Part One: Is There Ever a Beginning?
“Remember that time I stole Mephistopheles’s Bike?”
Stangg coughed midway through a monster toke on the Bong of Yawgmoth. He tried to recover graciously, feeling the eyes of the Lady peering through both of him. Her judgment burned more than the Leng Leaf smoke filling his lungs. More coughing, more scorn. He wanted to curse, to take another hit and demonstrate that the disruption, not a lack of fortitude, was the cause of this desperate need for air. Another toke hit would be suicide. If he could not get it under control, she would admonish him verbally.
“You gotta let that shit go, man,” Stangg managed to retort before wiping his mouth. He needed to draw attention away from his stumble. Pass the Bong. First to himself. Confusion. Horror. Existential Dread. He was unraveling faster than the rage of Orca could burn him away. His reflection took over. It reached one of his trembling hands toward the blurry Dinosaur skull. The tears in his eyes distorted reality. Maybe it was the Leaf. Would his friend receive the outstretched offering?
Did he have hands to accept it?
Tuknir was not fond of corporeal tethers.
“I am not afraid of that dumb motherfucker. I will shatter his jaw like I shattered his bike lock,” Tuknir howled, then demonstrated proper bong use to whatever Stangg could see him.
“Just because you can blow smoke does not make you a Dragon,” The Lady spoke, sending convulsions of fear through Stangg’s spines. He let himself breathe now that her attention was redirected, hoping his other self would remain quiet, keeping the attention anywhere else.
Her gaze fixed on the floating face to which she had responded. Her attention forced him to further manifest. The slimy Lungs and limbs became encapsulated in bone, muscle, and sinew. As he forced flesh across his rapidly crafted legs, Tuknir Deathlock stepped forward to pass the bong to Lady Orca.
February of 2020. From the Cold Wastes surrounding the Plateau of Leng, to the frigid reaches beyond the heart and borders of the Pit. It was a pilgrimage that began any other. Brother Andrew handled the Earthly matters, while I tended the Void from a state of constant ritual. We drifted West like smoke through a Drug Skeleton, bringing strange and cryptic offerings from the secret depths of Leng. Mishra could build a Workshop, but he could never match the strange and unorthodox offerings the spaces between. No celebration, even in the depths of the Pit, could be complete without the essence of Leng to keep rattle loose the constrictive reigns of Time and Space.
There are no finer hosts than the Lords of the Pit. Their kindness to the Librarians has been demonstrated time and time again. We repay them by carving our name in their favorite things whenever they look away. Symbols and signs to remember us by. Lords’ Haus was still just an idea, but as it began the transition into reality, none of us could have imagined how important it would be when it passed into memory. At the beginning of that weekend, we were Primal Clay still in-hand. In the course of the days to follow, we would be cast, or forms forever impressed by where they were sculpted. We were forged in the Lords’ Haus to better prepare us for the aftermath.
“After I opened the Leng Box, a pandemic broke out. Some coincidence is still omen.” -The Serious Prophet Rajah
The Children in the Library do not concern themselves with causality. Such behavior would keep them from uncovering secrets in the darkest of depths. But they wasted no time preparing for the storm ahead, and they carried the lessons of the Haus close to the heart. The world above them changed, and they knew it was either time to adapt or depart. Tuknir spent more time in the Void, but could not be troubled to learn to ride a bike. Stangg kept himself company in the attic, swearing off the Leng Leaf to ease the pressure on his fragile grip of self and sanity. Lady Orca found reference in the Ritual chambers, drenched in the blood, sweat, and tears of unspeakable crimes. Brother Andrew returned to the collective reality where he chooses to dwell, only to find it twisted beyond recognition in the chaotic days that unfolded. They each found their own way to cope, then grow, and eventually thrive. With the knowledge and strength from the Lords’ Haus, they faced the sun of each new day with reinvigorated scorn. In the wild wastes of the Midwest beyond, the Lords were spread about doing the same.
The End Times were near, but they were not upon us. They would not come as a side effect, as a passive strain on this loosely held together concept of society and economy. The End Times would come, and they would bear the mark of Leng. This would pass. Slowly. Like Stangg trying to get rid of a bong. And the Librarian himself?
Lurking in the darkness. Dancing in the Light.
I spent the last two years preparing for Lords Haus 2.
Part Two: The Return Trip (Thursday)
“But I’ll live Forever Questions Curse Me, Why?” -Electric Wizard
The trip was shorter than I remembered. It mattered little, Brother Andrew drove as always, and commented on the rush of familiarity as we turned left into Kilbuck Creek. Two years evaporated in an instant. We were once again where we were before. As if nothing changed. But all of us changed. We are all so different. Older? Stranger. Time is kinder to Librarians than it is to Lords, but no amount of prior tribulation can smother the luminescence of friendship in familiar faces. We were among the earlier arrivals on Thursday, but there was no shortage of welcoming embraces.
Quickly settling in to the same lodging space, we returned to become part of the welcome wagon. We helped as we could while I toked away at the nectar of Leng, unable to comprehend how much this moment helped wash away the weight of the prior years. It was clear. Lords’ Haus 2 would resume right where the first one ended. It was bigger than any of us, than all of us smashed together like a poorly constructed Hogaak, and this time, we understood. We were not here to tame the Hydra. We were here to feed it and help it flourish. Let heads grow where they may.
I have attended many Magic events in my day, perhaps some of the finest known and unknown, but few have ever been able to cast a shadow on the threshold of the event that was about to unfold. We all knew it as soon as we walked through the door. It was present in every moment. We wasted no time plunging into the warm intestines of the experience, and soon there was a leisurely sprawl of Lords in various states of Magic, drinking, and enthusiastic conversation. The train was rolling, and nothing could derail it.
I made my way down the stairs and found the bar was already stocked and staffed. It was the functional perch of an assortment of Lords, and they were suckling sweet concoctions served by Endrek Sahr. Assisting him in this servile alchemy was the Ebon Praetor, weaving strage brews of his own. It was only Thursday, and these fuckers were getting drunk on Thrull Blood and Malort. This was getting heavy early. I hesitated. Fear? No. Loathing? Not exactly. Exhaustion? Humans took work, but thrulls were another level of energy that was fleeting at the end of a picnic in the Void. What was this madness? Was I growing soft? Would the Gospel of Leng still emanate from my lips if I could not pay for the burden of a Breeding Pit?
The upkeep was coming to an end, and the draw step was heralded by Sleep’s Holy Mountain. I stood still, letting it flow through me. I was one with the music, alone in the swarming masses of the Pit. Upon its perfect conclusion, I was ready to face anything. Except the thing that reared its ugly head. Steely Dan. I was startled and affronted. This felt like a personal attack from unknown assailants. I could not stand for this.
Instantly, the overlay vision from my Full Thallid Breakfast was erased. Its beauty and elegance could not remain intact under the oppressive vulgarity now playing. We were forced back into the mundane. The Masterminds of Fallen Empires were no longer serving drinks. They were erased like time forgotten, but suitably replaced with Nathan and Jaco. In that moment, I did not know that these were the true heroes and the very lifeblood of this whole story. Not just this account but all accounts. The oddity that manifested through this transition was not erased by a drink, but the sudden glass in my hand was welcome and quickly consumed.
For a moment, I wondered if the wretched mind that felt the need to share the vulgarity of Steely Dan in public, amongst friends clad in Sleep and Electric Wizard shirts, understood the crime against humanity they committed. When it continued beyond a song, I knew that there was intent behind this malice. A healthy consumption of Leng Leaf followed by a second drink found me wading deeper into the shallow depths of Steely Dan further than I had ever been. This was not pedestrian malice. This was some strange, Pit-sculpted villainy that could only be properly repaid with the Wrath of Lady Orca. More Leng Leaf and another mysterious cocktail left me aware that this crime would probably go unpunished, so I set it aside and gave myself over to the crowd.
There was no shortage of Magic being played throughout the Haus. I watched a variety of games, including my firsthand exposure to Eternal Chaos. I understood what it was, and I knew how much these pit fiends adored it, but I decided immediately that I did not like it. It was not for me. Somehow being present to witness it unfolding changed my perspective and unraveled my resolve. It would be a long while before I dipped my toes into the Sulfurous Springs of reckless consumption of booster packs, but I was no longer immune. It would only be a matter of time before one of these monsters shoved a set of Booster Tutors into my hands. After that happens, you can no longer resist the temptation. You must succumb.
The hours flowed like the Malort. The evening twisted into night. The pool wrapped around me and let me pass through its body. When I returned to the main house from my first swim, I entered from beneath to join a group of fellow Sleep fans for a bit of celebration. The cold urged me back inside. To my surprise and delight, there was a sign on the wall. It was a work of art. “Steely Dan is Steely Banned.” I was filled with delight and amusement. Knowing nothing of what was happening behind the curtains of the Pit, it was clear that at least the hand of power was not also the fiendish perpetrator. This Oz required a great deal of substance to navigate, but there was a drink in my hand again as soon as I was ready to sip it.
Things were growing wonderfully without my calloused hands attempting to persuade them, so I basked in the delight of not being needed. There is no greater freedom that a complete lack of control. Soon that freedom led me to an event featuring the top 8 decks from the previous Lords’ Haus Championship. This sounded fantastic, and I was eager to join. The perfect way to limp back into Magic, a leisurely journey through other people’s strange woods.
Each round we were assigned a different deck. I do not recall exactly which piles I piloted, but I did win the first two rounds. One with Savannah Lions and Serendib Efreets, the other with aggressive Black Vise draws. Both matches were contained to two short games, leaving my opponents little they could do. This was fortunate as I swirled around in the haze of my mind, wondering if Ith ever got high and lost in his own maze. Blazed in the Ithian Maze.
The third round, the one the Moss Monster denies memory of during the Pitcast, was a showdown of madness. I had some kind of Workshop pile, and I shuffled it up in the hopes of figuring out how not to be punished for having Su-Chi. Moss was not so underprivileged. He had the benefit of slinging the superior pile, Carter’s winning deck from the previous year. It did not take long for me to bow in defeat. I was outclassed by creatures I never learned to respect. Lady Orca does not give a fuck about Argothian Pixies. I watched the downfall of Mishra written in the eyes of a Scryb Sprite.
But this was not about the failure of Mishra. Nor was it about the triumph of aggression. This was not about Leng or the moment. This was Prophecy. A cry from our Homelands, the reflection of Isahn’s Shade in an understanding eye. I saw celebration in the Moss Monster, but could ignore the overlay of a Dungeon Shade. I was watching not the end of the first night, but the end of the final night as well. I could not help but understand, and I knew that I would be forced to play a part in this. The heaviest burden of the Librarian is acting out the plays he has written. It has destroyed many of the pilots in this rudimentary space ship, but this operator comes from an older, eldritch dark. The play must go on. The lines must be read for the ritual to be complete.
In that moment, I suspected I knew who the Steely Dan Bandit was.
The rest of the night was an undulating dream. Much of it in proximity of the pool, or out in the night air, continually consuming the native plant life of Leng. I was rarely not in the best of company or lost in music. The was the first night, and like the others that would follow, it was too full of Magic to end. It ran later than any of us was prepared for in these older, wearier days, but whenever we thought of giving it up, it gave us another out. In this case, my pursuit of slumber turned into another late cocktail of unknown composition (I never asked for anything specific, and defaulting my choice to the experts proved to be correct every time) and further conversation. Nathan was still manning the bar. I would gleefully argue that there was never a moment when the bar was not open and serving.
The level of dedication from everyone involved in Lords Haus was tangible in every moment, but nowhere could it be seen more clearly than behind the bar for this seemingly endless string of days. For a brief moment, I wondered if we ever left. I tried to string together an Overlook Hotel joke in my mind, but I spared my server the grief, and after one final round I found my way into bed and the welcoming hunger of a deep sleep.
Part Three: Phantom Green (Friday)
“The Vanishing Man has madness to sow There are Secrets he Knows have never been told” -Agents of Oblivion
Lords’ Haus is the full actualization of what I envisioned when I stepped out of the mainstream of Magic to start the MTG Underground. Seeing the dream come to life on its own is uplifting in a way that words cannot properly serve. But within any underground, there will always be the formation of another underground. Eventually, Darkthrone feels mainstream. Wu-Tang Clan merchandise is for sale at Target. People sleep every night but don’t know any of their songs. Ozzy Osborne becomes self-parody for a generation that has never heard Black Sabbath. When the world becomes an ugly reflection of the dream, we must steal its bones to make something new.
The natural progenitor of this kind of bullshit is always Leng. We are creatures obsessed with folding ourselves into the deeper fabric of the Void. Lords’ Haus 2 was an event to transcend all others, and in the midst of its unfolding, the Librarians gathered a pair of Co-Conspirators for our crimes. With the kind participation of Grant (some things do not stay buried in the woods for long) and Matt B, Brother Andrew and I kicked off the Lords’s Haus underground. During the variety of events that the Haus offered and the spaces between, we ran the Spoils of Leng Odyssey Block Sealed League. I provided an Odyssey tournament pack along with a pack of Torment and Judgment, and from these pools we each built our deck. Limited to the basics within the pool, these decks were an underwhelming mess that provided an unmatched wellspring of joy in every game.
The premise of the league was simple. If you win a match against any other player, you may plunder their Sideboard for any card. This is something we have been doing in the Limited Leng Leagues in the Library. Referred to as Spoils, the back and forth as well as the slow development of the decks gives a limited pool a surprisingly fulfilling range of play, especially with appropriately minded participants. I began the league in three colors, primarily as a result of basics, though the shallow end of my pool was doing little to help. As such, my first three vicotries brought more lands into my pool, a couple of mountains and a Barbarian Ring, while my black cards were on a steady flow outward.
If I could have devoted more time to anything over the course of the event, it would have been to grind more games of this format. Fortunately, the deck is still ready for its return at Lords’ Haus 3, where I will finally win another basic or two and be able to sculpt the last of the white cards out of my pool. While the idea of preserving a sealed pool for an unknown span of time so that it may resume at an uncertain event may seem optimistic, especially in light of the reality that Grant has likely already thrown away his cards, it was such a quality experience that there is no reason not to give it the opportunity to blossom in a future Spring.
Recounting my pool upon returning home, it would seem that I lost one more game than I won, and the likelihood is that I played eleven matches over the course of the two days. The beautiful truth of a successful Lords’ Haus underground is perfectly represented by the number of hand-drawn squirrel tokens that were given birth over the weekend. The clarity of aftermath shows me that I should have been leaning into White instead of Red, but the easy thing is rarely a big enough high to lure a Librarian into action. We shall see if I can keep my focus when this living project of terrible cardboard resumes its life. Hopefully Grant is digging his cards out of the trash at this very moment.
Repeating past behavior, I did not participate in any of the mainstream Friday magic. But I woke to watch some fantastic vintage full of cards I no longer know, and the majority of the day offered a variety of Middle School matches, though I unfortunately did not see many that involved anything other than Standstill nonsense. My favorite deck spotted in the wild was Serious Sam’s Turbo Land Oath. The Horn of Greed is my kind of Bong. Peppered with Odyssey Games for Spoils and steady substance consumption, this made for a perfect day. I spent an abundant portion of my time in the pool, drifting about in a Phyrexian Haze, or phasing in and out across the compound.
Sometime after evening converted to Night, I acquired some Booster Tutors and inserted them into my Eureka Pile. Still somewhat hesitant, I asked Cam to endure my first experience with this, expecting not to enjoy myself and likely abandon it. It was in this time that I began to understand the existential dread of Stangg and his discomfort in the presence of my Floral Spuzzem, despite not being an artifact. I could hear myself talking, and then I could see myself engaging. I was not pulling the strings. Some other creature slipped through and was piloting this ship now. It was bent on sculpting this experience, on enjoying it despite my curmudgeonly distaste for opening product and being forced to read cards. A Library is not a Book Store, we do not concern ourselves as much with new things when offered such a bounty of old things.
Once this vile bastard sailed us into the port of this Eternal Chaos (Or: How I Learned to Start Boosting and Love the Random Bomb) I was obliged, and he abandoned control, once again a memory of a former pilot crushed under the shadow of Leng. This heinousness was too deep to walk away, I was going to have to navigate myself through its dirty streets if I wanted to return to the woods. I was likely rambling about this in some unintelligible way, wondering if I could manage to perform in this moment. Fortunately for me, I chose Cam for his encouragement and tolerance, and as I wallowed about in his warm embrace, I managed to find a functional seat in the spaceship of my mind for this interstellar adventure.
We played our first game, and I drew the common Eureka hand of mostly mana sources. Over his first pair of turns, Cam cast three Birds of Paradise. I felt the sky closing upon me like a coffin lid. I was helpless against this aerial dominance. His abundant resources left me feeling underprivileged and underfed. In a fever of total despair, I drew and cast the aforementioned, format defining all-star: Booster Fucking Tutor. It promised the salvation I was seeking. A breath of fresh air instead of being buried alive. In that demonstration I understood the addiction. In the traditional bondage, my deck could only hope to call forth the Triskelion to save me from Cam’s Hitchcockian zeal. But after a mainline booster Tutor like drugs found on a sidewalk, I knew the possibilities of this high were endless.
I hesitated because I did not think through what transpired. Cam, ever the gentlemen, noticed the lack of sealed product with my other effects on the table. He stretched forth a leather satchel. Inside, the abundance of fancy and expensive though overwhelmingly unidentifiable selection of packs was something to behold. This was the sort of power play that would not only facilitate my addiction, but encourage it to grow. I could see myself with a fancy leather satchel of my own, this time filled with packs instead of contraband. I was spinning at the possibilities. But reality demanded my attention. My action. As Cam encouraged me to help destroy his abundance of treasures, I did my best to wave him off. Somewhere behind the haze, one of the other pilots, perhaps the slimy bastard who slipped through and flew me into this entropic upwelling of space dust, was prodding me to remember. I did not trust him, but I began rummaging through my pockets, desperate to know what he knew. A series of formless sounds to stall my audience and opponent, I found myself admiring the composure of an animated Bilbo Baggins while being asked what is in its pockets.
The persistent hiss of Gollum. Asking. Waiting. Demanding.
I don’t know what is in my pockets motherfucker, that is why I am rummaging.
I found it. A pack of Magic cards. Familiar feel. Distant memory. I pulled it out without looking at it because my vision was not as trustworthy as my carefully moving fingers. The delicacy of its touch was all I needed. My hands worked at peeling away the thin plastic, and I gingerly opened it, as if my moment of tenderness would somehow caress the correct solution into being. The superstition prevailed. It was the gift that kept on giving. I was fourteen again, when every pack promised endless posibilities with crisp white borders. Three basic lands. No white cards. All the way from 1994 to treat me appropriately in this moment.
The Rare? Earthquake. But the birds fly. Cam woukd not be so easily unseated. More red cards. Kird Ape. Wall of Flame. Red Elemental Blast. This pack had its own story to tell, and it was overlapping nicely with the one I was weaving. A Dark Ritual. Giant Growth. Tranquility. Ironrooot Treefolk. This pack was prepared to handle anything. Sea Serpent. Water Elemental. Power Leak. Was there anything to provide me salvation from the madness of Cam’s Sky Army?
The final card in this newly born pack of Revised: Prodigal Sorcerer. The proper solution for all of life’s obstacles. And for my opponent. Doom only cost three mana, and I was able to cast it immediately. And let me tell you, my friends, that I not only killed all three of those birds, but I finished off Cam himself with that fucking Wizard. This was a new highwater mark in my Sea of Magic experiences. My first booster tutor was an unforgettable experience. If I never cast another, my memory would always speak fondly of the format I quietly detested an hour before. This is Magic as Dick Garfield intended.
Once the adrenaline of the moment subsided, I tried to remember where my sudden Spoils originated. It was a moment worthy of endless gratitude for its enablers. As such, my thanks to Matt B for his generous trade for the Odyssey pool. It gave me the chance to rediscover something lost, and the chance to have fun with my friends from the confines of this mortal form. We managed another game, involving Cam’s Satchel and a flying crab of doom. I gave myself over fully to the An-Havva Folk Honey, gibbering laughter, and after the game made my way back down to the Bar of Underworld Dreams for another Alabaster Potion.
High on drugs, life, and friendship, I basked in the encapsulating love of this distorted temporal and spatial dimension. I watched fellow Leng Cultists Quail and Justin acquire their Chaos Orb badges. Quail nailed forty-nine flips in a row, missed once for a taste of drama (or because he was thirsty for one of those waiting Malort shots) and closed it out like a professional. In between my brothers of Leng was the Final Absolution of Moss. Ever the master, yet having fallen short time and time again, this was the moment he was bound to succeed. I remembered his malicious Steely Damnation, but my flickering prescience tells me that this is his moment, a triumph that will bring him to later falter when opposing the Library. As such, we cheer the villain on to his rightful triumph.
Somewhere in this revelry I agreed to make the attempt myself, unsure of how I would be able to reach the table from the depths of the Void, but when my time was at hand, I found the Satanic Rites of Drugula playing, a rowdy show of support from onlookers, and my Chaos Orb in hand. The light was glaring off my target, so I closed my eyes. I heard the counting. They tell me I hit twenty-seven times before the miss. I managed to rattle out another ten or so, but somewhere in the process I found myself drifting away, reaching for something beyond my grasp.
I thought about my Alpha Lord of the Pit. Its blurry ink signature and bottle indentations. The perfect coaster as the perfect message to my rivals. The perfect target for a Chaos Orb Flip. Where was it now? Back in Leng, on the floor, partially under the carpet. Unsleeved and unclean. It fell off my desk and I never picked it up. How could I complete this story without all of its pieces? I looked at my final shot of Malort, and understood that this was not the time. I would not walk away with a patch under these conditions, as I could not let the most important part be left out. As such, I was not surprised to watch myself miss again, though I did not do so with intention, just knowledge. I swallowed my Malort with determination, still feeling accomplished. With the proper target, at the proper time, I will complete this quest and earn my place in the only way I would dream it to be.
I could tell you that I went swimming and met a variety of cocktails, that I made conversation with friends and filled my lungs with copious tokes of the Leng Leaf. I could tell you that this night ended much as the others, dragged on to a dangerously close proximity to the sunrise, and that the bar was never unstaffed. And all of those things would probably be true, but I have no memories of the deep part of the second day. Somewhere in the darkness I fell asleep where I intended.
Part Four: Earth’s Last Picture (Saturday)
“Would ye not rather fall into pleasant reverie Than to tremble amidst, this old memory?” -Darkthrone
We rose shortly behind the sun after an early return from dreams. Sleep is a band, not an activity. The Gospel of Leng. Despite the excess of the prior two days, I awoke to find myself in my prime. A brisk breakfast on the balcony with the birds was the perfect foundation of the day to come. I wasted no time chasing the Shivan Dragon followed with appreciation the Leng Botany. Once again seated at the Lords Bar, I procured a drink and arranged to play some Odyssey. The morning drifted by leisurely, and before I realized it, the time came for me to situate my Prize support contributions.
For those who are unaware, Saturday was to feature the second Lords’ Haus Championship. As part of participation in this event, each combatant is required to contribute something to the prize pool, with the only stipulation being a value of at least twenty American dollars. This is a place where the true character of a gathering is most tangible. It would be easy enough to provide a quality contribution at or near the minimum threshold, and it is unlikely anyone would think twice about it. But the first Lords’ Haus left an impression. Instead of small, tasteful gifts, we pushed to the boundaries. Power Tools. Records. Strange Boxes of Eldritch Lore. This time would be the chance for us to eclipse our previous effort.
Unfortunately I did little to document the experience, but I redoubled my efforts to expand upon the previous Leng Box. This time, I built multiple boxes, and constructed a series of puzzles and obstacles within them. For me, the most exciting part of this event is the opportunity to create something unique, both material and experience, for this community. It is an opportunity to attempt to give back as much as I am given. The inclusion of my passions, both within and beyond Magic, as well as the ability to use my talents (I play a carpenter in my daily life) and share my art is a gift that gives back to me as much as I give out. Walking around throughout the weekend and seeing so many cards I have defiled in play across the space is almost as uplifting as the best taste of Leng’s Garden.
Fortunately, the depth of the prize support is likely represented somewhere. Though pictures will not do justice, the documentation will help push the boundaries further down the line. After handling my affairs, I took another dive into some An-Havva Folk Medicine and another dive into the pool. I would commune with the Void until the event began. The excitement was building. The opportunity to play Magic is easy to take for granted, but its absence in the last couple of years made the moment bigger and brighter. Absence of an indulgence will always compel us to greater desire.
Once again drifting outside the river of time left me unprepared for the main event to begin. It was going to be a long day, and I was not going to hurry against its current. I rarely found myself still casting spells at the end of a round. There was no need for haste. I had already seen the end, written in the cards like Prophecy. Now was the time to discover how we get there. The forest ahead was not without its own plans, and the first encounter on this journey was fellow Leng Cultist and Electric Wizard enthusiast Quail, accompanied by his ensemble of Nether Voids. It was time to bring the fucking Noise.
For one beautiful round, my deck performed without flaw. The fortunate part of playing Giant Monsters against Nether Void is that if you do your thing first, they do not want to do their thing at all. Mahamoti Djinns helped us keep our round clean and timely. The short duration left room for other activities. Drinks. Mayhem. Binho. If my deck played like it did in the first round throughout the rest of the day, it would not take much to storm my way through this event.
But it was not destined to go down that smoothly. The next monster in the woods that crept out to deter my quest was a fellow participant in the Lords’ Haus underground, Matt B. Our match was something of a beautiful disaster. If asked to describe his deck in the moment, I would not have come close to representing it. Alas, my deck was not cooperating unless stressed to its extremes. In a world of Lightning Bolts and Psychic Venoms, I paid thirty-six life to draw extra cards from Sylvan Library over the course of three games. I was forced by the awkwardness of my deck (it often looks better than it is, like any worthwhile combo deck) to make some Hail Mary plays, only to be put back in place by Balance. Despite the total blowouts, I was impressed to see the possibilities of my deck under pressure. I would later have the chance to observe that Matt was playing Power Surge, which made me understand better what was going on with his candelabras. A worthy deck to lose to, even if I did not give it the chance to show me its action.
With drinks from Shane, I started my next round against my old friend of more Serious times, Jimmy. Fortunately for me, he was playing Serendib Efreets and Savannah Lions, because this was another round of my deck struggling to pull itself together. The games were closer than I would have liked, and I was blown out a few times by Balance, a recurring theme for my reckless lifestyle, but the failure to close allowed my deck to stumble back in and drop another drunk monster often enough to put away my opponent.
Round four against Greg was similar to the previous one against Jimmy, and once again Giant Monster attrition prevailed. I remember that the play was exciting, that I felt like I was going to lose until I pulled through. But the details are hazy beyond the memory of my favorite activity: shooting Savannah Lions with Triskelion. My deck may not have worked well, but it worked just enough.
Round Five, drenched in Lion Blood and drunk on Serendib Wine, I felt the violence coursing through me as I was presented with the opportunity to remain the natural Savannah Predator. Much to the dismay of Jaco and his Zoo, nearly broken-down Juggernaut still had enough gas to run over some more of the smallest threats in all of Dominaria. I was even presented with the opportunity to shoot a Summoning Sick King Suleiman before he could murder by bloodthirsty Erhnam Djinn. I would like to say that I was playing great Magic despite my deck’s shortcomings, and grinding out victories from the filthy streets of defeat, but the truth is that the deck was still doing all the work. It was hardly necessary for me to be present, making it more enjoyable to sit back and watch the show.
In those three rounds, there were no over the top plays or brilliant decisions. Just fat and attrition. The truth of it is that I had three grindy matches against decks that I usually beat easily, but the cleanliness and ease of a win do not add to its value. The best part was getting to play my cards. To see and feel them. To show people the alters that have consumed my collection. It was all the things I enjoy about Magic, easier to appreciate after so long away. The gradual massacre of Lions and Dibs is just gory icing on the doom cake.
In the silent darkness beyond the Lodge, I called forth the ghosts of my ancestors for celebration and comradery. I was given over completely to both the earthly charms of An-havva and the otherworldly delights of Phyrexia. As I pondered my state, someone found me and sent me on a quest. I was to find the Moss Monster, the Steely Danatic himself, and challenge him to a final battle. Fueled by Black Sabbath and the uncertainty that Steely Dan was even a real band at all, and not just something someone made up, I set myself to action. I collected my weapons, a drink, and memories of moshing at Pantera shows. The time was at-hand.
When I eventually found him, the Moss Monster was perched in the upper branches of a hollowed out Argivian Treefolk. This savage bastard was advertising for Mishra while relaxing in luxury unknown at the common tables of his peers. Despite the need to begin ten or so minutes late as a result of the Maze of Ith I had to overcome for this attack, I found my jovial opponent in a state of inner peace. The luxury was serving him well. As he warmly welcomed me to the pummeling he intended to serve, I became aware that he was still unaware that I knew the truth. I knew his crimes. He was so confident that he bragged of them as we shuffled for our first game. I was going to crush him and erase Steely Dan from his bones.
Or so I imagined. I had a powerful grip of seven against his five on the play, and my opponent played a Su-Chi. Initially I felt relief, but eight damage later, accompanied by a pair of factories, and despite an Ancestral Recall and Sylvan Library, I could still do nothing. My demise came fast and without mercy. In less than five minutes, we had boarded and were moving to the next game. I was so consumed by my desire for vengeance I never questioned if I had the means to execute. It would not be long before this questioning became doubt, and then despair.
It was my turn to mulligan as the fiendish creature before me grinned delightfully into his grip of seven. But I would not stop with five cards. Four was no better. The wheels came off, and the beast was trying to die. There was only one real opportunity left, and I joked about it as I shuffled up again to see if I could find a Timetwister and Lotus in the same hand. The next grip left me keeping three, and when I cast the Twister, I had a Ruby in play. After breezing through five of the next seven cards, I cast a Wheel of Fortune. This time, I landed Moss in a mess while I began to wrap up this slaughter.
But the Balance came, and eventually The Abyss. My opponent was determined to lock me out of my victory. A close game that I could not seem to close, after nearly forty minutes of reciprocal violence, I managed to defeat the mighty Moss. In our second game. Sometime near its end, time was called, but we disregarded it, and gained back the time that was lost when I had to outwalk Frodo in pursuit of my enemy in his personal Mordor. As we shuffled up for game three, the Bob Police ascended to our perch and shut us down. He was having none of our nonsense, and we were sent to the Chaos Orb flip off.
Moss turned his hat around and gave me a look straight out of Over the Top. He was letting me know that he was Sylvester Stallone, and I was about to have my arm ripped off. If I even had arms. I looked down and discovered that I did. I looked back up, and he had hardly moved. His hat in the proper position. He placed the measuring device on the table, and I broke out the Lori Lightfoot “Biggest Dick in Oldschool” Lady Orca for a target. The Rocky montage of Moss flipping for his patch started playing in my head. He presumed victory. It was coursing through his veins.
I have lost flip offs to the Moss Monster in the past. I have never won. And this motherfucker is hardly drinking. Me? Barely able to peer back through the mists. The moment is at hand. Having assessed the situation, I finished my drink. I concluded that I was not sure I could tell the difference between Thin Lizzy and Steely Dan. Did they share band members? Would getting rid of one solve the issue with the other? I would probably never know, and it brought me a moment of clarity. The odds were in my favor. My opponent was not an unstoppable flippernaut, but just one of Steely Dan’s seven fans. I was Black Sabbath incarnate. They were Lords of the Pit only after being fired as Servants of Leng. Their evil could not prevail against our drug fueled madness.
We flipped. The night prior, I hit twenty-seven without opening my eyes. This would be easy. But it was not easy. We each hit twenty-five times before Moss stumbled. Fallen, he reminded me that I still needed to succeed to win. I looked him in the eye and flipped. I did not have to look to know. With the guidance of the Wrath of Lady Orca, I was avenged for the Steely affront from Thursday. And I was once again able to resume my otherwise impeccable friendship with one of the Pit’s Finest.
And we both made top 8 anyway.
Part Five: Supernaut (Top 8 and Beyond)
“Don’t try to reach me ‘cause I’ll tear up your mind I’ve seen the future and I’ve left it all behind” -Black Sabbath
Overcoming evil can be exhausting work. Doing so in the presence of its family, friends, and trusted confidants is the work of unsung heroes. Let each of us become our own festival, and celebrate with Unyaro Honey crystals. The Leng Leaf guided me safely through the woods, but I was oblivious to the landscape beyond. In the cold silence of the settling night, I watched the river and trees. They watched me as well. The air and my blood swirled about each other in unorthodox familiarity. I spend the majority of life outdoors in all seasons. It bewitches me with its beauty. I am often lost on the edge of familiarity.
While I gave myself over to the night, inside the Lodge the top 8 was announced. Having felled Moss, I felt victorious. It was a fitting conclusion to my run. I forgot entirely about the inner workings of things, and was unaware that I had more Magic to play. Fortunately, the Leng Cult takes care of its own, and soon my people found me, briefed me on the expectations upon my return, and ushered me inside. As this was happening it finally hit me that despite the sluggish performance of my deck, only one of these wretched spawns managed to defeat me.
I already knew that Carter would win again, and I had seen him mercilessly ruin Moss in my vision. I was not going to deprive myself of seeing it play out. Fortunately, I was not paired as an obstacle. Unfortunately, that meant I was paired against Sam of Team Serious fame, in a match that did smile kindly upon my agenda. I have played the Power Monolith vs Eureka match enough times to know what to expect. The earlier I could cast Eureka, the more likely I was to win. I managed to do just that, but Sam managed to have it, and I was not made to suffer long as game two quickly repeated a similar pattern as game one.
As quickly as it was discovered, my presence in the top 8 came to an end. Unfortunately for this otherwise fine array of Magic players, my degenerate presence would forever taint the legitimacy of their accomplishment. How hard could it be if I did it? In my state? Without realizing it? My shadow would be an ugly one, but that was for the more driven among us to be concerned with. I had a drink to acquire and a pool to invade.
After a series of cocktails and a couple Odyssey Spoils games, I returned to bear witness to the massacre I so presciently witnessed on Thursday. Knowing the outcome could not diminish the joy of watching the Steely Downfall. Moss was battle worn and beginning to show the signs of an arduous weekend. His opponent was chipper, almost perky. The well-rested, sober, and spiritually enlightened Carter gloated over the haggard Moss Monster like he was looting Grant’s corpse in the forest. It was a work of art written by the cards and performed by puppets dressed as masters. We all played a part, and in the end the performance was greater than the sum of its scenes. It was exactly as it was meant to be. There was a repeat Lords’ Haus champion, and the burden upon him in the years to come would weigh heavily on his rapidly maturing brow. In the meantime, there was a celebration in order.
The depth of the prize pool was beyond imagination. It was too much to take in all at once, and many of the contributions I did not see until they made their way to their new owner. The Box of Leng went once again to a member of Team Serious, most fittingly to Sam, who knocked me out of contention and set me free to wander. When it was my turn to pick, early since I fucked around and made top 8, there was not much decision to consider. While situating the Leng Boxes for what was to come, I caught a glimpse of a Madvillain record paired with a Murakami novel. I had both items in various carts online, intending to buy them when I had some time to handle it properly.
This was a prize handcrafted for me. If there was any doubt, the third piece of package was an altered Braingeyser, featuring an overtly psychedelic cat. It immediately replaced the grayscale one I have played for the last few years. I thought about how simple and profound this all was simultaneously.
The Leng Box is a prize contribution tradition that I have carried with me for a handful of years. It started when we were playing vintage, and it found a perfect home as part of the oldschool community. At the first Lords’ Haus I put a great deal of effort in giving back to the Lords for their hospitality. It was a smashing success, and I wanted to take it further this time.
I have had two years without the usual if sporadic gatherings, so I have been denied the chance to give away things that I accumulate. I found myself with an abundance of ephemera and oddities, along with a heavy mix of alters, packs, alcohol, shot glasses, cat toys, and whatever else I could find about the library. It was a treasure trove fit for Old School, but it did not feel like enough.
I decided to take things a bit further, and I scripted a letter offering an exchange. I also brought along a rather large cedar box full of secrets, and offered it in place of the Leng Box, provided that the first box be given to last place. The second box was a Large raised bed planter made mostly of cedar, full of records, power tools, and some of the weirdest Leng Swag imaginable. When Sam was presented with the decision, he accepted, and my efforts were rewarded.
The event itself was reward enough for any of us, but the opportunity to cheat a prize into the hands of the person having the hardest day was too good to miss. On the not unheard of chance that it was Grant, I built in proper protection, passing it to whoever did better than no one but Grant. In the end, Sam set up a Bazaar, trading records and dremels for any number of things, all while wearing a Luchador mask. That is the essence of every Leng Box. And when the planter did not fit in Sam’s car, it returned with the Librarians to the back garden of Leng. It is sitting there now, waiting for the onset of Spring and the execution of its purpose.
I did not document the specifics of what I gave away, but the truth is out there. I imagine pictures are as well. And I am already thinking about my next effort, and how I will possibly manage to outdo what I have already done. That is the way of miracles. And a problem for a future and its own incarnation of the Librarian.
The celebration followed the previous night parades amplified by the sudden onset of Daylight Savings Time. This cruel concept has wreaked endless havoc on the weeks since, and only now, weeks later, finally committing these crimes in written form, am I starting to properly adapt. But in that moment, it did not matter. The Malort was long gone, and we were forced to drink good scotch or thrull blood to keep going. Nothing would keep us down. I do not remember the end, but the haze of waking up the next morning assured me that eventually, no matter how great the celebration, the night always comes to a fitting end.
Part Six: The Fine Art of Phyrexian Hunger (Food from the Pit)
The Food arrangements at Lords’ Haus were impeccable. I avoided including them previously to discuss them in depth separately. Every meal was catered, and there was no shortage of food or snacks available at all times. A variety of Food Trucks were brought in for the primary meals, and the main event Saturday also featured a cornucopia of Chicago-style Pizza. High praise has already been offered for both the quality and variety of food both at and between meals. It does not do enough justice.
I am a vegetarian. While it is not a secret, I am relatively quiet about it. For the most part it has been a constant in my adult life, and is something that I do not think much about until I am forced to pay attention. It’s a seemingly simple idea to choose not to eat meat, but the difficulties it creates in a range of places is astounding. From first dates to work meetings to holidays with my in-laws, I have learned to be responsible and plan ahead, something I do very little in any other aspect of my life.
Despite the trouble found in daily life, it has never been an issue among friends. I have attended my share of private magic events, and my needs have always been more than adequately obliged. Even when I am the only vegetarian present, the consideration is always extended and appreciated. It may seem odd for this to matter as much as it does, but it is something that determines whether or not I can attend a gathering of this nature.
Lords’ Haus in both iterations has been a demonstration of not only consideration, but as an opportunity to raise the bar. Bob was aware of my diet from attending previous events together, and when it came time to prepare he reached out and informed me that it was a priority and there would be no trouble. If there was a question about anything it was asked, and I was able to put it out of my mind, to make space for the mayhem of the Haus.
I live in the Midwest, and good food is the exception rather than the rule in the majority of places around me. Often vegetarian food is an afterthought, and the variety of options dwindles as you move away from urban centers or college towns. So when each meal arrived, I was confident that I would be taken care of, but I was blown away by the quality of everything I ate. Every meal was a dream. It is easy to take for granted, but having someone arrange your food for effectively three days and do better than you would have on your own is worth the price of admission.
Let it be Said: The Lords know how to throw a party.
Editor’s note: special thanks go to Robert Vincent for sharing his copious Lords Haus photos!