I don’t really celebrate my birthday anymore. As I’ve mentioned on many occasions before, on my next one, I’ll be 30, and I’m not particularly looking forward to it. Generally, my birthdays consist of me carrying about my business as usual, and my girlfriend calling me every half-hour to shout ‘Happy Birthday’ at me to annoy.
I think that what I hate about birthdays are the parties. I hate making my friends feel obligated to come out for drinks to celebrate what is, in reality, a pretty pedestrian occasion, and I hate that I’m responsible for making sure that people have a good time. Most of all though, I hate that I’m completely undeservedly the centre of attention, and that I’m the anchor of the gathering, by which I mean that everyone’s going to be sitting, making small talk with strangers asking ‘So, how do you know Grant/Vaughn/Monsieur Frites?’
When I was younger, and considerably less dead inside, I used to celebrate birthdays. Mainly because when I was a teenager, I was too stupid to question why the passage of time warranted a celebration. I’ve told you quite a few stories about my life around the rim of the toilet bowl over the course of my articles, but the differences there are that those are relatively recent stories. The one today is not.
The distinction is pretty important. I’m pretty happy with who I am as a person now. I’ve obviously got a somewhat narcissistic personality defect, borderline alcohol and caffeine dependencies and an utter disregard for public decency, but all in all, I’m fine with it. When I was a teenager, on the other hand, I was pretty much the worst human being in existence. I was narcissistic to the point of maliciousness. Maliciousness is probably the wrong word for it. I said and did whatever I wanted, and people got hurt, and it wasn’t that I did it specifically to hurt people, I just didn’t care.
This is a story from that time.
When I was about to turn 19, I had decided that a birthday party wasn’t the soul crushing waste of time that I now consider it to be, and commenced plans to gather my nearest and dearest to get drunk in celebration of me. My best friend Steve; whom I best manned for a couple of months ago; and I, in our quest to be ever more sophisticated, used to have a pre-night out drinking tradition. I’m probably showing my age here, but we used to buy a 70cl bottle of Aftershock each, one red, one blue. For those of you lucky enough not to know, Aftershock is a cinnamon liqueur, and I’d speculate that its modern analogue would be Jagermeister. It’s 40% proof, and its best use would be burning warts off of pigs. We’d decant the contents of the two bottles into one, larger container, and make a sticky, purple mess.
In our pubescent naivety, this constituted a ‘cocktail’. We used to drink the contents of the bucket over the course of a couple of hours, while getting ready (we’re guys, so this used to mean shaving our heads, showering and then watching Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (we were so cool)).
Sadly, on the occasion of my birthday party, Steve was going to have to work. This wasn’t the end of the world, though, as he was working behind the bar at the venue of my party; The Citrus Club. In my youth, Thursdays at the Citrus Club were the best thing ever. I wore baggy trousers and hit on girls with too much eyeliner while listening to heavy metal music and drinking bottles of Foster’s finest Australian lager at £1 a time. Magic. They’ve gone all Indy now, so yet another aspect of my youth has died, but I digress. Steve was to work behind the bar, and I voiced my displeasure at his being unable to attend the festivities. He was confident either that he could work the bar drunk without anyone noticing, or that pre-party drinking wouldn’t be enough to get him there in the first place. We’re still debating his obviously flawed logic ten years later.
We made our cinnamon-based cocktail of destruction, and over the course of about two hours, on the scale of Coldplay to Van Halen, we got to about Bon Jovi levels of drunk before leaving the house. Steve left after the death-mix was finished, to get to work, so I continued with some other friends who’d joined us, and we left about an hour after him. By this point, I was full on Guns N Roses level hammered.
We got the bus down to the club, and met up with Steve again, who was nearly as far gone as me. His manageress was giving him dirty looks all the time, and he was dropping glasses about once every 5 minutes. Basically, everyone knew he was hammered, but they were short-staffed to the point that he couldn’t just be sent away. He was given a bucket, and sent on glass-collecting duty. He came and found us on the dance floor, put the bucket down beside us, vomited in it, danced with us for a while, vomited in it again, and went off.
At this point, my memory of the night falls by the wayside somewhat, for unknown reasons, for which I apologise. In summary, at 3am, we’re ejected from the club, and I’d managed to trick a girl into coming home with me. At 3.15am, we’re still hanging around outside, and Steve slides over ‘I just got fired’, he says forlornly. ‘Shouldn’t have been working on my birthday, jackass’, I helpfully offered.
A playfight occurs between me and another friend, while my ‘girlfriend for the evening’ looks on, laughing. The Citrus Club is situated in the centre of Edinburgh, underneath about 5 stories of flats, so there are pretty large wheelie bins in the street to accommodate the waste of the residents. I got stuffed into a half-full of rubbish wheelie bin, and 3 people sat on the lid so that I couldn’t get out. The smell, ladies and gentlemen was formidable.
I lost the finals of the Scottish WMCQ’s at the weekend, and I feel like I’ve been shoved in that bin all over again.
My testing for the event consisted of one evening bashing various Esper decks against Tom Robinson, and some Modo 2-mans. Nothing particularly extensive, but my job is toileting all over my life, and I really don’t have all that much time for testing at the moment. To be honest, for the most part, I prefer playing on Modo to prep for an event anyway, as it’s easier to create a field of multiple decks, without having to own 12 Darkslick Shores, and you can fit the games in around you. It’s far easier for me to find 10 1-hour slots of opportunity than 1 10-hour block of free time, basically.
Tom was pretty solidly on Naya, and I’d promised him the cards for the deck, as I’m a nice guy like that. I dug them all out, and he sleeved them up. I started playing Esper midrange, and was beaten somewhere circa 8-2. I expected the Scottish field to contain a lot of Naya decks, so if I couldn’t reliably beat this, then I’d have to try something else.
I made Tom sit around for 15 minutes while I transformed into Shaheen Soorani’s Planeswalker Esper deck, with 6 maindeck Wrath of God effects. I think we split the games 4-4 or so, before calling it a night. I wasn’t particularly happy with going even-Stevens against the mono-creature deck, so I started mucking around on Modo with Solar Flare again. I’ve advocated the deck in the past, so it seemed like a realistic fall-back plan.
To be honest, after the beatings that Tom dished out, I was really trying to find all the cards for a second copy of the Naya deck, but I just couldn’t find another 4 Huntmaster of the Fells or Bonfire of the Damned in time to do it, so I kind of committed to playing Flare again.
Our plan was to go through to Glasgow on the Friday evening, stay with the ever hospitable Jeremy Mansfield, spend the evening bashing decks off one another for the evening and actually, for a change, getting a good night’s sleep before the tournament. We had a lovely evening with Tom, myself, and Jeremy and his wife Susan. I retired to bed around 1am, and was woken up around 9.30am to the always welcome smell of bacon.
I’m not able to do the Mansfield’s hospitality full justice in words, it truly has to be experienced to be believed. Tom and I came downstairs to a fully laden table, with Bacon, Sausage, Eggs, Tattie Scones, Mushrooms, and other breakfast delights. For around 15 minutes, the only thing audible was cutlery on plates, as we all loaded up on food for the long day ahead. I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to start a day, never mind a Magic tournament. Absolutely wonderful.
The list I ended up playing was:-
There’s certainly a lot of life-gain in the sideboard, but it seems necessary. So many decks are super-fast, and Delver has quite a bit of trouble dealing with an opponent who’s gaining life. The decks are super efficiently to reduce an opponent from 20-to-0, but anything more than that, and they’re struggling. This is why unassuming cards like Nearheath Pilgrim are actually really powerful against Delver decks. Not to mention that Batterskull and Wurmcoil Engine are basically the best thing that you can be doing against Zombies at the moment.
The deck clearly needs more Griselbrands. I was bringing him in against Wolf-Run, and pretty much anything that I thought couldn’t deal with him. I cast him twice over the tournament, and Unburial Rites’d him once. I didn’t lose any of those games. I’m obviously not serious about wanting more. He’s really good against a small sub-set of the field, but I’d hate to have him get Conscripted to my opponents side, or Vapor Snagged, for example, but he pulled his weight far more that I expected.
I’ve expressed my distaste for match by match reports in the past, and this will be no different.
My tournament was as follows:-
Round 1 vs Mono Green Dungrove – 2-1 W
Round 2 vs Wolf Run Ramp – 2-0 W
Round 3 vs Wolf Run Ramp – 2-1 W
Round 4 vs Naya Pod – 2-0 W
Round 5 vs UW Delver – ID
Round 6 vs BR Zombies – ID
Quarters vs Naya Pod – 2-1 W
Semis vs Wolf Run Ramp – 2-1 W
Finals vs UW Delver 2-0 L
I called a judge on myself in round 1. While shuffling up for game 2, I dropped a Forest onto the table while cutting my opponent’s deck. I know the guy I was playing against very well, and he was surprised that I bothered, as he knew there wasn’t anything in it. He said, jokingly to the judge ‘Now he knows I’m still on the Forest plan. Still, you’ve got to stay on top of these things. Plus, it’s only a warning, and while they add up, I’d rather stay on top of these things than have any ambiguity.
My quarter-finals opponent was Tom, who, after seeing that Wolf Run Ramp won his Quarters conceded to me, as he had an awful matchup, and had lost convincingly to the guy playing it in the swiss, while I had beaten him. I’m not entirely comfortable with the Wolf Run match myself, given that it hinges entirely on Liliana of the Veil, in that it’s really easy if I get her on turn 3, and really miserable if I don’t, but at least I thought I could win. It’s not just about playing Magic folks, you need to play the tournament as well.
Fortunately, I got the win in the Semis, so I had to play Stephen Murray’s Delver deck in the finals. Obviously, Stephen’s a very competent player, with quite a bit of Pro Tour experience. I didn’t help matters by playing like an idiot for the entirety of our match, and lost very handily. If we’re being honest, Stephen’s a much better player than me, and is far better for the Scottish team than I would have been. Objectively, I’m really glad that Stephen made the team. Personally, I’m a little gutted that it’s not me.
The Scottish team now consists of Andy Morrison, Brad Barclay, Chris Davie and Stephen Murray. 3 of whom have Pro Tour experience, and one’s an up-and-comer, so it’s looking pretty good. I think you’d have been hard pressed to hand pick a better team for us, so that’s pretty good news. Special commiserations go out to Graeme McIntyre, who Top-8’d each of the 3 WMCQ’s, and wasn’t able to take a slot on the team.
I’ll include a SB Guide for the deck I played, for completion’s sake, and so as this article actually has some Magical value, however marginal that may be.
Assuming that they’re siding out their swords, which they probably will be against a white deck. If they don’t, add the Divine Offerings, and cut 2 Forbidden Alchemies. Oblivion Ring is just awful against them, but good enough against everything else that it deserves the slot.
You might want the Griselbrand here. If you do, cut the 4th Forbidden Alchemy. I haven’t played this matchup enough to know if it’s worthwhile or not. They can kill a lot of creatures, so you’d need to be pretty sure that it was going to live to make it worthwhile. Much more realistic against BR than UB, due to the multitude of Clones that UB runs.
VS Control Mirror
+2 Ghost Quarter, +2 Nihil Spellbomb, +1 Dissipate, +1 Negate, +1 Karn Liberated, +1 Griselbrand
-1 Vault of the Archangel, -2 Oblivion Ring, -2 Go for the Throat, -2 Ratchet Bomb, -1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Up the lands, add some permission. Should be obvious.
That’s all for today folks.
Stay classy mtgUK,
ps. I nailed the girl after I got out of the bin. Classy, indeed.
pps. This article is brought to you by the following song:-