From Right Field – Out and About

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I finally got out of the house on a Saturday and played actual, honest-to-goodness tournament Magic against real human beings who sat across from, beside, and diagonal to me. I wanted to commemorate this occasion with a tournament report worthy of our own Jamie Wakefield, King of the Fatties, Conqueror of Beautiful Women from Exotic Places and Exotic Women from Beautiful Places, Tournament Report Writer Extraordinaire. I will probably fail, but at least I’ll have tried.

{From Right Field is a column for Magic players on a budget or players who don’t want to play netdecks. The decks are designed to let the budget-conscious player be competitive in local, Saturday tournaments. They are not decks that will qualify a player for The Pro Tour. As such, the decks written about in this column are, almost by necessity, rogue decks. The author tries to limit the number of non-land rares as a way to limit the cost of the decks. When they do contain rares, those cards will either be cheap rares or staples of which new players should be trying to collect a set of four, such as Sulfurous Springs, Birds of Paradise, or Wrath of God. The decks are also tested by the author, who isn’t very good at playing Magic. He will never claim that a deck has an 85% winning percentage against the entire field. He will also let you know when the decks are just plain lousy. Readers should never consider these decks “set in stone” or “done.” If you think you can change some cards to make them better, well, you probably can, and the author encourages you to do so.}

As you know, since I’m sure you’ve been following both my medical melodrama and my whining about the state of real-life tournament Magic in Knoxville, TN (my hometown), I haven’t played in many tournaments in the last, um, year. It’s not been for not trying, though. There either hasn’t been an acceptable place to play, taking into account access to the facility, start time, and the people involved, or I’ve been simply unable to sit upright long enough to play without passing out or throwing up on the table.

That all changed a couple of weekends ago. I finally got out of the house on a Saturday and played actual, honest-to-goodness tournament Magic against real human beings who sat across from, beside, and diagonal to me.

I really thought I was going to wet my pants.

Not from the excitement. Just because that’s been one of the side effects of my condition and/or disease.

Just kidding! I often wet my pants just because I’m old!

Anyway, I wanted to commemorate this occasion with a tournament report worthy of our own Jamie Wakefield, King of the Fatties, Conqueror of Beautiful Women from Exotic Places and Exotic Women from Beautiful Places, Tournament Report Writer Extraordinaire. I will probably fail, but at least I’ll have tried.

Pre-Tournament Preparation and Frivolity

When you’re out of work on disability as long as I’ve been, you tend to want to just sleep all of the time. Kinda like Summer vacation when you were in high school and before you had to work. I’ve been trying to make sure that I stick to my same schedule so that I won’t have to struggle with my internal clock when I finally get back to work. On this particular Saturday, Luanne woke me up a little earlier than I wanted.

“I can sleep for another half hour,” I groaned as I slipped my head under the pillow.

“But,” she giggled, “I want to rock your world.”

“Honey, you know how much I enjoy early-morning, muted-sunlight-through-the-shades nookie. You also know how I can’t keep my balance right now and how I get nauseated.”

“That’s okay. I’ll do all the work. You just lie back and enjoy.”

It’s good to be a man.

Four minutes later, still basking in the afterglow, we were out the door for some whole-grain bagels with asiago cheese and fresh Sumatran coffee. While we were eating, Luanne asked “So, what deck are you going to play?”

She’s so sweet. I know that she doesn’t understand the game, but she tries to let me know that she’s not ignoring that part of my life completely. She knows that there are four or five or so colors in the game. So, I respond, “I’m going to modify the White deck that I gave Evan to play at Regionals…”

I trailed off.

“I’m sorry,” she said. She remembered that Regionals weekend was the weekend that this whole wobbliness thing started for me. It’s funny because family matters made it so that I couldn’t attend Regionals. At the time, I was pretty upset. Things always work out the way they’re supposed to, though. I don’t even want to think what would have happened had this hit me while I was four hours from home. How would I have felt if I any member of my krewe had been doing well when they found out that I had to be taken back home right now?

“It’s okay,” I said, looking into her steel-blue eyes. “Can’t dwell on the past. Can’t cry over spilled milk. Can’t un-ring a bell. Can’t turn back time…”

“Enough with the clichés, already,” she said, smiling at me. “So, you’re playing a deck that Evan gave you?”

“Kinda. He gave me a list. We tweaked it. I built it from my cards. Hey, did I tell you that Evan is going to The Invitational?” I was grinning like a kid who’d just been told he could east as much Halloween candy as he could stomach.

“Okay, what’s The Invitational?”

I explained in as much detail as mattered. I told her how he was nominated by Wizards of the Coast (a wholly devoured subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc.) along with a bunch of other folks. I told her about the voting. I told her how he was going to get to play Magic on Wizards’ dime for an entire weekend in Germany.

“Were you nominated?” she asked me.


“Why not?”

“I don’t know for sure.” And that’s absolutely true. No one from Wizards called and said “Hey, Chris. We just want you to know why you weren’t nominated for The Invitational. Do you want those reasons alphabetically or in order of importance?”

“It was a special slot for writers they call Storytellers. The guys who were nominated all do a great job of bringing something more to their writing than just ‘Here’s a deck. Here’s how good it is. Play it.’ They make the aspects of the entire game-playing experience come alive.”

She seemed puzzled. “You write great stories.”

“But not about Magic.”

“Anyway, I thought Evan’s stuff was on video.” She pulled another piece of cheese off of the bagel and chewed it slowly.

“There was a lot of complaining along that line in the forum discussions on Evan’s nomination. Now that he’s putting his stuff out in video format, people completely miss the fact that he’s a great writer. He still writes those scripts, though. I mean, it would be like saying that Charlie Kaufman isn’t a great writer because he writes screenplays. It’s just ignorant.”

Luanne scowled. Whoops. Wrong choice of words. Remember this, boys. Beautiful women want you to notice how intelligent they are; intelligent women want you to notice how beautiful they are. When your women is both, tread very, very lightly around either subject.

“No, I mean that in the strictest sense of the word. When someone complains that ‘Erwin shouldn’t have been nominated because he doesn’t write anything,’ it’s simply because they don’t know that he does write. It’s not that they’re stupid. A lot of people just truly don’t know that writing a script is still writing. Seriously, when a movie comes out, who gets all of the attention?”

She sighed. “The actors.” I think I’ve beaten this horse with her before.

“On the one hand, that makes sense. Film is visual. The people in front of the camera get the most accolades. But if it wasn’t for the writers, they’d just be pretty people having their pictures taken. And…”

“I know, I know,” she said, rolling her eyes. “’And that’s called modeling.’”

“I’ve made that speech before, huh?”

“Uh, yes.”

“Regardless, Evan deserves to go. Heck, all of the nominees deserve it. But only one could make it from that ballot. Wizards set the rules. The people voted. Evan won. The end.”

Later, I asked myself if I was just being a homer. I’d be lying to me if I said “not at all.” Of course, I voted for Evan. I know the guy. He’s been to my house. We’ve eaten together. I’ve seen at least one of his ninja battle scars… I mean emergency surgery scars. But, is that the only reason I think he deserves it? Isn’t there anything else? Betcha by golly wow, yes. His Magic writing entertains me like none of the other nominees except maybe John F. Rizzo. If only The Other Sexy Italian Who Writes About Magic (Sorry, Antonino) had written more Magic stuff this year, I might have voted for him.

Dear Friggin’ Rizzo,

I miss the way you elegantly and artistically butcher grammar and sentence structure like Bill “The Butcher” Cutting having his way with a side of beef. Please, write more. K? Thx.

Your Wuv Muffin,

Guess Who

“Come on,” she said. “We should get going.”

Since it was only ten o’clock and the tourney didn’t start until noon, I figured what she really meant was “Come on! We have an hour and a half to hit antique stores!” Sometimes, I hate it when I’m right.

For me, going places is now something to dread. For one thing, I’m not allowed to drive. For another, it can make me dizzy and, thus, nauseated. I have to keep my eyes straight ahead. I can’t swivel my head and check out all of the funny drivers and passengers or read the misspelled signs and bad advertising. (I especially miss the local eyeglass place that has the bi-weekly “Buy One, Get One” sale. There’s no “free” on their sign. So, essentially, what it says is “You pay for one, you’ll get one.” Which, I believe, is how most transactions occur. Oh, and the local Mexican place that advertises “Free Desert.” We always pick the Mojave because we don‘t have the money to visit our desert if it was overseas like the Sahara or Gobi.)

All of that moving of my head gets me too dizzy and makes me nauseated. I can’t close my eyes, either, because the disconnect between what I feel and what I see (or don’t see, when my eyes are closed) also makes me nauseated. Turns make me dizzy. Any bumps in the road make me nauseated. And the car lurching to a stop because Luanne had to pound on the brakes to keep from hitting some me-first idiot who just hadtobeinourlanerightnow makes me nauseated. However, it beats staying at home. Again. For the sixth day in a row. So, I try to look forward and zone out. It’s all very Zen, and, if there’s anything positive to come out of this, I think it really has mellowed me out.

In this case, I zoned out by thinking about the deck I was going to play, going over sideboarding options and how I’d make certain plays. The deck hadn’t really lost much in term of sheer numbers from the rotation of Ninth Edition to Tenth. What it lost, though, was huge: Savannah Lions. Just the night before, while testing at Joe’s house, we went through my options for another one-mana creature. Joe came up with either forsaking that slot for a two-mana critter like Mistral Charger or Epochrasite or using Martyr of Sands. “There are a lot of aggressive decks right now that just can’t handle you gaining nine life.” The rest of the krewe hadn’t shown up yet, so we tested it. I liked it. All we had to do was figure out a new sideboard since there was no longer Ivory Mask or Worship in Tenth Edition.

That was when the rest of the gang appeared. First came Landon, he of the Abe Lincoln beard and the singing voice that is clear and powerful. Honestly, I don’t even think Big Landoz needs a mic and amp to sign with the band. He just uses them for looks.

Next came The Storyteller, Evan Erwin himself, on the very night that his Invitational win was announced to the world. He was soon followed by his friend Jamie. Later on, during a lull in our strategy conversations, I propped my elbows on the table, cupped my hands under my chin like a schoolgirl, looked Evan in the eye with everyone watching, and in a sing-song voice said, “Evan?”

“Yes, Romeo.”

“Will you tell me a story?”

Everyone cracked up. Then, I asked Evan to autograph my Heartwood Storyteller. “Really? Are you sure?”

“Dude, in the history of Magic, exactly one card has had the word ‘Storyteller’ in its name. And that card was released just weeks before you get the Invitational nod as Magic’s Storyteller? Yes, I’m sure.” Smiling that Cheshire-cat grin he has multiplied by about six, he signed it and put on it a simple drawing of what was obviously a video camera. My cards signed by Rebecca Guay are in a special place, but this one has its own indestructible Plexiglas case.

When I left that night, this was the deck I had decided to bring the next day:

There is one ginormous thing I would do differently with this deck. I even talked to Joe about it after my first match.

“Joe, remind me to move the fourth Gelid Shackles into the maindeck after the tournament.”

This was immediately followed by, “Hey! Romeo!”

“Yes, Joe.”

“Don’t forget to move the fourth Gelid Shackles into the maindeck after the tournament.”

Embed LasVegasRimshot.wav here.

Please, folks, leave the humor to the professionals.

The Shackles is just absolutely and utterly huge. I’ve written about it before, but actually don’t think that I can over-emphasize how powerful that card is. For a single mana – remember, the only amount of mana less than that is zero – for a single White mana, the creature of your choice can’t block, and it’s activated abilities can’t be played. Sure, it can still attack… if you don’t pay a Snow mana to give it Defender. You know what, though? Aggressive White Weenie decks just don’t care about that. Most of the time. Sure, there are cases where Gell-O becomes the control deck, but those are rare. Normally, the G-Shackles is there to remove a blocker and/or keep some nasty ability in check.

“What if they have Disenchant, though?”

I deal with it.

The only other significant change to the deck was putting in Rebuff the Wicked in place of the no-longer-Standard-legal Leonin Skyhunter.

I will resist the urge to pontificate on Wizards bad decision to drop the Leonin Skyhunter from X. I will just say this: bad boys and girls. Bad.

Round 1 – Victor with Thallids

I also call this the “Don’t Worry. You’ll Never Face That in a Tournament” round. I remember a few months ago, Talen Lee told me that I was wasting my time trying to figure out how a certain deck would deal with Enchantments. He said something like “Give me a list of ten Enchantments that you’re worried about. I’ll bet you never see them.” If I was playing on the Pro Tour where the players can pretty much predict the decks that each other will have, well, maybe I really would be tilting at windmills.

However, where most of us play, i.e. here in the real world, you never know what you’re going to face. And, sometimes, those off-the-wall decks are pretty good. Case in point: Victor’s Thallids deck.

Remember, I didn’t have any true removal in this thing. Sure, I could bring in Condemn from the sideboard (and I did), but I was mostly relying on Gelid Shackles to control the other guy’s creatures. Fortunately, I got the Shackles early and often, and they kept him from making too many Saproling tokens. Game 2, though, almost went to time because he was able to use his Essence Warden to gain about sixteen life from Saprolings before I could get a Griffin Guide onto a Serra Avenger. Still it was quite a race. That’ll happen when a Thallid player’s deck spits out not one but two Sporesower Thallids, and you can’t get rid of them. Even just one other Fungus on his side means that he can pump out a token per turn.


Round 2 – Joe with Teneb Wishes

I don’t even know why I played this round. The Joe in the description is my friend Joe, the person at whose home we tested the night before. My deck had no chance against his, either before or after sideboarding. Okay, I guess I can’t truly say “no chance.” Condemn, Tormod’s Crypt, and Stonecloaker could prevent him from doing too many awful things with Teneb, the Harvester, and reanimation spells like Dread Return. The thing is those cards have to show up in order to work. If they don’t, a 6/6 flying Dragon doesn’t take long to end the game. Ah, another two-game match.


Round 3 – Bobby with G/W/R Kavu Justice

Again, my man Joe was right. Rebuff the Wicked stopped him from getting the full potential out of his Fiery Justices. Meanwhile, in both games, the nine life I gained off of Martyr of Sands was just too much for his deck to deal with. In game 2, he was almost able to pull things out. A second Sulfur Elemental wiped out even my Paladin en-Vec. However, the very next turn, I got a Glorious Anthem. That was followed by Serra Avenger, Paladin en-Vec, and Soltari Priest. Those were followed by me winning 2-0.


Now, I understand that Senor Wakefield would have had some entertaining stories about fabulous plays or horrendous beats if he had played in this thing. Honestly, there weren’t any here. The first and third matches were well-played. It seems that my time away from the tournament scene has made me a bit more laid back and thoughtful about my plays. On the other side of the table, both opponents did the same. I wish there had been some super flashy plays, but, truth be told, the best plays in both games were just good, solid decisions backed by some forethought. For example, in game 1 of the third round, at a point at which I could have tapped out to drop a Soltari Priest, I had Rebuff the Wicked. I held off just in case he had Fiery Justice or other burn. Turned out that he either had or drew Fiery Justice. Instead of taking out three of my creatures and pumping his Kavu Predator up, he was left tapped out and with a wimpy 2/2 Kavu.

I guess you could say my two games against Joe’s Teneb deck was bad beats, but again it was just his deck being better than mine while he made better plays than I did. Sorry, folks. I really would just love to be able to regale you with tales of witty repartee or stories of hot moms picking up their kids, but I got none. The best story I have is that we were promised pizza and didn’t get any. Hey, don’t blame me for the lack of entertaining tales. I could make some stuff up. You know, like… A Storyteller! Nah. Forget it.

And, sadly, that’s it for my first tournament in months. For some reason, the software didn’t give us a fourth round. The T.O. thought that there should be, but, unless someone made a mistake with the DCI software (No way!), we only had three rounds. After being unable to get in touch with the store owner, the two people at 3-0 decided to simply split the prizes.

My sincerest hope is that I’m better for States. The Snow Black deck I was going to play at Regionals won’t have lost much except for Mortify. Okay, that’s huge. Still, I should be able to find something for that. I hope…

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Stay tuned for next week when I hope to be able to write another piece.

Chris Romeo