Costumes, candy, pumpkin spiced everything. The Halloween season is loved by many. If you are both a Halloween and Magic enjoyer, then why not combine them both?
Here are some ideas for Commander-centric rules for the month of October. Introducing additional rulesets like these is not only festive, but it adds a twist to your game nights that can make for unforgettable rounds of Magic. Of course, don't feel obligated to use rules you don't think sound fun. Use what sounds good and modify what does not!
What Counts as "Halloween?"
Whatever your playgroup decides, of course! It can be broad or narrow, horror-based or seasonally-charged. With this in mind, the most important question to ask is what counts as Halloween for the purposes of your Magic games. Some tribes like Zombies, Vampires, and Werewolves have a fairly established presence in the spooky season. However, there's nothing saying that Eldrazi are not the most terrifying ghouls out there, or that Shapeshifters aren't the best cosplayers.
What about sets? There are definitely several entire sets like The Dark, Innistrad, or Throne of Eldraine that are sure to be hits given their themes. Of course, Magic has so much more which will fit. For me, nothing says Halloween like trick-or-treating. So how do we incorporate that into a game of Magic?
Halloween Rule: I've Got Candy
First, each player needs to bring some delicious candy to their game night. Obviously you want to use individually-wrapped, bite-sized candies. Each player starts with ten pieces of candy. The objective is to get candy, and it's a limited resource. What does candy do? Well you could eat it, but you probably shouldn't. If you run out of candy, you lose! You acquire more candy from other players through diplomacy and trick-or-treating.
One thing to note is that if you are eliminated from the game, you keep your excess candy. This is important for scoring purposes but also because hey, at least you got candy!
Players are completely free to exchange candy, bribe, and, otherwise engage in normal Commander-style diplomacy. When a player wants to kill one of your things, maybe they could be talked into killing something else for a candy. The introduction of an outside factor like candy changes the relative value of all cards. This makes even universally recognized good cards less automatically powerful.
Halloween Rule: Trick-or-Treat
Trick-or-treat adds a new mechanic to the combat step. Before you declare attackers, you ask opponents, in turn order: "trick or treat?" Resolve each choice before tapping and declaring attackers. For each opponent that says "treat," you take one candy from them, and cannot attack them this turn. Simple enough. But what about "Trick?"
"Trick" means that for each of your creatures that deals combat damage to an opponent, you take one of their candies. However, for each attacking creature of yours that the defender "tricks," they take one candy from you. To trick a creature, they merely need to bounce it, kill it, exile it, or even return your creature to the hand. Combat definitely gets dicier when candy is on the line. For the purpose of this variant, the name of the game is "trick!"
Halloween Rule: Pumpkin Points
At the last local Commander event, we played for points. In my opinion, it made the games better, and showed that every decision counted. While many of the points were freebies, others were fairly difficult. Consequently, every single point mattered! With that in mind, here are some suggestions for thematic Halloween points to try out.
If you are combining both candy and points, you might notice that it is entirely possible to eliminate a player but not acquire all of their candy; this is entirely intentional. One-shotting someone with infect or commander damage is likely to only get you one candy out of the deal. Looping various things to win might kill the entire table, but not get you any candy at all. To get the maximum amount of candy, you need to pace yourself and play a little fair.
- Trick-or-treat at least once: 1 Point
- Be the First trick-or-treater: 1 Point
- Eliminate a player with treat: 1 Point
- Eliminate a player with trick: -1 Point
- Have the most candy at end of game: 2 Points
- Player is costumed as their commander: 1 Point
- Commander is Werewolf/Vampire/Zombie/Spirit-type: 1 Point
- Thematic Halloween Deck (tribal, artwork, set restrictions): 1 Point
- Everything 13 (include exactly 13 cards of each type: creature, sorcery, instant, planeswalker, artifact, enchantment, nonbasic land, or 91 total; 8 basic lands; 1 commander): 2 Points (13 points would be too many!)
- Bring candy to share with the table: 1 point
- Who brought the best candy: 1 point
- Which deck best represented Halloween: 1 point
Do We Have to Trick-or-Treat for Candy?
No, of course not. Because some individuals cannot eat or do not like candy, no one should be forced to use a game mechanic they don't enjoy. What if no one is interested in trying out variants? Well, you can still dress up and bring candy for fun. However, it makes for a healthy metagame to try new things from time to time!
There are plenty of Magic variants already in existence that can easily be adapted for seasonal play. Archenemy sounds superb with sufficiently spooky schemes. Or a monster mash of Grand Melee proportions with survival horror enchant world elements. Two-Headed Giant with team Vampires versus team Werewolves? There really are infinite possible combinations. Take advantage of the season's pervasive thematics to stir up your local group's creativity, and you're bound to have a great time!