Quest for the Shark

The weekend before the inaugural n00bcoM Team Sped members Mano, Jamie Parke, Adam Lemke and yours truly hopped into for a few minutes to break the format. I can’t remember if Farkas was on, but if he was it was just to crack jokes about Mano’s sideboard. MG had recently announced that not only was he anteing up some sick prizes (including the original n00bcon art!!!!) but that the winner could go on a quest to turn their copy of Deep Water into a Giant Shark, the most prestigious and coveted prize in all the world of Magic. This was the event to win.

Mano: Parke, we’re playing Tog. Here’s the build. Just 6-0’d the NEOS.

Parke: OK.

Lemke: I don’t think my mana base can support 4 Dervish. Going down to 1.

Jeff: I’m mopping up with RW Candle Flare Mesa!

… format broken. Got any other brain busters?

Between the 4 of us our cumulative Scryings experience included one month of NEOS play hosted by Jared Doucette, and I had played 2-3 matches in the Scryings Webcam Group. Nevertheless, we all played during the Scryings era and our team’s ability to theory-craft tech and speak in hyperbole is second to none. Things we felt sure of were cards like Lat Nam’s Legacy, Tithe, River Boa, and the little red dudes were strong to quite strong and would probably be ubiquitous. We needed to either embrace them or deal with them. We also kept saying that Scryings brings a whole new suite of strong, playable creatures to the format and we’d expect to see strategies adjusted accordingly. Twiddle/Charm Vault was on our radar as a strong deck. Reanimator was not (not really anyway). A third of our time was spent by Mano trying to figure out how in the fuck he would get his hands on 6 Forsaken Wastes at such a late hour. (Answer: Pay a LGS $3 per copy. He’s still bitter about it!) We also knew that Sacred Mesa was busted. Over the years Mano et al taught many a lesson by prioritizing Sacred Mesa in the Broken Draft. For many of us, Old School is about casting spells for which we hold a soft spot in our hearts. “Nostalgia is a hell of a drug!” – Rick James. As such, I was personally hell-bent on building around Sacred Mesa. I fucking love that card. It brings me back to the simple days of the BD when your pick 1 pack 1 bomb choices were between Cone of Flame, Sacred Mesa and Control Magic. For another example of this draw to nostalgia, see Mano and Parke’s singleton Man-o’-War in their Atog build. They still swear it’s optimal! Plus I had bought like 35 Mesa Pegasus so I was pretty much pot committed.

By the way, I had been mopping up with RW Candle Flare Mesa! That was true, and I ended up losing in the finals of the MtG Swedish Scryings Webcam monthly to Stan Sterkendries. In fact, Stan brought a strong Temple of Sped-ish build and kicked my ass handily. Thankfully, pre-n00bcoM my teammates reminded me there was a Giant Shark on the line and the only way to build a deck is to jam every restricted card into the build before adding you final 18 or so cards. If it wasn’t for Team Sped I probably would have packed something that looked like this minus 2 or 3 lands plus a couple of plows and a Braingeyser.

So at this point we’re locked in on the restricted cards plus Sacred Mesa plus the ardent belief in a River Boa-heavy meta. And here’s what that formula spits out:

My teammates will later dub this deck 5 Color Jeff White (5CJW).

4 Tithe and 2 Legacy creates a lot of extra value, fixes your land, and really tilts your opponent. They also shuffle up when there’s garbage on top with Sylvan on the board. 1 Counterspell to keep people honest. They’ll put me on more than that given I’m control. 3 Bolts for Factory, Vandal, Miner, et al. Terror for River Boa, maybe for Wildfire Emissary and Dib. I was really bullish on Wrath for all the logic aforementioned. I was sure I’d be 3-for-1-ing everyone all day. Turns out I was wrong. More on that later. Right before we printed this deck, 2 big things happened that ultimately shaped the day: Lemke needed to borrow 2 of my 4 Legacy so I dropped my build from 3 to 2 and went up to 2 Sacred Mesa bringing one out of the SB (the correct number for sure!). Had I packed 1 Mesa main deck there’s no way I take this tournament down. Additionally, Mano had asked me what my strategy was against control. Great question, I thought! I added 3 Miner to my sideboard. Done. Ready to theoretically fuck shit up! Oh wait, one more thing. I got a feeling.

Oh yeah? What feeling is that?

I know you know this feeling. You know this feeling very well. You got the table all set up, your fork, your knife, youe A1 sauce…

All you need is the steak.

I felt a little like Mike D rummaging through his apartment for 3 stacks of high society when I approached by wife to tell her she’d be wrangling the kids (Ben (4), Harper (2.5) Nora (.083333 (repeating of course)) between the hours of 8:00AM – 4:00PM unless I made the top 8 ( then it would be 9:00PM or so!!!!!). Instead of stacks of $10k I pulled all my wife cred out of Bibles, law tomes, the back of my Freewind Falcon original, etc. Anyway, she gave me the nod. On we go to round 1.

Round 1: Jason Dorman – Dib Atog

Here we fucking go! Round 1 is going to be a tester! Will 5CJW just look good on paper to Sacred Mesa lovers around the world or is it the real deal? Game 1 was indicative of the luck you need to win a tournament. JD gets me to 2 with a of of burn. I drop a Mesa. He bricks on about 6 draws in a row. I take the game. I don’t remember game 2. He might have flooded or something but I’m not sure I ever felt threatened.

Round 2: Lukas Baum – RG Aggro

This is exactly the type of deck 5CJW is built to punish. Game 1 goes according to plan. Plows, Bolts and Wrath all do work. This match was only one of two all day where I think I got 2 for 1 with Wrath. Turns out that no one really drops like 4 creatures at a time and I can’t wait around taking damage while they load up the board. Game 2 Lukas can’t draw red for about 7 turns. I was getting a little low but I had a Mesa on board. He buys time by landing a Falling Star on 5 Pegasus! Great flip miser! Too little too late though. Lukas is kold with 4-5 Bolts in his hand.

Round 3: Yann Franzen – Finalist

Game 1 is extraordinarily tight. I’m taking a shitload of pain off cities while Yann chips away with creatures, factories and a Psi Blast. I’m one turn away from the win and he rips the other Psi Blast off the top. Game 2 I mull to 5 and got smashed. 2-1 on the day.

Round 4: Brother Stebbo – Mirror-ish Match

Huge props to Brother Stebbo for sleeving up 2 copies of Sacred Mesa! Stebbo opted for a more counter-heavy version with Sylvan over book and a couple of Zuran Orbs. Stebbo ends up 5-2 on the day as well with Sacred Mesa, which is gas! Nice job dude. I don’t remember game 1 at all other than winning it, but I sided in the 3 Dwarven Miner and might have drawn them all. He didn’t have enough answers and conceded with 0 lands on the board. +1 for the Miner SB tech. 3-1 on the day.

Round 5: Mano – No Rules Tog

Hot off a 6-0 Scryings NEOS finish I don’t think Mano 100% hated his life at this point but he was pretty damn close. I was about to put him over the edge. Game 1 he does his thing and gets me pretty low. I have all the answers and use his Ankh against him to throw 2 Bolts and a Fireball at his face. Game 2 he goes for the burn –> wheel line but I’m holding the case Counterspell and he can’t reload. Ya dead. I then talk him off the ledge because we are great friends etc and I really enjoy his podcast. He also has 4 kids and a wife to, um, I guess take care of?

Round 6: Michael Scheffenacker – RUG

I love Michael’s deck. I think it’s a very tight build and he even had the foresight to run 3 Tormod’s Crypt in the board (all from the Dark expansion I should note!). I think I’m a slight to modest dog against Scheff. He runs the full suite of 12 burn spells plus 4 Vise and so my removal-heavy deck has too many answers to the wrong threats. Here’s where I realized 2 Wrath main is wrong. I’ll never generate card advantage against a properly built aggro deck and my Mesa is too slow to get the win. He beats be 2-0 and while I might have had a mull or 2 in there I didn’t want to see this deck again. No surprise Scheff piloted this to the top 8.

I’m 2 losses on the day going into the 7th and final round. At the time I remember thinking 2 or 3 5-2s would make the top 8 (Turns out a third of the 5-2 actually made it). Looking back on my day I felt like I’d have a deece chance if I win round 7. I already knew my 2 losses were headed to the top 8 and I didn’t play anyone who was totally fucking around on the day so my OMW% must have been deece to deece plus! In any case I was having fun on the day, I loved my deck and my opponents were gas, so fuck it, let’s see what happens!

Round 7: Eloit Burk – Twiddle Vault

Fuck. Again, in my head I believe I have a shot to top 8 if I win and standing in my way is Eliot. I know Eliot is a Beast and I know he’s a player. I also quickly find out he’s on Twiddle Vault. The plus side is a I know this deck well. I love it, I love combo, and I was damn close to playing it. The downside is I think I’m a dog game 1 and I only packed 1 Tormod’s Crypt in the SB and 0 additional Counterspell. I end up taking game 1 because I abused the 2 or 3 Howling Mines he played. I disenchanted the first one. I Time Walked then Regrowthed Time Walk then disenchanted the 2nd one. He could’t recover from the card advantaged I had generated and I think I finished him off by finding my Counterspells and Fireballing him out. Game 2 was the one game all day that I think I punted. I had found my lucky Chronicles Tormod’s Crypt and I got the Crypt off, removing his Timetwister. I then had a play where I Regrowthed something that I thought would help me win the next turn rather than the Crypt. Eliot goes off that turn.

I honestly don’t remember how I won game 3. I know we were short on time and we were playing insane speed Magic. Cards were flying this way and that, no one had time to think about plays, and when the dust finally settled Eliot was at 0 life. This point in the tournament is just one of many where I feel insanely lucky to have not only made the top 8 but insanely thankful that we’re playing Magic within a community who cares as much or more about the chats, the hangs, the nostalgia, the friendships, etc, etc than winning, even on arguably our biggest stage. At one point in our match I literally got up for like 5 minutes to makes a batch of Margs and help my wife get on Whereby for a virtual happy hour. Eliot couldn’t have been more cool about me stepping away as he reloaded his drink and I think chatted with a couple other Speds who were birding our match. But as it were, we had to crank through game 3 partially because I took a few minutes of family time in the middle of a match and I felt a little bad about that. It was an epic battle that I didn’t want to shortchange and I just hoped (and still do hope) that my opponent didn’t feel that way. At that point we were probably the only match Florian was waiting on so I ping him quick, fill out our sheet, and about 8 seconds later I refresh the standings…

I had placed 8th!!!

In the midst of a flurry of texts, calls, emails, holy shits, GLs, etc I run down stairs and cash in the rest of my wife cred. In the middle of the kitchen there’s a hungry mother of 3 staring me down. I suggest she get comfortable doing whatever she’s doing and she should order some food for delivery because my match is about to start! I must have done a good job explaining why a cardboard shark means a hell of a lot to me because she wishes me luck and runs out to grab me a burger. What a woman!

Quarter Finals: Mark Evaldi – Reanimator

Welp, good run Jeff! Mark absolutely put on a clinic game 1 and I have no problem saying he brought the best deck to the tournament. What a masterpiece. At the time I remember thinking no one will be beating this and enjoy your shark bro. But I guess that’s why you play the game. By now you all know I was packing one and only one Kirkland-brand Tormod’s Crypt (Bryan Manolakos, Team Sped Google Group, 4 April 2020… as you may know, inventions are very important in a Sped’s world, and Mano claims to have invented Kirkland-brand X), which of course is an absolutely devastating card against Mark. He has basically no interaction at all so if you can shut down his engine he’s toast. Not only did I open with the Crypt in games 2 and 3 but I also found Mind Twist and Lotus which is an absolute fucking beating. Later that night I was exchanging messages with Mark. I got the God draws I needed to pull off a miracle win against his deck and admitted it. We exchanged dick pics – I mean deck pics – and I think he literally threw up after he saw my sideboard. The other reason it sucks for Mark that he didn’t steamroll the top 8 is that while I believe he truly broke the format and surprised most of us with an absolute monster of a deck that looks fun as hell to play, the deck is really weak to Crypt. Going forward people will have no choice but to pack 3-4 of them into their SB. Reanimator then needs a way to deal with Crypt and the last thing it wants to do is start cutting cards to side in mediocre answers to SB cards.

Obviously I have to acknowledge all the rules infractions we both made during this match. I’ll bet people were losing their fucking minds when we were just totally ignoring the Gloom on the table. Boy, what a shit show! Let me be the first to tell you, my favorite moment of the tournament was scooping up that Mesa and all those tokens and tossing them into my graveyard. I bought 30x Mesa Pegasus to make friends and laugh. I hope at your core you all feel the same way. I appreciated the Voice of God pointing out our errors and my thought on the whole thing is that if you’re even 49% not to be right on a ruling just concede the ruling and move on. We’ll all laugh about it later. Thanks to Mark and the other 9 dudes who were incredible opponents all day. I’m almost positive the other 60 players were just as cool.

Semis: Brother Jonas – Blood Moon

I believe Jonas and I were both amazed that most most epic game we played all day came in the semis. Library v. Library for what, 20 turns? I drew the answer to his Library first and after a while I resolved a Timetwister. At that point I’m drawing nothing but pure gas off the twister… That’s that.

I’m sure Jonas will never forget game 2. He tried to fuck my couch with 3 Blood Moons but I fucked his couch by answering every one. For what it’s worth I think the 4 Blood Moon main deck was a great choice for the meta. Every deck out there is cheating on its mana base. It was a great run with some cards that might not ever see the light of day in a top 8 again (I’m talking about you, Dragon Whelp).

Finals: Yann – Redemption

What the fuck! I like my match up but once again Yann is smashing my face game 1! It was eerily similar to our first G1 as I kept getting stung by City. Eventually I TD my Mesa and he has no answer. I squeak by.

This time I side in my Miners and one REB. He’s light on basics and they can buy me time. Once again I feeling like he’s off to the better start but I’m holding Balance and unless he has a Mind Twist I have a solid line. I take as much damage as I feel comfortable taking, knowing from our first match that he has at least 2 Psi Blasts. I block with my Miner and clear the board with Balance. A draw or 2 later I pull a Factory and then enough lands to cast – what else – Sacred Mesa. I ride it to victory.

“Misers be Misin’ like everyday” – Jamie Parke

I told Mano on his recent, highly exclusive interview on ATC that it’s still surreal that I won n00bcoM. That’s the truth. 5 Color Jeff White is a home brew built around one man’s love for Sacred Mesa and a modest, theoretical understanding of what I might run into all day. Then there’s the fact that even with a finely tuned deck you have to get pretty fucking lucky and run pretty fucking good almost all day to actually win. Oh yeah, and you actually have to play reasonably well because there are some amazing players in the field. For me, playing well is not a given since I’m only 2nd, possibly 3rd best Magic Team Sped and at the time I had been drinking at a reasonable pace for 8 hours straight. So for all this to align just for n00bcoM is still insane to me, and setting aside all the reasons I play Old School Magic let’s be real: it still feels great to win, at least for me.

As the chapter of winning n00bcoM closes another epic is about to begin: my quest for the Shark. If you have not heard, Magnus will be sending me a copy of Deep Water as my prize for winning. The caveat is if I can get it signed by all 70 players in the tournament I’ll get a Giant Shark, which of course is the Holy Grail of Old School Magic. Chris Mason suggested I start a blog to document the process and journey. I thought that was a fun idea. Thanks Mase!

The outreach of messages and offers to help me get signatures has been incredible! More evidence of why this community is so amazing. I’m sure I could mail this thing around the world and in a reasonable period of time get my hands on the Shark. But for me this is going to be about meeting more people face to face over a beer and talking cardboard. I’m really looking forward to every one of these eventual meet ups, chats and of course photo documentation that I’ll post here. Since who knows when we’ll be able to play live again I’ll also post a little about happenings in the Old School and Premodern world since I’m into that too. I hope some people in both communities get a kick out of the Quest and whatever else finds it’s way to the page. For me it’s all about the fun and the laughs and I know a lot of us could probably use a little more of both right about now. Keep safe, keep misin’. -Jeff

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