Duelist #4: Origin Stories

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Wizard's Chess

by Tom Hazel

Wizard's Chess is a deck-building variant for Magic in which cards represent the different pieces used in chess. Although the game is played as a standard duel, some Magic rules have been modified and others added to capture the feeling of chess. Wizard's Chess can be played one-on-one, two-on-two, or as a multiplayer free-for all.

Component of the Deck

Each player's deck must contain a minimum of sixty cards: seventeen creature cards, eighteen non-creature spells, one artifact, and at least twenty-four lands. The creatures are chosen to represent the player's chess pieces. These are the sixteen standard chess pieces plus two additional pieces, the King's Wizard and the Queen's Artifact. All decks are constructed using only two colors, one for the King and one for the Queen. Players select a Bishop, Knight, Rook, and four Pawns of the Queen's color, and a corresponding set of pieces for the King.

King and Queen

The King and Queen can be any non-wall creatures with a casting cost of five or more. Appropriate cards for a red/blue deck are Vesuvan Doppelganger for the Queen and Shivan Dragon for the King. A black/white deck could have a Sengir Vampire and a Serra Angel (or, if you're really a power player, a Nightmare for the Queen and a Personal Incarnation for the King).

The Supporting Pieces

The player must select three different creatures to represent the Bishop, the Knight, and the Rook, and four of the same creature to represent the Pawns. Each of these creatures must follow the color requirements and other restrictions for that piece. Additionally, the power of the pieces must be decreasing; that is, the Knight must have lower power than the Bishop, and the Pawns must have a lower power than the Knights. The Rook is the defense of the kingdom, and its toughness should exceed the power of each of the other pieces.

Because artifacts are colorless and therefore can't follow the color of either the King or the Queen, the only artifact permitted in Wizard's Chess is the Queen's Artifact.

These restrictions should be taken as guidelines. It you have a certain card in mind to represent a particular piece, and the card doesn't meet the requirements for that piece, try to reach an agreement with the person you're playing with. If you let her use Veteran Bodyguard as a Rook, maybe she'll let you use Ramses Overdark as your King.

The Bishop

The Bishop is the most powerful warrior piece in the service the King and Queen. To reflect this, the Bishop may be any non-wall creature with power greater than or equal to its toughness.

A Bishop might be a Craw Wurm, Demonic Hordes, a Serra Angel, a Mold Demon, an Akron Legionnaire, Juzám Djinn, or even a mighty Orgg.

The Knight

The Knight is the warrior piece that leads the Pawns into battle, and can be counted on to face any enemy Knight that challenges it. To reflect this, the Knight may he any non-wall creature with a combined power and toughness totaling six or less. The Knight must have one of the following abilities: Flying, First Strike, Trample, Rampage, or Protection from a color.

Examples for a Knight are Black Knight, White Knight, Ghost Ship, Moorish Cavalry, Fallen Angel, Mountain Yeti, Thunder Spirit, Land Leeches, Dragon Whelp, and Knights of Thorn.

The Rook

The Rook is the kingdom's defense and may be any wall. Creatures with special blocking abilities, such as Giant Spider and Veteran Bodyguard, also make good Rooks.

Good examples of a Rook include Wall of Bones, Wall of Brambles, Wall of Air, Wall of Stone, Wall of Light, and Carnivorous Plant.

The Pawns

The grunt fighters for the King and Queen, the Pawns fight most of the battles in Wizards Chess. When Pawns face off in combat, both usually die. If your Pawns beat any other players Pawns, then you've probably chosen Pawns that are too big. Some of the worst examples for Pawns are Rukh Eggs and Kird Apes, as both of these cards would be a battle for most Knights in the game.

Players must select four identical, non-wall Pawns for each color. In general, almost any creature with a casting cost of three or less can work, as long as your opponent approves of the piece. To balance the game, though, Pawns must adhere to the following rules:

  1. Casting cost must be three or less.
  2. Combined power and toughness must total three or less.
  3. The creature's power or toughness cannot be "inflatable" as with Order of Leitbur or Frozen Shade.
  4. The creature cannot have a tapping ability other than one that provides mana.

If a creature has no special abilities, combined power and toughness can total four, and there is no restriction on casting cost. Good examples of a Pawn include Drudge Skeletons, Llanowar Elves, Shanodin Dryad, Grizzly Bears, Raging Bull, Blazing Effigy, and Bird Maiden.

The King's Wizard and Queen's Artifact

Along with the standard chess pieces, Wizard's Chess uses two additional pieces, the King's Wizard and the Queen's Artifact. The King's Wizard provides the magic for the kingdom. The Kings Wizard can be any creature of the King's or Queen's color that has a special ability; the ability should require tapping the creature. This piece may never block or attack unless forced to by a spell or effect. The creature's power and toughness must total four or less and cannot vary.

The Queen's Artifact can be any non-creature artifact, as long as it can't produce mana of a color other than the color of the King or Queen.

Non-Creature Cards

The remaining cards in the deck include eighteen non-creature spells and as many basic lands as the player wants. The spells can be in either the King's or the Queen's color, but no more than two of any card may be selected. Players may use up to four special lands, as long as each land type used is unique within the deck (however, up to four of one dual land can be used). Players may only use lands that produce mana of the King's color and/or the Queen's color.

Banned Cards

Some cards are banned from Wizard's Chess because they unbalance the game or violate the spirit of the rules. In general, cards are banned that damage, destroy, or bury all creatures (or a class of creatures) in play; take control of creatures; remove cards from the graveyard; or force a player to discard. (Cards that generate creatures can he incorporated into a deck, but their creature-generating abilities may not be used.) Some other banned cards include, but are not limited to:

Rules Changes

When the game begins, players must announce which creatures they are using for the King and Queen before drawing their first card. As cards are put into play, the piece each card represents must also be announced. This is done so that opponents can tell which of the following rules apply to these cards.

PAWN STARTING MOVE: Whenever a Pawn is brought into play from a players hand, the controlling player has the option to attack with the pawn during the same turn that it was summoned.

EN PASSANT: If a player brings a Pawn into play and immediately attacks with it, then any other Pawn blocking the new Pawn gains +1/+1 until the end of the turn.

PAWN PROMOTION: Players may also remove one of their Pawns in play from the game during their upkeep to bring any creature of the same color (other than the King) from their graveyard directly into play at no casting cost. The player must have controlled the Pawn since the start of the turn, and the creature from the graveyard enters play tapped. A player may promote only one Pawn per turn.

CASTLING: During upkeep, a player may swap a Rook for a King or Queen from his cards in play to his hand, or from his hand to his cards in play. The piece entering play is brought in at no casting cost, and comes into play tapped. Any enchantments on the card being returned to the player's hand are discarded. The pieces being exchanged must be of the same color, and the player must have controlled the piece in play since the start of the turn. If the creature in play has blocked or attacked since it was brought into play, then it may not be used to Castle. A player may Castle only once per game.

QUEEN SACRIFICE: The King has a fast effect, treated as if it were written on the card: "Tap: Sacrifice your Queen to counter a spell or effect that would cause the King to be killed or removed from play. You must have controlled the King and Queen since the start of the turn, and the spell or effect must only target the King." For example, consider a 4/4 King and a 7/7 Queen. The King is targeted by a 5-point Fireball. The King's controller can tap the King and sacrifice the Queen, saving the King from the Fireball.

DEATH OF THE KING: If a King is buried or removed from play the owner of the King loses half her life total (rounding up). If the King is returned to play for any reason, the player does not gain the lost life back.

Here is an example of a Wizard's Chess deck:

King: Force of Nature
King's Wizard: Niall Silvain
Bishop: Craw Wurm
Knight: Cockatrice
Rook: Carnivorous Plant
Pawns: Llanowar Elves

Queen: Shivan Dragon
Queen's Artifact: Rod of Ruin
Bishop: Fire Elemental
Knight: Dragon Whelp
Rook: Granite Gargoyle
Pawns: Goblin Hero

Aspect of Wolf (2)
Stream of Life (2)
Tranquility (2)
Regeneration (2)
Desert Twister
Fireball (2)
Disintegrate (2)
Fissure (2)
Lightning Bolt (2)

Forest (15)
Mountain (15)
Taiga (4)

Wizard's Chess was created with the help of Eric Landes, Ray Mann, Eric Hough, Adam Dare, and Geir Landesskog.

Wizard's Chess, by Tom Hazel
Magic in the Classroom, by Susan Mohn
According to Mr. Pling, compiled by Scott Hungerford
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