From Right Field: Dr. Romeo’s 100% All-Natural, Unadulterated, Feel-Good, Have-Fun Regionals Recipe

This week isn’t about a deck or that final sideboard card (although Black decks really need Echoing Decay for use against Soldier, Goblin, and Insect tokens). No, this is about being ready for The Regionals Experience.

Please, tell me you’re not expecting to get ultra-secret mega-tech for Regionals. Especially from me. By the time you read this, it’ll be four or five days until the big dance. If you haven’t got your deck down cold at this point, you can start practicing for the side drafts right now.

This week isn’t about a deck or that final sideboard card (although Black decks really need Echoing Decay for use against Soldier, Goblin, and Insect tokens). No, this is about being ready for The Regionals Experience.

Step #1

The first thing to do is to have your cards with you. Sounds ludicrously obvious, doesn’t it? Yet, how often do you see people at these things scrambling for cards?

“Dagnabit, Chester, yew sayed I could barree your Lightnin’ Rifts. But you went and done gone given ’em to that Michelle Bush woman! Now, what am I a-gonna do?”

“Well, you uns could use Lightnin’ Blast instead.”

“&@#* **&@#^ **&@!$”

“You kiss yore momma with that mouth, Earl?”

If you have your cards, you prevent that bit of stress that comes with trying to get cards in time to register your deck. There will be plenty of stressful stuff at Regionals to start with. There will be tough matches. There will be cheaters. There will be problems finding your table. You don’t need to add to it by scurrying around like a mouse in heat, looking for cards.

Step #2

The second most important thing you gotta do is be rested. It’s so important that it should probably be numero uno or, at worst, number one-A. Do not stay up all night Friday testing your deck. You’ve had three months to test your deck. You’re not going to get any better with it between midnight and 7 A.M., I promise you that. You can, however, get worse. If you don’t get sleep, you will, gare-on-teed, make stupid mistakes because you can’t focus.

If you live more than an hour or two drive away from the tournament site, consider getting a hotel room and going up the night before. A four-hour drive means that you’ll have to be up and out by about 5 A.M. Which also means that you probably won’t get enough sleep. Every year that I’ve gone to Regionals or States, I’ve been able to get a room with a couple of friends, and it ended up costing about thirty bucks each. One year, it did cost seventy-five bucks each, but that was because we had ordered, um,”room service.”

Step #3

Bring healthy food and drinks. Don’t waste time trying to find some greasy food to eat between rounds. And don’t try to get through the whole day on Mountain Dew, Moon Pies, and Cheetos, either, Bubba. Those will weigh you down, slow your metabolism, make you tired, and cause mistakes. Go in with a couple of folks for cold cuts, juice, fruit, and cereal bars. Put ’em in a cooler. Keep the cooler in the truck or car. Keep the cereal bars with you, though. Those are for when you need a real quick bite because your round went too long. D@mn, Blue-White Control decks.

Step #4

Shower and brush your teeth. Or at least put on deodorant and eat a handful of Altoids. One thing that just continues to amaze me is the huge percentage of Magic players who eschew all forms of hygiene before matches like Regionals. I’ve been told that it’s a Jedi Mind Trick. Geez, how can such a stinky Jedi concentrate while breathing in his own stench? Also, if you ever wonder why more women don’t participate in Magic, take a step back at Regionals this year, stand in a corner between rounds, and take a deep breath. You’ll have a big part of your answer.

Corollary to Step #4: Please, oh, puh-leeze, hit the bowl. Other people will need to use the thing after you. They don’t want to stand in your bladder water. This goes double if you have to use the toilet rather than the urinal because someone will eat the nasty hot dogs or burritos or fried squid or whatever they’ll be serving at your Regionals and have to sit (i.e.”go number two”). Be respectful of that, and aim. Heck, make a game out of it. Whatever it takes so that other people don’t have to slosh through your urine.

Digression: In his April 21st, 2004, column, Brian David-Marshall asked if anyone knew”the collective noun for [Magic players]?” I propose”stink.” A”Stink of Magic Players” just feels right, know what I mean?

Step #5

Keep score with pen and paper, not dice. If it’s anything like last year, the first few rounds, before people start dropping out, is going to be elbow-to-tit in the place. Dice are horrible for keeping score. A little bit of jostling messes up everything. If you’re more than two or three turns into the game, you’re gonna have a hard time remembering the score. If a judge has to be called, both you and your opponent could get a warning for not knowing the proper score.

Pen and paper also allows you to recreate your scoring. You should even practice making notes on what caused the damage or life gain, such as”WF” for a point from using a Wooded Foothills or”FKN RVGR” for F**king Ravager.

The best advice I ever got when learning to drive was when my Dad said to drive like everyone on the road was actually trying to hit me.”One day, you’ll be right.” For Magic scoring, I’d say, keep score as if everyone you play has no idea how to do add and subtract.

“How’d I get to fourteen? I show me at seventeen.”

“Well, you took one from your Bloodstained Mire, one from your City of Brass, and then another one from your City of Brass. Then, I Shocked you and hit you with a Pyrite Spellbomb.”

“Oh, I keep forgetting to take damage from the lands.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet.”

Keeping score that way, as you can see, also prevents your opponent from”forgetting” damage. It’s also good for helping you keep your head in the game.

Step #6

Always call a judge. If there is any disagreement, call a judge. You want an official ruling on what’s going on. Also, something that might seem like an innocent mistake to you could very well be part of the guy’s game plan. If he”accidentally” looks at his next card, he is gaining valuable information. How many times during the day might he do that? If you call a judge, the TO’s will know. The first time he does it, it might just be an unofficial warning (a.k.a.”a caution”). However, the tournament organizers track that. If he does it again, he might get a warning or worse. They won’t know unless you say something, though.

Step #7

Bring cards to trade, and not just rares, either. Last year, everyone had Mirari’s Wake and Wrath of God for trade. Fewer people brought the commons and uncommons that people were looking for. If you had brought Circular Logics, Wild Mongrels, and Smother, you could have traded them for a lot more than they were worth. Why? Because at that time and place, those cards were in shorter supply than many rares. And we all know how people will overvalue cards when they really, really need to have them right then. I mean, who would trade a Visara the Dreadful, for a single Astral Slide? Well, under normal circumstances, no one. However, when deck lists have to be turned in in four minutes, well, that’s a whole different ball of belly-button lint. Another advantage of bringing only commons and uncommons to trade is that you don’t lose much if some cards get stolen.

Given the decks that are hot right now, some of the uncommons that I’d load up to bring are Lightning Rift, Astral Slide, Goblin Warchief, Gempalm Incinerator, Wirewood Symbiote (yes, really), Explosive Vegetation, Urza’s Power Grid (a.k.a., the Tower, Plant, and Mine), Smother, Ornithopter, the Talismans, Coastal Tower, Thirst for Knowledge, Skullclamp, and way too many more to list. Basically, look at all of the decks that are winning right now, figure out what commons and uncommons people might need for them, and bring a handful of each. When you get a Ravenous Baloth for two Skirk Prospectors and a Gempalm Incinerator, you’ll be glad you did.

Step #8

Have fun. Why on Earth would you be doing this if you weren’t having fun? Hmmmm . . . interesting I should write that. I ask myself that every week on the way to another 2-3 finish.

Now, go play cards.

Epilogue #1

Last week’s piece on the problems with Magic Online generated more talk on the forums and more e-mail to me than anything I’ve done in the last six months. I was stunned. I guess Magic Online is a hotter topic than I expected. I was just venting a bit, and look what happens. The most stunning part was how people misread the thing and took the misinterpreted stuff personally. I can’t explain it except to think of it this way.

Have you ever noticed that you can start a huge fight by saying how bad a particular act’s music is? Try it sometime. If you overhear people talking about how much they love The Rolling Stones, for example, just chime in with”Man, their music stinks. It was derivative in 1963, and it’s still unoriginal today.” Also, make sure you are wearing a helmet of some sort and, if you’re a guy, a cup.

When you criticize a piece of entertainment or art that someone likes, instead of hearing”I think that this thing is bad,” many, if not most, people hear”anyone who likes that is a complete idiot.”

That’s the only way I can explain how vehemently some people reacted to my comments. Instead of hearing the message as stated (“I like Magic Online, but we need to let Wizards know that we won’t stand for this treatment anymore”), people read”anyone who spends money on Magic Online is an idiot.”

On the other hand, some people cheered me for wanting to bring down Magic Online. Wrong again. I don’t want to bring down Magic Online. I want to be able to use it any time that I can. In case I wasn’t very clear, here’s the nutshell version.

I like Magic Online. A lot. I like that I can find a game anytime (that the server is up) and that the game enforces the rules. I don’t like the pricing structure, but I have to live with that (for now). I don’t want to bring down Magic Online. I want it to be better and more stable.

Mostly, though, I don’t want to be an unpaid beta tester. The only people who got paid were people who were actually able to finish matches and win something. Those of us who spent time just trying to get into tourneys but couldn’t do so also provided data for the beta testing. We won’t be compensated, though.

Oh, and one last thing. Please, stop suggesting that I can just win prizes in a draft and”go infinite” on Magic Online. I am not allowed to win prizes because I live in Tennessee. Funny, I can win prizes at a local tourney, PTQ, or States, but not on Magic Online. Go figure.

Epilogue #2

I wanted to end this piece on a high note. I got an e-mail last week that tickled me to no end. It was from a mother name Diane Bekel who played Sheila McDougal’s Wallflower deck to a FNM win. I’d relate it to you, but I found her e-mail to be better than anything I could write. So, I’m reprinting it here.


“At the last minute, I found that I would be able to play FNM last night. I don’t usually get to play, so I didn’t have any decks put together. Time is at a premium for me, as I am a high school special ed teacher. I haven’t played much at all since Mirrodin came out.

“I don’t like to play what everyone else is playing, and I need an easy deck since I don’t have a lot of playing time under my belt. I read your article about Sheila McDougal’s deck ‘Wallflowers.’ It looked like it would be a hoot to play, and it seemed to be easy to understand, so I decided to play it. I played her version without a sideboard.

“My son made fun of the deck as he was pulling the cards. One of the principals in my school district and his son play, and I borrowed the rest of the cards from them. His son wanted me to play Decree of Justice in the deck and he was skeptical of the deck as well because it was Walls. The consensus was that Walls are the bastard redheaded stepchildren – n00bs and scrubs play with them, but”serious” MTG players wouldn’t be caught playing a deck built around them.

“We had 4 rounds of Swiss, with no cut to T8. I played 3 Raffinity decks and a rogue Elf deck with Visara and Akroma (that was my son, the Spike/Johnny). The first Raffinity deck I beat got badly dissed for being beat by Walls. By round three I had a crowd around me. I drew in the fourth because I was beginning to make serious play errors and I was scared spitless because I was playing one of the serious tournament players in our shop.

“I won. I never win. I’ve only T8ed once, and that was when we had ten people. I am the perma-scrub. I still can’t believe what this deck did.

“I played last night just wanting to get some face time with the cards and have a good time with friends that I don’t get to see very often. Thank you for featuring this deck.

“Diane Bekel”

Guys, the women seem willing to take a chance on this deck, and they’re winning with it. Get a clue.

“Perma-scrub.” I like that. I think that’s what I’ll start calling myself, too. Ted, can you change my handle on the forums from”journeyman” to”perma-scrub”? Thanks, mon.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Now, get some sleep. You’ve got a big day ahead of you Saturday, Bobby.

Chris Romeo

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