Desert island mtg

How to Survive on a Desert Island with 150 Plains and a Sharpie

Today’s article is going to be a neat one! Last weekend I had a lot of fun on Twitter by posting the following MTG Theory question:

People seemed like they were having a lot of fun thinking about it and honestly those are the best Magic questions! The cool thing about the question is that if you answer it honestly, whatever answer you give speaks volumes about what you value the most about playing MTG.

Some of the answers surprised me, some of the answers impressed me, and some of the answers made me LOL. I’d like to break down the question and also share some of the answers that I thought were fantastic.

An Epic Question

I came up with the question when I was at my LGS last week. I was looking at some of the old MTG promotional posters and one in particular caught my eye: The Saviors of Kamigawa poster for the Epic mechanic, which reads: “If you could only cast one spell for the rest of your life, what would it be?”

Given all options as a planeswalker, what would you want your signature spell to be? It’s kind of the MTG equivalent of picking a superpower. Mindslaver felt like a strong one.


Mindslaver Brian Demars

Puppet Master Brian Demars

I quickly realized picking Mindslaver was to choose a life as a poorly dressed super villain. The knee-high boots, purple pants and cape, no shirt, handlebar moustache and monocle life just isn’t for me!

I decided to go with a classic: Time Walk.

Time Walk

Live the easy life. Take all the turns and win with Urza’s Factory and Mishra’s Factory.

I could always work on building a Mindslaver hat in my spare time (of which I would have infinite).

Mindslaver hat

Clearly, I’m gaming the question here, but to be fair I would expect nothing less from any thoughtful Magic player. After all, isn’t part of building the best deck to look at the options and try to make the most broken deck possible?

“A Demon kidnaps you and your best Magic friend and locks you in a dungeon for 10 years. He leaves you 150 Revised Plains and allows you to Proxy two Constructed decks to pass the time. He also tells you if either player tries to game the system, or uses the cards to represent anything other than the intended proxied card, you will both instantly go blind and deaf, and be stuck in the cell for eternity.”

Way too dark and way less fun. I didn’t make it easy to break the game, but I made people who took that approach work for it, with limited ink in their sharpies.

These were by far my favorite examples of trying to break the game:

Yes! You could certainly find ways to mark the cards outside of just Sharpie Ink to create more options.

I loved this one, and it was also the most-liked response–the idea of writing out decklists in the sand had not even occurred to me! This is the kind of individual you’d want to be stuck on an island with, because he’s full of good ideas to pass the time.

Would You Play a Different Format?

Some other outside-the-box thinkers decided that one Constructed matchup wasn’t the way they’d choose to spend their proxies.

I’m with Jason here! I’d also build a Battle Box to maximize the diversity of possible gameplay. I could easily pass several weeks simply debating the card choices.

You could even use other objects to represent the lands (since they start outside the game) to maximize getting 150 cards into the deck.

Mental Magic was another popular choice.

There are easily enough cards to build a great Mental Magic stack by including a diverse group of converted mana costs. The one thing that might get dicey is that after several years removed from civilization and no way to fact-check, I’m sure the players would start making up their own cards! “You don’t remember Ancestral Hymn-call? I draw three and you discard two at random!”

I’d double and triple down on some of the more common costs: U, 1U, and 2U. 150 unique costs gets a little awkward…

Craw Giant

Does anything besides Craw Giant cost 3GGG?

A Cube is also an interesting choice!

Who let this guy into my feed! Haha and just kidding. You could certainly also pick a game outside of MTG. It makes a lot of sense to me that in a “gaming the format” answer to the question, there should clearly be a way to distinguish a deck of traditional playing cards so that you have access to all of the traditional card games. I’m a big Cribbage fan, myself.

I inadvertently created a hell scenario for EDH players! I’m so sorry for that!

The Spirit of the Question

If you are not gaming the question to get options beyond “one matchup to rule them all,” chances are that the question made you think about what is your favorite matchup of all time, which is a cool question in and of itself.

I don’t think this is a question that you can get right or wrong, because it is a personal one. The other thing that complicates the question is that you have to imagine playing the matchup against the same person. So, who is your favorite person and what matchup would the two of you get the most enjoyment from replaying the longest?

To be fair, I also worded the question as: “You’re stuck on an island with your best MTG friend.” So, that you don’t have to choose a friend to take out of their life into exile. Personally, if I were going to game the system I’d choose some terrible person (just to remove them from the population) and their punishment for being terrible would be an eternity of getting their butt kicked in the control mirror by me. I’d also consider taking Macgyver in hopes he could build us some jet skis out of coconuts and palm leaves.

Anyways, the heart of the question is “what is the most fun, interesting, and replayable match up in Magic?”

Andreas makes a good point. You’d have to decide which format to play first and who you ended up on the island with would likely impact which format you chose to play!

I’ll break down the answers by format:


“The Deck” was an extremely popular choice. It makes sense, since almost 30 years later people invented a format (Old School) as justification to basically continue playing The Deck mirrors! Obviously, Old School is cooler than just mirrors, but hopefully you get my meaning. It’s a matchup that has clearly stood the test of time in a unique way.


A classic matchup, but a little bit lopsided in favor of BUG (Sultai).

Even though I didn’t go with the Torture Demon question, some people do it to themselves!

A really tough matchup for Miracles. I wish I knew which side Jayton wants to play because he either loves a challenge, or really has an axe to grind against his control mage friend!

Emma is on a desert island with a 150 total cards and using 8 on Deathrite Shaman!

When you know what you like, you know what you like!

Solid choice. Solid gameplay.


Ideal for midrange fans!

Dibs on Hogaak! Interesting idea to pick busted decks from different eras.

How do you decide what’s a realistic and fair build of each deck?

Mirrors are always a good choice, especially complex ones like Twin. It would be kind of a nightmare to have to play a bad matchup, ad nauseum, forever!

Sounds about right! LOL.


Love the choice. Would take the Heezy Street deck!

A lot of play to the Caw-Blade mirror!

I can’t fault someone for wanting to play their favorite deck of all time. I’d do the same thing.

Leaving the Island

One of the things that really blew me away was how diverse the answers to the question truly were! There are so many great, iconic, and fun matchups across the history of Magic.

My “gamer” answer is that I would have built a Battle Box. My slightly less gamey gamer answer would be to take turns picking cards, Rotisserie Draft style to make a great pool of cards that could be redrafted. My actual, “in-the-spirit-of-the-question answer would be to play the Control Slaver mirror.

Pretty funny that Mindslaver is at the top of my list of decks I would play AND spell I would cast. I guess I should start picking out capes and monocles….

My favorite response:


If you could only play one matchup, what would it be and why?

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