A rundown of our day playing a Worst Magic Deck tournament.

That’s “WMDs” as in “Worst Magic Decks”. This is another geeky MTG post, so if you’re not interested in such things, move along. 🙂

Over the weekend Subrata and I went over to the house of our friends Ziggy and Laurie to participate in a little informal Worst Magic Deck tournament. The idea is to construct a 75-card Magic deck which is worse than all of the others at the tournament. The deck construction rules required a 75-card deck with exactly 30 lands, at least 20 creatures, a total power of all non-defender creatures of at least 40, and at least 10 direct-damage cards, as well as requirements about being able to play all the cards in the deck using basic lands, as well as a few other constraints. This still left a lot of wiggle room, however.

While putting together my deck, I ended up setting certain ground rules for myself: No creatures with evasion (flying, protection, shadow); no creatures with repeatable effects (especially direct-damage effects, but also tap/untap effects); creatures should be expensive, but since I expected games would go on a long time this shouldn’t be a primary requirement; be careful with effects which affect all players, since they might produce a win in certain circumstances, even if they’re generally not useful; and fill out the deck with completely useless cards. (Cards which involved snow-covered lands from Ice Age were particularly amusing.)

Despite applying some similar principles, Subrata and I ended up with rather different decks: His creature power was tied up in a few large-but-restricted creatures (Force of Savagery, Leviathan, Goblin Mutant, Orgg, etc.), filling out the balance of his creatures with walls. I also had a Force of Savagery, but I filled out my remaining creatures with weenies (1/1s, 2/1s, 3/1s) and a Norin the Wary. The more I think about it, the more I feel the two approaches are almost equal: My deck is more likely to get out useful attackers, but Subrata’s deck’s walls are also easy to get out, and are good blockers. I think over the long haul my deck is likely to be slightly worse, but only slightly.

Subrata and I both misunderstood that you only need 30 lands, not 30 basic lands; you only need as many basic lands as are needed to cast all your spells. So we could have downgraded our decks a bit that way.

The structure of the tournament is that each of us played with or against our own decks, only the other peoples’ decks. We would get a point whenever we personally won a game, or whenever our deck lost a game.

My first game lasted about an hour, as I played Ziggy’s deck against Subrata’s, and managed to take out both of the big threats in Subrata’s deck early, and then bided my time until I drew cards I could win with. Laurie, my opponent, eventually ran out of cards, although by that point I had two other tricks in the works that would have finished her off. (Subrata and I also both rigged our decks so they’d be more likely to run out of cards first, which is a losing condition in Magic. He was more aggressive about it then I was, but on the other hand you could choose not to use the spells in his deck which ripped through your library, whereas I took the subtle approach of using creatures with cantrips. I suspect my approach would be slightly more effective in the long run, but the difference is probably too small to be worth arguing about.

The best game I played was against Subrata, playing Laurie’s deck against Ziggy’s. Subrata’s initial draw included an Ankh of Misha, a Winter Orb, and a Sheltered Valley, with a Torture Chamber not far behind. Subrata said it felt like playing a standard control deck. (I had rejected both the Ankh and the Orb from my own deck for exactly this sort of reason.) This shut me down for a while, but eventually I was able to force Subrata to use the Chamber a few times to kill some of my creatures, and then I played a 4/4 flyer (with a significant but not insurmountable drawback) which managed to do just enough damage to finish him off – with me at 3 life. Subrata observed that his initial draw gave him too many options, and he played them all, and they interfered with each other just enough to let me squeak past for the win. But man, it was close!

I think both Subrata and I had weaker decks than either Laurie or Ziggy, although they were all pretty bad. When our decks faced off, my deck beat Subrata’s by one turn, because Laurie drew the right card at the right time to finish off Ziggy. That notwithstanding, I ended up winning the match, since I won 2 games and my deck lost 2 games. People also found my deck especially amusing, as I abused the format to render several cards (such as Extirpate, an otherwise really nifty card) entirely useless.

I thought the WMDs were an interesting novelty, but as I’d predicted, they made for a lot of long games without a lot of variation. I think if I were to run my own such tournament, I’d go with the standard 60 cards rather than 75, just to speed things up a little. I don’t know that I’ll feel the need to play this format again anytime soon, but it was an interesting mental exercise the one time. (And we had a good afternoon hanging out with friends and seeing their cool house.)

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