I am writing this article to celebrate four years with Star City. [Which happens for Ken on January 28th. – Knut] I took a two-year hiatus in the middle, so maybe celebrating a four-year anniversary is a little fake, but meh. Ironically what brought me back was my one-time friend and writing partner who now, to put it mildly, I am at odds with. Nick Eisel made some wild claims and gave some strategic advice that I didn’t agree with. In his article entitled The Elvish Warrior Dilemma he talks about statements I made regarding the card. As it turns out I was ahead of my time as people came around to the card about the time of Pro Tour: Chicago. In any case, Nick (unwittingly) pulled me back into the writing game, and for this I can’t thank him enough.
Writing has become so important to me. I do it recreationally now. I post all the time in my Live Journal (though not often with substance). I am currently writing fiction. Writing is very therapeutic. The other thing writing rekindled for me was my love for StarCityGames.com. When I started writing for Star City. it was actually a joke. I was made fun of for writing for this site. It was the laughing stock of Internet strategy, and I was a laughing stock in the pro community for writing for them.
What a difference four years makes…
Now the same type of people who once laughed at me for writing for Star City are asking me how they can become featured writers. There is no site on the Internet that comes close to Star City when it comes to Limited, Type 1, or Casual Magic. Constructed strategy, while perhaps not the cream of the crop, is growing fast and I have little doubt that this site will become the source for Magic Strategy of all kinds.
Pete Hoefling is not only a genius as a business man, but is one of the most fair benevolent bosses I have ever had the pleasure of working for. The Ferrett was the best editor to ever grace a Magic website, and Ted Knutson is following suit. They have built this site into the absolute best the Internet has to offer in terms of Magic strategy, and issues and I see it only going up from here.
So what am I going to do to celebrate my four years with this most wonderful of websites? I am going to broach an area I have not yet tackled. I have written about draft, sealed, theory, Type 2, Extended, issues, fundamentals, and pick orders. I am not about to get into Type 1. I am so far removed from that format the last time I played, Zoo was the best deck.
What I want to talk to you about now is casual Magic. There is often a conception that Pros do not play casual magic. I want to attempt to bridge the gap here and show that we do like to have fun playing the game. The best part about casual magic is that no matter who you are, you are qualified to discuss this topic. I said for a long time that I didn’t like casual Magic, but this is patently untrue. Throughout all stages of my career I could be found engaged in some form or casual magic or another. I am going to go over some of my favorite formats here and close with some new formats that I have created on my own. All the formats I will lay out here will be limited formats as I have noticed a tendency towards constructed casual magic.
For those of you familiar with”Big Box Draft,” Broken Draft is very similar. This was played in the form of a league back when all the speds were still active. Broken Draft consisted of a box of about five hundred of the most broken cards ever printed in Magic. To be eligible to play in a broken draft, event you had to contribute at least one broken rare to the box that wasn’t already there. Most of the cards however were from the collection of Adam Lemke. My contribution was Tradewind Rider. At the beginning of the draft random”packs” of fifteen cards each were made and distributed to each of the players (three per player).
Everything then continued as a normal draft. These drafts were extremely difficult, as you can imagine, as every card is a first pick bomb. The cut off was an extremely important strategy here as it was basically your only hope of getting a deck with less than three colors. Your wins and losses were kept track of and the only prize was bragging rights. It was sort of like Type 1 Limited if you can envision such a thing. All the broken cards in forty-card decks. With all the powerful card drawing and control cards available combos became much more viable in this limited format.
Every game was played for ante and ante cards were legal. You kept ante cards won for the remainder of the draft, but all cards were returned at the end of the draft.
Rules Variants: Dump Box draft (instead of broken cards you use useless commons and uncommons), Big Box Draft (one of every card ever printed), Random Draft (no particular subset of cards, just whatever you can find).
Some Participating Pros: Jamie Parke, Mark LePine, Ben Farkas, Joe Weber, Lyle Cohen, Adam Lemke, Bryan Manolokos.
This was a game that I am sure every play group developed and everyone had different names for. Nowadays it is commonly known as DC-10. This format is very exciting and not very skill testing. You take a stack of cards, random or otherwise, and everyone plays off the same deck and get infinite mana. You had no lands, but access to as much mana as you wanted. For instance you can cast a Fireball on turn 1 that can kill all the other players, but if you cast a Mutilate all creatures would get -0/-0.
Rules Variants: Infinite Land (Mutilate would function like Wrath of God), Attack Left (removing more skill from the game by limiting the players you could attack to one), Opening Hands (instead of merely ripping off the top, you start with cards in your hand).
Participating Pros: Eugene Harvey, Matt Linde, Dave Williams, Bob Maher, and many many more.
Mental Magic is perhaps the most complex of all limited casual formats. This is also generally played with a random assortment of cards, though creating a deck with which to play is also acceptable as long as both sides agree.
Mental Magic is played like any other game of Magic. You start with seven cards. You can play any card in your hand face down as a basic land that taps for any color. They aren’t of any particular type, but you won’t take damage from Molten Rain. You can cast any card in your hand as any spell of the same casting cost. Each spell may only be played once.
One of the biggest problems with this game is card types. Can you cast Enlightened Tutor? What can you get with it? If you can get any card as long as you declare an artifact or enchantment, what happens to the card when it is drawn? What about Tithe? How about cards in the graveyard? What about a Death Spark? When can you return it?
These should all be discussed beforehand and handled by house rules.
Rules Variants: Play off the same deck (Sylvan Library and Scroll Rack are banned, Brainstorm becomes much better), basic lands count as all five types instead of none, land cards in the deck can be played as non basic lands, Vanilla Creatures and Creature Enchantments (spells can only be vanilla creatures [Eager Cadet, Headless Horseman, Hill Giant] and creature enchantments).
The Land Game
This is generally played in the time between sealed deck registration and construction. The most basic variation of the game is to shuffle a pile of land start with no opening hand and the first player to get the domain in play wins.
This is not the most exciting of games, but it is goofy and fun and it leads to fun variants.
Rules Variants: Land Destruction (at any time you can discard two lands of the same type to destroy a land of that type), lands as spells (instead of playing them as basic land you assign abilities to each land [generally working like split cards]).
Alphabet Mental DC-10 Magic
Now we start getting to lesser known games. This game is a cross between Mental Magic and Spurt. Now obviously there has to be some sort of restriction or games would get absurd.
The game works like Mental Magic in that you can cast cards out of your hand (which starts at zero cards) as spells with the same casting cost. It works like Spurt in that you have infinite mana. This is kept in check by the fact that you have to play cards in consecutive letters of the alphabet. You can pay one life for each letter you want to skip. If I am going first I can play Cabal Ghoul by paying two life. The next player can play Devouring Strossus for free. On my next turn I can pay one life and cast Fireball.
Rules Variants: It is still a new game so there are no variants yet.
This can be done with a random stack of eight-eight cards or three packs per person which each player removing one card from his three packs to keep. You shuffle up all the cards and have one stack of eight-eight cards in the middle. You flip a coin, and the winner of the flip decides whether they want to have preference of kick off or receive, or play or draw. The person who eventually kicks off takes the top eight cards off the stack and makes two piles. The piles don’t have to be equal size. The person receiving chooses a pile. Then the person who last received takes the top eight cards and the process repeats. You then build forty card decks with as much land as necessary.
Some variants allow you to look at the pool of cards before the draft, and some do not. It is a really fun format either way. [I will be running this some at the Richmond Prerelease. – Knut]
Rules Variants: This format has been around a long time, but to my knowledge there are no true variants. If anyone knows of any please drop a line in the forums.
Some Participating Pros: Sadly I can’t remember any off hand, but I played this a great deal a long time ago and I have played with my local friends a lot in recent years.
This is perhaps the most fun of the team draft formats (I can’t speak to how fun the next format is as I haven’t played it yet). Survivor Draft involved two teams of five players. They sit in alternating seats around the table and draft as normal. In the first round there are five matches with members of each team playing a member of the other team. After that round of play each team votes a player off. Then the four remaining members play. After those matches there is another round of voting. This continues until one team has eight wins. It is acceptable to vote for yourself.
Rules Variants: It is possible to play where the opposing team votes a member off, though I have not personally tried it.
Some Participating Pros: Baby Huey, Antonino DeRosa, Phil Freneau, Gerard Fabiano, et al.
Okay, This is one I invented. To date there are no participating pros and the inaugural draft will be at the Darksteel prerelease at the earliest. But this is how it is done: You get a group of 8 players, the closer in skill the better. Randomly choose 2 captains and they flip a coin. The winner of the flip chooses which of the other 3 drafts (not including drafting the boosters) he/she wants priority in. The other captain gets priority in the other 2. This is draft 1 of 5. Then the captain then draft teams one player at a time with no wheel. This is draft 2 of 5. Once the teams are set the team without priority sits a person at the table. Then the team with priority sits a player. This continues until all players are seated. Teams may have members sitting next to one another. This is draft 4 of 5. Draft 4 of 5 begins with a player on the team whose captain has priority choosing a booster pack. Then someone from the other team follows. You can never choose a set that was chose right before you or 2 before you. You may also not choose a booster that you chose on your last pick. When each player has 3 booters, you draft as normal, draft 5 of 5. After this you can either have all players on each team play all players on the other team, or just do a set number of rounds.
Rules Variants: This could be played in any teams format and any draft format
Some Participating Pros: None Yet, but expect people like Ed Fear, myself, Jill Costigan and others to participate
So as you can see there are many casual Limited formats out there and there are Pros who play them all. This perceived rift between the casual and pro community is not nearly as big as people think. The pros never seem to completely leave casual formats, and it is unlikely they ever will.
Good Man of the Week: Tim Aten
I was first introduced to the Aten clan by Tim’s brother Mike. Mike, I can only assume was tortured as a youth, because he was bitter and spiteful before I ever met him. Mike, while sometimes good chats, is really nothing more than a huge hairy ball of hate.
Tim is also full of hate. However unlike his sociopath brother, Tim’s hate is completely internal. Tim doesn’t think much of himself and perhaps with good reason. I can’t say for sure why he hates himself, but as a self-loathing man myself I can honestly say the vast majority of external people don’t get it and likely never will.
But I am not here to talk about Tim’s shortcomings, which I can tell you are few. I am here to talk about Tim, the good man. I first met Tim on Internet Relay Chat (irc) mistaking him for his brother. Tim goes by the handle”Aten-” while his brother goes by the far less original”Aten.”
It wasn’t always easy to tell them apart, but Tim had one thing that Mike didn’t: Kindness, humor, intelligence, social graces, a pleasant demeanor, respect for his fellow human beings, and g-u-t-s guts! Why Tim Aten has more guts in his little finger than most of us do in our lower intestines. Including The Colon!