Magic: the Gathering

All posts tagged Magic: the Gathering

I saw this mentioned on Tumblr recently and thought I’d spend some time toying with it. I don’t have time to dig into it and it’s not the kind of project that’d be satisfying, even if I did. So here are my notes from a few hours’ work.

The Whiteboard – The Whiteboard is a list of the ideas that should be included when exploring an idea. Reference here (

Cattle Drives
Small Towns
Civil War Veterans
Gold Mines and Boomtowns
Federal Agents
Crooked Families
Jail Sieges (Rio Bravo)
Mountains, Forests, Plains, Deserts, Mesas
Madams and ladies of the evening

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Magic: the Gathering is widgety. Its got tokens and counters and double-faced cards and exile zones and emblems and all kinds of things. What I was thinking of was a simpler way to play. If two folks somewhere that’s not traditionally built to accommodate Magic–like an airport or a coffee shop–they could play a game with nothing more than the cards they had on hand.

Construction rules would be generic: 60-card decks with banned and restricted cards from the Vintage banned and restricted list.

It would have to remove counters and tokens, including life counters. All permanents would be cards. No extra dice or tapped pennies; just actual cards.

Finally, I think that there needs to be a hard cap on permanents, to respect the limitations of table space in some places. While somewhere might support more, a one-size-fits-all approach gives players some ideas of their limitations when building decks. Maybe twelve or so.

I think there’s a lot of potential here and plenty of interest. I’d love to formalize the rules and test them, but I don’t think I’ll get an opportunity any time soon. If there’s anything I’ve missed, lemme know.

So I’m still playing Commander games of Magic as a way of getting out of the house on Thursdays. I’ve been trying to make a deck to get Progenitus out. Progenitus was my first mythic and it’s a mythic worth building a deck around. The deal is that I can get to Progenitus, but there’s a disturbing trend where I die before I can get him onto the battlefield. Progenitus relies on attacking to win, which makes it a very slow win condition. I’ve made a few adjustments to hurry that up. Decklist here.

Can’t be targeted, damaged, blocked, or enchanted/equipped by anything that has that card’s type, subtype, specific name, converted mana cost, colors, or controller. A ten-ten nope.

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So on Thursdays, my local game store has their Commander/EDH nights for Magic: the Gathering. In an effort to get out of the house more, I usually head over and play.

I got there early, as usual, and used the time to retool the deck I planned on using, Slide. Slide’s commander is Mayael, the Anima.

The Mayael deck likes big creatures, but in EDH, big creatures are big targets. The best way to drop a few creatures and get some use out of them is to give them haste. Ergo, Slide is also known by it’s battlecry, “Fuck yeah, hasting Eldrazi.”

I hadn’t played slide since Battle for Zendikar came out, so it had a lot of new Eldrazi that needed to be added to it and I’d learned a bit about the local metagame too (what’s everyone playing and what do I need to play in response). I removed a few Eldrazi that weren’t pulling their weight and added some cards like Manamorphose that would move me closer to stronger cards. I also tuned the mana base to make sure that I could cast the deck’s few spells that needed colored mana.

“I’m sorry Mr. One, we’re looking for someone a bit less ‘Green but worse.'”

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So I ran a Magic roleplaying game by straight-up tacking Magic: the Gathering onto FATE. We had a good time.

I should’ve stopped at bridging the gap between FATE and Magic: the Gathering, but I didn’t. This thing is a sprawling, 32-page document that creates a new set of Magic concepts and systems which absolutely do work as roleplaying background, but are fucking impenetrable. But hey, it’s 17k pages so I’m gonna share it with folks.

Moxes The real conflict in creating a Magic RPG is making the cards work in a roleplaying setting. I did that by instituting a set of power tiers–called moxes–which allow spells to scale in power with the planeswalker (or creature) casting them. The five moxes (relevant table on page 18) allow spells to scale. In the lowest mox–Mox Alpha–most spells take on a benign form. Tapping down a creature can make them drowsy, a burn spell can provide light, and a creature might become confused or addled if you make “an opponent” discard a card. At Mox Unlimited, a planeswalker can cast spells which annihilate whole armies. Those scales of power can also be applied to creatures, allowing bigger creatures to be massively more powerful than smaller ones.

Non-Combat Casting The FATE integration isn’t that strong, but one place where it works is non-combat casting. Five skills (Will, Investigation, Deceive, Rapport, and Athletics) are aligned with each of the five colors. Instead of spending a Fate point to invoke an aspect for a skill check for one of those five skills, a planeswalker can discard a card of the corresponding color. All they have to do is describe the spell they’re casting (it doesn’t have to be related to the card) and the aspect they’re invoking.

The Tempest This is the biggest concept to rationalize the randomness of a player’s deck. Planeswalkers channel/are a flow of aether which they can control by shaping it into spells. When a planeswalker runs out of ways to turn their tempest into spells, they must revert to Mox Alpha (the weakest mox) or die by decking out. The primer incorporates similar descriptions of almost everything, from the three ways to summon creatures to using artifacts and what even planeswalkers and emblems are.

Fetters Fetters are optional because they’re a bridge too far. They exist to explain some planeswalkers having higher “starting life” and to give players reasons to connect to planes. As a planeswalker’s maximum mox grows higher, they can connect part of their essence to a great project/thing. Fetters are represented by additional health boxes and act much as a phylactery for planeswalkers (but hopefully with a little more drama).

That still doesn’t cover Slow Casting, Planeswalker Stunts, or the general setting/NPC roster stuff, but I think it’s the high points. I’m especially proud of the three-page “Life, the Multiverse, and Everything” appendix at the end which conjectures on how planes are formed.