In terms of color philosophy, at their core, I can’t think of a pair more emblematic of Old School than Red and White. Red, in its purest essence, is impulsive and prone to raucous celebration. White, conversely, is all about order and balance. For my money, there isn’t a better group that represents a party for the people.
The game wouldn’t exist without the counterbalance of the other three colors, sure. There’s always some losers at the party because the room needs bodies. But Red and White are each responsible for the fun and making sure the group is in on it. What I’m really getting at is, if you and I have ever been paired up before or will be in the future, then you’re welcome. Then or preemptively, respectively.
I proudly fly the Red/White banner as often as possible in 93/94, but often in the heavy guns department. Maindeck Blood Moon, Earthquake, Nevinyrral’s Disk. I like the answers broad and all encompassing. For this event, I shed the big answers in favor of an archetype I hadn’t explored much: full-fledged aggro.
White Weenie had always been an issue in Old School to me. It’s a big reason why I chose wide answers. It can certainly apply pressure quickly and relentlessly. My entry to Old School had been Big Red, so White Weenie had always been that deck that if I didn’t get my Earthquake, I would get smothered by a Circle of Protection: Red and an army of White Knights and Savannah Lions. It was this very matchup that led to adding White to become Big Pink so that I’d have Disenchant and Balance.
Part of me wondered if I was missing out on something strong in these party-oriented colors by preferring the reactive approach, so I built a more proactive Pink list. I figured combining the quickest little dudes with Bolts I could zap their blockers with, if not toss to their face, should provide a potent result.
Round 1: Tyler - Nayatog Playing against Tyler is always a great time if only because he also seems to clearly understand the superiority of incorporating Red and White, so he can forgiven for running Green. I know I’ve polluted my decks with that shameful color because I was curious about Sylvan Library and Regrowth, maybe even a Channel to spice up my Fireballs.
Game 1: Tyler opens with a Black Lotus and Taiga into an Atog and Sylvan Library, which is essentially him laying out his deck’s namesake and a card advantage engine to support it. My Plateau into Savannah Lion is immediately greeted on his next turn by a Lightning Bolt and Strip Mine. The Party Gods smile upon me as his Chaos Orb misses a White Knight I’ve resolved but we enter a creature stalemate. I manage to get a Preacher into play, which is often the answer to a stalemate. Preacher eats a Chain Lightning and he manages to feed an Atog at me over several turns where I’m forced to take damage or chump block. Either way things get bleak and your intrepid hero is domed by a Chain Lightning.
Game 2: Even less auspicious of a start, I open with a City of Brass into a Savannah Lions. I glare disapprovingly as Tyler lays down a Mishra’s Factory, Mox Jet, cracking a Black Lotus into an Ankh of Mishra and Savannah Lions. I feel confidence return as I top deck Icatian Javelineers and Strip Mine his Factory. I’ve taken considerable damage through my City of Brass, his Ankh and thus I continue to bleed. I figure killing his aggressor and his land may set him back. It buys me some time, but I do a lot of his work for him by using my City and playing lands to avoid using said City, thus resulting in deeper life loss. Irony of all ironies, I am domed by the Chain Lightning again, back to finish the job. Result: 0-2
Round 2: Ray - Reanimator? Ray is easily one of my favorite players to be paired up with. I can’t imagine a match with Ray where we’re not laughing throughout and what he’s playing always catches me off guard. I’m not even sure if he was playing Reanimator entirely because I imagine there was some extra spice involved, but we had some games affected by variance and I didn’t fully get to see what he was playing.
Game 1: As a reflex in any format, if I see a player open with a Birds of Paradise and I have a Lightning Bolt in-hand, there is no question that I will fry that Bird. As the charred carcass hits the ground, I open a Mishra’s Factory and Savannah Lions come out to play. He plays a Strip Mine and a Howling Mine to really change the pace of the game. Playing aggro, I am very happy to see a Howling Mine resolve. He Strips my Factory and I Strip his basic land so he’s left with a City of Brass. I get a Preacher on the board who snags his Priest of Yawgmoth. With the Tapped Preacher beside the Priest of Yawgmoth, he Chaos Orbs my Preacher and the Orb lands touching both him and his Priest of Yawgmoth. I read the text of Chaos Orb back to him about any card Orb touches… he is not amused (at least, not nearly as much as he should be) and I hand him his Priest back. Enough damage has been done to him through my attacks and his City of Brass that even killing my dudes doesn’t keep him out of Bolt range and a Lightning Bolt gets drawn to bonk him on out.
Game 2: This was a rough one. Ray mulligans down to four and I don’t necessarily pull a God hand, but it’s a Plateau, Mishra’s Factory, Plains, Savannah Lions, Preacher, White Knight and Lightning Bolt. He gets stuck on a couple off-color lands and my little army puts the beats down. Result: 2-0
Round 3: Erik - White Weenie I first played Eric at the Festival of the Pit in 2016, which if my understanding is correct, was his first Old School event and he hadn’t been to one since. He remembered me from then and upon reflecting on a report from then, he was playing Mono Black Rack, so it’s great to see him back.
Game 1: He opens with a Plains into Savannah Lions. I drop a Plateau into Savannah Lions. It’s going to be that kind of game. I follow it up with Javelineers which is handed a Sword to Plowshares and the Icatian leaves to a life of fulfilling servitude on a farm before he can toss his javelin at a bloodthirsty lion. Our Lions are at a standstill and I’m eventually holding three Lightning Bolts and a Chain Lightning. He Orbs my Factory. I Bolt his Lion and sneak in enough damage that the remaining Bolts finish him off.
Game 2: Almost as a sort of joke, I keep a hand with two Strip Mine, a Plateau and City of Brass, Disenchant, White Knight and Order of Leitbur. He’s on the play and drops a Plains into a Land Tax. I Strip his land, he plays another. I Strip that land, he plays another. I play a land and he keeps himself at one to hopefully trigger his Land Tax on his next turn. I play my second land but Disenchant his Land Tax on my main phase and it sets him back significantly. He baits me out, resolving a Crusade and passing. I play three little dudes right into it, which are all met by a Balance. Eventually he gets a Serra Angel down, which I Swords to Plowshares and while I don’t like see him gain five life, I do have an Order of Leitbur I can pump that’s already a 3/2 thanks to Crusade. They handle the job. Result: 2-0
Round 4: Dan - Pink Aggro Dan is also another player who truly appreciates the value of going Pink. Our lists are very similar; my curve is lower and he brings in some heavier via Serra Angel. Always a pleasure to catch up with Dan who can really play a list that I feel confident in and still second guess my own card choices and lines of play.
Game 1: I play a turn one Icatian Javelineers. Dan is visibly shaken. They immediately eat a Lightning Bolt and next turn I play an Order of Leitbur who suffer the same fate. I resolve a Preacher just in time before he plays a second Strip Mine and leaves me with a City of Brass. The Preacher holds up the game, as per his job, but his tenure is cut short by taking a Swords. At this point, I get an intimate look at the lands in my deck while he, at five life, whittles away at my life total with a White Knight. In the moment I feel betrayed by this creature, but overall, I do appreciate the work he puts in.
Game 2: I open again with Javelineers. This might be a bad omen, but I’m not going to send it back on account of that. Well, in and of itself, it wasn’t the Javelineers that were a bad omen, but bad luck was looming over me when he played his Mishra’s Factory, Mox Ruby and Sol Ring. Nothing big following that (thankfully not the terrifying Granite Gargoyle he runs). Through combat and Bolts, we get to top deck mode. He beats me down to three lives as I run into a similar problem from the previous game and when I top deck Shahrazad, I am presented with a potential out. We begin our subgame and let me say, if you’ve never played Shahrazad, do give it a shot. It’s a beautiful experience for all involved. In terms of aggro, your deck should be completely redundant with Bolts and similarly-costed critters that you won’t be missing any key elements in the subgame and winning that can cause a major swing in life totals in the prime game. I win the subgame fairly handily (though of note in the subgame, he does knock two of my guys out with a Falling Star and I’m tickled by this tech). It’s still not enough of a swing in the prime game, I can chump a little, but he still slips through the damage to slay me. Result: 0-2
Round 5: Zack - The Deck I don’t know Zack super well, I don’t think we’d been paired up before at an event but we had a great couple of games and I do look forward to slinging some spells together again.
Game 1: I play Savannah Lions and pass. He plays a Mox Emerald and Mishra’s Factory. I want to bait out his Factory with a Lightning Bolt in my hand, so I go in for the attack. This is always a tricky bluff to play because if you attempt it, you’re flagging how much risk you’re willing to take. He would have no reason to not block favorably, but having the Lightning Bolt in hand allows me to blow up his Assembly Worker and set him back as well as connect for two damage. I follow up with a Mishra’s Factory of my own, though when I go in to attack, it gets Disenchanted. So we both have the blood of hapless laborers on our hands. He uses Strip Mine on a key colored land, and losing my Factory adds extra sting to the already rocky mana base. My Savannah Lions keep a ticking clock going and he succumbs to repeated cat bites.
Game 2: I swallow hard watching him open with a Mishra’s Factory, Mox Pearl, Fellwar Stone and Sol Ring. I play a Savannah Lions and it gets Swords to Plowshares. I worry as I see him sitting at roughly Serra Angel range mana so early. I play another Savannah Lions and they get Orb’d. He must have drawn a ton of gas but no action because I resolve a Dust to Dust punching out his Sol Ring and Fellwar Stone with a Strip Mine collapsing his Mishra’s Factory. Another Strip Mine hits his Tundra. A Preacher taps his head with a bible repeatedly and a White Knight joins in the fun until he gets within Bolt range and I close out that gap. Result: 2-0 Overall: 3-2
Originally set to be six rounds, I was thrilled we cut after five so my record appears more favorable than 3-3. Besides that, I also find five rounds to be just enough before I’m drunk enough to rather just socialize and stop seeing Strip Mines and Mishra’s Factories carry games regardless of color or build.
As always, this was a great day filled with great games, drinks and waxing indulgent over unplayable jank. It’s been a tremendous journey so far playing Old School and it’s been even more exciting to see everyone’s decks and approaches evolve, despite being such a tight card pool. And with the closure of this event, I vibrate with excitement over the next event I can stress out about what I’ll play and inevitably stick to Red and White, in some fashion. Whatever it takes to the keep the Party of the Pit Lords for the people.
Flashback to Party of the Pit Lords, 12/03/2016