by Pez Unholy
Friday 12:15 pm
I open my eyes ready to seize the day. I am surprised with how well I slept, and I feel great considering I was in the lobby of the Panorama Hotel until 5am socializing and putting some faces to names I have only spoken to on the internet. After a quick shower I head to the first floor to see if I can find a guide to the legendary staircase that leads the way to the Rotary Pub. I am greeted almost immediately by Brother Stebbo and Brother Jonas from the famed Brothers of Fire based out of London, England. The event starts in about an hour, so we decide to find some food on the way to the event. Not too much is open. We settle for a kebab pizzeria after seeing the sushi place was closed. They both ordered pizzas that looked pretty decent; I had a kebab wrap that was medium+.
I’ve heard about the staircase to the Rotary Pub from a few of the Americans that have made the pilgrimage to N00bcon, but there it is in front of me at last. I really try to live life in the moment. and I just wanted take a second to really let this soak in. I’m walking on the staircase that leads to the event I’ve wanted to go to for a decade. In 2011, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon Mg’s blog. I first started the game during Unlimited, so this card pool holds a really special place in my heart. Being from a military family and moving around constantly, Magic was the one constant in my often erratic moving life.
I see the Rotary Pub sign with about 15 people standing outside. I am amazed by how many decorated vests I see with badges from clubs all over the world. This is the real deal. I am at a global event. This is N00bcon 13!
I was one of the last ones to show up (consistent as always), so the event is already starting to get going. We are all told to head into the bigger of the two rooms. There is an amazing vendor set up, for sure the most impressive I’ve seen anywhere other than Eternal Weekend. Mitja certainly has the cards to make even some of those big boys look twice. I see Gordon’s equipment all set up looking super professional. I know the stream will look amazing!!
Then after some of the crowd moves, I see it. The original Khalsa Brain Studios prototype for the Spellground. When i was 14 years old in Syracuse, New York, I placed really well in a local tournament and my prize was a olive green Scrye wizard life counter and a two-player Spellground playmat. One of the major reasons I flew across the globe was to see this table. It would be a dream to be able to get to play on it one day. But pairings are posted on Tolaria, and it is time to battle.
I brought an aggressive creature-based deck with white removal, black restricted cards, and Counterspells to help me interact with big game-shifting spells like Balance, Mind Twist and Braingeyser. My game plan is to play aggressively costed threats, apply early pressure, not let up, and close the game with Geddon or Counterspell protection from removal and board wipes on my team. This will be the third event in which I have played a version of this deck. Seth and Scheff have really helped tune this deck the last couple weeks leading up to the trip too, so I am feeling really confident.
Florian von Bredow, Germany, Robots
Florian and I had a pretty deep conversation the night before about the differences between Atlantic Shops vs. Swedish Robots. He basically explained to me in detail how he was going to kick the shit out of me in like 12 hours. I felt a little bad that I for sure knew what he was on just because we were drinking and having a conversation, but sometimes that’s how Magic goes. It really didn’t phase him though. I managed to win game 2 only because I had 3 pixies on the board and he couldn’t draw a removal spell, but otherwise he was all over me. My deck was very solid, but FloVo was just in the fucking zone all day. Every time I saw the guy he was smashing dudes at the top table, he easily made top 8. A monstrous run by a true wizard.
Mitja Held, Austria, Mirror Ball
I’m a little confused, mostly humbled. I haven’t lost Round 1 at a Magic tournament ever I don’t think. I start walking to my table and I hear my name being shouted from across the room at the vendor’s table. I see Mitja smiling, waving me over to his booth saying “you don’t mind playing over here do you?” I have seen Mitja’s name around the community for a while now. He does a video series with Charles, where they both brew decks with some of the most beautiful collections in the world and smash them into each other weekly for us to have the pleasure to view. So, this guy has a crazy sick collection, spends his free time traveling Europe playing in Old School events, and has a YouTube channel where he records games. This vendor is one of us?? This is something really different from the States, where I have seen half-filled cases stupidly overpriced with a guy on his phone that may not actually even know how to play the game. I am just so completely impressed.
Mitja does take a game 2 from me, where he has a turn 2 Fastbond, 2 draw 7’s, and Walk, and is just doing his thing playing a bunch of lands, drawing cards, casting the Mirror Universe, and that’s all she wrote. I love watching that deck go off. Unfortunately for him, all his Maze of Ith defense isn’t really a match for my 3 Geddons post-board, and I’m just able to keep pushing fast big damage.
Ron Dijkstra, Netherlands, Blood Moons
As we are setting up, I noticed my opponent’s playmat: an Icy Manipulator with an Uthden Troll drawn in the center of it. “Oh HEY! I’ve seen this playmat, you do the Uthden Cup??”
“OI OI OI!!”
My match ends up going pretty quickly. He is on a Blood Moon resource denial red deck, with Stone Rain and Shatters. Sequencing was very important this match. I remember a game where I was able to Disenchant and Counter Blood Moons coming into play. Another game where Blood Moon was active, I baited his Shatter with a Mox Jet just to play my Emerald and follow it with two Erhnams. For my victory, I was awarded an invite to Uthden Cup, and also a beer coupon I hope to use when I visit my new friends in the Netherlands.
OI OI OI!!
Lorenzo Novaro, Belgium, Counterburn Blood Moons
Lorenzo and I play right after lunch, and I think we are both a bit sleepy from the hearty soup. Games go by pretty quickly. He takes one with a Blood Moon, which has been a common theme for me with any deck the team builds. I’m pretty sure among the three of us we only have five or six Old School legal basic lands total. I just have learned to deal with losing occasionally to Blood Moon. Game 3 he taps out with a Lotus, leaving two blue up for a big Braingeyser. We get into a Counter battle over the Geyser, but that leaves him tapped out during my turn. I tap out to play Efreet and Armageddon, and that’s game.
About 10 minutes before Round 5 starts, I’m feeling pretty good. I had another bowl of soup, washed my face in the bathroom and got some fresh air. Mg walks up to me and asks if I would like to play a feature match. “On the Spellground table!? “ I yell out, getting flash backs to when I was 14 and being given my playmat by the organizer after a full day of single elimination beating dudes probably as old as I am now. “Yes Pez, Gordon mentioned that you were talking about the table and you knew of it.”
This is literally a dream come true.
Steinar Lauritzen, Norway, LionDibBolt
Steinar looks just as nervous as I do when we sit down to play. This is the moment I have been waiting almost a decade for. Traveling across the globe to the most prestigious Old School Magic tournament in the world, and having the opportunity to play on the table Danny had reluctantly muled from the states to Sweden. I’m looking at hand-drawn design from the creators of the Spellground themselves. I see the stain from Elliot spilling a drink on it a few years ago. This is where tales of legend are made.
Steiner wins the die roll, and we start with Lions. His mana base looks a little wonky because there is a Scrubland thrown in there, so I’m not sure if he is on a traditional LionDibBolt list, or has some personal flair thrown in. I get to a spot where I have an Erhnam on the board, plus another in hand with a Geddon. I felt it was a good moment to take opportunity and blow the lands up now instead of going more threats, just in case he had a board wipe or removal with counter back up. I really wanted to stay ahead, and after my land drop post-Geddon, I’d have half the resources to start setting up for my next genie if the game ends up going long. There was some back and forth a bit, but after my third Erhnam, the game was over
Game 2 was all Steiner. He has a brutal opening with Vise, Lotus, Copy Vise, Tutor. I have basically no shot at winning this, but I don’t pack it up, hoping to get a little more info. Maybe he will play another card with a different color border than in first game, so I can kind of gauge how many Swords or Psionic Blasts he is running. Then during his turn he casts… Ancestral Recall targeting ME!? That doesn’t happen often. I take 10 from Vise and miss an Orb flip. I thought it would be a great time to cash in some bad luck credit and give the crowd a little show going into the final game.
Game 3 stream can’t hear Steiner and me talk, but this is a nail-biter match and we both know it. Just back and forth conversation about how amazing this moment is and how tight the games are. We give a firm handshake and start the final game of our feature match.
I start off strong and Ancestral Recall to get ahead, but he has a Mind Twist a turn later to cancel my advantage. I end up mana draining a Serendib into casting an Erhnam. His mana is pretty bad this game with double City of Brass draw, while my life total is pretty comfortable. I know he plays Swords, so I can potentially use my Sylvan to draw a card or two and cash in some of my life. But it doesn’t end up playing out that way. I have to 1-for-1 a couple Su-Chi and Trike. After taking a couple hits, my life is at eight and I can’t afford to pay four. My short cut in my brain is to stay above 9 when paying for Sylvan, because I want to make them have more than two burn spells to kill me. I tap out all but my sapphire to play an Angel, then Joel walks in the room and explains to us that Steiner has one more life due to a Swords from a few turns ago which ends up being super important. This allows him to take City of Brass damage to Psionic Blast my Angel and survive his Dib ping. He swings in for three and casts a five-point Fireball for lethal. I tap a single blue and throw a Blue Elemental Blast on the table. I remember him just staring at me, holding the Fireball in his hand, looking at the Blue Blast that I won at Players’ Ball in Chicago. I had just won my feature match at N00bcon 13!!!
I was told to go to the couch with Steiner. Mg wanted to interview us for stream. We were given some gifts. I got one of the golden eggs filled with Swedish candies, many of which I’d never tried before, and an amazing textless Scathe Zombie that I’ll frame and hang at the barbershop. Steiner got a sealed bottle of Juzam Gin, a limited edition micro distilled Gin made by a player who owns a company that supplies stores in Sweden.
Brother Stebbo, United Kingdom, Lion Bolts Serra Counterspells
This is the second or third time I’ve had to play Stebbo in a high stakes match. There are two rounds left and we both have a shot at Top 8 at X-1. I know he is a serious player on a fine-tuned deck, and this is about to be a war.
Game 1, I attack with an Erhnam and he blocks with his Lion. I’m ready to Counterspell his Bolt, but it never comes. Next turn, he plays some fast mana and Balances, trying to make me lose my guy and a card or two out of my hand. This is a perfect time for that Counterspell, and afterwards he can’t find an answer to my pressure.
Game 2 is a close one with a lot of back and forth, 1-for-1. He ends up casting a big Braingeyser, and I can’t catch up.
Game 3 was a longer game, where my deck’s threat saturation paid off. We spent multiple turns where he used his burn to kill my creatures, which partly makes me happy knowing he may have an issue closing out the game later. Especially since I have three Control Magic for the Angels he will drop eventually. When he has to take 2 City of Brass damage to Fireball an Erhnam for five, I know he is about out of removal. A Factory and pair of Pixies end up closing it out.
A very intense match from a top notch wizard.
At this moment the pressure is starting to get to me a little bit. Maybe jet lag or nerves, but I’m 5–1 going into last round. For certain this is going to be a win and in for Top 8. I realized it’s been a couple hours since I ate, and Shane, like the guardian angel he is, guided me to a kebab place about to close right down the street. I’m mentally exhausted from battling to the death with Stebbo, and the menu is super intimidating. There are no pictures and it’s all in Swedish. Shane just takes charge of the situation and orders for me. The only thing I remember is Shane sternly repeating multiple times “No Onions! No Onions!” My guy, this is the second time Shane has saved my life at an event, super indebted to him.
Svante Landgraf, Sweden, Blue Red Blood Moons and Ironclaw Orcs
Svante needs no introduction. Multiple Top 8’s, a regular for the All Tings podcast, a master wizard — a true end boss. I honestly wouldn’t have had it any other way. Svante and I do very little small talk. There is a lot of respect on both sides of the table, but it’s very real that the other person is in the way of a shot at glory, and we are taking it seriously.
Unfortunately for me, this is where my luck runs out. Svante gets a very quick Blood Moon Game 1, Shatters my Sapphire, and then drops Blood Moon number two. Game 2, he leads with Library on the draw and really doesn’t look back. He is on Library maybe five turns before it’s just hopeless and there is no coming back.
A huge weight is released off my chest, and my tournament is now done. But what a ride that was! To be live the whole event was just an amazing experience.
I spend the next few hours taking time to relax, watch some of the ante tournament, and drink some beers with my new friends. I was so happy to put some faces to the screen names and webcam games. I have the Summer and Winter Derbies to thank for allowing me to make so many friends over the years in Europe. Without DFB, I wouldn’t have known a single person here.
I really appreciate you taking the time to read my report. This is only the second anything I’ve ever really written, but I felt it was important to share some of my trip with you, especially why it was so important to me to fly to Sweden and participate in this event.
The 93/94 card pool is so important to me. I feel my life could have gone a few different crazy paths if I didn’t have these cards to keep me grounded and out of trouble in my early life. Nowadays, I feel fortunate to have met some other crazy fuckers that have similar stories about why they love this game.
Thank you MG for allowing me the invite to one of the most important and rewarding days of my life.
Thank you DFB for being the bridge to Europe. I can’t thank you enough brother.
Simon the bartender at Panorama for being fucking awesome to all of us degenerates that were getting too loud Thursday night.
Myrbacka for making good on a bet we placed two years ago and handing me a beautiful unlimited Savannah. When you make it to the states my man, we will rage BongWraith style.
WM for getting a Library in Seattle and flying it all the way to Sweden for me so it can sit in my sideboard.
SlanFan for more dude hugs than I ever knew I wanted,
BRINEWOOD HAG, that was awkward when she started crying….
See you at LOBSTERCON!!!!!!