Summer Derby 2020

The Deck

This was my first ever Derby, and also my first really big OS event of the year. I’d only managed a couple of small in-person events before COVID struck, and parenting duty means that I’m not really able to play single-day tournaments. I’d been planning on using all my hall passes at once to play all three formats at Eternal Weekend, but with those plans on hold, and my control-freak tendencies in overdrive, I decided to enter the Summer Derby, which has grown into a massive event, the largest old school tournament ever (or at least since 1994) at 256 players. For such a special event, I decided to use my signature brew of The Deck.

  • Ivory Tower is great against opponents playing burn or anyone else trying to pressure your life total like tog or lions.
  • Divine Offering is for Shops, although they typically don’t resolve against trikes, hitting a Tetravus, Jugg or Su-chi is often game-winning.
  • Maze and Control Magic are primarily for Erhnam/Juzam lists. There is a bit of a non-bo with The Abyss and Control Magic, and although Maze can also get crushed by the traditional follow-up Geddon, normally you’d hope to be in a position to counter the 2nd four drop.
  • Hymn and Scepter are mainly for the control mirror. Discard is definitely a very strong strategy, Hymns can act as mini Mind Twists and at some point, even the post-board artifact removal is likely to get overwhelmed and the Scepter can rip out some Counterspells.
  • Blue Elemental Blast is in the sideboard for Blood Moon, but also good against Tog and generic burn.

Batch 1

The tournament was organized into two batches, the first being entirely random and the second being grouped based on records in the first batch. All matches from a given batch were set at once, and players sought each other out over social media and played matches in their own time.

Match 1: Mark Evaldi playing Reanimator

Mark was playing a Reanimator list where his primary targets were robots and Mahamoti, and he was playing white for Resurrection. My memory of the match isn’t brilliant, but I think the decisive point in the deciding game was where he chose to Resurrect a Mahamoti rather than a robot (which is his least vulnerable play into my removal and entirely correct) only to have me drop an abyss on my turn. The engine is interesting, but the card disadvantage is real and I was very happy when I could make 1-for-1 trades with an opponent consistently using bazaar.

Match 2: Dakota Martinez playing Zoo

Dakota is one of the Dudes of Paradise out in Hawaii, so it took a bit of figuring out to get a good time for our game. It seems like they have a good group of players together — I played another Dude in the later stages too.

Match 3: Øyvind Skattum Vesteng playing Grixis Rack

This was the first streamed match I’d played. Øyvind asked if his teammates could stream and commentate, and while it does allow your opponents to scout your deck, it’s also really nice to be able to watch back your matches. I wasn’t too sure about wanting to stream as I got closer to making the cut because I thought it might mean I was scouted, but actually it makes tournament reports much more interactive, and I’m definitely glad that fully half of my matches are preserved on video to accompany the report. You can watch the match here:

Match 4: Henrik Storm playing TetraDeck

Henrik was playing an unusual The Deck plus Tetravus brew. I don’t entirely remember the games but I do remember that he played an aggressive Tetravus into my removal which cost him quite a bit of momentum. Interesting list certainly, since the tokens can be a real headache for my list. Thankfully they never managed to detach and I won fairly handily.

Batch 2

Going undefeated in the first batch meant that I’d be paired against other undefeated players for every match in the second batch — harder matchups but better tiebreakers.

Match 5: James Rosenblum playing Goblin Moon Surge

James was playing an interesting mix of Power Surge, Goblins and Blood Moon. It felt like the kind of hateful brew that can cause real problems for my deck, but I just had the Factories that I needed to dump my mana into every time. He never managed to get Moon and Surge at the same time to cut off the Factory mana dump, and eventually an Abyss happened and some goblins were sad.

Match 6: Jeff White playing Grixis Underworld Juzam

I don’t remember this match much, except that at one point an Underworld Dreams did hit the table. I tried to stream the match but didn’t know to tell Twitch to save the video. My removal went to town from what I recall, and it was over pretty quickly.

Match 7: John Sexton playing GrixisRukh Purge

This match was an epic series of misplays, disasters and falling right into my opponent’s traps. You can watch a lesson on how not to play The Deck (as well as some very smart plays by John) right here:

Match 8: Michael Simpson playing Rack Discard

This was a very tough match. I was on the play with a fragile opening library hand, but my opponent had a turn one Hymn and took me out of range. The second and third games I managed to get off Ancestral in both, and although he managed to resolve a few Hymns, it made the difference in terms of stabilizing.

Knock-out rounds

The tournament cut down from 256 players playing the batches to a top16 knockout stage. My record was good enough for 11th place and a slot in the top16. My tiebreakers were not that good, meaning I was a lower seed and was likely to be on the draw for most of my remaining matches, which were best of three for the T16/T8 and best of five for the semis and final. Quite a number of Sisters of the Flame made the cut, and the field was very competitive, five LionDib varieties, four copies of The Deck, two Shops, and a handful of spicier brews rounding out the top 16.

Top 16: Ron Dijkstra playing Grixis Rack

Ron was representing the Dutch OS community in the knockout rounds, and now that we had open decklists I knew he was on a rack list:

Top 8: Thomas Hamilton playing UR Fish

This is my second match against a Dude of Paradise, and this time I consider myself to be a slight underdog because this combination of creatures and Counterspells and burn is usually a bad mix for me. I do have the advantage of playing first, which takes away some of the worries about Force Spike, and Thomas doesn’t have much in terms of artifact hate in his 75, which means I can lean heavily on ivory tower. He is also playing without Time Walk, Twister or Volcanics, but has Plateaus in to bluff white, which unfortunately turn on my Fellwar Stones. This is his list:

Semi-Final: Shawn Sullivan playing The Deck

This is effectively a mirror — the only differences in the main deck are Shawn packing red for Bolt and Fireball, plus a Copy Artifact and a Divine Offering, compared with my two Power Sinks, Mirror Universe and 2nd Abyss. I think this makes him a slight favorite in the pre-board games since he probably has a better chance in the book wars. His sideboard probably doesn’t quite stack up to mine. I rate the discard package over the REBs since they have much better chances of managing a 2-for-1. His Dust to Dust is one I need to watch for. Post board I can’t get overextended on books.

Final: Pez Unholy playing LionDibTog

The final was against Pez and his LionDibTog list, a carbon copy of a list put together by Sister Seth for an earlier event. This is full tilt aggro and I expected to be subjected to some serious card slams and a real battle to keep my head above water. Pez was a higher seed so he got to play, which is a huge advantage for a Vise/Lion list.


Thanks to DFB for organizing, all the streamers and commentators for helping out, and to the Sisters who helped brainstorm strategies in the knockout rounds and even did some testing where we weren’t sure about what worked. I had a total blast, and winning a huge tournament like this over the period of several weeks was in a way more exciting than doing it all in a day. I hope to be back in the Winter Derby, if I manage to accrue enough hall passes between now and then…



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Paul DeSilva

Paul DeSilva

Old School Magic player and head of Sisters of the Flame.