The Kitchen Table #259 – The Compendium of Alternate Formats, Entry Three B: New York Format Expanded

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Thursday, November 13th – Hello all, and welcome back to the format that explores and discovers the realm of the casual. Today, I want to dial the clock back to one of my earlier entries in the Compendium and revamp it for the modern day. I want to talk about the New York Format.

Hello all, and welcome back to the format that explores and discovers the realm of the casual. Today I want to dial the clock back to one of my earlier entries in the Compendium and revamp it for the modern day. I want to talk about the New York Format.

As originally conceived, the New York Format required deckbuilders to use four cards from every expansion set, which at the time was ten sets. It was the final round in the Invitational tournament that year, and the two competing decks were built around Snake Basket and Elemental Augury respectively. Although Olle Rade’s Snake Basket deck beat Mike Long’s Augury deck, Mike Long’s deck became very popular among the Vintage crowd and evolved into the Keeper deck of Vintage lore.

The first time most of us heard about the New York Format was in coverage of the Invitational, and it seemed like a lot of fun, so a few players grabbed their deck stock and built fun New York decks.

Now, the tournament allowed you to use a sideboard, so you could toss cards you didn’t want from the poorer expansion sets into your board. In casual land, however, you just had to play them all in your deck.

Waaaaay back in April of 2003, I decided to write an article on the format. By then, the number of expansion sets had swollen and the deck I built for that article was in the neighborhood of 150 cards. It was still a lot of fun.

Five years have passed since that article was published. I want the Compendium articles to be timeless, able to be read and reviewed and used for years to come. Although most formats are timeless, New York gets harder and harder to build each year. I decided to step in and modify the format for the modern Magic world.

What I have done is brainstormed two separate formats using the original New York format as their starting ground. This week I will discuss the first, and then in next week’s article I will discuss the second. Either or both might appeal to your playgroup.

We will start with the earlier of the two this week.

New York Format Expanded

Along with Alpha/Beta/Unlimited (ABU), this format requires you to use 192 cards from the various Magic sets over time. They are ABU, and then include each expansion set over the years. Base sets since Unlimited do not have requirements, nor do Portal, Un sets, or Chronicles.

Even if the individual copy of a card is not from that set, if it was printed in the set, you can count it against the total. So, if I have a Swords to Plowshares in my deck, I can count it as either an Ice Age card or an ABU card. But not both. Note that cards that are Timeshifted in Time Spiral do come with the Time Spiral expansion symbol. That makes them part of the set. As such, a card like Avalanche Riders can count for either Urza’s Legacy or Time Spiral.

Basic lands do not meet the numbers, so you can’t have your four Mirage cards be four Forests. However, non-basic lands do meet the numbers, so you could use four Taiga as your ABU cards, for example.

Note that the four-card requirement is a minimum, not a maximum. If you want to have five, six, ten or fifteen cards from a particular set, that’s fine.

These are the basic New York rules. If you just want to play NYF then you have the rules, so get to it. However, I think we need to adjust the rules to address the size of the format. As such, now it’s time for a New York variant.

When I saw that the card count has raised to 192, I knew what my first variant of New York would be. Here we go:

Five Color New York

This format is a combination of Five Color and New York. So, let’s talk about Five Color.

It is one of my favorite formats, and it requires 250 cards minimum, with 20 cards of each color. We have generous mulligans allowing you to put back zero, one, or seven lands and draw a new grip of seven. You can also ride your opponent‘s mulligan. You can also Paris too. We also have our own B&R list because of the quirkiness of the format demands its own B&R list. You can find out more about the format here.

A lot of my readers like bigger decks, and I know I’ve been writing a lot recently about Five Color and Prismatic, but I wanted to update New York, and this was an obvious combination. Let’s look at the full requirements of the two formats when combined:

Must be at least 250 cards total
Must be at least 20 card from each color
Must include at least 4 cards from each expansion set, including ABU
Must use Five Color B&R
Gets generous mulligans
Basics do not meet “four card from each set” rule
Portal allowed but are not sets that have a four-of requirement
Un- sets banned

The result is a combination of appropriately sized formats to create a new and fun way to clash cards.

Now that we have a new format, we need to know where to start to build a new deck.

Where to Start?

I’d start out with an idea. Do you want to play control? What about aggro? You could even play an odd janky sort of combo. Review the format’s B&R list before you begin. For example, in my old NYF article, I built a deck around Replenish, but it’s restricted in Five Color, so I doubt I’d travel that path again.

As you review the B&R list, you’ll note that many of the cards you might have wanted to build around have had action taken on them. Survival of the Fittest would make your deck very consistent. It’s been banned. Oath of Druids would really hose creature decks. It’s been restricted. Sundering Titan would really savage the weaker manabases of the format. It’s been banned. And, of course, Battle of Wits would rock, and it’s been banned.

This is one of the reasons why I think combining these two formats makes sense. New York is already of a large size these days, so tying it to the large size format does not weaken it, but it does prevent every Invasion card pool from having four Battle of Wits, because we already know the consequences of having larger decks in Five Color and have taken action on cards like BOW and Survival.

I’d steer clear of block themes because you have to concentrate your cards too much in one location. For example, suppose you wanted to build around cycling with cards like Astral Slide, Fluctuator and Lightning Rift in your deck. All of the cycling cards come from seven sets (plus a few in Time Spiral block) so you would want to focus your cards from these sets, but you still have to play tons of cards from other sets, and that would ultimately be the deck’s downfall because the NYF works at cross purposes from set themes.

On the other hand, some themes cross colors and sets and could be used. I suspect you could easily build an elf deck across the years. You would occasionally include elves like Gaea’s Skyfolk that add other colors, and then emphasize Lorwyn block and Shadowmoor block as much as possible because that’s where you get your Black and White elves to meet those color requirements. By adding non-basics from a lot of sets, such as Ravnica block, you can allow yourself to add more elves from crucial sets.

Find the Essentials

Once you have your base idea, try to figure out what the essentials are for it. This is not the time to round out your deck, so don’t add things like tutors or card drawing or land search right now. Instead, we need to focus on the essentials. What cards are needed to flesh out your idea? Toss them in.

Set by Set

Now go set by set and see what you have and what your deck needs. A control deck might want countermagic, removal, and card drawing. It can get some counters from Legends, or some removal, but not much card drawing. Or perhaps you have a Moat or The Abyss hanging around your card collection and you can toss them in for your Legends cards.

In Visions, as another example, you have Desertion for counters, Impulse for card drawing, and removal in cards like Nekrataal. You might also want to slide in Rainbow Efreet for its ability to dodge removal or Snake Basket to make some cobras.

Over time, you can add removal such as Seal of Doom, Crib Swap, Firebolt, and Damnation. Fact or Fiction, Allied Strategies and Compulsive Research also might make the cut. Kodama’s Reach, Krosan Tusker and Explosive Vegetation can fix your manabase while providing card advantage. From Dissipate and Faerie Trickery and Forbid to Dismiss and Draining Whelk, there are a ton of counters available for your perusal. Flesh out your deck.

This is also a good time to add non-basic lands in those areas. If you make all 192 cards from the New York requirement non-lands, then you’ll have to add a bunch of lands, which will put you well over the 250 card minimum for the deck.

Also, the more requirements you take up with non-basics, the more freedom you create to play more than the required cards in other areas. In other words, if you were to say, take up 60 of the 192 cards with lands, then you’d have freed up a ton of space to add perhaps ten additional cards from a particular set and more from another.

There are lots of sets where you can add non-basics. Good sets are ABU, Arabian Nights, Ravnica block, Shards, Lorwyn and Eventide, Onslaught, Invasion, Ice Age, Apocalypse, and Coldsnap. Of course you can find them in almost any set.

Just some fetches, tri taps, and duals from Ravnica block, Shards, and ABU will be enough to really help your deck. That reduces your card count by 20 (if you maximized them).

Note that, when going set by set, you must play at least four creatures in your deck from Legions, so you cannot build a truly creatureless deck.

Now that we have the idea, allow me to build a deck, just to give you an idea of what the format looks like. This deck is built around Living Death.


1 Demonic Tutor
1 Balance
1 Regrowth
1 Wheel of Fortune
1 Underground Sea
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Sol Ring

Arabian Nights:

2 Bazaar of Baghdad
2 City of Brass


1 Strip Mine
3 Mishra’s Factory


1 All Hallow’s Eve
1 Sol’kanar the Swamp King
1 Karakas
1 Hell’s Caretaker

The Dark:

2 Eater of the Dead
2 Maze of Ith

Fallen Empires:

2 Deep Spawn
2 Night Soil

Ice Age:

2 Dance of the Dead
2 Sulfurous Springs


1 School of the Unseen
2 Rysorian Badger
1 An-Havva Township


4 Krovikan Horror


1 Bad River
1 Flood Plain
1 Mountain Valley
1 Grasslands


4 Nekrataal


3 Buried Alive
1 Tolarian Serpent


4 Living Death


3 Morgue Thrall
1 Volrath’s Stronghold


1 Oath of Ghouls
2 Anarchist
1 Keeper of the Dead

Urza’s Saga:

1 Windfall
3 Great Whale

Urza’s Legacy:

2 Avalanche Riders
2 Ghitu Slinger
1 Deranged Hermit
1 Memory Jar

Urza’s Destiny:

4 Yavimaya Elder


1 Bribery
1 Tidal Kraken
2 Squee, Goblin Nabob


1 Kor Haven
3 Ancient Hydra


2 Avatar of Woe
2 Rhystic Study


4 Fact or Fiction
2 Dismantling Blow


4 Flametongue Kavu
2 Thornscape Battlemage
2 Allied Strategies


2 Llanowar Wastes
1 Caves of Koilos
1 Yavimaya Coast
4 Orim’s Thunder


2 Gravedigger
2 Aven Cloudchaser


1 Nostalgic Dreams
3 Compulsion


2 Ancestor’s Chosen
2 Guiltfeeder


4 Krosan Tusker


2 Withered Wretch
4 Nantuko Vigilante


1 Eternal Dragon
1 Chartooth Cougar
1 Twisted Abomination
1 Elvish Aberration


4 Terror


2 Darksteel Ingot
2 Fireball

Fifth Dawn:

1 All Suns’ Dawn
1 Tornado Elemental
1 Eternal Witness
1 Hoverguard Sweepers


2 Kokusho, the Evening Star
2 Kodama’s Reach


4 Ninja of the Deep Hours


1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
2 Death Denied


1 Golgari Rot Farm
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Watery Grave


1 Izzet Boilerworks
1 Orzhov Basilica
1 Godless Shrine
1 Gruul Turf


1 Rakdos Carnarium
1 Blood Crypt
1 Azorius Chancery
1 Simic Growth Chamber


2 Coldsteel Heart
2 Frost Marsh

Time Spiral:

2 Mystic Enforcer
1 Flagstones of Trokair
1 Living End

Planar Chaos:

2 Deadwood Treefolk
2 Stonecloaker

Future Sight:

1 Tolaria West
1 River of Tears
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Grove of the Burnwillows


2 Shriekmaw
2 Mulldrifter


2 Murmuring Bosk
2 Reveillark


4 Murderous Redcap


2 Glen Elendra Archmage
1 Fetid Heath
1 Twilight Mire

Shards of Alara:

1 Arcane Sanctum
1 Crumbling Necropolis
1 Jungle Shrine
1 Savage Lands

Basic Lands:

6 Mountain
8 Forest
10 Swamp
8 Island
6 Plains

As you can see, this deck packs a lot of creatures, removal, land search, non-basics, card drawing, and recursion. I hope that it gives you an idea as to what to play in the format, and what the decks can look like. I’ll see you next week with the other way to modernize the New York Format.

The format should be a blast to play, and building the deck was really fun. Good luck!

Until later…

Abe Sargent