Time for a Little Big Deck Magic

So what does one do when one is the only person in a group of friends that has magic cards but that person wishes to play some magic with his friends? Why that person makes up a way to play and then writes an article about it!

So you have probably at one time or another played some form of Big Deck Magic. There are so many variants out there these days that the term “Big Deck” has lost almost all meaning. The way we use to play was to have one deck in the middle, everyone draws seven cards, and then can play a spell as a basic land that produces the same color of mana as the spell.

This form of Magic was fun back in the day but has some flaws. First of all we ran into the issue that a joint graveyard made many spells nearly impossible to include in the “Big Deck”. As I recall Odyssey was a very poor set as far as big deck magic was concerned. (However I should note it was one of my personal favorite sets of all time for casual limited play.) To solve this we ended up having separate graveyards… though some could argue that changing this changes the entire nature of Big Deck.

Another flaw, at least in my opinion, was the way that this kind of play changed the way cards worked. A card that bounced a card to the top of a library would almost always give that spell to the next player, certainly this was not what the designers had intended. While some people have considered this an asset, as it makes some dull cards more interesting and it allows new uses for old cards, when it’s a new set, or at least one I have not played that much of, I would rather have the cards do more or less what they are intended to do.

Thus, Little Big Deck. It plays like this: each spell can either be a basic land that corresponds to one of its colors or the spell that it actually is (but never both at the same time). Each player is dealt 60 cards from a collected pool to use as their deck for the game and has a separate graveyard, hand etc as in standard Magic. When you play a spell as a land you replace it with an appropriate basic land card and remove the spell from the game. This also happens if a card tells you to search your library for a forest and put it into your hand or into play (you would fetch a green card, remove it from the game and then put a forest into your hand or into play as the card had indicated). Thus if the land were to get bounced, stolen, etc. it is still a land forevermore.

This type of game also works best in my opinion when dividing cards by rarity and making certain everyone gets an even number of rare cards verse uncommons and commons. That is to say, cards are divided up almost as though they were a sealed deck with players each receiving the same number of rare, uncommon and common cards. While this is not strictly necessary some sets do have a propensity for rare bombs and this gives a greater likelihood for better distribution of such bombs and important cards.

I tried this style of magic using my tournament cards and my winnings from the Lorwyn Pre-Release. We played a six player game using them and it went fairly well. I like the fact that lame cards which would normal never see the light of day can see play, and possibly even be good in this environment, and while there is a huge luck factor knowing certain aspects of Magic like attacking and blocking will still help you to do well in this kind of game. Certainly this environment is incredibly casual but it does give someone like me (the only person in my group of friends with cards) an outlet for Magic.

I’m fairly certain other people have played this way before so the truth is I doubt I “invented” it. On the other hand I have never had someone tell me that we should play this way before and it was my solution to problems I saw with other ways to play. If anyone tries using these rules or has a suggestion on how to modify them please let me know. Enjoy!

    Scott Says:

    I would have to agree that Odyssey has definitely been my favorite block in recent years for casual play.

    I’m not sure whether threshold and madness were simply great mechanics, or that our first league seemed to embody the most fun while the group was being introduced to that style of play, but Odyssey and the color-weighted Torment and Judgement were terrifically fun sets to play.


    We have played using these rules a number of other times since my original post and have had a good deal of fun with it. It really makes it easy to pick up and play Magic whenever we want and since I am the only one with Lorwyn cards this has enabled people to see the new set. I have to say I really like Lorwyn for this type also because while there are a few bombs for limited there are not so many that it becomes a game about drawing one first.

    I haven’t heard from anyone else that has tried it however so it might simply be good for my play group.


    That sounds like a lot of fun. I’ve never played a game like that. Right when I started getting into Magic TCG I moved away from that group of friends and haven’t played since. It’s unfortunate really, it’s a fun game. Too bad I don’t have enough cards to start up a game like this. That would be a ton of fun.

    Scott Says:

    Kudos Nathaniel, you’re the first commenter (aside from Josh and myself)!

    Too bad about not having a local group for Magic- if you should find one, you’d probably be able to play this style of Big Deck without a ton of cards. I’m sure about 30 for each player in the game would be plenty.