A series by Max Kautsch
Horde Magic: Survivors. It’s not about winning. It’s about surviving.
Part I: Introduction and Survivor Deck Construction
Part II: Survivor Generals: Strapping Up Your Commander and Anafenza’s Strike Force
Part III: Horde Backstory, Horde General, Scaling, House Rules, Horde Deck List, and Strategy Tips
Part IV: The Adventure Deck
The finishing touch on this sub-variant is the Adventure Deck. Originally I stumbled onto posts here and then here about “Explore” decks meant to simulate the chaos of an apocalyptic setting. I’ll wait until you give those posts a quick rundown, but don’t feel compelled to memorize any specific rules. We’ll get into those shortly.
And…you’re back. Simple enough, yes? I am totally down with the concept. But how about we call them “Adventure” decks instead so I can feel like I’m getting my RPG on, OK?
I really struggled to construct the 75-card Adventure deck when I was only thinking in general terms about what cards would best represent the chaos of an apocalypse, but it was pretty easy to build a functional deck with plenty of apocalyptic flavor once I focused on the Horde’s backstory. In a moment I will attempt to back up over 10,000 words of dribble by finally bestowing upon you a semblance of original thought: Adventure deck rules and Adventure deck list.
From a gameplay perspective, the general idea is to allow creatures that could otherwise attack the option to tap to do something else. There are times when it just wouldn’t be prudent to block with a particular creature, but the one or two cards it would mill if it attacks is not worth the risk of missing out on a necessary blocker if the subsequent Horde attack proves overwhelming. For example, if your general were Riku or Jhoira, or if you were tapped out with a Burnished Hart, you wouldn’t be hot to trot to trade with that incoming zombie token that’s part of a non-lethal attack, would you?
So rather than have creatures like that do nothing in the face of a zombie onslaught, they have the option to go on an Adventure. Although utilizing the Adventure mechanic comes with a healthy dose of risk, it gives players another option to consider on their turns and really brings home the RPG experience to HMS.
Adventure Deck Rules (“Going on an Adventure”)
In an RPG, “going on an adventure” is fundamentally an attempt by the players to acquire knowledge, resources, or both. Along the way, the players are likely to encounter both risks and rewards. In HMS, The Adventure deck translates these elements to Commander. As such, although more than half the cards represent resources and allies the Survivors encounter, the balance represent the dangers that accompany “going on an adventure.”
Note that an eight-sided die can replace the four-sided; just divide the four outcomes evenly among the die’s digits. Finally, if you really wanted to make it feel like an RPG you could use percentile dice; 01-25% reveal 1, 26-50% reveal up to 2, 51-75% reveal up to 3, 76-00% reveal none. Percentile dice would also allow for the flexibility to create a more detailed “reveal schedule,” but I digress.
Adventure as follows:
During each player’s turn, any time that player could cast a sorcery, he or she may choose any number of non-token creatures, tap them, and roll a four-sided die a number of times equal to the number of creatures chosen.
To roll the die, you must pay an amount of mana equal to the number of times you’ve already rolled the die this turn. So the first roll is free, the second roll costs , the third roll costs , and so on (and yes, I did copy this concept from the planechase rules).
On a roll of 4, the adventuring creature had no encounters and found no supplies, enemies, or allies.
On rolls of 1, 2 or 3, that creature’s controller reveals up to that many cards from the Adventure Deck.
On a roll of 1, resolve the revealed card as outlined below.
On rolls of 2 and 3, reveal and resolve each card before revealing the next card. If the adventuring creature leaves the battlefield as a result of any reveal, stop revealing, and any permanents that would have entered the battlefield under the control of the adventuring creature’s controller as a result of the Adventure are instead shuffled back into the Adventure Deck.
Creatures can Adventure only once each turn and only if they are able to attack.
If the adventuring creature survives the Adventure, put a +1/+1 counter on it (it leveled up!).
If any permanent owned by the Adventure deck would be returned to its owner’s hand, sacrifice it instead.
The goal of these rules is to automate the Adventure Deck by setting forth objective criteria to determine the result of each reveal. Although these criteria are objective, they are not necessarily rigid; the outcome sometimes depends on the revealed card’s creature types, so what was a deadly encounter one game might be friendly the next. Remember that if the adventuring creature dies while on the Adventure, any permanents that would have entered the battlefield under the control of the adventuring creature’s controller are instead shuffled back into the Adventure Deck perhaps to be rediscovered later.
If a revealed card is a land, it enters the battlefield under the control of the adventuring creature’s controller tapped. The adventuring creature has “discovered” a new stronghold for its general.
Creatures, Artifacts, and Enchantments
If a revealed card is a either a creature that shares a creature type with the adventuring creature or any of the players’ generals, an artifact, or a non-Curse enchantment, put it onto the battlefield under the control of the adventuring creature’s controller. If that card triggers its own ability when it enters the battlefield, and/or its ability contains the words “you” or “your” in the rules text, those words refer to the adventuring creature’s controller. Any triggered ability is countered unless the adventuring creature survives the adventure. The adventuring creature has succeeded in finding assistance and/or loot. A shared creature type means the adventuring creature was able to convince the encountered creature to fight for the adventuring creature’s general. But the team only benefits if the adventuring creature makes it back to camp alive!
If a revealed card is a creature that does not share any creature types with any of the players’ generals or the adventuring creature, put it onto the battlefield under the Horde’s control tapped, any enter the battlefield triggers are resolved, and it fights the creature it encountered. Any revealed non-Zombie creature that survives the fight is shuffled back into the Adventure deck. If that creature triggers its own ability when it enters the battlefield and contains the words “you” or “your” in the rules text,those words refer to the Horde. The adventuring creature ran into an enemy and has to defend itself.
If a revealed card is a curse, put it on the battlefield enchanting the adventuring creature’s controller.
Planeswalkers are banned as per Survivor deck construction rules.
Non-Permanent Spells and Auras
If a revealed card is a non-permanent spell, put it on the stack, and it resolves immediately. If it contains the words “you” and/or “your” in the rules text, those words refer to the adventuring creature’s controller.
If a revealed card is a non-permanent spell with a single target, put it on the stack, and it targets the adventuring creature. Could be a nice buff, but most often this means the adventuring creature suffered a Tragic Slip on the trail in the middle of an apocalypse.
If a revealed card is an aura, attach it to adventuring creature.
Spells with multiple targets are banned.
Spells that target non-creature permanents are banned.
Adventure Deck Construction
The overarching principle of Adventure Deck construction is to avoid anything too swingy; the outcome of an HMS game should be impacted by the Adventure Deck, not defined by it. The Adventure Deck, like the Horde, has infinite mana to cast its spells, and except as noted below, adheres to the same Zombie Horde deck construction rules and Do Not Play criterion for Survivor decks. It consists of 75 cards. An important consideration before building is to have an idea about the Survivor decks’ commanders’ creature types, because that can make a difference in determining whether creature encounter are friendly or not so much for the players.
The ratio I am going with is 15 lands, 30 “friendly” encounters that are likely to only benefit the mostly-Human Survivors, 5 “neutral” encounters that are likely to have both friendly and negative effects on the Survivors, and 25 “deadly” encounters that are likely to negatively impact the Survivors. Because the lands are always helpful to some extent, that makes for about a 2/1 ratio of good stuff to bad stuff to try to incentivize adventuring in the face of the Horde while still maintaining an element of danger. If necessary, the power or frequency of removal could always be increased or decreased if either the Survivors or the Horde need a little help, making the Adventure Deck something of a “meta fulcrum” that can help balance things.
The flavor behind the idea is to allow the General to deploy forces to search the surrounding area for weapons, supplies, or allies that might help in battle. Of course, once you get off the beaten path you never know what you might find!
Corondor Adventure Deck (75 cards)
by Max Kautsch 09/30/14
In my meta, the Adventure deck represents the landmass of Corondor and its tainted, transformed Khone Swamp (once the Khone Forest). Primary source material, as with developing the backstory, was mainly limited to the 1996 Dakkon comic and the backup stories included in that publication. My meta’s backstory takes place during the year just prior to the events that conclude “The Dragon War,” the backup short story/sequel about Sol’Kanar’s recovery from his battle with Dakkon and ultimate demise at the hands of two human wizards and Sivitri Scarzam (this link is essentially the plot summary of “The Dragon War”). Those two human wizards were each from one of the two kingdoms on Corondor: the Khone, a warlike society that shares its name with the corrupted swamp where Sol’Kanar resides, and the Shikar, a society dedicated to learning. Each society is represented by about one half of of the friendly cards. Chromium and Sivitri Scarzam are named characters in the story, so they are of course auto-includes. The complete cycle of “tainted” lands seemed particularly appropriate.
Land (15 cards)
1 Tainted Wood–Sol’Kanar’s home turf, the corrupted, once-enchanted forest, the Khone Swamp.
1 Tainted Isle–According to the “The Dragon War”, there are islands in the rivers that run through the Khone.
1 Tainted Field–The Khone gives way to plains near the Kingdom of Shikar.
1 Tainted Peak–The kingdom of Shikar includes rocky terrain.
1 Grim Backwoods–Gotta be one of these in the Khone. And I have a foil copy that never makes it into my “real” commander decks.
1 Evolving Wilds–That is absolutely what happens on Corondor under Sol’Kanar’s influence.
1 Havenwood Battleground–Represents the reference to “White Woods” in “The Dragon War.”
1 Salt Marsh–”The Dragon War” makes specific reference to “Great Sulgh Salt Marsh.”
1 Bog Wreckage–Card art represents what’s happening on Corondor.
1 Hellion Crucible–Represents the Khone Valley of Sacrifice.
1 School of the Unseen–Where Chondaeh, Shikarian champion, studied.
1 Swarmyard–I think so.
1 Peat Bog–Ditto.
1 Forsaken City–The city of Sedouris from the comic. Although it causes the player to expend a resource to use it, it is otherwise only useful with Stasis. Which is no fun.
1 Quicksand–Gotta be some of that in the Khone, and good against Zombies to boot.
Friendly Encounters (30 cards)
1 Scrivner–Shikar society is dedicated to learning.
1 Azami, Lady of Scrolls–A Shikarian leader.
1 Elgaud Inquisitor–A Shikarian battling the Horde along with the Survivors.
1 False Prophet–A Shikarian exile, hopefully the Survivors can determine when it triggers.
1 Unruly Mob–The Khonians are getting restless.
1 Death Speakers–Ditto.
1 Errant Doomsayers–Ditto.
1 Volshok Battlemaster–A Khone leader.
1 Anarchist–A Khone scholar.
1 Merieke Ri Berit–Chondaeh, champion of the Shikar kingdom
1 Jaya Ballard, Task Mage–Gydolien Mor, champion of the Khone kingdom
1 Fiend Hunter–Son of Carth, Dakkon’s ally.
1 Sivitri Scarzam–Corondorian Hero of Legend as per the comic.
1 Mangara of Corondor–The only card in Magic with “Corondor” in its name, it’s also pretty useful.
1 Joyous Respite–Need one of these every now and then battling the undead.
1 Otherworldly Journey–Carth’s escape spell from the comic.
1 Remember the Fallen–I’ve see them do that on Walking Dead, right?
1 Even the Odds–If adventuring creature’s controller has more creatures than the Zombies, this Shikarian deployment gets countered. Usually doesn’t get countered.
1 An-Havva Inn–Flavor and conditional life gain from the Shikar people.
Artifacts and Enchantments
1 Jeweled Amulet–Represents Carth’s ruby amulet from the comic
1 Wanderer’s Twig–A little something found along the way.
1 Unscythe, Killer of Kings–Killer of Swamp Kings? Zombie tokens under the Survivors’ control seems very fitting as well.
1 Shield of Kaldra
1 Helm of Kaldra
1 Sword of Kaldra–On the beyond remote chance all three are discovered by creatures owned by the same controller, good times will certainly ensue.
1 Diamond Kaleidoscope–Represents the jeweled Thran eyepiece that allows the Shakirians to see the natural flow of mana as described in “The Dragon War.”
1 Haunted Plate Mail–Very flavorful.
1 Spectral Searchlight–Effective cooperative card, flavorful too.
1 Barrin’s Codex–Carth’s Grimore from the comic.
1 Near-Death Experience–Imagine how epic it would be to win off of this.
Neutral Encounters (5 cards)
2 Balduvian Horde–Representative of the Khone people, a warlike society, the random discard makes for a nicely balanced reveal as 5/5 is a good blocker in this format. That and I haven’t used him since about 1996.
2 Infest–What Sol’Kanar has done to the Khone, tends to hurt the Zombies as much or more than the Survivors.
1 Loyal Cather–A Shikarian that has fallen victim to a Zombie attack, it enters the battlefield under the Horde’s control when it transforms into a Zombie.
Deadly Encounters (25 cards)
1 Curse of Death’s Hold–The Khone is the very definition of cursed.
1 Curse of Thirst
2 Curse of Shallow Graves–The Zombie curse, gotta love it.
1 Slinking Serpent–Seems like a swamp denizen to me.
1 Kederekt Creeper–Swamp denizen.
1 Rock Basilisk–Swamp beast.
3 Bog Imp–Represent the “imps” Carth encountered in the comic.
2 Sawback Manticore–Represent the manticore Dakkon and Carth encountered.
1 Chromium–Pissed off and on the warpath, hates Dakkon for killing its mate in the comic.
1 Greater Basilisk–Swamp denizen with deathtouch.
1 Voracious Cobra–Swamp denizen.
1 Leatherback Baloth–Swamp beast.
1 Skinrender–Zombie that lost track of its horde.
1 Segmented Wurm–Swamp denizen.
1 Penumbra Bobcat–Represents the Yalomar Cat from the short story.
2 Sudden Death–Speaks for itself.
1 Tragic Slip–Ditto.
1 Go for the Throat–Card art seems appropriate for a zombie apocalypse.
1 Afterlife–Well, at least the adventuring creature went to a better place?
1 Last Gasp–Smaller creatures are generally more likely to adventure, and the obstacles should scale accordingly.
I hope everyone enjoyed this article series. Many thanks to my playgroup for its willingness to test this out, it’s been a blast. Now, you too can do some adventuring at your kitchen table! Just don’t forget, in Horde Magic: Survivors, it’s not about winning. It’s about surviving.