Magic the Gathering: Mindbusters Variant

by Adam Yedidia

Are you one of those people who want to play Magic the Gathering at every opportunity? Do you enjoy games that aren’t decided by mana screw? If either, then you will be interested by this article. Read on.

Those of you who read Kelly Digges’ article on the MindMaster Magic variant will be familiar with games you play as you open packs: games that are substitutes for real Magic, that one plays because one was about to open the packs anyway.

This game, which my father Jonathan Yedidia invented, will have you buying pairs of packs just so you can play it.

The Rules

First, you open each pack. You lay them out on the table so everyone can see them, but the packs must remain distinct. Players study the packs for a moment, then the bidding begins.

Players bid life. They may bid at any time: it is whoever says the amount they are bidding first whose bid stands. Bids cannot be taken back.

The winner of the bid gets to choose whether he will:
• Choose whether or not to play first.
• Choose which pack he/she will draft from first.
That player will lose an amount of life equal to his bid, and the loser of the bid will make the choice the winner didn’t make.

The Drafting

This proceeds as a regular draft would, only with two players. The player who chose which pack to draft from first takes his first pick from that pack; the other player takes his first pick from the other pack. Each player picks a card and places it face down in front of him/her. Both cards are turned face up simultaneously. Each player then passes the rest of the pack to the other player. Players take their second picks the same way, all the way until each pack is exhausted.

Players then add a total of ten basic lands of any type to their deck, and it’s time to play!

The Play

This is identical to normal Magic, with one fundamental difference: players may stack their decks AT ANY TIME!

This is the rule that differentiates this game from regular Magic: it takes away mana screw and makes “curving out” much more important. There are a few special rules that surround it, however:

• If either player has seen the top or bottom cards of a player’s deck, those cards may not be rearranged during deck-stacking. (This no longer holds true if the deck is shuffled) This rule ensures that cards like Condemn or Psychotic Episode do not become dead: cards sent to the bottom will stay at the bottom (unless your opponent has a Greenseeker). Unfortunately, this rule makes other cards dead: cards like Sensei’s Divining Top or Sage of Epityr. Too bad, I guess you’ll just have to live with that.

• As was said before, deck-stacking takes place at any time and is an action that doesn’t interact with the rest of the game: it doesn’t use the stack and you can do it when you don’t have priority. Just treat it as though you got the topdeck you needed every time.

Everything else in Magic applies: you can still deck, even though you only start with 25 cards in your library (I’ll go into milling as a strategy later.) The only other difference with regular Magic is the difference in life totals at the beginning of the game.

Why this is a good game

The inspiration for this game came from MindMasters. After my Dad and I won some packs at the Time Spiral prerelease, I figured it was a good time to try MindMasters. I suggested it and we played a few games of it.

It was okay. We had fun. We found it had a flaw, though: much of the game rested on what you opened in the pack, and there was too much hidden information for the game to be very skill-intensive. So my Dad thought about it and came up with this game. We dubbed it MindBusters, due to the effect it will have on your brain when you try to think the whole game through.

The reason this game is a good game and you should try it is because it has next to no luck. Everything is laid out in plain sight. If one pack happens to contain Umezawa’s Jitte, it won’t be whoever opened the pack that will win. It will probably be the one who bids nineteen first (Wandering Ones begins to look good.) The game is self-balancing and you need no longer lose games to bad topdecks. Every pair of packs is its own format. How “good” a card is depends entirely upon the other cards available. Sengir Nosferatu can be insane, but it won’t be quite as insane when there’s a Sudden Death in the same pack. If, however, they are in different packs, they will both instantly become first picks.

Hate-drafting also becomes a potent strategy. If you can get both the Disenchant and the Verdant Embrace, you’ll be pretty happy, even if there are no other targets for your Disenchant.

The only luck in the game is:
• When a card like Stitch in Time or Hypnotic Specter is in one of the packs.
• In the face-down cards that were drafted: you only get to see the other guy’s pick after you have chosen your own.
• In the hidden information that is the other player’s hand.
But honestly, the luck is so minimal that you can probably live with it.

Another reason this is a good game is because each format is self-balancing. Yes, cards like Mystical Teachings can be pretty worthless, but you can try to avoid them through skillful betting at the beginning.

Strategy

As I said, there is no way of judging individual cards, as the other cards in the pack determine their value. However, there are a few things to look out for:
• The biggest creature in the two packs.
• The biggest flying creature in the two packs.
• Powerful, game-dominating cards. (Verdant Embrace)
• Ways of dealing with powerful, game-dominating cards. (Disenchant)
• Cards that will win you the game single-handedly. (Door to Nothingness)
• Cards that can deal with anything that comes their way. (Mortify)

Why am I so obsessed with Verdant Embrace and Disenchant? Because in one of the games I played, those two cards were in the same pack. At about fifth pick, I took the Disenchant and expected him to take the Verdant Embrace… but he didn’t. As you might imagine, I took it and crushed him with it. It was a pretty easy victory.

Why Milling Doesn’t Usually Work

Only 25 cards in your library… Shouldn’t be milling be pretty easy? Well, it’s not.

The fact is, players will always be able to curve out and make very aggressive starts. You don’t want to be wasting your early-drops and cards on mill spells. Neither do you want to be using your early picks on Screeching Slivers while the other player is taking Keldon Halberdiers. Many times have I tried milling: once with a Screeching Sliver and some other slivers, another time with Magus of the Jar, a third time with Ancestral Vision and Careful Consideration. It has nearly always failed. When you open a pack with Glimpse the Unthinkable and six targeted draw spells, then we’ll talk. Just don’t open Consult the Necrosages and think, “Ooh… it says ‘Target Player’! Oh boy!” Do yourself a favor. Don’t waste your picks and your curve on mill cards. It won’t work. It’s not worth it. I learned that the hard way.

Card advantage in MindBusters

Part of the reason card drawing was so good in regular Magic was because it got you closer to your good cards. That is no longer relevant. Now, if you want to draw your good cards, just put them on top of your deck.

So does card advantage serve any purpose anymore? The answer is yes, it does. Card advantage will simply give you a greater amount of resources with which to work. You will end up with more mana, more creatures, and more tricks than your opponent. It is, however, slightly worse than it used to be. Card selection, however, is completely worthless. Sorry, Looter il-Kor.

MindBusting in MindBusters

The reason this game is called what it is is because as soon as the packs are laid out, you could potentially anticipate the entire game; however, this is next to impossible. You must simply do your best to figure out what are going to be the most powerful cards and draft accordingly. If you think it all through, the complexity of each game will be overwhelming.

Sample Game

Enough with the rules and the strategy. Here are some genuine games my father and I played, so you can get better acquainted with the functioning of the game.

The two packs are opened. Here they are:

Pack 1:

Feldon’s Cane
Gauntlet of Power
Riftwing Cloudskate
Haunting Hymn
Plated Pegasus
Greenseeker
Ancient Grudge
Momentary Blink
Screeching Sliver
Savage Thallid
Orcish Cannonade
Scarwood Treefolk
Spiketail Drakeling
Gorgon Recluse
Castle Raptors

Pack 2:

Pendelhaven
Hypergenesis
Barbed Shocker
Chronatog Totem
Duskrider Peregrine
Skulking Knight
Zealot il-Vec
Urborg Syphon-Mage
Snapback
Wormwood Dryad
AEther Web
Mystical Teachings
Two-Headed Sliver
Prismatic Lens
Clockspinning

So, what to do? I was looking at the packs and decided that the cards that were going to dominate the game were all big fliers. Duskrider Peregrine, Castle Raptors, Spiketail Drakeling and Riftwing Cloudskate were the game-deciders. When aerial combat ensued, I would want a combat trick to tip the scales in my favor. I then saw Momentary Blink, not only a combat trick, but a recurring one, and one that could combo with Riftwing Cloudskate. I bid one life, and soon topped the bid with two. My Dad had nothing to say, so I chose pack 1 to pick from first.

The Drafting

First picks:

Momentary Blink

Duskrider Peregrine

Second Picks:

Snapback

Castle Raptors

Here, I didn’t care if he took Castle Raptors or Riftwing Cloudskate; taking the Castle Raptors would mean depriving me of both 3/3 fliers, but giving me an awesome combo, and taking the Riftwing Cloudskate would mean neither would happen.

Third Picks:

Riftwing Cloudskate

Zealot il-Vec

I was hoping he wouldn’t take the Zealot il-Vec, but he went ahead and took it anyway. It had the ability to put the third damage on either of his 3/3s, an ability I needed. It also can kill Screeching Sliver, a milling engine on which an eye should be kept.

Fourth Picks:

AEther Web

Savage Thallid

AEther Web can do the third damage, but it won’t stay, so it isn’t as good as the Zealot. If it is put on a fatty, the fatty would gain the ability to block fliers, which could also be very important. However, my Dad’s pick was one of the two fattest creatures in the packs, which is unfortunate. The other fatty is Scarwood Treefolk, a card I am going to want.

Fifth Picks:

Spiketail Drakeling

Pendelhaven

Despite Scarwood Treefolk’s presence, I took the Drakeling because I felt the fliers would be the creatures that won the game. As for my father’s pick, I can’t say I understood it; the only explanation was that he wanted to pump Screeching Sliver beyond Orcish Cannonade range.

Sixth Picks:

Orcish Cannonade

Wormwood Dryad

Removal and evasion are as good as they have always been. These picks make sense to me.

Seventh Picks:

Scarwood Treefolk

Skulking Knight

I ended up with the Treefolk anyway, to my relief. My Dad took the Skulking Knight, which I had a hard time understanding.

Eighth Picks:

Urborg Syphon-Mage

Feldon’s Cane

Feldon’s Cane had been an interesting card from the beginning. In addition to the obvious use as a milling foil, it can be used as a Reclaim on steroids. It allows you to get all the cards you lost back into your library, where you draw them all one by one. I was a bit worried by the prospect of him replaying his Duskrider Peregrine and his Castle Raptors after I got them into the graveyard using a barrage of tricks. I decided I would try to be as aggressive as possible so as to kill him before he could pull that off.

Ninth Picks:

Gauntlet of Power

Chronatog Totem

I was noticing the fact that I was the one with the only good blue creatures. Gauntlet of Power seemed to be the best option for inflicting the third point of damage.

Tenth Picks:

Barbed Shocker

Ancient Grudge

So much for my Gauntlet of Power.

Eleventh Picks:

Haunting Hymn

Two-Headed Sliver

Haunting Hymn is a very powerful card and it is a testament to the sheer power of Pack 1 that I was able to take it eleventh pick. If they haven’t already emptied their hand by turn six, you can force them to, and if they have, you can make them dump their draw, a draw that might have been instrumental to their victory.

Two-Headed Sliver was one of the milling strategy components. Now that my Dad has his hands on Two-Headed Sliver, Screeching Sliver, Feldon’s Cane, and Orcish Cannonade, I may be in trouble.

Twelfth Picks:

Clockspinning

Screeching Sliver

Yep, he took the final piece of the combo, while I had to content myself with a spore counter remover. Bah.

Thirteenth Picks:

Plated Pegasus

Prismatic Lens

A flier that can reduce Orcish Cannonade’s sting. Not bad for a thirteenth pick.

Fourteenth Picks:

Hypergenesis

Gorgon Recluse

Gorgon Recluse is a very decent 2/4 with infinite power against other creatures. He becomes much better when accompanied by Greenseeker, but that union was not to be. As to Hypergenesis, I think it is a much cooler card than Mystical Teachings.

Fifteenth Picks:

Greenseeker

Mystical Teachings

Greenseeker would have gone great with Gorgon Recluse, but as is, she’s just an Eager Cadet. Oh, well.

I add 3 Islands, 2 Plains, 2 Forests, 2 Swamps, and 1 Mountain to my deck. He adds 3 Mountains, 2 Plains, 2 Forests, 2 Swamps, and 1 Island to his deck.

The Game

My father chooses to play first. Our opening hands are:

My hand
Island
Island
Forest
Plains
Riftwing Cloudskate
Spiketail Drakeling
Momentary Blink

His hand
Island
Plains
Mountain
Screeching Sliver
Prismatic Lens
Two-Headed Sliver
Duskrider Peregrine

He plays an Island followed by a Screeching Sliver and passes the turn.

I draw Scarwood Treefolk, play Island and pass the turn.

18-20

He draws Castle Raptors, plays a Plains and suspends his Duskrider Peregrine, then passes the turn.

I draw Snapback, play a Forest and suspend Riftwing Cloudskate. At the end of my turn, he mills away my Barbed Shocker.

18-20

He draws Orcish Cannonade, plays a Mountain and taps it for a Two-Headed Sliver, and passes the turn.

I draw Wormwood Dryad, play Island and tap it for Spiketail Drakeling. At the end of my turn, Mountain gets milled away.

18-20

He draws Mountain, plays it and plays a Prismatic Lens, then taps it and the two mountains to Cannonade my Spiketail Drakeling. I decide not to sacrifice the Drakeling, figuring I’m better off with him at 17, despite the extra card. He draws Pendelhaven.

I draw Urborg Syphon-Mage, play Plains and use it to play Scarwood Treefolk. At the end of my turn, I pitch Hypergenesis and Greenseeker.

18-17

In his upkeep, the final time counter is removed from Duskrider Peregrine; he attacks with it after drawing Feldon’s Cane. He plays Pendelhaven, Castle Raptors and Feldon’s Cane.

My Riftwing Cloudskate comes in, returning the Castle Raptors. I draw Swamp and attack with Scarwood Treefolk and Riftwing Cloudskate. I play Swamp, then Urborg Syphon-Mage. At the end of my turn, I lose Clockspinning and Island. I have 8 cards in my library and 3 in my hand (Wormwood Dryad, Momentary Blink, Snapback). He has 13 cards in his library and only Castle Raptors in his hand.

15-12

He draws Chronatog Totem and leaves only his Pendelhaven untapped to play Castle Raptors. At the end of his turn, however, I Momentary Blink my Riftwing Cloudskate, allowing me to bounce his Castle Raptors.

I draw AEther Web and Snapback his Duskrider Peregrine, leaving only his two slivers to stave off my incoming horde. I attack with Scarwood Treefolk, Riftwing Cloudskate and Urborg Syphon-Mage. He blocks Urborg Syphon-Mage with Two-Headed Sliver and makes it a 2/3 with Pendelhaven, but I AEther Web the Syphon-Mage. He taps the Two-Headed Sliver to mill away my Gauntlet of Power and takes 5. He also mills my Forest at end of turn. I now have only 4 cards left in my library (Haunting Hymn, Swamp, Plated Pegasus, Plains) and one in hand (Wormwood Dryad). He has 12 cards in his library and 3 cards in his hand (Castle Raptors, Duskrider Peregrine, Chronatog Totem). Things are looking in my favor at this point, though, as his life total is rapidly shrinking.

15-7

He draws Mountain, plays it and plays Chronatog Totem, then uses it to play Castle Raptors. He passes the turn.

I draw Swamp, play it, flashback Momentary Blink on my Riftwing Cloudskate, return Castle Raptors, and attack with Scarwood Treefolk and Urborg Syphon-Mage. He blocks Scarwood Treefolk with Screeching Sliver and mills my Plains.

15-4

During his own upkeep, he sacrifices Feldon’s Cane to shuffle Screeching Sliver, Two-Headed Sliver and Orcish Cannonade back into his library. He draws Screeching Sliver and plays it alongside Castle Raptors, then passes the turn.

I draw Haunting Hymn and use Urborg Syphon-Mage’s ability, discarding Haunting Hymn, and pass the turn.

17-2

He draws Two-Headed Sliver, plays it, and mills my last card, Plated Pegasus, using Screeching Sliver.

In my upkeep, I discard Wormwood Dryad to Urborg Syphon-Mage’s ability and siphon him for the kill. Good game!

So, what is to be learned from this game? Well, for one thing, this further supports my point about how milling is a bad strategy. However, he came dangerously close to decking me, as I had to kill him in my upkeep. It was very foolhardy of me to have let him take Orcish Cannonade, Feldon’s Cane, Two-Headed Sliver and Screeching Sliver. When I took Barbed Shocker tenth pick the obvious good move would have been to take the Two-Headed Sliver instead, a blunder that almost cost me the game (I had forgotten Two-Headed Sliver could inherit Screeching Sliver’s ability!). Had a few things gone a bit differently, I could have easily lost. Even though milling is bad, one should never completely ignore it.

Sample Game 2

On to the next game.

Pack 1:

Krosan Cloudscraper
Triskelavus
Riftwing Cloudskate
Evil Eye of Urborg
Barbed Shocker
Think Twice
Glass Asp
Prismatic Lens
Ground Rift
Penumbra Spider
Errant Doomsayers
Traitor’s Clutch
D’Avenant Healer
Rift Bolt
Tendrils of Corruption

Pack 2:

Orcish Librarian
Pardic Dragon
Volcanic Awakening
Sulfurous Blast
Duskrider Peregrine
Goblin Skycutter
Crookclaw Transmuter
Strength in Numbers
Urborg Syphon-Mage
Sage of Epityr
Divine Congregation
Mindlash Sliver
Thallid Shell-Dweller
Jhoira’s Timebug
Zealot il-Vec

Wow. These are nice packs. Pardic Dragon, Krosan Cloudscraper, Triskelavus, Riftwing Cloudskate, Duskrider Peregrine, Sulfurous Blast, and quite a lot of other removal… With three huge expensive guys, this is probably going to be a war between bombs. There is little chance that one could beat down and kill the opponent with fast creatures before the bombs come online, especially with Thallid Shell-Dweller present.

So, what to do? The only way to kill the fliers is through some combination of Sulfurous Blast, Rift Bolt, and Goblin Skycutter. These packs are quite similar to the last two in that they share a lot of cards, but the presence of bombs and the abundance of removal will make the strategies completely different. The only combat trick is Strength in Numbers, so there are few ways to tip combat in your favor should Triskelavus and Pardic Dragon end up in close combat. There is also Krosan Cloudscraper to think about, a creature so fat that if you can get him out, you will have won the game.

After thinking about all these things, my attention was grabbed by the seemingly harmless card Volcanic Awakening. If one could time suspend cards right, one could wreck an opponent who planned on making it to six mana and playing Pardic Dragon. I would have to go first to pull it off, so I could get to six mana before him. It seemed a good plan, so I bet one. After my bid went unanswered, I chose to choose whether or not to go first, he chose pack 2, and the game had begun!

The Drafting

First picks:

Riftwing Cloudskate

Pardic Dragon

Riftwing Cloudskate was going to be a very powerful card here because of his ability to bounce a bomb should my plan go awry in addition to being a suspend card and an all-around awesome creature. Now that he had the Pardic Dragon and, soon enough, Triskelavus, I had to follow through with my plan or I would lose.

Second Picks:

Sulfurous Blast

Triskelavus

My decision was between Duskrider Peregrine and Sulfurous Blast. I knew that whichever I took, he would take the other. I wanted the Duskrider Peregrine, but I knew that Sulfurous Blast could devastate my army after I Volcanic Awakened, and it could prove very useful should he suddenly decide to go beatdown. I was considering taking Volcanic Awakening right here and now, but I doubted my father had seen the same thing as I had and would take it from me.

Third Picks:

Rift Bolt

Duskrider Peregrine

Rift Bolt, in addition to being a great piece of removal, would up my storm count when turn six came along.

Fourth Picks:

Goblin Skycutter

Tendrils of Corruption

Again, the dilemma of whether or not to take the Awakening now or later. I decided to take a risk and grab the good 2-drop and piece of removal Goblin Skycutter. I was a bit sad I couldn’t take all the removal, for now Tendrils of Corruption was in enemy hands.

Fifth Picks:

Krosan Cloudscraper

Zealot il-Vec

I decided I wanted Krosan Cloudscraper as a finisher and as a useful 2/2 for 3.
I was unhappy he had taken Zealot il-Vec. That was a creature that could take down Goblin Skycutter, among other things, and meant I needed to find myself a new 2-drop.

Sixth Picks:

Volcanic Awakening

Prismatic Lens

I decided not to postpone taking Volcanic Awakening any longer. When he took Prismatic Lens, at first, I panicked. That would mean he could play Pardic Dragon before I could destroy his lands! I soon realized, however, that Riftwing Cloudskate could bounce the Pardic Dragon back to his hand and bail me out.

Seventh Picks:

Penumbra Spider

Crookclaw Transmuter

I wanted a 4-drop, and Penumbra Spider seemed to be the best one. Again, I was unhappy with what he picked. The Crookclaw Transmuter meant I would have to look beyond Thallid Shell-Dweller for my 2-drop.

Eighth Picks:

Thallid Shell-Dweller

Barbed Shocker

Oh well, I can at least wait until he plays Crookclaw Transmuter to play my Thallid Shell-Dweller. I seemed better off taking that than Urborg Syphon-Mage or Strength in Numbers.

Barbed Shocker? I don’t understand.

Ninth Picks:

Errant Doomsayers

Urborg Syphon-Mage

I finally found my 2-drop! Hooray! Errant Doomsayers also means I have nothing to fear from Zealot il-Vec.

Tenth Picks:

Strength in Numbers

Traitor’s Clutch

Strength in Numbers was the last decent card of the pack. Traitor’s Clutch was potentially very dangerous.

Eleventh Picks:

Evil Eye of Urborg

Divine Congregation

I have always somewhat liked Evil Eye of Urborg, and here there’s no risk of it being temporally isolated.

Twelfth Picks:

Jhoira’s Timebug

D’Avenant Healer

I simply took the fattest creature in my pack, and that was Jhoira’s Timebug.
I was a little worried about D’Avenant Healer tormenting me during combat, but the double-white cost and his lack of early creatures meant things couldn’t get too bad.

Thirteenth Picks:

Glass Asp

Mindlash Sliver

Again, I took the fattest creature in my pack.

Fourteenth Picks:

Orcish Librarian

Ground Rift

1/1 for 2 vs. 1/1 for 1 with a drawback. Hmmm…

Fifteenth Picks:

Think Twice

Sage of Epityr

I add 3 Mountains, 3 Forests, 2 Islands, 1 Plains, and 1 Swamp to my deck. He adds 4 Swamps, 3 Mountains, 2 Plains, and 1 Island to his deck.

The Game

I choose to play first. Our opening hands are:

My hand
Island
Plains
Forest
Forest
Riftwing Cloudskate
Errant Doomsayers
Penumbra Spider

His hand
Swamp
Mountain
Plains
Mindlash Sliver
Duskrider Peregrine
Divine Congregation
Prismatic Lens

I play a Plains and pass the turn.

He draws Island, plays a Swamp followed by a Mindlash Sliver and passes the turn.

19-20

I draw Think Twice, play a Forest and an Errant Doomsayers, and pass the turn.

He draws Tendrils of Corruption, attacks with Mindlash Sliver, plays a Plains, suspends Duskrider Peregrine and passes the turn.

18-20

I draw Rift Bolt, play an Island, suspend Riftwing Cloudskate, and pass the turn.

He draws Mountain, plays it and plays Prismatic Lens, which he uses to suspend Divine Congregation. I tap his Mindlash Sliver in his main phase. He passes the turn.

18-20

I draw Mountain, attack with Errant Doomsayers, and play Forest and Penumbra Spider. I pass the turn.

He draws Crookclaw Transmuter and plays Island. There is one counter on his Duskrider Peregrine and four on his Divine Congregation.

18-19

I draw Volcanic Awakening. I play Mountain and suspend Rift Bolt, then pass the turn. At the end of my turn, he flashes out Crookclaw Transmuter. There is one counter on Riftwing Cloudskate and one on Rift Bolt. It looks like my plan is going to work!

During his upkeep, Duskrider Peregrine comes into play. He draws Pardic Dragon, plays Mountain, and plays the Dragon. In his combat step, I tap his Crookclaw Transmuter, and at the end of his turn, I Think Twice, drawing Mountain. Normally, I don’t like to use bad card drawing like Think Twice. I have nothing against card drawing in MindBusters, but I don’t want to play 5 mana just for 1 extra card! I much prefer a card like Fathom Seer, who costs no mana. He’ll hurt your mana development slightly, but with an aggressively-minded strategy you’ll just replay your lands and play cheaper spells while you wait, all while having given you more creatures to work with. Anyhow, I played Think Twice there because I had nothing else to do with my mana and felt I should do something.

While we’re on the subject of card-drawing, another card that deserves honorable mention is Ophidian Eye. Ophidian Eye on a creature like Shadow Sliver will draw you many, many cards for only 3 mana! You will have plenty of options, while your opponent is left in the dust. That card defeated me. But back to the game…

18-19

During my upkeep, Rift Bolt zaps Duskrider Peregrine, and Riftwing Cloudskate comes in and bounces Pardic Dragon. I draw Thallid Shell-Dweller. I play Volcanic Awakening and destroy both his Mountains and his Plains. It worked! He will have a hard time recovering, as he must waste precious time getting his lands back. I attack with my Penumbra Spider and my Riftwing Cloudskate.

He draws a third Mountain, plays it, and plays Tendrils of Corruption on my Errant Doomsayers with one Swamp out. I respond by tapping his Crookclaw Transmuter. He attacks me with his Mindlash Sliver.

17-16

I draw Krosan Cloudscraper, play it face-down, play Thallid Shell-Dweller, and attack with Riftwing Cloudskate and Penumbra Spider. He doesn’t block.

He draws Plains, plays it, plays Zealot ¬il-Vec, and attacks with Crookclaw Transmuter.

14-12

I draw Goblin Skycutter and attack with Morph, Penumbra Spider, and Riftwing Cloudskate. He doesn’t block. He is at six. I play Goblin Skycutter.

He gains ten life from Divine Congregation targeting me, draws Swamp, plays it, and attacks with Zealot il-Vec and Crookclaw Transmuter. He targets Goblin Skycutter with Zealot il-Vec’s ability, and I chuck the Goblin in response at Crookclaw Transmuter, saving me three damage. He plays the Syphon-Mage. At the end of his turn, I flashback Think Twice, drawing Strength in Numbers.

14-16

I draw Jhoira’s Timebug and attack with Morph, Penumbra Spider, and Riftwing Cloudskate. He doesn’t block. I play the Timebug.

He draws Swamp and plays it. Because he only has three mountains in his deck, he has to use the Prismatic Lens to play Pardic Dragon, meaning he will need seven mana!

14-10

I attack with everyone, he chump-blocks Penumbra Spider with Mindlash Sliver, but it is not enough to postpone his death in the face of a Strength in Numbers. Good game!

We can see from this game that seemingly bad cards can become good when in the right format, and whenever you play a game of MindBusters, it will often be necessary to reassess the power level of every card. Finding hidden synergies among cards and being able to see which ones will determine the winner is necessary to win.
You may find some play errors among these games. (I saw a few!) My father and I are very far from being great Magic players, and regularly make mistakes.

Despite the changes to Magic that MindBusters includes, it still feels like Magic, and despite the tremendous amount of thought that goes into each of these games, it is still a lot of fun.

In fact, I personally wouldn’t mind having sanctioned tournaments that include rounds of this game. I think it will eliminate some of Magic’s luck elements while still preserving its flavor. It stands in a category of its own, as neither limited nor constructed. Try it, you’ll like it!

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One Response to “Magic the Gathering: Mindbusters Variant”

  1. Mindbusters for Magic the Gathering « Nerd Wisdom Says:

    […] for Magic the Gathering Today we have a guest article from my son Adam, about a variant of Magic the Gathering that we enjoy playing. I wrote a post […]

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