The Meta Unicorn - Diana Invoke
A Pre Note
I am not a top-100 player, as given the inevitable RNG of effects, matchups and draws in card games, and the lack of rewards for ranking up in LoR, I simply don't see the point in painstakingly grinding up to such a level. The highest I've climbed is low Diamond, but considering the above knowledge, I believe that at a certain skill level (perhaps at around Platinum), it's more about how much time one can put in than how skilled they are. HOWEVER, considering all this, I have the absolute conviction that this deck is a top-100 worthy deck.
This is the only deck that I've played since Day 1 of Call of the Mountain, with various modifications, and I believe that it is a completely undiscovered meta unicorn. I've never faced a similar deck on ladder, and my deckbuilding experiments with any other archtypes have left me completely unsatisfied with the lack of interaction and agency, as well as the sheer counterability of the vast majority of tools currently out there.
A lot of people are frustrated with the current meta - a lot of points of which are covered by BruisedByGod in his recent video critique. To summarize his main points:
- Most answers are completely outclassed by threats
- Sheer lack of healing options locks out deckbuilding choices
- Most top-tier strategies prey on lack of interactivity (Pirate Burn, Lee Sin OTK, Star Spring)
This is a Control deck which, while originally devised to prey on the inevitably popular Aurelion Sol and Troll Chant and abuse the broken, flexible toolbox of Invoke on Day 1, also manages to both answer all 3 of these problems efficiently.
- Lunari Duskbringer x 3
- Spacey Sketcher x 3
- Diana x3
- Lunari Shadestalker x1
- Pale Cascade x 3
- Unspeakable Horror x 2
- Vile Feast x 3
Simply the best available early-game that an Invoke Targon deck could hope to muster - Diana functioning as both early game and late-game removal (we have just enough Nightfall Synergy) for practically no investment, Pale Cascade being legitimately one of the most broken cards currently in the game, and the ping cards also serving a modicum of uses at all stages of a match.
Spacey Sketcher has been severely underrated so far - providing critical tools for certain matchups and/or providing early game minions without needing to actually run them (a fundamental weakness of faster decks top-decking late). Its 'discard-replace' synergy with our late-game, as well as Duskpetal Dust and meta-call flex cards is just icing on the cake.
Finally, note how every early game card I've chosen scales well and still plays a role as the game goes later; as removal, Elusive blocking, tool-building, Burst-speed Nightfall, pings and cantrip Combat Tricks. This is an often overlooked but fundamental difference between Control early-drops, and aggro early-drops (such as Precious Pet).
- Sunburst x 3
- Vengeance x 3
These two cards, combined with any generated Obliterates, form the only proper removal this deck has - and were the catalyst for me creating this deck in the first place. All three of these removal types leave almost NO room for the opponent to interact with them, and I believe that is the sole condition for a high-cost removal spell to be playable in the current game state.
NOTE: Ruination is easily and always played around at a high-level of play - and leaves the opponent with ALL of the agency/choice to play around it/bait it exactly how they wish, instead of you (whose only options are to play the card too early and get out-tempo'd afterward, use more than 3 mana elsewhere to catch-up at which point it becomes unplayable, or lose the game to a sudden-attack completely at your opponent's discretion) - the ultimate NO-NO for this deck: I never even considered putting it in.
Meta Call Flex Spots
At times I feel as if this card could be cut to 1 copy, but right now 2 feels great against the current meta, and drawing into at least one is almost necessary in order to compete with Star Spring (Obliterate is conditional and too great a tempo loss early on). In other metas previously, I've experimented with 1 copy of Passage Unearned, as well as 2 extra copies of Lunari Shadestalker.
Literally Everything Else One Could Ever Hope to Need
- Lunari Priestess x 2
- Solari Priestess x 3
- Mountain Scryer x 3
- Moondreamer x 3
- Starshaping x 3
I still believe that Invoke is one of the most broken mechanics currently in the game. This is one of the heaviest late-game decks I can possibly imaginable, yet the only cards above 5-mana we run are removal, and our mid-game minions and healing straight up provide whatever early OR late-game tools we might possibly need in any matchup - it's simply overly flexible (flexilibity in card games being a MUCH bigger deal than most people give it credit for) and not enough of a tempo/stat sacrifice IMO. I think that Invoke as a mechanic is even stronger when ran in bulk, and especially in a Control deck - as the game goes on slowly you generate a toolbox that can handle just about any dynamic situation that meta decks can throw your way.
The spell-mana nerf to Living Legends has balanced it out quite a bit, however the same-nerf to Cosmic Inspiration still hasn't convinced me that it isn't in the top 5 least healthy effects that a game based on carefully stat-balanced of minion trading could ever have (hit me up with your Cosmic Inspiration hate!) - a large proportion our games are won by this disgusting effect.
Solari Priestess and Starshaping need no introduction as some of the most popular, utilitarian Invoke cards, however Mountain Scryer and Moondreamer (not so much Lunari Priestess) really put in the work, and I've never seen anyone else play these cards. The former provides crazy mana-advantage as the game goes on given our huge focus on Celestials (it's a shame we can't afford to push its Invoke chances even higher), and the latter has juuussst the right stat distribution at 3/5 to blockade most midgame tempo plays out opponent might go for.
NOTE: Aurelion Sol is straight up unnecessary to compete late-game, is always burdensome and clunky draw, ruins our surprise factor (though that doesn't exist anymore with this post being made), and we often outvalue decks running him anyway (don't forget that the original premise of this deck was 'How can I best remove Aurelion?').
Matchups/Strategy (Order Based on Mobalytics Tier List)
Lee Sin (60/40)
A somewhat favored matchup - although more recent lists that have cut Bastion in favor of Nopify may be a bit more in their favor (a proper Ping Counter). Hard mulligan for Spacey Sketcher, Sunburst and our pings. Generating Silence (Equinox) for Mentor of the Stones/Zenith Blade is our main early game goal. Our Mid-to-Late game goal is removing all 3 Lee Sin's at the expense of practically everything else (the rest of their deck is pretty much completely irrelevant, but rushing them down is also pretty much impossible) - after which our win is basically guaranteed.
- This matchup is sadly the most binary thing: Sunburst/Vengeance/Ping's VS Lee Sin/Spell Denial/Zenith Blade
- The rest of both decks are basically irrelevant other than to slow down the level up/speed up the level up/Draw into above cards
- Draw Draw Draw + Always save enough mana to Removal Spell + Ping if the opponent has 4 mana up late game
I believe that we are very, very heavily favored if played properly (although it's a VERY nuanced matchup to play right), and most of our losses come from bricking our early-game draws and/or not drawing/generating a single Starshaping/Golden Sister as their burn damage inevitably builds up. Hard mulligan for all 1/2 cost cards (only keep 1 Pale Cascade with a 1/2 cost minion).
- NEVER, EVER play early minions proactively (e.g. NO turn 1 Lunari Duskbringer unless they play something) - only ever match however many minions the opponent has AND trade right away to minimise Make it Rain/TF value (For instance, if you proactively play a minion with nothing to trade it into, and then find yourself needing to play, say, Diana/Solari Priestess later - the opponent is basically guaranteed free additional AOE value: make EVERY chump blocker count)
- ALWAYS open attack into Powder Keg's (usually with our single developed minion)
- Take ANY trade you can get (even if somewhat unfavorable) to clear both sides of the board going into turn 8 - one of the ways we can lose is if Riptide Rex clears our heavy board and we only have time to develop one chump blocker before the onslaught - especially because Riptide is MUCH stronger against minions than the nexus > Late game, try to keep both sides of the board as empty as possible
- If you find yourself with priority against their activated Plunder past turn 8, play small minions to bait out Rex without having to pass the turn OR play larger minions, especially with uneven health like Moondreamer to protect the rest of your board from potential cannons
- ALWAYS try to find a NON-Rex'able position late game to develop Golden Sister, and save Pale Cascade if possible to protect her from Noxian Fervor and recover 6 previous health
- ALWAYS have enough mana to remove Leviathan if the opponent has more than 8 mana on any given turn (prioritise Leviathan over Swain himself)
- Sacrifice minions to TF attacks and remove Zap Sprayfin ASAP to minimise chip damage (which really builds up)
- Be careful and make sure you always have a way to prevent Swain connecting with the Nexus (even if they develop him this turn and open attack the next); Pale Cascade is a good tool here
Pirate Aggro (55/45)
We are much more prone to bricking on draws here than Swain/TF, as we need quite a specific hand to deal with their onslaught - This is probably our most draw-dependent, low-agency matchup by far - as face-deck matchups tend to be. In addition - Captain Farron is much more effective against our removal strategy than the likes of Leviathan. Nonetheless, from my experience I think that we're still every-slightly-so favored in this matchup - often winning by the skin of our teeth. Starshaping/Golden Sister are mandatory late-game, and not bricking by not drawing/generating either is also basically a loss. Hard mulligan for all 1/2 drops, and keep a single Sunburst for Gangplank if your hand is already looking great.
- There's nothing much to say here given the nature of their deck - pray your draws are good and take the obvious trades
A very unfavored and binary matchup (see below as to why) that has luckily become rarer recently. Mulligan for Removal/Invoke cards.
- Save Starshaping for when you can actually make use of the heal (don't just play it on turn 3 because they're 'starting off slowly' - it's very important to maximise your leeway to survive Atrocity later on)
- Try to remove Trundle on curve with Sunburst/Vengeance
- Generate/Stockpile removal throughout the midgame
- Sadly, none of these choices really matter in the end and the match comes down to luck - if Warmother's pulls a Level 1 Tryndamere on their attacking turn, the obvious open attack followed by a loss is all but guaranteed (Vengeance doesn't stop Atrocity in this case - leading to too great a health/tempo loss, and my previous Passage Unearned tech to deal with specifically this scenario simply wasn't worth the dead card in other matchups). We can also lose to a big levelled Trundle, or simply not generating/drawing into enough removal. Sadly these cases happen more often than not. Warmother's generated too much tempo if left unchecked by hard removal for even a single turn so there is little leeway for bad luck.
- If Warmothers' timing and Invoke/draws are on our side, the matchup becomes pretty simple - Smartly use about a removal spell on their big guys for about 8 turns, play around Ruination and Atrocity, then cruise to victory.
This deck was basically created on Day 1 specifically to destroy Trundle/Asol. Sadly though, even at 75/25 the matchup is worse than it should be due to the nature of Invoke RNG - if one player draws into Cosmic Inspiration and the other didn't the match is over, full stop + the occasional shenanigans involving The Great Beyond uninteractibly going face and non-stop Living Legends value. Mulligan for Sunburst, Vengeance and pings.
- Remove Trundle ASAP with Sunburst (Vengeance/Obliterates are best saved for Asol so getting Sunburst value while Trundle is still unleveled and 6 health is a big deal in terms of removal distribution)
- Always try to remove Asol on the first turn he's played with Vengeance chaining into a ping to minimise the opponent's chance of getting game-winning Invoke RNG/matching your late-game value with free Celestials
- If you still haven't drawn a ping late game, try to fish for Crescent Strike with Spacey Sketcher
- Play around 7-mana Asol (Augur of the Old Ones) as much as possible
- Pray you draw Cosmic Inspiration and the opponent doesn't
Discard Aggro (80/20)
I don't know why this deck is considered competitive - maybe because our matchup here is basically as favored as TF/Swain except without any gameplay nuance required on our part. Mulligan for 1-2 drops. Keep Solari Priestess/Sunburst if hand is good. Only necessary statistical losses to bad early draws against an aggro archtype.
- Make obvious trades. Play around Mystic Shot on Diana. Chump block Draven/Jinx. Remove Draven/Jinx. Profit.
Another draw dependent, but quite favored matchup. Quite difficult to play though - you need to balance maintaining some modicum of tempo whilst also being able to deal with their crucial threats. Mulligan for 1-2 drops ESPECIALLY Pale Cascade/Pings, and Removal.
- DON'T play ANY minion with less than 3 attack from turns 1-4 UNLESS you're getting tempo'd into the ground OR you have Pale Cascade (otherwise Fiora gets a free trade and the opponent gets to use their buffs reactively rather than proactively - giving you less leeway to remove her)
- Save ping's for Fiora Barrier's, NOT Fleetfeather Tracker UNLESS you're getting tempo'd into the ground
- Save a removal spell and mana for turn 3 Fiora, turn 4 Shen, turn 6 Genevieve and turn 9 Brightsteel UNLESS you're getting tempo'd into the ground
Basically the Pirate Aggro matchup but a tad bit slower and with no burn - giving you more leeway to make up for bad draws both early and late.
- Make the obvious trades, pray to draw well and don't to let Genevieve get 2 attacks off
Basically the Trundle/Asol matchup except with no 'must remove ASAP' threats giving you more leeway to make up for bad draws. Celestial RNG and especially Cosmic Inspiration still give them a chance to win as usual.
Shyvana Dragons (50/50?)
I surprisingly, haven't faced too much of this deck yet personally, but looking at it's cards compared to ours, I think the matchup would be about 50/50 (an otherwise favourable looking matchup affected a bit by their high tempo removal and guaranteed Cosmic Inspiration in the form of Kadregrin).
This matchup is dependent on whether we draw removal for Ashe somewhat on curve, how much tempo they manage to build early on and whether we draw good enough to afford to play around Reckoning. Mulligan for Sunburst, Solari Priestess, Pings and Diana (only if you've already drawn support) as our other standard early drops are all pretty ineffective against theirs.
- Remove Ashe ASAP
- Try to Vengeance Sejuani on the attack if she directly attacks your Frostbitten minion in order to prevent the free value trade and maintain tempo on board.
- Play around Reckoning as much as possible, especially if it wouldn't affect their own board too much compared to yours - maximise your 5+ attack minions to theirs if Reckoning begins to look more likely
- Try to bait out an invested attack/Frostbite support for Trifarian Gloryseeker before pinging her - especially because Elixir of Iron is a bit rarer nowadays
Probably our most favored meta-deck matchup, and unfortunately rarer recently. Their win conditions - Kalista, Blighted Caretaker tempo, Neverglade Collector and They Who Endure simply don't stand a chance against our toolbox. Most losses come from unanswered Blighted Caretaker tempo. Mulligan for Spacey Sketcher, Sunburst and Pale Cascade.
- ALWAYS pick Silence (For They Who Endure) or Stun (For Blighted Caretaker) off Spacey Sketcher
- Try to hold a minion to play on turn 3/4 to kill an attacking Kalista with Pale Cascade AND get the Nightfall card draw
- Play as reactively as possible with your pings - playing them proactively will almost always be answered by Glimpse Beyond, and when they run out of gas later on they will be forced to play their Glipmse proactively - your chance to strike!
- Silence/Sunburst Blighted Caretaker as it comes down
- SAVE Vengeance for They Who Endure - going into the late game, stockpile Silence/Sunburst and Vengeance and maintain enough mana (usually open-attacking) if necessary (IF can still afford to play They Who Endure that turn) to use one of the former followed by Vengeance to counter into their Atrocity: with this line of play, it's basically impossible to lose the combo
The biggest downside and sheer impossible matchup of this archtype. Maokai manages to pack even less interactivity/inevitability than we do, and the nature of our deck gives us no chance of out-tempoing Deep early OR late. Auto-concede.
A simpler aggro matchup than the others. Mulligan for 1-2 drops - especially Spacey Sketcher and Diana, as well as Sunburst.
- ALWAYS pick the Stun spell off Spacey Sketcher, and save it for Diana, or of lesser priority, Nocturne/Ephemerals off Stalking Shadows
- Removing Nocturne ASAP with either Sunburst or Vengeance is a HUGE priority
- ALWAYS play around Pale Cascade
- Play around Atrocity and Doombeast damage later on in the match
Another matchup that I haven't faced too much of just yet. Mulligan hard for Divergent Paths and Solari Priestess - Once we remove their uninteractive element trump-card in the Landmark win-condition, if we can survive their early tempo, the rest of the match should be a cinch given our heal/health-ignoring conditionless removal for their Champions.
Thanks for reading up to this point, and pardon my formatting, the ridiculous length and the sheer pomposity of it all.
I still think Invoke is flexible to the point of being broken and the only reason the matchup spread is so good. I also think that with the release of this guide - more people will come to recognise this archtype and the element of surprise affecting enemy mulligans against an assumed more aggro, Nightfall-focused Diana archtype will be lost. People will also know to play around less common cards such as Sunburst, and I expect winrates to fall somewhat across the board.
To conclude this guide, I'd like to say that this is this is not a healthy deck. At the deepest level, this deck is fundamentally about removing agency from your opponent and giving it to yourself, as well as securing the critical boon of having inevitability over your opponent in a game with the nature of LoR. If all decks were like this, LoR would completely cease to be fun.
What else do I think is unhealthy right now? - Simple: anything removing interactivity from your opponent - ESPECIALLY as a win condition; Maokai, Star Spring, Cosmic Inspiration, Lee Sin. The avenues through which these cards can be interacted with are way too limited right now.
A lot of the metagame nowadays is about having an uninteractable win condition, or focusing damage to face so fast the opponent has no chance to react - another form of non-interactivity. Here's hoping that the meta in the near future heads back in the direction of the close but fair midrange board battles we all came to love back in vanilla LoR.
Continuing submitted by
He still came around making trouble, but oddly enough, our little cul-de-sac corner was more-or-less Batshit Crazy-free for the next 34 months.
After that, things sort of calmed down. Well, one of his older boys thought it would be fun to attack Khris, push her off her bike, and try and steal the Uzbek sapphire amulet I had gotten her years earlier.
Khris is not a small girl; she is a corn-fed daughter of the vast cow-pocked hills and rolling pastures of Baja Canada. She didn’t take lightly to some weasely little Arab probably future pole-smokers trying to steal from and assaulting her.
It took more than one punch, but Khris coldcocked the elder of the Guano Insano clan and laid him out so an undertaker could have taken easy measurements. Oh, he was still breathing, but I nevertheless think he was shammin’, playin’ possum until Daddy Dearest could come and rescue him from the rage of wrathful Wisconsinians.
Liam and I were sitting in the porch area of his villa, smoking cigars, drinking our sunrisers, watching the tableau unfold. We both thought Khris handled the situation well, particularly the outcome. The miscreant was out cold’n a foundered mackerel and Khris didn’t heel-stamp him in the chuckle-bits nor curb-stomp his head even though he had initially, and without provocation, punched Khris in the head.
Major stylistic points, Khris.
After 6 or 7 of his offspring rant to alert him, Señor Srībaśita Inasēna came over to shovel his insensible frogspawn up off the tarmac. He was ranting and raving, screaming and splitting the air with threats, dark oaths and other forms of bad noise.
He headed straight for Khris to administer a smackdown, as Khris resolutely held her ground.
I merely stood up and asked Khris if she needed some help.
She replied in the negative, stating that this fool wasn’t going to be much more of a challenge than ‘his idiot kid’
I swear, he went, even more, batshit crazy. However, something clicked and Señor Srībaśita Inasēna looked over his shoulder to see not one, but two near-identical way-more-crazy than he extra-large people standing there, both with cigars and icy cold drinks. He suddenly seemed to experience a spate of total recall how one of the large apparitions said he’d begin him on his journey toward room temperature if he so much as sneered in our direction.
He scooped up his unconscious spawn, muttered something none of us could make out, and scurried back to his loathsome piece of home real estate.
That was more or less the end of our run-ins with Señor Srībaśita Inasēna and his extended tribe.
Swing forward to the late summer. The weather calmed a bit and one’s skin didn’t immediately bubble every time one went out to collect the local morning news-rag. Things were going well for the cul-de-sac; jobs were advancing apace, children were doing well in their various studies, people were, oh what was that word? Ah, yes, happy.
Happy people do fun things.
So, it was decided it was time we have a block party.
Of course, Liam came up with the brilliant idea that we should have a pig roast.
“Umm, Liam”, I ahemed, “In case you forgot, we live in an Arabic Muslim country in the Middle East. Pigs and pork and porcine parts are sort of verboten
around here. “
“Ok, Rock”, Liam laughed, “I know that, you know that, my hat knows that. But we Brits must have our bacon, sausage, and chops. It’s in our DNA. Besides, I can get one flown in through my company; under the wire. I could sneak him over here easily. We’d just have to keep him under wraps until bar-be-que time rolls around. You’re from Texas, so…”
“Adopted native son” I corrected.
“Right”, Liam continued, “But you were from Baja Canada first, so you must know how to cook a whole pig…”
“That right, I do, but…, I said, “…you want to bring a live pig in here, and keep him for a while until we can sort out the cooking necessities. We can’t use the industrial-sized stoves in the rec center at the pool. That’d raise a few eyebrows…”
Es and Cassandra wander over, listen for a bit and exclaim “Are you both out of your tiny, little minds?”
I had to admit, as I poured Liam and myself a refill, that the idea did have a certain ‘Up Yours!’ mouthwatering bacon-scented charm.
So, all four of us sat outside and over beer, vodka, and white wine for the ladies, we brewed up a perhaps passable project for our pig party.
The thing was, I’d be gone offshore for a couple of weeks and the pig would have to live at someone’s villa, under wraps, for that time; which actually escalated to 3 months.
Esme, surprising as always, volunteered to take on the task.
Might have been the white wine talking, but she admitted to missing bacon as well.
“OK, but we’re going to need a bar-be-cue pit. Where and when?” Liam asked.
“I’ll talk to Shiehk Gungan and secure permission for a Hawaiian-style pit bar-be-cue for someone or other’s fake birthday. If we can get Vonn and Honey Bee on board, their villa’s backyard backs up to a tall brick wall bordering the alley behind the City Centre. I could put in a pit there easily, and it would be out of the purview of prying eyes.” I said.
“Good”, Casandra said, “Let me get the gin and tonic makin’s and get Vonn and Honey over here as well as Dane and Dyad. Gonna have a block party, make sure you invite the entire block.”
Over the term of the afternoon, we had our plans.
Liam would secure a pig for us; approximately 200-300 pounds, on the hoof. It’d stay in our backyard under both our sun tarp and Esme Srs.’ care until Pig Killin’ Time. Liam, Vonn, and I would handle that little chore. I’d get permission to ‘dig’ a pit and install the bar-be-cue pit in Honey and Vonn’s back yard. Liam and I would handle the actual roast, and we’d all chip in for charcoal and wood smokin’ chunks, and whatever else we could find.
Dyad said she knew many, many farmers it the area and many had fruit trees, in various stages of repair. Certainly, some of that would smoke up a treat. Persimmon, pomegranate, fig, mango, durian, banana…all the earmarks of a weird pig roast.
So we had a date, a plan and the ingredients for a complete fiasco. Since Sr. Guano Insano was no longer part of the picture, and as we had few interlopers, this might actually work without all of us being tossed into the hoosegow.
I’d liberate a bit of pit diggin’ materials from work, just a small amount of dynamite, C-4, and Primacord; I already had the blasting machines. Vonn and Liam would lay in the charcoal and wood for the actual pig roast and well, Bob’s your uncle.
I went offshore to complete the 12th well on the platform and had to deal with all the logistics, bureaucracy and other sanctioned horseshit that comes with the territory. It took almost exactly 3 weeks, and at that time, Esme’s initial negative reaction to pig-sitting had changed considerably.
She had named the critter and found it to be a rather clever, and even sociable, beast. She even allowed it free reign of our house.
The name she chose was one from an old, endearing structural professor: Prof Pinkus (Prof. Pink-ass).
This was an unforeseen complication.
“Es, remember, “ I said over the phone, “That pig is not a pet. It’s not your buddy. It’s not going shopping with you. It’s going to be the guest of honor at a block party. Perspective, please.”
“Oh, Rock”, Es gushed, “I know that. It just makes it easier to keep up with Prof. Pinkus if you treat him like a pet rather than livestock.”
“Es!”, I yell, “He IS livestock. Soon to be deadstock. Soon to be crisply pit barbequed to a crackly crunch. He’s not your friend, he’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner!”
“OK, love you too.” Es says, ignoring me, “See you soon. Safe flights. Keep the shiny side up.”
I hang up. “Oh, shit. This does not bode well.” I mused on the flight shoreward.
I have to admit, pigs can be personable animals. Canny, inquisitive, seemingly intelligent. But even so, that does not trump them being delicious, appetizing, and delectable generators of bacon. Prof. Pinkus is going to be ham, bacon, and sausage soon. Not a boon companion.
The next day I ‘dig’ the pit for the barbeque. I used a shovel for exactly 2 minutes and dynamite, C-4, and primacord for a few more. Vonn was astonished that I not only dug a 6’x6’x4’ wide hole in less than an afternoon, but that I did it while smoking a cigar, drinking an, ok, several icy adult beverages, and never even breaking a sweat in the hellish late summer heat.
The Bobcat with the mounted backhoe, which I had ‘borrowed’ from work, helped a little.
Liam wandered over after the pyrotechnics were done. He didn’t care for them as the noise ‘offended his ears’. Truth be told, he had seen enough pyro jobs go south in his line of work and wanted nothing to do with them. I assured him I was a licensed Master Blaster as well as the one and only Motherfucking Pro from Dover
, but it took some time to get him up to speed on the use of explosives for fun and profit.
We let the pit settle, as it was in mostly in desert sand held together with a bit of aeolian clay, or loess. We kept it wet and covered with sheets of canvas. It’d be fine for our pit barbeque in the days hence.
Vonn, Liam and I fabricobbled a cover for the pit which was made of thatched palm fronds supported by ½” pine furring-strips frame along the outer surface. Dane found a hunk of tin stove pipe and we fashioned a nicely workable chimney for the cover. Once the fire was going, and the pig in its new home, we could set the cover over the pit, shovel earth over it to seal it off and use the iris-valve in the chimney to regulate airflow.
One looks at it now, it would almost appear that we knew what we were doing.
Probably nothing was further from the truth.
We needed to ‘season’ the pit, but first, we needed to line the pit with rocks. This serves to hold the heat, and will even out its distribution. But, all we have to use is limestone around here and if limestone ever gets wet, there might be water in the fractures of the rocks. Heat that up to over 1000C
and you’ve got yourself a nifty little bomb.
Of course, this will not do…
So, I get on the phone with several ‘exotic’ marble companies in the big city of Duhu. I call around asking if they might have some scrap sheets of granite, quartzite, granodiorite or marble.
Sure, for a price.
However, there was this one
place where I knew this guy…
He took in huge, and I mean 4m x 5m x 5m blocks of exotic rock from the subcontinent; black granite, “Reaping Equinox’ black and white ‘granite’; most all these ‘granites’ were granodiorites, Inferno Granite, Black Sunset granite sliced thin into façade facing dimension stone, it was absolutely gorgeous in cross-section. However, the best stuff was igneous-metamorphic, tougher than a $2 steak, and just laughed at diamond carbide saw blades.
“Oh, sure now Mr., Dr. Rock”, Mr. Prakash Dongerkerry, the owneoperator of one particular lot I scavenge for Esme’s continuing lapidary hobby, “I’ve got some beauty stuff here for you. But I need some help with these couple of blocks I received from Kerala. Great rock, very pretty, but too tough. Burn out many saws, boss. You can help maybe?”
“Sure, Prak”, I replied, “I can help, no sweat.”
So, next Friday Liam and me, we eased over to the granite factory, C-4, blasting caps and Primacord in hand. Prak was a little apprehensive about using high explosives in a densely populated area, but after Vonn reminded him that he was working with the Motherfucking Pro from Dover
, he relaxed some.
I crawled all over those blocks, marking with orange spray paint the nature fractures, flaws, and features of each block. Asked Prak how he’d like them split, and he indicated parallel to the major axis.
It couldn’t be easier. There was a main body-fracture system normal to the σ1
stress direction. The one’s parallel to the σ2
were minor and nowhere near as clearly developed.
I smooshed some C-4 into a test fracture, primed it and shot it without much ado. It was surprisingly quiet for a detonation. A cute little C-4 POP
A large slab of rock fell off the main block, severed as nicely as a hunk of cold butter from a hot knife.
Prak was thrilled. I only had another 12 or so shots to go.
They all more or less came off as planned. One or two busted when they bounced, even after the addition of old car tires below where I was blasting.
Prak, good to his word, showed us a huge pile of 1.25” thick sawn quartzite slabs that were rejected for mostly cosmetic reasons. It takes a bit of math, a bit of doing, and a lot of C-4 to extract slabs enough to line our fire pit from stem to stern, top to bottom.
Once installed, the pit was a tad less wide, a bit less deep, and a smidge less long, but it was the only Precambrian-quartzite lined bar-be-que pit in this or any other known galaxy.
We celebrated the initial fire up with whiskey and hors-d'oeuvres. I stuck with vodka, ice, lime, citrus stuff, and a Jamaican cigar.
The pit flared from the amount of dry wood we initially used. It burned very quickly into a pile of glowing embers. Now, we added some local lump charcoal and popped on the top, now sporting an exhaust chimney with a rather large, intrinsically-safe, unusually commercial-looking dual-temperature thermometer that somehow just appeared out of the ether.
We took it all the way up to 1,000C.
Although it was designed for ‘low and slow’, we wanted to see how it would perform under alternative conditions.
We let it simmer for a few hours, then decided to kill the fire by closing the iris valve. Thus deprived of oxygen, given a few hours, the pit would be cold to the touch.
The next day, we opened the pit and shoveled out the dead embers. The pit was well and truly cold. Upon examination, it seems that the quartzite had fused to the sand on the outside of the pit. Also, sand had filtered down into the cracks around the pit, like in the corners, along joints, and been fused there as well.
The damn thing would now hold water if we wanted. We had a natural glass-lined fire pit now. We decided to try out some racked & stacked chickens first before we slowly made our way pig-ward.
We staked split chickens out on various levels in the pit. We had worked up a series of adjustable metal frames where we could lay the staked-out poultry. The racks popped right in place and after a couple of hours, hey presto
bar-be-qued peri-peri chicken. And hot-butter roasted chicken. And for the uninitiated, roast chicken with smoked Hungarian paprika and Indian ghee. A real Iron Chef fusion-style mixture.
Liam and I took his Grady White out on the Persian Gulf and managed a couple of dorados, or Mahi, a largish shark, and a couple of kingfish off the deeper shipping banks. Fileted up and tacked in place, we played around with the smoking woods. Mango was just weird. Fig was weirder, almost vinegary; but not terrible. Pomegranate/tangerine tree smoked Mahi, seasoned shark steak, and Kingfish was the hit of the week. So easy, yet so tasty. It went well with Es’ famous Navajo Fry Bread.
We were gaining confidence. Prof. Pinkus’ days were numbered. We decided that the Eid al Fitr would be the time that we’d been preparing our porky pit pig production.
How’s that for cultural sensitivity? Break the Ramadan fast with a pig roast.
about cultural sensitivity.
Anyways, we hemmed and hawed over the methods of dispatching our soon-to-be-delicious 325 pounds of Professor Pinkus.
One wag suggested we have it OD on tranquilizers, trip him out a la
Heath Ledger. Use loads of Nytol®,
oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam, and doxylamine."
It was straight out of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers©.
We all agreed it was funny as hell, but that it probably wouldn’t work.
Then we thought we might go all Halal, just slit the pig’s throat with a very sharp knife, and let it bleed out.
Rejected as to being too thrashing, too noisy, too Arabic, and just plain uncivilized.
I thought I could get hold of a 12 gauge shotgun and some Foster Deer slugs. But again, noisy and messy. Besides, I’d have to borrow a shotgun, and that might raise some eyebrows.
We’ve managed to keep Prof. Pinkus under wraps now for almost 3 months. Hate to blow it right before the feasting was to begin.
In the end, all it took was an 18-pound maul and a solid whack to the right side of the head. More sensitive viewers might want to skip a dozen or so paragraphs ahead. Just fair warning™.
I was elected to deliver the coup de grâce
After walloping a bound and gagged Prof. Pinkus upside the head and basically caving in the skull, severing the skull-spinal cord connection at the atlas/axis connection, it was instant lights-out, he felt nothing.
We had already apologized to Prof. Pinkus, and thanked him for his contribution.
Seldom before has lunch ever been so noble.
Prof. Pinkus freezes and collapse, the legs give way, and the neck goes rigid. We picked up the extraordinarily sharp butcher’s knife sitting there, one hand under the chin and pull the head back. The other hand takes the sharp, stout knife under the neck and slices across the neck back to the bone of the vertebrae.
The knife hand loops around to the poll of the head, pushes down and forward while the hand under the chin pulls back and rearwards, so the neck vertebrae connecting tissue cracks. Knife hand back down under the neck, chin hand slides up and a finger hooks into the trachea and slice between the separated vertebrae.
With our previous practice and experience, 10 to 15 seconds from hammer strike to the semi-decapitated head.
Grisly but necessary.
Hanging the beast by its back hocks, well out of sight of any casual interlopers, we bleed the animal out into 5-gallon buckets, saving the precious juice. Vonn and I have visions of homemade blütwurst, blood-n-tongue sausage, and zultze or schwartamaga; lovely, lovely headcheese.
But that’s for later. Vonn gathers the blood in gallon-size freezer zip bags.
Now to scalding the corpse, scraping off the hair and external epidermal debris. We had a tub of boiling water into which Prof. Pinkus went. It was a boring, tedious, annoying repeated dunk-soak-raise-scrape-return until the carcass was clean and smooth and removed of all nasty gunk on the outside.
Now comes the really icky part™,
gutting and scraping out the carcass. Before opening the abdominal cavity, it was required to de-bung the animal. Cut around the anus, go in deep but not too, pull the bunghole out, seal with zip ties, and cut and discard. Now the lower GI tract is sealed from leaking when the rest is removed. We also have to remove the male dangly bits in a similar manner as Prof. Pinkus was a boy hog.
Still hanging, we open the hog from sternum to groin, letting gravity aid us in helping Prof. Pinkus literally spill his guts. Right down into a waiting gut-bucket, or galvanized 50-liter steel tub. The chest region is split open further and the lovely and delicious major organs are singly removed by hand. Heart, liver, kidneys, etc., lungs, gall bladder, spleen, pancreas, and a few other organs are discarded.
With that, we open the hog to where it will lay flat on the roasting rack. It is then hosed off and generally cleaned up before we give a good going over.
After it dries, the whole gutted critter is washed in wine. Evidently, it’s a French thing according to Honey Bee.
We wrap the hog in burlap, soak it down in cheap-ass wine and let it sleep 24 hours or so in Liam and Cassandra’s freezer chest.
The next day, the fire is started in the fire pit. We have lump charcoal, bucket after bucket of fruit tree chunks soaking in water and probably half a rick of firewood to keep the party going the next 24-36 hours.
We retrieve Prof. Pinkus from his cool, not frozen state, say hello and proceed to arrange him staked to the cooking frame in a belly-down, butterflied posture. Internally, he was well seasoned with dry rub after the obligatory internal rubdown with Napoleon brandy. We placed 40 garlic bulbs, kosher sea salt, olive oil, black pepper, and liberal amounts of Old Bay, to taste beneath him.
So, it was up to me to get the external goo ready for the pig. Kansas City-Style Sauce? Eastern North Carolina Vinegar Sauce? South Carolina-Style Mustard Sauce? Piedmont or Lexington-Style Dip? South Carolina-Style Mustard Sauce? Texas-Style Mop or Basting Sauce? Alabama White Sauce? Wisconsin Drunken Religious Experience Sauce?
“Ah, the hell with it!”, I venture, “Sauces come much later. Too early; they caramelize, crystallize, and burn. We’ll go for a good rub instead.”
I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a good rub now and again?
Anyways, which fucking rub? Kansas City Rib Rub? Mustard Rub? Spare Rib Rub? Memphis-Style Rib Rub? Porker's Rib Seasoning? Best Odds Rib Rub? Carolina Dry Rub? Texas Dry Rub? Jamaican Jerk Dry Rub? Classic Pork Dry Rub?
Too much choice! Seasoning overload!
I call over everyone involved in this little soiree and instruct them to come up with a rub we can all enjoy. I had to kill and gut the critter, it’s about time I go all Subsurface Manager, and delegate out some parts of this project.
So, over beer, G&T’s, vodka and lime soda and various Froggy wines, ‘my’ crew came up with a rub that was simple, tasty and ironically reflects some of the culinary aspects of the region we’re currently defiling.
• Smoked Hungarian Red paprika
• Brown sugar
• Caster sugar
• Black pepper
• Kosher salt
• Cayenne pepper
• White pepper
• Chili pepper
• Dehydrated garlic
• Dehydrated onion
• Red Cardamom
• Garam masala (Cumin, Coriander, Green and Black Cardamom, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Bay leaves, Peppercorns, Fennel, Mace, and dried Chilies.)
They went to the co-op, bought buckets of the individual spices and played the rest of the day at getting to that one perfect combination for our resting porker.
I don’t remember the exact breakdown of the proportion of the spices, but whatever it was, it tasted brilliant. Now we had about 8 or 9 pounds of the stuff. We were ready to go.
Prof. Pinkus was set on the cooking rack, belly open and down. He was doused internally once again liberally with cheap Indian Napoleon brandy and secured to the rack atop all the garlic, celeriac root, boudin, and small new potatoes.
He was tied in place with heavy organic hemp twine and had his mouth propped open to facilitate circulation of the pit’s heat and convection. He looked very Pink Floydian. One almost expected him to take flight.
The exterior of the porker was treated to a nice rubdown. I swear I saw him smile once or twice when Honey Bee insisted on a sensual massage to make the resultant meat that much more tender. Olive oil infused with lime oil and garlic after a thorough wash with more brandy. Followed by a liberal rubbing of dry rub.
Finally, ready to go, we tented the porker loosely with industrial-strength silver aluminum foil. The frame with its cargo was lowered and locked into place for at least 24 hours. Probably closer to 36, as we’re going ‘low and slow’.
We take turns, between hands of poker, cribbage, and Schafskopf, as well as numerous G&Ts, Yorshs, and vodka and lime drink cocktails, to check on our prized porker. We kept the temperature right at 2050
F as best we could.
The voluminous smoke coming off the barbeque pit was our one concern. It packed an amazing aroma and filtered around the whole compound, dragging in expectant pikers, leeches, and other forms of human ectoparasites.
We told them we were smoking a whole camel, Texas-style, a la filét de hump
, and wouldn’t be ready for another couple of days; so piss off. That seemed to get rid of all but the most insistent. We finally got rid of him by using a leaf blower and directing a stream of high-velocity roast-pork laden smoke his direction each time we had to add more fuel to the fire.
Time marched on and the time finally came: the deep internal ham’s temperature hit 180 degrees F.
Prof. Pinkus was ready to make his debut. But first, we needed to get him out of the barbeque pit and over to Vonn’s garage to rest a while.
More futzing, more aluminum foil, and more beers later, Prof. Pinkus, in all his delectable roasted glory was cooling out from atop a pair of sawhorses. Of course, he had to rest after his ordeal, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t manage a few samples.
He was done to a turn. It was incredible. Crispy-crunchy-crackly over lean, moist and insanely flavorful meat. Not bad for a bunch of bumbling international mugs on their first Middle Eastern pig-roast pit-roast endeavor.
Everyone made up their own version of sauce for sandwiches and dipping. We decided that we’d never all agree on one sauce, and 4 or 5 on one porker would be just too damn many.
So, please yourself. Just do it, yourself.
Behind closed doors, Liam and I were once again elected to reduce Prof. Pinkus to primary parts. We were hopefully disguising the fact that here sits 185 pounds of delectable roast pork in a very Muslim country on one of their highest holy days.
So it was a bit unnerving when Sheik Gungan showed up and asked: “What was that wonderful aroma?”
We said smoked beef…lamb…camel…turducken…Tyrannosaur
… anything other than what it really was.
He asked for a sample.
What could we do? We couldn’t well refuse now, could we?
We gave him some of the best bits to try.
“Lovely, gents, just lovely. Next time, for reference, more garam masala, and a little more rosemary. I find it really brings out the subtle flavors of pork.” He smiled, wiping his pork-sticky fingers on my HGGTG™
“You old fraud”, we all smiled at once.
“What?”, he shied, raising his eyebrows, “It’s for scientific evaluation purposes. It’s therefore allowed. Now, do you have any cold beer, gin-n-tonics, or vodka and lime, which I’m hearing is very nice together, that I might also scientifically sample?” he smiled toothily through his long white beard.
We had made another powerful friend. Although it cost us one smoked Boston Butt, actually off the shoulder, that’s butcher’s for you, and a half a liter of homemade Texas-style barbeque sauce and another of Esme’s homemade fennel and caraway-infused coleslaw.
Everyone on the cul-de-sac now had a freezer full of pit-roasted pork. The Brits got their sausage once Vonn and Liam figured out how to use the Osterizer®
Stuffing Horn. That was almost as much fun as doing the pit-barbeque. Never leave to Brits what Baja Canadians can better do.
We distributed the bacon and hams, and the rest divided whatever was left. Which was a lot of pit-roasted pig pieces and parts.
The bones made their way into gaily wrapped gifts and were posted anonymously to Mr. Guano Insano. We hoped he appreciated all our effort.
I used Esme’s great-grandmother’s old German recipe for Headcheese. Basically, boiled smoked pork head meat in aspic jelly. With dill pickles. And pickled eggs. With special spices.
Well, I don’t give a shit. We like it.
Anyways, summer slowly slid south and the temperatures during the day got slightly more tolerable. Liam and I decided to forego his boat for a while, as launching and recollecting required us to put Liam’s boat in the water HERE and recover the boat THERE. It was trucked, via road, from the recovery place to the launch place.
It only cost something like US$5 to ship the boat back to the launch area and they actually did a good job hosing and steam cleaning the boat before parking it back in its rental dry dock. These were still the early days before gas was king in Qutur, so things were still ridiculously cheap. There were exactly 3 high rise hotels back then, as compared to the insane silhouette presented by Duhu’s current evening sun.
I had flown over some likely looking flats that might hold snook, grouper, and tarpon on my last flight back from the rig. I translated that onto whatever road maps we could find here, as most everything was a state secret, ground verification was a must.
Liam and I tossed a couple of surf rods, a cooler full of beer and some bait into the back of his new diesel Mitsobitchy Prago™,
and we were off to the north of town, the least developed chunk of Duhu real estate to date.
We drove down a rip-rap
road that was more just a pile of random rocks trucked into the bay area and dumped into something that resembled a straight line.
I was less than confident that we weren’t going swimming today, but Liam relished every bounce, bolt and jolt. He confided in me that one of the big reasons he took the job here in the Middle East was that he’d never in a million years be able to afford a truck like this back in bonny Scotland™.
He confided that he couldn’t have even afforded the fuel for this diesel-slurper back in the UK, it was that dear.
So, down the path we rebound. I was watching the water on both sides of the narrow groin, and saw it was getting deeper, but very slowly. I looked at my GPS and saw that we’d driven some 3.5 km out to sea at this point.
“Liam”, I said, “That’s a fuck of a long way to reverse.”
“Ah, Rock”, Liam assured me, “ No worries, Doctor. It’s all a loop. We can just drive our way out of any trouble.”
I remained unconvinced.
We came to a breach in the ‘jetty’. There was some heavy marine equipment mounted on barges. They were working a large cut, ostensibly for cargo ships to pass through. There was to be a swing-bridge built after they cleared the channel, but with all these loose rocks, it was putting paid to their scheme.
We parked and wandered over to who appeared to be the head guy.
“G’Day”, “Liam says, “What’ the big fucking holdup? We’ve got fish to catch, mate.”
Liam had previously spent a few years down in Australia as if it didn’t show.
“Oh, hello”, the natty clad black man said, “We’re having a bit of a time with loose rocks here. Supposed to be angular to lock in place, but by the time they get here from the quarry, they’re a sharp as bowling balls.”
I introduced myself and Liam as he was back in the boot snaking a beer. The black feller introduced himself as Zafir Djaballah, a civil engineer late from Algeria.
“So”, I said to Zafir, “If I’ve got this straight, you cut a channel and want to line it with rip rap. But the rocks won’t stay put. How deep are you cutting and what’s the size of the channel?”
“Oh, 35’ east-west, 15’ north-south. About 15 meters deep.” He relates.
“And the road metal? Where’s that from?” I ask.
“Arabia”, he tells us, “They quarry it there and transport it here. It’s costly, but that’s about the only option we have.”
Liam looks to Zafir. “Hey, Zafir?”, Liam asks, “Y’ken who this guy is?” as he points to me.
Zafir shakes his head “I just met Dr. Rock.”
“That’s not all who he is”, Liam smiles widely, “That, my friend, is the Motherfucking Pro from Dover! If he can’t fix your little problem, he can damn sure make it go away…”
Zafir looks to me as if to ask: “What the fuck, sir?”
“Well, Zafir, “ I say, “I’m a bit of a dab hand with explosives. This sounds like a really simple problem. Drill a grid of 2 meter centered holes, and prime them with a waterproof explosive. Detonate together electrically and there you go. Channel dug and already filled with angular limestone blocks. Easy-peasy.”
Zafir looks over the water and puzzles and puzzles.
“But sir’, he says, “Where would I find such explosives and such expertise?”
“Well…for starters”, I said, “You could ask me.”
He leads us over to a company trailer, where Liam and I drank beers, smoked cigars and told the superintendent of our plans. The Egyptian superintendent, Qaaid al-Zahra, later ‘Randy’ (Quaid?…never mind) scrutinized all our identification. He was actually very impressed when he came across my Blaster’s credentials.
“Doctor”, Qaaid said, “I do like your plan. The drilling is no problem, the problem is obtaining the explosives.”
“Look, Qaaid”, I said, “Leave that to me. You’re working for a government company, I’m working for a government company. What difference does it make? How long to drill the grid of holes Liam and I laid out?”
“Oh, probably about a week”, Qaaid said.
“OK, how about this?”, I said, “Liam and I will be back out here unless the weather’s being stupid and we’ll set and prime the charges? After which, we’ll make certain everything’s green and blow this little project for you?”
“If you can, Inshallah.”, Qaaid said.
“Even if we’re out of shallah”, I said back to Randy.
That Sunday, after Liam backed us down the 3.6 km or bouncy un-turn-around-able path he drove us out on, I ordered some Kinepax™ liquid binaries, as it came in easy-to-use 1-meter threaded lengths in various diameters. Qaaid was drilling 3.5” diameter holes, so the 3.00” nominal OD threaded length would be a breeze. I ordered a couple of spools of shock tube, comb connectors, deflectors, and tie-ins, and a 25 kilo box of ‘Elephant Shit’.
We make sure each hole was blown clean with a high-pressure water hose. Since the water here was only 8 meters deep, we could get by with regular lightweight skin diving gear. I could leave my wetsuit, diver’s helmet and all that heavy-duty ice-diving gear at home for this trip.
Liam and I would pre-form the charges, each exactly 6 meters in length, to match the depth of the drilled holes. Individual 1-meter units just screwed together, pin and box style, it was the utmost in simplicity. Rather like Seismogel™, but packed a considerably higher wallop. All told, we would be setting off some 36 nodal points, each 6 meters deep with 6 meters of binary which weighed 5.3 kg/meter.
Turn the crank and we’d be planting approximately 1,145 kilograms or 2,524 pounds of high-energy binary explosive.
Hmph. A new personal record.
Like Guinness even cared.
So, once we got the high sign from Randy that the shot holes had been drilled and cleaned, the next part of the project was up to us.
We were both PADI-certified. Liam had done some oilfield related diving in the North Sea some years ago. I was a veteran of the Ice Wars from the days of Future Passed back in Baja Canada.
The waters here were calm, gin-clear, and warm.
The dives here weren’t work, this was a paid vacation.
I had liberated a trailer for all our pyrotechnics and Liam was elected to use his Prago as the tow vehicle. We bounded our way out to the Liam’s Pass, as we had dubbed it, with a work trailer containing some 2,750 pounds of high powered, binary explosives bouncing behind. I also had all my explosives paraphernalia there as well: new waterproof galvanometer, which in and of itself, is rather the achievement. Pliers, spare batteries, couple pair of blaster’s tools, the usual.
Lia and I had our dive gear in the back of his Prago.
A couple of single tanks, backpacks, regulators, hoses, and a few belts full of divers weights.
These must have been of Islamic origin as they are specifically prohibited by the Bible. Deuteronomy 25:13, “Thou shalt not have on thy belt divers weights, a great and a small.” And Proverbs 20:23, “Divers weights are an abomination unto the LORD; and a false balance is not good.
Why there should be proscriptions against SCUBA gear in ancient, desert-dwelling, shepherding Iron Age writings is what keeps Biblical Scholars up at night.
Although I agree, a false balance underwater keeps your Swimmer’s Ear from healing up.
At the pass, we park and call over for a half-dozen ‘helpers’. They were nominal employees of the company, but more indentured servants. Today, they were going to earn their water wings. We had a couple of large pneumatic rafts that we’d use to transport he charges to their final water resting site but damned if Liam and I are going to swim laps every time we needed to set a new charge.
So, indoctrination and Explosives For Dummies.
Safety first, second and last.
Who here can swim?
You guys can stay. OK, the rest of you blokes, bugger off.
Here’s the deal, Sparky. There are 36 lengths of Kinestix with primers already set. Those go last, as that’s where I tie in to detonate. The rest of the 1-meter long tubes are identical. Pin on one end, box on the other. Thread them together and use a single ‘O-ring’ between each. Snug them up good and tight, but don’t go too crazy. Those are binary liquids, and I’ll give them a good smack with a hammer before they go into the hole. I really only have to do the last one as once initiated, these liquids can mix in milliseconds, but I’m all for safety and doing things right the first time.
OK, so, one raft will carry the 36 initiators, that is, the last bits to go. The other rafts will carry the 5-meter long strings of connected explosives. Liam and I will be down on bottom and you guys just stay up on surface, dog paddling or treading water, but slowly feeding the lengths of tubing down to us. When you reach an end, pop on one of the other lengths, the one with the primer.
To be continued.
So my situation with trying to get on HRT has been basically the following problems
- I'm broke
- Don't like psych gatekeeping
- There's not a lot of information, and a lot of it is incomplete or unhelpful.
It's taken me a couple of months to get this going, but I'm on HRT now, so I thought I'd go over how things went for me to help other people in the same position, so that it doesn't take nearly as long. All going well, it should only take a couple of weeks. Obviously my wants and needs are probably going to be different from yours, whether you're interested in higher E / lower T or not. I don't know how helpful this will be for people who aren't interested in that, or who are under 18, or have other relevant health factors. It also doesn't cover anything about what actually being on HRT is like, because I don't know yet.
Before any of this tho, it's important to do research. You should know what HRT is capable of, what the side effects are, the health risks, limits, etc. The doctor you see can help with this but it's good to seek out your own information. I'm probably not going to talk too much about specific prescriptions you can get, because there are plenty of people who know way more about that than me. This is mostly practical stuff for people who have the same problems that I did, and don't know much about going to the doctor.
tl;dr - I would highly recommend Dr. Katie Mellor at RMIT Medical Hub. I can only speak for myself, as someone in their 20s on a very moderate dosage, who isn't aiming for effects as substantial as some would want. She's extremely respectful, seems to know what she's doing, and if things work out for you like they did for me, you can be on hormones within two weeks for $90, probably less. Plus, she seems as frustrated with the state of trans healthcare as I am.
1) Finding a GP
This was the trickiest part. If you don't care about psych gatekeeping and money then your options are very broad. But, if #1 & #2 above apply to you, then that's not going to work.
If what you want is respectful, affordable healthcare, you need to see a GP (or, general practitioner, a doctor who mostly deals with diagnosis and general, non-specific issues) who does 'informed consent
', 'bulk bills
', and is actually taking new patients. For most Melbourne options, you can pick two. Bulk billing I'll cover in the bit on saving money, but let's get into informed consent.
Under the guidelines most GPs who prescribe HRT use, you're required to see a psychologist, who will confirm that you have 'gender dysphoria', and give you a letter you can take to your GP. It's never a bad idea to see someone who specializes in mental health, dysphoria or no, but having it be mandatory is unnecessary gatekeeping, imo. It can be harder on non-binary or otherwise gnc people, too, and finding a good psych isn't cheap. 'Informed consent' just means that instead of making you do that, the GP themselves will take the time to give you the information you need to consent to the treatment you want. You should come prepared, at least by knowing what you want HRT to accomplish, but it's good to talk things over with your GP.
The other thing to mention is that not all GPs are taking new patients all the time. There can be a waitlist, and it's often worth calling multiple different clinics to see how long it'll take you to get an appointment, if you can stomach it. Equinox, the most commonly recommended clinic for trans healthcare, has entirely closed their waitlist as of writing this. I understand Monash Gender Clinic has a similar situation, but idk.
GPs don't typically advertise whether or not they are happy to prescribe HRT under informed consent, and even asking directly on the phone doesn't always help. There's some information, here, on the wiki, Discord, etc, but the only GP I personally know for sure does informed consent is Dr. Mellor, at RMIT Medical Hub. She works in the middle of the city, so if you can get there, you're set. Aside from her, I've heard that you can go to;
- Center Clinic (I was told verbatim by the doctor I saw that none of them use informed consent. Other people say they've gotten it here. It's frustrating.)
- Northside Clinic (apparently they have a bunch of people who do informed consent?)
- Prahran Market Clinic (Dr. Eu is the only doctor I've heard of here who does informed consent.)
Northside, PMC and RMIT Medical Hub do not bulk bill without a concession card (or for RMIT, if you're a student/staff there), but it's fuzzy. This means it should cost more, which we'll get to next.
tl;dr - If you don't want to pay / wait / to see a psych and risk dealing with gatekeepy bullshit, look for someone who uses informed consent.
It helps a lot if you can find out in advance, and ask for them specifically when you call the clinic they work at. If they won't prescribe you HRT without you getting a letter from a psych that says you have gender dysphoria, it's not informed consent, and you could see someone else to get on hormones sooner.
2) Saving money
There are two ways to save yourself a bunch of money on healthcare. The first is Medicare
, Australia's universal healthcare system. If you live in Australia, you're eligible for Medicare. Once you turn 15, you can get your own Medicare card. If you don't have one, get one. When you do;
- Your GP can use it to 'bulk bill' Medicare directly for your appointments, meaning you don't have to pay a cent. Even if they don't bulk bill, you can likely get a 'rebate', meaning they charge you for the full amount, and you get a good chunk back. A standard appointment will usually go from ~$80 to ~$40.
- Medicare also applies to buying your hormones, when you get them. As far as I can tell, under the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) it puts a hard limit of $40 on fulfilling a prescription. In my case, my meds cost ~$50 instead of ~$90. This varies based on what you're actually prescribed, and where you buy it, of course.
The second is to have a concession card.
For our purposes, you're eligible for one of these if you collect basically any Centrelink payment; Newstart, Youth Allowance, DSP, etc. There's also the possibility that you can get a Low Income Health Card, which requires an income test. Getting on Centrelink is a whole separate thing that I won't get into here, (DM me if you want help with that) but if you're already on it, look into getting a concession card. When you do;
- Northside, PMC and RMIT will bulk bill you. It's possible (up to the GP) that they may do this without a concession card, but it requires setting up a healthcare plan, which means you only get one bulk billed appointment every three months. This may or may not be sufficient for your needs, but in my case it's fine. Dr. Mellor did this for me, but I can't guarantee that she will for you.
- Your hormones will be even cheaper; the $40 limit is reduced to $5.60.
On top of that, if you or your family buy a lot of medications that PBS covers (~$1500ish a year, or ~$316 if you have a concession), something called the PBS Safety Net can kick in, making them free. It's also not a bad idea to shop around, especially for things that cost less than the PBS limits, like estradiol.
tl;dr - You should be on Medicare, which will cut the price of everything in half, possibly more, to around $90, altogether. If you're on Centrelink benefits, get a concession card, which will probably cut it to about $12.
3) Stuff to be prepared for
With all that covered, there's a couple of other parts of the process you should be prepared for. First, you'll need a blood test
. My GP would've preferred if I'd had a fasting blood test, where you don't eat for 8-12 hours before the test, but the results I had were "very normal", and that wasn't much of a concern for me. Best practice would be to aim for a fasting test, tho. In my case, I had the blood test done at Center Clinic (bulk billed) before seeing Dr. Mellor. This didn't speed up the process any, I didn't get a prescription until the second appointment, but I imagine if you call ahead and prepare for a fasting blood test before the first appointment, you'd probably be looking at a prescription by the second appointment instead of the third.
The blood test is obviously to check your hormone levels, but it's also to monitor HRT-related health risks
. The main things I discussed with my GP were diabetes, osteoporosis, blood pressure and depression. You should have an idea of your family's history with things like this. It'll also help to be willing to discuss your diet and exercise habits, smoking, things like that.
You'll also probably be asked if you're interested
in seeing a psych. This is always a good idea if you can manage it, especially since hormones do affect your brain and emotional state. With a 'mental healthcare plan', this can be free under Medicare, but you're limited to specific options like headspace. I haven't explored this a lot, but it's worth mentioning that like finding a GP, this can be a difficult process. Again, research helps a lot. Remember; it's recommended, but you don't have to let it get between you and your healthcare.
My GP brought up fertility preservation, since most hormone medication will cause fertility problems. I wasn't interested in that for various reasons, including the fact that it costs hundreds of dollars, but that's something you'll want to think about.
Aside from that, it's important to keep in mind that GPs are people, and providers of care. They'll make decisions on all of these matters based on you and your needs; it might take longer, it might cost more. It's not a good idea to treat them as prescription dispensers; HRT is a long-term commitment, and it's best to make sure you do it safely. Sticking with a GP you like helps a lot.
That's pretty much it. My local pharmacy didn't know what cyproterone was, but they had it covered a little further out at Chemist Warehouse. You might want to shop around if you're really on a budget, but if that's the case, a concession card will make it a flat ~$6 for anything. This advice doesn't necessarily hold up for people who have other health factors, or people on T. I believe there may be more extra steps involved in between meeting the GP, and getting a prescription. (honestly I tried figuring out how much T would set you back but it's unclear to me where you'd even get it?) Hopefully this'll at least make it easier to get started. Ideally you'll get to your GP and find them supportive enough to make the rest of the process painless.
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