If you read this column regularly, as the Surgeon General suggests (it promotes”intestinal and rectal health”), you know that I couldn’t make it to Regionals this year. That doesn’t mean that I can’t file a Regionals report, though.
You: Woke up at 6:30 AM to get ready to drive to the tournament site.
Me: Awakened by Luanne’s damn cats. Three of them. Why can’t women have just one cat? Why do there always have to be multiple cats? Cats have no sense of the rhythm of the day. It’s always whatever time they need it to be. Hungry? Time to eat. Tired? Time to sleep. Feeling’ frisky? Time to bat hair scrunchies around on the bed right about where Chris’ head is. Ow. Okay, I’m awake, Mick, you fat bastard.
You: Packed your cards, dice, and lucky Dexter’s Laboratory toy from your Subway happy meal (Summer 2000).
Me: I was eating a hearty breakfast of orange juice, Fruit Harvest cereal (if you gotta have fiber, it oughta taste good), and coffee. I was also throwing napkins at the damn cats who were trying to eat the cereal. I gotta admit, though, it has to be tastier than their food, stuff that’s a mix of liver, chicken, and lamb. Makes me want to hurl just imagining that.
You: Registered your deck at about 8:45 AM because the tournament organizer said that the thing started at 9:00 AM. Of course, it didn’t. They lost a few registrations. A couple were illegible. So, you didn’t actually get to start until 10:15 AM.
Me: I spackled. Now, don’t misunderstand. This isn’t”spackle that crack” kind of spackling. No, it couldn’t be that easy. This is a stucco wall treatment so that you can paint over it and have it look like a Tuscan villa. Meaning I’m spackling not a few cracks and holes, but four entire walls. All the while, I’m trying not to trip over the damn cats who either love me and show it by rubbing up against my leg or hate me and are trying to trip me. I spackled for about three hours. Then, when my arms were too tired to spackle any more . . .
Me: Oh, I got to go antique shopping. Happy happy joy joy! Actually, I think it’s kinda fun to look at all of that old stuff and wonder where it came from, who owned it, what’s it been through. I imagine all sorts of great stories behind the things. Sadly, the woman I’m with is also filled with wonder. She wonders how we’re going to get it all home in the back of a VW Beetle. Please, don’t let her remember that U-Haul is right around the corner.
You: Went into round four at 2-1 with your Tooth and Nail deck, not believing that you could possibly have lost to, of all things, Soldiers! Soldiers?!? Who plays that? I mean, okay, Decree of Justice is good. So are Wing Shards and Wrath of God. But Whipcorder?!? Yeah, Darksteel Colossus doesn’t like him.
Me: Got home from an exhausting time at musty, dank, smelly antique shops marveling at how much they smell like rooms filled with Magic players.
You: Took a lunch break after round four. Went back to finish the day.
Me: Took a nap. I was again awakened by the damn cats. This time Mick, the fat bastard, decided that he and Mel, the”fluffy” bastard, needed to wrestle on my face. Ever swallowed a pound of lint? Yeah, it was like that.
You: Spent a few minutes being deck checked.
Me: Spent a few minutes getting cat hair out of my nose. Damn cats. If they weren’t so darn cute . . . .
You: Played round six against a Goblin Bidding deck. Good thing you played Sheila’s Wallflower deck, the one with lotsa Walls. You made it back to even at 3-3.
Me: More spackling. I gotta tell you, this being married and owning a home thing is kinda fun. I’m hammering. I’m spackling. I’m nailing. Heck, I’m even fixing the house! (Yeah, cheap joke. I know. Still funny, though. To me, anyway.) It really is nice because it’s creative and mindless at the same time. I don’t have to worry about making sideboard decisions or pissing off some client who’s a real asswipe and deserves it. Just throw up some spackling, and see what patterns it makes. Cool. Snails. Snails eating cookies, no less. The fumes may have been getting to me at that point.
You: Decided that seven rounds and going 3-4 was enough. That round seven loss to Elf-Clamp was just humiliating. It wasn’t so much that it was Elves. It was that the kid was eleven years old and this was”my first tournament. Neato, huh?” Plus, he brought actual insects to use as Insect tokens. Ewww.
Me: True story. Luanne had been saving money by not having cable. I mean, I had it at my place, and she only watched TV when I was with her. So, three months ago, she cancelled it at her place. Now that I’ll be living in her condo, we wanted cable back. Saturday night, they hooked the cable back up.
Or so they said.
I took the cable sticking out of the wall and hooked it into the TV. No picture. Crud. So, we called the cable folks back. We tried to be really nice.”Hey, this is Chris. No rush, but we don’t have a picture. We weren’t planning on watching anything in particular tonight. So, you know, whenever.” They had a guy out within an hour. He looked at my hookup. Yeah, everything was in order. (Good news. My electrical engineering degree wasn’t a total waste. I can hook up televisions, VCRs, and stereos. I can also make the clocks stop blinking after a power outage.) He went back outside to check the signal. The signal was nice and strong. Hmmmm . . . maybe the previous guy had hooked up the wrong condo’s cable? Out he went again. Nope. It was this one. He fumbled behind the TV some more.”I wonder what this is?” he said, yanking on another cable that was sticking out of the floor from under the carpet! Whose cable comes out of the floor? Cable comes out of the wall, not from under the carpet. So, he hooks up this other cable, and – voila! – we have Gene Kelly singin’ in the rain. I felt like such a rube.
The question is: where does that other cable come from and go to? He didn’t know, and neither do we. (Cue Twilight Zone theme.”Doo doo, doo doo. Doo doo, doo doo.”)
Then, we watched Singin’ in the Rain. Yes, really. Gene Kelly is da bomb. [Seconded. – Knut, supposes erroneously]
You: Decided to draft, Mirrodin/Mirrodin/Darksteel. At worst, you’d get some rares. Turns out the people to your left and right didn’t know what the heck they were doing. You took a first pick Consume Spirit because the rare was the Green Tower. Then, you got passed Loxodon Warhammer! At first, you worried about what he got that would tempt him to pass the ‘Hammer. Platinum Angel? When the third-pick Promise of Power came by, you pretty much knew you had to be in mono-Black. Luckily, the guy to your left wasn’t getting any Black cards from you. So, in pack number two, you got lots of goodies. By the time you won the draft, you realized that lots of good removal can win you a draft, even if you have average creatures. Average creatures can still attack, and they do damage when the opponent’s very good creatures are very dead.
Me: Luanne was pooped from spending money. (Finally.) So, I decided to play whatever Elf-Clamp deck I could cobble together from my Magic Online cards. Yes, I have four Skullclamps online. See, there are two of them in the Blue-Artifact Darksteel precon deck called Transference. Luanne bought me two copies online for a Valentine’s Day/St. Patrick’s Day present. Here’s what I played. Card choices were limited by my card pool.
Miser Elf-Clamp Online
1 Wirewood Lodge
4 Birchlore Ranger
2 Taunting Elf
1 Elvis Scrapper
4 Wirewood Herald
3 Wirewood Hivemaster
1 Bloodline Shaman
4 Timberwatch Elf
4 Elvish Warrior
2 Nantuko Vigilante
My first match was against Goblins. I’ll say it every time.
I was swept in two fast and ugly games. Guess who stepped to the plate for match number two? Yeah, you guessed it. More Goblins. I finally had to put this in my”comments” section:
“No Goblins. I already know I can’t beat Goblins.”
During one game against Affinity, some rube popped into our match and typed:
Rube: Yur build is allrong.
Me: It’s not”wrong.” It’s all that I own.
Rube: U need Vridian shaman . . . .
Me: I don’t own any.
Rube: and Wirewod simbot . . .
Me: I don’t own any.
Rube: & Caler.
Me: Go away, or I’ll make sure you never lose your virginity.
And then s/he stopped.
I’d regale you with more tales from the world of fake cards, but no one really cares. An Elf deck without Wirewood Symbiote and Viridian Shaman right now is like Angelina Jolie in a skimpy outfit. It’s really fun to look at, but it isn’t going to do anyone much good. If you want to beat Affinity, you have to be able to hammer their artifacts and kill Disciple of the Vault.
“And the winner of the Most Obvious Statement of 2004, Magic Division, is . . . .”
So, I decided to take a gander at Regionals results. As expected, Ravager Affinity ran away with the most top 8 slots. Whadya expect when that many people are playing it? Check this out, though. Look at what Clay Pierce used to win the Southeast Regionals: Black Clerics (with just a teeny tiny bit of Red)!
4 Dark Supplicant
4 Withered Wretch
4 Cabal Archon
4 Disciple of the Vault
4 Rotlung Reanimator
2 Shepherd of Rot
2 Scion of Darkness
14 Other Spells
2 Grave Pact
3 Patriarch’s Bidding
3 Misery Charm
2 Dark Banishing
I wanted to publish this for two reasons. First, a big”Hoo-rah!” for Clay for breaking the mold (get it?”Clay”?”Mold”?) and using an unconventional deck. Second, I wanted to vindicate myself and my friend Charles Dykes who had been saying in the weeks leading up to Regionals that the Black Clerics could win the thing. A little background, though.
I did horribly at 2002 States. I took a Bird deck that wouldn’t get off the ground. (“The bad puns are flying, here folks!”) I even had one game where I had to mulligan down to two cards just to get a freakin’ land. This was, of course, followed by a game in which I was mana flooded. I went 0-4-draft. Luckily, I won my draft.
On the way back from States, Charles, Bill Bryant, and I opened my winnings. One of the cards I pulled was Oversold Cemetery. Our minds reeled as we started plotting decks around that card while we made the long, lonely drive back from Atlanta to Knoxville. By the time we got home, we had decided that Clerics was the way to go, what with Cabal Archon and Rotlung Reanimator.
I tried to play such a deck a few times before Legions and Scourge were released. It did fairly well. However, since I’m not a very good player, fairly well was all I could muster. I shelved the deck, took up others, and let other folks work on Clerics.
Several months after that, an acquaintance of ours named Michael Beeler started playing a mono-Black Clerics deck that he had clearly been refining. Michael’s an excellent player and deckbuilder, but he went on a winning streak at one point that even he would have to admit was amazing. He reeled off something like twenty-one consecutive match wins at our little store.
Some of you won’t find that impressive.”Any one who completely outclasses the competition at some local store can run a string like that. I’m not impressed.” The thing is, though, this isn’t your average gathering of Saturday afternoon players. The percentage of players with 1800+ ratings is astounding. We have former State Champs and Pro Tour players playing there on a regular basis. One of our former regulars qualified for Nationals this year, making the top eight at the Southeast Regionals. (He used to play with us every week, but the stiff competition caused his rating to drop too much for his taste.) To win even one weekly tournament, you have to run an impressive gauntlet. To win twenty-one matches in a row is nigh impossible.
As our Regionals testing began, Charles and I kept telling Michael and anyone else who would listen that we thought Clerics could do the job. I mean, it had done the job for Michael week in and week out. It had no holes against any of the major decks. It could trade life with Ravager Affinity. Mass removal wasn’t so hot against it, what with Rotlung and all.
Who’s gonna listen to us, though? My rating is below 1600 again. Charles’ was, too, until he invented Ravager Affinity. (I say that without any sarcasm. Charles built and played the first Ravager Affinity deck that I ever saw, and it won him his first tournament ever. So, while the build may have ended up suggesting itself, I’m gonna go ahead and give him credit, since I saw him playing it before I ever read anything about it on the internet.)
Congrats, Clay, for winning Southeast Regionals, one of the biggest ever in any region, with a Cleric deck. You’re my hero.
As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Me, I’m about ninety-six hours from being married.