Not your Normal Nationals Prep["/>

Not your Normal Nationals Prep
Sides, Sights, Eats, and Beats

By: Jeff Phillips

U.S. nationals weekend is coming upon us, and the web is teeming with articles of strategy and advice on how you can claim victory and a free trip to the City of the King, Memphis, for Worlds. Do I have any super secret tech for you? No, not at all. What I do have is a guide on how to enjoy the entire weekend, not just those hours of spellslinging in the main event.


Okay, so you didn't qualify. That's okay, Thursday is your mulligan. Continuous grinders will be running from 10-4, giving you a chance to fight through 31 other players to get a spot in the main show. And if at first you don't succeed, you can try the next one! There will be two options: Constructed, at $15 a pop, or if you're feeling a little more limited, Shadowmoor Sealed deck qualifiers may be for you, for only $25. There are also prizes, in the form of packs, for 2nd-4th.

But let's say you either A) didn't qualify at all, B) Scrub out, or C) aren't interested in the main event. Hey, let's not let all this opportunity go to waste. There are awesome events running all weekend long. You can find a full listing here, but let me overview some of the tournaments that have me giddy like a schoolgirl.

Restaurant Gift certificate, Sealed. Friday, 11 AM: Hey, who doesn't like food? Everybody needs to eat, and the top 4 in this tournament get sizable gift certificates to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. Plus, this will probably be a light turnout, so if you're looking to snipe away some prizes, this is a good one. Most qualified players will still be in the main event, and there's a laptop tourney (for Junior's, admittedly) an hour before, and the IPhone tournament is at noon, 1 hour afterward. And remember, if you win, dinner's on you. Wink

Super FNM, Shadowmoor Sealed. Friday, 6PM: This is what I'm looking forward to the most. I love the Super FNMs, and this one looks to be no disappointment. Just playing gets you the August FNM foil (here's hoping it's awesome) and then, if you finish well, and you can get even more "classic" FNM foils. (Sorry, no duplicates) But just the atmosphere is so dang fun, so make room for this if you can. You won't regret it.

Vintage Championships. Saturday, 11 AM: Why settle for National Champion, when you can be the Vintage World Champion? While I don't play many of the eternal formats, I expect this to be a very strong, very fun tournament. If you're going for it, the trophy is absolutely spectacular. An Alternate Art Framed Mox Ruby Trophy? Wow.

Magic Art Prints, Tempest Block Sealed. Saturday, 7 PM: Okay, I'm an art fanboy, so I'm already on board for this. Mention that there's art as a prize, and I'm already drooling. But it's Tempest Sealed deck? Even better, because if you're like me, you have plenty of Shadowmoor and Lorwyn. But Tempest? I'm a little light there. I could use a few more packs. And prizes go all the way to top 8, with first place getting a canvas print. Hot Diggity.

Original Art, Standard Constructed. Sunday, 10 AM: We've already covered my art-loving ways but let me restate that I love Art. Mostly because it's the only thing Magic-related my wife will let me put on the walls. Wink The first prize for this tournament? The original Artwork for Astral Slide. Yes, that Astral Slide. Sweet Sassy Molassy, that would look great above my mantle. I wonder if I can buy it from whoever wins it.

What, you ask? I'm not expecting to win it? Alas, no, because while I'm going to be at Magic Weekend, (the fancy term for the Nationals experience) I'm going to be doing some work for WotC there. I'll be one of two trained chimps professionals running the learn-to-play area. Learn to play what, you might wonder? Well, apparently, there are other games than Magic. I know, I was shocked too. And even more amazing, there are people out there who don't know how to play Magic. Shock and Horror! So, we'll be helping people discover these things. I had the same role at Worlds in NYC last year, and I loved meeting the fresh new faces, and teaching them about the games. So, if you have a significant other who doesn't know how to play Magic, send 'em over. We'll take good care of them, and who knows, they may be playing in the main event next year at Nationals. Or, you can come by and learn how to play some of the other games that are offered by WotC. Dungeons & Dragons just released 4th Edition, and the accompanying minis game just went to 2.0 as well. And I won't make any promises, but we may just be able to teach you to play the "Best Game Ever", Inn-Fighting.

Either way, there are four things you should definitely do while you're at the hall:
1) Gunslinging: Play Magic against WotC staffers and select Pros, or even, rumor has it (and by rumor, I mean the WotC website) Richard Garfield, the very creator of our beloved game. I bet you might be able to finagle an autograph out of him, if you win. Good luck, Mr. Gorsky.
2) Artists!: Two artists will be on site, Aleksei Briclot (the Planeswalker artist, amongst other cards) and Dave Kendall, who has also done some spectacular cards. Check Gatherer to see which cards you might be able to snag a signature on.
3) Free card!: Just by showing up, you can get a free Alternate Art Foil Char. How sweet is that! You don't have to play anything, or pay anything, just a DCI number and a pulse. If you don't have the former, you can get one while you're there! If you don't have the latter, you have more pressing concerns. Yeah, free Char = Awesome Sauce.
4) EDH with the Judges: Every night, from 10 PM - 2 AM, you can throw down in the "Greatest Format Ever," Elder Dragon Highlander. Widely considered the format of choice amongst judges, I haven't pinned down where they'll be playing (I would bet the hall is closed by that time, so probably a Conference room or Lobby area) but do not miss out on this chance. Rules can be located here.


But remember, Chicago is an enormous city. Over 9.7 Million people call this city home, and there are some very cool attractions. I won't be able to cover them all, but let me highlight a few.

Sports-wise, the Magic Weekend location is within walking distance of Soldier Filed, the home of the NFL's Chicago Bears. Uptown, venerable Wrigley Field will see the Cubbies playing the Pittsburgh Pirates from Friday through Sunday. Unfortunately all three games are daytime affairs, so it will mean sacrificing some time from Magic. Depending on your travel plans, though, there is a Monday night game against the Houston Astros. If you're a White Sox fan, they are out of town until Tuesady night, so the South Side will sit a little dry. Finally, on the sports front, a swing by the United Center will give you a chance to see the famous "Jordan Statue," if basketball is your sport of choice.

Moving on, Buckingham Fountain is a popular attraction in the Windy City. It is one of the largest fountains in the world, and every hour, on the hour, it begins a beautiful water show that lasts for 20 minutes. It runs from 10 AM to 11 PM each day, and is definitely worth the time.

About 9 Miles outside the city lies the suburb of Oak Park, home to the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. It's been restored and preserved, and from what I've been told, it's a spectacular experience. See the home of the man who single-handedly revolutionized architecture. While it's a bit out of the way, it is definitely a worthwhile expenditure of your time.

And finally, you should check out the Sears Tower Observation Deck. Weather permitting, you can see up to 50 miles, which means you can see not only the skyline of Chicago, but the neighboring states of Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan. There are also a number of very cool exhibits up there, museum-quality and very informative. But really, the view is why you're there, and it's fantastic. Don't miss out.


Gino's East on State Street is home of the original deep-dish; it was started by a cab driver and it has a "guest book" on the wall where patrons write their name. It's sister restaurant is Gino's West. So, if you're craving Pizza, look no further than Gino's. And order the deep dish. If you don't, it's like going to Maine and ordering the Tuna fish. It's Maine, you order the Lobster the first time you're there. It's Gino's, you order the deep dish the first time you're there. It's practically sacrilege not to.

Top-Notch Beefburgers Inc. is voted the best burger in town, and one of the top 15 burgers in the U.S. Hey, that's enough for me to meander on down and try one on for size. Certainly a better option than McDonald's, that's for sure. I plan on trying them out early, and if they're worth the trip (they're about 13 miles away) I may go again.

Adam's Ribs were immortalized in an episode of M.A.S.H. in which Alan Alda tries to have them delivered to Korea, and hijinks ensue. (Didn't they always, though?) So, if only for nostalgia, you may want to check it out. Personally, I've heard the best ribs in town can be found at Carson's Ribs, and I'll be sure to check them out at least one night while I'm there. Either way you choose, there's some good ribs to be had in the 2nd City.

Finally, remember those gift certificates we talked about earlier? Yeah, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse is definitely worth the effort, if you get the craving for some steak. It gets better if you have yourself a nice gift certificate courtesy of your T-4 in the GC tournament. Even if you don't have the certificate, who doesn't like steak?


Okay, you didn't really think I'd go an entire article without some tech, did you? This is a Magic: the Gathering site, after all, not a tourist guide. Let me give you some of what I will be playing, time willing.

Standard: Modified Doran. Yeah, I'm a Siege Tower Fanboy. I'll be hybridizing the G/B Rock decks with a dash of White in any Standard game I play. While it's still in final tuning, I've been playing it pretty consistently since before Worlds, so I know how to pilot it rather well. Less power, but also less bad plays.

Duran DoranMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
4 Doran, the Siege Tower
4 Chameleon Colossus
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Treefolk Harbinger
3 Kitchen Finks

4 Nameless Inversion
3 Terror

4 Profane Command
2 Primal Command

3 Garruk Wildspeaker

4 Murmuring Bosk
4 Gilt-Leaf Palace
4 Treetop Village
4 Gemstone Mine
3 Horizon Canopy
2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Wooded Bastion

The mana base is tight, but with experience, you can easily learn which hands you can keep, and which will be troublesome. The main innovation I've used, I feel, is the inclusion of the three Treefolk Harbingers. A 3/3 for 1 that can find either Doran, or a Bosk to fix your mana, is invaluable. Plus, on occasion, I can also seek out Chameleon Colossus or, if removal is needed, Nameless Inversion. The other card I have seen questioned is Gemstone Mine. Many people believe I should have made those basic forests, to both protect against Magus of the moon, and give the Harbinger more options. However, I like being able to have any mana I need, and also being able to send that Land to the Graveyard to boost my Tarmogoyf. I also keep the Urborgs in there to keep them alive, as I can then use them for Black and keep that last counter on there for a rainy day.

EDH: I'm gonna try and finish my Zur deck, because Tutor effects are pretty good in any Highlander format. And while he only tutors for Enchanments, I'm thinking that I can at least have some fun with this. If you have any good Zur Builds I can use for further inspiration, drop me a line in the forums.

Shadowmoor Sealed: I'm going to hope I can go R/U or G/U to get the infinite Morselhoarder combo off that I wrote about here. The odds are slim, but that's my hope, because if anything, it will be really fun. Of course, unlike Draft, I won't get to force anything, so I'll go with whatever the best build I can find is.

Tempest Block Sealed: Man, I have no idea. It's been way too long. I'm going to lean on the community here. Dig deep into the past, and tell me in the forums what you think some of the hidden treasures of Tempest Block sealed are.

Good luck to all, and we'll see you in Chi-town.


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