Seven Hundred Days, that’s how long it had been since the Lords of the Pit gathered for a tournament in the City of Chicago – Party of the Pit Lords II at Bridgeport’s Marz Community Brewing Company on December 14, 2019. Stop for a moment and contemplate all that’s changed during those 700 days: some of us have moved, changing zip codes or time zones, some started new studies or graduated, started new relationships or jobs, bought homes, added to our families and said goodbye to loved ones. So much life has happened since we last Gathered, so much of the world around us has changed and yet, as the wheel of time now grinds toward 2022, we found ourselves back together, battling like it’s 1995.
Thankfully, DMen Tap, our unofficially official clubhouse in Avondale, weathered the pandemic shitstorm and remembered us when we came calling. We filled out the backroom like our Meatball fills out a handsome sweater. On Saturday, November 13, 2021, the Lords had returned.
2021 Lords of the Pit Toy Drive
Anyone familiar with Lords events knows we select different charitable organizations to support. In 2019, we held consecutive toy drive-themed events for donations to Cradles to Crayons. For Fall Brawl 4, we ran back that plan with our adopted organization being the Chicago Parks District Toy Drive. The boys answered the bell with a generous haul!
A Brief History of OS95 in Chicago, and the DC Insurrection
The Fall Brawl serves as our yearly foray into the world of OS95 MTG, that tangy blend of 93/94 + Ice Age & Homelands added for extra zip. OS95 adds just enough utility, power level, and cool jank to enhance that Old School flavor without overpowering its richness. The sub-format entered our consciousness with a January, 2017 meetup at Essen Haus following the first Madison Offensive. That night, Johnny Beste went undefeated with a 95 Reanimator list. The second OS95 meetup, NoviceCon 2018, was part of a split format, 93/94 & 95 challenge at Lord Jaco’s West Chicago fortress. That day, Lord Greg Kotscharjan took first place; his 95 brew leaning heavily on UW. That October, the Fall Brawl series began at DMen, our first official tournament at the space. Again, Reanimator paced the field, with Jaco finishing 6-0 in first and yours trvly finishing 5-1 in second (my sole loss to Jaco). Determined to stop Reanimator, Lord Petray cracked the code at the second Fall Brawl (October 2019) held at Metropolitan Brewing in Avondale along the Chicago River. Petray went undefeated on a Tax Edge list that featured Zuran Orb. Last year’s Fall Brawl was hosted in the digital realm; an enjoyable distraction for an otherwise chaotic world. We again adopted the split format, this time combining regular OS95 with 95 Singleton. Danny Friedman used a mighty Necro-Chasm-Lich-Mirror-Fastbond stew to dispatch Petray in the finals, preventing our first back-to-back champion.
Early OS95 tournaments allowed for unrestricted Demonic Consultation before it was restricted prior to Fall Brawl 2. That certainly hindered Reanimator’s plan to get Bazaar of Baghdad on the board as soon as possible and turned it from a Tier Zero to a mere Tier One deck. In advance of Fall Brawl 4, I posed the question: was this restriction really necessary? Weren’t we also punishing interesting combo decks that could make use of DC? Besides, if we were only going to play OS95 once per year, and if this was going to be our first IRL shindig in nearly two years, shouldn’t we opt for more, rather than less, busted plays? Lord Elleman was all-in with me, he’d probably hatched a plan to eek out a few win% points with it. Lord Agra was aghast – how could he possibly contemplate a rules change that wasn’t force-fed to him via eternalcentral.com? Lord Semmens, ever the diplomat, offered a compromise: he would support unrestricted DC if I promised not to play Reanimator. I could never so callously scorn my beloved deck. Undaunted, I tried an end-around the LOTP braintrust via full club vote-a-rama. Hot takes and shit takes rained down from across the digital peanut gallery. When the dust settled, the motion fell, 14 - 11. DC remained fettered for another year.
Chimichangas & Anticipation
Crisp air and cloudy skies greeted us on Saturday morning. Thankfully, the previous evening’s wintery storm failed to turn Chicago into a Snow-Covered Land. A small cadre of Lords met at Wicker Park’s Handlebar for a breakfast of bloody marys, coffee and chimichangas. After a bit of shit-talking, we departed for a Pit stop at Map Room before rolling up to DMen. I knew it would be a good day when my wagon pulled into a Bulu-tier parking spot across the street from DMen. I could feel the permeating dudesweat when I stepped through the door as several folk milled about. Lots of flannel. Even more black attire. The Meatball rolled in claiming to be the second coming of Deer Hunter-era Christopher Walken, confusing anyone possessing the gift of eyesight. Not much has changed in the back room at DMen in the last 700 days, save for the recent(ish?) addition of an AD&D pinball machine. The room still seats about two dozen, and it’s still well-stocked with retro videogame consoles. The back bar overflowed with toys. Lots of Legos, some sporting goods… and yo-yos? We checked in with Lord Agra (deftly managing pairings) and signed the loot. Lord Rohr handed out custom Fall Brawl patches and I handed out a small stash of Brainstorm-themed pins as a gang assembled at the bar, greeting/heckling stragglers. After some last-second trades and loans, I clambered atop a rickety chair to make opening announcements and the ritual was renewed.
As my friends sleeved their Tormod’s Crypts with visions of my heartache fueling their wettest of dreams, I decided to keep my beloved Reanimator on ice and deked with a call-back to Marz ‘19 and my patented Understanding White Weenie™ (1995 Edition). Since Bob handled results and pairings, I was free to embark on a one-man Crusade across five rounds of OS95. Col. Sanders was felled so fast in round one that I didn’t even realize he was on a Lich stew. Needless to say, it went back to the kitchen for additional seasoning. Round two gave me a chance at revenge against Southsider Enrique Flores, my sole defeat back at Marz. I felt good about my smoking hot G1, but Enrique unloaded a Swamp-Lotus-double Order of the Ebon Hand against me to open G2 and I was balled. G3 went pear-shaped for me after a timely Strip and Hymn nuked my mana base. My vengeance will have to wait another day.
In round three, I met Wisconsinite Danny Dunaway… in a mirror match? His version of WW splashed red for Bolts while mine splashed blue for cheese. I stayed one Strip, er, step ahead of Danny, kept him off Plateau and left him thunderstruck by my Thunder Spirits.
Round four paired me with Lord Andy MacDougall, my only interclub match of the day. He was on a monoblack land destruction deck. It didn’t fare well for my dude, who got mana screwed and overrun in Game 2. Andy took the beating graciously, which only makes me more fearful of his designs to get even. Lastly, Bob called out the final round’s pairings and I drew the glacially-minded Matt Braun, whose control stew went past time in each of the first four rounds. I was determined not to get mired in his turgid pace of play. In game one, Braun was chipped away by his own painlands. Game two was a dogfight of removal and counter magic. I just enough weenie mojo to get there – the key play was when my Icatian fell on his own javelin so I could Balance away Braun’s Serra (and hand). I badgered Braun quite a bit, and he took it in-stride, but hey we got there before time was called! The Weenies completed the day a respectable 4-1, yet I won’t be able to look my Ashen Ghouls in the eye for the next 12 months.
Meanwhile, over at the top-table, it was Lord Tim Baran’s 5C Necro Goodstuff pile that vanquished the field with a sterling 5-0 record. Afterward, Tim admitted needing another wincon or two as many of his matches went close to time. Tim made for a fitting Fall Brawl 4 champion after receiving his LOTP patch at the conclusion of last year’s Fall Brawl 2.5, during the closing “digital happy hour.” His sole reward for this day’s grinding, however, was the “Real Q-Cup,” a tumbler filled with leftover from the Lords’ round of Malort earlier in the day. It was probably for the best that Tim declined to swill the swill. Necro took the top two spots of the Swiss, in fact, with Lord Elleman’s Esper Necro Mirror deck close behind Tim. My WW and Cayce’s RUG rounded out the T4.
The “prize” we had to offer was an altered Brainstorm (special thanks to Cam Wall for the effort!) that went to whomever used the most cards original to ‘95. Not to be outdone, it was Lord Nick Rohr, on a deck built entirely from Ice Age & Homelands, who claimed the honor for the second time. A Brainstorm, indeed. His pile even managed one (1) round win, much to Nick’s own surprise. After taking the prize in ‘19 and ‘21, does anyone have what it takes to play more ‘95 cards than this madman?
I rearranged the tables, took some empties up front, and got Ray’s wayward deck back its owner’s hands. Cayce, Rob and Bob helped me fill my wagon with the grip of toys. We were winding down. After all the anticipation, the Fall Brawl passed us like a glorious blur. It wasn’t overwhelming, in fact it felt just right, just as it always does, just as we remembered it. That groove was right there below the surface waiting for us to find it once again. And as for the fellas for whom this was their first Lords event, we can’t wait to see them again. That’s how we keep this whole thing perpetuating. To say that I’m privileged to be part of such a wonderful group of gnarly man-child gamer dudes would be an understatement, so I’ll just end this report the way we ended Fall Brawl 4… “see you in December!”
Appendix: Note on COVID-19 Vaccines
Prior to Fall Brawl 4, and for future events, the Lords of the Pit required entrants to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19. All 24 Fall Brawl entrants provided proof without hesitation. While I was initally uncomfortable asking for this information, I’m thankful they made it easy for me. We all have a role to play in protecting one another.