When I saw the registrations on Facebook for the Winter Derby, I signed up right away. I was so pumped to play more Magic than I had the last six months or so. And yeah, it was a lot of fun. After each match I recorded the happenings on a Google doc. I ended up being like a bunch of journal entries. So I’ve copied and pasted them here with pictures added.
I definitely learned a lot about the game. I feel like I’m a slightly better player now. In the sense that I’m picking up on subtleties and nuances within the meta that I didn’t previously see. I’m somewhat new to Magic compared to most people. I didn’t really play until I got into Old School. I definitely feel a bit more confident now.
And I learned probably the most important thing when it comes to mono green: Keeping one or two cards in your hand at all times is probably more important than what you put in the deck! I did that quite a bit through the tournament. It often kept opponents from going all in and attacking. Instead they stayed cautious fearing I had Giant Growths and/or Berserks.
Another thing I’m thinking about coming out of the derby is my sideboard. It’s crap. I’m going to change it around. Not sure what I’ll do yet. One thing I can say for sure is the Giant Spiders are replacing the Juggernauts in the main deck. I can confidently say that, most of the time, they are a better creature. I think six out of seven games I played during the tournament, my opponents had Serendib Efreets. Serendib is probably the most common creature I play against and having the spiders really pads me from them. The Spiders help alongside the Mazes and Icys.
This is a really long post. A lot longer than I typically do. It’s not far from 5,000 words. I apologize if it triggers anyone’s ADD. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t read an article this long. I’m posting the whole thing anyway. Here we go…
Stage One Pairings
Match 1: William Larson (Washington, D.C.)
The match ended in two games with the victory being his. In the first game he played a Library of Alexandria but on the next turn I was able to Strip it. No matter though, he had enough white removal to get rid of most of my heavy hitters. He got out a Serendib Efreet and later a Serra Angel and I just wasn’t able to defend myself.
In the second game I sideboarded out my Juggernauts and put in Giant Spiders in place of it specifically to defend against the Serendibs. I also took out one of the Maze of Iths and replaced it with an Island of Wak-Wak. I figured that might be better for the Serendibs and make them blockable by my Ifh-Biffs. I don’t know, Maze is probably actually better either way. I also took out one of the Crumbles since I didn’t see any threatening artifacts in the first game – I also didn’t remember seeing a Factory either. I replaced it with an Avoid Fate. Thinking now about all the Lightning Bolts, Psionic Blasts, and Swords to Plowshares I encounter I’m actually starting to think at least two Avoid Fates should be in the main deck. We’ll see.
Game two went similar to the first. I had to mulligan to six but it gave me a decent hand. He drew his Swords as I played my creatures and then I was just defending against Serendibs and Serras again. Both games he was able to Mind Twist me which he seemed to really feel bad about. I assured him I was cool with it. It’s part of the game and I’ve done it to plenty of opponents.
At first I was thinking, “I didn’t really draw what I needed both games.” But that’s not exactly true. His UWb flyer deck is just a really good deck. It just overpowers a mono green no problem. Not surprisingly. Regardless, it was fun playing the first match of the Winter Derby and William was a pretty cool guy.
My girlfriend, Emily, was sitting at the table watching me play which she had never seen a game of Magic before. She doesn’t like Magic and normally avoids it but was intrigued that I was playing online with someone I had never met. The whole time she kept whispering things like, “this is such a quiet game” and “this is so funny” and “this guy you’re playing seems normal.” Funny, the most surprising thing to her was that William seemed like a normal person! She may have been expecting one of those buttcrack guys.
With the first match done, I have two more to play for the first stage. Even though I lost this first one, I’m so pumped to be taking part in this tournament. As it is winter (and a hellishly freezing winter) here in New England, I can’t do any of my other hobbies so I’m indulging in Old School as much as possible until the damn snow melts.
Match 2: Dean Costakis (Hilton Head, SC)
This match found itself on a friday morning. Instead of the usual craft beers as companion libations, we both had coffee in place of them. Coffee, which I absolutely love the taste of just like good beer, went very well with playing Old School. There is a part of me that wants to experiment with a morning tournament sometime where instead of meeting in a pub we meet in a coffee shop. Not sure if people would be into it but I would probably be into it. I mean, as long as I don’t have to get up super early to make a long drive somewhere for morning games…
Dean played a UR Counterburn deck and defeated me in two games. The two games were back and forth for a while though – which is fun for me even if I lose. It’s hard to predict where a game like that is going. Therefore, you want to be aggressive but also defensive because you’re not sure what the opponent will play next. It keeps you on your toes. Like the first match with William, Dean had four Serendib Efreets in his deck. Although against Dean I was able to keep them at bay in both games for the most part but the Serendibs are what really got my life down in the end.
In the first game he got his first Serendib out probably five or six turns in which I was able to get rid of using my Chaos Orb. Eventually he played a Timetwister which with the new seven card hand brought my Orb back to me. I used it again on another Serendib. We went back and forth for a while with similar life points I think. He also had Lightning Bolts which I had to be cautious of.
I was excited to play a Mirror Universe while he had 11 life and I had 6 but he countered it. I think that was the first time I played it since i bought it. Unfortunately it went straight to the graveyard. Eventually, he got me with a Psionic Blast when I was at 4 life.
Funny thing, during that first game my throat started to feel scratchy and dry. I thought it would be fine until it kept getting worse. I started coughing a little which eventually led to me disgustingly hacking and hacking. I tried to force out the words “I need a cough drop” and they came out but barely. Fortunately Emily heard my plight from other room and had cough drops ready. I felt bad but hey, I couldn’t help it.
Game two was similar to the first. It was close for a while and I held off a Serendib with an Icy Manipulator but he got a second one out which he was able to keep attacking me with. My Juggernauts and Ifh-Biffs were no match for the incendiary fire power of Lightning Bolts and Chain Lightnings. I had sideboarded out the Juggernauts for Giant Spiders but I never drew them. I also brought in four Avoid Fates and an Island of Wak-Wak to aid my Mazes.
My thinking with the Giant Spiders is that since they have 4 toughness and can block flyers, they can block and survive Serendib attacks and 3 damage from Lightning Bolts or Chain Lightnings. For a while they were in the main deck but I switched them to the sideboard with Juggs in place of them for this Winter Derby Tournament. I wasn’t sure what to expect for the meta since it’s people from all over. Here in New England it’s a safe enough bet for me to expect Lightning Bolts and Serendibs to have the Spiders in the main deck. So far, the matches I’ve played have showed a similar meta.
One of the games we played Dean used his Chaos Orb on one of my Elves of Deep Shadow. He said that he was worried about Giant Growths and Berserks. That is a valid worry when playing against mono green. After the games were done I told him I didn’t have any Giant Growths or Berserks in the deck or sideboard. I always try to keep at least one card in my hand for bluffing though. It usually works.
So at this point I’ve done two out of three matches in the group stage pairings and lost both 0-2. Alas, such is the mono green life. It can be a hard road at times but it’s a good road. What’s that old line? Something like “The path to paradise is narrow” or something? Ha.
Match 3: Ryan Gresco (St. Louis, MO)
The mono green reins supreme! No. Not so much. But it did win me this match. Though long and grindy, it did pull through in the end but with not much life to spare in both games. Ryan played a mono black variant that had a little red and green splashed in but it was primarily a mono black. I don’t remember him playing any green cards but his green mana did work against me a few times with my Ifh-Biffs.
The match lasted for over an hour. We started about 9:15pm and finished at just about 10:30pm. There were many turns and already my memory of it is blurry. What I remember from the first game is playing a lot of Ifh-Biffs. Actually, I played two and he Mind Twisted me for three and I lost my hand which consisted of a Mirror Universe and my other two Ifh-Biffs. I think he Bolted one of them leaving me with just one out for that game. I eventually played an Erhnam. I remember he also had Black Knights and a couple Hypnotic Specters out at one point.
In the second game my opening hand was really good. After I mentioned it, he said his was too. He played a Swamp, a Mox Jet, and a Black Knight. I played a Forest, Mox Emerald, Sol Ring, and then a Crumble to destroy his Mox Jet. Apparently that messed up his good hand. On my second turn I had four mana available to me with an Ifh-Biff and Erhnam in my hand to cast. From there we entered into a long stand off where we both had close life points. He eventually played a Juzam but I had a Maze of Ith out. He had Sinkholes in his deck but said he sideboarded three of them out. That’s the thing with sideboarding: it’s hard to tell what you’re playing against from one game.
He also got out a creature I had never heard of. Bertol Mertinx? Burton Rutax? No. I kept asking him what the guy’s name was. I just kept forgetting. I can’t remember for the life of me now. But it was a 6/5 legend. Maybe you know what it is.
When he played that, I thought my luck had run out. I drew an Icy Manipulator though and between the Maze and Juzam I held them both off. He ended up taking seven damage from his Juzam. Meanwhile, I had an Erhnam and a Llanowar Elves out just sitting there. I wasn’t attacking either.
We were at a standstill for a while. He got two Hypnotic Specters out and got some points of damage in with them. I kept one card in my hand for a while to bluff which kept him acting cautiously. At one point during his attack phase he said, “I’m nervous about the card in your hand!” He ended up playing it safe while I had the card. I bet he could have won that game if he was a bit more aggressive with attacking but he was playing as if I had a Giant Growth or Berserk in my hand. I would have done the same. The card in my hand through most of those turns was a Forest.
I got an Ifh-Biff out and used his ability to get rid of the Hypnotic Specters. He also added a point of damage with his Bayou to make it three damage. That takes out the Ifh-biff with it. Eventually we kept griding away slowly and then I tapped the Bartok Spintax thing with my Icy and attacked with everything: Erhnam, Factory, and Llanowar Elves. He Lightning Bolted my Factory and blocked the Erhnam with his own Factory but I had just drawn a Crumble which I used on his Factory. So that was it.
I felt sort of bad. He was having trouble drawing what he needed and I pretty much drew exactly what I needed pretty consistantly. I’ve actually never had the deck perform that well. Anyways, there was my first win. It felt good but it’s also just fun to play a mono green. Even as he wasn’t able to draw what he needed most of the time, he held me off really well. I can’t imagine playing against that deck when it performs well. He would have definitely crushed me.
That’s the end of the first set of pairings. Next is another set I believe which then leads to the top eight round which I assume acts as a quartfinal or semi-final round.
Stage Two Pairings
Match 4: Michell Ruaro (Sweden)
This first match I played of the second batch of matches was against Michell Ruaro from Sweden. This was the first time I played against a non-American. I had low confidence in my deck for this match. I’ve noticed the Swedes, in general, seem to play more colors in their decks than Americans tend to play. I thought he might have answers in his deck for most of what I would end up playing and my answers, I thought, would probably be slower if I had answers at all.
However, I surprised myself by winning 2 – 0. Michell played a five color deck and did indeed have answers for things early on but I was able to draw what I needed for the most part to combat what he threw at me. The games are a bit blurry in my memory already even though we just finished playing less than five minutes ago.
After the match we played another match with other decks which means we played a total of five games. Hard to remember all the details. What I do remember was I was able to hold off his Serendib Efreet in the second game with an Icy Manipulator. Both games Ice Storm also seemed to do good work.
For the second game, like just about every second game so far, I switched out the Juggernauts for the Giant Spiders. Once this tournament is over, they’re going into the main deck for sure.
At one point Michell said, “I’m betting you have a Giant Growth and a Berserk in your hand.” Whether you have them in your deck or not, everyone expects it and plays cautiously as if you do have them. I would expect it if I was playing against a mono green. I’m finding that keeping a couple cards in your hand for bluffing might just be the best strategy for mono green. Probably more important than what you put in the deck.
The second match was a lot of fun and probably more interesting than the match that counted for the tournament. I say that becuase he played an all Alpha White Wheenie deck with red splashed for Bolts, Wheel of Fortune, and a couple Fireballs. I think he also mentioned that there was a Mind Twist in it which also means there’s a Demonic Tutor. It was beautiful. And also super big money. I played my DragonFlare deck which I’m super excited about at the moment.
I ended up winning that match 2 – 1 and I owe it to Fireball and the Mana Flares both games that I won. Funny, at the start we were talking about Fireball and I mentioned that I never seemed to draw the Fireballs in the deck and that I thought I might have to add one or two more. Funny how that works.
Match 5: David Chambers (Berlin, Germany)
I had heard of Chambers from the Old School Swedish Archipelago cruise tournament. He won that tournament with an awesome mono red Atog deck. Since then, I seen others play very similar decks to his. I was expecting to see that deck today. Or some variant of it.
Instead, however, he had a pretty cool UR burn deck. Didn’t seem to have the typical Counterspells, Flying Men, or Unstable Mutations but he had the whole burn package: Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, and Psionic Blast. He also had some sweet Arabian Mountains.
In the first game: he got an Electric Eel out early and got some damage in quick. I soon got out an Ifh-Biff which he Bolted but I got another out and I was able to do some damage with him. Towards the beginning I also played a couple Ice Storms which helped me out too. He got out a Serendib Efreet which my Ifh-Biffs are no match for but I drew an Icy Manipulator and kept him from attacking or blocking. My Ifh-Biff and Icy got me the win in that game.
Game two was insane and probably the best game of the three we played. He went first and played a Lotus, a Mox, and I think a Mountain. With that he casted an Ironclaw Orcs and a Serendib Efreet then a Time Walk! He then attacked me with the Efreet and Orcs which got me to 15 life before I had even put down a card. I think I just played a Forest and passed the turn. He quickly won that game.
David lives in Germany but by his accent I knew he was from either Australia or New Zealand. It wasn’t that stereotypical Aussie accent so I wasn’t sure. Turns out he’s from Auckland, New Zealand. In 2012 I spent about a month and a half in New Zealand. If you haven’t been, you should go. Also, if you think you’re nuts about football (American football or soccer), I guarantee you don’t love it as much as the Kiwis love Rugby.
Mentioning Auckland made me remember a story I thought was funny. When I took the bus from the airport into Auckland I saw a bird on the side of the road which I thought was a kiwi bird. You could say the kiwi bird is the national bird of the country. Later, I was in a shop in downtown Auckland and I struck up a conversation with the clerk. I told him I had seen a kiwi bird that morning. He just look at me straight and said, “no, you didn’t.” I was very confused on why this man so confidently didn’t believe me. So I just said, “yes, I did. I’m sure of it. I got a good look at the bird.” And he, again very confidently said, “no, it wasn’t a kiwi. It was something else.” He then explained to me the deal with kiwi birds. They’re close to extinction and just about every animal is a predator to it. They can’t fly because they don’t have wings. They were fine before Europeans settled the island but since they’ve come, it’s been a hard life for the little goofy birds.
I did eventually get to see a Kiwi though. I had to pay to see one at some small museum somewhere in the south island. Turns out if you want to see one in the wild you have to camp out in the middle of the forest and wait until the middle of the night and be totally silent for like three days and you might get to hear one do it’s kiwi call in the distance. It probably has to be a full moon on a solstice or something like that too. Basically, that’s how rare it is to see one. I guess it’s like seeing a bigfoot. David had not seen a kiwi in the wild.
Anyways back to Magic, in the third game I did well with the Ifh-Biff again. I may have gotten out an Erhnam too. I know I did at some point. My memory is already fuzzy. We played another game after we finished so details from that are floating in my head as well so who knows what happened in game three. My memory certainly seems to be getting worse with each Winter Derby match up. Whatever happened in the third game I ended up winning it which got me 2 – 1 in this match up.
Match 6: Paul DeSilva (Brooklyn, NY)
This match was super cool. Turns out that Paul is 8bit_mtg on Instagram. Pretty cool! If you don’t follow him, you should. A lot of awesome 8 bit renditions of Old School MTG cards. Anyways, I lost this match 1-2, but there were a handful of interesting events.
Paul played a five color zoo deck. His creature choices were Serendib Efreets, Erhnam Djinns, and Kird Apes. In the first game I wasn’t able to keep up and played defensively most of the time. I had a Mirror Universe in my hand for a few turns but played it a turn too late. I wouldn’t survive to the next turn. Instead, I Crumbled it and gained 6 life which just let me survive for one more turn in hopes of top decking something. I topdecked a Forest and Paul won that game.
Game two went sort of quickly. I got a couple of Ifh-Biff Efreets out and eventually was able to attack with him then use his Hurricane ability to win. Game three, however, was the most interesting for sure. We were at a stale mate for what seemed like at least twenty turns. We both had Sylvan Libraries out and they gave us nothing but land and Moxes. Eventually, Paul drew a Wheel of Fortune and it changed things up a bit. After drawing my seven cards, I realized it would have been five more turns of drawing land. Thank god for the Wheel. Paul then played two Serendibs and an Erhnam. I was able to then play an Erhnam and an Ifh-Biff and used his Hurricane-ish ability to take out Paul’s Serendibs. We both also took four damage from it and I also lost my Ifh-Biff. At that point it put me at 5 life. Paul was maybe around 7 or 8 or 9 I think? We were both there with tons of land and an Erhnam each.
Next, Paul got me with a Lightning Bolt then played a Regrowth on the Bolt and zapped me again for a total of 6 damage! He got it!
So that now puts me at 3-3 for matches so far. Not bad for the mono green! I have one more match left against Winston Wood from Texas. We’ve already planned it out for Saturday morning at 10:30. I really like the weekend morning games.
Match 7: Winston Wood (Houston, TX)
The last match of the tournament for me. Satruday morning. 10:30 am. Not a bad time for a little Old School before starting the day. We started by shuffling our decks and talking a bit about the weather in our respecitve geographic locations. I was curious about Texas as, for no real reason, I often joke to my friends that I want to move to Texas. I also claim that my favorite football team is the Houston Texans. As a joke though.
I don’t actually follow football, or any sports for that matter besides tennis, but here in New England, naturally, people are nuts about the Patriots. About six or seven years ago I decided I had to pick a team to love to tell my Patriot loving friends. At the time no one cared or really talked about the Texans so I picked them as my team. They all knew I didn’t care about football but it was funny for me. Soon, a few other friends of mine who don’t follow football decided to join me in my joke. Now we have a small band of HUGE Texans fans.
Anyways, I’ve never actually been to Texas but I often have the desire to live somewhere with a shorter winter than what we get in the northeast.
Ok, enough texas talk. On the games.
Winston played a Tax Edge deck. I had recently played against Tax Edge at our local meet up spot. Tax Edge doesn’t usually use creatures. It pretty much depends on removal then discarding your hand full of land to win I think. I think there are variations to it but in my experience that’s how it’s worked.
In the first game Winston got out a Lands Edge pretty quickly. He chipped away at my life here and there by discarding lands and me taking two damage for each land with the Lands Edge. Pretty much each Ifh-Biff or Erhnam I got out, he destroyed. I had to depend on my Llanowar Elves and Elves of deep shadow for creature damage.
Eventually I chipped his life away to 11 I think? And over time I gathered a total of six lands in my hand. I then discarded them for two damage each bringing him to 0.
I could have actually won like three turns before I did. I had a sylvan library out and I could have taken the three cards at one point, which all three were lands, then discard them with the lands already in my hand. I am so used to taking one card at a time with Sylvan that it didn’t cross my mind until after. Oh well.
Game two I had a tough starting hand and struggled with land a little bit. I was able to get some creatures out and Winston played a balance. I was left with two lands and no creatures. Pretty good move on his part.
Soon, he played a CIty in a Bottle. It was the first time I had encountered one I think. Either way, that shuts down about half of my deck. I had to rely on my Elves again and the Giant Spiders that I sideboarded in.
Winston brought out a Sylvan Library and kept the three cards a few turns later which brought him down to nine life. I was a bit worried for a few turns because I figured there was something that would take me out pretty quickly. He never was able to get his Land’s Edge out but he was able to get his Land Tax out. I’m pretty sure I just chipped away his life slowly from there with Elves and Spiders. I can’t really remember now.
So that’s it! I played all the matches for the tournament. I was so excited to play and it lived up to my expectations. As you can see I did not make the top 8 but I did make the top 21! Just as good, right? Whatever though I had a blast. And I have so much fun playing mono green. If you read this far you can now go collect your Nobel prize.