Sea’s Wrath: A Horde Deck

September 24, 2015

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By Matt Rob

 

There are experiences in the world which trigger responses in our collective reptile brain. Stuff that was ingrained in our mammalian ancestors before our prefrontal lobe gave us the ability (and desire) to sleeve up bits of cardboard and ink, put on pants, and go socialize with other apes. Most people experience revulsion at seeing snakes, nausea at smelling rotten food, or concern (panic, even) at the sound of a crying baby. One of those visceral experiences is the theme of today’s Horde: I’m talking about encountering a living thing that is so large as to render you insignificant in its eyes. I’ve been in ocean waters with giant sea turtles around me, I’ve been growled at by a black bear feet away in the wild, I (and countless millions of others) watched in horror as the glass of water rippled in Jurassic Park from the ponderous approach of a T-Rex. And that last one was in a friggin’ movie, man. When these things happen, you aren’t thinking about what take-out to order later, is what I’m saying.

 

The sea has always been my favorite, though, despite containing some of the last actual megafauna of the Cenozoic. Growing up in the mountains, so far from a body of water larger than a river, those few childhood trips to the ocean were among the most memorable of my life. The ocean is implacable, at times calm, at other times vengeful. And it is massive beyond massive. Even Jaws couldn’t diminish my enthusiasm for the sea. That movie was scary as can be, don’t get me wrong, but I was rarely on a boat with no shore visible (and then, usually on a Great Lake), as Brody and Quint and Hooper are in Jaws. I was certainly not at Martha’s Vineyard, yachting with my friends. I was safe to enjoy the sea because I didn’t have to actually face the monsters of the deep. In today’s Horde deck, you do.

 

Sea’s Wrath Horde

 

15 Merfolk (1/1) or Merfolk Wizard (1/1, islandwalk) tokens

10 Lizard (2/2) tokens

15 Bird (1/1 or 2/2, flying) tokens

10 Whale (6/6) tokens

5 Kraken (9/9) tokens

 

4 Sunken City

1 Rising Waters

1 Mist of Stagnation

1 Mystic Remora

1 Coastal Piracy

 

2 Inundate

4 Whelming Wave

1 Mnemonic Nexus

2 Devastation Tide

 

4 Siren of the Fanged Coast

2 Deepchannel Mentor

4 Kederekt Leviathan

2 Inkwell Leviathan

1 Isleback Spawn

1 Reef Worm

3 Master of Waves

2 Stormtide Leviathan

1 Tromokratis

2 Colossal Whale

4 Breaching Leviathan

1 Ramirez DePietro (just for funsies)

1 Emperor Crocodile (also for funsies)

 

The experience here is that you’ve planeswalked to a plane of endless ocean. Surrounding you are the biggest (non-Eldrazi) predators in the multiverse, a school of angry merfolk, and powerful tidal forces battering you at every turn. The Evacuation-style sweepers make it hard to mount a defense and the Leviathans and Krakens trample over chump blockers. And the nasty abilities on Rising Waters, Colossal Whale, and Breaching Leviathan keep you locked down.

 

One of my favorite ways to work within the constraints of Horde Magic is to use the Tribute cards from Theros Block. Rather than making an objective decision for the Horde, why not use cards that are instead built to make you, the opponent, pick the lesser of two evils? Siren of the Fanged Coast is one such card. The two options are to give the opponent a 4/4 Flyer (often much larger with the lords and anthems), or let them gain control of one of your creatures.

 

If you are cool with using targeted spells for the Horde (randomly targeting via dice or trying to objectively make best decision for Horde), then the deck can become loads harder with the use of Sea’s Claim, Spreading Seas, and Lingering Mirage effects. Time Walks also make it more difficult.

 

Blue also has a lot of weird enchantments from early on in Magic. Some, like Mystic Remora (why isn’t this a creature?), show up in Commander and even in eternal formats. Others, like Rising Waters and Sunken City… not so much. But there’s a lot of weird stuff out there for a format like Horde Magic. Mist of Stagnation is one such card. Appearing in the “graveyards count for pretty much everything” set that is Judgment, it is an interesting take on Stasis. You skip your untap step, but get to untap a permanent for each card in your graveyard. The casting cost is surprisingly high (3UU) for an enchantment that isn’t a permanent lock, but that doesn’t matter to the Horde (although it could explain why I’ve never seen the card played in person outside of this Horde deck). Coastal Piracy is another enchantment that helps the Horde keep the pressure coming. The very recent Bident of Thassa is the power-creep upgrade to the card, but I prefer Coastal Piracy as more in keeping with the theme (not that Thassa isn’t on theme, but more that she and her bident are on Theros, not this unnamed plane).

 

The creature suite includes some common and uncommon blue monsters. Lorthos, the Tidemaker isn’t present (but could easily be), as he presents targeting problems (which, if you’re fine with, use Lorthos, obv.). Wrexial, the Risen Deep would be sweet, but I don’t actually own one. Lots of Stormtides and Colossal Whales and a smattering of merfolk and flyers. Notably absent are any actual sharks, because all of the sharks in Magic are awful. I really wish they weren’t, but they are. Unequivocally.

 

One alternative creature that works surprisingly is Clinging Anemones (add 4 and take out the Sirens). Having both defender and evolve means that it is always there to protect the Horde and it gets stupid huge pretty quickly.

 

Problems of Scale

Which brings me to a small rant. I’ve been surprised many times at how small many of the ocean monsters are when compared to current all-stars in competitive Magic. Colossal Whale is a 5/5—that is, a creature that can wreck ports is only slightly bigger than an effete who lounges on the Sultai throne in Tarkir’s past. Kederekt Leviathan sweeps the entire board when it breaches—but watch out, y’all, as it might get bear-punched to death by Surrak Dargonclawz. This aside is not to complain about the power level of current critters (which are great and should have been this way to balance the bonkers power of spells for the past two decades), but more to complain that giant whales and Neptunian monsters shouldn’t die to a monk token with a Hammerhand. So, Wizards: maybe throw indestructible or regenerate on an ocean monster every now and again, for all of us sea fans. Read China Miéville’s The Scar if you need inspiration. Extra credit if you give us a playable shark.

 

Back to the topic, even at a puny 5/5, the monsters here are connecting pretty regularly thanks to islandwalk and all of the aforementioned sweepers, so it isn’t a big deal for the actual gameplay.

 

Conclusion

I very much enjoy this Horde. It can have frustratingly powerful openings that undo all of your efforts. It can topdeck a monster that nukes your plans for the next few turns. It can chain a Worm into a Whale into a Kraken, making spot removal iffy at best. But it does all of this in service of a sweet, sweet theme: the sublime terror at encountering nature at its most powerful. You can keep your Kobold hordes and your Skullbriar counters: I’ve going after that white whale.

 

 

*”Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure…”

–Herman Melville, Moby Dick

 

*Editor’s Note: I just couldn’t help myself…