This Land Is Your Land

by mtg_border_eraser

The first thing that struck me as unusual about The Land, a recent weekend-long invitational tournament brought to you by Ohio’s Team Serious magic club, was that there were no beds to be had. Set on the picturesque family land of Vintage Champ Rajah James, The Land offered a freshly-cut lawn under the shade of enormous trees. There, you could set up a tent. Sufficiently hammered, you could fall into a dreamless slumber under the summer stars, fully unaware of the soft chorus of snoring all around you, most of which would certainly seem to qualify as undiagnosed sleep apnea. If you were a light sleeper, at dawn you’d be awakened by the blazing sun and a classic farmland cliché: the crowing of a neighbor’s roosters.

What next struck me as unique to The Land was the family-style approach of the whole affair. Rajah and the rest of Team Serious had done so much preparation, but the execution required help from attendees. For meals, some skewered meat, some worked the grill, some prepped and chopped veggies, while others set up the spread. On Sunday morning, everyone helped clean up the event space, a cavernous, concrete-floored “barn” where we spent most of the weekend flinging spells at one another.

Rajah set the tone for this sense of community on Saturday morning, when he stood on a table and thanked the 38 magicians who had come for the Vintage main event. With the twinkle of a tear in his eye, he recounted why the space meant so much to him and his family. The net effect on me was that I felt more invested in the weekend than I often do at Magic tournaments. I felt like I owned a piece of it. If I squinted, I could see what an MtG commune might look like.

The Barn

But what did the Magic look like? Well, dear reader, let me tell you. Friday night had a Middle School Tournament; Saturday afternoon Vintage; and Saturday evening Eternal Chaos, aka, “Dom presents Crackin’ Boosties: A Brandon Sanders Production.”

I had chosen to play a Premodern netdeck for Friday’s Middle School tournament. It used Hermit Druid to flip my deck into the graveyard. Then I’d cast Reanimate on a Sutured Ghoul, remove some Phyrexian Dreadnoughts from my yard, trigger Dragon Breath into play, and attack for the win. The deck also had a backup plan of Stifle-Nought.

Premodern enthusiasts tend to say that their format is more fair, while Middle School is more degenerate, due to our not-banned cards like Necropotence, Grim Monolith, Entomb, Earthcraft, and Mystical Tutor. In practice, however, the average game plays out pretty similarly because Force of Will and banned mana accelerants like Dark Ritual tend to keep the more powerful cards in check.

I bring up the idea of fair vs. degenerate because my Angry Nought deck (aka Angry Hermit, Noughty Hermit, Noughty Ghoul, Techno-Hermit, Techno-Druid, etc.) feels to me to be the most unfair deck of any I’ve played in Middle School. Granted, it’s an easily-disruptable glass cannon, but it’s pretty resilient for a deck that can win on turn two. Case in point, match one game one turn one, on the play I cast Hermit Druid with the help of Elvish Spirit Guide. My opponent, Romancing the Stones’ Brian Hockey, who has told me several times that he never misses with Cabal Therapy, blind-Therapied the Reanimate out of my hand. It didn’t end up mattering, though. Turn two I flipped my deck. On my turn three upkeep I shuffled two Reanimates into my empty library with Krosan Reclamation. Then I played a land and won the game.

My previous experience with the deck made me wonder whether it just wasn’t that good in MS; I think I went 2-3 or something like that. But many things that could have gone wrong did, and it was my first time playing it. By comparison, I ran hotter at the Land, going 5-1, good enough for 3rd place after breakers. My loss was to UW Landstill, which was very close. In game 3, I had the choice of two plays: one would lose to a topdecked Tormod’s Crypt, the other a counterspell. I figured he had more counters than Crypts, so I took the lose-to-Crypt line, and lost to a Crypt.

Due to my inexperience with Vintage, I expected a 2-4 run on Saturday, and I ended up bullseyeing that target. I was on UG Oath of Atraxa, splashing black for the tutors and white for Balance. I don’t think I lost a game where I triggered Oath of Druids, but there were many games where I did exactly nothing. I guess I’ve got the itch for the format now, mostly due to how much happens in the first couple turns, and how tense those turns feel.

Pub quiz

Of the three events, I was most excited for the Eternal Chaos/Crackin’ Boosties tournament and most desirous of a win there. If you’re not familiar with Eternal Chaos (K-OS for short, pronounced “chaos”), it uses the Eternal Central brand of Old School as its base, but it legalizes the three booster-tutoring cards from the “Un” sets. See this article for more details and a recent tournament report. Sure, it’s a wacky format born from a Southside Chicagoan who, by my reckoning, probably just wanted an excuse to crack some packs. But it’s also a genuinely fun format that puts some lipstick on the pig that is Old School.

At the above linked Boosties tournament in Chicago, I had vastly underestimated the power of then-newly-legal Summon the Pack. I thought it was too expensive, but opted to play one as a “fun-of,” instead of Mind Twist. Throughout that day, I realized a couple things. One, with OS jewelry and four Fellwar Stones, it was actually pretty easy to cast. Two, resolving it was back-breaking for the opponent, whereas a cheaper threat like Serra Angel could be easily answered.

For The Land K-OS event, I built what was basically The Deck plus three Summon the Pack and four Booster Tutor. BT can sometimes grab a threat, but just as often grabs an answer. Much of the time, the best target is just a land to make sure you don’t miss a drop.

The Pack

By the time we got around to the “tournament,” it was late. Vintage was over, as was the post-Vintage pub quiz. And there was also a Dominaria draft that was firing, pulling away a few would-be-chaoticians. We ended up with around 8-10 players, and Rajah suggested we do double-elimination. Rounds weren’t timed, and some decks were apparently exceedingly slow to win.

A pain point of K-OS can be the reading of the new cards. If you take a leisurely, un-self-aware pace of carefully reading each card, opening a couple packs can add ten minutes to the game. I suggest players have a decision tree in mind as they open a pack. Need a land? Just grab a land. Need a specific answer? Look for that specific answer. Need a threat? Look first at the rare, then uncommons. If you find something good, stop there. The best time to carefully read each card is on your opponent’s turn.

Deep in the tank

My first opponent, Brian Tweedy, another guy from Austin’s Romancing the Stones, was new to the format but very excited about it. It seemed like we were playing a mirror match–Tweedy had counterspells, the Abyss, and no apparent threats. Both games were long slogs, but I eventually got a Summon the Pack to stick. Afterwards, Tweedy noticed he was missing about five cards from his deck. He didn’t say which five.

The Abyss vs. Summon the Pack

Next round, I played Angelo Kortyka from Team Serious. He jammed Dark Rits to power out early Opening Ceremonies and Packs. He also had Fork for some dastardly tricks. Game one, I Mind Twisted him for his hand. For game two, we made a gentleman’s agreement to both take out Mind Twist, since it creates non-games. I BTed for Urabrask the Hidden and played it. A couple turns later, I Summoned the Pack. Angelo was kind enough to concede without requiring me to crack a new pack.

Crackin' boosties

Round three, I played Kyle Wells, another Team Serious dude, who was on mono red. There are draws he could have had to hose me, particularly a turn-one or turn-two Blood Moon, but he didn’t have those draws, and I eventually ran him over with a Pack each game, 2-0.

By the time I sat down across from Rajah for my fourth match, it was nearly 2am. Most of the other players had two losses or had just gone to bed. Game one, I let a DT resolve, thinking I could counter whatever he got. Of course, Raj went for Library of Alexandria. That plus Candelabra buried me in card advantage. Mana Flare and Fireball finished me off. I think in game two I resolved an early-ish Pack, and that was that. Game three was a slugfest. Raj was able to Balance away my first two Packs. He nearly got me with chip damage from Mishra’s Factories, but I finally topdecked my third Pack for the win.

The 2:00 am grind

The Boosties tournament dissolved more than it concluded. There were a few players who had already finished five rounds, but no one seemed interested in continuing. Raj crowned me the champion, since I was the only person with an undefeated record who was also still awake. For my troubles I got a beautiful full-art alter of Blacker Lotus, a frequent stand-in proxy for Black Lotus.

Miscellaneous loot

Thanks to everyone who played K-OS at the Land! It’s really cool to see people outside Chicago interested in it. To help answer some basic questions about the format, I’ve posted “official tournament rules” here. At first, making tournament rules for a casual format seemed unnecessary. But after my weekend at The Land, I get it: people want just enough structure so they can get invested and feel like they own a piece of it. Until next time, may your Boostie cracks be bonkers.