This entry is part 6 of 13 in the series Notions of Horde

Billy headshot

By Billy

 

Today I’m going to be discussing two different hordes, both of which I’ve been wanting to build for quite a while but never felt like there were enough Horde-playable cards for the tribes. That’s right: it’s Kor and Vampires Tribal!

 

Just kidding.

 

I’m talking about Eldrazi and Allies Hordes. These are two horde ideas that have been bouncing around my head since I’d first heard of Horde, but I wasn’t sure how to build them in interesting and fun ways. Thanks to Magic’s return to Zendikar, I feel like I have the tools available to produce hordes that are worthwhile and provide enough of a different spin on the format to feel different from other, more standard hordes.

 

First on the list is the Eldarzi Horde.

 

This horde is built under a different design paradigm than most horde decks I’ve seen. The traditional Horde looks to overwhelm the players in a sea of cannon fodder with a few large threats to distract from the ever-growing mass of faceless tokens. This Eldrazi horde, however, is built around the boss monsters. Gigantic eldritch horrors tromp (slither? scuttle? glide? fold-reality-around-themselves?) across the battlefield to crush the meager defenses of players who really should know better than to wake up Cthulhu. Tokens aren’t really a threat here.

 

The Scions are only 1/1s, easily squashed by Bear Cubs or any other creatures with two toughness. On the other hand, Breaker of Armies is in the house to inform your players precisely how he got that title. If you look at the list, you’ll notice there isn’t much Annihilator in there. That was intentional, as too many test draws involved turn one Annihilator triggers ending the game before it even started. That’s not fun, not even for “Hard Mode” Hordes. Feel free to add them all back in if you’ve got more balls than brains. Despite Oath of the Gatewatch adding more beef to Team Eldrazi, my self-imposed Annihilator limit has lead to more duplicates than I usually want in a Horde, but I think the feel holds up pretty well.

 

Here’s a quick breakdown of the highlight cards:

 

  • Ruination Guide is here to provide a little more punch to the Scions. They need help, and we can’t completely ignore the swarm method simply due to numbers. Minimal Annihilator seriously reduces the number of original RotE Eldrazi we can use. My initial design included many Guides, simply because I didn’t feel like there were enough quality boss monsters available post-Annihilator. Oath of the Gatewatch really helped this horde out on the boss monster front.

  • Breaker of Armies is devastating in this horde. I think the easiest non-Annihilator difficulty boost you could make is to bring in more Breakers, but that gets to be awfully repetitive, awfully quick.

  • It That Betrays is a bigger version of Dread Slaver, a favorite of mine from the Zombie horde. I love turning players’ critters against them.

  • Vile Aggregate and Kozilek’s Sentinel are both here for the swarm strategy. They act as pretty decent boss monsters if the swarm gets going, and the Sentinel will average four power a turn. If you want to crank up the difficulty, look at replacing these first. I don’t think you will need to increase the power level much, but know the option is available.

  • Rapacious One this is one of those pet cards that’s never found a place to shine. Here it acts as both boss monster and swarm enabler. Sure the Eldrazi Spawn are 0/1s, but a Ruination Guide or a Swarm Surge will make them into threats, and they will always pump the Vile Aggregate.

  • Ulamog’s Crusher is one of the few representatives of Annihilator I allowed. It’s a classic, it’s only Annihilator 2, and Ulamog himself is also here, so it stands to reason he’d bring his crush along, as well.

  • Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is the bossiest of boss monsters; he eats libraries and doesn’t afraid of anything. I opted for “The Hunger’  over Ulamog, The Infinite Gyre for multiple reasons, including Annihilator, graveyard clause, and ease of pronunciation. Say “Gyre” ten times fast.

  • All is Dust has synergy with It That Betrays, and is better than Plague Wind in this deck.

  • Swarm Surge says it all in its name: this helps the swarm strategy and has the side effect of being terrifying on Breaker of Armies. That is a card that shouldn’t ever have First Strike.

  • Void Winnower and Sire of Stagnation are both here because cards that mess with the rules of the game are very much my kind of thing.

  • Deceiver of Form is a sweet toy from Oath that lets all our scions turn into boss monsters. My house rule for this is that the horde will use the copy ability on anything bigger than a Scion, and always put the used card on the bottom. The horde won’t turn its team into Scion tokens because this is hard mode, and turning Kozilek into a 1/1 is not why we’re here.

  • Eldrazi Mimic becomes the size of whatever the biggest creature the horde played that turn is. This is a pretty simple house rule that allows for a bit more variety in play, while still providing the giant monsters this horde is built to showcase.

  • Kozilek, the Great Distortion out-bosses Ulamog. It draws the horde 7 cards, is a 12/12 Menace and the activated ability doesn’t even matter. This is the villain we deserve.

  • Deepfathom Skulker is basically Edrazi, Spymaster of Trest. He’ll turn the trickle of boss monsters into a massive scuttling doom wave. I’m looking to get a few of these for my actual commander decks.

 

 

 

That finishes it up for the Eldrazi half of this, now on to the Allies.

 

This horde is built to swarm. First thing to notice is that there are 75 tokens in this horde, so it’ll average about 4 cards per turn, meaning 4 Ally triggers per turn. Here’s where the conscious nerfing comes into play:many of the old-school Allies have triggers to put +1/+1 counters on themselves, or others, whenever they or another Ally enter the battlefield. This leads to large quantities of counters on permanents, and no one has enough dice or time to deal with the logistics of that. When Magic Online adds Horde functionality, I’ll play with that Ally horde.

 

As it stands, we’re looking to cut down on the number of dice involved. This will reduce the power level of this horde, but I don’t think it will be nearly as awkward as Eldrazi without Annihilator turned out to be. Instead we’ll be looking for triggered abilities, preferably ones that don’t target. This will mean a giving out a lot of keywords, almost on the level of Slivers. Nearly every card in the deck provides some keyword bonus, and many of the ones that don’t grant keywords carry some other bonus. The keyword givers also mean that we don’t have to track quite as many triggers, since multiple instances of most keywords are redundant.

 

Time for the highlight cards:

  • Drana, Liberator of Malakir gives counters to all her minions, and picks up any other Ally bonuses along the way, a solid lord in a tribe dedicated to sharing.

  • Hero of Goma Fada is almost the Hero of Game Over. If the Horde has any board presence at all when he hits the field, players had best hope they have Counterspell or a timely wrath up their sleeves.

  • Kalastria Healer and Zulaport Cutthroat allow the horde to attack from a different angle. Both these card are must-kill targets that get in a nice burst of damage to maintain pressure and divert blockers away from other threats.

  • Kazuul Warlord is one of my big concessions to heaps of dice, simply because it is too good and too iconic not to include. It perfectly encapsulates the old-school Allies and can really make any army into a threat.

  • Turntimber Ranger can build an army from any board state, doubling the horde’s creature production and getting bigger all at the same time.

  • Tajuru Beastmaster and Tajuru Warcaller are both Overrun imitators that will come with bodies and trigger other abilities. They’re good, they pump the team every turn and frequently by quite a bit. This horde will average 4 Ally triggers per turn, meaning these pump friends will work wonders.

  • Seascape Aerialist gives all Allies flying, every turn. Sometimes this will just kill the players, other times it will eat a terror right off the bat. Either way, this is a scary card.

  • Angel of Renewal’s lifegain doesn’t help the horde, but I included it because I wanted to highlight my vanilla Ally choices. There’s a couple in here that I recognize  are “sub-optimal,” but as I have enough trouble tracking counters for my Allies, I figured tracking them for the horde would get pretty old, pretty fast. If you have the dice for it, these are the ones to replace with the original Zendikar “fighters.”

 

Sadly, I don’t think the Ally horde got nearly as much help from Oath as the Eldrazi did. Cohort is an interesting mechanic, but not one that is remotely applicable to Horde’s AI player. The Eldrazi, by comparison, got some massive upgrades (courtesy of Kozilek’s brood), especially considering the limit I placed on Annihilator. Deceiver of Form and Eldrazi Mimic both provide the horde with their “boss monsters” and more variance of play, something that I believe is crucial to the lifespan of a horde deck. If the deck gets too predictable or easy, it stops being fun, and that’s why we play games.

 

On the subject of fun, if you really hate it, here are lists for each tribe with the gloves off and absolutely no design parameters other than to make it as hard as possible. I don’t recommend playing these, but I’m sure someone will appreciate the nightmares they represent.

 

 

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