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By: jcf, Jose Freitas
Nov 22 2018 1:00pm
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There is this casual format I like to call the Big Pile format. It is one of the most fun formats I have ever played.

Today I would like to show it to you. While it was originally designed for paper, it really is easy to adapt it to play on MTGO.

My dear colleague Youko (aka Stsung) gently helped me record some videos on the format. Thanks for the help Stsung! 

You can check the videos here:

Game 1:

Game 2:

Game 3:

If you want to try the format join #BigPile room, I will be there when I login!

There are a couple of possible variations on the format: 

Online Variations:

1 - Big Pile Format - Online  - Whole Set.

This is the format we played in the videos, the idea is that we are playing with a whole set!

If you visit MTGOTRADERS.COM you will find a section where you can buy whole sets. Many of them are totally affordable on MTGO.

I started with Shards of Alara, the set has many cards I like and it is really budget friendly (around $8 when I got it). There are other sets I would like to try out of course.

To play the format it is really easy:

Step 1: Create a Freeform/Vanguard deck

Step 2: Add one of each card from the chosen set, without the basic lands.

(Shards of Alara will have a total of 229 cards without the basic lands.)

Step 3: Now add basic lands, the final deck should have around 50% of basic lands. 

(For Shards of Alara we are adding a total of 229 basic lands. If'd like you can round it up to 230, in that case you add 46 lands of each.

Step 4: Add one The Harvester avatar.  

Step 5: Join the #BigPile room to meet other players. (Type "/join #BigPile" in any chat window).

Originally the concept is that both players use the same set, but I think it would be fun to test different sets to see what happens once in a while.

2 - Big Pile Format - Online  - Cubic.

If you are looking for more complex games, we can create a Cubic version of the Big Pile format.

I don't have a list yet, but we could select around 200-300 cards with interesting and complex interactions and publish it. Both players have to use the same list, that is how the format works. 

The same method could be used to create a very simple and affordable Cubic list, ideal for new players. 

Other rules are basically the same: deck must have 50% basic lands and one The Harvester avatar.

Offline Variations:

3 - Big Pile Format - Paper - Original.

The original format has many differences from the online version, here are the rules:

> There aren't two decks, you only need one gigantic main deck (200 cards at least) and a pile of basic lands (20 of each will do). The main deck has basically no lands (or just a few with cool effects).

> Both players draw cards from the same deck.

> Each time a player would draw a card, that player can choose if they prefer to draw a card from the main deck or to pick a basic land of choice from the land pile. (Picking lands counts as a card draw for any effect inside the game.)

> If library ends and a player can't draw a card. That player won't lose the game, but they have to sacrifice one permanent and lose 3 points of life. Effects that prevent permanents from being sacrificed won't affect this particular rule.

> Each player starts with only 5 cards in hand.

> The main deck has no basic lands in it (and nearly no lands at all usually).

obs: In the paper version there is no The Harvester avatar, you can't discard cards to draw new ones.

You can build your Big Pile deck with a whole set or just select your favorite cards! 

4 - Big Pile Format - Paper - Mixed.

> Two players bring a Big Pile deck. Preferably with the same size. Preferably singleton.

> Each pile must be sleeved, both players must use different sleeve colors. 

> Shuffle the two piles together to form the maindeck. 

> Other rules are same from the original: five cards in initial hand, separated pile of basic lands.

5 - Small Pile Format - Paper - Mixed.

> Each player brings one boosters from the chosen set.

> Each player opens the booster and remove basic lands.

> Each player use sleeves with different colors, and/or take note of the cards opened.

> Mix both boosters and play. You can get more boosters and add to the mix after.

> Other rules are same from the original: five cards in initial hand, separated pile of basic lands.


Of course, if you prefer it is also possible to use the online rules for the paper formats. The other way around isn't possible. 

Hope you try and like the format! It is fun and unpredictable. I love how games are never the same!

Maybe in the future we can run a couple P.R.E on it!

See you at the #BigPile room! =)


Fun by stsung at Fri, 11/23/2018 - 06:00
stsung's picture

We used to play with tower decks in LGSs to pass the time in between rounds and it was usually with very old sets since that is when this became popular, with time many players started playing other stuff in between rounds, mostly regular formats (even though we still play with those big piles), later it became more of a cube.

These games reminded me of the times we used to play like this, it's fun and each player can find something interesting in that game play. Games can be swingy sometimes but it's about the unexpected. At least with the older sets it was like that. Shards of Alara is already 'new' but for many players it may feel the same way the old sets felt for us. On Magic Online you don't get to watch other people pick a deck like that and stare at the cards in total confusion but you can still have lots of fun playing.

I recommend people to try this. Just don't search for five basic lands if you don't have too while your timer is running out^_~.

(IRL we get to play with nonland cards and basics apart and I wasn't sure how playing with everything would go. The looting Vanguard makes it a fine experience).