From Right Field: How To Have A Merry Christmas

While some people may have the brightest yard decorations in the neighborhood (requiring the police to stop by and make them shut down every night at 10 p.m. or risk a fine) and others make 132 dozen cookies, I get to write about a Magic deck that is inspired by Christmas carols and Christmas folklore. Yep – my annual Magic deck based on Christmas carols. And I always make sure that it’s Standard-legal. Merry Christmas!

This is my favorite holiday season. I know that doesn’t make me unusual in the least. Sure, there are people I know that have a different favorite holiday: I work with a woman who is a Wiccan and is just nutty about Halloween. Other friends of mine like Thanksgiving best. One even prefers Labor Day. (I think that last one is either because of the cooking out, or the kids going back to school – I’m not sure which.)

Most people I know, though, like Christmas the best.

It’s such a great time of year. People seem to be happier and act nicer towards others. Whether it’s because they think Santa is watching or because they’re really trying to turn over a new leaf, I don’t care. As long people are acting better toward one another, that’s all that matters to me. I love all of the home baking that goes on. (It’s murder around here trying to stay in shape between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. If I wasn’t more disciplined, I’d have a massive coronary sometime around December 11th every year.) Of course, there’s all sorts of lights and decorations. And music. Man, I love all that music. [More on that later.]

Still, there’s nothing that separates my love of this holiday season from most people’s love of it.

Except that I write a column about Magic. So while some people may have the brightest yard decorations in the neighborhood (requiring the police to stop by and make them shut down every night at 10 p.m. or risk a fine) and others make 132 dozen cookies, I get to write about a Magic deck that is inspired by Christmas carols and Christmas folklore.

Yep – my annual Magic deck based on Christmas carols. And I always make sure that it’s Standard-legal.

Normally, I explain how my latest deck works and the reasons for certain choices first. This time, though, I’m going to give you the decklist first, and then explain how and why I chose the cards.

HO, HO, HO – 2002

Lands 24

4 Karplusan Forest

2 Tranquil Thicket

2 Forgotten Cave

1 Barbarian Ring

1 Centaur Garden

7 Forest

7 Mountain


4 Llanowar Elves

4 Birchlore Rangers

4 Leery Fogbeast

4 Pardic Arsonist

4 Gang of Elk


4 Fog

4 Moment’s Peace

4 Blaze

4 Sylvan Might

CHRISTMAS CAROL #1:”Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

CARD CHOICE: Fog, Leery Fogbeast

By now, we all know the story of Rudolph. He was shunned as child for being physically different. But, thanks to a certain very FOGGY Christmas eve, that difference saved Christmas when Santa asked Rudolph to lead his team for the night, using his million-watt nose to light the way. A particularly inspiring story for those of us who look different from others because of our extra eye or abnormally-large genitals.

Oh, and stop laughing at Larry, the Fogbeast: He’s a great wall. And if you can burn away all of your opponent’s blockers, a 4/2 attacker for 2G doesn’t stink.

CHRISTMAS CAROL #2:”Silent Night”

CARD CHOICE: Moment’s Peace

During such a wonderful time of year, should your opponent be able to deal combat damage? Of course not! Tell him or her to take this particular combat phase to reflect on the meaning of the season because their critters aren’t going to hurt you at all.

CHRISTMAS CAROL #3:”Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”

CARD CHOICES: Gang of Elk, Sylvan Might

Yes, I know that the card is called Gang of Elk, not Gang of Reindeer, and that the creature type is Beast – not reindeer. But look at the picture.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the Urza’s Legacy version or the 7th Edition version. Them’s reindeer, and you can’t convince me otherwise, bub. And it sure looks like they’re about to trample Grandma, doesn’t it? Sylvan Might, of course, assures them of getting that trample ability.

By the way, it’s tons of fun to watch the expression of holiday joy on an opponent’s face when they block the Gang of Reindeer with some random 1/1, and you cast Sylvan Might on the Gang. For those of you who don’t wanna do any math this holiday season, that’s a 9/8 trampler being blocked by a 1/1. That’s yummy like Aunt Phyllis’ figgy pudding. Hey, it’s better to give massive creature beatings than to receive, right?

CHRISTMAS CAROL #4:”The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)”

CARD CHOICES: Pardic Arsonist, Blaze

I have a confession to make. I played an evil Astral Slide deck this weekend. Hey, it looked fun, and I’d never played the thing. Plus, if you leave out the Exalted Angels – which was easy for me, since I don’t have any – it’s a very inexpensive deck to build. Of course, if you leave out the Angels, you have to have some sort of replacement. I came across the Pardic Arsonist. In case you don’t know him, this is him here:

Sliding him in and out of play is just nasty when you have Threshold. In other words, this guy can roast your chestnuts very nicely. So can Blaze. Load ’em up, and let ’em rip.

CHRISTMAS CAROL #6: I’m completely stumped here

CARD CHOICES: Llanowar Elves, Birchlore Rangers

Can you believe this? We all know the special place that elves hold in Christmas folklore. After all, Santa has been sued more than once for discrimination for hiring only the tiny, pointy-eared lads and lasses to run his factory.

(Interestingly, Santa has won each time. While he does do business in the U.S., he doesn’t have any business sites in the U.S. So, each court has always held that he isn’t bound by any Federal employment laws.)

And, as”‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” informs us, Santa himself is a”right, jolly, old elf,” too. But I can’t think of a single Christmas carol that actually mentions elves.

If you can, please, let me know. And I’m talking about famous ones, not a song no one knows on an album by some obscure artist – sure, I could try to slip in that silly”We Are Santa’s Elves” that they sing in the Rankin/Bass”Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” but no one actually sings that. So that would be cheesy. Still, that’s not going to keep me from putting in some mana acceleration in the form of everyone’s second-favorite green creature type (after Beasts).

And there you have it! My Christmas deck for 2002.

Dr. Romeo’s Twelve Favorite Christmas CDs

How much do I love music? My Christmas CD collection is bigger than most people’s entire CD collection. I love Christmas songs. And, after the thousandth time that you’ve heard Bing Crosby singing”White Christmas,” you need a break. That’s not a slam against Bing or the song. I relish both. The first dozen times each year that I hear Bing crooning about writing Christmas cards, I get a big, silly grin. But, after a while, you want to hear something different.

12) CHRISTMAS OF HOPE by Various Artists – Columbia / Sony put this out a few years ago. It has some of the best Christmas songs by rockers that were never on another CD. I spent a lot of time buying vinyl singles to get the B-sides so that I could have Bruce Springteen doing”Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” The Eagles doing”Please, Come Home for Christmas,” and Elton John doing”Step into Christmas.” Then this came out with all three of them on it. I was so happy that I bought two.

11) CHRISTMAS ISLAND by Jimmy Buffett – Remember what I said about getting tired of hearing the same versions of Christmas songs? This is the antidote. This CD proves that most Christmas songs just don’t have enough steel drums in them. The”hidden” track is Jimmy reading”‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” The price of the CD is worth it just for that.

10) CHRISTMAS ISLAND by Leon Redbone – Yes, the guy who mumbles and growls while playing his old steel guitar has one of the best Christmas albums I’ve ever heard. His voice and music both make you think of the bayou and weeping willows. The juxtaposition is fantastic when he sings such chilly songs as”Winter Wonderland,””White Christmas,” and, the centerpiece, a duet with Dr. John on”Frosty the Snowman.”

9) TWISTED CHRISTMAS, I AM SANTA CLAUS, and MORE TWISTED CHRISTMAS by The Bob Rivers Comedy Corp. – All you really need to know is the song titles:”Walkin’ ‘Round in Women’s Underwear” (to the tune of”Winter Wonderland”);”We Wish You Weren’t Living With Us” (to the tune of”We Wish You a Merry Christmas”);”Yellow Snow! Yellow Snow! Yellow Snow!” (to the tune of”Let it Snow!”); etc. A sure antidote to Christmas song boredom. They have released two more that I don’t have yet, CHIPMUNKS ROASTING ON AN OPEN FIRE and A WHITE TRASH CHRISTMAS. I will be getting them.

8) THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS by Ray Charles – You will never hear better versions of”What Child is This.” Period.

7) A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS, Volumes 1, 3, and 5 by Various Artists – Madonna does”Santa Baby.” Run-DMC doing”Christmas in Hollis.””Oi to the World” by No Doubt.”I Saw Three Ships” by Sting.”This Christmas” by Macy Gray.”Merry Christmas, Baby” by Stevie Wonder and Wyclef Jean. And the money goes to charity. What’s not to love?

6) SNOWFALL by Tony Bennett – This is more along the lines of a traditional Christmas CD. (Can you have a”traditional” CD?) If I’m going to listen to a crooner, it’s gonna be Tony. His version of”My Favorite Things” is my second favorite, right behind John Coltrane’s instrumental version.

5) CRESCENT CITY CHRISTMAS CARD by Wynton Marsalis – Wynton is by far the coolest man on the planet. His jazz versions of”We Three Kings” and”Jingle Bells” are the coolest, too. Like Jimmy Buffett, he does a version of”‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” at the end of the disc. But Wynton’s has musical accompaniment.

4) JUST SAY NOEL by Various Artists – This was the Christmas CD in Sire Records’ JUST SAY YES series. It starts with Beck doing”The Little Drum Machine Boy” and ends with Ted Hawkins doing”Amazing Grace.” In between, it’s really good, too.

3) WHAT IF MOTZART WROTE”I SAW MOMMY KISSING SANTA CLAUS” by The Hampton String Quartet – When this first starts, it sounds like typical chamber music. It turns into incredible and unexpected string quartet arrangements of some Christmas favorites.

2) JINGLE BELL JAZZ by Various Artists – Another one put out by Columbia/Sony, this one has Duke Ellington doing”Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Yeah, Duke Ellington. What else do you need to know?

And Dr. Romeo’s Favorite Christmas CD….

NUMERO UNO) HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS SOUNDTRACK (animated special) – The first track of this is the actually soundtrack of the show – meaning the television show minus the visuals, all 22 minutes of it. That’s followed by several tracks of just the individual songs. There’s just nothing that says Christmas to me like Thurl Ravenscroft singing”You’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch.”

GRINCH TRIVIA – Ravenscroft, who sings the Grinch songs, is better known as the voice of Tony, the Tiger.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Now, be good, for goodness sake!

Chris Romeo

[email protected]

P.S.: I hope you get everything that you want, but not what you deserve.