Fresh Ideas from Switzerland: Magic & YGO “BIG BOX” Format

Dear readers and friends of various CCGs such as MtG and YGO!!

I recently was kindly invited to travel to Switzerland (a neighboring country to my country Austria – it was a 9 hours train ride for me just for your info) and stay over the weekend with Elemental Clash fan and fellow tabletop enthusiast as well as terribly nice guy in general, Philippe Etter. Here he is besides the grim looking designer of Elemental Clash himself (I am the threateningly looking bearded guy to the left if you weren’t sure!)

Andi (left) with his awesome host Philippe (right).

Andi (left) with his awesome host Philippe (right).

Monsieur Etter was very kind, generous and hospitable to me and I had the great opportunity to meet some of his gamer friends as well, all of which had to (well they were thrilled to actually) give Elemental Clash a try.

Some intense EC Action was had!

Some intense EC Action was had!

And all of them loved the game, some of them, independently from each other, even calling it “even better than Magic”! What greater honor could I receive for my humble work!! Thanks Philippe and friends for your openness and the great feedback you gave me for my 10-years-games-project!!

Besides having a ton of fun playing Elemental Clash with Philippe and a lot of other new friends from Switzerland, I was introduced to a really  fun, new to me variant of playing my beloved Magic: the Gathering! What Philippe did was he sleeved a few thousand cards (all individual ones, no duplicates!) and put them all, sorted by rarity but not by type or color, and put them into some big boxes. A relatively small deck containing only basic lands was kept separately. So what we did was each player got a deck containing totally random cards and when drawing a card (at the beginning of the game – your starting hand – during Draw Phase but also anytime a card would instruct you to draw cards or a card) you could draw from the lands deck or from your main deck, which, again, contains no lands whatsoever, so only Spells (Creatures, Instants, Sorceries, Enchantments, Artifacts and so on…). At the beginning of the game each player would draw 13 (I think) card in any combination from the shared lands deck or from their main deck. In general, so I was told and deem reasonable, you’d draw from the lands deck first until you got at least 4 out of the 5 colors in Magic, and then you’d proceed with drawing from your main deck (or more lands from the land deck). Each player has 30 Life by the way and during each Draw Phase, you’d draw 3 cards from either land or main deck, in any combination, instead of the regular drawing of 1 card – which gives you a whole lot more options…

I really found this new variant highly intriguing and entertaining, although I had a few minor complaints about useless cards and the inclusion of some very old-fangled, weak cards that can’t compete with today’s (Modern) cards power level and would have done some things different if I were to build such a card pool. Also I need to note that they had an awesome 3 player variant where two players share a life total and play against one player who has some benefits and gets some bonuses such as having more cards at the beginning and being allowed to place a Creature with converted mana cost of 3 or less onto the battlefield for free at the outset of the game – all very original and creative as I had found!

So yeah, as I really, really liked that variant of playing good-old Magic: the Gathering Philippe introduced me to, I simply could not resist the urge to build something like that for me as well!! With some minor changes however…

And I’d like to henceforth call and refer to Philippe’s MtG variant – which is the only way they play MtG over at his place as he told me:


So when I returned home safe and sound after an awesome nerd-n’-gaming-weekend in Switzerland, first thing I did was to order a bunch of soft sleeves (2000 pcs straight – soft sleeves for an Euro a pack o’ hundred since poor, destitute me couldn’t afford high quality sleeves as rich-ass Philippe did – sorry Philippe, no offense intended; hope none was taken haha!) in Magic card size AND 1000 Yu-Gi-Oh sized sleeves BECAUSE: I suggested to Philippe, and he had actually had the same idea already, his fun-as-hell MtG variant could be done quite nicely and easily with Yu-Gi-Oh! cards as well, and you’d even save yourself the trouble of trying to draw into enough and the right resources (lands in the case of Magic of course) when done with YGO cards. And this is why and how I invented:


So when I got the sleeves in the mail, my sister kindly helped me with sleeving about 800 individual YGO cards (no duplicates whatsoever, just as in Big Box Magic) and after that like 1800 different Magic cards and hey presto, done were my awesome YGO Big Box…

My sister Nora with our YGO Big Box (which didn't quite fit into one box lol!).

My sister Nora with our YGO Big Box (which didn’t quite fit into one box lol!).

…. as well as my equally awesome MtG Big Box!!

Mtg Big Box

As for YGO, my sister gave it a short try (only one measly game – she is not too keen on playing CCGs at all, which is a shame but whatever…) with me and we need to seriously figure out some special rules, which will need some more playtesting in order to be determined. So with the YGO Big Box we each drew a starting hand of 13 cards and 3 cards during each Draw Phase. We played with decks of no real pre-set size (as once you’d run out of cards in the deck you’d just take some more cards from the central pool of the box) and 10 000 instead of 8000 Life Points. Same as in the Magic Big Box Philippe introduced me to, each card is only included once in the YGO Big Box and cards are drawn in a totally random manner. One huge problem we ran into was caused by the one normal summon per turn rule that is in place in the YGO TCG. What happened was that my sis drew pretty much Monsters only, at a rate of 3 cards per turn, and all she could do is set or play a Monster and then give over to me, with Monster cards piling up in her hand rapidly and without much use…

One possible fix for that would be to increase the number of allowed Normal Summons to two per turn. On the other hand, especially when playing with an Extra Deck with Synchro- and XYZ-Monsters (We have a shared Extra Deck with a ton of Synchros and XYZs to pick from – only one copy of each however – while Philippe refuses to play with Extra Decks as something that seems to be a general policy of his for one reason or another; but fair enough) that would create an obvious problem…

If you’d be allowed to Normal Summon twice you could easily Synchro Summon with a tuner and a non-tuner played from hand on the same turn, well on turn one even, and even more easily you could overlay your Normal Summoned Monsters right away if they shared a Level, and drop a nasty XYZ guy as soon as turn 1, which’d be less fun I’d say. What I am thinking currently on how to fix this new issue would be something like this: We could make up a rule that says you can EITHER Normal Summon two Monsters during your turn, whereby no Tribute Summon would be allowed as one of your Normal Summons, and by doing so you’d not be allowed to Special Summon from your Extra Deck on the same turn, OR you’d have one Normal Summon and are permitted to Special Summon from the Extra Deck to your heart’s content!!

I think having to choose between 2 Normal Summons and no XYZ and Synchro Summon (I left Fusions out of the game entirely, since they require a particular card, namely Polymerization, or some variation of that card, in order to perform a Fusion Summon. Drawing into Polymerization or some of the very few similar cards is simply too unlikely to ever happen…) versus one Normal Summon and Special Summoning from your Extra Deck (Either XYZ or Synchro) would be a good way to tackle the dilemma we ran into. Of course, lots of testing will show if the approach is viable and even working at all. Plus I am sure I will be coming up with several other special rules for Big Box YGO as we go along with testing the newly invented variety of the game! In the same way I am dead certain more problems will pop up as we keep playing but solutions shall and will be found for those issues as well as I am very much positive about! 😀

As for my Big Box Magic, I tweaked some of Philippe’s rules and how he did it a bit, giving it my very own touch and thus improving the gameplay experience – in my opinion! For instance I skipped all the old, outdated crap cards and am using only Modern layout cards (mind you I didn’t say Modern Format cards. There are lots of awesome older cards that are not Modern Legal but do have Modern layout versions available, as they were reprinted in Duel Decks and stuff like that – Swords to Plowshares and Memory Lapse would be only two examples….). Also, I added non-basic lands to the land deck – in a 50:50 ratio of basic lands and non-basic lands with the land deck card count totaling in at about 120 cards. This way it makes sense to have non-basic land hate/stuff that benefits from your opponent having non-basic lands to the mix in your Magic Big Box – quite to the contrary of what my friend Philippe had. I was a bit annoyed to have wasted some draws on Spells that only do something when non-basic lands are in play. But I do understand. My Swiss friend didn’t have the time to “cherry pick” each individual card like I did – I really only added cards that work with the format, of all types and rarities, and left out cards that do little in a 5 colors format with half the lands being non-basic, for example cards like Consume Spirit and Nightmare… Apart from that, I left what I had seen with Philippe untouched, rules-wise!

Anyways, that is it about what I brought with me from my amazing (but short, alas!) trip to Switzerland when it comes to games and new ways to play and enjoy them! If YOU got a large collection of Magic and/or YGO cards and can spare some cash for a ton of card sleeves, I can highly recommend building either your own Big Box Magic or Big Box YGO (will post the final rules for the latter once we have thoroughly tested and figured out everything!) or even both for yourself and give it a hurl! It is a ton of fun I can ensure you!! And there are not two games that will be the same, that’s for sure!!

YGO Thumbsup

THANK YOU Philippe for inspiring me with your great, great variant of playing MtG as well as for your boundless kindness, generosity and hospitality when I had the pleasure to stay with you for a few days! And three cheers to all my other, newfound Swiss friends whom I had the pleasure to meet and game with during my visit to Switzerland!!

So, as usual I wish you all – and the Swiss in particular this time around 😉