Master of Peasant Magic : GenCon 2003

In memory: The following article is in tribute to Danny Morano. He was a member of the Peasant Council, a great player, and an awesome writer. We wish his family and friends well in this time of need.

Abstract of the article :

  • A rather long rambling opinion about GenCon

  • A plea to WOTC for the casual gamers

  • The basic “blah blah blah” about “WHAT IS Pez Magic?”

  • The frustrations about being a peasant

  • The tournament report

  • The thoughts about high tide and the peasant “metagame”

The first year of ANYTHING is going to be wrought with problems and riddled with bugs. It’s hard to plan anything right the first time. You can see about 90% of the foreseeable problems and prepare for them, but that final 10% is going to bite you in the ass. Having attended at GenCon for several years now, I was glad to see that the 90% went very smoothly.

The 10% was rather annoying though. I am sure if you were there or have been reading anything at all about GenCon Indy, you might know that all of the lines were long, the space was cramped, and the “ticket purchasing” made things very annoying. Having said that, this was a very good convention. The merchant hall had a lot to offer. Gamers took to the streets of Indy with abandon. There was Magic available 24 hours a day in some of my favorite formats (not to mention the awesome Vintage games during the weekend).

Unlike previous years in Wisconsin, Indy offers so much more in the food category. I was eating at different restaurants every night, and the food was great! Three cheers for the local cuisine. I remember being subjected to the MALL food and the one or two restaurants in Milwaukee and hating it. In previous years, I was subjected to eat at Hooters to get a semi-decent meal. Hooters is known for their “fine food” much like Playboy is known for their “articles”.

Having given props to this year’s con, I have to give it some slops for two reasons. The first reason is about the “feel” of the CON in general and the second has to do with the “peasant like” conditions that we have to endure at these conventions.


First off, can you remember back when in the good ol’ days of Magic? Not back too far, but just far enough to remember when Unglued was coming out. The pre-release of this set (Unglued boosters in conjunction with a Tempest starter deck) was a major sold out event. It was a great time for people to goof off and play some SERIOIUSLY CASUAL games of Magic. The events were AMAZINGLY fun. Mark Rosewater was in his chicken suit signing copies of “Hey Look, I’m the DCI!” card (it’s his artwork)! People were clucking like chickens, balancing cards on top of their heads, doing the hokey pokey, and pondering if going pant-less was worth getting beaten by a “Denimwalk” creature. People were howling with laughter and really enjoying themselves.

How much of that was going on at this con? Can there be widespread laughing, enjoyment, or friendly atmosphere in Magic?

In my world, Magic was a reason to get together with friends. We shared ideas, built creative decks, and enjoyed the FRIENDLY competition. Back in 1994, the comic shops in town didn’t catch on to the Magic bug. Therefore, the FNM was at someone’s house with and endless supply of cards, junk food, and laughter. This was your typical guy bonding stuff. We laughed at raunchy jokes. There was always a cool movie or album playing in the background. Our girlfriends, if we had any at the time, would meet in the opposite end of the house and do their thing. Damn, some of them even enjoyed learning and playing the game with us. All new players were shown the ropes by getting trounced by fun decks. They learned well and usually won with their own creations when they came back the next week.

Things happened very slowly to change the fun and welcoming atmosphere to a harsh competitive one. In my area, it wasn’t until 1997 that things started shaping into the current scene with tournaments and net-decks. The casual players started copying decks and winning. Players from different areas would play against each other and cheer on their perspective clan in a strange good versus evil fashion. We started to leave games upset and disappointed when things didn’t go well. “It’s only a game” was heard less and less as the years went on.

Many of the casual players got frustrated with these new changes. It became harder to keep up with the set rotation or the net decks. FNM was traded in for a night at the comic shop. Creativity was crushed by the finely tuned “metagame” that emerged. Now, it is almost 10 years since I learned how to play the game, and I am a product of the current Magic environment.

Ruthless: this is the state of modern Magic. What alternative do the casual players have? We are forced to eat off of the same plate – and only WOTC has the power to change them menu.

So you may already be preparing to click off of this article as yet another random scrub bitches about Magic being “too hard” and not having the competitive stones to deal with the aggressive nature of the rabid player. However, I ask you to consider this… Is there room for WOTC to allow casual and competitive play at a convention?

I think they can.

Here is how I would change GenCon (or the next convention for that matter) and attract a ton of casual players people without touching the precious market for Wizards and their DCI-vision. Hey WOTC, more players mean more money for you. So this isn’t stealing from Peter to pay Paul. This means that MORE PLAYERS will probably spend MORE MONEY on the game they love. People usually spend money on a game when they are enjoying it. Ok? Here goes.

#1 – SUPPORT CAUSAL EVENTS. There are so many casual formats out there. It wouldn’t be so hard to pick up the biggest ones. Gee whiz, how about the ones that have their own forums and dedicated scene. Five color? FIVE COLOR? Come on… There are others like Emperor and two-headed giant that have some simple rules to follow that create some fun events. Sure, I haven’t forgot this was a Peasant article, but I will get to that later.

#2 – SPREAD OUT THE RESPONSIBILITY. Professional Event Services run GenCon and Origins and they do a great job. I understand that they are busy 24 hours a day and spend all of that time hustling to get the job done. Adding casual events will increase their workload to the point where it comes a huge burden. Trust me, I wouldn’t want a PTQ or the Vintage World Championships to be interrupted or stalled due to a casual format. So WOTC, let another group run these tournaments for you separately.

I realize that WOTC is afraid that small groups may come in and run non-sanctioned tournaments thus cannibalizing their market. Please understand Wizards, everything will still be in your power and a large population will be served in your name and under your guidelines. You create the events, the guidelines, and rules. You can make it happen. You can carefully screen applicants until you get a company that is as good as PES. I am sure the people are out there. Pony up some money to get them!

Now you may be saying, “This year was cramped! Wouldn’t the flock of casual gamers clog the TCG area?” Well, I have to stick by a simple rule of economics. More people means more money. Ta-DA!!! And, if you are worried about space, FIX THE FRIGGIN PROBLEM! YOU ARE WOTC! YOU CAN DO ANYTHING! PLAN AHEAD, PLAN FOR THE WORST (thousands of Magic players) AND MAKE IT SO!

#3 – MAKE CASUAL GAMES PROFITABLE FOR YOU. Charge $6.00! Charge $10.50! Charge $15.00!!! If people want to play in it, they will shell out the bucks. Remember, you are still in charge and can run as many casual tournaments as you want. How about running one of each of these formats during the course of the weekend: Five-Color, Emperor, Multiplayer, Two-Headed Giant, Peasant, Highlander, Creature-Feature, Ironman, and UNGLUED-legal Vintage?

Oh hell, while I am dreaming, why not create an Unglued II as a stand-alone set (starters and boosters) and unleash it next year. You guys saw how the token creatures and the alternative art has been for the collectors ($$$), so the demand will be huge. Make it as limited as you want. It will be a ton of fun and you WILL sell out of product. Give R&D a break and open the idea for the set up to the Internet community. We would really enjoy it! It won’t be tourney legal, so go nuts and create a quality product to be lots of fun.

Wizards, these are just ideas, but more tournaments means more money… More people means… Ok. You get the point.

But this is enough small talk now… Let’s get to the details. GenCon 2003 is over, but you should look at the next one. In general, Magic players whine all day long about stuff (on the Internet) and are not willing to do ANYTHING about it. Well, I am willing to put my money where my mouth is. If you want to give me (with Cardshark) the power to run efficient casual tournaments at the NEXT GenCon, we will do an amazing job for you. I have a year to get ready for the next Indy. If we get started early, we can do an amazing job. More gamers, more money, more happiness.

As the judge and organizer of the Peasant Magic tournaments at Origins and GenCon for the past few years. I have come to learn a few things about being the small fry at these big events.

First off, the peasants are not wanted. You may or may not care, but could you say the same for five color and other casual tournaments? It has been hard getting registered since we are not a sanctioned Magic format. When peasant magic pulled over 80 people away on a Saturday morning at GenCon 2001, there must have been quite a stir. Ever since then, signing up for a Pez event has been wrought with problems.

Secondly, even when we manage to get into the books, Peasant Magic is seldom listed. Even when it is listed, it is always listed in the WRONG SECTION. Case in point, Jeremy McDonough wrote a Peasant article (about High Tide) on Star City Games a week before GenCon. He was disappointed when “Peasant Magic was absent” at Indy. Lo and behold, we are victims again of the “WHERE ARE THEY?” syndrome. Several of the Peasant players from previous years came to me during the con and said, “too bad there isn’t a Pez tournament this year.” When I told them of the Saturday slot, they exclaimed, “Damn! Good thing I ran into you.” No kidding.

Lastly, Peasants get no respect. All I ever wanted was a power outlet for my laptop and printer. This has never been an easy task! I feel like crap when I ask Mike Guptil every freakin’ con for an outlet to use to charge my laptop. What a hassle! Can’t I get a secured outlet and cooperation from the convention when POWER and SPACE is clearly asked for during the event.

Man, I am getting out two years of pent-up-rage, and it feels great. All I am saying is that these tournaments are way too much hassle for what they are worth. Don’t get me wrong, the people and the scene are wonderful, but the politics make it a pain in the ass. I, with Cardshark’s help in prize funding, will gladly run Peasant tournaments at Origins and at GenCon next year IF AND ONLY IF the conditions get better. So if WOTC can decide to crush the casual movement by shutting me down, so be it…

Gee, I gotta hand it to those 5-color guys. Big props guys for stickin’ it to the man!

Ok, the caffeine is wearing off and I am calming down now. If I have committed suicide by biting the hand that fed me, then the peasants will have to go elsewhere. Anyone up for running a “CASUALCON 2004?” You have my email…

*** END RANT ***

Thanks for bearing with me. PEASANT MAGIC is all about playing without rares and five uncommons. Deck construction requires the player to building a 60 card deck and a 15 card sideboard. You may use five uncommon cards, but the rest must be common and basic land. There is a small banned list, but they consist of cards that are way to expensive (such as Berserk and Library of Alexandria). True peasants use best-case rarity since it helps expand the card pool. For example, River Boa is common in Visions and uncommon in Seventh. Therefore, it is COMMON. The only exception to this rule is Strip Mine which had a common print in Antiquities but is considered uncommon in the format due to its abuse potential.

The Peasant Council and Peasant Magic group on Yahoo helped a lot in building the current arsenal of decks that make up the peasant field. The tournament had 27 people, and there were many different decks. Here is a deck run-down:

** Black Decks – Total: 6 ** (22%)

Black Aggro: 3

Mono Black Land Destruction: 1

Mono Black Control: 2

** White Decks – Total: 5 ** (19%)

White Weenie: 5

** Multi-Color Beatdown – Total: 8 ** (30%)

R/G Beats with Channel/Fireball : 2

R/G Beats: 3

U/G Madness: 1

U/R Goblin: 1

Sliver Deck: 1

** Multi-Color Control – Total: 2 **

U/R Forbidian: 1

U/B Control: 1

** Mono Green – Total: 3 **

Green Beats: 2

Green Elf: 1

** Mono Red – Total: 2 **

Goblin Red: 1

Urzatron Red: 1

** Combo Deck **

High Tide (Brain Freeze/Prosperity) : 1

So the decks were checked and play started with five rounds before we cut to the top eight players. Since my Mono Green pile did so well (read: 0-3 drop) I was able to watch the games leading up to the top 8. So here is the top 8 with a new Master of Peasant Magic for 2003!

Mono Black Control: “Gonads and Strife” 5-8th Place finisher : Derek Bruneau


22 Swamps

2 Cabal Coffers (u)


4 Order of the Ebon Hand

4 Twisted Abomination


4 Duress

4 Hymn to Tourach

4 Drain Life

3 Demonic Tutor (u)

3 Soul Burn

3 Expunge

4 Diabolic Edict

2 Sinkhole

1 Brush With Death


2 Coercion

2 Vicious Hunger

2 Corrupt

1 Brush With Death

2 Serrated Arrows

3 Spinning Darkness

2 Choking Sands

This is a deck after my own heart! This has the best that black has to offer in terms of control. Derek was a great player and told me to check out the title of the deck in a Google search and see what I find. I haven’t done so yet, so I will pass that onto you with this disclaimer: email Derek and not me !!!

Mono Black Land Destruction 5-8th Place finisher : John Wallin


18 Swamps


3 Sengir Vampire (u)


2 Black Vise (u)

2 Tormod’s Crypt

1 Feldon’s Cane

4 Pestilence

4 Choking Sands

4 Rancid Earth

4 Befoul

4 Despoil

4 Sinkhole

4 Cabal Ritual

4 Dark Ritual

4 Drain Life

4 Terror



Last year, I played mono black land destruction (with 4 strip mines!) and I got my ass handed to me. This was mainly due to the fact that last year was filled with decks that weren’t affected by land removal: Red Burn, White Weenie, and Black Discard. Since this field was so multi-colored (37% of total or 10 decks in total), it would seem LD would go far. Don’t knock the Vampires in this build. I saw them fly over for the kill when they hit the table.

White Weenie 5-8th Place finisher : Jeffrey Zwawski


21 Plains

1 Desert


4 Soul Warden

3 Freewind Falcon

3 Soltari Trooper

3 Soltari Foot Soldier

3 Crimson Acolyte

3 Coalition Honor Guard

3 Order of Leitbur

2 Obsidian Acolyte

2 Whipgrass Entangler

1 Duskrider Falcon

2 Mother of Runes (u)


3 Swords to Plowshares (u)

3 Prismatic Strands

3 Empyrial Armor


3 Disenchant

3 Wild Aesthir

1 Crimson Acolyte

1 Prismatic Strands

1 Coalition Honor Guard

1 Freewind Falcon

1 Order of Leitbur

1 Obsidian Acolyte

1 Empyrial Armor

White weenie also does well. I faced a deck very similar to this built by Ian Port at Origins. It wasn’t to surprising that Jeffrey said to me, “Hey, you know Ian? He’s my friend and we worked on this deck together!” I can say this to you guys – this deck is one tight mutha! White Weenie players can look to this for a staple in their field. Way to go… If this deck could have beaten High Tide in the climb to the finals, I think this could has been #1!

R/G Beats with Channel/Fireball backup 5-8th Place finisher : Todd Galley


9 Forest

8 Mountain


2 Mogg Fanatic

2 River Boa

4 Basking Rootwalla

4 Kird Ape

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Orcish Lumberjack


4 Giant Growth

4 Lightning Bolt

4 Rancor

4 Fireball

4 Disintegrate

3 Channel (u)


1 Whirling Dervish (u)

1 Flashfires (u)

4 Naturalize

4 Werebear

3 Guerilla Tactics

2 Incinerate

Wow! This deck is HOT! Take your traditional zoo build and throw in some burn and BAM! The deck doesn’t have to combo on turns 1 or 2. It can go stompy/burn and then surprise the opponent when the 8 big X spells surface in the deck. I am going to do some serious testing since this wasn’t the only R/G/Chan/Burn deck in the top 8 !

R/G Beats with Channel/Fireball backup 3-4th Semi-finalist: Chris Lyon


11 Mountains

9 Forests


1 Seeker of Skybreak

1 Orcish Lumberjack

1 Elvish Guidance

1 Arc Lightning

4 Quiron Elves

4 Priests of Titiana

4 Llanowar Elves

4 Fyndhorn Elves


4 Lightning Bolts

4 Fireball

4 Disintegrate

4 Channel (u)


3 Naturalize

2 Blastoderm

2 Giant Growth

2 Active Volcano

1 Maze of Ith

1 Scragnoth

1 Shatter

1 Desert Twister (u)

1 Guerilla Tactics

1 Defender of Chaos

I admire this deck because this was more focused on getting the combo. I prefer the other R/G deck, but this got one more round into the semi-finals. Does this spark a fury of Channel X decks? The lack of searching may make this combo a bit random, but the elvish beat and burn may be a good combo in itself. As a quick note, does the sideboard contain an extra uncommon(s) that I might have missed?

U/R Forbidian: “Fizzle My Shnizzle!” - 3-4th Semi-finalist: Nick Branstator


7 Mountain

15 Island


4 Cloud of Faeries


2 Soldevi Sentry

4 Horseshoe Crab

4 Quicksilver Dagger

4 Counterspell

1 Pemmin’s Aura (u)

1 Fact or Fiction (u)

4 Impulse

1 Capsize

2 Forbid (u)

3 Hermetic Study

4 Brainstorm

4 Ophidian

4 Force Spike


2 Serrated Arrows

3 Disrupt

1 Arc Lightning

1 Boomerang

2 Yotian Soldier

3 Mana Leak

1 Hermetic Study

1 Arcane Laboratory (u)

1 Withdraw

This was my favorite deck to watch. Nick worked - let me emphasize that – he WORKED to make this deck into the semis! He was a brainstormin’, impuslin’ fool! When he got the combo of Horseshoe Crab and the Quicksilver Dagger out, he was a card drawing, house-wrecking machine. The deck may look like a pile, but it did a great job fighting decks that usually ran out of steam. It countered and spiked spells that came out of the gate fast. I was in awe, and I wanted to see this deck go all of the way too! The sideboard laboratory would have been great to de-throne the 2nd place deck!

High Tide Pros/Freeze Combo: Slurpee of Doom - 2nd place finalist: Hank Zill


20 Island


4 Cloud of Faeries


4 Impulse

3 Merchant Scroll

2 Disrupt

4 Snap

4 Opt

2 Brain Freeze

4 Frantic Search

3 Prosperity

4 High Tide

4 Brainstorm

2 Words of Wisdom


2 Feldon's Cane

2 Disrupt

4 Twiddle

4 Arcane Denial

3 Boomerang

I knew it… High Tide again. Well, Brain Freeze was a key ingredient in the “Slurpee of Doom” (which happens to be the slogan on the side of the largest Slurpee cup at your 7-11)! This deck could have gone all of the way, but it fizzled out in the FINALS! It was in mid combo (or staring down a Hypnotic Specter) and it just crapped out. This is one deck to watch as Pez gets more and more recognition.

On a side note, I like Chris Morling’s version of Brian Freeze (w/o Prosperity) since it doesn’t fill of the hand for the opponent. Look around Cardshark to see Morling’s report from Origins and his 1st place finish.

Mono Black Aggro: Logan Special FIRST PLACE Finalist: Tim Galley


18 Swamp


4 Hypnotic Specter (u)

4 Dauthi Horror

4 Dauthi Slayer

1 Carnophage


4 Unholy Slayer

4 Order of the Ebon Hand

4 Unearth

4 Dark Ritual

4 Paralyze

4 Hymn to Tourach

1 Vicious Hunger

1 Sadistic Glee

2 Duress

1 Ostracize


1 Gloom (u)

4 Terror

2 Diabolic Edict

1 Drain Life

1 Dauthi Ghoul

4 Weakness

1 Vendetta

1 Howl from Beyond

Congrats goes to the new Master of Peasant Magic. This black speed deck had enough disruption to hit the High Tide deck and keep the pressure up to force early combo attempts (that fizzled). As Morling and I talked about Brain Freeze, he hypothesized that an aggressive black deck with hand disruption may be too tough for combo decks. The Duress, Hymn to Tourach, and Hypnotic Specter threats are bad enough without all of the speedy creatures busting down the door. Tim used this deck and it did the trick. What a great day for the black mage.

So what does this mean for the format? I have a few feelings about the current rants and thoughts going around the Peasant community:

> Should High Tide be banned or should the deck be crippled?

If you really want to read a great article about this topic, check out Chris Morling’s article talking about FrozenTide on Cardshark. It clearly talks about having fun vs. being competitive. Should peasant stay mega-casual, or should a degenerate deck exist for the net-smart?

I would like to see High Tide stay around for another year. It has to be out there as a deck to beat, but the deck IS stoppable. There may be some sideboard hate for the deck, but a well-tuned red or black deck should give it some problems. Check out this red deck that packs enough hate to sink the blue player. I called this “Stupid Red Burn” when I played it into the top 8 at Origins.

Stupid Red Burn a.k.a. “the deck I should have played at Indy”


18 Mountain

4 Mishra’s Factory


4 Mogg Fanatic


2 Browbeat (u)

4 Fireblast

4 Flame Rift

4 Shock

4 Guerrilla Tactics

4 Volcanic Hammer

4 Chain Lightning

4 Lightning Bolt

4 Incinerate


3 Anarchy (u)

3 Flaring Pain

3 Serrated Arrows

3 Pyroblast

3 Red Elemental Blast

Look at all of the hate against white and blue in the sideboard! Any red made NOT running these hateful cards in peasant should turn in their mountains! Anarchy is THAT good against White Weenie with Flaring Pain beating Prismatic Strands in the prevention games… With the maindeck Guerilla Tactics against black, it would have surprised many decks at this tournament.

Ok, enough on that High Tide tangent…

> What is the health of the format?

It seems like our numbers are getting smaller at the tournaments. I clearly blame our support by the Cons for this. When the first Peasant tournament started in 2001, the event was listed in the catalog (in the right place)! The catalogs were mailed out early and Johnny Lai hyped the event in an article on Cardshark. Our numbers at these major events bounce between 16 and 32, but this is small compared to the number of people posting, writing, and talking about the game. I was sad not to be able to go to the Gamefest tournament in Wisconsin. Jason Chapman, was running a Peasant tournament there and I would have loved to have been there! Two Cons a year is enough for me… Perhaps Gamefest will be the new home of MOPM? We shall see…

> What have you seen that is promising?

I like the multicolor decks and the fierce R/G Channel Fireball decks. I would run the Kird Ape/ River Boa variety. Lightning Bolt, Mogg Fanatic, and Rancor are SO amazing. I can’t wait to tune the sideboard to abuse the color hosers too. Perhaps running 3 Channel in the main deck with 2 Anarchy in the sideboard will be my U-slots. Fun, fun, fun…

I would also give big props to the U/R control deck for doing so well (obviously do its owner’s skill in working every card to its best potential)! I will build a similar version of that deck to give the aggro player something to worry about.

> What deck builds were missing?

Mono green elf and mono green stompy was missing. Someone needs to work on a well-tuned version of this deck. If it is built right with enough stomp, it will just wreck house. Slap some Gaea’s Blessing cards in the sideboard against High Tide and you will give a winner against the Brain Freeze variety. I like the stompy, but the life-gain of a Wellwisher deck (packing Invigorates) could wreck burn decks.

> Any final thoughts?

Ok, that was my question since it is getting a bit long and I should wrap this up. Magic has been a lot of fun for me, but I am getting tired… There have been a lot of great days and horrible stretches in that time. I loved all of the crazy days when things seemed new and fun. I also loathed the seasons when decks stagnated and grew old. It’s time for me to take a break.

I wanted to give this piece “my all” and take a long break. I had a month where I did no Magic, (I was in London between Origins and GenCon) and it was great. Sadly, it was hard to pick up the mouse and get back into the Magic world again. Therefore, I give my typing skills over to more capable hands…

I am going to drop out of the scene, but I will not put away my cards. I will cease the hours of reading Magic stuff on the net, but I will not stop chasing Magic. What Magic addict can honestly give up drafting? I think my Magic addiction will be a life-long battle for me. Too bad they can’t invent a patch to wean me off of my craving for cardboard. Well, if I just tape a POX card to my right bicep…

I will rediscover this game and its love, one Wednesday night draft at a time.

Have fun people… Keep the casual game alive… Fight the man… I will see you at the next non-sanctioned event…


write by Marcus Anderson