For the past week, all the Standard playtime I’ve had has been devoted to preparing for the Pre-PTQ season, which, for me, involves a boatload of games with Jeskai Ascendancy. I’ve been working with the heroic variant for a while, which most people have seen since it won the Open a while back. Seeing as how that deck’s not very popular, I figured I’d step away from Standard for this article and shine a light on a format that is gaining popularity quickly for good reason.

Apparently, someone developed a casual format that allows deckbuilding restrictions that take Commander to a new level, without sacrificing the competitive power level of eternal formats like Legacy. It’s been coined Tiny Leaders.

While it may not have a catchy name, the format is fairly simple. You play with 50-card decks, all singleton apart from basic lands. You play with a Commander, with the same rules for them as in Commander itself (only using that Legendary Creature’s color identity within the deck), life totals begin at 25, and it’s meant to be played against a single opponent as opposed to a four-player game like Commander.

Oh, and every card has to be converted mana cost three or less.

The restrictions placed on deckbuilding in this format are the first things that appeal to me. I love building decks in new ways, and this format is definitely worth diving into if you love to brew.

Immediately after reading the e-flyer that was posted to my game shop’s Facebook page, I began to dig into the format. What are the obvious cards that are insane? What cards are missing from Legacy or Modern decks that would make playing a singleton version bad? What color combinations are impossible to find a three mana cost Commander for?

Needless to say, I was smitten. This format is a wonderland for brewing right now. It was so glorious, in fact, that I jumped straight from brewing on a sticky note to trashing an EDH deck so that I had the manabase for my first Tiny Leaders deck.

Here’s a short glimpse of the long list of cards I was excited to play in this format:

White Sun’s Zenith Trinket Mage Glimpse of Nature Wild Nacatl Grim Lavamancer Qasali Pridemage Engineered Explosives Death Cloud Pernicious Deed Wheel of Fortune Abrupt Decay

Eager to play the format, I shoved together the only deck I had the cards immediately on hand for, which is a deck I’ve wanted to play for a long time. There have been many days I’ve lamented not playing Wild Nacatl and its kin, and since I’d recently finished polishing a Naya manabase for Commander, scrapping the deck together took nothing more than two or three trades with the other person I convinced to delve into this format. (Interesting tidbit, delve isn’t playable in this format.)

Marath Zoo

Creatures (23)
Wild Nacatl
Kird Ape
Loam Lion
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
Mother of Runes
Experiment One
Skarrgan Pit-Skulk
Sunblade Elf
Grim Lavamancer
Hellspark Elemental
Scavenging Ooze
Scab-Clan Mauler
Qasali Pridemage
Stormblood Berserker
Knight of the White Orchid
Goblin Bushwhacker
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Mirran Crusader
Woolly Thoctar
Loxodon Smiter
Mentor of the Meek
Goblin Ruinblaster
Marath, Will of the Wild

Planeswalkers (2)
Domri Rade
Ajani, Caller of the Pride

Enchantments (1)
Sylvan Library

Spells (8)
Path to Exile
Lightning Bolt
Reckless Charge
Flame Rift
Boros Charm
Lightning Helix
Wheel of Fortune

Land (16)
Wooded Foothills
Windswept Heath
Arid Mesa
Stomping Ground
Temple Garden
Sacred Foundry
Copperline Gorge
Razorverge Thicket
Mana Confluence
Command Tower

The deck is absurdly fun to play, first of all, and the few games I got to play revealed some very key factors of this format. Firstly, this isn’t Commander. It’s a casual format, but it’s tailored toward the players who like eternal formats rather than casual ones. It’s perfect for competitive players who want something fresh to play every once in a while when their format of choice gets a bit stale.

My opponent was playing a more quickly-constructed Nin, the Pain Artist control deck, which, while I rolled over it like a truck, informed us of some pretty important things. This, unlike Commander, isn’t a format for a bunch of cards deemed unplayable in constructed, nor is it a format for durdling. Grasping the concept was a little awkward, but it’s very much a mix of Legacy and Modern, but with cards that were just shy of playable, like Mentor of the Meek.

Worth noting, Marath, Will of the Wild is insane as a Commander here. One of the few negative things I can say about this format is that there are some color combinations with either no possible Commander (since the Commander has to also be converted mana cost three or less) or no viable one (Grixis decks are stuck with Tetsuo Umezawa). For Naya, the only other option is Mayael, the Anima, who does very little for this deck. That being said, Marath might be too good. It’s possible that testing against other more finely-tuned decks will show that he’s simply good against control decks, but the games we played clearly illustrated his inevitability, and my opponent suggested that he may need banned in the format, which I don’t necessarily disagree with.

That being said, I’m excited to test this format a lot more, and I already have a long list of decks I plan to build, varying from Glissa, the Traitor Rock to Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer Control.

Let me know if you guys are as interested in this format as much as I am, and if you’d like to see more lists! I’m going to be cranking them out over the next week or two anyway, and I’d love to discuss the format more.

Duncan Martin is an artist/musician/writer/whatever from Jeffersonville, Indiana, who spends his days sorting cards, helping people brew decks, and petitioning to have Second Sunrise unbanned in Modern. He likes to draw cards, dredge cards, scry cards, and talk about old formats, Pro Tours, and awesome decks that have long since passed.

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