A guide to three fun Magic the Gathering cards formats for two players

This will be a short introduction and guide to the limited format, as well as a presentation of three different ways to play limited if you are two players. For those of you who are not familiar with the limited format in magic, it is a format where the card pool from which you build your deck is limited, e.g. a maximum of 6 booster packs. A good thing about playing limited is, that neither of you need to have a pre built deck to take part; you simply build the deck as you go 🙂

A limited deck consists of a minimum of 40 cards. All the other cards that you open, but don’t put in you deck, can be used as your sideboard. You can put as many basic lands from outside your card pool as you want in your deck, they don’t need to be included in the cards you open. Other land types however, like the different guild gates in the current Ravnica set for example, can only be put in your limited deck if they were included in your limited card pool. And there is no restriction on how many copies of one card you may put in your deck, so if you open five Fireblade Artists, you may play all of them in your limited deck.

So now, a quick guide to building a limited deck, which preferably consists of 17-18 lands and usually 14-17 creatures. Start by going through all the cards you got and divide them into their different colours. Then, I suggest you go through the different colours looking for “bombs” by which I mean strong cards; cards that could win you the game if your opponent doesn’t have an answer to them quickly. In Ravnica Allegiance, examples of bombs are Hydroid Krasis, Biogenic Ooze and Angel of Grace. But, these type of cards can’t do all the work themselves, so even if you open an Angel of Grace, but the rest of the white cards are just not good, perhaps you will need to choose other main colour(s) and just splash a bit of white, if you still think you should play her.

Apart from having your own bombs, you need to have answers to you opponents bombs, so look for good removal spells amongst your cards. Unless you have opened an amazing low curve creature base, where there neither is much room nor need for removal, it is usually quite good to put as much removal in your deck as possible. And remember that limited is a slow enough format for mana expensive removal like Get the Point to count as good 🙂

And speaking of curve, the mana curve in limited is very important and you need to have some early plays. Playing a big bunch of one-drop creatures isn’t usually a good strategy, however, as they often are small and don’t have a big impact on the board. In stead, let the 2, 3 and 4 mana slots be where most of your creatures are, with the 3 mana slot being the most heavy, generally speaking.

Keeping the mana base dual coloured, perhaps with a third colour splash, is generally a good idea, as it allows good consistency. Generally speaking, if you want to play aggro, keep the colour palate small, and if you want to play a more controlling deck, you may have the ability to splash more colours.

And lastly, but not least, when choosing cards, don’t try to mix different synergies/mechanics in the one deck as your deck should have somewhat of a cohesive gameplan (controlling, aggressive or as mixture). When choosing creatures, creatures with evasion are generally strong in limited. Evasion basically means that they are difficult to block and include creatures with flying, menace, double strike, first strike, deathtouch or – of course – unblockable 😉

Now, let’s get to the three limited formats 🙂

1. Sealed deck

You will need the following:

  1. Basic lands – in case you might end up playing a mono coloured deck, I recommend you bring at least 18 of each basic land type. However, with the limited card pool, decks often end up being at least dual coloured, in order to have as much value as possible in the deck. If you don’t have any basic lands, you can usually buy them very cheaply at the same store where you buy the boosters.
  2. Six unopened booster packs per person.
  3. 40 card sleeves per person (not a necessity to play, but perhaps you might open a valuable card that you wish to protect 🙂 )
  4. Some way to keep track of life total: dice, pen and paper or whatever you prefer.
  5. Counters and tokens, if the included cards have effects that creates one or the other.

Start with opening all your boosters and build your deck, according to the guide lines mentioned above. Once you have your 40 card deck, you are ready to go! 🙂

Can be played even if you are more than two people – you would just need more boosters for the party 😉


2. Winston draft

You will need the following:

  1. 90 cards in total, favourably from some kind of sealed product, so you don’t know precisely what cards will be included, e.g. 6 booster packs from the same set, or a mix.
  2. Basic lands.
  3. 40 card sleeves (recommendation only).
  4. Life tracker.
  5. Counters and tokens (potentially).

Shuffle the 90 cards well together to form a big pile. From the pig pile, create three small piles, with only one card in each. Then decide which player gets to start. Player A starts by looking at one of the small piles and decides whether he/she wants to include that pile in their card pool. If the answer is No, put the pile back and add a card, then move on to the next pile. If neither of the three piles were interesting, player A draws a card from the big pile and then it is time for player B to perform the same procedure. If a player finds a pile they want, they simply pick up all cards included in that pile, and then start building a new pile, by placing the top card from the big pile on the spot where the picked up pile was. And then that players turn ends, even if he/she only got to look at one pile. This is repeated until all 90 cards have been distributed.


And then, it is time to build a 40 cards deck, according to the same guidelines as mentioned above. The difference here, compared to the sealed deck format, is that you have a chance to start planning what deck you want to play, based on the cards you get to see early in the draft pool, and then have a chance to influence what cards you get to add to that deck.


3. Pack war

This is quite the fun format! A bit janky, but good fun! 🙂 You will need the following:

  1. Two booster packs per person.
  2. 45 sleeves (recommendation only).
  3. Three of each basic land type per person.
  4. Life tracker.
  5. Tokens and counters (potentially).


Player A and player B open their packs, but don’t look at what cards they got. Remove the token and the advertisement card, if such is included. Shuffle the rest of them together with the basic lands, and there is your deck! 🙂


The pack war format don’t always allow the deck to run smoothly, since it is quite the mix of stuff, but since that might be the case for both players, there is a chance you will get a fun, long going game out of it anyway 🙂

I’m hoping this post have inspired you to try some of these formats and wish you a good time playing! 🙂

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