by Seth Roncoroni
This past Good Friday, I was lucky to be able to participate in Noobcom 2, making it the first Noobcon event that I was able to be part of. With the current pandemic still preventing most in person magic, this would be the second year that the Noobcon events would be online, after last year’s Scryings themed event. After the invite went live on Facebook from Florian, I had two priorities. First, I had to get in some practice with Tolaria, and second was that I would finally need to dump my white border Cities of Brass that I have constantly and stubbornly run, and finally get Swedish legal versions. Looking back, replacing the Cities of Brass was definitely the easy part. After multiple test games and one evening on the Wak-Wak stream getting demolished by Robots, I at least felt comfortable with the platform. I was ready.
I ended up in 2nd place after nearly 12 hours of playing and waiting. I took no notes as I never intended to do that well and even most of my life totals were maintained within the app to help in communication. So apologies in advance for my poor memories and/or any inaccuracies.
For the event, I knew I would be on my usual Savanah Lions, 12 burn spell, every restricted card I can fit list. For the longest time I have been trying to reduce the numbers of Serendib Efreets in my list and after losing in the top 16 of the Winter Derby to Wheel Magrann on the back of a first turn Serra Angel in our second game, I finally decided that I could stretch things and add a Serra Angel. Regardless of what others say, she is the best creature in Old School, and it isn’t close. I also main decked a sylvan Library to up the green card count, but in many situations, it’s as good as an Ancestral Recall. I know some people don’t love the Regrowth with only the 4 Cities of Brass and Mox Emerald, but the upside of the card is just too much — that and green cards in Summer Magic are too pretty to not play. Otherwise, there is little to say about the below list as it’s just the constant evolution of testing and refinement over the past year. In the end, the list largely built itself. The only other real oddity of the list is the singleton Atog. He is a reasonable body, with upside at the right casting cost. He was largely not a factor all day, and likely should be a single Serendib moving forward. Also, yes, in typical Seth fashion, I only had a 14 card sideboard.
Vincent Romero Giron — Arabian Aggro
Vincent was my first opponent of the day. Very friendly guy. He wins the coin flip (Tolaria has so many cool features…) and proceeds to open with Library of Alexandria. My hand had a couple burn spells, some mana, and no creatures. I’m thinking, “well shit, hell of a way to start the day…” I really never get any real pressure and I do manage to fight off a couple Apes, but he has the Ancestral and is able to keep constant pressure and the outcome is largely never in doubt. I win the next two. My memory is slightly foggy, but I think game two was ended with some instant speed cheese in the form of Psionic Blast and a Regrowth for another burn spell. Game three he struggles with mana issues if my memory is correct and I am able to dispatch him with little issue. I think I burned out a couple Apes or Pixies. For boarding I took out 2 Chain Lightning for 2 BEB, as they serve similar roles. Chain Lightning is a liability a bit, but with Apes and Pixies, I needed to ensure ample removal to keep the little guys off the table.
David Montag — Alpha.deck
I didn’t know this at the time, but David is on an all alpha deck. Our games are relatively quick as I had some fairly fast starts. My Lions did work, and the burn closed out the games. I do remember in game 1 he played a Mountain into some Scrublands, and a Celestial Prism. Having no idea what he was playing, I was fearful of Blood Moon so I sandbagged the Counterspell while keeping up double blue with my Lions attacking. The first game ended when he attempted a Sengir Vampire, at which point I countered it and went for the kill as I knew the path was open. Game 2 saw him mull and then resolve an early CoP: Red. I am unsure how I sideboarded, but in general CoP: Red is usually never a real issue as there are so many other targets for Bolts in the format. He proceeds to cast an early Balance, and I think at that time I still didn’t care about the CoP and instead hit a mox with the Disenchant that I was going to discard to the Balance. I eventually resolve a Lion and start beating down. I counter a Samite Healer (yes you read that correctly) and continued to do 2+ points of damage each turn. In the end, I won in short order. It wasn’t until the match was over that David shared with me that his deck was all Alpha. It’s weird as I would have likely noticed that if we were in person, but the difference between Alpha and Beta is hard to spot on webcam.
Wheel Magrann — Temple Variant
Here is the first match up of a true murder’s run of stalwarts of the Old School Community. Will recently beat me badly in the top 16 of the Winter Derby. I wasn’t sure what he was on but I figured him for an Atog variant or his Temple style list he has been tinkering with. I also have to laugh as he has my entire deck list since I shared it with him and we chatted earlier in the week about the changes since the Winter Derby. Will wins the coin flip and starts with early pressure, and I am on my heels the entire time. Our first game was a long affair that took over 25 minutes to complete. In the end, Will pulled it out as his stream of lions were too much for me. It was a great game, filled with a lot of back and forth as the decks are so evenly matched. Game 2 was much faster. I have little memory of this game. I do believe I closed it out with a bolt and a Psi-blast to the face. After talking with Will, I think there was also a Control Magic on one of his lions.
Game 3 was one where it was better to be lucky than good. I can’t remember the mulling in it but Will starts off with a Lion. I had an opener with Black Lotus and Mind Twist and some Factories. I messed up here and dropped the City of Brass (fucking black border cards) instead of the Factory, but it doesn’t matter as the Mind Twist gets at least two mana sources, one of which was a Mox Sapphire. Will doesn’t make his second land drop. He attacks with his lions and passes the go. I resolve a lions of my own. I think we trade lions at some point and the Factories start beating down. I think I Strip Mine his single land and continue to beat down. Mind Twist and Lotus are responsible for the victory in game three, nothing else. For sideboarding I think I shaved some Disenchants and Chain Lightnings to add in another Serra and the Control Magic from the board. I may have also included the REB, although I can’t remember at this time. It would make sense as the REB would be an answer to his Dibs and Control Magics if he had them. In general Chain is only ok here as it kills lions but can’t reasonably deal with factories. I also may have swapped out the draw sevens in game three, since I was on the draw. I was not sure the number of burn spells Will was playing at the time, but with likely 8 plus, it’s a dangerous card to use when you aren’t going first.
Svante Landgraf — the same list as Will (except for 1 Dingus)
Svante wins the coin flip. I lose game one. If I remember correctly, Svante hits me with an early mind Twist (karma for last round). I was putting some pressure with a Lion, but he follows that up with a massive Braingeyser for 6 or 7 and that is basically all she wrote at that point. I win game 2, although I remember no details but it likely ended with me burning him out. Svante has a Library of Alexandria game 3 in which I have a slow-ish hand. In general, if I have a lion I feel you can race a LoA, but no dice here as the card advantage takes over and the outcome is hardly in doubt. I sideboard similar to above and bring in the Control Magic and some number of REB. In general, you shuffle some Chain Lightnings to the board. I also likely brought in Braingeyser here. I didn’t draw it, but in these very back and forth matches it often can get you over the hump.
Brother Stebbo — Lions, Dibs & other good cards
Of all the players in Noobcom, I think I enjoy playing Stebbo the most. He’s just great to chat with and he is a similar degenerate like me when it comes to getting overpriced Summer cards. We spend the first five minutes talking about the next cards we are looking for. I share with him the summer Balance that literally was delivered during the rounds and he jokes he hopes that is the only time he sees it, foreshadowing its impact on the match. I am not sure who won the coin flip, but at some point Stebbo is beating down with a Dib. I have the Balance in my hand, but his hand is smaller than mine and the land counts are largely the same. I assume he is running fewer burn spells so I decide to wait to kill the Dib and take another 3 to the face. My patience is rewarded as he deploys a second Dib. My choice is easy here as I cast balance, losing a couple cards in hand and start to put up pressure with a Factory. I know the game ends with burn to the face, but the other details are lacking. For game 2, I stick with the same sideboarding approach as above. In general, just being a little more controlling in this match up is the way to go as we are both trading resources. The additional Counterspells and haymakers help so much to break through. Stebbo starts off with a Library. Luckily, I have the Chaos Orb in hand, so I drop a lion and pass. He draws with LoA and next turn, I Orb it away. I think he kept a LoA hand here as his mana never comes together. He dies lacking double blue for his counters and my factories and Psi-blasts get there.
Mike Franz — Atog
I can’t remember much of game 1. I think he resolved some artifacts, in particular a Black Vise and Relic Barrier. The Vise may have done a little bit of damage but I was able to easily get under it. I led with an early lion and followed it up with factories and burn. I think an Atog helped out in the first game making it difficult to block and trading with a Su-Chi and a factory, but that could have been game 2. I remember being fearful of Blood Moon as it reminded me of similar Atog lists that started to come out back in October of last year. I felt lucky game 1 to have dodged it. After the match, we chatted and I found out he had 3 Moons in the main, so that first game was a gift. Game 2 was a dumb game with LoA. I establish it early, drew cards and handled the key threats. I still have Blood Moon in the back of my mind, so I slow down my sequencing and try to ensure I never pass a turn without the ability to cast the Disenchants or BEB in my hand. I keep the LoA active, and it feeds me all the cards I need. If memory serves me, he is also short of colored sources of mana which further complicates things for him. Overall, this second game felt dumb. Mike was a super friendly guy and I really enjoyed chatting with him. LoA feels dirty no matter which side of it you are on.
Mano — Blood Moon/Ball Lightning/Basic Island
So at this point, this match likely constitutes a win and in for me. It’s also completing a day in which over half my matches were against guys I regularly play against and share ideas with. Funny how that works, a major event with dudes from all over the world and I end up playing friends. This was a wild set of games against a deck that was very cool, and likely the most interesting thing outside of an all alpha deck. Game 1 wasn’t that close. I think we traded a few things but ultimately he gets a Blood Moon while I am shields down. We play it out, but Mano eventually takes it home. Game 2 is a dumb affair with me having a LoA. I am living in fear of Blood Moon, but I had the full complement of Disenchants and BEB in my deck. In the end he never gets anything really going. I keep dropping lands and drawing cards. It was funny as I wasn’t doing any real damage, and I think I had a full grip of burn and a Counterspell along with what felt like 15 mana available. It was at this point I miscounted and thought 2 Lightning Bolts and 2 Psionic Blasts were 15 damage. So I let him shatter my factory, even while I held a Counterspell and had the mana. I will stick to the fact that I was tired and less that I am that bad at math. So after all that Mano is at 1, I still have Counterspell but I need to kill him. Turns ago he had resolved an Abyss which didn’t matter, but I still had a lion, Disenchant and Counterspell in hand. So I cast the lion, and pass the turn. Mano is in top deck mode, and I end of turn Disenchant to allow the lion to deal the final point of damage.
Game 3 is another wild one. My opener had a factory, some burn and a disenchant, but no way to resolve that on Mano’s second turn. I fear Blood Moon, but it’s hard to ship a hand that can deal with Blood Moon after my second turn. So I keep and naturally Mano has the Blood Moon and the acceleration to get it out turn 2. I’m thinking I am fairly dead but after a couple turns I rip a Black Lotus. I’m able to cast the Disenchant, open my mana up. I follow that up with casting the Regrowth for the Lotus and then Demonic Tutor. I had a few options here. The obvious ones are Mind Twist and Ancestral. I think Mano had a card or two in hand, so I was worried about REB. I did not think he had a Blood Moon as I don’t see him sandbagging it there. Mind Twist would leave me dead to his topdecks at that point. So I figured my best plan was to get Serra and cast her. She could absorb a Ball Lightning if I needed, Blood Moon doesn’t stop her and he would need a Psi Blast to kill her which isn’t the worst as it saves 4 from my face. Needless to say, he has the Psi-Blast and we are basically in top deck mode. I get my factories beating down and we trade burn as it comes. The factories are beating down and I am keeping one back as a blocker to limit the damage from Ball Lightning. He Strips my untapped factory, casts the Ball Lightning and hits me for 6. Luckily I was at 7 so I am at 1 life. I proceed to get the lions to apply pressure. At some point during this game I countered a fireball for 7 (so likely before the Ball Lightning strike) with the only card in my hand, a Mana Drain. In the end I have 2 lions on the table and Mano topdecks a mox, and my lions are able to take the game and the match. In the end I was super lucky here. The Lotus saved my ass, and I definitely dodged a bullet. In general I understand Blood Moon is lethal, but it’s nice to see that occasionally you can beat it. By far, Mano’s deck was the coolest one I faced and it’s awesome he almost made top 8 with Ball Lightning. Sideboarding was fairly straightforward as Chain Lightning is a real blank here, and BEB and Disenchant are so good. On the draw I may have shaved the Wheel of Fortune to add in a Chain Lightning as wheel is only ok in that situation.
So I make the cut, coming in at 5th place.
Christian Bang Jensen — Troll disco
We have a slight delay as we are selected to be on the stream. We shuffle up and both of us don’t need to mull. Both of us must have kept reactive hands as we spend the first couple turns just playing mana sources. Eventually I cast an Atog and pass. He casts a Sedge Troll, and in doing so, does not have counter mana up. On my fourth turn I cast Black Lotus and then go for a Mind Twist, taking his hand. But he still has a Sedge Troll to my Atog and two Mox. On my next turn I cast a Sylvan Library. I have a Balance in hand and figure I need to empty my hand as fast as possible and kill my Atog as Sedge Troll can be a real problem game one for me. Unfortunately, it is met with a Counterspell. My opponent then resolves a Disk. I pass without doing anything and my opponent then attacks with his Sedge Troll. I do nothing and in his post combat main phase he blows the disk. He gets my Atog and two Moxen and his Troll regenerates. At this point I realize that my only path to victory will be to leverage the Balance in my hand. He eventually resolves another disk, but I have the Disenchant and want it off the board. I have finally dropped my hand size so I fire off the Balance. I misplay here and wanted to keep the Lightning Bolt in my hand. For some reason when I am casting the Balance I decide to however keep the Mana Drain and while holding priority I send the bolt to his face. This is so bad as he has an active factory and my life total is below 10. I should have let the Mana Drain just get discarded to the Balance, but I had a mental lapse here. The Mana Drain does help out later as I am able to hit a Sedge Troll while I am at 9 life. I rip a Time Walk and cast it along with casting a Chain Lightning to kill the Troll as he is tapped out. I draw a Chain Lightning, but for some reason I don’t cast it, also another mistake in hindsight as he was tapped out and it was likely one of the only chances I would be able to properly use the card as I was already below ten life. Luckily, I rip a Timetwister and cast it. The Timetwister is solid and I get a Mox Pearl, and Factory into play. I can also cast a Lion without using my Cities of Brass, which will stop the life loss for the time being. My opponent has the counter however. Sensing that his hand doesn’t have burn or other easy solutions to a Lion I decide to cast the second Lion in my hand off a City of Brass which dropped my life to 6. I then cast the third Lion off the second City of Brass taking me to 5. I figure I have to close this game out soon and I think the Lions may give me that chance. Off the Wheel my opponent drops a Maze of Ith and a Demonic Tutor. I send my lions into my opponents untapped factory. He untaps one lion and activates his factory. I have the bolt and my opponent drops to 11. Post combat, I cast a Sylvan Library again, going to 4 thinking I can see more cards next and hopefully put this thing away. My opponent has the Fireball however and we are off to game 2.
For game 2, I know I need to bring in BEB and Disenchant. Serra is also really good here. Chain Lightning is ok, but all the above mentioned cards are just better. So out go the 4 Chain Lightning, 1 Atog, and in come the Serra, BEB, and Disenchants. It is nice playing against this in Swedish because I only have to worry about Counterspells and not Hymn. I have first turn time walk and my opponent has to mull to five cards. We spend a couple turns just developing our mana. On his turn 3 my opponent attempts to resolve a Disk, but I Counterspell it. At his next end step I cast a Psi-Blast. I finally get a second source of white and cast the Serra Angle that has been sitting in my hand. I start swinging with the Serra and my opponent tries to resolve a large Braingeyser, but I have the Mana Drain. I untap and I am able to deal 11 from the Serra and a Bolt and Psi blast. Off to game 3.
For Game 3, I think I keep the same sideboard plan. There is an argument for Control Magic, but I feel ok with the answers I have to trolls. My opponent is on the play and needs to mull, I have an absolute monster hand, likely the best of the entire day. My opponent starts off with an Ancestral. I drop a bunch of mana and Ancestral myself. I draw a Black Lotus and can cast a turn one Serra. I figure this is the best use of my Lotus as I have a Disenchant in hand so there are relatively few ways my opponent can deal with it. My opponent plays a land and passes so I start attacking. My lions eat a Mana Drain and then my opponent taps out to cast a Disk. I end of turn Psi-Blast him taking him to 12. During my turn I disenchant the disk and attack. He cast a second Disk, and I have the Disenchant for that one also. And with that my opponent has no other answer to the Serra and I take game 3.
Leo Bruder — Robots
My opponent informs me that he has only lost one game up until this point. I figure I’m in for a fight as I am also on the draw. In the end, these games were largely uneventful for him. Game one mostly revolved around me killing his Sage of Lat Nam and attacking with Factories. Without the Sage, he wasn’t really able to get anything going in game 1. I ended up killing two of them and then all the rest of the burn went to the face. In general, I think that the robots match up can be difficult, but knowing he is on Sage of Lat Nam, I figure he leans on the Abyss much less than traditional robots lists. Since I cut the Serendibs, the Abyss is largely not a concern, but I figure I have enough removal in my board. So out go the four lions, Atog, and I think a couple Chain Lightning. I bring in the 2 Disenchants, 2 Divine Offering, 1 Serra Angel, and 2 Control Magic. I figure this allows me to deal with each robot as needed and allows him few ways on U/B to deal with the Control Magic and the Serra Angel. Game 2 is similar to game one in that my opponent largely never gets anything going. I think I again kill an early Sage and start sending burn and factories to his face. He taps out at one point to cast a Triskelion. I have a Disenchant effect and a Control Magic, along with a Psionic Blast in hand. I figure I can use the Control Magic on the Trike, eat two to face and then keep up my assault with the factories. I cast Control Magic and he lets me have it. I guess he was just tired or realized that his only out was to be able to potentially copy or steal the Trike back at that point. Needless to say his draw does not give him what he needs, and he scoops his cards. Somehow I am onto the finals.
Danny Friedman — TwiddleVault
I have to wait forever for the other semi match to get completed. When Danny is declared the winner, I figure I’m against TwiddleVault. Typically, I would say that the Lions list is slightly favored in a heads up match. Knowing I have the draw makes it a little worst. Twiddle Vault in general is a solid combo deck, but it isn’t as blazing fast as a lot of people think, so you have time to set up defenses and go on the offense. I am not sure that my keep was appropriate in game one. My hand had LoA, Counterspell, Mana Drain and at least 2 sources of blue. I think there was some burn in it also. It didn’t have a Lion, or any real acceleration to get ahead. But I reason it’s a solid seven that lets me fight at least 2 of Danny’s key spells. And then LoA should be able to come online and hopefully let me get ahead. I also figure I may be able to leverage his howling mines to my advantage. The only thing that really crushes this hand is a fast Mind Twist, or a second turn draw seven. He ends up having the Wheel, and my Wheel hand is only ok. We trade a bit and then I make a mistake. During my turn that I Wheeled, I attacked with my factory first. I knew going in I would have to attack to get those two in, but I should have waited to Wheel and see what happens. I assume I will get a land in the next seven. So I tap my Mox Emerald to attack with my factory. Then I Wheel using my Black Lotus. The seven isn’t bad with plenty of burn, but no lands. It gives me a Regrowth and Mind Twist. Had I not attacked with the factory I could have Mind Twisted Danny for 6. Instead I hit him for 3 and largely whiff. I realized then the game was all but over. Danny takes a load of turns and eventually I scoop. On to game 2.
I feel pretty good here. Out goes the Serra, Atog and Chain Lighting and in come the 2 REB, 2 Disenchant, and 2 Divine Offering. I have plenty of answers and interaction. And here is where variance shits all over me. I end up mulling twice and the five card hand is decent. I am not sure what I send to the bottom, but I keep a hand with two factories (the only lands I had), Black Lotus, Mind Twist, and Disenchant. To be fair that is a very strong five card hand but without a source of white, it’s tough. I Mind Twist for 3 on the play and get some mana sources. Over the next couple of turns, I draw a Volcanic and keep beating down with one factory. At some point I draw a Strip Mine and take out a Tropical Island. I never attack with both factories, preferring to keep up the Volcanic to both fake the REB, but give me hope if he casts a draw seven. At some point I am still holding a Disenchant and a Divine Offering, but I never see a white source of mana. The game ends with those two cards still in my hand as Danny goes off. I was close to winning that second game and likely would have had I been able to find white source of mana. I scoop to Danny as I know the end is inevitable and I am tired.
Result: 2nd Place
The day was a blast. It’s hard to know how hard your draw is, but I felt like I went through a bunch of Old School ringers who just happen to be a blast to play against. I ran hot when I needed to and was on the positive end of LoA more than my opponents which helped immensely in making the top 8. In the end, variance, luck, and my play mistake played a large role in me coming up short. I think the deck is awesome and would likely make few if any changes. One change would be the inclusion of a 15th sideboard card. I hear those are good. The Atog was only ok on the day and it’s likely that he would have been better as a single Dib. I think if I could have had the play against Danny, I likely win that finals match, even with the hands I had. I have to admit that I never used the Sylvan in the board, but that was more due to never seeing the Deck and only one midrange list on the entire day. The maindeck Sylvan was good all day, either allowing me to see plenty of cards or earning a Disenchant allowing factories to live longer.
I want to thank Gordon, Slanfan, MG, and NEED for hosting a truly awesome event. The functionality of Tolaria is insane and I cannot wait to use it for future events. I would have loved to have won the Noobcom 2 Shark, but hopefully can beg, steal or borrow (or maybe bribe?) the guys to get another invite and try to bring home the gold.
Props: SWE guys, Tolaria.app, Slanfan, MG, my opponents, Gordon and his entire crew of Wak Wak
Slops: My misplays