Well we haven’t posted shit in a solid two months. We came out swinging with something like 5 or 6 posts in two days after BLB ‘19 and have had a bangover ever since. Personally, I’ve had a lot going on and I haven’t really had anything spark my interest enough to write about. But, things are starting to level out and there are a few events on the horizon that I’m pretty pumped on.
Players Ball is three weeks away. This will be my second time going and I’m excited to see everyone and be in Chicago. Chicago is a great city. I remember the first time I went around 2000 with a band I was in. We played in a garage dangerously close to some railroad tracks and the gutter punks who lived there/put on the show made spaghetti for all the traveling bands. I also remember there being a small break in the tree line behind the tracks that gave way to a really great view of the skyline. I’ve been back a handful of times since and it’s definitely one of my favorite places in the country. My wife and I went once and tried a now closed down hot dog place called Hot Dougs where I had a duck sausage dog topped with foie gras. It was wild. Don’t judge me. As for the ball, last year was great. I played Stompy and ended up in the middle of the road. I think I’ll give it another shot this year. I rarely play it at meet ups anymore so it’s still fresh when I jam it and I thought it’d be fun to see if I can do a little better this time. I’ve been brewing decks lately without a lot of thought other than how fun they will be, which is usually the top priority regardless, but I’ve just given less of a shit about competitiveness. Most recently I built a deck that is literally the exact opposite of what I usually play, which are mono colored decks that attack with creatures and play few other spells. This deck is 5 colors, plays 0 creatures, and wins without dealing a single point of damage to the opponent. A mill deck of sorts and definitely not something I’m going to bring to a tournament and durdle around with.
Building dumb, fun decks and using goofy cards is a part of Old School that I feel I tend to forget about. I’m definitely not sitting in my room brewing up fully powered barn-burners or anything, but I do get into the zone when I’m trying to make a deck really tick. Nothing wrong with that. But, if I build a deck and throw in a few fun cards because they might work or because I just think they look cool, I always cut them after I get my ass stomped a few times. I eventually get lost in trying to make a deck run smoothly. I thought about this a while back as I was reading some of the archived posts over at MG’s blog. There were techs and pictures of some really cool janky decks, action shots of people casting Inquisitions, Alabaster Potions, and just random rarely played shit that hardly ever works, but is always a blowout when it lands. The idea of pure fun without a thought of competition is something that was probably more prevalent in the early days of the format before there was a tournament every weekend. I’m not saying people don’t play their pet cards and janky stuff anymore or that tournaments are bad, but competition has crept in and plays a bigger role. Earlier this year I was trying to brew a mono Black control deck. I worked on it for a few months before it drove me crazy. I finally put it down and didn’t play it for a long time. Then before a meetup one day I picked it up and threw in some random things I just felt like playing. I sleeved up some Demonic Hordes, Trikes, and Blights and had a blast. Blight is probably one of my new favorite cards. It’s almost like having 8 Sinkholes, but more disappointing. I was also inspired while looking through brother Finney’s box of bullshit the other day. I had been playing this horrible mono U list that wasn’t working out and as I was flipping through cards I came across a Tangle Kelp. It is absolutely not a good card, but I’ve seen worse and I have a thing for blue cards from the dark. They look cool. So, instead of trying to make this blue deck decent I’ll just jam the most ridiculous shit I can find that might work sometimes. I’m not even a big fan of blue and I’ll be way more satisfied winning with Telekinesis and Dandan than with Serendibs and whatever else. We all know about this aspect of Old School, but I encourage everyone to do more of it. If your buddy wants to jam their Leprechaun-Ward deck, don’t grab 5c Atog. Pack some dumb stuff.
As exciting as Players Ball is, I’m just as or even more excited about our (sort of) upcoming Christmas tournament in December-a small invite only tradition. We’ve decided to do something a little different each year with the format, but keep it Old School centric. Last year we ran straight OS ’95 and this year, we’re doing that again, but adding Alliances. That makes it Old School ’96 minus Mirage (or Old School + Ice Age block). That’s quite a few “new” cards tinker with. Its 5 months away, but I remember brewing for it around this time last year. I ended up on a mono Black Pox deck and was really happy with it. It was a super interesting deck. When I play these newer Old School formats I like to play as many new cards as I can, so building around Pox was great. With the inclusion of Alliances this year, it’s going to be hard not to play it again, as Pox gets some heaters in Alliances. But, I can’t bring myself to do it. There are too many other great cards to explore. In looking at all three sets (Ice age, Homelands, and Alliances) Red and Green get a ton of really good and synergistic cards. While not the most powerful cards (forceofwillnecropotencebrainstorm), in numbers of playables I think RG takes it. Blue gets some cantrips, a few counterspells, and the lone good Blue card in Homelands, Merchant Scroll. Black gets quite a bit, especially with Alliances. White doesn’t really gain much other than Kjeldoran Outpost and Exile, which both have killer artwork. Blinking Spirit, Enduring Renewal, Reinforcements, and Reprisal are honorable mentions for white. Also a lot of great utility lands and artifacts throughout the whole block. Combo decks open up with supplemental cards for old strategies as well as pieces for some completely new builds. Little Sonny T-tops jammed an Enduring Renewal combo deck last year which is something new that comes with Ice Age. There has also been some talk around the card Storm Cauldron out of Alliances among the group recently. I won’t go any deeper on that, but it sounds scary. I hear you can play it with Fastbond and do stuff… Anyway, Red and Green get a lot of additions.
The first card I thought about when I started brewing was Gorilla Shaman out of Alliances. For XX1 you can destroy a non-creature artifact where X = the cost and you don’t even have to tap it. So you can blow up moxen for 1. Hence the nickname Mox monkey. Then my mind went to resource denial. Along with the monkey, you get Pillage and the not so great Thermokarst. Stunted Growth is also a cool card and could work with this strategy. Icy Manipulator would be included here too and has a sweet reprint in Ice Age. Still probably not the best plan, but land destruction gets better for sure. Stormbind is another card I’d love to use. Brother Finney took the tournament down last year undefeated with a RGW Stormbind deck backed with Jokulhaups, Land Tax, and maybe the most annoying card in all three of these sets, Zuran Orb. To me, Stormbind is one of those cards you have to play or at least see in action to really get it. Looks ok when you read it, but fucks shit up when you actually see it work. So, after scrawling out a few land destruction lists I started riffing on Henry Sterns’ old RG Vise Age deck from ’96. Not really a whole lot to tweak in what I found. Tinder Wall and Orcish Lumberjack are present, which is a must in whatever I end up on. Stormbind is there along with a playset of Howling Mine, Black Vise, Bolts, and Incinerate. With a fat, aggressive creature suite in Erhnams and Orgg’s it sounds pretty spot on for what I’d like to play. I threw in some Pillage, Gorilla Shaman, and the stapled Chaos Orb/Sol Ring. I should probably find room for Wheel of Fortune too. I haven’t tested it yet, but my initial thought is that it’s probably better on paper than in practice. It’s going to come out hot, run out of gas, and more than likely get 2 for 1’d to hell and back. We’ll see. These two ideas are my starting point and are at least hitting the priority of utilizing a lot of Ice Age block cards. No Homelands cards maindeck, but I will try out Autumn Willow. When ramping out creatures, it’s nice to have one that’s hard to deal with. You can also bet your ass I’ll have Spectral Bears in the sideboard.
Other RG cards from Ice Age block? Aside from what I’ve already mentioned: Forgotten Lore, Primal Order, Bounty of The Hunt, Giant Trapdoor Spider, Orcish Librarian, Guerrilla Tactics, Elvish Spirit Guide, Natures Lore, Lhurgoyf, Jokulhaups, Pyroclasm, Pyroblast….probably missing a few.
As young as the tradition may be, I’ve enjoyed playing different Old School formats for our winter tourneys and I especially love OS 95′. Ice age is one of my favorite sets and Homelands has Spectral Bears. At some point though these newer (old) sets start feeling less….old. Ice Age block meshes well aesthetically with 93/94 sets, but Mirage is cutting it close for me. I love Mirage and that whole block, but things start getting sort of polished around that era. The cards stop looking like relics and lose some mystery. It might be fun to try though. Next year maybe we add only Mirage or do Ice Age block constructed. A draft would be killer too.
Right before posting this I finished the most recent Pitcast. There was some discussion on Old School ’95 and possible changes to the B&R. I am fortunate enough to not have experienced the complete fuckery that is Reanimator in ’95. No one in our crew has the means to build it, so we at least get to see what the format looks like without it, as it completely dominates. The inclusion of Demonic Consultation and 4 more reanimate spells in Dance of the Dead make for a potent brew. I can attest to the strength of Consultation. I played 4 last year, which I now think was at least one too many, and with the new mulligan rule, I definitely understand this card being restricted. I won’t be bummed about it. Consult also enables Necro decks quite a bit and while it may not be as dominate as Reanimator, it’s still completely busted and follows not far behind. Zuran Orb is also something that I personally am wary of, after seeing it do mass amounts of work last year.
Hopefully it won’t be two more months before we blast out another post. I’ll come back when I have something solid to play/talk about for the OS ’95 + Alliances winter tournament. I’m also planning on doing a Players Ball report. I’ll do my best to take notes and try not to forget everything. Maybe Lion will come back soon with something for your mind that’s deep like the ocean. In the meantime I’ll tell you what music to listen to and what card to check out. So, if you’re gonna spew, spew into this:
This band is almost local and I’ve been playing this record non stop. They’re from Chattanooga, TN and would be considered “shoegaze”. Shoegaze is a fairly niche genre that was somewhat brought to light by the band My Bloody Valentine in the late 80’s. Shoegaze is very guitar driven with extremely heavy distortion and lots of effects. The vocals are usually very low in the mix and barely discernible. The term shoegaze was coined as the guitarists would often be seemingly gazing down at their shoes, but were actually stomping on foot pedals making a bunch of noise. While being heavy, it’s usually a very dreamy/ethereal sound. This track is my favorite from this record and is one that definitely deserves a listen from start to finish. The latter half of the song is incredible. As usual, you’ll want to crank er’ up.
CARD: Sword of the Ages
Speaking of fun cards, I have a couple of copy’s of this sweet, sweet steel in a green ramp deck I’m working on. Sword of the Ages is like the aggro version of Mirror Universe. Or you can look at it like a Berserk bomb, as it does the same thing on a larger scale. The art is also stellar, featuring a signature Dan Frazier background. I cant wait to run someone through with this beast for 50+.