Starting in February of this year, I began hosting a series of monthly tournaments online through the New England Old School (NEOS) Facebook group. The purpose of these monthly tournaments was to build the NEOS community and get people playing games with a little bit of structure and competition. It is difficult to do a straight Swiss style tournament in an online setting, so I decided to do it with Groups, much like the FIFA World Cup. Groups, usually with six people in each, were randomly assigned and everyone would play everyone in the group for a best-of-three match using the Atlantic Old School Magic Rules and B&R. I figured that this way I could set up the groups, everyone would know who they are playing, and can schedule their matches accordingly. The first tiebreaker in any situation was the head-to-head match-up, and with everyone in a group playing everyone else, that made things pretty easy to figure out. Eventually, a winner of the group would come out on top, and that person would advance to the knockout stage, again just like the World Cup.
I came up with a point system where even if you did not win the group, consistency and participation were valued. So, every time you won a match in the group stage, you got a point. An additional point is awarded once you complete all of your group stage matches. I wanted to encourage people to play all of the matches. Playing the matches is important, as that interaction with each other helps build community. Plus, it is playing Magic, which is of course a lot of fun. Additional points were awarded if you won the group, and every victory in the knockout stage was awarded an additional point as well. Finally, the Champion of the month would win three points, and the runner-up was awarded one bonus point. Typically, the Champion would run the table and end up with 12 points in a single month (5-0 in the group stage is 5 points, a bonus point for completing all matches makes 6, bonus point for group champion is 7, then the 1 point for each Top 8 victory prior to the finals and 3 points for winning the finals). I would then record all these points for everyone in a spreadsheet, and after five months of competition, the points were tallied, so finally… we have a Top 8 for the Season 1 of the NEOS Monthly Online Tournament Series!
Here are the players, beginning with 8th place:
8th Place: Dave Firth Bard — 26 Points, 1x Top 8, May Champion
A name we all recognize as a pillar of this 93/94 format and true friend to all. Dave came into this monthly series with a very specific goal and limitation. Dave wanted to run nothing but budget-friendly, usually completely mono-colored decks that could be made for the approximate cost of a competitive deck in Standard ($200-$250). The cards he actually played with might have cost more, as Dave certainly has an affinity for dark round Alpha corners, but there would be a cheaper option available if someone wanted to make a similar deck. This is quite the brewing restriction, as it meant he played no power, no duals, and no Chaos Orb in any of the five months of competition. This was a true challenge and his consistency every month was bolstered by a breakout month in May where he swept away the competition in an undefeated month and took down the Gold Star.
Age: 36 (aka “squarely in the demographic”)
Hometown: Albany, New York
Occupation: nonprofit fundraiser
Started playing Magic story: March, 1995, Boy Scout trip to Boston. The barracks at the Charlestown Navy Yard. A group of five or six boys, all sitting on the floor in a big circle, one glorious multiplayer free-for-all game. I saw a Frozen Shade with like eight or nine +1/+1 counters piled onto it, and I was hooked from that point on.
Favorite card: Pendelhaven
Favorite art: Repentant Blacksmith
Magic accomplishments: No bona fides outside of old school, I have never played a sanctioned constructed event in my life. LOBSTERCON Top 8, NEOS Monthly winner (May 2019), but most proud of killing some dudes with Channel + Fireball at the original Wizard’s Tournament in 2018.
Crazy/fun Magic story: Some recency bias at work here but I lost a game to Power Monolith last night despite casting Energy Flux turn 1 on the play, on his turn 2 he puts down a second Island, goes Lotus, Monolith, tap both Islands for Power Artifact, use combo to cast Rocket Launcher. My next turn, I fail to rip a Disenchant, on his turn 3 upkeep I’m dead! This is why we play Old School.
Why Old School MTG? Looks like I just answered this question! Also, the people and the hangs. And weirdly, the evolution of the meta in contemporary Old School, which is a funny thing to say when talking about a static card pool, but it’s true.
Anything else you want to say about yourself? It’s an honor and a privilege to volunteer as an organizer for the Old School community 🙂
7th Place: Jeff Grasso — 28 Points, 3x Top 8, March Runner-Up
Jeff Grasso has been a staple of the New England Old School scene since the very early days of its founding in 2016. He was a consistent performer every month with his patented RB Troll Disco Ponza builds, which combined the best of what the chaotic dark arts have to offer. Jeff is a man known for his love of all things Old School Magic. He even got into the holiday spirit with his deck photo in the shape of a heart for Valentine’s day.
Name: Jeff Grasso
Hometown: Torrington, CT
Occupation: Project Manager
Started playing Magic story: I first was introduced to Magic at Boy Scout Summer camp in 1995. I was 13 years old. I remember the first card I saw was a Force of Nature, and something about it just drew me in. I watched a couple of scouts play and was curious about the game. I bought some cards after that and a couple of my friends and I started playing and was hooked since.
Favorite card: So many good choices for this one. Ancestral Recall because it’s one of best (if not the best) cards in the game. Chaos Orb because it’s the best removal in the format. Library of Alexandria because the card advantage it provides can just win games on its own. Erhnam Djinn because Erhnamgeddon is probably my favorite deck. It’s hard to pick just one 🙂 But if I had to, my favorite would probably be the Chaos Orb. It’s so versatile and fits in every deck.
Favorite art: Shivan Dragon. So iconic.
Magic accomplishments: Top 8 in Summer Derby 2017. Top 8 in Summer Derby 2018. Top 8 in 3 NEOS monthly events between Feb-June 2019. Played against 1998 World Champ Brian Selden at Hartfordfestivalen (and lost) but better for the experience. If we are talking outside of old school, I placed 23rd out of 115+ people at TMD 18 or “The Waterbury” Vintage tournament. I narrowly missed a Top 8 in Return to Ravnica sealed PTQ. Won several FNM events in years past. Outside of tournament results, a major Magic accomplishment for me is turning a lot of my newer cards into more old school cards. This has been one of the best moves I made, not only from a financial standpoint, but from a playability standpoint.
Crazy/fun Magic story: I think a lot of us who started at a similar time probably have similar stories, but I recall buying Revised dual lands for $7-10 each. I would pick up playsets for $400 or less. My Unlimited/Beta power cost me between $200-300 each. Beta dual lands were $50. I only picked up Savannah’s and wish I splashed blue back then lol. I recall trading a Beta Serra Angel for a Mishra’s Workshop. They were worth the same then and I needed another Shop, so we were both happy. That deal is heavily one-sided now.
For an actual story, when I started playing Magic, I started with whatever I could pick up and didn’t even play correctly by the rules. When Mirage came out, I fell in love with the card Maro. For those of you that don’t know Maro, it has power and toughness equal to the number of cards in your hand. I eventually built a deck with this guy, Erhnams, Serras, Armageddons, etc. It was MaroGeddon, very similar to ErhnamGeddon. Fast-forward to December 3, 2016. This was my first foray into Old School. For this, my first old school deck was ErhnamGeddon. It felt so similar to playing back in those days. Erhnam Djinn is still one of my favorite cards. I know green is likely the weakest color in old school, but a quick Erhnam/Serra followed up by a Geddon can definitely win some games.
Why Old School MTG? Once I started playing old school, I knew it was the format for me. I was getting bored by the new cards and the constant new mechanics, planeswalkers, etc. The cost to keep up with Standard was just too much with the amount of sets that are produced and the rotation schedule. I played a bit of other formats and nothing ever really stuck as something I wanted to play long-term. I do still enjoy casual games with my buddy who hasn’t gotten into old school yet. (I’m still trying to convince him.) So, we play with newer cards mostly. It is still fun because I’m still playing Magic, but it just doesn’t feel the same. But old school on the other hand! The card pool never changes, there is no rotation, the art is infinitely better, the mechanics are simple yet enjoyable, there is plenty of space to brew decks and it’s a format that brings you back to those early days of magic. What’s not to like?
Anything else you want to say about yourself? Aside from playing old school, I also play Alpha 40 and Brawl. I am an avid collector as well. I have many old school complete sets and playsets of cards to build decks with. I would like to put together an old school cube at some point. I also collect misprints and other MTG memorabilia.
I also enjoy playing golf and spending time with my wife and 2 kids.
Thanks to Jared for running these monthly events! They are a blast to play in and I enjoy the gameplay and conversations that they bring. I look forward to playing more.
6th Place: Paul DeSilva — 28 Points, 3x Top 8, February Runner-Up
Paul DeSilva has grown up a quite a bit since this picture was taken, but as you can clearly see, slinging cardboard has been a part of this man since he was a level 1 mage. The proud owner of a recently-completed set of Alpha has performed admirably this season. Paul is a proud ambassador of the format and leader of the Sisters of the Flame from NYC (sweet playmat btw) who loves to get spicy every once in a while, as he ran a very cool Old School + Vanguard event in New York recently.
Name: Paul DeSilva
Hometown: Portland, OR
Started playing Magic story: I started in Revised, or at least that was my first pack and I distinctly remember opening the wrapper and seeing Howl from Beyond and thinking “This is my first Magic card. I shall remember this forever.” When I found Old School, my old shoebox collection was a lot of junky Revised, FE, Homelands, and Alliances.
Favorite card: Birds of Paradise!
Favorite art: Underground Sea
Magic accomplishments: I just finished an Alpha set! But my proudest accomplishments would probably be starting the Sisters of the Flame because they are my favorite boys and getting to go to n00bcon 11.
Crazy/fun Magic story: I got paired against Jon Finkel at MobsterCon and actually won a game. Almost pooped my damn pantalones.
Why Old School MTG? Community, Nostalgia, Art, Mechanics, Aesthetics, Art Direction, Balance, Non-Rotation, Camaraderie, Power, the Shores of Imagination, and beer DUH
Anything else you want to say about yourself? Hmmm, I just got to shoot Debbie Harry on 16mm film! 🙂
5th Place: Alex Smyk — 29 Points, 2x Top 8, February Champion
Alex was our first monthly Champion and is a proud member of the #mtgdads (if that’s not a hashtag, then it should be) who finds ways to squeeze in his passion for the arcane spells of Old School Magic with all the love and responsibility of fatherhood. Alex had the NEOS brew masters and mathematicians abuzz in April, when he smashed the group stage with a magnificent 14 “land” RG Aggro Stompy list. I look forward to seeing how else Alex can defy our expectations of deck construction and show us more of what is possible.
Name: Alex Smyk
Hometown: Princeton, NJ
Started playing Magic story: Watched a few kids play Magic in elementary school, they were attacking and blocking with creatures. I thought they looked so cool. Later that day, I watched a kid open a booster pack, in the rare slot was a Force of Nature. My eyes went wide. The rest is history.
Favorite card: Baron Sengir
Favorite art: My answer will be different on any given day, but I’m a HUGE Drew Tucker fan.
Magic accomplishments: Aside from being the first person to come up with the killer combo of Lord of the Pit and The Hive? Winning the first NEOS Monthly Tournament!
Crazy/fun Magic story: I lived with my aunt and uncle for around 2 years in Atlanta, GA. It was for work. They didn’t know what Magic was exactly, but they’d always ask me how everything went when I got back from local tournaments/FNMs. After a few months of this, my uncle asked me who I was performing for on Friday night… he literally thought I was doing magic, like pulling rabbits out of hats and stuff.
Why Old School MTG? I’m nostalgic for the more generic or loosely explained lore, cards, and artwork. We didn’t know everything back then; the universe was more left to the imagination. We had to fill the gaps in ourselves. If there were back story to the characters, it was not easy to find. Who was Dakkon Blackblade? No idea, but we all imagined all kinds of stories and lore about where this badass came from.
Anything else you want to say about yourself? I’m a Homelands aficionado. This format needs Ishan’s Shade and Autumn Willow!
4th Place: Christian Reinhard — 29 Points, 4x Top 8
Christian is the Swiss ambassador to NEOS, and he has been a powerful competitor each month. Christian leads the pack with four Top 8 appearances in five months, and clearly loves to spice as much as spike. Christian is a force in the scene globally as a tournament organizer and competitor. A co-founder of the Old School Gentleman’s club, he has made it his goal to put aside Mind Twist and Library of Alexandria from most of his deck lists. While a few of his Top 8 decks do have Library, you will not find a single Mind Twist in any of his 75s.
3rd Place: John Grudzina — 32 Points, 3x Top 8, April Champion
John missed the first month of competition, but still smashed enough faces to finish in the top 3 for the season. John was a noted skilled pilot of the Deck until his hands fell upon the great power that Mishra unleased in his Workshops. His splash for white and the criminally underplayed Jalum Tome have come to be the glue that holds “Grudzina Shops” together. John is a tactical and calm player that is always near the top of any leaderboard.
Name: John Grudzina
Hometown: Princeton, NJ
Occupation: Quant Analyst and Trader
How did you start playing Magic? Fall of ’99 was kind of playing Pokemon CCG, owner of the store suggested MTG because it is a better game.
Favorite Card: Ancestral Recall
Favorite Art: Rebecca Guay’s work
Magic Accomplishments: 3rd NYSE Open 1, 2nd Legacy Champs 2014, Top 8 Vintage Champs 2015, 12th Noobcon X
Good Magic story? For the NYSE, Legacy, and Vintage finishes above, I built my decks the night before and R1G1 was my first game playing those decks.
Why Play Old School MTG? I play Old School since it’s like Vintage, I can play the busted cards.
The top two finishers in the season actually ended up with the same number of points after five months of competition. I was trying to figure out the best way to crown a Champion and break the tie, and it dawned on me that head-to-head has been the way it’s been done all season, so it will be used here as well. Both of these top performers are skilled pilots and good sports. A fine pair to top the leaderboard:
2nd Place: Jason Seaman — 35 Points, 2x Top 8, March Champion, April Runner-Up
Jason is a busy man from NH that still finds ways to squeeze in as much Magic as possible. His trusty Trolls and Disks are never far from his side. You always know you are in for a battle when you see him seated across from you, as he almost never falls for the trick or the trap and knows how to leverage his position to his advantage every time. I am glad he is a part of this community, and I suspect he will popping Disks on his way to more Top 8s in the future.
Name: Jason Seaman
Occupation: Miracle Worker, i.e. AgMechanic/Farmer
Started playing Magic story: Friend got a couple starters for his birthday and everyone was hooked.
Favorite card: Icy Manipulator
Favorite art: Plateau (Revised)
Magic accomplishments: Not really. Fun?
Crazy/fun Magic story: My cards sat out in a barn for years with childhood crud under a leaky roof and only survived by chance.
Why Old School MTG? Nostalgia. Closed number of sets appeals, don’t have the time to keep up with constant new sets.
1st Place: Michael Scheffenacker — 35 Points, 3x Top 8, May Runner-Up, June Runner-Up
The Chef has cooked and brewed his way to the top Michelin star rating for the first season of the NEOS Monthly Online Tournament Series. Chef packed a different punch each month and found success every time. I think it is fair to say he has won more games of Magic this season than his beloved Orioles probably will win baseball games for the rest of the year (sorry, cheap shot I know ;)). Mike likes to try to “break” cards and show their true power in his brewing and deck building. He is a more than worthy champion and a great gentleman of the game.
Name: Michael Scheffenacker
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Occupation: Real Estate Developer
Started playing Magic story: I started playing Magic as a kid in 1995. My first Starter Deck had Shivan Dragon and Demonic Tutor, so I started with a black red deck. I remember trading all my Pogs for Magic Cards. I didn’t start playing tournament Magic until a couple years later, when Exodus was released.
Favorite card: Psionic Blast
Favorite art: Psionic Blast
Old School Magic accomplishments: Top 8s: Winter Derby 2018-19 (Finals), SCGCON 2018, EW 2017, Eternal Extravaganza 2017 (Win), GP Las Vegas 2017 (Win), bunch of local event wins.
Why Old School MTG: I started playing Old School when a buddy of mine thought the restriction of Mana Drain was crazy as it was “just a Counterspell.” I had never played the format, but I put together a 4x Mana Drain deck and we held a tournament at my buddy’s house, where I was determined to prove that the card was too good. I didn’t lose a game and took down the event. After the event we all agreed that Mana Drain was too good. I stopped playing the format until Black Vice was unrestricted and looked at the format with fresh eyes and put together an Atog/Dibs deck with paper proxies, and I had it in my bag for about a year. I would play against friends at Vintage events between rounds, then in 2017 in GP Vegas I played in my first public Old School event, after acquiring a Chaos Orb. After that I have been playing in as many events as I can.
And there we have it: the Elite 8 of the first season of the NEOS Monthly Online Tournament Series. I will be starting the new season in August, and I post sign ups on the NEOS Facebook page. They max out each month at 48 people on a first-come first-served basis. It has been a pleasure and an honor running these events every month, and I look forward to continuing this for a long time. I appreciate everyone’s sportsmanship and commitment to the event every month, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I have. Cheers.