Everyone’s After My Lucky Charm – A GP Birmingham Report.

I recognized Stewart as one of the improving Scottish Magic players. In fact, I may have played him before, but in general I’ve a terrible memory for names and faces. I’m sure if I’d been at the end of some horrendous mauling at his hand, his face would be permanently scarred onto my retinas. He had the baggy pants and baseball cap of the perennially cool, accompanied by the superior sneer that only comes in the rainbow haze of youth.

Do you have a lucky charm?

I do.

At least, I think I do.

Or I thought I did.

Hell, after the madness that was GP: Birmingham, I haven’t a clue what I’ve got.

I’ll just tell you what happened…


Before GP Birmingham, I’d been on quite a winning streak. My previous three tournaments, all PTQ appearances, saw me make the final each time. The last two (the final British PTQ for Kobe, and the first British PTQ for San Diego) saw me as winner and qualifier.

Why is that? Practice? Luck?

I’m unsure.

The Extended season saw me do reasonably well with the scurvy Pirates. For the final PTQ, I played an UG/r Madness deck, ripped straight from the forums of Star City. It’s here if you’re interested. Unfortunately, cash constraints saw me cheering the Kobe contestants from the sidelines.

But that’s old news. We’re all adults, and we’ve moved on.

My success at Extended may be attributed to practice and play-skill. I tend to do well at Constructed events. But my qualification for San Diego saw me win a Sealed Deck PTQ, with a Booster Draft top 8.

I’ll let you into a secret: I suck at Limited. I’m hideous at it.

Indeed, at the PTQ at which I qualified, I drafted the worst deck in the top eight, a three-color monstrosity that we shall never talk of again. But somehow, it brought home the gold.

I have a theory as to why that may be. Don’t worry, it won’t take long to explain.

NB: if you’re bored, scroll down to the Magic stuff. You all know what a card-list looks like. Knock yourselves out.


My girlfriend sends me lucky text-messages.

When I’m playing, I set my cell-phone to silent. I keep the vibration function on, as I’ve missed too many important calls to completely sever the umbilical cord. The phone sits in my pocket, largely quiet and ignored. If I get a call, represented by a prolonged vibration, I check the caller ID. If it’s a member of my immediate family, which to this day it has never been, I’ll pick up. Anyone else is switched off.

If my phone coughs out the short vibration of a text-message, a brr-brr-brr-brr, I disregard it until the match is completed.

So here’s the rub:

Before the first round of my recent extended PTQ, I asked my girlfriend to send me a lucky text-message. During the first round, I received (and ignored) the familiar brr-brr-brr-brr.

I won that match.

Since then, pre-GP Birmingham, I’ve asked for a lucky text-message before each round of tournament Magic I’ve played. Constructed AND Limited.

I’ve won every round bar one.

And the single round I lost, in the Swiss portion of the Extended PTQ, I didn’t receive the message until after the match was over. All the other matches, in which I received a message, saw me emerge the victor.

“What a load of arse-biscuits!” I hear you cry.”You’re being ridiculous, Craig. I thought your rap articles were bad, but this is patently ludicrous.”

Maybe you’re right. Maybe you’re wrong. All I know is that, as I walked through the doors of the NEC for GP: Birmingham, I was ready for a little… how shall I put this… experimentation.

But now, we’ll take a break from Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, and I’ll show you how I misbuilt my deck.

Here’s my card-pool from the GP:


Darksteel Citadel

Tree of Tales



Auriok Bladewarden

Echoing Truth


Leonin Den-Guard

Loxodon Mender

Razor Barrier

Turn the Tables



Looming Hoverguard

Neurok Spy

Psychic Membrane

Thirst for Knowledge

Vedalken Engineer

Wanderguard Sentry


Chimney Imp

Echoing Decay

Emissary of Despair

Grimclaw Bats

Hunger of the Nim

Nim Lasher

Murderous Spoils

Nim Shrieker

Scavenging Scarab


Barbed Lightning

Drooling Ogre

Electrostatic Bolt

Fiery Gambit

Fists of the Anvil

Fractured Loyalty

Krark-Clan Stoker

Molten Rain

Spikeshot Goblin



Echoing Courage

Journey of Discovery

Predator’s Strike

Tel-Jilad Outrider (2)

Viridian Shaman


Alpha Myr

Arcbound Bruiser

Arcbound Hybrid

Arcbound Slith

Copper Myr


Darksteel Pendant

Dead-Iron Sledge

Dross Golem

Dross Scorpion

Elf Replica


Goblin Replica

Gold Myr

Kraken’s Eye

Leonin Bola

Liar’s Pendulum

Lifespark Spellbomb

Myr Landshaper

Necrogen Spellbomb

Neurok Hoversail

Oxidda Golem

Pyrite Spellbomb

Silver Myr

Soldier Replica


Sunbeam Spellbomb

Sword of Kaldra

Talisman of Impulse

Talisman of Unity

Vorrac Battlehorns

Vulshok Battlegear

Wurm’s Tooth

Some nice cards in there, I’m sure you’ll agree, but nothing too silly. No Loxodon Warhammer, no Skullclamp, no Platinum Angel. Still, solid enough.

So how would you build it?

Here’s what I ran with:


Looming Hoverguard

Neurok Spy

Psychic Membrane

Thirst for Knowledge

Vedalken Engineer


Echoing Decay

Emissary of Despair

Grimclaw Bats

Murderous Spoils

Nim Shrieker


Barbed Lightning

Electrostatic Bolt

Spikeshot Goblin



Copper Myr

Darksteel Pendant

Elf Replica

Goblin Replica

Gold Myr

Pyrite Spellbomb

Silver Myr

Soldier Replica

Sword of Kaldra

Vulshok Battlegear


6 Island

6 Swamp

4 Mountain

I went with UB/r, and wasn’t completely convinced. I had Green as a main color, instead of the Blue, for most of the building period. At the last minute, I threw in the Blue. I’m still unsure if this was the correct move, but I’m sure someone more qualified that I will set me straight in the forums.

In taking out the Green, I lost a lot of my strength versus artifacts. My deck had the removal, sure, but it was guy removal. It was four damage, it was -2/-2… the only thing I had to permanently remove a non-creature artifact was Goblin Replica. The other reason I dropped the Green was because of my Equipment, which has no synergy with the pro-fact dudes.

Anyway, my plan was to take out the Blue and bring in the Green should I meet a extremely artifact-dependant deck. You’ll see how that panned out later in the show.

Aside from the possible gaffe over choice of colors, there were a few glaring mistakes.

Leonin Bola

This should’ve been maindeck from the start. In every match, I boarded it in for games two and three. If my opponent was playing White, I’d bring out the frankly sub-par Psychic Membrane. If my opponent wasn’t playing White, I’d bring out the Elf Replica.

The Off-Color Replicas

“I’ve two appropriately-colored Myr and a Vedalken Engineer,” I told myself.”I’ll use the Replica abilities, they’ll block… they’ll be golden.”

In reality, I needed a Mirrodin’s Core or a more diverse manabase to make these work. The Soldier was more useful, with his big ol’ butt, but more often than not the Elf was a vanilla 2/2 for three mana. And that’s so last season.

Psychic Membrane

I drew one card of this guy all bloody day. I had a game-plan, see. It was to make a cheeky evasion creature, like a Neurok Spy or a Grimclaw Bats, and smack down quickly before my opponent could deal with it. Thus a 0/3 wall that draws me cards, hitting the deck on turn 3, in a format of one-and-two power guys, should be good gravy.

Of course, there was a better card for my plan…

Dross Golem

I didn’t play him, even though I was strongly in Black. Why? Because I didn’t even notice him until I was typing out the above list of cards, fifteen minutes ago. I am so poor at this game.

I’m sure there are more mistakes to be corrected, but I’ve made myself feel sad. Feel free to ridicule me in the forums, if that’s what gets you sickos off.

Now, back to the action…

I sleeved.

I sent a text-message to my girlfriend, begging for her luck.

I checked the pairings. 587 players, or something close. Eight rounds. More than one loss, and I’m history. Still, the Birmingham NEC Arena is a big place. Usually one of the premier venues for visiting bands, I’m sure I could find another outlet if necessity dictated. Of course, that was a hopeful eight rounds away…

Round one was on!

Round One: Oliver Bellamy, playing WRB

Oliver was a young chap, and loud. Boy, he liked to talk. He was relatively new to the tournament scene, but was competent enough to turn the cards sideways. He knew the good cards, and he knew the bad cards, but he wasn’t anything special. Hey, maybe in a year or two he’ll be the next Kai Budde, but at GP Birmingham 2004 he was a guy I should beat in relative comfort.

I lose the die-roll, and am forced to draw.

Game one starts, and I don’t see a third land until it’s too late. And even when I managed to stabilize, Oliver used an Oblivion Stone to kick my arse.

Everyone’s been there, but it still sucks a badger’s tadger.

As I’m shuffling up for game two, My phone sparks into life. Brr-brr-brr-brr. The lucky text-message from my girlfriend. I smile at Oliver, who is rambling on about something tedious. I’m going to win this match, I think. I’m an unstoppable fireball, baby. I’m the Hoodoo Voodoo Man.

Game two, and I’ve brought in the Leonin Bola for the Psychic Membrane. I play first, and rocket from the crypt with a turn 2 Vedalken Engineer, turn 3 Myr and Replica. Oliver rallies in the face of my quick start, but a Vulshok Battlegear on a Grimclaw Bats does the swing-a-ding and bat-fuelled bummings occur. Drawing Swamp after Swamp, fuelling pump after pump, and the bad-assed Bats take down twenty.

Game three is about to begin. We’ve dealt seven cards apiece, and Oliver’s led with a Viridian Longbow. Then, disaster strikes in my pocket.


A second text message.

This was unexplored territory. I’d never received two texts in one match before. Who knew what horror this could unleash?

The horror emerged all too soon. Turn 2 Leonin Den-Guard, swing-ping, swing-ping, swing-ping, Consume Strength thanks for the game. In my shaking hand, four one-toughness guys and a Murderous Spoils (from which I was one land away).

Record: 0-1. Games: 1-2.

In other news, my teammate Mike Major managed to defeat a kid who played seven land in his forty-card deck. All around me, my friends were playing people with the Magic ability of lukewarm soup. Hell, the player next to me hadn’t realized you could exchange land from your sealed deck: she was running off-color lands to boost her mana-count, ramping up to play spells such as Wurm’s Tooth and Chimney Imp.

Yeah, I know. Sarcasm from Mr. Sucks-At-Limited. And yes, we were all beginners once, etc etc etc

Oliver knew good from bad, and wasn’t a terrible player. He beat me with a 1/3 (equipped as a 2/4) guy that I had trouble dealing with. I’ve done the same, to players much more skilled that I. So hats off to him.

After the match, I checked my messages. The first, as anticipated, was from my girlfriend wishing me luck. The second, the one that negated the luck and disabled my Voodoo Mind Control, was from a friend having a bad day.

Well, boo-frigging-hoo.

I stood outside, cigarette in hand, waiting for the pairings. I sent a text message to my girlfriend, requesting an extra-lucky message for the next round. After all, one more loss and it’s drop-n-draft time.

While I smoked, two paramedics flew into the building, armed with an impressive stretcher and all manner of medical machinery. Well, I thought as they zipped by me, at least my day isn’t going as badly as some poor bugger…

Round Two: Chris Stokes

I made my way to the pairings board, with Craig Smith (my smoking chum) a few steps behind. We passed the Side Events table.

Lying on the floor, a young man. Shaking and shuddering, in the throes of an epileptic fit. The paramedics were beside him, doing something important.

There was blood on the floor. People gawked as they passed by, eager to take their seats for the next round.

As Craig and I made our way to our tables, I had a thought.”I hope the guy on the floor is my next round opponent,” I said with a grim smile.”Does that make me a bad person?” Craig stared at me.”You’re a nasty man,” he said.

I took my seat at table 250. The crowd thinned as people paired.

Guess who my opponent was?


Record: 1-1. Games: 1-2

As I sat waiting for official confirmation, I received the brr-brr-brr-brr. My girlfriend was wishing me extra-special-super-luck! Granted, I wanted some gas, but I didn’t expect her to stoop to attempted murder.

NB: Don’t worry, folks, Chris is fine. I found a friend of his who tells me that it happens quite often and Chris is used to it. Still, bad luck Chris and hopefully I’ll see you at a tournament soon.

Round Three: Marc Leyland, playing RG

Marc was friendly. I liked Marc.

I started quickly, with second turn Myr followed by third turn Pyrite Spellbomb and Darksteel Pendant. From the evidence of this game, Marc had the slowest Red/Green deck in the building. He ramped and ramped while I tried to draw a considerable threat. Before Marc played a spell, I’d equipped a random goon with The Sword Of Head-Slapping and sixed him to Christmas.

As Marc’s mana climbed, I prayed he wouldn’t draw anything massive. A dumb Green guy with a lardy rump would give my deck an ice-cream headache. Luckily, by the time Marc made a play, the game was over. And as I swarmed through the air for the lethal injection, I received the brr-brr-brr-brr of luck that always raises a cheeky smile.

Game two, with the Bola in place of the Elf Replica, was savage. I dropped the good stuff turn after turn. Turn 2 saw a Vedalken Engineer, turn 3 a replica and a Myr, turn 4 Spikeshot Goblin and The Sword of Head-Slapping. When Marc made an annoying 2/2, I had the Echoing Decay. When Marc made a 4/4 artifact, I had the Electrostatic Bolt. When Marc made something big, I had the Murderous Spoils.

There was one moment of slight worry that’s worth noting. My side of the board saw some low-power guys, while Marc had nothing. He drew, played, and activated a Myr Incubator, removing ten artifacts from his deck to create a swarming posse of 1/1 artifact guys. With relative swings back and forth (mostly with my unblockable Neurok Spy), I was set to win by a single life-point in two turns. This was a little too close for comfort. I untapped, drew my card, and smiled.

Emissary of Despair. Thanks for the game.

It was beautiful. Well, beautiful from my side of the table, at any rate.

My deck loved me.

Record: 2-1. Games: 3-2

I sojourned to the café for a cigarette, coffee and overpriced hot-dog. Oh, the joys of a Magic event.

I was back on course. My deck, a spectacular failure in my first match, had decided to party. The text-message experiment was going well, and I felt confident. Sure, I’d had zero byes and was unable to lose another match without entering the drop zone, but at least I was still swinging. With Lady Luck batting for the home team, anything was possible.

Round Four: Stewart Healey, playing WB/r

I recognized Stewart as one of the improving Scottish Magic players. In fact, I may have played him before, but in general I’ve a terrible memory for names and faces. I’m sure if I’d been at the end of some horrendous mauling at his hand, his face would be permanently scarred onto my retinas. He had the baggy pants and baseball cap of the perennially cool, accompanied by the superior sneer that only comes in the rainbow haze of youth.

I liked Stewart. We shuffled and dealt.

Game one went well, and game two went badly. Spells were cast in some sort of order, and life-totals were modified. Something good happened, probably. Who cares?

So, game three. As I shuffled, I received my lucky text-message. Brr-brr-brr-brr. Hey, how could I lose?

Sadly, things didn’t go entirely to plan…

We both started off pretty well. I played a Bola and a Myr, and Stewart made a Myr of his own. Monsters hit the deck, and monsters were removed with spells on each side. Time ticked down, while life totals remained static. The extra turns loomed large…

Tick-tick went the clock, and the round ended. Stewart had the first of the extra turns. The ground was locked up, but Stewart had some flying three-power guy equipped with a Fireshrieker. I had the Soldier Replica with both Myr and Engineer for making white mana. Sadly, the Soldier Replica was Arrested on the first extra turn, and Stewart managed a little rope-a-dope for six. Things were looking somewhat tricky. I called on the power of the lucky text-message, praying for something that’d swing the game in my favor.

Off the top came the Elf Replica.

I slapped him down with a grin. When the time came, I destroyed the Arrest and used the Soldier Replica to level the playing field once more. It didn’t win me the game, but it saw me pull a draw from the jaws of defeat. And that was a victory in itself.

Record: 2-1-1. Games: 4-3-1

The game completed and the slip signed, and we both visibly relaxed. A draw was probably the best result, as we were both still in mathematical contention for day 2. It’d take a Herculean effort for either of us to win all our remaining matches, but all you need is a chip and a chair.

But what of the great text-message experiment? I was confused. I’d received a message from my girlfriend during the match, and hadn’t won.

But hey, I’m a”glass-is-half-full” kinda guy…I’d received a text message from my girlfriend during the match, and I hadn’t lost. And that was good enough for me. With the experiment still running, I progressed to the next round. Win the next four matches? Easy.

Round Five: Scott McKlellan, playing… erm… Magic.

As I sat down at the table, awaiting Scott, I wheeled out a time-honored mantra. I reserve it for situations such as these, as it both inspires and consoles.

“Just let me get to the last match with a shot at day 2,” I mumbled.”A one-match, death or glory fight. That’ll be good enough for me.”

I stroked my cell-phone through the fabric of my jeans. Baby, don’t fail me now…

Scott was uber-friendly. He liked to talk. I don’t mind people who chat during a game, as it helps lighten the oftentimes tense atmosphere. And of course, with a loss spelling disaster for either of us, the atmosphere grew a little tense as the game progressed.

I’ll be honest here: I have no idea what Scott played. Don’t get me wrong, he played well… the life-totals in my score-pad show he was a potent force in each game. It’s just that, like a fool, I’ve forgotten what happened.

So instead of glossing over the details, I’ll make them up:

Game one saw me speed out like a dragster, straight-edged and firing. Myr and equipment hit the table like pocket rockets, swinging past Scott’s sub-standard defenses. Scott made Talisman after Talisman, ramping to thirty-five mana by turn 4. I feared the Fireball. With my two Myr and a morph beating him down, Scott sent his big red ball to my noggin. I flipped a Willbender, but Scott had the Stifle! Luckily, I flashed a Reverse Damage, and managed to beat down with a Moss Monster in fifteen scant turns.

Game two was exactly the same.

Only different.

The actual facts I remember from this match: I received a single text-message from my girlfriend, halfway through game one. I was in a commanding position when the brr-brr-brr-brr blitzed my lint-lined denim pocket. In game two, The Sword of Head-Slapping played some part, equipped to a random spod. According to my score-pad, Scott’s life totals decreased in increments of six.

Sorry I can’t say more, Scott. I’m sure the match was fabulous.

Record: 3-1-1. Games: 6-3-1

While enjoying a post-match cigarette, my erstwhile companion and Team Leeds taxi, Craig Smith, informed me that the rest of our scurvy crew had dropped from the main event. Our lackluster performance was to be expected, I suppose. After all, we play very little Limited Magic.

Craig told me that the car home was waiting for me to lose a match. Then we could leave the venue with egg on our faces but time on our side. He wished me bad luck for the next round, hoping I’d get stuffed by whoever sat opposite me. To be honest, it was more than a possibility. I’d checked the pairings, and some talented folk resided in the death-or-glory bracket. I particularly feared Emily Martin, a local improving player. While I thought I could best her for skill, I happened to sit next to her during deck construction. Her deck contained sh** that could send Finkel packing.

Three rounds to go, and the experiment was going well. I’d still not lost a match in which I’d received a lucky text, other than the one that was counteracted by Voodoo shenanigans. To be frank, all I wanted was for the vague strangeness to be dispelled. I’d be happy if the streak was broken, and the luck factor was officially disproved. I was positive it would be. After all, to officially prove the lucky-text-message theory, I’d need to win the whole shebang. I don’t think my nerves could handle that.

Round Six: Michael Wilding, playing RB

Michael, from Telford, was the opposite of my previous opponent. He was a surly man. He played with the serious frown of the seasoned playa, making it patently clear that he was here to win. I knew I’d need a slice of luck to wrest the match from his clamp-like grip.

As I picked up the die to start the match, I received the now-familiar brr-brr-brr-brr. I knew I was in for good beats. Indeed, this was the case, although not for the reason I thought…

“Roll a dice for start?” I offered, brandishing a d6.

“Fine,” said Michael.”Highest choo-“


The walls were shaking. Next door, the main stage of the NEC Arena, housed a gig by the formidable Blazin’ Squad. A thick back-beat, vibrating and quaking, shook us to the core. The bass-line knuckled and gnawed into our very brain. The muffled lyrics, as indistinct and tantalizing as the tinny tinkles of a bus-bound Walkman, whispered into our psyche and demanded our undivided attention.

Distracting? Hell, yes.

Whoever organized that cock-up needs a dry slap.

Simon and I sat staring at each other. There was a pause as our brains switched on their spam-filters. Then we rolled the d6. Predictably, I lost.

Game one saw us lay out early threats, all of which were removed or traded. Unfortunately for Michael, he started drawing land while I made a Grimclaw Bats. Once the Sword of Head-Slapping hit the table, followed by another flyer, Michael scooped.

“Grimclaw Bats are ridiculous,” said Michael as we sideboarded.

“Too right,” I agreed, swapping the Elf Replica for the Leonin Bola.

“As long as they don’t hit the table too early, I’ll be ok.”

Game two. Turn 2 Grimclaw Bats. They took to the air with panache, swinging and pinging as my removal dealt with Michael’s ground forces. Again, the Sword of Head-Slapping made them virtually indestructible. Again, they won me the match.

Grimclaw Bats are beautiful, folks. Don’t leave home without them.

Record: 4-1-1. Games: 8-3-1

Craig Smith moaned his usual moan, tilting at windmills, pleading with me to screw up so we could all go home. He was smiling when he said it, but his eyes flashed fire. I’d witnessed the pleading phone conversation he’d had with”the missus.” She’d bawled him out, demanded his swift return, and then hung up.

Me? I was happy.

Two rounds to go, and I started to believe.

The text-messages were working.

I was in a reasonable position to make day 2. After that, with my girlfriend weaving her magic, who knows where I’d finish?

But still, my mantra rang in the dark depths of my mind…

…Get to the last match with a shot at day 2…

As long as I avoided a skilled player with a ridiculous deck, I had an excellent chance.

Round Seven: Emily Martin, playing UW/r

Typical. The one person I didn’t want to play.

Emily is a local player, wife of the noted level-three judge Ben Martin. Both are admirable Magicians, and (up until Ben lost his second match the previous round) both were still in contention for day 2. As I’ve mentioned, Emily’s deck was pretty strong, ramping out the good and finishing with Memnarch.

My plan? Deal twenty before Memnarch saw play. And pray for some bona-fide text-message blessings.

Game one went smoothly. Emily seemed to struggle for early threats, while I made some cheap replica beatdown machines. A Vulshok Battlegear sped the beats, and Emily stalled before drawing the seventh all-important land. I finally flew over for lethal beats the turn Emily drew the required man-source. She flashed me the Memnarch in hand as she scooped up her vanquished board.

Game two.


Game two saw me bleeding in a pool of my own vomit. I was royally bludgeoned.

I missed my third land-drop, and Emily went wild. She curved up in a glorious fashion, dropping quality creature after quality creature. By turn 7, my Myr and Soldier Replica faced down a horde of five impressive guys. Although I had The Sword of Head-Slapping in hand, tap-seven-Memnarch saw me scoop like Ben and Jerry. Ironically, I received a lucky brr-brr-brr-brr as Emily laid down the crafty crab with a Cheshire Cat grin.

For game 3, we had ten minutes to play. A draw would see both of us on the long bus-ride home. We agreed to play as quickly as possible, in order to maximize the probability of producing a victor. As we dealt our cards, I evaluated our respective chances.

Emily had Memnarch, and a host of talented cards. Her deck was more powerful than mine. But I had a lucky text-message on my side…

Turn 2 Vedalken Engineer.

Turn 3 Spikeshot Goblin.

Turn 4 Vulshok Battlegear. Equip Spikeshot, swing.

Ping you, ping you, ping you, ping you.

Emily died with Memnarch in hand.

I needed to out-race the big guns. Spikey Mikey did the job with style.

Record: 5-1-1. Games: 10-4-1.

One match to go.

One match for day 2.

That’s all I asked.

That’s what I got.

My moaning teammate Craig Smith complained long and hard that I was still in contention. After all, the rest of the team were waiting on my failure. The poor lads were tired, and wanted to go home. Craig whined at me for a solid ten minutes. Then he convinced Darryl Tweedale, the Head Judge, to give me a Feature Match for the final round.

Added pressure… that’s what friends are for.

Round Eight: Simon Marshall-Unitt, playing UB/r

So we sat at the Feature Match table. Simon was shuffling like a man possessed.

“Do you mind if we play quickly?” he asked.”I want to get to the pub.”

“No problem,” I said, but the statement irked me. If you’re so desperate to get to the pub, mate, I thought, drop from the frigging tournament.

After winning my first dice-roll of the day, I keep a two-land-and-Myr hand. I drop a Myr on turn 2. Simon does the same. As I’ve not yet drawn the third land, I kill Simon’s Myr with a Pyrite Spellbomb, trying to prevent Simon from streaking ahead in the tempo race. Of course, it doesn’t work. I draw for turn after turn without seeing the land. When I finally find it, facing down an Arcbound Crusher, I pop a Vulshok Battlegear on my land-on-legs, crossing my fingers for the good stuff to hopefully come.

Simon Domineers my Myr, and the fat lady sings.

Sideboarding. Out with the Psychic Membrane, in with the Leonin Bola. I’d seen a grand total of two creatures from Simon’s deck, so I didn’t know what to expect. I knew Domineer would kick me in the teeth, so the Elf Replica was a key card.

As I pondered my first game-two play, I felt the familiar…

Brr-brr-brr-brr. I looked across the table with a grin. Don’t worry, Simon, I sneered to myself. You’ll be at the pub soon.

Game two started well, with a Vedalken Engineer on my team. On turn 2, Simon made a Bonesplitter, equipping his turn 1 Arcbound Worker and sending for three. After Unforging this, I made the savior of my team: the Elf Replica. Simon chose to Domineer him, so in effect the Elf Replica had served its purpose. Down came a Nim Replica from Simon, and the game was on.

I made a Goblin Replica, my one piece of dedicated artifact removal. He traded two-for-one with a couple of shonky guys that swung at Simon’s behest.

I made a Spikeshot Goblin, to ping with. This made me happy. I made a Leonin Bola, to stall the ground with. This too made me happy. I was winning, as expected. Luck was on my side.

Then, disaster.


I froze.

The smile on my lips twisted into a grimace

A second text-message in the same match.

I was doomed.

My eyes fluttered in fear as Simon tapped his mana. With a flourish, he laid down a Skeleton Shard. In his bin, three artifact creatures. In play, all Simon’s creatures were artifacts. And my one lowly piece of dedicated artifact removal, my Goblin Replica, had traded with a pig-awful pair of ground-pounders.

I was in trouble.

As my world crashed around me, my opponent kept casting the carnage. Artifact guys were returned from graveyard to hand with alarming speed. Throw in a little modular action, and things look grim. Down came a Lodestone Myr. Even if I killed it, it’d be back for more at the drop of a hat. At least I could hold it back with my Leonin Bola.

There were artifacts everywhere, stretching as far as the eye could see.

Off the top of my deck came the double-black Messiah, the Emissary of Despair. Maybe I had a chance after all…

Then I remembered the second text-message. I remembered that luck had abandoned me. Simon used Carry Away on my Leonin Bola.

From a position of precarious strength, I was plunged into a miasma of feculence. My strongest threat was neutralized, while Simon’s Hulk-Smashery would commence with added fervor. The doo-doo was deep.

As the game, match, and dream slipped through my fingers, I cursed my sideboarding. Simon’s deck was almost universally artifact-based. My plan, when facing such things, was to bring out the blue and slot in the green. Pro-artifact guys, Viridian Shaman, pump effects… I kicked myself, under the table. Of course, I’d seen precious little of Simon’s deck in the previous game. Mana issues had blinded me from the good stuff. How was I supposed to know that Simon was the Artifact King? I let myself wriggle off the hook. After all, I’m not entirely stupid.

I held the game for a for futile turns, but nothing could help me. The Lodestone Myr finally brought me down.

I shook Simon’s hand, and wished him well for the following day.

He grinned, and dashed off to the pub.

Record: 5-2-1. Games: 10-6-1.

NB: The excellent feature match report, by Kevin O’Connor, can be found here. Be warned: it includes the phrase”Marco Blume in fishnets.” All those who value their sanity, steer well clear.

The experiment was over. I checked my text-messages. The first, a lucky message from my girlfriend. The second, a further message from my soon-to-be ex-girlfriend, mewling on about some godforsaken wastrel, an actor in the film she was currently watching. If only she had waited for an hour before sending that frivolous message. I may have gone all the way.

The Voodoo was dispelled with her single ill-timed missive. For that, I decreed she must face punishment. I contemplated withholding the Hot Craig-Lovin’, but frankly I don’t think she’d be bothered.

Instead, I’ve taught her how to play Magic. The jury is out as to whether this is a punishment or a blessing.

I forgave her, of course. After all, there’s always San Diego…


I’m terrible at Limited. I made about thirty-five play mistakes during the tournament, not including the probable errors during deck construction. While this fact is not too harrowing in itself, it doesn’t bode well for the upcoming PT San Diego. Still… paaaaaarrty!

Grimclaw Bats are the most annoying early-drop guys on Garfield’s Green Earth. They’re sweet, they beat, and they’re quick on their feet.

Leonin Bola is definitely a maindeck card, archetype be damned. Pull it and play it, folks.

Sometimes, a Spikeshot Goblin with random Equipment just wins games.

Often, the quality of your guys is irrelevant. It’s the quality of your removal that counts.

Emissary of Despair. That’s all I’m saying.

In other news…

Day 2 of GP: Birmingham saw the first confirmed sighting of a Magic streaker. Some brave soul stripped naked and ran around the venue pursued by the authorities. Damn, I wish I’d made day 2. That would’ve been classic.

Day 2 of a Grand Prix event usually sees the top 64 players from the previous day battle it out for fame and glory. Well, Birmingham had to be different. There were sixty-three competitors on the second day. The one absentee? Simon Marshall-Unitt, the guy who knocked me out of contention in the final round to confirm his place. I hope he simply got drunk and overslept, and feels terrible about missing his chance. I think he just didn’t bother getting out of bed. This would annoy me. Getting knocked out by someone who simply doesn’t care has a tendency to stick in the throat. Then again, if I didn’t get the required number of points, I didn’t deserve to play on the second day. Such is life.

After all this, my experiment into proving or disproving Craig Stevenson Theory of Lucky Text Messages was inconclusive. I’ve still not lost a match during which I receive a single lucky text-message from my girlfriend, but I didn’t win the whole kit-and-caboodle. I think my investigative technique needs a little tweaking.

The experiment will continue in San Diego. So if you’re playing me, and hear a faint brr-brr-brr-brr… know that your luck has deserted you.

Or send me a text message of your own. That should do the trick.

Thanks for listening.

Craig Stevenson

[email protected]

Scouseboy on Magic Online.