The Midnight Cowboy – Spread the Sickness with Grant Hislop

UB Mystical Teachings – A Pauper Video Article by Grant Hislop


My Professional Friend…

I used to live with a professional homosexual gentleman. When I say ‘professional’, I don’t mean that he was really good at it, I mean that he “charged” for it. I’d occasionally get phone calls at 4 in the afternoon, asking me to stay out until 9 o’clock because he was ‘working’ at the flat. He was, in my heterosexual opinion, one of the most handsome men I’d ever seen. He’d lived in London for a bit before moving home, where he’d worked as a fashion model for D&G and the like. I don’t really care about fashion etc, but I’m told this is quite prestigious. To say that he was ‘damaged’ would have been an understatement.

He was pleasant enough to live with that this was tolerated. He did the majority (all) of the cleaning around the house, and practically the entirety of the cooking on the very rare occasions when we had food in the house. It was my early twenties, and I was single. If I wanted alcohol, I had it, food was a lesser priority. I was earning a lot of money at this point, working in sales, and so was pretty much the worst human being in existence. I kind of hope that our relationship is like what married life will be like, obviously minus the sex-for-money thing, and the fact that he’s a dude.

One night, in the run-up to Christmas, he had a ‘date‘ with this guy, who took him out for dinner, and he rolls back into the house at around 6 in the morning. He’s still wide awake, and flops onto the couch and starts watching ‘The OC’ or ‘Super Sweet 16’, or some other clichéd nonsense on MTV. When he was drunk, any consideration that he might have had for me under normal circumstances went straight out the window. The volume was excessive, and I could clearly hear it through 2 closed doors and pretty thick walls.

I wasn’t particularly bothered, as I’d finished work for the year, and didn’t really have anything on the cards the following day anyway. I got up, went through to the living room, and said ‘Morning, good night last night?’, and I swear, I’ve never seen anything move so fast in my life. He was up like a shot, and pretty much by the time I’ve finished my sentence, I’ve got a pint glass of Jack Daniel’s and Coke in my hand, which he’s proffered with an ‘Oh good, I thought I was going to have to drink alone’. Alarm bells should really be ringing at this stage, as it’s 6 in the morning, and I’ve just been handed a pint of liquor by a blitzed homosexual.

About a minute later, I’m pouring another Jack and Coke. We’re sitting on the couch, watching all these awful MTV ‘reality’ programmes, because no other channel has started broadcasting yet. At around 10 in the morning, I notice that he’s no longer there. I didn’t remember him getting up, but I’m not too proud to admit to you guys that I’d gotten really into ‘Super Sweet 16’, so he didn’t exactly have my full attention. After about half an hour of solitude, I go to look for him, just to make sure he’s not dead.

I go into the toilet, and was greeted by the sight of him lying with his trousers round his ankles and sound asleep on the floor. He’d presumable been using the toilet, fallen asleep, and subsequently off the toilet. I was faced with the dilemma of whether I move the trouserless man, and put him to bed, or leave him. Given that he’d basically tumbled into the recovery position, the choice was simple. I took a quick photo for blackmailing purposes for later, and door closed means it’s not there anymore, right?

Ladies and Gentlemen, after this weekend’s PTQ tournament, I feel like my former flatmate did that morning: Passed out with my trousers round my ankles on the toilet floor with a dull throbbing pain in my rectal area…


The Thing Was…

The thing was, I’d decided to play UB Control at the tournament. I don’t think that my choice was a bad one, and if the tournament was happening again tomorrow, I’d play it again (Sam). I’d tested a bit on MODO with Andy Morrison playing Angel Delver, and it seemed like a really good matchup for me. At this point, the Delver decks are so inbred they’ve got about 12-toes spread across three feet and eyes that look like one’s going to the shops while the other is on its way back with the change. We played a bit, and I was doing things like winning off mulligans to 4 and the like, so I felt like it was probably a good choice.

When considering my deck choice, and after having read heaps of other strategy articles, I’d often seen the seemingly throw-away phrase ‘Of course, you can never beat a Nephalia Drownyard deck, good thing no-one’s playing it’. Off the top of my head, I don’t think it’s possible at all for me to lose to Solar Flare, and I need to play like I’m as inbred as the Delver decks to lose to ramp (foreshadowing…). I like my chances against Zombies, assuming that they don’t get the old 9-power on turn 3 draws.

The thing is, as eventual winner Bradley Barclay said, ‘You’ve got a few good matchups, but you’re not favoured against everything else. These aren’t the margins you’re looking for in a PTQ‘, and I think he’s right with that. If everyone was playing Ramp, Flare and Delver in the room, I think I’d have come away with at the very least a Top 8, but they weren’t. There were people playing all sorts of decks around the room. Decks that I didn’t expect to see. Decks that I didn’t really have any SB plan for. Decks that were pretty bad for me to play against.


The Deck

Before I go any further, I’ll share my decklist. For illustrative purposes only, you’ll understand. I’d recommend this if you expect to play nothing but Delver, Flare and Ramp at the top tables, and practically no one is playing Humans, or any kind of aggro deck with Zealous Conscripts.

2 Grave Titan
3 Snapcaster Mage

1 Karn Liberated
2 Liliana of the Veil
2 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage

3 Black Sun’s Zenith
1 Blue Sun’s Zenith
2 Curse of Death’s Hold
1 Doom Blade
3 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Mana Leak
3 Go for the Throat
2 Ratchet Bomb
1 Sever the Bloodline
4 Think Twice

4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
1 Ghost Quarter
8 Island
3 Nephalia Drownyard
6 Swamp


2 Batterskull
1 Curse of Death’s Hold
2 Dissipate
2 Ghost Quarter
2 Nihil Spellbomb
3 Phantasmal Image
1 Sever the Bloodline
2 Wurmcoil Engine

It should be relatively obvious what I’ve done here. Eschewing the majority of the counter-suite from UB control decks of old, we’ve moved to focus more on removal and finishers than before, and the initial results were favourable. As I’ve said above, we’ve got very good matchups against the majority of the top-tier decks, but it’s unlikely that those decks will not make up the necessary percentages in a random tournament to make this the best deck choice. Sure, sometimes you can play nothing but the top decks, and you’ll feel like the smartest person in the room, but the thing with running an anti-deck, as this basically is, sometimes other people won’t have drawn the same conclusions about the format as you.

What this means is that I can see that clearly the better people in the room will, for the most part, choose to play Delver decks. Other people, either due to card availability, or indeed personal preference will choose to play something else. The other two reasonable choices would be Ramp or Flare. What I’ve attempted to do is to play something that will beat those 3 decks, which I think my deck does with ease, but when other people have decided that ‘Mono-Green Hexproof is the best way for me to win this tournament’, which wasn’t a factor in my initial rounds of testing, and I’ve got no real way to interact with a T2 Dungrove Elder on the play, I’ve got a few unwinnable matchups floating around the room as well as these good ones.

Another problem is that the Delver matchup, ie the most important is probably only 60-40 in my favour, which, while admittedly about as good as you’re likely to get, sometimes on turn 3, they’ve got 9-power worth of fliers, and can sit behind Mana Leak for the 2 turns necessary to kill you.


The Tournament

Having ordered the missing cards I needed for the deck from Manaleak, I’d built Delver in its entirety as well, to take to the PTQ, as I wasn’t sure that UB was going to be the right call. I wasn’t exactly comfortable with the mirror match, again the most important one, so decided to give UB a shot. I can’t say I particularly regret my decision. I think my logic behind playing it was solid, but I didn’t play particularly well on the day, and didn’t get the matchups I wanted.

My tournament went as follows:-

Round 1 vs Solar Flare: 2-0 W
Round 2 vs Naya Aggro: 2-1 L
Round 3 vs UB Zombies: 2-0 W
Round 4 vs Ramp: 2-0 W
Round 5 vs Mono Green Hexproof: 2-0 L
Round 6 vs Mono Green Hexproof: 2-0 L
Round 7 vs Ramp: 2-1 L

I’m still beating myself up over the loss in the final round today.

Basically, after winning game 1 handily (as I do), I had game 2 locked down. I had a Karn ticking up, 2 Drownyards making short work of his library, and was facing down a Huntmaster of the Fells and his Wolf buddy, who were both 1/1 due to my Curse of Death’s Hold. I was on 13 life at the time I’d stabilised. From previously resolved Primeval Titans, I knew he had a Kessig Wolf Run in play. At this point, my hand is a bunch of countermagic and a Go for the Throat. His library only has like 12 cards left in it, so my plan is to mill them all over the next 2 turns, and Go for the Throat of whatever one of the two he Wolf Run’s. I pass the turn, and he goes to flip his Huntmaster, and I, for some inexplicable reason, decide to Go for the Throat, to save the 2 damage. He then attacks with the wolf, and pumps him to lethal power, and I die, with the win on the board. To say that I was tilted would be an understatement.

I honestly think this is the worst play I’ve ever made in a Magic tournament, in my 5 year history of actually attending them. As a result of this, I keep an awful hand in Game 3, and my opponent casts a Titan every turn from T4 onwards through a Cavern of Souls, and I die. At this point, I really wanted the ground to swallow me up. I’d like to think that I’m beyond making such horrific mistakes, and it’s certainly been a long time since I’ve left the win on the board, but for some reason, this loss and misplay have really hit me hard. You know how sometimes, at like 3 in the morning, you remember something incredibly embarrassing that you did when you were in High School, or something like that, and it still makes you cringe? I think that this is going to be mine. I couldn’t sleep the night after the PTQ because I kept on beating myself up about this one misplay.

My opponent had travelled up from Wolverhampton for the tournament, and was playing for the front seat of the car on the drive back, and was a friendly, talkative non-obnoxious individual, who was sharing a car with someone I know, so there’s certainly a close to 100% chance I would have conceded anyway, given that I don’t care about packs or PWP’s for this season, but to actually lose a matchup that I’d been touting as ‘unloseable unless I play like an idiot’, by playing like an idiot has been a pretty bitter pill to swallow. Apparently, I don’t recover from mis-plays as well as I’d previously thought.

If, for whatever reason, I haven’t put you off this deck enough, here’s how I was boarding:-

vs Delver

+3 Phantasmal Image, + 1 Ghost Quarter, +1 Curse of Death’s Hold
-1 Sever the Bloodline, -1 Blue Sun’s Zenith, -1 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, -1 Forbidden Alchemy, -1 Karn Liberated

vs Aggro (RG, Naya etc)

+2 Batterskull, +2 Phantasmal Image, +1 Sever the Bloodline, +2 Wurmcoil Engine
-2 Think Twice, -1 Forbidden Alchemy, -2 Liliana of the Veil, -2 Mana Leak/Blue Zenith/Karn, depending on how I feel.

vs Ramp

+2 Ghost Quarter, +2 Dissipate, +3 Phantasmal Image, +1 Curse of Death’s Hold
-1 Sever the Bloodline, -3 Black Sun’s Zenith, -2 Ratchet Bomb, -1 Think Twice

vs Flare

+1 Ghost Quarter, +2 Dissipate, +1 Sever the Bloodline, +2 Nihil Spellbomb
-2 Ratchet Bomb, -3 Black Sun’s Zenith, -1 Doom Blade

vs Zombies

+2 Batterskull, +2 Wurmcoil Engine, +1 Sever the Bloodline
-2 Ratchet Bomb, -1 Doom Blade, -1 Forbidden Alchemy


Final Thoughts

As it stands, I’m now going to spend the next 3 weeks learning how to play the Delver mirror, and see if I can salvage something from this, to be frank, disastrously disappointing standard season. To be honest though, I don’t expect the Delver deck to be legal in its entirety after the banned and restricted announcement in a week or so, so I’ll be needing to work on some other things as well. As it stands, as a control mage, all I want to be doing is killing creatures and playing Planeswalkers, so I’ll probably try to work on some kind of Esper Superfriends deck as well, assuming that we don’t get to play with Delver of Secrets any more.


Final Final Thoughts

One really cool thing that happened at this tournament was that, as I sat down and introduced myself to my opponent with an introduction and a handshake (which I consider common courtesy if you don’t know your opponent), he responded ‘I know who you are, I read your stuff on mtgUK‘. That, to me, is a pretty big deal, and a pretty big ego boost. I’d kind of presumed I was using these articles as basically a blog which no-one reads, so it was somewhat gratifying that some people are actually taking something away from these articles, even if it is just to share in my hatred of Coldplay.

I’m always happy to meet new people, so if you see me at a tournament, please do feel free to say ‘hello!‘, you’ll brighten my day no end, and given the results I’ve been putting up lately, I need the boost.

Given what’s happened this weekend, I’m off to apply some Preparation H to the affected area, and I’ll hopefully be feeling a bit more human again soon.

Stay classy mtgUK,


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