I used to think Old School Magic was just about sitting around the pub drinking a few beers, shuffling around cardboard trolls, and drawing the occasional dick with a Sharpie. And of course making some new and awesome friends from around the world. Then I played Seth Roncoroni in the semifinals of the 2021 Summer Derby and while the results ended up one sided, that match scratched every Magic itch I’ve ever had in every way. I can’t remember playing more interactive games with trickier lines in my 25 years of playing. I always play to win, but that match in particular really fueled the competitive spark smoldering inside me for years. The payoff with Flash Counter twice in the match is something I couldn’t have even made up (same with winning the Derby by attacking Ron with an Uthden Troll). Altogether this is what brings me back to Magic. I think my current ratio is 75% laughs, 25% competitive spirit. The balance of the two keeps me coming back so I’m grateful for this Derby run!
Deck selection might be one of the most personal and least discussed topics in Old School Magic. No one really asks “Why’d you play that deck?” But it’s really important for most tournaments and especially a Derby, not from a competitive perspective necessarily, but because you’re playing 8 to 12 matches of Magic with the same deck. If you’ve ever fucked this up and brought a deck you hated playing after 2 matches you know what I’m talking about. For the Summer Derby I can pinpoint the reason I played Troll Disco Burn, and it’s the same reason my sideboard is a pile of dogshit. This was the moment:
This quick little Lebowski alter sent me down a rabbit hole of drawing Lebowski quotes on Magic cards. Disk and Sedge Troll are practically begging to be altered, so I got the idea of trying to build a Lebowski-themed Troll Disco deck. As with most things I do I got bored really quickly so I stopped after the Trolls, Disks and Mind Twist. While the Lebowski concept hadn’t come fully to fruition I still wanted get these out into the wild, and I figured what better platform than the Derby? Adam Lemke had also recently been touting the comedic genius of the Big Dick Energy episode of Solar Opposites, inspiring the 4 card alter of Big Dick Energy Flux (which ironically I used only once until they devastated Ron in games 3 and 4 of the finals). My only regret was not taking Ben Katz’s advice and altering some “Donnie, you’re out of your Elemental Blasts.”
Kidding aside for like 2 seconds, I’ve been thinking for a while about what the best 12 burn shell is in Old School. Seth, Sheff, Pez et al have put up some tremendous results piloting 12 burn aggro (all 3 made the top 16 of this Derby in fact). I love the idea of being in the game in any matchup, especially including The Deck, which is a box 12 burn definitely checks. It could be that 12 burn plus X is just flat out good enough but I imagine people will continue to brew. Personally, I hate the idea of folding to Blood Moon, or any other single card hoser. I get all the reasons I shouldn’t care, primarily that I shouldn’t put something sub-optimal together for a matchup I might not even see in 8 matches but it just feels so fucking bad to be on the wrong side of Blood Moon with 1 out in your deck. (Feels pretty fucking good to be doing the hosing though!) This is the primary logic that led me to Trolls and Disks in the burn shell. I built the first iteration for the Legends month of NEOS (around April or so?) and ended up going 4-2. You can see other than being an Atlantic build the end result is pretty similar. This is where I learned the deck definitely did not need Timetwister to reload (the midrange game is strong enough to play off the top against most decks and I don’t play all 5 moxen). 4 Disks seemed a little too clunky and I wanted 1-2 more threats as well. Stone rain was just an experiment that didn’t work out too well. Please fully ignore the sideboard, as usual.
So I jammed in the Uthden Troll as half a spice card, half a threat. I also decided to give Flash Counter a whirl. I’d seen some strong players running it during my net decking and I figured it would be good protection against Plow, Disenchant, possibly mirror-ish burn decks and maybe even live the dream and counter an Ancestral. It turns out it’s reasonably good against mono green to hit a Giant Growth or Berserk. It’s unlikely Flash Counter is better than the 4th Chain or perhaps the 3rd Shatter, but I found it carried it’s weight reasonably well against half the field, and was an easy side out against the other half. I like the basic Island because it’s a sick alter, but it’s really a necessity against Blood Moon and if you plan to run your own Blood Moons in the board.
I played a diverse group of decks over 12 rounds including 2 mono green builds, a few burn heavy aggro builds, Troll Disco, 2 Lauter-esque builds, and some Robots in the top 16. 12 burn plus X might just be the deck to beat as I felt really confident in most of my matchups. I think the addition of powerful midrange cards is something to keep exploring (like this deck does, and to some degree like Seth/Pez/Sheff did by adding a couple of fatties main deck). It gave me a lot of options depending up the matchup (bolts can be removal early or they can dome my opponent, for example, before I start smashing with Trolls and Factories). But like any other winning campaign I tended to draw really well over 12 matches and caught plenty of breaks. At the end of the day this was a really fun, strong deck to pilot and as always a great Derby experience. LobsterCon is up next, I hope to see you all there! Until then, stay safe and keep mising!