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By: Lord Erman, Nafiz Erman
Apr 07 2014 12:00pm
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Hello dear readers and welcome back to Rogue Play. This week, if you'll excuse me for just one week, I want to do something different. Next week it will be again about some rogue casual Standard decks, but this week I want to write about the format called Planechase. And simply because it's incredibly fun.

I'm not sure if you ever tried it before, so I have to assume you didn't. Which means I have to go through the basic rules of the format very quickly.

First and foremost, Planechase is a multiplayer format but just like Commander, it can perfectly be played in 1-vs-1 games too. You have almost all the cards in Magic available to you. And that's a very large card pool as you know. Your deck is a normal sixty cards deck with no more than four copies of a single card. Basically, everything is the same as playing normal Magic.

The only difference is these cards:

Onakke Catacomb Jund Otaria

These cards are called planes and all the action happens on those planes. Do you still remember that we are actually planeswalkers who are fighting each other when playing Magic? It's one of the first things you are told when learning how to play the game and probably also one of the first things you forget after you get familiar with the game. Well, Planechase actually makes you remember it!

As I said, your deck is a normal sixty cards deck. Then you also have your separate planar deck. You can only have one copy of each plane in that deck. Before the start of the game, just like you shuffle your normal deck, you also shuffle your planar deck. Thankfully we're mostly online gamers here and all that stuff is being taken care of by the program itself.

When the game starts, whoever wins the die roll puts also the top plane card of his planar deck onto the table face up. And that is where the battle begins!

There are no differences in game play; you just play your normal Magic. The planes, however, have a direct effect on the game. For example the plane Jund says all Black, Red and Green creature spells have Devour 5. That's very important. That changes things. Or Onakke Catacomb says all creatures are Black and have deathtouch. That also changes things.

So basically we play our normal game of Magic and those planes influence the game in one or the other way. You of course put planes in your planar deck that have synergy with your strategy and that will help you win the game. If you play a Jund colored deck, the plane called Jund must be in your deck because it helps you more than it helps your opponents.

The only tricky part is moving away from one plane to another; in other words planeswalking. And that you do by rolling the planar die. The planar die is a normal six sided die which you also see on the left. Four sides are blank. One side has the planeswalker symbol and one side has one other symbol which is called "Chaos".

If you examine the plane cards, you will see that every single one of them has an ability that triggers when you roll Chaos. Most of the time, when you're on a plane, you want to roll Chaos because it helps you. Again I will use Jund as my example. Its normal gametext says all Black, Red and Green creatures have Devour 5. But it also says something else. It says that whenever you roll Chaos, you get two 1/1 Goblin tokens. 

To be devoured by some monster of course!

And what happens if you roll the planeswalker symbol? Very simple; you just planeswalk! That means, you put the plane card that is on the battlefield on the bottom of your planar deck, and put the top one face up on the battlefield. And voila; you're on a new world!

And some plane cards do something when you planeswalk away from them or planeswalk to them. Such as these:

Sanctum of Serra Cliffside Market

One more thing: You can roll the planar die as many times as you like whenever you can play a sorcery. The trick is that each roll costs more than the previous roll. The first roll is free. If you want to roll again, you can do so of course, but have to pay . The next one will cost you , the next one and so on.

And the final thing I need to mention is these cards:

Planewide Disaster Mutual Epiphany

These cards are called Phenomenons. Your planar deck, which can have only ten plane cards, can also have two of these maximum. Which then means, you will have eight normal plane cards and two Phenomenons. Phenomenons are one time effects. When you planeswalk from a plane and a Phenomenon comes onto the table, it's gametext resolves, everything it says will be done and then it goes directly to the bottom of your planar deck. You then play the top card from your planar deck and the game continues as normal.

And that's it! 

Now let's see what I did for the format.

 

Lord Erman's Planechase Theme Decks
Vampires vs Humans

When I first started working on decks, I looked at the card pool and quickly realized that with a card pool that vast, anything and everything was possible. But I had no intention of building one of those broken decks simply because it made no sense. I mean, why would I play Planechase if I want to do something broken, and if I really want to do something broken, then why would I do that in Planechase? 

This is a format without any tournaments so I decided very quickly to keep my decks totally casual. Which meant no broken combos, no hard or soft locks, no unfun stuff such as LD, or any of those ultra fast turn three kills. 

And right at this point I decided to work on two decks rather than one. Because I wanted to make some theme decks, and they make more sense when you build two and get them fight against each other. Pretty much like those Jace vs Chandra or Knights vs Dragons stuff WotC made. 

Considering the card pool, there were of course countless many options to build theme decks. Angels vs Demons, Red vs Blue, Artifacts vs all five Colors, Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker vs the whole galaxy, Elves vs Goblins... even Cats vs Dogs was possible!

But before I even started working on my decks, which eventually turned out to be Vampires vs Humans at the end, I first set my ground rules. Which were these:

1- Decks were going to be Singleton. Other than basic lands, there wasn't going to be a second copy of any card. I decided to do so, because only in Singleton formats you get to play tons of different cards. Putting four of everything in a deck means you actually play with just four or five cards only.

2- Each deck was going to have two planeswalkers. They were going to be each side's champions and at the same time they were the reason how they were able to travel from one plane to another.

3- Both decks were going to be balanced. Which of course turned out to be the hardest part and required a lot of testing.

I also wanted to keep these decks as budget friendly as possible. I said two or maybe three expensive cards were going to be okay, but that had to be it. 

And finally I made a decision about "hate" cards, and decided to leave them out.

Human Frailty Slayer of the Wicked
Nope. And nope again.

Now I will first show you what I did with Vampires.

DECK #1
Vampires

Vampires are one of my all time favorite tribes in Magic and it wasn't a surprise for me that I chose them to be one of my theme decks. So what do Vampires do in Magic? They do what we know about them from every other source; they feed on humans and get stronger. Just look at this card below:

Vampire Aristocrat

This simple card represents everything about Vampires. Before he feeds, he's just a tiny 2/2 for three mana; totally unimpressive. But once he feeds, he gets stronger. A 4/4 for three isn't bad, is it? Or how about a 6/6 for just three?

So basically by just looking at this card and at those many other similar ones, I knew what the theme of my Vampires deck was going to be; tokens of course. Therefore I first worked on that part of the deck and decided to use these:

 

As you can see, I used most of my deck space for the token theme. So I make tokens with Sorin, Lord of Innistrad who is also one of my two planeswalkers in the deck, then with Increasing Devotion, Assemble the Legion, Promise of Bunrei, Bloodline Keeper and Goblin Assault. Then of course there are some plane cards as well but I'll talk about them later. 

The rest then is how I use those tokens. Attrition is an awesome removal. Skulltap, Dark Prophecy and Altar's Reap give me cards. I also feed my tokens to Bloodflow Connoisseur, Falkenrath Aristocrat and Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter, and make them even more stronger. And finally Falkenrath Noble and Blood Artist "ping" my opponent every time I sacrifice a token.

Now I will show you my removal, card drawing and utility package:

 

Removal in my deck's colors is plenty of course and choosing the ones I was going to use was very hard. But sadly I didn't have endless deck space so I decided to use the ones you see above. When selecting the ones I was going to use, I wanted to choose cards that could do more than just one thing for me. And yes, I know that Victim of Night just kills and does nothing else but it kills very effectively and without any drawbacks (considering the opposite side is playing Humans). 

In that regard, Dreadbore was a better choice for me than Swords to Plowshares. Or Austere Command was better than Wrath of God

You can also see that the second planeswalker in the deck is Liliana Vess. That was an obvious choice for me considering:

1- Neither Ajani Vengeant nor Elspeth Tirel nor Chandra, Pyromaster would have anything to do with Vampires, even though their colors perfectly fit the deck. The only thing they would probably do with Vampires is to kill them! And just because this is a theme deck, they were out.
...and...
2- This is a singleton deck and Liliana Vess' tutor ability is incredibly important here.

Alright, now I will show you the rest of the deck including my big juicy(!) finishers and my lands:

 

I hate these singleton decklists but here you have it.

And just because I have more than a couple expensive nonland cards already in the deck, I simply had to skip the actual dual lands and the Ravnica shocklands. I know lands are important but I decided to use my precious "Expensive Cards" slots for cards like Blood Baron of Vizkopa or for Vindicate, instead of some expensive dual lands.

And now I'll show you the planes I chose for the deck:

The Dark Barony   Stensia
Selesnya Loft Gardens The Fourth Sphere Lair of the Ashen Idol
Jund Gavony Goldmeadow
Planewide Disaster   Interplanar Tunnel

The Dark Barony & Stensia: Both are "home" for Vampires and their game texts are also very useful for the deck.
Selesnya Loft Gardens & Goldmeadow: Both are related to the token theme of the deck.
Jund: Bigger Vampires AND more sacrificial fodder. What's there not to like?!
The Fourth Sphere & Planewide Disaster & Lair of the Ashen Idol: Population control for the opposing side.
Gavony: Mine isn't an Aggro deck and I don't swarm the opponent with my creatures. Which means that most of the time I just have three or four creatures on table only. And I like to be able to both attack and defend with them. Which of course makes Vigilance very relevant to me.
Interplanar Tunnel: Just read the card.

And now it's time to talk about the other deck.

 

DECK #2
Humans

Choosing a theme for Vampires was very easy. Choosing one for Humans, however, took me some time. Humans in Magic do everything basically but I had to choose one and focus onto it. The first thing I did was to exclude Black from the color options. Vampires are already playing the "Bad Guy" part of the theme decks; there was no need to add some more to the Humans side.

There were still tons of things to do even without Black in Humans tribal. Life gain with Clerics aka Soul Sisters was an option, Selesnya tokens was an option, "tribes among tribes" was an option (playing Knights only in Humans tribal or Soldiers only etc...), Heroic was an option, an Enchantress deck was an option... I mean, there were so many options!

But at the end I filtered the options down to two themes. These two:

Bant Exalted Werewolf Humans

Exalted was nice because it was feeling like all humans were gathering around one hero and helping him to slay the wicked(!). Werewolf Humans was also nice since Werewolfs are most of the time represented as ancient enemies of the Vampires. I thought hard about which theme to pick but at the end couldn't make a decision. Which only meant that I was going to mix them both!

But considering the amount of Humans available in the format, picking only cards with Exalted or Werewolf as their second creature type was not going to cut it. I also added some more "generic" Humans which were playing nicely with both themes. Then I added a few Angels as well. Not too many though, only a few. And at the end I ended up with this list of creatures:

 

And this was how I combined Exalted Humans and Werewolf Humans. And the "Useful Humans" in the list do many things. I don't want to go over them one by one; I'm sure you can figure out why I have them in the list. 

I had only a few empty slots left and two of them were already "reserved" for my planeswalkers. Which at the end turned out to be these:

Gideon Jura Elspeth, Sun's Champion

I first tried Gideon, Champion of Justice but the five mana version with his removal ability turned out to be the better option here. And same happened with Elspeth. I first tried Elspeth, Knight-Errant but then seeing how the deck was struggling against bigger Vampires (especially Blood Baron of Vizkopa), I replaced it with Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Simply because her middle ability is awesome against those "blood suckers".

And now it's time for the full list:

 

Just like I did with the Vampires deck, I used my money cards in sections other than lands and therefore the actual duals or Ravnica shocklands were not an option. The only land that you were probably expecting to see in this list, is Kessig Wolf Run. You can be sure that I tried. But this is a four color deck and due to the restrictions I set to myself, it sadly doesn't play the best and most consistent mana base there is. Which at the end meant that I had only one single spot for a colorless land. And I used it for Cathedral of War.

Alright, now we look at the planes I chose for the deck. Let's see where these Humans like to fight the Vampires.

Bant   Kessig
Agyrem Feeding Grounds Selesnya Loft Gardens
Naya Stensia Undercity Reaches
Velis Vel   Interplanar Tunnel

Bant and Kessig are "home" for Humans and the rest, as you can also see, are there because they fit to the theme perfectly.

Alright now it's time to see these two sides fighting each other. The hardest thing in making theme decks is balancing them, and let's see if I managed that or not. My second account has the Humans deck and I will have no problems playing these decks against each other.

Bant

Humans
VS.
Vampires 

The Dark Barony
Gideon JuraElspeth, Sun's Champion   Liliana VessSorin, Lord of Innistrad

 

GAME 1:

The first encounter between Humans and Vampires happen on a world that is rather unexpected:

Both sides stay for only a few turns on Naya and during that time both sides unload all their lands to the table. After that the Vampires planeswalk and it's a world that isn't very friendly to Humans; because it's The Fourth Sphere.

The Fourth Sphere

Humans roll the planar die like crazy to get out of there, make a Zombie token in the meantime as well, while the Vampires are laughing hard to them. Finally they manage to planeswalk and they first encounter a Phenomenon which is Interplanar Tunnel and from there, they go to Ravnica; to Undercity Reaches. Then they also bring in one of their champions on table which happens to be Gideon Jura, play a bunch of creatures, and all of a sudden it becomes their time to laugh.

But the Vampires are in no position to give up to those miserable(!) Humans of course. They first make some tokens with Increasing Devotion, sac' one to Altar's Reap and make more tokens with Promise of Bunrei. All followed by a hungry Bloodflow Connoisseur.

The fight gets uglier and bloodier in the dark corners of Ravnica's Undercity Reaches between both sides. Those tokens give Gideon Jura a very hard time, then even more come with a Flashback'ed Increasing Devotion, and Humans suffer great losses but manage to keep Gideon Jura alive.

After all that bloodshed, both sides lose all they have and Vampires finally manage to planeswalk away and both sides find themselves on Innistrad; on Gavony to be exact. And there Gideon Jura, the champion of Humans, heroically jumps onto the red zone and starts attacking the Vampires.

Vampires may have Attrition out, but the Humans have their brave champion fighting for them.

But the Vampires do not give up. Seeing there will be no victory on Gavony, they planeswalk to Lair of the Ashen Idol. That place is of course a nightmare for Humans, so they too planeswalk and go to Selesnya Loft Gardens. In the meantime, Gideon Jura brings the Vampires to the danger zone by hitting them three times in a row.

Vampires actually love Selesnya Loft Gardens but it's not the time for that place right now. So they planeswalk and go to "home"; they go to The Dark Barony. Becoming stronger here, their topdecking skills get better too and they draw Malakir Bloodwitch. She has protection from White and that stops the Humans and thus their champion from attacking for a turn. But Gideon Jura is a skilled fighter and has many nasty tricks. 

He first lures that Malakir Bloodwitch to attack him and the next turn, with the aid of other Human fighters, he deals the killing blow to the Vampires.

Losing the battle against those miserable Humans on their home world, leaves a deep scar on Vampires. Fully ashamed and totally humiliated, they retreat to their dark caves to recuperate and to gather their forces.

Vampires: 0 - Humans:1

 

GAME 2:

The second encounter between both sides start on Stensia.

Stensia

Humans have a rather slower start this time and the Vampires, still feeling bitter because of the loss in the first encounter, become the offensive side and with Stensia making them even more stronger, they seal the deal with their mighty army.

Humans couldn't really keep up with the Vampires this time.

Vampires:1 - Humans:1

 

GAME 3:

The third encounter starts on Selesnya Loft Gardens, and the lucky Humans start the action with two members who like having counters on them; Champion of the Parish and Champion of Lambholt.

Selesnya Loft Gardens

And they start getting out of control very quickly.

Vampires bring in Blood Baron of Vizkopa but even he is helpless against that Champion of Lambholt. The answer for them is to planeswalk of course and they do that. But they found themselves on Stensia, which is actually their home, but this time it's only helping the Humans!! 

Things get out of control pretty quickly and Humans seal the deal on Stensia after a few turns.

Vampires:1 - Humans:2

 

GAME 4:

The fourth encounter between both sides start on Kessig; "home" of Humans. Well, at least it's "home" for some of them!

Kessig

But so far in the past encounters, the side that was at home, was always the losing side. And apparently that trend continues because all of a sudden the poor(!) Humans find themselves looking at this:

Anowon, the Ruin Sage literally ruins everything for Humans. That turn the Vampires bring in Liliana Vess and she immediately tutors for her comrade and the next turn Sorin, Lord of Innistrad joins the action.

Humans can't find an answer to Anowon, the Ruin Sage and that Vampire becomes their doom. And as if he isn't enough trouble already, Vampires also bring in Attrition. And very quickly the Humans side of the table becomes crystal clear. The only problem for the Vampires is the fact that they are on Kessig. Kessig prevents them from dealing combat damage, so they planeswalk.

The next stop is Gavony, another dark corner of Innnistrad, where the Vampires finally go all out attack. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad constantly makes tokens, Liliana Vess destroys the Humans' hand, while bloodthirsy Vampires kill Humans right and left. It's absolutely a massacre.

Hoping to find an answer elsewhere, Humans planeswalk but they find themselves on Lorwyn; on Velis Vel to be exact.

Velis Vel

Which of course only adds even more insult to the injury.

Now it's the Humans who are fully ashamed and totally humiliated.

Vampries:2 - Humans:2

 

GAME 5:

The final encounter between both sides start on the Human homeworld, Bant.

And it ends right there a few turns later.

Exalted Werewolf Humans... Welcome to Bant!!

Vampires keep rolling the planar die with zero luck and they simply get stuck on Bant. Humans bring in their Werewolf members, and they quickly seal the deal.

Vampires:2 - Humans:3

And this concludes the test run.

 

WRAPING UP THEME DECKS

Planechase is a very fun format; I can tell you that much. During testing I was simply amazed by the almost endlessly new and unexpectedly fun possibilities those plane cards add to the game. 

Olivia Voldaren on Selesnya Loft Gardens. Turn three Sigiled Paladin on Bant. Falkenrath Aristocrat on Jund.

Of course planeswalkers on Selesnya Loft Gardens are even more "funnier". Elspeth, Sun's Champion comes down there and as soon as she hits the table, she ultimates!! On the Vampires' side, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad do the same!

But of course without the restrictions I set for myself, things would have been looked much "uglier" of course... and probably more bloodier:

But my intention wasn't to make something cutthroat, but to make something totally casual and fun. And I think I managed to do that.

 

WRAPING UP PLANECHASE

As I said over and over above, this is an incredibly fun format and this Vampires vs. Humans was just the beginning for me. From here, my next stop will be visiting the Ravnica guilds. There are so many things that can be done with them! As a matter of fact, I already started working on a Boros vs. Golgari theme, and I'm building three different decks for each side.

Boros vs. Golgari will be my next theme.
  Lightning Helix Abrupt Decay  

But the question now is something else: Would you like reading about more Planechase? Or was this "one time change from the usual" enough for you? I will need your feedback here because otherwise I will just do whatever I want to.

Next week it will be a few fun casual Standard decks as per usual. But after that I might write about my Boros vs Golgari decks for Planechase. If you don't like that idea, please let me know. And if you want to read more about Planechase, do tell that too!

Thanks for reading.

See you online
Nafiz Erman, aka Lord Erman

2 Comments

I hope you'll also write set by romellos at Mon, 04/07/2014 - 20:47
romellos's picture

I hope you'll also write set review article(s) for upcoming Journey into Nyx. Your previous set reviews were great and they're missed.

Planechace by 2of1 at Tue, 04/08/2014 - 04:43
2of1's picture
4

I cant say I find planechace as fun as you seems to find it. It was a great read but I think I would like to read more about "normal" magic.
The theme-dual-decks is an awsome topic though!

2of1