Wavebreak Hippocamp | Illustration by Caio Monteiro
Horsin’ Around is filmed before a live studio audience.
Horses are probably one of the most iconic animals, and you can probably find some who will argue that horses are better than dogs. In physics, we measure the rate at which work is done in “horsepower.” Heck, Ford even named a car after feral Mustangs. You can play a round of H-O-R-S-E on the basketball court (or in Tony Hawk games). Oh, and you’ve probably seen a horse mask if you’ve existed on the internet anytime in the last decade, among other memes.
But horses are also incredibly difficult to keep alive. Anyone who’s a regular at their local racetrack can probably attest to that, as will your local large animal veterinarian.
Magic’s horses may not come in large numbers or have a lot of typal support, but you’ll definitely want to take a tour of this ranch. Saddle up!
Diamond Mare | Illustration by Alayna Danner
Horses are a creature type in MTG that’s been around since Alpha. Nightmare, an original Magic horse, was a staple of core sets up until the 2017 Welcome Deck. Despite the fact that they’ve been around forever, they don’t really have much card representation; there are only about 50 horses as of Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth. Somehow, Gift Horse from Unstable isn’t actually a horse.
I’m just speculating, but I’m guessing the lack of horses comes from them taking a back seat to whatever happens to be riding them, despite how they’re kind of essential to fantasy storytelling. They’re in a bunch of card art, just not as much card art for actual horses. I mean, Gandalf got five cards, while Shadowfax got one plus a cameo on Gandalf, White Rider’s art. Need I go on?
Temur Charger is a cheap morph creature to combo off with Yedora, Grave Gardener and a sac outlet Altar (Ashnod's Altar, Altar of Dementia, Phyrexian Altar). Its morph cost is only revealing a green card from your hand, which you can easily do over and over unless someone can force you to discard it.
Look. I like the flavor of Theros. And I like creature type mashups like a horse with a fish. So I’m glad that Prime Speaker Vannifar has given Breaching Hippocamp a good home in Commander. Its ETB can untap Vannifar, and its mana value of 4 is a decent number for your commander’s activated ability.
The chaos gremlin in me wants Magic designers to give us a Night Mayor or a Knight Mayor or something. Nightmare was a core set staple since Alpha, and it’s probably better in mono-color decks and in environments that let you run multiples. For Commander, this is both slow and restricted. According to EDHREC, fewer than 10 percent of Umbris, Fear Manifest decks run it. If the nightmare/horror commander isn’t clamoring for it, that’s a sign.
Motivated Pony is right at home with its fellow Lord of the Rings Food cards. It’s a 5/5 trampler that makes your other attackers stronger when it attacks. If you’ve already made Food, you also get to untap your attackers. Horses in Lord of the Rings truly are the unsung MVPs.
Keleth, Sunmane Familiar is a partner commander that can give itself and its partner counters when they attack. I kind of want to make a deck with Keleth and Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful just for the mental image of a dog riding a horse into battle.
I’ve got all the time in the world for haste enablers. Skipping summoning sickness, even if it’s specific to one creature type, is good stuff for aggro. Obviously, you’re going to run a bunch of horses if you have Shadowfax, Lord of Horses as your commander, but red-white is also a good color pair for humans. Legends-matter is another home to consider for your Shadowfax if you don’t care about horses. You can also double up its attack trigger to get more ETB triggers with Isshin, Two Heavens as One.
I think Phantom Steed is one of those cards that’s really fun to try to break. Pairing it with Port Razer gets you infinite combat steps if an opponent can’t block you, while Archaeomancer and Time Warp can get you infinite turns. There’s also a combo involving other cards from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms that’s more complex… and more deadly.
The mana value is a little high, but Workhorse can be a decent mana generator for you. Its power and toughness let you have infinite ETB/LTB triggers when you pair it with Grenzo, Dungeon Warden and Epitaph Golem. I’d rather pair this horse with a unicorn for the same effect: Workhorse, meet Emiel the Blessed.
Thundering Mightmare’s soulbond ability is a great way to get more out of creatures with abilities based on the number of +1/+1 counters on them or with triggered abilities that deal damage based on their power. You get more ways to put counters onto something like Mowu, Loyal Companion or Skullbriar, the Walking Grave. Kosei, Penitent Warlord is also content to be soulbound to this horse.
So, now that you can actually play with Bill the Pony, is Voltron a viable strategy for it? Maybe a bunch of equipment and a Flickerform? Perhaps a Far Traveler background? I don’t hate the Voltron idea, but I think I’d lean more toward blinking Bill (and Charming Prince) to stuff myself with Food tokens and pull ahead on life. Monowhite can run the Felidar Guardian + Restoration Angel infinite loop, and it gets even sillier with Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines to double those ETBs and bring Bill along for the ride.
Why aren’t more Magic horses designed to be fast like this? Cosmos Charger cheapens the cards you foretell and lets you do it on your opponents’ turns. Edgin, Larcenous Lutenist gives all your cards foretell, while Ranar the Ever-Watchful gives you Spirit tokens when you exile cards from your hand or battlefield. Vega, the Watcher can also get you some added card draw. If only there were a Jeskai commander that let you run all four together….
Akroan Horse offers some interesting deckbuilding possibilities, but its performance is also highly variable. It introduces opponents to the word “arbitrage,” as in deciding whether to keep a free 0/4 blocker or somehow killing it to avoid giving the rest of the board tokens. This is one gift horse you probably should look in the mouth.
Akroan Horse is more of a role-player than a strategic card. Unless, of course, you’re running a chaos theme with Blim, Comedic Genius or Zedruu the Greathearted. And I guess you could run it with Kaervek, the Spiteful and a metric ton of creature death payoffs.
If horses were a better-supported creature type, Crested Sunmare could probably become a $10 card or more. As things are now, its price only seems to have jumped about a dollar because of Bill the Pony and others from LTR. Indestructible horses truly are magic. Trostani, Selesnya's Voice also likes when those 5/5 Horse tokens enter the battlefield.
Wavebreak Hippocamp is such a strong card. It refills your hand as you react to your opponents’ plays, and you can surround it with other cards that pay you off for your first spell. Payoffs like this also makes casting instants and spells with flash on your opponents’ turns that much better.
Crested Sunmare gives you indestructible horses and pumps out Horse tokens at the end of any turn during which you’ve gained life. Now if only I knew a horse or a pony or something that gave you avenues to gain life….
Bill Ferny, Bree Swindler has a modal trigger when it’s blocked that either gives you Treasure ortrades one of your horses for three Treasure tokens. Its color identity isn’t great for running as your commander despite the Hippocamps and the surprising number of artifact horses, and I don’t know if there’s many other homes for a Treasure/horse card. Treasure on its own, sure, but blue-red or Jeskai Treasure + horses feels janky. My house is pro-jank, by the way; run your favorite pet decks to your heart’s content. But boo Tolkien for writing a story that features both Bill Ferny and Bill the Pony. You’re telling me a fantasy writer can’t come up with better names?
Bill the Pony | Illustration by Christina Kraus
They may not often get the spotlight, but horses are important to good fantasy storytelling. Magic has given us some interesting ones to run with over the years, but Lord of the Rings has finally brought in some cards that care specifically about the horse type. I won’t hold my breath for much more, but it’s nice that Shadowfax and Bill the Pony have gotten some decent card representation.
Which is your favorite horse in Magic? What do you want to see from horses in future sets? Drop a comment below or over on the Draftsim Discord!
Thank you for indulging in my Horsegirl era! For now, it’s time to hit the hay.Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: