Welcome to the start of my new series here at LegionCity.co.uk. Each week I’ll be writing about the biggest news in the Magic community: be it finance tips, the biggest Standard decks or Magic fashion trends everything’ll be covered here.
I’ve been heavily debating my first article for ages now. I’ve been producing Magic related content for over five years and wanted my first article for my very own site to be the best one yet. In the end I decided to go with an aspect of Magic that’s really cheered me up lately: the Tiny Leaders format. Whatever our Magic goals, be it Pro Tour champion, Commander master, aspiring pro or Limited specialist, we all go through a ‘damp’ patch with our Magic career. That patch where we lose... all the time. Variance, luck and probability all go against us and the tilt is hard and real. It then starts to affect our actual playing ability. It’s when this happens that I like to take Magic back to its roots: a simple fun game vibrant with fantasy. Truth is I’ve never really been a huge fan of the Commander format. I understand that’s how some people want to play Magic and don’t get me wrong I’ve had some fun Commander games in the past but something about games that last three hours really put me off the format. When I found out Tiny Leaders was designed to be more of a ‘competitive’ one vs one mini Commander format I was instantly on-board.
Tiny leaders Rules
For those of you who’re unfamiliar with the rules I’ve broken them down into bite size bullet points:
1) You need a deck that consists of a minimum of 50 cards, a minimum of 49 main deck cards and one commander who starts the game in the command zone.
2) Your commander must be a legendary creature and your deck must be made up of colours that match your general’s colours. For example my general is Skullbriar, the Walking Grave, therefore I can only play with black or green cards.
3) Your entire deck must be made up of cards with a converted mana cost of three or less. This is where the format gets its name from, every card in your deck must have a CMC of either zero, one, two or three.
4) Other than basic land your deck can only contain one copy of any given card. You cannot play with multiples of any card! This is identical to the Commander rules.
5) Tiny Leaders is a competitive format which means you get a 10 card sideboard
6) You start the game on 25 life
If you're serious about Tiny Leaders there's some generic things you need to know about each of the colours. These include cards you can bet on seeing such as Smother out of black, common interactions and most commonly played generals. Today I'll be focussing on black and green cards, the cycle of life and death in its truest form. I'll be highlighting some of the best two card combos, interactions and all round powerhouses as well as shedding a little insight on the format in general.
Hardened Scales is bonkers in Tiny Leaders! The Khans rare that's been relegated to the bargain bin certainly finds a home in this sweet format. It pairs with so many instants, creatures and generals that it gains you so much advantage. My favourite combo is Curse of Predation alongside Harden Scales, now every time any of your creatures attack they permanently gain two +1+1 counters! In Tiny Leaders the average power and toughness of creatures is two so finding a way to grow yours above your opponents is key to victory. Harden Scales also works perfectly (and flavourfully) with the many hydra creatures green has to offer. Now you're paying four mana for 3/3s or even 4/4s that grow every turn. Most hydras have the added bonus of putting more counters on themselves, either during the upkeep such as Primordial Hydra, end step, such as Protean Hydra or actually have an activated ability such as Feral Hydra. It’s not just Hydras though, any creature that dumps counters on itself works, Lotleth Troll and Varolz, the Scar-Striped being two of my favourites. Harden Scales plus Retribution of the Ancients
Here’s how it works, once you get a Hydra onto the board, say Primordial Hydra you generate so many counters that you can use Retribution of the Ancients to constantly board wipe your opponent. What’s even sweeter is how quickly you get the counters back. If you don’t have an Hydra but you have any creature with counters on the threat of Retribution makes it very hard for your opponent to block.
Necroskitter is a very solid creature in its own right; four toughness is a lot in this format but when you combine him(it?) with cards you’d play anyway you start to unlock its real potential. Black Sun’s Zenith is black’s premier sweeper in Tiny Leaders, the best mass removal spell in the format and something every black deck should play. When you cast Zenith with Necroskitter in play any creatures your opponent controls that die return to your side of the board, even if you Zenith’ed for ten and killed your own Necroskitter. Necroskitter is such a pain for your opponent as creatures like Kitchen Finks normally die with a -1-1 counter on them, just having him in play is enough to give your opponent an headache, when you combine him with ‘fight’ cards like Epic Confrontation they tempo and value you gain is unreal. With any ‘combo’ you want to try out id suggest you start with cards that’re good in their own right and move forward from there.
Adaptive Automaton – Here’s a creature that you may have missed when constructing your Elf tribal, uh I mean Vampire tribal, uh I mean Fish Crab tribal creature deck. It’s a three mana artifact creature and universal lord, so it goes into any deck! Enjoy.
‘X’ spells and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx – If you decide on a mono coloured general there’s still a plethora of power spells at your disposal that you can abuse with Nykthos. All the colours get the cycle of Zeniths from Mirrodin Besieged, red gets a series of Fireball effects, black gains sweepers in the form of Toxic Deluge and Gaze of Granite while green gains Genesis Wave, a card that can literally put your whole deck into play in the right Elf deck. When constructing your Tiny Leader deck I recommend you do a gatherer search of every ‘X’ spell in your colours.
Descendants’ Path – if you’re thinking of a tribal deck I recommend you look for a commander that accommodates green simply so you can splash this card. In fact you’ll find a lot of cards that you’ve probably never seen before, take the example of Dralnu’s Crusade, an anthem effect for all your goblins is surly worth splashing another colour. I find the best thing about the format is researching cards you never knew existed. Pacts – the cycle of pacts from the Future Sight expansion gets around the prohibitive casting cost of the format. Summoner’s Pact in particular is very powerful as a tutor effect. Look around for more cards with alternative casting costs, there’s a few of them out there.
The Best Black Cards
Smother - literally the best removal spell in the format. It hits everything and prevents regeneration, don't build your black deck without it. Inquisition of Kozilek - As good in this format as in any other. Just like Smother it is limitless and gives you the option of taking every non land card in your opponent’s hand. There's a lot of situational removal in the format such as Pyroclasm and Naturalise effects, these cards are powerful but linger in player’s hands meaning Inquisition is rarely a bad top deck. Unearth - For the low cost of two life (the average) you can return your strongest creature back from the dead. The fact that it can be cycled when you have only removal spells in hand or no creatures worth returning just adds to its versatility. Edict effects – Edict effects like Cruel Edict, Chainer’s Edict and Diabolic Edict are so strong in a format where Geist of Saint Traft is one of the most popular generals. Edicts get around everything and you can usually set up a play where you kill your opponent’s weakest creature first, so you force them to sac their strongest one when you cast the edict. My personal favourite is Chainer’s Edict as it has flashback and is effectively a two for one the later the game goes. Vampire Nighthawk – Literally one of the best creature (and budget option) black has to offer. It trades with a multitude of creatures and gains you life in the process. Phyrexian Arena – Enchantments are typically harder to deal with than creatures. Enchantments that draw you cards at a low cost are game changing. Phyrexian Arena has been drawing cards since 2001 and won’t/shouldn’t be stopping anytime soon.
The Best Green Cards
Eternal Witness - Maintaining card advantage is still a fundamental to Magic and something Eternal Witness has always been good at. You have such versatile answers like Smother, Path to Exile or Lightning Bolt in the format that it's quite handy having the ability to cast them twice. The fact that Witness has two power and can trade with most things is just icing on the cake.
Song of the Dryads – you may have missed this one, a rare from the green commander product that was released towards the end of 2014. Songs literally deals with everything, this is something green doesn’t have the power to do! It turns their Sword of Feast and Famine, their Liliana of the Veil and even troublesome man land into a lowly forest! It’s important to know that this is known as a replacement effect which means it cancels out what the card once was!
Farseek – I know this card doesn’t look super exciting but it allows you to keep land light hands, fixes your mana and ramps you. In a format where the average casting cost is two having the ability to cast more spells in a single turn than your opponent is surely going to put you at an advantage.
Predator Ooze – Seriously this card, just look at it. Aside from Path to Exile this creature never dies and grows out of proportion very quickly. It’s especially good when you combine it with the cards we discussed earlier on.
Courser of Kruphix – I know everyone’s probably sick of this card but the value it generates is real. The four toughness is hard for the average creature to push through and the ability to play lands from the top in conjunction with fetch lands and other shuffle effects gives green something it never usually gets access to, card draw.
Gaea’s Blessing – trust me when I tell you to sideboard this card, there’s always some guy that wants to play mill in every format!
I’m deliberately choosing to ignore some of the obvious cards, such as Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, Abrupt Decay and Deathrite Shaman. The power levels of these cards speak for themselves and the last thing you need is reminding of how good a $200 card is. My personal advice is you build a deck that you truly enjoy and contains cards you’ve missed playing with.
Casual formats remind us why we got into Magic in the first place. If you’ve never played a singleton format before I highly recommend Tiny Leaders to you as there’s so many possibilities, something that other formats with a clear meta, like Modern or Legacy sometimes lack. I hope you enjoyed this foray into the world of Tiny Leaders, I’ll be back later this week with another article on the different ways you can enjoy Magic so stay tuned for that.