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Festival Games



Happy New Year to everyone. During the holidays one would always leave behind the competitive formats and look forward to Cube and other fun things to do. I know I do at least. So when the Holiday Cube came on early this year, I was just chaining drafts. Unfortunately, Cube is gone now and talking about it would not make that much sense.

Around Christmas, Berlin's Magic crew is having a big party each year, where we would gather to play Highlander, draft a lot, and eat even more. Every year I plan different mini-games to make Magic a little more interesting than it already is. Today I present to you the best of them and explain how they work, and maybe you find one of them interesting enough to try it out with your playing group as well.


This is actually not my own creation but the one of the Danish guys. When Michael Bonde and Thomas Enevoldsen taught me this wicked twist on Magic, I was hooked instantly. This was several years ago and since then I played it ad nauseam with some of my friends and even organized a little championship in it. I also tweaked and changed the guidelines I got from the Danish to make it more in line with what I think is cohesive and also work better with my decklist.

The Rules

  • Everyone starts with 3 cards.
  • They play with their hand open all the time.
  • Everyone has infinite mana.
  • They draw from one pre-arranged pile.
  • They have a shared graveyard.
  • In each cleanup step life totals reset to 20.
  • Every spell and activated ability can only be used once during a turn cycle.

Now it gets tricky. This is the most important part:

  • Everything (spell, ability etc.) must be done at the first opportunity the controller gets.

So all instants should get played in the first upkeep, if it is legal to play them. Cycling should also get activated in the first upkeep. If one draws an instant, they should play it while still being in the draw step. Removal should get played as soon as a creature hits the battlefield.

  • If someone makes a mistake, anyone can point it out and the person who made the mistake loses. However if someone points out a mistake and it actually is correct, the player pointing it out loses. This goes on until there is only one player left.

It is called Braindead for a reason. This twists your thinking power so much, because you will do things you would normally never do in a Magic game while you have to keep track of everybody's actions being flawless as well. If you have a Smite and your creature gets blocked, you have to destroy your own creature. Winning with regular damage is very tough anyway, because most permanents just die. You have to attack every turn, you have to block everything, so the graveyard gets filled up very fast. This can get tricky when for example Flashback cards are hiding there and you are supposed to play them. Also all kind of things can trigger from down there, like Ichorid, Retrace cards and so on. The Danish played it as a drinking game and I can clearly see why.

Conveniently, you can play this anywhere with any pile of cards laying around, for example after a Booster Draft or when Day 2 of a Grand Prix ends.

Magic Charades

We used to play this after every Prerelease, but as one gets older... you know the drill. So how this works is pretty simple.

The Rules

  • You have to split up into groups of at least 3.
  • You need a complete Magic set of your choice (you should be very familiar with the cards).
  • The groups take turns. One of the members has to look secretely at a card from the set and let the others in their group know which card it is. There are three methods:
  • First comes the drawing. The person taking a turn can only draw pictures until the other group members come up with the name (so no Magic symbols or letters).
  • Second comes the explaining. One can talk but not use any Magic terminology and of course can not just say the name of the card.
  • Third is pantomime. One can only use their own body, no talking is allowed.
  • After every eight cards guessed right, the next method kicks in. Whichever group gets through all three methods two times first wins.
  • Everybody gets exactly one minute to try and draw, explain or pantomime, no matter how many cards they can explain in that time.

This is always a very fun ride. Of course, you have to know all the cards, so we use to play this with the newest set most of the time. But you can get creative and play Magic Charades with a Cube or with Alpha, basically anything that everybody in your group knows in and out, because when they are drawing, you never know if it is the effect or the real picture of the card and the same goes for the other methods as well. Sometimes it even is the name itself explained vaguely.

Basically, if you like Charades, this is a blast to play.

Team Emperor Solmon Cube Draft

I always liked the idea of a Solmon Draft, but found it to be too single minded being only a 1 vs. 1. Of course, this is where the interest lies, because you can actually draft with only two people, but I felt there was much more potential. It is pretty awesome, but be warned, it takes a lot of time, so only plan on doing one when you got a whole evening.

King Suleiman

The Rules

  • It's three-player teams and it gets played exactly as the format Emperor - I will not go into too much detail, so just read the rules here. Basically, it's a 3 vs. 3 but one can only attack and target the player in front of them, except the middle seat, they can attack no one but donate their creatures to their teammates and target the outer two opponents.
  • The teams sit opposite each other and one side starts to draft. Each team member takes five cards from the Cube and lays them out in front of their respective opponent. Then the opponents have to do a Fact or Fiction split. The first team's members can then decide which pile they take and which one the opponent gets. After that, the second team takes the turn and does reveal each of them five cards and the first team as to do the split. Do this until everyone revealed 45 cards.

This takes so much time because with each turn there are three Fact or Fictions "being cast" and the teams have to consult their team partners about the split or what to take while having the same problem themselves. Casting Fact or Fiction is great though and drafting like Fact or Fiction is even better. Just be prepared to be drafting for more than an hour.

Complete-Common-Set Sealed

We did this one just over a week ago and it was much better than I originally anticipated. At first, me and everyone else thought of it as being pretty boring and a lot of mirror matches getting played. But first, let's lay out the rules.

The Rules

  • Everyone gets one copy of every Common of one specific set.
  • They have to build two Sealed decks with these Commons, no Sideboard is allowed.
  • In these decks, there can only be one, two or five different Basic Lands. So you either go 2-color or 5-color, no splashing is allowed (at least not with Basic Lands).
  • These two decks have to be labeled as "Deck 1" and "Deck 2".
  • The tournament starts and everyone has to start the first game with "Deck 1" and the second game with "Deck 2". If there happens to be a third game however, the players can then choose which deck they want to play.

We did this with Kaladesh and everyone thought that there would be only one or two possible combinations. But boy, we had everything! UW, UB, GR, GB, WB, RW and GW were played, while no one opted to go 5-color. Also no one wanted to play Attune with Aether and Wild Wanderer and splash one color and then had to play the other two Basics just because of the rules, because there was nothing worth splashing for.

Also, the mind games when it came to the third game were pretty awesome. I specifically won a match because I had the good matchup in the third game - most of us had a controlling and an aggressive deck built.

Rotating Cube Draft

This is one thing we came up with four years ago and it has been the highlight of all of our parties since then. It is only possible online and I would not recommend it with anything other than Cube. You also need at least six people for it. With that being siad, here is how it goes.

The Rules

  • You give each person of your group (a group of 6, 8 or 9 is best) a number to indicate when it is their turn.
  • Number 1 and 2 go into the room where you draft at the computer. They start the Draft and immediately hide the area where you can see your previous picks.
  • Everyone else has to wait outside.
  • Number 1 does their pick and leaves the room. Number 3 then enters the room, not seeing number 1's pick. Then number 2 picks and leaves the room, switching with number 4.
  • With this method, everyone only sees the pick of their predecessor. After the last person comes the first one again and you draft until the draft is finished.
  • You cannot talk about your picks inside or outside the room until you are done.

Sometimes this ends in a complete train wreck, but if you draft close to your previous number and also take mana fixing a little higher than usual, you end up with a solid deck, surprisingly! Last year, we did this method three times and ended up going 2-1, 2-1 and 3-0, always playing Sultai Midrange.

This is one of the best things you can ever do with the online Cube and following up the draft with collective deckbuilding and then playing is one of the sweetest things.

That's it for today. I'll see you in a couple of weeks with my Modern review of Aether Revolt.

Until then,


Jasper Grimmer
Jasper Grimmer

About Jasper Grimmer

Jasper is a player from Germany who can be found at almost every European Grand Prix and prepares a lot for them. Being on the GP circuit since 2011, he has had a number of good finishes: 

  • Top 8 GP Malmö 2012
  • Top 8 GP Paris 2015 
  • Top 4 Team GP Florence 2015 (with Amit Cohen & Robin Steinborn)
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