The Two-Card Challenge: Metagaming in a Nutshell

We spent a great evening Drafting last week, and since we finished early, mainly thanks to the Mono-Red and U/W Tempo deck in our pod, we had some spare time, as well as a spare booster in our prize pool.

I came up with a simple challenge to fight for the last booster. We each got ourselves a pen and ten commons, which we used as proxies for our challenge deck.

The challenge was simple—build a ten-card deck featuring any number of two different cards. You don’t lose to decking. If there’s a stall, the player with more life wins.

We timed the challenge. Everyone got five minutes to come up with a deck, and then we started. After a brief amount of time, a player came up with the suggestion of banning Black Lotus, so we went ahead and banned the full Power 9 (even though there was no need to ban the blue ones at that point, but let’s keep things fair).

Before you continue reading, you can also participate if you want. Build your deck, and then read on to see if you would have beaten our decks. I’m curious to see what you would come up with, so feel free to post your ideas in the comments section. (Also, feel free to share with us how you make $100,000 a month by working part-time from home).

Five minutes to build a deck. Well, I glanced at my trade binder for inspiration. Would Scarab God do the job for me? Probably not in this format. Four minutes. I played a lot of Vintage lately on Magic Online. What’s good there? Wasteland and Mishra’s Factory? No, wait, I could even go for Strip Mine and Mishra’s Factory. Three minutes. Hold on, what about Storm? Tendrils will not get the job done quickly, but what about Empty the Warrens? And Lotus Petal? Two more minutes. Harrrrr, the booster is mine. Eight Lotus Petals and two Empty the Warrens sounds perfect. Time to scribble the proxies. One more minute. Done.

Round 1, I lost the die roll. My opponent went Mishra’s Workshop into Walking Ballista. I made sixteen Goblins. Fair enough. Easy enough.

Round 2, I won the die roll and stormed for 14 Goblins. My opponent played four Mana Crypts and Platinum Emperion. And then another one, and even a third one. Wow, there went my booster.

I was thrilled to see how the finals went, and they were over as quickly as they started. While Platinum Emperion hit the battlefield again on turn 1, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion came down for his opponent and finished him off pretty quickly.

We had a lot of fun in this experiment, and it perfectly illustrated some things we learned in recent Magic environments.

  • Sometimes, you need to ban cards in order to keep a format fresh. In this case, we should have banned all of the fast mana cards (Lotus Petal, Spirit Guides, Mana Crypts, Mishra’s Workshop, etc.).
  • Sometimes, you need to change the rules in order to have a format evolve. In our example, reactive cards were almost unplayable since you lacked a win option if you played them. So we would have needed the possibility to add a third card instead of only two different ones.
  • There are good decks, as well as bad decks, but there is no best deck. There’s just a best deck in the current metagame. The Elspeth player would have lost against the Walking Ballista guy or me, but he would have crushed my Strip Mine deck (which was bad to begin with, but it would have been good against the Ballista deck), and so on. If I had to choose a deck for the challenge again, it wouldn’t be easy at all, even though I had played it once already. Maybe Mindbreak Trap and Mishra’s Factory?

If you like challenges like these, I have an extra one for you:

Come up with a 15-card deck—Standard cards only—featuring any number of three different cards, as well as a sideboard featuring three copies of a fourth card. Let’s see who comes up with the best deck.


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