Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Army Magic

As requested. Army magic was a variant that the old "Team Quarterstaff" invented years ago and I published an article about it in Scrye.

Army Magic: A Multi-Player Variant
By Jamie C. Wakefield

Axelrod Gunnarson glared out over his barbarous and supernatural army. The foul smelling Karplusan Yeti’s; the Sengir Vampires flying high above; the myriad wizards, clerics and monsters that made up his forces. How the Angels and the Elves held out for so long against him was vexing and inconceivable. He had long ago crushed Palladia-Mors and his Goblins and Dragons. Soon after that, he had defeated the nigh unstoppable Lord of Tresserhorn and his army of Merfolk, Doppelgangers, and Zombies. But still Asmira and her Angels resisted him. If only he could lure them away from her accused Castle, he would have them! But as long as she and her followers remained behind the mystic walls there was little his army could do. For now he would have to wait, and plan.

There are many variations for how to play Magic: The Gathering. What makes this multi player variant (3-9 players is best) different is that you get to play with the most mana intensive cards in the game. Everyone’s binders are full of Legends and beasts that are too expensive for tournament play, or don’t have enough of an effect for fun play. Army Magic makes it necessary to have those rarely played cards in your deck; you’ll require them in order to win.

The idea of Army Magic is simple. You must build your deck as if you were recruiting an Army. You are recruiting an army full of grunts, monsters, spell casters, Legends, and a Supreme Commander. An army made up of the best cards in the game that will never see tournament play.

Normal Type One Magic: The Gathering Rules apply, with these additions.

1. Three color decks with a minimum deck size of 150 cards.
2. Everyone starts at 50 life and with three basic lands of their choice in play. There is no maximum hand size. In Army Magic you will often find yourself with twenty or more cards in your hand. For a creature to attack, its controller must control a creature with higher power. If you have 15 one-power creatures out, none of them can attack. The turn you cast a two-power creature, is the turn that all fifteen can attack. And the two-power creature cannot. The same rule applies for blockers.
3. Artifacts and spells cannot be cast until you have a Wizard, Cleric, Druid or Shaman on the table. If you have a hand full of Fireballs and Counterspells they are useless until you draw and play a magic-user.
4. Legends allow Magic to be played as normal. As soon as you play a Legend, all requirements on Army Magic are fulfilled. Your 50/51 Lhurgoyf can now attack as long as it is not affected by summoning sickness, you can cast every spell you draw, and the Legend can attack as well. Legends are the driving force behind Army Magic.
5. You must have a Supreme Commander. When he appears on the scene, all of your troops get +2 +2. If your Supreme Commander is killed, you lose 10 life. Your Supreme Commander must be a Legend. Pick a Legend that fits your Army. Elder Dragons are good Supreme Commanders. Irini Sengir is not.
6. Banned cards – Black Vice, Ivory Tower, Shahrazad, and the type one banned and restricted list. Also, any card that punishes a player for playing a specific color, such as Gloom, Light of Day, Anarchy or Life Force. Note: Creatures with protection from a color are still legal.

Army Magic requires different deck building skills than normal Magic. While it’s important to have a flexible deck, sheer power will rarely win you the day. In order to cast spells, you have to use a wide variety of Legend, Cleric and Wizard cards. The game sometimes lasts for hours, with reusable effects becoming far more powerful than in a simple eight-turn game. Cards that are far too expensive or difficult to play in regular Magic can become insanely powerful in Army Magic. Misfortune from Alliances is one example. When you have 50 creatures (troops) in play, many of them 1/1 wizards, the effect of Misfortune can be devastating.

Xira Arien is one of the most powerful cards in Army Magic. It is a Legend so it allows you to play Magic normally, plus its special ability can get you an additional card every turn. While her casting cost is prohibitive in regular Magic, it is very affordable in Army Magic.

Cards that might have seemed worthless are now powerhouses. Reusable effects are key to winning. It is not uncommon in Army Magic to see Control Magic cast on a Thorn Thallid while the table is bristling with Frankenstein’s Monster, Llurgoyfs, and assorted Dragons. Choose what cards you make your Army out of carefully. Imagine the effects of such cards as Pyroclasm, Winter’s Blast and Shatterstorm.

Tactics also change with Army Magic. As with any multi-player game, diplomacy is important to survival. Staying in your opponent’s good graces is a necessary skill. Be careful about getting a fast start, and rarely play with discard. Abyssal Specters, Mind Warp, and Hymns to Tourach make you a target. The entire table will unite and defeat you in one turn. No one wants to lose all the shiny pretty cards in their hand. Especially since they are finally getting a chance to play them!

Army Magic turns regular Magic into a tactical war game. A very long tactical war game. The beginning of the game revolves around all players carefully casting non- – threatening spells and collecting powerful spells in hand. The middle of the game focuses around all players practicing diplomacy and forming alliances. Some players pointing out which opponent is in the best tactical position and perhaps others should take notice. The end game is a blasted landscape with many foes fallen, and waiting for a victor. Two powerful mages with immense armies and low life totals slugging it out until only one remains.

A nine-player game of Army Magic took thirteen hours to complete. I suggest you find a very large table. Call up as many people as you can and get a huge stockpile of snacks and soda. Pull out your favorite shiny cards that never see play, and make a day of it. Magic takes on an epic scale with this variant.

Special Thanks to Hilary Denault-Reynolts and Rodney Sheldon for inventing this variant. Special thanks also to Michelle Denault- Reynolds and Doug Shepardson for amazing games and countless hours fine-tuning the rules while we played.

Sample Army: Magic Deck

4x Wastelands
1x Strip Mine
1x Maze of Ith
2x Arena
15x Forest
15x Mountain
15x Swamp

2x Ihsan's Shade
2x Baron Sengir
4x Sengir Vampire
4x Skyshroud Vampire
4x Krovikan Vampire
4x Lhurgoyf
4x Keldon Warlord
4x Verdant Force
4x Barishi
2x Mirri
4x Elder Druid
4x Tracker
4x Dwarven Armory
4x Karplusan Yeti's
4x Marton Stromgald
4x Shivan Hellkite
2x Rock Hydra
2x Eron the Relentless
2x Xira Arien
2x Axelrod Gunnarson
2x Marhault Elsdragon
2x Tor Wauki
2x Stang
2x Autumn Willow
2x Misfortune
1x Fork
1x Berserk
1x Regrowth
2x Mind Warp
2x Overrun
4x Fireballs
4x Disintegrate
4x Kaervek's Torch
2x Jokulhaups
2x Flame Wave
2x Simulacrum
2x Stream of Life
2x Nevinyrral's Disks
2x Aladdin’s Ring


  1. Good to hear some Magic content from the "King of the Fatties"