May 26, 2015

Around the World in 30 Decks

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I live in one corner of one country, on one continent, on one planet. There, I live inside a city, on a small street, in a home. Globally, I am but a speck. A tiny little blip, making runs to and from my house and work, and back again.

But yet, if you were to draw lines on the globe from me to the connections around the world I make every day and the global discussions I have, you could see this spider-web trail from space. And then, if you were to go a step further, and put little red dots on every person playing the same game I was, thinking about the same cards that I am, you would light up the earth.

Magic is the link that connects us all.

It's easy to forget how much of a shared language it is. How much we take for granted that this game—this game that is really so much more than just a game—weaves us all together like the fibers in an artisanal basket. And that around the world, hundreds upon thousands upon millions of players are thinking about the same cards you are, the same formats you are, the same deck building decisions you are, the same "Should I Roast this Courser or wait for a Siege Rhino?" moments that you are.

It's amazing to be part of a community that is so well represented around the world on every single continent. Yet, despite our separation, and despite our differences, we all have so much in common thanks to this marvelous game.

And every week, ReConstructed serves as a sort of hub. A decklist ocean that rivers from around the world pour their Magical energies into.

In the deck building challenge two weeks ago, I told readers they could submit whatever they wanted as long as they included which country they were from. Today, I want to take a decklist tour of the world and show just how wide Magic is…and how you can find both differences and similarities everywhere you look.

Today is a celebration of my readers and their decklists from around the world. It's time to let all of your decklists and innovations really shine!

Ready? Well, hop on board this ride and get ready to head out. We've got a journey around the world in front of us!


United States of America

When a lot of people think of Magic, they think of the United States. This melting pot of a country is home to plenty of Magic history—including many of the early pro players, and, of course, where I'm writing this now, Wizards of the Coast out in Renton, Washington.

This means you have players from all over the country playing all kinds of different formats. Everything from casual to competitive; brewers and tuners alike.

Of course, you have people who like to play with the red, white, and blue:

Marcos Sanchez's Narset's Transcendance

COMMANDER: Narset, Enlightened Master
99 Cards

Commander is very popular here as the casual format of choice. And all flag-coincidences aside, Narset in particular has been all over Commander recently, a powerful tool to flip up a ton of extra damage. (Plus, Narset is awesome.)


Of course, some people prefer no color at all:

Andrew Weisel's Kozilek, Butcher of Commanders

COMMANDER: Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
Sorcery (1)
1 All Is Dust
99 Cards

It looks like with Battle for Zendikar on the horizon, Andrew is getting excited to revisit the last time we were on Zendikar with Rise of the Eldrazi. An active participant in social media like Twitter and Tumblr, Andrew is an avid Commander fan and I see builds he talks about pop up quite often.


Of course, it's not just all Commander! There's always good 'ol fashioned casual Magic.

Mike out in South Carolina just likes to shuffle up his casual 60-card decks with his friends. As he put it to me in his email, it's something where he can maintain the same deck forever and just "pull some cards together and go have some fun."

Mike's "The Five-Color Deck"

Longtime reader Travis Froggrat is the same way. He likes casual because, as he says, "it's the only place I can play my favorite deck." It's not quite strong enough for Legacy, but "it's caused at least one pilot to jump out of his chair, arms thrown up into the air, storming away from the table for a few seconds, in total disbelief at the deck's level of synergy."

And hey, that's always a win in my book.


On the other hand, maybe you’re more of a Tribal Wars kind of person.

Though never really heavily supported with events, that doesn’t mean that if you enjoy a format you can’t try to get some friends into playing your idea too! (I should know—that’s partially how I landed my job at Wizards.)

Jonah Comstock’s playgroup? Well, their thing is Budget Star Tribal Wars. No, that’s not the name of the next epic space movie: it’s just a format where you have to build around a single color and a tribe in that color, on a budget, and then you play a five player game with a person playing each color. (For more on how Star Magic works, you can actually check out the rules as written by perennial DailyMTG member Kelly Digges in the article he wrote about it.)

And at the absolute super-far end of the spectrum are niche formats.

I joked about "Mathy Leaders" on my Tumblr about a month ago, a format "where all of your cards have to have a collector number that is a prime number, and your starting deck size is any two digits of pi that are next to each other that you can recite to."

So, naturally, I was sent a deck for it. Anything is possible!

As you can tell, since Magic has such strong roots in the United States, there's all kind of casual Magic played around the country. People who have played for over 20 years have their own playgroups and friends that have built up around the game, living in their own corner of the world, slinging cards from Alpha and Mirage to play the kind of game they enjoy most.


Of course, that's far from all there is. There's plenty of tournament play too! Everything from hardened qualifier-circuit players, who will play only what they feel are the top decks, to deck brewers who are always looking to figure out the next big thing.

Like Addison, for example:

Addison's Unseen Skybind

Skybind with manifests? Oh yes! Flicker them out, and they'll come back in face up. If you want to keep triggering your Hornet Queens, that's certainly an option—or if you just want to slide out your face-down Banishing Light and have it come back face-up and trigger Skybind yet again, that's certainly a thing you can do!

Ah, I love decks like this.


And let's not leave Modern out either. One of my favorite formats shows up plenty in the US. So it's time to end this section the same way we began: with a red, white, and blue deck. And hey, his name is Gavin!

Gavin Curd's Modern Jeskai Prowess

Prowess with "free" Phyrexian mana spells like Gitaxian Probe and cheap cantrips? Sign me up! This deck looks like a blast.

Okay, so that was a good tour around the USA. And, being an English article, that's certainly where a lot of my readers come from—but far, far from all of them. Hold onto your Reconstructed-reading-vessel, because we're about to head to Japan! (Imagine a cool wooshing noise here for added effect.)


Japan

One of my favorite countries in the world is Japan. It's home to delicious food, awesome people great public transport, my favorite Disney theme park, and, perhaps most of all, some very creative deck builders that like to send exciting, unique decks to my inbox.

Now, that's not to say that I don't receive plenty of more typical decklists from Japan too—but there are many that stand out as paragons of creativity.

For example, check out this deck which stops your opponent from searching their library and then drops down a Boldwyr Heavyweights.

Or this one, which wants to give your opponent tokens:

Cast a Suture Priest or Blood Seeker, then go to town, using cards like Mercy Killing and Hunted Phantasm to hook your opponent up with plenty of tokens.


Modern is certainly a format with plenty of room to innovate in, given its wide card pool. Speaking of tokens, take a look at this:

Unlike the last deck, this one wants to follow the more traditional plan of giving yourself tokens. Make a bunch of tokens, then pump them up fast with battle cry. Pow!


Sometimes the elegance is in the simplicity. Sometimes, it's about merging two different archetypes together into something that's even crazier than either of the two parts. Would you ever merge Slivers and Battle of Wits? Well, someone certainly did!

Ato Shingai's SliBabel

Of course, you'll still find more traditional takes on Modern decks. Who needs Scapeshift when you have Violent Ultimatum?

Modern is a popular enough format, considering the room for innovation. Legacy tends to be popular for the same reasons—here's a look into a build of the Food Chain-Misthollow Griffin Deck:

Kamo Ryota's Food Chain

If you've never seen this deck before, it makes unlimited mana with Misthollow Griffin and Food Chain and then…. Well, Emrakul is soon to follow.


It's far from just all older formats though. In fact, some of the Standard decks can be the most interesting! Restrictions breed creativity, after all.

I love the +1/+1 counter themed decks—and this pairs that with a small splash for Chasm Skulker which has huge synergies in the deck, along with being able to put it onto the battlefield with Collected Company. That's a neat interaction!

Other times, you might see uses for some cards turned on their heads:

KEN OBATA's UB MonkWhip

Whip of Erebos in a deck like this isn't necessarily the most natural fit…but when you're playing enough creatures, it actually starts to do pretty solid work! Returning a Sidisi, anyone?


And at the end of the day, competitive Magic aside, there's still plenty of interest in more casual play as well.

Commander is certainly alive and well. Here's one list:

Hiroyuki Masuda's Scarecrogic

COMMANDER: Reaper King
Sorcery (2)
1 Thoughtseize 1 Demonic Tutor
Enchantment (1)
1 Seal of Cleansing
99 Cards

Interestingly, Hiroyuki notes that this one is made for duel Commander—or one-on-one Commander—which tends to be most popular in France, but he brought the concept into his local playgroup and now it's mostly what they play! Very cool.


Speaking of adopting formats, remember when I talked about Tiny Leaders? Well, here's a take on Tiny Leaders as well!

ASUTO ERA's Tiny Fog

COMMANDER: Yasova Dragonclaw

Ah, what a wonderfully varied mix. There's plenty of innovation—and hopefully you can now take those ideas back to your corner of the world to use as well.


But we're far from done on our tour. Shall we hop over to the UK?

United Kingdom

Every winter for the past three years, I've packed my bags and spent about two weeks in the UK. It keeps bringing me back time and time again—and I always try to play some Magic while I'm there. And with such an exuberant community that loves the game, I always have a blast!

I've received all kinds of decks from the UK, from casual to competitive and everything in between. This can be highlighted with just two Modern decks!

Some of the most fun decks are the ones of the casual-competitive spectrum, like this Bats deck for Modern which is a little more on the casual end:

Andrew Glenister's Spooky Bats

Play some Bats, flicker them out, and drain your opponent to death! Fun times.


While that's a bit more on the casual end, another deck to come in from the United Kingdom was on the other end of the Modern spectrum. There's also this Gifts Ungiven deck from England, which Matthew has put plenty of competitive rigor behind:

Matthew Riggall's Four-Colour Gifts

Good 'ol Gifts decks. Plenty of one-ofs, value plays, and Unburial Rites-Elesh Norn to cause immense harm to creature decks. Notably, Liliana is something you don't see in a lot of Gifts decks—that's a nice piece as well.


Alright! That was quick tour through the UK—now it's time to hop around more of Europe!

The Netherlands

The delicious, delicious Netherlands. The country actually has a restraining order against me because of all the delicious stroopwafels and pastries I ate the last time I was back there. (Okay, not really. Thanks goodness!)

The Dutch Magic scene is pretty solid, and has brought out several strong professional players in its history. The marvelous Jeff Van Egmond submits me decks all the time, and they're usually pretty well tuned and ready for tournament play:

Jeff van Egmond's Standard Jeskai Dragons

This looks like a great take on Jeskai, using efficient burn and utility spells alongside the strong Dragons in Dragons of Tarkir to make a tempo masterpiece. You could certainly slay some events with a deck like this!

But it's not just all qualifiers and Pro Tour trophies. There's a casual scene over there too! Check out this Thassa Tiny Leaders deck that's mostly lands!

Robert Rinia's Triple Combo Lands

COMMANDER: Thassa, God of the Sea

Or for a more traditional take on Commander, Joran’s Numot deck:

JORAN'S SUN TZU'S NUMBER 12