Extreme Magic: A Casual Format Where Broken Things Happen

It seems in just about every single Oscar Tan article – and quite frequently in other Type 1 articles – the phrase”This is Type I, broken things happen” plays like a theme song you cringe to after hearing a gazillion times. About two to three months ago, after reading the latest iteration of this phrase and grinding my teeth in irritation, it occurred to me: why should Type 1 have the monopoly on that phrase?

“Well, this is Type I. Broken things happen.” – Oscar Tan, innumerable times

It seems in just about every single Oscar Tan article – and quite frequently in other Type 1 articles – the phrase”This is Type I, broken things happen” plays like a theme song you cringe to after hearing a gazillion times. It’s particularly grating when reading new set reviews with Type 1 in mind:

“Card X is kinda nifty and all, but it’s gotta compete with every Magic card ever printed in Type 1. In that light Card X has zero chance, because Broken Things Happen in Type 1.”

About two to three months ago, after reading the latest iteration of this phrase and grinding my teeth in irritation, it occurred to me: why should Type 1 have the monopoly on that phrase? Why should Broken Things only happen in the hands of the people fortunate and/or crazy enough to own Type 1 Power cards?

Since casual, group game play is so popular at my local game shop – TAG, Ltd. in Mechanicsville VA – my mind started turning over some possibilities. Could I supercharge our group games to enable Broken Things to happen even for newer players and those of us who didn’t own all the Power cards?

Thus, Extreme Magic was born.

The Rules

Discussing my ideas for the format with Jay Delazier and a few other interested parties, I eventually settled on the following rules:

1) If a colored spell has a set colorless mana requirement, that mana requirement is considered already paid upon announcement of the spell. Additional costs (i.e. mana tax like Trinisphere, or Kicker and Entwine) must be paid normally. Flashback is an ability of the card and does not get the colorless mana requirements paid by this effect. The actual casting cost/converted mana cost is still equal to what’s printed on the card.

2) Spells with X in their casting cost cannot have X be paid by this effect.

3) Artifacts are not paid by this effect.

4)”Free Spells” have errata: they only untap lands or provide mana equal to the colored mana in the casting cost.

5) Everyone is”Giant Sized.” Deck size 250-card minimum. This is to inject a large degree of randomness into decks so that Broken Things don’t happen too consistently. Everyone also starts at forty life, so as to counterbalance some of the spells and creatures that can dish out a very large amount of damage.

Banned list:

1) Any cards with Storm; this is because it’s way too easy to cast multiple spells in a given turn.

2) Cards that destroy/remove both lands and creatures simultaneously from play (Decree of Annihilation, Obliterate, Jokulhaups, Upheaval, etc). This to prevent one person from gaining a ridiculously large tempo boost by floating a bunch of mana, casting Obliterate, and then following up by casting a bunch of creatures and enchantments. We want Broken Things to happen in Extreme Magic, but not too broken.

Anyway, we kicked off the inaugural tournament on May 15th, and had ten guys show up to gather ’round the table, and played three games. Everyone seemed to have a blast and I’m constantly getting asked when we’re going to have the next one. The rules seemed to work fine as is, so I figured Extreme Magic was ready for Prime Time! I’d love to hear from anyone who gives it a whirl in his or her own playgroup.

Keep in mind when building your deck that spells are so powerful and cheap that there is very little reason for playing with artifacts, so you can likely get away with little artifact removal. Enchantments, on the other hand, can really swing games, so you’ll want to include enchantment removal.

Also, you’ll want to pay attention to your mana curve, which will actually be your colored-mana curve. In my deck over half of my spells only require one colored mana. I’ve got a handful of cards that cost two colored mana, most of them in my primary color (Green). I do have a few three colored mana spells, but they are all Green and they all serve very specific purposes. You really want to limit those.

Before I go, I’d like to toss out some observations on cards that play particularly well in the format.

Betrayal of Flesh

This great little entwine spell is obviously amazing for one Black mana! At instant speed, destroy target creature; or return target creature card from your graveyard to play. The entwine cost of sacrificing three lands is fairly painless in the mid- to late-game. I played in a little five-man pickup game the other weekend, Josh was trying to win the game by casting a creature, Plague Wind, followed by Biorhythm. With Biorhythm on the stack, I played Betrayal with Entwine, killing his lone creature and bringing back my Caller of the Claw and token bears for each of the several creatures killed by Plague Wind. It was quite satisfying to win from someone else’s Biorhythm.

Tsabo’s Decree

For one Black mana, you can Edict any problematic creature, along with anything else that shares the creature type. Extinction works nicely as copies four through eight, though it’s not always quite so pinpoint accurate. Agonizing Demise can be lethal with its Kicker ability.

Silverglade Elemental

I use him to fetch my Bayous and Taigas for mana acceleration. Skyshroud Claims are another must.

Elvish Aberration

This mutant cousin to Llanowar Elves gives you a huge mana boost when he’s unsick, attached to a fairly good-sized creature. Or you can cycle him for a much-needed Forest. Oh yeah! Wirewood Channeler is not a bad companion card to the Aberration for any colored mana.

Citanul Hierophants

When each colored mana can launch a powerful spell, giving all your creatures the ability to tap for a Green mana can make you just explode into brokenness. Combos quite nicely alongside Eater of the Dead, much to the consternation of any opponents who were banking on reanimation/recursion strategies.

Skirge Familiar

Backed with card-drawing – and come on, in Extreme Magic you’re bound to figure out ways to draw obscene amount of cards – the Familiar for all practical purposes is able to translate any card you discard into a super Dark Ritual. I had an opening turn in game 2 that went like this:

Forest, play Silverglade Elemental, search out a Bayou and put it into play, tap it for Black mana to cast Skirge Familiar, discard a Black mana to cast Syphon Mind, draw nine cards (the number of my opponents), pitch one of them to cast another Syphon Mind that I drew into, and then pitch a few more cards to cast a Delraich and an Avatar of Woe. Turn 2 was even grosser, but I won’t go into that.

One Dozen Eyes

Gives you a ton of chump blockers right away. Works wonders in conjunction with Vitalizing Winds, Decree of Savagery, or Food Chain.

Rush of Knowledge

Turn 1 Scaled Wurm, turn 2 Rush of Knowledge is a pretty strong opening.


For the brave and the fun. Odds are this little spell with cause a lot of damage around the board.

Cabal Conditioning

Just plain and utter evilness. This card may end up on our banned list, but it hasn’t been too problematic as of yet.

Grab the Reins

If everyone is playing gigantic creatures, it’s sometimes quite handy to steal them and maybe throw them on occasion. Bloodshot Cyclops comes in quite handy too.

Dragon Shadow (and other Dragon parts)

Most of your creatures are gonna be candidates for the Dragon parts, which typically give quite useful abilities.

Searing Wind

Lightning Bolt is soooooo underpowered, let me tell you.

Tooth and Nail

It only costs 2GG to cast this with entwine. That’s pretty extreme.

Temporal Cascade

It’s pretty darn close to a Timetwister in Extreme Magic, making you pay up only one more Blue mana.

Decree of Pain

All of the Decrees are fun, but the Pain is just Good Times. Decree of Silence is just plain rude, but it is effective. Dregs of Sorrow is a more pinpoint option that leaves your own creatures intact (note the Extreme Magic rules pays the four colorless mana, but you still have to pay X).

Reap and Sow

What a bargain at one Green mana, and a cheap entwine too. I’ve been using this to fetch my Gaea’s Cradle or my Winding Canyons. The Canyons have been great with all the creatures you can cast on the cheap, why not at instant speed?

Death Mutation

If everyone is playing massive creatures, Death Mutation can net you a lot of token creatures.

Grim Reminder

After you play a few games, you’ll notice that others will be playing many of the same stock spells as you (especially the Green mana fixers). Grimly Remind them that you have those same spells in your deck…

Greater Good

Where do your large monsters go when they die? Why not led off to sacrifice for the Greater Good of card drawing?

Lotus Petal

With the mana discount, this can often function just as well as a Black Lotus in your deck, maybe even be better.

Elvish Spirit Guide

He will often help you out of tight places by giving you that Green mana when you need it. I’ve been very happy to cast both Silverglade Elementals and Callers of the Claw with the Guide’s help.

Tranquil Path

Nuke all enchantments, draw a card, all for one Green mana. Deal!

Pack Hunt

After you play a few games, you’ll find many in your group gravitating towards staple power cards. Pack Hunt will often allow you to get three copies of Silverglade Elemental and then you can play them all, which is just… Extreme.


One Green mana to cast, three mana to activate. Its painful drawback is blunted by your high starting life. Keep in mind you can activate it once during each of your opponent’s turns too. An instant speed Desert Twister can come in handy.


Cheap reanimation that you can cast as an instant in a pinch. Nice for when you covet your opponent’s huge creatures, just kill ’em and steal ’em.


With so many great sorceries, getting one of them back for one Red mana is a nice bargain. Don’t forget Scrivener for the instants.

Saber Ants

Yes, Bennie’s favorite card is also particularly great in this format. Nothing stares down Multani or most other fatties quite as well as Saber Ants.

Absolute Law/Arcane Lab (Evil Anti-Extreme Magic Cards)

I just wanted to mention that these cards suck the Extreme right out of Extreme Magic. It’s hard for Broken Things to happen at the snail’s pace of one spell a turn. You can blame World Type 1 Championship Runner-Up Shane Stoots for bringing this killjoy card to the party!

Looking at Fifth Dawn, there certainly looks to be some great additions to the Extreme Magic format. Here are a few that caught my eye:

Beacon of Immortality

As if life gain wasn’t already annoying enough…

Raksha Golden Cub

If you want to run Equipment in your Extreme Magic deck, Raksha can make things rather ugly…

Beacon of Tomorrows

Hey, it really is just like a Time Walk!

Bringer of the Black Dawn

Nearly all of the Bringers are worth playing, but this one in particular makes sure you draw just the right Broken Thing card turn after turn.

Hoverguard Sweepers

Super Man o’War!

Reversal of Fortune

‘Cause you know your opponents are playing Broken Things too!

All Sun’s Dawn

Regrowth for three or more cards? Oh yeah!

Dawn’s Reflection

Another excellent color fixer!

So there’s our idea for taking Magic to the Extreme, particularly in a multiplayer setting. Enjoy!