Co-Optimus - Editorial - Tabletop Co-Op: Magic the Gathering Horde Mode

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Tabletop Co-Op: Magic the Gathering Horde Mode
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Tabletop Co-Op: Magic the Gathering Horde Mode

Zombies are invading your kitchen table

Last week, the latest digital version of uber-popular collectible card game Magic: the Gathering was released. There could be no better time, then, to cover the "real life" version of Magic for Tabletop Co-Op. Magic is, generally speaking, a highly competitive game, but what if there were a way to play it in co-op? I've got good news for you, reader, the always innovative Magic community has created just such a format. Horde Magic blends the awesome deckbuilding fun of Magic with the unrelenting pressure and tension of survival modes, like Gears of War 3's Horde mode, or Left 4 Dead's Survival. The combination is glorious!

There are few things I enjoy more than sitting down with a few friends to play Magic. I especially love multiplayer games, and in recent years, Wizards of the Coast has catered several products to the multiplayer audience. Planechase, Archenemy, and Commander formats (the former two of which are represented in the two most recent Duels of the Plansewalkers games) are great ways to play with your buddies. Unfortunately, there is still the problem that plagues most competitive games: somebody loses when anyone wins. The Horde Magic variant was created to avoid this problem.


The original source for Horde Magic is Peter Knutson's article at Quiet Speculation. Knutson specifically mentions Left 4 Dead as an inspiration for the format. Magic is full of zombie cards, from all eras of the game. No creature better exemplifies the idea of an unrelenting swarm of monsters. The basic idea is to compose a zombie deck that runs on autopilot, following a few simple rules. The players team up to defend against the undead onslaught, while also attempting to go on the offensive to take the horde down at the source. 

The zombie deck is composed of 100 cards. 60 of these are zombie tokens, like those pictured above. The remainder of the zombie deck is filled with a variety of non-token cards. Building your own zombie deck is part of the fun, but you'll generally want to include more zombies, especially those with interesting effects or zombie-buffing powers, and powerful spells that punish the human opponents. Be sure to use cards that require little to no decision making; for example, cards that make all opponents discard, or sacrifice creatures, are better than those that choose targets. Zombies aren't known for their brains, after all (they are far more concerned with eating them than having them).