Introducing: Hobo Magic!

Hello all! Recently I was reminded about a variant Magic: the Gathering format that I along with a few friends conceived a few years ago called Hobo Magic. Initially the concept was entirely a joke, but as we dove into the strategies available and the mechanics available to use it turned out to be a legitimately fun type of Magic to try out! Today I’m going to provide an overview of the rules, banned cards and some initial archetypes that we came up with last time we worked on Hobo. Finally, I’ll be taking a quick look at what recent set releases have added. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to try out some games and get brewing, just as we inspired some people previously!

To preface here’s a link to the thread that started it all. I’ll be covering some of this content here, but the thread contains a bunch of ideas and decklists, and highlights some of the reasoning we had for removing certain cards from the format.

What is Hobo Magic?

Imagine you are a planeswalker who is down on their luck. Perhaps the exchange rate in the plane you’re visiting is so low that you can’t afford to pay the market price for your favourite spell. In the underworld of the multiverse, you’re going to have to resort to some cunning tricks to come out on top against your rivals!

A game of Hobo Magic follows all the normal Comprehensive Rules for Magic: the Gathering, with one very important difference:

  • Mana can’t be spent to pay a spell’s mana cost. If a spell would cost zero mana, it can be cast conventionally.

What does this mean? You’ll have to find some other way to cast the spell or put a permanent onto the battlefield, which could be some kind of alternate cost, an ability, or some kind of cost reduction effect that would make the spell free to cast.

That’s it! Apart from a few cards that have been deemed too powerful for the format, the world is your oyster. From graveyard strategies, control decks and combo-beatdown archetypes, there really are a wealth of ways to approach this format which at first looks very restrictive.

The Banned List

  • Black Lotus
  • Blazing Shoal
  • Bridge from Below
  • Dread Return
  • Mox Emerald, Jet, Pearl, Ruby and Sapphire
  • Narcomoeba
  • Ante cards

The aim of the banned list was to eliminate the really broken fast mana and bring the graveyard decks into check a bit, specifically dredge. Bazaar enables several archetypes and has been used creatively, so we decided to target dredge rather than just get rid of the land. Blazing Shoal’s kills were simply too consistently fast and restricted what people could play in the format. We’re also going to be keeping an eye on Ancestral Vision, particularly as some of the turbo-wins were removed and the games go longer.

Just some of the things that work:


  • Suspend Control decks with Greater Gargadon or Deep-Sea Kraken as their primary finishers. You’ll have to buy enough time to get these huge monsters onto the battlefield, but when you do, you’ll be controlling the most powerful creatures!


  • Rogues and Ninjas. These strategies use cheap manlands or free creatures to attack early on, at which point they can sneak their stealthy allies onto the battlefield. Very flavourful!


  • There are several decks that make great use of the hideaway land cycle to cheat in some busted threats. In time-honoured style use a swarm to activate Windbrisk Heights, or use free pump spells like Invigorate and Mutagenic Growth to find out what’s hiding underneath the Mosswort Bridge! Or simply go for a quick kill with your Inkmoth Nexus.


  • Want to go old school? Try a mono-blue control deck featuring Force of Will, Gush and Ancestral Vision whilst you grind out your opponents with Mishra’s Factory.


  • Bazaar of Baghdad opens up a wealth of graveyard strategies! Traditional dredge and reanimator strategies are possible with this powerful land alongside tools like Lion’s Eye Diamond and Unburial Rites.

Just some of the mechanics that work:

  • Suspend
  • Flashback
  • Miracle
  • Phyrexian mana
  • Traps
  • Bestow
  • Morph
  • Madness
  • Embalm/Eternalize

You can use affinity or other forms of cost reduction like Khalni Hydra, but the mana cost has to be reduced to at least 0 for you to be able to cast it.

And that’s it! I hope you’ll be inspired to try out this different way of playing Magic, and excited to get brewing as we were. Over the next few weeks I’ll be getting into more depth about the different archetypes that have been explored so far, and perhaps even some videos of some games.

Until next time,

Davie Whyte

@fullofgravy on Twitter