One of the most exciting new formats of the last year has been the emergence of Tiny Leaders, and it’s rapidly become my favourite format. It’s a one-on-one format so feeds my competitive nature and allows access to a wide array of cards dating back to the start of Magic. The format also limits you to one of each card, except basic lands, all cards must have a printed converted mana cost of 3 or less, and like Commander all cards must share a colour identity with your Tiny Leader.
As I’ve said, this is fast becoming one of my all time favourite formats and so today I’ve decided to write an article on how to build a Tiny Leaders deck, from scratch for beginners.
How to Build a Tiny Leaders Deck – Discovering Tiny Leaders by Mark Pinder
Your deck is only 50 cards big, one of those slots is taken by your tiny leader and your sideboard is reduced to 10 cards. Deck construction is surprisingly taxing, you don’t have any slam dunk x 4 to put in the deck but you’ll be surprised at the range of options of similar cards that can be played. To illustrate this let us look at the traditional black two drop for removal.
We start with Terror naturally as the first option as it is the grand daddy of them all. However, we also have many variants which could take its slot, for example:
Go for the Throat
And then you have Smother, the card that kills everything in the format pretty much.
I did a quick gatherer search and these are the twenty variants that came up: Destroy effects
Quite a choice isn’t it? Which would go main deck and could any make it into your sideboard ?
Choosing your Tiny Leader
The first thing you need to do is chose your Tiny Leader. This is a critical choice as it affects how the deck will play and many Tiny Leaders can be your primary win condition. Decks are built around your leader in not just colour identity but how the deck plays.
A list of available Tiny Leader commanders can be found here: Available Tiny Leaders
Quite a selection but most of the time you’ll have an idea in your head.
Say you want to build a white weenie deck, who do you chose. I can think of a few straight away:
|Isamaru, Hound of Konda (0)|
Kytheon, Hero of Akros (0)
Anafenza, Kin-tree Spirit (0)
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben (0)
Brimaz, King of Oreskos (0)
You fancy playing Boros?:
Then you can also be sneaky, fancy a Mardu leader:
Yes, the activation costs on the abilities also count. Not just the colours in the casting cost.
Tribal decks can be really fun builds and you have a lot of creatures to access. Take Elves for example:
Rhys the Exiled
Rhys the Redeemed
Ezuri, Renegade Leader
Choosing your mana base
With the deck being a maximum of 3 to cast, albeit with a few exceptions for Kicker and X spells, this tends to mean you can get away with slightly less land. Your average constructed 60 card deck runs 24 land by tradition so this extrapolates from 50 cards to 20 land:
- Three colour decks 18-20 land seems fine.
- Two colour decks 17-18 lands seems passable.
- Single colour decks can run 15-16 lands but really depends on the decks overall curve.
You have so many ways to set up your mana base in multicoloured decks. You can use the original dual lands or just use common lands like the Ravnica Guildgates.
Lands coming into play tapped can be an issue if you want to come of out the traps quickly. However, Basic lands, Shock Lands, M10 lands, Battle Lands and Fetch Lands all interact pretty well together.
Mono coloured decks still can have the pit falls of coming into play tapped lands e.g. Windbrisk Heights for white or Teetering Peaks for red but they are still great lands. Mono coloured decks can also use Ice Age snow-covered lands and use Coldsnap snow lands to great effect e.g. Scrying Sheets and Mouth of Ronom.
The your creatures
Creatures pretty much start at Bears, well Grizzly Bears to be precise. Your 2/2 for two mana really is the starting point at deciding what creatures are going to make the cut for your deck.
In my recent Abzan article I consciously made the decision I want my creatures to bring something to the party or be bigger than a bear. For me a 3/3 for two really made a difference like Watchwolf, Fleecemane Lion or even Tarmogoyf.
Hate Bears are also a way to go, for those newer to Magic these tend to be 2/2 creatures but with a bonus like War Priest of Thune which destroys an enchantment when it comes into play. Many creatures in the format tend to have 2 or less toughness so many times your guys can beat down or trade away after doing the hard work. Other Hate Bears are those with other special abilities like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben which disrupts non-creature spells by making them harder to cast.
Having efficient creatures with synergy is another way to improve the strength of your deck. Most players are aware of Lords like Elvish Archdruid or Goblin Chieftain which improves creatures within their tribe but you can also have creatures that improve their profession like Veteran Swordsmith (Soldiers) or creatures with special effects just to improve during combat like Signal Pest which has Battle Cry to improve other attacking creatures by +1/0.
Creatures are still vulnerable to removal and mass removal, red still has Pyroclasm and Drown in Sorrow for black to name but two. Their may not be Wrath of God or Austere Command in the format but powerful creature kill spells are available.
Choosing your spells
Spells are important in Tiny Leaders, but generally speaking it’s your creatures that will win you the game. We have very few planes walkers so the game tends to be very old school. The spells you do run will usually have synergy with your Tiny Leader or style of deck.
With the creatures in the format very similar when it comes to power and toughness if you have a way to improve them will help. This can be global enchantments which have lord like abilities, enchantments to improve your guy or equipment to give opponents a hard time.
Some removal is usually desirable even with aggro decks as sometimes you need to clear a path through the opposition.
Creating your sideboard
You only have a ten card sideboard and you are in a singleton format, this can make your sideboard choices quite challenging. Many sideboards become a tool box and you look for spells that also have flexibility. Whilst you may want to keep your Stony Silence for any affinity deck or those running multiple swords, Hero’s blade really is a thing in Tiny Leaders.
Naturalize and Disenchant are both flexible cards, but do you go for the Krosan Grip to ensure the item is destroyed or maybe put it on a body like Kor Sanctifiers[card]. There are also options like [card]Mortify or Putrefy which can deal with varied threats.
Some traditional sideboard staples like Vampire Hexmage are not as useful as you’d think, mainly due to the lower number of Planeswalkers.
The financial cost of Tiny Leaders
Now Magic: the Gathering can be an expensive game but one of the good things about Tiny Leaders is that it does not rotate, unlike Standard cards, so once you have a deck you pretty much don’t need to replace it every eighteen months or so, you just change it as and when you feel that a new card works better or when you feel like treating yourself with a new edition. My original decks started as spare cards sat in my folder, though once I realise I like a card in my deck I will look for a foil version or something special like a custom alter. Whilst some older cards can be quite expensive, many can be bought really cheaply.
Building a White Weenie Tiny Leaders Deck
So now I’ve given you some basic principal’s on deck design I’m going to use them to create a Tiny Leaders deck. Today I am going to build a white weenie deck.
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
Kytheon, Hero of Akros
Anafenza, Kin-tree Spirit
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
So these are the options available to us, any of them would make excellent choices, in fact they are all so good I’m going to add them to initial deck list. For our Tiny Leader however, I am going to chose Kytheon, Hero of Akros.
With this in mind we know Kytheon needs to attack with two other creatures so we need to look at the best one drops we can use, I settled with a combination of Human’s and Soldiers to allow the deck to have synergy. We have Student of Warfare and Champion of the Parish who scale up and those which bring 2 power to the board early on.
Soldier of the Pantheon
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
Champion of the Parish
Mardu Woe Reaper
Student of Warfare
There are plenty of two drops and I could have filled every two drop with a Knight but have decided to use more hate bear options like Imposing Sovereign and Grand Abolisher. Banisher Priest also finds a home amongst the disruption cards.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Aggressive creatures are dropped in at both the 2 and 3 drops, Mirran Crusader is a beater with protection, Precinct Captain, Preeminent Captain[/card] and Brimaz, King of Oreskos both can bring additional threats to the board.
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
I’m using a mixture of Lord’s and enchantments to increase the strength of the team. Mobilisation also gives the ability to bring in more creatures.
Anafenza, Kin-tree Spirit
Honor of the Pure
Path of Bravery
Condemn is a lovely card, it can put a Tiny Leader to the bottom of the library rather than dropping back into the command zone, Path to Exile is also a good call though in a fast aggro deck in a format with 25 life starts I’m not sure on Swords to Plowshares. Martial Coup allows for a complicated board state to be reset and with big guys hopefully if you have an Anthem effect in play.
Path to Exile
Generally speaking the deck will run Plains but several utility lands can help the deck be more flexible.
Cavern of Souls
The sideboard is designed to have a life gain sideboard to out race faster decks, creatures with protection for tackling decks of different colours and a few ways to deal with individual threats.
War Priest of Thune
Aegis of the Gods
So the final deck list is as follows:
1 Eiganjo Castle
1 Secluded Steppe
1 Sejeri Steppe
1 Cavern of Souls
1 Windbrisk Heights
1 Forbidding Watchtower
1 Boros Elite
1 Soldier of the Pantheon
1 Isamaru, Hound of Konda
1 Kytheon, Hero of Akros
1 Elite Vanguard
1 Champion of the Parish
1 Dragon Hunter
1 Expedition Envoy
1 Mardu Woe Reaper
1 Student of Warfare
1 Anafenza, Kin-tree Spirit
1 Imposing Sovereign
1 Precinct Captain
1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1 Consul’s Lieutenant
1 Grand Abolisher
1 Mirran Crusader
1 Banisher Priest
1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
1 Preeminent Captain
1 Field Marshal
1 Honor of the Pure
1 Glorius Anthem
1 Path of Bravery
1 Rootborn Defences
1 Valorous Stance
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Banishing Light
1 Path to Exile
1 Martial Coup
1 Soul Warden
1 Suture Priest
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 War Priest of Thune
1 Aegis of the Gods
1 Elite Enquisitor
1 White Knight
1 Silver Knight
Now to find the cards and sleeve them up for combat. I’d also love to hear any suggestions for the deck, I usually find I am changing a few cards after the first event. My only worry is that Thalia, Guardian of Thraben may be better in the sideboard and bring in a more aggressive card as it may slow down the spells in the deck.
Community Question: Do you have a Tiny Leader you’d like to build a deck around? What is the name of the card?
Hope you enjoyed the foray into Tiny Leaders, and till next time,