By far, the most popular Magic format is casual. While it may not seem like it just looking around your local tourney hangout, most people play Magic for fun. It's all about the love of the game, or the non-cliche, to pass time. Unfortunately, those referred to as "Spikes" have lost the ability to make a true casual deck. "Johnnies" live for the casual, and some make it to the big leagues. Casual is really Magic in its purest form. Although some of you may think you know how to play casual, read this guide anyway; maybe you'll learn something! For those of you who can't play casual anymore, here's the best explanation of the format I can give!
1. A Stupid idea. Yes, I said Stupid. What this means is that you base your deck off something you would never play seriously. Use an alternate win condition, anything from milling, to Coalition Victory to poison counters. Or perhaps your stupid idea could be a one-card deck, which is a deck revolving around making that one card work well. Some great stupid cards are Grip of Chaos, Eye of the Storm and Leveler. Combo decks are really the essence of casual. For example, someone getting out Mycosynth Lattice, Imi Statue, Seedborn Muse, Orb of Dreams, and a Broodstar to boot! Other stupid ideas can be weird tribal decks. With the release of Guildpact, I'm sure there's some way you can make a Weird deck! Scourge had one of the best casual precons I've ever played. It was entirely based around expensive creatures!
Another good/bad/what the hell idea is that of the mechanic deck. We all know the horrors that Affinity and Madness brought, but an Amplify deck? What about a deck based purely around cards with Sunburst or Flashback? One might want to use a psuedo-ability, like those of Gating or Regeneration . When all else fails, go for broke: Elves!!!
One last thing to take into account is your gaming group. If that one guy who plays a mono-Blue control deck is really annoying you, pull out a few Boiling Seas, Spellbane Centaurs or Gaea's Heralds. Prepare for all contingencies if you like, but mostly prepare for that stupid deck you always hated and wanted to see destroyed.
2. Speeding Tickets. Don't be too hasty. A casual deck really shouldn't win on turns 1-4 unless it's one of those decks using Skullclamp and oodles of banned/restricted cards just so your dumb friend bragging about winning some small tourney can shut up. In general, though, a deck should be fun, and what's more fun than playing for a long time? Stretch out the game; your deck shouldn't really need to get lots of mana out on the first and second turn. Unless you're playing some sort of Grozoth deck, you don't need Ultra Mana Acceleration. Many people build a "casual deck" but expect to only be playing against something competitive. Now, I'll agree that when building a deck, it should be the best it can be, but that doesn't mean turn-three pwnage. If both you and your opponent are playing casually, then there shouldn't be any reason to have built your deck amazingly fast.
3. Spontaneity. Some of the best ideas I've ever come up with are when I'm walking somewhere, or I'm hanging out with my friends, or tuning out math class. Or maybe somebody says something to me that resembles a card. As soon as I get home, I just whip the whole deck together in a few minutes. Playing casually means you don't plan for every situation; you don't even think about any sort of metagame. Sometimes, when you're on a streak, it's best to roll with it and just go where the flow leads you. Spontaneity doesn't just mean deck creation; spontaneity also leads to tip number 4: The Flying Lemur Pirouette!
4. The Flying Lemur Pirouette! When an obviously stupid manuever comes your way, but you have the chance to do something awesome in the proccess, go ahead and do it! Your friends will remember it for its uncharacteristic style and strangeness. Even if you lose the game, you will have unrivaled glory, at least until someone else pulls off something equally stupid. Killing yourself in the three seconds before damage resolves also counts. An example would be when I was playing Legions Slivers, and my friend (playing some old Cleric dealie) and I were dominating the game, but our friend was pretty much doing draw-go. I swung against the clerics, and hit him with about 25 slivers to the face, I would have won, but i decided to deck myself by drawing cards due to Synapse Sliver. Our friend playing some Blue draw-go deck happened to win. It's a great story to tell, and playing casually always has great stories.
5. A great bonus to casual is house rules. EVERYONE has played with them, but they're fun. I'm talking about quick-draw(aka 0-7), fast-mana (aka quick-drop), double-draw . . . there are millions of them around. Casual doesn't have to play by tournament rules! Although many people would say these are newbie rules, they're really not. There are many formats that are based off of such house rules. Sometimes, my friends and I will build decks specifically for these rules. With quick-draw and fast-mana, whoever builds a deck of small spells usually wins.
For those of you who don't know these rules, hereare the three basic ones.
Quick-Draw: If you have no cards in your hand at the end of your turn, draw seven more. Other varients can have you draw the seven as soon as you're out of cards, but that can lead to A LOT of grief.
Fast-Mana: There is no one-land-per-turn limit. Some also call this Mana Flow, and add a draw to each land drop. This lends itself to a deck with 249 mountains and 1 Fireball.
Double-Draw: Draw two cards during your draw step, instead of merely one.
This is casual! Go crazy! Make your own rules! Who's going to stop you? There's no DCI police!
6. Etiquette. While playing casually, do whatever you want. Nobody really cares if you laugh maniacally when you do something evil. At tournaments, you always see the poker face, and holding your hand at an angle where it is nearly impossible for anyone to see your cards. However, playing casual means you can act casual as well. The games don't have to be serious. In fact, many times when I play with my friends, we'll actually reveal our hands to each other just to prove either how much our opponents are screwed or how much we are screwed. Rules should be more lax. If someone attacks with everything, and then realises that Overwhelm was a sorcery and can't play it during declare blockers, let him or her take the move back. Things like that should be allowed. Although, if someone plays Shirei and then you Putrefy it, he can't take it back with a claim of, "Hey! I didn't know you played that card! I take it back!" Playing casual means acting casual; being stuck-up is just asking for a mouth full of broken teeth and dreams.
7. Flavor vs. Ability. When making/playing a casual deck, one has to take into account the feeling of the deck you're playing. This could mean anything from staying with a certain common creature type, or going with a Skirk Goblin rather than an Akki. One thing you can do to make sure of something like this is to imagine a great battlefield, and how it would look if you saw a soldier fighting alongside a zombie and a wurm. It just wouldn't happen in whatever version of reality you like. Meanwhile, having a solid army of the same species would work better in one's imagination.
8. Here comes the bottom line: Fun. If you think that my ideas on casual aren't true to the format, then toss them all out but this one. Casual means fun. If you think winning on first turn is fun, then that's casual. The true essence of casual is playing just because you want to play, not for prizes or for bragging rights. Casual is for people who love to play the game. My ideas are just suggestions for people who are so caught up in the tournament scene that it's hard to make a deck for fun. It's hard not to analyze every deck choice that you make. If you are having fun playing a deck, than you are playing casual right now.
Let's build a casual deck right now! A great card to build a deck around is Grozoth. Now, building a deck like this first has to see what Grozoth does, then think what he works well with. Kuro, The Unspeakable, Blazing Archon, and Nullstone Gargoyle come to mind. But once we search for these and the other Grozoth's haunting our deck, how do we get them out easily? AHA! Myojin of Life's Web is perfect! It has a converted mana cost 9 as well! Then brings the problem of making a lot of mana. Well, I'll pop in some Tribe Elders and some Kodama's Reaches. Also, for some extra boost, 4 Llanowar Elves will be a good addition. So here's our Grozoth deck right now:
|Grozoth Deck Wins!Magic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards|
1 Kuro, Pitlord
1 Myojin of Life's Web
1 Blazing Archon
1 Nullstone Gargoyle
1 The Unspeakable
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Kodama's Reach
4 Llanowar Elves
When I choose a card that I know is going to be in the deck, I put 4 of it in there. I made the exception with Grozoth because he's important, but I'm sure there are ways to get him.
With acceleration like that, I'm going to set the land count at 24, with 12 Forests and 12 Islands. Now, how are we going to draw our Grozoth? We're not running black so Vampiric Tutor is out, but there is a card from Scourge that will get our Grozoth. The name is Fierce Empath. Now we could add Worldly Tutor, but we only want Grozoth once we have the mana for him. Let's put some assorted draw cards in to help us find him: Brainstorm and Carven Caryatid, and Eternal Witness to get anything back we want. It just so happens that this is 60 cards!
This is a true casual deck. It's been whipped together in about a half-hour, and could be a lot better. For example, we could put some Birdies in instead of the Llanowar Elves. We could have put some Skullclamps for even better draw! And there's Wall of Blossoms instead of the Carven Caryatid. There's not even a sideboard! This is a good casual deck, though; it's not a great winner, and it's not fast, but its fun. Especially once your opponent realizes you're not saving up mana for a Tooth and Nail! Fun is what casual is about, and this is what this deck is about.
But of course, one could point out that a Casual deck depends on the level of the people you're playing with. Just because you have certain things, like Duals, doesn't mean you must play like someone who doesn't have them. Sure, use these things if you've got 'em, but try to remember the fun aspect of the deck, and what you're really trying to do. Remember, theme and fun get the nod over power. Now go and have fun!
Editing: Dr. Tom, Goblinboy)