It’s been one year, one global pandemic and only four signatures since the Magic gods saw it fit to see me through to victory at n00bcoM I. As much as I didn’t want to admit it for fear of being let down, in the dark, twisted depths of my soul I was secretly hoping there was a little magic left. At least enough of a sprinkle for a top 8. I knew I’d be going into the tournament with a sub-optimal deck so it was easy to convince myself I had no chance to compete, but when I sat down with an Irish Coffee at 7:45AM EST to get the briefing from Flo Vo and the boys the delusions crept in. Why not me? I wasn’t the best player with the best deck last year. Maybe if I recreate last year’s vibe I could appease the gods. Irish Coffee? Check. Wrench NEIPA? Check. A bunch of Coronas to keep my hands steady? Check. Cadillac Margaritas? Check. OK, good start, but I had a couple of problems. I couldn’t set up shop in my newborn’s room this year and there was no way on god’s green earth I was going back to my Recurring Nightmare playmat. That was embarrassing, and surprising that no one called me out on my playmat choice (at least not to my face).
Cutting my Old School teeth on this side of the pond and starting in 2018 with almost nothing but 2 Alpha Bolts, a Beta Braingeyser and a Beta Mind Twist my wife won for predicting Farkas’ son’s DOB in the Sped baby pool, I bought into Old School via the CE route real quick. In fact, I never really had the itch to play a Swedish legal deck… until I heard about 40k ante! One of my hobbies during the pandemic has been daydreaming about ante decks and during moments of weakness (or inspiration) buying random Beta and Unlimited playables. Delusion Alert: In a way, the Magic gods brought me to a place to even play n00bcoM II, maybe they’d take me all the way? I still needed a little help though. I didn’t have power. Luckily my homie Mano brought me a few spare power 9 (no Lotus, no Timetwister) during his trip to the Cuse. You all remember that trip, right?
Just like the promise to sign my Deep Water, this little encounter came with a promise to send me a few Swedish legal dual lands when we landed on our deck choices. A few weeks passed. We brewed, we tested some decks, we played a Swedish B&R Spikefest, we had some thoughts on what to play. I landed on Lion Dib Bolt for my best chances at a repeat.
Jeff: (the weekend before n00bcoMII) Bro, probably time to get me some duals in the mail.
Mano: No chance, I have no clue what I’m playing.
Jeff: Hmmm… well, mind figuring that out so I can figure my shit out?
Two days pass.
Mano: I don’t know about this, dude.
Jeff: Seriously, are you trolling for willing head again?
Mano: Seems crazy to send $50k worth of magic cards in the mail even though there’s like a .0000001% chance something happens.
Jeff: I promise to replace them…. wait, seriously like $50k?
Mano: Yeah. Probably more actually.
Jeff: Like $50k USD?
Jeff: OK, then just give me a little fix… 4 Tundra, 2 Scrubland.
Mano: Yeah, that’s like $20k in the mail.
Begrudgingly I had to agree. Mano was right. He’s always right. He’s like my wise, old dad. So whatever, just one more brewing restriction: no dual lands. Our breakdown of the meta was probably a bunch of players would be in the same boat, so perhaps we’d see more aggro strategies or creature heavy midrange strategies than usual. My opinion was that based on the recent success and popularity of mono Green and RG Arabian decks that a resolved Serra Angel had the potential to smash a lot of decks in the field. I had picked up Lions, Serras, Plows and Dibs for ante so that was the logical path. The main question around the build was how greedy could I get with no dual lands and no Lotus? I toyed with playing the Ruby and a Fireball but I couldn’t justify cutting another basic. I toyed with Counterspell over Psi Blast, but between the mana restrictions, the potential to run into Vise, and my belief that 3/4s and 4/4s would be out in full force I thought the Psi Blasts were the clearly better option. The big question marks in the final build are the two Scepters. I toyed with book (which didn’t arrive until the day after n00bcoM even though I ordered from multiple vendors to hedge on the shipping time!) and of course they could have easily been Counterspells as well. I’ve had some recent experience with Scepter in the NEOS monthlies. While fraught with recency bias, Scepters have seemed to way overperform. Obviously they are strong against control decks, but I’ve also experienced a lot of Magic where the win comes down to the last man serving the beatdown with Factory. A Scepter in play ensures your opponent can’t kill your factory with Bolts, Plows, Shatters or Disenchants when everyone is in topdeck mode. In my humble opinion it’s only actively bad against 12 burn decks. Even good old mono green can’t hold back their Giant Growths and Berserks with an active Scepter. (Granted you’re probably winning at that point against mono Green, but with 3-4 Maze it’s no guarantee). Here is the final list:
When I say “final” list I did create a small fiasco upon deck submission (Flo Vo, I really felt bad!! I really wasn’t trying to be a douche even though I succeeded marvelously!!) Here’s my original submission. Note the Mind Twist which, while “really fugly” is legal in all formats. Some players might recall Magnus putting this up for a prize last year. I was in a bind because normally Old School players will play all their mementos from previous tournaments, get togethers, holiday gift swaps, etc. But of course while this thing means a lot to me, it’s really, really, really fucking ugly! So of course my original submission included my prized Mind Twist, which I think got some airtime on stream.
I ran a Fellwar to help fix my mana a little. The truth is, other than being flooded or screwed on total mana from time to time I never really struggled with casting spells. Given the brewing restrictions I liked where I ended up. In retrospect I would have cut the Recall and both Scepters and would have run 2 Preacher and the Spirit Link main. Since I was expecting a creature heavy meta those cards would have been really good and sure enough I was bringing them in CONSTANTLY. I haven’t done much of a post tournament breakdown of the meta, but based on the last episode of ATC as well as my matchups all day, it sounds like a lot of players came to similar conclusions about what the field might yield. It’s kind of pointless to draw any more conclusions about a sub-optimal build of a prominent Tier 1 strategy so I’ll just leave it there other than to say that Serra Angel is a fucking house!
I ended up 3-3-1 on the day. I played against 3 Lion Dib decks, 2 Tax/Tower/Land’s Edge, 1 Erhnam Geddon, and 1 mostly black deck with Sengir and Underworld Dreams. As always, I really enjoyed meeting new people in the community. 6 of my 7 opponents I didn’t know previously which was a blast, and I kicked off the day against one of everyone’s favorite Old Schoolers, Schwartz. It’s tough for a simple Thank You to come anywhere near sufficing for what Florian, Slan Fan, Gordon, Seb, and a bunch of other people invested to make the day a success, but Thank You nonetheless. Congrats to Danny Friedman on a really great day and on a Baby Shark! Let’s all hope the IRL magic, the traveling and the clinking of pints gets here real quick, but until then I’ll see you in Tolaria again real soon.