Man, I do love flavor texts that quote actual books! Card artwork enhanced by classical authors’ deep imagery have been influencing my readings since high school. I got into Poe, Lovecraft, Howard and Tolkien quickly after I started playing Magic. As such, John Milton’s Paradise Lost quotes on Hellfire and Portal Armageddon had me hooked since the first time I read them. Later on, I finally put a hand on a copy of the book at the University library, but the ancient English writing mixed with changing interests quickly demotivated me. I should give it another try at some point.
As the title suggests, it is no surprise that I opted to play an Abyss deck to battle for Le Roi de la Chope’s crown in Québec’s inaugural Old School 93/94 tournament. Beyond the fact that a deck build around the card seems to be a strong choice in a heavy creature meta, the black spell itself holds a heavy nostalgia feeling for me. If I remember correctly, it was around 1996 that I owned the enchantment for the first time. During these days, without internet trading, Legends cards were very scarce and finding someone willing to trade them was a challenge. Still, I managed to put my hands on a pair at one time, not knowing how and where I would play them however. This was accessory, though: I owned two copies of The Abyss and this was enough to fulfill my satisfaction.
The first deck I remember playing the dreaded Enchant World in also used Juggernauts, Su-Chis, Mishra’s Factories and Dark Rituals. This is off the top of my head, since I dismantled the deck and traded the parts away around 1999. During that time, my focus on competitive Standard wanted nothing to do with an unpowered casual Vintage deck. Such a shame since I never fully got to experience the power of The Abyss back then. But it’s a great feeling to know that this statement is now fallacious thanks to Old School Magic. As so, I am very relieved and find it pretty fitting that the deck I played on my first Old School tournament is a reiteration of what I played in the late nineties.
The Argivian Abyss
My deck uses The Abyss to keep in check creature-based decks and closes games with large artifact creatures. Pretty simple. Add to the mix some of the most powerful spells of the format in Disenchant and Swords to Plowshares, a toolbox of some restricted goodies, potent Artifacts, and we got this brew that is the “Argivian Abyss”. At first, the deck included Argivian Archeologist and Ashnod’s Transmogrant, but it proved to be unnecessary and too fragile. The Archeologists still hold their spot in the sideboard as they can be switched in for the Abysses against creatureless decks. I think they can be a sweet tech against “The Deck” in particular.
Back to the morning before the event. I made the trip to the tournament location, La Chope Gobeline, a medieval inspired restaurant, with Christian who offered me the ride. We arrived early, like most players, which gave us time for some warmup games before starting the main event. We had 10 players showing with a summon Goblin in hand as the entry fee to battle for the first prize, an Unlimited Gobling King. The prize pool also consisted of a vintage 800-card count box for the second place, provided by the LGS Imaginaire, and the novel Arena for the third place, given by Jerome.
We had a great diversity as decklists showed a copy of mono black distress, a big red, a mono blue, an Ernham Burn’em and Bantam Geddon. The other four players opted for singleton decks, even if they had the option not to, as they started playing Old School singleton some time ago. Very nice of these guys to tag along – the more the merrier! They played blue-white, mono black, blue-red and black-red. The power level of their decks was impressive despite the fact that they only allowed a maximum of one copy of each card. Games were played in a timely manner which gave us enough time to complete five Swiss rounds plus the top 4.
The most interesting board state in the world!
Yeah, that’s a Control Magic on a Hurloon Minotaur besides a Moat. That’s weird enough out of context. Even if you know the story behind that board state, it’s still twisted. As far as I know, Control Magic was played by Yanick on a near empty board but for Dave’s Hurloon Minotaur. Later on, Moat was played by Yanick in an attempt to fish for a Counterspell, but Dave didn’t catch the bait and the enchantment resolved. A Triskelion and a Juggernaut later, players were sculpting theirs hands for the inevitable fight over Disenchant on the Moat by its own controller, Yanick. I don’t know the outcome of the game, it’s not that relevant as we already have a great story here!
After 5 rounds, I managed to remain undefeated just ahead of Simon playing Bantam Geddon with a 4-1 record. Three players recorded 3-1 and Etienne with mono blue and Yan with his mono black singleton made it on the tiebreakers. We ordered some food and started playing top 4 right away. The matchups were Bantam Geddon versus mono black and mono blue against my Argivian Abyss. I played a very close and grindy matchup as Etienne had various answers to my Juggernauts and Su-Chis and was also able to put enough early pressure to threaten my life total. Even though I had to navigate through multiple Energy Fluxes, I eventually resolved The Abyss in both games. Since his only answer was Nevinyrral’s Disk and as he couldn’t untap with on in play, the powerful enchantment sealed both games pretty much single-handedly.
Etienne’s Mono Blue
The other semi-final was won by Simon. From what I’ve heard, he resolved Armageddon twice in game one, and an early Greater Realm of Preservation did some work against a few black creatures in game two. Eventually, Sylvan Library revealed a Cleanse, and some green genies closed the deal.
Yan’s mono black singleton (except for sideboard)
While I was relatively confident for the finals as I was victorious during the Swiss, I knew that things could quickly go downhill in a format like this. Unfortunately for me, my doubts proved to be true, and the rematch was pretty straightforward in favor of Simon. He easily got rid of my threats as I struggled to find a single Enchant World both games. I could only watch in despair his Djinns and Efreets drowning all my hopes into an immense river of oblivion. This is how Simon was the first crowned Roi de la Chope. For all his efforts, in addition to the coveted signed Goblin King card, the first place was also rewarded with a free meal, thanks to La Chope Gobeline. As for my second place, I put a hand on the 800-card count box, which is a very nice memorabilia of the event. The third place winner, Etienne, got the Arena novel given away by Jerome.
Simon’s Bantam Geddon
This one will get into Simon’s sideboard as the oversee tradition will be observed!
The nostalgia, the stories created, the people, the deck building, the intricate plays, the aesthetics of the decks are all some of the many aspects that make Old School Magic a fantastic experience to me. All in all, everyone present had a great time playing their favorite decks and we were all eager for the next event. I hope until next time our community grows either by reaching players out there that don’t know our group yet or by attracting new Old School players.