Learning to Love the Mad Scientist – Spread the Sickness with Grant Hislop

UB Mystical Teachings – A Pauper Video Article by Grant Hislop


This guy.

There’s this guy at my work who I hate. For those of you not lucky enough to have met me, I like everybody; so it really takes a lot for me to actually dislike someone, never mind fully hate someone. I know that I hate him because the sound of his voice makes my skin crawl and everything he says and does irritates me. Perhaps you’re unlucky enough to know what I mean. He’ll be sitting there, eating his lunch, and I’ll inexplicably find myself thinking ‘Look at that prick, over there, eating his sandwiches like he owns the place. What an arse’. It’s now devolved to the point where our personal and professional relationship is completely unsalvageable, and that’s kind of a shame.

Why don’t I like him?

I’m glad you asked. Primarily, I hate him because he’s a liar. He stirs up drama for his own amusement, and drags people into it. I can’t work out if he’s a malicious liar, or if it’s something more pathological that’s causing him to behave this way. For example, according to him, pretty much everyone in the office is conducting an illicit homosexual affair with one of the other workers in the building. Also, if he’s to be believed, the office cleaners are closet racists who give him dirty looks every time they see him and any other ethnic minority. I tried to point out that there was a good chance that the cleaners, like everyone else in the office, just thought that he was a bell-end, but he was adamant that it was more likely that it was racism.

In case you haven’t figured it out, he’s a homosexual himself, and is originally from India, where they’re not exactly open about these things. This has obviously led to him being quite ambiguous about every aspect of his personal life, while constantly fishing for information about everyone else’s, which he’ll repeat Ad Nauseam in every conversation he has with these people in the future.

When I first started, he’d been in the process of applying for a job with a large financial organisation. He’d discovered that I used to work there, so was asking me about how to prepare for the interview. I told him a bunch of tips and tricks that they’d like to hear, and he got the job as a result. He’d used my name a bunch throughout the interview and training process, because I was held in pretty high regard (not bragging unnecessarily, but I was very good at that job), so when he embarrassed himself through acting like an 8-year old girl, multiple former colleagues contacted me to say ‘What’s the deal with that arse?’. ‘That’s not a proper question’, I’d reply, and we’d have a nice conversation about how to phrase our queries in the future, and that was pleasant.

It also meant that when, after 3 months working there, he raised a grievance against his team manager in which he accused her of racism and bullying, I was made aware of it. Now, not only had he used my name to get in the door, he was telling people that we were friends; so the majority of the contact I’d had with people had started off with ‘Your pal…’, which obviously I had to correct, as I’m not prepared to link my professional reputation to his, given that he seems to be going out of his way to sabotage himself at every possible opportunity.

As a result of this, and many other reasons, my enemy’s employment with the bank has been terminated. It’s not finalised as yet, as he’s appealed the decision, and has signed himself off with ‘stress’, in an effort to delay the process as long as possible. As he’s technically only suspended while the appeals process grinds to a halt, he’s still drawing a salary from the bank. What this means is that instead of just being a part-time annoyance, he’s gone back to being a full-time pain in my ass. “Stressful”, indeed.

As I said, he’s a perpetual liar, so he’s declined to mention to my colleagues that he’s been fired, and is claiming that he’s stressed due to potential re-structuring within the organisation, but will be returning soon. I know differently, and I also know that no one he’s feeding these delusions to actually believes him. Consider, for a moment, what it must be like to be Despised by everyone you work with, and to have nobody believe a single word that comes out of your mouth. Must be awful. Then, consider again, what you must have done in order to get to that stage. It’s a truly staggering amount of dickish-ness to have everyone in a room hate you, and I know that, if it were me, I’d acknowledge that it was, really, pretty unlikely that everyone in the world is a racist bully, and actually, they probably just don’t like me on an individual level. Then, I’d modify my behaviour, in an effort to change this. Sadly, it’s no longer an option for him, as things have progressed too far, and the damage that his lies have caused is irreparable.

As I mentioned above, he’s Indian originally. He studied over here, but his right to stay in the country is tied to his employment. It’s been a while since I worked in recruitment, and had to know these visa issues, but at the time, it was called a ‘Fresh Talent’ visa. I think it’s called something new now, but I haven’t the inclination to look it up. Basically, what this means is that a company has to sponsor his visa, and his right to work in the country is hinged entirely on his working for that company. If he leaves there, he’s given 60 days to find alternative employment, with another company who are willing and able to sponsor his visa. I say ‘able’, because it’s not possible for every company to do this. It’s a pretty large expense for a company to sponsor a visa, and there are procedures in place to check the companies who’re doing so, to ensure that they’re suitable. Basically, banks, the NHS, that sort of thing are the best place for people who’re requiring this.

Having been dismissed from one bank means that it’s unlikely that he’ll find another one to sponsor him in the 60-day window, meaning that he will, in all likelihood, end up being deported. It’s a shame that this has happened, but, being serious, he’s unable or unwilling to modify his behaviour to that which is appropriate to his environment, so even if he does find another job, in 6 months, he’ll be sacked again, and the cycle will repeat, presumably until the point where he’s closed all the doors, and burnt all the bridges behind him, and there are no other options available.


It just doesn’t feel right.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is pretty much how I feel about playing Delver of Secrets in Standard.

I’ve spent the last week or so actually playing the deck, and I hate it. I can’t quite work out what isn’t right with the deck, for me. I’ve heard all the comparisons to Caw-Blade and Faeries etc, but I can’t see it. It’s nowhere near Caw-Blade, from my experience. Caw-Blade was an Aggro-control deck, while I view Delver as a pure tempo deck. Faeries was more similar, in my opinion, but there’s still some differences. I liked playing Caw and Faeries, but something just feels wrong when I’m casting Delver of Secrets.

I’ve not exactly made a secret of the fact that my personal preference would be to play control decks where possible. I like that you get to keep looser hands based on the fact that your cards are generally of higher quality than your opponents, and, broadly speaking, all you want to do is kill things and make land drops. What I like most though, is that I’m almost always drawing live. The problem with the Delver decks, as I see it is that they’re completely unable to turn around a game if they fall behind.

The thing is, this deck has been so tightly tuned that there are really only about 5 slots that can vary in the main deck, which are usually used by Dismember, Gut Shots and some number of Swords of X + Y, with Sword of War and Peace being the flavour of the week. What this means is that there isn’t exactly much in the way of utility cards in the deck. You really can’t trim on anything else, as the numbers are there for a reason. The problem with such a tight package is that your cards are almost always 1’s or 10’s, and rarely anywhere inbetween.

Consider top-decking a Gut Shot in the late game, or a Dismember whilst racing, or a Divine Offering against a deck with no artifacts. Now consider Gut Shotting a Birds of Paradise, Dismembering a Hero of Bladehold, or Divine Offering a Sword of War and Peace mid-combat to allow you to block and blow out your opponent. Polar opposites of usefulness. Sure, these cards aren’t exactly 4-of’s in the deck, so the situation comes up quite rarely, and Ponder, in general means that you’ll be top-decking better than 90% of the other decks in the format, but I really hate drawing dead, and the fear of potentially drawing dead has been almost as scary to me as when it actually happens. ‘Any draw except a land or a Dismember wins me the game’ is a nice place to be, but it feels like getting punched in the genitals when you miss.

I feel like playing the Delver deck is like playing with Landfall in Zendikar block. It’s obviously designed for attacking, and if you’re using them on defence, you’ll be disappointed. What on earth are you meant to block with Geist of Saint Traft? As I said above, you’re playing a tempo deck, and any turn that you’re not able to attack is a turn where you’re losing tempo, and giving an opponent more and more time to draw out of your onslaught.

In my beloved UB Control decks, there’s no ambiguity, and my threats are almost always the same. When I cast Grave Titan, I know exactly what’s going to happen. Sure, this is just due to familiarity with the archetype, and I’m sure that there are people far better than me who’ve played enough matches with the deck to know how Geist of Saint Traft plays regardless of board state, but not I.

It doesn’t help how hostile the format is to Geist of Saint Traft now either. There are Clones everywhere, and Whipflares, and Blade Splicer is one of the most horrible things for a Geist to see, which is seeing play, sometimes even in the mirror. Geist of Saint Traft was frequently a free win, and it seems as though people have gotten sufficiently tired of those that they’ve actually built their decks to minimise those risks. Clever people.

Delver of Secrets is a card with such built-in variance that I’ve been avoiding playing it for too long. Sure, sometimes you get free wins, when you blind-flip him on turn 2, but sometimes you’ll just lose because he never flips. The best possible start in the format is still T1 Delver, T2 reveal Mana Leak, but there’s literally nothing that you can do to make that happen outside of blind luck, and T1 Delver, T2 Whiff, attack for 1, Ponder, T3 Flip isn’t nearly as good. It’s not bad, but it’s not even close to as good.

An aside on Ponder, I see people using this far too aggressively, in my opinion. I see people who’s hands are stacked using them in the interests of mana economy. If you’ve got a flipped Delver, and Geist and a Restoration Angel in hand, and sufficient lands, why would you Ponder on T2? Even if you’ve got a Vapor Snag if they try and kill the Delver? What could you possibly be drawing into that’s likely to change those plans? Ponder is, in my opinion a card that’s best kept until that last possible moment to cast, to maximise the value of it. It’s very much the Brainstorm of Standard.

It’s possible that these Delver decks are the only ones left in the format where Mana Leaks are actively good, rather than just acceptable. Aggressive Mana Leaks are far more powerful than a defensive one, and Delver is nothing if not aggressive. That said, I sure am siding them out a lot. Perhaps those more experienced with the deck than me can tell me if I’m doing it wrong or not, as I’m certainly pretty late to the party, but I’m usually siding out at least 2 of them.

Cavern of Souls is pretty ubiquitous, and I’m sure it’s being underplayed as well, so why am I wasting my time with more situational cards? Sure, sometimes they don’t have it, and sometimes I want to counter non-creature things, but I haven’t found these times enough to fully warrant the full set of Mana Leaks in the main. It’s probably different in real life play, where I can expect my average opponent to be worse than my average MODO opponent, but I’m finding so often that I play Delver T1, hold up Mana Leak, and a Cavern comes down and effectively Time Walk’s me.

I’d be tempted to shift at least a couple of Mana Leaks out of the maindeck in favour of something better, possibly a Divine Deflection, some Mental Missteps or maybe some Blade Splicers to improve my Restoration Angels (like they need the help). I’m not even sure if those Mana Leaks even find their way into the board, or if I just want to cut them entirely.

Strangely, I’ve found that I like Mana Leak better when I’m on the draw, which seems in contrast to what control decks want. I find that I don’t usually care about most of the cards that cost 2 when I’m playing this deck, and that 3-drops are usually the ones that are a problem. Purely from a mana-economy sense, I like it better on the draw. Am I alone here?


The Deck.

For illustration purposes, I suppose I should show you the deck, as it stands after I’ve been mucking about with it for a week. One thing that I do actually like about the deck is that it’s quite possible to use the open slots to accommodate personal play style preference, but that’s not saying much, as it’s really not been the most fun week of Magic I’ve ever had.

2 Blade Splicer
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Restoration Angel
4 Snapcaster Mage

2 Dismember
4 Gitaxian Probe
1 Gut Shot
3 Mana Leak
4 Ponder
2 Sword of War and Peace
1 Thought Scour
4 Vapor Snag

3 Cavern of Souls
4 Glacial Fortress
7 Island
2 Moorland Haunt
1 Plains
4 Seachrome Coast


1 Blade Splicer
2 Celestial Purge
2 Dissipate
1 Divine Offering
1 Gideon Jura
2 Hero of Bladehold
2 Negate
2 Phantasmal Image
2 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage

I don’t think there’s any point in including a sideboarding guide here. You take out the cards that you don’t want, and replace them with cards that you do. More than any other deck I’ve played, I find that I’m siding differently on the play to the draw, and depending on how my opponent plays. I’m determined that I’m going to learn how to play this deck properly, as it’s so obviously the best deck in the format, and the free wins almost makes up for how completely counter-intuitive it is to me to pilot it appropriately. Plus, it’s always good to step out of your comfort zone, and learning to pilot a new archetype passably is never a bad thing.

Here’s hoping I get comfortable enough to play it at the WMCQ next weekend.

Stay classy mtgUK,


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