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

by Billy

 

So, how about that Arena update? It’s really a whole new game, and I think this is the perfect time to talk about everyone’s favorite elven guerrillas! I’ve been having some success by mixing gold weathers and movement abilities like Dwarven Mercenary and Vrihedd Brigade to keep my opponents’ units spread out and taking maximum damage each turn. I run Francesca as my leader as well as a little bit of a swap engine for extra consistency.

 

Oh, wait. Wrong game. Where am I again? Where is all this chittering coming from? Oh no. . . OH NO!

 

Hello, and welcome back to an all new Notions of Horde. I fell off the Magic train for a while, but am now back with a vengeance. Or at least some squirrels. Now, this Squirrel Horde has been on my list for quite some time, but I kept running into two issues. First, there aren’t nearly as many squirrels in the card pool as I would normally like when building a horde. Secondly, I kept telling myself that I was going to commission custom art proxies from an artist buddy of mine for a few of the key non-squirrel cards, in order to make them more squirrely. Well, custom art is time and money intensive, and Unstable took me by surprise, so I wasn’t ready. That said, lack of preparedness has never stopped me before, so let’s dive into the list!

 

Yeah, there’s some cards that don’t actually exist on there. Here’s the thing: Unstable did not turn out to be the totally nuts squirreltopia of my dreams. Instead we got three-and-a-half squirrels, and a couple cards that reference them.

 

 

 

 

And a half.

 

As you can see the pickings are rather slim, and the squirrel referencing cards aren’t any better. As much fun as my new Squirrel Dealer playmat is, the card itself really doesn’t work in horde, so please don’t high-five the horde. Chittering Doom is nice, and I stuck it in for testing, but I think it might be my first cut once I have a little more time to test this, I worry that the die-rolling triggers may be unreliable without further custom card design.

 

I’ll get into the custom cards I designed in a bit, but first I want to explain my design philosophy for this horde. This horde has 80 tokens, meaning that it is the most aggressive, and swarmiest deck I’ve made so far. This is intentional, and in no way a pathetic attempt to cover for the absolutely tiny number of Horde-able squirrels that have been printed. Horde has always been a format where the primary threat is in dealing with the overwhelming odds of the deck, so I’m not completely out of my head with this one.

 

Over the course of this series I’ve played with this in a couple of angles, ranging from the Eldrazi horde’s constant stream of fatties, to the endlessly recursive zombie horde, but the fact is, one of the greatest effects on how a horde plays is the base token size. The zombies are base 2/2 which means that it gets pretty easy to endure the early waves before the lords and the recursion kick in, while the golems of the artifact horde are much scarer on the early turns where three toughness blockers are harder to come by. As for squirrels, they’re 1/1s at base, so to ensure that there’s enough to survive to become actual threats, I needed the horde to be able to produce tons of them at once. Hence the larger than average number of tokens. An average flip for this horde ought to be four tokens, and hopefully something that will buff them up to begin to be threatening.

 

That’s our game plan here. Simple, to the point, and not many tricks. This is the least variance horde I have ever designed, and will likely stay that way until another Un-set comes out.

 

Let’s get to the breakdown:

 

The World’s Fattest Squirrels!

Earl of Squirrel, Coat of Arms, Deranged Hermit, Adaptive Automaton, Metallic Mimic, Nut Collector, Monkey Joe, sorta The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.

 

 

So, first and foremost we need to to make our squirrels bigger so they can survive combat with a Squire. There’s a few existing Squirrel lords out there – Deranged Hermit being the classic – and I’ve gathered the best of the best. Earl of Squirrel is why I’m writing this, and I’m running four in this horde. Why? It’s the best squirrel ever printed, and I’m envious of the guy that opened two of those in the draft I did. But my wife and I still got our promo Earls, and had fun, so the night wasn’t a total squirrel loss. Also, I bought a playmat because one of the shops we play at has tables with some sort of glazing that does that weird thing where the cards stick to the table, but actually aren’t stuck, they just slide everywhere, but you also can’t easily pick them up, also the art is basically my spirit animal.

 

“Hey buddy. Wanna buy a squirrel?”

 

*inhales* ANYWAY, the Earl is basically the best thing in a squirrel deck, and also possibly the best card ever printed. He makes your squirrels bigger, and makes your non-squirrel tokens into squirrels. That bit is probably not super relevant, but it makes the Beast Within bushy-tailed, and that seems like it could be a thing.

 

Working down from there through the Actually Squirrel Cards we come to Nut Collector. This Odyssey oddity is a massive buff to your squirrels and it makes more over time; it’s also a prime example of why Mark Rosewater should do Design, Development, and Creative on every set. OK, that was a joke. Partly.  

 

Nut Collector takes the chittering horde from speed bumps to noticeable threats instantly and, if he sticks around, makes more squirrels every turn. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl goes and fetches an Earl, so she almost counts as a lord. I’d initially designed this card thinking that the Earl would be a stand-in for Monkey Joe or Tippy-Toe, but they eventually got their own cards as I discovered more design holes I wanted to fill. Monkey Joe is a more bog-standard lord effect with the catch that when he dies, he summons his replacement, Tippy Toe. More on her later.

 

Our last cards for this category are the non-squirrel-specific lords and anthems. So, I know they aren’t really on theme, and are a cop-out I’ve worked hard to avoid using throughout this series, but hear me out: I was going to give them really cool art. Adaptive Automaton is kinda boring as is. It’s a generic lord that you can use to try to make yourself feel like your Tribal Cephalid deck has SYNERGY! In my mind’s eye, though, it’s a squirrel version of the T-800 Terminator

 

Like this, but fuzzier.

 

Metallic Mimic is going to be the liquid metal Terminator, but less Robert Patrick, and more fuzzy rodent. The mimic means you’re probably going to want to have a lot of dice handy to track all of those counters. The plan here is to hopefully be able to slip in early, and survive long enough to buff at least one wave of squirrels. The dream for the horde is to buff an Earl of Squirrel and all that sweet value of an extra squirrel each combat. Pro tip: kill this guy first.

 

 

 

Coat of Arms is sort of the classic win-more tribal synergy card. In “real Magic” it’s a five-mana card that buffs your creatures based on the number of creatures you have. In most games, you’re probably already winning if you have 3+ creatures with tribal synergy on the board already, so the heraldry gets frequently left on the bench. Here in Horde World, it’s far more likely to have large numbers of creatures on the board, and the squirrels are small enough that they need all the boost they can get. For this one I was going to commission art containing classic medieval heraldry, lots of acorns, and the phrase “In Nucibus Speramus” [Editor’s rusty Latin note: this loosely translates to “in nuts, we hope”].

 

A CHITTERING HORDE, NED! ON AN OPEN FIELD!

 

Deranged Hermit, Chittering Doom,Earl of Squirrel, Nut Collector, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Tippy-Toe, Squirrel Girl, Doom of Doom, Crisis on Infinite Squirrels, Squirrel Girl, Doom’s Re-Doom

 

 

Remember how I began this article with the warning that there just aren’t enough squirrel cards? Here’s where I try to make up for that. Tippy-Toe both makes more squirrels, and rolls dice to keep Chittering Doom producing more tokens. The assorted Squirrel Girls all add more bodies to the field, with Unbeatable calling our old friend Earl to bring the Squirrellink to the field to generate even more squirrels. Originally I was going to have the Earl of Squirrel represent Squirrel Girl’s rodent sidekicks, but they ended up getting their own cards as I kept running into the Lack of Squirrels.

 

I kept Unbeatable fetching an Earl, because the Earls are really the glue holding this horde together and, frankly, I feel like even my overpowered custom cards aren’t as good as the Earl. Doom of Doom is a doubling mechanic, that I’ve always loved. I like the idea that even if the players can beat this wave of the horde, there’s a fresh batch already waiting. Squirrel Girl, Doom’s Re-Doom gets all the squirrel Girls together for a big, squirrel generating party. That means Doom’s Re-Doom brings Unbeatable, and Doom of Doom, and Unbeatable brings along an Earl of Squirrel, then Doom of Doom doubles the horde when it attacks. That’s a lot of squirrel power!

 

On the whole, this horde produces large volumes of squirrels, and then makes them huge. With any luck, there will be more than enough squirrels on the board to represent a persistent threat to players, and players will have enough squirrel tokens to keep up with the production.

 

Frankly, the overall lack of squirrels in Magic is disappointing, but the rumor-mill says that we’ll be getting more Un-sets along the way, each with more squirrels, I hope. I had more custom work for this horde than I like doing, at least outside of weirder full-custom projects like the Adviser Horde. My usual custom card disclaimer that the costing on these are very rough, seeing as the Horde doesn’t care, and they’re not built for players to ever have. I’m going to need to get better at that if I’m going to get anywhere in the Great Designer Search 3, but for the horde, it matters less.

 

Hope this gives all of you out there some squirrely fun, and remember, you can still run UnCards against this horde even after the Commander Rules Committee closes the window on silver borders. It’s my horde, I’ll make the rules.

 

Stay Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed!

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