Old School Magic 93-94 – Playing Millstone Dreams Control

(Editor’s Note: The following is a report and deck introduction from Nicholas Rausch, a player and tournament organizer in Ohio, USA.)

For the last 5 months, I have been tinkering in my workshop, trying to duplicate many things. Triskelions and Factories are the obvious but Juggernauts, Su-Chi, Tetravus, Mana Vaults, Moxen, Basalt Monoliths, Choas Orb, Howling Mines, Ankh of Mishra, Black Vise, Tomes of Jalum and Jayemdae, Ice Manipulator, Tawnos’ Coffin, Ivory Towers, and Time Vaults all have found their doppelgangers on the board. Even lesser constructs like Clockwork Avian, Weakstone, and Skull of Orm have been replicated.

It’s safe to say, Copy Artifact has consumed me.

In my humble opinion, I still feel that this card is the most under-utilized card in the entire format. So much so that I feel that discussions on whether or not it needs to be restricted should be had.

In the meantime, however, I was still keeping tabs on all the happenings with Magic such as the impending Standard rotation, price fluctuations, tournament results, B&R updates, etc. During that time I became very enamored with a Modern deck that kept cropping up in tournaments and was putting up some numbers. The Lantern Control deck – most notably the deck won GP Oklahoma City and Top 16’d GP Charlotte in the hands of Zak Elsik.

For those that aren’t familiar, the deck seeks to not lose the game early, and prevent the opponent from playing regular Magic, thereby winning the game. It achieves this by setting up the combo of Lantern of Insight (allowing you to see the top card of each player’s deck), and Codex Shredder or Ghoulcaller’s Bell (to mill away cards you don’t want your opponent or yourself to draw). Once this soft lock is in place, it becomes very difficult to get out of it. Discard cards like Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek help protect the combo, as well as give you information on the unknown quantity of your opponent’s hand. Ensnaring Bridge and Abrupt Decay take care of resolved permanents. The rest of the deck is rounded out with other disruption cards and ways to find the lock pieces.

Field of DreamsYou’re probably thinking “Nick, why are you talking about a Modern deck? We don’t actually give a shit.” If you hang in with me for just a moment, I promise we’ll get back to Old School Magic. While following this deck, I was notified that there had been some discussions on mtgthesource of a Legacy port by my good friend and business partner Ryan McIntosh. Those that know me know I’m not one to turn down a sick obscure Legacy brew, so I took a look, and I was not disappointed. The main draw to this deck in Legacy was that you got to utilize additional copies of Lantern of Insight (the most important card in the deck) with a little known Legends rare, Field of Dreams. I swear the click in my brain was audible.

Now, Greg Matthews, a local 93-94 player and fellow brewer, and I had already tried out some decks using Field of Dreams, combining it with cards like Sinbad and Bazaar of Baghdad, but this was new territory. What if we took the same principles of the Modern/Legacy Lantern deck, and then applied it to Old School? See? I told you we’d get there.

Deck building mode activated. My mind raced. OK, a resolved Moat makes it so the class of cards we care about is much smaller. Let’s play that. We need ways to kill flyers. Swords to Plowshares is a given, and we have Maze of Ith and Chaos Orb as well, but it’s not quite enough given how prevalent Serendib Efreet, and to a lesser extent Serra Angel and Sengir Vampire are. Island of Wak-Wak! So we are UW. Disenchant and other restricted cards are a no brainer. Mill cards? We have the original Millstone! And we can Copy Artifact it! OK, hand disruption – Disrupting Scepter? Sweet, but too mana intensive. The only real option is Mind Twist which is powerful but restricted. Eh, the splash is easy enough. Add Demonic Tutor as well to find Field of Dreams or Millstone. The Abyss? Nope can’t do that, as it’s an Enchant World too (and would knock out Field of Dreams).

After a few playtest sessions I realized the deck was very powerful and functioned exactly the way I wanted it to. Between Moat and not having any creatures in the deck, it made many of my opponent’s cards completely dead, while I controlled the draw step of both players to find what I need, and make sure my opponent never drew any of their outs. I felt heavily favored against any control deck and creature based decks. The biggest problem was the burn matchup was almost unwinnable. I found room for 2 main deck Blue Elemental Blasts, but it wasn’t enough. McIntosh to the rescue. He suggested a transformational sideboard. Just jam dudes that don’t die to Lightning Bolt. They’ll sideboard out Control Magics and other creature removal for artifact/enchant hate. You get to sideboard out the lock pieces for Serendibs, Juzams, and Serra Angels. Brilliant! I changed the manabase a bit, and added a 20th land to the main deck to make up for the incoming flux of 4 and 5 drop double-colored cards, and ended with the following final build.

Millstone Dreams Control, by Nicholas Rausch

Business (36)
Blue Elemental Blast
Swords to Plowshares
Chaos Orb
Demonic Tutor
Mind Twist
Maze of Ith
Island of Wak-Wak
Bazaar of Baghdad
Ancestral Recall
Time Walk
Field of Dreams
Copy Artifact

Mana Sources (24)
Black Lotus
Mox Emerald
Mox Jet
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Sapphire
Sol Ring
Library of Alexandria
Underground Sea
Strip Mine
Mishra’s Factory
Sideboard (15)
Blue Elemental Blast
Juzam Djinn
Mishra’s Factory
Serendib Efreet
Serra Angel

I kept the sideboard secret as best as I could. For a small event, it’s very easy for word to spread of a plan like this. We had 12 players show up to the tournament. Slightly smaller than our previous event, but players still came from all over. It’s reassuring knowing that players are willing to travel to support such an awesome format.

It was very fitting that I would get paired against Ben Perry in round 1. I got the best of him last time we met in the finals of our last tournament. He was out for revenge this time. Game 1 saw him mulligan to 5 on the play and I mulliganed to 6. I kept a hand of triple Mox, Maze of Ith, Copy Artifact, and Tundra. Ben led off with Maze of Ith, Lotus, Mox, Mind Twist for 3, leaving me with my Maze, a Mox and Copy Artifact. It was comical how similar our draws were. From that turn on we were both in top deck mode. Eventually Ben found a Library of Alexandria. My shaky hands led me to miss my Chaos Orb flip on the Library (I should have practiced this more), and Ben’s deck took over. Game 2 I boarded in the whole 15. My land + go did not match up well against Ben’s 3 Mox, Ancestral, Time Walk draw. A few turns later his Recall for 3 got Ancestral and Time Walk back, along with Mana Drain. At that point I was too far behind. Starting out with a loss is never the plan but it was a horrible matchup. Just need to bounce back from here.

Round 2 I played against Andrew McLennan. When Andrew started off with Kird Apes for his first 2 turns I felt pretty safe behind my Maze of Ith, until it got Strip Mined. I played a Balance at 10 life, but it left me with only 1 card. I had to choose between a Blue Elemental Blast and a Swords to Plowshares. I chose the Blast for its ability to counter a burn a spell, as well as deal with creatures like Ball Lightning and Kird Ape. I passed the turn back. Andrew rips and slams a Killer Bees. Uh-oh. Looks like I made the wrong choice. 3 turns later I was dead. I boarded out the combo and brought in the additional Blasts, the Factory, and the flyers. Game 2 I opened on a Library of Alexandria, but Andrew came out of the gates fast with an Ape on turn 1 and a Killer Bees on turn 2. My best hopes of winning were finding an answer to both these threats, and hope he doesn’t have the burn or pumps to finish me off quickly. I found a Mind Twist to take the last few cards from his hand. The next turn I dropped the Moat but it didn’t stop the Bees from swarming. A Serra Angel off the top stabilized me at 4 life, and eventually went the distance. I was incredibly fortunate that Andrew never found enough green sources to make his Bees larger or the burn to end my life. Game 3 went very much the same as the first, with me hiding behind a Moat at 8 life and slamming flyers until he died.

I had another very tough matchup in Round 3 against local player Matt Willeman with UR burn. In game 1 we both dropped Library on turn 1. I abandoned it on turn 2 when I played Mox, Mox, Sol Ring, Field of Dreams, Millstone, setting up the lock. The problem was Matt’s Library. With that card active it was very difficult to control his draw steps. My first answer came in the form of a Chaos Orb. Obviously I missed (I REALLY should have practiced my flips). A few turns later, while at 10 life, I topdecked a Balance. That did it. From that point forward he never drew another relevant card. I boarded in the 15 card special. Game 2 was rather anticlimactic. Matt opened with Library again, and I was never able to get ahead. Game 3 was very different. Matt once again lays down a turn 1 Library but I slam a turn 2 and turn 3 Serendib, along with a Factory. Let the race begin. Back and forth we went trading blows of my Djinns and his burn spells until the turn before he dies. I was at 4 life and Matt was at 1. I have 3 cards in hand and Matt has 2. He swings in with a factory to put me to 2. Into the think tank he went. After a few moments Matt opts to cast Timetwister showing me a fireball as the other card lamenting about having to play around my countermagic. I let the twister resolve and show him the 3 lands in my hand. Now I just need him to blank or have me draw enough Blasts for his burn. He drew 2 Lightning Bolts to my 0 Blasts.

A win puts me in Top 8 while a loss leaves me on the outside looking in. Round 4 I got paired against another local player, Joel Dragoo. Joel had been testing out a RUG deck of his own design for a while. Instead of going under with Kird Apes like the Lestree build, Joel chose to go larger with cards like Erhnam Djinn and Control Magic, as well as the full set of Psionic Blasts in the main for some added reach, and to be able to deal with opposing Serendibs and Serra Angels. Game 1 went according to plan with me stabilizing at 10 life with a Moat and the lock in play. Game 2 I boarded just as I did in round 2. A Moat held off the ground pounders while a Serra Angel delivered me the win. I ended up signing the match slip in favor of Joel. While the prizes were great, I personally did not need them. Joel was much more in need of his own Chaos Orb or Mana Drain than I was in need of additional copies of them. I wished him luck in the Top 8.

At the end of the Top 8 elimination rounds it was a BW deck getting the win over a Bant ErhnamGeddon deck. All the decks that people showed up with were super sweet. It amazes me that even with such a small card pool, there is still so much depth and room for innovation. While my record didn’t reflect it, I still feel this deck is a contender. It has great matchups against other control decks and creature based strategies. The biggest problems are the UR burn matchup, and the inability to effectively control the unknown – mainly opening hands. If your group allows Fallen Empires, Hymn to Tourach is the perfect card to help alleviate those problems. I would find room for as many of them as your group allows.

Goblin GrenadeSpeaking of Fallen Empires. I’m going to get on my soap box for just a moment. The “should Fallen Empires be allowed in 93-94″ debate has been spoken about ad nauseam. Both sides of the argument have been exhausted. I’m not going to get into those here. There are plenty of Facebook and forum threads if you want to look into it yourself. I tend to be in favor of not allowing Fallen Empires. That was, until the topic came up during the tournament. Ben Perry made a profound statement that really hit me like a ton of bricks. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, “this is a casual format. We play this format because it’s fun. The most important thing about this format is fostering a community of players who also want that same enjoyable experience. Is allowing Fallen Empires really going to ruin my enjoyment of the format? No. However, not allowing it could possibly exclude someone and prevent that someone from ever getting that meaningful enjoyable experience. I would much rather have another player to sit across the table from than not have Fallen Empires.” This exact reason is now why I feel that Fallen Empires should be allowed moving forward.

Well, I think I’ve rambled on enough for this time. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Feel free to leave feedback here or Facebook. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the deck I played in the tournament, or anything Old School Magic related for that matter. Thanks for reading.