From the Director's Chair
The “Gatherer-Terrible” Format

Magic designer Shawn Main (@ShawnPlays Magic on Twitter) came up with a goofy constructed format that sounded like something I’d enjoy: “Gatherer-Terrible.” The rules are simple—you can only use cards rated by the community on Wizards’ Gatherer card database as 2.0 or less out of 5. There are currently over 12,000 cards legal in Magic’s largest format, Vintage, and Gatherer-Terrible restricts you to the 1,400 (give or take) worst of them. That’s barely 10%, and not all of them are on Magic Online!

Back in the mid-90s, my brother, my college roommate, and I played a similar format that was restricted to cards rated 2 stars or fewer out of five by InQuest magazine. My deck back then was built around the tournament-playable Fiery Justice (still one of my all-time favorites).

That card isn’t legal in this format, so I had to look elsewhere for ways to get ahead on the board “with value,” as card advantage is king when everyone’s cards are bad. A look through the card list revealed the 7th Edition limited bomb Dakmor Lancer was available. Wow! There weren’t any reasonable ways to get it back from my graveyard, so I settled on an old pet card of mine, Obelisk of Undoing, as a way to reuse the enters-the-battlefield ability of the Lancer.

From there I looked for other cards with good ETB abilities (there aren’t many), and found Quirion Trailblazer and Abyssal Horror. The fact that the Tempest black-green dual land (Pine Barrens) and a slew of maligned two-mana accelerators (Moss Diamond, Blightsoil Druid, and Wirewood Elf) were around made me confident a high-mana card advantage Rock-style deck could work.

Obelisk of Undoing

Obelisk of Undoing Rock

4 Abyssal Horror

1 Arctic Wolves

4 Blightsoil Druid

4 Dakmor Lancer

4 Quirion Trailblazer

4 Wirewood Elf


1 Absorb Vis

2 Afflict

2 Colfenor’s Plans

2 Feebleness

4 Moss Diamond

3 Obelisk of Undoing

1 Pull Under

1 The Hive

Dakmor Lancer——-

7 Forest

4 Pine Barrens

11 Swamp

1 Tomb of Urami



1 Bottle of Suleiman

2 Execute

1 Gauntlets of Chaos

1 Morbid Hunger

1 Nantuko Calmer

1 Rebuking Ceremony

2 Rotting Legion

2 Slay

1 Three Tragedies

1 Torture Chamber

2 Uktabi Faerie

The sideboard was just a bunch of stuff. I thought the fact that Slay and Execute were both legal would keep green and white creature decks at bay (and kept my number of Arctic Wolves to 1). They’d certainly be 4-ofs if the metagame allowed it! Rebuking Ceremony is another card with the potential to be backbreaking, and against Shawn Main’s deck I wish I had more than one in my list.

I played Shawn’s mono-black deck first. It was based on the card Famine combined with creatures big enough to survive it. I had Dakmor Lancers for all his Thran War Machines, a timely Pull Under for his Dread Reaper, and ripped his hand apart with the Abyssal Horrors.

My other opponent was another Magic designer, Ethan Fleisher (@EthanFleischer on Twitter), boldly piloting green-white fatties (Nettletooth Djinn, Ruham Djinn, Whiptail Wurm, etc.). His Sudden Strengths were giving me fits, but I won game one by the skin of my teeth with my one Urami. I lost game two by making a bad decision not to block a 4/4 while at 7 life (Sudden Strength again), but won game three after pulling out of missing my second land drop with a string of Lancers and Slays.

The format is a fun diversion, although likely not deep enough for too much exploration.

Thanks to Shawn for the idea!

Follow me on Twitter: @mtgaaron

  1. bufudyne reblogged this from mtgaaron
  2. pseudosoldier reblogged this from mtgaaron
  3. benagain said: Good stuff. How often do you double-check ratings for deck legality? Seems like there’s some fun in rating cards just for this format.
  4. magicjunkie reblogged this from mtgaaron and added:
    love janky constructed formats.
  5. ugotpauld reblogged this from mtgaaron
  6. magicmissileheadshot reblogged this from mtgaaron and added:
    I wanna try this format
  7. sitedwellr said: this is soooo awesome! i love when people create these diff. formats - give people a chance to use cards they normally wouldn’t. i should gather my friends and try this out.
  8. mtgaaron posted this