The title of this article is typed correctly. The Freeform lobbies within the Magic The Gathering Online program is a world entirely unto its own. Many players who only focus on the competitive constructed queues such as Leagues, Preliminaries and larger events, completely forget that this area exists within the program. If you dive a little deeper though, you will see that there is an entire other segment of the MTG Community that utilizes the Freeform lobbies to play all kinds of interesting Magic.
First off, what is Freeform? According to the MTGWiki, “Freeform is a sanctioned casual Magic Online Format that allows all sets and cards. The only restriction is a 40-card minimum deck”. So do you want to build a 40 card deck that has 20x black lotus, go for it! Freeform lobby is the kitchen table digitally represented on your computer screen.
You can find the Freeform lobbies under the specialty column in the MTGO program. You can create decks for Freeform from the ‘Collection’ tab. Decks will vary depending on what you are attempting to do, but as you can see from the picture, it is a very active place. I hope to convince you today to give the lobby a chance and to widen your outlook on the MTGO program, below I’ll talk about the most common reasons the Freeform lobby gets used and even some ideas that the community can do to improve it in the future.
If we are being honest with ourselves, the most common reason that the Freeform lobby gets used is the format PennyDreadful. PennyDreadful is a MTGO ultra budget format where each card at the beginning of rotation can only cost .02 tickets at its peak. This means that at the beginning of rotation, the max a deck can cost is 1.5 tix. Combine this with a free 5 tix rental account from CardHoarder, you get to play Magic completely for free.
This format is a brewer’s paradise but as time goes on the metagame becomes solved and there are tiered decks. This all gets shaken up each time a new standard set releases as their bot runs price checks on every card in MTGO, any card that spiked due to play in PennyDreadful becomes banned and new cards that dropped become legal. It has its own rotation system that has been in place for an incredible 23 seasons and has no signs of slowing down!
Not to mention that Penny Dreadful has 6 tournaments per week to participate in, all of which give prizes in the form of CardHoarder bot credits. This format is a no-brainer for those who wish to play magic in an alternative format. Sure you can’t take this PennyDreadful deck to a paper GP, but you can compete in their tournament circuit and do very well in it.
If there's not an active swiss tournament, though, you can still play Penny Dreadful almost at any time with the “PD League'' system.
As you can see in this picture, this is at 8am on a Saturday morning. The lobby is filled with people wanting to play PennyDreadful, and there is incentive behind it. PD leagues are common to constructed leagues in that you play 5 matches with your deck. Each win is a point on the leaderboard and the top 8 of the leaderboard get a prize from MTGOTraders. It's genius and you should check it out. Not to mention once you register, as long as you have “PD League” typed in the comments, a bot will watch your game and automatically record the result. This is truly amazing.
The second most common reason you will see the Freeform lobby get busy is for the format Premodern. Premodern is a format that contains cards from 4th edition through scourge only. The format has a robust following and a very diverse metagame and MTGO has come to the rescue of the format to allow it to really grab hold and for people to try out new ideas.
This format really has its own dedicated MTGO community and you can constantly find people looking for games by either just joining the freeform lobby and searching for someone with Premodern in the comments, or using the MOS Discord to find people who want games. You can even buy cards on MTGO only in old borders to really keep the feel of Premodern. Some decks can look something like this.
Premodern right now only has 1 major tournament on MTGO and that is the Magic Online Society Premodern Monthly series. This league style, play at your own pace tournament runs each month and has become very popular among the Premodern community. More tournaments will be added in the future as this community grows. Join the Magic Online Society Discord to become involved with this tournament series!
Highlander (7 or 10 Point)
Highlander is another community that is still in its infancy on MTGO. Highlander is a singleton eternal format similar to commander but there is no commander. All sets can be used, but the most powerful and broken cards have a point value to them. Decks can range between 7 or 10 points allowed, 60 and 100 card decks respectively.
If it seems a little confusing, just go to the highlander website and give a little read. It's pretty easy to understand once you get going. An example of a 60-card / 7-point list can be found in the picture below. This is a deck called “Dark Bant”
This format is great and there are a few organizers that host Highlander tournaments, I believe one being ‘Melbourne Games’ from Australia. This is just yet another way to utilize the freeform lobby to play some games of magic that aren't traditional constructed.
I would be completely out of my mind if I didn’t mention MoJhoSto Vanguard. Vanguard, in my humble opinion, is by far the most underplayed casual format on MTGO. This multiplayer casual format, consists of 60 basic lands and using the Momir Vig, Simic Visionary, Jhoira of the Ghitu, Stonehewer Giant and Ashling, The Extinguisher Vanguards. A Vanguard Constructed deck looks like this.
This format is totally RNG based but in a 4-player environment, surprisingly balanced. It's incredibly cheap to play, as buying all 4 avatars is all that's required outside of the 60 basic lands, so you are looking at around 3 dollars for gameplay that is never the same from game to game. We at the Magic Online Society have actually created some YouTube videos about this format, and you can find those on our YouTube channel.
The last thing that I will talk about in regards to the freeform lobby is going to be custom cubes. Utilizing an external website to build your deck such as CubeCobra and combine that with the 40-card limitation of the freeform constructed, you have the ability to play sealed in cube.
This is incredibly underrated and underutilized. It just takes you and a friend finding a cube link on CubeCobra, creating a sealed deck on the site and exporting it as a .txt file. Upload into MTGO and you can play cube all you want. You can draft the MOS Cube for free. It has been designed so that every deck in the cube will cost less than 5 tix, meaning that any free rental account will allow you to play it.
There is More
So we listed some of the most common ways that people utilize the Freeform lobbies within the MTGO program, but there is more than that. You can play Mormir and even Planechase here too, although its less common. The Freeform lobbies are the kitchen table of MTGO. As long as you and a couple friends agree on what you want to do, there are countless ways you can utilize this to have fun playing the game. Not everyone will be into the Freeform lobbies and that is ok, but if you want some additional ways to play MTGO for really not that much money, give these lobbies a chance!
As always, thanks for reading,