CASUAL FRIDAYS #68: Fifteen Funky Formats To Fool Your Friends

With the holidays upon us, it is time to shake ourselves out of our typical ruts and do some fresh, new things. I therefore present to you fifteen new (well, some more new than others) group play formats for you to try over the next few weeks. I came up with the number "fifteen" easily,…

With the holidays upon us, it is time to shake ourselves out of our typical ruts and do some fresh, new things. I therefore present to you fifteen new (well, some more new than others) group play formats for you to try over the next few weeks. I came up with the number "fifteen" easily, at this time of year: twelve to represent the days of Christmas, and then three more because "fifteen" fit the alliterative title better than "twelve" (unless you pronounce it "twelf", which still doesn’t work horribly well).

My group has tested a few of these, and one or two have even been mentioned in long-ago Casual Fridays. Most are ideas that I’ve just been thinking of lately, based on readers’ input, other writers I’ve read, and other rumors on the wind. This disclaimer hereby disavows any attempt of mine to claim these as my own, unless specifically indicated. I try to give credit where it is due. If anyone wants to clarify authorship for me, I’ll be happy to post in a future Casual Fridays for posterity.

FORMAT #1: ALTERNATE ENDINGS. I want to start with one that I picked off of Magic Campus nearly a year ago. I don’t know who the author was and I couldn’t find it when I looked again recently. The basic idea is, no one is trying to bring everyone down from twenty to zero life anymore. Instead, each player enters the game with a different alternate win condition (chosen from random out of a hat, or whatever). You can play this so that people know everyone else’s win condition; or you can know only your own before choosing what to play; or you can even make it so that no one knows what their OWN deck will be until after decks are chosen.

Here are some possible alternate win conditions:

  • Reach forty life and stay there for one round (by round, I mean from the end of one player’s turn until the beginning of that same player’s next turn…it could be any player, not just you).

  • Put twelve non-token, non-land permanents into play and maintain them on the board for a round.

  • Keep the board completely clear of creatures for two rounds (no creature may last longer than one TURN).

  • Keep the board completely clear of all artifacts and enchantments for five rounds (no such permanent may last longer than one ROUND).

  • Have and maintain on the board (under control of any player) at least one creature with one power, one creature with two power, one creature with three power, and one creature with four power, for one round.

  • Get the board completely clear of all permanents, after your tenth turn, for any length of time. (Apocalypse must be banned for this.)

  • Play all four copies of a spell in a single turn. If they are permanents, maintain the permanents on the board for one round. If they are sorceries or instants, they cannot be countered.

  • Deal at least fifty damage to any number of creatures or players in the space of one round. (Non-targeted damage spells like Earthquake should probably be banned, but you could increase the number – I’d suggest 200 – and let them in.)

  • Count the number of players in the game. (This should stay constant, since no one can be eliminated through life loss.) You must counter that many consecutive spells.

  • Count the number of players in the game. You must get ten times that number of cards into all graveyards (doesn’t matter whose, so one player could have twenty and another zero).

  • Count the number of players in the game. You must get that many non-token creatures with power greater than 4 into the game, and maintain them for one round.

  • Count the number of players in the game. (That’s it, you win!… Okay, I’m running out of ideas, here…)

I’m sure you could come up with a few of your own, as well. For this format, you should probably ban Coalition Victory, Final Fortune, Celestial Convergence, and any other card that sets up an automatic game win/lose condition.

FORMAT #2: CREATURELESS FEATURE. Sure, creatureless decks can be boring since they seek to control the board and win another, longer, more boring way. But what do you think would happen if EVERYONE knew that there would be no creatures for an evening? Deadweight cards like Ensnaring Bridge and Wrath of God would be taken out and replaced with other cards that helped the deck achieve its goal more directly. Burn could wrestle with white-blue control splendidly before unleashing an infinite Fireball. Someone could come up with a freaky creatureless green deck that used Tranquility, Splinter, and Creeping Mold to metagame; and then something ferocious like Unyaro Bee Sting (or more likely Hurricane) to finish the job. And a blue-black counter-discard disruptive deck might stand a chance, without tons of creatures beating it down.

FORMAT #3: SUPERHEROES. To take a page out of Daniel Crane book, I believe, you could endow each player with a special ability for a game, or an evening. Except in my version, I would make the ability randomly distributed and secret (at least until you use them). Imagine abilities like the following:

  • For one game this evening, you may play "Tap a land, let Dave gain one life: make Carl lose one life" at any time.

  • For up to two games this evening, you may play "Tap a land: remove a creature you control and target creature Anthony controls from the game. Anthony gains life equal to the power of both creatures combined" at any time.

  • For one game this evening, you may play "Concede the game: Target player concedes the game as well." If you do so, that player may not be the target of other players’ spells or abilities (including this one) for the remainder of the evening.

  • For up to five combats this evening, you may give all creatures Theo controls +3/+3 and trample until end of turn. (Use only once per combat.) If you do, Theo must attack you on his next turn with all creatures able to do so.

  • For up to five combats this evening, you may play "sacrifice all creatures you control: creatures deal no combat damage this turn."

  • As many times as you wish this evening, you may play: "Deal five damage to yourself: deal two damage to all creatures and players. If you gain life this game as a result of a spell or ability you control, you lose the game.."

  • As many times as you wish this evening, you may play: "Gain one life: all other players gain five life, and the next five damage that would be dealt to any creature this turn is prevented. If this ability results in player reaching thirty or more life, you lose the game."

  • Pay half your life, rounded up: Put all abilities, including this one, in a pile at the center of the table. All players re-choose their abilities at random for the remainder of the evening. (This ability may be used as often in a game or evening as its controller(s) wish.)

I haven’t had a great deal of time to work all of these through… the damage-deal/life-gain ones are meant to cancel each other out a bit. And the pay-life-to-remix one, I think, is an absolute necessity. Note that I would love to see someone gain life from their superhero ability, and then after it resolves have the remixer remix, with the life-gainer ending up with the damage-dealer, which states s/he loses if s/he gains life this game. (Rule as you wish; this isn’t Pro Tour Chicago anymore. I say that player loses.)

Anyhow, add more, and feel free to adjust to your own group’s temper. As I hinted with the first few, the trick is to make sure every player is hosed once and helped once among all abilities distributed. Of course, there is nothing to say that you couldn’t give each player TWO superhero abilities…

FORMAT #4: THE BIG PILE. It has been a while since my group has done the Big Pile. I believe a reader in my Dojo days passed this idea on to me. Here’s the deal: All players draw off of the same 300+ card deck. (Who makes the deck is up for grabs. I recommend having three different Big Pile decks in a given evening, each created by a team prior to the event… that distributes the chance of any given player winning as evenly as possible, I think.) Any spell or ability that refers to a library refers to that common library; and any spell or ability that refers to a graveyard refers to that common graveyard.

It can get a little thick, especially if you use the following schemes/cards:

FORMAT #5: EMPEROR WITH MOLE. Okay, I haven’t worked out all the details of this, but I THINK it would work in any Emperor game with at least three players to each side. (I suspect it would work better if you had five or seven to a team.) The original emperor idea is unattributed, but the "Mole" twist is mine.

You start with a typical Emperor format (quick primer for the uninitiated: odd-numbered-man teams, teammates sit adjacent to each other, object is to kill the opposing emperor who sits in the middle of a team, you have limited range for attack/spells). Doesn’t matter horribly if you move creatures or not, what the range is, or any of that. (I think it will work out to be slightly more fun if you allow creatures to move from one teammate to another, and if you keep range limited to one for all players.)

You play the game normally, with the following twist. At the beginning of the game, randomly, anonymously, and secretly assign a "Mole" to each team. (My suggested method: Make two piles of traditional playing cards, one of red cards and one of black cards. The number of cards in each pile is equal to the number of players on each team. Make sure there is exactly one Jack in each pile. Randomly assign the black cards to one team and the red cards to the other team, all face down. NO ONE LOOKS AT THEIR CARD.) It is key that the mole NOT be aware of his or her own status. I suppose you could have players peek to see if they’re it, but they’ll play in a way that will reveal themselves to good players…better to keep the Mole in the dark, too.

So you play your Emperor game, la la la, isn’t life delicious, until one Emperor is reduced to ten life. (Optional rule: if combat damage, a spell, or an ability would reduce an Emperor’s life to less than ten, and the opposite team’s Mole has not been revealed, then that Emperor resets her life to ten life as a result of that damage, spell, or ability. All other damage, spells, or abilities on the stack then fizzle… that prevents the winning team from piling on multiple Bolts or some such wet-blanketness.)

At that point, as a triggered ability (so this may happen in the midst of a stack), all players on the OTHER team (the team that has driven their enemy Emperor to ten life) reveal their cards. The player who has the Jack (in my example) is the Mole, and is immediately in alliance with the opposite team. All permanents the Mole controls at the time of the switch stay with the Mole and his new team.

The idea here is to give a flagging team a second chance, by adding to their ranks. Don’t worry, of course the other Mole is waiting to be triggered as well.

Here comes the fun part. There are two things that can go horribly wrong:

1) The Mole can be a player who has already died, or

2) The Mole can be the opposing Emperor herself.

In the first case – a dead Mole, or as I shall dub the situation, "Roadkill" – I think a simple reshuffle and immediate reassignment of the Mole role ought to do the trick. Just keep randomly assigning until the Mole is someone who’s alive.

A bit more complex situation arises when the Emperor is the Mole for the other team. Here’s what I suggest: take the two players to her immediate left and right. Whoever has the highest life total is the new Emperor for the mole-ridden team. A dire situation, to be sure. But great fun!

It should be quite possible to end up with two broken teams before long, with both Moles revealing themselves to be deep within opposing territory and wreaking havoc.

I think I will propose this to my group soon; but I will wait until we can manage a five-on-five.

FORMAT #6: ALPHABET SOUP. Talking to Jeff Donais ("name-dropper!", you cry… but I am honestly trying to give credit here) about the "letter F" format made me think about something more expansive in a group game. I can’t imagine others haven’t tried this; and in fact I think my group toyed with idea a year or two ago; but I’ll put it out there anyway.

I would go to D’Angelo site (www.crystalkeep.com) and figure out what the heaviest letters are. (I would expect A, C, D, F, M, N, R, S, and T.) Do whatever you’re going to do with articles like "a" and "the"; I can’t bring myself to care. Divvy up those heaviest letters a week in advance so that each player is knows what letter they have to worry about. Every card in your deck that’s not a basic land must start with that letter.

You can go off and allow/only allow foreign language, or do a "last-letter" variant; or you can allow two letters per deck if your group has mostly new players and you want more flexibility. Two letters ought to do it, though. Hell, a Rebel deck (Ramosian this, Ramosian that) ought to get you far enough!

FORMAT #7: COLOR WAR. I’ve talked a bit about this in the past; and I’ve had several readers propose variations on it. (I’ll drop Jeff’s name here, again.) Feel free to use my base and fly off however you like.

Five players. Five colors. Get the idea? I would start with disallowing clear color hosers, since I think the game then becomes a race for "who gets their color hoser out first." (Story Circle and Ascendant Evincar are okay; Perish and Light of Day are not. Paladin en-Vec is probably too much. I think you can all see the line there.) Each player must build their deck mono-color; no artifacts. You sit in a circle with allied colors sitting next to each other, and chaos away. The player who destroys the opposite colors first wins.

Variants for this:

  • Five players. Five sets of allied colors. Ta da! New decks, new cards, new matchups. All players must use gold cards with at least one mana symbol of each of their colors, and no others. Might allow splash of mono color (say, four slots total for each pure color).

  • Six players. No one wants to go sit it out. Presto, add artifacts! Sit Artifact player between white and blue. (That should put artifacts opposite red, black opposite white, and green opposite blue.) Now the object is to destroy your opposite player and EITHER player sitting next to him.

  • Longer game. Make the game full chaos, but make destroying opposite numbers a precondition for targeting/attacking anyone else. You may want to assign points for killing off opposite numbers, so a late bloomer doesn’t finish off the one guy who did all the work and win outright. Say, ten points for killing off an opposite, and five points for each player afterward.

FORMAT #8: GIFT GIVING. Well, I had to get to this eventually! My suggestion for a holiday format:

Each turn, the active player must choose a number of permanents and/or cards equal to the number of opponents, and cede control of them, one to each opponent. Yeah, I’m including cards in hand here. Keep track of that foil Skizzik! (Ownership for the game is now based on who played the permanent. Ownership for real, of course, sticks with the player who brought it that day.)

To make sure no one ends up with dead cards, you could push the holiday them and make all decks white-green-red, no double casting costs. Take out artifacts, too, while you’re at it; they’re boring. Plus, Jinxed Idol is too easy here.

FORMAT #9: MIRROR UNIVERSES. None of us can afford a Mirror Universe, but why should that stop us? Apply in just about any format. At the beginning of each round, roll a six-sided die. On the probability of your choosing (I recommend a one or two out of six), each player puts their hand down and moves one chair to the left. You adopt all life totals, permanents, etc. of the previous player. Play on. (I say left so that no one gets accidentally screwed out of a turn if play passes to left. Yes, it means someone may get two turns in a row; but they’ll be operating under a different identity so it’s not like we’re giving away Time Walks, here.)

Note that this means that everyone will be rather kind to the players to their near left (their future identities), and less kind to the players to their right (their past identities). To get the full effect, hold a philosophical discussion on intergenerational politics as you play this format.

FORMAT #10: CREATURE FEATURE. You didn’t think I was going to let Format #2 go unbalanced, did you? Only creatures are allowed in decks. For kicks and giggles, you can go Grizzly Creature Feature and only allow creatures WITHOUT abilities into decks. Now, it’s a slugfest. Would probably get boring after a while, though.

So try this. For every creature that gets played, that creature gets the following, controller’s choice: flying and trample, flying and regeneration (for 2), a number of +1/+1 counters equal to the number of creatures on the board, OR quasi-Pandemonium ability (as it comes into play, deals power-worth of damage to target creature…not player, for this format). With no other spells being played, those four dynamics should do a rock-paper-scissors deal: Pandemonium creatures can nail flying tramplers as they come in, +1/+1 boosted creatures can easily outweigh Pandemonium-styled creatures, +1/+1 boosted creatures can get blocked by regenerating flyers, and regenerating flyers get rolled over by flying tramplers…

FORMAT #11: UNEVEN TEAMS. This would be a good format to try if one, two, or three players in a group were so much more experienced (and had better card collections) than everyone else that they were feeling frisky enough to take on an extra challenge. I got this idea when I was playing in an Emperor game and my team was down one general quite early. We still nearly won that game; and it made me think that maybe under the right conditions (which in our group would be nearly impossible; but maybe in yours it might work), an uneven team would be rather cool.

I think the cleanest version of this idea is a 3-on-2. Each player has independent life; when one dies, the others do without her. The teams should be able to sit across from each other, so consecutive turns are possible. (I believe interspersing the players at this level may give the "3" even more of an advantage… play it out both ways and see what you think.) If you do this and the "2" team gets consistently beaten, try shared life: the larger team at sixty, the smaller team at forty. If that still doesn’t work, try giving both teams sixty. If THAT doesn’t work…put two different people on the "2" team, for crying out loud!

You can adjust sizes of teams however you like, of course. If there is one player in a group who is rather a mentor to the others (and some considerable age difference should also probably be here, so that no one is horribly insulted), you could even do "one-on" games: 2-on-1, 3-on-1, 4-on-1, and so on. The player in the Fezzik role (Princess Bride, the giant, Fezzik, wrestles multiple people at once… remember now?… great, let’s move on) can opt for a one-card advantage (eight-card draw, that is), a bit more life, or just play the disadvantage raw. I’ve never tried anything like this (although anyone in our group would probably say we’ve each experienced something startlingly similar to it, at one time or another) but it seems like it would be a tremendous rush to take on four or five players, all gunning for you in concerted fashion…and win. Boo-yah! (One of the funniest Magic articles I’ve EVER read was an InQuest article where five players, playing only cards rated one star by InQuest – like Thorn Thallid, Goblin Spy, et cetera – ganged up against a player with a deck of all five-stars – Timetwister, Time Walk, Juzam, Tolarian, and so on. I’ve always meant to do this one… – The Ferrett, apologizing for interjecting so heavily)

FORMAT #12. GENERALS ON THE BATTLEFIELD. For this format, which has seen very distant relatives across the Net but nothing exactly like this, I recommend mandating a thirty-creature minimum for all sixty-card decks. (A steady supply of creatures and combat keeps generals relevant.)

Here, you are essentially setting up two tiers of creatures: those who are in the trenches fighting it out, and those who serve as your lieutenants, above the fray yet influencing it.

In each deck, a player may assign four generals. These must be single-copy creatures and must be qualitatively different from all other creatures in the deck. This last bit is subjective, and will require some maturity on the deckbuilder’s part. Mageta, Lin-Sivvi, Jhoval Queen, and Ramosian Sky Marshall are all qualitatively different enough from other rebels to qualify as generals, but that’s cutting it close. A Thorn Elemental in a deck full of 2/2s and 3/3s, a Shivan Dragon in a deck full of goblins, a 1/1 Rayne in a deck full of 3/3 flyers: All of these are clearly generals.

Here’s how the two tiers work. When you play a creature who is a general, you announce it as such and you put the creature physically behind your other creatures. (They still have any "comes-into-play" effects.) The creature is technically in the play zone, you have to pay any upkeeps as normal, and they can be targeted singly (although see below), but they are not otherwise influenced by spells, abilities, or effects that influence "all creatures." For example, a four-point Earthquake would leave Rayne untouched, if she had been announced as a general when she came into play. Cho-Manno doesn’t get wiped by Tsabo’s Decree on rebels (or legends). And when you Vitalize, your tapped Mageta stays tapped.

Here’s what generals can and cannot do:

  • They cannot attack or block.

  • They cannot target each other.

  • They cannot stand alongside an allied general in the field of battle – only one general on your side at a time! (If you ever have a second one, the one that came under your control later goes immediately to the graveyard, in a Legend-style state-based effect.)

  • They can use their abilities normally, to affect "normal creatures" and players as appropriate.

  • They can be untapped by sacrificing another creature you control.

  • They can "deflect" targeted spells and abilities to another creature you control. That is to say, if your Mirri, Cat Warrior, as a general, is targeted by a Lightning Bolt, you may simply choose another creature you control as the target. (This is called "taking one for the team.")

  • They can tap to give target creature you control +X/+Y until end of turn, where X is the general’s power and Y is the general’s toughness.

Here’s where the thirty-creature card minimum really kicks in. The only way to be sure you can get rid of a general is to wipe out an entire army (Earthquake, Wrath of God) and then use spot removal on the general (Terror, Bolt)…careful with the red, though, since in response to losing three creatures to an Earthquake, Mageta’s controller can sacrifice all three creatures, then use Mageta’s general-based pumping ability to put his toughness out of reach. It’s hard to get rid of generals when you’ll only have four to eight non-creature slots in your deck to set that kind of scenario up!

And so the format is meant to keep generals around. It’s also meant to reward sliver, goblin, squirrel, and other "swarm" decks that give the generals plenty of ammo to influence the game. That’s the kind of deck I would expect to succeed in this format. If your group is getting too weirded out by complex combos or hopelessly eternal control decks, give this format a try.

FORMAT #13. LEAST FAVORITE COLOR. Our group toyed with this, once. The basic idea is, you must build a deck in your well-established least favorite color. (Anyone who falsely claims they do not have a least favorite color must play all five colors, as well as artifacts, in exactly equal proportion, with only basic lands as mana sources…also, while you’re at it, make them play those colors with gold cards only.)

Make it as sick as you can: everything you hate about that color, your worst nightmare to see on the table. Your goal is to play this deck for an entire evening and then get up feeling like you need to shower with concentrated bleach.

I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise anyone that my deck would start a little something like this:

Don’t you go nasty on me about the Verdant Force being in there. I like that card, too; but we all know full well how sick it is in there.

Theo’s deck would look something like this:

…and so on. Notice a trend? That’s right; all of these cards actually DO something. Not very blue at all.

FORMAT #14. TWO-PILE MAGIC. A reader recently sent me this one; I replied and told him how much I loved it, at which point I promptly deleted his email and quit the application (which empties my trash). Swift. So I can’t attribute him properly; but he’s welcome to email me and remind me of who he is. Or he can continue in anonymous glory, simply smiling like Bruce Wayne whenever some hot dish is going on about how sexy Batman is.

(Speaking of Batman: I got this great email from a competitive player, perhaps a pro, who very kindly told me how much he enjoyed my writing. I love emails like these, and I’m happy to report I get at least one or two every week: pros who haven’t played casually in a long time, but just glanced at this article or that and it reminded them that the game has a fun side, etc. I’m casting no value judgments here. If they play more group games as a result of reading me, great; if they just have a bit more fun the next time they duel, that’s fine too. Happy to help, no extra charge.

(Anyhow, the point. This gentle reader pointed out that he was rather skeptical when he saw my name attached to Sideboard tourney reports, but that he found he enjoyed them anyway. And the analogy he used was…Michael Keaton as Batman!

(Now isn’t that just so true? No, not that I did as good a job on the reports as Keaton did as Batman. I mean the sense of surprise with Keaton actually chosen to be Batman, for those of you who were there. I can remember thinking when I heard who would first play Batman in that first movie about fifteen years ago, "Are you crazy? Keaton? Beetlejuice? As Batman?" But then I was blown away by what he did. And don’t we all just PINE for the days of Keaton as Batman now? Teenagers today who haven’t seen the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton-era Batmans must think we old folk are nuts whenever we go on about how good #1 and #2 were. They probably can’t get past the horrific spectacle that was Batman and Robin. "What, I watched that Clooney crap, now you want me to go to the video store and rent an OLDER episode with an UGLIER hero? I don’t think so, Grandpa!"

(So this reader has left me with mixed feelings. Yes, comparison to Michael Keaton, always nice, thank you. But does this mean I’m about to be replaced? Is Casual Fridays going to be taken over by some better-looking guy with nicer/more hair and a whiter smile, but who can’t really write, or at least struggles with a new Director?… Hey, Ferrett, that’s you!) (Isn’t me sticking longwinded comments in your articles at random enough of a Directorial struggle for you? – The Ferrett)

Somewhere in here, there’s a format. Here it is, and thanks to both readers above for their kind insights…

Before the game you split your cards up into two piles as you wish, at least twenty cards in each pile. (You may make these divisions however you wish. Since the potential for quick combos is high, your group may decide to ban oft-abused group cards like High Tide, Enduring Renewal, and Tombstone Stairwell. Be the DCI for a day; you know you want to.)

You play the game normally, following whatever other format parameters (Emperor, Hunt, whatever) you like. When you must draw a card, you may choose from which pile you will draw it. If you must draw multiple cards, as in your first seven or with Prosperity, you may split the amount between both piles but must declare your division before you draw the first card.

Some suggested splitting, for your strategic perusal…you could solidify any one of these into rules, if you like:

  • MANA/SPELLS. Lands and moxen in one pile, spells in the other. No more mana problems!

  • COLOR SEGREGATION. One color for each pile of cards (obviously a two-color deck, though you could have one for a primary and the other for your splashes, as in 5-color Green)

  • CREATURE/SPELLS. Creatures and half your lands in one pile, other spells and half your lands in the other

  • FIRECRACKERS/BOMBS. Less than four-cc cards in one pile, four or more cc cards in the other (again, lands distributed evenly, or better yet weigh them a bit more on the early side, so you have them when you decide to shift to your bomb pile).

FORMAT #15: SHIFTING FORMATS. This one, my own brainchild, is a little complex. Stick with me. My intention here is to do a big, end-of-fireworks-show melange of all the different silliness you’ve already "oooh’d" and "aaaaah’d" at. Of course, every once in a while the guys setting of the fireworks at the end light one too many fuses, and the whole thing goes off about five feet above the ground and people lose fingers, toes, and eyesight. We’ll light ’em up and see what happens here, anyway.

What if you could pack the tasty goodness of three different formats into one game? Yes, I know, you could just play three different games and probably get the same feeling; but why not push your luck?

You need to have a number of players consistent with all three formats you choose. Six is probably the ideal number, in most cases. You should have a calculator (or, in our group’s case, an actuary) handy before you start.

Pick three formats. I’ll go easy on us here and pick three simple ones: Hunt, Emperor, and Big-Pile Chaos (Format #4 above). When you pick your format, make sure you will be able to use your decks in all three formats reasonably well, and that you pick the right order…chaos at the end here sounds like the right idea.

Start off with your first format, in this case Hunt. (Players have prey who are the only potential targets for their spells or abilities. Global spells and abilities still affect everyone.) The game goes on for a while. As soon as the first player is reduced to ten life (and see Format #5, Mole Emperor, for my alternate rule for assuring that this player will, in fact, survive the transition), you shift into format #2.

So in this case, you all keep your chairs and each roll a ten-sided die. High roll becomes the far-right hand of one Emperor’s team; everyone else should now know who they are based on that. Keep playing on.

As soon as another player is reduced to ten life – or if the first player (already at ten life) loses any more – you shift to the third format.

So here, all the libraries and graveyards would get shuffled into massive common piles. Use the same styled sleeves, or don’t; this is too fruity to insist on consistency in every corner of the game. Play would finish with all players hacking at each other from a huge and amazingly random deck.

You can set the "transition points" however you like: If the game had started with Emperor, for example, it would have been possible to wait for the first of six players to go to zero life instead of ten, since Hunt can be played perfectly well with five players.

And there you have it: Fifteen new formats. I don’t want to hear any of you folks bugging me about how boring your play group is for at least, oh say, a month.

COMING SOON: The singing decks got good reader response, so my group went ahead and did it. Our genius, revealed next week. This week’s article went on too long for me to inflict another Break this Card contest on you; I’ll reload and shoot that off next week as well.

Anthony Alongi