A Punishment For My Sins: A Grand Prix London Report

“I hear you attended the recent Grand Prix in London, Mr Stevenson.” I know the next question before it’s asked.”How did you finish?”
My shoulders slump.”Badly.”
“We know you finished badly, Mr Stevenson. We want you to tell everyone about it.” I swallow hard. The voice becomes sharp, vindictive.”So write.”
“If I do this,” I ask,”will you let me go?”
There is laughter. Then a click. Then silence.


Dark and black.

Nothing else.

I feel nothing.

Then light. Bright, piercing, sharp. Behind my eyes, inside my mind. Pain shoots through me. The light subsides.

I blink in darkness, smooth stone pressed against my cheek. My head spins, full of colors, shapes. My limbs ache. My body aches.

I try to rise. My arms, tied. Wrists, rubbing raw with dry rope. Legs kick the dark air. I sit.




Darkness. No sound.


I hear a click – a switch perhaps, or maybe a gun being cocked. There is a brief hum, then a man’s voice.

“So glad you could join us, Mr. Stevenson.”

“WHO’S THERE?” I shout. My mouth is dry.

“Who we are is of no consequence, Mr. Stevenson.” The voice is high, almost nasal – a voice that stabs into you, prying open doors to secret closets.

“WHAT DO YOU WANT?” My voice begins to crack. Fear grabs my throat.

“What do we want, Mr. Stevenson?” The voice sounds amused.”Why, to see you pay.”

A noise, scuffling behind me. Quick, dragging footfalls. I try to turn.

There is a swishing sound. Something smashes me above the eyes.


I fall.

I wake, groggy. Flickering light bathes me, chills me. My hands, no longer bound, go to my face. There are tender spots, lumps the size of eggs. I sit up, the cold floor pulling at my aching muscles. The room is square, little more than a stone cube. On one wall, a lit monitor seeps neon into each corner. Above the monitor squats a black speaker, wired into the wall.

I wait.



“Hello again, Mr Stevenson.”

I don’t reply.

“I trust you are comfortable?” There is a mocking edge to the voice that fills me with unease.

“What do you want?” My question is defiant, but inside… nothing but dread. The voice becomes animated.

“That’s what I like, Mr Stevenson – someone with spirit.”

I wait.

“I trust you can see the computer?”

My eyes flick to the neon screen.”What of it?”

“Write, Mr Stevenson.” The voice is warm.”You do enjoy that sort of thing, yes?” I hear another voice from the speaker, in the background, laughing like a goon, huh-huh-huh. Pulling myself upright, I shuffle to the computer and sit. The keyboard grins at me.

“What shall I write?” I ask.

“I hear you attended the recent Grand Prix in London, Mr Stevenson.” I know the next question before it’s asked.”How did you finish?”

My shoulders slump.”Badly.”

“We know you finished badly, Mr Stevenson. We want you to tell everyone about it.” I swallow hard. The voice becomes sharp, vindictive.”So write.”

“If I do this,” I ask,”will you let me go?”

There is laughter. Then a click. Then silence.

My fingers seek out the keys. I begin to write.

When I started practicing for Grand Prix: London, I knew what I’d end up playing. The men would be small, and they would be red. The exact listing and sideboard may change, but the ethos would remain constant.

Mono. Red. Beatdown.

As the tournament approached, however, I was beginning to have a few misgivings. The goblins began taking a beating from the most unusual sources- Mono-White Control, for example, was now becoming a pain. As for Red-White and Slide… They hurt badly. In testing, I was haemorrhaging losses left and right. Luckily, having qualified for Pro Tour: New Orleans at the smallest PTQ I can remember, I wasn’t too alarmed – I’d achieved my primary goal for the season. Sometimes the red guys swarm like killer bees, but sometimes they like to stay in bed. That’s goblins, baby!

Four of us travelled down to London form the northern heights of Leeds, bright and breezy at 4 a.m. on the morning of the tournament. After a mere two hours sleep, I was feeling slightly groggy.

Cardinal Rule of Tournament Play #1: Always have a good night’s sleep the day before an event.

Status: Rule Broken.

The journey was uneventful. The antisocials among us slept in the car, while the rest of us chatted about deck ideas, possible match-ups and dream pairings. As a whole, the car had six byes. Individually, I sat with two. I was ready.

We arrived at the venue in record time. As we sat sleeving, I made a few last-minute changes to the maindeck and sideboard. We’d discussed them in the car, and they seemed a good idea.

Cardinal Rule of Tournament Play #2: Never make last-minute changes to your deck or sideboard.

Status: Rule Broken.

As round one was being played, I reviewed my decklist:

Little Red Men – a decklist.


21 Mountain

3 Goblin Burrows

4 Skirk Prospector

4 Goblin Sledder

4 Goblin Warchief

4 Goblin Piledriver

4 Clickslither

4 Siege-Gang Commander

4 Shock

2 Gempalm Incinerator

2 Goblin Sharpshooter

2 Rorix Bladewing

2 Skirk Fire Marshall


4 Sulfuric Vortex

4 Starstorm

3 Threaten

2 Gempalm Incinerator

1 Rorix Bladewing

1 Goblin Sharpshooter

Skirk Fire Marshall… what was I thinking?

He was a last-minute replacement for my two maindeck Sulfuric Vortex. Theoretically, he’s good in the mirror, and can win games very quickly versus control – especially if followed by a Siege-Gang Commander. In reality, he’s as ugly as a bag of smashed crabs. A poor 2/2 for five! Woo woo!

In the car, my sideboard sported four copies of Stabilizer. By the time we arrived, they had been shelved for an extra Starstorm, an extra Threaten and the two Gempalm Incinerators. Yes, I know I should have kept the Stabilizers – I’ve mentioned how much I like them in a couple of articles. But my teammate Craig Smith talked me into abandoning them.”Board in Lightning Rifts instead,” he suggested.”They’ll serve the same purpose, and they damage your opponent.”

I took his advice about ditching the Stabilizers, but selectively ignored the rest.

So for the Grand Prix, the Stabilizers came out. And I regretted it.

Cardinal Rule of Tournament Play #3: If you write a strategy article and champion a particular card, stick to your guns.

Status: Rule Broken

Rounds one and two came and went. I traded, smoked and laughed. Round three pairings went up. I quickly found my seat.

Round 3: Nicolas Chanu, playing U/W


You’re having a laugh, mate.

In Team Leeds, our testing had been focussed on established decks. We’d not gotten a sniff of this deck. When we arrived at the venue, we tried some stealth mooching, but the U/W control deck was a surprise to us. The PTQ in Harrogate saw me beat a rogue U/W build: While it contained many of the core cards the archetype demands, it was sufficiently off-the-beaten-track as to reside in the”Where Are They Now?” file.

Game one goes badly: Silver Knights early, holding off small goblins. I offer a Clickslither, and it gets Complicated. Down comes an Exalted Angel, and a fresh Eternal Dragon. Swing. I’m at three, Nicolas is at a healthy seventeen. I have a Skirk Fire Marshall, a Siege-Gang commander plus tokens, and seven land. In hand, a mountain.

Untap, draw a Shock. So…

Tap red, Shock my opponent. Nicolas goes to fifteen. So far, so good.

Tap five goblins, stack ten damage to everything and everyone.

Tap six mana, throw three goblin tokens at Nicolas. Skirk Fire Marshall damage resolves, and we head to game two.

My blinding flash of the obvious: A draw is better than a loss.

For game two, I bring in the four Sulfuric Vortex, a Rorix and a Goblin Sharpshooter. Out come the two Gempalm Incinerators, two Goblin Sledders and two Shocks. In testing, it was a good idea to leave a couple of Shock in the boarded version of the deck: Foothill Guide can be a kicking, and keeping two removal spells also keeps a white player honest with the turn 3 morphed Exalted Angel.

Nicolas Parised to five in this game, and my hand seemed playable, if not stellar. My first-turn Skirk Prospector was matched with a Foothill Guide. Inwardly, I grinned. Leaving the two Shocks in my deck post-boarding seemed like good gravy. I knew I’d draw one in a turn or two.

Nicolas, however, had other plans. Turn two came, and he fitted the Guide with a fat-assed Dragon Scales. My non-goblin Clickslithers were countered, and the plucky little fella went all the way.

I did draw the Shock, by the way.

Game three, and I’m feeling low. It was time for drastic measures. I reached deep into my bag, and brought out… The Posse.

Side Note: The Posse

One of the things I love about this game doesn’t involve playing. It involves collecting pieces of cardboard, and arranging them in folders. I like things that shine, being a proper Liverpudlian Thieving Magpie.

At the moment, I’m collecting Foil Goblins. I have about thirty-five different cards, some playable and some chaff. They sit, sleeved, in a deck-box in my bag. And when the my deck needs a little push, when the Goblins are not performing to their peak, I pull out the Posse and lay them down as spectators. They cheer from the sidelines, bolstering the courage of the little guys on the front line.

At the very least, the light glinting off their shiny red faces can distract an unsuspecting opponent.

Game three comes. On successive turns, my spells appear something like this:

Prospector, Warchief, Piledriver, Clickslither, Siege-Gang, Siege-Gang, Rorix

Nicolas, on the other hand, offers the following:

Turn, Turn, Shards, Turn, Turn, Shards, Scoop.

The Posse was in effect.

After three games, we were deadlocked at 1-1-1. Game four began with twelve minutes left in the round. I felt good, knowing that Nicolas may struggle to get a win in that time.

Game four was pretty quick. The Posse cheered and hollered throughout. There was no quick Silver Knight for Nicolas, meaning I could apply the early beats with impunity. Clickslithers were Complicated, but I had damage was on the board. A Sulfuric Vortex took Nicolas to six life before he tapped out to reset with Akroma’s Vengeance. Unfortunately for him, the Rorix in my hand was being saved for just an occasion.

Nicolas was a good sport, for the most part. Our games were played in a friendly fashion. However, when he lost game three he became a little withdrawn.

The Posse had intimidated him. It’s hard to stand tall amid a sea of prime Goblin beefcake.

Matches: 3-0. Games: 2-1-1.

Round 4: Rui Mariani, playing Goblins

Rui had a tenacious look about him. He sat at Table 8 as I approached. Looking at his grim frown as I sat, I knew he was a Playa. Anyone who concentrates that much before the match begins must have game, and in spades.

Game one starts, and I come out like a rocket. I see no removal, which worries me, but Rui sees no Land, which gladdens me. He’s still stuck on two mountains when I finally make Rorix. Rui scoops, which doesn’t surprise me; my curve out to the fat flying guy was faultless, and I even had a pro-red guy on blocking duty.

Sideboarding for the mirror match: Out came the Skirk Prospectors and the Goblin Piledrivers. In went the Starstorm, Gempalm Incinerators and the extra Rorix. For some reason, even though he basically read”Protection from Rui,” out came the Skirk Fire Marshalls. In went the Threatens.

Threaten sucks in the mirror. I hate the card.

My sideboarding for this match was suspect. I don’t know why. Perhaps the London smog had seeped into my brain, causing irreparable damage.

Game two starts, and things begin badly. I keep a heavy removal opening hand, but I hate this ihate this I hate thisuyishdfgigekj[SGH[ohg[hug HG[OHGOH[FH]hnprk#;SFNsfhSFH;———

As my hands smack the keyboard, the speaker clicks to life.

“We can see what you’re doing, Mr Stevenson.”

I try and pick up the keyboard, ready to hurl it across the room. It’s bolted to the desk.

“WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?” There is a manic edge to my voice. I want out. The voice chuckles.

“My colleague and I have a vested interest in the game, Mr Stevenson. We like to see fair play, and justice.”

“And?” I am sullen, sulky.

“At Grand Prix: London last year, you finished fourth, did you not?”


“And did you deserve such a high finish, Mr Stevenson?”

I couldn’t answer.

“We don’t like to see people succeeding through luck, Mr Stevenson. It somewhat, er… diminishes our roles, shall we say.” There is a goon-like chuckle. Huh-huh-huh.

“I WANT TO GO HOME!” I am screaming, shaking. The monitor is yanked back and forth as I shout.

“You are getting hysterical, Mr Stevenson. Perhaps you need another quiet word with my colleague…”

Behind me, I hear an unseen door swish open. I spin to the noise. A heavy-set man approaches, silhouetted, blinding me with torchlight. He carries something solid in one hand.

Instinctively, I raise my arms, protect my face.


A ham-like fist swats away my guard.

A swish

A thud.



Again I awake, head spinning. The monitor sits, belching it’s light, staring at me, mocking me. Feed me, it cries, bow before me and I will set you free!

I slowly rise, and shamble to the desk. I sit. Delete delete delete delete delete.

I type.

Game two starts, and things begin badly. I keep a heavy removal opening hand, but I feel confident. I have two Starstorms ready to clear the board if things get rough. Rui makes early beats, and I hinder him sufficiently to make a clickslither. However, his draw seems strong. I am at eight life, Rui is at fourteen. I have a tapped Clickslither, a Goblin Sledder, and an inactive Goblin Sharpshooter. In my hand, a Siege-Gang Commander. Rui has a Clickslither and two random, freshly-cast goblins. He swings with the Clickslither, one mana open, two cards in hand.

I have a choice here: If I block with my two untapped guys, I presumably sink to three life. Rui would certainly sac his two one-toughness dudes to the consuming Clickslither, as they’re useless once my Sharpshooter activates. So if I block, I remain out of Shock range.

But if I block, I’m still at three, and it’s Clickslither versus Clickslither. Sure, I’d lay a Siege-Gang Commander next turn, but with Rui at fourteen all he’d need would be a little burn, a Rorix or a couple of cheeky goblins to feed his 3/3 guy. And if I don’t block, I can kill him next turn, with Clickslither, Siege-Gang, and multiple pinging action.

So I don’t block. Show me the money, say I.

He shows me the money. Shock to the dome.

Game three, and things start going badly with a vengeance. My hand looks okay, with it’s early plays and a Starstorm. Although I make a Clickslither, Rui trumps me with successive Clickslithers turns four and five, followed by successive Siege-Gang Commanders turns six and seven. Once I’d scooped, he revealed his hand- removal, little guys, Rorix… All good.

Rui was a nice guy. The mirror match, as always, felt so random. It’s all about the Siege-Gangs: if you see them and your opponent doesn’t, you’ll win.

My first loss of the day.


Last year, I was 3-1, and I ended up finishing 4th. I still felt good. Little did I know that the day would get steadily worse…

Matches: 3-1. Games: 3-3-1.

Round 5: Jaeger Weigersma, playing Astral Slide

Game one. Turn 2 Lightning Rift. Turn 3 Astral Slide. Cycle cycle cycle cycle cycle cycle cycle cycle cycle cycle cycle Angel scoop.

Game two. Turn 2 Lightning Rift. Cycle cycle cycle cycle cycle cycle cycle cycle cycle cycle cycle Angel scoop.

Damn you, Craig Smith! Damn you straight to Hell!

Stabilizers: Don’t leave home without them.

This was the match where my deck decided not to bother.”We’re sick of being pushed around”, the Little Red Men cried,”We want to be left alone!”

The Posse, my rock in times of trouble, looked on in bewilderment.”But Craig is our friend,” they pleaded,”Come on, lads, let’s win one for the big guy!”

Screw you, Posse!” My deck was unrepentant.”He’s had it! Finished! Kaput! We ain’t going down with a sinking ship! Come on, lads – Diego need us!”

And off they went into the Latin-American sunset.

Erm… oh yeah! Jaeger was a nice guy. Friendly-like. Well, at least he didn’t rub it in.

Matches: 3-2. Games: 3-5-1.

Round 6: Vivien Guilard, playing B/W control.

So I go into round six knowing I need to win. And win round seven. And round eight. And then, with two byes, I might get into day two on tiebreakers. My deck, once a mighty weapon, had abandoned me. I felt undone, unarmed. The goblins were running, fighting battles on other tables, away from my pleading gaze.

“I need you, guys! Craig and the Goblins, taking on the world, yeah? Like the old days!” My cries went unnoticed.

Vivien was a young guy. French.”But was he friendly?” I hear you cry. Yes! Yes, he was friendly! Hurrah!

Game one, I win, Game two, I lose, Game three, we draw- Skirk Fire Marshall pulls mediocrity from the jaws of defeat once more.

Okay, I know I’m not being thorough. As you’ve no doubt guessed, I lost this match and dropped from the tournament. The first three games were business as usual. Hell, we’re all busy people… I don’t want to bore you with”then he made a Silver Knight then I made a Gang-Gang Commander then I attacked” stories, yadda yadda yadda. Game four, however, was a bit special.

I felt good. My opening hand had two land, two Goblin Warchiefs and three Goblin Piledrivers. It could be pretty spectacular. My first Warchief met with a Smother. My second, with Piledriver, also Smothered. My team was then Infested away.

Still, I was drawing the shiznit. Clickslither, Siege-Gang, keeping my opponent low on life. Some judicious blocking with Eternal Dragon cleared the board, and I drop a Sulfuric Vortex. I’m feeling good.

Vivien untaps, takes two and makes an Exalted Angel. No worries; I make a Clickslither.

The Vortex is Wiped Clean, and the Angel swings.

I make something big and fat with haste, and my guys take Vivien to three. I know that even with the life gained next turn by the Angel, Akroma needed to show some Vengeance to equalize the situation. And I still had gas in hand.

Vivien had one card, and I knew it cycled for a plains. I was sitting pretty on twelve life, knowing my opponent needed something special or he would lose.

Vivien: End of turn, plainscycle. Untap, draw, swing with Angel. I’m at seven. Cast Akroma’s Vengeance. Turn.

Me: Untap, draw, make Clickslither, swing. Take you to four. Turn.

Vivien: Untap, draw, cast Akroma’s Vengeance. Turn.

Me: Untap, draw, make Siege-Gang Commander, with one mana open. Turn.

Vivien: Untap, draw. Cast Akroma’s Vengeance. Turn.

Me: Untap, draw, make… Skirk Fire Marshall. Lay Goblin Burrows. Turn.

Vivien: Untap, draw, Make Akroma, Angel of Wrath. Swing, take you to six. Turn.

Me: Untap, draw, scoop, weep.

I shook his hand and shook my head. The angels were definitely smiling on him.

Matches: 3-3. Games: 4-7-2

As soon as the rest of the team finished, we climbed in the car and headed back to Leeds. It wasn’t a good day for us. Matt Harper posted our best score of the day, a creditable 6-2 having stared with zero byes. This placed him in 86th place, out of Day Two contention – but his performance should catapult his Constructed rating through the 1500 barrier. Craig Smith went 3-4-1, and Mike Major dropped early on 3-2.

When I got home, I had a KFC Variety Meal.

So that’s it.

I failed.

It was miserable.

Happy now? Can I go home? Can you read this?

Can you tell what I’m thinking now? CAN YOU?

The monitor clicked off. The room was plunged into darkness.

I sat, waiting. Tensed.



The voice, nasal and insidious.

“It’s passable, I suppose, Mr Stevenson.”

“It was written under extreme duress.” Sarcasm drips from each word.

There is a pause.

“I’d heard you were a funny man, Mr Stevenson. I must have been mistaken.” The goon laughs, huh-huh-huh.

There is a slow rumble. Behind the monitor, a section of the wall begins to slowly rise. Dim lights reveal the room beyond.

Reclining in a wing-backed chair, a man sits and strokes a plump, white cat. The man is sheathed in darkness. From what I can see, he looks jovial, almost jolly.

Behind him stands another man. He is short yet sturdy, and he oozes menace. Thin hair frames his pinched face. He looks excited and speaks.

“Can I hit him again, Mr Rosewater? Can I? Can I hit him?” He pounds a heavy cudgel into an oversized fist. Still seated, the cat-stroking man raises a hand,

“Patience, Mr Buehler – patience. There’ll be time enough for that.”

I sit, amazed.”WHY?” I shout.”WHAT HAVE I DONE?”

Mr Rosewater smiles.”We need no reasons for this, Mr Stevenson. We are above such petty concerns.”


“You have been moderately successful of late, Mr Stevenson.”


“We just wanted to remind you. Of your place.” Mr Rosewater leans forward, dislodging his cat.”Your place in the PECKING ORDER..” Mr Beuhler laughs. Huh-huh-huh. Mr Rosewater gives a benign smile.

“We have tired of you now, Mr Stevenson.” He reaches for a hidden lever.”It’s time for goodbyes.”

“NO!” I jump up, startled. I’m too young to die!

“GOODBYE, MR STEVENSON!” Mr Rosewater is shouting now, feverish, ranting.”IT’S BEEN…EMOTIONAL.”

I close my eyes, braced for the worst.

There is a grinding noise, then silence. I pause, unsure.


Opening one eye, I see a shaft of sunlight, beaming through an open doorway. I blink, swallowing back my heart.

“You… you’re letting me go?”

“Of course, Mr Stevenson.” I’ve never felt so relieved.

“You’re not going to kill me?”

Rosewater laughs.”Kill you, Mr Stevenson? Heavens, no! What do you think we are… animals?”

I stand, shaken. Mr Rosewater and Mr Beuhler smile at me. Groggy, I make my way to the door.

As I leave, passing into the light, a masked man drags a comatose figure into what was once my prison. The door slowly closes. As I walk away, I hear the nasal whine of Mr Rosewater.

“Ah, Mr Tait. It’s SO good to see you again….”


Craig Stevenson

Scouseboy on Magic Online

[email protected]