Leading a Horse to Water

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The letter W!e are going to try something a little unorthodox. We are going to play "Guess the Card." I know you are saying that this has been done before, but my version is going to be much more difficult. We are going to have several questions before any of the card is revealed. I know there are several people who aren't interested in fun and just want to see the card. I'd encourage you not be put the cart before the horse and join the rest of us. However, if you insist, feel free to scroll to the end of the article and click the link down there.

For the rest of us, let's get started!

Clue #1. Ottawa Senators and USC. Almost every self-respecting Canadian should already know what the card is without clicking a link. Any college football fan should definitely know what the card is. Perhaps this game is not as difficult as I hoped it would be.

Clue #2. Don't rush down and click the last link in the article. That isn't the card. And by the way, there is a clue in the opening paragraph.

Clue #3. Check out this partial image of the card.

Clue #4. And just a little more.

Clue #5. This is your last clue.

How it Works

The card is pretty straightforward, but it does have a few twists. You pay the mana to put it onto the battlefield, then your opponent gains control of it. If you have multiple opponents, you pick the opponent. On that player's upkeep, all of his or her opponents (including you) get a 1/1 white Soldier creature token. On that player's next upkeep, all of you get another 1/1 token. The Horse opens up and everyone else gets a gift.

Akroan Horse | Art by Seb McKinnon

Don't Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

In spite of this gift from Wizards, we are going to take a closer look and see just how good this gift really is. This is a card that plays differently in one-on-one games versus multiplayer battles. In duels, you give your only opponent a solid defender and, in return, you get a free creature every turn. In multiplayer, you give one person a solid defender and everyone else gets a 1/1 creature every round. The benefit in one-vs.-one play is clear. If you are running a deck with small creatures, that is looking to overwhelm an opponent, this card works. Akroan Horse won't die to a 2/2 or even a 3/3 creature, and it can't kill any of the 1/1 creatures it creates! Added to the other creatures you've made, you will quickly overwhelm your opponent.

Multiplayer is a different story. I have built my deck to take advantage of the 1/1 creatures I'm going to get from an opponent with Akroan Horse. Now, who should get the Akroan Horse? Your first instinct is to give it to the biggest threat. Everyone else get creatures they could use to attack the biggest threat. However, this doesn't make any sense. In a multiplayer game, you will attack the biggest threat with as much power as you can muster. By the time you can cast Akroan Horse, you, and the other players at the table, can cast bigger creatures than Akroan Horse. As soon as you attack with Shipbreaker Kraken, the biggest threat is going to block with Akroan Horse, killing it and costing you your free 1/1 creatures. So what is the benefit?

Does giving it to one of your less-threatening opponents make sense? You still get your 1/1 and your primary threat doesn't get a blocker he or she will use to chump block something big as soon as possible. In this scenario, it still doesn't make a lot of sense. You are giving your biggest threat the same thing you are getting. You need a way to maximize your benefit while limiting the biggest threat's.

Anax and Cymede is one option. When everyone is getting a similar benefit, make yours better. Captain of the Watch; Collective Blessing; and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad are three other cards that pump your small Soldiers. Between Soldier tokens and your horde of other creatures, pumping them up and giving all of them trample, flying, double strike, or banding is great fun. I love me some Akroma's Memorial in these kinds of decks.

Massacre Wurm is another option. You'll want to hold off for a while in hopes of seeing your opponents amass several Soldiers each before casting it, but he can certainly make things fun. Akroan Horse fits nicely into the deck.

Dangerous Stairs

Main Deck

60 cards

3  Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
16  Swamp
Watery Grave

23 lands

4  Akroan Horse
Carrion Feeder
Evil Twin
Extractor Demon
Falkenrath Noble
Massacre Wurm
Vampire Nighthawk

20 creatures

Dark Ritual
Dimir Signet
Fact or Fiction
Nevinyrral's Disk
Noxious Revival
Ratchet Bomb
Swiftfoot Boots
Tombstone Stairwell

15 other spells

Liliana Vess

2 planeswalkers

Another favorite option would be Elesh Norn. Your soldiers become 3/3 powerhouses while everyone else's Soldiers simply die. Even the Akroan Horse you gave is reduced to a 0/2. Add in some Soul Wardens, Soul's Attendants, and/or Suture Priests to taste and your games will get ugly fast. Admittedly, you would need to leave the controller of Akroan Horse as the last remaining opponent while you killed everyone else and reaped the benefits of the Horse, but it is certainly another option.

Zedruu is another option. Akroan Horse seems like a perfect fit for the deck but I'm really not sure. I haven't built the deck or played against a true Zedruu deck in some time. Chime in on the forums and make your suggestions.

For something a little more off the beaten path, how about a card that is a little more old school: Mana Echoes. With all those Soldiers entering the battlefield at the same time, Mana Echoes can offer quite a bit of mana at one time. If you are running a Soldier-themed deck it shouldn't be too difficult to have a couple of Soldiers already on the battlefield. In a four-player game, three Soldier tokens enter the battlefield at the same time. With two other Soldiers under your control already, you would get three mana for each of the tokens from Akroan Horse. These numbers would only increase on future turns and only increase in larger games. With cards like Aurelia's Fury, Comet Storm, and Fault Line, there are plenty of instant-speed mana dumps that can bring a game to a quick end.

From the Horse's Mouth

Main Deck

60 cards

10  Plains
Sacred Foundry

22 lands

4  Akroan Horse
Ballyrush Banneret
Boros Recruit
Cenn's Tactician
Goblin Legionnaire
Soltari Guerrillas
Veteran Armorsmith

24 creatures

Boros Keyrune
Comet Storm
Fault Line
Mana Echoes

12 other spells

2  Elspeth, Sun's Champion

2 planeswalkers

I figured I would add in the brand-new Elspeth. I know at six mana she may be a little slow, but the prospect of adding three Soldiers at once means even more mana that can be used on your main phase. With Mana Echoes, Elspeth's first ability gives you creatures and adds mana to your mana pool!

Akroan Horse offers all sorts of interactions, appealing to the Vorthos and Johnny in all of us! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to have some fun with everyone who raced to see the Akroan Horse!

Thanks for sticking with me all the way to the end. I'm sure you've figured out the card by now. Enjoy Akroan Horse!

Bruce Richard
Bruce Richard
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Bruce's games invariably involve a kitchen table, several opponents, crazy plays, and many laughs. Bruce believes that if anyone at your table isn't having fun playing Magic, then you are doing it wrong.

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