The Kitchen Table #310 – The Compendium of Alternate Formats, Entry #12: 237 Magic

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Wednesday, November 4th – One of the best things about casual Magic are alternate formats to play. Although there are a lot of casual players out there who play official WoTC formats, there are also a large contingent of players who enjoy casual-only formats like Peasant, EDH, 5 Color, and more. Today I want to give you the next entry in my Compendium, with a casual format aimed to give you a new format to play. I love trying out new formats, and I know some of you do too.

Good day all! I hope your day so far has been pleasant and productive. I am bringing you a weekly shot of casual goodness for keeping away those Magic blues.

One of the best things about casual Magic are alternate formats to play. Although there are a lot of casual players out there who play official WoTC formats, there are also a large contingent of players who enjoy casual-only formats like Peasant, EDH, 5 Color, and more.

Today I want to give you the next entry in my Compendium, with a casual format aimed to give you a new format to play. I love trying out new formats, and I know some of you do too.

Please note, this series and today’s article are geared towards formats, not variants. A format is a restriction or requirement of how to build a deck. Vintage is a format. Standard is a format. Five Color is a format. These require different rules to build decks.

On the other hand, a variant is simply a different way to play Magic. Emperor and Two-Headed Giant and Secret Alliances are variants. They do not have deckbuilding requirements. Therefore, you can have Standard Emperor, Vintage Secret Alliances, Extended Star, and Pauper Attack to the Left.

You can also smash formats together to create new formats. I love PPS, which is an online format combined Pauper, Prismatic, and Highlander (called Singleton there).

I found today’s format on one of several websites I use as resources, and I thought I’d bring it to you today, and then perhaps build a few decks for 237 Magic.

What is the 237 Format?

It’s quite simple, actually. As you build your awesome deck, you may only include non-lands with a converted casting cost of 2 or 3 or 7.

Boom, that’s it. Well, like any format, there are few rulings you’ll have to make. In this format, you have two issues. The first are the hybrid cards like Flame Javelin. WoTC has already said those count as 6, and Reaper King as 10, so those decisions were already made.

The next decision to look at is split cards. Can you play Fire/Ice? Each half has a spell that costs two.

I would say that you include any split card as long as one half or the other meets the required cost. However, you can only play halves that have the right cost. In 237, Fire/Ice would be fine to include in your deck, and you could play either half. Crime/Punishment could also be included, but you couldn’t play the Crime half, since it costs five mana.

You might recall my article on Bugwar format. This format used cards that started with the letters BUGWR. Later in the article I pointed out that you could play formats to, such as WHY or ABE or YU-GI-OH. The format was very flexible.

237 is also really flexible. You could play 1337. You could play 189. You could play 789. You could play 123. You could play 2357 — the primes. You could play 06. Whatever you want, you can roll with. This format is similarly flexible. However for simplicity sake, we will be playing 237 for today’s article.

How to Begin

First, I’d go to a search engine that allows you to sift cards by casting cost. SCG can do that. Gatherer can too. See what tweaks your fancy.

If that is too overwhelming for you, then instead stroll through your spare cards and look for inspiration. Perhaps enlightenment will strike.

I’d also look for way to sort of cheat the card requirements. For example, if you are looking for one drops, why not consider the Borderposts? They cost three mana so you can play them, but then you can drop them on the first turn, before everyone else plays stuff.

Another way of building is to start with an idea of a deck you want to play, and then find cards that fit that deck. I’ll build a deck like that today so you can see this being done before your eyes. I don’t suspect that there will be many 7 casting cost cards, but a few that can add some severe power to your deck would be awesome.

In the meanwhile, I’d look for ideas, cards, and so forth wherever you can find it. Perhaps a look through your other decks will spark you. Maybe there is a card you always wanted to play that costs 2 or 3 or 7, so now you have an excuse to build that deck.

Example #1: Building Around a Card

For this one, I just want to come up with a card that I think would be nifty to build around, and costs 2 or 3 or 7. How about Nether Shadow?

I could also use Bloodghast and Nether Traitor, but not Krovikan Horror or Ashen Ghoul.

Still, the nucleus of a Nether Shadow deck is there. Now all I need to do is find ways to build around it.

Alright, let’s take a look at the deck we have here. We have that base of 12 creatures that come back and are all 2 drops. After that, let’s see. Delraich is a great play, because you can play it early for no mana by sacking three creatures, and you will probably have three creatures you don’t mind sacrificing. Stronghold Assassin can tap and sac a creature to kill a non-black creature, giving you a reliable and recurrable source of creature kill.

2 Spined Flukes are great, because a 5/1 regenerator can do some damage, and the sacrifice of a creature can be meaningless. Undead Gladiator is great to cycle and bring back, and you can pull it out of the graveyard to put back on top of a Nether Shadow. You can discard extra lands or use it as a chance to change the order on your ‘yard a bit. Nether Shadow is always a good discard to bring back a Gladiator and then cycle it for more cards.

Finally, in the creature realm, I decided to toss in a full set of Kuon. This is a nasty creature. I suspect it will draw the creature kill so that you cannot abuse it. That means your other creatures should be safer. However, never be afraid to toss it out there and then kill a bunch of your creatures so that Kuon flips. It’s great to recur a Nether Shadow each turn to upkeep Kuon while your other creatures swing for damage and your opponent has to sac one of theirs every turn.

Buried Alive helps set you up. It can get Bloodghasts and Nether Shadows and Nether Traitors. I would get the Shadows first, Ghasts second and Traitors third normally, but there are times when you might prefer the Ghasts (land in hand and your opponent is at 10 life or less), or Traitors (lots of mana, an empty hand, and an Infernal Tribute in play).

I still ran four Rend Flesh as emergency kill, but perhaps you might want to run something else.

Infernal Tribute is the final key to this puzzle. This was initially Carnage Altar, but in this the Tribute is better. It costs one more to play but one less to use, and you may be using it a lot to draw you some cards. Also, the Tribute is an enchantment. Kuon flips into an enchantment, so you already have an enchantment in your deck. By moving my only artifact to an enchantment, it makes artifact kill in my opponents’ decks useless. Plus you can sac lands or enchantments when you don’t want them, and if Kuon is flipped and hurting you too much, this gives you a way out.

Okay, now that you have gotten a chance to see a deck built around a card in 237, let’s look at a deck built around a concept.

Example #2: Building Around a Concept

There are several things I was considering; I could do Blue control, but it’s easy to find some card drawing, counters, bounce and creatures in 237. Forbid, Capsize, Dominate, Counterspell, Stroke or Genius, Mind Spring, etc.

Since that seemed too easy, allow me to go a little out the norm. Let’s play G/R control, and try to find cards that make an interesting control deck in colors that are not normally associated with control, while also fitting into the 237 format.

This control deck is initially built around ending flyers as a problem, and then getting some hits in with flyers or pseudo-flyers. Then it grew from there.

The key cards in this deck were Squall Line and Gravity Sphere, but they didn’t work together very well, so I pulled out the Gravity Sphere. With Squall Line you kill creatures, and with Gravity Sphere you just dropped them down. I’d prefer to kill them.

We do have some burn to join our Squall Line of death — Incinerate and Urza’s Rage. They can burn flyers and gropos alike (GROund POunderS). The Giant Trap Door Spider can also take down gropos that are proving to be a problem.

Once you have cleared the friendly skies, you can swing with aplomb with Treetop Rangers. Not even reach creatures can block them, they sneak through webs. You can also make Chimeric Sphere a flyer, and then hop over for two damage. If you have more mana, you can then turn it into a 3/2 creature after no blocks, in order to deal one more damage. I don’t know if I have ever put Chimeric Sphere in one of my decks, and it’s been a while since I even thought about it, but suddenly, it popped into my head as a way of synergizing with Squall Line and it fits very well.

Krosan Tusker costs seven mana, so you can play it, but I expect you’ll be using it for cycling a lot more than playing. Don’t be afraid to drop it late game, though.

Vithian Renegades gives you a nice creature and a way to off artifacts. You get a 3/2 for three mana, and they get something of theirs smashed. That’s a good deal all around.

Don’t be afraid to play Kavu Titan early. Tempo matters. Don’t be afraid to play him late, when your foe is still playing 2 and 3 drops, you can play an actual 5-drop, so in this format it is smooth on your mana in an odd way.

The deck isn’t that hard to grok, I don’t think. You have some burn, some creatures, some flying sweeping and some lands. Play creatures, and swing. Kill creatures, and swing. Rinse and repeat as needed.

More Ideas

I wanted to show you two different ways of designing decks in 237, but I also wanted to spend some time here to give you some cards or ideas to build around, as inspiration for what you can do.

You could build around Bad Moon, Crusader, Honor of the Fallen, Glorious Anthem or Gaea’s Anthem type cards. Weenies rise up.

Many tribal strategies would be quite successful since lords often cost two or three mana. From Lord of Atlantis and Eladamri, Lord of Leaves to Death Baron and Mad Auntie, there are a ton of lords at the 2 and 3 cost. You can easily build tribal decks. Elves and Merfolk seem especially deadly. Elves have Timberwatch Elves, Wellwisher and Priest of Titania in addition to cards like Imperious Perfect and Elvish Champion. Merfolk get their lords Merfolk Sovereign, Lord of Atlantis, etc. The best Merfolk cost two or three mana anyway. You get counter magic. And you get Winter Orb. That builds itself.

I think Fires of Yavimaya presents some deckbuilding opportunities.

One traditional control card that is out is Wrath of God and its many variants. You don’t want to have to wait until seven mana to get to Wrath, and there is nothing for two or three. Damnation, Akroma’s Vengeance, Day of Judgment, Winds of Rath, Kirtar’s Wrath, Final Judgment, Planar Cleansing, etc. The only Wrath I can think of for seven mana is Hour of Reckoning. What you may want to do is find alternate means of sweeping kill like Savage Twister, Pyroclasm, Infest, Breath of Darigaaz, Withering Wisps, and so forth.

In fact, Withering Wisps + Cemetery Gate +Stillmoon Cavalier is a great start for a deck.

Exactly five creatures cost seven mana and have morph, allowing you to run them in your deck and play them sooner. One of those (Skittish Valesk) just sucks. However, Weaver of Lies and Imperial Hellkite have some serious deckbuilding potential.

The following Blue creatures have morph and cost 2, 3 or 7. Weaver of Lies, Aphetto Alchemist, Willbender, Dermoplasm, Coral Trickster, Disruptive Pitmage, Fathom Seer, Echo Tracer, Raven Guild Initiate, Raven Guild Master, Riptide Biologist, Riptide Entrancer, Riptide Pilferer, Riptide Survivor, Shaper Parasite, Voidmage Apprentice, Voidmage Prodigy, Wall of Deceit. I think there is a deck there.

For Imperial Hellkite; the following playable dragons cost seven: Knollspine Dragon; Bladewing the Risen; Clockwork Dragon; Dragon mage; Ebon Dragon; Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund; Eternal Dragon; Kilnmouth Dragon; Rimescale Dragon; Shivan Hellkite; and Thunder Dragon. You will also note that Dragonspeaker Shaman costs three mana. There’s a deck too.

There are a lot of decks to run, like Relic Barrier and Static Orb, or Survival of the Fittest and Recurring Nightmare. Find the goods and run with it!

I hope you enjoyed another entry in the Compendium. I’ll see you next week!

Until later…

Abe Sargent