Our big tournament weekends have so far involved some event on the Friday night before. In the past, it’s been house parties. This year, that wasn’t viable. But brother Finney organized a space at Bearded Iris Brewing north of downtown Nashville for the purposes of having a Middle School tournament. I put 18 names into the computer and we ran a 4 round event full of nostalgia for cards from 1995 to 2003.
Middle School represents the zenith of nostalgia for me. I began playing Magic in high school, with my group gravitating towards Extended. Since Middle School has come around, I’ve used Extended deck lists as starting points for brews. Even though there are significant differences between the formats, some archetypes are very portable. One of the decks I had always desired in high school but could never obtain was Full English Breakfast. For those unfamiliar, the deck relies on Survival of the Fittest as the search engine and Volrath’s Shapeshifter as the kill. Shapeshifter is a rules nightmare due to its interaction with the top of the graveyard. But with Survival, one can pitch Akroma, Angel of Wrath to Survival, turning the Shapeshifter into an angel. The Survival resolution brings Phage, the Untouchable to the hand. Attacking with the Shapeshifter/Akroma can either evade blockers and go to face, or trample over any flyers. With combat damage on the stack (unique to Middle School and a recreation of what existed in Extended), one can assign trample damage to any blockers, then to the player. Activating Survival before damage, pitching Phage to find anything else turns the Shapeshifter into Phage. But the Shapeshifter has already assigned X damage to the player through trample or evasion. Upon resolution of damage, the Shapeshifter/Phage deals lethal damage to the player, causing them to lose the game. Which is the coolest way to lose: when a card tells you that you do.
Just in case that Rube Goldberg device wasn’t able to be assembled, I made room for 8 cards to shove in the Phyrexian Dreadnought/Stifle combo. Dreadnought has utility for the Shapeshifter plan too, allowing me to assign 12 damage with trample, then discard Phage. So the deck has full synergy. It is incredibly powerful. It has the safety valve of Force of Will. It has cards from the first legal set to the last legal set. I was ready to 4-0 the whole thing and run the tables.
Little did I know, I was in for a rough night.
4 Survival of the Fittest
4 Force of Will
4 Birds of Paradise
1 Llanowar Elves
4 Volrath’s Shapeshifter
1 Iridescent Angel
4 Phyrexian Dreadnought
4 Yavimaya Coast
1 Gemstone Mine
1 Reflecting Pool
4 City of Brass
1 Phantom Nishoba
1 Sex Monkey
1 Monk Realist
2 Xantid Swarm
1 Bone Shredder
2 Engineered Plague
Bryan Robar on RG Goblins
G1, I didn’t FoW a T1 Lackey and it proved to be the fatal mistake. I lose G1 after being cut down on mana from Wastelands and being smothered by Goblins. For G2, I board in my pair of E-Plagues to try and deal with the hordes, but it was negated after a Lackey dropped a Goblin King. My second E-Plague was nowhere to be found and I soon get gobbo’d again.
It is immediately clear that, though I know how to play the front 60 in my deck, I have no clue how to sideboard. I brought in the E-Plagues as well as Hydroblasts and a Nishoba, cutting some of the Stiflenought package as well as some dig spells. I think Nishoba was too slow and I should have kept the Impulses/Portents. Likely, the right course was cutting to fewer than 4 Shapeshifters and all the shifter targets aside from Akroma/Phage and keeping the 8 ultra-fast Stiflenought package cards. I’m still learning the deck and this was one of the first times I played sideboard games. It was a great lesson vs. a very good deck and Bryan, who played masterfully.
0-1 / 0-2
Sonny on UB Stiflenought
I ran the Stiflenought combo, but Sonny’s was more focused on just that. Backed up with more countermagic and much faster than mine, I quickly fall in 2 games to Sonny’s great deck and tight play.
Due to my poor play and unfavorable matchups, my highly tuned list wound up at the Fun Tables dropping warheads on foreheads.
0-2 / 0-4
But before Round 3, I sat down with the Dread Pirate himself and we jammed unsleeved Old School Blind Spice proxy decks. Paul is planning an event at the beginning of 2023 where proxy decks are provided to each player. Players aren’t allowed to look through their decks prior to shuffling up. So we demoed the concept. It was truly fun, but I won’t be . I knew what my deck was based on my first 7 and it was right up my alley. Unfortunately, I was overrun by Paul’s pack of duders. For our second game, we swapped into new decks. I wound up with a deck I had not ever played before. I’m big into proxies now, but this combo build is not something I’ve explored. I had a snap keep opening 7 and powered two moxen, a Lotus, a Library of Alexandria in, then Ancestralled into a City in a Bottle, which shut off Paul’s deck quickly. In no time, I assembled the combo and achieved the victory.
The Blind Spice concept is sound. I love the idea of it. The decks are evenly matched, all relatively well powered, and fun. Paul’s event is going to be a massive success.
Zevon on CounterSlivers
Z built a fun, spicy list in CounterSlivers. Even if it can’t capitalize on Brainstorm+Duals like it could in Extended, it’s a fun list that can get out of hand if the opponent lets it. I did not let it. Z’s unfamiliarity with my deck meant he didn’t counter the right things. I quickly nailed him with a Stiflenought kill in G1, and in G2 a Shapeshifter kill. On Z’s end step, and with Shapeshifter in hand, I pitched Squee for Akroma and then pitched Akroma for Phage. I untapped, cast Shapeshifter as Akroma and attacked for 6. Z’s brood of Slivers was tapped out and before damage I pitched Phage, netting me my first W.
1-2 / 2-4
John Knerr on Intruder Alarm Elves
I sat next to John for most of the evening and saw his deck in action. Insane board states. Multiple instances of Intruder Alarm chains netting a truly arbitrary amount of mana which fueled massive Strokes of Genius to continue the process.
G1, I was able to quickly assemble the Shapeshifter combo for the Phage kill. G2 was similar. John Fact or Fictions on my penultimate end step to dig for an answer. I see two lands, two dorks, and a Coat of Arms (which is incredibly cool). The choice was easy for me because with no answers, my Shifter was free to fly over and give John the touch of death from Phage. I never saw an Intruder Alarm, even though I prepared by boarding in Naturalizes and the Annul.
John’s deck was easily the coolest I played against all night. I’ve seen a lot of takes on Elves: Survival Elves with varying strategies such as Anger or Armageddon, Combo Biorhythm Elves, Vanilla Mono G Elves, and Opposition Elves. I’m glad to have played against the Intruder Alarm/Stroke Elves combo, even though I put on a Full English Breakfast clinic.
2-2 / 4-4
At the end of rounds, I wound up 10th out of 18, dead even 2-2 in matches and 4-4 in games. Due to my inability to plan properly, the tourney software gave us 5 rounds, but we only played 4. I clicked through the final round and it gave everyone a tie for an extra point. I don’t fully understand the math behind it all, so hopefully I didn’t screw it up. If I did, then that’s slops for me.
The presence of the Intruder Alarm Elves deck, Slivers, Squirrel Enchantress, Recurring Survival, and others in the room that night proves that Middle School has some extremely creative brewers and that not everyone comes to an event solely gunning for wins.
Just don’t pay attention to what deck I built.
– Finney for organizing
– Bearded Iris Brewing for having a great space to jam in and some wonderful beers (even if they are most all IPAs)
– Everyone on a spicy list
– The normies in the bar that quickly observed The Nerds and kept their distance
– Evil Mailman for providing us with a sick stack of white-bordered Middle School cards to hand out as prizes.
– Me for not knowing how to use the tourney software
– Also me for never jamming any practice games with sideboard