Standard Pauper Battle For Zendikar, and the loss of Theros-M15

I play Magic: The Gathering (MTG or Magic) with my wife, my kids, a few friends, some students at school (hey guys!) and online.

New Magic sets are released a couple of times a year, and they are legal for Standard play for a while. Eventually they “rotate out” as they are replaced by newer sets, and the cards are only legal for play in other formats (don’t worry, there are many formats to choose from).

I have a bunch of paper cards which are “Standard” at the moment (they are from recent sets). I bought playsets (4 each) of common cards from Theros, Born of the Gods, Journey into Nix, M15 Core, Khans of Tarkir, Fate Reforged, and Dragons of Tarkir. This lets me play Standard Pauper, a format in which you can only use common cards (i.e. no uncommon, rare, or mythic rare cards).

Until tomorrow, that is… then Theros through M15 Core rotate out and aren’t legal for Standard play anymore.

For me, that’s not really a big deal. I’m not playing in tournaments. They’re perfectly good cards for a perfectly good game, it just won’t be Standard Pauper (unless I stick with just Fate Reforged and Dragons of Tarkir). I don’t need to buy more paper cards.

The Online story is different.

I started playing MTGO (username: bgrasley) a week or so ago. I now have all of the common cards from Khans through Origins (the one right after Dragons). I didn’t bother with anything before Khans because of the upcoming rotation. Battle for Zendikar comes out tomorrow (I think it’s the same time online), so then I’ll wait a few days until the common price is in line with the rest of the sets. I wonder if I might even be able to pick up Theros through M15 cheaply (right now, the price is 0.002 tickets per card, which is slightly less than a dollar for an entire set… “cheaply” is relative).

I’m most interested in playing Standard Pauper so I’ll definitely need to pick up BFZ’s commons soon so I have more cards to work with. It should be interesting.

The two card I’ll really miss

Triplicate Spirits and Raise the Alarm. Both of these white spells generate foolish numbers of tokens very cheaply. The 1/1 White Flying Spirit Tokens have won me several games.

I haven’t played with the Theros block cards yet (they’re still wrapped up in the box), so I won’t miss anything from there yet. I understand people who play other colours have some painful losses to rotation as well.

I’m going to read some set reviews, especially those focused on Standard Pauper, and see what I might brew up for BFZ.

What are you going to miss?

MTG Pauper M15 Core-only Mono-Red deck

Round two… I modified my BW deck from yesterday a bit (took out Divine Favor and Unmake the Graves, replacing them with Selfless Cathar, Necrobite, and Crippling Blight) then spent just a few minutes putting together a Mono Red Pauper deck again using only M15 Core commons. Here’s the (as yet unplayed) deck:

Creatures (24)
4 Borderland Marauder
4 Foundry Street Denizen
4 Generator Servant
4 Thundering Giant
4 Torch Fiend
4 Wall of Fire

Instants (8)
4 Crowd’s Favor
4 Lightning Strike

Enchantments (8)
4 Hammerhand
4 Inferno Fist

Land (20)
20 Mountain

I don’t know if I should have that many Thundering Giants, but I figure I can trade up my Generator Servants for them in round 3 or so. There are a bunch of cards in here I’ve never used, so we’ll see what happens. Comments and concerns welcome :)

MTG Pauper M15 Core-only BW deck

I mentioned a while ago that I bought playsets of all common cards from Theros up to Dragons of Tarkir. I decided this weekend to make a Black-White Pauper deck using only cards from the M15 Core Set to try out against a couple of Fate Reforged Intro decks I have and some kids at school. So far it’s performing fairly well, if a little slowly. First the card list, and then I’ll give my thoughts on it so far.

Creatures (16)
2 Carrion Crow
2 Child of Night
2 Heliod’s Pilgrim
2 Oreskos Swiftclaw
2 Soulmender
2 Sungrace Pegasus
4 Typhoid Rats

Spells (24)
2 Covenant of Blood
2 Divine Favor
4 Eternal Thirst
2 Oppressive Rays
4 Raise the Alarm
4 Sign in Blood
4 Triplicate Spirits
2 Unmake the Graves

Land (22)
4 Evolving Wilds
9 Plains
9 Swamp

Total cost was peanuts (this is Pauper, after all). If you paid $0.10 per card it would be $6, which is about what I paid for all the M15 Core commons together.

I have 8 cards which generate 1/1 tokens (Raise the Alarm and Triplicate Spirits). Those are nice, and I’ve been able to make them work each game.

I originally had 2 Festergloom in there, but I realized (belatedly) that they would kill off my own white tokens. Maybe it would fit into a Mono-Black deck. I swapped them out for Unmake the Graves. I have yet to draw that card, but I think it might not be helpful given the number of tokens I’m using versus creature spells.

Oppressive Rays works well to slow the pace and make sure my 1/1 wimps can chip away at the other player.

Divine Favor hasn’t helped too much. It might be good to boost Oreskos Swiftclaw‘s toughness, but how often will that happen?

I’ll tweak it some more. Suggestions always welcome!

Chaotic Trading Cards up for grabs

A few years ago I bought a whole bunch of booster packs for the Chaotic Trading Card game. The kids and I sorted through them all, organizing them by colour, type, and coolness.

We played a few games, but mostly the cards just sat in a box on my armoire. I’ve since moved on to other games, and I only use the Chaotic cards when I need to stiffen up a print and play game in sleeves. It’s time to purge.

So I thought I’d check to see if anyone who reads this blog wants a bunch of foil Chaotic cards, the rare or better ones. Here’s a list of the different factions and the number of each rarity:

OverWorld: 16 (12 rare, 3 super rare, 1 promo)
UnderWorld: 20 (18 rare, 2 super rare)
Danian: 16 (16 rare)
Mipedian: 11 (9 rare, 2 super rare)
M’arrillian: 9 (7 rare, 2 super rare)
Generic Mugic: 3 (2 rare, 1 super rare)
Location: 21 (16 rare, 5 super rare)
Attack: 34 (27 rare, 7 super rare)
Battlegear: 24 (16 rare, 6 super rare, 2 ultra rare)

The Ultra Rare cards are Warriors of Owayki (pictured) and Dread Tread.

Foil Chaotic cards

A few cards have some wear from slight play, and a handful (maybe 5 or 6?) have actual creases or dings (I was playing with a five year old). Note that the are quite a few duplicates of some cards (for example, there are 7 Landgore and 2 Winterclaw).

That’s a total of 154 foil Chaotic cards, mostly rares. It’ll probably cost a few dollars to ship them in Canada, and more to the rest of the world. Anyone have an offer? If you’re local and want to pick them up (or if you go to my school) you can have them gratis.

Magic: The Gathering and World of Warcraft TCG with Standard Playing Cards

A few months ago my 7-year-old son casually mentioned that it would be cool to play Magic: The Gathering (MTG, or Magic) with standard playing cards (sometimes called a poker deck or a French deck). We gave it a whirl. He won, naturally, as he was making up the rules.

But he got me thinking about how to craft a Magic-esque experience with the cards that everyone has in their homes. Magic is fairly difficult to explain to people once you understand and appreciate some the complexity that makes it awesome. The simpler parts of the game, tapping for mana and attacking with creatures, are often lost in the avalanche of keywords and strategies.

The first TCG/CCG I really learned was World of Warcraft Trading Card Game (or WOWTCG), with has a fair bit in common with MTG. You play allies (like creatures), resources (like land for mana), and abilities (like non-creature spells) in a similar fashion. A major difference in WOWTCG is that you can play any card as a resource. For example, you might draw an “expensive” card and realize you’ll never get to play it. Lay it face down as a resource instead, and it now serves to make your other cards more viable.

So I combined that WOWTCG component with MTG to make the following game. If you don’t already know how to play MTG or WOWTCG this will likely be too brief of an explanation. A ton of stuff isn’t included (enchantments, equipment, artifacts, sorceries, and approximately a bazillion keywords and mechanics). All non-creature spells are instants.

The Setup

The game requires one deck of 52 standard playing cards.

Choose a dealer somehow (e.g. cut for a high card). Shuffle the deck and deal 7 cards to each player. No mulligans are allowed. The remaining cards are placed between the players and to one side; they make up a shared library.

Each player begins with 20 life points. Track them on paper or with dice.

Anatomy of a turn

The same steps apply as for MTG: untap, upkeep, draw, main, combat, main, end. Everything’s normal here. Creatures still have summoning sickness, blockers are declared in the same way, etc.

One major difference is that the active player can play any card as a Land (source of mana)… there are no specially designated Land cards. This is the bit from WOWTCG, see? Below is the list of card meanings.

Because the deck is shared, you’ll need a common graveyard. When the library is depleted, shuffle the graveyard to replace it. The maximum hand size of 7 at the end of any turn should ensure there are always cards available for the library.


You win by reducing your opponent’s life total to zero.

Card Meanings

Suits don’t matter. Here are the card meanings based on their values. You’ll probably want to keep this handy if you’re playing.

Ace: A 1/1 creature for 1 mana.

2: A 2/2 creature for 2 mana.

3: A 3/3 creature for 3 mana.

4: A 4/4 creature for 4 mana.

5: A 5/5 creature for 5 mana.

6: A 6/6 creature for 6 mana.

7: Instant: Counter spell for 3 mana.

8: Instant: Cause 3 damage to target creature or player for 2 mana.

9: Instant: Gain 3 life for 2 mana.

10: Instant: Give a creature +4/+4 until the end of turn for 3 mana.

Jack: Instant: Destroy target land or creature for 4 mana.

Queen: Instant: Cause 1 damage to every creature for 2 mana.

King: Instant: Draw 2 cards for 3 mana.

Reference Cheat Sheet

Here are some little card meaning reference sheets that should fit nicely inside of your Bicycle deck box:



Please comment with happiness or concerns. I’ll try to play this sometime and then I’ll have some feedback for myself as well.

Liking Magic: The Gathering

I’ve recently started to play Magic: The Gathering (MTG) for fun (i.e. not competitively). There are dozens of casual play formats that let you tailor the game to your preferences, and “kitchen table Magic” can be cheap.

I just bought a couple thousand common cards (i.e. the most commonly found in booster packs, 10 of the 15 cards) for about $40, and that’s enough to play with my family for years without getting bored. These cards are not valuable, nor can you reasonably expect to win much against competitive players in the MTG community, but it’s a ton of fun without a huge investment. The game formats using only common cards are called “Pauper” formats.

Magic has both a main game and a “metagame”. In the main game each player has a deck of cards and tries to defeat her or his opponent. In the metagame each player tries to build a deck of cards to use in the main game. You can opt out of either game if you want. Don’t like the metagame? Buy or build a preconstructed deck and you can play the main game with it. Just want to build decks, or don’t have any opponents handy? It’s pretty enjoyable just reading cards and trying to figure out how to make them work well together in a deck.

I like both, though. It’s fun to select cards for your deck and then test them against your opponents’ choices. It’s definitely better as a social game than as a solo game (although that’s possible too).

I thought very, very briefly about getting involved in the larger community of players, but it’s impractical and expensive for me. I like the game, but playing with cheap cards seems like a better fit than shelling out hundreds of dollars for the “good” cards. This way I’m not worried about my kids accidentally ruining a card and feeling bad about it. They’re super-replaceable (the cards, not the kids).

Both of my kids like to play and read the cards, and it’s been good for them.

We drive each school day for a healthy distance. A couple of weeks ago my son asked for some “undead” Magic cards (black) to read in the car. He read through about a hundred cards, including the “flavour text” (thematic text that doesn’t affect gameplay) in twenty minutes or so, and he’s seven. Magic and Pokémon both have been good reading challenges for him.

My daughter likes to categorize and sort the cards, although she seems less interested in actually playing the main game. She wants to do some drafting with some homemade “booster packs” (deck building based on a limited selection of random cards) soon, and I’m looking forward to it too.

All of the parts of Magic: The Gathering have been fun and challenging, and I’m glad I started. The only problem is figuring out how to store all these cards. :)