In this Magic variant, players take the roles of dueling
planeswalkers exploring a newly discovered continent. Because they don't
know the lay of the land, they summon creatures to scout out the terrain
before they can tap it for mana.
Players of Frontier Magic will find they already know most of the
rules; you'll cast spells, tap creatures, and try to reduce your
opponent to 0 life just like in the regular Magic game. But there are
two big changes to the Magic game you're familiar with: Your creatures
move around a board composed of land cards, and those land cards take
the place of the ones in your deck.
To play Frontier Magic, pull all lands out of your deck and
shuffle them together with your opponent's lands. (Hint: Write down what
you have so you'll be able to get the right ones back when the match is
over.) You'll have a pile of 40-50 land cards. Lay them face down, left
to right, in columns of five. Leave enough space between each card so
that you can tap it without disturbing its neighbors. If you don't have
enough cards for a complete row along the right edge, just set those
"remainder" cards aside - they're out of the game.
You now have a grid of face-down land cards that represent the
territory you'll be fighting over. You'll start at one of the wide ends,
and your opponent starts at the other. Shuffle your decks and put a 1/1
token creature of any color on top of any face-down land card in the row
closest to you. Then draw your opening hand from your library, and
you're ready to play.
How the Game Works
Frontier Magic follows the usual Magic turn order: untap, upkeep,
draw, main, discard, and cleanup. When in doubt, the Magic rules you're
familiar with apply. But Frontier Magic requires you to think about
moving creatures, tapping land for mana, and attacking in new ways.
Around the Board
At any time during your main phase, you may move your creatures
one card north, south, east, or west. You can move as many or as few
creatures as you like, but once you've started moving creatures, you
have to finish all your moves before you can do anything else. You can't
move some creatures, cast an artifact, then move some more creatures,
for example. Your opponent can respond to any individual move in the
usual Magic fashion.
There are no diagonal moves in Frontier Magic, and each creature can
only move once a turn. Special rules apply to creatures with flying,
landwalk, and shadow; see the "Creature Abilities" section
below. And unless a creature has banding (again, see below), you can
never have more than one creature occupying the same land card.
Revealing Land Cards
Start the main phase of your first turn by flipping over the land
card under the token creature. Whenever a creature steps onto a card,
flip that card over if it's still face down. Eventually much of the
board will be revealed this way.
There's another way to reveal a face-down land card. At any time
during your main phase, you can tap a creature to flip over a card
immediately north, south, east, or west of that creature - an ability
all creatures have, called "scouting." This enables you to see
more of the board and is particularly important early in the game. By
moving, then tapping to scout a land, each creature can reveal two cards
In Frontier Magic, you don't have unfettered access to your
lands. To tap a land for mana, you must meet three criteria. The land
card must be face up, untapped, and either under a friendly creature or
adjacent to one.
If the land card is under one of your creatures, simply tap the land
for mana - doing so doesn't affect the creature. If you need more mana
(and who doesn't?), you can tap a creature to tap an additional land
immediately north, south, east, or west of that creature. This also
happens at mana-source speed, and the land to be tapped must be face up
and not under one of your opponent's creatures. In other words, you
can't tap the land out from underneath your opponent.
Always tap your lands clockwise. When it comes time to untap next
turn, you'll need to be able to tell which lands you tapped and which
ones your opponent tapped. And for the purposes of card text, you
control only the lands your creatures are standing on.
Summoning Creatures and Casting Spells
Newly summoned creatures are played in a row between you and the
land cards. They're considered to be in play, but can't move, block, or
use any ability requiring them to tap. Creatures that don't suffer from
summoning sickness can move onto the row closest to you during the main
phase when you move your other creatures. Global enchantments and
artifacts are also played into that row between you and the land cards,
and they don't move at all.
Attacking and Defending
To attack another creature, you must be directly north, south, east, or west of it. Unlike regular Magic, you aren't limited to one combat, and the defender doesn't get to choose blockers. But just as with moving your creatures, once you've started making your attacks, you can't do anything else until you're done. You declare an attack, resolve it, and then either declare another attack or announce that you're done attacking. For the purposes of card text, the creature you're attacking is considered to be a blocker, but there's no declare-blockers step.
Terrain bonuses: Untapped creatures
get a +1/+1 bonus if their color matches the color of the surrounding
terrain. A Hurloon
Minotaur, for example, gets +1/+1 if it's standing on a
mountain, and a further +1/+1 for each visible, matching land north,
south, east, or west of it as long as that land isn't controlled by one
of your opponent's creatures. So a lowly Shanodin
Dryads becomes a 6/6 creature if it's standing on a forest
and surrounded by vacant forests in all four directions.
You can attack a tapped creature if you're adjacent to it, and it's
often a good idea, because tapped creatures don't get terrain bonuses -
they were too busy doing something else to dig in for defense. But even
in Frontier Magic, you can't attack with a tapped creature. Keep in mind
that just in like in regular Magic, your attacking creatures get tapped.
Attacking your opponent: To attack
your opponent with your creatures, first move them to the row closest to
your opponent. Then they'll deal damage equal to their power to your
opponent. The move doesn't tap them, but the attack does.
To reflect the movement-oriented environment of Frontier Magic,
some creature abilities work differently than in the regular Magic game.
Flying: Flying no longer affects
who can block whom. Instead, flying creatures get a special movement
ability. Rather than making the usual move, flying creatures can move
two cards north, south, east, or west. They fly over the intervening
land card (and they don't reveal it if it's face down), even if your
opponent has a creature standing on that card.
Landwalk and shadow: These two
abilities allow extra moves under certain circumstances. Landwalking
creatures can move north, south, east, or west any number of spaces -
without changing direction - as long as the intervening land cards are
all of the appropriate type. For example, a Bog
Wraith could move east to a swamp, continue east to another
swamp, then move one more card east to an island, where it would have to
stop. Creatures with shadow function similarly, except they rely on a
row or column containing creatures (it doesn't matter whether they're
friendly or enemy creatures) to move more than one space. They also move
in straight lines, but must stop on the first unoccupied land card. A Soltari
Lancer could move north to a land with a friendly Samite
Healer on it, continue north to a land with your opponent's Hill
Giant, then come to a stop on a vacant plains one more space
Landhome: This one's easy: Creatures with landhome must always stand on land cards of the appropriate color.
Trample: Creatures with trample
assign damage according to the new trample rules. If they deal lethal
damage to the creature they're attacking, any further damage continues
on to any creature on the next land card beyond the defending creature.
If the defending creature is standing on the row closest to your
opponent, any damage that tramples through is dealt to your opponent.
Banding: In Frontier Magic, the banding ability lets you stack more than one creature on a land card. They'll attack as one creature: Combine their power and toughness. A stack of creatures can have an unlimited number of creatures with banding, and one creature without banding. The whole stack calculates its terrain bonus only once, but it gets the +1/+1 even if only one creature has the right color for that land. Creatures that have "banding when attacking," or banding under other conditions, have it all the time in Frontier Magic.
Regeneration: Regenerated creatures
return to the game in the row between you and the land cards. They can
move back onto the board the turn after they're regenerated.
Your token: No creatures means no
mana, so if you lose all your creatures, you get a new 1/1 token in your
back row for free.
Other Typical Magic Effects
Most of the time, land destruction works just like in regular
Magic: Simply put the card in a special "land graveyard." If
there's a creature on top of the land, it remains on the
"hole" in the continent, but you can't move a creature into a
hole in the map. That means if you move off a hole, you can't come back.
If you respond to your opponent's move by destroying the land they're
moving to, the move "fizzles" much like a spell without a
legal target fizzles (I know fizzle is an old term but you get the
idea). The creature stays put, having wasted its move. If you have to
sacrifice lands, they must be lands your creatures are standing on.
Cards That Just Plain Don't Work
Not every card works in Frontier Magic. In particular, steer
clear of mass land-destruction (like Armageddon
land cards that get up and walk around (like Stalking
Stones), and artifacts that turn into creatures (like Chimeric
Staff). All other Standard-legal cards should work, although
you'll have to make common-sense rulings on the fly sometimes. How cards
adapt to Frontier Magic should be straightforward in most cases. This
isn't the Pro Tour; if a card is broken, just don't use it next time.
Don't forget defense: You can't
wish your blockers into existence; they've got to be in the right place
at the right time. Keep an eye on the terrain in the row closest to you.
If there are a number of islands there, don't let your opponent get a
blue creature there, because terrain-pumped attacks on you really hurt.
Consider your deck: If you opt for
a monocolor deck, you know at least half the lands out there will be
useful. But stay mindful of the mirror matchup - those games can move
Don't over-scout: Remember, you're
not just revealing those land cards - you're revealing them to your
opponent. Don't scout the center of the continent until you're sure you,
and not your opponent, will be controlling it.
variant is from Duelist Magazine #31. It was written by David Noonan.