Controlling Paris – Top 4(00) Spread the Sickness with Grant Hislop
Well, it’s been quite a while since I wrote anything. The truth is, this time of year, there’s pretty much a dearth of Magic for us in the UK (certainly north of the border at least). There’s no real tournament scene to keep people interested in constructed to speak of, and there’s only so much core set that I can draft.
Admittedly, this is the best core set limited environment since pretty much ever, but even so, I’ve found that I’m pretty much just killing time until Return to Ravnica rolls around when the people around me are galvanised into caring again. Given that the next set release causes major overhauls in the Standard format, due to rotation, as well as the sealed format being the next PTQ season, I can certainly see myself opening a lot of Return to Ravnica product in the next couple of months.
I still intend on doing a full set review, so, as per usual, I’m avoiding as many of the spoilers as I can, so as to maintain reactions based on initial viewing, as people seem to enjoy that, so I won’t be brewing with the new cards at all, and given that I doubt anyone cares about the cards that I bought on MODO in preparation for rotation, what else is there to write about but old tournaments?
A couple of years ago, when I had free time, I wasn’t laughably bad at Magic. I won a PTQ once, in fact, I even wrote an absolutely awful tournament report on it. Don’t bother looking for it, it’s embarrassingly bad. Hopefully, I’ve matured both as a writer and as a person since then, but it struck me that I’d never actually written about what went on at the tournament, which surprised me somewhat.
Then, I remembered why:- At this point, I was labouring under the misapprehension that you had to actually do well in a tournament to justify writing about it. Well, luckily for you my friends; I don’t think that any more, so you’re going to get to read all about my adventures on my first (and only) Pro Tour.
The Pro Tour Report
Rewinding two years now, I’d drafted Scars of Mirrodin block constructed a tonne, in preparation for the Manchester PTQ. I’d been doing one to two drafts a day for two weeks to get ready, and when I Top Eighted, I wasn’t exactly surprised. I was however, quite surprised that I’d managed to parlay my Top Eight berth into a win. At this point, I was very guilty of viewing the process of qualifying for the Pro Tour as a series of achievements, rather than as a continuous process, as it is. Given that I’d spent so many hours dedicated to the purpose of qualifying for the Pro Tour in the first place, I had no idea what to do once I’d actually managed to.
Under the new naming conventions, the Pro Tour which I played in would have been Pro Tour Mirrodin Beseiged, and it took place two weeks after the set was released in paper. Consequently, I wasn’t able to do any testing with the new cards, and the only drafting of the set which I’d done before the tournament was a pre-release side event, with a less than stellar opponent quality, and one draft at what was our then equivalent of FNM.
This set up obviously favoured the established pros, who would have a network of people available to draft test constructed with, but here I was, on my own, with no friends who were qualified, or really anyone with any interest in helping me do so. As a result, I ended up going into the tournament severely underprepared, due primarily to my own lack of knowledge of how to prepare, given that what I usually did (MODO) wasn’t available to me.
Pro Tour Paris was the first of what we presumed were going to be regular ‘Magic Weekends’, which was a short lived exercise that Wizards attempted. Basically, you’d have the Pro Tour starting on Thursday, day two on Friday, then a Grand Prix on Saturday and Sunday, with the Top Eight of both events running on the Sunday, Pro Tour in the morning and early afternoon, and Grand Prix in the early evening.
Given that the PTQ that I’d won was pretty much the last one of the season, and that I’d been planning on attending the GP in Paris anyway, I’d already booked flights to arrive on the Wednesday afternoon. Clearly, given that the tournament now began for me in the morning, I’d need to take Wizards up on their very generous offer to pay for my flights, and arrange one for the previous day instead. After extending my accommodation in the apartment that I was going to be sharing with Kat and 4 others, I was pretty much good to go.
I flew out on the Tuesday morning, with the intent of getting into Paris, finding our apartment, and heading to the tournament site to rendez-vous with the rest of the British contingent, and to watch the LCQ’s, which a few people I know were playing in. Disappointingly though, for whatever reason, the LCQ’s were held in a different venue to the Pro Tour, so after getting lost looking for the LCQ site (obviously), it held no benefit for the following morning, as I’d still need to find the actual venue.
I bought a bunch of cards for the deck that I was going to be playing, UB Control, then watched my friends lose in the LCQ, and headed back to the apartment to at least attempt to get a good night’s sleep. If I couldn’t be prepared, I was damn sure going to be rested.
I ended up playing something like the following:-
2 [card]Black Sun’s Zenith[/card]
2 [card]Go for the Throat[/card]
4 [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card]
4 [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]
4 [card]Mana Leak[/card]
2 [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card]
4 [card]Spreading Seas[/card]
2 [card]Stoic Rebuttal[/card]
4 [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card]
4 [card]Darkslick Shores[/card]
4 [card]Drowned Catacomb[/card]
1 [card]Scalding Tarn[/card]
4 [card]Tectonic Edge[/card]
1 [card]Verdant Catacombs[/card]
1 [card]Black Sun’s Zenith[/card]
2 [card]Jace Beleren[/card]
1 [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card]
3 [card]Vampire Nighthawk[/card]
2 [card]Wall of Tanglecord[/card]
Round one, I lost in a mirror match to Reid Duke, who was clearly more prepared than I was. I suspect he’d actually played more than 5 games with his deck before that morning, which seems like cheating to me.
Round two, I beat a Black-Red Vampires player, as I recall, quite convincingly. My maindeck was pretty soft to repetitive [card]Bloodghast[/card] recursion, but neither of the two games had that, so I was off, with my first Pro Tour victory.
Round 3, I lost a three game set to a Boros landfall deck, which made use of the newly printed Sword of Feast and Famine to both dodge my removal, and attempt to out one-for-one my deck. ‘Your deck is pretty cool’, I naively said to the gentleman piloting it after he smacked my teeth down my throat with his little white men.
Round 4, I lost to a Valakut player who slapped his sideboarding notes on the table, where I could read them. Sadly, when I Inquisitioned him on turn 3, he had a [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card] and a [card]Koth of the Hammer[/card], neither of which I could deal with. Even leaving mana up to represent the [card]Mana Leak[/card] didn’t dissuade him from chucking down his Koth first, and I died to his stupid Mountains tapping for 1 damage a turn some time later. This was a very frustrating loss, especially to someone who was clearly about as well prepared for the tournament as I was.
Round 5, I lost, but I have no idea to what.
Then came the draft. As I said above, I was woefully unprepared for the draft format, but given that I was at a 1-4 table, I didn’t think it’d be that big of a deal, especially seeing as only the 3-0 would make day two (at this point, you needed a 4-4 or better to qualify for the second day of play).
I drafted some RW Metalcraft deck, and had a [card]Myr Battlesphere[/card] at the top of the curve. Long story short, I ended up going 2-1, but ended up mis-reporting the last round, and giving my opponent the win instead of me. It was that kind of day….
Inbetween rounds, people I knew had been arriving, so by the close of the day, I had a decent number of people ready to go out. Ed Ross had been nursing a bottle of Orangina for the best part of two hours, and I wasn’t overly surprised to find that it had been mixed with Vodka, for the always classy two-litre-plastic-bottle-of-booze plan. Kat, and the rest of my apartment were going to be arriving that evening, so I went out for ‘celebratory’ drinks with some of the other Brits, with the intention of meeting Kat and the rest of them in Paris, after they’d dropped their bags off at the apartment.
By the time we left the venue, some of our party were already slightly ‘relaxed’. I remember me, Ed and Neil Rigby on the Metro, both of them drunk (or at least on the way), and a somewhat confused Craig Wescoe turning down Neil’s surely tempting offer of ‘Dya wanna come aowt drinkin’’ with a perplexed look and an ‘I’ve actually got to play tomorrow’…
We ended up in some bar in downtown Paris, paying somewhere close to £5 per drink. When we left here, we staggered along the road, looking for another likely venue. Upon finding one, we were surrounded by a large group of ‘French’ girls. I think it was a girl at a local university’s birthday, and she had a group out celebrating with her. What is 100% certain is that we all had some cake. What isn’t 100% certain is where the girls were from. Neil and I maintain that they were French, but some in our party were equally insistent that they were actually from Bradford… yeahh…
Now, clearly the point where you don’t even know if your conversational partners are speaking English definitely typifies a pleasing level of drunkenness, but it was at this point that Kat phoned to inform me that she’d arrived in downtown Paris, and was currently sitting in a McDonalds up the road, and could I please come and collect her, the utter philistine. Paris, home of culture, and some of the best restaurants in the world, and she chooses McDonalds Veggie Burgers on her first night…
I walked the five minutes up the road, and into the McDonalds, where I met Kat and the other two of our party, Adrian Fraser having already joined us at the FRENCH girl’s birthday. I decided that while I was waiting for them to finish eating, I’d head into the toilets for a tactical shit, to set me up for the evening.
The toilets, ladies and gentlemen were a hate crime. There was no seat at all, and an almost solid layer of piss around the porcelain of the rim. ‘I’m not sitting on that’, I wisely thought, fearing infection, so, hammered, I squatted, and attempted to angle my arse into the toilet bowl.
This worked about as well as you might think, and the cistern of the McDonalds toilet was now coated with a thick covering of shit. I looked at my handiwork, contemplated attempting to clean it up, decided against it, and rejoined the McDonalds loving part of our group. ‘We need to leave. Now’, I said. ‘I’ll explain why when we get out’. Kat sighed, and picked up her burger and headed out into the street with me. Eddy Walls and Heather Tait weren’t quite so on the ball, and didn’t quite understand the urgency of the situation, so were a little behind us.
As we walked back in the direction of the pub with the French girls, I realised that I couldn’t remember what it looked like, so I called Adrian to confirm that they were still there, and what it looked like. During our brief conversation, I accidentally stumbled through some police tape, and was forcibly moved by a couple of French policemen. I was clearly terrified, as I thought I was being arrested for what I’d done in the McDonalds toilet scant minutes before. Fortuitously, they only wanted me to stop tramping through their crime scene, and pushed me on my way.
We rejoined the party, and the new comers had some cake.
At some point in the evening, I found an iPod on the floor, but my attempts to return it to its rightful owner were stymied by an unhelpful barman, who pretended he couldn’t understand me. I put it in my pocket, with the intent to try to return it again next time I went to the bar, but I forgot because I was pissed. If you’re reading this, person who’s iPod it was, I’m truly sorry. I did try to get it back to you, but your countrymen are too rude. Your music was rubbish though, so I probably did you a favour.
On that note, I think we’ll call a halt for today.
Stay classy mtgUK,