Friday I'm In Love (with Groningen)

I must take a break in the siab00rg/n00bcon preparations to do a short write-up about the Paladins of the North 2022 tournament last weekend. You know how after a lot of concerts you get the feeling that this was the best thing you ever seen? That is exactly the feeling about last weekend, that it was the greatest OS event ever. Maybe it was, maybe Cabin in the Woods was better. But it's Friday and I'm in love with the Dutch community.

In Gothenburg almost every player is lazy and never travel. I also have this issue but to get me to visit your event you got to get somewhat of a personal connection between me, the organizer, and the event. KungMarkus did this for Arvika in 2018 and now I haven't missed a single event there since. I didn't really know anyone in the Dutch community, but Nick Cramer visited Arvika in 2019 and strange things happened, and we ended up in a car ride from Arvika to Mölndal together. Nick convinced me to visit Paladins of the North in 2020 but it got cancelled due to covid so why not do 2022 instead?

Every trip starts with the picture of the airport beer.

The worst thing is I never take enough pictures, but a lot of other guys took great pictures so try to find those (to everyone I stole pictures from sorry). The trip was very uneventful, sadly I couldn't get the same train as Stebbo who had delayed plane + outside of EU passport control. When the Dutch train system works it's easy and great. But I arrived at the hotel finding some old and new friends waiting to take me out to dinner. The pork Schnitzel and the company was amazing. The plans for this evening were Brawl and I sported a DFB-style King Suleiman deck with a 0-2 record in my hands prior to this tournament.

Picture by Nick: Dinner with new friends and the Cramer's

Picture by Nick: AKA the best picture of the weekend

At least I got to play with a lot of cards I never played before.

The venue was packed, this was the site for the main event three years ago

We'll get the results out quickly and then we can focus on stuff that matters. The tournament was run as a 4 round best of 1 swiss.
R1: win against Sol'Kanar the Swamp King (sorry I forgot the name)
R2: loss against Stangg (Nick Cramer, Pyrotechnics, Falling Star and Burn is brutal)
R3: loss against Stangg (Thomas Meddens, main deck Flashfires will wreck you)
R4: win against Uncle Istvan (Evert Visser, even if you play a t2 tome with Workshop it won't beat WW)

Timmy doing some Diamond Valley, Stangg, Lure shenanigans

If there is not enough room you play on a piano

What I was not used to from OS tournaments is that almost everyone came and introduced themselves to you (often bringing a beer to you as well). Coming from abroad and being "known" visiting another country really is great. I've never talked IRL to people like Koos, Erwin, Henk, Dyan, Ron, Evert, Timmy, Anies, and the other guys before this event but it felt like we were old friends. I have played OS since 2012 but it feels like it was during COVID in 2020 I really started playing the game as it was intended. 

Picture by Nick: I just ordered a round and some Dutch guy thought we needed more beer.

After listening to "Erwin and Henk goes techno" we got to bed around 4AM after Stebbo managed to order some kick-ass döner pizza roll thingie. Got a couple of hours good sleep. Everything is close in Groningen so we lived around 5-10 minutes walk from everything. I picked up some panini that was supposed to go in the oven (I had no oven) and a coke zero for breakfast, it was by far the worst meal of the whole weekend. I went to the venue and OMG this place is beautiful. So the venue Vera is a place that is run by volunteers and has been supporting alternative and underground music since the 80s. It's great that these places exist in a country that is mostly known for trance, techno, and house music.

Picture by Nick: the venue with the feature area on the stage. Me on the right playing Stebbo round 1.

Since Svante won Cabin in the Woods and BSK with two different versions of Arabian Aggro, I was thinking about playing that at this tournament. But after having a mediocre finish in Arvika with one version and not really loving the list I had to find something else.

The list I considered playing

I was really on the plan of playing 4 Lightning Bolts, 4 Chain Lightning and 3 Psionic Blasts and having 3 Su-Chi, 2 Copper Tablets and the 4th Psionic Blast in the sideboard. This to me feels like the staple and best build of 12 bolt decks. I play-tested a bit with Svante and we ended up with a list for me revisiting my beloved Fantasy Zoo from 2017 (what people tend to call LionBoltDib these days, argh these new players). We also wanted to test Ironclaw Orcs out so I ended up with what I think is a very solid list.

The list I ended up playing. I really need to get white-bordered Su-Chi's

We were around 75 players and they still went for 6 rounds + a top 8. The arrangement was stellar and we had a lunch break after round 2 and then we got a tapas buffet after round 6. As the city centre is small it's easy to have lunch in an hour. I went out for lunch with Stebbo, Koos and one of Koos colleagues. We went for the "fresh" alternative falafel, I ordered the version that's as hot as possible. The only one crying from the food was Koos :)

Maybe not Malmö-good but still tier 1

So back to the tournament, I was paired against Stebbo in round 1. I had a chill in my spine because he is one of the two OS players that has beaten me several times and I have never gotten a win against (the other one is Mano). It's never nice to play against one of your good mates but I got the win and it felt great. I had a great start to the tournament finishing 4-0, did some really nice plays and played pretty solidly. 

There were raffles after every round. I didn't win this original Melissa Benson art but I won one of those old boxes for cards I gave to Florian because I had it already

In round 5 I was going to play on stream against the big red deck sporting lots of big threats (no swords in my deck), Blood Moons, City in a Bottle and even Flashfires. I mulligan to 5 in game 1 and got destroyed in two quick games. The last round I played against the nicest guy sporting an all alpha-beta deck, yet again mulligan to 5 g1 and he DTed for an Ancestral. G2 I never got into at all.

Round 1: 2-1 vs Stebbo on something Fantasy Zoo-ish
Round 2: 2-0 vs Angelique Den Brok on White Weenie
Round 3: 2-0 vs Jeff de Nijs on 4c Midrange
Round 4: 2-0 vs Michel Schroers on Ehrnam on Ice
Round 5: 0-2 vs Wilfred van Doornik on Big Red
Round 6: 0-2 vs Dyan de Rochemont on Alpha-Beta Midrange

Mystery booster sold by the Dutch vendor Wijnand for 25€

The contents of my booster, some really cool stuff in here (Giant Shark)

I think this was the first tournament in my OS career I really didn't care if I didn't make top 8. I had a great weekend; got to learn to know some awesome guys, had some great food, played Magic at the best venue and was out partying until 4am. Maybe I should just start bringing spice decks? After the tournament we went downstairs to listen to the Frisian HC band "Bloodsucker", this is the first time I've been to a concert 10 metres from the old school venue.

Picture by Stebbo: Bloodsucker delivering some tunes

The place was in an old cellar where you almost hit the roof. Stebbo, Nick and Timmy joined me for the show. I brought ear protection, which was great, I stood in the mosh pit for a while but after bumping my head in the roof a couple of times I joined the others in the sideline. Nick did some cleaning of the venue; I had a couple of beers with Henk and Erwin. We then went for "The Irish Pub" and then some people tried to find a place to dance. We met up with Nick's wife at some place that is going to be a Mexican restaurant in the (not so near) future. I don't remember much but there was beer, vodka shots, mezcal, dancing and almost a fight. We got home at 4am again after Stebbo ordered the same döner pizza roll as the day before. At the döner place we found a Spanish OS player that "went to bed" at 11pm, but apparently a 4am pizza is what he needed.

The Mexican party, lots of alcohol was involved

I had a 9pm flight from Schiphol on Sunday so my initial plan was to have a brunch, maybe look for some records or catch a museum. We met up with some people for a brunch, Mari had been out drinking to 8am so he joined in a bit later.

Picture by Koos: Sunday brunch

There can never really be a perfect trip and ALL trains in the whole Netherlands were cancelled on Sunday. Not being able to take trains might be an issue. Mari was going home to his family, Stebbo was meeting his gf in Amsterdam, and I was going to fly home. We just joined Koos, Nick and Nick's wife for a trip home to Nick instead. I rode with Koos and Mari and there were some strange discussions going on, a lot of "there is no winner in this story".

Turtle-spotting at Nick's place

For us this was an actual bonus, we got to watch turtles in the greenhouse and eat amazing Mexican quesadillas with hot sauce and beans. Is it possible to get bad food in The Netherlands? All praise goes to Nick for hosting us on his recovery day and then driving Mari to Zwolle and me and Stebbo to Schiphol. I got home after midnight and was lucky to have a recovery day on Monday and had to get back to work on Tuesday.

The loot I brought home, that Paladin patch is sick.

It's Friday and I am in love. I am in love with old school Magic. I am in love with this awesome Dutch community. I am in love with Groningen. I am in love with all my friends I got from playing this game. 

And to Nick and Koos, we don't deserve the joy and comradery you bring to the global OS community.

Cya all at siab00rg and n00bcon in a week. If we haven't met before, please come and introduce yourself to me. I'm the big fat guy wearing a black kutte with ripped off arms and an X-files patch on the back :)