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The Road to Tourneyland: Kill or be Killed
By Mark Ortego
Hola, (dammit, I think that opening belongs to someone else)

Greetings and Salutations! (Iím SURE no one else in Magicdom uses that one)

I was looking through my old magazines doing some research trying to come up with a new angle on reviving old deck archetypes like Trade-Awake, Stupid Green and other glory decks of yesteryear.

Now, for you kiddies, before there was TheDojo.com some folks got their deck and strategy info from magazines like Scrye, Inquest, and The Duelist. Huh? Whatís that you say? Whatís a Dojo? Geezsh!

Anyway, Iím looking through my old rusty file cabinets in the cold room of my cellar and I run across some classic issues of Inquest (this was before they had to add ĎGamerí to it). Iím paging through looking for some ideas and I see this article that I remember making notes of and passing them along to some of my Magic buddies.

I was so excited to find it again that I thought about taking it to school and passing notes of it out to some of the newer players (I run a Magic Club at my school). Then I thought, ďHey, why donít I run some excerpts of it on the front page of the CPA.Ē I am not taking credit for this article in any way shape or form. I just thought itíd be a nice thing to share it with you. Iím gonna put it up in small consumable bit-size pieces for your convenience.

This article really is a Ďsnap-shotí of the times from back in 1998, itís called:

HOW TO SURVIVE CUTTHROAT MAGIC TOURNAMENTS
BY JEFF HANNES AND ALEX SHVARTSMAN
Inquest: The Gaming Magazine
Issue Number 34 February 1998
Pg. 40 Ė 44

KILL OR BE KILLED
Thereís more to a tournament victory than having a good deck. Anyone can copy a deck out of a magazine web-site to play in a tourney, but triumph takes a bigger commitment. Winning is not only about knowing your deck; itís about preparation, mental toughness and mistake-free play.

~If you canít recite the exact contents of your deck from memory, youíre not ready to play in a tournament~

PREPARING FOR BATTLE
Quick, without looking at your cards, can you recite the exact contents of your deck? If not, you donít know your deck well enough. You should be thoroughly familiar with how your deck works before you try and run it against tough competition. I donít believe the term ďplay-testingĒ was used much back then but Iím sure all good players did it. The better you know your deck, the smoother youíll be able to make runtime decisions. Runtime?

You get stuck with a bad mana draw. What cards can you afford to discard? I wouldíve Ďmulliganí for six. On the second turn, should you cast a Fellwar Stone or a two-casting cost creature? Do you have to Incinerate that Black Knight immediately or can you afford to wait a few turns? Once youíve tested your deck enough, these kinds of decisions become second nature.

The same goes for your sideboard. The sideboard is an integral part of tournament play and should be as carefully constructed as your deck, not added as an afterthought. As youíre putting together your deck, think about what cards will fit well in your sideboard. Consider the current environment in your area: If you know that mono-red decks are popular, include extra protection against direct-damage. If Marogeddon decks are all the rage Marogeddon!? Was this deck ever good? , be sure your sideboard gives you the necessary tools to gain an advantage against them.

Once youíve constructed your sideboard, plan ahead. Before the tournament begins, you should have a good idea which cards you will take out against certain decks. Avoid removing land between duels thatís what Ďgamesí were called before folks got too cool for such a geeky term . It may be tempting to remove a Plains to keep the rest of your deck intact, but itís not worth the risk of a bad land draw. The sideboard is an extension of your deck, and several matches will be won or lost by the contents of your sideboard-be prepared and read tons of tournament reports.

~Knowing the card errata keeps you from getting screwed by rules-lawyering nitpickers~

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
Know the cards, know the errata. Errata? Good God, I am SO glad Magic has cleaned up itís act. This canít be stressed enough. Know how all the cards in your tournament environment work, especially the latest revisions and interpretations. Top-level players actively look for ways to abuse tourney-legal cards. If you donít know why Abeyance was so popular last year (and why few people are playing with it these days), youíve got some homework to do.

Cutthroat players will use every rule to their advantage, even the most obscure ones. For example, all the cards with the cantrip effect (you may draw a card at the beginning of the next turnís upkeep) have been errataíd to say, ďYou may draw a card at the beginning of the next turn.Ē Itís the same thing, right? Wrong.

Letís say you cast a cantrip at the end of your opponentís turn. Now, itís your turn. You untap your lands and then go to draw a card-your opponent stops you, saying itís too late. Why? The beginning of your turn is before your untap phase. By untapping your lands, youíve silently declared that you chose not to use the cantripís effect. Thatís why itís gone and replaced with ďDraw A CardĒ.

The same goes for your upkeep effects. If you forget to pay a non-mandatory upkeep cost (like cumulative upkeep) and enter your draw phase by drawing a card, your opponent can make you pay the penalty for choosing not to pay the upkeep. Not all players will be so strict as to call you on the cantrip ruling, but some will. If you run into such a player, do not get flustered and do not get angry. Itís a tournament and your opponent is trying to win; he canít be faulted for that. Instead, make sure you donít make the same mistake again.

If your opponent is a stickler who wonít allow you to change your mind once youíve tapped a land for mana, make sure you donít tap a land unless youíre sure youíre going to use it. If that same opponent forgets to abide by one of his own rules, donít have any qualms about making him pay the penalty. How cutthroat you choose to play is a matter of personal taste-just be prepared to get served some of your own medicine.

Finally, if your opponent quotes a ruling that you are unfamiliar with, call over a judge. Donít be afraid to seem uninformed; you may be in the right.

-All Ďgood stuffí, really.

NEXT:
COOL UNDER FIRE
SLEIGHT OF MIND

Read More Articles by Mark Ortego!

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