Good Thursday all! I hope that your week has been Magic-tastic and your weekend full of games, tournaments, and fun. I feel that Magic is more about the people that you meet than the games that you play—I remember people I play against long after I’ve forgotten the details of the game.
Yay Magic! For today’s article, I came up with a fun and easy format for playing Magic, and I want to share it with you. Today’s article is technically an entry in my Compendium of Alternate Formats, but that title is so clunky these days. This is how it would read:
The Kitchen Table #369 – The Compendium of Alternate Formats #15: Whimsy Magic
Ever since I titled my column, “The Kitchen Table,” some of the old titles just don’t work.
I was recently playing through another campaign in the PC game from the late 90’s called Magic: the Gathering, and often referred to as Shandalar. It was created in part by Sid Meier himself, and it has a strategic element to it as well as playing against a variety of baddies. Since then, I’ve written a lot of articles about Shandalar, and the impact it has had on me as a player. I’ve created formats around it in spades.
As I was playing Shandalar, I came across an old spell from it called Whimsy. There are twelve cards that were made specifically for Shandalar that were never printed in real life. They all have a random element to them, and they are called the Astral Set. Some of these cards are much better than others. Prismatic Dragon is a weak card but Rainbow Knights and Necropolis of Azar are both tasty.
I remembered an old conversation I’d had with a friend. He loved building a deck with a giant amount of mana, just so he could power out Whimsy. Whimsy and Faerie Dragon allowed you to play a random fast effect. Every fast effect in the game, both instants and abilities, was coded to work with these cards. Here is how Whimsy read:
Play X random fast effects.
That’s very random; I’m not sure why the card isn’t red. It’s very unpredictable, and it would launch Lightning Bolts, Giant Growths, Prodigal Sorcerer activations, Jayemdae Tome activations, and more.
I realized that building a Whimsy deck was a lot like playing the Jhoira avatar from online in MoJhoSto. You discard a card and copy three instants or sorceries randomly, choosing one to play. By choosing one to play, you really help alleviate the major issue with Whimsy—useless, random fast effects. You aren’t randomly preventing the next three damage to yourself when nothing is coming or randomly giving a creature islandwalk until the end of the turn, even though your foe has no Islands.
Whimsy just isn’t possible to play in real life, because you don’t have a resource that can assist you…until now.
I can think of two ways to make Whimsy work. One takes a lot of time for you. The other takes a lot of time for someone else, and that’s it.
1) Build a stack of random fast effects and instants. Proxy up some cards for fast effects. I would suggest having just one of each effect. Many creatures tap to deal one damage to something—I recommend only having one in the stack. You can also include one damage cards that do something else, like Singe or Engulfing Flames or Zap. However, I’d go with just one of each specific ability/spell.
2) Build a table of every fast effect and instant in the game. When using Whimsy, roll on the table. Then choose targets and move on. Ideally, the table would have the effect of every instant beside it. So, for example, an Excel spreadsheet would have a number for each entry, then the name, and then what it does, like so:
#1625 Unsummon Bounce target creature
#1841 Witch Hunter Bounce target opposing creature
#1842 Witch Hunter Deal 1 damage to target player
And even more ideally you would have a column for color, for the purposes of protection:
#1625 Unsummon Blue Bounce target creature
#1841 Witch Hunter White Bounce target opposing creature
#1842 Witch Hunter White Deal 1 damage to target player
You get the idea.
I’ve built a real life Momir Vig stack. I could easily do so for Whimsy, but that would be one giant stack. Not every player could feasibly do it, but it might be fun. Building things like cubes, Type 4 stacks, and Hordes is something I enjoy immensely, and this would be a fun little project too.
Differences between Whimsy and Jhoira:
1) Whimsy uses fast effects too, such as activated abilities and mana abilities, which is really interesting and different.
2) There’s no choice. You can choose targets and mode. So, you could choose which option Ivory Charm to do, but you cannot select the random fast effect from a list.
3) You can Whimsy out a huge number of fast effects at once, while Jhoira is three mana each.
4) Whimsy does not cost you a card; Jhoira does.
With those considerations in mind, allow me to introduce you to Whimsy Magic.
It has just one rule. In addition to whatever format you are playing:
I made a few changes from the actual card Whimsy to this. Firstly, Whimsy is a sorcery, but it plays fast effects. Not only is that odd, but it makes fast effects like counterspells unplayable drek. I like the idea of trying to grab a random counter in response to something nasty, like you can do with Jhoira’s avatar. With the effects being instants, it makes sense that you can play them at instant speed. This also helps things like Fogs and other damage prevention more interesting. You can time using it after an attack but before blocking to harness the power of a random Guided Strike or something else.
I also removed the double blue in the cost. Not every deck will be playing blue. I thought about making it X2 to force you to pay some mana before getting the benefits, but this is Whimsy Magic, and I wanted to emphasize it. If it’s too much in playtesting, I can always dial it back.
I actually cheated a bit to play it a few times in playtesting. Instead of coming up with a master list or creating a big stack o’ fast effects, I just randomly rolled a set and then rolled a card from that set, and if it had a fast effect or was an instant, I used it. Otherwise I rerolled. This allowed me to play some games and shake out the rules.
After playing for a bit, I’d make the following recommendations for consideration:
1) Make every effect and instant colorless. It can still be protected by shroud or protection from instants, but it helps to simplify things by making this colorless for purposes of protection. It also gives decks that are being hosed by something like Paladin en-Protection-From-All-Of-Your-Colors a tool to use to take it out. This strengthens the use of Whimsy and makes you much more likely to use it.
2) Add one mana to the activation to slow it down. I agree with my original thought that two mana to use it is too much of a tax, but without any extra cost, people would activate it one at a time, and wait to see what the random one was before deciding whether or not to do it again. There’s no reason to put five mana into it once if you can put it in one at a time. When you flip that Fog, you can stop and use your mana for something else. So, after playing it, I’d prefer an X1 cost to use it.
That’s it. It works very well—activating Whimsy is a shot in the dark. You never know what you are going to dig up, so you use it. You could randomly grab something useless, something that hurts you (like a Shatter when you are the only one with artifacts), or something very helpful.
Remember, you can play any format with any deck. Multiplayer is good, duels are fine too.
Let’s play a game of Whimsy Magic for you here, to see how it plays.
Meet Ethan and June. Ethan and June are two residents in my building who play Magic, and for some reason don’t want me to use their real name. I don’t know why not, because we all know that no one reads my columns anyway—insert smiley of your choice here.
We are playing sixty cards, multiplayer, twenty life, chaos rules—i.e., everyone for themselves. This is otherwise known as The Usual Format.
I am playing with the “Bring About the Undead Apocalypse” deck from Archenemy. I really like it for multiplayer. June has a sixty-card Standard deck built with junky creatures from recent sets, in green and white, with no theme or purpose. Ethan is rolling with a U/B control deck he just built.
Here we go:
We roll the die and I go first. I have a solid opening hand. I draw, play a Swamp and drop Festering Goblin. Ethan and June play lands and do nothing. I draw, play Mountain, and Zombie Infestation. I swing for one against Ethan, because his deck is probably better. Ethan is at 19.
Ethan draws, plays a Dimir Aqueduct, and passes after discarding. June adds Plains to her lands and has nothing else, so she activates Whimsy. I roll and she activates Bladewing the Risen—all Dragons get +1/+1 until the end of the turn. We chuckle and it’s my turn again.
I draw and play a Swamp before playing Sign in Blood. I am at 18, and I swing at Ethan for another point of damage, putting him at 18 as well. I drew a Zombify, so I want to discard two cards at the end of June’s turn to make a token so that I can Zombify one back. Ethan drops a land and passes his turn. June plays a land and casts Glissa’s Courier, which sucks because I have out Mountains. I discard Kaervek the Merciless and Infectious Horror to make a 2/2 Zombie.
I play Mountain and Zombify Kaervek. Ethan allows it to resolve. I swing for three more at him, and he activates Whimsy for two. He finds Telim’Tor’s Darts and hits me for one damage, and then grabs Puncture Blast and kills my token. Ethan is at 17.
He untaps, draws, and plays a land followed by Control Magic on my Kaervek. I deal four to the Glissa’s Courier from the trigger before it goes. No more mountainwalking for you, June! She untaps and plays another land. A Tangle Mantis drops down, and now I take four from Kaervek. I have 15 life, and the turn is passed to me. I draw Bituminous Blast and play it, taking another five and going to 10. I flip Cemetery Reaper, and my Festering Goblin bites it before it comes into play. My own Kaervek dies. I pass the turn.
Ethan untaps, plays a land, and says go. A Tangle Mantis comes at him. He uses Whimsy four times. Asceticism activates to regenerate target creature, and he targets my Reaper. He uncovers an Aura Blast to take out my Zombie Infestation, and draws a card. Mercenary Informer triggers to let him put target Mercenary on the bottom of a library—that fizzles. Finally, he adds R to his mana pool from Firewild Borderpost. Three damage is dealt, and he is at 14. June drops a Serra Angel and passes. I draw, play a sixth land, and pass the turn. All I have in hand is an Urborg Syphon-Mage, and I want to keep mana for using Cemetery Reaper and Whimsy.
Ethan plays a sixth land as well and casts Concentrate. He discards a land and passes. June attacks him with both of her creatures, and he plays Go for the Throat on her Serra Angel and takes three. Ethan is at 11. She passes, and I make a 2/2 by exiling her Courier and I also activate the Whimsy for two. I cast a Reset, which untaps my lands and Bonded Fetch’s looter ability, so I draw a Swamp and discard it. I then use my newly untapped six lands to Whimsy again. Why not?
Here are my new effects:
Rakdos Carnarium – I add BR to my mana pool.
Terrain Generator – I can put a basic land from my hand into play tapped
I activate Whimsy again with my two new mana and…
Now I take my turn!
I draw Infest, I attack Ethan with my Zombie token for 2 (Ethan is at 9), and I play Corpse Connoisseur to put Extractor Demon in my graveyard. I pass the turn. Ethan untaps, plays another land, and plays Consecrated Sphinx. June activates Whimsy and uses Steelshaper’s Apprentice (but she has no equipment), Glittering Lynx loses its ability to prevent all damage to it, Raise the Alarm makes her two dorks, and Southern Paladin allows her to destroy target red permanent. There are no targets for that. I point out that those were four white abilities she rolled. She untaps, plays a land, and casts Swords to Plowshares on Ethan’s Sphinx. She then attacks him for two with her tokens, since her Mantis is still tapped, and Ethan is at 7. She passes. I untap, draw Sign in Blood, and play it. I am at 8. I draw Shriekmaw and Mountain, and the land hits the board. I swing at June for three since she’s untouched. I know Ethan likely has something nasty ready and waiting and I don’t want to push him right now. June drops to 17. I play the Syphon-Mage.
Ethan untaps, draws, plays a land (he hasn’t missed a land drop) and plays Decree of Pain. I use Whimsy in response, in case I randomly flip a counter. I put four mana into it. I flip a Keening Stone activation and mill eleven of my own cards into my graveyard. Scare Tactics pumps my creatures and Nacatl Hunt-Pride forces target creature to block this turn, and I target the Mantis. Ethan draws five and kills all of our stuff. He passes, and June does not Whimsy like we expected, but instead drops Cloudthresher with flash. Wait, what? I point out that her deck was supposed to be Standard, and she says it was until last Friday—at FNM she traded for a few cards for it. Okay, it’s a cool surprise.
Abe – 6
Ethan – 5
June – 15
Fountain of Youth gives her a life.
Scrap cannot target anything.
Strength of Night gives her creatures +1/+1.
Coastal Tower makes her a blue mana.
My Shriekmaw resolves and kills nothing. I have two mana left, and I use Whimsy to nab a highly useful Hunting Triad’s reinforce. My Shriekmaw is a 6/5 now. I pass, and June draws and also passes the turn. I take my turn and draw Dregscape Zombie. I play it and hit her for 6 fear damage. June is at 10. I pass, and she flashes out Cloudthresher—I Whimsy four in response. I use Armistice to draw a card and have June gain three life. I draw Twisted Abomination. My other fast effects are Trailblazer, Shu Farmer gaining me a life, and Spark Spray dealing one to her. Cloudthresher resolves.
I have a couple of comments. First, I want to leave out any fast effect that has no ability. Stuff like Zerapa Minotaur and Ribbon Snake don’t have a place in Whimsy Magic. I’d recommend against including them in your fast effect stack or your database list.
Secondly, after playing with mana fast effects for a bit, I’m of two minds. If the fast effect makes enough mana to go again, then I’m okay with it. Flipping a Gilded Lotus on the second turn or a Dark Ritual can be really helpful at the right time and at least allows you to keep going. On the other hand, making just one mana is not useful. So, I want to split the difference. I recommend that you keep fast effects that make mana if they make two or more mana. Otherwise, skip the mana.
I hope you found something here for you. Feel free to play or modify as you see fit. We’ll see you next time!