’m not exactly the superstitious type, but I really hope that I’m not jinxing anything by writing this so soon. Not superstitious but absolutely optimistic and the last two nights have been full of fun, optimism, meeting new people, playing against different decks, and generally forming bonds.
When my regular playgroup first played Old School and came up with this ridiculous website idea, I had high hopes of building something in the Toronto area. It’s been slow going due to life outside of card games, so I’ve basically only played Old School with those same folks and haven’t expanded much beyond them. We’ve had 2 or 3 other people come over once or twice, and that’s about it. Don’t misread that as criticism, we play often and it’s a rad group of folks! Going back to the origins though, I found a blog post about some players in Toronto way back in 2012 playing Old School, which I discovered via the Old School MtG blog and that got me thinking that there must be more players in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) who would want to play. I’ve made some posts in the Toronto and Ontario Old School Facebook groups about getting together to play but didn’t have much uptake on those at all. Undaunted, I’ve still been trying to jam games, write the occasional post, and engage on Twitter with the fantastic #OldSchoolMtG community.
This week, I’ve had not one but two opportunities to get out and meet fellow lovers of old cardboard to play Magic! Monday night, I met up a stranger from Facebook at The Bar with No Name, a place that has regular Drafts and has a bit of a MtG theme to it, and after some quick introductions, food and drink orders were placed and we got down to it. He was on a Powered uW Flyers build whilst I started out with my Wolf Tribal deck. We played a few games, all of which he won, and then I switched over to my pet Candleflare deck for a few more games. Turns out that that deck of mine wasn’t actually a deck anymore as it had been pillaged and tweaked and as such only had 17 lands in it. Needless to say, I got run over in our four Strip Mine world, but enjoyed it nonetheless. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures that night as I was too caught up in enjoying the moment, but I wish I could have captured the sequence of two Serra Angels in play, swing for 8, Time Walk, swing for 8, because that was so good!
One of the exciting things to happen that night was having other patrons, as well as the wait staff, come over and talk to us about old cards, the format, what formats they play, and their own origins in Magic. One dude went so far as to go out to his car to retrieve some pre-Shards of Alara decks he had out there, but he never returned to show them to us.
Then Tuesday night, the stars finally aligned for a twitter friend, Owen, and I to actually get out to play! We’ve been talking about it since June-ish, iirc, but being husbands and dads means that getting out to play cards isn’t always… well, in the cards. But last night it happened. We met up at Snakes & Lattes, a local gaming bar/cafe, and we were joined by my old friend Jonesy who lives around the corner, and was able to get out despite also having a little kiddo. Dads of the Magic community unite! As with Monday night, drinks were ordered and we quickly decided to just play three person free for all, rather than having one player sit out every match. Loads of decks came out this time! I had three with me, the aforementioned two plus my White Weenie deck, Jonesy is on a Troll Disco build, and Owen had mono-black Bad Moon, mono-red Orcs and Goblins, mono-green artifacts, and a final deck that I think was UW flyers, iirc. Most of the games were really between Owen and Jonesy, although my Wolves did have a decent run vs the more controlly decks. We got to see an Ifh-Bíff Efreet do a bunch of damage to everyone, a Rocket Launcher get in for some damage, lots of Chaos Orb flips, so many Strip Mines, Guardian Beast and Disk doing their thing together, and generally see old cards having fun.
The last game of the night saw Troll Disco vs Mono Red Orcs and Goblins vs White Weenie, and it was such a wonderful showcase of Old School possibilities. My turn one was very strong, Plains, Sol Ring, Chaos Orb, and I resolved an Argivian Archaeologist on turn 2, really hoping to be able to dig up my Orb a time or two, but sadly the Archaeologist was struck down by Lightning and buried alongside the artifact they never had a chance to discover. Nonetheless, the next turn saw me resolve Shahrazad, a card that all three of us were excited to see. So, we three, all at 12-13 life, set aside that game and started the subgame. My hand was 4 Plains and some removal, so I stuck with it, despite not having any real threats. Loads of back and forth, Orcish Artillery getting in and doing some serious damage, a Mana Clash that did a combined total of 8 damage between myself and Owen, multiple Disks being cracked, an Armageddon clearing the fields only to be followed up by a Disk to completely reset the subgame. I mean, this is what Magic is really about folks. In the end, I managed to win the subgame, taking them both down to 6 life, and eventually sealed the deal with double Crusades in play.
As I mentioned above, lots of dads in the Old School world, which I find very relieving. For folks without kids, it’s not as easy to empathize and understand how fickle children can be, resulting in it being difficult to make and hold plans. Of the limited number of players I know, three of our regular players (myself included) have kids, and the two fine gentlemen I met this week also had kids, both of which were basically in the same age ranges as my own kids. I find it personally very reassuring to have a community of people who I can bond with over sweet old cards while also being able to empathize and share our stories of having children and how that alters our lives.
To bring this back full circle, we’re going to try and get a semi-regular schedule going for games here in Toronto, most likely Monday nights around 9pm, at Bar with No Name. They don’t have a lot of space or the best lighting, but for the immediate future, where I foresee our numbers being in the <8 players, it should suffice, and unlike S&L, it’s free so long as you buy food and/or drinks. Keep an eye on the site for the next dates.
Well, it’s been a busy summer of not playing nearly as much Old School as I’d have liked, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. Sometimes it’s nice to be away from our hobbies so that we can truly appreciate them. It also helps that I spent most of my summer at our Tiny Cabin out of the city with my wife and kiddos enjoying my time off from working.
Anyhow, that’s not what I’m here to write about! The other night, I did get a chance to play some cards with my regular playgroup, which is where I learned about an amazing combo. We have one regular in particular who has gone all in on getting Power and _good_ cards for the format which makes it exciting to play against him. He’s been known to run Powered Winds of Dreams combo, so that’s what I was expecting. Instead, I was greeted by a Troll Disco deck. My Gw Tribal Wolf deck was able to get under it in game one, but he was able to make up for that in game two with a ton of land destruction and generally controlling the board. I found that once he was able to land a 3 Toughness creature or two, there was little I could really do.
That lead us to game three wherein I learned a valuable lesson. Guardian Beast plus Chaos Orb is very oppressive! I had no idea that Orb would be reusable every turn. Needless to say, it was only a few turns of this before I had no board state left to speak of, and he was able to do me in with creature damage.
Let’s have a look at the interaction between these two cards. Guardian Beast’s rules are:
As long as Guardian Beast is untapped, noncreature artifacts you control can’t be enchanted,
they have indestructible, and other players can’t gain control of them.
This effect doesn’t remove Auras already attached to those artifacts.
and of course, Chaos Orb:
1, Tap: Choose a nontoken permanent on the battlefield. If Chaos Orb is on the battlefield, flip Chaos Orb onto the battlefield from a height of at least one foot. If Chaos Orb turns over completely at least once during the flip, and lands resting on the chosen permanent, destroy that permanent. Then destroy Chaos Orb.
If Chaos Orb were a modern day card, it would probably involve sacrificing it as a part of it’s activation cost, but since it does, it destroys itself, and Beast makes it indestructible, instead after the flip, it returns to the owner’s control tapped. Meaning this combo can only be used once per turn, but even that is downright cruel.
After this game, he and I were discussing it, and he sent me this link to a post on Wak-Wak about an entire deck built around this combo. Lucky for me, he only has one Beast.
A while back, I found this post from Music City Old School about mono-green budget weenie deck and was enamored with it. It runs a bunch of cheap, efficient creatures and a full set of Winter Orb to lock out the opponent while constantly having threats to drop. I played it a handful of times with my usual group as it was and then started tweaking it to my personal liking. I was pleasantly surprised when I returned to the article to see the update about removing a bunch of stuff and adding in a load of wolves. Be still, my beating heart! I’d made very similar changes once I realized that the old green wolves worked very well in the deck. I tried to get Aspect of Wolf to fit as well, but it just doesn’t work very well.
Since I played it a bunch of times, I realized that I wanted more wolves. Sadly there aren’t any other green wolves, and Master of the Hunt‘s mana cost for making hounds (with Banding!) is a nonbo with the Orbs, so I had to look elsewhere. My changes have made it much less of a budget deck, which I’m somewhat saddened by because I have a deep love of inclusive decks that can entice newbies into the format. On the plus side, the changes I’ve made were all with cards I already owned, so didn’t cost me anything. I’ve yet to test this version out, and I’m a bit worried about the mana base, but I think that it will still work out. I know that splashing in white for Disenchant and Swords to Plowshares is very cliché, but if I’m already in white for Tundra Wolves, I might as well ditch Crumble for better removal.
Having a second Berserk really helps me want to play this deck more as it’s effective as both a beater and removal in an emergency. I can’t wait to use Timber Wolves and banding shenanigans with it. I know that Tundra Wolves aren’t as powerful as Elvish Archers, but they aren’t canines, and their cmc is twice that of the former! This deck still has a very low curve, topping out at 2 cmc, so shouldn’t have problems casting spells whenever necessary, even with an Orb in play, while also running 25 creatures.
There are two minor changes that I’m thinking about making, but am unsure of what to remove to get there. The first is to run a second Ankh of Mishra to further punish my opponents for wanting to play lands. As a singleton, it’s probably not worth it and could be swapped out to make room for the second change. I think that this deck screams for some card advantage, most likely in the form of Land Tax, but possibly a Sylvan Library, although I’m reticent to freely give up life in a deck like this. Side note, it took be far too long to recognize that life is just another resource to manage, and I still have issues with it. Sideboard ideas basically turn it back into something more closely related to the Music City version, since the creatures in the mono-green list have much more utility than “12 wolves” do.
I’m going to play it as is and see how it does for a while. Gw is quite possibly my most comfortable color pairing, and this has a lot of cards that I love, so no doubt that I’ll enjoy playing it, even if it doesn’t perform super well.
It’s been a while since our last post, but that doesn’t mean that nothings been going on. Quite the contrary! We organized and played our first tournament amongst our usual play group a few weekends ago. It was a lovely afternoon here in Toronto, which means that we got to sling some spells outside. All in all, it was a fantastic day, and I think that all of the players very much enjoyed old cards, grilled/smoked foods, and plenty of beverages. Oh, and playing for the chance to win this, rather appropriate, old school prize, which we of course signed and altered as we saw fit, so as to follow the old school culture we’ve seen around. It happened to be a player’s birthday, so we figured a Candle of Brass made sense.
We wanted to keep our first tournament fairly low-key, so we didn’t bother with using technology to organize challenge brackets, no FaceBook event page to sign up on, or anything like that. Instead, we invited our friends via word of mouth, and chose the first round organically, by simply finding a friend to play and doing so. As games ended, we jotted down the outcomes from each round on a paper bag to keep score on, and invested our time in playing instead of micro-managing.
We had nine players to start with, meaning we had a bye, thus making the brackets not as clean as we’d like, but he was borrowing a deck and was mostly there to see us and play some Commander between games and afterward. The decks were pretty diverse, and do a great job of showcasing what our regulars have to brew with. Everything from budget Pink Weenie and Mono-Blue up through some Power were represented, with the winner being a very fun Naya Zoo build. Preacher plus Diamond Valley proved to be a powerful combination in this deck.
Without further ado, here are the rest of the decklists, in no particular order.
And some glory shots from the day’s activities.
Some highlights from the day:
Chris, playing mono-blue, being very taken aback that I was playing a UR deck, and then being blown away that I was playing Mirror Universe, which I successfully used to swap lives and then fireball him in the face for lethal.
I played against the mono-black Juzam deck, where I was killed on turn 4, with no chance. Turn one Juzam Djinn followed by hypnotic specter and a mind twist proved incredibly destructive!
Playing against Tristan’s UWb Control deck, I was not doing well, but got out [/c]Time Vault[/c] and Mirror Universe, thinking that I could pull off a big fireball. I decided to use Book of Rass to draw a fresh grip of cards before triggering the Time Vault, only to die in my free turn’s upkeep due to Black Vise that I’d forgotten about.
Since getting into the Old School format, I’ve thought quite a lot on my history with the game, what I like, why I continue to play, what has brought me back to it after selling out, etc. There are two main answers to these: nostalgia and friendship. I have a hunch that these are fairly universal in the Magic world on the whole, and particularly true for most of the Old School players. I’ve never been a good player, but I’ve always enjoyed playing. It’s a reason to hang out w/ friends and have some focused, social fun.
My introduction to the game was with my friend Nick, while visiting two brothers for some D&D playing while in high school. The older of the brothers was a year older than me, and had a few decks of a game called Magic the Gathering that he and his brother were figuring out how to play. We paired up, Nick and the older brother, myself w/ the younger, and proceeded to butcher the rules, and since this was around the time of Unlimited, the rules were rather handwavy anyhow. Regardless, Nick and I were hooked. We went to our local game store, The Bookery, and grabbed some starter decks. I remember opening the deck in the backseat of my mom’s car, and my first rare was a Personal Incarnation, which started my love of white cards. I tried to collect every white card available, which wasn’t very easy due to the lack of resources available around the Revised time period. But I still tried. I crammed my deck with Circles of Protection, Castle, Serra Angels, White Knights, and loads of sub-optimal cards. I had no idea about card advantage, life as a resource, or any real interaction outside of combat. Nick, however took to blue and black and quickly figured out the control archetype, which pretty much summed up my early days of playing. Since I got in at the tail end of Unlimited, and I know this is akin to sacrilege in the Old School community, white borders define Magic for me.
I remember Fallen Empires being released, and splitting a box of it, my first time ever buying a box, with Nick and another friend, Vince. At first it was exciting, but by the end of the box, it was pretty miserable. When Ice Age came out, we split a box again, and this time it was exciting! Icy Manipulator was back, Snow Lands were a thing, which meant black border basics were abundant, and there were new Starter Decks to buy. I didn’t know then that booster packs were the way to go to get good cards, so Starters were far more interesting.
Around this time, we started hitting up local tournaments around the Dayton, Ohio area, and learned about all the other cards out there. I, of course, did terribly as I played cards that I liked, and always played too few lands, whereas Nick was figuring out real strategies. He built a deck around Ornithopter, Enduring Renewal, Ashnod’s Altar, Farrelite Priest, Blessing, and trample creatures. The first time he went infinite, his opponent went berserk! He’d never seen an infinite combo either and tried to force Nick to go through the combo as many times as mana he wanted to produce, but luckily the judges were on our side. Imagine a 20+ year old man screaming and cussing out some teenage kids over a game of cards. It was amazing.
Shortly after this, I went away to university, and my cards stayed neglected in a box at my parents house. After university, I was unemployed and needed money, so I sold the collection for $300 USD and a terrible laptop. I was fine with it then, but as I look back on the cards I know I had, it saddens me. So, my journey back into Magic has involved me trying to replace the cards I miss, and I’m happy to say that I’m mostly there, except for an Angus Mackenzie and a Word of Command.
I’m fairly certain that this relationship effectively sums up a large number of players’s experiences with the game in it’s early days. I can’t count the number of people I’ve met who tell me the identical story of selling all their cards and the outcome of the conversation is either one of chasing the dragon (like me), or of incredulous disbelief at the value of some of the cards they parted ways with.
We are currently playing with the Old School 93/94 sets, including Fallen Empires, Revised, and reprint sets, but how I long to play a format that includes Ice Age so I can rebuild that Enduring Renewal combo deck.
Since the days of yore, I’ve loved Candelabra of Tawnos and have sought to play decks using it. In Legacy, I’ve built and played High Tide and 12 Post, and tried to get fun builds together using Tron Lands. Since diving into Old School, I knew that I wanted to play a deck that I can use my Candelabras in, so pairing it with Mana Flare seemed like an obvious choice. I’ve read lots of articles on various webpages about CandleFlare decks, so had some good inspiration.
What direction the deck should go, aside from red, was much less obvious. Having played High Tide in Legacy, it made sense to include blue so that I could exploit that further, as well as provide a play method that I’m already familiar with. In testing though, I’ve realized that the card draw that makes Legacy High Tide possible, in the form of Brainstorm, Ponder, and Preordain as well as the tutoring abilities of Cunning Wish and Merchant Scroll, meant I had to rethink the strategy. I could go for a Kird Ape aggro deck, with loads of artifacts, making Gauntlet of Might a fun inclusion, but at heart, I wanted it to be controlly and to win with X spells. So, I decided to remove all creatures from the possible pool, except for Mishra’s Factory because they are awesome, and allow me to dump excess mana into them to avoid mana burn.
In keeping with the Old School rule of cool, I also wanted to play cards that I like and own. Since I’m not running creatures, that means that Maze of Ith and Forcefield should be present, although possibly in the sideboard, and four Counterspells along with four Boomerangs means that I can mostly avoid problematic cards from hitting the board or staying there. Drain Power is an often underused card that I knew I wanted in there because it’ll either resolve, meaning I could get 2-3x mana from my opponent due to Mana Flares, or I suss out a counter, both of which are wins, imho. Once I’ve either tapped them out, or am fairly confident they don’t have a counter in hand, that’s when I can go all in with some X spells! Fireball, Disintegrate, and Earthquake are the main win conditions, and I back those up with two Mana Vaults to make sure I can go for lethal. The other X spells that are really fun are Mind Twist, Recall, and Braingeyser. Resolving a turn 3-4 Twist with a Flare and/or some mana rocks in play can be brutal, while the other two can be used to load my hand up with either exactly what I need from the graveyard or allow me to dig deep in the library in hopes of finding answers. Related, since I wanted Twist in there, I decided there was no reason to exclude Demonic Tutor if I’m splashing black already. This, however, leads to mana concerns…
I playtested a list a few times against my White Weenie deck, and performed horribly. I wasn’t able to get answers, card draw was way too slow, and hitting double blue for the control elements just wasn’t working. I’m trying to build this deck with cards I own, and unfortunately, I don’t have a full grip of 40 dual lands, nor do I have a playset of City of Brass, so mana fixing is tricky. Running 2x CoB, 2x Volcanic Islands, 2x Badlands, and single Underground Sea, combined with 4x Factories, a Library of Alexandria, and the necessary Strip Mine, I was running an additional 9 basics, for a total of 22 lands, which is good for Flare and High Tide, but terrible for finding answers. I managed to find two Chronicles City of Brass, making the mana base a little smoother, as long as I can avoid City in a Bottle and Blood Moon.
I think that the next iteration will include some more card draw, either in the form of Jayemdae Tome, Jalum Tome, or Howling Mine. Jalum seems to fit the red side of the deck more, acting as a semi-Faithless Looting and for less mana than Jayemdae, leaving me more able to keep mana open for counters, but the discard could be brutal. When I look at other lists, they almost always run all three blue pieces of Power, but those are not an option currently. Howling Mine is a somewhat obvious, and iconic, choice, but without Icy Manipulator or Relic Barrier to make it one-sided, it’s just as likely to kill me as it is to get me to an answer.
Long ago, in the early days of Magic, the concept of card advantage wasn’t a thing, and certainly wasn’t exploited like it is in the current formats. Ice Age introduced us to Brainstorm, a card that now dominates in any format it’s legal in, but before that, there were some competitive decks that began to understand the true power of drawing cards. Looking at an obvious example from Old School, The Deck, which runs four Jayemdae Tomes, Ancestral Recall, Timetwister, Braingeyser, and a Library of Alexandria, it’s a powerhouse of card advantage. We all know that the blue Power spells are very powerful, as is an early Library, but what about the card drawing artifacts? The main ones in the format are Howling Mine, Jayemdae Tome, Jalum Tome, and Book of Rass.
Howling Mine is the cheapest to cast, allowing for very early card draw, but it’s also reciprocal, thus speeding up your opponent as well. Lots of decks pair the Mine with Relic Barrier or Icy Manipulator to make the card advantage one-sided, but then the low cmc of Howling Mine is wasted on controlling factors. Howling Mine seems to work best in decks that punish the opponent for drawing cards with Black Vise. I’m often hesitant to cast a Mine because I don’t get the immediate benefit of it and I worry that my opponent will draw into an answer on their first use of the Mine.
Jalum Tome comes in one mana higher in cmc than the Mine, but it also requires 2 generic to draw a card, making it essentially cost 5 for that first card. Not too bad, but it has the downside of discarding a card. Since Old School doesn’t have a huge amount of graveyard recursion, this means that the user has to be much more careful with Jalum tome than with other draw mechanisms, lest they end up behind. That said, this one feels very “red” to me, and seems like a natural fit in most decks that run red. It also works well in creature heavy decks where discarding a 2nd/3rd/4th copy of a creature is less vital than in a control oriented deck where there might be less redundancy.
Jayemdae Tome is the workhorse of the format. It’s got a four cmc as well as a 4 generic activation cost, but it’s one-sided and has no additional drawbacks. Paying 8 mana to draw a card seems ludicrous when viewed through the lens of current Magic, but at the time, and thus in this format, it’s basically the bar by which all card drawing cards are judged. If a deck can afford the mana to use it, it should run it. Su-chi is also the Tome’s best friend as it translates into “when this creature dies, tap Jayemdae Tome to draw a card”, which is a really good deal. Opponents are punished by the 4/4 for 4 beater by either damage or giving you a card. Win win!
Book of Rass is a very interesting addition from The Dark that is more expensive than the others, is still one-sided, and is not a mono-artifact. The downsides to this card are numerous though; 6 cmc, 2 mana to draw a card, and lose 2 life whenever you use it! I don’t think that this card is an instant include in most decks, but for decks that have decent life gain, via cards like Ivory Tower or Spirit Link for example, could make good use of it. Another build could be one built around Mirror Universe to race yourself down to low life total so you can swap and then finish the deal more easily.
There are other card drawing artifacts that could be used, like Aladdin’s Lamp or Jandor’s Ring but neither of those are particularly playable, in my opinion. Personally, I lean more towards the two Tomes as being the most useful for most decks, while Book and Mine are both situationally better.
We’re only a couple of weeks into this whole Old School format and have played a few pickup games, and last night a few of us got together for some casual cardboard fun. We had a Naya Zoo deck, a mono-blue budget control deck, a White Weenie deck, and a BurnAtog deck in attendance and all four of them saw some play. Not enough photos were taken, nor were decklists collected, but we do have some work in progress decks to share from amongst us.
This is a fun control deck that wasn’t out last night, but shows some of the cards we are playing with, and one of the most Old School decks to show off.
This mono-blue control deck that is a work in progress makes it extremely difficult to keep a creature on the board. It very closely mimics what I remember my usual high school mtg playmate wielding to great effect vs my white decks. His use of High Tide to buff his mana pool when necessary can make the deck very explosive.
Here we have a fairly standard White Weenie deck, that includes some sub-optimal cards that highlight the fun and nostalgic value of cards over the more competitive lists. I’ve gotta say that Beta Samite Healers look fantastic!
This is a pet deck that is mostly a pile of cards that I love, and am trying to figure out how to make them work. It’s changed quite a bit from this form into a more aggro deck, but is sure to see lots of table time.