Be A Pink Dinosaur!

Posted in Serious Fun on December 20, 2005

By Anthony Alongi

This was the fulfillment of a New Year's resolution to my readers, a few weeks earlier. I occasionally make public promises like this off the top of my head, just to push myself into places I otherwise wouldn't go. Nothing like yelling you'll perform at the top of your lungs to get you to perform. Of course, readers who hate pink dinosaurs, crazy formats, apple pie, or democracy will disagree with me, because they'll hate this article. They probably won't like next week's repeat, either.

A couple of weeks ago, I ruminated about the possibility of a “pink dinosaur” format (see prediction #6). This was a whim at the time; but I have to admit the challenge of creating such a random format appeals to me. Serious Fun is, after all, the column for alternate formats. And you're all alternate format players. (If you're not, you will be someday. See prediction #2 in that same article.)

So I'm ready to put forward three different models that your group could reasonably consider a Pink Dinosaur format. One is for folks with a typical, 5-8 person multiplayer chaos crowd; one is for two-player teams; and one is for you lonely duelists. Each format is driven by its own logic, which may or may not be logical.

Just, um, fasten your expectation seatbelts. Because just like pink dinosaurs, these formats are a bit weird.

The First Pink Dinosaur: Charming Predator

Format logic: Most Americans grow up thinking of Tyrannosaurus Rex as the ultimate dinosaur. (I'm not trying to exclude non-Americans. It's enough to make this sweeping generalization about 300 million people; but if those of you elsewhere also grew up thinking about dinosaurs the same way…well, then, there's a chance at world peace.) Despite declarations every year by paleontologists that they've found something “even more terrifying” – ultrasaurs, or supa-rexes, or whatever the heck they come with next – the fact is, nothing will dethrone the T-Rex. (Other predators can certainly join the court. Velociraptors have a place there because Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park did such a great job with them; but they're a different style of predator. See other format below.)

In addition to pseudo-Rexes, recent science has more helpfully also brought us more vivid theories of dinosaurs – that they weren't all lumbering, dark green beasts; that most kept their tails off the ground; and that some of them may have had vivid colors to their skin, like blues and oranges and reds...

…and pink?

Well, maybe not pink. But there's no proof against it yet, so we can be as silly as we like. If we were to anthropomorphize dinosaurs a bit and wonder why a predator like T-Rex might have had pink skin, we might conclude: it's a charming color. I don't care for it in casual wear myself; but I'm certainly not terrified of anyone who does. If I were a hadrosaur by the Cretaceous pond, and something red and black burst out of the trees with a roar, I'd start running immediately.

But if that blob in the corner of my eye were a soft pink – well, I might give it a second or two to figure out what's going on. After all, it's pink. How bad can it be? My mom wears pink.

Those few seconds of uncertainty are critical to a predator. And I believe your opponents will discover that as well.

The format: Start with a regular chaos format. Each time a player plays a spell or ability (or controls a triggered ability – be as complex as you like) that allows an opponent to do something on the list below, he gets a “charm” point. Note I said allows, not forces. Phrases such as “may” or “up to” are the key here. Veteran Explorer and Show and Tell allow. Prosperity and Congregate force.

Here's the charm list:

  • One or more opponents may gain one or more life.
  • One or more opponents may put one or more permanents from their hand into play.
  • One or more opponents may look through their library for one or more cards.
  • One or more opponents may return a card from their graveyard to another zone.
  • One or more opponents may return a card on the stack or in play to their hand.

At any time he or she could play an instant, a player may redeem five charm points to do one of the following:

  • put a charm counter on a permanent he or she controls, or
  • make a spell or ability he or she controls untargetable while on the stack.

A permanent with a charm counter cannot be the target of spells or abilites. It also has the abilities, “Remove a charm counter from this permanent: prevent all damage that would be dealt to this permanent this turn from the source of your choice” and “Remove a charm counter from this permanent: the next time this permanent would go to the graveyard, your hand, your library, or your removed-from-game zone, you may ignore that effect instead.”

The overall effect of this format should be to encourage players to build decks that help each other, and then tear each other down.

The Second Pink Dinosaur: Embarrassed Scavenger

Format logic: Many carnivorous dinosaurs were scavengers instead of hunters. (Some particularly nasty paleontologists believe this to be true of T-Rex. Heathens!) I don't know how scavenging works precisely, but I always imagine it to be a bit of an embarrassing spectacle. In truth, it is rather like eating out of the trash can, and no one wants to be caught eating out of the trash can (unless you're my dog, who is neither pink nor capable of blushing and therefore does not figure further into this article).

Why would a dinosaur blush when caught scavenging? Well, perhaps it's scavenging something no proper dinosaur would be caught dead eating – like family members, or inferior caviar, or the last few drops of “blue raspberry” from the slushie cup. (Honestly. Blue raspberries? Who buys into that?)

So this format will be about picking up really bad leavings.

The format: Start with Two-Headed Giant. One player, the “supplier”, must build a “bad deck”. There are lots of ways to build “bad decks”, but I recommend the following parameters:

  • The deck must be exactly 60 cards.
  • Exactly 24 cards must be lands, 20 cards must be creatures, and 16 cards must be either sorceries or instants.
  • No duplicates of any cards besides basic lands.
  • The 20 creatures must be evenly divided between casting costs 1 thru 5 (so, four creatures that cost 1, four that cost 2, etc.). No creature may cost more than 5 mana.
  • No creature may have defender. All creatures must have an effective power of at least 1. (So Spike Feeder, Clone, etc. are fine.)
  • The mana base must supply only one color maximum. Every spell in the deck must be castable using this mana base.

The second player, the “scavenger”, also builds a 60-card deck…using basic lands only! They must also support every spell in the supplier's deck.

Now here's how it plays: your team gives its decks to the other team, and they give you theirs. You must win using your opponents' decks.

What does the scavenger do, besides play lands? Why, they play their teammates' spells – after their teammates are done with them, of course!

  1. Every non-creature card in the supplier's graveyard has flashback equal to the original casting cost. Only a scavenger may use this flashback ability, and only on his or her teammate's graveyard.
  2. Every creature card in the supplier's graveyard has “X: put this card into play under your control, where X is this card's converted mana cost plus two. Play this ability as a sorcery.” Again, only a scavenger may use this ability, and only on his or her teammate's graveyard.

The Third Pink Dinosaur: Imaginary Friend

Format logic: We all know there never was anything like a pink dinosaur. In fact, it gets serious grown-ups very angry when we bring up the topic at all. Just what are you playing at with your pink dinosaurs, mister? You stop that nonsense this instant, or there'll be no supper before bedtime! Yes, we all carry our fond childhood memories, and if a pink dinosaur with a convincing grin and a penchant for bad advice played a major role, who's to argue?

The format: You're playing a duel, constructed or limited. Each player starts the game with five harmless coping mechanism counters. Whenever you could play an instant, you may take one of those harmless coping mechanism counters and put it in the appropriate zone as you say any one of the following:

  • “My pink dinosaur friend will block that creature.”
  • “My pink dinosaur friend will go to the graveyard instead of that creature I control.”
  • “My pink dinosaur friend will roar at target creature you control to return it to your hand.”
  • “My pink dinosaur friend will look through my library for a basic land card and put it into play tapped – but only because I have less than five lands by turn five, or have five or more lands without getting a source for a second color of mana for my deck..”
  • “My pink dinosaur friend will become the new target of target spell with a single target. For rules purposes, my pink dinosaur friend is a legal target of that spell.”

In addition, each player starts the game with one necessary reality check counter. Whenever a player plays a harmless coping mechanism counter, the other player may play a necessary reality check counter and say, “there's no such thing as pink dinosaurs”. Once a player plays a reality check counter, no further pink dinosaur counters may be played that turn.

Multiplayer note: I've written this third format up for casual duels. While it could technically work in a multiplayer environment, I believe the number of harmless coping mechanism counters could multiply to, well, harmful levels. For each player over two in the game, reduce the number of starting harmless coping mechanism counters by one.

Special Fourth Pink Dinosaur: The Unexpected Find

Format logic: Sometimes, dinosaurs just surprise you. Who knows what aliens have left embedded for us in the geological strata? The remains of a pink dinosaur may very well be there.

If so, the discovering paleontologists are extremely likely to celebrate by playing Magic Online, which this format is designed for. (You guys didn't think I'd forget you, did you???)

The format: We make heavy use of the chat function here, and do a variant on the third format above. I think the most fun would probably be with Two-Headed Giant, since you won't have to worry about targeting restrictions yet can still make a teammate or opponent do something silly. Naturally, all players should agree beforehand to play with “pink dinosaur friends”.

Play normally, but keep an eye on the chat window. If someone calls out “pink dinosaur friend!” (or “pdf”), they get to instruct another player (opponent or teammate) to perform a single legal game action that does not involve mana burn. A single legal game action may include (limited to stuff the computer will allow):

  • Attack with a specific creature.
  • Block a specific creature with a specific creature.
  • Target a legal target with an activated or triggered ability on the board.

The player in question then performs the action. Obviously, there's a bit of honor involved in having pink dinosaur friends; if you do not do what the pink dinosaur friend demands, no one can technically make you do it. But they do get to call you a fun-hating dweeb.

I recommend a maximum of one pink dinosaur friend per player per game. Since the chat window records all conversation, it should be easy to track who has used their pdf and who hasn't.

Anthony cannot give deck help to readers. He is spending the week begging the Magic Online team for a pink dinosaur avatar.

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