Spreading the Sickness in Madrid – by Grant Hislop

UB Mystical Teachings – A Pauper Video Article by Grant Hislop

My apologies on the delay of this piece. I’ve been away for 2 weeks, and when I returned, I found my computer unable to work. I’ve since had to reformat it, resulting in the loss of all my data, saved documents and music etc, which has been pretty tedious. I’m writing this on Saturday 17th, my first day off since I got back on the 5th, which is yet another reason behind the delay. To be honest, it’s unlikely that anyone’s been waiting with baited breath for this report, given that it’s of an irrelevant finish, so I’ve decided to focus more on what was happening around the tournament, rather than on the gameplay etc. This has absolutely nothing to do with me being old, losing my memory and not being able to recall what happened. Nothing whatsoever.

I’ve found, for the most part, that reports tend to focus more on game play than what these tournaments actually are for most of us, which is a piss-up in a foreign country, with people you don’t get to see particularly often. Plus, I think I’ve written enough Standard and Modern decklists for you that I’ve earned the right to digress a little bit here.

In order, my itinerary for this trip was:
Thursday-Tuesday in Madrid
Tuesday-Friday in Marrakech
Friday-Monday in Lille

I’d often found that, when travelling to foreign GP’s, I wished that I’d flown out the day before, in order to do touristy things, get familiar with the layout of the city, and shake any jet-lag, so that was to be the plan here. There’s obviously only an hour’s time difference between the UK and Madrid, so jet-lag was unlikely to be a factor, but familiarising yourself with the city cannot be understated.

My girl-friend, Kate Hutchison has been accepted to begin Teacher training at university next year, so is looking at this year as her last before she starts working permanently. She’s looking to travel as much as possible before term starts. I think this is ridiculous, personally, as she’s going to be a primary school teacher, and as such, will get approximately 200 holidays a year: plenty of time to go travelling. But that’s just me, and you know how women get with their silly little ideas. Or maybe you don’t; this is a Magic website after all…

At any rate, she was going to be accompanying me on this trip, but due to work commitments, wasn’t going to be able to fly out until the Sunday, so I would have plenty of time to amuse myself while abroad. I spent most of the time before the trip using Google Translate to find out how to say things to the Spanish people that would upset her, because that’s the kind of boyfriend that I am.

Things like: ‘He estado tomando cocaína durante todo el día, ¿dónde puedo ir para obtener mi pene chupado?’

Other than Kat however, there wasn’t much of a Scottish contingent going. In fact, the only other people that I was aware of that were going were Gabor Kovacs, a Hungarian living in Edinburgh; Bruno Panara, an Italian also living in Edinburgh; and Gary Campbell, a man who’s unfortunate enough to live in Dundee. For those not up on their Scottish geography, if you picture Edinburgh and Glasgow as a straight line, Dundee is kind of like the apex of that triangle. Essentially, the whole city is a toilet, but for whatever reason, most of the population seem fiercely defensive of their little chunk of porcelain.

I don’t trust airlines enough to check my baggage, so I’m generally restricted to a single piece of carry-on luggage. Usually, this is enough, but in this instance, because I would be playing a constructed GP the following weekend, I had to take a fat-pack box worth of playable standard cards, because I had no ideas what I’d be playing come Lille. I really wish that the order of GPs had been reversed, so I could have avoided taking this box, as it really limited the amount of clothes that I was able to bring with me. I’d taken my Manaleak t-shirt, obviously, and another couple of t-shirts, plus a couple shirts, a pair of shorts and various pairs of boxers and socks. Obviously not enough for the week and a half trip, but I expected I’d get a chance to either do laundry, or just buy clothes as I went.


The Travel

I got to Edinburgh airport promptly, and sat and read a book for a while. When I boarded the plane, I was fortunate enough to run into Ed Ross, who I wasn’t expecting to see. I grabbed the seat next to him, and we chatted about the Modern format, as the Scottish PTQ was going to be the same weekend as GP Lille, and he had no idea what was happening. Ed had the Dominion app on his phone, so played that a bit, while I looked on, confused. I’ve only played Dominion the once, but I did enjoy it. Sadly, my phone is not up to scratch, so I can’t use all these fancy apps myself. I’ve got a habit of getting drunk and losing my possessions, so having expensive things is generally a bad idea.

We took a walk through the airport when we arrived, and got the train into central Madrid. He was lucky enough to be staying with a friend, while I was going to be fending for myself in a hostel. Again, as Kat wasn’t going to be joining me until the Sunday, I kind of wanted to conserve the funds as much as possible. We weren’t on a budget, per se, but the more money we had for the more touristy parts of our trip the better. Plus, I’m a scumbag, so I don’t particularly care what my surroundings are like, so long as there’s a bed.

I got off the train, and looked at my instructions. It said ‘exit the station and go west’. I find these types of instructions ridiculous. If you’re in a position where you need directions, surely you don’t entirely have your bearings? Maybe it’s just me.

Anyway, I was fortunate that by this point, it was quite late in the evening, so the sun was setting. I walked in that direction, because I know that even in these horrible, foreign countries, the Sun still sets in the west. I found my hostel with little trouble, and was shown around by a flamboyantly homosexual Spanish gentleman, with a mesh vest and leather trousers. I was to be in a room of 10, but fortunately only 2 of the other beds seemed occupied. By this point, I hadn’t eaten since before flying, and, as a larger man, I found myself in need of sustenance. I took a walk back where I’d come from, and quickly decided that McDonalds + beers from the supermarket was a slightly less tragic plan than restaurant ‘Table for 1’ based antics. I figured that as I was in Spain, I’d try some of the local beer. Unfortunately, the only one that they had chilled was San Miguel: bottled in Edinburgh. Sigh.

One of the other downsides to San Miguel is that it tastes like a Spanish tramp has urinated into a bottle.

I figured that I’d make up for taste with quantity, and made my way back to the hostel. I sat and read a book in the common room while drinking Tramps piss, and got into a conversation with a Greek man, who was very pleasant. He was pretty large and in charge, and one of those people who you look at, and you just know they snore like a beast. Somewhere around 2am, I finished my bottled urine, and went to bed. Half an hour later, the big Greek stumbled into my room. Balls! He didn’t disappoint, and snored his massive, Greek head off throughout the night.

When I woke up, I retrieved my shoes from his bed, as I’d thrown them at him during the night, and decided it was about time to get myself to the Magic tournament. I’d agreed to go to a Euro-rail office to pick up some tickets for Bruno, who would also be doing the double header. This went smoothly, and another homosexual Spanish man complimented me on my tattoos.

I walked down, past my hostel, and in the direction of the Magic tournament. It was in Casa de Campo de some-bullshit, but seemed to be mostly in a straight line. I wasn’t worried. My instructions had me following a road, with the venue being at the end of it. ‘Piece of piss’, I thought. Sadly, the road that I had to follow seemed to turn into the Motorway, without the expected turn-off, so I just kept walking. 2 hours into my walk, I realised I was lost, and thought I’d just get a metro. I’m a pretty stubborn person when it comes to things like asking for directions and admitting I’m lost. I got to the Metro station, and not knowing where the nearest one to the venue was, I had a look at the board.

Unfortunately, the Casa de Campo de some-bullshit is a massive place, but it does have its own station. I figured that this was probably going to be the one, so I departed.

When I arrived, I was looking around for a venue that looked like it could house 2000 sweaty geeks, and came up wanting. I started walking around in a likely looking direction, only to find that I was approaching a zoo. Caving in, I asked the lady at the window how to get to the venue. She said ‘Are you walking’; I said ‘Yes’; she said ‘Don’t’, and told me another Metro station to go to, whose name escapes me. I walked back up the road, and ran into a group of likely looking guys, in that they were geeks with backpacks. They seemed like they had also fallen into the same trap that I had, and were heading towards the Zoo. I asked them if they were going to the Magic tournament, and when they answered in the affirmative, I enquired if they would mind me joining them.

They were Belgian, and they had a map, so we decided to follow that, rather than the instructions of the woman at the zoo. This lead to around another hour of aimless wandering, after which we spoke to another Spanish woman, who told us to go to the same metro station as the woman at the Zoo. The moral of the story is that Spanish women are better at directions than Google Maps. Who knew? All told, I left my hostel at 11am, and I reached the Magic tournament at just before 4pm. What a joke!

I met up with Gary and the Irish contingent of Mark McGovern, Def Jam Carson, Steve Pashley and Adam Alex. We sat around for a while, Gary bought some cards for people back home, and we went to register for the next day. While we were filling out our consent forms, Gary realised that he’d left the box with the cards on the table we were at, and ran back to collect it. He came back a couple minutes later looking forlorn. Obviously, it had disappeared. We did the rounds of lost property etc, but sadly, they were gone forever. This goes to show, one lapse of concentration, and some scumbag’s off with your cards. Be vigilant people; don’t make these idiots jobs any easier.

After this somewhat depressing note, we headed off to get some food. Gary’s missus had also made the trip, but had been left to fend for herself all day, so he went to spend some time in her–I mean ‘with her’. The Irish were staying in the same hotel as the judges, which was right opposite a shopping centre. We went there, and found a restaurant called ‘Fuego’, which we selected almost entirely based on the arse of the waitress that we saw. She was absolutely breath-taking, as, in fact a seemingly disproportionate number of Spanish women are. Perhaps I’m just unlucky to live in Scotland, where the average woman looks like they belong on Jeremy Kyle. And I know you’re saying ‘But Grant, you’ve got a girlfriend’, and to that I retort ‘Ain’t no harm in window shopping, Son’.

The food at Fuego was pleasant enough, and the company was absolutely top-notch. We retired to our respective rooms, ready for a day of cardboard battling the following day. My hostel now had 8 occupied beds, but no snoring Greek man. Small mercies…


Day 1

I made it back to the venue with no problems, and we began registering cards. I opened the pool with a Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, a Huntmaster of the Fells, a Balefire Dragon and a bunch of other good cards, and was pretty sad to have to pass it. I try my hardest not to pay attention to what I’m registering at these types of events, but this was a hard one to miss. If I recall properly, it had 5 blue cards and 8 white cards total, and the rest was awesome. My pool wasn’t particularly exciting, but it definitely had the goods: plenty of removal to work with, and a realistic curve. The relevant sideboard cards were a Forge Devil, who I like in draft, but I’m unconvinced by in a slower format, and a Somberwald Dryad, who probably should have made the deck. I don’t think I sided in anything else. This is what I played: 1 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
 1 Briarpack Alpha
1 Dawntreader Elk
1 Essence of the Wild
1 Geistcatcher’s Rig
1 Hamlet Captain
1 Hinterland Hermit
1 Mayor of Avabruck
1 Pitchburn Devils
1 Riot Devils
1 Russet Wolves
1 Scorned Villager
1 Skirsdag Cultist
1 Villagers of Estwald
1 Village Survivors
1 Warden of the Wall

1 Brimstone Volley
1 Caravan Vigil
1 Creeping Renaissance
1 Fires of Undeath
1 Geistflame
1 Into the Maw of Hell
1 Wrack with Madness

8 Forest
1 Kessig Wolf Run
7 Mountain
1 Swamp

I got some stick for playing the Creeping Renaissance, but I would definitely do so again. Every time I cast it, I was getting 3-4 creatures back, and with a couple of sweet ETB triggers, it was probably the MVP of the deck.

If I could build it again, I’d probably cut the Caravan Vigil for the previously discussed Somberwald Dryad, but as it was, pretty much every card pulled its weight.

I think that this should have been an 8-1 deck, but as it was, I kept 2 50/50 hands in deciding games and didn’t get there on either occasion. I discussed some of the keeps with Mark McGovern, and he said he’d have kept the hands as well. I can’t remember specifics, but I remember dying once with a hand full of 3 drops and no 3rd land etc, so it wasn’t like I got TOO greedy.

I don’t really recall any particularly interesting games or interactions. My opponents were, for the most part, pleasant to play against, and all seemed competent. I don’t think any of them drooled on their cards.

My reward for my 7-2 was that I’d have to be back at the venue for 8am the next day to start drafting. Having not been able to leave the venue until well after 10 meant that there was almost no chance of anything close to a reasonable night’s sleep. We gathered the troops, and headed back to Fuego. Gabor and his girlfriend Gosia joined the Irish and myself, and we ate well again. While we were discussing the waitress’ arse, Gabor commented that he didn’t think she was anything special, to which I replied to the contrary, using language which wouldn’t be appropriate on a family-friendly site such as this.


Day 2

I knew that I’d have to check out of my hostel on the Sunday morning, as Kat and I had secured slightly more comfortable accommodation for her 2 nights in Madrid, so I asked Mark if I could swing by his hotel in the morning, as he’d also made day 2 and would be up, and if I could leave my belongings in his room for the day. I don’t like carrying a full bag around with me when I’m trying to concentrate on Magic, preferring instead to just have deck box, refreshments and pen and paper. Obviously this minimises the impact of any thefts to me, which can’t be a bad thing, and I’d suggest you do similar in the future as well.

My first draft deck was a bit of train-wreck and I didn’t have many expectations of it. 1-2 seemed realistic. I threw it away, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

I figured I’d possibly get my 1 win in the first round when I sat down, and my opponent had to wipe drool off his cards. He’d drafted WG Werewolves, and kept trying to incorrectly flip them to his dis-advantage. I had no answer to a Butcher’s Cleaver equipped Gastaf Howler in game 2, and was crushed by Increasing Devotion in game 3, while flooding heavily. Sad face.

Being in one of the 7-2 pods, we only had 7 players, so I was lucky enough to get the bye for Round 2. I went to the shops and grabbed stuff to eat and drink throughout the day.

Round 3 I played Karim Al-Takouri and his RG splash Mikaeus, the Lunarch deck, and was crushed horribly. We had a light-hearted chat about how Bruno Panara was a traitor for playing in Scottish Nationals rather than sucking it up and trying at the Italian ones.

My second draft deck was somewhat spicier than the first, so I saved it, and you lucky people get to see it.

2 Armored Skaab
1 Civilized Scholar

1 Deranged Assistant
1 Diregraf Captain
1 Diregraf Ghoul
1 Falkenrath Noble
1 Makeshift Mauler
1 Murder of Crows
2 Relentless Skaabs
2 Stitched Drake
1 Stormbound Geist
1 Typhoid Rats
1 Walking Corpse

2 Dream Twist
1 Forbidden Alchemy
1 Silent Departure
1 Think Twice
1 Zombie Apocalypse

8 Island
 9 Swamp

This deck is about 1-2 decent pieces of removal away from being perfect.

One interesting pick in Pack 2 was whether to take the 2nd Armored Skaab over a Laboratory Maniac. At that point, I didn’t expect that I’d be milling myself a great deal, so I took the Skaab. I’m not sure if that’s correct or not. I had the chance at a 2nd Zombie Apocalypse, but the one that I took was 6th, and I didn’t want to take the other at 4th pick, as there was a Relentless Skaab in the pack, which I thought was slightly better, not knowing how married to Zombies I’d eventually end up.

Round 1, I crushed game 1 with a 7 for 1 from Zombie Apocalypse, but game 2, he cast Balefire Dragon to go with his Pyreheart Wolf, and my whole team died, and I quickly followed.Game 3, I mulliganed to 5, and he Dragoned me again. What a sensible card.

Round 2, again, I get the bye. Somewhat frustrating, as I really liked my deck, and wanted to actually win a match I played on the Sunday.

Round 3, I win game 1 with a 8-for 1 on Zombie Apocalypse. Game 2, he assembles a soft lock of Angel of Flight Alabaster and Hollowhenge Spirit, and I run out of cards the turn before I can break through. Game 3, I mulligan to 4. Admittedly, the 4 is 3 land and an Armored Skaab, which is pretty sweet, but he starts with effectively twice as many cards as me, and kills me quite quickly. How frustrating.


That Evening

I sit around for a bit, and watch Mark, who was playing for Top 32, but sadly lost, and talk to Gary and the rest of the Irish, who’ve been playing side events until Kat arrives. We try to sort out a plan for the evening, remembering that at some point, I need to be at the Irish hotel to collect all my stuff.

We end up near Gary and Kat and I’s future hotel for dinner. Kat and I check in, while the rest head to the bar at Gary’s hotel. We have a drink there, and head off for food. Gary’s missus joins us as well, and we wander around downtown Madrid for an hour before settling on a restaurant. They bring us all manner of freebies, including Champagne, Sorbets and a bunch of other stuff while we act in the way you’d expect of a bunch of Magic players from Scotland and Ireland, to the chagrin of the waiting staff.

Kat’s been travelling all day, and I’ve been up since 6am, so we’re pretty tired. She goes back to our room, and Gary and I walk with the Irish back to their hotel to collect my stuff. I remember Def Jam Carson and myself singing S Club 7’s opus ‘Don’t Stop Moving’ for some reason as we walked, but I can’t remember the context. It’s still a huge tune, so it’s definitely possible that there wasn’t one, and we just like awesome pop music. Kat and I get to spend the Monday in Madrid being tourists, so we jump on one of the city tour buses. I can’t recommend these enough if you’re only in town for a day or so. You hop on and hop off whenever you choose, and you’ll go round most of the places of interest. We jumped about a bit, took some excellent photos, some of which should be peppering this article you’re reading, and generally had a nice time.

Our hotel had one TV channel that was in English, which was a Qmusic-ish type channel, so while we were there, we had that on in the background. Kat got quite into someone called Lana Del Rey, and downloaded her album and played it Ad Nauseum for the remainder of the holiday. I think she’s pretty poor personally, but I just complimented S Club 7, so my opinions on music possibly might not be the best. Phowar – Rachel Stevens!


The next day was spent packing, and travelling to Marrakech. I’ll leave that til next time, as this has been quite long as is.

Stay classy mtgUK, Grant

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