One major overhaul in the way I play Magic is to focus on having more fun and staying creative. Tournaments are great, tracking the metagame is useful, and grinding is a way of life, but at the end of the day I want to spend more time doing things in Magic that I truly enjoy.

I love casual and creative formats that get players thinking outside the established and familiar ways of things. Show me an MTG variant and I’m immediately interested in thinking about how that format works and some sweet deck that I’d love to put together.

What Is Timeline?

Today, I’d like to share a format that I’ve been working on that has proven to be a ton of fun. I’ve been calling it “MTG Timeline.” The idea behind the format is fairly elegant: Build a singleton deck that features exactly one card (no more, no less) from every unique MTG expansion:

  • Arabian Nights
  • Antiquities
  • Legends
  • The Dark
  • Fallen Empires
  • Ice Age
  • Homelands
  • Alliances
  • Mirage
  • Visions
  • Weatherlight
  • Tempest
  • Stronghold
  • Exodus
  • Urza’s Saga
  • Urza’s Legacy
  • Urza’s Destiny
  • Mercadian Masques
  • Nemesis
  • Prophecy
  • Invasion
  • Planeshift
  • Apocalypse
  • Odyssey
  • Torment
  • Judgement
  • Onslaught
  • Legions
  • Scourge
  • Mirrodin
  • Darksteel
  • Fifth Dawn
  • Champions of Kamigawa
  • Betrayers of Kamigawa
  • Saviors of Kamigawa
  • Ravnica
  • Guildpact
  • Dissention
  • Coldsnap
  • Time Spiral
  • Planar Chaos
  • Future Sight
  • Lorwyn
  • Morningtide
  • Shadowmoor
  • Eventide
  • Shards of Alara
  • Conflux
  • Alara Reborn
  • Zendikar
  • Worldwake
  • Rise of the Eldrazi
  • Scars of Mirrodin
  • Mirrodin Besieged
  • New Phyrexia
  • Innistrad
  • Dark Ascension
  • Avacyn Restored
  • Return to Ravnica
  • Gatecrash
  • Dragon’s Maze
  • Theros
  • Born of the Gods
  • Journey Into Nyx
  • Khans of Tarkir
  • Fate Reforged
  • Dragons of Tarkir
  • Battle for Zendikar
  • Oath of the Gatewatch
  • Shadows over Innistrad
  • Eldritch Moon
  • Kaladesh
  • Aether Revolt
  • Amonkhet
  • Hour of Devastation
  • Ixalan
  • Rivals of Ixalan
  • Dominaria

All together, the finished product will result in a 78-card Highlander deck with a neat twist on basic lands. In Timeline, basic lands are not “free rolls,” which means that you’ll need to select basic lands as a choice from a set if you want them in your deck! You may take more than one of each basic.

The other deck construction guideline that I’ve decided to start with is to simply use the Legacy Banned List to cull cards like Library of Alexandria, Skullclamp, and Tolarian Academy from the mix. Although I haven’t tried it yet, I also think it could be cool to try out a version of this format that doesn’t have a banned list, which would allow for some really busted cards to come into play.

It’s a casual format to play with friends, so it’s really up to you to define what the nuances should be!

One of my friends from the LGS, Brian Kinnel, came up with the basic premise of a format where players pick cards from various sets. He had rules for including the core sets and other Magic releases (Commander decks, Battlebond, etc.) and I basically streamlined it to be a little more intuitive.

On the surface, it might seem as though this is just a 78-card Legacy Highlander format, but the actual deck construction and game play is dramatically different from what I expected. For starters, many of the powerful, linear mechanics are all jammed into only a handful of sets. For instance, the majority of dredge cards are spread across a small number of sets, which makes building a “dredge-centric” deck difficult.

Here are a couple of the unique decks that I put together for battling Timeline:

B/G Rock

Brian DeMars

Arabian Nights – City of Brass
Antiquities – Mishra’s Factory
Legends- Sylvan Library
The Dark – Elves of Deep Shadow
Fallen Empires – Hymn to Tourach
Ice Age – Snow-Covered Forest
Homelands – Headstone
Alliances – Thawing Glaciers

Mirage – Swamp
Visions – Uktabi Orangutan
Weatherlight – Wall of Blossoms

Tempest – Wasteland
Stronghold – Volrath’s Stronghold
Exodus – Wood Elves

Urza’s Saga – Duress
Urza’s Legacy – Bone Shredder
Urza’s Destiny – Yavimaya Hollow

Mercadian Masques – Dust Bowl
Nemesis – Blastoderm
Prophecy – Plague Wind

Invasion – Forest
Planeshift – Terminal Moraine
Apocalypse – Pernicious Deed

Odyssey – Forest
Torment – Chainer’s Edict
Judgement – Phantom Centaur

Onslaught – Krosan Tusker
Legions – Graveborn Muse
Scourge – Decree of Pain

Mirrodin – Oblivion Stone
Darksteel – Blinkmoth Nexus
Fifth Dawn – Eternal Witness

Champions of Kamigawa – Sakura-Tribe Elder
Betrayers of Kamigawa – Umezawa’s Jitte
Saviors of Kamigawa – Mikokoro, Center of the Sea

Ravnica – Golgari Rot Farm
Guildpact – Orzhov Basilica
Dissension – Simic Growth Chamber

Coldsnap – Grim Harvest

Time Spiral – Pendelhaven
Planar Chaos – Harmonize
Future Sight – Tarmogoyf

Lorwyn – Thoughtseize
Morningtide – Bitterblossom

Shadowmoor – Fulminator Mage
Eventide – Twilight Mire

Shards of Alara – Forest
Conflux – Exotic Orchard
Alara Reborn – Maelstrom Pulse

Zendikar – Verdant Catacombs
Worldwake – Bojuka Bog
Rise of the Eldrazi – Prophetic Prism

Scars of Mirrodin –Nihil Spellbomb
Mirrodin Besieged – Thrun, the Last Troll
New Phyrexia – Karn Liberated

Innistrad – Liliana of the Veil
Dark Ascension – Evolving Wilds
Avacyn Restored – Swamp

Return to Ravnica – Overgrown Tomb
Gatecrash – Stomping Ground
Dragon’s Maze – Golgari Guildgate

Theros – Thoughtseize
Born of the Gods – Courser of Kruphix
Journey into Nyx – Temple of Malady

Khans of Tarkir – Windswept Heath
Fate Reforged – Jungle Hollow
Dragons of Tarkir – Den Protector

Battle for Zendikar – Forest
Oath of the Gatewatch – Hissing Quagmire

Shadows over Innistrad – Traverse the Ulvenwald
Eldritch Moon – Grim Flayer

Kaladesh – Swamp
Aether Revolt – Walking Ballista

Amonkhet – Swamp
Hour of Devastation – Hour of Promise

Ixalan – Carnage Tyrant
Rivals of Ixalan – Vraska, Relic Seeker

Dominaria – Field of Ruin

I really enjoy playing this deck, even though I think it may be the weakest of the three I’ve built. It’s got good mana and consistently good cards around the board, but plays an admittedly slightly unfocused game.

The other big challenge that comes with building a Timeline deck is deciding which sets to include lands from. Not every set has basic lands, which means that taking them comes at a high premium, since they are likely to be included in big sets with lots of spicy alternate spell options.

Basics are really good, since cards like these exist:

Which brings me to my second deck…

Big Red

Brian DeMars

Arabian Nights – Mountain
Antiquities – Mishra’s Factory
Legends – Chain Lightning
The Dark – Blood Moon
Fallen Empires – Aeolipile
Ice Age – Incinerate
Homelands – Serrated Arrows
Alliances – Thawing Glaciers

Mirage – Mountain
Visions – Fireblast
Weatherlight – Mind Stone

Tempest – Wasteland
Stronghold – Shock
Exodus – Ravenous Baboons

Urza’s Saga – Mountain
Urza’s Legacy – Ghitu Encampment
Urza’s Destiny – Thran Dynamo

Mercadian Masques – Mountain
Nemesis – Terrain Generator
Prophecy – Keldon Firebombers

Invasion – Mountain
Planeshift – Flametongue Kavu
Apocalypse – Fire // Ice

Odyssey – Mountain
Torment – Grim Lavamancer
Judgement – Browbeat

Onslaught – Forgotten Cave
Legions – Siege-Gang Commander
Scourge – Sulfuric Vortex

Mirrodin – Mountain
Darksteel – Sword of Fire and Ice
Fifth Dawn – Magma Jet

Champions of Kamigawa – Mountain
Betrayers of Kamigawa – Umezawa’s Jitte
Saviors of Kamigawa – Mikokoro, Center of the Sea

Ravnica – Mountain
Guildpact – Steam Vents
Dissention – Demonfire

Coldsnap – Snow-Covered Mountain

Time Spiral – Vesuva
Planar Chaos – Detritivore
Future Sight – Keldon Megaliths

Lorwyn – Ingot Chewer
Morningtide – Mutavault

Shadowmoor – Fulminator Mage
Eventide – Duergar Hedge-Mage

Shards of Alara – Mountain
Conflux – Exotic Orchard
Alara Reborn – Firewild Borderpost

Zendikar – Teetering Peaks
Worldwake- Smoldering Spires
Rise of the Eldrazi – Kargan Dragonlord

Scars of Mirrodin – Koth of the Hammer
Mirrodin Besieged – Slagstorm
New Phyrexia – Sword of War and Peace

Innistrad – Mountain
Dark Ascension – Hellrider
Avacyn Restored – Mountain

Return to Ravnica – Mountain
Gatecrash – Boros Reckoner
Dragon’s Maze – Pyrewild Shaman

Theros – Stormbreath Dragon
Born of the Gods – Searing Blood
Journey into Nyx – Eidolon of the Great Revel

Khans of Tarkir – Mountain
Fate Reforged – Mountain
Dragons of Tarkir – Thunderbreak Regent

Battle for Zendikar – Mountain
Oath of the Gatewatch –Mountain

Shadows over Innistrad – Mountain
Eldritch Moon – Collective Defiance

Kaladesh – Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Aether Revolt – Walking Ballista

Amonkhet – Glorybringer
Hour of Devastation – Earthshaker Khenra

Ixalan – Lightning Strike
Rivals of Ixalan – Rekindling Phoenix

Dominaria – Goblin Chainwhirler

I’ll admit that I did scale the land destruction element in this deck way back because it seemed absurdly powerful (and not very fun) to play against. With that being said, it’s a pretty fun deck to play and creates interesting and fun games against my B/G Rock deck.

One of the neat elements of Timeline is how deep you can go with building and improving a deck. I know a lot about Magic cards, but when it comes to “what are my options for playables from Nemesis…” I need to do a search in order to figure it out.

If you are lucky enough to have a friend, or two, or three, who is into building decks for wacky formats, this might be one that you’ll all enjoy.

I haven’t pushed the power level of my decks very hard so far, so there is obvious room to power them up over time, which is cool. I also haven’t built a blue deck yet, which I’m kind of excited about doing but wanted to give friends from my LGS the first crack at them.

I would say that the biggest downside of this format is that building decks can be a little bit tedious and requires a lot of planning. On the flip side of that, I’m not sure that is actually a terrible thing, since a lot of people really love going deep on building decks and exploring huge card pools. I’ll admit that I was surprised at some of the cards I found myself playing with from certain sets just because they felt like the best available option!

At the end of the day, it’s another interesting way to explore basic skill sets like card evaluation and deck building (which is something that I personally really enjoy). It also offers the opportunity to play with some exciting cards that don’t typically see play in Constructed and offers the potential to play familiar cards in a completely unfamiliar way.

I think my favorite aspect of this format is how it leads deck builders to play a mix of cards spread equally across the entire time span of Magic. Another aspect of the format I’m interested in exploring is how to (or whether not to) include core sets and/or “non-Standard release expansions” in a way that feels intuitive.

If you do decide to shuffle up this format, I hope that you enjoy the format as much as I do!