Magic the Gathering hybrid format (by me!)


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Well, if anyone plays Magic, here's some advice

Magic: the Gathering is a great trading card game that offers lots of action and fun but it is not perfect. For all the thousands different cards that have been printed throughout the years, MtG's gameplay is still prone to quickly become boring, “quickly” meaning an year or so. Just this spring I found out that some friends were playing it and that the game devs had been releasing an artifact set and that I love artifacts and so I spent some cash and got more cards, but I realized that it was all turning boring in the way it did years ago when I first got interested. So I wondered what made the game so short-lived and came up with a format that in theory seems to solve the problem and stretch the lifespan of any MtG collection of more than 300-500 cards almost indefinirely. In this post I will explain why I think MtG gets boring so easily and then how my way mends it and allows you to get more from your cards.

1.Problem with Magic: the Gathering constructed formats
2.The soul of the deck and the various formats
3.My hybrid format

First, the problem. I will assume that the reader has played MtG before. Every deck in the game tries to deal enough damage to the opponent that s/he loses all life or sometimes uses the victory condition of a powerful card (near-death experience). Decks achieve this through overrunning the opponent with small creatures or with big, powerful creatures or using magics. Throughout a game the player controls whichever his deck's arsenal offers and hopes that his 60 cards that he constructed will out-perform the opponent's. This is where the problems start.

The power of a deck is, I'm pretty sure, measured by the efficiency with which it sends its creatures through the opponent's defenses or with which it burns through the opponent's permanents/hand/library/etc., or with which it survives attacks until its Darksteel Reactor is full or its Progenitus/Planeswalker starts dealing the massive blows ( they print these days...).

In order for the deck to do its job quickly and efficiently, it needs to have all the right cards. Creature decks need to have cheap soldiers/monsters with a lot of power and toughness (Isamaru, Garruk's Companion). Control-oriented decks need to have cards that do a lot for a little mana (Lightning Bolt, Counterspell, Go for the Troat). Having a weaker card among these (something like Anodet Lurker) is not only unnecessary but also harmful. It is harmful because it means that when you draw a card there is a chance that you will not draw what you most need. Economists have a term that is useful for this discussion: opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is the things you give up in order to attain something (e.g. the opportunity cost of getting an excellent mark is surrendering one night of your life on which you were thinking of partying and the opportunity cost of going to a party is six hours of studying or whatever). I think Suture Priest is a great idea for a card and I want to play it in my soldier deck but the opportunity cost will be relinquishing another soldier card (say, Elite Vanguard) which would be more useful for the rush strategy of my deck. Therefore, the vanguard goes in and the priest stays away.

While playing, decisions such as these show their usefulness. Everytime I draw a card it is a random one from the 40-50 that are left in the deck. In order to win, I want the card to be a good part of the big team, so the higher the chance of drawing a vanguard as opposed to a priest (vanguards are more skilled at overrunning the opponent), the better. The higher the chance of drawing a Damnation as opposed to a Rise from the Grave, the better for my deck because my deck is control-oriented and Damnation does the job better, even though stealing a creature may be more fun.

Additionally, MtG has cards that make allow economies of scale. If your artifact deck had a few 0/0 creatures with +1/+1 counters and a few others that were normal, putting a Doubling Season or Energy Chamber wouldn't be as helpful as when all your creatures were 0/0 with +1/+1 counters. A good way to make a deck stronger is to make it contain spells of the same kind and get a huge effect directed at them. For example, a Loxodon Warhammer has a cool effect and I like seeing one of my creatures wielding it, but in a Kamigawa Spirit deck that uses lots of spirits, arcane spells and Long-Forgotten Gohei, it is out of place and using it has a high opportunity cost because it denies you some benefit from the economies of scale (call it Grand Theme if you want).

For the record, players are also limited by the mana curve. Mana curve is the imaginary curve we get when we arrange all cards in the deck from cheapest to most expensive. Ideally, a deck should have just a few cards with converted mana cost 6-7 and more, some more that cost 4-5 and mostly 1-3. This is so that the deck will always have something to cast at the early stages of the game before the player has enough lands to cast Gaea's Revenge or Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. Staying defenseless for a few turns is not a good idea. The mana curve of every deck needs to be sloped so that the deck has enough things to play in the first few turns.

These three things – opportunity costs/card efficiency, economies of scale/grand theme and, to a lesser extent, the mana curve restriction – conspire to make every game with your deck the same as before. If you want your dack to be useful and effective and succeed in rushing the enemy or pumping up your modular artifact guys, you want to get rid of cards that do not help the strategy. By doing so you eliminate many of the choices you can make in-game. You limit yourself to destroying every creature at the expense of reviving the opponent's Liege of the Tangle. So, in the end, variety must be sacrificed for efficiency if you want to win. The more you refine your deck to win faster, the more identical your games with it become. As a result, the deck soon becomes boring and you want to entertain in some other way.

I have felt that multiple times. It is disappointing and if you still want to play Magic you need to make another deck which will be initially weak and will cause you initial displeasure from losing all the time. Then, as you improve it along the paths of card efficiency, economy of scale and mana curve you throw away the less useful cards and the ones that don't really fit and you figure out the right number of cheap cards from one and from another color. In front of your eyes its behavior during game stiffens and the various game options you previously had eventually converge into one, optimal strategy, which then becomes boring because of the repetitive play. It is unfortunate that MtG has this flaw, not to mention the additional expenses it puts on players to obtain greater variety.

I think only fools will throw Magic away simply because of this. Why let the original rules prevent you from having fun? True, official tournaments demand this standard format for Constructed, plus that when you play with a stranger you use the official rules and constructed-format decks. Yet, those reasons do not justify the loss of fun. Do the players then deliberately “defuse” their decks and take out some of the good parts of the big machine so that it runs as slow as the other guy's? Well, optionally, but this solution isn't any fun in my opinion. I guess someone else out there does it but I, for one, don't like doing it.

People have come up with various alternative formats throughout the years.
Some formats have been even become official
although I must admit I don't know which ones were conceived by players and which ones by the game designers.

I have played a little drafting and I noticed that it is very interesting. It offers a completely different gameplay experience and it is fun; I imagine that other limited formats (ones in which you do not freely choose the cards for the deck you are making) are just as fun as they do not give an environment for those three processes of ossifying your deck (lol what deck??) to take place. However, I am not entirely satisfied with limited, either.


One thing that I noticed when I played Magic years ago (and when I played it this spring) is that I develop a special affection to some of the cards in my deck. I love some more than others. I like my samurai commanders and my Jace Beleren and Liliana Vess more than my Devoted Retainers and my Terrors or Mana Leaks. Casting a Thorn Elemental makes me happier than playing 2/2 bears even though the bears are often more strategically significant when I cast them. The uniqueness and specialty of the elite cards in my deck (<3 Memnarch) makes them enjoyable per se, regardless of whether I am winning or losing. The distinguished samurai and the other biggies were the conceptual heart of my deck around which my affection was focused. The other cards were expendable fodder.

Limited formats, then, cannot let me experience this. When drafting there is no guarantee that I get Takeno or Nagao or a big green monster that will be the stars of my deck. All the various draft formats that people have come up with do not guarantee me that I will eventually draw my favourite card and start pwning with it. Which is why I came up with a constructed/limited-hybrid format – one that can both let me keep the soul of a deck and prevent me from playing with something that is too efficient to be fun (or that has been crippled on purpose just so everyone has equal chances and fun).


The C/L-Hybrid format is exactly what the name suggests – a format that allows both some degree of freedom for players to decide who their big hitters and champions will be, and that randomizes the rest of the deck in order to prevent it from getting boring. I haven't had the chance to test it but this is how it looks so far.

The C/L-H is part constructed because players can choose 15 cards that will form the core of their deck. Those 15 cards can be the champion creatures that people love, or the elite conjurations (like Warp World or Beacon of XYZ) that other people love. Or, of course, the 15 cards can be the elements of a combo that a player has come up with and wants to employ. In general, I expect the 15 cards to be chosen along these lines.

The limited part of the C/L-H is a randomized distribution of cards to people. As the players have chosen their 15 cards of whichever colors they want, they now turn to obtaining another 20+ cards to complete the 60-card deck. First, create 5 stockpiles of about 200 or more cards of the same color, one pile for each color. Also, create one pile for artifacts and maybe another pile for various multicolored cards. You only need packs of the colors that people will play. So if I'm playing blue control and the opponent is playing green we only need the blue and green (and artifacts) stockpiles.

Next, draft packs of 10-15 random cards are taken out of each pile and set aside. These serve more or less as booster packs from the draft format. They have random cards, both permanents and magicks in them, and the cards are mostly commons and uncommons. Because they come from mono-colored stockpiles, these small packs are from the same color.

20+ such d-packs are formed for each player (it's faster than it sounds). The draft packs are kept face-down so that players don't know what's inside. Then, players proceed to take a d-pack and pick one card from it to use in his deck alongside the core 15. Once they have made their choice, they set the used d-pack aside and do not touch it any more – it is gone. The players don't have to reveal the cards they picked. The players then go through the other 20 or so d-packs and choose a card from each for their deck. When they are done, the deck has 15+21 cards. Add lands, shuffle and you're ready for action for the whole evening or until you want to take your chances again and re-draft.

The decks that have been created this way have the best of both constructed and limited. They preserve the heart of what you want your deck to be – Jace+Liliana for black/blue control, a big green hitter for green beasts, etc. among the 15 core cards. They also cannot be improved the normal way because you cannot look through the blue cards in your collection and pick The best available ones. You can be lucky while drafting and see them among the others, but it is possible that all 3 or 4 Mana Leaks you have are in the same d-pack and you only get to choose 1 card at a time.

This is it in a nutshell. In the summer I will try it with friends and will see how it goes and I'm optimistic about it. Here's a few notes.

Tribal decks have a disatvantage in C/L-H. To fix this, players may want to adjust the cards in the stockpiles (e.g. remove some or all non-Samurai white creatures from the white stockpile) or, alternatively, have special rules for tribal decks. For example, if a player declares that s/he will use a tribal deck, s/he will have to have 15 creatures of only that type in their deck core. Then, when they draft, any creature they choose will have the specific creature type of the tribe (e.g. soldiers will be samurai, viashino will be goblins, etc.). Additionally, the players may want to put blue/black cards in both the blue and the black stockpiles. This will make it easier for Alara-kind of multicolored decks to get their arsenal before playing.

And that's that. This is Constructed/Limited-Hybrid as born off the top of my head. It looks like a good way to rejuvenate the eldest and most venerable of all trading card games that is Magic: the Gathering, and I'm looking forward to testing it.
It looks like a good way to rejuvenate the eldest and most venerable of all trading card games that is Magic: the Gathering, and I'm looking forward to testing it.

Was MTG ever dead/dying? Legacy is still growing in popularity over type 2, slowly but surely ...

I like your format, perhaps I'll give it a run with the group I play with and let you know how it goes.
As someone who plays lots of magic, I find your view of the game to be quite... innaccurate.

Yes, it is true that those big spells and big creatures are good to have, and it's fun to play them, but it seems like you ignore all the little guys and utility spells.

You describe the game as one of creatures, but that hardly the case, I have played decks that rely only on creatures, and some that rely on instants and sorceries.

Anyway, the loxodonwarhammer is an amazing equipment, but to say it's useless becuase it doesn't work in a specific deck is crazy. I have one in my knight deck. Do you know how powerful a 5/2 trample, lifelink, doublestrike, flying, vigilance is? Yeah. I would say a card that works in any deck is possibly broken.

you might say a card like Bitterblossom is a bad card, becuase it can easilly kill you, and 1/1's are just as easilly killed. Well, I say it's an amazing card, it gives you a 1/1 flying that you can use to chump block enemies, or poke people with. I have grown to love it.

You mention that the problm with magic is that "you throw away the less useful cards and the ones that don't really fit". Well, obviously. If you are trying to make an effeciant deck you chose cards that work for it. Why would I keep cards in a deck that just hinder play? If you find a deck boring to play, then mix it up and make a new deck.

I have over ten decks, to give a brief summery of a few:

A Black deck designed to destroy multiple opponents at once
A white knight deck, power creatures and somesupport auras and removal
A green ramp deck, using Recross the PathsI ramp up to 6+ forests and then begin dropping things like Vigor and Allosaurus Rider
A Multiplay Blue deck using Stormtide Leviathan and high Tide with Blatant Thievery for added effect. This deck locks down the opponents.
A Blue/Black discard/rack deck withere I kill them for discarding, and I kill them for having no cards.
I have a Red/Green/White deck that is built around Retaliator Griffin and Runes of Deus
I have a Blue/Black rogue deck, where I get past your defenses with weak enemies, then your your spells against you.

Hell, you want some real fun? There are other ways to play, my friends and I all made pauper decks - you can only use common rarity cards to make it. Another is 100 card decks with only 1 of each card that isn't non-basic land. You can make a rainbow deck - A deck with 6 of each basic land, and 6 cards of each colour, ranging in mana cost 1-6 (So, a card is costs at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 - x is 0).

And of course, you can always do what you did and think of your own format or style of play. My friends and I still play with mana burn (personal preference). We also have a house rule of sorts where enchantments don't leave play when a player dies. So if you drop something like Painful Quandery then die, they still need to either remove it, or deal with it.

Of couse, I typically play in games that Rang from 2 to 6+ people. Ever play magic with 6 people? Yuo have to becareful what you play. If you drop a thorn elemental, you can expect people to gang up on you unless there is something more threatening. Or you can play with a 'sphere of influence' any global effects only effect the person to your left and right, and yourself, You can only attack the person to your left or right, you an only target ther person to your left or right, and yourself. Then, if you kill one of them, whoever was beside you is now effected by you, and you by them.

Anyway, I find half the fun of magic is ont in playing the game, but deck creation. I find the other half is hafving fun and playing cards with friends. though, loseing consistantly is anoying :p
Out of curiousity Pineapple, have you used the Bitterblossom/Contamination combo? When I first got into Legacy I started with a Pox deck that ran so much ... EVERYTHING destruction lol. It also had the bitterblossom/contamination lockdown. Good times to be had against the ragers. "ALL MY MANA IS BLACK MANA! WHAT!?"

EDIT: In case you haven't seen it, here's Contamination.
@ Sephiroth
Thx for the go; also, I meant that this way of playing would make use of all the commons and uncommons that you don't normally use because you have found better ones for your deck

@ Pineapple
You're probably right, I'm a casual MtG player who last bought lots of cards in Kamigawa (I got some boosters for the New Mirrodin, though) and all I'm saying comes from my limited experience. BUT, I'm pretty sure that the more you improve your deck and find the best cards for it, the more monotone and boring playing with it becomes. I've seen that happen to me and a few other friends.
I dont run that, Often tmies I'm not the only one playing black :p. It is quite brutal though.

I run with Painful Quandery, Sangromancer, Blood Seeker, Exsanguinate, Herald of Leshrac, Sheoldred, Whispering One, Pain's Reward, Kokusho, the Evening Star, Larceny and Butcher of Malakir in my Bitterblossom deck . (aling with things like diobolic tutor, blood tithe, syphon mind, pulse tracker, sign in blood, etcc...)

It is fun, to use . "Of, you 5 lose.. 8 life each. I gain 40. Problem? And Someone always over pays for Pains reward. Then I just syphon them to death. :D


And as for monotone-ness... Then you are playing the wrong deck. Maybe you are sick fo just beating them down with monsters? I a deck around another method of killing. A Mill deck? Perhaps a life drain deck. You can do a burn deck, or a creature control deck! Use lots of things like control magic and take all their creatures for yourself, and counter their spells. If thats not enough, you can make a discard deck with things liek megrim and liliana's caress. How about a blue deck with things like island walk and spreading seas? Or maybe some protective bubbles? There is plenty of ways to win a game of magic, and it's all about finding the play style tyou enjoy the most. I personally like them all, but my favourite it life draining my opponents.
I play magic a lot, and I understand your point of view, though I can't say I really agree with all your theories. :D Magic is more complicated than that.

Well, what I do is make tournament decks. Decks designed to win. I have a vintage Tezzeret deck for type 1 tournament, an artifact combo for legacy, and I had a faerie deck for standard, but it's outdated now.

Then, I make fun decks, which consist of the other 80% of my decks. :D I have to agree with Pineapple there, the point of magic is that building decks is loads of fun. If your deck is boring to play, dismantle it. Build another one. Those fun decks I make turn around either a funny combo, effect, creature, idea, whatever. I own 8 fun decks, each with their own principles and fun cards, mainly aimed at Free For All games and stuff. :)

With the coming of the new Modern format, again I'll have to create a competitive deck and I'll enjoy doing that.

But yeah, I'm all for creating your own house rules / format / whatever. I don't, however, fall in love with my cards so I don't mind making a limited draft. :p
BUT, I'm pretty sure that the more you improve your deck and find the best cards for it, the more monotone and boring playing with it becomes.

Sir, I must disagree. Just because a deck becomes more refined, more powerful, that does not make it boring. Powerful decks only get boring when you play against underpowered decks. If you want to play efficient decks and enjoy yourself, then you need to insure that as your deck becomes more powerful, your opponents decks do as well. I play the legacy format frequently, and I am never bored with the format, because it is incredibly diverse and I enjoy playing against powerful decks...with my also broken or unfair decks.

not to mention the additional expenses it puts on players to obtain greater variety.

I won't argue that it is not expensive if you want to play anything you want, My binder is worth more than my car. But if you're not willing to spend money on a hobby you love, you should probably find another hobby. (I'm not saying you need a collection like mine, I've been playing a long time and invested in most of my legacy staples before their prices went up)
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