A very good man by the name of Michael James Heup (MJH) was the TO and content creator for the recently completed Premodern Spring Fling. Over the course of about 1.5 months MJH corralled around 64 mages, first organizing batches by time zone for convenience of scheduling, then by record after the first 4 rounds were in the books. He also created an informative video to get things kicked off which can still be found on YouTube. Check it out because it basically says if you don’t communicate well and make earnest efforts to get your matches in then you can kindly go fuck yourself, which in my mind is the perfect way to kick off the action!
After 7 rounds we cut to top 8 and Michael made every effort to coordinate his schedule with that of the players to stream each match live. He and a guest commentator provided some great analysis as the games played out. I personally enjoyed watching some of the replays and l learned I’d been playing like a donkey for 7 rounds of Magic. Interested parties can still see the top 8 matches and some other awesome Premodern showdowns on Michael’s Twitch channel and YouTube by searching for his handle: The Cloudgoat Ranger.
But wait, there’s more! MJH painstakingly compiled and published profiles of each of the top 8 contenders. Here’s mine:
But wait, there’s still more! MJH (or perhaps it was Mannos Kokkinis who puts these together on a regular basis for the community) posted every top 8 deck in this sick visual format using the exact versions of the cards played. I played a well-known tier 1 archetype called The Rock. Here’s my list in the sick AF format and a non sick AF format:
And now a word from our sponsors. I suspect many of this blog’s readers are at least familiar with Premodern and I know some of you are active players. If you’re not, check out Premodern Magic curated by Martin Berlin, the format’s inventor. The Rock is one of about 8ish truly tier 1 decks in the format, which makes the number of deck choices and the diversity of brewing space within the large, non-rotating card pool an attractive format to play. When you consider the legal sets range from 1995 – 2003 you have a worldwide player pool probably in the 7 figure range who played and competed for at least some of these years. For many old(ish)-schoolers it represents a golden era of magic when PTQs, Grand Prixs, Pro Tours, JSS were all readily available for live play and you’d travel with your team and friends regionally to hit as many as you could. This is how I solidified a number of life-long friendships. The 8 year span also means that many (most?) players either quit MtG at least once during this span (like me who didn’t play other than Broken Draft from Nemesis through Mirrodin) or started playing post-1995. Either way, that means you get to learn about new cards, sets, mechanics, interactions and lines of play as you delve in. You can see if some of the brews you loved back in the day can benefit from all these other cards that didn’t exist or weren’t legal at the time. Likely for many of these reasons and thanks to people like Andrew Walker, Ron Taylor and Jared Doucette who have all had a hand (as far as I know) in creating and running the monthly online tournaments the format is gaining incredible traction. The May monthly has 98 participants (although come on guys, you couldn’t find 2 randoms to get to 100?). As I write this, Andrew Walker just posted that the group hit 600 members (up from 250 just a year ago). Then you have a whole slew of people doing other cool things like streaming matches, archiving tournament results/deck lists, and publishing podcasts. (Apologies for not being able to highlight by name all the people devoting time, energy and creativity to build this community but the truth is there’s so much going on I just can’t possibly keep track of it!) If any of this stuff speaks to you then jump right in! You’ll be welcomed with open arms and relative to Old School MtG you can build many competitive decks on the cheap!
OK, back to our regularly scheduled programming. At a glance you can probably get what’s going on with The Rock. You’ve got early hand disruption and creature removal. Some acceleration into your fatties. Extra value out of cards like Wall of B or Yamimaya Elder plus Cabal Therapy. Recurring Nightmare for some serious late game fun if you’re on this side of the battle. And of course you have Pernicious Deed plus the Man Lands. Perhaps the not so obvious interaction unless you’ve played the deck before is Blastoderm being a Beast and Ravenous Baloth reading “Sac a Beast: Gain 4 life.” Embarrassingly I didn’t realize this was a thing until after I nearly lost my quarterfinal match to Felix Felix on Goblins, which I suppose speaks to the power of the deck even in a donkey’s hands. All in all you have a really consistent mid-range deck without any really weak matchups. Some metagame calls you can tinker with include the number of walls you want to play as well as Festering Goblin vs. Birds or Elves. I opted to go heavy on the walls and Festering Goblins because I thought I would see a lot of Sligh and Goblins. Oh yeah, and please make sure you have Naturalize for your sideboard before sleeving this up, thank you very much.
But Jeff, it says on your stupid homepage that your blog is singularly focused on your quest for the Shark. What the fuck?
You’re right! Thank you for holding me accountable. The Deep Water has not arrived yet. It’s no doubt somewhere in the bowels of the international mail but I’m sure it will be shat out in Syracuse, NY at some point before we can start traveling for tournaments. I do hope it gets here today though because I’ll be seeing Lemke for a socially-distant taco from a food truck his wife coordinated for the neighborhood and I’d very much like to collect my 2nd signature. In the meantime I sent Mark and Jonas some tokens of gratitude for their sportsmanship, senses of humor, and of course as mementos of our time together. I couldn’t think of anything too creative to send to Yann (for the same reasons of course), but he’s getting something nevertheless.
Onto the tournament. I don’t remember hardly any details about the first 7 matches but I’ll run through the list of my opponents and their decks. As I mentioned above, a hallmark of the format is the diversity of options to play and you’ll see this come to fruition below. In 10 matches I bumped up against 10 distinctly decks.
Round 1 – Jared Doucette – Phyrexian Devourer Combo (1-0)
Jared admits to not being much of a combo player but he wanted to accept the challenge of piloting this cool deck with its powerful endgame and tricky lines of play. Under current rules you can basically make your Devourer as big as you need to and then sac it to Alter of Dementia or Fling it at your opponent’s face. Once you start flipping cards from the top of your deck your opponent can’t really interact with the combo so typically it’s GGs from there. I know I had a Null Rod one game and I think I dismantled his hand in another. I remember them being fairly tight though and of course it’s always fun catching up with JD!
Round 2 – Justin Giovaniello – Deadguy Ale (2-0)
Deadguy is BW with Hippies, discard spells, and the Rack. It’s probably a tier 1.8 deck. No clue how this played out but it was nice meeting and talking with Justin, one of the newer members of the community.
Round 3 – William Serwetman – UW Standstill (3-0)
This is possibly the best deck in the format. It’s a control deck that plays Standstill for card advantage while it pounds you with Man Lands or a cycled Decree of Justice. Again, I don’t remember a single detail but William is a lovely person and we’re matched up for a game his month in the NEOS! Maybe I shouldn’t drink so much…
Round 4 – Robin Lundh – Pox (4-0)
This one I do remember! Pox is not a tier 1 deck but it has some game and was damn close to taking me out. Game 3 Robin and I kept ripping exactly what we needed to stay alive. I finally ripped the Deed that I needed to take out his Scroll and rode my Man Lands to victory. Pox is a hell of a fun and nostalgic card so props to Robin for bringing it. He also loves The Rock so we chatted a little about my deck choices and the meta. Robin, I would have appreciated a heads up about the whole Blastoderm / Baloth dilemma though!
Round 5 – Remi Ouellette – Suicide Black Midrange (4-1)
After 4 rounds we have 3 to go and are matched up against other 4-0 or 3-1 opponents. Remi ended up making the top 8 with a midrange mono black build of his own creation. Remi is a familiar face in the Premodern monthlies and we’ve played a number of matches together. The memorable moment in this one involved me getting control game 2 and getting ready to shuffle up for game 3 when he ripped his Kaervek’s Spite right of the top for exactsies! I appreciate a great top deck and it was a fun and memorable way to be handed my first loss of the tournament.
Round 6 – Gabriel Farkas – Fluctuator Combo (5-1)
Gabe is another well-known face in the community. He is perhaps best know for his spicy posts in which he goes insanely deep into the card pool to spur conversations about potentially insane and untapped tech. Affectionately known in my circle as the Other Farkas I talk tech with Gabe quite a bit. Fluctuator is a card from Urza’s Saga that allows you to cycle for free. You can then kill with a Haunting Misery or a Drain Life powered out by Song of the Damned. Probably a tier 2 deck. Tormod’s Crypt came in handy for me in this one, and of course it can’t win without Fluctuator so Duress and Therepy were very, very mean to Gabe.
Round 7 – Kim Karl Pfeiffer – UG Dreadnought (6-1)
Kim and I both had 1 loss so it looked like Win and In for both of us. Kim is another guy who contributes to the format by compiling the results/decks from Premodern outings and submitting them to TC Decks. If you want a good idea of what’s competitive you don’t have to take my word for it. Just go to TC Decks and look through all the Premodern results. You’ll get the picture pretty quickly. I remember this match being tight and going down to 3 games. There are a number of ways to build Stifle ‘Nought and Kim’s build leverages Vision Charm not only to get his Dreadnought on the table but to turn on Threshold for his army of other dudes. I felt like I was on my heels the whole match but somehow I came out on top which punches my ticket to the top 8.
The top 8 was a fucking blast! MJH streamed the absolute heck out of these matches! I loved the commentary and I also love the chats in the sidebar, especially the trash talk and overt rooting for one deck or player over another. I just think it’s really fun in an environment where everyone is a good sport and playing for massive amounts of street cred. All kidding aside, it’s helpful when I can tell my wife that literally dozens of people are counting on me to be on time for this match, many of whom will be cheering their virtual hearts out.
Quarterfinals – Felix Felix – Goblins (G/R Version)
Felix and I agree on a best of 5. Mano, today’s guest commentator, thinks I’m 99% to win given my build. He underestimated 2 things: I don’t know what my cards do and Goblins, while looking like a linear beatdown strategy, is surprisingly resilient in the late game. Ringleader in particular just keeps loading you back up and eventually no amount of walls can stop the horde. Felix and I go to 5 games in a grueling 2.5 hour match and even though he mulled to 4 in game 5 it took me drawing my one remaining Recurring Nightmare to simply overwhelm Felix with Baloths and Squirrel tokens shaped like Pegasus. It was after this match that I learned I could sac my Blastoderm to my Baloth and gain a cool 4 life. Certainly would have been nice to know that before the game! I actually re-watched the whole match, as did Felix who posted a really nice commentary on how the match played out and some more optimal lines both players could have taken as the match drew out. In any case, it was a fun battle and I think we both learned something about ourselves!
Semis – Aaron Dicks – Sligh
I think Aaron is new to the community and he has a Cursed Scroll playmat so I liked him immediately. Sligh is in the running for best deck in the format, but with my newly discovered Blastoderm trick I feel pretty good about the match up. (For more cool tricks, check out Winona Ryder’s Famous Ping Pong Ball Trick) I’m also on the play as the higher seed. Aaron and I decided to go best of 3 after the marathon Felix and I had just played. Game 1 plays out weird on both sides. Aaron is stuck on 2 lands for basically the whole game so he couldn’t get his Sulfuric Vortex or Ball Lightnings on the board. I actually only drew 2 non-land cards the whole game but I started swinging with Man Lands early and had just enough gas in the tank to get over the finish line. Game 2 I had a pretty ridiculous draw and packed Aaron up real quick. I’m not sure there’s a hand Aaron could have put together to beat it. I ramped into Blastoderm then Baloth, and followed up with Recurring Nightmare to serve the beats and gain some life.
Finals – Flint Espil – 4C Lands
Flint is a well known end boss in the Premodern online community. He’s put up some incredible results with a range of decks over time, which speaks to his prowess as a player and his keen eye for the meta. I hated this matchup going into it because I didn’t have those stinkin’ Naturalize in my sideboard. I didn’t own any because I refuse to pay $.78 shipping on $.40 worth of cards. Flint’s deck needs Horn of Greed to win, and while I can Therapy or Duress it away, he can find more with Enlightened Tutor and once this engine starts chugging the momentum is amazing. It would have been nice to be able to interact with his permanents more quickly than Pernicious Deed allows. All this aside, we went to 5 games after I started 0-2. Flint absolutely demolished me game 1. Game 2 came down to the last card in his deck and I felt like I had 3 or 4 turns to draw a Therapy or Duress for the win. Games 3 and 4 I believe I had a combination or hand disruption and a fairly quick clock. Game 5 he had the God draw and there wasn’t anything I could do. A worthy champion was crowned! Hats off to Flint!
So there it is! Thanks again to MJH for running an awesome event! I know the Premodern community appreciated it, and I’m really looking forward to your recap! I’ll see you all in a Whereby room near you very soon. Until then, be safe. Peace and Love. -Jeff