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
I was recently introduced to a fun, if not all that balanced format called Horde Magic that was featured on Quiet Speculation recently. The format has a TON of potential and I wanted to share some of my thoughts with my readers.
First of all, I have written my own slight variation on the rules to make the game more balanced. We STEAMROLLED the Zombie Horde almost every time we played, and while it was still fun, a little more of a chance that the zombies will win would have increased the amount of fun that was had.
Secondly, the horde deck that we played against tended to have less-than-epic turns as far as the amount of zombie tokens that flipped each turn. It tended to only flip 1-2 cards, and those cards were not so much more powerful than a token that they made the zombies' board state increase in power to any significant degree.
Some tips for making a good Horde deck:
Make sure all non-token cards are SIGNIFICANTLY more powerful than the average token: [card]Rotting Fensnake[/card] didn't make the cut in my horde deck. I left those spaces open for things like [card]Gluttonous Zombie[/card] or [card]Tresserhorn Skyknight[/card].
Needs more card advantage/recursion/answers: When the opponent cannot make decisions, finding good answers is tough. [card]Fleshbag Marauder[/card] was in the sample Horde deck and makes the deck-without-a-pilot make a decision of which creature to sacrifice. I used cards like [card]Living Death[/card] and [card]Plague Wind[/card] to try and give the zombies more of an advantage. They effectively cannot do anything that is considered "the best" to do in magic. No card drawing, no "mana ramping"...[card]Ghoulraiser[/card] is an important addition, because it gives the Horde a little recursion without targeting/causing a decision. I also considered [card]Empty the Catacombs[/card] and may still add it at a later time.
You can see both the sample Horde deck and my horde deck on the Hoard Magic page here, don't get this format confused however with the Horde format from the Magic . People often name formats the same thing as others that haven't seen much play over the years and it makes cataloging them quite hard.
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.