I’m taking a break today from my usual competitive Legacy strategy to discuss a neat way to get competitive players to play casually. One of the hardest things about “getting good” is losing that ability to jam an unsleeved pile of your 84 favorite cards like you did when you were 10. You can never get that feeling back because you always want to optimize everything. Sure, Zombie Tribal might seem cool, but Merfolk is probably better.
A solution I propose is the Custom Format challenge. It allows competitive players to optimize their decks, strategy, and play while also having some dumb fun. Being constrained in your deckbuilding means you have to brew creatively. It means taking some risks and playing some cards you never have before. What if every deck at an event had to contain a playset from each Fallen Empires, Homelands, and Starter 99? What if your deck could not contain any two cards from the same set?
I’ve played two such events and I have one coming up soon. First, the stories of past glory, then some brewing ideas for the next event.
Maze’s End Challenge, 2014
The challenge was to get the most game wins in a local unsanctioned Legacy weekly by activating the “I win” condition on Maze’s End.
Any game wins by any other means improved your standing in the larger tournament, but would not count to the challenge. Cheats like animating a Maze’s End and attacking or pantsing it up with a Barbed Field similarly did not count.
There were Life from the Loam strategies and even a Swans of Bryn Argoll combo. This was during Dig Through Time though, and when faced with a dumb win condition, most players landed on some Omni-Show. Among them, a few used some form of “wish board” to be able to fetch the Guildgates for the win so that their mana didn’t suffer. LegitMTG writer Brain Marx built: Show and Tell Omniscience, Enter the Infinite, Cunning Wish for Research//Development, use a bunch of Increasing Vengeance copies to get all of the gates and Maze’s Ends, Enter the Infinite again, play Amulet of Vigor and Manabond, and win in the end step, for example. I wanted the sideboard space and mana to cast Blood Moon and Krosan Grip in the mirror, so I mained every one of my Guildgates.
Mazes End, Kevin King
And I won the event. Not just the challenge, but tiebreakers among the X-0 records put me in first place. The engine in my deck was to Show and Tell Omniscience, cast Emrakul, get the trigger, and Karakas her back to hand in order to have all the turns. With all the turns, I could play every gate and activate Maze’s End for the win. Obviously, this list is total garbage. The mana is completely awful, there are only three fetches to work with Brainstorm, and I scooped a game one on the spot to one of my gates getting Wastelanded.
I won’t say this was the best deck in the room, but I had so much fun playing it. Once I had to Show and Tell Emrakul into play to have a blocker, then crack back for 15 just to get my opponent’s permanents off the board. I ended up playing the Blood Moon in the mirror, but my opponent had the same plan in their sideboard and Krosan Gripped it to win game 2. I got to beat real Legacy decks in rounds one and three with a ten Guildgate mono-blue combo deck.
Secret Santa, 2015
Fast forward over year to Mi Peublo after a Tuesday night Legacy local. During dinner, we got onto the subject of what decks each player at the table would least enjoy. We were having so much fun discussing it, we decided to set up an event where instead of bringing yourself a deck to play, you would bring a randomly assigned player a deck they will hate. They then have to play that deck.
The idea here was to build an optimized, viable Legacy deck that they would nonetheless despise. Our metric was that it should be “Pox or better.” There was a Yoked Ox Death and Taxes list and UR Coin Flips deck, but mostly everyone took to the spirit of the thing.
We had Miracles players on Burn and Lands players on Storm. I ended up building Aggro Loam for a friend who only plays Miracles. I thought he would not enjoy the “shields-down” aggro style of the non-blue side of the format. Turns out he loved it and I’m terrible at this. I, however, was built Cephalid Breakfast.
Cephalid Breakfast, Scott Waldron
This deck was sweet. In case you’re not familiar with the deck, it mills itself with Nomads en-Kor or Shuko and Cephalid Illusionist, then uses the Narcomoebas to flashback Dread Return, making a huge The Mimeoplasm with Triskelion’s ability. I’d never play it again, but I’m so glad I got to do it once. I didn’t even get a chance to look to the deck over before shuffling and presenting, so when I drew my first seven and saw a Cephalid Illusionist in it, I got to learn the deck live. I knew the combo, but I didn’t know what version Scott had built for me. So when I went off game one and saw the Lord of Extinction go by, that was the first time I even saw my win condition.
The American Legacy, 2016
This summer, once again at Mi Pueblo (Best Burrito in Glen Burnie), we decided to honor these United States of America by playing only UWR decks in one event. EDH color identity rules apply and you must play at least a playset of each color of card. We are also enforcing a banlist so that we don’t all show up with Miracles, Delver, and Stoneblade.
Werebear (He exercises his right to bear arms.)
So what to play? Miracles is still possible without the Counterbalance lock. You still have access to Sensei’s Divining Top, Terminus, and Entreat the Angels. Stoneblade is obviously out, but we can still cast Umezawa’s Jitte the fair way. Show and Tell is axed, but we can still Sneak Attack Emrakul in this format.
Let’s have some fun.
In the tradition of combo decks named after breakfast foods:
Last Nights Budweiser, Kevin King
This deck probably isn’t good. Having access to Blood Moon out of the board might be a bonus against both the UWR mirrors and against those who aren’t participating in the challenge and are playing real decks. Without Pyromancer’s Ascension, it will be hard to win and it’s possible even with maindecked Young Pyromancer, we don’t have enough win conditions.
Let’s try Burn.
Aggressively Bringing You Freedom, Kevin King
I like this one better. I’ve always wanted to jam the nonbo of Snapcaster Mage with Eidolon of the Great Revel and what better excuse could there be than a celebration of American Independence? Path to Exile is great to have as an option to deal with things like Tarmogoyf or Gurmag Angler that will stonewall your aggressive creatures. It reminds me of old Zoo in Legacy in the pre-Delver days.
Or we could go Stompy about it.
Taxation Without Representation, Kevin King
This is my favorite yet. It’s got a classic stompy plan with Mantis Rider as the value beater, though Lightning Angel’s 4 toughness likely makes it better in that slot. Both go very well under a Chrome Mox. The other blue card here is Rhystic Study. If your opponent is already paying more than they can afford for their spells, they probably will need to let you draw some cards. Worst case, it’s another Thalia. Best case, it’s a one sided Howling Mine. All of the interesting enchantment package can be tutored up with Enlightened Tutor, the only one drop in the main deck. I think it’s powerful enough of a package to justify the nonbo with Chalice of the Void. This one is probably where I’ll put my next block of testing time.
I hope you’ll indulge my goofy week here and more than that, that you will try something like this with your friends. We usually just invade some store’s Legacy weekly, but getting a bunch of friends together at your house for a “No Sorceries” or “Even Mana Costs Only” challenge can be a lot of fun too. Sometimes it feels like we can only take this game seriously and there’s no room left for goofy nonsense, but combining that with a legitimate deckbuilding challenge may just be the way to regain that casual spirit. If you’ve ever done something like this or have idea for future events, I’d love to hear about them!
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