Happy new year! I wanted to begin 2015 with an introduction to a format which has been gaining some popularity in recent months: Tiny Leaders. While this format has been around for a few years, I have noticed a recent surge in its popularity within my local meta. What is Tiny Leaders exactly? The basic principles of Tiny Leaders are much the same as 1v1 commander; singleton decks spearheaded by a legendary creature. The difference is that your deck contains fifty cards (including the commander), your starting life total is 25 and you may only include cards with a converted mana cost of 3 or less. This makes the pool of available cards much smaller and requires you to get more creative with your choice of cards.

My initial impression of the format is that certain archetypes work and others simply cannot. Ramp strategies are seemingly pointless since you can literally cast everything in your deck with just three lands. I also believe land destruction strategies are probably weak for the same reason: it takes so little mana to cast something that [mg_card]Stone Rain[/mtg_card] and its ilk aren’t going to get you very far. Other archetypes such as Burn and Control are fine choices since you only have one opponent to deal with. Mill is also more viable in Tiny Leaders than in regular EDH. So much so in fact that Sword of Body and Mind is banned in the format. Speaking of the ban list, Tiny Leaders has deemed several EDH staples as unplayable in the format:

http://tinyleaders.blogspot.com/2013/09/ban-list.html

For my first foray into this format, I scoured my trade binder for legends that I could use. Initially I chose Hanna, Ship’s Navigator and attempted to build a prison deck with cards like Tanglewire. The problem I encountered was that after adding all of my prison cards, I had little room for win conditions. With only Geist of Saint Traft and a handful of voltron enchantments to carry me to victory, I felt the deck just wasn’t going to work. Sure, I could stall the game out for a reasonably mind-numbing amount of time but I literally had to draw into Geist to seal the deal. Why not cut to the chase?

Commander: Geist of Saint Traft

Creatures: 4

Hanna, Ship’s Navigator
Thassa, God of the Sea
Stoneforge Mystic
Snapcaster Mage

Instants/Sorceries: 18

Spell Snare
Mana Leak
Dawn Charm
Memory Lapse
Blustersquall
Oblation
Polymorphist’s Jest
Mana Short
Mental Misstep
Swords to Plowshares
Counterspell
Sphinx’s Revelation
Brainstorm
Vapor Snag
Condemn
Azorius Charm
Path to Exile
Cyclonic Rift

Enchantments: 5

Spirit Mantle
Asha’s Favor
Battle Mastery
Oblivion Ring
Steel of the Godhead

Artifacts: 4

Isochron Scepter
Proteus Staff
Sword of Fire and Ice
Sword of War and Peace

Lands: 18

Hallowed Fountain
Adakar Wastes
Faerie Conclave
Azorius Guildgate
Command Tower
Glacial Fortress
Sejiri Refuge
Temple of Enlightenment
Rogue’s Passage
Tranquil Cove
Island x4
Plains x4
Most of the choices are self-explanatory. Play Geist, suit him up with some enchantment or equipment and bash. Support comes in the form of a grip of Instants and Sorceries and several soft-locks can be achieved with Isochron Scepter. Proteus Staff is also pretty handy as we can target Geist’s Angel token post-combat and potentially cascade into Stoneforge Mystic or Snapcaster. Thassa will probably never be a creature in this deck but making Geist unblockable and fixing our draws each turn is reason enough to include her in my opinion. Hanna is still in the deck as a way to rebuild Voltron Geist. I’m rather surprised that Mental Misstep and Spell Snare are allowed in the format since they become so much more relevant in Tiny Leaders.

I haven’t had much time to test the deck and since Tiny Leaders is just beginning to take off locally but I can imagine that Geist’s worst matchup is probably Mono Black since Edict effects are rather powerful against Hexproof creatures. When I’ve had the chance to test some match-ups I will report my findings.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m building a Cube. This isn’t EDH related but… just roll with it, ok? For those of you who are unfamiliar, Cube is a draft format where you create your own Limited environment. There are very few guidelines to adhere to when constructing a Cube and the themes and archetypes present within the draft are entirely up to you. Some people just want to jam all the most broken cards into one set while others prefer setting limitations such as tribal themes or perhaps only including cards from a specific time in Magic’s history. I originally made a Peasant Cube which means the cards could only be Common or Uncommon. This allowed me to re-use a bunch of cards which would otherwise just hang out in piles around my house and it forced everyone who played the Cube to assess their picks much differently while drafting.

Since many of my friends do not get a chance to draft (much less draft for free), it was an excellent opportunity to hone our skills as Limited players. After a while it got a little boring having nothing incredibly exciting to choose from while drafting so I re-vamped the Cube with a bunch of Rares and Mythics. The Cube does not adhere to any particular theme or rules; I just wanted to create a fun draft environment where any color combination is easily supported. While there are no hard and fast rules when constructing your Cube, here are some lessons I learned while building mine.

Buy good sleeves. Since my initial Cube was meant to be cheap, I bought only penny sleeves to protect my cards with. Since my Cube is 540 cards plus about 15 basic lands of each type, I invested less than $10 into protecting my Cube. Now that I am adding cards that are valued at $10 or more, I hate putting them in such flimsy plastic. Buy good sleeves (Dragon Shield or better) from the get go. You should also ask your local shop if they can order you a case of sleeves in the same color since the dimensions of sleeves, no matter the brand, are not always consistent and you may end up with slightly taller or shorter sleeves if you buy one pack of them at a time. Ordering a case means that the sleeves should all be identical. It’s a nit-picky thing but worth your effort in the long run. This might sound silly but trust me. You’ll be glad you did.

No Red Herrings. This is probably the only real rule of creating a Cube. Don’t include cards which hint at a certain archetype or require additional cards to function properly without supporting that deck. For instance, if you are passed something like Empty the Warrens in a draft, you would expect there to be other cards in the Cube which support the Storm archetype like Manamorphose or Seething Song. If there is no Storm archetype in the Cube, you have potentially led someone into a trap and it wasn’t worth including Empty the Warrens in the first place. While you don’t have to make each card in your Cube a part of a specific strategy, I would suggest including cards which are powerful on their own or have synergy with a variety of other cards.

Begin with themes. It can be very daunting to design your own Magic set for draft. While you can certainly just jam all your most expensive cards into a box and call it a Cube, I find that is is better to pick a theme (even a vague one) for each color. That way you can select cards for each color which contribute to a greater theme or idea. In my Cube for example, I chose tokens as White’s theme and Control Magic style effects for Blue. This helped me initially choose which cards were going to be the foundation of my Cube.

Rarity doesn’t matter. Card quality matters more than the printed rarity symbol on the card. While it might be easy to set a fixed number of rares/uncommons/commons for each color when you initially build your Cube, it quickly becomes apparent that this isn’t an optimal way to balance your Cube environment. Rarity is also a poor indicator of card quality in Cube since commons and uncommons can be just as (if not more) powerful in the format than the rares.

My Cube is still very much under construction but you are welcome to look over the list and try a few drafts: http://www.cubetutor.com/viewcube/21757 . I welcome any feedback you might have about it.

In closing, I hope to see all of you at Nu Games this weekend for the Fate Reforged Pre Release!