Trying something new-ish

Today I want to write about not only one deck. Not even a couple, but an entire new (for me at least) way to even build decks. Okay, I will only show you three decks, but there are many, many more possibilities!

And no, I do not claim to have come up with a new format – one point here is actually the exact opposite, this is not a new format. It is the format I love and always play, but in a new (-ish) way.

What is all this, I talk about? Well, let’s get into it…

Forcing a new hand

For a couple of reasons, I have started brewing decks in a new way the last year or so. I simply eschew all the cards on the Swedish restricted list. The math is simple: if it is on the restricted list in the format, I normally play, I consider it banned.

First, I started building these decks because my playgroup didn’t own as much power as I did, and even though they would still hand me my ass folded into an ugly crane sometimes, I simply had an overwhelming advantage playing the power nine at our Wednesday Wizards gatherings. It rather stopped being fun. So I decided to try something radically different.

At first I simply build a single deck, just playing without the power nine and cards like Library of Alexandria and Chaos Orb, but then I quickly discovered the second reason why going completely No-Restricted was great fun: It forces you to make radically different decks! Unless, of course, you already play Red-Green aggro, then it will not be radically different. But for me at least, I really got to play some new cards in new constellations, and again I was amazed by the richness of a format consisting of very few cards (in the broader picture).

Often when building without these restrictions (or some other crazy ruse) there are at least 12-15 cards that I always play. This makes many of the decks I build very similar. 15 cards (could be for example P9, Sol Ring, Orb, Library, Strip, Demonic, Twist) is a quarter of your deck. And often you even add five more: Drain, Balance, Regrowth, Geyser, Wheel. Then you only need the other two thirds of the deck. And we haven’t even begun on the lands yet – at least not the ones that make colored mana).

This is not to say, that I don’t enjoy playing powered decks – I do! I love it! – and it is even less to suggest that anyone should stop doing what they like in terms of building decks, I only want to say, that considering each restricted card as banned, can be a great way to play Magic in a new(-ish) way.

And just to mention what I was hinting at above, I don’t consider this a new format, not in any way.

Actually I specifically wanted to build these decks, to be able to compete in a (not-too-powered) Swedish version of Old School. So when designing my decks, I always have some of the more tier1 decks in mind as possible opponents (which is important now that several of the Wednesday Wizards has splurged violently the last year and a half!).

As you have of course already figured out, my dear reader, the No-Restricted decks are at a very other power level than the ones I usually play. But the great thing about playing these decks, is that you are reminded what different types of resources you can and must master in a game of Magic.

When playing fully powered decks, you always have the ability to suddenly draw into three new cards to find an answer or a kill or whatever (Ancestral Recall) or a completely new hand (Timetwister, Wheel of Fortune)! You also sometimes have the ability to make sure, that the opponent never really gets to play anything (Mind Twist), or simply to just draw double the amount of cards every turn (Library of Alexandria). These are completely crazy cards, well-deserving of the restriction they are under!

Put very simply: when playing powered, you will often be piloting a deck, which in terms of potential power explosions, are very strong. Basically, most powered decks can pull themselves out of most sticky situations, in case they draw the exact restricted, retardedly powerful card in the right situation (often, when situations are real sticky, Balance…).

If you are not playing any of the restricted cards, you have to be more vary of your resources, both life, mana building, cards in hand, permanents in play and maybe especially the time factor. This is challenging, but – at least for me – also a much better representation of what it was like to play Magic, when I first ventured into the great world of wizardry and spells some 27 or thereabouts years ago… (Not that I had any idea about resources in the game back then…)

So if you are sometimes wondering what life – or at least Magic – is all about without all the power that are restricted card, try to consider each of them banned. And remember this also counts Sol Ring which, at least for me, is so built in to the way I think about new decks, that it has a tendency to sneak past my banning of it (if I have missed it in one of the below lists, consider it a land). Life is strange like that.

Anyway, on to the decks!

Trying on aggro-combo!

Yep, that’s a new one! You know how I like combo, but combining it with aggro? Well…

This is a No-Restricted iteration of the fantastic deck Mitja Held played at the really great YouTube-Channel he co-hosts with Charles Klein, right here:

This version of the deck is obviously way less powerful than Mitjas in the link, but it is still a lot of fun, and it has a tendency to do unexpected things for the opponent.

In an earlier iteration I played four Kird Apes in place of the three Blood Moon and the Sylvan Library. This made the deck even more of an aggro deck in its own right. I removed the apes, because they were often very lackluster, and without the Moons the deck has basically no defense against decks who are able to muster an incredible amount of card advantage (for example everything playing blue and power…).

One could also try to switch out the Bolts for Apes, but often the Bolts end up doing more damage anyway. I don’t know, I am no fan of Kird Ape.

But other than that whole thing, the deck is a really strange, fun and rather intricate thing to play. It has two almost equal-sized axis’ to play on: Midrange-aggro and combo. Of course the aggro part is sometimes what it takes to find the time, to actually set up the combo. But – and this is where the deck is great at confusing the opponent – if you get to beat your opponent with an elves or two, maybe even a single Su-Chi smack in the face, then there is a very short way through the Alter to a Fireball kill. Especially Su-Chi can hide a lot of sudden fireball-yielding mana!

The deck is truck-loads of fun, but is also hampered a lot by the very slow, basically non-existing, card-draw. And once the opponent is on to your plan, it gets worse. As with many “not-too-combo-centric-combo-deck” this deck also suffers from the difficult balance between playing a lot of combo pieces, and not wanting to draw them at the wrong time. Maybe I should play more Altars and/or Living Lands, but I just really don’t want to draw more than one each game, and I don’t want any of them in my opening hand…

Turbo salt’n’pepper

I do, on the other hand, very much want to have an Ivory tower in the opening hand of both this and the next deck.

But right here is my No-Restricted take on a Turbo Fog Deck:

So this is a black-white Turbo Fog deck, maybe not a lot of surprises the… WAIT A MINUTE! “Black-white-???” Yep, you read that right, no green. I tried it with green for the namesake card, but it simply didn’t seem to add anything worthwhile to the deck. And while we are at it, what is it with designing Turbo Fog decks in Old School? I simply don’t get it. I see that there is a possibility to play 16 Fog cards (Fog, Darkness, Holy Day, Festival) and maybe even add something like Arboria, but why not kill some of the opponents’ creatures? It seems rather strange to me, to think that Fog effects will be enough to save you.

It is not that this is a very oftenly played archetype, but the lists I’ve seen are often adamant to play a whole bunch of Fogs and not that much removal. If you play white, and you want to be an anti-creature deck, please at least play Swords to Plowshares – ESPECIALLY if you even plan by winning with Millstone. If you play black, you should at least consider The Abyss.

Anyway, as seen above, this is my take on a No-Restricted Turbo Fog deck. Actually it is probably very close to what I would also play, if I would build a powered Turbo Fog deck (which I could very much be someone to do).

This deck is very good at keeping opposing creatures at bay. Pretty much from the very first round. I have played different iterations of this deck with my playgroup and it is often a rather strong contender. The deck was even the reason why both Thomas and The Other Thomas learned how to lose to decking.

Of course the deck has a very hard time against combo – but the only time I see that in my playgroup, is when I play it myself. Sometimes a Disenchant is enough, often it isn’t. The Sideboard has to help you here. Burn-ish strategies like the one I played in November last year is of course also a headache waiting to happen, because it will often simply be way too fast, and if you even help fuel their hands with your Howling Mines, those Ivory Towers will have a bit too much business to attend!

Against control decks this deck actually has a chance. Of course The Deck is always a strong opponent, and so, also, here, but slightly less powered and fine-tuned control is doable.

Aggro has very little business against this deck! There is so much hate against creatures, that I often sit around with a Fog effect or two in hand, because I have already thrown all my opponents’ souled creatures into the Abyss, and disenchanted his soulless ones. I have had a lot of complaints from my playgroup about this deck…

Sindbad tower

And then to the last deck for today (I will probably get back to this topic, as I design a lot of these decks).

This is actually, again, very close to what I would probably play, if I was to play a Lands deck in Old School. The problem with lands decks are, that they require so many specific cards, not least a lot of lands, to function, that if you have already spent the first 20 cards on the restricted pool, it is difficult to make things work.

So this is my favorite home for my Sindbads. This deck is really a lot of fun to play. It also hates a lot on creatures – which is important if you want to dine with the big boys, and not use the same toys. As a general rule when building these kinds of decks; you have to know what your plan is against a turn two Serendib Efreet from the opponent.

So this is actually not just my favorite home for my Sindbads, this is probably one of the decks I enjoy playing the most. It is a very “fair” deck in the sense, that it really doesn’t do anything explosive at any point, but it also contains the very potent synergy between Sindbad and Sylvan Library (often even combined with Ivory Tower) as well as what I call the Lands Package of Candelabra, Copy Artifcat, Factory and Maze.

This is a deck for the long and grindy games, but it is really enjoyable, and one of the decks, where you get to see how much power can be amassed in a strong collective. Many of the cards are really dependent on each other to function, but it doesn’t take many “go’s” from you opponent until you overwhelm him with card advantage, life advantage and then at some point permanents and time advantage.

So that is it for the first blog post of 2023. I hope you will consider trying a No-Restricted deck in the future, there is a lot of brewing space in there!

I hope you are all doing great, and I hope to write something again a bit sooner. See you!

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