Magic isn’t only about tournament play, and anyone who feels that the game is getting stale playing only in tournament level games needs a break now and again. These are some suggestions for some fun games you can organize for your friends and teammates to pass the time.
One of the most fun games in Magic is in a format called 5-color. This is a widely known version of Type I, which requires a 250 card deck, with an 18 card minimum in each of the five colors, where most search effects are restricted (i.e. only one may be played in each deck). Games in this format are usually played for ante, either in regular form, with forced trade-backs, or potentially just for show. Whoever has the lowest converted mana cost in their ante card goes first, and in tie situations, you can roll a dice, or go by the lowest first letter in the ante card’s name. Games are played the same manner as regular games, although the player who goes first always draws a card, even on their first turn. This type of format is a lot of fun, can earn you a lot of new cards, and a great way to break up the monotony of regular matchups.
Small drafts can be fun too, though they can be a bit pricey if you keep buying new packs and draft sets. Any even number of players will work, but typically it’s best if four is used as a minimum. A fun variation is to have each player buy their own packs of any set, because as long as there’s 15 cards per pack, you’ll always be even. For prizes, you take the rare and foil cards out of each deck. The player who wins gets his pick of the first two cards, and the second, third and fourth player each get their pick of the next one. Continue through all of the players if you wish, or set a cut-off point, at which finishers below would get no choice. The prize draft continues in this manner until all the cards are gone.
Two-headed giant can be a fun format to play as well. In this format, players divide into teams of two, and each team has a life total of 40. Players each take their own turns, typically the rotation goes with turns one and four on one team, and turns two and three on the second. In other words, one player from one team would have a turn, followed by both players from the second team, followed by the final player from the first team. Everyone draws a card on the first go-around. Each person can declare an attack on the other team, but that team can decide how to block, using creatures from each separate player if they so choose. Once any team’s life total reaches zero, they lose.
Memory Magic is one of the most difficult games to play. Often it can only be played by veterans who are familiar with the many different kinds of cards which have been printed over the years, because the game relies a great deal on your knowledge of cards. In this format, you take any random pile of cards, shuffle them up, and deal a hand to each player. Both players will draw from the same pile of cards, and any kind of search effects are banned, as are “Duress” type cards which require you to look at an opponents hand and force the discard of a certain card-type. The cards in your hand can be played either face-down, as lands which produce any mana type, or played face up as any card ever printed which has the same mana-cost as the card you wish to use (an example would be that you could have a card with the cost of 1U. This card could potentially be a Merfolk Looter, Cloud of Faeies, Time Warp, Trade Routes, or Memory Lapse, among others). Land can be played as specific non-basics, like Kjeldoran Outpost, Rishadan Port, or Gaea’s Cradle. Each card may only be used once, so cards which return to your hand like Undead Gladiator, Hammer of Bogarden, or Trade Routes are very powerful. You follow the basic rules of Magic in your play. Make sure that defined rules are established before playing, as I’ve noticed regional differences in rules. Cards like Rebels, which search out other Rebel cards, were commonly used here, though in other localities, I found that the regional ruling was to ban them. Since it’s such a friendly format, you shouldn’t run into too much trouble just trying things out. Other variations include each player making their own specific decks, using predefined numbers of cards with each different mana cost, though this is unusual and difficult to coordinate.
Highlander is another very interesting format, which follows most of the rules of 5-color, except that it restricts every card aside from basic lands. Often these decks are not required to be all five colors, though surprisingly, there are often far fewer mana issues if you do decide to go “Rainbow.” This is usually an effort coordinated through your playtesting group or group of friends, as very few people carry around decks for this format.
Another fun idea is to go “Tribal” and play decks based on different creature types, like goblins, dwarves, elves, zombies, angels, and even Squirrels. One rule we decided upon was that you could use any card you chose, as long as you could tie in your creature type to each spell. I used Might of Oaks in my squirrel deck because it had a picture of a squirrel on it, while Worship is used in Angel decks for the same reason. One creative player on our team decided that he would play a 250 card deck based on Walls, and won with Battle of Wits.
Team games can be played in any of these formats, but are typically better for times when you have a large number of participants.