From Right Field: How To Stay Alive

Do you really think that you can build an OnBC deck without knowing what the final 25% of the cards will be? You’ve got your nasty Beast thing all ready to go, don’tcha? For all you know, this card will be in Scourge:


Creature – Cleric Legend



Remove Father Nelson from the game: Choose a creature type. All opponents remove all creatures of the chosen type they control from the game. Search each opponent’s hand, graveyard, and library for all creature cards of the chosen type and remove them from the game. Set them on fire. Draw a card.

Yeah, it’s a little undercosted, but Wizards claims to be giving white some good weenies again.

Sadly, I haven’t been feeling very entertaining lately. Heart problems will do that to you. Two Fridays ago, I had what was termed an atypical cardiac event. What happened was that my heart stopped for a few seconds, although it felt like an eternity. It felt like someone had reached into my chest and squeezed my heart. Pain shot down my left arm and up the left side of my neck. In other words, all the signs of a heart attack. Luckily, thought, it wasn’t a full-blown heart attack or a stroke. Just a kind of wake up call.

I’ve been seeing a doctor for high blood pressure for the last ten months. My BP has come way down thanks to eating much less crap (no Doritos or Skittles) and exercising a whole lot more (from zero days per year to five days per week). I’ve lost thirty-five pounds, dropped my blood pressure forty points, and my standing heart rate is between 62 and 65. My exercise of choice has been tennis. There are some great therapeutic benefits to tennis that go above and beyond just the exercise. For one, my job itself often causes my blood pressure to rise. Going home after work and hitting things with a stick really does make me feel better. You should try it sometime, and see what I mean.

Also, I tend to meet cute college co-eds named Cindy or Becky who wear skimpy shorts and jump around a lot. My doctor recommends that I get my heart rate up over 140 for thirty minutes a day. Bouncy co-eds in skimpy shorts are always good for getting the ol’ heart rate up.

Of course, all of this means that I haven’t been doing much original Magic thinking. Oh, I’ve been playing Magic; one of the many reasons that this game is so great is that it’s so portable. It’s easy to play when you have to be tied to machines or you can only sit up in bed. But I haven’t been doing anything with new decks. All my focus right now is on (a) getting and staying healthy and (b) readying a deck for Regionals. Neither of these is conducive to coming up with Dr. Romeo’s Next Wacky Deck.

I tried to do a thing with Slivers a couple of weeks ago, but it stunk. Really. Not that the decks stunk… Rather the column did. I mean, it was as boring as your Uncle Frank’s story – yet again – about the time he and your Aunt Jenny got caught in the tornado. Actually, I think Mr. The Ferrett put it best when he said something like,”It had all of the wit of a article and all of the strategy of a Chris Romeo article. I think you can see where this breaks down.”

Hey, it’s hard to be funny with tubes running out of your nose while you’re wearing a teal and green floral gown that opens in the back and lets your buttocks flop around for everyone to see.

Okay. Bad example. That is actually pretty funny.

What I mean is that, in that circumstance, it’s hard to think of and then write funny stuff or to think up and then write about a deck. I had a hard enough time getting to the toilet without my ass causing the nurses to point and giggle. Speaking of pointing and giggling, thank God the gowns don’t open in the front!

Thank you. Thank you, very much.

So – back to Magic decks. Yes, I said,”decks,” you dirty girl. Stop thinking about my hospital gown opening in the front. Sheesh.

Regionals is the one time of the year that I get serious about playtesting and deckbuilding. What makes Regionals so different for me? Well, for starters, it takes so much effort just to get there. It’s a long drive. We’ll be spending the night, so I have to pack a suitcase. And, I have to figure out when there’ll be time for the strippers. The thing also costs quite a bit of dough. There are the tournament fees. I have to pay for my part of the hotel room. And, of course, you have to tip the strippers. Finally, there is a huge time investment. We have to drive down (four hours). One of the people in our group will do well enough that no one will leave early. Figure eleven rounds of Swiss plus breaks, overtimes, and between-round paperwork (thirteen hours). And time alone with strippers (twelve minutes). If I’m going to put that much into it, I want to actually prepare for this one. So unlike my usual Saturday shenanigans, which involve building whatever wacky deck I’m writing about for the next week’s column and playing it untested, I’ve actually been sitting down with some honest to goodness Magic players and running my decks against what we’re calling the Big Four: ‘Tog; UG Madness; RG; and Slide.

Of course, who wants to hear about Chris Romeo strategy for such a big deal as Regionals? (If you’re one of the few, it goes like this: Play R/G Anger or Phantom Living. Don’t make any mistakes. Sideboard flawlessly. Win.)

No, this week, I’m dealing with issues since so many people have missed me doing The Angry Young Magic Man thing over the past few months. But, this is gonna be tough to do well while also keeping my blood pressure down. Wish me luck. Here goes:

Issue The First: Onslaught Block Constructed

Why are you even worrying about this? There is, as far as my Google search shows, one and only one sanctioned tournament that will be Onslaught Block Constructed before the third set is released. It’s a Pro Tour event. You won’t be playing in it.

As for the third set, you have absolutely no possible frickin’ idea of what’s going to be in that set (a leaky card here and there aside). Do you really think that you can build an OnBC deck without knowing what the final 25% of the cards will be? You’re a frickin’ genius, Alice. You’ve got your nasty Beast thing all ready to go, don’tcha? You’re just waiting for whatever great Beasts or Beast-related spells that Scourge might bring.

The truth is that you’re utterly clueless. For all you know, this card will be in Scourge:


Creature – Cleric Legend



Remove Father Nelson from the game: Choose a creature type. All opponents remove all creatures of the chosen type they control from the game. Search each opponent’s hand, graveyard, and library for all creature cards of the chosen type and remove them from the game. Set them on fire.

Draw a card.

Yeah, it’s a little undercosted, but Wizards claims to be giving white some good weenies again. Heck, they went so far as to reprint the insanely powerful White Knight (which still dies in combat to the utterly ridiculously powerful Wild Mongrel) (unless the Mongrel’s controller doesn’t have a card in hand or changes its color to black) (Silly Mongrel controller).

If you haven’t figured it out, the point is this: you can’t know how Scourge will change the environment. To start making Onslaught Block Constructed decks now is mental masturbation… But we’re Magic players. We’ve probably got a lot of practice doing that. And we enjoy it, don’t we?

Issue The Second: The Eisel Incident

Funny. It seems that many folks consider me some sort of Moral Voice of Magic. Whatever. Anyway, these people were upset that I didn’t weigh in on The Eisel Incident, as I like to call it.

First off, until just a few days ago (as I write this), there was nothing but speculation. Any commentary on such an issue would essentially come down to”Cheating’s bad, mmmm-kay?” Whoopee. Hard to believe that I’m against cheating, innit? I’m also against hunger, illiteracy, slavery, and using dogs (other than Chihuahuas) as dinner meat.

To be honest, it wasn’t the cheating that got me. Oh, sure, I abhor cheating. If I ever catch you doing it, I’ll turn you in ASAP. But what really got me were the absolutely silly stances that some people took. I mean, they took up positions so ridiculous that I can only compare them to what Louie Anderson might look like if he was break dancing. **shudder**

One argument went like this: People cheat because they think they can get away with it. The only reason you don’t cheat is that you’re worried about getting caught.

Holy stinkin’ butt crack, Batman! What latrine did you just crawl out of? Were Seth Burn and I the only ones who thought this argument was ridiculous? Okay, sure, there are some folks who don’t cheat only for fear of reprisal rather than due to the moral obligations that they feel toward themselves and their fellow players. But most people don’t cheat simply because it’s wrong.

Ask yourself this: If I could cheat with impunity (it means”with no fear of punishment,” Brewster), would I?

On second thought, don’t answer that. I’m afraid to know.

Another really laughable position was: What Nick did wasn’t that bad. Quit pissin’ on my leg and tellin’ me it’s rainin’, son. There aren’t a whole lot of worse things that someone can do in a Sealed deck tourney – and obviously, the DCI agrees with me here. For those of you who think that he could have done something worse, what would that be exactly? Could he have brought an entire pre-constructed Sealed deck? Yeah, that would be worse.

Of course, chopping up a body after you commit murder is worse than just committing murder, too. But the murder part’s still pretty bad.

You see, there are levels to cheating. Most people like their moral absolutes, though. They like saying things like”You’re either for us or against us” and”You can’t be a little bit pregnant.” They like those platitudes so that they don’t have to think. Like the one my boss likes:”There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Teamwork.'”

Technically, this is true. The letter”i” never shows up in the word teamwork. Ya got me there, sweetcheeks. Of course, I always follow this up with”There’s no ‘U’ in ‘Teamwork,’ either.” (Man, I can’t believe she hasn’t fired me yet. Must be the Moustache Magic workin’ for me.)

Again, true, but ultimately useless for moving the discussion forward, no matter how funny I think it is. People who like these sayings also seem to like this one:”Either he cheated, or he didn’t.”

Much like the”i” in teamwork thing, this is also technically true. Either he cheated, or he didn’t. Right. I got it. But, you see, someone can cheat a little or a lot. [By the way, I just checked with a coworker of mine who is about to have triplets any day now. She wants all of the males in the world to know that you can indeed be little or a lot pregnant. She is a lot pregnant. If you say to her”you can’t be a little bit pregnant,” she will hurt you – a lot, not a little.]

Take, for example, the guy who puts only fourteen cards in his sideboard. It doesn’t matter whether it was an accident or on purpose, although, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why you would intentionally leave yourself with fewer options than you’re allowed. The rules say that you must have ether fifteen or zero cards in your sideboard. There are no other choices.

But is there anyone who thinks that the fourteen -card sideboard guy deserves to be banned for any period of time? I would hope not. The only person he hurt was himself.

However, when a person premeditates cheating and then cheats in a way that is designed to deprive others of the rewards of their own fair play – whether or not that design works – the cheater deserves the harshest punishment they can get. Why? Because that person cheated . . . a lot.

Personally, I think that many of the people who are serving two-, three-, and five-years bans should just be banned for life. They will not change. They will continue to cheat. They cheat because they have no moral compass that tells them not to cheat – or, possibly worse, they are able to justify to themselves why the cheating is actually okay. Also, they cheat because they can get away with it. During their time away, they will continue to practice cheating and will pick up right where they left off when they get back.

A lifetime ban sounds harsh, doesn’t it? It should. This is a game. First and foremost, it’s supposed to be fun, regardless of the fact that there is a lot of money involved at the upper levels of play. But you have no inherent right to play this game as a professional. Think about this: if someone gets a five-year ban right now, they’ll be back when Magic celebrates its 15th anniversary. That person would have been banned for 33% of the game’s life to that point. If the game’s governing body thinks that you’ve been cheating so often or in such an egregious fashion that you deserve to be banned for thirty percent or more of the game’s life, you should just be banned forever.

Since you have no inherent right to play the game professionally, just go away. Play at the kitchen table. Maybe you can relearn why the game is so great before you pass away into oblivion.

POSTSCRIPT: Mr. Eisel’s piece on what happened just got posted on StarCity. For what it’s worth, I find two of his paragraphs very interesting. First, in the middle he posits a couple of”possible scenarios” as to what happened. Interestingly, none of his suggested scenarios is the one I would find most plausible: The guy writing out the deck list simply screwed up with no other motives attached. The ones that he does posit are all of the paranoid variety: Someone else was doing something wrong and bad, and either I got caught in the crossfire – or worse, I was the target. Take from this what you will.

Mr. Eisel also does the”why would I do this when I have so much to lose” thing. To me, this is the most specious argument a person can make. Why would a rich, professional basketball player shoot someone? Look at what he stands to lose. Why would an R&B star have sex with a minor? Look at what he stands to lose. Why would a movie star continue to do cocaine? Look at what she stands to lose.

I went to a private high school with a lot of rich kids and then an even more exclusive college with even richer kids, both of which were only possible thanks to scholarships, in case you’re wondering where I fell on the Rich Kids Scale. At both places, I met kids who had everything they could possibly want – as far as a middle-class kid like me was concerned, anyway. They had new cars, televisions in their dorm rooms, and lotsa cash on hand at all times. Yet many of them shoplifted, robbed, and stole. Look at what they could lose with jail time! Why would they do this when they already had so much?

The answer was simple. They wanted even more.

Issue The Third: The R/G Versus R/G Anger Debate

I gotta tell you, I had a great ranting, raving column all written up that was going to explain in great detail why Kai Budde was wrong when he wrote in his Sideboard piece that”green-red with Anger is just absolutely awful.”

Me? Saying that Kai is wrong about something involving Magic? Man, that’s just asking for trouble on the same scale as walking up to your boss and saying,”Nice sweater puppies, babe!” Which is very bad when your boss is a woman. And even worse when your boss is a man.

I agonized over the thing. I tried being witty in one version. I tried being the disinterested mathematician in another. I had one version that didn’t even mention Kai because I didn’t want anyone to misinterpret what I was saying. (“Romeo says that Kai’s an idiot.””Romeo says he can beat Kai with his RG Anger deck.”) For the record, I’m pretty sure that I could play The Best Deck Ever while Kai was playing a random bunch of commons whether or not he also got any lands, and he would still beat me badly. So this was going to be tricky.

And then, I thought, why bother? Who’s gonna listen to me?

Let’s compare:

CHRIS ROMEO: sub-1700 rating with total career earnings of $174.26 worth of packs and a foil Shock.

KAI BUDDE: the world’s best Magic player ever with career earnings of over $1 bazillion.

I wouldn’t listen to me, either.

Even if I came up with pages and pages of solid reasoning as to why RG with Anger is not”absolutely awful,” still – who would believe me over Kai? Then it occurred to me that maybe this is a good thing. Kai says the deck stinks. A huge number of people will simply dismiss it out of hand because of this. They won’t even test against it, let alone try to play it. This will give me and my pals Matt and Shannon Owens a big advantage at Regionals.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Issue The Fourth: Legions Sux

Man, are we a bunch of whiners. And by”we,” I mean”you guys.”

Legions comes out, the second set of a three-set block, and people are upset that every card wasn’t a bomb that completely shifted the metagame.

Folks, it’s the middle set of a block!

It shouldn’t shift the metagame or give us tons of new decks. That’s what the first set of a block is supposed to do. The second and third sets should simply strengthen what we already got in the first one. Oh, sure, Wizards always throws us a bone regarding new decks, like they did with mono-Black from Torment. The Legions nod was towards Slivers. But from a philosophical standpoint, the second and third sets of a block shouldn’t be groundbreaking; they should be reinforcing.

Personally, I applaud Wizards R&D for trying these new things. Okay, so we have an all-creature set. What’s wrong with that? There are those of us who love the combat phase. And these new creatures come with some nifty effects.

So quit yer whinin’ before Wizards tries to give us an all-land set. And if you remember Nomad Stadium, you know how bad that could be.

Issue The Fifth: Getting On With Life

I see people at Magic tournaments who seem to have so much of their self-worth tied up in Magic that each loss is like they’re dying a little. They can’t understand how I can be such a good loser so much of the time. (“Practice. Practice. Practice.”)

The answer is simple: My life is not all about Magic. Yeah, I love the game. And, yes, there are games that I hate losing. There are even people to whom I hate losing. But, there are other things for me outside of Magic. Music, movies, TV shows, other games – all of which are best enjoyed with family and friends – reading, sports, women. And the list goes on and on.

I’ve recently stared down my mortality. It wasn’t a nice experience. I don’t want it to seem like I had an epiphany, though. There were no bright lights. No angelic choruses. But it did make me think. Of course, if this was a movie, the hero would realize how badly he’d been leading his life, even though he was rich and gorgeous and women threw themselves at him. (Heck, who wouldn’t want to change their life from the tedium of that, huh?) In the movies, things would magically turn around in his heart – figuratively, if not literally. That mousy librarian that he’d been snubbing? He’d realize she was The Woman of His Dreams. Of course, she would also turn out to be stunningly gorgeous once her friends got her all dolled up for their first Real Date or, as women like to call it, a date date.

[DIGRESSION: This is why the ending for Shrek was so wonderful. And if you haven’t seen Shrek, rent it tonight.]

For me, mostly what it made me think was how things aren’t that bad, and I really don’t want much in my life to change. I have great friends. A family that would do anything for me. Freedom. Enough extra money to enjoy myself a little bit. And, yes, the game of Magic, an enjoyable way to pass the time with family and friends. Yeah, things are pretty good.

Now, how many of you can say that, if death came a-knockin’, you wouldn’t have an entire SUV full of regrets?

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Let’s give a great big StarCity welcome to…

Whoa. Wait a second. What’s that on the floor? Why, it’s a Words of War! Neat. I need one of those. Hey, is this from your Sealed deck? It’s not? Cool. I guess I can keep it.

Chris Romeo

[email protected]