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CardShark Content - Alex Lee (9/12/2005)

Many playgroups can easily fall into the “I hate other formats” mentality, where they would continually play a single format week after week, whether it’s Standard, or Vintage free-for-all. In this article I’ll show you three popular formats that are widely played even by Magic pros.

5-Color:

The thing that makes 5-Color different from normal Magic is its deck requirements. Your library needs to be at least 250 cards large, and you need at least 18 cards of each color. This is to try to give you more random hands, and thereby stop the mindless tedium of your 60-card extended killing machine.

There’s also a banned and restricted list, which can be found at the 5-Color website. For those that are too lazy to go there, it pretty much says that all tutors and uber-powerful cards like the Power Nine are restricted. Tutors are restricted because the format is supposed to be random. All sets are allowed except Un-sets (Unglued, Unhinge
Unhinge
UnhingeSet: Torment
Cost:
3
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Number:
87
Text:
Target player discards a card from his or her hand. Draw a card.
d).

One last thing that sets apart 5-Color is ante. Now, I never play with ante because I would never risk one of my hard-earned rares, but some people like to, especially if they want to use the one of the most powerful cards in the format, Contract from Below
Contract from Below
Contract from BelowSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Douglas Shuler
Text:
Discard your current hand and draw eight new cards, adding the first drawn to your ante. Remove this card from your deck before playing if you are not playing for ante.
. Here’s how Ante works; at the beginning of the game, both players reveal the top card of their library until they reveal a non-land foil card or a rare card. That card becomes their ante.

5-Color is great fun, and has an advantage over the other formats. You can play people playing regular decks with your 5-color deck. This is helpful if none of your playgroup wants to build their own 5-color deck, or if you find someone at a tournament you want to play a casual game with.

Strategy for 5-Color:

So, let’s say you build a 250 card deck. In it, you could have around 100 lands, because 100 lands out of 250 cards = a 2/5 ratio, the same as 24 lands to 60 cards. For those 100 lands, it’s preferable to have multicolor lands like City of Brass
City of Brass
City of BrassSet: Fifth Edition
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Tom Wänerstrand
Text:
Whenever City of Brass becomes tapped, it deals 1 damage to you.T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.
, the fetchlands from Onslaught
Onslaught
OnslaughtSet: Exodus
Cost:
1
Color:
Red
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
C
Number:
92
Artist:
Paolo Parente
Text:
Whenever you successfully cast a creature spell, tap target creature.
, and even the old dual lands from Alpha. But if you can’t afford any of those, you could just go with basic lands for the mana base.

For your spells, Green is almost always going to be one of your major colors, because green has all the essential mana-fixers needed in any 5-color deck. Good ones are Sakura-Tribe Elder
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Sakura-Tribe ElderSet: Commander
Cost:
2
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Snake Shaman
Rarity:
C
Number:
169
Artist:
Carl Critchlow
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
Sacrifice Sakura-Tribe Elder: Search your library for a basic land card, put that card onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library.
, Harrow
Harrow
HarrowSet: Tempest
Cost:
3
Color:
Green
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Eric David Anderson
Text:
Sacrifice a land: Search your library for up to two basic land cards and put them into play. Shuffle your library afterwards.
, Kodama’s Reach, etc. But really, you have the entire history of the game to work with, so pick what you want.

Since you need all five colors, it’s best to have each color stick to their strengths. Blue has card drawing and counterspells, black has creature kill, green has mana acceleration, red has burn, and white has Disenchant
Disenchant
DisenchantSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Amy Weber
Text:
Target enchantment or artifact is destroyed.
effects and protection. And for your first deck, don’t worry about a quick aggro strategy. The format is a lot slower than regular Magic, and control decks with big finishers do well. Aggro can work well, but only if you have the right cards, some of which can be hard to obtain.

Mental Magic:

Mental Magic is one of the craziest formats in Magic. The rules are simple; when you play a card, you may instead play it as another card with the exact same mana cost. For example, Scathe Zombies
Scathe Zombies
Scathe ZombiesSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Zombies
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Jesper Myrfors
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
can be played as a Yawgmoth’s Will, but not as a Severed Legion
Severed Legion
Severed LegionSet: Onslaught
Cost:
3
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie
Rarity:
C
Number:
166
Artist:
Dany Orizio
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Fear (This creature can't be blocked except by artifact creatures and/or black creatures.)
. This leads to really insane and crazy plays. But, there’s a limitation. A named card can only be played once. So Yawgmoth’s Will could only be called once in a game. Mental Magic decks have no lands. Instead, any card in your hand may be played face-down as a land that taps for any color of mana.

Strategy for Mental Magic:

The key to Mental Magic is your knowledge of the cards and how creative you can get. For example, let’s think of this scenario:

Your opponent is attacking you with his freshly cast Grizzly Bears
Grizzly Bears
Grizzly BearsSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Bears
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Jeff A. Menges
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
. All you have in play is four lands, a Cabal Ritual
Cabal Ritual
Cabal RitualSet: Torment
Cost:
2
Color:
Black
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
51
Text:
Add BBB to your mana pool. Threshold - Instead add BBBBB to your mana pool.
in hand, and a Kodama’s Reach in your graveyard. With just those resources you could:

Play Diabolic Edict
Diabolic Edict
Diabolic EdictSet: Tempest
Cost:
2
Color:
Black
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Ron Spencer
Text:
Target player sacrifices a creature.

Play Echoing Decay
Echoing Decay
Echoing DecaySet: Darksteel
Cost:
2
Color:
Black
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
41
Artist:
Greg Staples
Text:
Target creature and all other creatures with the same name as that creature get -2/-2 until end of turn.

Play Simulacrum
Simulacrum
SimulacrumSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Black
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Mark Poole
Text:
All damage done to you so far this turn is instead retroactively applied to one of your creatures in play. Even if there's more than enough damage to kill the creature, you don't suffer any of it. Further damage this turn is treated normally.
to prevent the damage
Play Smother
Smother
SmotherSet: Onslaught
Cost:
2
Color:
Black
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
170
Artist:
Carl Critchlow
Text:
Destroy target creature with converted mana cost 3 or less. It can't be regenerated.

Flash
Flash
FlashSet: Classic Sixth Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Number:
67
Artist:
David Ho
Text:
Put a creature card from your hand into play. You may pay its mana cost reduced by up to 2. If you don't, sacrifice it.
back Call of the Herd
Call of the Herd
Call of the HerdSet: Odyssey
Cost:
3
Color:
Green
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
231
Artist:
Carl Critchlow
Text:
Put a 3/3 green Elephant creature token into play. Flashback 3G (You may play this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then remove it from the game.)
and block

These are a few of the many possibilities that could happen. The entire format revolves how creative you can be with your cards. When playing Mental Magic, I recommend you just pull out a stack of random commons and give each player a pile.

Type 4:

Type 4 is a format with a couple simple rules that turns the entire game on its head. First, there’s infinite mana. Second, to balance the power of the format, you can only play one spell a turn. Simple, right?

Type 4 is one of the most broken formats ever, and a fine-tuned deck will rip apart an opponent in seconds. So, Type 4 is usually played in draft. Build booster packs out of the most broken, expensive cards in the game, and draft them with some friends.

There’s no banned/restricted list, but I recommend banning X spells like Fireball
Fireball
FireballSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Red
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Mark Tedin
Text:
Fireball does X damage total, divided evenly (round down) among any number of targets. Pay 1 extra mana for each target beyond the first.
, for obvious reasons.

Strategy for Type 4:

If Type 4 revolved completely around big creature bombs, it wouldn’t be fun, right? (or maybe it would) So, many players would build their own Type 4 stack of cards, balancing out bomb creatures, utility creatures, destruction, counterspells, and so on. Of course, if these were just regular spells, the format would be boring. What’s the point of infinite mana if you can’t use stuff like Hypnox
Hypnox
HypnoxSet: Torment
Cost:
11
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Nightmare Horror
Rarity:
R
Number:
64
Artist:
Greg Staples
Power:
8
Toughness:
8
Text:
Flying. When Hypnox comes into play, if you played it from your hand, remove all cards in target opponent's hand from the game. When Hypnox leaves play, return the removed cards to their owner's hand.
? In a regular game of Type 4, you would see Akroma, Spelljack
Spelljack
SpelljackSet: Judgment
Cost:
6
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Number:
51
Artist:
Pete Venters

Text:
Counter target spell. If the spell is countered in this way, remove it from the game instead of putting it into its owner's graveyard. As long as it remains removed from game, you may play it as though it were in your hand without paying its mana cost. If it has X in its mana cost, X is 0.
, Obliterate
Obliterate
ObliterateSet: Invasion
Cost:
8
Color:
Red
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
156
Artist:
Kev Walker
Text:
Obliterate can't be countered.Destroy all artifacts, creatures, and lands. They can't be regenerated.
, and other huge spells regularly.

While big creatures like that are fun, the real power comes from activated abilities. Cephalid Retainer
Cephalid Retainer
Cephalid RetainerSet: Odyssey
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Cephalid
Rarity:
R
Number:
73
Artist:
Tony Szczudlo
Power:
2
Toughness:
3
Text:
UU: Tap target creature without flying.
can lock down every creature forever, and Glarecaster
Glarecaster
GlarecasterSet: Onslaught
Cost:
6
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Bird Cleric
Rarity:
R
Number:
30
Artist:
Dan Frazier
Power:
3
Toughness:
3
Text:
Flying. 5W: The next time damage would be dealt to Glarecaster or you this turn, that damage is dealt to target creature or player instead.
will prevent all damage to you forever. There’s no limit to activated abilities, but you can enforce a “one activated ability per turn,” to make it fair.

Conclusion:

There you have it, three popular Magic formats. If you want to learn more about any of these formats, tons of articles on the internet talk about them, and this is just a quick intro.


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