Casual Format 2: A Little Advice On Five Color Online

With such a limited card pool, what does the face of Diet Five look like? It actually looks a lot like Five normally does. Sure, Jackal Pups and Lightning Bolts have been replaced with Grim Lavamancers and Firebolts; yeah, there are no classic power cards and combo elements have been significantly neutered. The online decks look more similar than normal. But despite taking a big whack out of the Mighty Card Pool of Olde, the format translates well into Magic Online.

I wonder at the conversation the powers that be over at Magic: The Electronic had when they first sat down to discuss what casual formats to include with their game. We already have Casual Format 1, formerly known as Highlander – but Highlander is more of a deck building restriction than anything else.

Casual Format 2 is another critter altogether.

Here you are taking Five Color, which uses cards from the Official Dawn of Time and then ordaining that just cards from Invasion on be used. It’s not Five Color, it’s Five Color Lite.

With such a radically different set of cards, it comes with a radically different set of rules. Firstly, it requires twenty cards of each color as opposed to eighteen, which is a change several Five players have supported for a while.

And it only has one banned card: Battle of Wits. With such a limited card pool, what does the face of Diet Five look like?

It actually looks a lot like Five normally does.

Sure, Jackal Pups and Lightning Bolts have been replaced with Grim Lavamancers and Firebolts. Yeah, there are no classic power cards and combo elements have been significantly neutered. The online decks look more similar than normal. But despite taking a big whack out of the Mighty Card Pool of Olde, the format translates well.

Which is good news for us Five Color enthusiasts who like the occasional online game. So, without further ado, let’s take a gander at the Five Color World in Magic Online.

With Eight Expansion Sets….

What practically every Magic player knows is that the gold and multicolored cards from the Invasion Block are often quite powerful, but only if you are playing those colors. Vindicate is good only in B/W, Undermine is a solid card only for U/B, Assault / Battery only worthwhile in G/R and so forth. However, we are talking about Five Color, so color restriction is not a hindrance.

As such, there are a hefty number of cards that are simply more powerful than most cards from Odyssey and her block. Turn your head towards acquiring the valuable Invasion block cards.

You may think those cards are the rare ones. And while having a player’s set of Vindicates, Spiritmongers, Pernicious Deeds and Absorbs may be useful, it is in the uncommons and commons that you will find the backbone of your deck.

There are some subtle changes in the environment that you need to account for. For example, with no dual lands, you will play more basics. Sure, players will still play Cities and painlands, but you can’t play forty painlands with four each of City of Brass and Grand Coliseum unless you want to die a large and yet fairly unspectacular death. No, instead we have a lot of basics.

With the major mana fixer being the fetchlands from Onslaught, you run even more basics in play… And that makes domain mechanics more powerful. Tribal Flames almost always does at least four, Worldly Counsel is almost always at least an Impulse, Ordered Migration yields massive birdies and Allied Strategies is your card drawing engine of doom.

Therefore, with a powerful Invasion block card pool and increased emphasis upon a block mechanic, you will want to acquire these cards soon. Commons and uncommons are hard to find, so pick them up whenever you have opportunity.

What to Acquire?

Consider the best cards out there with a given function. In no particular order:


Recoil, Repulse, Aether Mutation


Fire / Ice, Firebolt, Tribal Flames, Urza’s Rage, Lightning Surge, Volcanic Hammer

Creature Kill:

Agonizing Demise, Ghastly Demise, Terminate, Dark Banishing

Card Drawing:

Fact or Fiction, Allied Strategies, Deep Analysis


Counterspell, Undermine, Absorb, Suffocating Blast, Mystic Snake, Circular Logic, Complicate.

Enchantment/Artifact Destruction:

Orim’s Thunder, Dismantling Blow, Hull Breach, (eventually) Nantuko Vigilante

Mana Fixing:

Harrow, Lay of the Land, Rampant Growth, Birds of Paradise, Krosan Tusker, Explosive Vegetation

When you stop to consider the best cards in an area, you want to look at the eight expansion sets plus Seventh Edition. Don’t forget 7th simply because you normally only use it for Birds and painlands: Simple common cards like Rampant Growth, Shock, Dark Banishing, and Volcanic Hammer can be highly valuable.

Is it Hard to Trade?

I honestly did not know how hard it would be to trade for the cards I needed. Would it be fast or slow? What would I have to give up? I hit the casual rooms in order to get the cards I needed for my first Electronic Five. I started with enough drafts to have acquired 1250 cards.

The first guy I go to, drumerhawk, is looking for a casual trade. I pull out six commons and three uncommons – all from Invasion Block. He proceeds to grab my Mirari’s Wake and tries to convince me that the Nomadic Elves I pulled out are really valuable. When I tell him no way, he tells me to lick him, and leaves.

My next trade goes much more smoothly with KW Traumatize. He has only a few cards, but he wants several of my white soldiers. I can part with those easily enough. I take his Blaze and Ordered Migration. The next guy, maskdmirag, has an Angel of Mercy, which I really want to try out in this new format. I trade for it and toss it in my deck.

Dufer957 advertises twelve uncommons for a ticket, which is a good deal… But they are all pretty poor, and there are no uncommons older than Torment running around. I move on.

I go to Anks. Again, nothing. I continue to browse the Casual Trading Room. I message Hao if he has IPA cards, he tells me no. He was advertising eight uncommons for one ticket, which I’ll do if they are halfway decent uncommons. PlaneShifter is offering the same deal. I message him as well, but to no avail.

GothicKnight is looking for a casual trade. I pull out sixteen cards. However, he has to leave before we complete the trade. I add him to my buddy list. If he comes back on, I want to know.

ChrEs has some cards for sale, and he tells me that he has IPA cards as well. Excellent. He charges a steep cost – four uncommons for a ticket, sixteen commons, one rare. But, if he has good stuff, I have no compunction spending a ticket for a few Battlemages and such. He has a bunch of good cards that I would trade for, but only a few that I would spend money on at this price. I get an Illuminate, Jungle Barrier, two Aether Mutation, two Spite / Malice, two Exclude, Thunderscape Battlemage, Probe, and Orim’s Thunder. For 2 Tickets.

I am starting to learn a basic premise of Online Trading: If a person advertises several cards they have, and none are from IPA, then they probably don’t have many – or any – cards. Here’s an example of such an ad straight from a person:

“SELLING 8 Uncs for 1 Tix, 32 Commons for 1 Tix, SHADE 8, BoP 15, Mutilate 6, also looking to buy draft set of OTJ.”

Yep. This person, when messaged, responded that they had no IPA cards. It’s had to tell who has the motherload and who doesn’t.

I keep asking about IPA cards. No dice, so I hit Bionix22, who is advertising a casual trade. He has a good portion of Invasion and Planeshift cards, but not that many good ones for Five Color. I pull out just a single Angel of Mercy. Then I hit Apocalypse and grab nine cards; six uncommons and three Orim’s Thunders. He pulls out a couple of Odyssey cards. Terravore and some uncommons. We trade, and I get the Angel, three Evasive Actions, Order / Chaos, the three Thunders, Illuminate, and an Emblazoned Golem. Excellent.

I like this casual trading stuff, so I go to Whazzitz, but he doesn’t have any sets besides 7th and Onslaught. I move on to pants69. He has a bunch of IPA. I pull out my first two rares in this set of trading – Desolation Giant and Necravolver. I trade him some 7th and an Arcanis for the lot. In addition to my rares, I got a Spite / Malice, Jilt, two Recoil, two Repulse, Stormscape Apprentice and a Thornscape Apprentice. Excellent.

With my new acquisitions I decide to call it a day and start working on my deck. I still would like Flametongue Kavus and Battlemagi. I need more Fire / Ice, Dismantling Blows, and another Spite / Malice. However, I’ve done well in a little over an hour.

So I throw up an ad for some IPA cards and get to work on my deck. And DjDark03 messages me after thirty minutes or so. I trade a couple of Rotlung Reanimators, Terravore, and Mirari’s Wake for several good cards. I get a Spectral Lynx, two Flametongues, three Lairs, two Harrows, Repulse, Lay of the Land, and Coastal Tower. Excellent.

But What if I can’t Trade For This Stuff?

Well, I wasn’t going for the rares, usually – and never for the big, splashy rares. However, if your pool is more limited, then there are still some cards I’d go for outside of IPA. Let’s start with simple, inexpensive, and highly useful commons. All lists are the opinion of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of the editor or his rodent friends.

Top 20 Type 2 Commons for Casual Format 2:

20. Fiery Temper – Not exactly the best burn spell ever, it does see a lot of play due to its synergy with Wild Mongrel, Aquamoeba, Compulsion, and such.

19. Sleight of Hand – Definitely a contender when it comes to the ability to sift through your deck. However, it may get pushed out of a deck that runs Fact or Fiction, Allied Strategies, Worldly Counsel, and Careful Study.

18. Duress – Taking out a critical spell can prove quite valuable, but it’s value diminishes when considering the large number of creatures that even control decks often end up running.

17. Pacifism – I think the Pacifism gets played more because people need to fill out their white cards rather than on merit alone. Quotas may demand that you play the Pacifism as well.

16. Angelic Wall – Did you want a good defensively-oriented creature that can shut down an offensive creature? I assume you looked at this 0/4 flying beauty.

15. Faceless Butcher – If you can handle the double black cost, this card is one of the few ways available to take out a creature and not lose tempo. Until Nekrataal gets reprinted in 8th Edition, that is.

14. Dark Banishing – One of the cheapest banish effects around. It’s at a good casting cost. Once you go back further, however, it is easily overshadowed by Terminate, Spite / Malice and Agonizing Demise.

13. Syncopate – One of the common threads you begin to see is that people want splashable countermagic… And that’s Syncopate. With all of the Odyssey block tricks about, removing a card form the game is a nice little bonus.

12. Careful Study – If your deck is more Odyssey-based than Invasion, you’ll want this card. It helps discard, gets you to threshold, may trigger madness, tosses flashback cards into the ‘yard, and otherwise does lots of good things. And this is a lot of decks. Otherwise, Sleight of Hand or Opt is better.

11. Firebolt – With Tribal Flames, Shock, Fiery Temper and even Volcanic Hammer getting played, Firebolt may seem a bit pedestrian. Trust me, it is anything but plain.

10. Counterspell – If you want to really counter stuff, then you need the classic, the One and Only. Almost goes without saying….

9. Rampant Growth – Not only does it speed up your mana, but it also smooths it out as well. That makes it much better than Lay of the Land in the early game.

8. Aquamoeba – Along with the Mongrel, the Blue Watery Beast of Torment can allow a quick madness outlet for Circular Logics and Basking Rootwallas. It’s also a quick defense and yet can play offense well.

7. Nantuko Vigilante – Probably pales in comparison to the Invasion Offerings, but also the best disenchant effect in Standard for Five Color. Not that Legions has been released online, of course….

6. Cycling Lands – The Cycling Lands are great ways of getting the color you want combined with the ability to grab more cards when you get land late.

5. Krosan Tusker – Great in the Five Color Classic, the Tusker is almost as good in the New Formula. Big beastie or an uncounterable Inspiration? You choose.

4. Werebear – Threshold is easy to get in Five Color, where the games can take much longer. That makes everybody’s favorite Druid Bear an even better card. The other threshold cards are good too, but the Bear is the best combination of price and ability.

3. Basking Rootwalla – The Mongrel’s best friend. There are so many ways to discard the Rootwalla, even to IPA cards like Probe. It’s a solid card to play, and can be extremely useful.

2. Deep Analysis – Not only is the DA one of the best card drawing tools available, it’s also financially cheap. Pick them up for almost every deck.

1. Wild Mongrel – It begins with the Mongrel. Everybody knows the power of this 2/2 and its offensive might. It can be a great defensive cards as well. Slapping a Mongrel can get you several turns to try and setup your mana or draw out of a bad hand.


Uncommons are much easier to figure out. The power cards from Type 2 are also your power cards in Casual Format 2. You know – Merfolk Looter, Chainer’s Edict, Compulsion, Arrogant Wurm, Circular Logic, Psychatog, Roar of the Wurm, and so forth.

There are some more subtle options available, however. Concentrate is decent and Nimble Mongoose is the second-best Threshold beater with Seton’s Scout a close fourth (Fledgling Dragon being number 3, in case you were curious). Sickening Dreams, Violent Eruption, Engineered Plague, and so forth are all good as well. However, if you are looking for cheap tech, here it is:

The Top 10 Underused Uncommons in Type 2 for Casual Format 2:

10. Dwarven Blastminer – You always want to morph him. He can help other morph critters by disguising as one of them. And he can pop off nonbasics, which many people use to shore up their mana

9. Aphetto Exterminator – One of the best new morph creatures, it has great potential, both for masking more important morph creatures, and for swing for three on the fourth turn without losing momentum by killing a creature. Not that Legions has been released online, of course….

8. Complicate – One of the more subtle counterspells and one of the few splashable ones. Pales compared to Circular Logic, but still one of the best options going.

7. Branchsnap Lorian – A morph with trample and a four-power. It’s morph cost is cheap and allows it to be played for just one green. And it has trample. Everything that Elvish Ranger wished it had… Except that it’s not coveted by Magic players worldwide that are so geeky they can’t even see first base. The Lorian isn’t ogled, which, come to think of it, may be better as well.

6. Wall of Deceit – For all of the morph reasons mentioned, this card also helps to hide your morphers. It is also a big and quick wall, and a wall that can attack. It can essentially be considered a 2/5 for two mana that requires some mana to use. Great card. Again, Legions and not released until March and all of that.

5. Centaur Chieftain – A mini-Overrun that is splashable. And it’s a 3/3 hasted creature for four mana when you don’t have threshold, which is no slouch. This is a highly playable card, simply on its own.

4. Gloomdrifter – My own personal secret tech that usually makes opponents want to get a few to toss in. This puppy can kill all sorts of baddies, from Looters to goblins a-go-go to Birds.

3. Grizzly Fate – Making some 2/2s is good. Putting out more bears than Teddy Roosevelt? Now that’s something.

2. Shower of Coals – If you can’t trade for a Wrath of God or Earthquake, why not get a one-sided one instead? Since threshold will happen in Five Color early and often, the Shower will clean off you opponent’s side of the board and leave you with that zest feeling.

1. FilthWonder, Schmonder. Filth is what makes your creatures unblockable for eternity. The debate rages between Wonder and Filth for regular Five Color – but in Faux Five, it’s even better. Definitely for more aggressive decks than defensive ones.

And Now What?

Now you have an idea of the direction to take. Getting cards is not hard, and there are lots of great cards that are easy to trade for. The market on Filth is not that hot right now. Go get yourself the cards the fit your style and budget. IPA cards are more powerful, but don’t forget the solid cards from our own Type Two sets. And most importantly…

Go play some Magic!

Until later,

Abe Sargent