Shadowfist Tournament Formats

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Home > Tournaments > Formats
[posted 6 Jan 2004; updated 22 Jan 2011; links checked 22 Jan 2011]

A collection of alternative formats for your next tournament or casual game. Have a format you like? Send me a writeup!

Here is a quick alphabetical list of the official tournament formats. Get the full descriptions at [22 Jan 2011]

Baptism of Fire - multiplayer, sealed deck and/or packs, sometimes with foundation 'pods'. No drafting.

Comrades in Arms (CiA)- multiplayer, theme deck (at least 23 cards with a common designator). Get a quick list of the designators that can be used in this format here.

Final Brawl - multiplayer, constructed (this is the "standard" mutliplayer format)

100 Names - multiplayer, no more than 1 card of a particular title in your deck (applies to foundations, too)

Ritual of the Unnameable - multiplayer, constructed, all card titles must start with one of three letters you choose Anything other than a letter is ignored, so $10,000 Man counts as an 'M'. Cards whose titles begin with 'The' count as 'T' cards. Jim Sensennbrenner published a set of tables counting how many cards start with each letter on his blog in July 2012 [2 Mar 2013].

The New Heroes - any format that allows only cards printed by Shadowfist Games (from Shurikens & Six Guns onward). Promos are allowed if they aren't reprints.

Whirlpool of Blood - multiplayer, sealed deck plus booster draft, or since starters are scarce these days, often runs as a pure booster draft but participants are given "pods" containing extra foundations and feng shui sites.

Who's The Big Man Now? - dueling, constructed (this is the "standard" two-player format)


And here are some unofficial formats that you might like to try:

Array of Stunts - constructed deck Shadowfist, big-budget style. Maintained by Andrew Davidson.

Both Guns Blazing - dueling, constructed, speed (complete games as fast as possible). This was an official format under Z-Man Games but Shadowfist Games has dropped it from their list. Same rules as normal dueling, except all players try to complete their games as fast as possible. Recognition given for most games won, best win percentage, and most games played. (most games lost sometimes gets a prize too :)

Cardiff Variants - from Clint Oldridge. Multiplayer variants and some other rules tweaks they like in Cardiff, Wales.

Full Auto - a speed multiplayer variant.

Is That All You Got? - usually multiplayer constructed, but can be applied to any format. Disallows cards from a specific "banned" list (generally, cards that are very popular, to nudge you into thinking about cards you don't play as often). The list was maintained at but has disappeared as of Jan.2011.

Market Square - a variant draft format. Maintained by Erik Berg.

Memory Reprocessing - applies to any tournament format. These games use Daedalus rules with Z-Man cards. There isn't an official set of rules, but I think Bryant's list [22 Jan 2011] is pretty close. It hasn't been updated in 6 years, so I don't know how it applies to recent Shadowfist Games errata to Shadowy Mentor and Bull Market.

OMNI Fist [22 Jan 2011] - a sealed deck league based on an idea from the On The Edge CCG. I found that it doesn't actually work very well for Shadowfist unless you have a fairly large pool of players all starting at the same time (and all playing a similar number of games). Most of the time we played for the 1-cost foundation characters that we all needed to improve our decks, so the decks pretty much just ping-ponged.

Who Wants Some? - special multiplayer tournament played at large conventions. Usually a sealed deck or draft event to start. Players keep track of wins/losses against other participants throughout the convention. Originally this event used a single deck for the entire convention; Shadowfist Games at one point tried a variant where you draft a new deck each time you play (presumably this helps sales :) Disappeared from the official tournament list sometime in 2010.

Array of Stunts

Originally posted to the Shadowfist Forum on Yahoogroups on 16 Dec 2003 by Andrew Davidson. Republished with permission. If you're a member of the group, you can read the original in the archive.

Shadowfist variant format by Andrew Davidson
version 3
13 December, 2003

1. Each player starts with 8 power and a deck built according to the standard rules.

2. Players secretly bid 0-8 power (e.g. by simultaneously revealing tokens held in their fist). The highest bidder chooses his seat and will play first. The second highest bidder then sits on his left and so on. All bids are spent and go to the bank. Tie bids are resolved randomly, e.g. by coin flip.

3. Starting with the first player, players deploy their initial site structure using sites taken from their deck. They must deploy 8 feng shui sites (FSS) in accordance with the usual rules: face down; a maximum of 5 of any one card; no duplicate unique or limited sites. In addition to these 8 free FSS, players may also deploy non-FSS, paying their cost from their starting pool of power. Battleground sites cost a minimum of one power for this purpose (to stop someone starting with dozens of battlegrounds). Sites which require resource to be played may be deployed provided that the resource is available from a foundation site - consider the sites to be deployed in sequence rather than simultaneously. Mount Makarakomburu, Crèche of the New Flesh and other face-up FSS are considered to be non-FSS for deployment purposes.

4. Auctions may take place during deployment but, as no one has a play hand at this stage, Hostile Takeover cannot be played.

5. After all players have completed deployment of sites, they shuffle their decks and draw their opening hand (which may be increased by sites like Orange Senshi Chamber). Play then starts in the usual way with the first player (who will generate 8+ power from his sites). Players may reveal FSS during their establishing shot if they wish to utilise their effects (e.g. Family Home, Primeval Forest, Sunless Sea Ruins).

6. FSS without a printed cost never cost more than 3 power. E.g. if you already have 8 FSS, your next FSS still only costs 3 power.

7. There is no limit upon the number of non-FSS that may be played per turn.

8. Players win the game immediately if they control 16 or more feng shui sites (in play and burnt for victory) when they have just taken another player's feng shui site.

9. Otherwise, games will last approximately 90 minutes (+/- 5 minutes). Play terminates immediately when the time is up (e.g. using a loud alarm clock).

10. When a game finishes, record the number of FSS that each player controls (in play and burnt for victory). Effects such as Glimpse of the Abyss reduce the players' victory total. Effects such as Power of the Great increase it (and may increase it beyond 16).

11. The typical tournament format will be to play two or three qualifying rounds of 3/4 player games. Seeding will be round robin to minimise repeat match-ups. The top four players will qualify for the final based upon:
a) firstly, games won outright
b) secondly, total FSS controlled

If more than four players are tied using these criteria, then all the tied players may play in the final, which will then have more than 4 players.

Because you start with FSS in play and maybe foundation sites too, you might reduce the number of these that you put in your deck. It would be unwise to rely upon the starting sites exclusively because other players may take them from you. Expensive foundation characters may be useful as insurance - they will be useful as hitters as well as providing resources in a pinch.

I would also counsel against gambling upon a set-piece combo based upon a tiny deck. The other players will be able to prepare their defences well. Their FSS may be chosen to frustrate attacks (e.g. Mourning Tree) and they can start with playable denial from the beginning (Fox Pass, Operation Killdeer, etc).

The third pitfall may be site-destruction decks - Dark Traveler, Burn, Baby, Burn!, Killing Rain, etc. Turning the game back into the usual low-site environment is likely to give you a poor score and will not win you any friends.

[writeup by Andrew Davidson]

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Shadowfist Full Auto

Full Auto is a speed multiplayer format first proposed in February 2003 to Zev Shlasinger for Origins 2003. It was not used at that event (and hasn't been used anywhere else, to my knowledge). If you try it, please let me know what needs to change :)

Shadowfist "Full Auto"
Speed Multiplayer Constructed Rounds
last update 24 Feb 2003

Step 1: Ready
Before play begins, each player chooses any two cards from his/her deck to be in his/her starting hand. The other four will be drawn randomly, as usual, when the game begins.

Step 2: Aim
Each player then splits his/her deck into two piles. The player decides how the cards are split; each player may decide differently. The two piles do not need to be equal size. During the game, any "draw" effect may come from either or both decks, split per the player's choice (e.g., "draw 2 cards" could be done as 1 from each pile, or 2 from one pile). "Search your deck" effects allow the player to look through both piles, but not to choose a card from both decks :) Running out of cards in one pile is no problem, but running out of cards in both piles is a loss (as usual). Shuffle each of the two piles individually.

Step 3: Fire!
Starting on his/her 2nd turn and for the rest of the game, each player may choose one of the following at the start of his/her Main Shots (after generating power, discard, etc.):
(a) gain 1 Power, or
(b) search his/her deck and add 1 card of choice to his/her hand (reshuffle).
These bonuses do not trigger any card effects (like Möbius Garden, Confucian Sage, etc.)

Set the time limits short (45 minutes at most) for 4 player games, and if a table times out, everybody at that table gets a loss to keep things simple.

Exploding Bullets variant:
In step 3, change the power gain or card draw to X, where X= the number of turns that player has completed.

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Is That All You Got?

Is That All You Got? disallows (bans) specific overly-used cards, otherwise it is usually played as a Final Brawl, but could be used for dueling, etc. The official list is no longer linked on, although the page is still there (you can still get to it via Google search). The idea is to get people to think about cards other than the 'staples'.

Is That All You Got?
Multiplayer Constructed with a Banned List
last update June 18, 2007

If a card on the list does show up in your deck, it cannot be played. You will have to discard it normally, but you can remove it from your deck between rounds.

The banned list, as of June 18, 2007:

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Market Square

Market Square is a draft format based on an idea originally posted to the Shadowfist Forum on Yahoogroups on 10 Dec 2002 by Andrew Davidson, subsequently polished by Eric Lui and others, and now maintained by Erik Berg. Republished with permission. If you're a member of the group, you can read Andrew's original post and the later post by Andrew Gristina, and follow the related threads to see the development.

Shadowfist draft format
as of 7 Jan 2004

This is an updated version of this format, first played at the Memorial Day Westin LAX Con in 2003 after being tested at The Game Zone in Pasadena, CA. Eric Lui and Erik Berg fleshed out the idea with the help of Andrew Gristina and others off an idea originally inspired by Andrew Davison. Feel free to add 8 boosters to the draft portion if you think people will need encouragement to draft aggressively. Most of all, put a report of how the tournament went and if people enjoyed it on the Shadowfist Yahoo list or Stefan's page here. Thanks, hope you enjoy it!

Each player, upon sign in and payment, will receive one 10k Bullets starter and two booster packs of his or her choice.

Appoint table heads or “Sifus”, one for each table of 8 drafters. (i.e., if you start a third table, get a third table head).

Players will trim their starter deck (50 cards) and boosters (16-30 cards) to 40 cards total. They will turn the rest in to their table head, when they will be seated at their table.

Everyone who was on time should get at least 20 minutes to make their deck and throw back cards to the Sifu.

The Sifus should be organizing the cards into factions and setting them out so that player can draft. As players finish with their sorting, they can help sort the draft pile as well.

10 minutes after the initial 20 minutes have been given, the Sifus should randomly choose a player to draft first. Because all the cards are on the table, run a serpentine draft. 1-8, 8-1, player to the left then drafts as the 1, 8 times total. (16 picks each) Each time a player "picks", he/she should place his/her throwback face up, and THEN take a card. This will minimize confusion over whether or not someone has thrown back and whose turn it is. Give each player 20 seconds and then randomly pick a card for them to keep the draft moving.

Latecomers should be assigned a place at the bottom of the current draft order (so they get two picks when their turn comes up). At the conclusion of the picks, latecomers should get "compensation" picks-- one pick for each round of the draft they missed.

Now go up and down the draft order once more, from 8 to 1 and then 1 to 8, allowing players to take 2 cards per pick without throwing back (this will let players fill out their decks) This will result in a total of 20 cards drafted, and a maximum deck size of 44 cards.

Table heads should pack up the rest of the cards and put them in the giveaway pool. If anyone wants something still on the table for his/her collection, he/she may take it after the games are done or they drop.

Assign players to 3 or 4 player games (4 seemed to work fine in this Format w/1.5 hour time limits). I'd recommend 1.5 hour time limits, but that's at the organizer's discretion.


Player: select starter, two boosters. Trim to 40 cards. Give remaining cards to table head.

Table head (1-3) ("Sifu"): Collect throwbacks, sort cards by faction, randomly seat drafters, and assign draft order. Start the draft, and keep track of timeliness.

Organizer (1) ("Dealmaker"): Collect payment. Assign players to table.

Feel free to cut the cutesy names.

[writeup submitted by Erik Berg]

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Cardiff Variants

Originally posted to the Shadowfist-UK Forum on Yahoogroups on 8 Mar 2004 by Clint Oldridge. Republished with permission. A couple of minor updates to the dueling variant from Clint 2 Dec 2005. Again updated by Clint 30 Sep 2007 with a posting to Shadowfist Gorum on Yahoogroups, and two clarifications postings in Nov 2008 by Sam Roads.

At the request of several players at Rob's tournament I've written up the rules that we use in Cardiff. We've got a pretty active group and play Shadowfist most Friday evenings, mixture of Drafting and Constructed.

Format for 5 player game
Changes to rules: There are TWO winners. Both players win equally. Works well for constructed decks.

Seating: (Players 1-5 - clockwise play as normal)

   1   2
 5       3

Player 1 can only win with Player 3 OR 4, Player 2 with Players 4 OR 5 — i.e., you can only win with a player that is opposite you on the table.

For player 1, players 2 and 5 are effectively his enemy in that player 1 can never win with them, but they still might play cards in a favourable manner for him in an attempt to stop a win or for tactical reasons. However, note that both players 1 and 2, despite being effectively enemies, share a potential winning ally in player 4.

So if player 1 goes for a winning attack he can only win if either player 4 or 3 is in SECOND when he burns his 5th Feng Shui site for victory. This means that when the winning attack occurs players 3 and 4 can sometimes be jockeying for position, and if a winning alliance (say 1 & 4) is in the dominance you often find players 2, 3 and 5 ally against them. It makes the game very dynamic and we also find that the game is a lot more pleasant and more tactical. Also, the game appears to get less moribund than when we played using normal rules.

Note: If a site is taken in an attempted winning attack and player 1 finds that neither of his allies (player 3 and 4) are in second then he can no longer burn the Feng Shui site for victory — instead he must burn for power or smoke the FS site.

To determine any ties we use:

Most FS Sites/Burned for victory. (Note we don't give extra points for Burned for Victory - our game is very fluid and we've found that we don't need to encourage attacks).

Amount of Fighting under your control.

Amount of power remaining in pool

Total Body of revealed sites. If the winning attack is about to succeed sites may be revealed before rather than after damage is dealt.

Cards left in the deck.

We find this game is quite fast; we usually get around 3-5 games and draft in an evening's play. Generally we see bigger site structures and alliances develop and break as the game goes on, but we also see players get back into the game which never happened in normal Shadowfist as a weak target was picked on by many players.

Format for 4 player game
When we play 4 player we usually play 2 vs 2 players. Seating: (Players 1-4 - clockwise play as normal)

 4   2

This is another team game but alliances are set for each game. Players 1 and 3 are attempting to beat players 2 and 4. We usually play multiples of 3 rounds so that every player is allied with everyone else in the game, and this often ends with one overall individual winner (but occasionally not). We usually play this format with drafting cards before hand. Obviously cards that target opponents only affect your opposition and not your ally.

To win, the winning attacker must seize/burn his 5th FS site for victory as normal, but his ally must have 3 FS sites (or burned for Victory). No burning for power allowed in 2v2.

In addition we have a House of Mirrors effect in play. If any one player is behind on sites (FS or normal sites, including burned for Victory) then he gets to play his next site (FS or normal) at a lower cost. If he's one site behind the next nearest player then at -1 cost, two sites behind -2 cost etc. This doesn't count the first and second round of play (so everyone has to have 2 turns before this rule comes into play) and comes into play for the FOURTH player onwards on that round. Note that player has to be behind, so if he and his ally are tied then he doesn't get the bonus — this can force a duo to have one of them put down a FS site to play so that his ally can gain a bonus next time.

In addition we have the half a power rule. Starting at the start of turn 3 onwards the THIRD player gets a 1/2 power token (and all players subsequent to that). After that when any player gets two 1/2 power tokens they MUST trade them both in for a power token. i.e., after turn 3 every player gets an additional power every other turn. (Probably in constructed this rule isn't necessary).

We find this game is very fast. We usually get around 6 games and draft in an evening's play. Generally players don't go above 4 sites.

added by Sam Roads 12 Nov 2008:
If we were playing a 2v2 game and someone had Project Apocalypse (or other alternate victory condition card) in play, their team could win two ways:

a.) The PA player fulfils the PA criteria and their ally is no worse than 2 FSS away from victory (usually requires 3 FSS)

b.) The PA player's ally wins normally and the PA player is no worse than 2 FSS away from victory (usually requires 3 FSS). The PA would be no help in this situation.

So the crucial thing is that the PA could fulfil its criteria and the player could at that point still fail to win if their ally was on 2 or fewer FSS. We very often have this kind of situation - it leads to very tense endgames, and players are forced to smoke FSS because it is illegal for their side to win, because the ally is on 2 or fewer FSS.

Format for 3 player game
Hand size rule as normal Cardiff, Burn for Power allowed. Toughness as Cardiff rules. One winner. We don't play it a lot prefer the 2 games of duelling simultaneously if there's 3 of us (i.e. we draft for TWO decks simultaneously).

Format for 2 player game
No burn for power. 1v1 games the start player has the normal hand size + 1, and his opponent has a hand size of 9 to start with but as usual if he discards below 6 he only refills to 6. This game is very fast usually dependent on who gets an early advantage (usually player 1) wins. It's not ideal but it's the best format we've got for 1v1.

Drafting (for all formats)
We have a large pool of cards from which we create boosters whenever we want to play draft. We usually have four or five players turn up so create 8 boosters of 16 cards each, take one card and pass it on (after each booster direction of drafting changes). If 6 then we play 1v1 and rotate around.

We then allow 5 foundations to add to your cards (or Size of Deck/10 + 1 so if we decide to have a minimum of 50 card decks [we usually define the minimum size] then that means 6 foundations) — cost to play 2 or less which you get from the pool of cards (decide what you are looking for, then search through until you find them). You're allowed to designate resource (including chi, tech or magic) that it provides and the first foundation that cost 2 or less to play that you come across you take and can add to your cards to create your deck. E.g. you pick 3 Tech, 2 Architect then the first card that you pick that fits either Tech or Architect that is a foundation character you take for your pool for creating cards (if there's a clash e.g. DNA Mage that is both Architect and Tech then you can choose which you want it to be and continue drawing)

If you're short of FS Sites then you can replace any one of your Foundation 5 slots, with TWO FS Sites (also picked at random when you pick the foundations).

We've banned a couple of the Unique sites — they have a tendency to dominate the environment — basically if it's Unique (Fox Pass, Kinoshita House, etc) then we don't allow it (some we do, Hanging Coffins is fine for example) but otherwise we found the format to be pretty strong and got a good re-play value.

added by Sam 18 Nov 2008:
We ban Destroyer, Rev Jebediah Payne, Lodge Politics, all Edge colour hosers, most Unique sites.

Nerve Gas costs [Arc][Arc]1
Imprison costs [Arc][Arc]1
Final Brawl costs [Dra][Dra]0

With each of these changes we think the limited game is improved. If Gas was printed now, of course it would cost 2 resources.

Each of these make you commit more to a faction, without changing the essential nature of the card. They might make sense as reprints which update the older cards. You could make similar arguments for some other older power cards, like Mentor, Killdeer, Covert Op, Confucian.

(Also note that Imprison loses its resource hosing nature, as it is much slower to be playable)

Other Cardiff rules
Hand size - for all variants (except 1 vs 1) we have the start hand size as being your player number plus 6. (i.e. fourth player gets 6+4 = 10 cards to start with). This means that players in later positions get a small advantage to make up for their worse positioning. If you discard below 6 cards then you refill to 6 cards as normal. (First discard like this goes under the deck in any order)

Toughness: - First two columns have Toughness 1 against combat damage for their front row sites (still get revealed if attacked by a 1 Fighting character). So even if the front row site is taken and the site behind it moves forward then that becomes the Front site so then gains Toughness 1.

We don't allow attacks on the player's first turn. You can defend if you want to, but are not allowed to join in an attack until the turn comes back around to you.


Note, I am not expecting you guys to use these rules but we have found them helpful, and you might enjoy a change of style and tempo. Feel free to suggest improvements to the above for us though!

In our day jobs we run a strategic turn based Play By Email game based on Lord of the Rings ( so we're professional game moderators and always tinkering with rules and modules for our games. We've also created a 6 (&7) player variant of the board game Puerto Rico for fun - feel free to ask if you want a copy.


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