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Off the Wall


My weekly articles will be focusing mostly on competitive Magic, which means Limited and whichever Constructed format is the most relevant. As we are testing for the World Magic Cup, I need to stay silent about Standard, Innistrad Block Constructed, and Modern until I return from Indianapolis.

When I’m not playing competitive Magic, I enjoy my fair share of more casual formats such as Cube, German Highlander (rules can be found at http://highlandermagic.info), and sometimes formats that are even more random. I will probably be writing about these casual formats whenever there is a Pro Tour or other similar tournament on the horizon.

Today, I’ll be writing about the formats we played at a local Invitational-type tournament organized by former Finnish Champion and all-around lunatic Jussi Timonen. Some of you might recognize him by his screen name Mozzie, and I’ll use that from here on. The event is called Kommunitationals, from when he and some other Magic players lived in a commune, and during the years, we’ve played some pretty random formats. All-stars include Mana-Screw Draft (Cube with basic lands added to packs; you can’t add any additional lands), Cube Backdraft, auction of the people–style formats, and preconstructed deck showdowns (Jace vs. Chandra and such).

This year was the fifth time we were playing, and the event was split into two days. The first day featured what was called Half-Box Sealed, while the second day included Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, and The Dark Rotisserie, and finally Cube Draft with avatars. Eight people were gathered for this weekend of random formats, including three former Finnish Champions. We even streamed the event through UStream, maxing out at a whole twenty viewers.

Half-Box Sealed

During this format, each player received half a box of product, from which he had to construct seven decks. Before each round, players had eight minutes plus extra minutes based on the bidding order in which to construct decks. After each round, the current deck was discarded, and players had to make a deck from the remaining cards. We played Round Robin, so each of the competitors played against each other once, meaning seven rounds.

There was product from eight different blocks present: Mirage, Onslaught, Mirrodin, Champions of Kamigawa, Time Spiral, Ravnica: City of Guilds, Coldsnap, Shadowmoor, and Eventide. We then proceeded to bid for these, with the starting bid being eight cards in your starting hand and starting life of 25, with cards being worth more than life. You could overbid yourself, so had you won something for seven cards and 1 life, you could go to six cards and 25 life if you wanted (and you probably did).

Additionally, the first one out received seven extra minutes of deck construction, the second one six, and so on. We were seated at random and seat number one chose which block to bid for first, and we then proceeded around the table clockwise.

I had planned to try to pick up either Shadowmoor/Eventide or Coldsnap, and I managed to get Coldsnap quite late for eight cards and 19 life (which was a bargain). My pool included such hits as four Jokulmorder, Jester's Scepter, two Dark Depths, and some other unplayable rares. Since I had only ten minutes to construct my first deck, I quickly checked if I had any good multicolored cards, and after I found three Blizzard Specters, I went for a U/B deck as my first build. Rather than bore you with all the individual builds, here are some of the seven decks I played. I naturally played against a deck with all flyers and Kira, Great Glass-Spinner with my Martyr of Ashes deck and never even had a chance. My last deck was not very good, probably due to some poor decisions while building.

The format was one of the most fun we’ve ever played during these events, and it’s one I would recommend warmly. If you have some friends, a tournament organizer, and/or a store owner who are up for it, give it a try. It can be a bit expensive—you need three times as much product compared to a normal Sealed. Also, the logistics can be a bit challenging, and eight to ten players is probably ideal. Going over that makes the bidding process a bit more challenging, and if you follow our model of deck construction with the eight minutes plus extra minutes, the deck-building time can be a bit too long. Eight minutes is quite little, but part of the fun is that it’s very challenging and you won’t have time to optimize your decks. The format emphasizes what I think is the most fun part of Sealed: building your deck. You get to do this seven times, and since you are just playing one match with each deck, it definitely won’t become boring like normal Sealed sometime tends to do.

AN-AQ-LG-DK Rotisserie

When I said that the guy organizing this is a lunatic, I wasn’t exaggerating. Not only had he bought all the product for the Half-Box Sealed, but he had also bought the complete sets of Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, and The Dark (complete with all four Strip Mines and such) just so we could do the Rotisserie Draft. I had gone through all the sets before the event and made a shortlist of cards that I thought would be good, and the list contained roughly thirty cards. Most of the cards in these sets are just horrible for Limited, and I thought the format would amount to bashing each other with 5/5 vanilla guys costing something like 7 mana. (I’m looking at you, Jedit Ojanen.) One of my strategies was to pick up The Abyss and as many playable artifact guys as I could and try to ride those to victory.

As it turned out, the decks were much, much better than expected, something that was a bit of a letdown, as I was looking forward to some terrible creatures engaging in combat. I was in seat two, with the wheels (seats one and eight) being the best seats. I’m not going to go into too much detail on how the actual Draft went (mostly because I don’t remember much of it), but here are the first picks of the Draft in seat order: Library of Alexandria, Tetravus, Rubinia Soulsinger, Serendib Djinn, Moat, Triskelion, Millstone, and Ashes to Ashes and Oubliette at the wheel.

The potential prison-style deck featuring Millstone, Moat, and Arboria didn’t come together, as two different players went for it in the beginning. The Draft was full of moments when someone picked a card and instantly someone else tilted, “Is that card still there!? How can he get it that late; why didn’t I pick it up?” I literally had no idea what I was doing after the first few picks, and I somehow ended up drafting mono-green. This might sound really bad, as green as a color was among the worst in old sets, but the deck actually turned out good. The creatures were decent compared to what the other colors offered, and I even had some sweet artifacts. I realized my initial plan involving The Abyss would not work out since everyone else was picking up the artifact guys early. Here is a picture of the mono-green beast.

The best cards in my deck were Tawnos's Coffin, Tetravus, and Ifh-Biff Efreet. The Efreet could clock non-green opponents for basically 7 damage each turn cycle, while Tawnos's Coffin was like a better Icy Manipulator in many situations, and Tetravus was nigh unbeatable. The rules interaction between the Coffin and Tetravus didn’t really work as I thought, as the Tetravus won’t receive new counters if you remove it while it has 0 counters, so you can’t use this sick combo to make three 1/1 flyers each turn. The way some of these old cards are worded and how they work is pretty weird at times, and you have to wonder what the designers were thinking. We came to the conclusion that most of the cards in these sets (especially Arabian Nights) were straight top-down designs based on flavor. This is fine of course, but it leads to some really strange cards, such as Island of Wak-Wak and the enemy of Value Town, Urza's Miter. (What’s the definition of benefit anyway?)

My friend Kim got was what probably the best deck at the table, featuring Serendib Djinn, Serendib Efreet, Time Elemental, Old Man of the Sea, and a lot of other good cards. He handily went 4–0, while I finished the format with a 2–2 record. Here’s a picture of it.

Rotisserie drafting is always pretty tough, and you always feel as though you’ve screwed up multiple times once the Draft is over. At the same time, it’s really fun—I enjoy formats that challenge you and feel really tough. The fact that there were so many cards made the challenge even greater. It might be a good idea to start out with something a bit easier if you want to try rotisserie drafting for yourself; try Innistrad/Dark Ascension/Avacyn Restored or some other recent block.

Cube Draft with Avatars

The final format was normal Cube Draft featuring ten different avatars that you could choose from during deck construction. Several players could play with the same avatar, and the avatars remained secret until deck construction was over. The avatars were:

Avatar Hand Size Starting Life
Dream Halls 6 15
Maelstrom Nexus 6 12
In the Web of War 6 12
Near-Death Experience 8 25
Warstorm Surge 6 18
Stone Calendar 7 16
Mana Reflection 6 19
Recycle 9* 30
Wild Pair 8 27
Future Sight 5 15
*You have to discard down to two at end of turn.

Mozzie’s Cube is partially powered (no Moxes) and also features cards like Chaos Orb. The Cube list can be found here. There were a couple of cards that worked particularly well with the avatars. Saproling Burst was a one-card combo with Warstorm Surge, Grim Monolith produced infinite mana with Mana Reflection, while Fastbond was the most insane thing to open, as it allowed you to pick Recycle as your avatar and just kill on turn one. I figured Dream Halls would be the most popular plan, so I was looking to pick up token producers and cheap guys to go with the In the Web of War avatar if I didn’t open any of the aforementioned broken one-card combos.

I started out with a Blade Splicer (8 damage for 3 mana) and got some white and red guys along with Spectral Procession from the first booster. My deck ended up all right, with mainly just a bunch of guys. I also tried to pick up as many on-color unplayables (like Wildfire) so that I could sideboard out all my lands against Dream Halls, since it is symmetrical. Three people ended up with Dream Halls, while one player each chose Recycle, Stone Calendar, Wild Pair, and Mana Reflection (plus me on In the Web of War). The three Dream Halls player were funnily enough sitting right next to each other, so there were was quite some difference in deck quality.

I went 1–2, which was a bit disappointing. I lost to Kim, who had opened Fastbond and gone for it. His deck featured Ob Nixilis, the Fallen, Lightning Serpent, and Death Grasp. He won six of his games on turn one, only losing a couple on the way from mulliganing into oblivion (from nine to two cards without seeing Fastbond). I lost to one Dream Halls (he killed me on turn three in the last game) and won against another Dream Halls, managing to kill him on turn one once.

It was a fun format, even though it was completely broken. The one-card combos should have been removed from the Cube beforehand, as they make the drafting very bad. If you opened Fastbond at any point, you just slammed it and tried to draft at least one card to kill your opponent with (not very hard to accomplish). However, the idea of Cube drafting with avatars is fun and a good way to spice up your Cube playing if you grow tired of the same old way of drafting. I would recommend spending quite a lot of time balancing the different avatars and considering cutting some cards from the actual Cube to make the play experience more enjoyable.

Finals! Fight!

The event ended with the top two playing heads-up Winston Draft from an assortment of random boosters. The Innistrad and Dark Ascension double-faced cards are pretty funny in Winston, as you get some extra information while making your picks. Winston is a fun and pretty fast format. If you are unfamiliar with it, you can check it out here.

Formats like these can be really fun while also helping you to get better at Magic. Our Kommunitationals events are enjoyable because you get to hang out with people who don’t play Magic competitively anymore, and you get to try some pretty crazy formats. Even though the formats were casual, the actual event was pretty cutthroat. At one point, I attacked with Whirling Dervish and put a counter on it (thinking it worked like Sliths). My opponent untapped and drew a card, and I said I hadn’t passed the turn yet. “Yea, you put a counter on Dervish; it’s at end of turn”. Yeah, I guess I did.

If you would like to hear about some of the other formats we have played through the years, hit me up on Twitter or in the comments section, and I’ll be sure to write about it in the future. Next week, I’ll be writing about Magic 2013 Limited, as I hope to have had time to get in some Drafts on Magic Online.

Thanks for reading,


@thebloom_ on Twitter

Maxx on Magic Online

You can find my music here: http://soundcloud.com/bloomlive

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