I’m Not Dead Yet!

The math just doesn’t add up. There needs to be an attendance-based qualifying formula for Regionals.

“Who is this Bennie Smith guy, and how did he get in the Featured Writer section of Star City?”

“He used to write for them back in the day.”

“Really? When?”

“Oh, a couple of months or so ago.”

Heh. How soon they forget you…

For those of you who remember me and wondered where the heck I’d been, here’s the thirty-second scoop: I was victimized by the neo-recession our beloved politicians have talked this country into. I mean, what better way of bulldozing your agenda down the country’s throat than by making up a crisis? Well, it worked, and my company felt the squeeze big-time. My entire department dissolved out from under me one bright sunny February day, and I have been on the job hunt ever since. It’s surprising how much time not working can take. And NOT WRITING tends to take on a life of its own, becoming more the norm than the exception. As time goes by, it becomes harder and harder to sit down at the keyboard and start the words flowing.

Luckily for me, Regionals gave me a swift kick back in line. And what a kick it was.

Let me tell those of you who didn’t happen to be at your area Regionals this past weekend – Magic is alive and well and kicking ass. I attended the Mid-Atlantic Regionals in Maryland. I believe the official total attendance was a staggering 454 people.

I’d like to go ahead and give credit where credit is due – to Dream Wizards, who handled the mass of Magic players admirably. I have to admit I had low expectations after last year’s Regionals, where they crowded 300 people into a conference area that would have sat 150 people comfortably. I was expecting more of the same this year, and had already come up with a catchy name for them in my Regionals report, dubbing them the”Slumlords of TOs.” Alas, they spoiled my anticipated aggravation by handling the unexpectedly large turnout without too much discomfort.

As word from around the country trickles in, it’s apparent that this large turnout wasn’t just a fluke; it seems that attendance was up – WAY UP – all around. I think the time has come for Wizards of the Coast to step up to the plate and deliver something to the masses of folks who have stuck with this game. To those of us who have walked through the Valley of Urza Block and have feared no combos, who have bought cards and played and gone to these tournaments and have gotten excited about tournament Magic again.

For those of us who’ve continued to line the pockets of WotC/Hasbro, the time has come to get revamped amateur tournament events.

Wizards has done a lot recently to help out the pros. The addition of the Masters series, another Pro Tour and the new”Day 2″ rule allows pros the chance to make more money. But it’s the little guys like me and you that are the game’s bread and butter. We’re the guys who spend the money that pays the bills. Isn’t it time for Wizards to give back to us?

I think a big step in the right direction is making qualifying slots – for Regionals and for Pro Tour Qualifiers – be attendance based. Let’s look at Regionals for example.

At the Mid-Atlantic Regionals, there where 454 people vying for 8 slots. That’s less than a 2 percent chance of making it. I went 6-1 at the tournament (with a 12-3 game record) before getting my second loss and eliminated from the running. 6-1/12-3 at any”normal” sized tournament of 150 people would have been good enough to draw into the top 8. I ended up 7-2-1 for the day, placing 18th and getting a box of product for my trouble. While doing better than 438 other players was a monumental feat and probably some of the best Magic playing I’d ever done, I came away disappointed and empty-handed of that coveted slot.

That math just doesn’t add up. There needs to be some sort of attendance-based formula to determine how many people get to go to Nationals. Something tied to the number of Swiss rounds played, so that no one who’s undefeated or only lost one game gets passed over. Some way to reward players who wade through the masses with excellent records. Not being one who’s good at the Swiss math involved in tournament rankings, I can only offer some dumb stab at a more fair formula-something like one slot per 25 people (rounded up), with a minimum of four slots. I’m sure someone else can come up with something much more precise and reflective of tournament performance, but the current static”Top 8 get to go, regardless of whether there’s 50 or 500 people” is just dumb.

The same thing needs to be done with PTQs. The one slot per rule is unfair and poor business. The reason for such huge attendance at Regionals? Multiple slots up for grabs. Most non-pro Magic players that consider themselves to be good players hesitate to think they can beat all-comers and win a single PTQ slot, and may end up doing something else that day, rather than play for twelve hours and risk coming away with nothing. But they feel with eight slots on the line… By golly, I can MAKE the top 8! While I don’t think you’d want to use the same formula for Regionals as you would for PTQs, some attendance-based formula would give players a glimmer of hope. Hey, if they give three slots out, I can see myself making top 3!

What do you think? Should attendance-based formulas be used for qualifier/regionals slots? Wizards of the Coast does listen to you, so make your thoughts known. Bombard Ferrett with your arguments and let’s get some discussion going here on Star City.

Okay, I’m starting to get a nosebleed standing up here on my soapbox, so I’m stepping down and giving a quick recap of my Regionals performance for those of you who are interested.

I ended up playing a Fires deck with a little Bennie Tech thrown in so I didn’t feel like a complete hack. I initially started out building a few rogue decks, the best of them being a R/g deck featuring Tahngarth that I liked a lot. The problem was that Flametongue Kavu just trumps Tahngarth, and the Fires deck in general is filled with too many large creatures to rely on red’s removal to carry the day. In fact, ALL of my rogue decks fell over and died to Fires. So I decided to playtest Fires against the other top decks, and just shook my head and the raw power of that stupid deck. I mean, it could either get the dumb”nuts” draw that’s almost impossible to beat, or topdeck something at the right time and crush my opponent. Fires is the deck that Asks the Questions, and if your opponent doesn’t have The Answer, he dies. Simple as that. And if I was going to be playing a deck all day long (and what a long day it turned out to be), I didn’t want to be scrambling for The Answer over and over. Asking the Questions is less fatiguing. And winning was much more fun!

Anyway, after much playtesting, tweaking and last minute sideboard tweaks, here’s what I took to Maryland:

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Llanowar Elves

4 Chimeric Idols

4 Blastoderm

3 Flametongue Kavu

2 Shivan Wurm

4 Saproling Burst

4 Fires of Yavimaya

4 Wax/Wane

2 Power Matrix

4 Rishadan Port

4 Karplusan Forest

2 Rith’s Grove

8 Forest

7 Mountain


3 Saber Ants

2 Aura Mutation

2 Citadel of Pain

3 Kavu Chameleon

2 Lightning Dart

3 Light of Day

I built the deck with the idea to dominate the mirror matchup… And boy, did it ever! I played lots of Fires decks and finished the day 5-0-1 against them. Power Matrix was the sketchiest tech, but just helped out in so many situations. Being able to give any non-Blastoderm creature first strike, trampling, and flying kept the damage going and broke out of stall situations. The Wax/Wanes helped get the”Burst Advantage” and also gave me some peace of mind going into the Junk matchup, where I had nightmares of double-Cloaked Angels dancing through my head. Luckily, I never ran into any Junk decks. Here were my matches:

Wins: 5x Fires, R/B, Counterrebel

Losses: TurboHaups, U/B Nethergo

Draw: Fires (of all things!)

I smashed my way to a 5-0 record, only losing one game in a Fires mirror. While I was flying high, it was distressing to think I was only halfway through the ten rounds of swiss. My TurboHaups opponent in the sixth round quickly burst my bubble and showed me the error of my ways by not playtesting this matchup enough to respect it with decent sideboarding (Light of Day should have been Elfhame Sanctuary). My Nether-Go opponent in the seventh round knocked the wind out my sails and ended my run for Nationals. I continued playing to win a box and salvage some of the day.

So, there you go. Me and Magic are alive and well and kicking, thank you very much. See ya next week!