All the mana, but half the casting

Limited Infinity

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The letter N!icol Bolas, Hypnox, Crush of Wurms… some Magic cards could be pretty amazing if it wasn't for one little problem: they just cost too much mana. We have all played enough games where turn one is "land, go," and turn two isn't much different. But what if mana wasn't a problem? What if every card that came down was a ridiculous bomb that would shake up the entire game? What if a game went more like this:

Limited Infinity

Steve: On my main phase I'll play Akroma, Angel of Wrath, and I'll attack Matt with it.

Matt: In response, I'll cast Tsabo's Decree, naming Legends.

Dave: Hold on, that Tsabo's Decree is going to kill my Bosh, Iron Golem, too. I'll counter it with Spelljack.

Matt: In response I'll cycle my Decree of Silence and counter your Spelljack, and I get to draw a card.

Dave: Fine, then I guess I'll sacrifice my Bosh to do 8 damage to you, Matt.

Matt: All rright, so Tsabo's Decree resolves and I take 8 from Bosh. I was at 14 so that leaves me at 6.

Paul: Okay, and at the end of the turn I'll cast Inferno. Goodnight, Matt.

Matt: I'll get you next game, Paul, I swear it on the life of my first born child.

Every card played changes the game dramatically. That's what this format is all about. In Limited Infinity you have infinite mana. This is balanced by a second rule, the Rule of Law: You may only play one spell per turn. If you are ready to play some of the most intense and exciting games of Magic ever, then you are ready to play a game of Limited Infinity (originally known to most of its players as “Type Four”).

The Card Pool

So why don't you just build a deck with all Fireballs? There's no question that there are a lot of cards that are just too insane with infinite mana, even for a format like this. Fortunately, Limited Infinity (LI) has this problem covered. In LI you don't bring a constructed deck to the table. Instead, all players Rochester draft (What's Rochester Draft? See the section explaining Rochester below) from one large LI card pool chock-full of cards that will make the game interesting. This way, the person who chooses the card pool will have to choose cards that are at least sort of fair, because it won't be long before they end up in the hands of opponents. The draft also keeps the game exciting because each time you play it will be with a new set of cards. Just remember not to add any duplicates: Limited Infinity is a Singleton format, so each card appears only once.

Limited Infinity is the first fully functional format in which casual players like Spike, Timmy, and Johnny have an equal shot at winning in the way they want. But more than just winning, they can each really enjoy the format. Timmy gets plenty of fatties. Johnny will have a blast admiring his draft picks and figuring out interesting combos, and Spike will have to play carefully and draft well in order to win. Limited Infinity is the most A.D.D. of formats. Huge swings take place over the course of a few turns, but what makes it all worth-while is the strategy involved in the draft, and that the format, somehow, tends to be rather balanced.

What Do I Need to Play?

Simple. Open up your binder of, shall we say, “less than stellar” rares. Start pulling out some cards you think might be fun. Pull out those Pit Fighter Legends that have been sitting in there. Pull out those impossible-to-cast Prophecy rares you never used, like Plague Wind. Pull out those older cool Type One cards that have been sitting in your binder for years. Scrounge up some fatty creatures, some removal, and as many good counterspells as you can find. Ask friends to chip in if they want to play some Limited Infinity with you. Pretty soon you'll have a community interest in the format – people will be scouring through the binders for that next LI bomb.

If you want a simple rule of thumb as you're getting started, just ban all spells with an X Mana in the casting cost. However, I'd recommend just using this until you get more comfortable with the format - you'll be missing some real gems like Dwarven Catapult.

The best part about Limited Infinity is that you don't even have to bring a deck to play the format – but you get the power of using constructed cards. Just make sure you designate someone you trust to bring the Limited Infinity card pool. Better yet, have everyone build up a pool to draft from. When all is said and done, you'll be competing over whose deck is the best.

What Should I Include?

So, what are some staple cards that go in any well thought-out Limited Infinity deck?

The first thing you are going to want is fatties, and plenty of them – the bigger the better. Don't be concerned that some critter is just too monstrous – no creature is too large for a Limited Infinity deck. And few creatures are too good for the format. The only automatically banned creatures are firebreathers (creatures that are pumpable with mana) since these creatures could deal limitless amounts of damage if they hit even once.

A good Type Four deck should also include utility creatures. These guys are highly sought after during the Rochester draft and you better make sure you get a few of your own! Perhaps the most powerful cards are what we have dubbed “The Masticores” and Glarecaster. The five cards with “Masticore” effects are Masticore, Plaguebearer, Vampiric Dragon, Smokespew Invoker, and Flowstone Overseer. Even if you can only find the Invoker, he'll make a nice addition to your Limited Infinity deck.

Also highly sought after are Genesis and a cadre of Counterspell Wizards: Ertai, Wizard Adept, Voidmage Apprentice, Voidmage Prodigy, and Willbender. With Genesis, Corpse Dance, or Oversold Cemetary, any one of those creatures can be a real beating. Another creature is the deadly Chainer, Dementia Master. He is one of few ways to deal with Genesis, and perhaps the even more dreaded Glory. You may decide that Glory is simply too good for your set of LI cards, and that's perfectly legitimate. No one says you have to use any of these cards, these are just the ones that have worked for us.

Morphling? He's decent, but certainly not better than Glory, Glarecaster or Genesis. Some of the best creatures are the morph creatures. It could be a 13/13 or Bane of the Living. In a world where the best cards usually get countered, playing a card face down is one of the best ways to get a bomb into play.

You may need some tricks to make each creature pack a big punch. Illusionary Mask (if you can find one) or Timmy, Power Gamer (Unglued is legal too) can be a real game breaker with face down or instant speed Glarecasters and Masticores. They also break the rule that you can only play one spell per turn. Tooth and Nail isn't far off and puts your creatures right into play! An Oversold Cemetary or a Dawn of the Dead can reanimate your horde of beasts, or you even have Corpse Dance if you feel like you need more Romero magic. Soul Foundry can give you an army of fatties while Quicksliver Amulet is a more stable Elvish Piper, and Crooked Scales has never looked so crooked.

While creatures are the heart of the game, no game would be complete without some trickery and mass removal. Blatant Thievery and Insurrection are incredibly blatant. Dominate is a definite first pick in this kind of draft. Control Magic, Yavimaya's Embrace, Binding Grasp, Persuasion, Confiscate, and Treachery are all very strong tempo swings.

Rout, Starstorm, and Dwarven Catapult (i.e. Instant Plague Wind) save lives. Wrath of God, Kirtar's Wrath, Flowstone Slide, and Forced March are quite strong but can't measure up to the ridiculousness of Decree of Pain and Plague Wind. If you chose to include sorcery cards make sure they are extremely amazing. It is often difficult to justify playing a spell on your turn when you could be casting a creature.

With all the large creatures in the deck, make sure to pack plenty of heat. Add as much good removal as you can – keeping in mind how important casting spells at instant speed can be – and add as many counterspells as you can scrounge up. Counterspells are critical to Type Four because there are so many good cards. In fact, traditionally scorned counterspells like Arcane Denial (and its modern counterpart, Vex) are actually strong in Type Four because they are political – they soften the blow on the part of the caster who loses their spell.

With a good selection of creatures, removal, utility, and counterspells you're ready to go. Once you have played a few rounds you may want to make some changes to your card pool as you'll soon learn which cards are fun and which ones are boring or overpowered. As a general rule, I think that the best LI card pools are the ones that make drafting as exciting as playing the actual game.

The Defensive Ability Rule

Sooner or later you will notice that having infinite mana can cause some seriously confusing game situations. What happens if I have Masticore and my opponent has a regenerating creature? I could try to kill it “infinity times”, and he could regenerate it just as often… who wins? If you are a champion of the Magic's DCI rules, there are real answers to these questions, but the “real” answer is sometimes too confusing for many casual players to comprehend intuitively. Instead, in Limited Infinity I have always used the rule “The defensive ability wins”. When two conflicting abilities get in the way of each other, the one which prevents removal of a card (or player) is the ability that wins out. It is usually easy to decide which ability is the defending one.

Masticore, Insurrection, Blatant Thievery, Nicol Bolas, Bosh

 

Drafting Limited Infinity

Now that you have a taste of the kind of cards that go into a good Limited Infinity deck, it's time to explain how to draft, and how to do it well.

Rochester Draft

Limited Infinity draft is done by a Rochester Draft unless you have two players, in which case you need to do a Solomon Draft (What's a Solomon draft? See that section below). To do such a draft take your card pool and count the number of players. Deal out a number of cards face up, onto the center of the table equal to the number of people playing multiplied by 2. (If 4 people are playing, deal 8 cards). Randomly decide which player will draft first (traditionally you can deal out a card to each person first, the person who has the card that comes first in alphabetical order drafts first.) The person who drafts first picks a card, then picks follow in clockwise order with each person taking one card until it reaches the last person, who is referred to as the “wheel”. This person take two cards and picks continue again in reverse order, so that the person who drafted first also gets stuck with the last card. Let's do an example.

These cards were flipped over for a 4 person draft:

Kevin is picking first:
“Well, if I have Glarecaster or Memnarch, I would take Cauldron Dance, but I don't. Spite is a midrange card and the two creatures are nothing amazing. Canyons is nice, but not as abstractly powerful as Starstorm or Dance. And I'd rather have instants. So I'll grab up that Starstorm.

Matt Kranstruber picks second:
“I'll take Spite/Malice. I really like Cauldron Dance but Spite/Malice is a counterspell that doubles as removal.”

Paul Mastriano:
“I like to take a lot of instants, and I think the best one is the board-clearing Evacuation. I'll take that.”

Steve Menendian:

“I get to wheel this stuff! Amazing! I'll take Insurrection first, because Paul is a total fool for not taking it. I really like Cauldron Dance, but I find the effect too narrow sometimes. Nonetheless, with what is left, I'll take it.”

Paul Mastriano:
“I'll take the Winding Canyons. I hate playing spells on my turn – so having creatures come down on my opponents end step is great.”

Matt Kranstruber:
“I'll take Nicol Bolas, way better than Draco.”

Kevin:
I guess I'm stuck with Draco, but hey, he's not bad at all. Hopefully I get Bosh too.”

After all the cards have been picked, deal out a new set and the person who picked second last time now picks first. Draft out the entire deck this way, and when you are done start shuffling because you must play with every card you drafted.

 

Limited Infinity Two-Player Solomon Draft

Solomon draft involves dealing 4 cards off of the Limited Infinity draft pool and having one player arrange those cards into two piles as they see fit. The other player chooses a pile and the person who made the piles gets what's left. This is often called “Fact or Fiction” draft. Take turns making the piles and draft out the whole deck.

Two player LI duels are often too overpowered, so you may only want to use it as an occasional variant. Broken combos tend to be too easy to assemble without other players entering the draft pool. Sometimes games go very quickly, or sometimes it seems like no one can cast anything without it getting countered. All that said, it's still typically a very fun game to play when there aren't many people around.

Drafting a Successful Deck

The funny thing about Limited Infinity is that the players mysteriously tend to find themselves playing a themed deck. In LI, drafting a lot of cards that work well with each other may be more important than always drafting the “best” card on the table. With a few good incarnations – usually involving Genesis, Anger, Survival/Intuition, and possibly Glory, with goodies like Oversold Cemetary, Dawn of the Dead, and some cool combos, a player can simply sit on recurring a few solid beatsticks and accumulating sufficient card advantage to end the game.

Some people draft the “broken” deck. This deck is mostly full of bombs like Aladdin's Lamp, Tower of Fortunes, and Yawgmoth's Agenda. The problem is that they are too powerful, with a result that none of them resolve and now the player who drafted them can't do anything. Since his cardpool is so threatening, he is often quickly dispatched by his opponents.

Sharp people can get away with a combo deck. There are quite a few abusable combos that include Tooth and Nail with Masticore and Glarecaster; that's an instant win. Others include Bosh + Chainer for quite a few points of damage. Johnny will enjoy trying to find this deck. A lot of time in may just involve Corpse Dance + Masticores or Bosh.

Paul Mastriano reports on this style: “I'd say that nine times out of ten, I try to draft a combo deck. A lot of times I don't realize the combo potential of cards in the Limited Infinity draft pool until I see them on the drafting table. A combo deck can win outright if you play it well and you remain unchecked for a while. Trying to fly below the radar of other players as you set up your killer combo is really exciting, and while it sometimes fails, you always shake up the board.” Of course, this all depends on the actual card pool you use for your own draft, which is part of the fun of the format.

Using my own current card pool as an example, a deck that I'm fond of is the Wizard deck. Getting both Voidmage Apprentice and Prodigy in play at the same time is really strong. When you draft those guys you also want Ertai and Arcanis, who are both Wizards, and you will also want Willbender. With Corpse Dance, your opponents are going to have a near impossible time defeating you. The wizards are amazing because they help you resolve whatever spell you may seek to resolve.

Another deck that might be drafted is simply a lot of very large men. This sort of deck may be a lot of fun, but it rarely wins. Timmy will enjoy it, he'll enhance the game along the way, but he won't ruin the draft.

As far as important tips go, make sure you get counterspells! If one person is allowed to take them all they could be way too powerful. You will almost always want to have a say as to what goes on the board, and counterspells can do that for you. As mentioned earlier, instants are also inherently powerful in a format where each player only gets to play one spell on each player's turn.

My typical strategy for Limited Infinity is to take the long-view. I try and draft mostly defensive cards like Panacea, Maze of Ith, and instant-speed removal like Rout and Starstorm, and then flesh that out with the most broken cards in the pool. I try to take the cream of the crop creatures, realizing that I'll be forced into picking some up on the late picks anyway.

Winning in Limited Infinity

The winner of a Limited Infinity game is the last man (or woman) standing in a multiplayer game. There are no rules about who you can attack or aim your spells at, it's just total chaos. Smart players will play cautiously and politically; if you become too powerful in an LI game other players are likely to gang up on you. When it's two or more players against one, the one almost always loses. If you like other multiplayer formats like Emperor, or assassins, LI rules can be compatible with them too. Limited Infinity is a highly customizable game.

One possible strategy in the chaos multiplayer Limited Infinity is to align yourself with another player or two by being helpful to them. Certainly you can always be double crossed, but having another player's support can be extremely valuable in a format that permits only one spell per player per turn. When you cast something important and get it countered by opponent, it's always nice to have your ally come back with a counterspell of his own to protect your spell. Often you may want to back up another player just because his spell benefits you as much as it does him, but this is still a good chance to gain favor with another player.

One key to doing well in Limited Infinity, as in most multiplayer formats, is not making enemies. This becomes more difficult in subsequent games from the same draft, but it can be done. I try and save bombs like Yawgmoth's Agenda for the very, very late game when everyone has depleted their countespells and hands are low. At that point, Agenda wins games like no other. As a result, I let other people pick at each other and then I try to clean up the scraps.

This requires, above all, patience. If you waste your removal spells to help other people, when someone attacks you you'll be the one left defenseless. I try to hoard spells like Rout and Dwarven Catapult because they are instant speed Wraths. At the same time I keep an eye peeled for great card advantage like Fact or Fiction and Opportunity. Finally, I really like Inferno and Bloodfire Colossus because they make excellent win conditions in the late game. You always want to round your deck out with some counterspells, and if you can snag Desertion, Decree of Silence, or Dismiss, all the better. I also try to avoid drafting creatures, since you'll almost always get forced into picking some in the last picks of any given set of cards – and almost every creature in the format is big enough to serve as a good finisher.

To Infinity and Beyond

Every game of Limited Infinity is an adventure and every draft is a world of wonder. Drafting from a large pool can take a while, and while we strongly encourage draft, if your time is limited you can just place the Limited Infinity card pool in the middle of the table as a shared deck that everyone draws off of. In this case, just have each person draw their cards from the same, super-sized deck. This method of “playing off the top” is great when you're looking for a quicker experience.

Don't worry if you don't have every card you want for Limited Infinity – over time you'll pick stuff up, have cards donated, and discover some gems you may have overlooked the first time around. A final word of warning as you get used to the format: be careful not to put uber-broken cards in a relatively young and underpowered LI deck. Planar Portal and Aladdin's Lamp should only go in the most powerful Limited Infinity card pools.

As new sets come out I'm sure you'll have as much fun as we do scanning for new additions for LI. As Wizards continues to print gems for this format, things can only get more interesting.

Now that you've got the gist, it's time to dive in and find your way. Remember, this is a casual format, so there's lots of ways to customize based on what you enjoy (and what you have available.) Above all, have fun!

- Stephen Menendian (with help from Paul Mastriano)


Paul Mastriano's Thanks

I think I made up Limited Infinity somewhere during the late 90's. I saw some kids sitting at a tournament, I think it was in Akron, Ohio, playing games with infinite mana and one card per turn limits. They called it Type 4, and I was intrigued to make a deck of my own, but few people would play with me. One day I had the breakthrough idea that really made Type 4 fun, the draft. The draft solved all the problems of the format,: there was no need for everyone to have a deck and there were no more arguments over what cards were allowed in play. When I started playing with Steve he got so excited about it that he had to spread it to everyone he met. It's sometimes hard to believe that this silly little “fun” format has been enjoyed by so many people.

I would like to thank the following people for their help in the development of the format:

  • Dave Staymates, Brian Keil, John Mike Balik (My normal play group. These guys have done a lot finding great new cards to play with, and give great feedback about what cards are fun and which ones are lame.)
  • The people from Infinity Comics and More, and Scorched Earth Games
  • Pittsburgh
  • Magic players from Ohio University – Matt Kranstruber, Adam Richie and of course
  • Steve Menendian

To everyone who plays: Spread the game. Play cut-throat, play casual, play Limited Infinity however you want. And above all, have a lot of fun.


 

Steve's Limited Infinity Deck

This is the personal draft pool that I use to give an example of the kinds of pools we've been using. It's been slowly building up over the last two years, so don't feel pressure to have all these cards – you can work your way up to it, and have just as much fun. In fact, feel free to go in a completely different direction. One of the best parts of this format is the uniqueness of any given card pool. Remember, only the builder of a card pool gets to decide what's “too broken”, but also remember that anything you throw in here may very well be aimed squarely at you.

“The Big Box of Broken”

Large Men: (36)

Utility Creatures: (36)

Masticores: (5)

Wrath Effects: (27)

Counterspells: (32 - 33 counting Mystic Snake again)

Removal: (34)

Control Magics: (12)

Draw: (6)

Tutors: (9)

Damage Prevention: (10)

Recursion: (7)

Other: (18)

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