As we wandered towards the nearest high(ish) street in Barcelona this became the battle cry of Andy Devine in our search for lunch. Our flight over was uneventful except for Rob Catton ranching me over and over in the Lands game. We’d reached our apartment and “checked-in” by making awkward conversation with the lady who brought our keys and paid the full amount plus â‚¬150 deposit (seriously?!) in cash. Lunch became the substandard take-away option after requests for the location of a local supermarket were foiled by that word equating to Cornershop in the local dialect.
The six of us in town so far (completed by Ben Heath, Michael Edwards and Martin Sylvester) then tried asking for the whereabouts of a “hypermarket” after knowledge gleaned from childhood French exchange visits, but this merely yielded us the location of an open-air market. We hadn’t seen any good restaurants nearby so took the opportunity to buy in some food to cook dinner for ourselves in the apartment before Jim Marlow and Andy “the beard” Edwards arrived to complete our group. We settled on a spaghetti bolognese option using over-expensive ingredients from the market which– despite Martin’s excellent cooking efforts –turned out a bit odd due to the quality of the minced meat which resembled sheep’s brains. I think we were in a dodgy part of town too as Martin got asked to “be good” by a pick-pocket who was unsuccessful at taking something from the bag of a person walking ahead of us. We went back, had dinner and team drafted some Mirrodin to while away the evening. The apartment had 3 bedrooms containing 2 single beds apiece so the two late-comers got to share the broken sofa bed. After a bad night’s sleep we worked out a rotation system so that everybody would have their turn.
The decision to take a large group trip to a Grand Prix came around the turn of the new year with Barcelona chosen over Paris due to some of us having other halves and not-infinite-money, both of which clashed with Valentine’s Day. The obvious thing to do with a group trip is to create a group deck!
I was all set to just grind RUG after a succession of successful FNMs (not necessarily a good reason to choose a deck for a large tourney) but Andy D had been doing well with a Naya deck of his own design. Andy is a man who always plays Green-White-X aggro if possible and always does well at FNM but the deck looked like it had potential too. Birds of Paradise, Fauna Shaman, Squadron Hawks, Stoneforge Mystic + Sword, Cunning Sparkmage + Basilisk Collar and Vengevine formed the core of the deck, which was fleshed out with some tutor targets and removal. He claimed to only really have a problem beating Caw-Go but I was pretty sure that was fixable if we added redundancy to the Vengevine mode of the deck. With that in mind I set to work with Andy and Rob tuning the deck to the expected meta of the Grand Prix.
The next day the 8 of us resisted the usual urge to spend all day playtesting and got our to see some sights – the two youngsters (Rob and Ben) were less keen but we dragged them out anyway. By “some” sights I obviously mean “one” but it’s a really good one. We walked the 4km to the Sagrada Familia, picking up some lunch along the way, before viewing the Basilica. It really is beautiful and pictures can’t do it justice so check it out if you’re in town. The thing has taken over a hundred years to build so far, which is really apparent in the relative discolourations of the building sides and even in the levels of detail in the intricate carvings. I am a fan of this thing :)
We walked the 4km back to the apartment and then another 2km to the venue with our decks to check out the grinders for 3 byes. No-one had cared enough about them to check what time they were on beforehand so when we turned up at 6pm to the closure of public events I turned to my usual hobby of finding Rich Hagon for some jokes. He was nowhere to be found unfortunately so we instead decided to hatch a plan for dinner. Marco OSJ and Seb Parker had to go to their hotel room to check in and pick up a key and it was on the way to our apartment so we wandered the streets with them in search of a good restaurant for dinner. Marco had tried dubbing our deck “0-3’d the Stampede” but seemed receptive to our various plans in the format which is always a good sign. Our restaurant search was once more unsuccessful so we picked up ingredients for a sausages + omelette supper without the other two brits.
The evening before the Grand Prix was spent drafting Ravnica Block (replete with damage on the stack and mana burn ^_^) but I accidentally fell into aggro, which I rarely found to be a good plan for that draft format. We made a couple of last minute changes to the Naya list (it will appear in the article at some point I swear) but it’s never too good to attempt too many changes because you can often end up wrecking your deck for trying to be too techy, which is why we drafted an old format – to get the creative Magic thinking juices going. We also worked on the 48 cans of beer for â‚¬52 we’d purchased the previous evening, as any proud group of Englishmen clichedly should.
The best way to beat control was hinted at by the Boros decklists from PT Paris. As I found in my own testing of the matchup, the early aggression was quite good but what really seals the deal is a 4-power Haste guy. We clearly weren’t going to be able to support Koth of the Hammer with our three colour deck but Hero of Oxid Ridge was easily a good proxy for Vengevine. We also began with a full Stoneforge Mystic package but couldn’t take advantage of either Swords’ abilities and were getting the Basilisk Collar basically every time so kept 1 Mystic, 1 “Sword” in the main and then another Mystic with a real Sword to the board but ended up cutting that too anyway.
The real problem matchup became Valakut with main deck Inferno Titans. RUG was also a bit bad for the same reason, so we put a lot of time into trying to alleviate this hellish problem. We “found” Leatherback Baloth after joking around with good 3 mana creatures a la Knight of the Reliquary and this guy ended up being so good so often, for which I am glad. We also tried solving the problem of them landing a Titan in a few different ways, such as pre-emptive Silences and over-sized Threaten effects but the most effective way we found was Journey to Nowhere since the first trigger is not the one that kills you and neither is the first trigger from the second Titan. There’s surely something better out there or else coming in with “Action” but we didn’t have it for this tournament.
The rest of the deck was rounded out with a few sweet tutor targets, Lead the Stampede to outdraw control decks and plans for various Aggro decks. I don’t think the deck can realistically support Tectonic Edge with its three colours, especially with Hollaback Baloth going round the track a few times (it’s smashing!) but it’s something to think about for the Inferno Titan matchups. A 1-of sideboard Arc Trail got upgraded to a Mortarpod and we were good to go.
The actual deck sleeved up by Rob Catton, Mick Edwards and myself is shown to the right with Andy Devine using his own tweaks to it. All but Catton had one bye so we got to watch him battle in round one. He beat up some deck I can’t remember in good fashion and I was off to the races myself. Before all this occurred though I went about my usual business of barning the coverage team and they chose to reward me with a feature in the GP footage. Theres an important lesson there children.
I shal’n’t bore you with all the details of my individual matches since there weren’t many interesting situations but I’ll mention them as they come up. Round 2 I beat Black-Red Vampires but only 2-1 after I didn’t play around Staggershock in game 1 (not a regularly played card). Round 3 I faced RUG and didn’t have a great draw game 1 but he had an awful one so I hammered him with my guys. Towards the end of the game I realised I had not shown any obvious red mana (Birds doesn’t count) and he may board incorrectly. Sure enough, he writes “GW Fauna Quest?” on his score pad (why do this?) and my quick Sparkmaging of his Lotus Cobra helps seal the deal for game 2. Plus casting turn 5 Sun Titan against a guy who has almost definitely sided out his counter spells is a big game.
Round 4 I beat UWr Caw-Go in three and round 5 sees me swiftly take out a former Worlds team champion piloting UR Pyromancer Ascension with a Trap package – turns out that Leatherback Baloth beats Lavaball Trap.
I lose round 6 and 7 to the guy Richard Bland beat in the quarter finals and an arrogant Frenchman running RUG (they’re not all arrogant and they don’t all run RUG). This guy flashed me a Copperline Gorge in the shuffle and my hand didn’t have a Cunning Sparkmage but it did have a mana guy and red mana so I didn’t feel like going to 6. He nut drew me anyway and then took game 2 while on 1 life (fml).
Back against the wall time, I beat UW Caw in round 8 with all my 4 power haste guys and him getting stuck on 3 mana in game 3 which allowed me to Sparkmage him down from 2 life. In the final round of the day I had the nut draw of 2 Razorverge Thicket, Forest, Birds, Vengevine, Fauna Shaman and Leatherback Baloth (it did happen just like that). On the draw he revealed himself to be UWB Caw and Inquisitioned my Shaman but I immediately drew another Vengevine, which is pretty realistic. Game 2 took a lot longer with a lot of back and forth but Stoneforge-Sword and Hawks are not very good against us and Gideon Jura is actually really easy to deal with. The only problem card is Baneslayer Angel and even with 2 Sword of Feast and Famines strapped to it (equally realistic) I assembled Sparkmage-Collar and blew him away. Level infi judge Nick Sephton was watching my opponent take around 5 minutes for his final turn and was clearly looking for slow play but it was very apparent that his only play was for me to not want to kill him and allowed the slow play in the context. Unfortunately for him I did want to win. I was really happy to make day 2 again after falling behind the pack in rounds 6 and 7 and commiserated my opponent on being unsuccessful as he seemed a really nice guy so we chatted for a while after the match.
In day 2 the metagame caught up to me a little bit (not to mention the clock going forward comboing with an 8:30am start) and I got taken down by Valakut and RUG to put me straight into the bubble. I beat a GW aggro deck in the next round with my new girlfriend Linvala. The guy didn’t know how to play around her at all, in game 1 attacking in with a 3/3 and a 2/2 then trying to finish her off with a Stoneforged-up Mortarpod and in game 2 casting a Baneslayer Angel off a Llanowar Elves and 4 lands. I didn’t notice this at first but a spectating Jim Corwood alerted me to the problem and we called a judge. It required a lengthy wait for the head judge to come and back it up but we then finished the game with a Baneslayer of my own before the table judge had even finished filling out the warning on the score sheet. I lost the next round to UW Caw Go with some mediocre draws and slightly sloppy play and I dropped from the event a little disappointed in myself.
I bummed around chatting to lots of other UK and Irish players and judges which is always a good way to feel better. I then helped Richard Bland and Eduardo Sajgalik prepare for their quarter final matchups and watched them play, keeping an eye on the other quarters to get briefs on semi final oppositions. Shame they both lost in the semis but it was a great performance all the same.
Team Leeds went back to our apartment once more for a Rise of the Eldrazi draft which I won with my double Artisan of Kozilek, Sphinx of Magosi, Lighthouse Chronologist deck fuelled by Halifax playsets (i.e. 3-ofs) of See Beyond and Fleeting Distraction to hit all my land drops. A splash for a couple of black removal spells with a couple of Mnemonic Walls helped me to control and tempo up the curve for a really frustrating deck to play against.
Today we returned to England after cleaning the apartment, returning all the cards we’d borrowed from one another and getting our deposit back. The lady who we spoke to told me she had her “carena” or something in a bag for me but I couldn’t figure out what she was saying and instead elected to giggle in my head at her saying “my carena” (ai!). I managed the classic “sleep on the flight home” and “pick up some milk for tea” combo before I sat down to catch up on the internet and begin writing this report. All around a great weekend!
- Team Leeds for being awesome, especially my 7 hombres over the weekend.
- Tu for lending me a deck and discussing tech in the chat room.
- Ben Heath for allegedly sleep-wanking (not sure I believe this one but it’ s funny).
- Rich Hagon for trading puns, quips and stories.
- Naya for being a likely tier 1 deck. Nobody had a losing record, half of us made day 2 with only 1 bye apiece and we had a combined 60% match win percentage against the field.
- Catalans for not knowing what Supermarkets or Hypermarkets are…
- … and being particularly pick-pockety.
- My feet for being really painful all weekend after the 12km of walking on Friday.
- Inferno Titan – you know why, you dick ¬_¬