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Practice, Practice, Practice

The title for this week tells you exactly where I am headed.  Here we are now less than two months away from Regionals.  If you don't go, plan to.  If you haven't been, you need to go.  If you don't like hearing about it...well, honestly, just don't read anything on the internet about Magic for the next two month or so.
Some of you that don't know are really wondering why this is a big deal.  All I can say is make it a point to attend this year.  If I'm not mistaken, the date for Regionals is May 1st 2004.  In the United States, this just might be the single busiest day, from a Magic perspective for playing Magic.
You're going to be reading about all kinds of theories (unless of course you choose to not read for two months) on metagaming, best decks, hot cards and the like.  People are going to be reviewing decklists.  You're going to get every columnists opinion on something involving the standard metagame as it pertains to regionals.  I want to do something just a tad bit different.  I want to attack this whole regionals thing from a different angle.
Try watching how you practice.  I don't mean just the game.  I mean everything involved.  Let's start from the top and go down the list.  There really is a lot to cover when trying to find ways to gain an edge and raise your game for a major tournament.
Many times when I hear a Magic player talk about why he plays a certain deck, one of the things they always mention is consistency.  Players will go out of their way to find a deck that works consistently well for them.  This is funny to me, because they won't take the time to build consistency within themselves to make their play better a whole.  OK, maybe that last statement was a bit too "Zen-like."  What I'm basically saying that practice makes perfect (or at the very least fewer errors) but that needs to be applied to more than just playing the cards.
Regionals is going to be a long day.  Most regionals are running nine or ten rounds these days.  This means that if your start time is at noon, it is very possible that you won't be leaving until close to midnight if you finish out the entire tournament ordeal.  You're going to need to have a good breakfast in you.  I'm not talking about a doughnut.  I mean like breakfast tacos, cereal, sausage, biscuits, and/or juice.  I've known players that have even taken some vitamins or ginseng pills hoping to gain some advantage over the long course of the day.  What's worse, is that I've seen players get sick from both methods.  There's a simple reason for this.  Our bodies, for the most part are filtration systems.  If you are going to be introducing a new element (pills/vitamins) or a new process (having breakfast in the morning), we need to give ourselves time to adjust.  So start adding that into your diet now if you want to have an edge.
Another thing that many players have to work on is toning down your attitudes.  If you have one, you know who you are.  If you aren't sure, ask, I'm sur someone will tell you.  You can't get better about it if you don't acknowledge it.  The first step to curing your problem is admitting the problem.  Regionals is a very large tournament.  This also means that there are a lot of humans to deal with.  There may be long lines at registration.  You may have people bump into when passing by a table.  You may encounter someone whose attitude completely clashes with yours.  You might get a bad ruling.  There are a ton of things that might set you off during the course of your ten to twelve hour adventure.  If you are frustrated, you're only going to make more mistakes.  You need to stay cool, calm, and relaxed if you want to be on top of your game.
While we are speaking of crowds, we need to address something else.  Practice with a crowd.  Go to your favorite local game store and get some practice games in with strangers.  Invite players to watch your game and point out mistakes.  Maybe turn some music on when you are playtesting at home.  Again, there are a ton of players running around the room at regionals.  The noise level is generally high.  It's no one's fault.  If you have 300+ players in any given area all trying to explain plays to their opponents at the same time, noise gets created.  You're going to have players watching and scouting.  You're going to have random sounds happening.  First of all, this helps you get used to crowds so you don't get unnerved.  If you are at the higher tables, you draw even more attention, so be prepared.  Also, dealing with noise now can also keep you from getting distracted.  When the big day comes, you'll be less likely to let your eyes wonder or lose focus on your game.
Have traditional deck testing practice.  Run your deck through a gauntlet of other decks.  Play with the best players you can find.  Record your results.  Take notes about each matchup.  Be prepared for sideboarding strategies.  Know what cards you are weak and strong against.  The more you know, the less you have to thing about on game day.  Truth be told, mental fatigue is a lot worse than physical fatigue at these events.  Save the brain power for making the tough plays.  Work smarter, not harder.  Do lots of playing and practicing now.
Also, I want to say, don't practice poorly.  If your opponent makes a mistake, let him take it back.  Only practice the toughest situations and the best decks.  If you play against an opponent that makes mistakes all the time, all you're going to find out is that you can beat a player that makes mistake with Deck A.  Well, I think we all knew that.  If you don't practice seriously, you'll get skewed results.  Skewed results don't help you prepare at all.  As a matter of fact, it will probably just frustrate you when you have difficulty in a matchup that you "usually won 80% of the time or better."
Have a plan as well.  Set up a way for someone to make food runs.  This way you can get something to eat and drink throughout the day.  Obviously breakfast isn't going to be enough.  There's no way it is even going to come close to lasting all day for you.  Having a plan and a network can be good for other things too though.  If you network properly, you can actually get a feel for what decks are leading the pack that day.  Any creative deck surprises of the day will be less likely to sneak up on you.  Also, you can find out what the good players are playing by recounting matches that your buddies in your network have played against or say being played. 
A week or so before regionals, I would recommend making a checklist.  This is a list of things to bring or things you need to do.  Bring extra cards for last minute sideboard changes.  Bring sleeves to make sure your sleeves are unmarked.  Bring stuff to keep your life with.  There's no worse feeling to me than getting to my destination and then realizing that I left one of the simplest pieces of my trip at home.  A checklist may seem childish, but it's better to err on the side of caution.  Many a player has shown up to regionals only to realize they left their deck at home.
Oh yeah, another good point of advice; make sure you're well rested.  Sleep is a good thing before a long day of slinging spells.  I know most of you stay up late anyway by nature, but don't do that too yourself.  About a week or so before start going to be a little earlier.  Sleep is another thing that the average person has to train themselves for. 
Outside of this stuff, all I can say is read, play, and build.  Hopefully all these steps can help you prepare well enough for a decent showing at regionals.
Unfortunately, I don't have a bad play of the week this week.  This is the first week so far that I did not receive a GOOD PLAY ***OR*** BAD PLAY for the week.  I want to see a bunch this week so I can get some up for next time.
My card of the week this week is Howling Mine.  I'm not even sure why.  This card just always seems appealing to casual players.  I think part of the attraction is that all players get to draw off of it.  In most games that a bad thing.  But in a group game, you become a bit of an asset to certain players.  Some of them won't want you to die, just so they get to keep drawing extra cards from it.  It's almost like giving more value to your place int he game to secure longevity.  It does have some constructed uses, but casual players seem to take advantage of this card the best.
My alternate game of the week is Warmachine.  It's a great miniature game that's cost efficient, high quality, and has a huge player base that isn't going anywhere.  Check them out at .  I personally am just now getting some minis finished up to make my second run at the game.  It's a good way to burn off some steam.  The games are fast paced and it's good fun.
I guess that's it for me for this week.
REMEMBER TO SEND ME YOUR GOOD AND PLAY PLAYS OF THE WEEK.  There's a prize to the winner each week.  No purchase needed.  Just e-mail me about the best plays or worst plays that you've had or witnessed.
As always, I do respond to just about all reader e-mail.
Until next time,
DeQuan Watson
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