The Compendium of Alternate Formats, Entry 5: Scavenger Hunt Format

I initially remember being exposed to scavenger hunt format several years ago on a now defunct website that described alternate formats. When Ben and Matt posted that StarCityGames.com was going to host a scavenger hunt tournament, along with a list made up by Ben, I was thrilled! You see, to my way of thinking, there’s nothing better than a deckbuilding challenge.

I initially remember being exposed to scavenger hunt format several years ago on a now defunct website that described alternate formats. When Ben and Matt posted that StarCityGames.com was going to host a scavenger hunt tournament, along with a list made up by Ben, I was thrilled!

You see, to my way of thinking, there’s nothing better than a deckbuilding challenge. I’m sure that some of you, despite the fact that you are hundreds or thousands of miles away from Virginia, were building decks off the scavenger hunt list as well. It was a load of fun!

So, here’s what I have for you in today’s installment. I’m going to start with a basic overview of scavenger hunt as a format, going over various rules and ideas. After that, I’m going to move to Bleiweiss’s list, giving it to you in article form for the first time. Thirdly, I’ll list a few deck ideas I had from his scavenger hunt list. Lastly, as a special treat, I’ll give you a second scavenger hunt list to help challenge you to build decks.

Scavenger Hunt at a Glance

The basic concept of a scavenger hunt deck is simple enough – you get a list of cards, and you have to find a card that matches the description, and it goes into your deck. Typically, a list will entail 60 cards, so that it includes lands. You can play a card several times, as long as it fits in several categories. For example, Ben’s list includes these categories”A card illustrated by Edward Beard, Jr; A creature with flying; A card continuously in print in every basic set.” You could, therefore, play three Birds of Paradise in your deck (actually, you could play four if you use the”cheat” for number 27 on Bleiweiss’s list, but more about that in a bit).

Most scavenger hunt formats have specific rules about deck construction. Ben’s list, for example, allows four of any card, banning just ante cards and card flipping cards. He also banned Portal and Unglued. On my list, Type One rules are in play, so you can’t play three Demonic Tutors, for example.

Most hunt lists will only require around twenty lands or so. This is for the aggro decks, that do not need much mana. Other decks will need to find places to put lands. Some decks may want upwards of twenty-six lands, and you’ll need to find out where they go.

In the end, you will have a decklist that reads much like a highlander deck, with probably only a few key duplications. As a sidenote, some scavenger hunt categories can be hard to find, except by looking over cards one by one. (I had a bear of a time with flavor text, for example).

One hazard of this format concerns cards that meet one criteria, but the specific card that you are playing does not. Could I use an old picture of Birds of Paradise to meet the Edward Beard, Jr qualification? However your individual groups rules, it is definitely a conversation that you want to have ahead of time. Personally, I would rule that if any copy of a card will meet the qualification, then every copy will.

Additionally, the format can lead to some nit-picking. When in doubt, a card does not count in that category. I still cannot tell if Academy Rector is a woman or a man simply by looking at the art (although I suspect that she’s female). As such, I cannot play her in a category that requires a female on the art, because I cannot be sure that she is female.

Ben Bleiweiss StarCityGames Scavenger Hunt List:

Here is Ben’s list. Take a look at it, and then I’ll outline a few strategies. Note that this is all being written by me without knowing what happened at the tournament.

1) A creature with flying or shadow.

2) A creature with first strike or trample.

3) A card which comes into play with exactly three counters.

4) A card illustrated by Ron Spears.

5) A card illustrated by Ed Beard Jr.

6) A creature that has power that is exactly double its toughness (2/1, 4/2, 6/3, etc)

7) A creature that has toughness that is exactly double its power (1/2, 2/4, 3/6, etc)

8) A card that reduces the mana cost of another card (Mycosynth Golem, Nightscape Familiar, etc.)

9) An artifact which can tap to produce a single mana.

10) A creature with a picture of a woman on it (Assume gender non-specific badgerfolk to be male. This has to be someone who is easily identifiable as female).

11) A three casting cost sorcery that does not say the word target anywhere on the card.

12) A three casting cost creature with the word”target” printed on the card.

13) A card with imprint.

14) A piece of equipment.

15) An enchant creature with the word ‘tap’ or ‘untap’ printed on the card.

16) A soldier, elf, wizard, zombie or goblin.

17) A cleric, beast, merfolk, vampire, or dwarf.

18) A 3 casting cost 1/1 creature.

19) A card that has been printed in every base set since Alpha (look this up on our website! This includes Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Revised, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Editions)

20) A card with flavor text that mentions either Bosh, Slobad, Glissa or Memnarch.

21) A card which can deal exactly two damage to another creature or player.

22) A creature with any ‘protection from’ ability.

23) A creature with the regeneration ability or the indestructible ability.

24) A card which can destroy an artifact. (It can destroy one or multiple)

25) A card which can destroy a land. (It can destroy one or multiple)

26) A card which can destroy an enchantment. (It can destroy one or multiple)

27) A card with the numbers 1, 2 and 3 printed on it anywhere (it can be mana cost, rules box, collector’s number, power/toughness, anything!)

28) A creature which has never been printed except in the three set of a block (these sets include Weatherlite, Exodus, Urza’s Destiny, Prophecy, Apocalypse, Judgment, Scourge, and 5th Dawn).

29) A card from my 100 worst cards of all time countdown at StarCityGames.com! (See the Ben Bleiweiss archives for the list of cards)

30) A card that comes into play tapped.

31) A card with domain or sunburst (domain is the Invasion ability that reads”for each basic land type you control”)

32) A card that costs WW3, RR3, UU3, BB3 or GG3.

33) A card that allows you to search your library for another card.

34) A card with an activated ability which requires a sacrifice.

35) A card which has an activated ability with a higher mana cost than its printed mana cost (IE: A card which costs G that has an activated ability which costs G1).

36) A common card from Mirrodin.

37) A common card from Darksteel.

38) A common card from Fifth Dawn.

39) A land which can become a creature or a land which cannot tap to produce mana.

40) A land or artifact which can produce exactly two colors of mana (colorless is not a color, so cards like the Mirrodin Talismen and Coastal Tower are fine).

41) A land or artifact which can produce all five colors of mana (it must be able to produce all five such as City of Brass or Mirrodin’s Core)

42) A land that can tap to produce colorless mana (Note: Unless the card specifically says it can produce colorless mana, it cannot produce colorless mana. Basic lands cannot produce colorless mana).

43) A Plains

44) An Island

45) A Mountain

46) A Swamp

47) And oh, let’s say a Forest.

48 – 60) Any basic land of your choice.


1) A card which has the word”Black” printed on it.

2) A card which has the word”Blue” printed on it.

3) A card which has the word”Green” printed on it.

4) A card which has the word”Red” printed on it.

5) A card which has the word”White” printed on it.

6) A card which has the word”Mountain” printed on it.

7) A card which has the word”Island” printed on it.

8) A card which has the word”Plains” printed on it.

9) A card which has the word”Swamp” printed on it.

10) A card which has the word”Forest” printed on it.

11) A card with a 0 (zero) converted mana cost.

12) A card which can target multiple targets.

13) A card which can return another card from your graveyard to your hand or to play.

14) A card with”X” in the mana cost.

15) Chimney Imp. He’s the pimp. He ain’t no wimp. That’s Chimney Imp.

This is a tournament style hunt list. What Ben did correctly was to keep some of the most powerful effects from entering the environment. Ancestral Recall, Demonic Tutor, etc – these cards will not be slipping in. Most lists that I’ve seen do not include a sideboard. This one was probably specifically for the tournament. Otherwise, casual Magic just runs as normal.

I basically had just two problems with the environment (well, three, but it’s a small third). Firstly, it seemed to force players to play a bit too many cards from Mirrodin Block. I’d prefer options to play the most recent cards, without having to be driven to it. Secondly, item number 27 states that a card must have”1, 2 and 3 printed on it anywhere.” However, that includes every card printed since 2000! Modern copyright dates are listed on each card from inception to the current year. A card printed this year, for example, has”1993-2004″ printed on it. Every card from 2000 on will have the three numbers just in the copyright alone. Now, if you realized that, then this was essentially a Maltilda spot (A spot where you could play virtually anything). If you didn’t, then you limited your choices significantly. I’d prefer a category that allows one to choose from a wide swath of cards to let you know up front, instead of being clever about it.

My third quasi-problem with Ben’s decklist is that it is almost custom made for a deck. That happens naturally, as different players have different ways of looking at the same list. I thought, however, that the first deck I saw was a bit too obvious to build.

If you are looking for areas to play extra land, by the way, I can figure out land to play in categories 3, 4, 5, 9, 19, 25, 27, 29, 30, 33, 34, 35, 36, and 37. Frequently, the answer to a problem category is to play a land. This is true in many scavenger hunt lists.



The deck that immediately comes to my mind when looking at Ben’s list is”Rec/Sur.” Rec/Sur is a deck that thrives with having a variety of creature sin the deck, each with one-of. Ben almost seems to see the deck, because he puts several of the categories next to each other.”A card that allows you to search your library for another card” is next to”A card with an activated ability which requires a sacrifice.” There’s your Recurring Nightmare and Survival of the Fittest right beside each other.

Of course, just because you can build it doesn’t mean that’s it. How you build the deck is just as important as anything else. Here is my build of Rec/Sur:

1) Tradewind Rider (Could have gone Bone Shredder or Birds here)

2) Nekrataal (I was also thinking Shivan Wurm)

3) Spike Weaver

4) Rootwater Thief (Great in a format where players use so many one-ofs, I almost went APAC land here)

5) Birds of Paradise (You could go land, but why?)

6) Flametongue Kavu (Other options include Nekrataal, Eternal Witness)

7) Academy Rector (Need another way to get the critical enchantment)

8) Thunderscape Familiar (A bad choice, but better for your mana than Sunscape Familiar. You could also go with Krosan Warchief.)

9) Mox Diamond

10) Eternal Witness (Lots of other ideas, but this one was the best in my opinion)

11) Rhystic Tutor (Again, need more ways to tutor for critical cards)

12) Spike Feeder (I like the lifegain, I was considering a second Eternal Witness; Bone Shredder is also good. Battlemages would be useful.)

13) Chrome Mox (Although I am really stuck on either Chrome Mox or Duplicant, I keep going back and forth between them)

14) Skullclamp (I also keep going back and forth here with Lightning Greaves, since I do not have any haste effects like Fires of Yavimaya or Anger)

15) Mark of Fury (I chose to go with a haste effect, as opposed to something like Dragon Scales).

16) Deranged Hermit (Other options included Thought Courier)

17) Merfolk Looter (The third and final Blue card in the deck)

18) Squee, Goblin Nabob

19) Birds of Paradise

20) Myr Moonvessel (I hope that something better is out there, because this is a bad choice)

21) Ghitu Slinger

22) Iridescent Angel (I wanted a big, nasty flyer. Other options included Spectral Lynx)

23) Silvos, Rogue Elemental (And I wanted one major ground pounder. Enter Silvos)

24) Uktabi Orangutan

25) Avalanche Riders

26) Monk Realist ( I could play at 17 as well)

27) Survival of the Fittest

28) Genesis (I also considered Masticore, but I want a backup recursion engine)

29) Harvester Mage (Silly Ben with his silly lists)

30) Shivan Oasis (I wanted another land)

31) Etched Oracle (Yuk. I did not like this category, but I liked playing Wayfaring Giant even less)

32) Living Death (Oh yeah! Other possibilities include Siege-Gang Commander, Deranged Hermit #2 and Morphling)

33) Survival of the Fittest

34) Recurring Nightmare

35) Wayfarer’s Bauble

36) Tree of Tales (I wanted more land)

37) Viridian Acolyte

38) Sylvok Explorer (I could also go with Bauble #2 or the new Merfolk Looter which is neither a Merfolk nor a Looter.)

39) Treetop Village

40) Bayou

41) City of Brass

42) Volrath’s Stronghold (Yay!)

43 – 60. Lots of Basic Land.

I loved getting in Squee, Genesis, Living Death, Volrath’s Stronghold, and Eternal Witness. Despite some lower quality creatures due to the nature of the format (Myr Moonvessel, Harvester Mage, Thunderscape Familiar, Viridian Acolyte, Merfolk Looter, Sylvok Explorer), you have a pretty solid deck there. I would have liked to have fit in a Man-o’-War, but I preferred Spike Feeder for its lifegain and synergy with counter movement. Another card I would have liked to have played with is Triskelion, but I preferred Spike Weaver. Still, I am very happy with the result!

Other decks came to mind as well. For example, should you desire to play, oh, RiftSlide, you may be interested to know that I found a way of playing a pair of Astral Slides, a Lightning Rift, and five tutors for them (assuming Academy Rector is a female, otherwise four). Add in various disciples, Boated Toad, Darkwatch Elves, a pair of Eternal Dragons, and so forth, and you have a pretty impressive RiftSlide deck. Good luck with it!

Another idea was to go Land Destruction. With many players running land light, the precarious nature of the mana case can easily be exposed. Avalanche Riders, Orcish Settlers, Stone Rains, Creeping Mold, Multiple Strip Mines, a pair of Dwarven Miners, Molten Rain and more all come to bear in this incarnation.

A CounterPhoenix deck could play three Shard Phoenixes (Phoenices? Phoenixum?) but little in the way of countermagic. It would be more”ControlPhoenix” with some other creatures than anything else.

On and on deck construction goes. If you get an idea for a deck, then take a look and see what is available for you to build upon. That’s the idea of scavenger Hunt.

Another Hunt List

In my list, you can see a couple of ideas spring up. First of all, I regularly require older cards like Enchant Worlds or phasing. For this list, assume that Type One rules apply. Therefore, Portal and Unglued cards are banned, and the Type One banned and restricted list is adhered to.

This list also has a bit of a mischievous streak. Take, for example, number 13, which requires that a card cause you to lose half of your life. Cards like Personal Incarnation, Ebonblade Reaper, Doomsday, and Lurking Horror can be hard to swallow, and now you have to play one.

Following the hunt list are a couple of ideas for decks that I came up with.

Abe’s Scavenger Hunt List:

1). An enchant world.

2). A card that was also printed in Portal.

3). A card illustrated by Tom Wanarstrand

4). A cards that mentions”phasing” somewhere in the text.

5). A Green-only creature with flying. (That means no gold cards like Rith, but a Cockatrice would be fine)

6). A card with a casting cost of UUUU, BBBB, RRRR, GGGG, or WWWW.

7). A creature with any of the following types: Plant, Treefolk, Tree or Fungus.

8). A card that has NEVER been printed in English with a black border.

9). A permanent that potentially increases the toughness of multiple creatures. (Equipment would not work, but something like Castle or Daru Warchief would)

10). A card that causes you to discard.

11). A card that forces you to sacrifice a land.

12). A card that forces you to sacrifice a creature.

13). A card that, as part of a cost or effect, results in you losing half your life. (Other than Shahrazad)

14). An artifact that was printed in Legends, other than Mirror Universe.

15). A legendary permanent that is not a creature.

16). A card with cycling.

17). A legend that represents one of the Weatherlight Crew.

18). Any red card printed after 2001. (That means it has a copyright date of 2002, 2003, or 2004)

19). A creature with Morph.

20). A creature with the type of sliver.

21). A creature with the type of wall.

22). A non-creature that mentions Wall in it’s rules text.

23). A creature with the type of spellshaper.

24). A card that can change the color of a card.

25). A card that allows you to win the game immediately (Coalition Victory, Mortal Combat, etc.)

26). A gold card with at least three colors in it.

27). A spell that can deal damage directly to a player.

28). A card that was printed in The Dark

29). A card with Fading counters.

30). A card that does NOT have a copyright date on it, and never has (barring boxed gift sets and foreign printings).

31). Any card not printed on a DCI banned or restricted list.

32). An enchantment from Urza’s Block.

33). A card that has an ability or effect when it is in the graveyard.

34). A card that shuffles your library as part of its effect.

35). A card that allows you to see your opponent’s hand.

36). A permanent that allows you to draw cards.

37). Any card that destroys any sort of permanent. (Disenchant, Terror, Stone Rain, Vindicate, etc.)

38). A non-artifact, non-green card that accelerates your mana, provides a temporary mana boost, or gets you land.

39). An artifact that taps for less mana then it costs to play (So, Thran Dynamo is acceptable, but Sol Ring is not).

40). A land that uses counters.

41). A land from Fallen Empires

42). A land that has an ability or property that you can also find printed on a creature.

43). Any land.

44). Any land that comes into play tapped.

45). A rare land from Tempest or Odyssey

46). A Lair.

47). A land that sacrifices to get a land from your deck.

48) – 60) Any basic land

Of course, I came up with a Coalition Victory deck rather quickly. The nuts and bolts of such a deck would include the Victory itself (at card number 25), Doomsday (number 17), Shyft (In Matilda card slot 31), Sliver Queen (number 20), Demonic Tutor (Number 34) and several creatures and spells to maximize your ability to play a Victory. Watch out for someone playing Sliver Overlord tech in slot 20 though! You could also run Alchor’s Tomb (number 14) and Prismatic Lace (#24).

This list is much more casual friendly. For example, how about a nice, Test of Endurance deck? Test of Endurance (#25), Land Tax (#38), Enlightened Tutor (#34), Dawn Elemental (#6), Congregate (#31), Death Grasp (#27), Gerrard Capashen (#17), Wall of Essence (#21), and so forth.

Feel encouraged to play whichever list you want, or make up your own. Challenge your buddies to see who can come up with the best deck, or the most creative deck, or the funniest deck, whatever you desire. The beauty of this format is seeing what you can come up with despite severe restrictions on each and every card. Good luck with it!

Until Later,

Abe Sargent