It was a pleasure to finally meet Matt at Bootleggers Ball. We talked cards and records and I hope to get the chance to hang more with him and the other Lords in the future. I was stoked when Matt expressed interest in doing a guest post and was all for it. I had just read his report from the NoviceCon tournament and thought it was great. So, plant your ojos on the retrospective below. -D
The sky over Nashville morphed: black to purple, pink to gold, then eventually, that harrowing azure that serves to confirm the all-nighter. Two dozen hearty souls remained here at the 6th floor bar of this 24/7 joint known as The Diner, a stone’s throw from the honky tonks and clubs on Broadway Street. The previous twenty or so hours stacked up in my mind as a blur of cocktails, cardboard, and camaraderie, all scattered throughout downtown Nashville. The day’s gathering plus night’s wandering the result after heeding the call to the Bootlegger’s Ball – the inaugural Old School MTG event hosted by Nashville’s own Music City Old School group. Before long, an Uber driver would deposit the final men standing back to our rental house where the floor mercifully offered a brief, booze-laden nap.
ll. The Road to the Bootlegger’s Ball
When I took notice of the Music City gang’s first foray into hosting organized Old School MTG play, I immediately wanted to check it out. Nashville is about a seven hour drive from Chicago, and with the holiday weekend I figured plenty of time not only for gaming but to visit some pals in the area. I pondered making the drive by my lonesome, which didn’t seem particularly appetizing. The word hit the MTG Underground and some Lords of the Pit became interested, Lords Maldo, Jaco and Mullen signed up. We also ensnared Lord Petray. I arranged the crib. Lord Hahn decided to white-knuckle himself down after a Friday shift. Amazingly, we’d mobilized six Lords for the Bootlegger’s Ball out of field of 22. Lord Maldo’s truck was detailed, pimpin’ and ready for the road trip. We chewed up miles of highway as the Wu-Tang Clan chewed up the airwaves.
We arrived Friday afternoon, tucked into some serious BBQ at the Peg Leg Porker, then took it relatively easy Friday night with some beers and pickup games. The morning of, we rolled into the battleground, The Flying Saucer – a brew house in downtown Nashville built into (I think) an old train depot. We rolled inside just as a monsoon rolled over Nashville. The torrent of rain equaled the volume of booze we’d collected for the House. A sandwich board bearing the message “Music CIty Old School Bootlegger’s Ball” guided us to The Ball; it probably served warning to curious passersby: “keep out, dudesweats within.” Derek Walker, from the Music City crew, served as our host and emcee. The Nashville dudes had thought of everything: the prize support was generous and featured siq altered cards by Michiganders Cap’n Lupo and Shaman Ben, there was a customized Titania’s Song patch for the day’s champ, the tables were clearly marked and the tourney software was ready. My drink of choice for the day ended up as the Flying Saucer’s Smoky Old Fashioned, which had a slight inside-the-barrel taste to it. We checked-in, and after a couple rounds of drinks and idle chit chat we paired-up and commenced battle.
In gearing up for this event, I considered several different deck, all of them efficient and easy to pilot in the face of a day spent boozing and schmoozing. I considered Naya Bazaar Zoo and RUG, both time-tested aggro strategies, but felt wary of City in a Bottle. (As an aside, it seems to me that as the collectability and prices of Arabians creatures has shot up, so too has the number of Cities to combat them in-play.) I moved on to a different list.
I settled on the Grixis-colored Atog brew I’d heard described by Mano and Magrann on the All Tings Considered podcast. As they hyped it’s recent string of successes, I was particularly intrigued by its reliance on damage dealing artifacts (Vise, Ankh, Copper Tablet). It could dictate terms versus any opponent. I hadn’t yet seen anyone around the Chicago scene running this particular breed of Atog list, so I sleeved it up to test. I was impressed with the synergistic chip damage from Vise and Ankh, paired with four Strip Mines, and backed up by loads of burn. It turned in a consistent result. The actual Atogs almost seemed an afterthought, as getting that “one big swing” with duder turned out to be less likely than simply whittling the opponent away via burn and artifacts. Although the brew was mostly four-ofs, it had enough broken spells to keep it interesting from a gameplay perspective, and a Wheel or Timetwister + one or two Vises was as common a wincon as a big Fireball or big Atog. I liked the pair of City in a Bottle in the main, they would be savage if the day’s meta proved Arabians-heavy. My final 75 ended very similar to Magrannn’s, though for a bit of personal spice I injected Falling Star into the sideboard as weenie tech and hoped to 2-4-1 somebody…
lV. The Rounds
The meta in the room was a cross-section of Old School archetypes without too much overlap: Atogs, Counterburn, The Deck, Titania Prison, Underworld Tricks, RUG Aggro, White Weenie, and so forth. After six rounds of Swiss, I was glad to battle four new adversaries, plus a pair of familiar opponents.
Round One vs. Michael Barger (1-0)
Michael was one of the local Nashville dudes, he had a massive red beard and meant business as we commenced. His WW list went extra wide and used Crusades to buff his team. I saw Tundra Wolves, Clergy of the Holy Nimbus, all the Knights, etc. and in Game 1 I was absolutely boat-raced, I had jack shit in my opening. I tried a Wheel to get some action going and, before I knew it, I faced six critters plus Crusade. No Earthquake bailed me out and it was over in a flash. I sided in Flashfires and Falling Star and scored hits with each! The Flashfires bought me time to secure one win. Falling Star basically ended up a shitty Chain Lightning as my flip slid off Clergy and hit a single Order of Leibur. Atogs played out smoothly for game three and I was off and running after the first round.
Round Two vs. Ryan Rudolph (2-0)
Ryan drove in from Atlanta and ran a Titania’s Prison deck utilizing many brown stall cards like Icy, Winter Orb and Relic Barrier. We reminisced about some old Instagram chat, but then the gloves came off and Atogs steamrolled in G1. Then again in G2… only Ryan dropped Mirror Universe and I couldn’t answer. We swapped lives and I couldn’t catch up. Titania started singing and I got wrecked. We cut for G3 and Atogs shrugged off the G2 disappointment for another round win. Early Vise, mana denial and chip damage from Ankh and Tablet made this brew so lethal that Mr. Atog just seemed along for the ride. We rambled on.
Round Three vs. Josh Burgoa (3-0)
Josh had also traveled in from out of town packing a RUG Berserk deck. City in a Bottle did heavy lifting in this match-up as I kept his beaters at bay. G1 went my way. In G2, I was hit by a ‘zerked Serendib Efreet. Josh was fired up and requested my signature (together with his other victims’) on the Berserk that felled me. He likened it to a warrior collecting the ears of vanquished enemies and, grimly, I agreed. In G3, the Atogs again came out atop; it deck was just too fast, too furious, and the City in a Bottle too devastating for an Arabian-based strategy. I thought back to some testing games with poor Lord Maldo, himself on Arabian RUG, where he routinely sandbagged 2-5 Arabians cards nerfed by City.
Round Four vs. Jaco (3-1)
I liked my top-table matchup versus Jaco, who was on Underworld Tricks. I owed him for getting me at the Lords’ recent Novicecon (among numerous other beatings) and we settled in. G1 was a blowout in his favor, he got Underworld online early and Howling Mines and Draw-7s made for short work. Copper Tablet stunk it up in this matchup. G2 was another blowout, this time in my favor. The combination of tough mana development for Jaco, plus Strip Mines and burn on my end, elicited a muttered “sick brew” from my helpless opponent. We moved to third game. I had sided in Blood Moon, thinking it could help keep Jaco off triple black and keep Underworld at-bay. It did! Unfortunately, it also shut me out of Black and Blue during the game. I forlornly looked at the Demonic Tutor, Ancestral Recall and Timetwister in my hand, utterly useless. We stalled to the mid-game and then Jaco hit his sideboard bomb, Mirror Universe. I’d also boarded in my answers, an extra Shatter plus the ever-juicy Detonate, but alas they were nowhere in sight. Mirror stuck, lives were again swapped and I was soon dispatched. Goddamned Jaco got me again!
Round Five vs. Carter Petray (3-2)
I bumped down a couple of tables, but still hung tight as it was time for more Lords’ fratricide. Carter had a spicy Mono Green deck featuring Master of the Hunt, Tracker, Spitting Slug and Strip Mine. G1 was a rough ride for the Atogs – I mulled to five, kept a one Pearl, one Factory hand and quickly watched that lone land binned to Strip Mine. No more lands appeared and it was over soon. G2 saw another Atog wrecking ball. G3 again stalled out as I had some gas in-hand but worked from a sketchy mana base. Strip, Strip and the mana base got sketchier. Carter drew, another Strip, and the round was soon thereafter finished. A single tear trickled down my cheek and I tasted its salt.
Round Six vs. Zack Bowersox (4-2)
After setbacks in the previous rounds, I opted for my sixth Smoky Old Fashioned to power me up and hopefully finish with a winning record. It arrived, mixed to navy strength, and I was fueled-up and ready to sail. I met the other Bowersox brother, Brendan, at the Lords’ Madison (WI) Offensive this past winter, but I hadn’t yet locked horns with Zack. He fielded a WW brew, too, only this one seemed to go big via Crusades + Jihad. I felt weak to the enchantments and knew things would be grim if I were faced with a 5/4 White Knight or, chillingly 4/4, Repentant Blacksmith. I seized the quick W in G1 and we went to board. In came the Gloom and Flashfires. On T2 of G2, I played the following: Demonic Tutor, Gloom and Time Walk. On the Time Walk turn, I played Lotus, Wheel of Fortune, Black Vise, Black Vise and Black Vise. G2 was over in an instant. I felt a little sheepish about the fast round and we jammed bonus games and chatted. Zack was a Southern gentleman and I look forward to seeing both Bowersox Boys at future Old School events.
V. The Wrap
I hope the Bootlegger’s Ball becomes tradition, as its location makes it a hub for Southern U.S. Old Schoolers. I met guys from Atlanta, Chattanooga, Cincinnati and St. Louis, all locations within a reasonable drive. One hearty soul had even trekked from as far away as Rochester, NY! The Nashville boys did a tremendous job with their first event, and I’m hopeful that word will spread and demand will increase for future Music City gatherings. Meanwhile, the inaugural event ended with a good showing for the Lords, as we placed three among the top four. Jaco finished at the top of the charts, 6-0’ing the day. Lord Mullen, on a Titania’s Prison list, took 3rd and I checked in at 4th. Our host, Derek, claimed 2nd with a Gobbos list. Jaco scored the Titania’s Song patch and the custom altered Titania’s Song card, done in the visage of Dolly Parton by Lupo. We also scored a bag of “popcorn,” which was really just a handle of Jack Daniels concealed in brown paper. True to our name, the bootlegging Ballers all swilled as they came to collect prize cards. The remainder (and backwash) ended up in the hands of Mr. Burgoa, who was celebrating a birthday. The weather let up, the sun set over Nashville, and we loaded into the Maldomobile in search of hot fish dinners and Lords know what else. The night was young.