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Magic the Gathering: Beginner's Luck Format


This format has been specifically designed to help you teach/learn the game of Magic the Gathering!
For those of you already familiar with MTG formats, Beginner’s Luck might best be described as a cross between the Commander and Pauper formats, which has been reconfigured to be especially useful for new players.

The BL format is the answer for MTG addicts who have a significant other and can’t help wishing their partner would learn how to play Magic, thereby become “the perfect partner," or closer to it. However, the task of teaching someone can be daunting, especially for the learner.

BL is also the solution to all those times you don’t want to drive all the way to the Magic store to get your game on! When you look at your parents as warm bodies and try to imagine them as MTG gamers, this is your chance to actually turn them into gamers!

Likewise, for those MTG players with children who are too young to be competent MTG players, but who are old enough to grasp some of the basic concepts, your children will be able to start playing the Beginner’s Luck format almost immediately!


12. BL is actually a more realistic combat game, instead of a battle of magical and super-natural abilities it’s more a battle-game utilizing creatures of different levels of strength and endurance.

11. BL allows you to enjoy the art and flavor text in a way normal MTG games rarely allow!

10. BL is easier to get cards for than for formats like Modern, Standard and Legacy, because you only need to find 1 of each card, rather than 4 of each. Also, other players will be very happy to trade/sell cards for BL, because they’re the cards that are generally over-looked and irrelevant in other formats.

9. BL may be easier on your eyes and mind, after long day at work or school, because you don’t have to read a lot of spells, abilities, etc!

8. BL is a great way for young children to practice their math, reading and critical thinking skills!

7. BL offers a way for players to play with and trade cards that were completely irrelevant beyond booster drafts!

6. BL is a wonderful format for young children and late-life learners!

5. BL is an extremely cheap way to play the game, almost on a par with the Pauper format!

4. BL allows you to play the cards, which you may really love, but will never play in regular decks!

3. BL is an entirely new format for veteran players to explore by designing new decks and utilizing new strategies to dominate!

2. BL is an opportunity to use great creatures, which were never available to serve as Commanders, until now! Your favorite creature can actually be your Commander now!

1. BL is the easiest format to teach Magic to beginners and still have fun!



Win by taking your opponent from 20 to 0 life. If a player runs out of cards in their library and are unable to draw, they do not lose the game. Players re-shuffle their graveyard into their library, if they are unable to draw a card. 

With only 40 cards and the obvious potential for milling with 4 instant, sorcery or enchantment cards, Beginner’s Luck will not allow victories using milling.

Basic deck composition for Beginner’s Luck is…
1 Commander
19 Creatures (without abilities)
4 Spells (all copies of the same instant, sorcery or enchantment)
16 lands

Players play with 40 card decks and just like in the Commander format, only one card of each type can be used in the deck (with the exception of non-creature spells). Cards with any mana cost can be used and played in BL, just like in regular Commander.

The major difference between the Beginner’s Luck format and other previously designed formats, is that none of your creatures, with the exception of your Commander, can have abilities of any kind. Your creatures can not have activated, nor triggered, nor global abilities, no abilities whatsoever. All non-Commander creatures in BL are power-less creatures which only have a mana cost, attack and toughness.

Another major difference in the BL format is that only 1 non-creature spell will be used in your entire deck. That single non-creature spell will have 4 copies in your deck, so choose it wisely. Players can’t use more than one non-creature spell type in their decks.

Now some of you may be saying, “hmm, this sounds interesting.” Others are saying, “MTG almost completely without creature abilities, instants, sorceries and enchantments, that sounds like  it’s not for me! “ But remember BL was not designed for you. It was designed to teach beginners and since there are thousands of abilities, instants, sorceries and enchantments, each of which could require a lengthy explanation, they have been almost completely done away with, in order to simplify the game to its core for the benefit of novice learners.


Your commander is a single, non-Legendary creature, which must have one or more abilities. Your commander can have any mana cost and be any creature type other than Legendary. All the cards in your deck must be of the same color as your commander’s color signature. You will start the game with your Commander in your Command Zone (just like in Commander and Tiny Leaders) and just like in those other formats, every time your Commander dies, you may return him to the Command-zone and pay two colorless mana more to play your Commander for each time your Commander has died. If your Commander dies, you may also choose to place your Commander in your graveyard.


You are only allowed to have 4 instants, 4 sorceries, or 4 enchantments and all 4 must be copies of the same card, so choose wisely.


Decks will generally run about 15 lands in The Beginner’s Luck format, but your number of lands can vary, depending on the cost of your creatures.  For example, a deck featuring many cheaper low-casting cost creatures might dare to run 10 lands, while a deck featuring bigger/tougher creatures might run 17 or even 18 lands.

One big departure from other MTG formats is that non-basic lands are banned. Sorry guys!
So many of you love your non-basic lands, but the idea of BL is to simplify the game and there are so many non-basic lands that would require explanations, some of them lengthy, it simply doesn’t seem worth it.

And yes, this will mean multi-color decks are more difficult to play and thereby less desirable. The original concept of BL was that all decks would be mono-colored anyway to keep things simple, so play multi-color decks if you want, but it will be at your own risk.


Sorry, I know a lot of you love artifacts, as I love them, but in the name of simplifying the game, non-creature artifacts are banned in the Beginner’s Luck format. Artifact creatures count as artifacts and are also banned.


There are no sideboards in the BL format and cards cannot be changed once a game, match, or tournament has started. You play with what you bring.


BL games are played with the standard Commander rules and standard components of your hand with a library, graveyard and Command-zone.

If you’re not familiar with standard Commander rules, please visit to review the original rules for Commander play, which also apply in this new Beginner’s Luck format.


Mulligans use the same mulligan rules used for Commander.


1.    All Unhinged cards are banned
2.    All artifacts are banned.
3.    All planeswalkers are banned
4.    All Eldrazi are banned
5.    All non-basic lands are banned.
6.    All Conspiracy cards are banned.
7.    All cards for ante are banned.
8.    Balance
9.    Demonic Tutor
10.    Falling Star
11.    Goblin Recruiter
12.    Imperial Seal
13.    Land Tax
14.    Mana Drain
15.    Mind Twist
16.    Necropotence
17.    Oath of Druids
18.    Rebirth
19.    Shahrazad
20.    Survival of the Fittest
21.    Tempest Efreet
22.    Time Walk
23.    Timmerian Fiends
24.    Vampiric Tutor
25.    Yawgmoth’s Bargain
26.    Moat
27.    Empyreal Archangel

*Special thanks to Michael Yach for helping me put together this list.


I have successfully taught one or two people to play MTG, like my x-girlfriend did for me, but in failed attempts to teach my x-wife, who wasn’t that interested, my parents, who were reluctant and ultimately too overwhelmed and my son, who is 4-years-old and oviously can’t grasp all the concepts yet (he hasn't officially learned to read), over the last several years I have contemplated better teaching strategies.

One of the biggest problems I seemed to encounter with new players attempting to learn MTG is that once their heads are already swimming from learning the basic concepts, it is necessary for the teacher to explain a large number of card abilities/rules in order for them to play. This seemed to be overwhelming for beginners like my parents, who were more than a little skeptical about learning to begin with.

I had what I thought was a good idea, it was to simplify MTG for new learners by not using creature abilities and by eliminating none creature spells. The idea was to reduce MTG to it’s core, in order to teach the core of MTG in a way that was easy, fun and allowed beginners to not only practice, but to play, so that they can hopefully get inspired to learn more.

I thought this latest attempt at teaching went a bit better, but it created a new problem. MTG has done a tremendous job over the years of cleverly gauging creature’s mana costs with a formula for attack/strength and their abilities. By ignoring creature’s very relevant abilities, it threw the balance of creature costs badly astray. For example, a 4/4 creature with no abilities might cost 5 mana, but a 2/2 creature with great abilities might also cost 5 mana. Now, if you take the second creature’s abilities away, but keep their mana cost the same, you are badly over-paying for a very weak creature.

I got the idea of using creature cards that did not have abilities, the creatures people are usually too competitive to include in decks. Those cards are perfect for simplifying the game and still allowing players to play. I decided to allow one card with abilities to serve as Commander and by making it non-legendary it offers this format something fun and different that can attract veteran players.

I also decided to allow one spell card, so beginners can begin to differentiate creature cards from other card types and also, so there’s a little more variation to the game, but by making the spell repeat 4 times, it avoids the necessity of going over a bunch of discussion on how to use each of the 4 spell cards, while magnifying the importance of choosing a strong non-creature card.

At the beginning of a BL game, only 2 cards really might require any special explanation, the single spell card and the Commander.

With this as the core concept behind Beginner’s Luck decks, I then decided to use a modified play strategy similar to Commander, since Commander is the format which I’ve come to love even more than the Legacy MTG Format that I learned to play with and was originally so addicted to.

I think this new BEGINNER’S LUCK format has two primary advantages. First, that is a tremendously better tool for teaching MTG to beginners and second, that it can make irrelevant, unused and unwanted cards, relevant and used again.

I hope MTG fanatics will find one more reason to be happy with this new Beginner’s Luck format!

Please share this.

The Beginner’s Luck Format was created by Evan Marquisee on May 22, 2015. Richard Garfield created Magic the Gathering, which is owned by Wizards of the Coast and the Commander format was reportedly created by Ken Nagle and numerous other people and unfortunately I have no idea who created the Pauper format, though I read it was introduced to the MTG online community first. I have no legal right to the design of any of the MTG cards, nor materials.

*P.S. It is my hope that Wizards of the Coast sees this, recognizes my initiative and decides to let me help them with game/card design in the future. I have great ideas!

Evan Marquisee

*These rules along with sample deck lists will be posted on The MTG Beginner’s Luck Facebook page, along with sample deck lists & a banned card list, both coming shortly.


Here are some sample decks lists, especially presented for those of you who might want to try making these decks to teach others or learn yourselves, but perhaps you don't have a store nearby.

You can use online stores like Cardkingdom or Star City Games, order one of the deck lists below and have it delivered to you and you will be all ready to play!

Commander: Furnace Whelp
Regathan Firecat
Bonebreaker Giant
Scoria Elemental
Wild Jhovall
Flameborn Viron
Gore Swine
Fire Elemental
Goblin Piker
Raging Poltergeist
Lagac Lizard
Summit Prowler
Riot Devils
Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass
Goblin Roughrider
Borderland Minotaur
Incurable Ogre
Canyon Minotaur
Ogre Resister
Pensive Minotaur
4 Annihilating Fire
15 Mountains

Commander: Mahamoti Djinn
Kraken Hatchling
Glacial Wall
Maritime Guard
Jwari Scuttler
Plated Seastrider
Horned Turtle
Coral Merfolk
Fugitive Wizard
Merfolk of the Pearl Trident
Ancient Carp
Giant Octopus
Coral Eel
Armored Cancrix
Fortress Crab
Wetland Sambar
Jhressian Lookout
Amphin Cutthroat
Lumengrid Warden
Triton Shorethief
Vodalian Soldiers
4 Encrust
15 Islands

Comments sent

8 comment(s).
oxbridge essays review - 1/29/2019 11:46:35 PM
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Hugupes - 11/7/2018 10:52:40 PM
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Logical Spiritualism - 6/27/2015 7:25:53 AM
bg - sorry you don't like the concept, but I do beg to differ that Beginner's Luck doesn't teach anyone anything. They learn about the hand, library and graveyard, basic turn structures, how to play and use creatures, engage in combat and distribute damage, how to use lands, a little about how to play spells and that's pretty much it. But that's all it's supposed to be, an introductary format.

Dave - I'm glad you like Beginner's Luck! You sound like you are having some real fun with deck construction! I wish I could have seen your snake deck. I thought it would be fun to build one, but have never gotten around to trying.
Dave Read - 6/26/2015 11:21:32 PM
Hey, not bad at all. I like it and it's similar to just building basic simple vs decks. That's just what I do though; so far I've made a hydra vs snake deck (traded the entire snake deck away for a Glen Elendra Archmage), zombies vs drakes, and a red vs blue deck.
bg - 6/26/2015 10:13:33 PM
You've basically reinvented the 30-card intro packs they give out at conventions, but worse
This doesn't teach anyone anything. There's no need to invent a whole format based around teaching the core combat and land/mana mechanics. You're just going to make the game seem incredibly boring, while also confusing beginners by adding a random Commander.
Logical Spiritualism - 6/26/2015 7:08:46 PM
Thank you for the predominantly positive feedback for MTG Beginner's Luck, getting well over 100 likes in a matter of hours!

However, there have been a couple people who have chastised me for saying that Beginner's Luck can be an excellent teaching tool for women and children.

They feel I am being sexist.

Just to set the record straight, I am well aware that a few women do play MTG and some are very good players. I love that!!! And I wish there were more!

The point I was trying to make and yes, I am generalizing, is that most women do not tend to like violent and/or competitive games and since MTG is both, they may have less interest & patience in learning.

The benefit of Beginner's Luck therefore is to simplify and shorten the learning process, so that women and anyone really, can get to the good stuff faster...playing games.

This was no more intended as a slight towards women, as was my asseertion that Beginner's Luck would be good for teaching children.

I am not saying children are dumb. I am not saying they are all bad players. I am just saying that really young children, on the average, are going to struggle with the terminology, the strategy and the more complicated mathmatics of MTG. Since BL was designed to simplify the game, it should help with that.

If anyone is unintentionally offended, I apologize, but I think you're being too sensitive.


Evan Marquisee
Beginner's Luck Format Designer
Logical Spiritualism - 6/26/2015 9:01:47 AM
Thanks for your feedback, Alex! I am glad you like the idea and think you might find it helpful! This format was designed for exactly situations like that.

In regard to adding evergreen abilities. You could do that in a derivitive of Beginner's Luck, but what I noticed in trying to teach new players is that you have to sit there and explain the game and the turn structure and then each ability and then there are "what if" scenarios based on the abilities. A lot of beginners start tunning out once you have explained the rules and turn structure and then start talking about a multitude of abilities and how to use them. They quit even before they've started!

The idea for Beginner's Luck is that you only have to teach the basic rules, the turn structure and a tiny bit about simple cards and then you can begin playing almost immediately! So it's like dropping the learning-time from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours down to 20 minutes. Once the beginner starts playing and becomes functional in the basics and says, "Hey this is kind of fun. What other abilities are there? How can I make my deck better," etc. then they can be bumped up and taught Commander or Tiny Leaders or Modern or Legacy.

I think this will work very well as a teaching tool for those who wish to use it and I hope Wizards of the Coast recognizes the value of a simplified version of the game to teach new players. They could sell or give free Beginner's Luck decks to draw in more players.

If you have trouble finding cards for your Beginner's Luck decks, I will be adding deck lists shortly, so that people who may not live near stores that carry MTG cards can easily purchase MTG Beginner's Luck decks!
Alex - 6/26/2015 8:31:38 AM
I love your idea! As a youth leader, I have had many kids ask me to teach them how to play Magic, and I always saw this as a rather daunting task. I designed 5 mono coloured decks with very basic level of play to sort of teach them how to play. I think I might change those decks up to try this out.

I do have one concern, however. I think allowing the creatures to have evergreen abilities would be very beneficial for the format. It is only a little bit extra to explain, and it helps preventing something as simple as a Shivan Dragon from being unstoppable. The commander will most often still be very high impact, but it helps prevent a "First one to their commander wins!" mentality.

Once again, a wonderful idea that I will definitely try out!

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