Bonjour, mes amis!
My heart has grown fond for your touch! I have returned, and I bear gifts of articles for you all!
My freshman year in college at WVU, I started dating this lady named Tara. She was a great person, but after a few weeks, she broke it off with me. She
said that she no longer wanted to be exclusive, but she did want to still see each other. Within a week, she was trying to be exclusive with some other
guy. It was hard. Because she didn’t break it off cleanly with a simple “we are done,” my feelings for her lingered for months.
When I was placed on hiatus last August, I was told that it was most likely a temporary hiatus for a while, rather than a permanent thing. I trusted
that. I hoped that would be true, but a part of me remembered Tara. Perhaps I was just told that in order to make it easier on me? I rejected that, but
We all have a part of us that keeps us down. It’s sarcastic, arrogant, afraid, pessimistic, and a weight on our soul. Wrestling with our hidden
nature is an essential part of the human condition. Unfortunately, all too many people allow this part of them online, with anonymity. There is the
forum thread, the blog post, and the dreaded YouTube comments. (Those are truly horrible.) Perhaps we let our angry, hurt, rude, and superior sides
peer through online so that we can more easily control them in real life. I’d like to think that’s the case.
Luckily, this was never a Tara situation, and never meant to be. I was still wanted by StarCityGames.com, an organization for which I grew to be very
loyal and very faithful, and have a lot of love. Well, let’s bring you up to date!
In the meantime, GatheringMagic.com has asked me to have a weekly column for them, which I obliged. I get to write with some great writers there, and
I’ve had a blast writing for Trick and his site. So often in Magic-dom, we divide ourselves. Rogue vs. Netdeck, Casual vs. Tournament, Eternal
vs. Standard, Haves vs. Have-Nots, Company vs. Players. What we forget is that the hobby which unites us is so much greater than any division we could
find. We share a special kinship as Magic players. I love that SCG and GatheringMagic are both happy for me to actually talk about my articles on one
site or the other. In an era when we have too many distractions in the Magic community, finding people who are just happy to talk and welcome Magic
people of all sort and ilk is wonderful.
With that understanding, we come to today’s article. Welcome back, o regular readers with a new welcome to those just joining us!
Today, I want to write a Type Four article. The casual world is so vast that I tend to write articles about formats that aren’t being written by
other people. There are a lot of Commander writers out there, so just 16% of my articles in the past year have been specifically for Commander. I try
to write other things, so fans of formats like Pauper and Peasant can find articles, or Tribal, or general chaos multiplayer, or Five Color,
or…well, you get the idea.
One of my favorite formats over the years has been Type Four, and many of the people who brought it to us would regularly print an article here or
there for the format. However, it’s been a while since we’ve seen one. Therefore, I’ve felt a bit of a need to fill in the gap.
I have a couple of ideas for this column’s reboot, and I want your feedback. The obvious thing is that I come back and pick up where I left off.
You’ll get columns on the Underused Hall of Fame and Bad Rare decks and more. Expect strategy, cards, decks, and fun! There is another option, if
you want it. I could easily and happily turn this column into one that is largely, predominantly, or exclusively Type Four. If you want a column that
gives you the format breakdown and investigates Type Four, then we can do that too. What do you want to see? Let me know in the forums!
What is Type Four?
Type Four was a format brought to many of us by Steve Menendian. Other writers who brought us Type Four articles included Paul Mastriano, Carl Winter,
Doug Linn, Kelly Digges, and more. It’s a great format, and it’s a ton of fun to play at your next Magic night. One of the benefits of the
format is that no one builds a deck ahead of time; you’ve built your stack and then play it.
Type Four is played simply. Once you’ve built your deck, everybody draws seven cards, and play begins. There are only a few play rules:
You may make any amount of mana, of any color, as much and as often as you want.
You may only play one spell each turn.
If you play the alternate cost of a card (such as Force of Will), then it does not count as your one spell per turn.
All of the normal rules of Magic apply: one land per turn (for special lands), you lose if you draw a card from an empty deck, you lose if your life
drops to zero, ten poison counters, etc.
Once you have created a stack of cards, then you draft them and play. It’s quick and fun. Creating your stack is also a blast. Much like Cube,
it’s in the creation of the stack for Type Four that a lot of people really have a ball. We’ll talk about that in a bit. For now, what you
need to know is that people will draft the stack and then play in a multiplayer format. This is inherently multiplayer, so you want your friends to
draft with you and then punish them by having a better draft than them!
The Type Four Draft
Let’s talk about the draft, which is prior to the play. The draft bears a lot of similarities to Rochester Draft. How many players are drafting?
Double that number, and then flip up that many cards randomly. The first person takes any card he chooses for his deck. Then the next player chooses
any card she wants for her deck. The final person to take a card takes another as well, and order reverses until the person who picked first gets the
very last card. Now, everybody should have two cards. The next person flips over cards and drafts first, and the person who picked first in the
previous “pack” will have the wheel in the next pick. (The wheel is the name of the person who picks two in a row by being at the end of
the first selections and the beginning of the next.) Picks rotate until everybody has drafted first. Then reverse the order, and do it again. Finally,
reverse the order back, and do it once more.
How many cards should you wind up with? Whatever you feel is appropriate for the game! I’ve seen some that want 45 cards just like Limited.
Unlike Limited, every card you draft goes in your deck, and there’s no mana base to deal with, so you can have a smaller number of cards drafted
while still having a great diversity of cards played. You want the draft to last long enough to get cards but not so long that people don’t play
the game! I recommend as close to 30 cards as you can get. For example, five players will draft exactly 30 cards each in three rounds of drafting. Six
players will draft exactly 36, and that’s not too bad. Four players will draft exactly 24, and perhaps you want another round or two to get you
to 30. We can talk about what numbers work very well in future Type Four articles, if we have them.
Otherwise, the draft works much as you’ve come to expect. Draft, shuffle, and play!
Building the Stack
Since you have the ability to play anything in the game, why play small things? Part of the appeal of this format is that it sits at the corner of
Spike Street and Timmy Lane. It’s appropriate to draft the most expensive, giant, powerful cards of all time, since you can play them as soon as turn
1. With no mana restriction, Timmy gets to play the biggest creature he fancies, and Spike gets a creature that will kill all the sooner!
While this seems awesome at first, there are some things you want to stay away from. You don’t want to turn this into drafting and playing a
spell or creature that will kill with infinite mana. Blaze and Fireball are too powerful in this format. Just drawing one is game. Therefore, you need
to avoid anything that can kill in one go. Cards like Howl from Beyond, Ghitu War Cry, Krakilin, Rockcaster Platoon and Rocket Launcher won’t
work here. That doesn’t mean there’s not a place for broken spells and creatures, but it just means that no one wants to spend time
drafting, shuffling, and such, and then die as the first player drops Fireball and targets everyone for 1000. That’s not fun for anyone. Not even
the one playing the Fireball! (Well, maybe it’s a little fun…)
Where do you start? Start with the awesome cards you have that you never play with. Take a look through your bulk binders and boxes of crap cards. Let
me give you an example. I have a box of bulk rares right here. I’m going to dash through it, and list all of the cards I just happen to run
across randomly that I would recommend for Type Four. (Yes, it’s the same box I use for Bad Rare articles like this one.
Safe Haven, Liege of the Pit, Clockwork Beast, Lim-Dul the Necromancer, Tower of Champions, Tower of Murmurs, Tower of Fortunes, Savage Beating, Dregs
of Sorrow, Insidious Dreams, Myojin of Infinite Rage, Myojin of Night’s Reach, Through the Breach, Seize the Day, Cabal Conditioning, Deflection,
Verdant Embrace, Stunted Growth, Death Pit Offering, Searing Wind, Anavolver, Sway of the Stars, Decree of Silence, Decree of Savagery, Benthic
Behemoth, Plagiarize, Phyrexian Colossus, Colossus of Sardia, Pentavus, Stone-Tongue Basilisk, False Cure, Yavimaya’s Embrace, Arcbound Overseer,
Shape of the Wiitigo, and Root Elemental.
That was a fun little experiment. While some of those cards are clearly better for the format than others, it gives you a great start. Find one of each
of these great cards, and add it! You can ignore mana upkeeps and toss in Krosan Cloudscrapers. Grab splashy spells and toss them in too. Everything
from Time Stretch to Searing Wind should put in an appearance.
This format has a real tension between sorceries and instants. If you can play just one spell per turn, sorceries are devalued. They are competing with
creatures, enchantments, artifacts, and planeswalkers for your spell during the main phase. Instants can be played on other turns, but sorceries take
up serious space. While it can be fun to sometimes push this, I try to include instants where possible. Opportunity is better than Tidings. Dark
Banishing is better than Sever Soul. You get the picture.
Finding cards that cheat the rules is a valuable way to build your stack. I found Root Elemental in my crap box, and that can flip up to give you a
beater while putting into play another creature without playing a spell. Flash creatures are very valuable. Spells like Flash, Dramatic Entrance, and
Leyline of Anticipation all have value in playing things at different times than usual. Discovering cards like that which enhance your stack is an
important part of making a fun stack to play. (It’s also joyous to do as well!)
If this article was just an introduction to Type Four, then I’d leave it at the above, and move on. Instead, I want to go deeper and discuss one
of the elements of the format. This is an example of the sort of analysis that you would see, if it’s something you want.
As you’ll recall, if a spell has an alternate method of being played, and you use it, then it does not count as your spell for the turn. I can
play Force of Will as a normal Counterspell by paying five mana. That’s how you’ll use it most of the time. When I cast something, if my
opponent casts a Counterspell, I usually have no answer. If I’m at eight life and my opponent waits until I play a spell before using Searing
Wind against me, I usually will die. If I have a Force of Will, I can protect myself by exiling that blue card, paying a life, and playing the spell.
Its alternate casting cost can save me.
Clearly, if you have an extra Force of Will, then it is worth tossing into your Type Four draft stack. What other cards benefit from this rule?
While there are a lot of alternate casting cost cards out there, many of them suck. Do you want to force your opponent to gain life in order to drop
Skyshroud Cutter? Having an instant Disenchant that can be played off a pitch sounds good, but Abolish requires you to discard a Plains—and you
won’t have one of those lying around.
The only other pitch counter I really like is Commandeer. It’s a nasty cost to discard two cards for it, but timed right, it can change the game
in your favor. Foil and Thwart require Islands. You can play them as extra counters, but they won’t be used with an alternate cost. Daze is
clearly useless. Disrupting Shoal is a Spell Blast, so you can play it, but its alternate cost requires you to exile a blue card that has a total mana
cost exactly equal to what you are countering, and that doesn’t happen very often. Finally, although not a counter, Misdirection often plays like
one. It’s great as a surprise off a pitched blue spell.
If Blazing Shoal only had a pitch cost, then it would be great, but since it can be played as an Enrage normally, it can’t be in your stack. Of
the remaining Shoals, Nourishing Shoal is clearly unbalanced as a Stream of Life spell. Shining Shoal is a perfectly acceptable spell and works
adequately off the pitch. Sickening Shoal is decent enough instant removal, but it rarely gets played with an alternate cost (but you can, so
What about the other Alliances pitch cards? Bounty of the Hunt’s pump is not very powerful. I advise steering clear of pump spells unless they
are special. Contagion and Pyrokinesis are adequate at best. Of the lot, I think Scars of the Veteran is the clear winner. A free prevention spell
works wonders, and pumping the defense of a creature as a result is money. After all, if they felt enough to burn it down, or trade with it in combat,
or whatever, then why not make it harder to kill the next time?
Despite the fact that Force of Will was one of the single, most iconic spells of all time, Masques block made the mechanic largely an afterthought.
Tidal Bore? Angelic Favor? Dark Triumph? Lashknife? These don’t have much going for them. The best one from the block is Gush, but in this
format, it’s just an Inspiration. I wouldn’t recommend playing Inspiration in your Type Four stack. The next best was Land Grant, but it
sucks here. Snuff Out requires a Swamp. We’ve already talked of Abolish, Skyshroud Cutter, Daze, Thwart, Misdirection, and Foil. Things
aren’t looking good for most of these. Are there any Masques block alternate-cost cards I’d recommend looking at?
Cave In is a pitch Pyroclasm that hits players too but is still a sorcery. Unmask was good, but here it sucks. Delraich tends to be worse than the
creatures you sacrifice. Vine Dryad was good in some formats, but not here. Ensnare can be played normally, and it’s okay, but you’ll never play
the alternate cost. A sorcery Arc Lightning for just creatures? (Flameshot.) A pump spell for life to an opponent? (Invigorate.) Most of this stuff
sucks. There is a noteworthy one, however. Reverent Mantra is not bad at all. You’ll want a couple of these effects anyway; they can serve for an
alpha strike or to keep some dudes alive post-combat after being attacked or to keep them alive from an Earthquake-style attack, such as Torrent of
Lava. You could even pay the alternate cost and leave them alive from your own Torrent of Lava.
What about the other occasional alternate-cost spells? Spinning Darkness requires too many black cards in your graveyard to reliably cast. At least
it’s an instant. As a sorcery Day of Judgment, Sunscour’s alternate cost is almost never worth playing, but you’ll likely want to toss one
into your stack anyway. Soul Spike is useful because it’s an instant Soul Feast, and it can be played by pitching cards if you really need to.
I’ve stayed alive with it once, by using it against someone at three life who kicked Urza’s Rage against me after I played something. I
discarded two black cards and killed him with it, since he was at three, and the Rage got pulled off the stack. Snapback is unlikely to ever see play.
I doubt you want a pitch-spell Relentless Assault, but Fury of the Horde is there if you do. Demon of Death’s Gate and Salvage Titan have the
same weaknesses that Delraich had—the cards sacrificed tend to be just as good.
The five Bringers all have an alternate cost, and many miss that, so you can play one after you’ve played something else on your main phase. That
gives you the ability to drop two creatures or play something post Wrath of God. The green Bringer (Bringer of the Green Dawn) is the weakest, with its
3/3 token maker looking very minor next to the big dudes you see. The red one (Bringer of the Red Dawn) is better, because you almost always Threaten a
giant creature of death for your side. The black one and blue one (Bringer of the Black Dawn and Bringer of the Blue Dawn) are just as useful as
normal, which means they have a lot of power. With the right cards, the black one can go infinite. (And by infinite, I mean kill everyone at the table
with cards like Searing Wind and Time Stretch). The white one is not that strong; it’s probably the second weakest of the lot, but recurring
artifacts has some value. Remember, these are all 5/5 tramplers that are free to play, so you could play them all and be thrilled to death.
Three cards deserve special notice. One is Kentaro, the Smiling Cat. He can alternate-cost any Samurai spell, and that includes changeling spells and
creatures in addition to Samurai creatures. Keep it in the back of your mind, in case you have enough Samurai and changelings to warrant running him.
Another is Fist of Suns. Since it’s also an alternate cost, all of your cards can be played at any time. Since the Fist allows you to play any card,
any time, without restriction, I recommend you seriously consider whether or not it should make the cut. Dream Halls is a much fairer way to allow
alternate costs, but since it helps everyone, you may not want it in your stack either.
Note that reducing the cost of a spell does not equate with an alternate cost. A trap with little or no mana due to a condition met is not an alternate
play cost, and neither is paying life for Phyrexian mana, since it’s part of the cost for that mana.
The above section on alternate-cost cards gives you an idea of how we could really look and analyze various aspects of Type Four. I brainstormed nine
different article ideas for the format while writing this article. There’s not much of a voice for it out there right now, so if you want it, we
can do it. If not, we’ll return to some common stories. I’ve already begun another Underused Hall of Fame class I could induct in a future
article. We could talk Commander and Five Color and Pauper and whew! Anything’s game! What do you want to see? Let me know in the forums!