ThoughtSeizing the Opportunity: Slovene Vintage League

In last week’s article, I spoke about getting into Legacy and how finding a group of local players can be one of the easiest ways of doing so. There is something wonderful in surrounding yourself with other enthusiasts, giving you ample incentive and opportunity to test and compete with your deck.

As local Eternal scenes grow stronger, occasional playtesting sessions and casual meetings will only be enough for a while, then most players will want for something more. The Slovene Vintage League (SVL for short) that I will present today is a great example of this and I hope this article will encourage people around the world to reassess their current local situation and ways to improve it, because there is always room for growth, for improvement, for change. And sometimes even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

Before I go on, I’d like to point out that I am in no way the leader, creator, or any other important person in the SVL, but a relatively new player to join it. As such, anything I say here is strictly my opinion only. I would like to thank Martin Robič for his dedication in running the League and KŠK for providing us with a place to play.

Some Basic Information

The SVL began at the end of 2005 by a group of enthusiasts, inspired largely by the Wizards’ Vintage Champs tournament that awarded a Mox to the winner. Despite several hiccups along the way, the League is in its fourth year now and running strong.

Our League runs in annual cycles, with ten tournaments and the Finals every year. The format of the tournaments alternates between Legacy and Vintage, each getting five tournaments in the yearly cycle. Anyone can participate in these but the Finals are invitational—only for the top eight players of the season.

Tournaments are Swiss-rounds and a Top 4 or Top 8 playoff. Most attract from twelve to sixteen players, but Legacy events regularly reach over twenty. This may seem small compared to local Magic scenes in the US or France, but one has to understand that Slovenia’s small size (2 million inhabitants—a little less than Houston and much less crowded) keeps our ambition of growing our League largely in check. There has lately been a surge in the popularity of Legacy and Vintage—and also Magic itself—so the tournaments are attracting larger numbers of players, but a 6-round event is still a way off.

At each tournament, points are awarded to the participants in regards to their results as follows: nine points for first place, seven for second, five and four for third and fourth respectively, two points for fifth to eigth, and one point for the rest. This is to encourage everyone for simply attending events, even if they don’t do particularly well. After ten events, the eight players with the highest number of points get invited to the Finals. This are a seven-round event where each player faces every other player in a day of Magical madness during which the winner—that year’s Slovene Vintage League Champion—is decided.

We make an effort to have all our Legacy events DCI-sanctioned (this was introduced to help the players’ ratings for any Grand Prix we may wish to attend), but the use of proxies prevents us from doing so for the Vintage events. Up to ten proxies are allowed and up to five additional proxies can be purchased for 0.50€ (approximately $0.75) each.

The Money Behind the Operation

Bling bling
The entrance fee for each tournament is 7€ ($10) plus additional proxies, 5€ ($7) of which goes into the prize pool for the event and 2€ ($3) into the pool for the Finals. The Top 8 (or Top 4) at the end of the event get to choose cards from the Album of Winners™ with a total value that depends on their placement. The Album contains all sorts of Legacy and Vintage goodies and is the perfect way of acquiring cards for your collection and decks you are probably building, while also containing some foily stuff for those looking to pimp out their decks.

Prizes for the Finals are bought with the remaining money which is directly in proportion to the popularity of the League that year. The Champion gets the first pick of the prizes and the remaining players choose their own in descending order. Last year, for instance, the first prize was a NM- Unlimited Mox Pearl. The organizer works on making the top prize something really worth fighting for, a card (or set of cards) that is both expensive and widely playable in Legacy, Vintage or both. As hardly anyone around here owns any of the P9 (a few people own one or more and only three own the set), having one of these not only cuts down on your used proxy slots (allowing you to play more diverse decks), it’s also a trophy of sorts, something that marks you out a bit whenever you set it down on the table. Not having won this sort of prize yet means I only speak from theory, but I think I’d do my best to incorporate it into as many of my decks as possible. Also, as Stephen Menedian once said in his argument on cutting down the number of proxies, owning such a piece creates a very strong attachment to it, to the format, and to the game itself.

The Metagame and the Players

As one might expect, a small circle of players regularly attending tournaments forms an interesting balance, creating a whole little metagame that often defies logic. This year, for instance, our Legacy tournaments at the beginning of the year were mostly dominated by CounterTop decks, which completely pushed combo out of the picture. A powerful group of Stompy decks then emerged on the back of their great matchup versus the aggro-control decks and not until these last few months had there been much in the sense of pure aggro decks like Zoo. The metagame shifts and turns much like the world-wide Legacy one does, but it sometimes does so much faster, and much slower at other times. There are also some completely random turns of events, seemingly unconnected to anything. The reasons for this are manyfold: with so few players having played against each other for so long, one can predict the metagame to within one or two decks in advance; some people never change their decks and still play what may have been new tech in August, in the spring of 2008, or never at all. The random events are usually the result of people getting tired of their same old decks and trying out something new.

These specifics can be either positive or negative, but complaining about them isn’t going to make them go away so I suppose they are here to stay. The decks are still relatively up-to-date and the tournaments themselves are an excellent way to playtest.

The players themselves are mostly friendly and a strong sense of camaraderie has formed among the regulars through the years. By itself, this is of course a good thing as playing Magic with your friends is some of the best fun one can have, but there are also downsides: newcomers can get the feeling of being shut out, looked down upon, and generally unwelcome. My wish is that we can remain good friends but perhaps allow new players to enter into this circle easier, for that is the only way we can obtain (and retain) fresh minds and ideas, young energy and spirit.

Awesome Ideas

I’ve spoken about the obstacles one must face when getting into Legacy, from the lack of knowledge to the lack of cards. While the former can be solved by spending even more time in front of your computer screen and/or testing out decks full of proxies, this isn’t an option when going to a tournament. The same restrictions hold true for Vintage, but the option of up to 15 proxies means that a T1 deck can actually be cheaper to acquire than a similar one in Legacy. Anyway, the wise men leading the SVL had thought about possibilities on how to solve this problem and after a brief test of proxies for new players, the idea of simply lending and borrowing cards stuck as optimal. If you need a card, more of them, or even a whole deck, you say so on our forums. Others check the lists of wanted cards and bring them to the tournament so anyone can play just about any deck they want. I’ve seen people construct decks from nothing but a few basic lands and a bit of perseverance.

As any other idea, this one has a few negative aspects as well—first, the group of people that lend cards is almost completely separated from the group that borrows them and there are very few of us that do both. Second, it’s one thing if people ask for a card or two every now and then but it’s another thing when they borrow whole decks for practically every tournament, as this means there is little incentive to actually acquire the cards you need for your deck(s), since there’s always someone to lend you whatever you need. This is exactly the type of mentality we were trying to avoid when the idea of proxies was scrapped, so perhaps we’re working backwards now. Third, constant use of cards means there is significant wear and tear occurring to valuable staples—duals, Force of Wills, Tarmogoyfs, etc. There is already talk going on about limiting the number of cards some of the prominent lenders are willing to give out per tournament or charging small amounts of money as substitution for the damage caused to the cards.

Another awesome idea I’d like to talk about is the “Rookie of the Year” promotion that started this season. At the end of the year, the rookie with the most points (acquired by placing in the tournament as described above) will get to pick cards from the Album of Winners™ of total value equal to his number of points in €. This is a great idea as it allows someone to obtain a large number of cards, but also because it forces them to attend tournaments regularly, launching them head-on into the whole scene of events, probably keeping them interested and active for years to come. A short note on the definition of a rookie player: a rookie didn’t acquire ten or more points in the last season and had never played in the Finals before.

My Experience in the Slovene Vintage League

T: draw 5? I'll take it.
I first played in the SVL last November when I tried my hand at Vintage. I played Ichorid and made it to the Top 4 but lost two swift games there. This only served to strengthen my resolve, however, and I came back this year ready to battle. I’ve been to eight of the nine tournaments held this year and made it to the playoffs (either Top 8 or Top 4) in every one of them. This puts me into second place of the standings, four points behind the leader. I’m a lock for the Finals before the tenth tournament and I can’t wait to experience them for the first time! I’ll be sure to write a report in one of my future articles, so watch out for that if you’re interested (or ignore it if you aren’t).

I’ve given a lot of thought to the reasons for my success on my first year of playing in the SVL and came to several conclusions: I play good decks, I don’t make too many mistakes, and I don’t let my previous matches affect me. Playing good decks doesn’t mean I don’t like to experiment—I’ve been running Vesper Green, but also Death and Taxes and CounterTop in Legacy; Ichorid has been my weapon of choice for T1 but I played Monored Aggro Stax once—but that I take the time to think things through before the actual tournament. I often find players only finding out how their deck actually works around round three or so, way too late by even the most lackluster of standards. It’s too late to swap cards then, no matter how much you might want to.

Not making too many mistakes, again, doesn’t mean that I play perfectly (far from it), but that I don’t make so many glaring mistakes that it looks like I’m making fun of my opponent. As for not letting my previous matches affect me, I think that’s a problem many players on all levels must face: so what if you messed up the last game? As long as you use that experience to not repeat your mistake this round, you should forget about it. So what if they topdecked business spell after business spell while you were busy filling your hand up with land. Did you mind-trick your opponent into a big blunder? Great, but don’t get over-confident now. Focus on the here and now. Don’t let your wins go to your head and your losses to your heart. Find your inner balance and win this game, this match. That is the true value of a level-headed player and only such a player can enjoy consistent success at any level of the game.

Looking Forward, Looking Back

With 2009 slowly but surely drawing to a close, it’s time to reflect on what I learned about the SVL and to propose any changes I think would benefit the League. It’s also a good time to start planning my next year’s forays into the perilous realms of Eternity.

This year has been a great learning experience for me, greatly increasing my ability to play the oldest formats on a decent level. I studied the best performing decks and made my conclusions on them. I explored small innovations and rogue decks, funky cards and wacko archetypes. I’ve made numerous friends and shared wonderful moments. Credit for a lot of these things goes to the SVL and the fine people running it. This is why anything and everything I suggest here should be seen as a suggestion, not critique. That said, I might propose some small but interesting changes.

First, I would raise the entrance fee to 8€. The small change of 1€ won’t break anybody’s bank but it will effectively raise the amount of prize money available for the Finals by 50%. This would allow the organizer to provide even more attractive prizes and promote players to participate even more diligently which is, after all, what we all want.

Second, video coverage of the top tables was already experimented with, but never quite got off the ground. It doesn’t need to be live feed or anything, something simple like one of the players filming the Top 8 matches with some commentary and a little bit of editing could go a long way. It’s always nice to see yourself during a game and it can be a great learning experience for all involved. After all, how often have you wanted to see a match you lost to find the crucial moment when a mistake cost you the game?

The last suggestion I would make is more promotion of the events. This might seem strange as most of the people interested do their best to make it to the tournaments, but something like a dedicated website, a mailing group, or text message reminders can go a long way. This idea could be combined with the second one to form a point of interest for Eternal players in Slovenia. It could host video commentary, tournament reports, predictions, even interviews with players. The dash to the Finals could make for an interesting narrative around which a story of success and failure could be sculpted. In this age, the Internet is king and being present on it should be our biggest priority. We have the forums, sure, but a website would be several levels above that. The task of writing, filming and editing content could be distributed among a large group of people to prevent the burden from getting overwhelmingly heavy and exhausting those involved. If there’s one thing I’ve found through writing for this website is that there is no better way to learn than by creating content, and I hope to be able to do so for a long time.

Vesper Depths

The deck I proposed in my first article and expanded upon in the second has proven to have many merits and I’ve been testing it on MWS and live a lot recently. I love how you can just play a regular Vesper Green game with lots of disruption (Hymn to Tourach, Thoughtseize) and efficient beaters (Tarmogoyf, Hypnotic Specter) and, if it looks like the opponent will stabilize, finish the game out of nowhere with a huge 20/20 token.

Vesper Depths, as suggested by Mitja BosničMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Dark Confidant
3 Vampire Hexmage
4 Hypnotic Specter
1 Nantuko Shade

4 Dark Ritual
2 Diabolic Edict

2 Duress
4 Thoughtseize
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Living Wish

4 Wasteland
3 Dark Depths
4 Bayou
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Polluted Delta
4 Swamp

I'm gonna make it work, I swear it!
I've increased the number of Living Wish to four as I was always glad to see it and it makes getting the combo quite consistent. Nantuko Shade found a place instead of the second Grim Discovery which, while cute, often wasn't enough and I really wanted another big beater. I'm still undecided on whether Diabolic Edict or Smother is better (what do you guys think?). I prefer four Polluted Delta to a split as laying a Delta on turn one will easily convince your opponent that you're playing a blue deck, and I'm not afraid of Pithing Needle. The sideboard contains lots of options for the Wish—combo, removal, protection, enchantment/artifact removal, and reccursion. What do you think? Am I on to something awesome or am I putting too much effort into a deck doomed to fail?


Posts Quoted:
Clear All Quotes