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Wizards' Bazaar


As I brewed up ideas for last week’s article (which doesn’t exist), my mind kept wandering away from combos and toward a new format, at least partially inspired by “Wizards’ Tower: A Magic Format” by Ryan Miller a couple weeks back. Devoid of combo ideas, I had no article to write, hence the lack thereof, and with only a freshly-brewed, untested format, I couldn’t feel comfortable sharing it with all of you.

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.

Corpse Hauler
There are multiple challenges applying that kind of theory to Magic, however. The obvious and initial challenge is that Magic has no resources for buying cards from a central area. However, it does have resources for plenty of other things, mostly notable of which is mana for casting spells. By allowing players to just cast spells from the center row, we have a quick and easy way to allow players to enhance their decks over time.

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.

The last big issue is in regard to deck reshuffling. Normally in Magic, trying to draw from an empty library means losing the game. In deck-building games, it tends to instead mean the player reshuffles his or her discard pile into his or her deck and then continues drawing. So, that’s what we’ll be doing here. However, what if I boil my library down to a 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.

Regathan Firecat
In Wizards’ Bazaar, in order to keep things changing, the center-row cards are all discarded and replaced at the end of the player’s turn on whose turn they were dealt, but not until the next round. For example, the center row is dealt out before the first player’s first turn, and at the end of the first player’s second turn, they are all discarded and replaced. Thus, a new set of cards are available for the second player’s second turn, and at the end of the second player’s third turn, the center row is replaced such that a new center row will be available for the third player (or the first player again in a two-player game). This cycle continues throughout the game, and in this way, each player will have two turns with a certain set of cards available, but every player has at least one chance at each set of cards—but first come first served.

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):

What you need:

  • Two to five players
  • Two booster packs per player
  • One basic land of each type per pack
  • One starting deck for each player; a starting deck contains:

    • Six basic lands of a single type
    • Three different spells of a color that match the lands’ type

Starting a game:

  • Open the booster packs. (Try not to look at the cards in the boosters yet, though. It’s more fun to discover them during the game.)
  • Shuffle the cards and lands together into a single, huge bazaar deck.
  • Draft, choose, or assign starting decks to players.
  • Determine randomly who will go first.
  • Put a number of cards from the top of the bazaar deck face-up in the bazaar row equal to three times the number of players.

Playing the game:

  • Instead of drawing a card during your draw step, put into your discard pile all cards you own previously exiled by this rule, and exile the top three cards of your library face-down. You can play cards exiled this way.
  • Players still have hands, but by default, they do not draw cards. Divinations, Duresses, the maximum hand size rule, and the like still affect hands as normal.
  • Players may cast spells from the bazaar row; these cards aren’t otherwise considered to be in any game zone. Normal priority rules apply. (If players in your group aren’t savvy with Magic’s priority rules, use the alternate rule that cards with flash and instants can only be cast by a player whose starting deck’s color matches the card’s color.)
  • During a player’s cleanup step, if the bazaar row was dealt before that player’s previous turn, remove the remaining cards in the bazaar row and deal out a new one. In this way, the first player to have access to a bazaar row will also have last access to it, and players will take turns having first access to the bazaar-row deals.
  • If a player would attempt to draw or exile face-down a card from an empty library, that player shuffles his or her graveyard into his or her library and continues to draw. This prevents the player from losing the game for drawing from an empty library (unless that player has no cards to shuffle into his or her library).

    • If a player has fewer than six total cards in his or her library when reshuffling, the player must add basic lands until the library has at least six cards. He or she can add any number of basic lands of his or her starting deck’s color’s type. For as many lands of another type a player controls, he or she can add additional lands of that type.

Predatory Sliver
I called this format Wizards’ Bazaar obviously as a callback to Wizards’ Tower, but also to represent the various “wonders” players have access to, in the form of all the spells from the bazaar deck. We played Magic 2014 Wizards’ Bazaar, but other formats could work, such as Cube Wizards’ Bazaar, Jund Midrange Wizards’ Bazaar, or various other Limited variations using other Magic set booster packs. The only difference, other than the cards in the bazaar deck, would be the starting decks. For example, I could imagine a Cube Wizards’ Bazaar starting deck with 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.

Andrew Wilson


fissionessence at hotmail dot com

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