This week I finished my latest Horde Magic deck and rules: Attack of the Dreadhorde.

Horde Magic is a fully cooperative way of playing Magic: the Gathering. The players all work together to defeat a common enemy. Unlike Archenemy, the Horde deck doesn’t have a controller, so everyone is on the same team.

Check out the rules below!

New to Horde Magic? You can read my previous articles on Horde Magic here:

The Eldrazi Horde:RulesDesign notes and optional rules
Horde of the Lich Lord:Rules
Design Discussions:Sagas and AssistScaling Threats

Additional Resources:
Original Horde Magic rules by Peter Knudson
More info and links on the MTG Wiki


(Rules version 1.0.1)

Nicol Bolas is invading the plane of Ravnica. The Gatewatch and its allies have assembled to help stop him, but in doing so they have fallen straight into Bolas’s trap! Unable to leave Ravnica, and with Bolas’s Dreadhorde bearing down on them, the Gatewatch must fight for their very survival!

Can you stop Nicol Bolas and save the Gatewatch?


Attack of the Dreadhorde is a cooperative game mode for Magic: the Gathering. The players all work together to Defeat Nicol Bolas and his army of elite zombies, the Eternals. They win or lose as a team.

The Players

The players take their turn at the same time, like Two-Headed Giant. They attack and block together, and have a shared life total.

The players win the game if ALL of the following conditions are met:

  • There are no cards in Bolas’s library.
  • Bolas controls no creatures at the beginning of his upkeep.

The players lose if ANY of the following conditions are met:

  • The players’ life total is 0.
  • A player has to draw a card from an empty library.
  • All five Defeats are in exile.

Nicol Bolas

Nicol Bolas has no controller; his deck runs itself. On Bolas’s turn, he reveal cards from the top of his library and casts them. He then activates abilities of his creatures and attacks (see The Turn of Bolas below).
* Despite having no human controller, Bolas is treated as a “player” and an “opponent”.

Bolas does not have a life total. Whenever Bolas loses life, put that many cards from his library into his graveyard.

Bolas cannot gain life.



Shuffle the Creatures, Spells and Defeats into Bolas’s library.
Place the Triumphs in the command zone with 5 doom counters on each of them.

Print out and place the Threat Level card where everyone can see it (see Threat Level below).
The Threat Level begins the game at 0.

The players begin the game at 30 life.

Players shuffle their libraries and draw their opening hands of 7 cards.
* Players may mulligan as normal.

The players start the game by taking 3 turns in a row. Play then alternates between Nicol Bolas and the players.


Hand of Cruelty
Bolas does NOT draw a hand of cards at the beginning of the game.

If a spell or effect a PLAYER controls would put a card into Bolas’s hand, ignore it.
E.g. The players attack with a Howling Golem. Each player draws a card, but Bolas does not.

If a spell or effect BOLAS controls would put a card into his hand, he casts it instead.
E.g. Bolas activates Spark Reaper‘s ability. Bolas casts the top card of his library instead of drawing it.

If a spell or effect a player controls would cause Bolas to discard a card, reveal the top card of his library and exile it.
*Defeats are not exiled when revealed this way (see The Elder Spell below).
E.g. The players cast Mind Rot, targeting Bolas. They reveal the top 2 cards of his library. Neither card is a Defeat, so they are both exiled.

You Have Served Your Purpose
Whenever Bolas sacrifices a creature, he always sacrifices the creature with the lowest power first.

Maintain Order
Players may not change the order of Bolas’s graveyard. If multiple cards would be put into his graveyard at the same time, they are put into his graveyard in a random order.


The Threat Level represents Bolas’s rising power. The Threat Level affects the size of Bolas’s Army tokens, what mana costs he pays for, and how many times he activates his abilities.

The Danger Only Grows
The Threat Level begins at 0. It cannot go below 0.

Desperate Measures
At the beginning of the first upkeep the players get an emblem with “Discard a card: Lower the Threat Level by 2. Any player may play this ability.”

You may print a copy of this Threat Level card for your games.


If Bolas would Amass, he creates a 0/0 Zombie Army token and increases the Treat Level by that much instead.
* Bolas’s Army tokens do NOT get +1/+1 counters when they enter the battlefield.
* The tokens that Bolas creates are still considered amassed.

Growing Ranks
Army tokens that Bolas controls get +x/+x, where x is equal to half the current Threat Level, rounded up.
E.g. The current Treat Level is 3. Bolas’s Army tokens get +2/+2.

(Bonus Power & Toughness) = (Threat Level) / 2



At the beginning of Bolas’s precombat main phase, he reveals 2 cards from the top his library for each of his opponents and casts them without paying their mana costs.
* Bolas reveals an additional card for each Triumph in exile (see The Elder Spell below).
* Reveal and resolve the cards one at a time.

E.g. Jenny and Timmy are playing together. There is 1 Triumph in exile. Bolas will reveal 5 cards on his turn.


Choose your Torment
Unless otherwise stated, the players choose the targets for Bolas’s spells and abilities. If Bolas must make a decision, the players make it for him.

I Do Not Make Mistakes
Bolas cannot target himself or his own permanents with harmful effects.

Death Is Quickly Reversed
When choosing cards in his graveyard, Bolas will always choose the topmost card in his graveyard possible.

I Cannot Fail
If Bolas would cast a spell but can’t, he Amasses 1 instead (see Amass My Forces above).
E.g. Bolas reveals Bleeding Edge but has no legal targets. The card is put in Bolas’s graveyard and he Amasses 1.


I Have Entire Worlds At My Disposal
Bolas ignores all non-mana costs of spells and abilities he controls.
E.g. The activated ability of Spark Reaper normally requires its controller to sacrifice a creature. Bolas does not pay that cost when activating this ability.

You Are Taxing My Patience
If Bolas is required to pay additional mana for a spell or ability, Bolas will pay if the Threat Level is equal to or higher than the amount of mana required (see Threat Level above).

E.g. A player casts Quench, targeting one of Bolas’s spells. If the Threat Level is 1, Bolas does not pay the 2 mana, and the spell is countered. If the Threat Level is 2 or higher Bolas pays the extra mana and Quench has no effect.

E.g. The players control a Ghostly Prison. Bolas pays the 2 mana to attack with each creature if the Threat Level is 2 or higher.

E.g. The Players control a God-Pharaoh’s Statue, making Bolas’s spells cost 2 more to cast. If the Threat Level is 1 Bolas will not pay the additional mana cost for his spell, and so it will not be cast. The card is put in Bolas’s graveyard and he Amasses 1 instead (see I Cannot Fail above). Note that once Bolas reveals a spell it is too late for players to lower the Threat Level to prevent Bolas from casting it.


My Forces Only Grow More Powerful
At the beginning of combat on his turn, Bolas uses each activated ability he controls a number of times equal to the current Threat Level divided by the converted mana cost of the ability, rounded down:

(Number of Activations) = (Threat Level) / (Ability’s CMC)

Determine the number of activations for each ability at the beginning of combat on Bolas’s turn. If the Threat Level changes later that turn, the number of activations for that ability does not change.

E.g. The Threat Level is 5. Bolas controls a Frontline Devastator (its activated ability costs 2 mana). At the beginning of combat Bolas activates its ability twice (5÷2=2.5, rounded down is 2).

E.g. The Threat Level is 6. Bolas controls a Spark Reaper (its activated ability costs 3 mana). He activates the ability twice to draw additional cards, casting them (see Hand of Cruelty above). After Bolas reveals and casts the first spell the players decide to discard a card to reduce the Threat Level to 4 (see Desperate Measures above). Bolas will still activate Spark Reaper‘s ability a second time this turn, even though the Threat Level is now less than 6.

Triggered Abilities
Bolas pays the mana cost of triggered abilities if the Threat Level is equal to or greater than the converted mana cost of the ability.

E.g. Bolas attacks with an Eternal Taskmaster. Bolas only pays the mana to return a creature card from his graveyard if the Threat Level is 3 or greater.


Unyielding Agression
Creatures Bolas controls attack each turn if able.

Trampled Planeswalkers
Creatures Bolas controls attack a planeswalker if able.
* If the players control more than one planeswalker, they choose which one is being attacked.

If Bolas would deal more combat damage to a planeswalker than it has loyalty, any additional damage is dealt to another planeswalker of the players’ choice that has not already been dealt damage this way. If all planeswalkers have taken damage equal to their loyalty, any remaining damage is dealt to the players.

E.g. The players control two planeswalkers: Chandra (3 loyalty) and Jace (2 loyalty). Bolas attacks with a total of 4 power. The players choose to have Bolas’s creatures attack Chandra. She takes 3 damage and is destroyed. The remaining 1 point of combat damage carries over and is dealt to Jace. If Bolas had attacked with 6 total power, both Chandra and Jace would be destroyed and the players would take 1 damage.


Dismissive Tactics
Bolas’s creatures will not block unless forced to do so by a spell or ability.

Trial of Might
Bolas will always try to destroy the blocking creature with the greatest power possible. If Bolas could destroy two or more blocking creatures with the same power, the players choose the blocking order.


The invasion of Ravnica was an elaborate trap. Bolas’s true intent was to lure planeswalkers to the plane and harvest their sparks to fuel his fiendish Elderspell. Once his ritual is complete, Bolas will regain his former power and become unstoppable!


Looming Defeat

The cycle of Defeats are shuffled into Bolas’s library at the beginning of the game (see Setup above).


A Chance To Triumph

The cycle of Triumphs begin the game in the command zone with 5 doom counters each (see Setup above).

The players may remove doom counters in one of two ways:

Rally The Districts
Whenever a player plays a land, remove a doom counter from a Triumph.

A Glimmer of Hope
If a spell or effect a PLAYER controls reveals a Defeat from Bolas’s library (e.g. by dealing combat damage), remove 2 doom counters from that planeswalker’s Triumph and place the Defeat on the bottom of Bolas’s library instead of putting it anywhere else. Shuffle Bolas’s library at the end of the turn.
* If the Triumph has no counters remaining, place the Defeat in the command zone face down instead.

Doom Comes To You All
If BOLAS reveals a Defeat, exile it. The players lose life equal to the number of doom counters on that planeswalker’s Triumph. Turn that Triumph face down.
* Exile the Defeat even if the Triumph has no counters remaining.

On each of his subsequent turns, Bolas will reveal and cast an additional card from his deck for each Defeat in exile.

A Moment Of Triumph
Any player may cast a face up Triumph if it has no doom counters on it, and may spend mana as though it were mana of any type to cast it.

The Triumphs are cast with the following changes:

  • Turn the Triumph face down in the command zone when it is cast instead of putting it anywhere else.
  • The caster is always treated as controlling a planeswalker of the appropriate type
    E.g. Gideon’s Triumph causes Bolas to sacrifice two creatures, not one.


If all five Defeats are exiled, Bolas has completed the Elderspell and has gained ultimate power!
The players immediately lose the game.



Wildfire Eternal: When unblocked, Bolas chooses the top instant or sorcery card in his graveyard and casts it instead of casting one from his hand. If the card would be put into his graveyard this turn, exile it instead.

Widespread Brutality: Widespread Brutality deals no damage to Bolas’s creatures, regardless of type.

Spark Reaper: If Bolas draws and casts a creature with an activated ability using Spark Reaper (such as Dreadmalkin or Shriekdiver), calculate the number of activations for the new creature’s ability based on the Threat Level as that creature enters the battlefield, then activate its ability that many times.
E.g. The Threat Level is at 6. Bolas draws a Dreadmalkin using Spark Reaper‘s first activation. When the Dreadmalkin enters the battlefield the Threat Level is still 6, so Bolas activates its ability twice, turning the Dreadmalkin into a 5/5. The Dreadmalkin‘s ability will resolve before Bolas draws his second card with Spark Reaper.


For harder games, try some of these optional rules:

Bolas reveals 3 cards per player instead of 2.

Creatures Bolas controls have “(2): This creature gains haste.”

Whenever a planeswalker leaves the battlefield because of a spell or ability Bolas controls, increase the Threat Level by 1.

Bolas wins if 3 Defeats are in exile instead of 5.

Each Triumph begins the game with 7 doom counters instead of 5.

Playing lands does not remove doom counters from Triumphs.

When Bolas’s library runs out for the first time, shuffle his graveyard into his library.

At the beginning of the first upkeep, Bolas creates a legendary artifact token named Statue of Bolas with “Spells your opponents control cost (1) more to cast.”

The first time the Threat Level becomes 10 or greater, Bolas causes each player to sacrifice two permanents. The first time the Threat Level becomes 20 or greater, Bolas causes each player to sacrifice two more permanents.


If you ever find that a rule or interaction presented here isn’t working the way you would like, feel free to change it; Horde Magic is about working together to have fun!

If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know in the comments. There are a lot of ways to recreate the War of the Spark storyline; this was just my approach. During the next Rant of Valakut I’ll be going over some of my design decisions for this Horde deck and what some of my early mechanics looked like.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy playing Attack of the Dreadhorde as much as I enjoyed making it!

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