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.

The Winter Blast 2019 Wrap Up

Editor’s note, this is very image heavy and quite a long read. Probably should have split it up, but here we are. Also, I forgot to get a group photo and a photo of the winner 🙁


Well, it’s been a few weeks since the first Winter Blast occurred, and this post is far later than I’d originally planned, but thanks to Joel, at least we were able to give some insight into the experience before now. I’ll start off with some of my own thoughts and experiences as the organizer and then get into decks and standings.

my card from the pool

Leading up to the Saturday, I had a laundry list of things to cross off before go time, and I think that I did a reasonable job of getting most of them taken care of. One big wrench in the operation was going to San Fran for a week for work, one week before the big day, which meant missing the meeting to finish paying for the space, meaning I had to frantically call and hope that I could pay later or send someone else to pay. The venue only takes cash and checks; very not 21st century. I am not good at delegating, unless they are things completely outside of my wheelhouse, or are things I know a specific person will enjoy, such as Chris making the awesome 93/94 Spotify Playlist (and indulging me in some heavy, less accessible stuff I wanted on there). This meant doing loads of things on my own, and the most important one was making certain that I’d secured the prizes ahead of time. Face to Face Toronto had generously offered to donate the prizes, but working out a time for two parents who also work full time and live/work on opposite ends of Toronto to meetup proved very difficult, resulting in this being a Thursday-before-the-event meeting. It all worked out fantastically though as Kelly was amazingly generous and just kept pulling cool cards and adding them to the pile. At one point, he asked me if some card would be a good prize, and I stepped back and said “at this point, Kelly, it’s whatever you are comfortable throwing in” because we’d already fulfilled every card I had on my list.

Jason Rombouts made these amazing Chaos Orb height checkers/table numbers

Saturday morning, we arrived at 10am to get setup, and the venue finally let us in around 10:15. We had to scramble to find enough tables, which was a bit of an issue. I was assured there’d be plenty, but once everything was set up, we had room for 6 more people at a table, and that was it. No big deal though. Friends were there helping get everything ready, and I forgot the prize cards, so I had to drive home in a very dangerously slippery snowfall to grab them, about 30 minutes before go-time. We got started about 40 minutes later than I’d wanted, which ended up crunching the day a lot, and we somehow missed one registrant in the pairings, so I dropped and gave him my spot. Definitely for the best as I don’t see how I could have played and kept things rolling.

Scribbled’em up real purdy like

After round one, we had all of the community prize pool cards laid out for people to sign, and all of the raffle prizes out and on display. During round 3 we ordered pizza (thanks to Jae for organizing that, Kelly for buying, and players for donating money), which was eaten after round 4, iirc. We also had the Chaos Orb flip contest that was a load of fun. In order to streamline it, we set up 4 stations on a table and had people come up, hand over their money, and start flipping. When they missed, the next person in the queue came up, paid and got started. The prize was a Revised Tropical Island, and the winner was Joel. It took him 3 entries to finally get past the 17 hump, but he got there.

Joel with his Chaos Orb flip winnings

We also had a “guess the card” contest, that I completely failed to take photos of, that involved 16 old school cards placed backwards in dark sleeves w/ small windows cut out of the sleeves to reveal bits of the card. This one had a tie, so I had to think quickly, and decided to have the two finalists write down the artists for all 16 cards, which was very close, but Morgan pulled off the win by a single artist. He took home a Presence of the Master and a signed Anson Maddocks’ art print of Serendib Efreet.

prizes w/ a terrible glare

Next up we had the raffle drawing that was super hot. People were very into the donated prizes, with the Chaos Orb mat being a fan favorite.

Tedin and Maddocks early MTG poster
Signed Anson Hurloon Minotaur print, LE Signed Chaos Orb playmat
CE Serra Angel, UNL Icy, Signed Anson Lannowar print
Cyclopean mummy LE print and signed artist proof

Round 6, the final round of Swiss, was finally upon us and there were was a single 5-0-0 and several 4-1-0 players vying for the win. A huge upset, which required a Judge ruling (seriously Brendan?!?) resulted in 4-1-0 Brendan defeating the undefeated Joe, but the victory was short lived as Joe had a better record and still came out on top.

The final standings

And then came the moment everyone was waiting for; the prizes. First up, we had prizes for the spiciest decks, which consisted of an altered Shai Hulud, I mean Elder Land Wurm, that went to Owen for his super rad all Legends deck, and a CE Hurricane that went to Beverly for a creative mono-green Thallid deck that went so wide! We did a sufficient job of making the community pool prizes beyond valuable for those who participated, as well as provided some other wonderful cards. The way I arranged it was starting at the bottom, each player was called to come to the table and choose one signed card and one prize card, which meant that everyone had something pretty cool, and thanks to the generosity of Face to Face, we had more than enough cards for everyone, so even the top placed players got some decent cards, imho.

The spice must flow

Decklists in semi-random order

Andrew Ruschpler – Black Rack
James Everson – RB
Jon Teigesser – Dreams Combo
Joe Schacher – Sweet Void Control
Morgan Criger – Black on Both Sides
James Duncan – The Deck
Beverly Strain – Thallids
Eric Do – Thrull Disco
Jeff Follett – Erhnam-Burnem
John Little – Mono Black
Andrew Donut Boy Oyen – Jeskai Aggro
Matt Michels – Mono Black
Micah Bates – GB
Dave Lee – Troll Aggro
Nate Campbell – Suicide Blue Black
Joe DiClemente – White Weenie
James Flanagan – Red Sligh
Louis Emond – Spider Stompy
Patrick Burt – Nether Reanimator
Owen Fletcher – Legends of the Hidden Temple – Karakas
Jeff Rowbotrom – Rowbots
Tony Van Veen – Pink Weenie
Chris Suppa – Arboria Mill
Chris Anderson – UWb
Christian Brellisford – Panic at the Disco
Rick Blaschke – Mono Black
Karthik Sundaresan – 4C Aggro Control
Raymond Mitchell – ‘Geddonless ‘Geddon
Joel Bowers – White Weenie
Paolo Vago – Green ‘zerk
John O’Keefe – Miami Vise
Tristan Bates – ATOG ATOG ATOG ATOG
Derek Shank – UWR Control
Jason Pilarski – Robots
Jackie Reed – White Weenie
Aaron Bowers – Channel Fireball
Josh Jones – Petri Dish
Nick Chen – 4C Zoo
Barry Foss
Brendan Yeats – Pink Weenie
Jason Rombouts – Zoo

Winter Blast #1 Tournament Report

This past Saturday we had the first big Toronto 93/94 tournament, the Winter Blast

To help thank Jason for putting the tournament together, I decided to write an old school style tournament report for this website about my experience at the tournament and how my matches went.

My brother Aaron came out from the far west (Hamilton) to join me in the tournament. I will briefly explain what happened to him as well where possible. Aaron got to my place around 11AM, and we immediately headed out to the tournament site at the Polish Combatant’s Hall. The venue was truly perfect for the event. There was plenty of table space as well as room to move around, and space for a bar and a card vendor

Aaron hadn’t actually seen his deck in person before that morning, so we grabbed the first beer of the day and settled in for a practice match before Round 1. 

For this event I decided to run my old standby, White Weenie, which I was clearly overconfident about. Aaron was running my Channel Fireball / Ball Lightning / Berserk deck, which is about as good as rolling a dice. I have seen that deck do absolutely nothing over several games, and I have seen it Channel-Fireball out and win on turn 2 before. It’s very unpredictable, but fun to play.

Here’s the White Weenie deck as it was the night before the tournament (sorry it’s squished, there were a lot of decks on that table):

Here’s the Channel Fireball deck as it was the night before the tournament:

We also managed to borrow two more Taigas on the morning of the tournament from Jason, so that helped the consistency of Aaron’s deck a little bit. Thanks again Jason.

Round 1 – Joel v. Derek (UWR Zoo?)

Game 1

Derek and myself started out strong by both mulliganing twice and going down to 6 cards. editor’s note, we allowed 1 free mulligan, then began the familiar -1 card and scry method.

I won the play and managed to play a few creatures and a Crusade, but around Turn 3 or 4 they all died to Lotus-Earthquake. Derek played some post-quake Savannah Lions which ended up being boosted by my Crusade. He attacked with the Lions for a couple of turns alongside a Serendib for the win.

Game 2

Derek found a Library of Alexandria in his opening hand on the draw and started drawing two cards each turn, which was not ideal for me. Through these extra cards he was able to deal with all my threats with either Lightning Bolts or Swords. Eventually he played a few spells at once and cast Timetwister to reload, topping up my hand again. Thanks to the Timetwister I was able to stick a few creatures at once, putting up a bit of an offensive. However, Derek followed up with another Earthquake, clearing my board again. From there he was easily able to burn me out.

Aaron played Jonesy on Land Equilibrium and got totally destroyed. Jonesy’s deck is both a monster and not a good matchup for Aaron, who is trying to work up to RRR to cast Ball Lightning. I was glad they got a game in since Jonesy is a regular at the Monday Bar with No Name meetups.

Joel 0-2
Aaron 0-2

Not a great start, but we grabbed another beer and settled in for Round 2.

Round 2 – Joel v. John (Mono Black)

It was comforting to see a familiar face at the table after getting beat up by a stranger in Round 1. I had played John plenty of times before at the bar with relative success, but we normally never bothered side-boarding…

Game 1

I was able to stick some Protection from Black creatures, which are super hard to block if you are playing mono black. John couldn’t keep up with those.

Game 2

John was able to stick Gloom, and I couldn’t cast any spells. Uh-oh.

Game 3

John was able to stick Gloom, and I couldn’t cast any spells.

Aaron played Dave on Troll Disco and was successful. Good for him! Dave is also a regular at the Monday meetups.

Joel 0-2, 1-2
Aaron 0-2, 2-1

We grabbed a celebration beer for Aaron and a consolation beer for me, and settled in for Round 3. I wasn’t winning rounds but was having a pretty good time losing, and was happy to officially join the “Beer Bracket”.

Round 3 – Joel v. Dave (Troll Disco)

Game 1 

I’m not entirely sure, but I vaguely remember a Disk blowing up and killing a lot of Lions and Crusades.

Game 2

Dave was able to stick Gloom. A few turns went by and I was just about to 5 mana Disenchant it. Instead, Dave was able to resolve another Gloom right before he passed the turn, and I did not have time to get to 8 mana.

I knew I always did a terrible job of side-boarding at the bar, but somehow I didn’t see this much Gloom action coming.

Aaron played against Patrick, who I don’t know. He was victorious again! Great job buddy.

Joel 0-2, 1-2, 0-2
Aaron 0-2, 2-1, 2-1

After Round 3 it was time for the Chaos Orb challenge, which thankfully was the flipping point of the day for me. The flags really helped with the correct height both during the contest and during matches all day. They were a fantastic idea, and every old school meetup should have a couple. Thanks J!

On my first attempt at flipping I ended up with 17 hits, which I was happy with. That was the record for a short while. Jeff was able to beat my record at 18 hits, so I decided to retry. On my second attempt I hit 17 again, which I thought was kind of funny, but I was pretty sure I could do better. I tried again and was able to get up to 18, which prompted a flip-off!

Here’s a video of my last 3 flips and missing #19:

The flip-off was short lived. I hit my first flip, and Jeff unfortunately did not.  I emerged victorious, taking home a nice Tropical Island from Face to Face and a giant Chaos Orb from Jae. Thanks guys!

The Tropical Island was a super convenient prize as I had just traded two away to Jonesy for the Land Equilibrium deck he was using at this event, and I was looking to replace them.

We grabbed another beer and settled in for Round 4, where my luck continued to improve.

Round 4Joel v. Louis (Green Weenie)

Game 1 

Louis played a bunch of early creatures, mostly Elves, Pixies, and Sprites, getting an early lead on the life point totals. I was able to slowly pick off his creatures in combat since Louis was trying to keep the pressure on, but unfortunately for his team, most of my team has First Strike.

Game 2

My First Striking creatures got blown out a couple of times by Louis’ Giant Growths, and I eventually got run over by Pixies!

Game 3

I was able to play a couple of creatures on Turn 1 and Turn 2, and stick a Jihad for Green on Turn 3. The buffs were too strong for the little green guys to deal with and Louis got run over by Thunder Spirits.

Aaron played Matt, another regular from the Monday meetups! I thought it was really cool how he was getting the full Bar with No Name experience. Well, almost.

Joel 0-2, 1-2, 0-2, 2-1
Aaron 0-2, 2-1, 2-1, 1-2

It was time for the Art Trivia contest. I gave it a shot for fun but did not advance to Round 2. The challenge was pretty tough, and got even tougher for the two finalists who had to name the artists! Morgan from the Monday meetups was one of the finalists, but I forget if he won. editor’s note, he did!

Round 5 – Joel v. James (Goblins)

Game 1

James did not seem to be having very good luck. He started out playing a couple of Goblins, and a King, but I was able to Swords the King during combat and effectively take out the rest of his team with my blockers and a Javelin. The freshly unburdened Javelineers then got pumped up by a couple of Crusades. They were backed up by a Knight and were able to attack for the win.

Game 2

I had a great draw with Mox Pearl, three Thunder Spirits, two Plains, and a Crusade. That went well.

We played a third game for fun because James was happy I wasn’t playing a crazy combo deck, which I suppose he had just run into a bunch of.

Aaron played J, another guy from the bar, and was victorious. Funny the way that kept working out.

Joel 0-2, 1-2, 0-2, 2-1, 2-0
Aaron 0-2, 2-1, 2-1, 1-2, 2-0

We grabbed another beer and settled in for the final round!

Round 6 – Joel v. Jon (Dreams Combo)

Game 1

Jon played a couple of early Black Vises on the play, doing lots of damage quickly. I was able to stabilize by dumping my hand in a couple of turns and running him over with weenies.

Game 2

I believe this last game was the closest and best one I had all day. Jon had the early Black Vises again, along with an Underworld Dreams this time. The Vises took me to 1, and I was about to die to an Underworld Dreams in my draw phase, but I had the Disenchant. After the Dreams was cleared I was able to keep my hand size under 5 while I played out some creatures, and eventually attacked for the win.

I accidentally picked up Jon’s deck box at the end of the match since it was a purple Ultimate Guard box, just like mine. We figured it out though. Sorry about that Jon!

Aaron played Micah, another guy from the bar, and lost this time. Another land destruction deck, which is probably his worst matchup. Overall there was more land destruction than I expected, but my deck doesn’t really care about that too much. 

Final Standings: 

Joel 0-2, 1-2, 0-2, 2-1, 2-0, 2-0
Aaron 0-2, 2-1, 2-1, 1-2, 2-0, 0-2

We both ended up 3 and 3. Ah well, you win some, you lose some.

After my match finished, Brendan was finishing off his match against Joe for the trophy, which I decided to go watch. He ended up being out of beer though so I went to the bar and bought him one to support the team. Brendan ended up winning the battle but not the war. Since Brendan won over Joe in 2 games instead of 1, Joe had the better tiebreakers and ended up being the first Winter Blast champion!

Overall, it was a fantastic day. I’m already looking forward to the next one in Montreal. I don’t think the event could have gone much more smoothly, especially for the first large event. Everyone had a bunch of fun, and we raised a bunch of money for a good cause. Thanks again for all your hard work Jason!

Media Promos in Old School

Editor’s note: There’s recently been some more sleuthing and it was pointed out that the copyright on the Windseeker Centaur is 1995, which explains why it’s not actually legal in 93/94, despite the book being available in 1994. According to a post to an mtg usenet group in January 1995, people had not received the cards yet as they were still with Carta Mundi.
So I guess that makes it pretty officially not-93/94 playable.

Over in the Old School Discord, one of the players posted a Dragon themed deck that includes Nalathni Dragon and we started discussing the various media promos of the era. I mentioned Windseeker Centaur, a card they’d not heard of, leading me to dig into it a bit more. I thought it was printed in 1996, so certainly not Old School Legal, but lo-and-behold it was actually printed in November 1994!

pic from bugdoodles tumblr

Reading the rules as published by Eternal Central, they clearly omit this sweet red, vigilant, Centaur, while the Swedes full on explicitly state that it’s not allowed. According to MTG Gamepedia, Windseeker Centaur was the first Centaur, and was included as an insert in the novel Whispering Woods, which has a publication date of 1994 November, leading me to believe that this card should be legal, alongside Arena, Nalathni Dragon, and Sewers of Estwark. I have no idea why it’s omitted and not allowed in the two most popular rulesets, but it seems odd to me.

Personally, I could see the Centaur doing pretty well in a Big Red or Zoo deck. A 2/2 Vigilant for 1RR isn’t terrible for the format, and given the general power level of most creatures in old school, it seems fairly on curve. The double red is a bit rough, not not terrible to build around.

Not sure if that’s a flail or a decorative sphere on the spear, but it’s awesome

The art on this card is pretty great, as is to be expected of Anson Maddocks. I particularly appreciate that it’s a female warrior wearing not overly sexualized armor that looks mostly practical. I mean, the obvious breast cups are still strange, but are a very common trope in fantasy art (how else would we know this warrior is a female? :eyeroll:), and are still better than chain mail bikinis and exposed skin that is rife in the fantasy art world. Unrelated to Magic, but I recently read this fantastic post about how revolutionary Warhammer was in it’s early years when compared to the rest of its scifi/fantasy contemporaries, so this sort of art observation has been on my mind. I know that the original designers of Magic worked hard to desexualize women and to be inclusive of persons of color (although I can no longer find the specific article about this era), which I greatly appreciate, and feel like it deserves more attention than it usually gets, but that’s outside of the depth of this post. Back to the look of the card, these media promos were printed with similar tones and saturation as 4th edition, but in black border, so they look great, even if they do have a date line on them.

To conclude this ramble, I’m not sure why the lowly red centaur isn’t included in the major rulesets for the format, because from my limited research of release dates, it certainly seems like it should be. I’d allow it at our events anyway. As always, if any of you mtg historians are reading this, I’d love more details on this decision. We definitely got more information about this, and got to the bottom of it’s legality in the format. Sadly, but not surprisingly, I was wrong.

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.

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.