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By: spg, spg
Feb 18 2009 9:40am
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Explorations #19 - Next Level Momir Basic Primer

When the Momir Vig avatar was released during Ravnica block, I immediately fell in love with the Momir Basic format.  The idea is to run a deck with sixty basic lands and the Momir Vig avatar:

You and your opponent each summon a bunch of random monsters and battle it out for the win.  While the games seem very luck-of-the-draw, and don't get me wrong there is a huge amount of randomness - there's also a decent amount of strategy involved.  You need to figure how to balance your land drops vs. your creature production, manage some potentially complicated red zone interactions, win the battle of on-board tricks, and just generally do plenty of other things that you normally do in a game of Magic.

There are a bunch of reasons to play Momir Basic.  First of all you don't really need a deck.  Well you do, but it's all basic lands.  There's some strategy in assembling this list, but there's little to know barrier to entry here.  The only thing you will need is a deck of sixty basic lands and the Momir Vig avatar, which runs under $8.  So for just around $8 you can play Momir Basic forever.  It's kind of fun to throw together a deck of all basic lands and instantly be competitive with every other deck in the format!  You'll play a different game each time out and never have to spend any additional cash.  If you want to cast Figure of Destiny on the cheap, then activate Momir with X=1 a bunch of times.

In additional to logistical benefits, Momir Basic also brings a unique element of randomness into the game.  Personally I do not understand the appeal of the Singleton 100 format.  I just don't get how enforcing some (relatively) minor additional variance to a format makes it attractive.  Running a deck with a bunch of sub-par burn in place of playsets of efficient burn is not my idea of a good time.  I know that a certain group of players love Singleton formats, but they are just not for me.  Momir on the other hand is a kind of variance that I can get behind.  I love summoning random cards; in a way it's almost like seeing old friends.  "Hey man, I remember you.  Wasn't Mirage awesome?  Those sure were great times."  During every Momir basic game I end up running into at least a card or two that I want to build a deck around.

This crazy variance also leads to a bunch of hilarious gamestates; there's no telling what will happen.  One of my problems playing Momir Basic is that I just can't help myself.  Even if I have the win on the table, I can never help summoning that last creature.  I can't help but see what the last seven or eight mana creature is going to show up as.  I can remember two times where this was an absolute disaster for me.  The first time I summoned Phage the Untouchable (auto loss), and the second time I was lucky enough to get my very own Denizen of the Deep (who was kind enough to trash the rest of my board).  Both of these turned sure-fire wins into total losses.  But hey, they were fun losses!

Another cool things about Momir Basic is that it's something that no rational person would do in real life.  Instead of simply just replicating well-known paper play, Momir Basic uses MTGO's computational power to do something that is a huge pain to do in paper Magic: summon completely random creatures.  I heard that at World's this year someone was running a real life Momir Basic game with giant piles to draw from while summoning creatures.  That's one way to do it, but personally I'd rather just fire up MTGO.

If you want to learn more about Momir Basic, then here's a recent article that should be a solid launching point for whatever you need to know.  It details the current state of Momir Basic on MTGO, and also provides some links to resources on strategy for the format.

Phage the Untouchable


Here's a link to an article by Frank Karsten, where he includes a table that maps casting cost to your chance of getting awesome/terrible creatures.  It's a bit outdated, but provides some cool insight into the format.  I'd love to see someone put together an updated version of this table.  Maybe I'll take a shot someday.


But this is not an article on Momir Basic, so it's time to move on.

At this point you may be thinking to yourself, "Steve - Momir Basic sounds all well and good, but it just doesn't provide enough randomness.  Is there a format out there where even less is as it seems?"  Of course there is!  And it's a natural progression above and beyond Momir Basic.  You'll need the same deck of basic land, and two more Avatars (only about $1 extra total for both of them): Stonehewer Giant and Jhoira of the Ghitu.  We're talking about a game of all basic lands, where each player has these three Avatars at their disposal:

We're talking about Momir/Jhoira/Stonehewer Basic.  First off, just to get this out of the way - I am not an expert on this format.  In addition to this, I am not an expert in Momir Basic.  I don't have an incredible grasp on the strategy behind these two formats, but I do really love to play them.  I am mostly writing this article because I wish that someone had written it earlier for me to read and get an idea of what the format is all about.  In addition it is worth pointing out that Momir/Jhoira/Stonehewer Basic is NOT an official format.  I've attached a video below that shows you how to create a deck and launch a game in this unofficial format.

Here are links to purchase the cards on mtgotraders.com, if you're interested:

Momir Vig
Jhoria of the Ghitu
Stonehewer Giant

The Basics

As far as I can tell, there is no widely accepted name for this format.  Typing Momir/Jhoira/Stonehewer Basic is very tedius.  For the rest of the article I'm going to call this format Next Level Momir Basic (or NLMB) instead.  With that out of the way, let's get down to business.

These two additional avatars add plenty of additional randomness and options onto the Momir Basic skeleton.

The Stonehewer Giant Avatar will bring an equipment into play along with each random creature that you summon, with a casting cost less than the cost of the creature.  So let's say that you activate Momir at X=3.  You could be lucky enough to get Boggart Ram-Gang equipped with Umezawa's Jitte...  or unlucky enough to get a dead (Suntouched Mir) along with a zero-counter Sigil of Distinction (X is always 0).  Not only does this add the additional creature strength variance of random equipment, but it also adds an additional layer of resource managment into the game.  Is it better to summon a random five mana creature or use two mana to re-equip Umezawa's Jitte and then summon a mere three mana creature?  Of course it depends on the gamestate, and NLMB does a great job of presenting you with plenty of interesting gamestates to analyze.

Jhoira of the Ghitu grants two additional abilities, both of which are very similar.  For three mana and one discard, you're able to copy three random instants or sorceries at random and choose one of them to play - almost like a very bizarre Brilliant Ultimatum.  This is the only ability on the mentioned avatars that is not tied to manacost.  Once you pay your three mana you could have any sorcery at all coming your way.  You may have the choice between Cruel Ultimatum, Damnation, and Time Stretch... or the choice between One With Nothing, Mudhole, and Break Open.  As with Stonehewer Giant above, Jhoira adds an additional layer of complexity to Momir Basic.  When is a random sorcery worth more than a random three mana creature?

There are three quick notes that I want to mention with Jhoira of the Ghitu.  First off, you don't HAVE to choose a card, it's perfectly ok to decide that you don't want to cast any of them.  Second, you are able to choose between three Instants at instant speed (may this is obvious) - but you can only create three potential sorceries during one of your main phases.  Finally, remember that X is always zero.  I mentioned this above with Sigil of Distinction, and it still holds through down to instants and sorceries.  Disintegrate is an awesome card, but totally dead when you're casting it for free - unless you're a fan of targeting something and doing zero damage.  Good for killing Skulking Knight I suppose.

One With Nothing
That's about all there is to it!  It's a lot of information and choices, but once you get a few games under your belt the mechanics of NLMB will come naturally.  Mastering the format, however, could take a lifetime.  Unless you find some way to hack MTGO's random creature generator that is!

Thoughts on the Format

I'm going to add a few videos to show example games, but first I want to discuss a couple of thoughts, tricks and tips that I've found.  I haven't played a TON of this format, so do not take these as any sort of law.  These tips have served me well, and will hopefully serve as a launching point for some theory of your own.  Let me know if you come up with any good ones!

Understand how your deck choice effects the game

Even though all we're dealing with is basic land, there are definitely choices to be made when building a NLMB deck.  The most straightforward deck consists of twelve copies of each basic land, and this has worked out well for me in testing.  The main reason to provide access to all colors is to make sure that you are able to take advantage of your random creatures' activated abilities.  It would be a major bummer to end up with something awesome like Linessa, Zephyr Mage without Islands to activate her awesome ability.  Another reason to spread your lands across the basic types is to make domain-style cards as powerful as possible.  Tribal Flames at five is obviously much more exciting than Tribal Flames at one or two.

The other option when constructing your deck is to weigh your lands in favor of one or two basic land types.  You could, for example, run your deck with lots of Mountain.  Many of the most powerful activated abilities are red-heavy, for example Vampiric Dragon, and that sort of manabase gives you the best chance to take advantage of these abilities.  Running a deck skewed towards one or two colors will also magnify the reverse-domain-style effects of spells like Corrupt or Spitting Earth.  The other reason I can think of to skew your manabase heavily is to avoid total succeptability to landwalkers.  Evasive creatures are very powerful in this format, and landwalk against a deck running all of the different basics is tough to deal with.

Vampiric Dragon
Personally I prefer to run a fairly even split of lands, just so that I have the best chance of using abilities across all of the wacky creatures that I end up casting.  I'm not sure which strategy is optimal, but I hate the idea of not being able to activate a random ability on some random creature... in a format that I'm playing because of it's randomness!

Constructed powerhouses sometimes suck in NLMB

This format is so different from what you're probably used to that many cards need to be seriously reevaluated.  Let's take something like Tarmogoyf.  That dude comes for two and starts wrecking up the place, right?  Well not in NLMB (or Momir Basic for that matter).  The only cards that will ever hit the graveyard are basic lands, which means that this little Lhurgoyf will stay a 1/2 forever.  How about some awesome disruption like Meddling Mage?  Pikula's spell-squashing ability is totally useless in this format, and all you will get is a vanilla 2/2.

It's definitely a bummer to see a constructed staple show up as your random creature only to realize that this constructed staple is a NLMB dud.  Sometimes that's the way it goes!  On the other hand sometimes you get a creature like Terravore, now there's a Lhurgoyf that is right at home on the NLMB battlefield.

This same idea extends from creatures to spells, quite often when X is involved.  As discussed above, (Disentigrate), Profane Command, Demonfire, and other powerful cards are neutered by X=0.  Other powerful spells like Dread Return or Zombify are useless due to the fact that creatures never actually hit the graveyard.   Everything is a token and RFGs immediately upon hitting the graveyard.  There are lots of other little gotchas along these lines that render powerful spells useless in NLMB, so pay attention and be careful!


Meddling Mage Tarmogoyf Zombify
Not as useful as they usually are...

Equipment at zero mana is either amazing or terrible

When I first started playing NLMB, Shards of Alara was not yet released.  The only zero-casting cost equipment around was Paradise Mantle, so every time you activated Momir Vig with X=1 you would end up with some mystery one-drop equipped with a Paradise Mantle.  This accelerated you into three mana on turn two and continued to push the mana curve along as more creatures came into play.

With Shards of Alara, Sigil of Distinction was introduced as the only other zero casting cost equipment.  This card is a ridiculous bomb in limited, but completely screws up the previously reliable zero-casting cost equipment slot in NLMB.  With Sigil of Distinction X=0, so you just get a dud piece of equipment.  The power difference between these two is very, very significant.  If you play a one drop and get Paradise Mantle as your equipment, then you have a SIGNIFICANT advantage over an opponent who plays out a one drop and ends up with Sigil of Distinction.  You will be summoning theoretically stronger creatures than them every step of the way, and it is a very difficult thing to recover from.

Personally I would absolutely love for either Sigil of Distinction or Paradise Mantle to be banned from NLMB games.  I think it makes more sense to ban Sigil of Distinction, but I could be swayed.  I guess for that to happen we need to get this to become an official format first, right?  It's kind of a bummer, because this is by far the biggest problem with the format.  In fact, it's the only real problem that I can think of off the top of my head - so that's pretty good!  Conflux introduces a third zero casting cost artifact which is generally useful (Bonesaw), so maybe this will help things out a bit.

I realize how bizarre it sounds to ban cards from a format that's supposed to be completely random, but in this case I think that it is absolutely justified.  If there were ten or even five zero casting cost artifacts then it would not be an issue, but with two or three it is a very non-random occurrence.

If you're interested, then check out the bottom of this article for an appendix with a handy table of each equipment sorted by casting cost.

Normally you want to use Jhoira to cast a sorcery, not an instant

In general sorcery effects are more powerful than instants, which makes sense given their main-phase casting restriction.  This means that if you've decided to cast a random spell, then you almost always want to go with a sorcery.  There are two exceptions that I can think of: searching for a Counterspell (or equivalent) to take care of a troublesome opponent's sorcery, and digging desperately for a combat trick when things aren't going your way in the red zone.  Both of these are fairly low percentage, but something you've got to try for it anyways.

So given the power level difference, unless you have a really good reason to go with an instant then always choose the sorcery option.

Jhoira sorceries provide a strong way to dig yourself out of a hole

This is closely related to the previous note.  If you're falling behind in the creature game, or your opponent gets down something awesome that you have little chance of matching in the red zone then one option is to fire off Jhoira sorceries as quickly as possible and hope for a solution.  There are lots of powerful sorceries that can swing a game in this situation: Damnation, Crush of Wurms, Phthisis, most Ultimatums, etc.  Of course there's also a risk of ending up with three useless spells, but if you need a game changer then I like to go onto the sorcery plan.

In general activating Momir Vig is the safer option, since most of the time you will end up with, at worst, a chump blocker - but if you want to roll the dice or need to stage a heroic comeback then dial up Jhoira.  Who knows?  You could get Plague Wind.

Crush of Wurms

Audio Visual

Alright, enough talk.  I think I've told you just about everything that I know about the format.  Time for some video footage.  Note for all of these videos: If you click on the link provided and open them up in a new window/tab then you can click on the link just to the bottom-right of the video to "watch in HD" if you're interested in that sort of thing.  You can also click on the small arrow in the bottom right of the embedded video and click the "HD" button to get the same effect.

Also, please subscribe to my channel!  http://youtube.com/mtgexplorations

This first video shows quick NLMB deck construction and how to setup a game on Magic Online.  As mentioned above, there's no official NLMB format - so you need to do things a bit on your own.  Don't worry, it's simple.  This video shows you how.

Now that the logistics are out of the way, let's get to an actual game.  The idea of writing up a game in this format is a bit daunting, so video is obviously the way to go.  Check it out:

That game was a lot of fun, so I decided to record a second one.  Check it out here:

What do you guys think of the videos this time around?  I tried my best to keep things moving; it's tough to reach a balance between speed and clarity, but I think I did a decent job with this set of videos.  Please let me know if you have any feedback here, I'd love to hear it.  Do you want to see more games of Next Level Momir Basic?  I can definitely record a few more if this is something that people are interested in.  Let me know!

I'm going to call it quits for this article.  Hopefully this article has given everyone a decent idea of how cool this format can be.  Everyone who is into wacky Magic formats at all should definitely give it a shot.  If anyone is up for a game let me know!  Thanks for reading!

Steve Gargolinski

Appendix: Equipment By Casting Cost


Bonesaw Conflux Paradise Mantle Sigil of Distinction


Blinding Powder Bonesplitter Dead-Iron Sledge
Golem-Skin Gauntlets Hankyu Leonin Bola
Leonin Scimitar Neurok Hoversail O-Naginata
Peregrine Mask Runed Stalactite Shuko
Shuriken Skullclamp Slagwurm Armor
  Viridian Longbow  


Banshee's Blade Blight Sickle Cloak and Dagger
Cranial Plating Empyrial Plate Healer's Headdress
Horned Helm Konda's Banner Leering Emblem
Lightning Greaves Manriki-Gusari Mask of Memory
Neurok Stealthsuit No-Dachi Rakdos Riteknife
Scythe of the Wretched Sparring Collar Specter's Shroud
Surestrike Trident Sword of the Meek Thornbite Staff
Umezawa's Jitte Veteran's Armaments Vorrac Battlehorns
Vulshok Gauntlets Vulshok Morningstar  


Diviner's Wand Ensouled Scimitar Fireshrieker
Grafted Wargear Grifter's Blade Helm of Kaldra
Kusari-Gama Loxodon Warhammer Neko-Te
Nemesis Mask Oathkeeper, Takeno's Daisho Obsidian Battle-Axe
Quietus Spike Ronin Warclub Spellbinder
Sunforger Sword of Fire and Ice Sword of Light and Shadow
Tenza, Godo's Maul Umbral Mantle Vulshok Battlegear
  Whispersilk Cloak  


Deathrender General's Kabuto Heartseeker
Manaforce Mace Conflux Nightmare Lash Opaline Bracers
Shield of Kaldra Sword of Kaldra Sword of the Paruns


Pariah's Shield Worldslayer


Tatsumasa, the Dragon's Fang



Nice review of an underestimated format by Plejades (not verified) at Wed, 02/18/2009 - 13:45
Plejades's picture


first of all, nice review of an format you don't see often anymore after the official tournaments where canceled. I just wanted to point out that most people use MOJOS to describe Momir/Jhoira/Stonehewer Giant games. I personally found that all 3 together are a little bit to chaotic and prefer Momir/Jhoira which is the right balance of creature and sorcery/instant play. Even though the format seems very random I found that skill is surprisingly important and can turn games around that seemed lost at first. Everyone should give it a try.

Good luck and may your first sorcery be a Storm Herd!

Nice! by TugaChampion at Wed, 02/18/2009 - 14:57
TugaChampion's picture

I loved Momir Basic so I think I'll give this a try. Was this next level monir basic or MOJOS an official format at one point? I used to play Momir Basic but not this one. I think I have all those avatars (not sure about Stonehewer Giant) so I'll give this a try.

To my knowledge it has not by spg at Wed, 02/18/2009 - 15:22
spg's picture

To my knowledge it has not been an official format, and it doesn't seem likely in the future now that Momir Basic seems to be on the slide - which is definitely a bummer. With any luck though more people will start to play and it can become an official format.

Stonehewer Giant is only $0.20, so fortunately it should be a cheap buy in for you.

Akroma by Gareth (not verified) at Wed, 02/18/2009 - 18:53
Gareth's picture

I like to throw the Akroma avatar ($0.20) into the mix as well for more random based entertainment.

Turn 1 by Katastrophe at Wed, 02/18/2009 - 20:57
Katastrophe's picture

A normal Mormir strategy that I often use in this format is to skip my 1-drop. In Mormir the reason to skip a weak turn 1 play is to get beyond 8 mana. But in this format it gives you an extra play on turn 8 or 9. In Mormir Basic this advantage is moot because Mormir is limited to one activation per turn. But Johira has unlimited activations per turn! These games are usually decided by bombs so having more moves later is definitely better.

In my experience, this format seems to last 7-10 turns. Winning as quickly as Th1ck did in the second video is unheard of. Not that it wasn't awesome! :)

Akroma!! by Overseer76 (not verified) at Thu, 02/26/2009 - 11:21
Overseer76's picture

I was going to say the same thing about Akroma. I've played Momir + Akroma a few times and liked it, but never considered Jhoira and Stonehewer (mostly because I don't have them). Thanks for the great ideas!