This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Kitchen Table Tactics
by J. Marshall

by J. Marshall

Well ladies and gentlemen, we’ve made it to the end of my first season writing for Commandercast.com.  It’s been a learning experience for me with respect to editing and developing content.  Before I start waxing philosophically about the adventure that has been being on staff here, I promised a break down on Wizard’s attempt on build a Horde deck.   I had the opportunity to setup and operate the Minotaur Horde deck for the Born of the Gods Game Day.  From the perspective of a player who likes to develop alternative formats (something I’d hoped to address more this season), I really do feel Wizards missed the mark, badly, like shooting the Empire state building when you’re aiming for the Space needle.

 

Come on Wizards you can hit it!

Come on Wizards you can hit it!

 

Let’s start with breaking down the ‘Minotaur Horde’ format design.  This version of Horde magic was designed to played versus one average standard deck with the assistance of three Hero cards printed for Theros and Born of the Gods prerelease, release, and Game Day events.

Mistake #1:  After the Multiplayer Hydra deck, which had built in modalities to allow adjustments in difficulty, a 1v1 side event with no clear adjustments of difficulty felt out of place and less exciting.  In my opinion?  They should have kept it as an adjustable multiplayer deck where the difficulty could be adjusted to 1v1.  Not to mention the extreme variety to the power of Standard decks.

 

Heros

Much like the Zombie version of the deck I described earlier this season, the player gets 3 turns to develop their board position before the Horde deck begins to reveal spells.  Unlike the Zombie version the player can attack the Horde from the start of the game.  Also unlike the Zombie version, the Minotaur deck is limited to reveal 2 cards (barring specific cards that adjust that number).  This can lead to very underwhelming starts by the Horde deck.  The remaining game play remains the same, with the added benefit of the ‘Minotaur Artifacts’ which provide rewards for their destruction.  Players win when the Horde deck is milled out and there are no longer minotaurs in play.

Mistake #2: The ability of the player to attack the Horde deck from the start of the game seems irrelevant, however even in standard there are incredibly fast mono-red decks.  This combined with the hindrance on the number of spells revealed per horde turn creates an environment allowing the player to simply race the Horde deck without concern for their own life total. 

 Success #1: Hero’s Reward is one of the best multiplayer mechanics Wizards developed for these Game Day decks.  I love how it adds an additional planning for players who optimize their turns around potential rewards.

Lets go over the spells Wizards used to construct this deck:

GoreseekerReaverYounghorn

15 Minotaur Younghorn

10 Minotaur Goreseeker

10 Phoberos Reaver

These three cards compose the bulk of the Horde deck.  Much like the Zombie horde 2 toughness creatures compose most of the deck (excluding the Reavers), meaning 2/x first strike creatures are going to be very powerful.

Success #2: One thing that I find was well designed by Wizards here is that each of these creatures was printed with the ‘Haste’ keyword.  They also added the nice phrasing of “attacks each turn if able”, allowing the bulk of the deck to be obvious to a player picking this up for the first time.

4 Mogis’s Chosen

4 Reckless Minotaur

ChosenReckless Minotaur

Mogis’s Chosen reminds me of a card that would have been printed in Fallen Empires. Keep in mind that the Horde deck does not play spells until turn 3. Lets compare this to other modern printed cards that cost 3: Leatherback Baloth, Loxodon Smiter, Woolly Thoctar. And this is only considering creatures that cost 3 with power greater than 3 and toughness 3 or greater.

Read my comments above about Mogis’s Chosen and research all the Ball Lightning Variants. I’m okay with the idea that this card is here to surprise your opponent. However the end of turn Sacrifice effect in combination with the slow rate the Minotaur’s board increases, makes this card a relief more than threat.

Mistake #3: Any spell in this style of deck should be comparable to equivalent spells of 3CMC or greater. By running weaker spells, especially those have no effect the turn they are played effectively give the player a T3 Time Walk for free.

7 Artifacts of various flavors

artifact

I’ve already mentioned that these are a fun addition that Wizards came up with. While in play they help Accelerate the Minotaur deck as a one sided Omen Machine, and when put into the graveyard (from anywhere) gives the player a boost rewarding them for attacking the Minotaur deck’s permanents instead of purely racing.

2 Intervention of Keranos

If you Recall my write up about Zombie Horde, sweepers are a great inclusion to breakup board states that prevent the Horde deck from defeating the players. It’s also important to edge the sweeper to favor the Horde deck (this is why I use Phyrexian Rebirth in my Zombie Horde.) This ‘edge’ helps offset the lack of planning for the sweeper. Intervention of Keranos does the exact opposite of this. It kills all but 4 minotaurs, and is small enough that many of creatures in standard will survive. So unlike the Zombie Horde the sweepers in Minotaur Horde provide an edge to the player.

2 Consuming Rage

Kragma Warcaller is an uncommon in Theros that sees no play in standard, it’s slow and doesn’t provide a solid bonus to a relevant tribe (yet?). But in this deck it’s the perfect replacement for Consuming Rage. The Minotaur deck develops so slowly Consuming Rage acts more like a one sided sweeper than a game-ender. Every time I saw this card I was left wondering why the destroy effect was necessary.

Mistake #4: Consuming Rage and Intervention of Keranos are two cards that end up acting as a one sided boardwipe in favor of the player. This is the biggest mistake in my opinion. Although in a vacuum these cards appear balanced, in reality the player almost always comes out ahead.

 

Intervention of KeranosConsuming Rage

2 Descent on the Prey

2 Touch of the Horned God

2 Unquenchable Fury

In comparison to Consuming Rage these cards are fantastic.  Each gives turns the attacking minotaurs into a removal spell or potentially unblockable.  The disadvantage of these cards has nothing to do with the cards themselves, but the fact that due to how slow the Minotaur deck grows its board (and its propensity to implode via Intervention or Rage) there are rarely any minotaurs to be affected.

Decend on preytouch of the horned godUnquenchable fury

Now as I’m sure you’ve surmised, I was not impressed with this attempt by Wizards to build a stand-alone Horde deck.  The ‘thought was there’ much like a 3 year old’s attempt at a family portrait; cute but strange to an outsider and certainly not worth spending money on.  Now that said, I think the idea was sound and the addition of Hero cards and Hero’s Reward is something fun that I’d like to expand on more in the future.  In fact, I think there is enough promise here that the deck can be modified with existing cards to be balanced for what they designed the format to do.  Here’s my goal:

 

Adjust the spell selection with flavorful cards that will balance the Minotaur Horde deck so that it can beat an average Standard deck using 3 Hero cards.  (or in other words ‘Work as intended by Wizards’).

 

Here is my favorite standard deck that we’ll be using for the purpose of testing our adjustments:

 

 

 

The Heros I’ve decided on using for this are: The Explorer, The Vanquisher, and the Harvester (shown previously)

the-vanquisherexplorer

Here are the adjustments I’ve made at my first pass:

-2 Consuming RageKragma-Warcaller-Theros-Spoiler

-2 Intervention of Keranos

+4 Kragma Warcaller

Although there are other cards I don’t like I believe that the removal of the ‘implosion cards’ will make those less offensive.

Result: 2-0 Standard deck

Iteration #2

-4 Mogis’s Chosen

+4 Rageblood Shaman

An even switch of creatures that don’t attack their first turn in play, these at least effect the board potentially causing large swings.

Result: 2-0 Standard deck Notably though I had to keep blockers available and use the removal to win.

Interation #3

+4 Kragma Warcaller

At this point I’ve stopped removing cards, although I mention I wasn’t a huge fan of the Reckless Minotaur as the number of lords increased the impact they had when in play was clear.  In a way this increases the ‘lords’ to 12 as well as increase the ‘life’ of the Minotaur deck.

Result: 2-0  Well I give up, perhaps I should have planned this part of the article more.  This last iteration did put me into single digits each game and forced me to use Sphinx's RevSphinx’s Revelation.  It required me to make decisions akin to that of a standard duel.  In the end however I think I it still needs further work, but I think you get the idea as to how I go about tinkering alternative formats, and perhaps you’ll pick up where I left off.  I limited myself to minotaur cards printed in Theros Block, but if you were to continue to tune this deck I would consider adding cards like Fated Retribution (which will be my ‘Iteration #4’, but I ran out of time).  I absolutely appreciate the effort Wizards is putting in to provide products like this and the Hydra (buy the Hydra if you can find it).  I think the Hero cards are a fantastic addition to casual magic, and I hope to use them in regular EDH games like Vanguard cards.

Today’s article marks the end of this season of Commandercast, and the end of my first writing for the site.  I had come in with plans for various topics of underused strategies and useful cards for hosing and politics.  I had a few alternative formats I wanted to discuss, none of which I got to illustrate.  I did however learn a lot about the writing process both for articles and for collaborating on a podcast (the Old Fogey experiment being my highlight of this season).  While I think I still have much to learn about writing and podcasting, I’ve decided to take a break from Commandercast.com.  Sadly the real world has reduced my ability to develop articles to my standards (not finishing tuning the Minotaur Horde deck being a fine example), so versus putting up late content (or half-hearted topics) I’ve decided to stop and recollect.

Those that enjoyed my articles and thoughts on Magic feel free to follow me on Twitter @KTT_Magic where I’ll continue to post randomly including if I make guest appearances on Spawning Pool.

Thanks for the support this season!

Jon

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