Fishliver Oil Cup : Finding Yourself in Genova

I finally found it. It’s not far from one of the most beautiful place around.

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Not far from Boccadasse.

You have to want it. It’s a bit of an improbable maze to reach it.

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The only hint you’ll ever get.

You have to need it even. The isolation, the serenity. When I find it there are already three people there. The guy that reads his book, the cute couple absorbed in the contemplation and the drawing of the contemplated. I’m finally alone, among my owns : the people that don’t need to tell one another that they don’t need to.

After a while of letting the sound and sights of the waves hitting the rocks fill my mind, everything comes crashing down in me. There’s so much to let go of, tears of joy, tears of despair. It’s liberation. From you, from me.

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I thought I had planed that quite well really. The day before the flight, I received an email from the flight operator about a strike possibly disturbing traffic. In the end it was overzealous, the strikers weren’t all that numerous and were just among the medical and sanitary contingent. A friend tells me about disruption on the train line going to the airport, but he’s wrong the slowdown stops today. On the day of departure I check again, of course the disruption is prolonged until the end of the day, no problem as I have some wiggle room. I check the status of my flight, no trouble with the strike, the time of embark.. wait this isn’t the check-in time ! This is the time that the plane actually takes off. Which means.. which means that all the time I have is for running like hell. Run to the metro, don’t waste a second adjust your bag when inside, so that it’s accepted without a hiccup to take with yourself in the plane, go to the closest exit to the good tunnel, run. And then try to contain yourself as the disturbance and the rush hour make the train come later than usual. You’re not in shape ? Your lack of exercise is incisively making itself known to you ? No place for such consideration, no way I won’t give it my all, it’s the Fishliver Oil weekend. Every minutes waiting on that station makes the nigthmare scenario ever more plausible. I try to imagine some scenario where I can make it. It’s becoming harder. The train comes and as expected it takes quite some time at the station for people to get out and pack in. The good thing is I’m not even annoyed by the lack of space, I have bigger concerns. Same thing at every stops. The Charles-de-Gaulles airport is gigantic. My terminal, I’ve checked, is the furthest from the train station. I brace myself for the final sprint. I make the mistake to try to go too fast on an escalator : my heart says no. I offer it a few steps of fast walking. Terminals go by me and it seems that at that pace I’ll get there just in the neck of time. I reach the penultimate one, go for mine : all I see is a road, and a bus. Oh shit, I had forgotten about those damn airport buses. Maybe it goes just now ? Hell no, my boarding window closes in about 5, and the bus leaves in 8. Is it over ? I get out on the road, one taxi on that road going my direction is showing a green light on top. I’m doing signs as if someone was dying there, he stops and take me in. I tell him about the situation, there are flashlights so he can’t push too fast, but he knows where the flashlights are. Hadn’t he been there and ready to take in someone at a place where he’s not supposed to I wouldn’t have made it.

After that it’s all smooth sailing. Just kidding. In the Genova airport I don’t see the guy who said he would pick me up on the go. Neither the airport WiFi nor the roaming work, so I stay patient, after all he’s part of the organization team and they must be all so busy. I give it half an hour, after that I’m starting to think of how I could get someone to lend me their phone. Do people still lend phones for a call ? I have bad memories of the last time I tried to borrow one from a stranger, real bad, like being looked at as if I were a criminal. Smartphones are like our babies now I guess. So I’m starting to think of doing the opposite, handing my smartphone to someone so that they call thee number they see on it on my behalf.. when I finally see them. Turns out the organizers were indeed busy.. looking for me ! They actually had been there, in the small Genova Airport for an hour now, just like me, since they were there just about when I reached it, but just missed me as I was the first out of the plane. They then waited for me at the arrival place mostly, when I was looking for someone else, somewhere else in the airport and at a different time.. And that’s how we managed to miss one another in a small airport for an hour ! After months of preparations, they’ve just wasted one hour on just one guy and yet the main organizer, Domenico Megu Chionetti, didn’t break a sweat and was very nice to me. I organize 7 persons tourneys online and I’m sometimes nervous. The guy has nerves of steel.

We drive directly to a restaurant where we get a good lunch of proper pesto pasta (Pesto is from Genoa, don’t tell them you know Pesto if all you know is the industrialized green paste you find at your supermarket, that thing is supposed to be prepared two hours ahead of time) and see more of “Megu”, Lorenzo Novaro and Luca Arecco of the organization team along with some of the Germans (Marc Lanigra, Richard Leßmann and Leo Bruder).

The Eternal Central Tournament

The place is wonderful, and quite interesting in its placement. You have that old, older than old Lighthouse monument in the middle of an industrialized harbor.. it’s quite a sight in more ways than one. We get inside the entrails of the thing. I’d tell you that it’s old and nice, but I’m more into the mystery of wondering where we’ll end up exactly. A complex of three rooms with an old turning light (toned down I imagine, as it wasn’t completely blinding us when turning in our direction) and some other museum curiosities.

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Let’s say it’s surreal photography and leave it at that.

I don’t think people are paying much attention though, people are chatting and are happy to play a new format in a nice place with cool people.

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Pictured above : cool people. (Constantine Prishvitsin & Marc Lanigra)

I was a bit frustrated originally. I so wanted to play “Shops” (a deck with 4 Mishra’s Workshop).

Nitro !

The addition of Fallen Empires is nothing new to us Parisians, so the main novelty, the only archetype that’s new there is the Shop one. And I tested it and it was such a blast ! It felt like piloting a dragster. Not that I consider the deck problematic. It has some bad matchups it seems. But I don’t have 4 Shops. In Europe if you do have them, you probably play Vintage. But I don’t and I don’t find them in time. So I go for the next best option according to my taste : the strategic one. I call it “The Deck on the Side” : most of the power being in the sideboard.

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Timewalking’s “Deck on the Side”

The main deck of course isn’t pathetic, but there’s nothing incredible there, most of what I consider the real good stuff, the black and blue spoilers minus Timetwister, though only three moxes and no Regrowth. Hymn to Touraches and other good black cards like the mana acceleration and the “hippies”. Not too much Arabian Night creatures, because one of my goals was to be Zoo-proof, that is to be able to play at least 2 City in a Bottle (busted card, that, also, if considering this tournament, Zoo wouldn’t have fared well there since so many CiB were played, I don’t know how that translates to the American Metagame but that night if anybody played Zoo, they must have been in a world of pain).

Ban

In a 94 format with Strip Mines unrestricted (as Stephen Menendian has just noted in his article today), aggro is strong, and zoo variants seem to be dominating at the moment. Though the new Naya Bazaar Zoo is much less impacted from City in a Bottle than more classical RUG-based Lestrée Zoo lists, I’ve tested the thing and it didn’t impress me, it just seemed too short on mana and not the right home for the Bazaar + Sylvan card filtering engine. As it happens I face it on the second round and everything goes according to plan, the lands are targeted as much as I can and my opponent (who his a fellow from Paris) can’t develop his game much. One other goal of my deck building was not to play white. Gloom is another monstrosity that’s available to sideboards in old school. I wanted to be on the good side of that one, especially considering that WWxy weenies decks are also top performing aggro decks in this format. I face WWu in the third round versus a guy who I don’t think much of initially as I don’t find his deck all that impressive of a choice, but happens to be a very good magic player and will go on to win the second tournament, Swedish section. Whether Gloom is actually worth it against The Deck I’m actually on the fence on, especially for this deck which isn’t all that fast. But I’m also making a point of not playing too much staying artifacts, the only ones being the three moxes and the Sol Ring. This way I can relatively safely play Energy Fluxes, which is another poison from the sideboard, and not just for The Deck, but quite importantly, for “Shops” decks, among others.

Poison.

Looking at the tables I see a shitload of Triskelion. On just about every table there’s one, often with at least one accompanying Shop. Well, I sure wasn’t the only one to want to finally play that thing in Old School ! I try not to think about how bad a Triskelion can be for my decks with 4 Order of the Ebon Hand. In the end I don’t face a single one of those. Instead I’m paired against what I’m told is a mirror. It’s the third consecutive round I’m playing at table one. But I’m not to play there this time, we’re on camera.

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The last round would be the coolest as I meet a guy I appreciate a lot : Leo Bruder. He plays something quite inventive and surprising yet there he is paired with the second best ranked.

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He plays well and it comes down to the third game. I’m down to one. It’s a topdeck nerve-wracking grindfest ! It’s great. I manage to put him down to three. I give it my all not to lose a single life point patiently waiting for a solution, I get it : Demonic Tutor, I strip him of his source of blue mana just in case, he takes the mana I declare an attack and inform him that he takes one point of mana burn. This could have cost me the match as a judge comes right when I’m resolving my Tutor to announce time ! The bolt is the last card of the library so I show it and win my last round. It doesn’t get any closer than that ! Leo took it with class and enjoyed the match about as much as I did.

I’m not sure why, there’s a two hour wait before the top 8 starts. Brace yourself, this day isn’t over, the race goes on, I tell myself. But I’m quite tired nevertheless. After those two hours I get trashed in 5 minutes by a burn/vise/ankh deck. Well thx Pietro, my day is over at least.

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Premature Evacuator !

Well, not really, no subway, I guess I’ll wait until the end of the tournament when Lorenzo leaves ? I’m too tired to make a decision, I really don’t feel like walking or calling for a taxi so instead I watch the rest of the top 8 unfold and we have fun with Leo Bruder watching Pat’ getting fate on his side continuously.

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Case in point : it’s the final, you play vs Shops, you Hymn his Mox Pearl so he can’t play his Presence of the Master before you play your Energy Flux -you win ! 🙂

Lorenzo then leaves and I go with him, he leaves me close to the hotel. It’s 4 AM. It’s also closed. I try to ring, but after a while I find that they have a webpage and it’s written there : closed between 1:30 and 6:30 ! Would have been nice to know beforehand. I’ve never heard of anything like that. When I booked the room I expected the good price to be due to the proximity of the prostitution activity since it’s in a very nice place for sightseeing otherwise. I expected to have to wear earplugs basically, but I would anyway and the rooms are nice so.. I’m screwed ! (and no screwing in the hotel) I’m not drunk but I do the tired and bored to hell version of drunk-dialing : I spam my own facebook group telling of my current situation.. It’s not like I can contact any European at that hour anyways, and I enjoy the incredible quietness of the place at that time. The hotel is in the historical center, the street is about three meters wide, it’s not a street. No car no sound. It’s a bit eerie all that. After a while my ass has enough of sitting on the marble of the porch. Let’s pretend we’re not exhausted and that we’ll do some nighttime sightseeing, shall we ? I try to appreciate the sights, but really I just end up with whores and pimps in the last bar that will accept people that late. They’re not as tired as me, in fact they’re suspiciously dynamic for this time of the day : nice contrast, I don’t even try to understand how I got there, I take it all in stride, I have no other choice.

So no visiting this morning, I’ve three hours to sleep and a deck to sleeve. It’s the day of the Fishliver Oil Cup itself. The tournament is like a hydra, with mutliple heads. Maybe you’re playing it to qualify for the noobcon, maybe you play it just to win, just to have fun, maybe you play in the sub-format, the one that actually grants a prize to the best of its lot : the unpowered format. If you’ve followed my blog you know I’m not interested in Swedish based ’94 (they’re less strict than the Swedes at the Fishliver Oil on the cards you can play there, as Leggende, Obscurita, Revised, FBB, FWB, Rinascimento and Renaissance are also legal sets) so of course I take the real challenge : try to kick some ass with an “unpowered” deck (really that doesn’t mean you can’t play the most powerful cards of the format, you can play Library of Alexandria and Mind Twist and of course I do that, it’s just the Power 9 that’s illegal in that section of the tournament). The tournament structure being what it is, the two sections play against one another in the same tournament or not, randomly. I don’t play in an unpowered tourney, I just play unpowered, not knowing against who I’ll play.

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Troll de la Lune (Unpowered 94)

Fishliver Oil Cup

Round 1, Game 1, Turn 1 : Library of Alexandria on the other side of the table. It’s pimped. So is the rest of the deck, or should I say THE Deck ? 1-2 I actually put up quite a fight, crush him with Blood Moons game 2, and threatens him fast and hard with a turn 2 Su-Chi off Dark Ritual (one takes mana acceleration where he can), but he eventually finds a removal, and I don’t find a Blood Moon. Next round I don’t remember much about, it’s a fully powered deck. It didn’t seem particularly threatening, but it gets there, cause that can happen. At 0-2 I find myself very close to the last table. I play a cool Genovese called Alisa. She admits not having played much with her deck. I thought she was about to say not having played much at all : she played a Paralyse on my activated Mishra’s Factory.. and then asked the judge if really the Paralyse would go to the graveyard at end of turn. The judge was her husband. That was fun. Then I played someone who seemed to play RG aggro, or RG aggro Berserk, I’m not too sure. What’s sure is that he has lots of mana troubles. After the match he tells me his deck isn’t focused enough and that he only plays 19 lands (though he plays some Llanowar Elves). Well the guy is learning. So that’s what it took for me to reach parity ? Well here we are, last round, and I meet a Parisian again, and it’s the same one as yesterday. Rodolphe Ambroise is on Twiddle Vault, modified from the usual list with Mana Flare. Too bad for him it’s one of the deck I tested the most this past week (as I hadn’t tested it before, and was curious about a Time Vault unrestriction). I’m already feeling quite confident when I realize what he plays, and then I Mind Twist for three and get two Howling Mines and the restricted Time Vault : that’s when you realize that injustice isn’t always all that horrible, really. But he recovers in the best possible manner, with a Timetwister ! Ok, we’ve got ourselves a match then. I play a Blood Moon, but he’s got his Mox Sapphire out. It doesn’t take long at all before he plays the vault and a mine and a twiddle inside of the same turn. One could get the impression that he’s taking off, or preparing to take off. But either he bricked or my Blood Moon blocked him. Anyway I say “It was stupid of me to play that Blood Moon. It didn’t do much of anything, did it ?” He pretends to agree and I get the impression that he’s buying the idea that I’m siding them out.. Of course I just bring artifact hate, REBs and roll over him, helped by his Mana Flare and an Earthquake for 15 (he had a Mirror Universe in play so I was just bidding my time to get enough mana to finish him in one swoop). My final 3-2 score isn’t all that bad, but of course those things don’t mean much. Another Parisian who was on a similar plan (Fréderique Lafoux), unpowered, Trolls and Moons is top ranked among those with only one loss last round. No unpowered player is undefeated so if he wins he has not only very good chance to get the Beta Wrath of God which would be nice since he doesn’t own all that much big old school cards, but that would also qualify him for the top 16 (yes they were generous in how many people they were qualifying both days). He doesn’t. He didn’t play enough red mana sources and that finally got to him in the last game of the last match that would have sent him to heaven. And the real winner of the tournament (interesting unpowered section) is : Francesco Delfino ! (A member of the organizing team too and a very nice guy)

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The real winner 🙂

So, like me and Lafoux he plays Blood Moon, something that has always seemed a bit strange to me in a white/red shell since The Deck and others play Fellwar Stones, but there weren’t many The Deck afaik.

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Francesco Delfino’s unpowered Tax Edge

Tax Edge in an environment without even Fallen Empires lands is a challenge, but I certainly love a deck with 4 Ivory Towers and two Moats !

I can get home relatively early, and sleep. And sleep, three hours. Cause what difference does it makes anyways, right ? I suffer from chronic pains, and those generally won’t let me sleep me more than that. I won’t bore you with the detail, all you need to know is that I’m not contagious. Oh and also that benzodiazepines (Valium, Klonopin, Rivotril, Xanax and a myriad of other brand names for basically the same shit, of which the active molecule always end in “pam”) will eventually ruin your life, if you let them. So my apologies if I’ve seemed to some of you too impatient or inflexible at times. I sometimes find myself too weak to gather the strength, the patience I once had, non impulsive person that I’m supposed to be, as always.

Anyways I’m out real, real early -as soon as the doors of my hotel-jail get opened. And I walk, and walk, it’s better than running, and the place isn’t without its charm,

I don’t care, my legs say yes please !

but it’s not until I reach Boccadasse that I’m getting what I’m really looking for (thx for the tip Francesco !). As it happens, despite being currently out of shape, I prefer the mountain, by far, the end result being that, to the best of my recollection, I haven’t seen the sea for 12 years. As it happens I’m deeply, gravely, irreversibly introverted, the end result being that two consecutive days of being around lots of people exhausts me psychologically. If you’re not sure what an introverted is : it isn’t a person uninterested in interacting with other people, but a person who likes that so much that the risk of having the interaction interrupted becomes discouraging, hence crowds and groups not being favorable social places. We just like the number 2 socially. “Three’s a crowd” goes double for us. The introverted also has trouble giving little attention to people, the way one needs to do when in a group since one has only so much attention to give out continuously. It’s not breaking news but you still see a lot of misunderstanding so I state the basis. Anyways, as it was like when I was heavy partying in my youth for days on end, after a day I find myself already quite tired of being around many people no matter how much I love them, and after the second solitude becomes necessary.

And I found it, along with those three others compatibles, just right as the joy of finally having the opportunity to contemplate a sea after so long got to me. It was all a bit much, just like all those months of pain and the relative seclusion that went with them. And for the first time in a long time I felt like it was all worth it.

Now a fitting french song for once just because I feel like it and to give a special nod to my friend Myrdhyn : “Antisocial” is a great song anyways so maybe you’ll give it a chance (I’ll translate my favorite lyric from it “Tu bosses toute ta vie pour payer ta pierre tombale” = “You work all life long to pay for your gravestone”).

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