Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Relic War

I've been trying to keep my blog posts at about one per month – unfortunately, this one's about half a month late, but I didn't want to post anything unless I had something worthwhile. I'm glad to report that I won The Relic War, Chicago's recent Old School tournament on Saturday, July 30th. That makes two consecutive wins, and the first person in our group to have pulled that off (although I imagine that my luck probably won't last through the next event – here's hoping that it will).

Before I jump into the full-on tournament report of the Relic War, I want to paint a complete picture of the crazy weekend that ensued which is perfectly representative of what I love about the Chicago Old School community, and Old School communities in general. When MTG is more about having a good time than winning games, it leads to some very enjoyable assemblages of people. I've experienced this in Northern California, New York, Gothenburg, and Chicago – in a not-so-minor way, this is largely what this blog is all about.

The Calm(ish) Before the Storm
Dominic Dotterrer is an awesome all-around dude and a true degenerate (more on this coming up). While he no longer resides in Chicago, he decided to spend his birthday weekend with us in the Windy City throwing down Old School and drinking way too much. I was bestowed with the honor of providing lodging and affectionate pets, and needless to say, I was excited to see a good friend.

A real softie at heart
He flew into Chicago on Thursday night and met up with everyone for weekly Old School and Vintage at MTG Card Market. I was there already getting my weekly Chicago Vintage league matches in, and had a new Power Monolith list sleeved up. After my league games were complete, we grabbed some pizza then ended up at a nearby bar along with our friend Nick Rohr to have some beers and jam Old School. In the time in which I finished a single beer, my companions partook in multiple beers and shots, which was a harbinger of the upcoming weekend.

I took the day off of work on Friday, and our buddy and Shane Semmens met up with us at my place, and we all headed to Handlebar for some amazing vegetarian breakfast and beer to start Dominic's birthday. I have to imagine this must be the lowest key birthday that he has ever had – likely the only one spent with a bunch of nerds who play antiquated MTG.

The food Dom and I had ended up ordering at Handlebar was good, but Shane ordered this incredible breakfast chimichanga that made us jealous.

Chimichanga is no joke
After we ate and rectified a situation with a lost cell phone, we walked over to Map Room on Shane's suggestion. I'd never been there before, but I will say it has my second-favorite beer list of any bar in Chicago (only beaten out by Hopleaf, but it's possible that Map Room could be be better – too close to call). They had both Petrus Aged Pale and Tripel Karmeliet on tap, which was incredible.

Nathan "I only ever play White Weenie" Mullen met up with us and we all played Old School and drank awesome beer. The more I played my Power Monolith deck, the more I liked it. The deck can just win out of nowhere, and almost any late-game (which for this deck is post turn four) resolved draw-seven, BraingeyserAncestral RecallRecall, or Regrowth generally wins the game that turn.

A weird, but definitely broken, hand against Shane
The bulk of my losses with the deck came from multiple consecutive mana source top-decks. After my matches at Map Room, I was convinced that I was going to run this Power Monolith in Saturday's tournament.

After hours at Map Room, we ended up at Parson's Chicken and Fish for incredibly unhealthy and delicious fried meal. I've heard so much about Parsons with many solid recommendations, but I have always avoided it because everyone who goes warns me about the horrendous waiting times there. Miraculously, we had no wait, and Nathan was able to put two and two together, and determined that Lollapalooza had syphoned away the hipsters that normally make Parson's an impossible place to get a table at.

More alcohol was had, and delicious food was consumed. And despite it being his birthday, Dominic refused to let us buy for him, and paid the entire bill himself. We jumped on the train and headed back to my place, where more beer was consumed in my backyard, and where we were met by Nick Rohr: Old School burn specialist, Vintage Dragon novice.

Team Tipsy hitting the California L
Our night then took a turn for the drunker when we decided to hit up my neighborhood bar and favorite (probably only) 5AM, six-day-a-week karaoke joint, Alice's Lounge. I've had many crazy nights there where my fiancée Elise has belted out Boston, and most recently, with Elise, Dom, and Jaco where Dom sang and incredible rendition of Careless Whisper.

Photo credit goes to Jaco, who was clearly less blasted
I probably can't attest to how well Dom pulled it off, since that was the drunkest I have been in recent memory, and had the hangover to prove it. But anyways, we ended up at Alice's and the night somehow got even better.

A few more friends/significant others showed up, but the highlight was Nick Rohr singing Fuck Her Gently and He's Going the Distance. His performances were epic, and I can't wait to go back to Alice's with him again. Sadly, I wasn't able to convince Nathan to sing Homiez by ICP, but I suppose you can't have everything.

Dominic and I left relatively early, 1:30AM me thinks, so we would actually have some sleep before the tournament the next day.

The Relic War
Dominic and I met up with Shane the next morning for some coffee and to figure out how to use Wizards Event Reporter (WER) before the tournament. After an ice coffee and some barely edible "burritos" (from the McDonald's across the street from the tournament site), I was ready to smash face.

This event was entirely organized by Shane, who has become a staple of the Chicago Old School community and is one of the most likable people I know. Shane is also absolutely savage and went from a small but respectable Legacy/Commander collection with no Power, to being fully Powered with a sizable collection of Unlimited dual lands in the last year and a half. Go big or go home!

Initially, this tournament was scheduled to be run at the Dice Dojo, a small game shop in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood. Our previous two events were hosted by Jaco at his commercial printing space, but Jaco has since moved to LA and was not able to host this time. The prior Sunday before the tournament, Shane and I met up and played some Old School at Hopewell Brewing's tap room, where we met up with newcomer Dan Piquard and Old School innovator, Brandon Sanders for some games.

Hopewell is only about a 15-minute walk from my house, and I have been there many times before, but never to play MTG. It turns out that the space was completely amazing for gaming. There is a cart of board games right in the bar, and there are generally many games being played at any given time. They had six different beers on tap, and all that I tried were delicious (especially the saison and the sour). After many beers, friendly interested spectators, and Chaos Orb flips I was convinced that Hopewell would be the ideal location for our tournament and exclaimed this to Shane.

Picture of the taproom from Hopewell's website
I realized that the center table (foreground of the picture above) would be large enough to seat the entire tournament. This would be important in making an effort not to take up too much space. The space is also extremely well-lit and air conditioned. It's been extremely humid and in the mid and high 80s [ºF] for the last few weeks, so A/C is a huge plus.

Shane threw up a poll on the Relic War's Facebook page and almost all participants voted in favor of moving the event to Hopewell. He even emailed the owners to make sure that this would be ok, and they were in fact excited to host the event.

Since then, I have spoken with one of Hopewell's founders, Jonathan, and he played MTG back in the day. So, we're going to get a deck together for him and hopefully get him in on our next tournament.

Tournament Report
The Relic War had 16 participants playing six round of swiss with no top cut and no draws. This tournament structure has worked well for us in the past, and encourages fun cutthroat Magic. 16 players is the largest amount of players we have ever had at a Chicago Old School event, and the field felt drastically different from The Clash of Carousers, which contained many of the same players.

The Clash of carousers was dominated by Abyss-based control decks of "The Deck" archetype; the Relic war was quite different:

"5-Color Good Stuff" by Anthony Collora

"Tax-Edge" by Bob Agra

"Deadguy Ale" by Brandon Sanders

"U/W Skies" by Dan Piquard

"The Deck" by Dan Rech

"Power Monolith" by Danny Friedman

"Fatties" by Dominic Dotterrer

"R/G/B Aggro-Burn" by Grant Casleton

"Deadguy Ale + Blue" James Tork

"RB Tempo" by Jim Bailey

"94 Tron" by John Beste

"White Weenie" by Michael Walker

"White Weenie" by Nathan Mullen

"Big Pink" by Nick Rohr

"Lil Dom" by Shane Semmens

"U/R Counter Burn" by Stephen Maldonado
All prizes were donated by the participants, and I must say, they were awesome.

And no, the packs are just wrappers
Additionally, Hopewell donated a Growler of beer to the winner with the option of any one of the six available beers on tap.

Growler signed by the tournament participants

So before I jump into my games, let's take a closer look at my deck just to understand any specifics that may make this deck different from other Power Monolith builds.

Power Monolith by Danny Friedman
Business (31)
Chaos Orb
1 Mirror Universe
Jayemdae Tome
1 Rocket Launcher
1 Triskelion
The Abyss
3 Power Artifact
2 Transmute Artifact
2 Fireball
Swords to Plowshares
Mana Drain
Power Sink
Demonic Tutor
Mind Twist
1 Wheel of Fortune
Ancestral Recall
Time Walk

Mana Sources (29)
Black Lotus
Mox Emerald
Mox Jet
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Sapphire
Sol Ring
Basalt Monolith
Fellwar Stone
Underground Sea
Volcanic Island
City of Brass
Library of Alexandria
Strip Mine
2 Mishra's Workshop

Sideboard (15)
Red Elemental Blast
Blue Elemental Blast
Swords to Plowshares
Dust to Dust
The Abyss
1 City in a Bottle

This deck is grotesquely broken. Like I was saying earlier, the only games it generally loses are games where you are flooded with mana draws. You may be wondering why I am not running four Basalt Monoliths and four Power Artifacts like many of you have seen in Thomas Nilsen's lists (great guy by the way!) – having multiples of these cards is not good, unless your opponents keep destroying them. Dead draws lose games with this deck more easily than other decks I have played.

Incorporating cards like Regrowth for redundancy, and some ways to deal with opposing permanents in The Abyss/Swords to Plowshares/Disenchant to allow you more turns to draw more cards make this list a little different. Being able to Disenchant a well-timed Chaos Orb is often the difference between a win and a loss. Aside from Balance, which is generally a multi-purpose blowout, devoting two slots solely to creature removal was pivotal in my testing.

On a side note, I am working on a new version of this that gets me through my deck more reliably, and I feel that this is the correct path for Power Monolith.

After playing this list, I can't imagine playing it without Regrowth. That card blatantly won me multiple games. Before playing this deck in a tournament, I felt that unrestricting Recall may be in the cards. This deck is one reason why that would be a horrible idea. This deck is just far too broken to have five graveyard tutors.

So anyways, on to my matches.

Round 1: Dan Rech
Dan was playing a variant of "The Deck" that took a very Old School approach. He was running no copies of Mishra's Factory, while running two Serra Angels, which is reminiscent of a Weissman list. Unfortunately, I feel that creatures are just outclassed for the most part in 93/94 because of the efficiency and quality of the answers. Factory is just too good to pass up, and often puts players without them at a massive disadvantage.

The Disenchants and Counterspells initially really scared me, but Power Monolith just runs too many cards that your opponent must counter. I quickly won game one and we went to our sideboard games.

Game two took a very long time, and we nearly went to time. One issue that ended up likely losing Dan the game was the inclusion of cards that just didn't do enough against me. Cyclopean Tomb came down and turned every land I had into a Swamp. This did nothing against me in our game, as I had multiple Moxen and Fellwar Stones, which is why this card is so suboptimal (not quite the case if Karma is in play though 😉). In the end, I combo'ed him out and went on to my next match.

Record: 1-0, 2-0 in games

Round 2: Dominic Dotterrer
I don't remember my games against Dom super well, other than my hands were incredibly lucky and our match finished quickly enough for me to go up to the bar any buy another beer.

I had a very hazy memory of my win against Dom game two, only that he had resolved a Force of Nature on his turn before I went infinite. Fortunately, he replied (after posting this) with the specifics – Dom Mind Twisted me for my hand (at X=4), I draw Timetwister two turns later, which finds me my own Mind Twist, allowing me to then twist for his whole hand away, Dom then top decks Wheel of Fortune, casts a lethal Force of Nature, passing to what would be my final turn, but I am able to assemble Power Artifact on Basalt Monolith and end the game with a Fireball.

Fatties indeed

Record: 2-0, 4-0 in games

Round 3: Shane Semmens
My match with Shane was the quickest of the day, and I felt pretty dirty taking the win. Shane and I had a reasonable game one (I won though a resolved Energy Flux), but our game two ended abruptly in concession.

Shane kept the hand you see below on the play.

Solid keep

We can all agree, this is an incredibly good hand. I don't remember the precise order of events, but he played Ancestral Recall in my upkeep and I played a large Power Sink on it. Shane was under the impression that he could play instants during my untap step, before I untapped my permanents. When I explained that he couldn't do this, he was dismayed and scooped the game.

In all likelihood, even without resolving his Recall, his hand was poised to do well against me with Mana DrainDisenchant, and Serendib. I'm not a fan of free wins, but I'll take them.

Record: 3-0, 6-0 in games

Round 4: Nathan Mullen
This was easily my most frustrating match of the day, and the strongest showing from any opponent. Game one, we both kept strong hands and went back and forth with Strip Mines and Disenchants attacking my board, while I killed off creatures here and there. I resolved Power Artifact on a Basalt Monolith with no cards in hand, then miraculously top-decked Braingeyser in the following turns and won. Better lucky than good!

Games two and three were an entirely different story. Game two contained a lot of back-and-forth action in the early game. Eventually he drew his single Circle of Protection: Red that he boarded in, and cast it with no other non-land permanents. and I then proceeded to draw nine blanks in a row consisting of an Earthquake, two Fireballs and six mana sources (the only red card left in the deck was one more Earthquake. During this time, he drew a couple creatures and dealt me my first loss of the day.

Game three ended similarly. After seeing the effectiveness of Circle of Protection: Red, Nathan boarded a second one in. Our game was very similar to the previous one. Once again, Circle of Protection: Red was effective in holding me off, and I was forced to use TriskelionRocket Launcher, and a single Swords to Plowshares to hold off his creatures since Earthquake could not be played. I then drew a pile of mana sources and succumbed to the weenies.

If I remember correctly, he eventually killed my after drawing two Crusades in a row and beating me down.

Nathan played really tightly and makes White Weenie a deck worth fearing. I expected to go 2-1 against him, losing the first game and winning the final two. The reality of the situation was quite surprising!

Record: 3-1, 7-2 in games

Round 5: Anthony Collora
By this point, I was feeling the effects of all of the beer and my recollection of this match is foggy at best. I may have played Anthony in round four, and Nathan in round five, but I honestly can't remember. As a result, I can't say much about this match.

Anthony was playing a strong deck with the best cards from every color. Four Disenchants were hard to play through, but his only counterspell prior to sideboard games was a lone Mana Drain. This allowed me to power my combo through and win the game quickly.

Game two was significantly more difficult and I distinctly remember Anthony's Red Elemental Blasts countering multiple bombs. In the end, I squeaked out the win which I faintly remember coming after a good draw off of one of my draw-sevens.

Record: 4-1, 9-2 in games

Round 6: James Tork
I clearly don't remember this match well at all; at the time we were playing it, I won game one, and James won game two. After game two, if you had asked me "How much time do you think is left on the clock?" I would have responded with a number higher than twenty minutes. Well, apparently time was called while we were shuffling up. And yes, and you can deduce, one of us won game one (me), and the other won game two (him).

In my past experience, I have never been allowed to start a new game and receive a combined total of five turns between players, but that is exactly what we were given. This is very good for me, since my deck can win as early as the first turn. We played out a game, and as expected, neither of us won in our allocated five turns, although I would have loved to combo out in those turns.

This meant that our match, the match that would decide the winner of the tournament, would be concluded with sudden death Chaos Orb-flipping to decide the winner (see Rule of Law):

As you can see, we each made our first flips, but I made my second, while James missed his. This concluded the tournament and marked me as the champion.

Final Record: 5-1, 11-3 in games

Standings at the end of six rounds of swiss
It felt pretty good to see my 78.57% game win percentage in such a competitive field. While it was fortunate that very few Counterspells were running around, I faced four Disenchants in every round (edit: Shane only had three, but had a main deck Dust to Dust two Energy Flux, YUCK). Artifact removal is Power Monolith's biggest nightmare, and it was rampant at the Relic War. I had a very lucky day.

I won the Hopewell growler and had it filled with the All Hope Kettle Sour (awesome beer, in my opinion). I was allowed to pick one old Duelist issue and one card from the pool. I went with Duelist issue three from fall 1994, featuring Drew Tucker, one of my favorite MTG artists of all time. For my card, I chose the very mis-cut Unlimited Plains. I couldn't have been happier with my winnings.

Shane tried to get prize shots of most people, unfortunately, he wasn't able to get everyone before they left, but here is what we have:

1st place - Danny "Dandân" Friedman
2nd place - Anthony Collora
3rd place - Nathan Mullen
4th place - Dominic Dotterrer
5th place - Nick Rohr
6th place - Michael Walker
7th place - James Tork
8th place - Shane Semmens
9th place - Stephen Maldonado
10th place - Bob Agra
11th place - Jim Bailey 
12th place - Brandon Sanders
13th place - Dan Rech
14th place - Grant Casleton
15th place - John Beste
16th place - Dan Piquard
Props and Slops

Shane – for setting up and running this event. It's a ton of work to coordinate these tournaments with attendees from multiple states, having to find a venue to run the event in (for free at that), and all of the other small details. After losing both Dominic and Jaco to California, Shane has really stepped up to the plate. He also organized a Chicago Vintage League that is now in its final week prior to playoffs and has been a blast to play in. He's a boss.

Dom – for being the most functional drunk I have ever met, only possibly rivaled by Sam Krohlow, and flying out to Chicago over his birthday weekend to sling cardboard with us. This tournament, and weekend in general, wouldn't have been anywhere near as great without him.

Dan Piquard – for diving head-first into Old School and coming to this event. In all fairness, he may have finished at a much higher placing if he had stayed past the first couple rounds (he had a scheduling conflict).

Bob – for jumping on the tournament last-minute and filling the place of another who couldn't make it at the last minute.

Nathan – for figuring out, along with Dom, how to run WER and get our event paired properly. The tournament went off right on time, and we have the combined efforts of Nathan, Shane, and Dom to thank for that.

Anthony – for handling the food ordering and getting some delicious Dante's Pizza to the tournament goers. We hadn't seen him playing MTG in a while and it was great to have him at the tournament. On a side note, I think the Relic War marks my first Old School tournament win against him, EVER.

Our two favorite attendees from central Wisconsin, James Tork and Dan Rech – who both lost matches to missed Chaos Orb flips. If James had won the flip against me, it would have knocked me from first into the sixth place slot and would have been absolutely savage.

John – on being the only attendee to fail to get me a picture deck list, although he did text it (see his list earlier in the post).

Nathan – for not singing Homiez at Alice's – I don't care if you don't know the words.

Shane – for nearly losing his phone on Friday in our Uber and not knowing any of his passwords so he could log into Uber on my phone and contact the driver.

Additional Relic War Photos

Brandon (Deadguy Ale) vs Shae ('Lil Dom)

Dom (Fatties) vs Shane ('Lil Dom)

Dan P (U/W Skies) vs John ('94 Tron)

Nathan (White Weenie) vs Dom (Fatties)

Nathan (White Weenie) vs Dom (Fatties)

Dom (Fatties) vs Shane ('Lil Dom)

Dom (Fatties) vs Shane ('Lil Dom)

Dom (Fatties) vs Shane ('Lil Dom)

Tournament seating

Tournament seating

Dan R (The Deck) vs Grant (R/G/B Tempo)

Dan R (The Deck) vs Grant (R/G/B Tempo)

James (Deadguy + Blue) vs Bob (Tax-Edge)

James (Deadguy + Blue) vs Dan P (U/W Skies)

James (Deadguy + Blue) vs Shane ('Lil Dom)

Anthony (5C Good Stuff) vs Jim (R/B Tempo)

Mike (White Weenie) vs Anthony (5C Good Stuff)

Mike (White Weenie) vs Anthony (5C Good Stuff)

Mike (White Weenie) vs Nick (Big Pink)

Nathan's hand against Mike

Too many prizes to sign

Tournament Aftermath
After the tournament ended, may of us hung around at Hopewell drinking beers, taking care of unfinished Vintage league matches, playing Nathan's Type 4 stack, and of course, more Old School. Everyone I spoke with had an awesome time, despite numerous "bad beats" stories (but that is standard after any MTG event).

After we'd all drank all the we could drink and OD'd on Magic, we disbanded and headed our separate ways. Dom had been a more serious drinker than I had been all day, and seemed to be feeling the effects. Aside from a dull headache, I was doing pretty well. We walked back to my house to drop our cards off (and my new Growler of Hopewell All Hope Kettle Sour) and start thinking about dinner.

Dom and I ended up going out for Thai/Japanese at a local place that has been real good every time I've been there, Trike Noodle. Fortunately, Trike is BYOB (for those of you not from Chicago, this is a common thing here for businesses that cannot acquire or afford liquor licenses), and we didn't know to bring any beer or hard alcohol with us. I don't think I could have handled any more alcohol.

After dinner, we stopped back at my place, and Elise was there and convinced Dom to go out again to Alice's.  I tagged along but didn't drink anything. Instead, I watched Elise and Dom pound down mixed drinks with shots of tequila in between. By 1:30AM, they were fading fast and their karaoke songs had yet to be called, so I walked while they stumbled home.

The next day (Sunday) is a blur to me at this point, but I recall that Shane met up with Dom and I, and we repeated our Friday; we went to Handlebar again, and this time I ordered the chimichanga. We went to Map Room again meeting up with Grant, Grant's fiancée, Katy, and Mike and played more Old School. We disbanded pretty early since I had to work the next morning, and Dom had to wake up at 3AM to catch the train to O'Hare for his flight.

The three-day weekend was one of the best in recent memory. I was super bummed out to have missed the recent Team Serious Invitational (congrats to Ben on merc'ing the shit out of the field with Two-Card Monte) and Gen Con,  but this weekend with the Chicago Old School crew more than made up for it.

Shane and I have been brainstorming some fun ideas in preparation for Eternal Weekend, and I couldn't be more excited – this will make it to the blog soon enough! When I last spoke with Jaco, he already had over 50 people pre-registered for the EC Eternal Weekend Old School event, and the list keeps on growing. If you plan on playing Old School at EW, email Jaco and get on the list.

I'm going to try and post a bit more regularly, so that not all posts are this long, but I make no guarantees!

Keep making those Chaos Orb flips – you never know when it will win you a growler of beer.

Until next time...



  1. Hum, maybe I understood wrong, but in Game 4, why wouldn't you take his creatures out with Earthquake? CoP: Red protects only the player, not his creatures...

    1. You're definitely correct. I remember carefully reading CoP: R when he played it, because I wasn't sure if it protected his permanents. Between the Beta wording and my present level of intoxication, clearly "carefully" might have been an overstatement at the time 😝

    2. I see. You're using the "drunk" card again. You're not getting away this time :P :P :P

    3. If I couldn't play the drunk card, I'd then have to come to terms with how bad I am at MTG 😜