It's time for two wizards, one deck
Magic: The Gathering is no stranger to unusual variants. Today, I would like to discuss a format that has found a new breath of life.
Forgetful Fish is the creation of Nick Floyd. It is also commonly referred to by its sole creature, Dandân, leading players to lovingly refer to the format as simply "Dandan."
The variant is akin to a board game. Players do not bring their decks. Instead, there is just one static deck shared between the players. Forgetful Fish features an 80-card deck.
The “Forgetful” part comes from the six copies of Memory Lapse, while the “Fish” part is from the ten copies of Dandân. The rest of the deck features a slew of blue instant and sorcery spells to take advantage of the top of the deck, the stack, and The Fish.
Each card comes as a two of, with the sole exception of Accumulated Knowledge, a draw spell that can do a pretty good Ancestral Recall impersonation.
With all that said, how does it work?
How Does Dandan Work?
Forgetful Fish is played like any other game of Magic. Players start at 20 life, they draw a hand of seven, they discard at the end step if they have more than seven, and they lose the game if they draw from an empty deck.
However, we must make some adjustments given there is only one deck. Players opening hands are dealt like a game of poker, one card for you, one card for me, and so on. If an effect causes both players to draw a card, then the active player deals the cards in the same fashion as the opening hands, starting with the opponent.
Both players also share a graveyard. If an effect returns a card from “your” graveyard or library, it refers now to the shared graveyard/library.
Concerning mulligans, standard rules apply with the addition, if an opening hand does not contain two or more lands, that player may reveal their hand and take a freebie mulligan.
Lastly, while you start at 20 life, the only effect that can deal damage in the format is Dandân. Therefore, the creator suggests simply representing your life with five counters and removing a counter every time The Fish connects.
The decklist is a pretty simple one, with 80 cards 10 of them being The Fish, six Memory Lapse, and 20 lands are sure to keep some mages busy there is also a whole slew of interesting spells to keep gameplay fresh. Every card comes with two copies. Cards such as Mind Bend become a one-mana kill spell or Vision Charm becomes a powerhouse card that lets you disrupt your opponent's draws, or wipe the board of all Fish.
Outside the cute removal spells, we also have some great ways of taking advantage of our opponent's Fish with Ray of Command letting us steal and possibly trade. Meanwhile, Supplant Form gets us our own Fish and removes the opponent's.
Another fantastic facet of Dandan is the ability to manipulate the top of the deck. This is to me what makes the format so unique and entertaining.
For example, the opponent casts Mystical Tutor to search for a Mind Bend. They cast Accumulated Knowledge in an attempt to draw it, I cast Brainstorm in response, and they cycle a Lonely Sandbar, all this in a bid to get their card off the top of the deck.
It is awesome trying to keep track of what's on top of the deck and who has drawn what. Another card that adds to this dynamic is of course Memory Lapse. This cornerstone of the deck can throw off so many plans by putting whatever is countered back on top of the deck. Counter a spell, put it on top, then draw it for yourself, or disrupt your opponent's draws by memory lapsing their draw spell!
Besides these shout-outs, the deck is full of blue good stuff to keep any blue mage busy! One of my favorites is Diminishing Returns. For four mana, each player shuffles their hand and grave into the deck, the top ten cards are exiled, and each player draws up to seven cards. I like casting this late game when the possibility of decking out is real. Seeing how close people are willing to go to that line.
History of The Fish
While what I have presented so far is Forgetful Fish in its current form, featuring cards as recent as Throne of Eldraine, and receiving a resurgence of new players in 2022, this format has been around since 1997.
In their original article, Floyd says, “I had traveled to see cousins and left my cards at home. I did however buy some Homelands and Chronicles packs on the road as well as a starter deck of 4th Edition. Not having enough cards or lands to build two decks I shuffled all the cards I had together and I taught my cousin how to play with just one deck. Both Dandân and Memory Lapse was in the deck and when I cast Memory Lapse on my cousin’s spell and realized that I would be drawing that spell on my turn, I decided to build a deck around that little trick."
Armed with the new concept, Floyd set to designing Forgetful Fish.
The original deck was 60 cards with 8 Dandân, and 6 Memory Lapse, with every other card in the deck being two. Many cards in the original list are still present today, such as Mystical Tutor, Brainstorm, Ray of Command, and all the effects that meddle with basic land types.
Some cards were simply upgraded, such as Ray of Erasure being replaced with Mental Note, Relearn for Mystic Retrieval, or Boomerang for Unsubstantiate. Most of the other changes are simple additions as the deck grew from 60 to 80 cards.
One more notable change from the 1997 list is Timetwister being removed. In his original article, Floyd stated that Diminishing Returns was simply a proxy for Timetwister when they were rebuilding the deck years later but, the card grew on them.
He said, "It adds a greater chance that the game comes down to who is forced to draw from an empty deck and it is fun to see what cards are exiled when it resolves and how that changes how players might play the game."
I tend to agree with Floyd here. Seeing a couple of key cards exiled adds to the fun. Having two copies of The Fish in play and seeing three exiled heightens the stakes and changes the mental math. While other Timetwister effects exist in the game, Floyd encourages players to try out some of these variants, they believe the fact that most of them exile on resolution is a dealbreaker. I tend to agree here. However, if you have a couple of Timetwisters lying around feel free to give it a try.
Make Dandan Your Own
The most exciting aspect of this variant is that you can make it your own! The only essential piece of Forgetful Fish, in my opinion, is a couple of copies of Dandân and Memory Lapse. The rest is up to you!
Some folks build Forgetful Fish as their own budget board game and keep to the original budget-friendly list, while other folks use it as a venue to play with their most powerful blue cards. Cards like Ancestral Recall, Force of Will, and Timetwister make excellent additions if you would like to mimic a high-power environment.
Another point to consider is the kind of playstyle you like to foster. I love high-tempo environments, so cards like Mental Misstep feel right at home here with so many high-power one-mana spells. Maybe you want a more wide-catching spell, why not the original Counterspell? Alternatively, cards like Narset's Reversal can provide a wild tempo swing while keeping cards in hand and adding more shenanigans to the stack.
I love trying out new things in different quantities. In my version, I have been experimenting with Daze as a way of having some high-tempo interaction for the early game, or for as a last-minute ditch effort to punish those who tap out.
In a similar vein, I have been playing around with Miscalculation as another tempo-orientated counterspell that also has the option to cycle and disrupt draws. Lastly, I have also been playing with Telling Time. I think this card is awesome as it sets you up, and can knock your opponent's next draw.
In their article, Floyd also calls out some of their favorite cards to consider. The list is extensive at around 67 cards. You can find the entire list in the "Considering" section of the deck list. Mise is an awesome silver border inclusion. This format is incredibly focused on controlling the top of the deck. I simply love the idea of casting this, only for an opponent to draw a card in response or casting this during the end step after a card was put back on top with Memory Lapse.
Another awesome call-out is Sapphire Charm. This is an incredibly versatile card that can be used to control either the top of the deck, ensure our Fish hits, or disrupt the opponent's Fish. At two mana we have Muddle the Mixture. For two mana countering an instant or sorcery means countering everything in the deck except Dandân. On top of that, it can be transmuted to search for a two-man spell such as Dandân!
At three mana there are Long-Term Plans. This gives me the same energy as a card like Approach of the Second Sun. I love adding to the mental stack as players try to keep track of what was tutored and where it is in the deck.
Forgetful Fish is an awesome format. I strongly recommend anyone with a love for blue give it a try. This is a wonderful way to experience Magic, mind games, and a messy stack all at once.
If you don't have the whole decklist don't worry about it. Make it your own! Bring together your favorite blue cards, and a couple of blue beaters, and have an awesome time with this unique variant.
I would also encourage you to check out the original piece written by Nick and the other shared deck formats, courtesy of Nick Floyd. Let us know, what cards you play in your version of Forgetful Fish.
References & Useful Links
Nick Floyd's Forgetful Fish Variant Article: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1nLLsrRfv6qRvri8zIHnxqUjOeUGS-o_izVicthyRzYM
Nick Floyd's Rock Paper Scissors Variant Article: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1z2AEeOtbwzM_dplDE-60iUjH0_pbZXd8_-smYEATovc
Nick Floyd's Trippin' Variant Article: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Cf4NFx1ZlHE1ISS7aYYnbrBTR6H30yYbKax5iubK3qI
Moxfield Dandan Current List: https://www.moxfield.com/decks/MrfMmOnKFEe39fVbkVIXpw
Moxfield Dandan 1997 List: https://www.moxfield.com/decks/ooWRj5FN4EOOh1dFJKN1Ww
Moxfield Bengee's Dandan List: https://www.moxfield.com/decks/73gLYImyvEqIc2UXj_EKcg
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