This article is by a guest author this week: John McCollum
Here is a brand-new Magic variant of my own devising. It can come in handy when you want to play Commander-style games, but only have one other person available to play with you. This might also serve as a good way to introduce someone to Commander who normally enjoys the draft format without having to put together a whole specialized cube for that purpose.
Commander Division Draft
In this variant of Commander Magic, you draft two smaller decks from a 100 card Commander Deck containing an even number of Commanders with the same color identity. Any two-player draft format may be used (Winston or Winchester is recommended). At the start of the draft, separate the basic lands and the possible Commanders from the remaining cards. Players randomly decide who starts the draft. Possible Commanders are drafted first, with players picking one at a time until all are selected. The spell cards and non-basic land cards are then drafted using the technique of choice. The players use the basic land pool that was set aside at the start and their selected cards to construct two 40 card decks (including the Commanders they selected). Once decks are constructed, the chosen Commanders are revealed, and play proceeds using regular Commander rules (although a starting life total of 25 instead of 40 is suggested), with the person who drafted second choosing to draw or play first.
When designing a deck for this variant, you may wish to limit the number of really high-cost spells in the deck and include more small-to-medium-sized creatures than your normal Commander build to make for more fast-paced games. I find it plays out a bit like Tiny Leaders that way, but since you control the card pool you don’t have to include cards that make that format so cutthroat. Here’s a sample deck that I made, following both Tiny Leaders and Commander deck construction constraints!
Golgari Division Draft
100 cards, 0 sideboard
I have played with the deck a couple of times and have managed to win using two different Commanders thus far. I have tried to include some cards that support each possible Commander, but poor Thelon of Havenwood just doesn’t have that many fungi to help him in this incarnation. He is at least still useful as an elf body when you choose to run Rhys the Exiled.
As a final bonus, I am including a copy of the rules on a card image that you can print out and distribute to others when you play so they can have a copy handy for themselves.
I hope you can give this new way to play a try, and let me know what you think in the comments!
This article is by a guest author this week: John McCollum
I happen to play a Horde variant of my own devising, and thought it would be fun to share it with other
Magic enthusiasts. Here is the breakdown of my variant:
Horde Magic is for 1-4 players. Players are called Survivors in this format, and have a shared life total of 20 plus 10 life per Survivor. For example, a team of three Survivors would start with a collective 50 life.
The Horde library starts with 100 cards, and puts 10 cards for each Survivor less than four facing it directly into its graveyard at the start of the game. For example, a team of three Survivors would play against a Horde with 90 cards in its library and 10 in its graveyard at the start.
The Horde ignores all effects that refer to players and cannot be targeted as a player, but the Horde can be targeted and affected by cards that refer to opponents. Players can also attack the Horde. For each point of damage done to the Horde, the Horde puts the top card of the Horde deck into the Horde’s graveyard.
Survivors take turns simultaneously, and go first, beginning play as normal. The Horde begins play at the end of the Survivors third turn. Survivors alternate turns with the Horde thereafter. On each of the Horde’s turns, the top cards of its library are flipped over until a non-token card is revealed. All of the tokens flipped this way enter the battlefield, and the non-token card is then cast. If there are cards in the Horde’s hand, they are all also cast at this point. Spells cast by the Horde can be countered normally.
The Horde is considered to have infinite mana of all colors if a card asks the Horde to pay costs for any reason.
The Horde cannot make any decisions, so outcomes of any choices it would make must be determined at random.
All of the Horde’s creatures have haste and must attack each turn if able.
The Horde’s creatures cannot block, even if they are untapped. Survivors defend as a team in a two-headed giant game.
The Survivors win when the Horde deck can’t flip over any more cards, and the Horde doesn’t control any creatures.
One major difference between this variant and others found around the net is the explicit rule that the Horde is not a player and cannot be affected by cards that affect players. This rule negates a lot of cards that make playing against the Horde deck a bit too easy. I find that with this rule, players do draw a number of “dead” cards if their decks aren’t specifically tuned to play against the Horde, but I just consider these dead draws an additional challenge to overcome when playing against the Horde. If this really bothers you, I would suggest allowing players to discard and draw a new card as soon as a “dead” card comes up. It should be noted that cards that say “opponent” or “target opponent” without also referring to them as a player in any way can still be used against the Horde in this variant.
It should also be said that this rule also makes a number of cards more powerful for the Horde to use. A good example of a card that is made more effective for the Horde is Fleshbag Marauder, which states:
When [card]Fleshbag Marauder[/card] enters the battlefield, each player sacrifices a creature.
As a result of the rule, The Horde would not have to sacrifice any creatures from the Marauder’s triggered ability once the creature hits play. It also eliminates the need for someone to randomly choose a creature for the Horde to sacrifice. I feel that any time you can avoid making a random decision on behalf of the Horde, it is a good thing, as it makes for smoother play.
Another thing about this particular set of rules is that it can easily be fit onto a small rules sheet. I often distribute rules cards to players who are willing to try a new variant with me. If they like the new variant, I let them take the card with them so they can more easily play with others. I always try to make sure proper credit is given on the card to sites that list the variants I share, and I also like make sure other players are aware of those online resources so they can explore them on their own. Here’s the card rule sheet I distribute for the Horde variant, which I created using a token maker program I found online:
Of course, a short rules set devised for distribution on a card does have some drawbacks in that it doesn’t explicitly lay out all the rules. For example, how blocking occurs in Two-Headed Giant team games may take some extra explaining for players who have never encountered team play before. I have also found there is sometimes confusion as to how the tokens should be handled when they aren’t in play. I feel that normal magic rules for tokens should be followed, so tokens cannot be countered in the same way as spells (although you could argue that something like Voidslime or Stifle might be used to counter the effect that puts them into play), they have a converted mana cost of zero, and they are exiled if they leave the battlefield for any reason or are placed into the graveyard directly from the Horde deck.
Finally, another adjustment I made to the typical rules set for Horde Magic is labeling each player as a Survivor. The Survivor title serves as a keyword for a number of homemade tokens and emblems that I use in my game. I find that adding custom tokens and emblems enhances the flavor of my game, and it also allows me to shore up weaknesses of the Horde deck. Here are some examples of the tokens I use. (Please note- the images on these tokens are taken from actual Magic cards. I make these for personal use only, do not seek to make any type of profit from their use, and I give credit to the artist on each card. Please don’t sue me over them).
Traditional Horde tokens often lack evasion or triggered abilities, so I tried to create taken that would help with that problem. I also hate seeing a “moat” effect shut down the Horde attack, so there’s a special token to address just that issue in Betrayer of the Living. I personally have no idea if the Betrayer’s ability actually works within the regular rules of the game, but I hope its intent is understood and that its effect can be played as intended. You may have also noticed that the emblem turns the game into a bizarre version of Archenemy. I always liked the idea of there being someone in a group of Survivors willing to betray the others when the time was right. It fits right into the horror movie theme that seems to have inspired the idea of the Zombie Horde.
To wrap this up, I am going to leave you with the Horde deck list I play with. Based on my experiences with it over a number of games, I feel it poses a fairly strong challenge to people playing with casual Commander decks. I have fun playing with these rules and this deck, and I hope you give them a try!
Thanks for reading!
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Use YOUR shoes as counters,
Time for another less-well-known Magic website/resource that I have recently found and enjoy quite a lot! Today I'm talking to Adam Hoffman of MTG Assist!
Who are you and Why do we care?My name is Adam Hoffman, designer/developer/marketer for MTGAssist.com. The site itself is all you should really care about, but it's worth noting that it's a one-man operation!
What is MTGAssist?
MTGAssist.com started as a hobby project to see if I could successfully create a site that can automatically detect cards similar to the one you are viewing. That idea was so successful that I went on to develop a full search engine with all sorts of powerful search features.
What makes MTGAssist stand out against other mtg search sites?
In addition to being the only site with a "similar card search," MTGAssist also has standard and advanced search features, pricing for both paper and MTGO cards, and a 100% responsive design (so it works great on your cell phone or other mobile devices). The other "big two" search engines (magiccards.info and Gatherer) have plenty of search features, but are either too confusing or don't let you narrow your search based on criteria that matters to you.
Beyond the site features, MTG Assist also has very active Facebook and Twitter followings. Card of the day, card guessing, random flavor texts... just about everything you can imagine to keep you entertained throughout the day.
Tell us a little about yourself and your history with the game. When did you start playing Magic?
I first started playing during Revised, right before 4th Edition came out. I only played for a while, up through Mirage, before I got caught up with other hobbies. I was re-immersed in Magic in 2010 with the release of Mirrodin Besieged and obviously had a lot to catch up on.
What is your favorite card?
Obviously I have different favorite cards for different situations, but I've always considered [card]Flickerwisp[/card] to be a very fun card to play. I love bounce effects and utility creatures, and this one fits the bill for both very well.
What formats are your favorite to play?
Nowadays, I mostly play either Pauper or Commander/EDH on MTGO. I'm a cheapass and these formats make it pretty easy to make budget decks. I love Modern as well, but have never wanted to make the financial commitment to start playing it competitively.
What types of decks do you like to play?
My decks always seem to revolve around removal, so white and black are a reoccurring theme, it seems. I enjoy a tempo-style deck; one with a lot of card interactions and effects to keep a card and battlefield advantage. Sometimes I enjoy a good control deck, but I always feel dirty after playing it.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions Adam and keep up the great work!
That's all we have time for this week, so until next time...
Use YOUR shoes as counters,
Wooberg has T-Shirts available now, thanks to the artwork of Nate Slover, FREE SHIPPING on all orders in the USA!
Hidden Gems (for those of you who don't remember) is a series where I highlight an up and coming website or resource inthe Magic community that I love and want to share with all of my readers. MTGCrossing.com is a great tool that I have been using for a short time now and involves getting "free" cards. Interested? Without further ado, I leave you with Frank...
Who are you and Why do we care ?
My name is Frank van Gils and I come from the Netherlands. Married, proud father of two kids and the creator of MTG Crossing. I wanted to give something back to the Magic community because I have enjoyed playing magic for such a long time. So I've built a free service in my spare time, MTG Crossing, which allows people to send and receive personalized booster packs.
What is MTGCrossing Exactly?
MTG Crossing is a website that offers a fun and unconventional way to exchange cards. A member is (semi)-randomly assigned to another member once he indicates he wants to do an exchange. The sender then creates and sends a personalized booster pack (15 cards) based on the profile and wishlist of the receiver from cards in their own collection. Once the pack is registered on the website by the receiver, the sender becomes eligible to receive a personalized booster from another (semi)-randomly chosen member. This process creates an exciting and refreshing way to send and receive Magic cards since you never know who you will have to send to and what you will get back!
So who all is involved in maintaining MTGCrossing?
Currently I'm solely responsible for MTG Crossing doing all design, development, and promotion. I get fantastic support though from my wife and friends to keep everything going. Most of my time is spent improving and expanding the service based on analytics and feedback from the community. I also spend quite some time promoting the service so that it continues to grow and attract new members from different countries.
Tell us a little about yourself and your history with the game. When did you start playing Magic, and what is your favorite card?
I started playing Magic around Mercadian Masques when I was in high school. A friend of mine introduced it to me and I have been playing on-and-off ever since depending on the time available. My favorite aspect of Magic is it's social component. You can play with anyone, anywhere and have fun even if you don't share a language as I have experienced in Japan when I lived there for a few months.
My favorite card is [card]Two-Headed Dragon[/card]. I pulled it from one of my first boosters and I was convinced it had to be one of the best cards ever. I really love the art and flavor of the card and I have always been a big fan of dragons in any game, book or movie.
What formats are your favorite to play?
I mainly play limited and commander. I really like attending the occasional draft or prerelease to be able to build from scratch and play with something different every time. I was introduced to commander in Japan and have been hooked since. I love the format for its crazy plays and the sheer time you can just spend thinking up new decks and strategies.
What types of decks do you like to play?
For limited I prefer to keep my strategies simple since I'm not the best player on the block and mainly play to relax, so aggro is normally my choice of weapon.
For commander I love playing tribal or challenging myself to build decks with weird requirements. For example my [card]Melek, Izzet Paragon[/card] doesn't contain any non-land permanents. So only lands, sorceries and instants. I'm also currently trying to get a [card]Mikaeus, the Lunarch[/card], only converted mana cost one cards are allowed, off the ground.
I'll be appearing on an upcoming episode of Commandercast once again. Look for it coming up!
I am well aware that this series is a bit...belated. Theros is now last years' block, but I wasn't playing Magic at all last year (other than with teaching decks with my 6 year old daughter) and so I didn't have a chance to play against these decks at the Prereleases, or really, at all until I recently grabbed one of each from Amazon.
As a reminder, Here is the deck I've been running against the Challenge Decks:
I shuffled up this deck, and the Minotaur Horde, and got ready to stomp it to a paste like I did the Hydra...and I LOST, hard.
Game 1, the minotaurs pounded me hard! This deck does not have the stipulation that, you win if there are no creatures in play. Even when I was able to cull the early parts of the swarm, the hastey minotaurs just kept coming. My burn was more valuable, because the minotaurs didn't respawn BECAUSE of the deaths of their guys, but they had some blowout turns. No artifacts showed up this game to make them flip play more cards this game. I went on an early aggro plan (as this deck clearly wants to do) and the minotaurs would just flip up a brutal set of creatures and swing for 5 while I was tapped out, and that was too much for me to recover from. The one sweeper (that deals 3 damage to all creatures) cleaned me and the horde out, but the horde killed me after that cleared the way for them to swing in for lethal.
Game 2 I got stuck on 2 land and got whupped again.
Game three was more interesting, and I won, a little more easily than I would have liked, but not any more easily that the wins tend to be when I play ACTUAL Horde Magic. This time I saw a couple artifacts too, later in the game and the horde was flipping up 4 cards in its last few turns, but it was too late in the game and I pulled out the win.
All-in-all, this deck is MUCH better and more competitive than the hydra was. It's also WAY more similar to traditional Horde Magic, and could be fun as a Horde deck, but the artifacts that cause more flips could get BROKEN fast.
I definitely suggest picking this one up, I haven't tried it with any other decks, because I still felt like anything more tuned would make it a walk in the park, but against limited decks or precons, the Minotaur Horde is just the right amount of nasty.
So until next time, use YOUR shoes as counters!
A year late, I know, but I finally broke down and bought the Theros Challenge Decks and I just recently played the Face the Hydra one. I had originally intended to play against it with different decks of varying levels of power and complexity and report my findings, but if you keep reading, you'll see why that was unnecessary.
The other obvious comparison is to Horde Magic, a popular variant coined by Peter Knudson over on Quiet Speculation, I am going to compare and contrast the two formats and let you know how the Hydra challenge deck sizes up.
So, upon buying the Face the Hydra deck, I knew that it was intended for "standard decks" and along those lines, was likely build for sealed or draft pools because of it's debut as a side event at the Theros prerelease/release events. I wanted to push the limits of what could be played against it and see how it held up against varying decks that casual players might have.
I started with a deck I build to teach my 6 year old daughter to play magic. It is NOT powerful, in fact, it is pretty weak, but it is consistent. Likely able to easily defeat any limited pool, but it wouldn't stand up to any deck that has more than the one keyword mechanic in it. Here is my list, albeit a little out of date because we recently had added more cards and a few with haste because her reading and understanding of the rules have improved dramatically, the picture below however is the full deck I used:
I played 3 games against the hydra, and I won all three. There was one that was a tiny bit close, but this weak tutorial deck cleaned up against the hydra, no contest.
So as I said before, I didn't bother playtesting with stronger decks, because it was WAY too easy. I don't have a playgroup at present either, so this will be a review of solo play. That being said, any co-op game CAN be played as a solo game with similar results, and while I think more players would increase banter, it would not change how easy it is to defeat the hydra.
I also did not use any of the Hero cards, which I did go to the trouble to obtain because I simply did not need the power boost.
Horde Magic and How to Make the Hydra More Fun
When I read about these challange decks on the Mothership, I immediately compared them in my mind to Horde Magic. When I got mine, and read the rules, I realized this is much more toned down than Horde Magic, and even less of a challenge.
One of the few complaints about Horde Magic is how easy it has been to defeat the Horde, and the Hydra deck only draws 1 card per turn and more if you cut off a head. I would like to propose using 4 of the Hydra decks merged together AS a Horde deck and combining the rules. Here is my take:
Face the Hydra WOOBERG Style
You can battle the Hydra alone or with friends (just replace "you" with "each player" in these rules). At the end of any turn, if there are no Heads on the battlefield and no cards in the Hydra's deck, you win! Use the regular Magic rules with the following exceptions:
WOOBERG Style Hydra Challenge Horde Decklist
30 Hydra Head
10 Ravenous Brute Head
5 Savage Vigor Head
5 Snapping Fang Head
5 Shrieking Titan Head
Sorceries (this list is three short, add 3 sorceries from this list at your discretion)
5 Disorienting Glower
5 Distract the Hydra
4 Grown from the Stump
4 Hydra's Impenetrable Hide
3 Neck Tangle
4 Noxious Hydra Breath
2 Strike the Weak Spot
5 Swallow the Hero Whole
4 Torn Between Heads
6 Unified Lunge
Moderator of WOOBERG.net, the Encyclopedia of Magic Variant formats, Shoe has been playing MTG since mid to late 1994, He acquired the nickname ‘Shoe’ through a stupid joke made during a MTG game about the Chimpokomon episode of South Park. He loves MTG and gaming in general and hopes to work designing games one day. He plays mostly with his 6 year old daughter these days, but multi-player, and weird formats are his preference.