Magic: the Gathering format for teaching the game

Posted on May 16, 2015

As some of you know, I’m a huge geek of making new Magic: the Gathering formats.

I authored Double Rainbow format, when players share library and scry 3 then draw instead of drawing, Unsealed Draft, where players get sealed pool, then pick 45 cards which go into common pool and boosters are getting generated at random for a draft to be played.

Now I present a format that is aimed to be a perfect tool for educational purposes.

But before that, let me present a card that’s familiar to Mental Magic players — Utopia.

Rochester Booster War

Two players each provide a booster pack of Magic: the Gathering cards, consisting of 14 or 15 cards.

A player who picks first is selected at random, and his or her booster gets layed out with cards face up. Then players take turns picking cards till all the cards are drafted. A time to review picks is given between packs and the second booster gets drafted the same way (with second player picking first this time).

Players then make decks with minimum size of 25 cards if 14-card boosters were used and 27 cards if 15-card boosters were made. Players may include any amount of basic land cards and up to one Utopia land card to the cards they have drafted. In addition to that, they can replace up to one card they drafted with an Utopia card.

For instance, when we were battling with boosters from “Friends Cube” — an unpowered cube, me and my friends put together. I replaced Hex with an Utopia and my opponent replaced Goblin Grenade.

Here’s my “Beatdown” deck from the playtest:

2 Utopia
4 Plains
2 Mountain
1 Forest
4 Swamp

1 Llanowar Elves
1 Skirk Marauder
1 Inkfathom Infiltrator
1 Wicked Akuba
1 Stormgald Crusader
1 Fumiko the Lowblood
1 Undead Warchief
1 Crested Craghorn

1 Holy Day
1 Altar's Reap
1 Terror
1 Blinding Beam
1 Wing Shards

I like the fact that even though the decks are so tiny, this format teaches student about the real principles of Magic™ — mana curves, mana base, who’s the beatdown, card advantage and tempo.

When teaching someone Magic™ using this format, I suggest saying out loud what you’re thinking and how you’re evaluating cards in given booster while drafting, and answering questions of the weaker player, if any.

Playtests update

Playtests show that racing is very important in this format, no matter the set. Soft locks are great, but you can often draft around those. In the end, often, beatdown has to pick up some high-range control cards to unlock the table, while control has to pick up some low-cost cards to trade 1-for-1 with beatdown.

Format is pretty interesting, yet it has a major flaw — flood!

That being said, Mike Strashun offered an interesting twist to this format (which can actually be used in a bunch of other formats as well) which I call “Eliminating Lands” so, here it is —

All land cards have “Exile this card from your hand: search your library for a card with the same name and exile it, then shuffle your library. You may play it this turn. This ability can’t be countered.”

Rochester 1.5-Booster War

We’ll run another playtest with Fate, Dragons, Dragons tomorrow which will actually involve three boosters!

The rules are adjusted as follows — three boosters are drafted instead of two, minimum deck size: 27, up to two Utopias, Eliminating Lands. Player, who picks second in the first booster makes two first picks in the second one instead of one. That means that second player will get all three second-picks and an extra (good) card, which should balance out the fact that first player has two first picks.

Another playtest update

Playtest went great, being able to eliminate few off-color cards/unplayables make decks better and weenie viable. Bombs still need to be played around cautiously, as they appear almost guaranteed, but outracing those isn’t impossible if you mulligan correctly.

Threeway Booster War

Post-factum documenting three player rochester booster war — rules are the same as in Rochester Booster War, except three players draft three packs.

This was actually the most entertaining way to play super-small formats listed card pool is large enough to split some colors and make very stable decks, manabase-wise. Besides, it was still possible for WG player to hate Necromaster Dragon as a first pick in third pack and get to play it effectively.