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Storyline Magic v. 1.1
By David Bruce
Storyline Magic:

Floor Rules, 2000 Season
Effective by first posting


Storyline Magic is an alternative format designed for Magic: the Gathering. This format is still governed by the most recent rulings released by Wizards of the Coast and should be followed in accordance with the overall guidelines for play set down by Wizards of the Coast.

General Storyline Magic: the Gathering Rules

Authorized Cards

Alpha cards (cards from the first print run of the basic set) may be used only if they are placed in solid-color sleeves, and only if the sleeves are in a condition that is not considered marked. Participants may use cards from all released products of Wizards of the Coast, any special edition sets or supplements, Collector’s Editions, International Collector’s Editions, ProTour Collectors Sets, World Championship decks, etc., so long as these cards and all other cards used this way are contained in solid-color sleeves, and only if the sleeves are in a condition that is not considered marked.

Unglued-edition cards should be used only by the consent of all parties. Proxies may be used only by consent of all parties.

Card Interpretation

All cards are interpreted using the appropriate card ruling section of the Autumn League card reference. During sanctioned competition, players must refer to this version of a card to settle disputes concerning the interpretation of a card's wording or powers. Card abilities are based on card text, not artwork.

Players may not use previously or newly discovered errors or omissions in the environment to disrupt a tournament or otherwise abuse the rules. The head judge is the final authority for all card interpretations, and he or she may overrule the card reference when a mistake or error is discovered.

New Releases

New Magic card sets (new expansions or new editions of the basic set) released are allowed in Constructed tournament play immediately, including Prerelease promotional cards distributed through whatever media.

Match Structure

Storyline matches will be single-elimination with the outcome determining the overall impact on the Storyline setting.

Match Time Limits

There are no time limits to Storyline magic.

Who Plays First

Players may offer each other the option to play or draw first. The decision must be mutually agreed-upon.

Players may also offer a random method of determining who plays first, as follows: the winner of a coin toss (or other random method) chooses either to play first and skip his or her first draw step or to play second. The winner of the coin toss must make this choice before looking at his or her hand. The player who plays first skips the draw step of his or her first turn. Each turn thereafter follows the standard order set forth in the Magic rules of play. This is commonly referred to as the "play/draw" rule.

Pre-Game Procedure

The following steps must be performed, in order, before each game begins.

1. Players determine who chooses to play or draw first.

2. Selected player chooses to play or draw.

3. Players shuffle their decks.

4. Players present their decks to their opponents for additional shuffling and cutting.

5. If the opponent has shuffled the player's deck, that player may make one final cut.

6. Each player draws seven cards.

7. Each player, in turn, decides whether to mulligan. Once Mulligans are resolved, the game begins.

Mulligan Rule

Before each game begins, a player may, for any reason, reshuffle and redraw his or her hand, drawing one less card. This may be repeated as often as the player wishes until he or she has no cards left in his or her hand.

The decision of whether to Mulligan passes between players. After the participant who plays first Mulligans as often as he or she likes, the decision of whether to mulligan passes to the other player. Once a player passes the opportunity to mulligan, that player may not change his or her mind.

Deck-Size Limits

Constructed decks must contain a minimum of sixty cards.

With the exception of basic lands (plains, island, swamp, mountain, and forest, including snow-covered variants), a player's deck and sideboard combined may not contain more than four of any individual card, counted by its English card title equivalent.

Deck Construction

Storyline Magic: the Gathering optionally adheres to the most current Type 1 Banned/Restricted List, in regards to deck construction limitations.

Whether or not this needs to be applied will determine on the participants. Participants must state at the beginning of a match whether or not Type 1 rulings will be applied to the match. This is made at the consent of all participants.

Storyline Magic: the Gathering Match Structure

At the onset of a match, participants must detail in rough, broad sketches, the area in dispute. This area will come to be known as the Contested Resources. Contested Resources may include as much or as little land as the participants wish to detail.

For example; a common template for Contested Resources would be a remote island, containing a mountain range (for red mana-users), surrounding forested areas (for green-mana users) with scattered bogs and swamps (for black-mana users), set amidst an anonymous sea or ocean (for blue-mana users).

Non-basic lands may be detailed in like fashion. For example; a participant is using a dual land, such as Tropical Island or Plateau. This area would be roughly included in the description of the Contested Resources.

Here is a brief example of a Storyline Magic: the Gathering account of Contested Resources:

“The Planeswalkers gathered at a remote isle, far from the stomping grounds of more noteworthy Planeswalkers, to settle the dispute over contested resources. Their mutually agreed-upon battleground was the ancient spine of this part of the world – towering mountains ran the length of the island and were crowned with a ring of lush greenery and foliage. A flowing delta sat mired at western tip of the isle, and a great basin sat amidst the greenery.”

Within this brief description, a setting has been laid-out that would contain Forests, Mountains, Islands, Swamps, Tropical Islands, Remote Isles and a host of other land-types. The important thing to keep straight would be the overall theme of the setting and sticking to that.

The next step would be to detail the Planeswalkers that have gathered to duel over the Contested Resources. Each participant outlines in broad strokes a few characteristics of their respective Planeswalker. This description may be as detailed or as basic as the participant desires, however, remember that the more one puts into this description, the more that person will enjoy exploring the theme of Storyline Magic.

This is also possibly the most open-ended element of Storyline Magic. You are free to embellish your Planeswalker in any way – height, weight, hair color, eye color, likes/dislikes, a brief history, notable deeds, age, etc. The easiest way to approach this description would through creative deckbuilding, which may in turn lead to the overall theme of your Planeswalker.

For example, after the island setting has been established, four participants sit down to actually play. For the sake of brevity, we’ll say the four participants have already created separate decks for play. Player 1 is playing a deck centered on the Recurring Nightmare/Survival of the Fittest combination.

Already, we see a pattern for Player 1; they are obviously set amongst the western tip of the isle, as this would be the only area in which a Planeswalker may easily draw upon the black and green mana to cast the combination. This would make them possibly reclusive, forest or swamp dwelling, and more than likely a corrupt individual with strong naturalistic tendencies. This type of person would most likely be grim and strong, having come to accept the philosophy of black that everything decays, and also that everything renews from nature.

Player 2 decides to opt for straight blue control. The pattern for blue control Planeswalkers is at one extreme powerful and decisive, paranoid at the other extreme. This Planeswalker could roam the beaches all about the island, seeking to disrupt control of the island from the others and possibly even submerge the island.

Player 3 goes for straight green beatdown, what is referred to as Stompy, these days. This Planeswalker could likewise roam all about the island in the dense foliage, except where the Rec/Sur Planeswalker dominates. This Planeswalker would most likely be withdrawn and incredibly strong, preferring the more upstanding display of power favored by great green beasts to displays of subterfuge and intrigue.

Player 4 decides to go for a white/black Yawgmoth’s Bargain kind of deck. This character would most likely be truly horrible, storyline-wise. White and black have long been at polar opposites and however the combination of white and black mana has converged on this poor soul is without question a tragedy. Examples include a “fallen” personality type, one that has held to the virtues of white mana-users, but has somehow become enamored of the power and destructive nature of black, much in the way Ihsan’s Shade came about. In addition to this, the character would without a doubt be a minion of Phyrexia, as the use of Yawgmoth’s Bargain would invariably put the character directly under the sway of the terrible Planeswalker Yawgmoth.

So, we can see how the choices of setting and deck contents can shape the overall plot, characters and setting of this little tale. And that is the overall point of Storyline Magic: the Gathering – to tell a story.

Match Recording

Each match should be recorded (simple pencil and paper will do, but if you want to embellish with charts, pictures, maps and fiction, it can prove infinitely rewarding as you look back through this ongoing tale and see all that has transpired).

Recording should always list the Contested Resources, the Planeswalkers involved in the duel, and even a detailed account of what transpired, in addition to who won, who lost, etc. The more detail you put in will equate directly to what you get out of it.

What if I win?

Winning a match of Storyline Magic means that your Planeswalker has survived the machinations and assaults of fellow Planeswalkers. This Planeswalker now has Uncontested Control of the area described. Her/his control will last as long as she/he is not defeated, much like “King of the Hill.”

This Planeswalker now has the option to go first in all games involving the area they have Uncontested Control over. Additionally, this Planeswalker is now able to take advantage of a sideboard. Should you win a match of Storyline Magic, you will now have the option to form a 15-card sideboard, which you may substitute cards with as normal, before play begins.

The advantage lies in that you are given the opportunity to look through all players’ decks before play begins, and adjust your deck accordingly. No other player may have a sideboard or adjust their deck in this way.

In this way, players will have to keep varying their decks against the dominant player, and should avoid any one player from dominating.

As an example, here is a brief account of a Storyline session:

The four players from above gather and play. The Bargain player dominates, eliminating the other three and now has Uncontested Control over the isle.

Player 1 returns to the drawing board and comes up with a new deck to beat the Bargain player. The new deck is red/green beatdown with a splash of burn, utilizing Birds of Paradise for mana-acceleration and containing Tormod’s Crypt main deck to help combat the Bargain recursion.

Player 2 returns with a similar blue control deck, but has dropped Legacy’s Allures for Force of Will and Thwart.

Player 3 returns with a similar green deck simply adding in Reverent Silences.

Each of the three players above will either return with the same Planeswalker or detail a new one, if the changes to their deck seem to warrant a new personality, such as the changes incurred by Player 1.

As you can see, the Bargain player is now at a serious disadvantage as the other three players are packing serious hate for her/his deck. Accordingly, the Bargain player, as the controller of the Uncontested Resources, looks through the new decks and gives an “oh, my” response. They return to their cards, draw out 15 from their collection that may help stave off the hate, such as Disenchants and such, and trade cards in their main deck for the defensive ideas.

This continues until all players have had enough and decide to go eat or what have you. As you can probably tell, this format can be a lot fun, may lead to a novel or two, and can provide an evening of addictive fun.

- - -

My own local group played this format for a month solid, detailing our characters in a continuous dispute over the southern tip of a continent. I was the only character having to change Planeswalkers, 

As always, e-mail with any comments or questions, post responses, get a thread going, etc.

Additionally, I would like to forwarn everyone that I will be beginning an ongoing Storyline Magic: the Gathering account over the next few weeks, so look for some entertaining reading!

David Bruce

Read More Articles by David Bruce!

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