Stranded on the periphery of greatness… Making acquaintances and slipping through the cracks…

Staring at a blank page I disappear into my wide-eyed gaze.

A steady diet of cerebral junk food dulls the senses. For all of the bountiful promises of technology, the schism between individuals only grows more pronounced. We are analog creatures stuffing our souls into digital boxes, all the while increasing the severity of our myopia.

Welcome to the future.

[  i don’t usually write anything that’s not nerd-related, but sometimes I feel like I want to branch out. If this isn’t your cup of tea, don’t worry, there will be more Magic/Vintage/MTGO stuff soon. You can help support more of my personal content here:  — My patreon page is not very popular though. I plan on leaving all the donations in there to be used for my next paper Vintage event, hopefully Vintage Champs 2017. Thanks ]  


Fortress of Solitude

America’s Moat Wanted

I’ve been trying to update this blog as often as I have time for. It’s actually a lot of fun and I wish I could do it more. Anyway, here’s an Oath list I’ve been working on. This is an update of a deck I wrote about in June.

The idea here is to be a control deck first and an Oath deck second. We’ve got Moat in the list to make life miserable for much of the format, and we’ve got a second Moat that we can Oath into play called “Blazing (Saddles) Archon”.

My original list didn’t run Supreme Verdict and I was using Sensei’s Divining Top instead of Sylvan Library. I think Verdict is a good option to have in order to deal with Mentor and Pyromancer decks, and it’s another way to protect big daddy Mind Sculptor.


I played a version of this deck in the past and it performed pretty well. The Moat plan worked pretty well, but I ended up having some trouble against Gush decks that I hadn’t anticipated.

The problem I found was that the deck was slow to close out a game. The glacially slow progression tended to give my opponent time to exploit a weakness in my defenses.Blazing Archon and Dragonlord Dromoka are great, but five damage is sort of a slow clock in the Vintage world. I’m not convinced that this is a deal breaker though, the deck still has a lot of positive matchups.

Sylvan Library

I’m hoping that between Griselbrand and Dragonlord Dromoka’s lifelink I’ll be able to draw extra cards with Sylvan without having to worry about paying so much life. Sylvan is insane with Jace and Library of Alexandria, and hopefully it’s enough to keep up with the draw engines that the rest of the format has.

Sylvan Library

Initially I wanted Divining Top instead because I could use it to “hide” cards from Duress or Cabal Therapy by floating them on the top of my deck. In practice this doesn’t come up all that much, and I have found Divining Top to be much easier for my opponent to counter or disrupt.

The somewhat limited test games have shown that Sylvan is absolutely amazing in control mirrors. Against decks that can pressure your life total quickly, it’s not nearly as good. Still I feel comfortable running one at this point.


I made sure to max out on  cantrips to make up for the loss of Demonic and Vampiric Tutor. Four Preordains and the single Ponder/Brainstorm worked pretty well. Lately I have decided to try playing Gitaxian Probe in addition to the other blue cantrips. I had to cut a Preordain and go down to three Mental Missteps to make it work.


Potential Candidates for Creatures

I’ve been wondering if playing Blazing Archon in the main deck is needed or not and recently I have been trying a list that’s essentially the same as the one I posted above but with Consecrated Sphinx in the main deck instead of Archon (moving Archon to the sideboard).

Consecrated Sphinx

I haven’t tested Consecrated Sphinx enough to be sure if I like it or not, but there are a few things about it that I like. Sphinx is easy to cast for this deck, just like Dromoka. I love the idea of having two castable creatures that function well in control matchups. My theory is that I should be able to simply ignore cards like Grafdigger’s Cage and Containment Priest if I have to by landing a Dromoka or Sphinx and controlling the board with Moat or Supreme Verdict.

I’m not particularly excited about the four power on Consecrated Sphinx though. I’ve had more than a few games where I stayed ahead on cards and controlled the board, but couldn’t win fast enough for my tastes. Blazing Archon is a four-turn clock, and Sphinx takes five turns to deal lethal damage.



I’m reasonably content with this sideboard, but I’ll be making changes if I decide I need them.

There aren’t that many dedicated anti-Dredge cards, but there’s a reason for that. I’ve already got Moat, Blazing Archon, and Supreme Verdict in the main deck. If I bring in Pithing Needles, Balance, Strip Mine, Tormod’s Crypt, and Rest in Peace I think that’s more than enough to buy me some time to win.

Against Shops I have Nature’s Claim and Swords to Plowshares, plus Steel Sabotage. I can also bring in Strip Mine to go up to sixteen lands. Pithing Needle is also an option depending on what kind of Workshop deck they’re playing.

I feel that the worst problem is that the slow speed of the deck could make the combo matchups a lot less favorable. Arcane Laboratory is one potential solution, but I’m going to keep brainstorming ideas. It might just be that combo decks are a weakness I’ll have to accept.

Member Berry Pie

I really enjoy playing this deck, and I hope if proves to be good and not just fun. I have a special fondness for Moat and Mana Drain, so perhaps my nostalgia is clouding my judgment! I plan on updating this post or writing a follow up as I gather more information about the decks performance, so stay tuned!

If you’d like to support more content and help me get to Vintage Champs in 2017, click here. Special Thanks to all of you who have become Patrons, helped me build decks, or just been cool and supportive people. I appreciate it more than you know.

My Favorites

Over the past few years I’ve done quite a few articles. In some respects things can become repetitive, but there are also certain articles that stick out to me for various reasons. Here are a few of the articles that I have written that I really enjoyed:

Art of Darkness with Jesper Myrfors

Of all the things I have written, this article is possibly my favorite of all time. This was the second time I interviewed Jesper, and I always enjoyed talking to him about the history of Magic: the Gathering and his involvement in it.

The Dark is often remembered as a sub-par set, but I think of it as a magnificent achievement. I have always been a fan of heavy metal and the “Goth” subculture, so the dark themes in this set made me fall in love with it.

I also like to let the world know just how important that Jesper Myrfors was to the success of Magic. The people making the decisions at Wizards of the Coast wanted to lower overhead on the production costs of MTG by using recycled art from old Dungeons and Dragons sets! The recycled art would have looked “good”, but it would have been generic and not had that original element that made the early sets so memorable.

The art in contemporary Magic sets is excellent, but all the digital art and unyielding art direction makes for a highly homogenized look for each new release. On one hand this does tie all the cards in a set together very well, but on the other hand we lose some of the iconic and unique card arts that we used to get.

Vintage 101: Prison Break

I wrote this article because a reader had asked me for some tips to help him defeat Mishra’s Workshop Prison decks. He let me know that he was a new Vintage player and he found it frustrating and nearly impossible to beat all the Shops decks he was facing. Instead of writing him some hints directly, I let him know that I would dedicate an entire article on how to approach the matchup.

Before writing this article I consulted with various skilled Vintage players to brainstorm ideas. I like to think I’m a decent player, but I’m also willing to admit I’m far from the best out there. People like Niels Thiim, Thomas Dixon, and Ryan Eberhart were kind enough to discuss this topic with me. The combination of my knowledge and theirs added up to something that I think is a useful resource for new Vintage players.

The Eternal Spotlight: Eternal Weekend at Bernies

This article was one of the last articles I wrote for PureMTGO before moving to MTGGoldfish. It’s one of my favorites because several of the decks (and their pilots) that I featured in this article ended up making top eight in that year’s Vintage Championships.

I picked the decks to highlight because I felt that they had been doing well at the time, and because I knew from following the format that those players were very good. Brian Kelly had written a very good article about his Salvager’s Oath deck and after reading it I knew he was a tremendous player. Ryan Eberhart was (and is still) a very talented player, and I felt like Jeskai Delver was the best Gush deck that the format had to offer at the time. Sullivan Brophy had just won the NYSE with Dredge, and I felt like he had the skill and deck list to have another fantastic finish.

Image result for dragonlord dromoka

I wrongly assumed that Martello Shops would be the best performing Workshop deck, and I also didn’t think that Grixis Thieves had the goods to win the event. I wasn’t as aware of the development of Ravager MUD as I should have been though. Grixis combo/control Time Vault decks had been doing poorly on MTGO around that time so I guess I wrote it off.

Vintage 101: Time to Golem

Most of the time I have to keep my opinions somewhat in check. I wasn’t able to just flat-out say that I didn’t want Lodestone Golem restricted, so I focused on presenting both sides of the argument. I do want people to have fun playing Vintage, but I also don’t want to cripple the prison decks in the format either. Luckily Shops have survived in other incarnations, so the world is safe for now (until something ridiculous like Thorn of Amethyst goes on the chopping block).

To the Vintage Community…

I loved writing these articles and I hope you enjoyed reading them just as much. Thanks for all your continued support over the past two years, I really have to say that the entire community has been amazing to me.

There’s also another thing I’d like to state for the record. I’m certainly nobody special and I’m far from the best player out there. I have a ton of respect for the talented players (and Vintage writers) that have come before me. I frequently do research for my work by reading old articles by Menendian, Mark Hornung, Matt Elias, Andrew Probasco, and many more. Without all of you awesome people I simply couldn’t do any of this. I’m really hoping I can make it to Eternal Weekend 2017 so that I can get to feel like part of the entire scene instead of just a faceless MTGO personality too.

If you’d like to see more blog posts and different kinds of content, or if you’d like to support my trip to Champs in 2017 click here.


Some Thoughts on MTGO

The comments expressed in this blog are my own, and in no way reflect the opinions of anyone other than myself. Strap on your tinfoil hat and crack a moxie, because here we go. 

Image result

Magic Online, A Love/Hate Relationship

I love Magic Online, I really do. I’ve tried Cockatrice and Xmage, and it’s a good thing those programs are free because I can’t imagine wanting to pay to play them. I love that MTGO allows me to play Vintage every day, and the client has allowed me to become a skilled Vintage player in a relatively short amount of time. I’ve defeated world-class players in my time on MTGO, and I think that’s due to the fact that I can practice so often.

Now that I’ve made it clear that I do indeed love Magic Online, I’d like to go into the things about it that I absolutely do not like, or that I think should change.

Prizes on MTGO

When Magic Online introduced Play Points I was very unhappy with that change. I didn’t like getting untradeable objects as prizes because they are not nearly as useful as the event tickets they’re supposed to be emulating.

Image result for mtgo play points

 I’ve since accepted the play points change, and for someone like me they aren’t the worst thing in the world. I win a healthy percentage of my matches, but I lose enough to not have to worry about collecting thousands of points. Unfortunately not all players can say such things.

Rich Shay has almost five thousand  play points in his account! In order for him to be able to “spend” them he would have to join multiple limited queues at once, drop during round one, and sell the winnings. It would take hours and hours just to try to eke out some value from that pile of play points. The average value of Magic Online cards is so low that you couldn’t possibly hope to turn play points into an amount of Tickets that was even close to the same value! For example, I once turned a drafts worth of play points (140 I think) into about five tickets. This is much, much lower than the fourteen tickets that 140 play points is allegedly equivalent to.

Rich was kind enough to take a picture of his Play Point total for me…

Doubling Up on Event Costs

The other thing I didn’t like about the play points update was that the cost of daily events doubled! When events cost twice as much it really hurts the players with low win percentages. When events were six tickets a mediocre player didn’t have to feel so hopeless when they paid for an event. Nowadays spending twelve tickets must be a tough sell for those players that rarely win anything! It is no surprise to me that Dailies never increased in popularity after the change.

Image result for mtgo treasure chests

Recently us players got Treasure Chests added to our prize pools. Lucky us! I haven’t been playing dailies for a little while so I haven’t opened any chests, but I have heard a ton of stories about how bad the contents of these things are! Sure, sometimes you’ll win the lottery, but most of the time you’ll be left with a cruddy digital scratch ticket in your hands.

The plan to “fix” treasure chests is to make them tradeable. How will that POSSIBLY fix the problem? Booster packs are tradeable, but they’re worth money because people can enter them in drafts not because people actually open the things! The only people who will want to buy your Treasure Chests from you are casual people who don’t know or don’t care that they’re hemorrhaging money by opening the chests. The chests will end up like the MTGO prize packs were and they’ll be dirt cheap to purchase. I mean, you’ll know how much the prizes you’re playing for are worth, but you won’t be happy with that number.

So, us Magic Online players are now paying more to play and we’re getting less in return. I don’t like that. I know that Wizards can’t give everybody tons and tons of prizes, otherwise that would make those prizes worthless, but I do feel like we could be getting treated better. I have a few ideas about that.

Use Treasure Chests as Bonuses. 

Instead of making the chests replace a known-value prize, just add one or two to the prize pool for the best finishers of an event. I’m not sure what the  exact perfect ratio would be, but I think it could be something like this: For the low-level drafts (pack per win or whatever they’re called now) first place gets a treasure chest. For a Daily Event, going undefeated earns you a chest or two, maybe 3-1 gives you one.

The two-player, heads up queues currently only pay out in play points, which is beyond unexciting. Once upon a time I’d play the heads up queues until I won a draft set, then I’d draft the packs. I can’t bring myself to play one of these things when the only prize is more boring play points. How about finding a way to give the winner something interesting? If you win three of these matches in a row you could win a Treasure Chest. If you participate in say, 30 of these in a month, you get a Treasure Chest when the next MOPR (Magic Online Player Rewards) promos are given out. Leagues should go back to the prizes they used to have, but add some chests to the prize pool.

The idea of opening these Treasure Chests is not inherently bad, they just need to be done in the proper way. If the chests are a bonus, people aren’t going to get so mad when their contents are worthless! People might actually become excited to see the things, and that’s a good thing.

On the topic of the MOPR program (and other promo programs like MOCS). I really feel like the player base could and should be getting more for their money. There are no more six ticket events. The cheapest event is an eight ticket league, and the offerings get more and more expensive as you go on.

I love that MTGO rewards store activity, but I feel like this could be improved. Most of the promos are just not exciting. The promos that I have been excited for were cool enough that I spent twenty or forty dollars in the MTGO store to get them. The event participation promos cost a minimum of sixteen dollars to earn, yet they’re often lackluster as well.

I know it’s not possible to give away something crazy like a Black Lotus in the player rewards program, but I think that there are cheap-ish staples that could easily be made into MOPR cards. Gush was a promo recently, and that’s the kind of thing I’d like to see more of! Also, this program could also be used to give out a single Treasure Chest each month as well. The odds of getting something valuable seem pretty low, and if the threshold for earning one is high enough (say $40-$60 in the MTGO store or something) then there’s no reason you couldn’t get some.

Image result for mtg gush mopr


Redemption and Selling Cards/Collections

I’ve never redeemed a set before, but this program is vital to the health of MTGO. When a new player talks to me about wanting to buy in to Magic Online there’s one concern the all seem to voice. People are afraid to plunk down money on digital objects because if MTGO were to go belly up they’d lose their investment.

I always tell prospective players that buying in to MTGO is safe for a few reasons. I explain that it’s easy to sell off your MTGO account to a dealer like MTGOTraders or Cardhoarder. If people know that it’s easy to convert digital cards into paper money they’re more likely to feel comfortable buying digital objects. Redemption is yet another way that digital objects are turned into physical product, and this does a lot to alleviate people’s completely rational concerns about the digital Magic medium.

Any steps to make redemption harder should be reversed. I know that the redemption policy is a pain for WotC, but without it they could kill their golden goose. After all, selling complete sets also benefits dealers, and dealers are extremely important to the health of Magic Online. Without reputable dealers selling cards through the web it would be difficult to get what you need to build a deck. The fact that you can buy (or trade into) a new deck in ten minutes makes MTGO an incredible asset to anyone looking to test specific decks.

A lot of people seem to be afraid that the redemption policy will be destroyed altogether eventually. I certainly hope that is not the case, because too many cards in the system is not good for anyone. Draft chaff is already cluttering up people’s collections to the point where some folks have multiple accounts just to hold junk cards. Too many extra cards make the common and uncommon staples lower in price than they otherwise would be, which could problem for the value of collections.

The addition of Play Points into the MTGO economy also has affected this aspect of the platform. When Event Tickets were the only currency it made cashing out an account even easier. Under the new system all accounts that participated in any form of constructed tournament will have untradeable objects they’ll be stuck with when they sell their collections. For some folks this won’t be a huge detriment,  but I know that there are plenty of players who have gone infinite several times over with a product they literally cannot give away!

Final Thoughts

Play Points are not all bad. In some ways they have balanced out the prize values for events. If Wizards of the Coast could work on finding a way for people to turn extra play points into something useful then they would be perfectly fine for everyone. I really think that being able to buy packs from the MTGO store with play points would help a lot, or perhaps a prize wall.

Too many prizes would devalue people’s collections, but we are very far away from that being an issue. I sincerely believe that the prize pool across all the tournament offerings could be increased, if only slightly. Giving people more prizes will increase their desire to play, as long as those prizes remain rare enough to be valuable. Perhaps people could be given avatars for participating in events like the Power Nine Challenge or Legacy Challenge. I wouldn’t mind if a play mat feature was added, it sure would be a lot more relevant than that deck box feature (seriously, who cares if Karn or Jace is on the deck box for your Stax deck?).

I sincerely hope that this doesn’t come off as too negative. I really do love MTGO and I play it every day. I think that there are a lot of great people working to make things better, and I know they have a tough job on their hands. Hopefully improvements will be made and the eternal constructed formats I love so much will continue to grow.

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to help support this blog, or to help me travel to Vintage Champs 2017, click here! Feel free to leave any comments, or just send me some delicious spam. Smash me in Vintage on MTGO as Islandswamp, or heckle me on Twitter @josephfiorinijr – Rumble McSkirmish



Eternal Weekend 2017

Hello all!

I’ve been working very hard lately at cranking out additional content and it’s been exhausting but enjoyable. I hope that you all enjoyed reading the two articles I put out last week, and I look forward to releasing a couple more this week. I will also try to do another blog post each week, hopefully a longer one than this.

My new goal for 2017 is to attend Eternal Weekend, and hopefully play a real deck in the Vintage Championships. If you’d like to help with that goal, you can check out my Patreon page here:

I originally stated that I was going to try to get some equipment for producing Vintage videos, but it’s pretty clear that isn’t going to happen any time soon. However I still may be able to make it to E.W. 2017 if I start saving for it now.

This year’s event was pretty great, although it was a little bittersweet watching the action and thinking of how badly I wanted to be there. Thanks to all of you that sent me stories and pics from the events!

Last but not least, thanks to Carl Rodel and Boba Gra for becoming Patrons. I very much appreciate it! I’d also like to thank all the folks who donated physical cards, and all the folks who helped me out when I went to the TMD Open.

I’ll be posting something else soon, or updating this post as I find the time. Thanks!

Help me get to E.W. 2017



Baptism by Fire: My Introduction to Competitive Magic


I have a Magic-related story that I’ve never written about, but I’ve considered it many times. I never found a way to work this material into an article in a way I was comfortable with. Since this blog is accountable only to myself I figured that perhaps this could be a good place to tell this story.

This is the tale of how I peaked in Magic at a young age, qualifying for my first and only Pro Tour at the tender age of sixteen.

St. Albans Vermont, 1995

In 1995 I was a fourteen-year-old high school student and avid Magic player. I had been playing since around the release of Chronicles, building my collection by buying packs of cards with my lunch money.

In the first year of my Magic career there hadn’t been any Magic card shop for my friends and I to play in. When a shop did open up in my little Vermont home town I became a regular customer. My school friends and I spent much of our free time at the shop, and we also met new Magic-playing friends from the surrounding area.

By 1998 I started attending tournaments at the local hobby shop. We didn’t have DCI sanctioning, but we muddled through the events with the help of future Judge and card store owner Jeremy Muir. These tournaments were fun, but Jeremy wanted our group to experience real DCI sanctioned Magic tournaments.

My first experience at a sanctioned event was fun, but it was fraught with beginner mistakes. I had Snow-Covered lands mixed in with my mismatched basic lands and the judge nearly gave me a game loss for it. My youth and inexperience allowed me to receive only a warning, and I kept playing and losing all my matches. I don’t remember a lot about that event, but I do remember meeting Jaime Wakefield there. Jamie was the only Vermonter that had been to a Pro Tour before, so we all were impressed by that.

My second sanctioned Magic tournament raised the stakes dramatically. My friend Jeremy Muir had his own Pro Tour aspirations, and there was a qualifier coming up for Pro Tour Rome. I had never thought about trying to play on the Pro Tour, but I was always interested in tagging along with what my friends were doing.

When Jeremy invited me to the event, I immediately decided to go, and I started working on a deck. Up to this point I had mostly played my own terrible brews, but since this was a big deal I felt I needed to finally make a “net deck”. I fired up my computer and went to the premiere Magic strategy website of the day, “The Dojo”.

The PTQ was going to use a Tempest Block Constructed format, and I couldn’t find any Block decks listed on The Dojo’s “decks to beat” section. I did happen across a Standard deck that I liked called “Suicide Black”, so I took a closer look at that list.

When read the post and deck list for Suicide Black, I realized that the deck was comprised largely of cards from Tempest Block. Basically the idea for a mono-Black aggro deck had been around for a while, but the deck had added a ton of new cards in the last year. Dark Ritual was printed in Tempest, and the block also featured two different 2/2’s for one (Sarcomancy and Carnophage) and four 2/2’s for 2 with evasion (Shadow).

In 1998 Savanah Lions was considered an amazing card because there weren’t many two-power one drops available to players. Having access to eight “Lions”, eight efficient and evasive creatures, and Dark Ritual in the same deck seemed too good to be true.

As good as that creature package was, there was another powerful tool for Suicide Black found in Exodus. Hatred was a card that screamed out to be broken. The Channel/Fireball combo was well-known to all of us at the time, and this card was basically Channel and Howl From Beyond in the same card.

ChannelHowl from Beyondhatred

Once I saw Hatred, I just had to play Suicide Black at the PTQ. I was young, and certainly not the best Magic player in the world, but I had a hunch this deck could be really good. My theory was that by playing this Black Aggro deck I wouldn’t have to make many changes because all of the best cards were legal in Block. Other people would have to find and build entirely new archetypes that exist only in Tempest block.

I don’t recall the exact list I used for the tournament, but I do remember many of the cards. One card in particular that sticks out in my head is Spinal Graft. The Standard Version of Suicide Black used Bad Moon, but there was no analog in block. I went in search of a two-mana enchantment that could add more damage to my clock. Spinal Graft is the card I ended up running in that spot, and as bad as it seems it did a lot of work that day.


My theory was that Spinal Graft would cost the same as Bad Moon, and the three extra damage it provides should do about the same amount of work. I was a little scared about the prospect of getting two-for-one’d, but it also fit very well with the self-destructive “Suicide” theme of the deck. Looking back at that tournament armed with the knowledge I have now, I realize that it wasn’t a great idea. Running creature enchantments is a risky maneuver, and this was no exception. My only saving grace is that the card actually performed very well that day, which could have been a product of luck more than anything.

Once I had my deck nearly completed, I told my mother that I would be going to Montreal, Quebec for a Magic tournament. My mother immediately told me that I could not go, and that it wasn’t open for debate. She did not want her son leaving the country to go to a big city and play some stupid card game. I didn’t try to convince her, but I knew in my heart that I had to go.

Dauthi HorrorDauthi SlayerCarnophageSarcomancyDark RitualHatred

(Pictured above, cards from my deck that were run as four-ofs)

When the day finally came to leave for Montreal, I told my mother that I would be gone to Burlington. Vermont for the day. My mother was the type to never check up on me, at least not at that age, so the plan was perfect. I packed up my Magic cards, which included a deck that was only perhaps 80% complete. I ran out of time trying to put the finishing touches on my list, so I decided to work on it during the hour-long car ride north to Montreal.

The trip to Montreal is one that I had made quite a few times growing up. St. Albans, Vermont is very close to the Vermont/Quebec border, and in those days no special ID was required to cross the border. While heading north on the highway I put on my headphones and I began to listen to “Mechanical Animals” by Marilyn Manson. When one of the lyrics mentioned “the Suicide King”, I made that the name of my Suicide Black deck. I sat in the back of the car, trying my hardest to make the last few card selections.

Once we arrived in Montreal, we headed to the site for the PTQ. The tournament was being held in a ground-level gymnasium type building. My memory of the venue is a bit foggy, but I think the room was used for basketball games when it wasn’t being used for a nerd herd.

Jeremy Muir, Jeremy Holbrook, and I found a table to sit at and began to register our decks. Muir frantically found a few cards for me to round out my deck and sideboard. Then we all began the arduous task of writing down our decks before the event started.

Around this point Jeremy and I spoke about my deck. I said that I felt it would be pretty good, and Jeremy agreed with one major caveat. He noted to me that a mono-Black deck like mine would have no real answer to Light of Day, an enchantment that was likely to be in the sideboards of any White Weenie decks. Tempest block had many cheap and evasive White creatures too, and White Weenie was expected to be a popular deck.


The bane of my existence…

In all honesty, the thought of losing to Light of Day scared the hell out of me. I had paid about $25 to play in the tournament, and that was a lot of money for a highschool student with a minimum wage, part-time job. Still, it was way too late to pick a new deck, so I just swallowed my fear and pressed forward.

Once I was paired with my first opponent, I found my table and got down to the task at hand. Game one went very well, I believe I won the die roll, but I’m not entirely sure. I know that I had an explosive Dark Ritual-fueled turn one that put four or six power on the board. My opponent happened to be playing White Weenie, with all of the Soltari creatures and the best white spells available.

We sideboarded and went into game two, and things took a drastic turn for the worse. I started off well putting out creatures and turning them sideways, but my opponent was one turn ahead of me as he was on the play that game. On turn four he tapped out, looked me in the eye, and dropped Light of Day on the battlefield. I felt a lump in my throat, tried to hold my composure, and conceded game two. Game three happened to be very similar, and even though I had one more turn I was not able to close out the game before my opponent again smugly tossed his color hoser onto the table. I was seriously crushed.

As I sat there picking up my cards I honestly wanted to drop from the tournament right then. It seemed like everyone in the room was older than I was, and I felt suddenly like I was a terrible player and I had no business being here. I thought about how I’d wasted my entry fee, which was a lot of money for me at the time.

“Would they let me have my money back if I just promised to leave right now?”, I wondered to myself. “Nope. They’ll just laugh at you for asking such a foolish question, just suck it up and move on”.

I didn’t know a lot about tournament math back then, but I remembered my friend Muir telling me that losing in the early rounds was bad, and that losing more than once was probably a death sentence as far as a top eight berth was concerned. I knew I wasn’t in a good spot, but I decided to stick it out. My round one opponent had crushed me pretty quickly, so I headed out to the streets of Montreal to find something to eat before round two started.

The next rounds are somewhat hazy in my memory. It was a long time ago, and I forget exactly how many rounds we played. What I do remember are specific incidents that stick in my mind, like the lack of grace in some of my opponents.

Round two I was paired against Counter Phoenix, the alleged best deck in the block format. I’m pretty sure that every one of the subsequent rounds had me paired against one of these decks, or a similar build, because that’s the only other archetype that I can remember from the Swiss rounds. The thing I remember the most is that starting in round two I just kept absolutely smashing my opponents, rarely going to game three.

After my wins started to rack up, I got a deck check. I wasn’t worried, but I found it strange that I actually got more than one deck check in the Swiss. I distinctly remember feeling like the judges had a hard time believing I was doing so well in a field full of older and more experienced players. On the bright side, all the scrutiny from the judges just proved that I’m an honest player.

The next major incident in the Swiss that I can remember is a judge call. During game two of a match against a Blue Red Counter Phoenix deck I was about to win the game by casting Hatred. I had enough mana from Dark Rituals to play it, but just in case my opponent had something to mess up my play I tried to be cautious.

I added five mana to my mana pool during combat and I said, “I’m casting Hatred on my Dauthi Slayer for… How much life are you at?”

I stopped myself and checked the game state because I didn’t want to pay more life than I had to. My opponent told me his life total, and that’s when he called the judge. My opponent and the judge spoke to each other in French for a minute, then the judge told me that I had effectively cast Hatred for zero life because I failed to announce a number before I asked my opponent his life total. I was shocked and it certainly didn’t seem right to me, but I guess I felt that I couldn’t do anything about it. I didn’t know that I could have tried to ask for a different ruling or anything.

I ended up losing that game, but my opponent died a quick and painful death in game three, so I feel that I got my revenge. Shortly after that match Muir let me know that I had squeaked into the top eight, and I was ecstatic.

The Top Eight

My first opponent in the top eight was named Alan Webster. Alan is the only opponent whose name I can  remember because he was a fellow Vermonter. He was much older than I, and he was known as a very good player. Alan had tested for this event with local Vermont legend Jaime Wakefield, and he was prepared to take it down.

Alan was on some sort of Blue Black control deck with Recurring Nightmare. The plan of his deck was to control the game long enough to get to a point where he was recurring Scrivener over and over again, which gave him infinite removal and Counterspells.

ScrivenerRecurring Nightmare

Alan’s deck was very strong, and although I had taken game one quickly, by game two he was beating me senseless. Alan skillfully avoided losing long enough to eke out a win, and we moved on to game three.

Game three played out much like the second had. I was able to create a frightening board presence early on and I applied a ton of pressure. Alan slowly started to crawl back by blocking with Bottle Gnomes and gaining life, then recurring some value creatures. Soon he was able to start attacking, and we began a damage race.

By gaining life at opportune times Alan was now sitting in a position to win with an alpha strike on his next turn. He passed the turn to me and I surveyed the board state.

I looked over at my adversary and said, “You’re going to win next turn unless I can do three more damage next turn.” Alan simply smiled at me and looked at the battlefield. I knocked on the top of my deck, and I peeled a Spinal Graft and windmill slammed it down on one of my Shadow creatures.

“I’ll attack with everything”, I said. Alan looks at his hand, the battlefield, and back at me. His smile suddenly vanished, and he started angrily picking up his cards. I knew that I had become the king of all lucksacks, but I didn’t care. I was just too happy.

I spent more time waiting for the next two rounds to start than I spent winning them. I actually remember very little about those matches, since I won each game in a short amount of time. Tempest block was a slow format, and I was playing Dark Rituals and eight Savannah Lions. Even one of my slower hands seemed unstoppable much of the time.

When I finally defeated my last opponent, I was physically trembling with nervous energy. I was over-tired and exhilarated at the same time. The head judge walked over to me and presented me with my envelope. Inside that envelope was a letter of congratulations, I had been invited to Rome to play on the Magic Pro Tour.

Along with the invite came a bunch of sealed product. I started opening packs out of habit, and the judge kindly asked me to wait until I left to open them. I realized that it was very late by then, and the staff just wanted to leave. My opponent had received a pack of Italian Legends in his prize pool, and he offered it to me for a small stack of Tempest boosters. I accepted the trade, because I had always wanted to open a pack of Legends.

Jeremy Muir had stayed and watched me win the event while Jeremy Holbrook had gone and slept in his car. As Muir and I walked up to the car and piled in, Holbrook awoke and asked me how I had finished. We told him I won, and it took him a few minutes before he actually believed we were serious.

The trip home was amazing.The bright lights of the city slowly dimmed as we left Montreal, all the while i told Holbrook the story of what had just happened.

The Aftermath

I wasn’t sure what I was going to tell my mother when I got home. I couldn’t tell her that I had gone to Montreal, but I had to tell her what had happened. I ended up saying that I had won the tournament, but I stuck with lie about its location.

I told my mom that I was now invited to go to Italy to play Magic on the biggest stage in the game. I let her know about the travel prize, and the prestige that comes with the Pro Tour.

Unfortunately for me, my mother wasn’t interested in Magic. Without even entertaining the idea for a second she told me that there was no way I could go to the Pro Tour. I tried to make my case as to why I should take the trip, but it just didn’t matter. The travel award wouldn’t have even paid for my plane ticket, let alone one for my mother. I remember her final argument was that the only way I could go would be if she could escort me, and since we couldn’t afford it, I just wasn’t going. I offered to pay for the trip with money from my job, but she just wasn’t going to back down.

I missed my opportunity to play on the PT, and although I tried a few other rimes to qualify for an American Pro Tour I wasn’t able to make it. By the year 2000 I had given up on the idea, and my decade long hiatus from the game began.

I still sometimes wish I had kept grinding, because never getting to use my Pro Tour invite has always kept me wondering what it would have been like to go.

Underground Sea

Islandswamp on MTGO – @josephfiorinijr on Twitter – Vintage:101 on MTGGoldfish Thanks for reading! Support additional content @

Patreon Started!

Hey folks. Just a quick post to let everyone know I’ve started a Patreon. I plan on using this to expand the amount of content I’m able to create. For instance, this blog never really got anywhere because I couldn’t justify spending the time on it. Now I have a good reason to use this again!

Anyway, thanks for reading, feel free to paw through the old stuff and hit me up with feedback. Also, I have a partially written blog post about winning a block format ptq in the late 90’s, I’d love to finish that if anyone is interested in reading it just let me know.

Back Again

It’s been a long time since I posted anything on this blog. I think it was ten months ago I last posted something. I started this blog to give myself a way to write things other than Magic: the Gathering articles. I became so busy with my writing that I just never got around to posting.

In general things have been trending in a positive direction for me. My wife and son live in a nicer, newer apartment than the previous one. My writing was noticed by a larger website than PureMTGO, and I ended up writing for MTGGoldfish (which I absolutely love).

I always worked very hard on my material for PureMTGO, and I posted links to my work everywhere I possibly could to try cultivate an audience. I think it’s fair to say that it paid off. My work is read by many more people now that I’ve switched to the Goldfish.

It’s strange how little things changed since the first publication of my new column, “Vintage 101”. All of a sudden my social media accounts began to grow on their own, which is pretty cool for the most part. My screen grabs of MTGO games no longer get immediately pulled from the Facebook group “ModoPhotos” anymore. I don’t know for sure if that’s related to my position as a weekly Magic writer, but it sure is an odd coincidence.

I’m enjoying the writing, and I hope to continue for the foreseeable future. I’ve even considered branching out into writing about non-Vintage, non-Magic things. My plan is to use this outlet at WordPress to test the waters. If I end up writing more blog posts that get positive feedback, then I would consider pursuing that more.

So there’s the update. Most of my old posts have been deleted for being substandard or just plain annoying and whiny. Look for more in the future!

Deleted Scenes from The Eternal Spotlight: How to import a deck.

[This blog post consists of material that was originally intended for my article series “The Eternal Spotlight”. After writing this section, I decided that while it was good information to have, I would cut it, post it here, and add a link to it. I’m sure that the majority of my readers either know or do not otherwise need this information, and I didn’t want to make people have to waste time scrolling past it. Those of you who need this info hopefully found it here. Thanks! And if you ever wanted to know a little more about me, you can browse my other blog posts and you can even be the first person to like them. Seriously, this place is like a supermassive black hole on the information superhighway. Nobody actually has read it, as far as I can tell. ENJOY IT!]

How to add a new deck to your arsenal.

This part, like the deck lists that came before it, is geared towards new players. If this isn’t applicable to you, I’m sorry. For those of you who want to build one of these decks, Importing the lists is the easiest way.

Simply find one of these decks in downloadable form (Wizard’s articles will have this feature, as will MTGGoldfish), or create it yourself by adding all of the cards to a simple text file.

To make a simple text file that MTGO can read, follow exactly the format of the following deck list. This is a list for one of my Steel City Vault decks (you can just cut and paste this list too, if you want to use it!


2 Dack Fayden
4 Mana Confluence
1 Ponder
1 Gifts Ungiven
4 Seat of the Synod
3 Thoughtcast
2 Burning Wish
2 City of Brass
1 Imperial Seal
1 Memory Jar
1 Tolarian Academy
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Vampiric Tutor
4 Force of Will
1 Hurkyl’s Recall
1 Mox Pearl
1 Regrowth
1 Black Lotus
1 Time Walk
1 Mox Ruby
1 Timetwister
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Emerald
1 Wheel of Fortune
1 Mox Jet
1 Sol Ring
4 Mox Opal
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Lotus Petal
1 Time Vault
1 Mana Vault
1 Tinker
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Brainstorm
2 Goblin Welder
2 Voltaic Key
1 Fire/Ice
1 Thirst for Knowledge
1 Ancient Grudge

1 Void Snare
1 Vandalblast
1 Myr Battlesphere
2 Nihil Spellbomb
3 Nature’s Claim
1 Tendrils of Agony
1 Transmute Artifact
1 Mind Twist
1 Windfall
1 Balance
2 Flusterstorm


As long as your deck list looks like that, and all of the cards are spelled and capitalized correctly, MTGO will recognize it if you import the list.


Then, click on add new deck, import, and pick the appropriate list. Once you’ve got the deck you want to play, add the missing cards to your wishlist with a right-click.


MTGOTraders bots will have every card that you’re missing at a reasonable cost, so you can just go to one of their bots and start a trade, and use the “Search Tools” / “Wishlist” selections to get everything you need in an instant.


This entire process is very fast, but if you want to take your time you can also build from scratch the old-fashioned way. If any of my readers try this method, and have trouble, you can look for me online and I’ll give you a hand. I don’t know how many players don’t know about this deck importing feature, but for those it helps I think it’s worth the space in this article.

[In the end, as I mentioned previously, I didn’t want to use up the space in my article. I felt that it would be too annoying to those who didn’t need the information]

So folks, that’s how you import a kick-ass Vintage deck. Now go make that deck and lay the smack down!

While you’re at it, leave a comment if you read any of my other blog posts. I could probably find the time to write more if I knew people wanted to read it!

Joe Islandswamp Fiorini

The King of Nothing.