And that doesn't leave a heck of a lot left to talk about, does it? Just a few hopeless cases like Myr Prototype, and some I've tried in various decks with unimpressive results (I'm looking at you, Lodestone Myr!).
Besides, Serious Fun is more of an "alternate formats" column, so if I could work in an alternate format along with whatever myr I talk about, I'd make my editor Scott so much happier. What myr fits the bill?
Thank goodness for Fifth Dawn…
The Myr Servitors are funky little creatures in their own right – I've already thrown together a deck using them with Lightning Coils, which I'll get into some other week – but they're also handy as a conceptual starting point for three or four different alternate formats.
If your group is looking for some new format ideas, look no further. This cheap and easy common can get you going in all sorts of directions…
FORMAT #1: THE WELL-HEELED SERVITOR
Basic premise: You announce in advance that every player must show up with a Type I legal (or other regularly used format) deck containing exactly four Myr Servitors. The rest of the deck is up to them.
The ideal outcome: What you want to inspire here is creativity with the simplest of recursive machines. The knowledge that everyone will have four should make for some interesting deck choices and game situations – sort of like what happens on "sliver tribal night".
Strategy tips: Realize there will be 4*X 1/1 artifact creatures on the board an awful lot of the time, where X = the number of players in the game. What does this mean? At least two things. First, it means Warmonger will be quite busy. Second, a lot of them will be coming in and out of play, so Tainted Aether will cause some chaos.
Servitors will do an awful lot of work for free. A card like Mogg Infestation will give you "free" goblin tokens, as long as someone else keeps a Servitor in play. Wild Mongrel can get an initial burst of "free" pump – the Servitors will pop out later, like tardy Basking Rootwallas!
It would probably violate the spirit of the format to have too much graveyard-hosing. Your group might consider banning cards like Planar Void or Morningtide that punish players for trying to be creative. (Night Soil would be an interesting, borderline choice.) Another card that feels marginal is Aether Flash.
Cards like these suggest to me it's a good idea to go over ground rules with your group, and make sure everyone's clear on (1) what the spirit of the format really means to you all and (2) if any cards are specifically banned. That goes for the other formats in this article.
FORMAT #2: THE CONTAGIOUS SERVITOR
A couple of months ago, I wrote a column ("Chronic Sliverocity") that suggested a format where every creature gives every other creature its abilities. Most readers responded favorably to this idea, but a few suggested it was just too darn wild. No problem – I have a more subtle variant here.
Basic premise: Treat every creature as if it has Myr Servitor's recursion ability. This is in addition to any other abilities the creature has.
The ideal outcome: People will find interesting cards, beyond Flametongue Kavu and Man-o'-War, to try out with the "reassembly" ability. Your group may also decide to explore other cards with interesting, but not overly spectacular, abilities – how about giving every creature the morph capacity of Zombie Cutthroat? Or the spell redirection ability of a Silver Wyvern? Myr Servitors can be just the beginning of a series of minor sliverocity-styled Magic nights.
Strategy tips: Playing Myr Servitors in this format is, ironically, dumb. They're like Eager Cadets – the bare minimum of what a creature can be. Maybe there are some Nether Spirit tricks you can play, instead. Or how about Thalakos Seers, which key off of leaving play instead of entering play? Or how about your "40-20" Relentless Rats – Swamps deck?
Beyond the creatures, you'll likely want a "sacrifice vehicle" – perhaps Blasting Station or Spawning Pit or Attrition or some such. Just keep in mind that any surviving creatures are bringing back all creatures with the same name during their controllers' upkeeps.
Legends are naturally a poor choice. So are incarnations – though if you have the means of sacrificing them at instant speed, you might be on to something interesting…
A word on "super-echo" cards like Deranged Hermit – honestly, Deranged Hermit is problematic in almost any new format worth creating and I'm not going to spend my life watering down formats so that Deranged Hermit doesn't look ridiculous. If you and/or your group have a problem with a specific creature getting the Servitor service, ban it. Again, the solution here lies in advance communication, and sticking to the spirit of the format.
FORMAT #3: THE ADAPTABLE SERVITOR
Basic premise: Start with format #1 – everyone must have four Myr Servitors in their deck. Then add this twist borrowed from format #2: the Myr Servitors may gain the abilities of any one creature in Magic, for a given game.
The ideal outcome: This is a way of blending the two previous formats in a way that provides more flexibility throughout the night. If there are too many artifacts in too many decks, make your Myr Servitors gain the abilities of Keldon Vandals. You don't have to have the "cloned" creatures with you – just pick one for a given game and go.
This is also a good way to learn a bit about metagaming, if you haven't done it before.
Strategy tips: This will depend a great deal on what you're facing. Become familiar with utility creatures. If you've ever created a sideboard for Living Wish, go through that same gauntlet of creatures for consideration. You'll want something to destroy creatures, destroy other permanents, prevent combat damage, draw you cards, and so on…
FORMAT #4: THE CROWDED SERVITOR
Basic premise: Borrowing a page from a "big deck" format, all players share library and graveyard. Each player must contribute a deck with four Myr Servitors to the common library
The ideal outcome: "Big deck" formats are by their very nature unpredictable events – some cards will cause some rules questions – but our hope is that a massive army of servitors will continually sway allegiance. Your group will have to decide what to do when more than one player controls a surviving Myr Servitor, and there are (for example) seven Myr Servitors in the common graveyard. Who gets them?
- Random distribution. Just roll a die for each returning Servitor to determine which player gets that particular one.
- Even distribution. Use random distribution, with each player observing an upper limit of one more than the player with the least Servitors.
- "Winner" take all. Who has the highest life total? Or, who has the most Servitors already? That player gets all of them. In the event of a tie, decide randomly.
- "Loser" take all. Who has the lowest life total, or the least number of Servitors? That player gets all of them. In the event of a tie, decide randomly.
Strategy tips: A typical "big deck" strategy is to go ahead and risk other players getting good cards – just contribute a mess of really cool and confusing green and black effects (e.g., Living Death, Repopulate, etc.). I'd recommend that, just because it's occasionally fun to have no idea how to rule on a given card in a format it was never meant to service. No sense in dodging it – this format will be a mess, and not even the most dedicated Servitor will want to clean it up!
FORMAT #5: THE VENGEFUL SERVITOR
Basic premise: Start with format #1 – every deck must include four Myr Servitor. Then add these abilities to each Servitor:
The ideal outcome: This may generate a bit more interest in Fling-style decks, which I don't mind – it'll keep the evening moving along nicely. If you find all myr are dying too quickly with no survivors, consider a risky move and add the ability:
"Myr Servitor cannot be the target of spells or abilities."
There. Now the Servitors are slugging it out on the battlefield, occasionally sacrificing themselves to effects their controllers deem necessary, and building each other up for large, spectacular showdowns.
FORMAT #6: THE SERVITOR INCARNATE
Caution: Do the following format only if you want the fun of long, endless games combined with the sudden ridiculousness of arbitrarily large combos.
Basic premise: Players are Myr Servitors. That is, during each player's upkeep, if there is another player alive, all "dead" players come back into the game.
Each returning player should "come into play" controlling four basic lands of their choice, one creature of their choice, and four cards in hand. Each time they come back, a player should lose two cumulative life – so the first return is at 18 life, the second return at 16, and so on. (Adjust these parameters as necessary.)
The ideal outcome. I just got a bit of Scourge fever, here – if Wizards can turn us all into dragons with Form of the Dragon, why not turn us all into Myr Servitors? The problem with this format, as I suggested above, will be what it rewards – decks that can put specific combos into play (especially if that combo involves one creature, like the Triskelion – Scythe of the Wretched – Spawning Pit combo). If you see a lot of these, consider restricting returning players further, probably by taking away that single creature.
Strategy tips: No matter how hard you try, the winning deck will almost certainly have to use an arbitrarily large combo – or an enviably large creature swarm – to finish off every player at once. I don't think my readers need much advice generating either type of deck. In any case, I don't recommend this format for groups larger than six or seven. Feels about right as a fun detour for groups of three or four though.
Good luck with your Servitor formats! To paraphrase the flavor text, much of the fun here is in the reassembly. Adjust and retool these formats to fit your group's particular needs.
Anthony cannot provide deck help. He can, however, heal any number of boo-boos his children receive, as long as one of them stays healthy.