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2004 United States National Championship Feature

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The letter R!andy Buehler is attending U.S. Nationals this year to "get out amongst the people," as he says. "I think it's important to get out and see the people who are actually buying and playing our products, and watch them in action." We decided to sit and chat with Randy and find out his thoughts on the banning of Skullclamp, why Fifth Dawn was not legal for U.S. Nats, and what he thought players would find interesting about the new set.

Why wouldn't you emergency ban Skullclamp?
It's important for DCI to set up rules that people can understand and can remember. There was no emergency ban, because the formats always change on the 20th of the month. We were simply keeping with the standard policy of the DCI with regard to the banning, and it's a little unfortunate that that particular date doesn't affect U.S. Nationals, but it's not an issue we are willing to make an exception for.

It would be really bad if we simply banned cards at arbitrary times, because people would always worry about new, powerful cards being banned. We saw this with Extended last year after Pro Tour: New Orleans. It was obvious that cards needed to be banned, but we want to make it as clear as possible for people to know when to expect bannings and when they are going to take effect. Therefore, we followed the standard procedures on this issue.

In fact, I will go so far as to say it was probably a mistake to ever emergency ban a card. There was only one emergency ban in history, and that precedent has created expectations that this could happen again, which is extremely unlikely. It's really bad for people to worry that the format will change out from underneath them, and over the last five years, we have tried to make certain that people understand it will not.

Obviously we know people are tired of Clamp and the format is unhealthy, that's why the card got banned. On the flip side, the schedule of the bannings did not conveniently coincide with the schedule of Nationals.

Etched Oracle

Many people feel that having the same format as Regionals detracts a bit from the National tournament. How do you respond to that?
The question of whether Fifth Dawn should be legal or not is exactly the same issue. We can't make an exception for U.S. Nationals, because then it would give the perception that this tournament is more important that other national events, and that is simply not the case. It would have been pretty cool to have Fifth Dawn legal Standard, but it'll just have to wait until next week.

What do you expect to see from the new set with regard to Limited?
I think sunburst is really underrated. I've been watching drafts and did some side drafts myself this weekend, beating Kibler in the finals of one, and I played Sunburst. I don't think people fully realize the power or the intricacies of what you can do with the new Fifth Dawn cards.

We tried to plant enablers throughout the three sets so that you could set yourself up for actually drafting sunburst in Fifth Dawn. Viridian Acolyte and Vedalken Engineer are both good examples of this, and Darksteel Ingot is common in Darksteel because of this. Plus, when you add in random off-color Myr and Chromatic Spheres from Mirrodin, you have the tools to create a good deck that uses all five colors.

Back at the office, Alan Comer actually drafts colorless decks to help enable that sort of strategy. He starts out drafting almost all artifacts, throws in a removal spell or three, and then uses what would normally be considered a crazy mana base so that he maximizes sunburst. He might go a little too far some times, but that sort of thing is possible.

What do you expect to see with Fifth Dawn-legal Standard and Block?
We definitely let some combo cards through in Fifth Dawn. It's okay for combo to be part of the game though. It's bad to have it take over completely, but we think it's good to have it in the environment, and we think players like trying to find new combo engines. Obviously we know that artifacts have played a major part in a lot of previous combo decks in history, and we felt it was time to push that envelope again.

As for Krark-Clan Ironworks, we tested the card and it was broken at three mana, but we feel it's okay at four. We could be wrong, and people are going to spend millions of hours playtesting in an attempt to prove we are, but in this case I think it's okay. As for the rest of the set, I think there are some good cards in there that people will exploit, but Ironworks is the only spell in that set that I actually have any concern about. It should be interesting to see what happens.

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