Hello folks, and welcome to the Kitchen Table, where you can get a chance to assuage your casual desires. In the past I have created and updated and brought to you various ways of playing Magic. Sometimes you get bored of the same format game after game, day after day. You want something new. That’s why I try to occasionally do something new for you. Today is going to be one of those days.
The Magic articles I am most proud of are the Magic: RPG ones. They began when I read an old, old format when doing research about how to do a Magic RPG, and I took the idea and completely created my own system. That was a lot of fun.
For today’s article, I’ve done something similar. While looking for inspiration, I found an old, old format that tried to make Magic into a very simplified war game. I liked some of the basic ideas, but I felt it needed a lot of fleshing out, rules changes, and fixing.
Today’s article is the result of reading that initial couple of paragraphs from years back, and turning it into a format that can be played today. My personal name for it is Magic: the Conquering.
In Magic: the Conquering, you are attempting to conquer territory, until you have conquered so much that you win. Alternatively, you can conquer your opponent’s Stronghold instead, and if they fail to retake it, they lose. Either is a victory.
In order to get ready for Magic: the Conquering, you need some basic lands, pen and paper, 1d6 for each player, and some tokens of different colors. Today’s rules are for between 2-4 players. You can probably expand them, but I think the format may work best with 2-4 players. Each player should have their own color of bead or token. I would also advise that each player, if in a 3 or 4 player game, have their own color of sleeves for their deck
You begin by creating the play surface. For 3 or 4 players, grab three of each basic land, shuffle them, and then face down, put them in the indicated grid. For 2 players, you shuffle two of each land and put them face down as indicated.
2 players use a 3×3 grid for the playing field. 4 players use a 3×5 grid. 3 players is a bit weird. Draw a triangle with each side having three lands. Then place one land inside the triangle and adjacent to the center land of that side. For the three player triangle-grid, the outside triangle side lands are adjacent to each other like a big circle. The three middle lands are each adjacent to each other, and adjacent to the center land they are beside. That means the middle lands are adjacent to three lands, the middle side land is adjacent to three plus a Stronghold, and the others adjacent to just two sides.
After placing the grid, any unused basic lands are placed to the side unseen and unused.
Each player selects a basic land for her Stronghold and puts it in play. For a 2 player game, the Strongholds are opposite each other and next to the center land. For a 4 player game they are in the middle out of each side. For a three player game, they are in the middle of each side, on the outside, perpendicular from where you placed the inner land. Make sure there is space between the lands and the Stronghold for you to play a few cards.
It is important to understand that in Magic: The Conquering, you are more like Warchief Battlemagi than tricky Planeswalkers. Many of the cards you might normally want to have access to are gone, because you have a different purpose — to conquer, not to take out one measly Planeswalker.
Decks cannot use any land, period. You will note that some cards have very limited use, and you may not want to include them, see below. Your minimum deck size remains 60 cards. Since lands are nixed, cards like Veteran Explorer, Civic Wayfinder, Kodama’s Reach, etc are not as good. I mean, you can cycle Krosan Tusker for a card and no land if you want, but you see what I am saying.
You may not play creatures with, or get any version of shroud and untargetability. You play, however, play creatures with protection, and that includes those for whom protection is a virtual Shroud.
Due to the creature based nature of the format, you cannot play mass creatures destruction like Wrath of God or Massacre or Slice and Dice. Also, you may not play enchantments or artifacts that prevent people from attacking, period. No Moat, Teferi’s Moat, Arboria, etc. You could still play Peacekeeper. Note that cards like No Mercy do not work, so there is no sense in playing them.
You cannot play cards that destroy land, but you can play cards that change lands, like Sea’s Claim. You will never tap a land, so things like Wild Growth or Caustic Tar aren’t playable.
You do not have any life. You may not use life as a resource for cards like Channel, nor can you get value out of something like Sizzle. Players do not lose when their deck is exhausted, but they may find it hard to win from that point.
Your deck must be of just one color. You cannot include cards of other colors, which means no hybrid, multicolor, split cards, etc.
Otherwise, your deck must follow all Vintage rules.
The phases are changed a bit. Here is the new phase order:
Mana Production — Explained Below
Draw (You draw 2 cards, not one, and your max hand size remains 7)
Note that you draw two cards a turn in your draw step.
Mana Production takes places before Upkeep. All mana made during this phase stays in your pool until the end of the turn. You roll 1d6 and gain that much mana of your color. Then you add one mana for each area you control, for that area’s mana. You gain double mana from an opposing Stronghold. If you conquered a Forest, Island and two Plains, then you can make an additional GUWW. No abilities may be played in the Mana Production phase, including tapping cards for mana.
The Upkeep occurs next, so you can use Mana Production mana to pay the upkeep of creatures or other cards in play. You can play creatures that tap for mana, or other cards that produce mana and make that mana at the appropriate time like normal, so feel free to drop a Marble Diamond or Llanowar Elves.
During your turn, before you Attack/Conquer, you may move any creature you desire to an adjacent area, unless it has defender. Areas are adjacent only if they are horizontal or vertical (for the 3×3 and 3×5 grid, adjacency is noted above for the 3 player grid/triangle). Creatures which are moved become tapped unless they have vigilance or a similar ability. When you move a creature, place it on the land on the table or in the vicinity. You’ll know your cards from others by the sleeves. The first time a creature is moved to an area with a face-down land, flip it up and roll 1d6. Write the number on a small scrap of paper and leave it with that land. That is that area’s Conquer Value.
When you have creatures in an area that are untapped and able to attack (have haste, or have been there one round), they may Conquer/Attack. If there are no defenders in the area, then if the total power of all of your creatures equals or excels that spaces Conquer Value, you have captured it. Place your bead or token on that land. If there are defending creatures, then your opponent(s) may defend as usual, just like combat, with any spill over damage going to the Conquer Value. If you have enough, you capture it, if not nothing happens. If two or more enemies have creatures in that area, the first player clockwise gets a chance to block, then the next and so forth. You may Conquer/Attack more than one area, just resolve them one at a time.
Example: Suppose Edna has Yavimaya Wurm in an unconquered Swamp area against Dale’s White Knight, and the Swamp has a Conquer Value of 3. Edna attacks, since her Wurm moved there last turn. If Dale chooses not to block, and there are no instants, then Edna will deal 6 damage to the land, which equals or exceeds its Conquer Value of 3, so Edna takes it, and places her token on it. If Dale blocks, his White Knight deals 2 first strike damage to the Wurm, then the Wurm deals two to it and 4 trample to the land, which again is enough to Conquer it. If Theresa had a Grizzly Bears there, then Dale and Theresa could both block the Wurm and prevent the Wurm from conquering, but both creatures would die. However, this would require trust, since Dale is first, if he blocked hoping Theresa would block with her Bears, she could hold it back and keep it safe. If Dale had three White Knights and attacked into Edna’s Wurm, she could block and kill one, and then the other two deal four, so the land is now his.
Note that the Conquer rules mean you could have a land switching hands every turn. I attack with a Durkwoood Boars and take the land. It’s tapped. You attack with Durkwood Boars and take the land, its tapped, etc. This simply represents those lands in warfare that are a real tug of war, with each side gaining and losing advantages. It is also a reason to add other creatures or play creatures with vigilance.
Whenever a creature is in an area of its own basic land type, it gets +1/+1. Whenever you have a creature in a land you control, it gets +0/+1. Therefore, you get +1/+2 in your basic land areas that you own. In your Stronghold, your creatures do get the +1/+1, but the +0/+1 for Conquering does not apply, since you never conquered it.
Whenever you summon a creature, it begins play in your Stronghold. You can move it out immediately if it has haste. Otherwise, you have to wait until it could normally attack, and then move it and tap it.
Creatures that are in play only affect those creatures in their area. For example, an Undead Warchief would only pump zombies in its own area, not other areas. Similarly, a Royal Assassin could only tap to kill a tapped creature in its own area. This means a Nekrataal could only kill a creature in your Stronghold.
Note that your magic is much more powerful than your creatures. Your enchantments and artifacts are considered to be in play for the whole field, for example. A Gaea’s Anthem affects all of your creatures no matter where they are. In order to play a spell against an opposing creature, you must either control the land where that creature is, or have a creature there. If you want to Terror that Serra Angel, you have to either own the land or have something there. But a Stronghold Assassin can only tap and sac a creature to kill the Angel if the Angel is in the same area. In order to target your opponent, you must control or have a creature in the area adjacent to their Stronghold, or in their Stronghold. You could not play Ravenous Rats and target your opponent, because the Rats are weak, but you could play Mind Rot on your opponent if you meet the conditions.
However, opponents can be affected by spells that do not target. If you play Wheel of Fortune, everybody discards and draws seven, not just you and those you could target. You may target an opponent’s non-creatures anytime. You can always Disenchant that Sunken City or Counterspell a spell etc. You can always target your own creatures, with auras, equipment, Giant Growth, Refresh, whatever. You may target a land any time as well, so you can Phantasmal Terrain a land to something you want. You may never target the land in an opposing Stronghold.
Planeswalkers have the same restriction as you. Your ally, Chandra Nalaar cannot burn an opposing creature unless you have a local creature of your own, or you control the area. Jace cannot do his ultimate unless you could target an opponent. Planeswalkers are more powerful Magic wielders than your creatures, because a Prodigal Sorcerer in your Stronghold could not tap to deal damage to the same range of creatures Chandra Nalaar or your own Lightning Bolt could.
In order to win, you must control 50+ percent of the areas. If you control 5 in the 2 player game, 7 in the 3 player, or 8 in the 4 player, you win, yay you. Strongholds always have a Conquer Value of 7. When you Conquer one, you get double the mana for that land. The player is not automatically dead, if they have enough creatures to try and take it back, but all lands that player controls become neutral, they cannot Conquer areas but may defend them, and that player cannot produce any mana in the Mana Production step until they have reconquered their Stronghold. The two disadvantages you get when you try and Conquer a Stronghold is that landwalkers are blockable and the attacker does not get +1/+1 even if it’s their landtype.
Once you have conquered a Stronghold, your opponent must retake it in 5 turns, or else they are dead. If at any time they do not have enough creatures on the board, with a combined power of 7 (which enables reconquering), they are eliminated, even if they have a way of making more (such as double strike, inflatable, summing more with mana resources like Llanowar Elves, etc). Once they are eliminated, the Stronghold space ceases to have any special rules attached to it save the double mana from it rule, so your opponent gets +1/+1 and landwalking if they want to try and take it from you, it can be Sea’s Claim’ed, etc.
And that, my friends, is Magic: The Conquering. I’ve had a lot of fun writing this up, and I hope you get a blast from reading and playing it. Below are a couple of Appendices that sum up some of the rules for ease. I already have ideas for how to make it harder, more interesting, etc, so if this is popular, I may do a follow up article later. Enjoy!
Appendix A — Banned, in short
3. Mass Creature Removal
4. Cards that prevent attacking like Moat, Arboria, etc.
5. Land Destruction
6. Cards that requires lands to tap or untap like Wild Growth and Caustic Tar and Earthcraft
7. Cards that only deal damage to an opponent
8. Cards that use your life as a resource or a cost (Vampiric Tutor, Lich, etc)
9. Multicolor cards like Hybrid, gold and most Split card (but not Dead/Gone, for example)
10. Ante cards, Chaos Orb, Falling Star
Appendix B – Special Abilities Reminder:
Haste — A creature with haste, or a similar ability, may be moved the turn it enters the battlefield, and technically, it can Conquer/Attack when it moves into a new area, but it would need Vigilance or untapping to be able to do so.
Vigilance — A creature with vigilance or a similar ability does not tap when they move to another area, nor would they tap when the Conquer/Attack.
Landwalk — A creature with landwalk is unblockable when attacking on their land, unless they are attacking on an opponent’s Stronghold.
Defender — A creature with Defender cannot be moved. If it loses Defender for a turn, or for good, it can move as part of the Movement Phase.
Shroud — Any version of untargetability other than protection cannot be played, because it is hard enough to be able to kill off opposing creatures, no one wants to
This means different colors get different advantages. Green has landwalkers in every color, so it can have some nasty landwalkers. Blue has unblockable. Red has haste. White has vigilance. Black has fear. Everybody gets something.