I don’t exactly remember when I started playing Magic. It was around the time of Fallen Empires and Ice Age with a smattering of Chronicles and Alliances thrown in for fun. I’ve either past 20 years playing or am about to.

Which means that I’ve played a few games and not all of them have been duels. Frankly, I would say the majority of them have not been duels, which probably explains why I make much better MP decks.

And while Duels are the typical rule of thumb for format, we all know of at least a few more sanctioned versions – Two-Headed Giant (or two-person teams) and Commander (or Elder Dragon Highlander aka EDH). However, I figured let’s look at some other variations that are always fun – IF you have the right type of deck.

We’ll start with a couple that most people have likely heard of – Pauper and Emperor.

I have to admit I’ve never played Pauper. My general attitude about cards is that I have them, I want to play them – whether they are banned or restricted, I keep the four per deck rule but play everything. Therefore, Pauper has never really suited my style.

In Pauper, each player has built a deck that is primarily low dollar value. Usually there are no rares and a limit on how much the uncommons can be worth or how many you have in your deck. Really restrictive, but if you don’t have the funds for a kick-a$$ deck and your friends are up for it, this may be a starter format for you!

On the other hand, Emperor is designed for two teams of three players – an Emperor and two generals that flank the left and right. The idea is simply to kill the Emperor of the opposing team and you win.

The catch is a general has to kill his opposite before he can start attacking the Emperor. The other catch is that your spells only have a range of two people meaning that the Emperor can affect the two opposing generals but cannot do anything to the opposing Emperor until one of the opposing generals is dead. Enchantments act like they do in any other MP game.

Back when I played Counterspells, I had a truly nasty Emperor Counter Burn deck centered on the tribal Wizards from Legions. It was one of those rare decks that work really well in either MP or Duals and no one liked it but me?! I wonder why?

Now onto some lesser known and potentially forgotten formats …

The OG format I played in MP was called Attack Left. Think of Mystic Barrier from the Commander 2013 decks – you can only attack either left or right. But instead of the enchantment owner deciding which direction everyone is attacking, the person with the lowest life during his or her upkeep can choose the direction.

And that brings a completely new level of diplomacy into any game!

The last format variation is called Five Star and potentially the most specific and drastic. In Five Star, you need five players who have a mono-deck for one of the five colours. Each player takes up their spot on the colour wheel and then battles their opposing colours. The player who knocks out his two opposing coloured opponents first wins.

The trick is that not every colour opponent may want you to kill an opponent immediately and can target your spells and permanents. For example, while Green may be friendly with Red against Blue, Red may not like Green killing Black off. Red can’t throw critters up to defend Black, but he can DD Green critters right off the board stalling Green’s win if Blue is already gone.

The main problem with this variation is deck levels. Someone may have an insane mono-EDH that will wipe the board of everyone while another person might only have a simple Pauper-esque deck that just can’t compete. That’s what happened the last time I played. It was not fun for the noob.

Any way you play, this game rocks and hopefully you have fun! Until next time, may your decks grow and your strategy win!

— Nicol Billas

Originally Published July 30, 2015 @ amusengames.ca