Huh, That’s Funny
I have a bear problem. I have bears in my collection, but until the Hanna-Barberra set comes out (scheduled for 2015 under the code names "Scooby," "Dooby," & "Doo"), there just aren't enough picnic baskets to really do much for them.
Before I continue, I have to lay out a few pieces of terminology:
Vanilla Creatures – These creatures only have a power and toughness. For most purposes, they are tokens creatures printed on a card (with a cost, name, etc.). Unless they're big, and maybe not even then, their game play value is very limited.
French Vanilla Creatures – These creatures are like vanilla creatures except that they have one or more keyword abilities, like flying, trample, haste, lifelink, deathtouch, etc.. They're often more useful, and can often turn a game around, but don't always see a lot of play either (Hey Flensermite. Don't worry; you're a staple in Kris tournaments.)
I've got a lot of vanilla and french vanilla creatures crowding up my collection. I hate to see cards languish, but counter to my initial impressions, most vanilla creatures don't get too much of a power boost for not having any abilities (oh, hello Watch Wolf).
I'd like to have a format that utilizes vanilla (and possibly french vanilla) creatures. I'd like to have bumbling armies roaring across a battlefield in a game based around swinging in and letting the combat phase sort it out. For the next few weeks, I'm going to spend my "It's the Magic" time focusing on the hurdles this type of format has and how to overcome them.
Instead of taking the current Magic mileu and pruning away the cards and rules that don't fit, I'm going to build the vanilla format with almost nothing and add items as I hit snags. For starters, cards legal in the format are creatures with no abilities and basic lands.
Green – Green just beats the curve for vanilla creatures and it also has the widest variety of them. A vanilla creatures format would lean very heavily towards Green, limiting deck building options.
Strategy – Do you have a creature? Play it. The only time when that might change is when you need to play something on your second main phase to affect your opponent's blocking decisions during combat.
Strategy II – A 2/2 versus a 2/2. If you've got another creature, you might as well swing in. 3/3 vs 2/2? Swing in. One 2/2 vs two 2/2s? Don't swing. Everything is in the board state, save the reinforcements that are coming down the line in each player's hand.
Strategy III – Without trample, 1/1s and 2/2s can chump block a 7/7 until their player can draw a creature large enough to take out the 7/7, at which point the trade is either the only to progress the game or a non-factor for the player in the better position. That's all without even considering the viability of tapping down your best blocker to get chump blocked each turn.
Drawing Out – Players will eventually draw out, slowing down the game and putting one player at the mercy of their topdeck. Imagine if each deck has a half-dozen 5/5s. About halfway through the game, there are three in each player's graveyard, both players are top decking, and only one player has a 5/5 on the board. The other player will probably lose before they draw their answer. The alternative is blocking collectively and losing two or three creatures to take out one.
Ultimately, a lot of these issues are the result of big creatures being card advantage engines which have to be answered, which is actually reminiscent of regular magic, just with different cards eating up different cards. So, I have two ways to approach these problems; adding more cards and making something up. I'll go into them next week.