Friday, January 24, 2014

Assault the Boggart Warrens: An MtG Challenge Deck

I'm going to let you all in on a secret: I don't play nearly as much Magic as I wish I could.

I used to. I had two roommates who were down for games whenever, but nowadays I have a family and more demands on my time. I try to make it out to a Tuesday Night Draft when I can, but the fact is I enjoy casual-constructed formats a lot more (EDH, Planechase, and kitchen table decks). It doesn't matter that I rarely get a chance to play them. I still routinely build decks and tweak them.

So, when I read about the Horde deck for the first time, I was super-intrigued. I liked the idea that I could play a solitaire game of Magic against an Artificial Intelligence deck. It let me playtest, but more importantly, it let me play. Plus, assembling a zombie horde was right up my deck-building alley. It turned out to be a fun experiment and format, so much so that when Wizards announced the Fight the Hydra deck as part of the Hero's Path experience, that quickly usurped any of the cards or mechanics of Theros, becoming the most interesting aspect of the block in my mind.

After buying and playing against the Hydra extensively, I decided that at some point I wanted to design my own challenge deck. After discussing it with a few of the other Artisans, HavelockV and I decided that we'd take a stab at designing one and we'd publish it here.

To give us some direction, we decided that we'd get some of the reader input on who they would eventually be facing off against in the deck. I put up a pair of polls a few months ago, first asking everyone to vote on a plane, and, once Lorwyn won that popular vote, a tribe. Lorwyn Goblins won out, so HavelockV and I started brainstorming ways to translate the feel of Lorwyn's most huggable tribe into a challenge deck.

The deck is still very much a work in progress. We were originally planning on releasing it as a final product, but finding the time to properly develop it is more challenging than I thought. I wanted at first to put it up a month ago at Christmas, but a month later I think it's still a little ways off from being a final product. So, in honor of Goblin Week (and in anticipation of another soon-to-be-released {B}{R} Challenge Deck) I'm going to put it up in it's current iteration. As we work on it, I'll post updates on the site to let you know where we stand. In the meantime, feel free to test away and offer feedback on it. As we update over time, I'll go more in depth into how the design came about and evolved over the development of the deck.

While HavlockV and I worked on the initial deck, Chah playtested it and provided crucial and insightful feedback and ideas that have made the current iteration exponentially more fun.

The Rules


Boggarts have been aggressively stealing sacred treasures from each of the various tribes on Lorwyn and squirreled them away in their warrens. You and your fellow Planeswalkers have agreed to retrieve some of these priceless treasures from the foul goblins.

Setting Up

  • The Boggarts (referred to as "the mob" by rules text) have a 60 card deck (including eight double-faced cards) and four Warren cards that are not considered part of the deck. 
  • The deck is designed as a challenge for 1-4 players.
  • At the beginning of the game, place 2-4 Warren cards face up on the battlefield.
    • 2 is an easy challenge, 3 is normal, 4 is hard-mode
  • Shuffle the mob's library, and divide it into equal piles for each Warren on the battlefield. Each of these piles is that Warren's library. 
  • Players then shuffle their own libraries, draw their opening hands, mulligan as desired, etc. until everyone is good to go.

New Card Type - Warren

  • Warrens are a card type designed for this deck. 

  • Warrens can be attacked directly, as long as each untapped creature controlled by the mob is also being attacked. 
  • Effects that damage players or cause loss of life can target the warren, and cards that mill can affect the warren's libraries.
  • Warren's can't draw, discard, or perform other actions that don't really make sense.
  • Whenever a Warren is dealt damage reveal that many cards from the top of that Warren's library. Put each creature card and treasure revealed onto the battlefield under the mob's control and each sorcery into the Warren's graveyard.
  • The mob has a single graveyard, and once goblin or treasure cards are on the battlefield, they don't belong to a particular warren.
  • Effects can't cause warrens to leave the battlefield.
  • Once a warren's library is empty, it still sits on the battlefield - it just can't cast anything in response to anything.

New Artifact Type - Treasure

  • Treasure cards are DFCs.

  • Treasures can be controlled by either a player or the mob, and control will shift throughout the game.
    • When controlled by the mob, the cards are sunny-side up
    • When controlled by a player, it's dark side of the moon.
  • Once on the battlefield, if an effect would cause a treasure to leave the battlefield, instead the controller of that effect gains control of the treasure.
  • Treasures enter the battlefield under the mob's control.

  • Players can gain control of treasures by dealing two or more damage to a warren.

Players' Turns

  • Players take simultaneous turns as per 2HG rules.
  • Players have their own life totals (Starting life is the usual 20)
  • Players go first.
  • Warrens are attacked individually (think of it like attacking two or three different PWs controlled by an opponent)
    • Warrens can only be attacked if each untapped creature controlled by a warren is also being attacked.
    • Some of the mob's goblins also follow this same rule.
      • Other goblins only require that the basic boggarts are being attacked.

    • See the warren rules for what happens when warrens are hit.
  • At the end of the players' turns, each warren that was not attacked mills each player for 1.
    • Feel free to test this with also doing a point of damage to each player in addition to the milling and let me know how it works.

The Mob's Turn

  • At the start of the mob's turn, untap each creature controlled by the mob, then cast the top two cards of each Warren's library.
  • Cast one card at a time (pick a warren order at the beginning of the game).
  • All choices, including targetting choices, are made by players.

  • All creatures cast by the mob have haste.

Winning the Game

  • Players win the game when, collectively, they control 5 or more treasures.

Where to Get It

Right now I only have it in pdf and MSE format. I tried to get it to work in LackeyCCG, but right now that program is giving me conniptions and I don't have time to troubleshoot it. I'll try to get it working in time for the next draft.

PDF Link:
MSE Link:

That's it. Print it, test it out, bring it to your BNG prerelease and see how people there respond. Send me any feedback, questions, complaints, or checks to @zefferal


  1. It's in awesome shape! The DFC treasures are really cool, and the rules are pretty simple and intuitive.

    One thing I've noticed is that "Can only be attacked if CONDITION" is taking up a lot of words on a lot of cards, which is a bit of a drag on player attention. I wonder if labeling cards "Front Row" "Middle Row" and "Back Row" would suffice, along with the rule that all untapped creatures in a row must be attacked before you can attack behind it.

    Sorry for not giving more feedback earlier; I'm on a Mac, so I can't read MSE.

    1. Rows sound intuitive! So the back row is Warrens, the middle row is Goblin lords, and the front row are the grunts/bodyguards?

    2. Heck yes. I tried to put most of the rules on the cards themselves, to keep the official rules simple, but we can see from my above example just how well that plan worked out.

      I ran a playtest with the new cards last night and have a number of notes and improvements in mind.

  2. This is pretty amazing. Nice work, guys.

    So a single warren doesn't control permanents OTB? How does Searing Blaze work? Diabolic Edict?

    What does splitting the mob library up by warren gain?

    Players can't counter cards revealed when a warren is damaged.

    Swap sunny and dark sides?

    If players attack simultaneously, who gains control of Secret Picture of Secrets?

    Is revealing a library permanent? Do you turn it upside down and draw from the bottom?

    How do you know which player each goblin attacks (or that they attack)?

    Guessing the milling of players is a hack to end the game?

    Why not write 'haste' on the mob's creatures?

    1. Searing blaze - the hack-ey answer is that all boggarts are controlled by all warrens simultaneously. We're currently considering giving each warren unique control over the goblins it casts though.

      library splitting - mostly flavor points, plus it opens up some design space, especially with scaling effects

      re countering damaged warren's permanents - good call - they now cast those cards

      sunny/dark sides - I wish I could get rid of the icons entirely, but i haven't figured that out in MSE just yet. Sunny = default casting side, which goes to the gobs. Something I might be able to clean up down the line

      I might have to read up on my 2HG rules, but doesn't one player's damage happen before another's?

      Revealing libraries - I conceived it as a one-time reveal, but if you have a map, maybe your way makes more sense.

      goblin attacking - I'm updating the rules so that players share life totals and gobs attack players as a group, any player can block any attacking gob.

      Milling - we needed to put players on a clock so they don't just sit and build up an army before starting to attack. we were messing around with different annoying incentives to start attacking, but for the time being each warren is uniformally milling.

      Haste - it's weird to write it that many times. The rule about universal haste is itself a hack since the mob casts so many cards each turn, some of them forcing attacks and many of them creatures. That rule may be going out the window in the next iteration.

    2. 2HG creatures attack and deal damage simultaneously.

      Revealing the library once and hiding it again is less fiddly, but tests player's memory. Not sure which is best.