The Brawlening: The Fall Brawl 2.5 Report
October is one of Chicago’s most pleasant months. The jean jackets come out of the closet. People take long walks through parks. Red leaves and discarded N95 masks flutter together in the autumn wind. For the Lords of the Pit, the colder weather and spiking COVID-19 rates also meant that it was time for our annual Fall Brawl tournament. In years past, Fall Brawl had been a one-day affair of Swiss+1 rounds of Old School ‘95 (OS95). But because playing in a virtual hellscape had become the new normal for our club, we 18 Lords and Thrulls stretched the event over the month of October with two four-round batches and then a cut to top four. The first batch was traditional OS95. The second batch brought a new spice to the format: OS95 Singleton (using the Beasts of the Bay banlist + Mana Crypt). Singleton ended up being a contentious second format. Some, like myself, loved the opportunity to pull from Old School’s deep pool of second-stringers. Others found the format to be, as Lord Punts put it, “Misery.”
The Lords & Co. used Fall Brawl 2.5 entry fees to raise $380 for My Block My Hood My City, a non-profit organization that provides underprivileged Chicago youth with an awareness of the world and opportunities beyond their neighborhood, taking students on explorations focused on STEM, Arts & Culture, Citizenry & Volunteerism, Health, Community Development, Culinary Arts, and Entrepreneurism.
As for the split format, “I felt robbed of both experiences,” said Lord Danny Friedman, the literal winner of the tournament, referring to the fact that the event split our attention across two formats.
Danny had a dominating start in the OS95 portion. His brew? A highly innovative five-color Necropotence combo deck that first resolved a Lich (dropping his life to zero) and then swapped life totals with his opponent via Mirror Universe. Typically in Old School, the words “Lich” and “undefeated” don’t find themselves in the same sentence, unless it’s, “Well of course that dude went undefeated—he played against three Lich decks.” But Danny managed to put together a truly repugnant list that no one could beat.
In addition to his draw engine and combo, Danny played Fastbond for mana acceleration, Zuran Orb to keep him from dying to Fastbond and Necro (and to draw cards with Lich), Glacial Chasm to negate Fastbond and creature attacks, and Avoid Fate to counter the inevitable Disenchant. He also jammed 20 restricted cards. Danny, ever the fan of the transformational sideboard, dedicated ten of fifteen slots to a mixture of Arabian Nights creatures and Hypnotic Specters. He had figured that his deck would be so explosive and unexpected, it was sure to win game one. Then his opponent would board out all their creature removal and Danny would pull the old switcheroo. His games played out according to plan, and he ended with a perfect 4-0 record, not dropping a single game.
Danny was the only Lord to go undefeated in the first batch. After that, a whopping 44% of the field (8 decks) went 3-1, while 33% (6 decks) went 1-3. This tail-heavy outcome was due to a combination of two factors: (a) the batch-style pairing system and (b) the apparent fact that half of the Lords were playing to win, while the other half were playing to brew. That’s not to say that all the 3-1 decks were uninspired. Here are a few of the most creative 3-1 lists:
-An OS94 UR Atog deck that added Incinerate (Moss).
-An OS94 UR counterburn deck that added Incinerate (Schriver).
-An OS94 UWR aggro deck that added Incinerate (MacDougall).
-An OS94 Tax Edge deck that added checks notes Zuran Orb (Petray).
There were actually a few interesting decks with winning records, including another Lich deck (Butzen), UWb Millstone (Semmens), and WU banding aggro (Agra). There was a lot more spice in the losing bracket, such as :
-A GU “Lore & Order” prison deck using Forgotten Lore, Primal Order, and four Mazes of Ith (Rohr).
-Two Time Vault decks, one that could go infinite with Elder Druid (Baran), and another featuring Merieke Ri Berit and Preacher (Velasco).
-A GRub ramp deck that powered out Shivan Dragons with Orcish Lumberjacks and Tinder Walls (Punts).
I played a BWU simpleton’s Necro Mirror deck, which finished the opponent with Drain Life after switching life totals. As one of the eight players who were 3-1, I knew I’d need at least another 3-1 record to make the cut to top four. The Singleton rounds were going to be a sweat among sweathogs.
Lord Andy MacDougall was the first to report a perfect 4-0 finish in OS95 Singleton. His list was an upgraded version of his 93/94 Singleton deck (which got him second place at last year’s Solocon). Andy had added an extra copy of Llanowar Elves, Lightning Bolt and Disintegrate with Ice Age’s Fyndhorn Elves, Incinerate, and Lava Burst. The real backbreaker of the deck was Stormbind, which could win a game on its own. I was the other person to report a 4-0 record in Singleton. Coincidentally, my deck also was an upgraded version of my 93/94 Singleton list (pink aggro; third place at Solocon). After adding obvious cards like Order of the White Shield and Incinerate, I noticed that Ice Age’s two sets of ally dual lands (pain and depletion) would allow me to make a green splash without giving up much consistency in white or red. I probably could have gone a little deeper into green, but I added only the bombs: Sylvan Library, Erhnam Djinn, and Stormbind.
Our 7-1 records put Andy and me in the top two seeds. Danny squeaked out a 2-2 record to go 6-2 overall. The only other player who went 6-2 was Lord Carter Petray, who managed a 3-1 record in both formats.
I played Carter in the semis, while Danny played Andy. The semis and finals were supposed to be decided by OS95, but I tried to convince Carter to play Singleton. He had, after all, claimed that his and Andy’s RG archetype was the strongest deck in the format. Carter declined my challenge, explaining, “My winrate is 0% against Icatian Javelineers.” As we shuffled up, I joked to Carter that he and I were in the bad guys’ bracket. I had won two of the three Lords’ Quarantine Cups, and Carter was still strutting around like the cock of the walk from his Lords’ Haus victory. He had also won a Labor Day Lords’ OS tourney and second-placed the most recent Music City “Summer Slam” event.
“But isn’t Danny always the bad guy?” Carter asked. It was an interesting question coming from him, a Hulk Hogan type who could switch from hero to heel over the course of a sentence. Carter was probably right, though. Danny was a bit of a villain for his durdley decks with few win conditions, and his envy-inducing Alpha collection. Danny was also an Elder Lord, as OG as they come. Back when you were grinding out EV in Modern RPTQs, Danny was playing kitchen table Old School games with JACO, the physical manifestation of the Eternal Central website. The only good guy in the Top 4 was Andy, a doctor with kids who somehow found the time to jam games.
I expected to have an advantage in the match versus Carter’s five-color Tax Edge deck (which had won last year’s Fall Brawl), but he took the first game after I dropped to one life and had a Mirror Universe in play. At my end of turn he tried to Disenchant my Mirror. I Mana Drained it. He untapped, grabbed three lands with a Land Tax trigger, and slammed his one copy of Land’s Edge. Game Two was his to lose, and he managed to do so. I was at 6 life. He played Land’s Edge and discarded three lands. Okay, I said, and sacrificed a land to the Zuran Orb I had played the previous turn. A turn or two later I was Necro-locked at 1, all my lands had been sacrificed, and my Zuran Orb had been Disenchanted. He was at 7 life and I had three lands in hand, 1 damage short of being able to kill him with his own Land’s Edge. My only out was to play a land, Drain Life for 1 and then use my last life to topdeck a land with Necro. I got there. Game three was anticlimactic: he played Blood Moon and locked me out.
Andy, the good guy on UWR, had been defeated by Danny’s unstoppable Lich deck, so the finals was a battle of the bad guys, Danny’s Necro Lich vs. Carter’s Tax Edge. Game one was a testament to the degeneracy of Danny’s deck. Danny was on the play, and after a slew of restricted cards and at least one Time Walk, he passed the turn to Carter. Carter dropped a Plains, played Land Tax, and passed. He did not get another turn.
Game two was a long slog, probably an hour and a half. Since the element of surprise was ruined with open decklists, Danny did not board into his beatdown plan. The game was prolonged due to both players having Zuran Orb in play, as they could convert life into cards (although Carter’s Sylvan Library engine was not as efficient as Danny’s Necropotence). Danny was very careful about playing around Land Tax; I am not sure if Carter ever got a single trigger from it. At one point, Carter Disenchanted a Necro instead of a Mirror Universe that had just been sitting in play for a while. The peanut gallery strongly disagreed with the play, and Carter himself later said he regretted it. It was hard to fault him, though, since Danny had been out-drawing him the entire game, and they were both at very low life. Carter could never really turn the corner, and Danny’s slow, meticulous play seemed to get to him after a while. At one point, Carter left to go grab a beer, and told Danny to just do whatever. After thinking for a while, Danny finally told the audience that he’d wait for Carter to get back before making his move. However, when Carter returned, Danny just hemmed and hawed, slowly tapping and untapping mana, prompting an exasperated Carter to ask, “Have you STILL not decided what you want to do with your turn?” It was over soon after that. At the end of Carter’s turn, Danny cast Hurkyl’s Recall. Carter carefully decided which five to discard, but it didn’t matter - that was Danny’s setup for the win. When asked what led to his loss, Carter blamed not drawing enough restricted cards in the second game. Danny said of the second game, “That was one of the best games I’ve ever played.”
For all his effort, Danny was playing only for glory, as there was no prize for first place. Based on his winning deck, though, I think a CE Lich would be appropriate, with the phrase “Still a lich in my book” scrawled across it. I’ll be sending it to him once I get the order in and the card properly altered.
A Golden Zuran Orb was awarded for “gnarliest brew” to Winconsinite Robert Vincent, who had the greatest number of Ice Age and Homelands cards (42) across his two decks. His OS95 BU control deck used Old School staples like Mind Whip, Seizures, and Lim-Dul’s Hex to grind out his opponent.
As we closed out this year’s Fall Brawl with a fitting webcam happy hour to swap stories of bad beats, we took a moment to welcome our newest Lord of the Pit, Tim Baran, to the crew. Tim made his debut at our December 2018 “Ice Storm Social” event and has been a Chicago mainstay ever since, battling in the realms of Old School, Middle School and Vintage. Lord Baran won the A.M. Vintage tournament at this years Lords Haüs.
Batch I Standings & OS95 Gallery
Batch II Standings & Gallery