When I first started playing MTGO, it was 100 Card Singleton that caught my eye. Yes, Classic was the apple of my eye, so to speak, but 100 Card Singleton was something different. It was a wacky format with 100-card decks, and no card besides basic lands can be multiples. It seemed like a lot of fun and I had visions of playing once I could acquire a mana base. Sadly, by the time that happened, the format had all but died. I then turned my attention to focus exclusively on Classic.
To say I was excited when I heard that MTGO Academy was starting a series of 100 Card Singleton tournaments titled Vivat Centum would be an understatement. Considering how much my collection had grown over the last couple of years, this was something I wasn’t going to miss. The first event on Saturday, November 17th, was a success with more than 2-dozen players battling it out over 3 rounds.
Having played a lot of Classic in the past couple of years, I was curious how I could leverage that experience in this new format. The card pools are quite similar, and the speed of the game is nearly as fast. Having spent some time in the Anything Goes room as well as playing in the event, I have some thoughts on the format from a Classic player’s perspective that I’d like to share.
Appeal to Classic Players
As I mentioned before, the card pools are essentially the same, save for a few differences in the banned lists (you can find the banned list for 100 Card Singleton here). One of the first things a Classic player would notice is that the good black tutors (Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor) are banned, as are the fast artifact mana accelerators (Sol Ring and friends). This is a significant change that gives aggro decks a much better chance while also making combo decks harder to consistently pilot.
Beyond those major changes, the card pool is basically identical. One of the most appealing aspects to 100 Card Singleton is that most Classic players basically already have a Blue Control deck built, with just a few cards additional needed for it to be competitive. Legacy players might also be able to build a Blue Control deck right away.
Another hallmark of Classic is being able to do broken things. This is no different in 100 Card Singleton. While you can’t Tinker for Blightsteel Colossus or take infinite turns with Time Vault, you do get to play with super-powerful planeswalkers like Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, and Gideon Jura. One thing is for sure: 100 Card Singleton is a format that feels like a heavyweight boxing match. Players take turns throwing jabs and hay-makers at each other until they beat their opponent into submission. In this way, it has a Classic-like feel to it. Each match feels epic, and that’s a direct correlation to the power of each card that you can play. In a vacuum, 100 Card Singleton decks play 60 or more of the most powerful cards printed.
Appeal to Classic Players Who Also Enjoy Limited
I don’t remember who said this to me recently, but 100 Card Singleton is similar to limited Magic since there is a large degree of variability in each match. You may play a dozen games and never see one of the cards in your 100 Card Singleton deck. Alternatively, you might play a dozen games and see the same 2-3 cards in most of them. On the other hand, all of the cards in your 100 Card Singleton deck are presumably going to be powerful, rather than late-round chaff that you need in order to fill out the last couple of slots in your draft deck.
As someone who spends a ton of time playing, writing, evaluating, and promoting the Classic format, I can attest to the fact that playing in other events, such as limited, can recharge the batteries, so to speak. 100 Card Singleton gives you the best of both worlds: you can get the Limited feel from the games you play while also being able to follow a metagame and play your favorite deck (something not always possible in ;imited).
Enough about how it’s the Same! How is it different than Classic?
1. Aggro Strategies
100 Card Singleton would not be interesting to a Classic player if it were exactly the same, save for a few extra cards in your deck. So what ways are the formats different? For starters, true aggro decks are not only viable, but are quite powerful in 100 Card Singleton. Wizards has done a great job over the last few years pumping the power level of creatures, which also means that the mana curve is getting lower. A few years back, 5- and 6-drop creatures were powerful and could take over a game very quickly. With the recent printings of cards like Hero of Bladehold, Huntmaster of the Fells, and Hellrider, among others, 3- and 4-drop creatures can swing the game in one fell swoop.
The speed with which aggro decks can put pressure on an opponent creates a tension in deckbuilding that requires decks to be able to stabilize and recover by Turn 4 or 5, lest they lose to a swarm of low cost but still bomby creatures.
Each 100 Card Singleton deck is a reflection of the pilot that chose the cards in the deck. With so many options available, each player can tinker their deck to their liking and play-style. Even if you netdeck a winning list from a recent event, you’d be hard-pressed to not find a handful of cards that you want to take out and replace with some of your pet cards. This is not something readily present in Classic decks. Dredge decks, for example, function at the high level that they do in Classic because each and every card has a specific purpose, and having multiples of these cards makes the strategy possible. Taking just 1-2 cards out of the deck drastically changes the synergies it was built upon. This also applies to many other Classic decks such as Storm, Landstill, and Affinity, among others.
In Classic, there are so many cards that do unique things. These are cards that are so good at what they do, there are no real functionally-similar cards to supplement and/or complement that key card. In this way, redundancy is key. Obviously, in 100 Card Singleton, redundancy is often difficult, if not altogether impossible. Further, Classic has a bunch of cards that are so powerful and efficient at what they do that there is no alternative available (think: Workshop strategies and Oath of Druids).
3. Dusting Off Those Cards in the Back of Your Collection
One of the most appealing aspects of 100 Card Singleton to me is the ability to play with cards in my collection that have been sitting in my account collecting digital dust. In Classic, I never had a use for my Wrath of God, Jace Beleren, or Moat. These are powerful cards in their own right, but just can’t make the cut in Classic. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of cards like this in my collection. 100 Card Singleton welcomes them with open arms.
100 Card Singleton also lets a person explore a whole host of cards that they otherwise may never have considered before. I recently had a chat in client with PlanetWalls regarding the feasibility of Drogskol Reaver in 100 Card Singleton. Yes, that 7-casting cost monstrosity, Drogskol Reaver. In a format where aggro decks can consistently drop an unprepared opponent to less than 5 life in 5-6 turns, a large life-linking, card-drawing machine like the Reaver is actually a possibility. Same goes for cards like Frost Titan and Sun Titan (though Sun Titan is a key card in some Dredge lists; in 100 Card Singleton you actually get to hard cast it!).
Preparing for Vivat Centum from a Classic Perspective
Going into my testing, I had never played a single 100 Card Singleton game in my life. I had watched videos a couple years back, but many of those are horribly dated with cards that have since been banned in 100 Card Singleton. I did a quick run-through of the resources that MTGO Academy highlighted in their announcement article to see what archetypes were available.
It was apparent that a Combo-centric strategy was not going to be viable. That left me with aggro, mid-range, and control options. After quickly running through my collection, I noticed that for a couple of decks, I needed only acquire a few cheap cards to finish building the deck (think: $0.05 rares and $1-2 mythics, if applicable). I then built 1-2 decks of each type and tested them out. Here are the decks that I put together for testing:
White Weenie by enderfall
Bant Mid-range by enderfall
UR Control by enderfall
UW Control by enderfall
I finally settled on the UW Control list above which gave me perhaps the best possible way to answer many different threats and has the best creature sweepers (Wrath of God, Day of Judgment, Rout, etc.). I also figured to see a lot of red aggro-based decks, and white has the best red hosers in Circle of Protection Red, Sphere of Law, Warmth, and Kor Firewalker, among others. Blue also has Blue Elemental Blast and Hydroblast.
The deck has a few win conditions once it is able to stabilize. Thopter Foundry-Sword of the Meek is a 2-card game-ending combination. There are also some 5- and 6-Drop bombs that nearly end the game on the spot as well in Sun Titan, Frost Titan, Consecrated Sphinx, and Baneslayer Angel.
You know what they say about best laid plans… In Round 1 I faced a White Weenie deck similar to mine above. In Round 2, I faced another UW Control deck, piloted by Naoto, someone I don’t think I’ve ever beaten in any format. Round 3 I faced a Splinter Twin Combo-Control deck and ran out of time after a long Game 1 and Game 2. The video was unfortunately lost for Round 3, but I have Rounds 1 and 2 up for your viewing pleasure. I’m sure there are a ton of mistakes, but hopefully you find the videos entertaining enough to pique your interest in the format.
After being resoundingly beaten by the White Weenie aggro deck in Round 1, I have re-evaluated certain cards in the deck and what the deck needs to survive a creature onslaught. Lifelink is a valuable ability that saved me in Game 2 after I cast Baneslayer. Going forward, I have added Wurmcoil Engine and Drogskol Reaver. Wurmcoil is search-able by Enlightened Tutor, which can come in handy when you need to find a lifelinking creature fast. Reaver is sort of a cross between Consecrated Sphinx and Wurmcoil and is especially adept at killing planeswalkers. Its 7-mana cost, however, is a significant downside, but I am interested to see how it fares in testing.
There also seemed to be a large amount of control decks in the metagame. I suppose that most of the people that joined the event were veterans of the format and thus already have the expensive cards needed to build one of the control decks. In light of this, it would seem reasonable to add some cards that work well in the mirror match. Planeswalkers in particular are difficult to deal with once they hit the board. Adding other planeswalkers such as Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, Gideon Jura, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and perhaps Venser, the Sojourner or Elspeth Tirel will help in the matchup. Additionally, winning the countermagic war is critical, so adding more counters will go a long way. Dispel and Spell Pierce are perhaps the best answers in the sideboard to complement Gainsay.
In testing, I was also quite pleased with my UR Control deck. I was afraid that there would be a large amount of anti-Red hate, so I went with the possibly more proven UW Control list, but I certainly would not rule out the UR list next time around, even considering that three of the four 3-0 lists were red aggro-burn.
Overall, 100 Card Singleton is a great alternative for Classic players who are looking for something different, yet familiar. I had a lot of fun in the tournament despite finishing 0-3. I’ll definitely be practicing a little more for the next event; I hope to see some of you in the Just for Fun room!
Clan Magic Eternal
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