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Revisiting and Revising the Ogham Format
By Dan Freagarthach
14 years ago I wrote about a Highlander alphabetic casual format that my friends and I turned to when our games had devolved into lengthy control matchups and seemed less fun than when we first started playing. With the current critiques of the Standard format, and with Modern feeling a bit solved even with its open ended deck design potential, my local environment is taking a spin with Commander. I find it an interesting format so far, yet unwieldy. Physically shuffling and corralling 100 cards is outside my normal experience, and getting 60 different cards purchased singly was a bit time consuming. Consistency and Commander strength variations, along with the shifting perspective on competitive expectations for the format, have me a bit uneasy regarding long term interest.

So as another, simpler avenue for casual games and teaching the game to new players, I am bringing back Ogham and incorporating some brainstorm ideas I have had with people in person and online regarding what can make a casual Magic environment fun and different.

Alphabetic Block Constructed Frontier Highlander is the revised concept, ABC Frontier Highlander or just call it Ogham. Here is how it works!

There are 18 lands per deck and 22 nonland cards for a total of 40 card decks. The only legal lands are basic lands, ergo Forest, Island, Mountain, Plains, Swamp, and Wastes. New players are often a bit confused by mana, for example, "So Burning-Tree Emissary adds a Mountain and a Forest to my mana pool - do they stay there forever?" Frontier including cards from Magic 2015 onward means that Phyrexian mana is not something to worry about for this format, and the limitation to the six basic land types lets players sort out basic understandings such as a Mountain or Forest adding 1 red or 1 green mana to your mana pool respectively, rather than being the mana, before moving on the tricks one can play with lands that do not necessarily even involve mana.

22 nonland cards to 18 land is a very high ratio for land. Where that can be a help rather than hinderance is to avoid one of the most frustrating elements of the game, especially to someone just learning, of being "mana short" and unable to play spells because of not drawing any of the land in a deck. A second, and just as important element, is that mana curve and efficiency seem to be one of the hardest early lessons for new players to pick up, concepts that take the longest to really understand. By forcing a higher land ratio, the format absorbs some of the variation in efficiency between different styles and comprehension levels of deck design.

The 22 nonland cards are chosen by the first letter of the card name, A through W excluding Q, and all from a single design block. This gives new players a chance to explore a refined set of options using Gatherer, limiting to Name contains A and Kaladesh block as an example leaving only four dozen or so cards to sort through without having to worry about keywords or color limitations at the start. Q, X, Y, and Z are excluded due to not every block having sufficient material to work with and to set the parameters of the format. Once a card is chosen for all 22 letters and the 18 basic lands chosen to support them, your Ogham deck is ready to play!

With distinct construction requirements, smaller deck size, and simplified interactions, Ogham is a format built for the one purpose of having single opponent or multiplayer fun with new or kitchen table casual players. If you give it a go, please post your feedback on the forums!

Alternate Command - Ogham legal deck (40 cards)

Lands (18)

7 Forest
7 Island
4 Mountain

Creatures (12)

1 Clever Impersonator
1 Elusive Spellfist
1 Frost Walker
1 Glade Watcher
1 Heir of the Wilds
1 Icefeather Aven
1 Jeskai Sage
1 Mindscour Dragon
1 Palace Familiar
1 Surrak Dragonclaw
1 Updraft Elemental
1 Whirlwind Adept

Spells (10)

1 Anticipate
1 Blessed Reincarnation
1 Dance of the Skywise
1 Kindled Fury
1 Learn from the Past
1 Naturalize
1 Obscuring Aether
1 Reality Shift
1 Tread Upon
1 Void Squall

Feedback welcome here

Read More Articles by Dan Freagarthach!

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 - Tuesday (Aprl. 24, 2018
 - Monday (Apr. 16, 2018)
 - Friday (Apr. 6, 2018)
 - Wednesday (Apr. 4, 2018)
 - Monday (Apr. 2, 2018)
 - Friday (Mar. 23, 2018)
 - Thursday (Feb. 15, 2018)
 - Thursday (Jan 25, 2018)

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