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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Sep 21 2011 11:25am
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Deck 1 Kresh the Bloodbraided

Averaging 3 vanguard decks per vanguard article, and occasionally including a vanguard deck in a non-vanguard article, I've written about an estimated 170 different vanguard decks during my time on this site.  And none of them have used Kresh.  The reason is because he's incredibly straightforward and boring, so what's the point?  There were a scant 13 cards printed with the devour keyword, and only a few of them are playable, and they all point towards the same basic type of strategy.  And 12 of them are either red or green, so there's not a lot to do with this avatar besides "make a bad red-green devour deck slightly better."  Ironically, devour's best representative, the tournament-playable bomb that is Predator Dragon, actually doesn't go very well with this avatar.  Because once you cast Predator Dragon, you should win immediately and not need a few ooze tokens for your trouble.

This longwinded preface is all to say that I finally found a way to use the avatar other than the above.  I made a green-white ooze tribal deck.

It all started when I thought about chaining power boosts through Kresh.  For instance, with a Glorious Anthem in play, your 1/1 creature is a 2/2.  And when you devour it, it turns into a 2/2 ooze token, which the Anthem makes a 3/3.  If you then devour that ooze token, you'll get a 4/4, and so on.  And while scanning for the most efficient Glorious Anthem effect, I landed on Shared Triumph.  And then I looked at the avatar, and then through gatherer's hits for "ooze," and realized I had enough for a deck.  A lot of the cards are actually kind of exciting.

Glorious Anthem     Shared Triumph  

Trivia: there is currently no card in print which simply reads "creatures you control get +1/+0."  We do have its opposite, in Parapet, but that is rather unhelpful to Kresh (whether you devour a 3/1 or a 3/2, Kresh still gives you a 3/3 ooze).  Still, for only 2 mana, Shared Triumph is as good a deal as I could have hoped for.

So what good ooze cards are there?  More than you might think!



A deck like this requires some math.  For instance, what should our two-drop be?  A tribally relevant Woodland Changeling?  A doubly-devourable Raise the Alarm?  How about a guy who returns after being devoured, like Safehold Elite?  In the below chart, the top row of each section shows what happens when the two-drop is the only card on the field before and after casting a Gluttonous Slime to devour it the next turn.  The bottom row shows the same scenario with a Shared Triumph in play.

  before devouring
total p/t after devouring total p/t
Woodland Changeling* 2/2 changeling 2/2 2/2 ooze, 3/3 slime 5/5
with Shared Triumph 3/3 changeling 3/3 4/4 ooze, 4/4 slime 8/8
Raise the Alarm 1/1 soldier, 1/1 soldier 2/2 1/1 ooze, 1/1 ooze, 4/4 slime 6/6
with Shared Triumph 1/1 soldier, 1/1 soldier 2/2 2/2 ooze, 2/2 ooze, 5/5 slime 9/9
Safehold Elite 2/2 elf 2/2 1/1 elf, 2/2 ooze, 3/3 slime 6/6
with Shared Triumph 2/2 elf 2/2 1/1 elf, 3/3 ooze, 4/4 slime 8/8

* or Scavenging Ooze if you can afford 'em

There's no clear winner among them.  Raise the Alarm has the highest combined p/t after devouring with a Shared Triumph in play... yet doesn't match the Changeling's p/t before devouring with a Shared Triumph in play.  It's also worse to have two 1/1s instead of a single 2/2 when you're trying to block a Llanowar Elf... but better when you're trying to dodge a Lightning Bolt.  Safehold Elite is more resilient while you're waiting for the devourer to come online... but has no tribal benefit, and the post-devour 1/1 is unlikely to be of much use.  In the end it's really just a matter of preference (when we're talking about the casual room, we should generally avoid the word "metagame").

    Steely Resolve

My own preference is for the Changeling, because like I said this is a tribal deck, so let's not do it half-heartedly!  Not to mention, this also lets me use cards like Coordinated Barrage, Luminescent Rain, and Steely Resolve if I want to.  (I do want to.)

It's a good idea to add some boost effects other than Shared Triumph.  Remember that even a temporary boost becomes permanent once a creature is turned into ooze.  For instance, a pre-devour Might of Old Krosa makes your post-devour ooze +4/+4... forever.

A simple equipment like Shuko can let you chain creatures into bigger sizes cheaply.  Equipping it to a 2/2 will make him 3/2, causing the ooze token to be 3/3, which can then wear the Shuko itself to become 4/3, and so on.  Manabase allowing, Bonesplitter is a more exaggerated ramp — 2/2 to 4/2 to 4/4 to 6/4!  Your grizzly bears just became a craw wurm with one simple devour (and two equip costs).  Of course, none of these strategies work with Steely Resolve.

One last note: Mycoloth's saproling tokens don't benefit from all our tribal stuff... but they sure benefit from Muraganda Petroglyphs!

After some tinkering, here's the list I came up with.  It's intended to be casual and customizable.

Avatar: Kresh

Land (24):
3 Llanowar Reborn
10 Plains
11 Forest

Creatures (21):
4 Woodland Changeling
3 Raise the Alarm
4 Manaplasm
4 Gluttonous Slime
2 Viridian Shaman
3 Mycoloth
3 Skullmulcher

Noncreatures (13):
2 Shuko
2 Bonesplitter
2 Coordinated Barrage
4 Shared Triumph
2 Steely Resolve
3 Muraganda Petroglyphs
Mycoloth Shuko

For a while, I tried to craft a red-green deck that would give the ooze tokens cheap haste by running Ashling's Prerogative and picking "even"... until I realized that all the best devour creatures were at 3 and 5 mana, no matter what colors you used.

OK, now there are only 10 avatars left out of 68 that I've never used.  (And I hate 6 of those 10, but we'll see what happens over time.)

Deck 2 Bosh

Another avatar I've never used!  Now there's only 9 left.

Unlike Kresh, I was never against using Bosh.  He just simply hadn't inspired me yet.  But these days, he has so many new toys to play with!

Ichor Wellspring    

Like Ichor Wellspring!  If WotC hadn't been ignoring vanguard for over a year, I'd swear they had made this card with Bosh in mind.  It's too perfect.  Best combo since the Loxodon avatar and Hatching Plans.  Of course there's a similar card in Mycosynth Wellspring, so let's use that as well.  Chromatic Star's graveyard clause makes for a similar (if slightly less stellar) trick.

Another new toy that's great for an artifact-heavy deck (as Bosh decks tend to be): metalcraft!  Auriok Sunchaser and Rusted Relic are efficient beaters, while Dispatch and Dispense Justice are efficient removal.  This is already pushing us into white.  And I wanted to use the Urzatron, so let's stick with a mono color deck.

Why the urzatron?  Spine of Ish Sah is expensive!  And synergistic with sacrifice outlets, might I add.  But even when we aren't casting high-cc spells, our avatar still wants a lot of mana, so they're helpful anyway.

Last trick before the decklist: Open the Vaults.  Bosh will be putting plenty of artifacts in the graveyard for this thing to return.

Avatar: Bosh

Land (23):
12 Urzatron
7 Plains
4 Ancient Den

Creatures (15):
2 Court Homunculus
3 Auriok Sunchaser
2 Porcelain Legionnaire
3 Rusted Relic
2 Sanctum Gargoyle
3 Steel Hellkite

Noncreatures (22):
3 Chromatic Star
4 Ichor Wellspring
3 Mycosynth Wellspring
4 Worn Powerstone
2 Open the Vaults
2 Spine of Ish Sah
Rusted Relic Open the Vaults

Deck 3 Phage

Aaaaand now the number of avs I've never used is down to 8.  (It will probably stay at 8 for a while though.  I'm running out of ones I don't hate!)

So I've noticed over the years that Phage decks tend to make two things happen.

1, Their user gains a lot of life.  (You need it to support the first ability.)

2, Their user sends a lot of guys through unblocked.  (Your opponent will be wary of that second ability.)

For a while, this didn't mean a whole lot.  But eventually, one card came online that synergized with both of those items immensely.  Think about it:

You're at a higher life than your opponent and your guy is unblocked.  How do you win the game using one single card?

Click here if you haven't guessed it yet.


That card was a tier 1 bomb when standard was at its most powerful, bravely combatting Tolarian Academy / Mind Over Matter decks alongside playsets of Dark Rituals and Carnophages.  But this deck is considerably more benign than those, so I don't feel bad packing it in the casual room.

So that's 4 cards out of 60 decided.  What should the rest be?

If we want lifegain, adding white to the deck is a no-brainer.  It also helps provide us with plenty of cheap first strikers (while we wait patiently for Stone-Throwing Devils to come online), which Phage's second ability appreciates.  To put it another way, Phage and an Eager Cadet can trade with an Eldrazi... but Phage with a Tundra Wolves can kill it while surviving.  (It's surprising what a little venom on the fangs can do!)


Which lifegain and which cheap first strikers to use are up to you.  Here are my choices:

Avatar: Phage

Land (24):
4 Fetid Heath
5 Swamp
1 Urborg
13 Plains
1 Swarmyard

First strikers (18):
4 Boros Recruit
4 Longbow Archer
4 Porcelain Legionnaire
2 Thunder Spirit
4 Belligerent Hatchling

Life gain (14):
2 Sunspring Expedition
2 Goldenglow Moth
4 Martyr of Sands
2 Perimeter Captain
2 Solemn Offering
2 Faith's Fetters

Sudden victory (4):
4 Hatred

Longbow Archer


See you next time, and have fun with vanguard!


I like the lists. Especially Bosh. by apaulogy at Wed, 09/21/2011 - 12:21
apaulogy's picture

This is all new to me. MTGO is certainly not of short niche formats. I like this one. It is like Commander without having to cast your general and no 'highlander' restrictions.


You should really check out by Kumagoro42 at Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:28
Kumagoro42's picture

You should really check out the other articles by Cotton Rhetoric then. He's arguably the best writer on this whole site (to me, at least). He also subtly teaches some valuable lessons about how you can have fun with this game without being a Spike.

Wow, thanks! This is a nice by CottonRhetoric at Wed, 09/21/2011 - 16:43
CottonRhetoric's picture

Wow, thanks!
This is a nice change of pace from all those "cotton should stop writing" comments I get

Yes. Because Spiking is by walkerdog at Wed, 09/21/2011 - 17:46
walkerdog's picture

Yes. Because Spiking is evilllll.

On the other hand, I like CR's stuff.

Good advice by apaulogy at Wed, 09/21/2011 - 19:57
apaulogy's picture

thanks guys.

I have been liking momir basic for a while, but it is still too random for me sometimes. I have had fun discovering these formats and PREs.