01 February 2023

Winter Derby 2023 - Top 8

Over the past month, I participated in the 2023 Old School Magic Winter Derby. I played TrollAtog and finished in 8th place. I learned a lot more about the deck and had a great time doing it.

I had never played in any Derby before this. After a year full of Old School, I decided I would finally participate. I've come to enjoy webcam Magic a bit more after playing in so many Middle School leagues. 

The Deck

I had already decided to play TrollAtog in the Derby before I played it at Eternal Weekend. There was a confluence of events that led me to last minute going to EW, so I grabbed the deck I had on hand.

4 Atog
4 Sedge Troll
4 Black Vice
1 Jalum Tome
2 Copy Artifact
2 Relic Barrier
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Psionic Blast
1 Wheel of Fortune
1 Timetwister
1 Time Walk
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Chaos Orb
1 City in a Bottle
1 Mind Twist
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Sol Ring
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Pearl
1 Black Lotus
4 Strip Mine
4 Mishra's Factory
4 Volcanic Island
4 Badlands
4 Underground Sea
1 City of Brass
1 Library of Alexandria
1 Falling Star
1 Earthquake
2 City in a bottle
2 Shatter
3 Copper Tablet
2 Gloom
1 Terror
1 Shatterstorm
1 Braingeyser
1 Blue Elemental Blast

I made a few updates from the EW list. I cut the Fireball from the main for another Copy Artifact,a nd I cut a Shatter in the sideboard for a Blue Elemental Blast. I wanted another cheap card in the main, and I expected to play against more Blood Moon decks and wanted a way to remove / counter it. 

The Derby is played in two batches of four matches. The pairings here are listed in the order I played them, but opponents records could vary from when I face them.

Batch One

Round 1 - Dave Gura on MonoBlack Nether Void Sinkhole Hymn
Game one he plays turn one Swamp into The Rack. My seven is three land, Demonic, Troll, Mind Twist. I draw Mox Sapphire for turn and decide to Tutor for Black Lotus. His turn is just Sinkhole on my land, so I'm able to Twist him for his hand. I stick a Troll and then Copy his Rack and win the race. Game two I mulligan to five cards but it has land Lotus Mox Mox Wheel and he only has turn one The Rack. I Wheel into Shatter plus Vise, but he has Ritual into Mind Twist hitting almost all my mana. I play a Troll which is Paralyzed but then I draw Twist to put us both empty handed. I draw Atog into Timetwister into Time Walk though and he takes too much damage from the Vise and I win

Round 2 - Koen Haak Disco Troll
Game one he plays Badlands and passes. I play turn one Vise. His turn two Hymn hits my two other lands and I never play another spell. Game two I mulligan to five and have turn one Atog with Demonic Tutor in hand if I draw black source, but it doesn't matter as he has turn one Time Walk and then Hymn for my last two cards in the extra turn. A follow up Sinkhole and Energy Flux destroy the remainder of my mana and eventually he finds a Juzam to kill me with. Two games and I played two spells.

Round 3 - Carson Morell MonoRed Moon Flare Candlelabra
Game one he has two Howling Mine and my draw a bit clunky but he never gets a Blood Moon or a Shivan and eventually I deploy all my Atogs and Trolls and win after I Tutor for Sapphire and Copy it so I could survive potential Moon. Game two he has Blood Moon turn three but I have Blue Elemental Blast. I follow up with Timetwister and Black Vise to do six damage. He has Mana Flare to enable Fireball to kill my Atog. I Tutor for Ancestral but he has REB. Eventually he finds another Blood Moon and Shivan Dragon and Dragon Whelp. My hand is Terror, BEB, and a bunch of red cards but only mana is a Sapphire and an Emerald because of his previous Strip Mines. I take a 5 point hit from Shivan to re-evalute next turn. I find Strip Mine, which is conveniently a mountain so I can Bolt his Whelp and play an Atog. I then decide I have to use BEB on the Shivan and lock myself under Blood Moon. He has Shatter to kill my Sapphire so now I'm only on red mana. Atog does a bit of damage but he has Lightning Bolt for my Troll. I draw Chaos Orb to maybe get out of the Moon but he's empty handed after Fireball my second Troll. I decide the best plan is to Wheel and use Orb to kill the Mana Flare to prevent him from killing me. I do that and all he manages is a 4 point Fireball on Atog but I drew two Lightning Bolt off of Wheel and he was at 5 life so I win.

Round 4 - Joe Singer on TrollAtog (surprise mirror?!)
Game one he plays turn one Mox factory I have Mox Mox Badlands. I can wheel but instead I develop my Relic Barrier and Sedge Troll. He has Strip Mine for Badlands and for my follow up Volcanic so Wheel is stranded. However, Troll is doing damage each turn and Barrier keeping his mana constrained. Eventually I land a second Troll and Atog and Strip his Island so he never has colored mana. I sac my Moxes to win. Game two was insane. He plays Mox Mox Land Vise Copy Artifact turn one, and my hand was such that I kept 7 cards with just Library and Factory as lands, no colored sources. I decided the best way to win is to dig for colored mana instead of playing out my own Vise to get under his. I take 6 damage twice but he Strip Mines my Library. I play my Vise and then his Factory and Vise hit me down to 4 life. I use Copy on his Sapphire but I'm still at 5 cards in hand. He attacks with Factory so I go to 2 life and then uses Bolt, but I have BEB off the Copied Sapphire to counter it and go to 4 cards in hand. Over the next five turns he draws no burn spells and I manage to hold off his Factory and Atog with my own Bolt, Atog, and two Trolls. Eventually my Trolls start attacking and I throw two Bolts at his face. He bricks one last turn and I attack with five creatures and win.

Some really intense games and some lucky spots. Winning the second game in the fourth match was particularly sweet!

Batch Two

Round 5 - Stephen Adams on Tax Edge WR
Game one I lead on Vise and Troll but he has STP. I have a Wheel but flood out and take a lot of damage from a Savannah Lions and a Javalineer. I draw too many lands but eventually find Twister into two Atog but I'm so low I have to just hope he either doesn't block or doesn't have the Bolt to kill me on the backswing. He does both. Game two I lead with turn one Vise Time Walk but don't have red for the follow up Wheel. Eventually I draw a Timetwister as he's done not much besides play CoP Red. My first Gloom is Disenchanted, but the second one sticks. He plays Land's Edge so his shields are down for a turn and I get some damage in with Troll. I have just enough lands in hand next turn to kill him and Earthquake for the remainder while staying above 0 myself. If he had one more land in hand the game would have been a draw. Game three he chooses to draw first. I have turn one Vise but his mulligan to 6 mitigates the damage. I have Atog and some Factory beats. Bolt and Strip for his Factories constrict his mana development, but he does find a CoP Red. He's at 5 and I'm at 18 when I find Gloom and the following turn I Earthquake for 5 after he uses CoP to stop my Atog.

Round 6 - Gaten Lemei on DiscoTroll
Game one I have Vise into Copy Artifact and he's at 9 before he stabilizes. I Demonic Tutor for Ancestral and briefly consider using on him to go with the Lighnting Bolt in my hand, but it's too much of a risk if he draws any instants. I draw into a Psionic Blast and that plus Bolt plus his Serendib let me win the game. Game two we both have early Ancestral and his Ivory Tower blanks my Black Vise. He counters my first Troll but I resolve a Timetwister into another Troll. He has Disk and Bolt to take out the board but I rebuild with another Vise and Troll. He has Maze for the Troll and I let him Strip my Strip to keep up double black mana for Troll, probably not necessary. I draw additional threats of Atog and two Factory that let me attack through the Maze. He has around six cards in hand but all he manages is Shatterstorm to blow up the Vise. I draw Demonic Tutor and go for Strip Mine to play around any countermagic, and I Strip the Maze and attack him to 1. He draws Demonic but couldn't find a play to get out of the situation as one of his key mana sources is City of Brass. He dies with at least two Red Elemental Blast in his hand.

Round 7 - Ben Rovell on Bazaar All Hallow's Eve
Nothing really to say here. I drew 6 spells 13 mana in game one. Game two was similar with 8 spells 12 mana, but I was in it a bit more with my City in a Bottle locking cards in his hand for double Vise until he found Balance. I was 5 points short of winning when I died to his Triskelion.

Round 8 - Seth Roncoroni on 12 Bolt
Game one he plays City of Brass and Savannah Lions. I have turn one Sol Ring and City in a Bottle. His only follow up lands are Strip Mine, which set me back but not before I land a Troll. Troll and Lions stare at each other for a while, but my Black Vise starts to do some damage. Eventually I draw some colored lands to Bolt away the Lions and attack and he dies only with Factories and a City of Brass stuck in his hand. Game two I mulligan to six on the draw but have turn one Library which he never finds an answer for. He gets some beats in with two Lions but I Earthquake for one and play two Trolls to finish him off with the advantage from Library.

At this point, I'm early to finish my matches. I'm ranked 12th, with the top 16 making the playoff. The math I had done led me to think that only four or five players with 6-2 record would make the cut. There were still plenty of players left who could finish at 7-1 and jump me, as well as better 6-2 tiebreakers. Over the last few days, I slowly fell in rankings, but my tiebreakers were constantly changing. Before last matches were reported, I was down to 17th. The last reports must have gone my way, as I finished in 16th place on the 3rd tiebreaker! I think I've only seen the 3rd tiebreaker come into play one time in 25 years of playing Magic tournaments. I'm quite fortunate to benefit from this.

Top 16 Playoff

Top 16 - Will Parshall on Bant 8 Lion
Game one we both mulligan to six. He plays land Mox Time Walk into Serendib on turn three. My turn two I have Strip Mine and Badlands in play but no other mana in hand. I elect to Demonic Tutor for Mox Sapphire to cast Ancestral Recall instead of trying to go for the KO with City in a Bottle. He plays another Dib and I'm forced to spend a few turns using two Psionic Blasts to take them out. He has follow up with two Ernham Djinn and I somewhat regret not getting Bottle. He has Swords for my Troll but nothing for my Atog and he's low enough its almost lethal if I have a Bolt. He has to Armageddon to turn off the forestwalk and one Ernham chumps the Atog while the other one attacks me down to 1 life. I Bolt him at the end of turn to set up a win if I draw any artifact while he is tapped out. I draw Timetwister and find multiple ways to finish the game. Game two we both mulligan to six again. He has Savannah Lions and Argothian Pixies. I Bolt the Pixies and Lotus into Sedge Troll. He has Swords for the Troll and starts attacking for 4 with Lions and Factory. We trade some Strip Mines and neither player has more than three mana available. Eventually I find Terror for the Lions but I'm at 4 life. Meanwhile, I resolve a Bottle and three Black Vise and he's drawing nothing but Arabian Nights cards or white cards after I Strip his only white source. He has six in hand for three upkeeps and dies.

Top 8 - Rich Shay on The Deck
Game one early Vise he only has Undergrounds so I attack with Factory. I Strip his City to continue to do damage with Factory. I send two Psionic Blast to his face. He finds Fellwar Stone but I only have Underground Sea so he's still just on UB mana. I attack him down to 3 life and then use Strip Mine on my own Underground Sea to turn off his Fellwar from producing blue  mana which lets me resolve the lethal Lightning Bolt. Game two he starts with Ancestral plus two Mox and a Lotus. I have land Lotus Demonic Tutor for Ancestral but don't have any Mox so only play a Black Vise with two more in my hand. His turn is Time walk plus Recall for Ancestral and Time Walk. After the second Ancestral and Time Walk resolve, he Mind Twists my entire hand. I still manage to make a game of it with a Copper Tablet and Strip Mine on his Factory but he finds Fireball before I can chip him down. Game three was the best game of the three. My opener is Factory, Strip, Ancestral, Demonic Tutor, Gloom, Lightning Bolt, Black Vise. I lead with Vise into Strip to keep him off white mana. He has a Counterspell for Demonic Tutor but I do resolve Ancestral. He taps out for Jayemdae Tome and I'm able to resolve Gloom and then further restrict his mana with a City in a Bottle and another Strip Mine. He gets two Ivory Tower going but my Vise and Tablet are keeping up. I have a window where I attack with Atog and two Factory into his two untapped Factory. He's able to use Swords through Gloom on Atog and take no damage from Factories. He goes to 7 in upkeep and I have two Lightning Bolt in hand but never could get the last point of damage through and eventually he gains enough with Ivory Tower and I fail to draw another Vise, Tablet, Shatter, or burn spell to finish him off. 

Thoughts on the deck

With ten more matches under my belt, I can make some better conclusions about the list. I look at Old School deckbuilding as there are three classes of (non-mana) cards: Good Cards, Cheap Cards, and Meta Cards. Chain Lightning is a card that I would classify as Cheap, but not good. When mana is tight like it is in a 4-strip format, I prefer my Cheap cards to be either Good as well, or colorless like Black Vise. 

Cards that have impressed me more than I thought since I started playing this deck: 
Gloom (I would likely play a third next time I play this)
Black Vise
Copper Tablet (took over twenty matches to actually get a chance to play this, but glad to finally have data)
Blue Elemental Blast (I like it way more than Red Elemental Blast, but may be coming around on REB)

Cards that have not been impressive:
Jalum Tome - A pet card of mine that has no home in a deck without at least 10 burn spells. It should be either Braingeyser or Fireball in the main deck, depending how greedy you want to get with the manabase. 
Relic Barrier - it's nice to have something you can easily choose to side out. I still think I prefer it to Ankh, especially in this more midrange build.
City in a Bottle - This card is great, but having one main and two in the sideboard is probably one too many


Props to DFB for running the Derby. My first one was a great experience. I'm happy to meet new people that have passion for Old School.

Props to whoever ends up winning the event. Maybe I'll get a chance to be on the stream for a match before it's all over.

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