Game Mode: Loates Draft

I have a pretty solid crew in my area. One component of said crew is my man Loates. He owns what is objectively the best cube of all time. It’s arrival was prophesied by countless Oracles, foreseen in mathematics by brilliant scholars, and it actually causes changes in the planet’s magnetic field when he changes it.

It’s the Old School Cube, composed exclusively of cards from Alpha until Alliances.

In case you’ve been brought up on pure nWo-style Magic, it’s quite the shock to play. But that’s not the topic at hand here; it’s a rule variant he devised to play with this particular cube.

In it, each player is given a big stack of cards. They’re then permitted to return a certain number of them to the cube in exchange for the same number of cards. You only get one opportunity to trade in, then you play with every card you have. This is pretty interesting as you can take a risk trying to eliminate certain colours from your pool, and with such stellar cards from eras of Magic design known for overwhelming power like Homelands, you might swap one turd for an even stinkier one.

I stole his idea and it works even better in Type 4.

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Game Mode: Blind Decks

One of Single Stack’s brethren, the Blind Decks game mode provides a little bit more structure than it’s forefather through providing players with an actual deck to play from instead of some commie bullshit about sharing one group of cards, allegedly to everyone’s benefit. Here, we instead carve up the resources, give everyone a supposedly ‘fair’ share, and then throw them to the wolves.

  • Starting Hand Size: 7
  • Life Total: 20
  • Mulligans
  • Alternative costs circumvent single spell per turn restriction
  • 30 card decks are created by taking 30 random cards out of the stack
  • Players should not look at or reveal their decks unless made to by an effect (tutors, etc.)
  • A player loses when they draw from an empty library
  • When the game ends, rotate your deck to the player on your left

The main thing that makes Blind Decks stand out is the namesake, which is so BLINDingly obvious. OOOoooooOoOOh KILL EM Continue reading

Game Mode: Single Stack

Whoops! Wrong single stack

To my disappointment, this is probably the most popular way to play Type 4, which has led to a lot of people simply referring to the format itself as “Stack”, “the Stack” and so on. I don’t like to open an article by shitting on something, but it’s hard for me to hide my disappointment at how favoured this style of play is in Type 4 when so much enjoyment is lost by not drafting it. Regardless, as a member of Academy faculty I feel obliged to divulge the rules to play Type 4’s most popular game mode.

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Game Mode: “Academy Standard”

This is the standard game setup I use to play Type 4. I think it creates the best experience by allowing a lots flexibility, without creating the need for a lot of ‘extra’ rules or things for players to remember. It also allows for a lot of cards to see use without requiring any errata or other extra crap.

  • Starting Hand Size: 7
  • Life Total: 20
  • No Mulligans
  • Alternative costs circumvent single spell per turn restriction
  • 30 card decks are drafted using Rochester draft
  • Singleton Stack

This is the rule set I use when evaluating all cards in the card reviews on the site. It’s also the way to play Type 4 I have the most experience with by far. I encourage others to try this above other ways of playing Infinity Magic for a whole bunch of reasons, but I also recognize it’s shortcomings. I’ll analyze both below.

Why Choose Those Rules?

The shortest way to explain it is I find they reach the balance between allowing for player skill, keeping a game feeling dynamic and exciting and avoiding eating up too much time with the setup.

The starting hand size could probably be changed to 5, but I feel that if players draft a deck well they should be given access to those cards pronto. I don’t allow mulligans for the same reasons–you drafted the deck. You can live with what comes up. When you’re drawing off a combined stack and the outcome is totally random I feel mulligans aren’t necessarily some plague on the game because the opening hand in Type 4 can make or break a player. With the draft before play, this gives a player some agency instead of losing because he draw five Twiddle equivalents against his hateful cousin who had a handful of burn.

Furthermore, it helps apply some pressure as when the player takes their first turn, they’re down to 22 cards. With some milling and drawing, that can quickly become an overriding factor. At the worst, the defined deck size provides a definitive ‘doomsday clock’ for all the games that will be played. Giving players set deck sizes also increases the variety of cards and strategies available. I have a friend who commonly plays a ‘hurry-up offense’ type of deck when he can that centers around decking other players. In some modes of Type 4, mill cards are entirely worthless. Using predetermined deck sizes let you include more cards and challenge your players’ valuations skills during the draft. Something like Psychic Spiral goes from being utterly unplayable to potentially backbreaking, which might be the first time anybody’s ever written that.

I always advocate drafting decks when possible. Rochester draft is probably the slowest way to do it, but I also feel it’s the most skill-intensive. It also accentuates a dimension of Type 4 that you want to emphasize: the shock and awe. When the ten cards flipped up from a pack are something like the photo to the right, you know there’s going to be a lot of talk at the table. Seeing how other players value cards also lets the newer Type 4 disciple peep behind the curtain and gleam some insights on what works and what doesn’t. It also helps to know there’s a Khamal, Pit Fighter in somebody else’s hands when a Crab Umbra pops up for the drafting.

Finally, I prefer the Singleton stack just because it feels right. I don’t dispute that using some duplicates of cards like Ray of Distortion might make the experience smoother, but I don’t play Type 4 for a finely-tuned gaming challenge. I play it to talk shit and beat people to death with a turn two Silvos.

Misc.: The Turntable

When you’re drafting your Stack, there can be some challenges. A lot of people who will be playing are probably established Magic players who are familiar with a broad base of cards and can pretty much recite the ‘cube-worthy’ eternal staples off by heart; even very casual players quickly build a mental storehouse of cards locked in their brain-meat. The issue is these tend to be ‘good’, highly publicized cards. Swords of Whatever Whatever, Power 9, the newest Enters the Battlefield powercreep exhibition… y’know, card people actually talk about.

Flip these people into the world of madness and excess that is Type 4 and suddenly they’re in unfamiliar territory. I’d bet a lot more people know Shadowmage Infiltator’s steez than can tell you what Butcher Orgg is all about offhand. If you draft in an open Rochester style, this can get really troublesome as a player is suddenly assaulted by a spread of six to ten totally unfamiliar cards while everyone else waits for them to read all those tiny words in the text box.

I spin more rhymes than a Lazy Susan and I’m innocent until my guilt is proven ~ J Roc

While it doesn’t entirely resolve the issue, making it easy to position the cards for reading prevents a whole lot of awkward neck craning and shuffling around of cards. Enter the Ikea turntable.

It doesn’t make your borderline-illiterate mates read any faster, but it definitely does save a lot of card-turning. Place the entire spread of cards on the Lazy Susan and let people spin it towards themselves when it’s their turn to draft. This is such a simple little thing, but the difference it makes is hard to overstate. It just makes drafting cards way more pleasurable. If you plan on drafting a lot of Type 4, go pik one of these stupid things up for like $10 and never look back.