Way back in Duelist #4, Chess Magic made its debut. The idea behind
Chess Magic was simple - try
to create a format specifically designed to
recreate the feel of Chess. The goal of the format is not to exactly
duplicate the Chess game, but simply to give a Magic game the feel of a
good Chess game.
Unfortunately, the format from Duelist #4 is quite out of date, and
in serious need of upgrading. That's why I have decided to open up my
compendium and place another entry herein. It's high time that we had
an updated version of this really nifty variant, so I am updating the
older rules and streamlining the process a bit.
This variant comes with a lot of strict deckbuilding rules, so let's
go over the easy ones briefly. The deck's creatures are divided into a
King's side and a Queen's side. The deck can be one or two colors. All
creatures on the King's side are one color, and all creatures on the
Queen's side are another color. Each side has four pawns, a bishop,
knight, and rook. The two sides can be the same color.
In addition, the King has a Wizard and the Queen has an Artifact. The rules for these cards are listed in detail below.
Every creature in the deck must conform to a chess piece. Each deck
has the exact same chess pieces represented. The rules for what may, or
may not count as a chess piece are listed below. I added a few examples
in parentheses to start the ball rolling for ideas.
The King must have a casting cost of four or more and be legendary.
The King must be male. After all, this is the King of a whole kingdom
we are talking about - he's legendary. (Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, Arcanis the Omnipotent, or Tahngarth, Talruum Hero.)
The King's Bishop must be the same color as the King. It must have
power equal to or greater than its toughness. Additionally, it must
have a power higher than that of the King's Knight. The King's Bishop
cannot have a power more than three greater than the King. (Quicksilver Dragon, Serra Angel, or Cateran Slaver.)
The King's Knight must be the same color as the King. It must have a
power greater than the King's Pawns. Its combined power and toughness
cannot be more than six. The King's Knight must have a combat-related
ability that does not allow it to evade combat, such as first strike,
vigilance, banding, double strike, flanking, haste, provoke, rampage,
bushido, or trample. As other combat oriented keywords are added, they
count as a Knight as well.
Note that there are no evasive-oriented combat abilities listed
(ninjitsu, flying, shadow, landwalk, protection, etc.). The King's
Knight enjoys combat and relishes in it. Note that it can still have an
evasive ability, as long as it has one of the combat-oriented
(Examples include Nekrataal, Narwhal, Jolrael's Centaur, and Suq'Ata Lancer.)
The four Pawns must be the same color as the King. All four pawns must
be the same creature. A pawn must have a casting cost of three or less.
It also cannot have a combined power and toughness greater than three.
It cannot have any abilities that make it bigger or require the use of
tapping or mana. These are the little guys that make the army go. (Defender of Chaos, Cloud of Faeries, or Soul Warden.)
The only restriction on the King's Rook, other than being the color
of the King, is that it must either be a wall or a creature with
defender. (Kaijin of the Vanishing Touch, Wall of Blossoms, or Wall of Diffusion.)
The King's Wizard is the only creature in the deck that may be of
two colors, if you wish. It may be the King's color, the Queen's color,
or both. The King's Wizard is also the only creature other than the
King and Queen who can be legendary. The King's Wizard must have an
ability that requires tapping. It cannot have a higher power and
toughness than 4/4. (Goblin Wizard, Royal Assassin, Prodigal Sorcerer, or Ertai, Wizard Adept.)
The Queen may be of a separate color than the King. The Queen must
be a female legendary creature with a casting cost four or greater. (Radiant, Archangel, Autumn Willow, or Grandmother Sengir.)
The Queen's Bishop must be the same color as the Queen. It must
have power equal to or greater than its toughness. Additionally, it
must have a power higher than that of the Queen's Knight. The Queen's
Bishop cannot have a power more than one greater than the Queen. (Ball Lightning, Exalted Angel, or Sengir Vampire.)
The Queen's Knight must be the same color as the Queen. It must
have a power greater than the Queen's Pawns but a combined power and
toughness no higher than six. Like the King's Knight, the Queen's
Knight must have a combat related ability - but it may count any
combat ability, including evasive ones. The Queen's Knight can be a bit sneakier than its companion Knight. (Thalakos Scout, Phantom Monster, or Yavimaya Ants.)
The four Pawns must be the same color as the Queen. All four pawns must
be the same creature. A pawn must have a casting cost of three or
less. It also cannot have a combined power and toughness greater than
three. It cannot have any abilities that make it bigger, destroy other
permanents, or require the use of tapping or mana. These are more
little guys that make the army go. (Disciple of the Vault, Atog, or Merchant of Secrets.)
The Queen's Rook must be the same color as the Queen. The Rook has to be either a wall or have defender. (Wall of Hope, Wall of Putrid Flesh, Wall of Wonder.)
The Queen's Artifact represents a little toy of hers that she uses
to great effect. This cannot be a creature. It cannot produce mana of a
color other than the Queen or King's color(s). There are no additional
restrictions. (Cursed Scroll, Wand of Ith, Jayemdae Tome, or Ivory Tower.)
18 Non-Creature Cards:
There must be an additional eight cards in the deck. There cannot
be any creatures with these cards. They must be in your two colors,
though they can include gold spells. See the banned list for special
All lands must be basic except for four non-basics. A legendary
land can count for one basic, but only one may be played. All lands
must tap for mana from either the King or Queen's color.
The Banned List
The following effects are banned from the environment. Even creatures cannot have these abilities:
Any effect that removes a creature for the game (Swords to Plowshares, Final Judgment.)
Any card or ability that has or makes permanents indestructible (That Which Was Taken, Darksteel Gargoyle.)
- The ability to make token creatures (The Hive, Grizzly Fate, Dual Nature, Stangg.)
- The ability to destroy or damage most or all creatures in play (Wrath of God, Massacre, Decree of Pain, Earthquake.)
- The ability to take control of any card an opponent owns (Control Magic, Animate Dead.)
- Wishes, Ring of Ma'Ruf
- Any card which destroys or goes after a creature type (Extinction, Engineered Plague.)
That covers the basic deck construction rules. You will find
advanced deck construction rules later in the article. On to the play
In order to roughly simulate the Chess experience, there are a few special abilities for creatures, as follows:
All Pawns have haste. Additionally, all Pawns have the following
text: "At the beginning of your upkeep, you may remove this card from
the game to put a creature card of the same color from the graveyard
into play tapped. You may not put the King into play this way." This
ability can only be used by one Pawn per turn.
Rooks have the following text: "At the beginning of your upkeep,
you may return this card to your hand and put a King or Queen of the
same color into play." The King and Queen have the following text: "At
the beginning of your upkeep, you may return this card to your hand and
put a Rook of the same color into play." You may only use this ability
once per game.
Note that you cannot use the King's Rook for the Queen (or vice versa) unless they are of the same color.
When the King goes to the graveyard from play, the controlling player loses half of his or her life rounded up.
Every servant of the King (Bishop, Rook, Knight, Pawns and Wizard)
has the following ability: "Tap, Sacrifice the Queen: The King is
indestructible until the end of turn"
After looking over the deck construction and playing rules, you'll
notice that the deck is divided virtually evenly into creatures and
non-creatures. That means you can rely on your opponent playing with
enough creatures to make cards like Exclude
perfectly acceptable. With only one artifact in the required cards,
and no enchantments required, you'll have to decide yourself if Disenchant-type removal is relevant.
Spells cannot utilize colors that are not part of the Queen/King color spectrum. You can't play Illuminate,
for example, unless your lieges are red and blue. You also cannot add
additional creatures through any means, including token creature
With around 50% of the deck being creatures, you obviously cannot
stock up on creature removal. A few creature removal cards are good
ideas, but if you spend too much time worrying about creatures, you'll
have difficulty winning.
In deck construction, make sure you make full use of your creatures.
Note that your Bishops are usually your heavy hitters and beaters.
You've probably noticed that the King's Bishop can be much more powerful
than the King, where the Queen's Bishop can be, at most, just a little
more powerful. This reflects the power of the Queen in chess.
The only other major difference between the King and Queen pieces
lies in what abilities a creature must have in order to count as a
Knight. The King's Knight looks for "hard" combat abilities, whereas
the Queen's Knight can use those, as well as using evasive and sneaky
If you are looking for an additional bit of flavor, take a look at
our advanced rules. You might want to try these out after you've played
around with the first version, or you may just want to dig on in and
try these rules as well. You can pick and choose from these rules or
use them all.
The King's Beast must be of the same color as the King. The King's
Beast represents a typical court pet. It must be a monstrous or cute
creature and not an intelligent race (no Merfolk, Goblins, Humans, or
whatnot). (Ertai's Familiar, Kavu Chameleon or Jamuraan Lion.)
The Queen's Jester must be the same color as the Queen. The Queen's
Jester cannot have a combined power and toughness greater than five,
and it must have a very powerful ability. (For example, Ali from Cairo has a powerful ability; Ali Baba does not. Archivist has a powerful ability; Chaos Harlequin does not.)
The court has an enchantment over it, represented by this card. It
must be in one or both of the legal colors. The Court Enchantment must
be a global enchantment, not a local one. (Future Sight, Grand Melee, or Bad Moon.)
Coat of Arms
The court must have some banner, coat, or whatnot to count as the
court's Coat of Arms. This can be either an artifact or an enchantment
if the enchantment fits. Obviously, it must be of a color that benefits
the King or Queen's color. (Konda's Banner, Jabari's Banner, Coat of Arms, Coalition Flag, or Leonin Sun Standard.)
The land ruled by the King or Queen must be represented as well. If
this has a color, it must be in the King or Queen's color(s). This can
be an enchantment (Castle, Great Wall, or Teferi's Realm), a legendary land (Urborg, Tolaria, or Eiganjo
- remember that lands can only be included if they tap for a legal
color) or the rare artifact, if you can find one that fits. If you use a
legendary land, then you can count it as one of your required lands, if
you wish to do so (thereby giving you an extra business card).
For an attack, you may give one of your creatures Provoke. However,
if you do, your opponent will get a free Provoke on the following turn
for any creature of his or her choice. (This represents sacrificing a
piece to take a critical piece from your opponent.)
Feel free to try out the advanced rules and see how they do. They'll
be taken out of the eighteen extra cards - so if you play with all five
extra cards, a deck will only have thirteen extra cards (fourteen if
you use a land to fulfill the Demesne obligation.).