This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Wild Research


Horde Magic is a spectacular variant of Magic. I might even say that it is my favorite format, if I can call it a format, to play. You can find the rules and article that kicked Horde Magic off here. The beauty of Horde Magic is that there are almost no deck construction limits or rules. There are suggestions like all Horde spells cannot be countered, but if your buddy only has a legacy deck and you only have a standard deck there is no reason you cannot team up to vanquish the Horde. I have also found there are almost never games where the players get mad or complain about how the game played out. When you lose to a player-less stack of cardboard, all of a sudden people seem to be alright with the idea of losing. In fact, I have frequently witnessed a desire to play again because they are sure they know how to beat the Horde next time. Any format that drives people to play it more when they lose is great!

Building a Horde is a similarly unique and interesting project. Most Horde decks revolve around tokens that share a theme. The origin of the format was a zombie Horde though you could equally build a Horde for any other tribe or theme. You could extend the idea of zombies to include all undead. This is more or less how my friends built the first tiered Horde deck. We thought the idea of a zombie Horde would be fun, so everyone grabbed all of their 2/2 zombie tokens. It turned out that between all of us we had 20-30 tokens, no where near the target 60 we were looking for. So we branched out and looked at what black creature tokens we had a lot of. We ended up deciding to use 1/1 regenerating skeletons, 2/2 zombies, and 5/5 flying demons. Between the three groups we had nearly 60 tokens with which to build the Horde. Originally we may have tried a game or two with all of the tokens shuffled together randomly, but quickly realized that a pair of demons on the Horde’s first turn was almost unbearable.

The solution to our problem turned out to be quite elegant and a ton of fun. We separated the tokens by type and distributed the rest of the Horde to keep the tokens at about 60% of the cards in any particular pile thus creating stages or levels which were separated by a hard plastic sleeve. Again, I do not recall if we tried a game of two first, but someone suggested adding a boss. The EDH decks we were playing against the Horde are high power decks which in the low interactivity environment of Horde Magic (the Horde does not counter spells or respond to activations or blocks) could easily assemble infinite combos and kill the Horde in one shot. We decided to put a legendary creature or lord that complemented the type of the tokens preceding it in each of the hard plastic sleeves. For example Death Baaron was the skeleton boss. We also decided that the Horde could not be milled past the boss, it had to be played, which effectively stopped infinite combos from prematurely ending our games.

I do not particularly remember the remainder of the cards in the Horde and have been unable to get a list to share with you. The list though is actually quite irrelevant. Horde decks are one of the most nebulous decks I have ever built because I have never built one to be optimized with hundreds of dollars of cards. In fact, usually the most powerful Horde cards are trash rares. Cards deemed unplayable even in EDH can become game breaking in a Horde deck. It was worthwhile to search for powerful and interesting bosses, but the rest of the deck was built almost entirely from “junk” we all had sitting in untouched boxes or junk rare binders. I strongly encourage you to build your Horde deck from whatever you can assemble for less than $5. I will use my Sliver Horde as as much of an example as I can to illustrate this.

I have a bit of a sliver problem. I have tons of them. In fact, I have roughly 30 of the obscure 1/1 sliver tokens printed as part of Legions. Why? Because I have a problem. So naturally I grabbed all of the tokens and Metallic Slivers I had. As it turned out, I only had about 50, so I grabbed all of my Venser’s Slivers. Luckily I had at least another ten to finish the tokens for the Horde. Even though the Metallic and Venser’s slivers are not technically tokens, I felt they fit the role perfectly and decided they looked like tokens to me. Next I grabbed every sliver with a relevant and decision-less sliver printed. Here is what I came up with:

Spitting Sliver
Lymph Sliver
Plated Sliver
Watcher Sliver
Bonesplitter Sliver
Sliver Legion
Frenetic Sliver
Brood Sliver
Sidewinder Sliver
Frenzy Sliver
Fury Sliver
Blade Sliver
Shadow Sliver
Muscle Sliver
Winged Sliver
Crystalline Sliver
Harmonic Sliver
Two-headed Sliver
Pulmonic Sliver
Might Sliver
Vampiric Sliver
Talon Sliver
Horned Sliver
Sinew Sliver
Toxin Sliver
Shifting Sliver
Battering Sliver
Spined Sliver
Fungus Sliver
Virulent Sliver

This left me with ten cards left to find to complete my Sliver Horde. Naturally I turned to my junk rare box. Coat of Arms is an auto-include in any tribal deck and I figured Vitalizing Wind would be a similar and fun effect. Next I decided some extra turns could be fun. Walk the Aeons and Stitch in Time were sitting in my junk rare box and I thought the coin flip could add some extra tension and excitement. I really cannot stress enough that this process is mostly looking through cards you have never ever used before and seeing potential for a mindless, decision-less deck to abuse it. I found Oath of Ghouls and Grafted Skullcap in the dregs of my collection. The Oath will always trigger in a 90 creature deck and I decided it would return a creature at random. Effectively a randomized Debtors’ Knell for $7.50 less. The Skullcap I decided would give the Horde a second draw until it hit a non-token card instead of just the next card from its library. Finally I exploited the odd rules the Horde operates under to turn some usually boring spells into game breakers. Hour of Reckoning, Soulquake, Empty the Catacombs, and Living Death were all tossed in. Soulquake was by far the most interesting to me since it serves as a Plague Wind where you also bring back every creature in your graveyard to play (the Horde plays every card in its hand and then attacks). I also really like that it gives the players the opportunity to choose what they will have to discard and may give them back a much needed creature.

Overall the Sliver Horde has turned out to make lopsided games. Either the Horde goes ballistic and drops out 50-100 power in one turn or derps for the duration of the game. At some point in the future I will probably rebuild the Sliver Horde without a singelton requirement to make the games more consistent, but for now its a fun race against the ten or so bombs in the deck.

I hope this has been useful since it has certainly been the hardest article I have written yet. Unfortunately it will be my last for now. Life, work, and school have been particularly hectic this fall and I only got to test my next project once in three to four months. I hope to get some more testing in this holiday season and get another season of articles put together for the project (hint: the project actually involves Wild Research, the card this column is named after), so do not count me out yet! I will still be wandering around the online EDH community and, as always, you can reach me by PM on the MTGSalvation or official Commander forums where my username is irpotential or by leaving a comment below.

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