by Stu Ziarnik

The past two years, I published year-end meta analyses of our local Vintage meta. 2020 has shot that to hell. Given our dearth of Vintage data, instead I will recap the year in Romancing The Stones, and summarize our plans for 2021.

The First Few Months

2020 began ambitiously. RtS17 started our third season in tandem with GP Austin. The momentum from the GP gave us a very healthy turnout of 26 players. We met at Barracuda, and Woodrow Bogucki piloted Jeskai Xerox to 1st place.

RtS18 in February also looked good. 22 players came to a very crowded Austin Beerworks. Jeskai Xerox prevailed again, with Brian Tweedy taking it down. The healthy turnout and energy at these two events seemed like a great sign of what would be an excellent third season of Romancing the Stones.


And then the world ended.

Things were pretty quiet for the first few months of the pandemic. No one knew what was happening, nor were most of us devoting brainpower to Magic. As it became clear this new paradigm wasn’t going to end quickly, though, the RtS committee started to pick up the pieces.

Towards the end of spring, we ran a Vintage Card Design Contest. This was completely outside of our norm, and we received some amazing entries from the community. I encourage you to go back and take a look, if you haven’t seen them in a while.

After that, we ran a small Middle School Webcam League. While we only had 10 players, this broke the ice on webcam magic and the Middle School format. Many thanks to the 10 players who took a chance on this, and shout out to Brian Tweedy for his undefeated run on Oath.

The first Middle School League built a lot of buzz, so we kicked our promotion apparatus into gear and put together the Middle School: Summer School League. We opened this up to players outside of Texas, and got a shocking 30 players! Somehow, everything ran smoothly. Special thanks go to Nate Golia, who generously devoted his time to hosting a weekly Twitch stream of our matches. Rob Connolly’s Necro Rock brew crushed all before him, and he won the League.

Our next league, the Fall Semester, was even more of a success. At 40 players, it was handily our biggest event to date. Nate’s Twitch stream held strong throughout, and this time, we saw Chicagoan Lorien Elleman win it all with his Goblins.

In November we returned to Vintage with RtS19. After the leagues we all had a firm grasp on webcam Magic, so we decided to take on a new challenge: running the entire tournament in 1 day! 18 players joined us, and everything went pretty seamlessly. Alex Zavoluk won with a terrifying BG Hogaak list – his first RtS win after numerous Top 4s.

Going into the holidays, we eased up off events to give people time to focus on family, etc. Just before Christmas, we held a small Secret Santa. Everyone gave and received some lovely gifts. More importantly, we all hung out in the Discord voice channel and caught up.

This is all to say that we found a way to work around the pandemic. You – the community – demonstrated such resilience, and I want to thank everyone for that. Please, take time to look back on the year and consider what we all went through. Barracuda, where we played our first event of the season and have held many other tournaments, is now gone. And remember how crowded Austin Beerworks was during RtS18; I cannot believe we ever hung out and played Magic in atmospheres like that.

The Leagues, RtS19, Secret Santa, and the Design Competition were all ways of staying engaged with the hobby and with each other, when we could easily have lost sight of those things. In 2020 it is simple to let go of things, to lose touch, and it’s also forgivable. I don’t begrudge anyone who’s strayed from Magic or Romancing the Stones this year; but I absolutely appreciate every one of you who have stayed with us and tried to make this work.

Systemic Racism

Earlier this year, Wizards banned a handful of cards they deemed insensitive, problematic, or outright racist. Romancing The Stones has no official position on this. That said, we want to be welcoming and inclusive to all people.

Frankly, the RtS community is extraordinarily white and male. It’s easy to take for granted that people will feel comfortable and welcome in our community. I’m sure we’re guilty of bad behavior that’s overlooked and potentially driving people away. If we’re doing poor job being a positive, open community, or if you think there are changes that could make Romancing the Stones a better place for everyone, we want to know.

Our Website

We’ve always wanted to host articles. However, we never had much to publish! This year, though, we had some really great content on the site. I’m quite happy with my article, In Search of Lost Magic, and appreciated all the kind feedback from the people who read it. Likewise, we got excellent writeups from Woodrow, Travis, and Ty after our Middle School Leagues. If you’ve written something you’d like published, or have an idea for an article, please reach out!

In fall, Tweedy partnered with Fine Southern Gentlemen to launch our merch store. Now, you can buy Romancing The Stones shirts and playmats. We have plans for more merch moving forward.

We’ve had a website redesign on our backburner for quite a while; it looks like it will be a 2021 project. If you have ideas for how our website can be more useful for you, please let us know.

The 2021 Season

While 2020 was a good year considering the circumstances, we didn’t really get a full competitive Vintage Season. As such, we will be combining 2020 and 2021 into one, cohesive season. We intend to run at least 4 Vintage tournaments; the winners of each 2020 and 2021 tournament will earn a spot in our year-end Invitational Championship. Thus far, our invitees are Bryan Hockey, Woodrow Bogucki, Brian Tweedy, and Alex Zavoluk. In 2021, we expect to award 5 Invitational spots over 4 events, and to also award a spot to the player with the most Top 4s over the course of 2020/2021.

Middle School struck a chord with our community. The gameplay is excellent, the cards are beautiful (and nostalgic), and it’s relatively budget-friendly. We will continue to support the format. For as long as we’re still remote, we expect to play Middle School via leagues, as opposed to one-day tournaments.

We are considering other ways to keep everyone engaged when we’re not playing a tournament or league. We’ve discussed scheduling a weekly jam-session in Discord, reminiscent of our pre-pandemic Wednesday Batch meetups. In addition, we may host “pop-up tournaments” that we will announce 1-3 days beforehand as a fun surprise for everyone. If you have other ideas, please reach out.

We don’t know what the pandemic and social distancing will look like in 2021. While there’s some possibility life will return to normal in the next 6-9 months, let’s assume that the entire year will look like 2020 did. We have planned out the first few months of events, but do not want to look too far down the road. Right now, our 2021 calendar is as follows:

  • January 16: Festival of Friendship: non-proxy Old School one-day tournament
  • February 6: RtS20: proxy Vintage one-day tournament
  • February 15: Middle School League
  • April 5: Middle School League
  • May 22: RtS21: proxy Vintage one-day tournament

This year we enjoyed slowing things down around the holidays. As such, we are tentatively planning to take a “summer break,” and have a thinner schedule from June through August.

Final Thoughts

In what’s been an existentially strange year, we have tried our best to adapt and make Romancing The Stones relevant, useful, and a point of light for all of you. Likewise, we appreciate your flexibility in working with us through these difficult times. I miss how things used to be, but I have enjoyed playing webcam Magic with all of you this year. Let’s persevere. We’ll give you the best 2021 season we can, and we couldn’t ask for a better set of dudes to work through all of this with.

See you all in 2021,