Crucible of Words – Rocky Bilbao: GP Bilbao Report by Cyrus Bales

Crucible of Words – How do you solve a problem like a Mindsculptor? By Cyrus Bales

Crucible of Words – Rocky Bilbao: GP Bilbao Report by Cyrus Bales

“The Healt of the Salmon to help you a long.” – Age old techno pub saying…

Recently I went to GP Bilbao, rather than the usual tournament report I would normally do, I’ll instead be recounting several tales of hilarity and bad beats encountered by myself and the other travelling players from the UK. I’ll post another article with my decklist later on.

rocky bilboa


Upon entering Bilbao, we did the sensible thing and headed to the pub, weirdly we found one called “Covent Garden”, supposedly a traditional English pub. Once we entered we were greeted by the all too familiar laser-light show and techno music that has become the clear staple in English pubs, I can’t even remember the last time I went into a Wetherspoons and wasn’t met by loud Euro-techno and disco lights. The walls were adorned with various British football scarfs, none of which related to a team anywhere near Covent Garden. A few phrases that literally meant nothing were scrawled on the walls in English, as if some cryptic Irish phrase had been through google translate ten too many times.

Clipboard01To make thing more difficult, despite two different beers being on tap, they could not understand us when using the names of a specific beer, making “Beer please” the only possible order. Obviously we made some kind of mistake and must have ordered “Three quarters of a glass of beer”, however later we found out that all Spanish people lack the ability to fill a glass of beer to somewhere resembling the top.

The supermarket provided a much better outlet for alcohol, with 40 cent cans of beer that must have been made elsewhere as they were actually full.


The next day we signed up for some GPT’s, I only had one bye due to not playing in the sealed PTQ season, so figured a few more byes would be helpful. We were rapidly informed by a judge that drinking water was apparently forbidden in the venue, as they sold small water bottles at four times the price of two litre ones from the supermarket. The idea of enforcing this onto 1000 magic players made me chuckle as I paid him no regard for this ridiculous attempt at breaching human rights.

ScapeshiftI began the magic with a couple of bad beats, because we were the last to enter the trial, the pairings went up as we were sitting down to write our decklists, so after winning round one, I received a game-loss for an incorrect decklist and promptly watched my Scapeshift opponent top deck Primeval Titan for the win the turn before I would kill him.

The bad beats didn’t stop there, in the second trial I went to time against affinity, and although I had three Tarmogoyf, a Deathrite Shaman and a Loxodon Smiter in play to his one card in hand and no non-land permanents, his last minute Shrapnel Blast put me at 1 life point below his, making him win on sudden death thanks to my life total of 16.

I watched my mates in their trial, to see the worlds slowest ever burn player slow-roll like a champ to knock Paul out of the tournament. She was the last player to finish every round despite most of her cards doing the exact same thing and the deck being very much a short game affair.

In the final of that trial, Mike played against the same burn player, she didn’t speak or understand English, but that didn’t stop her picking up every card Mike played and ‘reading’ it. An eternity and a half later Mike took the match down, much to her disappointment and the scorn from all her male friends watching, who despite the language barrier, were clearly laying on the criticism nice and thick.

We later found out that she was Portuguese, and that was the average playing pace for that nation. We also discovered that in Spain, people roam the streets till 7 in the morning shouting, especially outside of hotels.


unicornMy day came with a very early test of my character, after a night filled with Paul making unicorn noises in his sleep. I played against a hate bears deck and despite having lethal on board to his nothing at the end of extra turns, I had not been able to close it out. I asked my opponent if he could scoop as a draw early on is as good as a loss and can often lead to more draws. He said no, so I decided I would scoop instead, there was no point ruining both of our days and being in the loss bracket could provide some easier games.

As soon as the slip was signed, his friends fell onto him like a ton of bricks and told him how he should have scooped. He was a decent bloke so I don’t begrudge him at all, and he clearly felt bad after he realized what he should have done. He came to find me a couple of times in the day to see how I was doing and was a genuinely pleasant guy. After this, my Karma should have been amazing, so I was guaranteed to get some luck surely!

It was not to be, throughout the day I got to watch a top decking opponent hit Geist of Saint Traft, Tribal Flames, Lightning Helix, Tribal Flames in a row whilst I only found lands. Another top decking opponent was kind enough to hit Sword of light and Shadow, into Tarmogoyf into double Bloodbraid Elf then a Batterskull. However my best bad beat story was infinitely better.

I sat down with an opponent in the X-1 bracket a few rounds in, his opening play was Student of Warfare, instantly making me wonder what on earth was going on. I Thoughtseized him to see a hand full of three drop knights, Stillmoon Cavalier and 2 Mirran Crusader being the most scary as all my creatures are green and/or white. Next turn he drops a main deck Rest In Peace to ruin my Deathrite Shaman and Tarmogoyf draw, which obviously means the next two cards I draw are both Goyf. He takes a couple of turns to hit another land but by then has all the Path to Exile he could want as all his protection men beat me down.

Game two is a similar affair, although this time with Aether Vial letting him flash in protection men and once again a turn two Rest In Peace causes me problems, even though I boarded out a Goyf and a Shaman, I was of course destined to draw the others. Nice job Karma.

Around this time there was a silver lining, as my mate Charles who was boasting about his good Jund match up got rolled by Paul playing Jund in comic fashion.

GodoThe best bad beat story of the day though, belongs to Pete Dun. He was playing Gifts Ungiven Scapeshift and his opponent was on storm. He Unburial Rites an Iona, Shield of Emeria into play naming red(Having seen a aThrough the Breach), only for his opponent to untap and splice Through the Breach onto a Peer Through Depths and windmill in with an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. At least Pete got to kill a lot of people with Godo, Warlord Bandit.

Another notable event included Shahar’s opponent asking “I’m not saying you cheated, but I think you looked at the bottom card of your library and drew it”, to which the head judge asked his opponent “Ok then, you try and draw a card from the bottom with one hand.”

Mike and Paul both missed out on day 2 in the last round, so we headed back to Ye Olde Techno Pub, then to another bar for a bit to be accosted by older Spanish ladies. Paul demanded we go to another club, but we decided against it so he had to get his enjoyment from abusing someone via facebook. That night he failed to make unicorn noises, instead opting for sleep laughing.


As expected from a country trying to bring their economy back on track, everything on Sunday was closed. No supermarket, only expensive bakeries, making it cost a little more than intended.

We began with some 5.5’ing, whilst Paul, Charles and Royde waited for the team sealed to start.


The 5.5 format

boostersThis is a format invented by the Reading Magic players, whereby each player has a number of boosters(originally FNM prizes), then opens those boosters and selects fifteen cards to make up the deck.

  • Each player begins on five life and draws an opening hand of seven cards. Any card may be laid facedown as a non-basic land that taps for 1 mana of any colour but has no land types.
  • The last man standing is the winner, and death from not having a library doesn’t exist.

After a while of this, the three musketeers headed off to the Team Sealed, whilst I watched Chris and Mike embark on a Two-Headed Giant draft. Their draft was somewhat sick as they had Fencing Ace and Trained Caracel with many Ethereal Armor in one deck, and the other had Lobber Crew, plenty of UR spells including Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius and 3 Pursuit of Flight to pump up the other deck.

In the first round I watched them draw a timely Niv-Mizzet and ride it all the way home, but the final had a much sillier game.

They made a Fencing Ace on turn two, then quickly made it into a 4/4. Mike fielded a Lobber Crew and protected the Fencing ace with Izzet Charm, Counterflux, Dispel and Essence Backlash for any blockers. In two turns, Lobber Crew dealt about ten damage and they closed the game on an impressive turn 7; winning plenty of packs for more 5.5’ing.

After the three stooges won their team sealed, we headed off to get dinner with a large group of us. Me, Paul, Chris, Royde, Mike, Paulo, Shahar, Eduardo and Charles, Pete came along a little later. During dinner, Eduardo taught several people how to play magic with playing cards (also known as the Marco game), before we headed to the airport.


Magic With Playing Cards


  • Each player starts with seven playing cards.


  • You draw each turn as you do with magic, you may lay any card facedown as a land each turn.
  • 2-7 in black are creatures who’s power, mana cost, and toughness are all the same value as the card.
  • 2-7 in red are instant speed burn spells that can hit creature or player, their mana cost and the damage dealt are both equal to the cards value.
  • Red Aces: Are X point burn spells that deal X damage for X mana.
  • Black Aces: Are X/X creatures with a manacost of X.
  • 8’s: Are Cancel.
  • 9’s: Are Giant Growth.
  • 10’s: Are Unsummon.
  • J’s: Are Dark Banishing (Despite the creature being black cards they are not black creatures).
  • Q’s: Are Divination.
  • K’s: Are Mind Rot


Aside from that, the game works exactly like a game of Magic, both players starting on 20 life, no mulligans allowed.

Me, Paul, Chris, Royde, Paulo, Mike, Eduardo and Charles were all on the same flight back, which ended up being massively delayed due to the snow in England. Meanwhile we taught everyone how to 5.5 and had some 5.5 2HG games, which as it turns out, is very silly when you attack with an 8/8 Trained Caracel on turn 2.

Eventually we managed to get home, and by the time we drove back to Reading, it was about 3 in the morning.

What did we learn?

Unicorn-in-the-Rain-rain-8135204-300-343The weather taught us that the rain in Spain falls mainly at an alarmingly high rate.

Bilbao taught us that Spain is full of people who can’t fill up glasses and are too lazy to work on Sunday.

There is no such thing as Karma.

Modern is a diverse format but is also no stranger to variance.

Paul wishes he was a unicorn.


“May your heart always be red, and your mouth always be wet.”

Cyrus Bales

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