Winning isn't everything... no really.
Magic's popularity continues to expand in what seems to be an exponential curve toward infinity. One of the things that bewilders me in this surge of new blood is the question of who are these new players and where are they playing the game. Granted - my local store was packed for Kaladesh release weekend, but in general, we have the same amount of regulars week-to-week that we have always had. So the answer to this question seems to be growth in the silent majority of our community; the "filthy casual".
There is nothing wrong with "kitchen table Magic". In fact, most of my playtime has been in this sort of setting. I was very late to the Friday Night Magic show. Truth be told, I like "kitchen table" better. It's laid-back, rule issues are reasoned out between players, and there are no expectations other than enjoying some down time. This is the environment where you see the kooky themes, odd tribal choices and where janky ten mana cost creatures hit the table on a regular basis. Anything goes here - and with the right group it becomes brilliant. I pretty much treat my Friday Night Magic experience in the same way. every week I try and draft a goofy, oddball deck just for fun - I don't care if I win (and usually don't).
Building the perfect maggot.
In my early Magic days, we had a regular play group of five to six folks that came over every Friday after work to unwind our week. We gossiped, ate pizza, poked fun at each other and some of us drank a couple of beers. It was the kind of environment that encouraged creativity, with a shared goal of inventing the next deck that would turn the table on its head. There was no prize here - only bragging rights and the fun that came with it.
My largest contribution to this group was "The Takklemaggot deck". This was a creatureless deck that ran three copies of The Abyss, Four Aether Storm, Three Moxen, a whole bunch of control cards, four Jade Statues as a win condition... and four Takklemaggots. It was so off-the-wall and so unusual that it would turn a normal game on its head and make everyone play different. A perfect recipe for a casual night of Magic.
The star of the show, and the card that made me build the deck, was the Takkelmaggot. Here is a card that had so much text printed on it that it was almost unreadable. The text alone was so intimidating that most players just passed the card over instead of figuring out the rules - let alone figuring out a strategy for it. The takklemaggot is essentially a parasite, attaching to a creature and slowly killing it. When the creature dies that creature's controller gets to pick ts next victim. The player who gets stuck with the maggot when there are no more creatures on the table keeps it and sees their life drained away by the maggot... at the rate of one point per turn. The card created a very "gotcha!" feel at the table and kept some the focus off of you. After all, you weren't the cause of all the pain, it was your buddy that put that maggot on their creature - not you. Of course with no creatures, you were able to watch from afar as the other players dismantled each other. Giving the deck even more personality, I named each Takklemaggot after a famous "sidekick". Popular members of the team were "Ed", "Tonto", "Robin" and their Italian brother "Brutus". It was a lot of fun.
Despite being my favorite card, there is no way it will ever be reprinted. The Oracle text of the card is actually worse than the original. It is modern templating gone mad.
At the beginning of the upkeep of enchanted creature's controller, put a -0/-1 counter on that creature.
When enchanted creature dies, that creature's controller chooses a creature that Takklemaggot could enchant. If he or she does, return Takklemaggot to the battlefield under your control attached to that creature. If he or she doesn't, return Takklemaggot to the battlefield under your control as a non-Aura enchantment. It loses "enchant creature" and gains "At the beginning of that player's upkeep, Takklemaggot deals 1 damage to him or her."
The modern version of the card is Necrotic Plague, but honestly it just doesn't have the swagger of the original maggot - or the creepy art by Daniel Gelon.
Setting the table on fire.
We all had a few of these bizarre decks. In those pre-EDH days we played an odd form of multi-player called "attack to the left, defend to the right". Pretty fancy name, huh? Not only did this rule insulate you from people across the table, it encouraged unofficial teamwork... with just a dash of back-stabbing. All our crazy deck designs were a side effect of this multi-player rule. Decks had time to set up three card combos, create complex board states and drop artifacts with a casting cost of six or more. One person getting mana screwed meant two people got to execute their deck design. Kinda brilliant, no?
Of all the decks that came and went, none of them was more memorable than Mark Leachman's "Chaos" deck. I don't know if he was the first to run a deck like this in our group, but he was the one that perfected it. When Mark built decks he just visualized synergies and combos in his head, like a Grand Master does in chess - making most of his creations finely tuned instruments of mass destruction. This deck, though - this deck was different. Here was a design that had no intention of winning - it was just there to reek havok. It was so destabilizing that Mark eventually had to "sneak it into play" on game night - to keep others from playing decks specifically built against it. Good times....
Almost totally mono-red, the deck splashed a bit of white and blue for control, counter-magic and some of the wacky "game altering" cards that were a hallmark of Magic's early days. Like the maggots, all these cards were walls of text; and like the Takkelmaggot, those that read and understood them were rewarded with unique mechanics to exploit.
By turn nine or ten Mark's deck would slow gameplay to a crawl, becoming consumed with coin flipping, game resets, and higher maths - just to calculate the controllers of all the Chaos Lords in play. The deck was unrestrained genius and the highlight of every night that Mark brought it to the table.
The kitchen table is that special corner of our game where every deck is required to have a witty name and a theme. This is where the EDH (Commander) and Cube formats of the modern era were born. It's unbridled creativity and "no limits" game play are really special and more Magic players should take the time to enjoy and understand this 'format". It deserves more respect among the dedicated player base than the "filthy casual" label, slapped upon it like its a foul thing. The kitchen table is where Magic players are born. Embrace the fun!