When I began playing Magic: The Gathering, around the time of the Innistrad block and a few weeks before Return to Ravnica launched, I quickly learned two things about the game. First, despite having three local game shops within 10 miles of my home, the only format being played in my area was standard constructed. Second, Standard is expensive.

It was just months later, after having put together an Innistrad-heavy reanimator deck, someone casually told me my deck was going to “rotate out.”

With no support for modern, limited, pauper, or even EDH in my area, I found myself pushed away from the competitive sanctioned scene and turned to casual playgroups amongst friends.

However, as much fun as I was having, these events presented their own problems when I tried to get some of these groups to draft with me. There were so many points of contention! Which sets do we draft? How often? The overall cost involved with buying boosters for a single night of Magic was more than most were willing to spend, and the comparatively astronomical price made building a cube out of the question. The list was endless and it was crippling.

Finally, the answer to having a fun and inexpensive limited play came in form of the Deckbuilder’s Toolkit.

The Deckbuilder’s Toolkit

The Deckbuilder’s Toolkit is an annual product aimed squarely at new players and is meant to be a starting off point for someone who is just setting foot into the game. Now, it of course has the storage box itself, a pack of 100 basic lands, and the rules sheet. The important part though is that it includes four sealed booster packs and a 125 card semi-randomized seeded pack.

The four boosters include one pack from the newest set, and three boosters from sets that have recently rotated or are about to rotate out of standard.

The 125 card pack is what makes this product unique and interesting for limited play. For starters, the Magic Origins set contains five rares that can only be found in this seeded pack, which should satisfy collectors or completionists in your group. The rest of the pack contains cards which highlight specific strategies and mechanics found in the included boosters, plus all the necessary multi-colored lands for proper mana fixing. This adds a great deal of versatility as the seeded pack is divided up evenly between colors and strategies, giving players a wider range to choose from when building a deck and making limited construction much more casual-friendly.

Recycled Limited Play - Format Breakdown

While the Deckbuilder’s Toolkit might be slightly more expensive than just buying four boosters (currently the Magic Origins toolkit sits at $16.99 on Amazon Prime), the potential for ongoing and recyclable limited play at home is what makes the product shine.

Each participant in your kitchen table league begins with their own sealed Deckbuilder’s Toolkit and uses its contents to build the deck or decks they’ll be piloting that night or throughout the season, depending on what your group decides. At the end of playing, all of the cards are put back into the included storage box until the next event, and no cards may be added or removed from the Toolkit.

That’s it for the basic format.

Easy To Expand

Groups wanting to play limited occasionally or sporadically can keep things fresh by swapping boxes between players or adding rules to your events such as only mono-colored, or pauper decks. This also helps keep things balanced in case a player has a couple of bombs in their boosters and begins to win consistently using the exact same deck.

Groups opting to go for seasonal or, more accurately, annual play can keep things simple by holding a single or double elimination tourney each week, depending on the number of players, and tallying up wins. The champion is declared around the time the next annual toolkit release, and the league begins a brand new season with the release of the next toolkit.

Another way to help keep seasonal kitchen table leagues from becoming stale throughout the season, groups can opt to add in boosters to each toolkit occasionally, so long as everyone gets the same amount of boosters and each booster is from the same set. This will also help to encourage new deck construction with the influx of new cards while still keeping the cost of these limited events relatively low.

Prize Support

Despite the goal being budget limited events, everyone loves to have a prize when they are declared the winner. A cheap and sensible option for seasonal kitchen table leagues is for all remaining players to pitch in for the purchase of the new Deckbuilder’s Toolkit for the league’s top player when the following season begins.

This wouldn’t make much sense for weekly leagues, and for this reason my league simply made a quick and dirty alter which has become as coveted as the Stanley Cup in our group.

Table League Trophy

Feel free to put more effort into yours.

Have fun and enjoy a budget option for competitive kitchen table magic!

A photo of Efren Abrego Efren Abrego

An IT Professional by trade and a Timmy at heart, Efren Abrego can be found playing Magic: The Gathering at various kitchen tables, libraries, breakrooms, and coffee shops around Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. He prefers multiplayer matches and EDH, and doesn't care whether he wins or loses, so long as the game ends in spectacular fashion.