People occasionally talk about the silver linings of the pandemic. I suppose I can tease a silver lining out of asymptomatically testing positive for Covid (or was it just coronavirus?) the night before our last Sped Weekend, which was about a month before LOBSTERCON 2022. My wife knew how devastating it was to miss a Sped Weekend, so I had to cash in virtually none of the Wife Credit I was banking to go to LOBSTERCON. In fact, the night before I left she was anything but mad and even served me a warm meal of food.
Bright and early on Thursday morning with a duffle full of Magic cards and a change of clothes, my good buddy Sped and I headed to Boston for what was sure to be an unforgettable weekend of Lebowski quotes and dick jokes. With any luck I’d collect a few signatures along the way too! We were heading straight to the bro house with very quick pit stop at the dispensary in Lee, MA. I was short edibles, plus Lemke needed Sped to mule for him since he had to attend a wedding or some shit and couldn’t make the trip. Schwartz and Mari were supposed to be there by the time we arrived. Mano and Mase (procurer of the bro house) had almost the same 4PM ETA as us. I also heard we were staying with famed Old School artists Ken Meyer Jr. and Bryon Wackwitz which was an exciting perk of the weekend. To be honest I wasn’t really sure what to expect when we walked in the door, but I knew it was going to be pure gas. My expectations were at about an 11 which is a dangerous place to be, but they were immediately exceeded 2 minutes after I walked in the door.
Me (Calling Mano on the phone for some reason): Yo dude, where you at?
Mano: Like 3 mins away.
Me: Sweet. Want to get some food? Sped and I are kinda hungry.
Mano: I have 3 Sally’s pies in my trunk.
You can imagine where it goes from here…
Getting literally the best pizza in the USA delivered to your literal doorstep moments into the start of LOBSTERCON weekend set the tone for for the next few days and I have A LOT of spice to cover in this post. I’ll be breaking it down into 3 parts: The Signatures, Premodern (Friday) and Old School (Saturday). Plus a photo dump.
Part 1: The Signatures
When I started this blog I figured the pace of getting signatures would be slow going so it felt pretty exciting to finally be at a tournament where I could get a bunch of sigs in one shot. Before I rolled into Boston that Thursday I had 11 sigs over the past 2+ years, mostly from my teammates. By the end of the week I was up to 18 of the 70 n00bCoM 1 players.
I started out right at the house with the legendary Jason Schwartz, who happened to be traveling with an impressive array of Poscas!
Friday morning we headed over to the North American Premodern Championship, which we were all really pumped to play. Sped, Mano and I are all to at least some degree Premodern players and lovers of the Premodern format and webcam community. I had just looked over the field and saw a few names I needed to meet up with. Turns out quite a few Old School players have taken the jump into Premodern, a move I would highly recommend.
After day 1 I only had a couple more to pick up at LOBSTERCON.
Part 2: North American Premodern Championship
Premodern is the format I’ve been going to bed and waking up thinking about lately. I played most of my Magic between Tempest and Masques, so when I got into Premodern maybe 3 years ago it has not only scratched my itch for the nostalgia of those sets but it has given me the joy of discovering cards and interactions from sets I missed during an era of Magic I really enjoyed. When I found the community I played maybe 8 monthlies in about a year, answered the call to pickup games around once a week and played at least 2 of the Spring Fling/Fall Brawl series. Back then we were mostly playing fair Magic. I top 8’d at least once with Tax Rack Firestorm Agro. I played a variety of decks like Sligh, FEB, UB Naught, Trade Awake, Illusions Donate, and a lot of The Rock. But concepts like adding Squee (and Survival) to every deck, Bauble Sligh and Tide hadn’t yet been born. I experimented with quite a few decks and at heart I’m a combo player. Back in the day I got hooked with decks like Jar, and cards like Time Spiral and Turnabout. I also played A LOT of red cards back then. I never played anything midrange that I can remember, but I’m also not sure when I played there was such a thing. Even Tradewind and Wall of Blossoms is probably closer to control than midrange and Rec Sur is combo-ish. So I’m sitting here with a glass of Willet and a couple of bowl hits in me wondering what keeps drawing me to play a midrange deck in Premodern? I’m not saying it’s right, but I think I know why. Here’s what I ended up playing at the NAPC.
I play a lot of The Rock because I’m a giant pussy. Being a giant pussy and drafting midrangey Broken Draft decks for the past 20 years has always kept me around 4th, possibly 3rd Best Magic Team Sped. I’ve had a Best Magic here and there but I’ve never had a worst. Putting myself in a position to be respectable in whatever I do is kind of my MO (with the exception of Mario Kart Double Dash. I’m fucking nasty at that). And that’s why I keep playing The Rock. Again, I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just telling you that’s how I’m wired these days- risk averse. When I played the combo decks of the format I had fun with the challenge and my results were pretty good, but I just really hate those runs when you dump a ton of matches running into the thing that breaks your combo. Frankly, that’s kind of easy to do in Premodern with the ubiquity of Duress and Cabal Therapy. To me, in this format, it feels a lot better being the Therapist than laying on the couch and receiving it and unless you’re playing Pit Rack or some real spicy brew I would argue The Rock is the best shell in the format at disrupting a game plan and then applying some quick pressure. If you decide you’re not going to play Sligh or Elves (the tier .5 decks in the format) you can pick from maybe 15 tier 1 to high end tier 2 decks to play, and nearly every one of them takes a sting from cards like Therapy and Duress. And it feels really good when you dismantle a hand and start bashing their face with a Blastoderm! I know there’s nothing really sexy about The Rock, and if you’re looking to do really powerful things while you win your Premodern match this is not the deck for you. But I will say this archetype is getting more hate these days than it deserves. I have it hovering around tier 1.888888 and for the record I literally cannot remember EVER losing a GAME to Sligh playing this deck. Some of those matches are on YouTube still. I’m pretty sure Sped (who played Sligh at the NAPC) will attest to me winning 8 straight games against him the day before the tournament. I took Tom Swindell to pound town round 3 of this very tournament, main deck Vortex and all!
OK, I’ll reluctantly give a few lines to my deck choices and how I did. I ended up staring off 3-0 (Pit Rack, Sligh and mono brown) and then dropping my next 3 to Replenish (Flores), a reanimator Oath deck, and Survival Madness before I dropped. Take my record with a grain of salt since I literally had not played or kept up on Premodern in the past year just due to how tight my personal time has been spread. For example, I had to think for like a minute before I correctly Duressed Mike Flores for his Careful Study and followed that up with a turn 2 Therapy for his Wave rather than his Frantic Search… And I left my Crypts in the board yet brought in Haunting Echos. WTF???? I had actually never previously played against the decks in each of the matches I lost. That’s probably why I lost them, now that I think about it. Yeah, for sure I think that’s true.
As far as deck choices go there are maybe 5ish cards in the margins. You could go elves over birds or a mix, different brands or numbers of removal, play with the numbers on things like Duress, Hermit, Derm, or play your pet creatures like Yavimaya Elder or Spiritmonger. I like Vendetta for B at instant speed against Goblins and Dreadnought in particular, and think it’s generally strong main deck in the meta over say Edict or Smother. The difference in mana cost is a big deal. If I’m playing 3 Vendetta then I like Birds over Elves since they help the mana base and I have other answers to Goblin Lackey. Elder just fucking sucks and is probably leading the most of The Rock hate. I’ve never seen a clunkier card in such a fast format. I used to like 3 Duress and could see going back up in today’s meta. Plague Spitter is nice to have in theory, but I can’t remember drawing it during the tournament. A second Hermit might be better than Naturalize in the main. The main deck Dustbowl in my small sample size was useful against mono brown (definitely better than Wasteland) but I don’t have a strong opinion as to whether it is correct or not. My only note about that day’s gameplay is also a comment on my stylistic choices. You’ll notice some pretty aggressively miscut Arena lands in the deck. In my round 4 match against Michael Flores (in which I didn’t have the slightest fucking clue what I was doing as previously outlined) the second game is getting pretty tight. Michael is dead on board with one turn to get his Replenish off. As acknowledged in his tournament report and the ATC Lobstercon Premodern Recap he missed 2 Squee triggers during his upkeep and I didn’t offer him a takeback (which actually added to his happiness on the day since it made him feel more like he was vying for the win in a spikey, competitive tournament). Missing it turned off his Attunement but he happened to have the Replenish anyway. So he taps his Revised lands and humbly says Replenish? with his head cocked like half sideways. I look at him and I’m looking at my hand of black and green cards and my Baloths just sitting on the battlefield with their dicks in their hands and I’m like…. Uh… Yeah. You got it. And he’s like… Oh, cool. Wasn’t sure if you had a Mana Leak or something. That was the moment I realized that he thought my miscut forest was an island and was potentially playing around it that game. Sorry, Michael!
I go to bed and wake up thinking about Premodern these days because of this tournament. I played 6 rounds and I played against 6 unique, tuned, competitive decks. I came back to the format after a lengthy hiatus and major advances had been made in a static, 10 year old format. I think there are more advances to be made especially in the combo space, which already has its hooks in me. It’s also more of a players format compared to Old School, so my drive to innovate and win games brings me back 20 years to some good memories of the Dojo, the infancy of net decking and making changes and choices based on the meta. I’ll certainly be doing a lot more experimenting between now and the next North American Premodern Championship and can’t wait to see what year 2 of this event looks like!
Part 3: LOBSTERCON 2022
It’s well documented that Team Sped all played the same decks at the 2021 LOBSTERCON invitational. A shit deck and a shit choice. This time around I had my deck laid out the night before so I could get a pic over to DFB. Mano looks over and says something like You’re seriously playing that piece of shit? I will fully blow you if you get 4 wins with that. That pile of shit was It-Will-O-Maze-You and it was about to earn daddy some head.
Since I already spoiled the news, I did earn head from Mano and ended up going 5-3. I’m not sure what he was thinking since at the end of the day this is a pile of pretty good cards that just challenges itself to hold out long enough to win some grindy, midrange games (yes, we already established I’m a huge pussy). There’s no way I’m going into any deck tech here since there’s nothing optimal about this deck, other than to say I still think Drain Life is underplayed in heavy black decks. Other than that, it can be fun hosing people with shit. You know, that Blood Moon feeling but better. Like in round 2 when my opponent goes forest Lotus Ernie and passes the turn. I draw, play a swamp, Jet and a Will-‘O. Your turn brah.
And in case you’re wondering, I took a rain check on the head from Mano.
DFB for opening his house to a group a tall, noisy magicians. Go Bills.
Mano for bringing Sally’s apizza. Right. On. Time.
Jeff, Bryon and Ken for obvious reasons.
Mase for, well… you gotta have a den mother.
All the dudes who signed my Deep Water.
All the dudes who traveled internationally for the weekend.
The little screw imbedded in Sped’s tire, which was devoid of air when we pulled back into Cuse.