It is time for another deck for Horde Magic! If you’ve never heard of Horde Magic, you can check out my earlier articles about this fully cooperative Magic format, as well as rules for my Eldrazi Horde:
Part 1: The Eldrazi Horde Deck and Rules
Part 2: Designing the Eldrazi Horde Deck


(Rules version 1.0.1)

After years of searching, our heroes have finally found the tomb of Zul Ashur, the notorious Lich Lord. They have vowed to destroy him once and for all, but they must first get past his dark minions….



The players all work together to defeat the Lich. They win and lose as a team.

The Lich is represented by a special AI deck that runs itself. The Lich deck functions like a player: “he” has a hand, library and graveyard. He can be attacked and targeted. Unlike a player, however, the Lich’s life total does not matter, and it casts its spells for 0 mana.



The players win the game if Lich’s Mastery leaves the battlefield.
The players lose if their life total becomes 0 or if a player has to draw a card from an empty library.



Players each draw an opening hand of 7 cards and resolve mulligans as normal. (Players do not receive the free mulligan for multiplayer games.)

The Lich begins the game with Lich’s Mastery on the battlefield.
The Lich has an opening hand of 7 face down cards. Place it next to the Lich’s library within easy reach.
The Lich has no maximum hand size.

After resolving mulligans, the Lich puts the top 5 cards of his library into his graveyard.

Players cannot change the order of cards in the Lich’s graveyard.


The Players:

The players play as a team, like in Two-Headed Giant.
The players share a starting life total of 30.
The players take their turns together.
The players attack and block together.

At the start of the game the players take 3 turns in a row. They do not draw a card on their first turn.

After the players’ 3rd turn the Lich takes his first turn. After this the players and Lich alternate turns.


The Lich’s Turn:

At the start of the Lich’s turn he draws cards until he has 8 cards, plus 1 card per player, in hand.

Example: Jenny is playing alone against the Lich. The Lich will draw until he has 9 cards (8 + 1) in hand.

In the Lich’s precombat main phase, if he has more than seven cards in hand, he casts a random card from his hand. If, after resolving a spell, the Lich still has more than seven cards in hand (such as when he gains life), he casts another spell. Repeat this process until the Lich has seven or fewer cards left in hand.

The Lich pays 0 for the mana costs of spells and abilities, including additional mana costs like Kicker, or from cards like Damping Sphere.

After resolving his last spell from his hand for the turn, the Lich will activate all non-mana abilities of cards in his graveyard and of permanents he controls, once each. Players choose the order in which these abilities resolve.

Players choose all targets for the Lich, but the Lich cannot target himself or his permanents with his own harmful effects.

Example: Festering Goblin dies, but the only other creature in play is a Child of Night controlled by the Lich. The Lich cannot target its own creatures with harmful effects, so Festering Goblin’s ability does not trigger.



The Lich’s creatures have haste and attack each turn if able.

The Lich will always order blockers so that it destroys the creature with the highest power possible. Players choose in the case of a tie.

If the Lich has untapped creatures that can block, those creatures will block the attacking creature with the highest power possible.



If the players control one or more planeswalkers, the Lich’s creatures will attack a Planeswalker chosen by the players.

Any damage in excess of the number of loyalty counters on that planeswalker is then dealt to another planeswalker if able, or to the player if there are no more planeswalkers in play.

Example: Spike has Jace Beleren, Liliana of the Veil and Gideon of the Trials in play, each at 2 loyalty. It is the Lich’s combat phase, and Spike chooses to have him attack Jace. The Lich deals a total of 5 combat damage, easily destroying Jace. The remaining 3 damage is then dealt to another planeswalker; Spike chooses Liliana, who is also destroyed. The last 1 point of damage must now remove a loyalty counter from Gideon. Not a good day to be a member of the Gatewatch!


Lich’s Mastery:

If a spell or effect other than Lich’s Mastery would cause the legendary enchantment to leave the battlefield, it does not change zones.

Example: Jenny casts Merciless Eviction, exiling all enchantments. Lich’s Mastery will remain on the battlefield, despite normally being removed from play.

When required to exile cards to Lich’s Mastery…

  1. Exile a random card from the Lich’s hand.
    If there are no cards in the Lich’s hand…
  2. Exile the bottom card of the Lich’s graveyard.
    If there are no cards in the Lich’s graveyard…
  3. Exile the permanent with the lowest CMC other than a Phylactery (see below) or Lich’s Mastery.
    Players choose on ties.
    If there are only Phylacteries and Lich’s Mastery…
  4. Exile a Phylactery of the players’ choice (see below).
    If there is only Lich’s Mastery in play…
  5. Exile Lich’s Mastery. The Lich has been defeated and the players win the game!

Example: The Lich has four cards in his hand and seven cards in his graveyard. Timmy attacks the Lich with a Colossal Dreadmaw. The Lich takes 6 damage and exiles the four cards in his hand and the bottom two cards of his graveyard.


The Lich’s Phylacteries:

The Lich has 6 Phylacteries, objects containing parts of his shattered soul. They are represented by the 6 Artifact spells in the Lich deck.

Creatures the Lich controls get +1/0 for each Phylactery on the battlefield.

If a Phylactery is put into the Lich’s graveyard from his hand or library, he casts it immediately.

The Lich DOES NOT gain life from Phylacteries when he casts a spell.
The Lich DOES gain life when a player casts a spell of the appropriate colour or type.

Example: The Lich has both the Demon’s Horn and Kraken’s Eye in play. He casts Undead Servant, and Johnny casts Counterspell. The Lich does not gain life from casting Undead Servant, but does gain 1 life from Johnny casting Counterspell.


Special Notes:

The Lich does not produce mana. One-time ‘tax’ effects, like Mana Leak or Syncopate (if X is greater than 0) will work as intended. However, to maintain game balance, repeated tax effects like Ghostly Prison and Baird, Steward of Argive have no effect.

If multiple cards would be placed in the Lich’s graveyard at the same time, shuffle them and put them in the graveyard in a random order.

The Lich has a starting life total of 0.
Certain cards and effects, like Dethrone, look at the opponent’s life total. If your deck includes cards like Marchesa, the Black Rose or Timely Reinforcements, keep track of the life gained and lost by the Lich; remember that his life total can be negative.


Card-specific Rules:

Necromantic Summons: the Lich will reanimate the creature with the highest converted mana cost from any graveyard, his or a player’s. Players choose on ties.


Miasmic Mummy/Delirium Skeins: the Lich also discards. Choose which card(s) at random.


Disentomb/Corpse Churn/Soul Salvage: The Lich returns the creature card(s) with the highest converted mana cost. Players choose on ties.


Essence Drain: The players choose whether to target a creature, player, or Planeswalker.


Festering Goblin: The Lich will never target its own creatures with this ability, even if they are the only legal targets.


Do you have what it takes to stop the Lich Lord Zul Ashur?

I hope you have some fun with this new Horde deck. There were some design obstacles to overcome, but overall I think it turned out well. If you have any suggestions on improvements, or ideas on what you would have done differently, please let me know!

Next time, I’ll be looking into the mechanics of Dominaria and Battlebond, and what new tools those sets provide for future Horde Deck designs. I hope you’ll join me then!


5 Responses

  1. Bulatov Victor

    This is fascinating.

    I think you can streamline rules somewhat by giving Lich additional permanents at the start of the game. I’m thinking of Indestructibility (attached to Lich’s Mastery; it still does not help with Merciless Eviction though), Omniscience and Reliquary Tower (for maximum hand size, casting spells without mana and limited ability to pay tax effects).

    Also I think Lich should have Open the Graves, purely for flavor (and exiling zombies tokens after taking damage is useful)

    • Ben Iverach-Brereton

      I’ve actually been thinking about revising the rules for the Lich Lord to use something like the Threat Level in Attack of the Dreadhorde. I’ve been distracted by other projects, so I haven’t worked out all of the the specifics, but the idea is still floating around. I’ll have to give it some more thought.

      I like your suggestion of starting with more permanents in play, though. If you give it a try I’d love to hear how it goes for you. Making a set of Horde rules that can survive cards like Merciless Eviction and Cyclonic Rift can be tricky; there always seems to be some haymaker card that ruins the fun.

  2. Jesse

    Would love to see your take on a “Battle the Dreadhorde” version of a Horde deck for War of the Spark!

    • Ben Iverach-Brereton

      Funny you should mention that. I’ve actually started work on a new Horde deck with that exact theme!

      It’s still in the early stages, but stay tuned; it’s coming!

      • Jesse

        :O Super excited to see what you come up with!

        I put together the Eldrazi Horde deck you posted, and I’m going to see how it plays vs some Oathbreaker format decks with members of the gatewatch. Feels very on-theme.

        Theme would also work as Oathbreaker vs the Dreadhorde as well!

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