After several weeks of looking at Dominaria's new cards and the new Brawl format, I thought we'd jump back and look at the format my group likes more than any other: 60-card casual.
I've mention this format regularly, but I don't think I've ever really broken it down since it, more than any other format, is simply Magic to me. When I learned to play Magic, we were playing 60-card casual, but everyone just called it Magic. The rules of the format are pretty simple:
1. Build a deck with at least 60 cards in it that follows Magic's deck building rules.
2. Make it fun for everyone playing the game!
If you take at least 60 cards and shuffle them up, your deck is practically legal for the format. The real trick for the format is making the deck fun for everyone playing the game. For the most part, this means knowing your opponents and what they find fun. My group has added a few more rules (cards must be Legacy legal or must be okayed by the group, and no instant-win combos), but many other play groups don't bother. This format, more than any other, says, "Play what you want, but the social contract is in effect."
The power level for the decks in our group is pretty low. This is a format of bad theme decks and decks built around specific interactions that seem interesting. Games tend to be multiplayer and generally end at just over an hour. I thought I would take this time to share how I build decks for this format where "optimizing" your deck is completely optional!
For some reason, I found myself with four copies of the Lord of Tresserhorn. Rather than use one as a commander, I thought I'd use all four in my 60-card deck! When I put the decks together, I tend to start by looking for nine types of cards to put in the deck. My idea for Tresserhorn was to be similar to a Voltron Commander build.
4 Lord of Tresserhorn
4 mana ramp/search for colors
4 card draw
4 protection for the Lord
4 ways to make him more difficult to stop
4 removal spells
4 ways to make token creatures to sacrifice to the Lord
4 ways to make him even meaner than a 10/4 regenerating zombie already is
4 other creatures to fill things out
24 lands that include Rogue's Passage
This is where all my carefully laid plans start to fall apart. I start to go through each section and choose cards that I think would work for that section, and ideally, another section as well. Skillful deckbuilders would choose the best card in each section, add four copies of the card to the list and have their deck. While that is great, I don't tend to like to buy many cards for a 60-card list. With the lower power level, there is no need to have four copies of the best removal spell in the deck. I'll just pick from the cards that I own and go from there.
For example, I really like the idea of Temur Battle Rage with Lord of Tresserhorn. All that double strike and trampling goodness just seems like a perfect fit, so I want to put four of them in the deck. I also like Fireshrieker. One card offers the surprise, while the other gives you a chance to swing with double strike turn after turn. Since I don't have four of either, I'll likely go with both!
The four-of setup is a great way to start, but it rarely stays that way for me. When virtually every deck you build has to have card draw, mana ramp and removal, your nine slots turn into six slots pretty quickly. It isn't long before you are squeezing some of your four-of slots into three-of slots to get another group of cards into your deck! That can turn into this really fast:
At this point you might look to streamline things, but we aren't there yet. Now I go through my collection to see if I even have these cards available. No point in streamlining your mana fixing if you don't know if you have those cards or not! Not surprisingly, not all the cards were there, so a few cards were added to fill in the gaps!
In the end, I think the card draw will need an upgrade and the removal definitely needs more ways to deal with enchantments and artifacts, but this will be enough to get a few games in before I start looking to make changes.
The other deck I wanted to build was the Hungry Lynx. After getting a chance to preview it, I knew I wanted to build around it, but I wasn't sure which way I wanted to go. In the article I discussed mixing it with black to destroy the Rats and attack with huge Cats. I talked about mixing it with white, since so many cats and White Sun's Zenith are all white. I also talked about working with blue to make copies of Hungry Lynx, specifically with Rite of Replication! Since I knew I was going to build a 60-card casual deck, I decided against blue since I could get a couple of Hungry Lynx out at one time without having to resort to blue to copy them. After looking at my cards for a bit, I decided I could build without black and just use artifacts to destroy Rats.
While the initial attempt went this way, I didn't necessarily trust my ability to do damage to my opponent's Rats, especially when I would want to kill many of them at once. At that point I decided I should have my own Rats to kill. I came up with this monstrosity from the cards I had available.
Hankyu and the Serrated Arrows are there to take down an opponent's Rats and pump up my team as per the original plan. However, Shields of Velis Vel makes my creatures Rats and Cats, so I can play it then sacrifice any number of them to the Altar of Dementia to get big Cats and swing. Ideally I won't want to use it until after I have a copy of Nacatl War-Pride for every creature the defending players control. With a bit of luck, there might even be a Blade of Selves on a Lynx, so with three opponents each of my creatures would get three +1/+1 counters for each rat that dies.
This deck is very Magical Christmasland, especially with only one copy of Blade of Selves and requiring so many other cards to really take off, but it should work well enough without the equipment! This deck would work much better with Ashnod's Altar as the sacrifice outlet, but all my copies are already in Commander decks. I expect I'll be taking out the Serrated Arrows and Hankyus for a couple mass removal spells and a couple of ways to make my Cats indestructible. There is a strong urge to add more equipment and Cats that work with that, but I wanted to avoid that well-worn path, at least for now. I'm looking forward to seeing both of these decks in battle later this week. If you follow me on Twitter, you'll be getting live updates this Thursday!
Sixty-card is not a format that is going to sweep the Magic world by storm. The range of legal decks guarantees that bringing decks from one playgroup to another will likely lead to significant power imbalances. However, for regular groups playing at kitchen tables together, it is a great format! It requires you to spend only the amount that you want to spend, and you can play the craziest, most janky cards that you just don't get to play in any other format. Our games bring laughs and good times for everyone!