It’s that time of the year where every hopeful in the nation tries to qualify for Nationals through Regionals. Back here in the Netherlands we don’t have things called Regionals, all on the same weekend, all around the same time… No, we have Dutch National Qualifying tournaments, spread out over a month, meaning any soul that wants to qualify gets to play four to eight tournaments to stake their claim. This means that over here the margin of error is far bigger, as you have the opportunity to just pick a deck, see if it works, and if it doesn’t you get to try again next time. Of course, Regionals is a whole different ballgame, as for most of you it’s the only chance you get, so you had better pick right. That’s why this week’s column will mainly be about Regionals and picking decks.
When picking a deck for a tournament, there are a number of things that you need to keep in mind. I know this list is well known and has been gone over time and again, but it never hurts to hear it repeated.
Play A Deck That Makes You Feel Comfortable.
This used to be more important than it is now, especially for myself, as these days I just play what seems to be the best deck for any particular tournament. I play so much that most decks feel natural after a while. Most of you don’t have that luxury though, and play far less. To maximise your testing time, therefore, it is best that you pick one deck about five to seven days before the big tournament, and focus on playing that deck alone. Make sure the deck is actually viable, and is really what you want to play. You don’t want to lose over and over in testing, and panic at the last minute.
Pick Your Deck with an Eye on the Metagame.
Something pros keep saying and saying is that it is impossible to predict what to play in a vacuum, as you don’t have any idea what most people will play. You, being from the region where the tournament will be played, will have a general idea, and will be able to make a better estimation. Lots of Gifts decks or Weenie? Play Heartbeat. Lots of Heartbeat or Tron? Play Ghost Dad, or another B/W deck.
Don’t Try and be TOO Rogue.
Rogue decks have the tendency to backfire, and, well… they simply aren’t very good most of the time. Even though they may do well in testing versus your friends, they always handle differently in tournaments, have iffy draws, or just turn out to be plain terrible. It is especially tempting with the new set, but for an important tournament like this it is usually not the right play. You only have one shot: don’t risk it on a crapshoot.
Don’t Forget the Sideboard.
Whenever I under-perform at a tournament, most of the time I can blame it on my sideboarding. No matter how well I know that more games are played with than without sideboard, I never focus enough on the use or build of a good sideboard. Don’t make the same mistake, as like I said, you will play more games after boarding. This means that those games are simply more important. Focus the last week of your testing solely on your sideboard, as it is the most important part of your deck.
Now you have done all of the above things, you did everything according to the rules… but you show up at the tournament and you notice the people are playing completely different decks than you thought they would! Do not panic! There’s nothing you can do now, no deck you can switch to, no cards to change from main to board, that can balance out for hours of playtesting. You did your best, just have a little faith. Things will work out.
Follow these rules and remove a lot of doubt, leaving you with the most optimal tournament state.
On to this weeks questions!
This question came to me by way of Jonathan Kornacki, sent to [email protected].
I find myself in a bind before Regionals. I have, at last, qualified for the Pro Tour (Charleston), and will be in Magic-mode until such a time as I scrub out, hanging up the gloves, putting down the pipe-dream, what have you. I obviously want a strong performance to keep me on the tour, and I know my teammates do as well, but I’m looking to Regionals to possibly get me to nationals even if the tour doesn’t. How do you divide your time for playtesting? I realize any response I get may be far too late to help me in this particular instance, but it seems like a handy skill to have to know if you can afford to devote your time to multiple formats and/or events. This tour is it, by the end of the weekend of June 17th, I’ll know whether I will go on playing on the same level as such luminaries as Jeroen Remie and the Ruels, or I will be, at long last, striving for some dead end job, devoting my energy towards minimum wage (or slightly more if I’m lucky), becoming a burnout at long last. As such, I can’t help wondering whether I should give a hoot about Regionals or not. As a man who has a lot riding on each of these tournaments, I only hope you can shed some light on whether or not to keep your eye on the prize, or try to spread your attention in hopes of maximizing potential, as it were.
Thank you for your time. A response would be greatly appreciated.
The way I always work is that I will only test for the next tournament coming up, and nothing else. It is impossible to divide your attention between multiple formats, and it is also hard to focus when you are trying to do all these things at the same time. Keep in mind that staying on the tour at your first Pro Event is incredibly hard, and almost never works for anyone. See this first PT as a little taste of the Big Show, and something you will probably not do very well at.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and try to let it all ride on the PT, especially since this one is in the Team format and you’ll not be solely responsible for the end result. Focus on Regionals first, and even then, if that doesn’t work out, you will have close to a month of practice time left over for the PT.
Next up is a question by Conor Harding on general play, which is also very useful with an important tournament coming up:
Your article proves you actually read your mail, so I thought I’d drop you a line.
I’m an Irish player who doesn’t qualify as much as he likes, and am concentrating on passing college more than winning. I hate priorities…
I’ve thought about this for a while now, but I’m still not sure. Basically, I want to know when you think it is the correct play to try bluff your opponent.
Obviously we’ll disregard situations where you are in fine shape, no matter if the risk/bluff pays off big or not. I think in these situations you just play good Magic and win.
It was Worlds 2004 in San Fran, and I was playing U/R Obliterate in Standard. My opponent knew I had both Pyroclasm and Echoing Truth. He was playing the Ironworks artifact combo deck. He passes the turn, with the ability to sac to the ‘Works, activate the Myr Incubator and get a million dudes. I have land, land, Echoing Truth in hand. He has two mana-producing artifacts of the same name, so I target one of them. I can’t remember the full board, but basically he had the choice to go off, but it would mean saccing the ‘Works too, having an empty board and no “protection” from another Truth. He thinks a long time, putting me on a ‘Clasm or Truth, and takes them back to hand. I untap, rip a land. Awesome. Pass back. He plays both those artifacts again, since he’s committed to the fact I have something, and isn’t going to do the all out combo. He passes. I draw March of the Machines and win.
I think I made the initial Truth because I knew I was playing off the top anyway, with two lands in hand. He could go off at his leisure. I dropped my hand by accident after the game, and he couldn’t believe it, although he took it well.
The second situation is slightly different, as I had to rely on my opponent to make a mistake and I had to topdeck. It was Block, and I was playing G/R Tooth. He was playing Ravager. He had a lethal Atog next turn if he sacced everything and swung. I had land, land (again), and Electrostatic Bolt.
Instead of hoping he will sac in the wrong order or something, I just bolt his Atog upon endstep, and instead of saving it, he fears another burn spell I imagine, and puts the Atog in the bin. I untap, draw Platinum Angel, and win (he had no maindeck outs).
The question I’m asking is it correct to bluff when the game is 50/50, but the reward is big. I’m pretty sure in the above examples I was bluffing when the game was 10/90.
If I have rambled, sorry man, I just needed to get those games down in words! Both times, essentially, I “threw away” the only active card in my hand. Both times it paid off, but that doesn’t mean I made the correct play, although it does seem to.
I’d love to know if you have been in a similar situation, and what you did about it.
The first is a little tricky, because some assumptions have to be made when tackling the scenario. First of all, it has to be impossible for your opponent to go off next turn, before you play your March, due to replaying those mana artifacts. Playing the Truth there is only correct if your opponent otherwise can go off next turn without sacrificing his Ironworks, as otherwise you will just have a great answer to the combo anyway: getting rid of all the tokens. Wasting the Truth is just wrong if he could do this, but if he couldn’t it is right, as it really is your only chance. You have your back against the wall and need to get creative to win that game, and you did.
In the second scenario it just seems that your opponent just played incorrectly by letting his Atog die, but this turned out to be irrelevant since you would have ripped the Angel anyway.
On the further questions, In general I do not think it is ever worth bluffing when the game is 50/50, as you will be able to win the game by conventional play most of the time, as you assume you are a better player, but if there is no other out, it is definitely the correct play. Getting that extra turn to draw that March is exactly what sets apart great players from good ones, as that is the difference between winning regular games or unwinnable ones. For bluffs to work, you do need a lot of help from your opponent, so make sure you size him up correctly before going for it. If he doesn’t bite, it usually means you just lose then and there. This means that generally it is only worth it when you see no other out (of course).
I figured it was a good idea taking a look at two possible Regionals decklists sent in by the readers.
Hello Mr. Remie,
My name is Alan Hubbard, and this is my first time writing to a well-known pro. Just to tell you a little about myself: this is the first year I’ve played in a major tournament (Grand Prix Charlotte). I have been grinding it out on the PTQ circuit, with five Top 8s in just eight events, but have yet to catch the big fish. I also made a Top 8 appearance in my first ever Grand Prix, in Charlotte. I also have a Constructed rating over 2000, and I’m regarded as one of the best players in my area.
Anyway, on to the deck itself. Here is the list:
2 Simic Sky Swallower
2 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
4 Mana Leak
4 Spell Snare
4 Compulsive Research
4 Wrath of God
1 Supply / Demand
2 Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Breeding Pool
2 Temple Garden
4 Adarkar Wastes
3 Yavimaya Coast
1 Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
4 Jushi Apprentice
3 Pithing Needle
3 Loxodon Hierarch
This build is pretty generic I know, but I think that it is a solid starting point until the new metagame becomes more defined. Right now, this is set up for Regionals with no specific answers to threats.
I have been testing this version on beta for some time now, with impressive results. I think it is definitely worthy of Tier 1 inclusion… if not, then it’s a very strong Tier 2 deck, but only time will tell.
Most of this deck is self-explanatory, but I just want to share some thoughts on the cards. I read what you said about Simic Sky Swallower and jumped right on the bandwagon. This guy is amazing now! He trumps every dragon and is extremely difficult to deal with, for just one more mana. I think two is the right number, because you don’t want a handful of these guys. You also have a lone copy of Supply / Demand that can act as a tutor or a late game bomb.
I also use a full compliment of 16 counterspells. You will notice that Remand is missing. I know that it is a great tempo card, but I find that control decks have a hard time against the early game, and Spell Snare is the perfect answer for that. The threat doesn’t return, and it cost one less mana. Often I find my opponent trying to overextend to make up for lost turns. I also like to run four Voidslime, which may not be correct, but Hard Counters are hard to come by, and this is infinitely better than Rewind. This could be reduced in numbers, but I find it rare to not have the mana necessary to cast this.
The seven card drawing spells are pretty self-explanatory. They lack in power, but they’re the best we have. I have Jushis in the board for control matches. There is simply far too much removal to warrant maindeck inclusion.
I decided to go with 25 mana. Hitting all your land drops is crucial, as you already know. I also run 2 copies of Vitu-Ghazi, which is also incredible in this deck, but they take up vital colored mana slots. My weakness is properly creating my manabase, perhaps you could help?
I really haven’t gone digging with super secret tech, due to time constraints. The sideboard is pretty generic, although I really like bringing in Hierarchs from the board for those pesky aggro decks. I also haven’t devised a good SB strategy for each matchup.
I think a possible problem matchup would be Hellbent decks and Ebony Owl decks (I do not expect to see much Owl at Regionals). Ivory Mask is a possible inclusion in the sideboard. I also think this deck could really excel in a good player’s hands.
Any insight, tech, or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I have a lot of respect for you and what you have accomplished. If you like the deck as it is, well then… that would be a first!
Good luck in your future Magic endeavors.
AHubbard on MTGO
What we have here is a return to classic control decks: playing 16 counters, some card draw, some board sweepers, and some finishers. When you build a deck like that, you try and set it apart from decks that are already out there that are comparable. The first thing this deck reminds me of is the deck Kamiel Cornelissen and Julien Nuijten played in Hawaii, being RWU control.
Note that this deck tries to accomplish the same thing your deck does, yet it seems to be doing them a bit more efficiently, having board control spells where you have counters. Basically, a deck that will play a fast one- and two-drop against your version will often just win, since you have no way to come back – except from Wrath of God – but even then you will often have to tap out, and they can just follow up with more attacking monsters.
It feels that you’ve attempted to recreate the same deck in different colors, with added weaknesses and few added strengths. This is often what happens when people try to go rogue, and they then fail to notice what they are doing. If this is the kind of deck you like play, stick with the superior version; it will often treat you better. This will also help since you yourself mentioned you had time constraints, which means having a pre-tested deck by pros is better then trying to build the same again from the ground up.
Hi, my name is Efridge and I’m planning on attending Regionals this month. I was wondering if you would take a look at the deck I hope to run, and if you would be willing to offer any criticism? The main thing I’m trying to work on is the sideboard. Here’s the list:
3 Yosei, the Morning Star
2 Kokusho, the Evening Star
4 Loxodon Hierarch
3 Sakura-Tribe Elder
3 Kodama’s Reach
3 Greater Good
1 Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
1 Arashi, the Sky Asunder
3 Goryo’s Vengeance
4 Wrath of God
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
2 Debtors’ Knell
4 Temple Garden
3 Overgrown Tomb
2 Godless Shrine
2 Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree
1 Miren, the Moaning Well
1 Okina, Temple of the Grandfathers
I’m having trouble with the sideboard.
This is what I have so far…
3 Ivory Mask
2 Cranial Extraction
2 Pithing Needle
I was thinking Faith’s Fetters, Seed Spark, Hunted Wumpus, and possibly Renewed Faith. This is the part I’m having the most difficulty with. This deck does well versus Gruul, Zoo, and Angel. It splits games with Ghost Dad, and loses about 70% of the time versus Heartbeat. What changes do you think I could make to remedy this?
Thank you for your time,
It is pretty clear that you started with basic Frank Karsten Gifts when you built this deck, and then went ahead and started changing cards. The first thing that jumped out to me was that you went for a very unfocussed version, removing a lot of cards from the four-of slots, making them three-ofs, making your deck far more inconsistent. Four Sakura-Tribe Elder is a must, as it is the best card in the deck. Heck, Frank even played extra Farseeks because the Elder is that good.
Then you added the Hierarch, which seem to fix the beatdown problem a lot, and I like that change, but you also added a lot of cards that do not improve any matchups but are added for coolness factor. Arashi, while being good in a beatdown deck, is not very good in here, as you do not care about Meloku and such and the singleton means nothing. One Ink-Eyes also does nothing, as in the original it was often fetched with Gifts, which you cut altogether.
Then there are the Knells, which can be a very slow combo with Yosei and Greater Good, but they still seem very weak. It seems like this version, despite the Hierarchs, adds little to the original.
As for the sideboard, when you try and look for cards, look at what matchups you will want them for, and what they will add to your deck. A card like Hunted Wumpus is fine for a beatdown deck against other beat decks, because it will fill a basic function: attack. In your deck, you are better off with cards like Carven Caryatid, as they fill a function against beatdown you’ll need more than attackers: blockers.
Focus most on your bad matchups, and don’t add cards for decks you already beat. It seems impossible for a deck like this to beat Heartbeat in a fair game, so adding disruption and discard will be your only out. Castigates and Persecutes could be nice options, as well as the Extractions, which actually fit the deck. Randomly having any old sideboard cards is not a very good idea: they need to be an extension of your deck.
That’s it for this week. I hope once again that I helped, and wish all of you all a lot of luck at Regionals. Next week we’ll be back to normal, probably focusing more on Limited again. The Limited game should become important again soon, with the upcoming PT Kobe qualifiers looming large.
Email all questions to [email protected].
PS: Watch out at PT Charleston. I heard the man that calls himself the Great White Hype has qualified again, and he is looking to take the PT by storm.