The Cube Horde (a solo module for any cube)

the Cube Horde
75 cards / 1 player

I suspect many of us haven't able to play much Cube during the pandemic. During this time I've been reading up on Horde Magic, a coop Magic mode developed for Commander, and its applications for solo cubing. I wasn't really satisfied with any current system, so tried to make my own. This is how it works:

The most important element of this Horde system is that it is clear and simple. A lot of cards were deemed not feasible for the module because they were either too wordy or contained a choice for the Horde to make. Price was a second consideration: the whole module costs around 25 euros total. The gameplay should remain interesting nonetheless, for which I tried to include lots of effects that scale over a game's length.

The Draft
  • sleeve the module in a sleeve color different from your cube
  • get 110 cube cards and 52 Horde cards, shuffle them into one pile
  • grid draft this pile, with you picking first every time
  • add any Horde cards undrafted by you to the Horde deck
You should end up with a Horde deck of 30-50 cards. This will be your opponent. Balancing the module is mainly done through this draft. You can add or decrease the number of Horde cards added to the grid (as long as the total remains 162). Individual problem cards can either be removed from the module or drafted away (the latter might enable some strategic choices).

  • you are the starting player, starting at 7 cards (before muligans) and 20 life
  • the Horde has no cards in hand and no life total
  • if the Horde should draw a card, but can't, you win the game
  • whenever the Horde loses life, exile that many cards from the top of its library face-down instead
  • the Horde goes through the standard turn structure
  • during its first main phase, the Horde casts all cards in its hand, in a random order, for free
  • during its combat, the Horde attacks you with all creatures (without summoning sickeness)
  • during your combat, the Horde chooses to never block if it can help it
  • if the Horde should make a choice, you make that choice instead (Curse of Disturbance always targets you, not the Horde)

Included Cards

Creatures are the most important part of this module, as they present the real threat to your life. It also shouldn't be possible to remove all creatures from the Horde's deck just by drafting them away, so their density needs to be significant. Some of the noncreature permanents also create zombie tokens as wel. I'm happy with the amount of many zombies to prick from, and eventually set on these:

Undead Servant and Liliana's Elite are probably two of the most important pieces, as they have the potential to scale very nicely into the endgame. The scaling has been one of the biggest hurdles to jump through, as each card shouldn't be too devastating on turn 1, but also not insignificant on turn 10. Both creatures also provide an opportunity for the Horde to come back after a board wipe.

Because you, as a player, have so much agency as a blocker, I tried to add cards that make blocking a though choice as well. Butcher Ghoul and Tattered Mummy have artistocrat-like effects when dying, and might have to be kept alive sometimes. Undead Augur and Headless Rider make blocking or removing anyone but themselves a headache. Ghoulraiser can bring back threats you thought you'd dealt with.

Some zombies let you build or play your own deck differently, especially if you know multiple have made it into the Horde's deck during draft. Crow of Dark Tidings means you have to be able to handle fliers. Miasmic Mummy means you have have to manage your hand differently, but also increases the strength of instant-speed bounce spells on your side. Tormod, the Desecrator stops you from effectively using graveyard-exile effects.

I mainly considered artifacts and enchantments to validate the inclusion of artifact or enchantment removal in your cube / deck. However, they provide a lot of unique effects that especialy help avoid the Horde deck making choices. Hopefully, this creates tension and difficult decisions for you, the player to make during the games.

Boarded Window, Grave Peril and Marchesa's Decree provide their own 'minigames' to handle their effects. Boarded Window is also an effect that neutralizes the strength of token or go-wide decks. Grave Peril is one of the few removal 'spells' to not have a target. It would removal any non-black creature entering the battlefield, but since all creature from the Horde's deck are black, that shouldn't pose a problem. I guess a player could make a mono-black deck to circumvent the enchantment, but that just seems like an award for their effort. I myself have a Jeskai Cube anyway.

War Horn and Curse of Disturbance are cards that become very dangerous once the Horde has a decent board presence. The advantage of both is that the can be answered by a board clear, and are quite ineffectual for the first (few) turn(s). That supports the scaling I was considering before.

Damping Matrix is the only card able to answer activated abilities effectively, while Mortal Combat provides a fun(?) alternative win condition for the Horde at the later stages of the game. Both cards provide an effect not obtainable otherwise.

Instants and sorceries have a few advantages as well. They are quite ineffective at the start of the game, and scale well towards the end. They provide one-time effects, which aren't so scary and thus can be a little stronger. The disadvantage is that too many spells will restrain the Horde's board presence. As mentioned before, you effectively drafting the Horde deck might make it possible to create a dud-deck for them. Only playtesting will tell...

Dredge the Mire and Sypon Flesh provide a multiplayer scaling on top of the game-length scaling. Both card get considerably stronger when the Horde faces more opponents. This may make it feasible to introcude a cooperative variant to the Horde module, although that is pure speculation for now.

Cower in Fear and Soul Shatter bring specific answers for different problems. They handle the go-wide strategies and go-tall strategies respectively. Soul Shatter is also the only card in the modul to handle planeswalkers, which might actually prove problematic depending on the cube.[/SPOILER]


07-01-2022: This weekend I'll be able to first test the module (as the cards will arrive then). I expect something to be completely broken, so the core rules will probably needs some changes here or there. That being said, I'd like for all your cube veterans to hear if this module could work for your cube, why it would or wouldn't, and which changes you'd propose. Let me know!
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I have done 2 full playthroughs (grid drafting + 3 matches) and some quicker tests with the grid or the Horde deck. It's obvious the module needs quite some tuning, but overall I'm positive that there's a lot of potential here. Scaling seems to be the main issue, where you're almost guaranteed to win if you survive until turn 6. The last few turns become quite arbitrary, where the Horde is unable to come back. With this new perspective, I've some changes in mind to spice things up:

Cards Removed

Damping Matrix hasn't been relevant, and I'm always happy that it isn't a threatening card when it comes off the Horde deck. This demonstrates that the Horde just needs to focus on beating you down. Like with planeswalkers, they'll beat activated abilities by beating you.

Curse of Disturbance is actually a fine card. However, it doesn't advance an empty board very well, which seems to be the biggest hurdle for the Horde. Furthermore, it does actually present a choice for the Horde: who to enchant. Although it's a false choice, I really want to remove any choices from this module.

Mortal Combat isn't relevant. There're not enough creatures in the deck most of the time, let alone the graveyard.

Tattered Mummy was too weak, and one reason the Horde had trouble applying pressure. I added it to integrate some direct lifeloss to the deck, but that mostly doesn't seem to be a problem once you stabalize. It's laughable if it drops past turn two.

Tormod, the Desecrator has a very strong body, but a very irrelevant ability. It never triggered, even though both Ghoulraiser and Butcher Ghoul could trigger it. I can see adding it back in for its body, or if more graveyard recursion is added. For now it's gone.

New Additions

Power Play seems like a fun minigame. Normally you're the starting player, but adding one or two of this conspiracy to the module could change that. It's a very strong addition, but also one you can easily draft away. This skews the game a little in favor of the Horde, which I expect to be benificial.

Wight of Precinct Six is an awesome scaling threat. I didn't add it initially because I was afraid it would be too weak against controlling decks, but had to add two of them because I apparently ordered too few Butcher Ghouls. It was great the two times it appeared. It also scales against multiple opponents, which is something I want to test somewhere in the future as well. This will replace Tattered Mummy

Succumb to Temptation draws two cards (which will immediately be played) and loses the Horde a few life. This gives the opportunity for a big Horde play and gives a little more uncertainty to its turns. It enables the Horde to stabalize (at a small cost). I'm testing this card at the same rate as other 'common' cards with 6 additions to be sure to see its effect often.