Hello everyone, including my new Scottish friends, and welcome to my GP Lille report, the sort of report that I thought I would never write. Be warned that there is a lot of name-dropping in this article, but on this occasion I feel it is right. I do have a lot of people to thank.
It’s hard to think of where to begin, so I’ll start on Wednesday. Because all awesome stories start on a Wednesday.
On Wednesday, I was pretty much set on playing Naya. I messed about with a Heartless Summoning">Heartless Summoning build, before testing my Naya brew once again. My play-testing partner, Ross Silcock, was sticking with one deck and, like all people trying to make a point when it comes to deck building, was playing the same deck throughout the play-testing session. I loved the deck he was running, I really did. But I was too scared to ask to borrow it, partly because I knew the deck was his baby, and partly because tempo decks are usually not my thing.
UB Delver Zombies. Neither of us could expect the amount of attention it would receive on Saturday, but I’ll come to that in a bit.
All day Thursday was spent doing play-testing with Delver Zombies at Fanboy3 in Manchester. I mainly tested against MonoB Zombies (piloted by Nick Hancox) and UW Delver, whilst Ross and Alex Shoemark helped discuss lines of play. I felt the Delver matchup was exceptional, whilst the MonoB Zombies matchup was very difficult, but I was not expecting it to be a popular deck, so it wasn’t a cause for alarm. I was set, this was the right deck for the GP.
Delver Zombies by Ross Silcock & Piloted by Ben Beath
4 Delver of Secrets">Delver of Secrets
4 Diregraf Ghoul">Diregraf Ghoul
4 Geralf’s Messenger">Geralf’s Messenger
3 Phantasmal Image">Phantasmal Image
2 Phyrexian Obliterator">Phyrexian Obliterator
3 Snapcaster Mage">Snapcaster Mage
Friday was spent travelling to Lille. To do this I had to travel to Birmingham New Street from Manchester, which was accomplished by my mother, who came to visit me for the day (cheers, Mum!) I then hung around New Street until I met up with Ian Bennett before the arrival of Rich Parker and Baljeet and Manveer Samra, in the Nissan Micra. That’s right. Five grown men, in a Nissan Micra(!).
We didn’t get to Dover til about 11pm, for a ferry that wouldn’t depart until 11:40pm. We got in some last minute play-testing on the ferry, where it was revealed that Rich was also on the UB Zombie plan, whilst Ian was on ‘Frites’, Maveer was on GR Wolf Run and Bajeet was on BW Tokens. The play-testing was very useful for me, and was a trigger to change some elements of the deck at the last minute. Ross likes playing the tempo game, whilst I prefer to be a bit more aggressive, so I did some switching around, and took some cards out the 75 altogether.
We eventually got to Lille at 3:30 am local time, dreading the prospect of getting up in three hours time for player registration. I, however, did not sleep for another 90 minutes. Last minute doubts and nags were eating at me.
Was I playing the right deck?
Was my faith in Ross’ deck-building ability well placed?
Had I taken out too much?
Had I upset the delicate balance that Ross had worked so hard to create?
Of course I overslept, not waking up until 7:38. 8 minutes after I was supposed to be in the lobby. Whoops. We got to the venue and registered our decks. Immediately I noticed that the venue was littered with Hall of Famers. The Ruel brothers. Raphael Levy. Gabriel Nassif. Bram Snepvangers. Frank Karsten (who, as it turned out, was doing event coverage).
I needed a catchy name for the deck, but my tired brain could not function properly, so I went with, ‘Heathy at 8am this morning‘, a reference to the fact that I looked like a zombie (geddit?!). I think in hindsight I should have gone with ‘Dude, Where’s my 3rd Black Source?‘, a reference to the fact that sometimes I was unable to make triple-black on turn 3 for Geralf’s Messenger.
I had one bye, so I went for a wander with fellow mtgUK writer Grant Hislop/Vaughn Swift/Chips, finding a bakery for a sandwich and trying to find a supermarket for a bottle of water. I couldn’t find any, so I hurried back to the venue for Round 2. I was slightly nervous, but I had mentioned in passing that I believed that I was in the upper bracket of players on one bye in terms of play skill, which was enough to calm me down.
Then it all started, and things went by in a blur…
Round 1 Mr Bye
Round 2 versus a Grand Architect brew. Won 2-0. His deck was interesting, but it was an easy win. Good start.
Round 3 versus UB Control. Grind out Game 1. Opponent lays down double Batterskull Game 2, but can’t finish me by Turn 5 of extra turns. A lucky escape, since a draw is as good as a loss on Day 1 of a GP.
Round 4 versus UB Control. I lose Game 1 after flooding out (I was only playing 21 land). That’s when I started getting nervous. I had never been behind in a match this weekend, until now. There was no need for fear, the deck did it’s job Games 2 and 3, and I was 4-0. One of my previous fears was that the deck might not be able to get around Curse of Death’s Hold. Game 3 was won despite one being on the board.
Round 5 was against UW Delver Spirits. 2-0. Easy. As all Delver matchups should be.
Round 6 was against UW Delver Aggro. I lose Game 1 after a mulligan to 5, but Game 2 I’m on the draw and I sideboard in the rest of my kill spells. I systematically dismantled him Games 2 and 3, and suddenly I was 6-0.
I had to pinch myself at this point. I had never been 6-0 in any tournament I’d played in. Ever.
Round 7 was the mirror. Game 1 I was on the draw, and I was wasn’t feeling too confident when he played a Turn 1 Diregraf Ghoul, and I simply played a Swamp and passed the turn. However, my mid-game was far mroe threatening than his and I effective ‘broke serve‘. Then I did it again in Game 2. 7-0.
I went over to watch Rich Parker (6-0 at this point), who was in a feature match against Humans, the worst matchup. Rich Hagon was doing the coverage, and asked me how I was doing. ‘7-0‘, I replied. ‘How many byes?‘ he mouthed at me. ‘One‘, I signalled. he typed something into his swanky iPad, and I thought I’d get a little mention in the match report. Instead, it was a status for Cover it Live, and, along with Rich Parker’s win, triggered the ‘Ben Heath and Rich Parker Fan Club‘, which we would not learn about until I got back to the hotel later.
Then the match-up that no Brit wanted came.
Table 504: Richard Parker (21pts) vs Ben Heath (21pts).
Rich won the dice roll, and won 2-1. I do believe that the mirror is more skill-intensive than that, and I also believe that if I were on the play Game 3, I would have won, despite mulliganing to 5, whereas Game 1 and Game 2 weren’t close. But that’s Magic, and I would later simply become known as ‘Rich Parker’s 7th victim‘ (he, too, only had one bye).
I lost Round 9 to Humans (by far my worst match-up) and I finished Day 1 with a 7-2 record. A disappointing end to the day, but I had made Day 2. Score!
After going to what is possibly Lille’s worst restaurant with some of the other British players (including Dan Royde, Eduardo Sajgalik, Rich Bland, Jim Corwood and the ‘Five Men in a Micra’), I went back to the hotel to check on Facebook before getting some sleep. The support was frickin’ overwhelming. Seriously. It was the best part of my weekend, and the multiple mentions on Cover It Live and facebook Fas amazing. What happened on Day 2 suddenly became irrelevant…
Round 10 was a loss to Delver after manaflooding twice despite mulliganing to 6 and 5 in Games 2 and 3 respectively.
Round 11 was a loss to MonoB Zombies after he topdecked Geth’s Verdict, his only out before I took control of the match and finish him off after dealing with all his threats.
I was suddenly 7-4, and it was mostly through no fault of my own. I felt so down, and suddenly it was hard to see where my next win would come from.
Round 13 I played Wolf Run Ramp, which went exactly as expected. He won Game 1, then I turned into more of a control deck and beat him in Games 2 and 3. I was now 9-4, and had an outside chance of Top 64.
Round 14 – Unfortunately I came unstuck next round, against Tempered Steel. Don’t get me wrong, I love the deck, but it’s time has gone, and is now incredibly draw dependent, much more than it was when I was piloting it at Nationals. Gavony Township is a good attempt at replacing Steel Overseer, but the real issue now is the lack of evasion in the form of Ornithopter. Games 1 and 3 he had a good draw, and I couldn’t do anything, and that was the end of my tournament.
I spent the rest of the tournament becoming ‘Head Cheerleader‘ for Rich Parker as he went the whole Swiss portion of the event undefeated, before winning the Top 8 in a field full of Germans. Basically, it was like World Wars 1 and 2 all over again. The Germans had even apparently nicknamed the RG Aggro deck they were piloting, ‘Blitzkrieg‘ (this is, of course, an unconfirmed rumour).
I read the coverage later and discovered that the deck had been featured on the coverage by Frank Karsten, which made me very happy for Ross (who was rightfully mentioned as well), as I know he’s very proud of the creation. Apparently, in my tiredness on Saturday morning, I had put my name alongside his on the Deck Designer slot of the deck sheet, something I regret.
Yes, some of the card choices were mine and mine alone (such as the sideboard), but the archetype idea fully belongs to Ross. He was the engineer, I was simply the pilot. An updated list will come next week, when I will do a primer for the deck.
Sunday night was spent celebrating Rich’s phenomenal achievement, and hanging round with the Scottish contingent, where we spoke for hours about football, Magic in Scotland (a very interesting subject which I would like to see an article on in the near future hint hint) and Grant’s and my writing on this website. More Grant’s writing, because he’s Scottish and I’m not ¬_¬
I was very happy with my tournament, but I look enviously at Rich’s beaming face on the coverage as he proudly displays his trophy and I think, ‘Maybe. Just, maybe. That could have been me… maybe…’
Ross Silcock, deck designer extraordinaire. You really outdid yourself this time.
Team ‘Five Men in a Micra’, who made a tedious journey 400% more bearable.
Baljeet Samra, for driving there and back. That’s around 20 hours driving total.
Rich Parker, for winnning.
Lee Parker, for cheering me on throughout Day 1 (even though I didn’t have access to the internet until 1am)
Grant/Vaughn/Chips, for being awesome as always.
The French weather. After Sunday’s night out, a Flashfreeze hit Lille, meaning a 3 mile trek to the Micra, abandoned in the car park from the night before, in snow that must have been about 8 inches deep…
Until next time!
@BenHeath37 on Twitter