Years ago, I learned about a format called Horde Magic. Unlike other formats, Horde Magic has all of the players working together to attempt to survive a zombie apocalypse. The zombies are a part of a special deck that runs itself; there is no Archenemy player who controls the deck, only the deck itself and a special set of rules to instruct players on how it works.


I was immediately fascinated by this fully cooperative format; it was a completely different way of looking at Magic, and the idea of building my own version of the Horde deck really appealed to me. I wanted to do something other than a zombie theme, but I had a hard time deciding on what to do. It took me years, but I finally put something together this last week.


Design-wise, what I came up with is actually a lot more reminiscient of the Challenge Decks that Wizards of the Coast released during the Theros block (another take on cooperative Magic), but the basic idea and a lot of the mechanics are shared with the traditional zombie apocalypse Horde Deck.

I’ll be going into detail about my design process next time, but I wanted to show you the deck and rules first. This way I can go into greater detail and you’ll have a better idea of what I’m talking about. Also, it means that you can try it out right away if you’re so inclined.

And so, without further ado I present to you The Eldrazi Horde. Good luck, allies!


(Rules version 1.0.1.)

In this cooperative game mode the players take on the role of the allies of Zendikar, working together to defeat the otherworldly menace of the Eldrazi.


The Deck


The players work together as a team and take their turns at the same time, like Two-Headed Giant. They attack and block together and have a shared starting life total of 30.

The players start the game by taking 3 turns in a row to set up their defenses. Play then alternates between the Eldrazi and the players.

The players win if there are no cards left in the Eldrazi deck and no creatures in play under the Eldrazi’s control. The players lose if their life total is 0 or if any player has to draw a card from an empty library.


“The Eldrazi hunger without limit and consume without pause.”

The Eldrazi has no controller; its deck runs itself.

The Eldrazi has no life total and cannot gain life. Any time the Eldrazi would lose life, put that many cards from its library into its graveyard.

The Eldrazi has no hand and cannot draw cards. If a spell or ability would put a card into the Eldrazi’s hand it is put into its graveyard instead. Effects that would put a card from its library into its hand are ignored instead.
*Deathless Behemoth is a special exception to this rule. See below.


The Main Phase

At the beginning of the Eldrazi’s precombat main phase it reveals the top 2 cards of its library per player and casts them without paying their mana costs. Reveal and resolve these cards one at a time.
*The Eldrazi will also reveal an extra card for each Retreat it exiled (see below).

The Eldrazi has infinite mana and will never activate the mana abilities of permanents it controls. At the end of each of its precombat main phases, the Eldrazi will activate each of its non-mana abilities once if able.


Choosing Targets

The players choose all targets for the Eldrazi’s spells and abilities, but the Eldrazi will never target itself or its creatures with harmful effects.
*Spells and abilities that change the target of a spell or ability can Redirect an effect to an Eldrazi, but when choosing the initial targets the players must choose from among their own permanents.

If an Eldrazi spell does not have enough legal targets for a spell, it will try to target as much as it can.
*For example, the only creature on the battlefield is controlled by the Eldrazi, and it reveals Grip of Desolation. The Eldrazi will exile one of the players’ lands, but it will not exile its own creature.

If there are no legal enemy targets for any part of the spell, the spell is not cast and is put into the graveyard instead.
*For example, the Eldrazi has a Thought Harvester in play when it reveals an Oblivion Strike. The players have no creatures in play, so the spell is discarded without being cast. Because no spell was cast, Thought Harvester’s ability will not trigger.



Creatures the Eldrazi control have Haste and attack each turn if able.

Creatures the Eldrazi control with base power or toughness 5 or greater that enter the battlefield tapped.
*They are “on the horizon” and will attack next turn!

The Eldrazi will always try to destroy the blocking creature with the greatest power. In the event of two or more creatures with the same power, the players may choose their blocking order.

If the Eldrazi have an untapped creature available to block it will always block the attacking creature with the highest power it can, regardless of other abilities like Trample.


“Sea Gate has fallen. Survivors are on the move….” – Tars Olan

The 5 Retreat cards are shuffled into the Eldrazi deck at the start of the game.

If the Eldrazi reveals a Retreat during its main phase, it exiles it instead of casting it. On subsequent turns the Eldrazi will reveal 1 additional card for each exiled Retreat during their precombat main phase.

If a Retreat is put into the Eldrazi’s graveyard any player may immediately cast it without paying its mana cost.


“The secrets we uncover could lead to the world’s salvation.” – Jori En, Ruin Diver

During setup the players put 5 expeditions into their Command Zone face up.

These Expeditions cannot be cast.

Whenever a land enters the battlefield under a player’s control, that player may put a Quest counter on ONE of the face up Expeditions.

Once an Expedition has 3 Quest counters on it, any player may activate its ability by removing the counters and turning the card face down (instead of sacrificing it).

Special Exception: The lands from the Khalni Heart Expedition will NOT put counters on other Expeditions. They will still trigger other Landfall abilities as normal.



Planeswalkers: If a player controls a Planeswalker, the Eldrazi will attack the Planeswalker instead of the player. However, any damage dealt above the Planeswalker’s loyalty is dealt to another Planeswalker in play, or its controller if no other Planeswalkers are on the battlefield. Players may choose in what order their Planeswalkers take damage.

Ingest: The players decide who is being attacked each turn. This means that the players decide whose library will lose a card when a creature with Ingest deals combat damage to them.

Processors: Whenever a Processor enters the battlefield, if there are enough cards in exile to pay for its ability, and its ability has a legal target, it will put the necessary cards into their owners’ graveyards. The players decide which cards to move from exile.
*For example, the Eldrazi reveals a Wasteland Strangler and the players have 2 cards in exile. If the players have at least 1 creature in play, they will put a card of their choice from exile into their graveyard and one of their creatures will get -3/-3. If they have no creatures in play then no card will be moved from exile.

Deathless Behemoth: If Deathless Behemoth is in the Eldrazi’s graveyard at the end of its precombat main phase, it will sacrifice 2 Scion tokens if able and will immediately cast the Behemoth.
*Normally effects that put cards into the Eldrazi’s hand put them into the graveyard instead. This is an exception to that rule.

Molten Nursery: The Eldrazi only targets players with Molten Nursery, never creatures.


Can You Save Zendikar?

If you have a chance between pre-releases and everything else Ixalan, please give this Horde deck a try and let me know what you think. I would love to get some feedback.

I also hope you’ll join me next time, as I go over my design process for my version of Horde Magic! Try not to get exiled until then.

14 Responses

  1. Trevor

    Oh lorty, I can’t wait to try this. I have an azorius allies deck whose win condition is deckout. Using Halimar Excavator and Jwari Shapeshifter with Cloudshift and Turn to Mist I can mill muplicatively. And life ought to be no problem either with Ondu Cleric as my other 4 allies. This is that deck on tapped out if you wanted to look at it:

    Ooo, this might be a format good for my American control deck too. Good mid game ability but a little slow for faster one v one games. Though I do have a question. How would cards like Ghostly Prison and Propaganda work where attacking creatures have to pay mana penalties?

    • Ben Iverach-Brereton

      The classic Horde game mode gives the Horde deck access to infinite mana. I was playing the Eldrazi deck the same way.

      One option I did consider was to have Propaganda effects only work on the ‘small’ Eldrazi (with base power and toughness less than 5), or to force the Eldrazi to sacrifice Spawn to attack with creatures, but I couldn’t come up with an elegant, satisfying way of structuring it.

      So, until someone can come up with a better solution, the Eldrazi care not for your Propaganda, and are too big to be stopped by your Ghostly Prison!

  2. Julio

    for the side quests, do players playing lands in the first 3 turns count for the landfall triggers? If all 4 players place a land down does that mean you have 4 counters to distribute among any side quest? How many side quests are you supposed to be able to activate per turn?

    • Ben Iverach-Brereton

      The way I was testing the side quests was that yes, the first 3 turns do count towards completing them, and yes, each player contributes. This would mean that in a 5 player game you could potentially complete all 5 side quests before the Eldrazi even show up. That will give you a significant edge, so you can probably expect an easier game.

      As for how many you can activate in a turn once you’ve got the counters, there is no limit. They are once-per-game, and only one player can benefit from each one, so choose wisely.

      Most of my testing was done using 1-2 decks, rather than 3 or more. With 2 decks you could reliably complete 1 side quest before the Eldrazi started to attack, and might get 2 if everyone hit their land drops.

      If you’re playing with more than 2 players, I would recommend using some of the Optional Rules I posted in Part 2 of my article. They should help keep the game challenging.

      One rule tweak I have been considering is to limit how much you can benefit from the Retreats, once you uncover them. Instead of putting them into play under a player’s control, I have thought of treating them like additional Quests that you can unlock. I haven’t quite locked down all the details for that, though….

  3. Jakeob

    Looks pretty fun. Any chance you’ve ever tested this against an actual ally deck? Seems like an interesting way to take this one on.

    • Ben Iverach-Brereton

      Sadly, no, I haven’t built an Ally deck to play against the Eldrazi Horde. I really should, though….

      …Or maybe I should make an Ally Horde deck?

      …Maybe both?

  4. Brandt

    Ok so for Murk Strider, will players also choose the target for its recursion or will it just go for the highest power/ toughness? And will it only recur its own creatures or player’s creatures as well?

    • Ben Iverach-Brereton

      Murk Strider will Process whatever card the players choose, and will bounce a creature the players control.

      Most players will choose to bounce their weakest or cheapest creature, but if you want to give yourself an added challenge you could restrict it to always bouncing the creature that will do you the most harm. The Horde deck has a pretty flexible difficulty that way.

      Just remember that if you’re going to play with a restriction like that, decide on it at the start of the game and stick with it until the end!

  5. Alex

    Would I have to buy the eldrazi deck piece by piece or is there a preconstruct deck I can get and change a few cards out?

    • Ben Iverach-Brereton

      There isn’t an official preconstructed deck, though the “Buy This List” button in the article will direct you to Fusion Gaming Online, which has most of the cards in stock (as of this reply).

  6. Tyler

    How would effects like on marchese, the black rose work on this deck? Would it count the eldrazi as having the most health, or would it just be rendered useless?

    • Ben Iverach-Brereton

      That’s an interesting question. I’ll admit that I never tested Dethrone when I was designing this. Having Dethrone do nothing isn’t really a satisfying answer, so I would probably try something like this:

      When checking the “life total” of the Eldrazi for a spell or effect (such as Dethrone or Timely Reinforcements), its life is equal to the number of cards in its library.

      I do fear that effects like Dethrone could get out of hand pretty quickly. If you’re using cards like that in your deck you’ll probably want to use one or more of the Optional Rules I suggested in Part 2 of my article to help balance out your game. Otherwise, you’ll probably find that it will be far too easy.

      If you get a chance to test this out, please let me know what you think!

  7. John

    Just wondering what style of game play/ decks you would play against this hoard modern/standard or Edh

    • Ben Iverach-Brereton

      Any format of deck works, but I’ve mostly been testing with casual 60 card decks; they’re mostly mid-to-low tier Standard and Modern decks that I have on hand.

      I’ve tested a bit with Commander decks, and they make for an interesting game. While they are generally more powerful decks, they have a much slower start and as such they can fall dangerously behind. Without a good first 3 turns, you can get overwhelmed easily.

      As for the traditional Zombie Horde deck, it is geared more towards Commander decks.


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