Team Unified was on my to-do list since last year’s event. The All Things Considered Podcasts about the format made me really eager to try it and since London is pretty easy to get to I marked it as soon the date was released. Unfortunately, the 7th of November wasn’t ideal after all so I figured it wasn’t meant to be this year. Somehow end of September the event got mentioned in our chatgroup and I told that I was very interested to go but couldn’t really. Or well, maybe… Maybe I could. Henk had the same issue but Mari was ready to go. So what if we would just go for the day? Fly in and out on Saturday would be okay for Henk and me. Unfortunately no flight left late enough on Saturday so we looked at the first flights in the morning. 07:00, hmmm.. That can work as well right? Sure, let’s book the tickets, no hotel and YOLO.
Half of the fun in this format is the deck construction. Between the 3 players you have to build 3 decks which would be Swedish Legal if you would stack them as 1 deck. That means you have to divide all the restricted cards and also cards like Mishra’s Factory, City of Brass and anything else. While I’m a spike (see my previous blog) I was actually ready to fully spice this event but Henk still needs to get his first T8. Since there are only 20 teams (19 eventually) and Henk could lose all games as long as Mari and I would win most others, this was Henk’s best shot ever at a T8.
I’m a big fan of Excel and I like to do my homework. So, I listed all possible spike options and we would select a personal top 3. (Note, UW Skies could also be Lauter (UWb).
There’s definitely some overlap in some of these decks but that was a later concern. Nobody wanted to play The Deck so we ruled out that deck completely from the start. The idea was to (almost) fully power deck #1, use the remaining power (if any) in deck #2 and try to come up with something that would be okay without power as deck #3.
Due to the format you have to consider a couple of things. Like for example only 1 player can have a Chaos Orb and only 1 can have a strip mine. While it’s slightly harder to play artifact removal it’s definitely harder to have any enchantment removal. So just because you can and not really because we used it, I tried to list all removal options.
And since we were on a roll anyway, why not create a graphical overview of all decks and what key cards they typically play (Note that the 3 decks we ended up playing are already tailored to the actual decks we played).
So we wanted to start with picking a T1/T1.5 deck and preferable not 1 that really needs all the power. I consider The Deck, Dibatog, Erhnam on Ice, Deadguy Ale on Steroids, Lauter, CounterTrollDisco and Robots as the best decks in the format. Since we had ruled out The Deck, this wasn’t an option. But beforehand if I had to pick the strongest setup I would have said: The Deck, Dibatog and Mono Black.
I think we were all a bit bored with the amount of Atog decks lately. Erhnam on Ice and Deadguy Ale on Steroids are very strong decks but it didn’t leave much combinations we preferred. While we definitely considered Robots as well, it felt it really needed all the power so we ended up with Lauter (UWb) as first deck. We made 3 sacrifices which are the off-color Moxen and the Chaos Orb, meaning we would play Demonic Tutor and Mind Twist in the deck. You want your Tutor in the deck with your best cards and you want your Twist in the deck with the most artifact mana. (Just google for Lauter and you’ll find an actual useful deckpic).
Erhnam Burn’em is my own pet deck and it only required a couple of sacrifices. No Black Lotus, Chaos Orb, Mishra’s Factories and Strip Mine. The single Lotus isn’t a major issue. Because I wasn’t playing Factories, I figured I could play maindeck Blood Moon so therefor didn’t need the Strip Mine. Sure Blood Moon is less good against dual lands since there are less people playing 3 color combinations, however it gains value because there are more people playing Maze of Ith and it’s harder to get rid of.
That left us with Black as the only color which wasn’t utilized yet (except for Tutor/Twist). Mono Black is the most played deck in Team Unified so far, since it’s a strong color on its own. We actually tried to avoid ending up with Mono Black and therefore we didn’t want to go for a Mono Black creature deck. Henk is a combo/prison player so we opted for Mono Black Parfait. This was definitely the hardest deck to brew and in the last 2 weeks I think we had 90 different versions of this deck.
We build a Mono Black, Black/White, White/Green and Black/White/Green version. Our logic was the following: Land Tax –> Dark Ritual, Paralyze –> Spirit Link, The Abyss –> Moat –> Drop of Honey. Underworld Dreams –> Titania’s Song. Green had the additional benefit of getting access to crumble and 1 Tranquility and white had the benefit of getting access to Divine Offering. We ended up with Black/White Parfait, hoping people were not really expecting it. Playing against Winter Orb can be pretty tricky sometimes and at least people wouldn’t have a full sideboard against it like we expected for Mono Black.
After settling on decks there was just 1 thing left to fix, a teamname. Obviously I made an excel for that as well but soon we settled for “All Teams Considered”. This is obviously a shoot-out to the best Old School podcast by Bryan Manolakos, who’s also a major fan of the format and organiser of the Mobstercon event in New Jersey which is also a Team Unified event.
I asked the boys to prepare proper for the event by going to bed early and no drinking. So after Henk finished his bottle of wine and Mari downed a couple of beers they went too bed way to late. I haven’t been drinking since mid-September so I was in perfect shape, these guys are just not dedicated enough to be the real deal! 06:15 my alarm went off, 06:40 the bus, 06:55 meeting Henk in the train and 08:15 Mari joined as at Schiphol Airport. After a 10minute delay, 1-hour time difference and 40minute Uber ride we arrived at 10:55 at the venue, 5 minutes early. Perfect timing to order our first beer and snap a team photo.
Round 1 – Team Traders
I recognized some faces but funny enough I recognized more voices. Svante, Olle, Stebbo, Ben & Christian I’ve all never met before but I knew their voices from the Podcast. Not sure why actually but it took some time to get things started so I was into my 2nd half liter when starting our first round. Team Traders with Mitja and Alban Lauter who I both know from the Raging Bull Series. I was paired against Alban which played his own Lauter deck. Alban is a great player and we both play fast so I was down 0-1 before most people finished shuffling. Henk didn’t do any better against RG Burn’Em (no Erhnam’s) and Mari was fighting hard against Mono Black. Since Henk and I lost our 2nd game pretty fast as well, all our dreams were crushed 30minutes after the whole thing started.
Round 2 – Oldschool Suckers
I switched to a coke zero because after 2 months not drinking, I figured I should at least try to make it till the end of the tournament. Team Losers consisted out of Markus Lundqvist, Slanfan and Thomas Nilsen. My memory already starts to fade from this round onwards but I know we ended 1-1-1. Henk was actually the one who won playing against Slanfan’s Lich deck. I lost against Thomas’s Robots deck and Mari managed to draw the last game against Shahrazad Burn. At least we got a point and we agreed to switch to our plan B: Heavy drinking.
Round 3 – Siblings of the Flame
This team was a mix of Brothers of Fire & Sisters of the Flame. Brother Ben occupied the middle seat, I was playing against Dominic. Henk played against Robots and faced a T2 double Trike. The 2nd game didn’t go any better. I won my 1st game against Dominic who was playing Tax Edge but Mari had a hard time playing against Troll Disco against Brother Thomas(?). In the 2nd game Dominic started with T1 Ivory Tower, T2, Ivory Tower, T3 Ivory Tower. While my deck is fast, it’s not that fast and I didn’t start with any artifact destruction. I was hoping to draw my 1 Shatterstorm early but didn’t and was about to give up to go to game #3 when Mari lost his 2nd game.
Dominic was having fun being on 60+ life, with 3 howling mines and what not. After playing a Land Tax and CoP: Red I was able to play a Tranquility. His Library of Leng was doing great work but I managed to shatter it end of his turn, which made him discard a big pile of cards. I was still waiting for my Shatterstorm but in between I at least managed to sting him a little . The face of Dominic each time was priceless and after he ate some Artifacts to keep his Atog alive (which died eventually) he unfortunately played a Feldon’s Cane which made it impossible for me to win by decking him.
Dominic used his Feldon’s Cane since he needed to get his wincons back as I tranquilitied his Land’s Edge earlier which resulted in 16 damage to the face for me, leaving me at only 2 life. With 4 Ivory Towers, 4 Howling Mine and 1 Land Tax in play I drew my 3rd Tranquility and Shatterstorm in 1 go. Playing both in the same turn leaving him with 76 life and a couple of lands in play. His face again, truly awesome. Although I had no hopes of winning playing till I managed to pull that off was all worth it! We didn’t have time to finish our 3rd game but this was definitely the most fun game of the day.
Round 4 – Team Sussex
The drinking continued so names are really escaping me. Luckily we wrote down all our match results at 05:30 on this napkin. We had an hour or so to kill at the airport and it took as about an hour to try and remember everything…
So as you can read (or maybe not), Mari was playing against Blue Robots. He was able to win pretty fast. I lost the first game against Pink Weenie while my opponent had to take a mulligan. Starting with 3 Savannah Lions proved to buy enough time and outburn me in the end. Luckily I did manage to win the 2 other games as Henk lost. Our first win, something we celebrated with another beer!
Round 5 – Team Post Tenebras Urborg
We decided to up the ante for this game since there was nothing to win for any of us. Mari anted up a Gathering of The Knights of Thorn playmat which has to have unlimited value. Christian countered Mari’s ante with a “2 of a kind” special playmat which I believe is also going to be the Trophy for his Mountain Madness tournament end of January in Swiss. Mari was paired against Chris who played Mono Black and I was playing Alex on ErhnamGeddon. Alex plays Old School once a year, Team Unified. I’m pretty clueless what happened in those matches but we got to see Chris playing against Henk. In the 2nd game Henk bullied Chris with Winter Orbs but he somehow had a bunch of lands untapped and he opted to play something completely useless after which he passed turn. Oh wait, he said… Can I take this back? Sure… I’ll tap my 2 Mana Vaults, untap 1 with Twiddle, tap some more lands and Fireball you for 16. That’s indeed slightly better than the other play! 😉 It didn’t matter for the team score so we were by now at 2-2-1 and up a pretty unique playmat.
Round 6 – Team England?
Beer was still flowing so sorry for the lack of names. I remember our middle seat was playing Old School for 6 weeks! His son loves Old School as well and refused earlier to play with Proxies because it wasn’t the real deal…. He’s 11! This time we anted a Raging Bull Series playmat and our opponents anted a Black Lotus notebook and a Revised, signed (by a random) Mahamoti Djinn. Mari played for the 3rd time against Mono Black. Funny enough Mono Black tends to be always in the 3rd seat, which happened in the previous Team Unified tournaments as well. That’s probably because it feels like the “leftover” deck, therefore it’s mentioned 3rd and often put in the 3rd slot.
Henk played GW, won the 1st game but lost twice against Whirling Dervish. I played against Counterburn and was able to win the 1st game. My opponent was afraid to lose the 2nd game and made it a draw, he couldn’t know I wasn’t holding anything. So I had to win the last game but didn’t. Another draw so our final score was 2-2-2. Our opponents suggested to swap the ante, so we did. We did receive an additional beer in the ante swap which we obviously didn’t refuse!
The event was fantastic. 19 Teams, 57 people was perfect for the venue. The beer selection was A+, the food great and the atmosphere superb. Such an international field for an odd format like Team Unified shows how much people like it. I really loved the format, especially that you could help out each other during the matches and had something to root for even if your own games were over. The Brothers of Fire ran a smooth show with a great raffle to support 2 different charities. We missed the Top4 since we went out to eat some burgers but Team South Africa won again! Back to Back wins is pretty damn good although I have no idea with what decks they managed to win.
Since our flight left at 07:00 and we didn’t book a hotel all we could do is continue to play some games and order some beer. So I played some games against Antoine, Mari and some others until the venue closed around 23:00. With about 10 players we left for a bar but the 1st option was to noisy and the 2nd one looked great from the outside but when we got upstairs we witnessed a transvestite doing Karaoke. We settled for a quieter place where some played some games and others played “guess this card”.
Unfortunately that place closed at 01:00 as well so next stop was the closest hotel lobby. They promised a 24/7 bar but weren’t that happy to see us. Still we managed to order some more beer and I got to play a couple of game against Dominic before most people went to bed around 03:00. Mari, Henk and I ordered our Uber to the Airport where we arrived at 04:00 so we only needed to kill an hour or 2 before boarding. Luckily 1 bar was open so we could order some more beers to keep going.
While it was a very long day, I wasn’t even feeling that bad when boarding and after a nice nap in the plane I took the train back home, arriving home 28 hours. This trip was a blast, I wish I could do these kinds of things more often! Thank you everybody for being awesome, thank you brothers for organising and thank you Mari and Henk for being my teammates. “De Tering”