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Why and What at Regionals

Regionals is one week away. Of the people who are planning to attend their local Regionals competition, most if not all probably have a deck in mind already. I don't. I might have a pretty firm idea after tomorrow night's tournament, but even then it may still be up in the air. The only thing I can say with reasonable certainty is that the deck I end up with will have mountains in it. Everything else is still in flux. 

Most people, I know, will probably not have this problem. They have either known for a period of weeks to months what deck they would play and have been meticulously tweaking it for a long time, or they are not going to Regionals at all. To put it more simply-- most of the people going to Regionals know what they are playing. Those who don't, don't care. That leaves a very small percentage of the field currently undecided. It's the undecideds that I'm going to try to help out just a little bit.

[Side Note: For those of you in the "not planning to attend Regionals" category, I would encourage you once again to participate in this activity if at all possible. You all know my arguments for the fact that all players, regardless of experience, should try to play in tournaments often, so I won't repeat them except to say this: REGIONALS IS NO DIFFERENT. Regardless of the perceived greater size and scope of this tournament, you still stand much to gain from participating in one. If purely practical considerations prevent you from attending, that is one thing, but don't let yourself be turned away through pure intimidation. End side note.]

First of all, there are the two big decks that everybody is either playing or living in fear of: Fires and Counter-Rebel. These decks are, quite simply, the best in the field if played correctly. For someone with the equivalent of a blank check and the desire to achieve a good deck without wanting to do a great deal of personal playtesting and tweaking (neither of which are neccessarily negative qualities) these decks offer a prepackaged ticket to success. All you have to do is bring a certain amount of skill to the table (probably more in the case of Counter-Rebel) and you can expect to do reasonably well.

What's the big problem with these decks?

In the technical sense, nothing. If you want to bulldoze your way into the top 8, they might very well be the way to go. If you're a certain type of person, though, this victory may come with a certain cost to your self-esteem. This is because while these decks may come prepackaged with success, they also come with a fair amount of labels slapped on them. "Hello," these decks say loud and clear, from the moment you cast your first Blastoderm or Defiant Falcon. "I am a robot. I have no will of my own." Whether you like it or not, whether you know it or not, this is the impression you will make on many people if you choose to trot out one of these creations. It's sad but true. If you feel that the potential gain outweighs this drawback, then more power to you.

I will say this, though, before moving on to the other choices. If you do decide to play one of the Big Two decks, then PLEASE-- I say again PLEASE-- choose Fires. Both may appear equally odious on the surface, but the difference is this: Fires puts its victims out of their misery in short order. Counter-Rebel kills by boredom. It's true that almost every environment has had its base-blue control designs, but most of them have had to actually cast their win conditions from their hand. And for some reason, being beaten down by a Morphling was never as infuriating as receiving the same treatment from a Ramosian Sky Marshall. I'm rambling, so I'll recap: If you absolutely MUST play a Tier 1 deck, PLAY FIRES. You and your opponents might actually enjoy the games.

Once a player rejects the Tier 1 decks for whatever reason, though, a huge array of possibilities are opened up. Since most people do not have the time or the inspiration to bring a one-hundred-percent-new, never-before-seen idea to the table, they will end up playing something that has been thought of by someone, somewhere, but has not achieved critical acclaim to the extent that the top 2 decks have. Just about every deck with a name falls into this category: Skies, Red Zone, Fish, Turbohaups, U/W Angel control, and Machine Head, to name just a few. There are two things to understand about playing one of these designs. First of all, just because they are considered "Tier 2" or below does not mean they are bad decks-- it merely means that overall, they tend to have lower performance than Fires and Rebels. No amount of statistics, though, can account for your own performance as a player, and it is much more important to suit your own playing style than to blindly follow the numbers. Secondly, by choosing this route you gain the best of both worlds: you avoid appearing to be a robot and possibly walking into a huge wall of metagame hate, but you also gain the advantage of treading familiar ground, as the decks in question will have been considered before and a certain amount of background information will be available. All things considered, this will probably be the best choice for most people. I realize that I have in previous articles extolled the benefits of building decks up from scratch, and I still hold it to be an invaluable exercise, but the fact is that many people simply do not have that much confidence in their own designs, or whose ideas closely match an already-existing deck to the point where simply taking that deck and modifying it is the most logical way to proceed.

Finally, there are some people who will arrive at Regionals with something mostly unlike the expected decks. Since it is virtually impossible for a completely new, revolutionary idea to remain secret for long in this age of the Internet, any so-called "rogue" deck will almost certainly have its roots in something that we have seen before. Nevertheless, there are some things which are so completely unexpected (a Cowardice deck, just to provide a random example) that it is impossible to account for them or for the people who will play them... Shunning the bonds of established archetypes to this extent is not neccessarily any more desireable than playing a lesser-known archetype as described above, but it certainly helps keep life interesting for all of us, and I very much hope that at least one or two new ideas emerge to shake people up next weekend. Maybe you will be the champion of one of these ideas. If so, I wish you the very best of luck.

Have fun. Remember, it's a game. And life is too short to play Counter-Rebel. (Literally.)