The Hardest Tournament You Will Ever Love To Play In

Posted in Feature on June 13, 2005

By Brian Rogers

Now that Pro Tour Philadelphia is in the books, we are over half way through the 2004–2005 Pro Tour season. That means that the Magic: The Gathering® World Championship is not too far away. If you are one of the professional Magic players enjoying the benefits of the new Pro Players Club, then you probably already have your invite locked up, but if you aren’t already qualified for the big event, then it is time to get your best standard deck ready and prepare to play in the Magic: The Gathering Regional Championships!

Magic: The Gathering Regionals is one of the biggest one-day events for Magic each year. Players in this event will compete for a chance to play in the 2005 U.S. National Championship to decide who will have the honor of representing the United States in the 2005 World Championship.

Where to Get Started

On Saturday, June 25, 2005, players will converge on 35 sites across the country (and in other countries for those Magic players defending our country in the armed services) to duel one another and see who will have a chance to compete in the U.S. National Championship. Players are able to attend whichever Regionals tournament is most convenient for them to attend. For a list of locations for this event, check out the Wizards of the Coast website.

I already know I will be arriving at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh around 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning to start registration for Regionals. However, depending on what city you decide to play in, registration times may vary. Once you have chosen where you will be playing, make sure you click on the provided link to learn all of the specifics about the event you are going to.

Not Just a Typical Standard Event

No matter where you decide to play, all Regionals events will be run using Standard deck construction rules. Standard is the format used for Friday Night Magic, State Championships, the Amateur Championship, and many sanctioned tournaments around the world. However, Regional Championships have the very special distinction of being the first major tournaments that will be run using the new Saviors of Kamigawa™ expansion set.

Your Standard deck must contain at least 60 cards and may not have more than 4 copies of any single card that is not a basic land. Only cards from Eighth Edition and the last two stand-alone sets and their follow-up expansions are legal. Right now, those sets are Mirrodin®, Dark Steel™, Fifth Dawn™, Champions of Kamigawa™, Betrayers of Kamigawa™, and just in time for Regionals, Saviors of Kamigawa. Please note, the following cards from these sets are banned in Standard play and may not be used in a legal deck or sideboard:

You Standard deck may also include a sideboard. A sideboard is a group of exactly 15 cards that you can switch in and out of your deck after game one of each match. The cards in your sideboard must adhere to the rule that there are no more than 4 copies of a card in your deck or sideboard, combined. After game one of your match, you can switch cards from you sideboard and deck on a one for one basis.

Preparing for Success

The most important thing to bring with you to Regionals is a Standard deck. Hopefully, this will be a deck that you have played several times and are very familiar with. While it is tempting to build new decks and play with new combos and new cards, making major last-minute changes to your deck isn’t always the best idea. In order to play your best, you need to know what to expect from your deck and be familiar with how it can handle various circumstances you might find yourself facing. It is a great plan to test your deck against a wide variety of opponents and make changes to your deck to help you win against each type of deck; however, playing a deck you are comfortable with will usually work out better than playing a stronger deck you are not familiar with.

It is also important to prepare yourself for the tournament. Regionals draw hundreds of players and result in a long day of playing. Getting a good night’s sleep the night before is vital. Also, plan on eating during the day. Some locations will allow you to bring food with you to snack on, while others will have a food court on site where you can eat. While you are making your decision on where to go to Regionals, make sure you think about getting enough sleep and look into what food is available in the area.

Make sure you have everything you need to play. In addition to your deck, you will need a way of keeping track of your life total. While dice are a fine way to keep track of your life when playing for fun, they are not that great for tournament play. It is best to have a notepad that you can use to keep track of life total changes. This will also give you a place to write notes about cards in your opponent’s hand and what might have caused life total changes in case there is a dispute. Make sure you bring a pen along as well, as not all tournament organizers will have these available for you.

If you are playing a deck that makes tokens, make sure you have something that can represent those tokens. It is good to think about using something that can be shown as tapped and untapped, such as the token cards given out by the Magic Player Rewards Program or different colored sleeves than the ones on your deck. Also, you might want to have coins or glass beads to use as counters on cards. It probably isn’t a good idea to use playing card or poker chips for tokens or counters, as many venues or tournament organizers will not allow them.

Once you arrive and begin to register for the event, you will need to know your DCI® number. If you don’t already have one, then the organizer of the event should have one available for you. You will also be required to register your deck. You must clearly write the entire name of each card in your deck and sideboard, including how many of that card you are playing. It is not a good idea to use abbreviations or nicknames of cards on this form. If it is not clear what card you intend to play, you can receive warnings or game losses. To help avoid errors on this list, many players bring a deck list they have prepared before the event.

How It All Works

Regional Championships are run using modified Swiss pairs. This means you can play as many rounds as you want, or drop at any time. The number of rounds you will play will be based on the number of players attending the tournament. Below is a chart that shows a breakdown of how many rounds you can expect to play:

Number of players Number of Rounds
33–64 6
65–128 7
129–226 8
227–410 9
411 and up 10

Each round will be 50 minutes in length and will end whenever one player has won two games or time elapses and five extra turns are over. Each round you receive points for wins or draws, and then you are paired against another player with the same number of points as you.

After the final round, the top players will get to play for the invitations to U.S. Nationals. If you are playing in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or in one of the U.S. Military Championships, the top 8 ranked players will have to play two rounds or single elimination to determine who will receive the two invitations offered. Players in other events will have to play one round of single elimination to see which of the top 8 players will receive one of the 4 slots they offer. However, if there are 411 or more players at an event, all 8 of the top players will get invites to U.S. Nationals. Many tournaments offer additional prizes, but this can vary based on the organizer of the event and the number of players in attendance.

Regionals are run at rules enforcement level (REL) 3. This means it is a serious event and any actions that violate the rules for Magic or the Floor rules of the event can result in serious penalties. It might be a good idea to take a quick look at the Universal Tournament Rules (UTR) to know exactly what will be expected of you at this event.

Become a Champion!

You only have a couple of weeks remaining until the big day. Start testing your deck and figure out what Saviors of Kamigawa cards you want to add. This is your chance to get in with the pros and represent the United States of America at the 2005 World Championship! Any way, if that doesn’t work out, there is always a side draft to play in.

Brian started playing Magic in spring 1994 (when you could still buy Antiquities boosters!) After becoming a DCI Judge in 1999, he has judged numerous Grand Prix, PTQs, local events, and even a couple of Pro Tours. He joined the Wizards of the Coast Delegate program in June 2004 and in what free time he has left after judging, delegating, and playing will be a contributing writer for the MPR newsletter.

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