Format The Guess

Posted in Serious Fun on July 19, 2005

By Anthony Alongi

It is what?

Thanks to my readers for seeing this article all the way through! I know it was probably difficult at times, but I'm sure now you agree it was worth it.

Now, wasn't that format cool?

You can replace the rares in that deck above as follows: big creatures, and/or creatures with Spirit Link qualities. (Note that ability doesn't do what it says it does, any more. But it's still useful.) In fact, a white variant with angels instead of beasts might work fine, if you've got the cards.

Here's a deck:

 

WhichWayAreWeGoing.deq

That's all very clever and good, you may ask, but how about a sample deck? And what about strategies? Very well, let's start with the strategies, and then suggest a deck that might use those strategies:

  • With that in mind, you don't have a lot of time. Intricate combo decks are unlikely to work. (The fifth reason to love this format!)
  • A typical rush deck works fine. In fact, it works better than ever in free-for-all formats – because instead of trying to kill four other people, you're just trying to hit your own goal. Games go quickly. (The fourth reason to love this format!)
  • It follows that many red cards will now work like many white cards. So maybe you shouldn't play red. (Just kidding – I love white! Especially this week!)
  • As I just suggested, one particular strategy shines – because Wizards made it really cheap.

See how I've actually made Heroes' Reunion amazing? (The third reason to love this format!) No extra charge – I do this for the love of the game.

Another complication will come as your group struggles to remember that your Ravenous Baloths gain you life from combat…but not when you sack them! (The second reason to love this format!) If you sack them, they're like four-point grenades to keep other players from reaching that all-important goal. So you'll need to use common sense and reword a couple of the cards – especially life gain cards that refer to "you".

But maybe you're more pleasant than I am. If so, you're in luck: you can still play this format. Just replace the word "draw" in the rules (and on any cards) with "pull at random from your graveyard to your hand".

Crucible of Worlds

Even with those caveats, it's natural to ask: how on earth will I draw anything? More to the point, how will I play lands? Personally, I'd recommend a "free" Crucible of Worlds for the entire table – but otherwise make people start with the seven cards they have, and that's it. How they get access to the rest of their cards is up to them. What are we, holding hands here? Sure, it gives black and green an unfair advantage. And Morality Shift becomes a "bomb". So? Cry me a river.

For this format, I would recommend setting aside any milling, poison, or other alternate win conditions. It's confusing enough to run a game this way, without adding unnecessary complications. Of course, if you like, you could simply reword milling cards so that they're taking all the cards in your graveyard and putting them face-down in your library. You could also try a variant that has you really and truly switching the words "graveyard" and "library" on all cards – but frankly, I can't tell if that will help.

Milling yourself on turn one with a Reach through Mists? Giant Growths that act like Healing Salves? Targeting yourself halfway through the game with a Hidetsugu's Second Rite for a ten-point life boost to victory? (The first reason to love this format!) That's crazy, you say! And I say – in this format, it all makes sense.

Okay enough teasing, here's the format: you play with regular decks, except…oh, wait, I'm not telling you the format this week, am I? I forgot I said that. Well, I imagine you'll figure it out by the end anyway!

Before we get into the meat of the article, I'd like to present this caveat: not every format I suggest will be a raging success. No doubt you'll spot some seams in the format that need sealing. (Maybe some of you already have! Hey, no peeking!) But there are at least five reasons you'll love this format. I promise – you can't miss them.

I loved the Seinfeld episode that did this. If you haven't seen it, you should. But even more amazing to me was the movie Memento. I highly recommend it – one of the best-written scripts of the past decade (adapted from a short story by Jonathan Nolan; his brother Christopher did the script…Christopher Nolan is now better known this year as the director who saved the Batman movie franchise…which means this entire digression is appropriate for this week's article, since Batman Begins is technically Batman 5, but it starts at the beginning rather than preserving any conventional chronological order).

Don't worry if you're not good at puzzling things like this out – just read it all the way through (perhaps a couple times), and if you're confused, I imagine you'll find more helpful information on the message boards. That's where I'll post any explanation, if necessary.

I have something new for my readers to try this week. Bear with me: I'd like to try a format where you guess what it is. I just leave you clues. It's possible the way I will write the column is one of those clues – but I don't want to give anything away just yet!

Anthony has been playing multiple Magic formats for over seven years, and has been writing far longer than that. His new fantasy young adult novel, Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace, was co-written with his wife MaryJanice Davidson, and comes out August 2005 from Berkley Books.

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