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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Peasant Magic: There can be only...5?

Early in the history of the Gathering, there was a great divide, between the haves and the have not. Those with the resources and inclination to build large collections, with vast resources of powerful rare cards, and those who didn't. In order to address this issue, and attempt to preserve the game for those who couldn't or wouldn't go all in, a number of house rules developed, limiting deck design or resources. The concept was to set limits on the quantity or types of cards allowed to be played in a given event. Now you have to remember this was long before the creation of the DCI, or any structured formats that we think of today, even before the 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0 formats, which were the earliest widespread formats.

One of the earliest attempts to adddress this issue, was Peasant Magic, developed by Robert Baranowski. You can find perhaps the earliest web entries regarding Peasant as a format here. It was born out of frustration of not being able to build competitive level decks without the use of certain rare cards, so Robert did the only thing he could. He created a format which could not be played with rare cards at all. The article is a good read, and I highly recommend it. The format is primarily defunct now, having been replaced by the Extended and Legacy format options, and until recently fully addressed in the Pauper format.

Construction was simple. Build a deck of sixty cards. you could use any amount of commons you like, and you could use up to 5 uncommons. No rares. This was a tough format, since most mana fixing and dual lands were rare in the early days. The early days left a lot of interpretation as to the commonality of cards, what with many expansions sets having no rares, and different versions of the same card, printed at different rates with in the same set. It made for very confusing times, and allowed some cards like Strip Mine to be played as a common, while it's power level was clearly uncommon. Today we have Gatherer to give us a more accurate definition of a cards rarity, and it's lowest paper commonality is used for any card. Strip Mine is now defined as a uncommon. Like wise Loxodon Warhammer is also an uncommon.

With the new addition of Mythic as an upper tier commonality, many people have begun to feel that the all common pauper format is simply to restrictive, and no longer addresses the niche of players for which it was orginally intended. Peasant, currently on the wayside of Magic play, not having had any real work done on it as a format since Ravnica block some 4 years ago, may be in a position to shine again in the casual corner. Many, myself include, feel that it gives the right balance of restriction and creativity to be an interesting format for today's budget minded players.

So what if you could only have 5 uncommon cards, not just in a deck, but period. Only five, and no rares. You are a planeswalker who has recently ignited your spark. You were born to a plane where magic is easy to come by, many people are able to perform minor acts of Magic, without training. On the contrary Magic is suppressed on the plane, and has not been able to develop into higher level, and even rare arcane works from other planes are unable to function with in the plane. Even mid range magics draw an unusually large amount of your energy, and mages have learned to limit their exposure to this unending draw, by keeping their magic repituar as simple as they can. Many a greedy mage has been consumed by their own quest for higher powers.

So, if you can only have hive uncommons, what five would they be? My first thought is that I would want to pick 5 cards which could be used in virtually any deck, so I could get the most use out of my most powerful spells. My inclination would be utility lands and artifacts. Strip Mine, and Maze of Ith immediately jump to mind. Loxodane Warhammer, Skullclamp, Sensei's Devining Top, Aether Vial, Isochron Scepter, and Sol Ring are all above average artifacts, that could find a home in nearly any deck. Demonic Tutor, jumps to the head of the pack in the minds of many, but what really makes the best of the best?

Ben Bleiweiss did some really excellent work (Part_One and Part_Two) regarding the existence of "Super Uncommons". This seems like an ideal place to start, when thinking about the best uncommons in the game. From these articles, we can easliy add many cards to our watch list. We also need to give special attention to uncommons which were later upgraded to rares, as this gives a good indication of an above par power level.

Based on these thought processes, we have developed the following Banned, restricted, and Watch lists.

Banned

Bazaar of Baghdad
Berserk
Channel
Counterbalance
Force of Will
Imperial Recruiter
Ivory Tower
Khabal Ghoul
Library of Alexandra
Loyal Retainers
Magnetic Mountain
Mana Drain
Recall
Sea Drake
Skullclamp
Strategic Planning
Voice of All
Winds of Change

Restricted

Brass Herald
City of Brass
Demonic Tutor
Fact or Fiction
Gemstone Mine 
Isochron Scepter
Jalum Tome
Land Tax
Maze of Ith
Mystical Tutor
Noble Purpose
Regrowth
Shifting Sky
Sol Ring
Stripmine
Sylvan Library
Tinker
Underworld Dreams
Windfall

Watch

Path to Exile
Remand
Eternal Witness
Cabal Therapy
Fact or Fiction
Kitchen Finks
Standstill
Goblin Lackey
Mother of Runes
Treetop Village
Faerie Conclave
Voltaic Key
Ancient Tomb
Crystalline Sliver
Reanimate
Wall of Blossoms
Wasteland
Buried Alive
Enlightened Tutor
Elvish Spirit Guide
Pyroclasm
Swords to Plowshare
Serra Angel
Clone
Sengir Vampire
Story Circle
Armagedon Clock
Coastal Piracy
Eye for an Eye
Fallen Angel
Flying Carpet
Hurricane
Hypnotic Spector
Jade Statue
Larcony
Lava Hounds
Millstone
Mind Bend
Mishra's Factory
Noble Purpose
Onulet
Primal Clay
Relic Bind
Rocket Launcher
Sengir Autocrat
Shifting Sky
Skull of Orm
Sleight of Mind
Sorceress Queen
Titania's Song
Urza's Armour
Wall of Wonder
Warped Devotion
Xenic Poltergiest

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