However, after several games of practice and some slight rules alterations along the way, I think Wizards’ Bazaar is ready.
Wizards’ Tower is similar to deck-building games in that each player shares a central library of cards. In Dominion, the central cards are multiple stacks of like cards, and in Ascension, the central cards come from one stack, which dealt out into a center row. Players can buy cards from or defeat Ascension’s center row, and in Ryan Miller’s Wizards’ Tower, players, instead of paying for or defeating anything, just choose a card. It’s basically there where the similarities stop, though.
What I was looking for was a format that more closely resembled a deck-building game. Not only should I receive a card, every once in a while, from the center cards, but they should be permanently added to my own deck and be shuffled back after they head to my graveyard, thus allowing me to create a more powerful and versatile—of focused—deck over time, as is the case with Dominion and Ascension—but not Wizards’ Tower.
The next challenge is that of the starting deck. In Wizards’ Tower, players have three-card hands and then just draw from the central deck, with no libraries of their own. This makes for a pretty fun format, but it doesn’t add the deck-building-game element we’re trying for here. Players need to have basic starting decks to augment. Most deck-building games offer identical starting decks to each player. However, Magic and its five colors offer an alternative. By choosing a few cards of each color that are relatively balanced against each other and relevant to the cards we’ll be including in the center deck, we can offer up to five different players unique starting decks—one of each color.
Another question is about cards drawn per turn. Normal Magic gives us one each turn, Wizards’ Tower gives us two, and both Dominion and Ascension give us five each turn, but we have to discard whatever was left of our previous hand. Also in those games, we discard and redraw at the end of each of our turns. While I want Wizards’ Bazaar to emulate the deck-building games—and thus use the discard-and-redraw feature (which also keeps the game flowing and keeps the deck-recycling mechanic relevant)—the existence of Magic’s instants would make it so that discarding at the end of our turn denies us relevant information when planning our turns. Thus, for Wizards’ Bazaar, I think it’s best that we discard and redraw our hands at the starts of our turns. Oh, and both Magic’s normal seven and Dominion’s and Ascension’s normal five seem like too much. Let’s do three.
Doom Blade, a Brindle Boar, and a Giant Growth? That means that, every turn, I’ll be just cycling through those cards for massive long-term advantage, as compared to the players who are playing “fairly” and still drawing a mix of lands and random spells.
To alleviate this, I introduced the rule that if you reshuffle your graveyard into your library with fewer than six cards, you have to bring your library size up to six by adding in basic lands. The types of lands you add must be of your starting color’s type unless you have lands of other colors’ types, in which case you can match up to that many of that type. For example, if you started with the blue starting deck but you control a Swamp when you reshuffle, and you need to add three lands, you could do all three Islands or two Islands and a Swamp. If you controlled two Swamps—or a Forest and a Swamp—you could add one Island and two Swamps—or one Island, one Forest, and one Swamp.
There are a couple additional things to cover. Wizards’ Tower had seven cards available from the center row from which each player could draw a single card on each of his or her turns—in addition to his or her face-down draw from the tower deck. When the seven cards were depleted, another seven cards were dealt. Dominion, as a deck-building example, always has piles of identical cards available, and Ascension, as another example, has cards immediately replaced when they’re acquired or sent to the void.
The final point here was a bit contentious in my games. Basically, I looked at Divination, and I felt that it seemed pretty underpowered. When we’re already drawing three cards a turn, and we already have a bunch of cards in the center row available, and we’ll have to discard excess cards we draw anyway, why would we ever want to cast a Divination? The upside is that we can burn through our deck more quickly, but if we burn through our deck in order to make it to more spells more frequently, we’ll more often have to add basic lands to our deck, thus watering it down. My solution is that if you draw a card outside the normal three-cards-per-turn sequence, such as through a Divination or Elvish Visionary, that card is added to an actual hand, which follows the normal hand mechanics of Magic. Thus, the three cards per turn we “draw” and then “discard” should be following different rules. Using technology a la Memory Jar and Chandra, Pyromaster, we can make available to ourselves cards temporarily using the exile zone.
This was contentious because of the potential power level it provides. My instinct was that if a player built a deck around drawing a lot of cards, most of those cards would end up being basic lands, and in our testing, that turned out to be mostly true. However, it’s something to keep an eye on in case a card-draw deck might break the format.
Here’s the format breakdown for Wizards’ Bazaar (borrowing some from Wizards’ Tower):
Faithless Looting, Zombify, Akroma, Angel of Wrath, and some combination of basic—or dual—lands.
The main problem I had with the format was that, in multiplayer, it tended to stall out. However, that problem tends to occur in any multiplayer Limited (non-Cube) format. The cards just aren’t powerful enough to carry a player through multiple opponents. This problem snowballed in that, as the games went on so long, players had so many lands that they could play out entire bazaar rows, leaving players without options on subsequent turns and creating a cycle of players taking turns just playing all the spells. Eventually, the games ended, but using a Cube or a specialized Wizards’ Bazaar deck could ensure games play out more quickly.
Well, that’s about it! I took a break from combos, but I hope you enjoy this format that’s a combination of Wizards’ Tower and deck-building games—oh, and Magic. Below are the M14 starting decks I used; feel free to copy them or just be inspired by them.
fissionessence at hotmail dot com
"M14 Wizards’ Bazaar"