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Army Magic: the Gathering Variant


created by Brad Finlayson


This is the official rules page for the Magic: the Gathering variant Army Magic.
If you have any questions or suggestions please email gaimmaster at gmail dot com


I created Army Magic during the Kamigawa block. This was one of the times where I read the novels along with playing and got really into the story. The setting was a Japanese one with samurai, ninja, various animal humanoids and the spirit world of kami manifesting in the material world and attacking the various factions. This block was loaded with legends and epic battles of massive armies so it inspired me to create a way to play Magic as a tactical, area-control army game without modifying the rules too much. Incidentally it turned out to be a great way to use all those piles of commons that just sit in a box to create full units of troops. You never know when you might want a unit of 16 Leaping Masters!
16 LeapingMasters


Currently we have tested Army Magic with only 2 players in Kamigawa block and Khans of Tarkir only. We are eager to test different formats, cards and play modes so if you try something out please let us know and we can update this document with your findings.


Area of Effect

In Army Magic you use all the same rules for turns, phases, steps, cards in hand, deck and graveyard. The main differences are that you build an army using the converted mana cost as a point system and the key, global mechanic change in Army Magic is that all abilities, effects and targeting can only affect the originating land and/or each adjacent land There are no diagonal movement or targeting in Army Magic Area of Effect. When an effect targets a player with damage, you must choose use a land within proper area of effect range. If an effect targets a player or opponent with an effect such as a discard effect, or other non-damage effect, you can target them regardless of area of effect range.


For example, if you want to tap your Prodigal Sorcerer and deal 1 damage to a target creature or player, you can only select valid targets in the same land as the Prodigal Sorcerer or in an adjacent land. This includes targeting the player/land to deal damage make that land lose 1 life. You must cast artifacts or enchantments on a land you control or a land adjacent to one you control and it only affects that land and each land adjacent to it. If you cast a targeted spell like Lightning bolt, you can only target creatures in your lands or in a land adjacent to a land you control. If you cast a spell that has a global effect like destroying or pumping all creatures, you choose an originating land for the spell that is one the lands you control or a land adjacent to one you control, and the spell affects all valid permanents that are in the originating land or lands adjacent to the originating land.



To win at Army Magic reduce your opponent’s home base life from 20 to 0.


Set Up

Build your army using the the army building rules outlined below. Create your 5 lanes x 3 rows land grid by placing your home base in the middle lane closest to you and set a 20-sided die on it to 20 life. Shuffle the other 14 lands and place them face down to fill out your grid. Each player needs 14+ 6-sided dice, distinguishable from their opponent’s, to place 6 life on lands they explore and control.


* If you want hidden treasure, randomly select spots to place the artifacts face down underneath the land. The player who first gains control of this land also gains control of the artifact(s).
Land Grid

Army Construction

Land: You will need 15 lands to use as your land grid including one land that you will start with face up that will act as your home base. Your home base land begins untapped even it normally comes into play tapped. Other lands that are explored during the game come into play tapped as normal.


Total Points = Total CMC of spells in the army. 50 to 500 points is an acceptable range but we recommend to start with 100 points and go up from there. Assuming players stick to the average curve of 3 to 4 CMC each 100 points is normally about 30 spells.


Rarity Limits = You may spend a maximum of …

10% of your total points on mythics

20% of your total points on rares

40% of your total points on uncommons


Card Copy Limits = You may have a maximum of …

1 copy of any personality (legend or planeswalker). This means you may only have 1 version of a Ravnica Guild leader, only 1 version of Jace, and you would have to choose whether you want Nicol Bolas Elder Dragon Legend or Nicol Bolas the Planeswalker in your army.

2 copies of any mythic

4 copies of any rare

8 copies of any uncommon

16 copies of any common


* There may also be format specific deck constraints as well. For instance, in KTK we have stipulated that you cannot play cards that have the watermark of another clan. There are the common pool of cards that do not have any clan mark which can be used by any clan.


** Of course there is nothing confining this and you could combine most other formats with Army Magic: Standard, Modern, Commander, 2-Headed Giant?, Pauper, etc. Some awesome formats to try that we haven’t had time yet: Ravnica blocks, Mirrodin blocks, Tribal eternal, Shards, and in truth any block or story arc could be used as Magic really lends itself well to this type of massive battle game.


Randomly decide who will go first (1st player skips their 1st draw step), place your initial forces at your home base untapped without summoning sickness, shuffle your library, draw 7 cards (no mulligans) and begin playing normal Magic turns, phases and steps.



In Army Magic the term units refers to any single creature or group of creatures and all related permanents: the artifacts they are carrying or have equipped and all enchantment – auras attached to those permanents. You can join and split units at any time but each single unit can only move or attack once per turn. So if you move a creature into an adjacent land and therefore unit, it cannot move with that unit if it moves that turn. You must stack your unit so that the creature with the largest combined power and toughness is shown at the top of the pile. This is to emulate seeing or hearing the biggest creature first from afar.


Initial Forces

Initial Forces are selected from the army by the player to start in play on their home base at the start of the game. These units do not have summoning sickness. Initial forces amount can range from 0-100% of total points although keep in mind most spells are not very useful on turn 1. We recommend to start with 5-25% of the total army for initial forces. The less Initial Forces, the slower the game develops and plays out at a pace similar to normal Magic. Starting with large Initial Forces makes for a much different game where casting cards from your reinforcements library has little impact on the battlefield already filled with permanents. This game plays much more like a tactical tabletop war game.


For Khans we have been starting with a small scout force of 10 converted mana cost (cmc) worth of permanents of your choice plus 1 clan banner artifact starting in play. These forces start at your home base. (* You may want to limit unit numbers if free, zero-cost creatures are available in the format.)



Reinforcements are represented by the players library. A player’s deck may include extra land if they wish, but it is not necessary. Extra lands are played one per turn as normal, underneath your home base and can be used for mana as normal. Extra lands are usually added to the deck if a player wishes to search for extra lands via spells or other lands that search out lands (in the case of fetch-type lands, the land searched from the library must be put into that space on the grid where the fetch-land was as there must always be a land). Destroyed lands are turned face down and all units must retreat and enchantments are destroyed.


Movement (There is NO diagonal movement or targeting in Army Magic):

Each untapped unit (single or grouped) can move 1 land space per turn as a sorcery during either main phase. Each movement is declared and goes on the stack and can be responded to. If a unit moves onto a face-down, unexplored land they become tapped. If a unit moves onto a land you already control it does not become tapped and can still block, but not move again or attack this turn.


If you move your unit onto an unexplored face-down land, turn that land face up so that the text is facing you and place one six-sided die set to 6 life on the land. Make sure this die can be distinguished between your opponent’s dice as 6-sided dice are used to show the land’s controller and keep track of the life of the land. The reason for this is because once players start tapping lands without units on them it can be hard to distinguish who controls which land. You cannot move onto land controlled by an opponent, you must attack them during your combat phase.



Each untapped unit may attack once per turn during the combat phase. Resolve each combat separately on a land vs land basis in any order you wish. For example if you have 10 units on a land, you must use all units attacking land A at once. If you attack land B with some of the remaining units they must all attack land B at once in a separate combat. If you have other units on other nearby lands they may also attack land A or B but in separate combats and in any order you choose. You may attack with some units on a land, then attack with units on another land, and then return and attack with more units from the original land as long as they attack a different land from the first attack. Each grouped unit’s attack can be divided into a maximum of 4 attacks as that is the maximum number of adjacent lands possible if a land is surrounded by enemy territories.


Resolve each combat as you would a normal Magic combat phase. Attackers are declared and tapped and the other player decides if they wish to block or not. If there are opposing planeswalkers on the land, decides whether each creature should attack the planeswalker or the land.

Each explored land starts at 6 life and if it reaches 0 the attacking player gains control of that land, untaps it, turns it to face them, moves all attackers onto the land, puts their die on the land and sets it to 6 life. If a player loses a land with some of their creatures still on it (due to swarming, flying, being tapped, burn, etc.) they move those units and related permanents to an adjacent land they control. If they are surrounded and do not control an adjacent land all creatures are sacrificed and their artifacts are dropped.


Each home base starts with 20 life and when that land reaches 0 that player is out of the game.


Card Types:


Creatures: Creatures make up the bulk of your army. Each creature/unit can move 1 land per turn. If that land is face down and unexplored the creature becomes tapped. If the land is already controlled by you they are not tapped and may block or still use abilities that require tapping during that turn. If that land is controlled by an opponent you must attack it with untapped creatures who have not moved this turn during the combat phase. Creatures with vigilance do not become tapped when exploring unexplored lands or attacking but they still may only move or attack once per turn.


Planeswalkers: Planeswalkers can move and explore 1 land space per turn just like creatures, but cannot attack other than what their loyalty abilities allow them to do. If they take an unexplored land, they cannot use their loyalty ability that turn. If they do not move or move into a land you already control you may use their loyalty ability once per turn as normal. As with everything else their effects can only affect the land they are on or each adjacent land. When attacking a land with an opposing planeswalker on it, the attacker decides whether each creature attacks the planeswalker or the land.


Artifacts: Artifacts can be moved with a unit. The artifact is dropped if unit is destroyed and can be taken by another creature (other army too). Creatures can carry equipment without equipping it. A creature must be in the same land in order to equip. The effects of the artifact only affect the land it is in and each adjacent land.


Enchantments: Non-aura enchantments are placed on a land you control or on a land adjacent to a land you control. Their effects, whether static, triggered or activated, only affect the land they are on and each adjacent land. Enchantment – Auras are attached to that permanent for the rest of the game and only affect that land and each adjacent land. If an aura is attached to a creature they move with that creature during the game and cannot be switched unless an effect allows you to.


Sorceries and Instants: Treat these as normal except targeted spells can only target in lands you control or directly adjacent to lands you control. Cards that have a global effect (like mass removal or pump) must have an originating land chosen when they are cast and the effect only affects that land and each adjacent land. The originating land can be any land you control or any land adjacent to a land you control.


Special Rules:


Life Gain & Loss: when a player gains or loses life they may choose any 1 land they control to add or subtract the life from.


Land Destruction: turns the land face down, all troops must retreat to an adjacent land they control or be destroyed and all enchantments on the land are destroyed.


Defenders: Cannot move. Where you cast them is where they stay.


Change of Permanent Control: When a player takes control of a permanent with a ‘Control Magic’ like effect, they immediately move them to one of the adjacent lands they control.


Army Lists:


Coming soon…

© 2015-2016 Brad Finlayson