Of Neighbours, Failures and Resolutions – Spread the Sickness by Grant Hislop

Analysing the Modern Ban List – Spread the Sickness with Grant Hislop

Of Neighbours, Failures and Resolutions – Spread the Sickness

Let me tell you a story.

My scumbag neighbours, who I talked about last time, had been in their new nest for about a month. There were two of them living there. They only had one key. Consequently, they’d lock each other out of the house at least two to three times a week, due to being idiots and off their faces almost all the time on who knows what.

At this point, their front door wasn’t the disaster that it would be in later stages of their tenancy, and the integrity was uncompromising enough that one emaciated quarter-wit throwing himself shoulder first into it wouldn’t be enough to grant entry to the property without several broken bones and/or a sore head, and they would quickly give up and wait it out until the other one returned from wherever it is that junkies spend their days, replete with their evening’s ‘entertainment’ in tow.

City of Edinburgh at night

I typically work evening shifts, and don’t get home until around ten o’clock in the evening. As a result, I frequently find myself staying up until the wee hours of the morning, and sleeping til around noon, like a student. Junkies don’t keep regular hours.

Stephen (Junkie #1) came home, after a hard night’s work at the intravenous drug factory, at around seven in the morning. He didn’t have a key.

Jay (Junkie #2) was comatose in the flat, with the key presumably being cradled like Gollum hugging the precious while she lay unconscious, upside down in the bath with the television and radio presumably both on at full volume. That is the only way I can imagine someone sleeping through what followed.

Stephen knocked on the door for five minutes or so, growing increasingly frustrated at Jay’s non-responses. The knocking woke me up. Their door is six feet or so from where I lay my head.


‘For fck’s sake’, I eloquently posited, ‘that fck-tard’s locked himself out again’.

I braced myself for the usual ten minutes or so of entreaties for entry followed by a slamming of the door and muffled shrieks of the unintelligent expressing displeasure with one another.

This time was different. This time was special.

Jay, open the fcking door‘. This phrase is indelibly inked into my psyche, so often did I hear it that morning. For half an hour, I grew increasingly angry at the continued disturbance. Around seven thirty, I could take no more. I got up, I put on my house trousers and a hoody, I went to the door.

Are you sure she’s in there, champ?’ ‘Y’fckingwhat?‘, was the feral reply.

You’ve been at it for half an hour, and I doubt anyone could sleep through the noise you’re making

She’s just fallen asleep, fck off

Can you keep the noise down, in any case, I’m working nights, and need some sleep

Fck off, I need to get in my house

Well, given that shouting isn’t working, do you want to call her phone?

She doesn’t have one‘ – Who doesn’t have a phone in 2011?

Could you try something else other than shouting on my doorstep then, as I really need to get to sleep

Fck off’

He looked at me like I, ladies and gentlemen, was being the unreasonable one about the situation.

Sensing that I was going to have as much luck in this particular line of inquiry as he was having in gaining access to his home, I called it a day at that, and went back inside.

Obviously, I wasn’t going to be able to sleep after that, and with the intermittent yelling and increasingly slurred swearing at the door at fifteen minute intervals, I decided to be productive, and do something vaguely worthwhile. I pottered around the house for a while, doing general busy-work, and laughed at the ever increasing absurdity of the situation.

Star Wars cantina band

At two o’clock in the afternoon, I would need to leave for work. There was still one too many scumbags in my stair. At this point, he was slumped against a wall, sobbing into his Glasgow suitcase (a binbag full of his possessions).

‘How can I make this more miserable for him’, I thought, maliciously. I went to my computer, and loaded up a ten hour youtube video of the Star Wars cantina band, and cranked up the volume to as close to full as my crappy computer speakers would allow without blowing up, and headed out.

I doffed my head at him on the way out, proffered an insincere ‘Good luck with this, buddy‘, and closed the door. I heard him cry a little.

To this day, I have no idea when he got inside. I do know that when Kat got home at six o’clock, there was noone there, and she called me to ask why ‘Some nippy music‘ was playing, but what I do know is that for at least five hours, in the middle of December, there was a junkie crying on my doorstep while I sat inside drinking cups of coffee and touching myself inappropriately.

I’m clearly going to hell.

Life is a Game of Magic

I’ve been losing a lot at Magic recently. I’m not that happy about it. I know why I’ve been losing though, and it’s reasonably easy to rectify.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve played two Standard FNM’s, with a combined record of 3-5, a Theros draft in which I went 1-2 and a Modern Tournament to win a FTV:20, which I lost in the semis of. It might be easy to just ignore the fact that I’m not winning much, and chalk it up to variance, but I’m pretty sure I can blame myself in a positive way for what’s happened.

In the first Standard tournament, I was playing Esper, and in two of the three rounds I lost, I made game losing mistakes, countering the wrong spell in one instance, failing to play around the one card that could have killed me had my opponent had that and another reasonably tempting threat in hand. Stupid Mono-Black Devotion…

In the other, I knowingly allowed myself to get ahead on cards in an Esper Mirror, and failed to scry appropriately, having put Aetherling to the bottom in the early turns, and just for good measure, neglected to blink him when facing down a Blood Baron of Vizkopa with my opponent on eight life while I had one card left in library. That one was a pretty bad one.


In the Theros draft, my inexperience showed, and I drafted an appalling deck and lost deservedly so.

In Modern, I made the questionable play in the semis of drawing two of the three Living Ends in my deck to go with the 12+ lands that I drew, while attempting to play around a double Relic of Progenitus draw.

In the end, I got Karn’d a bunch, and lost in the semis to a very favourable matchup, having not dropped a game in the four rounds of swiss, and declining the prize split due to having never lost a match against Tron with Living End before. Sigh.

boxing corner advice

When addressing why I’m losing though, it’s important to identify where the fault lies. It’s true that there’s almost always something that could have been done differently, but whether that has an impact on the eventual outcome is, in this case, actually relevant.

I have to identify:-

1. What was the cause?
2. Do I care enough to fix it?
3. What steps should I take to ensure this doesn’t happen in the future?

In Standard, the cause was my inexperience with the deck, and failing to think things through. I care, because Standard is a format which is relevant to me again. To prevent playing like an idiot in the future, I’m going to play a bunch more over Christmas, while I’m off work, in preparation for the PTQ season.

In Draft, the cause was that everyone else in the room was vaguely familiar with what the format looked like, while I was having my first experiences with the set, having never drafted, or attended any pre-release type events.

I don’t care about getting better at Theros, as I don’t need to think about drafting beyond learning it for the sake of learning, and it’s irrelevant to me as there are no events I’m planning on attending that would require competence in Theros limited. I don’t especially care for the format, based on what I’ve seen online, and my very limited play experience either. I will be taking no steps to fix this.

Brindle Boar Background

In Modern, I stepped outside of my comfort zone of Jund, and played a combo deck. It was excellent fun, and I’d thoroughly recommend anyone who’s been on one deck since inception try mixing it up.

I lost due to T3 Tron on the play, with a Relic, which is the only way they win that game, and then drawing two copies of the only card I need to stay in the deck in the decider. There was very little I could do to affect this, short of cheating, so it’s hard to feel too responsible for this one. In any case, I think I would have lost the finals vs Burn, as my version didn’t really have anything for that matchup, not even Brindle Boar.

I’ve played a lot of Modern at this point, and I think it shows. I think I’ve played most decks in the format, and while I think Jund is clearly still the best deck, I think I’m competent enough with a variety of format outliers that I can play to the angles of the expected metagame.

This is probably my favourite format to play at the moment, and I’ll be looking to play a bunch over the next few months, in an effort to get a leg up for the PTQ season in the summer.

For now though, the focus has to be Standard. I did quite well last Standard season, so I’ll be looking to improve on that success after the year. I’m fortunate enough to be off for a fortnight over Christmas and New Year, so I’ll be playing a lot.

A friend messaged me the other day, asking about my thoughts on Standard at the moment. At this point, I have to say, I don’t have any. I’ve not played enough to get any handle on the environment to speak of, and I’m very much going in blind. I’ve played Esper enough from last season that that seems like as likely a starting point as any, but really, the format doesn’t look like it’s going to break that way.

North of the border, we’re traditionally pretty big fans of Selesnya creature decks and Control decks, so I know what I’ve got to beat. I expect the more competitive players to be playing Devotion strategies, in any of the four colours that have shown promise thus far (sorry White).

Precinct Captain Banner

Were I to play a high level tournament this weekend, I expect I’d play White Weenie. Ben Stark’s Mostly White deck from the GP just past looks particularly exciting to me, but I can’t really explain why.

White Weenie has a solid matchup against both Blue and Black Devotion which is solid, and the fact that everyone is only playing a single colour makes Brave the Elements insane as a way to fight through board stalls.

Most importantly though, it’s aggressive, and whenever I’m inexperienced at a format, I gravitate towards the most aggressive deck possible, in an effort to mitigate the fact that I don’t really know what’s going on by making the game last as few turns as possible. I favoured Naya Blitz last year for exactly the same reasons.

As I’ve said above, I’m planning on playing a lot more over the next few weeks, so I’ll hopefully have more interesting Magic content to discuss, which I’m sure you’ll be waiting for with baited breath. I’m hopeful that the story about my toilety neighbours is enough to keep you sated in the meantime though.

Stay classy mtgUK,



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