April. I had just booked a venue for Swedish Nationals, capped at 36 people. That should probably suffice, in light of the attendance of 18 players at last year’s Nationals, right? Shortly thereafter, Erkka “Prote” Jouste hits me up on the Premodern Discord and asks if the event is open for him and a few other Finnish Premodern enthusiasts. “Sure, just let me know how many!”. The same evening I get a list of 13 (!) confirmed players—talk about mobilization! I released the remaning slots on a first-come first-serve basis, and they were all gone within an hour, with a dozen people on the waiting list. The hype was real.
Fortunately, I managed to book a somewhat larger venue (the same as for last year, as it happens), able to accomodate ten more players. A few cancellations and last-minute registrations later, everyone who wanted to play got a chance to do so. And so, on a lovely summer Saturday on the 8th of June in Stockholm, 46 players entered the battlefield to determine who would be the Swedish National champion in Premodern. That’s quite a crowd, and the biggest Premodern tournament to date, actually, surpassing last year’s Euro Champs in October with 43 players. But the scene has indeed grown since then, both inside and outside of Sweden.
Besides the immense glory—and the Swedish-Finnish rivalry, which added an extra dimension—these were the prizes at stake.
Since it’s not that clear from the photo, that’s an Odyssey starter in the winner’s cup, an Odyssey and an Invasion starter as third prize, an Onslaught starter as fourth prize, promo Counterspells to each of place 5–8, whom also got to draft five playsets. The first and the second place also got decent cash prizes that could help cover travel expenses to this year’s European Championships in Madrid 19 October. That will be an awesome event, by the way, but more about that another time. The art prints, Orcish Settlers by Pete Venters and Bounty of the Hunt and Kjeldoran Outpost by Jeff A. Menges, were raffled out among all players finishing all Swiss rounds. Oh, and then there’s the Cursed Scroll to the cursed player ending up in ninth place, as is becoming tradition.
The starting field
The field of decks looked as follows:
- 12 Midrange (2 Terra-Geddon/Clysm, 3 The Rock, 1 RW Tax-Rack, 1 Survival Madness, 2 Deadguy Ale, 1 Hunting Grounds, 1 GW Tron, 1 UR Stifle-Nought)
- 12 Combo (1 Aluren, 3 Bargain, 1 Clerics, 1 Dementia Drake, 2 Devourer, 1 FEB, 1 Pattern-Rector-Ghoul, 1 TurboLand, 1 UB Stifle-Nought)
- 9 Control (5 UW Standstill 2 4c Control, 2 Psychatog)
- 9 Prison (4 Stasis, 4 Tinker, 1 Survival Opposition)
- 4 Aggro (2 Goblins, 1 Elves, 1 Land Destruction Burn)
I plan to do a separate post having a closer look at the metagame and the decks, but for now, let’s just note a few things. This tournament was a breakout for combo decks, accounting for around a quarter of the field. An equally large share of the field was filled with, broadly speaking, mid-range decks, and the remaining half was split between blue-based control decks, prison strategies and aggro decks. The low turnout of aggro decks is what stands out most, but I guess that noone felt like playing Sligh or Suicide Black on this occasion. When going beyond the broad archetype categories, we see that there is a good amount of variety in the decks played, e.g. there are nine distinct combo decks!
As for the players present, there was, beside the Finnish crew, a good variety of people from different parts of Sweden, some old and some not so old. To name some, the youngest player in the room was probably Vidar Hesselman, who took down the (less glorious) official Nationals (Standard + Draft) the weekend before. The Vintage Nationals champ Mikael Lindén was there. The runner-up from the Euro Champs, Erik “Sigismund” Sundberg, aka the Pink Prison grandfather, was also there. Old School aficionado Svante Landgraf was there. Pro Tour (what’s it called these days?) veteran Joel Larsson was there, as last year, but had to drop out because of illness coming and going throughout the day. There was certainly not a lack of competent players in the room—or as Seb put it “half of the players are here to have fun, half of the players are here to win”. With that said, we also missed some people who couldn’t make it, like Per Rönnkvist, Per Algander, Samuel Korsell and Martin Lindström, as well as last year’s champ Jonas Lefvert, and the runner-up Martin Sahlberg. Hope you can make it next time!
Six rounds of Swiss were played, followed by a top 8. Here are some snapshots from the Swiss (click to enlarge).
For those of you who missed the live stream and have a day or so to spare, make sure to catch up on the stream videos, which are now up on YouTube.
Part 1 (round 1–2)
Part 2 (round 3–6 + top 8)
Got it? Excellent. You might have caught a glimpse of yours truly in the commentators’ booth as well, inbetween brewing coffee, tending to the bar and doing all sorts of practical stuff throughout the day.
The tournament proceeded quite smoothly, with all but a couple of people playing all of the Swiss rounds. There was a clean cut to the following top 8:
- Ville Kaukoranta (Full English Breakfast)
- Erik Sundberg (UW Standstill)
- Erik Björnholm (The Rock)
- Mattias Berggren (Dementia Drake)
- Tomi Leung (Stasis)
- Jeff Ecklund (UR Stifle-Nought)
- Mikael Lindén (Devourer)
- Erik Gunnars (The Rock)
Overall, that’s a really sweet mix of decks in the top 8 (scroll down to the bottom of the article to see all the decks). The Rock and UR Stifle-Nought should be familiar to those who follow this blog, as they recently took the first and second place, respectively, at the local Bromma Bash tournament (with Jeff piloting his UR deck there too). Full English Breakfast has already proven itself in the Euro Champs last year (see Joakim Jansson’s primer here), and Stasis too, in the Italian Nationals last year.
This leaves us with two lesser known, though spicier, combo decks. On fourth place, we thave the web wizard himself, Mattias “Slanfan” Berggren, whom you have to thank for this website. He played his signature Dementia Drake combo deck—pretty much the same list that has been around since the start in the /decks section. The idea of this deck is to set up an infinite mill combo with Iridescent Drake, Altar of Dementia and Abduction. The combo usually starts off by chaining Gamekeepers, to get Abduction into your own graveyard.
The Dementia-Drake deck also includes a nifty transformational sideboard plan with Oath of Druids and the heavy-hitters Akroma, Angel of Wrath and Phantom Nishoba.
The second combo deck, played by Mikael Lindén, is equally goofy. The idea is to grow a Phyrexian Devourer and then sacrifice it for a lethal Fling, or to mill out the opponent with Altar of Dementia. This works since the sacrifice trigger on Phyrexian Devourer (it’s sacrifice rather than bury according to the errata) is a state-based trigger, meaning it will not trigger again while the “power 7 or higher” condition holds. This means that you can keep activating and resolve the grow ability with the sacrifice trigger on the stack. The deck makes great use of Tinker, to find either Phyrexian Devourer or Altar of Dementia.
The other possible Tinker targets in the deck, not counting the mana stones, are Tangle Wire and Defense Grid for buying time and protecting against instant speed artifact removal and counterspells, the latter being especially problematic for the deck since sacrificing is part of the cost of both Tinker and Fling. Lastly, the deck includes Impulse and Fact or Fiction for finding the combo pieces. Fact or Fiction is an especially interesting choice, as it also gives the deck some grinding power, and it can be cast e.g. during your own upkeep even when Tangle Wire is on the board. It also bumps the converted mana cost of the decks a bit compared to cheaper draw spells. I was told that this could actually be relevant if you need to activate Altar of Dementia late in the game.
In light of these two combo decks, the real breakout card in this tournament, besides Tinker, was Altar of Dementia—who could see that one coming, honestly?
The top 8 played out as follows. In the quarterfinals, Ville K (Full English Breakfast) beat Erik G (The Rock); Mikael L (Devourer) beat Erik S (UW Standstill); Erik B (The Rock) beat Jeff E (UR Stifle-Nought) featured on the stream and Tomi L (Stasis) beat Mattias B (Dementia Drake).
Here are a few pics from the top 8 (click to enlarge).
In the semi-finals, Ville K (Full English Breakfast) beat Tomi L (Stasis) and Mikael L (Devourer) beat Erik B (The Rock) featured on the stream (last game).
And in the finals, Mikael L (Devourer) beat Ville K (Full English Breakfast). The match ended 2–0 and was featured on the stream. That means Mikael Lindén is the Swedish National champ in Premodern—congratulations! And good job defending the home turf versus the Finnish threat, that was close!
Although Mikael is a Magic veteran, this was actually Mikael’s first Premodern tournament—well played with a very clever deck! Mikael and Joakim Almelund were the only ones playing the deck in the tournament (Joakim went 3–3), but the deck is the product of a collective brewing effort by a larger group of Gothenburg-based players, apparently having worked on it for a pretty long time, keeping it secret until this occasion. So props to Joakim Almelund, Björn Arnö, Kaj Laesö Buch, Arvid Hedström, Mikael Lindén, Martin Lindström and Erik Sundberg (I hope I didn’t miss anyone) for this cool deck. It kind of thrills me that there are actually teams working on Premodern tech like this, and it shows that there is still uncharted deck building territory to explore—keep the brews coming!
But wait, how did it go for the Bargain decks, some of you might wonder? Interestingly, two out of three Bargain players, both of them Finnish, went 4–2 and ended up in ninth and tenth place. Max Sjöblom was properly rewarded for his ninth place finish…
Lastly I want to thank some persons who helped out making this event happen. In particular, I want to thank Mattias “Slanfan” Berggren for making all the digital cog-wheels spin under the hood, in particular setting up the online deck registration system, which worked really great, and also for patiently solving some pairing issues before the last round. Lots of thanks also to Daniel “Paddan” Sunhede who helped me book the initial venue and set up the final one; to Sebastian “Seb Celia” Bladh for the streaming show (and for being Seb of course); to Gordon Andersson for making the stream happen and for help with booking the venue; to Jacob Malmström for judging the tournament flawlessly; and to Ariel Vicente for the awesome poster designs. Special good guy credits go to Svante Landgraf who, after winning the artwork lottery after the Swiss rounds, picked the Orcish Settlers print and snap-handed it over to Mattias. Apparently they had just talked about how Mattias wanted that particular print badly. Well, played sir. 🙂 Lastly, thanks also to the whole Finnish crew for making the trip and for lots of positive vibes throughout the day (and night)!
Keep an eye on the blog the coming weeks as I expect some more reports coming up. Until then, I’ll catch you in the Premodern social media channels, where you’re welcome to discuss the article.