CottonRhetoric's picture
By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Sep 08 2010 1:03pm
Login or register to post comments

Before we talk about the avatar of the day, let's start by talking about Elvish Visionary.

Elvish Visionary

He's already proven to be tournament playable.  And a sizable upgrade to Pyknite.  But what if we gave him another couple of upgrades?  What if we chopped the casting cost in half and tacked on a bonus ability to his rules text?

Yeah, why, he'd be pretty good then.  But why am I talking about this, much less as a preface to my column?  Because with today's avatar, such a "card" is completely possible.  Today's avatar is Stalking Tiger.

Deck 1 Stalking Tiger + Uber-Visionary


It's usually an underwhelming avatar, especially when compared to other card drawers like Necropotence or Royal Assassin.  But as the above teaser illustrates, there are certainly a few things this guy can do that the others can't.  (One of which is cost 20 cents.)

So how's it possible?  With 0cc creatures.  Literally every 0cc creature in your deck turns into something like the above (expertly photoshopped) mockup.  And between Ornithopter, Phyrexian Walker, Shield Sphere, and the three Kobolds, that's up to 24 slots in your deck that can be 1-mana cantripping creatures.  (Which I guess isn't technically "any number," but do you really want more than 24?  We do need room for lands and a win condition....)

Even after we have the core of 24 cards plus 20ish lands, there's a surprising number of directions we can take from there.  Here's what I came up with:

Keep Watch    

Of course, some of those premises are a lot stronger than others.  The Earthcraft one in particular jumps out as enabling an easy turn-two victory with the right build.  But if you know me, you know I'm never about doing what's strongest.  I'm about doing what's the most fun, and according to my seemingly arbitrarily conceived standards.  After a bunch of playtesting and tinkering, I eventually settled on the second bullet above (wisdom + Bulwark).  It's very possible that I'll return to one of the other bullets in a future article though, as a lot of them have high potential.

Like I said, 24 uber-Visionaries is more than most decks need, and this deck is no exception.  20 is the number I settled on, and although my first instinct was for my 4 cuts to be Kobolds (they have the lowest stats of the 0cc creatures), I soon realized that Shield Sphere was a better choice to cut.  Why?  Keep Watch.  I need my guys to be able to attack.

Keep Watch plus the avatar itself provide more than enough card draw to satisfy the Reliquary Tower and Bulwark strategy.  The rest of the deck is dedicated towards stalling the opponent while those do their thing.  A bunch of 0/X blockers isn't always exactly enough, even if they are cheap and cantripping.  There are any number of stall cards available in blue, but I went with ones that are synergistic with our gameplan.  Specifically, ones that piggyback off our repeated creature casting (like Equilibrium) and ones that allow us to continue our repeated casting (like Curfew, Peel from Reality, and Evacuation).

With so much card drawing and with such a low curve, we can get away with only 20 land slots.  We can also have a lot of them be colorless, since that's all our avatar needs and many of our spells are free.  The only acceleration I added was 2x each of Springleaf Drum (aka "Earthcraft-lite") and Phyrexian Tower (it always makes me smile when I use it with Phyrexian Walker).

Here's the list.  Like all of my decks, it's casual and customizable.

Avatar: Stalking Tiger

Land (20):
4 Shivan Reef
4 Reliquary Tower
2 Phyrexian Tower
6 Island
4 Mountain

Creatures (20):
4 Kobolds of Kher Keep
4 Crimson Kobolds
4 Crookshank Kobolds
4 Ornithopter
4 Phyrexian Walker
Noncreatures (20):
2 Springleaf Drum
3 Curfew
2 Peel from Reality
4 Keep Watch
2 Equilibrium
3 Evacuation
4 Bulwark
Kobolds of Kher Keep
Two cards that do not usually go together.

Regarding kobolds: Although Rohgahh of Kher Keep's existence technically makes Kobolds of Kher Keep strictly better than the other two kobolds, he unsurprisingly did not cause it to be worth more money.

Deck 2 Stalking Tiger + Faux Creatures



This next deck is based on faux creatures.  Creatures that aren't really creatures.  Like, creatures that you evoke and use as a spell.  Consider, that with Stalking Tiger around...

So a lot of the above cards are good with Stalking Tiger.  None really strike me as the center of a deck though.  But you know who does strike me as the center of a deck?  Vent Sentinel.  Don't ask me how I made that cognitive leap.  Let's just put the deck together.

Vent Sentinel    

Running this guy means we'll need a lot of good defenders — fortunately, we don't even need to leave red to get 'em.  I already mentioned Cinder Wall; there's also Wall of Razors, Æther Membrane, Wall of Stone, Wall of Junk, Ogre Sentry*, and (since it didn't make the cut in my last deck) Shield Sphere.

You could of course have multiple colors, as there are some great non-red walls out there, but I had a hard enough time making room for everything as it was.  Still, I would have loved to have run Wall of Blossoms, Perimeter Captain, Tinder Wall, Fog Bank, Wall of Souls, or Plumeveil.

To get the list together, I combined some red defenders with red faux creatures, acceleration, and wisdom cards.  (Speaking of wisdom cards, I wish Scent of Cinder were already online.  I will probably revise this list to include it after Destiny comes out.)

The gameplan is pretty simple: cast a bunch of walls and then use Vent Sentinel, and sometimes Bulwark, for the kill.  Don't forget to return the Ghost Towns if your wisdom cards need a boost!

* Ogre Sentry, or, as he's more commonly known, "the ol' Watchwolf of the walls"

Avatar: Stalking Tiger

Land (24):
21 Mountain
1 Miren, the Moaning Well
2 Ghost Town

Creatures (16):
4 Shield Sphere
2 Frostling
2 Steel Wall
2 Wall of Razors
3 Æther Membrane
4 Vent Sentinel

"Creatures" (12):
4 Cinder Wall
2 Stingscourger
2 Ingot Chewer
4 Spitebellows

Noncreatures (8):
3 Spiraling Embers
4 Bulwark

Hot trading tip: The foil version of
this card is only one cent extra.

Deck 3 Stalking Tiger + Gating

Shrieking Drake    

Gating, a seldom-used term from the Invasion cycle, refers to the bounce ability on cards like Shivan Wurm (a card that has never won any awards for flavor or creativity in naming).

A cheap enough self-bouncing creature like Shrieking Drake or Glitterfang is obviously good with Stalking Tiger.  Every two mana you spend will draw you a card.  But the number of triggers and clicks involved in this process will be so incredibly annoying and tedious to everybody involved that I can't even recommend doing it.  You can't even set up auto yields for the return trigger, since those get reset every time the card leaves play!

What's more fun to me is using higher-cc gating creatures to bounce and recast creatures of mine who are low-cc.  You know, once.  Not twenty times like with Shrieking Drake.  Aside from being tedious, Shrieking Drake is usually just overkill.  Do you really need that much card draw when your avatar already makes it difficult to ever have a handsize below 5?

There's plenty of fun gating cards from each of the five colors.  Notably:

To me the white ones are the most fun, so I'll be running those.  Especially Dust Elemental.  I always wanted to use him....

We'll need a few things for this deck to work.  One, as said, cheap creatures.  Goldenglow Moth, Order of the Stars, Suntail Hawk, and Wall of Hope are all good here.  The Moth especially I like because he makes for a nice combat trick with the instant-speed Whitemane Lion (bounce the Moth after its trigger goes on the stack but before it dies).

Two, wisdom cards!  Even without all the bouncing, our avatar keeps our hand very large.  And with the bouncing, it's even very-large-r.  Cowed by Wisdom is a very efficient removal effect in a deck like this.  Empyrial Armor is also highly efficient, and happens to look great on a turn-two cantripping Suntail HawkDescendant of Kiyomaro and Kiyomaro, First to Stand are both... well... also efficient... not much else to say about that.

Razor Golem becomes very cheap in the late game.  And Suppression Field happens to affect 0 of our own cards, so it's well worth running.  It also helps turn Cowed by Wisdom from a Pacifism into an Arrest.

Here's the list!

Avatar: Stalking Tiger

Land (24):
24 Plains

Creatures (24):
4 Goldenglow Moth
3 Suntail Hawk
1 Order of the Stars
3 Whitemane Lion
3 Descendant of Kiyomaro
3 Stonecloaker
2 Dust Elemental
2 Kiyomaro, First to Stand
3 Razor Golem

Noncreatures (12):
4 Cowed by Wisdom
2 Disenchant
2 Suppression Field
4 Empyrial Armor

Stonecloaker Empyrial Armor

See you next time, and have fun with vanguard!


Hey, Nice musing about the by Xaoslegend at Wed, 09/08/2010 - 20:05
Xaoslegend's picture


Nice musing about the Vanguard format. I always had a soft spot for it. (I have most of them).