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Bigger and Better Horde Magic


In my last article, we looked at how to use the new Hero’s Path cards in various formats. This included not only the hero cards, but the new challenge decks: Battle the Horde and Face the Hydra. In today’s article, I’d like to return to traditional Horde Magic. (Note: As of this writing, the Xenagos Ascended deck has not yet released, so I won’t be talking about those cards.)

If you’re not familiar with Horde Magic, Abe Sargent provides a concise explanation in his recent article “Theros Horde.” (Thanks, Abe!) Back in 2011, Abe also wrote “Casualnation #58 – Artifact Horde,” and Robby Rothe wrote “When Zombies Attack: Horde Magic, and those are both helpful articles. Given this history, I’m not going to take the time to re-explain the format here. Instead, let’s jump right in and face the horde once more.

More and More Minotaur

Battle the Horde features Minotaurs from the plane of Theros. These Minotaurs are named things like Mogis’s Chosen and Altar of Mogis, which gives the deck a fantastic, Mogis-inspired feel. The deck is split between creatures and other spells at a ratio of about 70:30 (43 creatures, 17 other spells). The deck is 60 cards.

To make the deck playable against Commander decks, I’ve created a list of forty more Born of the Gods–era Minotaurs, though they are not exclusively from the Theros block. I’d love to hear what you think. Remember that, in this format, each creature is considered to automatically have: “Haste. This creature must attack each turn if able.”

I think the key to augmenting this deck isn’t only about flavor though. It also helps to select cards that are extremely easy to interpret given the format. This means cards like Rakdos Charm and Oracle of Bones were not included even though they fit the flavor. Rakdos Charm would slow down the game by presenting too many options for players to make on behalf of the horde, and Oracle of Bones necessitates that the horde deck have a hand. Cards like Skull Rend and Seismic Stomp are ideally phrased for this format. They are fast and easy to interpret within this format.

Oracle of Bones
Skull Rend
Seismic Stomp

But this is only one way to augment the Minotaur horde. Another way to do it is to add cards from across Magic’s history. Minotaurs have been part of the game since Limited Edition Alpha and really haven’t changed much. They are mostly red creatures with power and toughness ranging from 2/3 to 4/3 and converted mana costs of 3 or 4. They come from a variety of planes, too. Ask a Vorthos, and he or she might tell you: Hurloon Minotaur, Talruum Minotaur, and Karplusan Minoataur are from Dominaria; Anaba Minotaur is from the “Homelands” or the plane of Ulgrotha; a group of disciplined minotaurs hang out with the Boros Legion guild on Ravnica; and then there are miscellaneous minotaurs on Zendikar and elsewhere. There are even Undead Minotaur zombies!

The following list includes minotaurs from all over the Multiverse.

I didn’t include Mogis, God of Slaughter or Boros Reckoner on either of these lists in an effort to keep the lists affordable. Boros Reckoner also has an activated ability, which will usually keep me from including cards in a Horde Magic deck (triggered abilities, or enters-the-battlefield abilities are preferred). However, if your group wants to use them, I wish you luck. You’re gonna need it.

More Heads for the Hydra

Augmenting the Face the Hydra deck is a bit more challenging than augmenting the Minotaur deck. The way the Hydra deck damages players is by constantly producing new Heads. These Heads don’t attack, but they do damage if they are untapped at the end of the turn. As of this writing, there aren’t any Head creatures in Magic that can be added to this deck. However, there are plenty of Hydras.

Hydra creatures are mostly red and green with xs in their casting costs. However, it was easier to build this deck by using only Hydra creatures that had set casting costs and by including creatures from other colors. I suggest treating Hydra creatures like Elite Heads from the Face the Hydra deck (they will do 2 damage to each player if they are untapped at the end of the turn), but also giving them the standard text: “Haste. This creature must attack each turn if able.”

The following list includes a lot of Hydra and other cards to make players feel as though they’re fighting a wild, venomous animal.

There was simply no way to make this deck affordable. I tried to, but many of the Hydras in Magic are rares and mythics that have big impacts when they hit the battlefield. Naturally, the prices may be a bit high for some. Many of these Hydras also have abilities that will simply have to be ignored (e.g. Molten Hydra). I included a few Snakes, Hellions, and Gorgons to make the deck playable. The flavor isn’t perfect, but it’s close.

I like this deck, but it’s not as polished as the Minotaur lists above. If it seems too expensive or too complicated, sub in more Rotting Fensnakes or other generic Snakes for any of the above creatures.

A Brand New Horde Herd

When I sat down to build a new Horde deck, I quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be comprised of tokens. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have many spare tokens lying around. Most of the tokens I own are needed for various decks. Even if I had them at my disposal, they probably wouldn’t look much like a uniform horde. (And what’s the fun in that?)

Instead, I started to build the following Horde with mostly vanilla and French-vanilla creatures. It was a lot easier to do and added some unique elements to the game. Unlike tokens, all of these creatures have colors and converted mana costs. This makes them susceptible to abilities like protection and cards like Abrupt Decay and Austere Command. I eventually did include some uncommons and rares to spice things up.

This Horde deck was designed to make players feel as though they are being run over by a stampede. Elephants, Rhinos, Bears, and cards that make it seem like the earth is crumbling beneath you found their home in this deck. For whatever reason, I ended up featuring mostly non-Magic animals. It just felt right flavor-wise.

Designing Your Own Horde

Like a great many sci-fi novels, Horde Magic started with a question of, “What if?” “What if there were a Zombie apocalypse in Magic?” This is one of the reasons I love Horde Magic. It’s a story-infused, flavor-filled, and fan-created format.

Horrible Hordes
Barbarian Horde
Meng Huo's Horde

So, what kind of story do you want to tell? What kind of flavorful battle do you want to bring to your group of friends? Abe created a Theros Horde, complete with Centaurs and all the rest. What about you? There are loads of possibilities. Here’re a few:

  • Bigfoot Is Coming (Cyclopes, Giants, and Yeti)
  • The Righteous Army (Knights and/or Soldiers)
  • Total Terror (The Innistrad-block Horde)
  • I Am Legend (Attack of the Vampires)
  • GOBLINS! (I don’t think I need to explain this one . . . )
  • Rise of the Machine (Artifact Horde, which Abe has also built)

Which horde will you construct? Do you have one already constructed? Post your thoughts and decklists below.

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