SCGCON 2019 was a blast, but it was also expensive. Though the tournament itself was reasonably priced, the location necessitated some $400-$500 in travel expenses (as well as enduring the almost literal hell that is driving through West Virginia… twice!). As such, I needed a cheaper and more efficient way to scratch my Old School tournament itch. Enter “Skype Magic” (really “appear.in Magic”) and the 2019 Summer Derby. Could playing via a webcam bring the same sense of fulfillment as an in-person tournament?
A New Deck
I knew I didn’t want to run back my Goblins deck from SCGCON for two reasons. First, the deck is not that interesting to play. Occasionally you need to sequence spells around counters or sacrifice some creatures in combat to get in a couple extra points of damage, but mostly you just fling Goblins and burn spells at your opponent until someone loses. Second, the deck benefits greatly from 4 Strip Mines, which is 3 Strip Mines more than the amount allowed under the Derby’s Atlantic rules.
Unfortunately, I had expended a large percentage of my “free money” and wife points on the Roanoke trip, so I only had about $100 to tweak my deck for this event. I briefly considered spending the money on Copper Tablets, Blood Moons, and Atogs, but that deck did not feel different enough. Also, in testing with my brother, Atogs felt severely underpowered without free Moxen to throw away.
I quickly ran into a wall, as after taking out all the “bad cards” from my Goblins deck, I was left with only 6ish cards.
I poured over Atlantic deck lists from previous events and came up with a few generalizations:
People tended to play lots of non-basics, likely due to the aforementioned Strip Mine restriction.
Troll Disco and Sedge Trolls seemed to win lots of the events.
Workshop decks also seemed to thrive with the favorable Workshop to Strip Mine ratio.
I knew I wanted to play Blood Moons in the main deck, which meant that I didn’t necessarily want to play Disks as well. I loved Sedge Troll back in the day though, so without any testing at all, I ordered some cards for the following monstrosity:
The idea was to cast a Turn 2 Blood Moon as often as possible (while only playing 3 Blood Moons, naturally), hence the Birds and Elves. Untamed Wilds tied the mana base of Beta Basics together (those I did not have to buy in this go around - I picked up several at GenCon a few years ago) and allowed me to play both Sedge Trolls and Erhnam Djinn. Everything else was a crapshoot or a guess.
I wasn’t particularly confident with online tournament protocols or etiquette, so I waited for all my first batch opponents to contact me. It turns out I waited longer than necessary, because Facebook did not alert me to the messages from my “non-friends.” Live and learn. Most of my first batch opponents were Europeans, which worked out well schedule-wise.
R1 - Henk Willemse (U/R/b Flyer Burn)
I had many questions about webcam Magic. How do we position our cameras? Do we chat first? Do we show our faces? What about cutting decks? Henk had his webcam pointed down at his cards, and our chatting was similar to a paper tournament - pleasantries and introductions, but nothing too deep. This became my default settings for the remainder of the tournament.
G1 - Henk keeps a 1 land/Sol Ring hand. I have T2 shatter and he gets too far behind. An Erhnam finishes him off.
I side out Blood Moon because I see mostly basic Islands. I also side in Argothian Pixies and Shatter to deal with Factories.
-3 Blood Moon -1 Earthquake -1 Shatterstorm -1 Disintegrate +3 REB +2 Argothian Pixies +1 Shatter
G2 - I keep a hand with only lands, Birds, and Wilds, thinking I can draw anything and be fine. I draw nothing and am quickly dispatched by Flying Men and Serendib Efreets.
G3 - This time I have the T1 Sol Ring, which I parlay into Turns 2, 3 and 5 Erhnam Djinns. He slowly deals with all threats and then Wheels. We both draw a lot of mana and fall into topdeck mode. He finds a Control Magic my 3rd Erhnam, but I have a Sedge Troll holding it back. Since he’s at 2 life, he has to counter a Pixies that will sneak past his Factories, and I am able to Bolt him for the win.
R2 - Florian von Bredow (5C Stuff? Spirit Link Juzams)
G1 - He gets setup with Underworld Dreams, but Erhnam and Sedge Troll clear the way for an Earthquake to the face.
+2 Tranquility +1 Shatter -1 Shatterstorm -1 Earthquake -1 Disintegrate
G2 - I keep at T2 Blood Moon hand, but he Timetwisters everything away. The following turn he plays Moat, so I anxiously hope to peel a Tranquility. I never do, and Florian takes the game.
I see way more blue cards, so I bring in REB. To add insult to injury, my webcam keeps falling off my monitor. I am asking it to defy the laws of physics, and it refuses to comply.
-1 Untamed Wilds -1 Sedge Troll -1 Derelor +3 REB
G3 - He mulligans to 5 but eventually gets a Spirit Link on a Juzam. I have double Erhnam racing the forest-walking Juzam, and a Bolt lets me squeak out a win by the thinnest of margins. His own Juzam deals the final point of damage before the Spirit Link can save him.
So far, I have cast Blood Moon 0 times. Good job, deck!
R3 - Richard Stebbing (Grixis Workshop)
I was not nervous because I did not yet know that Richard won the previous Winter Derby. Ignorance is bliss!
G1 - He T1 Ancestrals off Underground Sea, which I Strip Mine. Two turns later a Mishra’s Workshop comes down, and I regret everything. Su-Chi and Clockwork Avian finish me off in short order. Did you know that Clockwork Avian’s toughness stays 4 while only its power ticks down? Well now you do.
-1 Earthquake -1 Untamed Wilds -1 Chain Lightning -1 Shivan Dragon -1 Disintegrate +1 Shatter +1 Shatterstorm +1 Titania’s Song +2 Argothian Pixies
G2 - I mulligan to 6 but keep a Birds/Shatterstorm hand. He Strips my Mountain before his T2 Triskelion pings my bird, and I never get to two red mana to cast Shatterstorm. An Icy Manipulator assures that I never have enough mana to cast a notable spell.
Blood Moons - Still 0 (though it would have been sweet)
R4 - Mike VanDyke - Workshops
Mike is my first American opponent, as well as the first opponent who starts by showing me his face. On the advice of some Discord users, I have upgraded by webcam setup to include the sturdiest, least flexible webcam holder on the market. My webcam cannot fall, but I also cannot reasonably adjust it to reciprocate the face showing. Everything’s a trade-off, I suppose.
G1 - He undoes his mull to 5 with a T1 Ancestral. I have T2 Sedge Troll, but he finds an Abyss, which functionally shuts down my entire deck. Two Tetravuses (Tetravi?) seal the deal.
-1 Earthquake -2 Untamed Wilds - 1 Chain Lightning - 1 Disintegrate -1 Sedge Troll +1 Shatter +1 Shatterstorm +1 Titania’s Song +2 Argothian Pixies +1 Tranquility
G2 - I mulligan to 5 but don’t have Ancestral to get out of it. My T2 Pixies is met with Mox, Mox, Mana Vault, Sol Ring, Balance, bringing me down to 1 card in hand. A Tetravus and a Triskelion make short work of me.
Blood Moons - Still 0
At the end of Batch I, I am 2-2 and not technically locked out of Top 16. I also have evolved my webcam setup into this, for better or for worse:
The next batch of pairings go up, and I am yet again paired against mostly Europeans.
Nick Cramer (The Deck)
G1 - I have a fast Mind Twist into Troll and Erhnam beatdown. Time to get unreasonably hopeful about my finish!
-1 Shivan Dragon -2 Untamed Wilds -1 Chain Lightning -1 Earthquake -1 Disintegrate -1 Sedge Troll +3 REB +1 Shatter +1 Shatterstorm +1 Titania’s Song +1 Argothian Pixies
G2 - Some early aggression gets Nick into single digits, but an Abyss comes down, neutering my attack. I try and hold back some creatures for a final blitzkrieg, but I die to Factories before it all comes together.
-1 Shatterstorm +1 Tranquility
G3 - His Serra Angel flies over his Moat to take my life in increments of 4. Nick takes the victory at 20 life.
Blood Moons - 0
Michael Schroers (Naya Erhnam on Ice)
G1 - I cast my first Blood Moon of the tournament, which shuts down Michael’s 3-color manabase enough for my creatures to get the job done.
G2 - I mulligan to 5 and Michael’s T3 Erhnam makes short work of me.
G3 - Game 2, but in reverse. I’ll take it, even though I feel like I have decent game against other “fair” decks.
1 Blood Moon!
Paul Kovalov (Power Monolith)
G1 - I have a threat light hand with a Blood Moon, which Paul unfortunately Mana Drains. I give him too much time to assemble his combo, and he Fireballs me to infinity and beyond.
I don’t have my sideboarding notes because “this is almost over, and I’ll just remember when I write it up.” Solid.
G2 - On T3 I have the choice of casting Sedge Troll or Blood Moon. I cast Troll, thinking the Blood Moon will be more detrimental if it sticks. He has Mana Drain into a third land and the full combo, so in the end, it doesn’t even matter. I tried so hard…
Paul apologizes for his incredibly smooth run and seems like a super nice guy. He also informs me that LobsterCon is now waitlisted, which I suppose saves me the trouble of convincing my wife to let me go.
1 Blood Moon (not for lack of trying)
Jacob Braun (UR Counterburn)
Though Paul’s Facbook name appears in Cyrillic, it’s Jacob who actually lives in Russia. This is the largest time differential of the tournament, and I think we end up playing around midnight EDT. Jacob is 5-2 and looking to get into the Top 16. I’m looking to dream crush and end at .500.
G1 - We have a pretty tight back and forth until we get to an ending I don’t fully understand this far out. Jacob is at 2, and I am at 3. Jacob draws and excitedly taps his 3 Islands to Psionic Blast me for what we both mistakenly assume is the win. Fortunately, I have a Lightning Bolt to make our mistake moot. I am unsure what we were thinking, but I think we were both playing at extremely odd times.
I still don’t have sideboard notes. “I’m gonna write this up in the morning,” says past Pups.
G2 - This one is less climactic. Despite having a Library of Alexandria, Jacob takes forever finding a second and then third land. I just attack with my dudes and burn him out.
1 Blood Moon
I finished 4-4, good enough for 64th place out of 142 participants. Not bad for a janky, unpowered deck. All of my opponents were exceptionally pleasant, and playing over the internet did actually fulfill my desire to play Old School Tournament Magic. I would love an even better webcam setup, potentially even a 2 camera setup which would allow me to create a “streaming” style video. I’m not sure if that is even possible given the software, but it’s worth looking into.
I appreciated the Atlantic Strip Mine restriction - the games felt more like “games” than almost any from SCGCON, as both players had time to breathe. My sample size is admittedly limited, however. With Strip Mine restricted, I am curious about unrestricted Workshop. Even with 2 Shatterstorm, 2 Shatter, and 1 Titania’s Song, I could not keep Workshop decks from obliterating me. Anyone play Swedish ban list with Fallen Empires?
Many thanks to Dave Firth Bard for organizing the tournament. Looking forward to the Winter Derby!
Until next time…