‘Be careful what you wish for’ – an Ante40 update by Brother Ben

The seeds of the Ante 40K format were sown by Brother Markus and Magnus about three years ago. Markus shared his dream of making ante a proper format with me soon afterwards. His enthusiasm was infectious (as it tends to be) and immediately the idea captured my imagination. I began brewing straightaway.

Accordingly, I stocked up on Jewelled Birds and invested in a Contract From Below and a Darkpact. It was agreed that every deck would be fully Swedish-legal (i.e. no reprints of any kind apart from Beta and Unlimited), and every deck would have a value of 40K SEK minimum. To help meet this requirement, I put a Mox into my deck too. This is the only format where you can get the sweats goldfishing!

However, it was a year before I had a chance to play, at the following N00bcon. It was a perfect addition to the main event, attracting the craziest players at the Rotary. We all had plenty of beers by then, and the bravado was turned up to 11. Jason even played an Alpha Pearl!

I was lucky enough to win a Bolt from Johnnie and exchanged many Birds. In accordance with our custom, any card exchanged in ante is altered by its former owner before the handover:

All double-signed, with some alters a little classier than others (see Slanfan’s, bottom right)

I was looking forward to more of the same when I played Jason a year later, before the World Cup 3 in London, but something occurred which caused a shockwave. We began with three games that had been unremarkable: a Beta Plains was exchanged along with a few Jewelled Birds. With a bit more beer left to drink, surely one more game made sense?

The game was open, and we had neutralised each other’s threats. Then Jason played Contract – I thought the game was up. But on this occasion Jason drew no business cards and the card added to his ante was his Chaos Orb.

The ante was now the biggest stake I had heard of, and a legendary tale was in the making: big kahuna bragging rights to be had for whoever won, or Hall-Of-Fame-anecdote status for a topdecked Bird.

As it played out, I was able to resolve my Darkpact, stealing his Chaos Orb from the ante pile, and taking it out of reach of a Bird rescue. I went on to lose the game, and my ante of a Maze Of Ith, but kept the Orb.

This should have felt thrilling… but instead I felt traumatised. The prize was too much, and I knew if I’d lost such a card I’d have felt awful. Jason was unphased, carefully using coloured sharpies to augment the artwork.

I couldn’t sleep that night, and concluded that I had to return the Orb to Jason, but the next morning he refused.

The card continued to haunt me. So when I was selling another orb to Dom, and Mari offered to buy the ante Orb, I agreed. Was I free of the Orb’s curse? No.

So now, dear reader, my long quest is clear. To search the land for an altered Orb so appealing that Mari will trade it for the ante Orb. Then to play ante40K relentlessly until I can pass the Orb on to a new owner, or ideally Jason himself. Until then, I will continue to travel the world playing Old School, but I shall be a….

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