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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Nov 08 2011 12:19pm
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It's time for some casual vanguard decks!

Deck 1 Frenetic Efreet

If you've read all 54 of my previous vanguard articles (for some reason), you may have noticed that I've never used the Frenetic Efreet avatar.  The reason is because, what's there to say about it besides "use it with Krark's Thumb and bore your opponent to tears"?

Despite my years of neglect, it turns out there's actually a lot else to say about it, and a lot else to do with it.  In fact, I've found no fewer than 9 distinct strategies for it.  They are:

1. Skip the untap step

All permanents you control have phasing.  Phasing occurs during the untap step.  So what would happen if you skipped your untap step?

None of your permanents would have phasing.

Of course, none of them would untap either, but with a little figuring we can get around that.  Seedborn Muse and Awakening are the most obvious two.  If Sands of Time is the way you skip your untap step, it has a built-in way to get your untaps!

Sands of Time
This card is good with the Frenetic Efreet avatar.

You can also skip your untap step with Savor the Moment or Avizoa.  Or Stasis, but then you'd have a hard time keeping the Stasis in play for very long (unless you're also skipping your upkeep...).

2. Phase out manually

Teferi's Veil    

Let's say you have Teferi's Veil in play, and you attack with a creature.  It will phase out during your turn, meaning it will phase back in at your next untap phase, ready to attack again.  And if you attack that next turn, the same thing will happen the next-next turn.  In other words, you've just cheated your creature's phasing ability, and made it so it will always be in play during your turn and ready to attack.  (It won't be able to block, but it's still a lot better than how a phasing creature normally acts!)

Any card that can manually phase something out will have the same effect, although most are a little too mana-heavy.  Rainbow Efreet is borderline, and Mist Dragon is out of the question.  Reality Ripple is cheap and fast but not repeatable enough.

3. Otherwise prevent phasing

Spatial Binding is a very direct response to Frenetic Efreet's penalty.  Choosing your targets judiciously, it could be a large help without being too taxing on your life total.

Ertai's Familiar seems like a good idea until you run the math and realize all the trouble is for a Grizzly Bears with an upkeep cost.

4. Use actual phasing

Let's say you cast a normal Phantom Monster under the Frenetic Efreet avatar.  3U for a 3/3 flier with phasing, right?


Or let's say you cast Breezekeeper, a creature that natively has phasing.  It's bigger!

When all of your creatures are given a drawback, they tend to fall behind creatures designed to natively have that drawback.  Would you rather pay 4U for a phasing Armored Cancrix or a Sandbar Crocodile?

As bad as Teferi's Isle is in any regular deck... it actually becomes way better than a basic Island under this avatar.  (Note that, like any other legendary permanent, you can "juggle" two of them safely by alternating which is phased out.)

5. Haste

If you cast a creature that has phasing, you have to wait two entire turns before you can attack with it.

Unless it has haste!  Concordant Crossroads, Mass Hysteria, and about 200 other red cards can make it happen.  200 and counting, I mean.

6. Plan to have few permanents

If you just embrace the phasing drawback instead of trying to cheat it, you'll end up with your permanents scattered across two different piles, neither of which will be very large.


In other words, you can count on having fewer lands than your opponent.  So why not cast some cards that trigger when you do?  Gift of Estates and Oath of Lieges are more budget friendly than Land Tax or TitheRivalry is a rarely seen card that could come in handy here.

Balance is stronger than usual (as are the many Balance clones).

7. Nuke everything

Doesn't a Jokulhaups seem pretty unfair when you get to keep half your permanents?

When picking your nuke spell, just try to stick to sorceries, and not permanents, since those permanents will have phasing and so take longer to use.  Casting a Nevinyrral's Disk, waiting for it to untap, and then waiting for it to phase back in will take two turns instead of the usual one!

8. Suspend

Ignoring the phasing part of the avatar, what about the extra turns part?  How can we take advantage of that?

No matter what else happens in the game, you are guaranteed to win at least a couple of the coin flips, meaning you will have more turns than your opponent.  (Unless the opponent wins on turn two, but then most of our game plan was probably moot anyway.)  One advantage of having extra turns: suspended cards lose those time counters faster than normal!  Restore Balance comes to mind, given strategy #6 above.  Then there are those always-suspended cards, like Reality Strobe.

9. Do not use Krark's Thumb

Seriously.  Nobody wants to watch you play solitaire.

Okay, let's get to the decklist!

After a few different versions, I settled on a blue-white deck that combines all of the above points except 5 and 7.

Since we do have so many phasing lands, keeping a low curve was vital.  This tops out at 4, and there aren't many cards up there either.

Most of the choices are self-explanatory after reading the above lists.  The only strange-looking card should be Brackwater Elemental, which I added solely because of Teferi's Veil.

Avatar: Frenetic Efreet

Land (24):
3 Teferi's Veil
9 Plains
12 Island

Creatures (12):
Errant Ephemeron
2 Deep-Sea Kraken
3 Teferi's Drake
2 Brackwater Elemental
2 Breezekeeper

Noncreatures (24):
2 Lotus Bloom
3 Restore Balance
3 Path to Exile
1 Gift of Estates
4 Oath of Lieges
4 Teferi's Veil
2 Disenchant
3 Savor the Moment
2 Sands of Time

Restore Balance Savor the Moment

And now... there are only 5 avatars I've never used.  (If you're curious, they are, in descending order of the likelihood that I'll one day use them, Murderous Redcap, Sliver Queen, Reaper King, Enigma Sphinx, and Jhoira.)

Deck 2 Raksha

This is an avatar I have used before — but never like this!  Thanks to recent technology, this avatar can now do something it never could before.  Thanks to Living Weaopon, this avatar becomes a whole lot safer.


There used to be this inherent tension when building a Raksha deck.  How many creatures should you run, and how many equipments?  And when you actually played, no matter what the ratio was, there would inevitably be games where you drew all of one and zero of the other.  It was a tough, frustrating avatar.  However:

If your equipment and creature are on the same card, you have a lot less worrying to do!  You will always draw just the right balance of equipments to creatures.

Not only that, but take Raksha's p/t boost into consideration:

  • Since a Living Weapon equips to itself, it automatically has a full +1/+1 and first strike the moment you cast it.  Sickleslicer on the right there will be 3/3 first strike, for the same 3 mana that usually gets you a grey ogre!
  • If you move the equipment to someone else, an unequipped germ token will still be alive!  At a koboldian 0/1, it's happy to stick around to chump block.  Or get sacrificed to a Stronghold Assassin.

There are nine different living weapon cards, three of which we can skip over immediately.  Batterskull, a $23 tournament bomb, isn't really relevant for the casual room.  Necropouncer has the opposite problem, being grossly under the curve even with the avatar's bonus.  And Bonehoard, although a fine card in theory, won't likely be useful in a deck without many "real" creatures in it.

The rest are all fair game, and you can build your deck as you like.  Black-heavy builds will want the only other living weapon to cost more than five cents, Lashwrithe.  Defensive builds will want StrandwalkerEvery deck will want Flayer Husk, which at 2/2 first strike is well worth the 1-mana investment.

There are tons of avenues to take this in.  White, for its Steelshaper's Gift effects?  Green, for its Force of Savagery?  (Raksha keeps it alive, even when unequipped!)  In the end, I figured that if this is going to be my one big Living Weapon deck, I might as well capitalize on them as much as I can.  Germ tokens are black, and we'll have a lot of them... mono-black deck with Bad Moon!  Let's do it.

My next step was to add Marsh Flitter, who with the avatar and a single Bad Moon creates 6/9 worth of p/t for 3B... when unequipped!  The rest of the deck choices should be self-explanatory.  Swap out the Lashwrithes for Skinwings if your budget needs you to.  And don't worry about the Ashes to Ashes drawback — we start the game at 29 life.

Avatar: Raksha

Land (23):
23 Swamp

Creatures (8):
4 Festering Goblin
4 Marsh Flitter

Equipment (19):
4 Flayer Husk
4 Mortarpod
2 Empyrial Plate
1 Lightning Greaves
4 Sickleslicer
4 Lashwrithe

The rest (10):
4 Bad Moon
2 Go for the Throat
2 Last Gasp
2 Ashes to Ashes

Bad Moon Mortarpod

Deck 3 Dakkon Blackblade

This is an avatar I have used before... and have used in this way... but never this efficiently!

Way back in Fun With Vanguard #4, I showcased this deck that would cheat out a big creature by playing it face down as a land and then flipping it over through some outside effect.  However, in 2009, when I wrote that, Flickerwisp was the only card online able to flip over a land by itself.  The rest of the deck had to be filled with awkward combos like Lifespark Spellbomb into Momentary Blink, or Wormfang Newt into a bounce or sac effect.

But now, in 2011, we have way more options, and they're all much more direct.  Flickerwisp, meet these cards:

Flicker  Glimmerpoint Stag  Venser, the Sojourner  Admonition Angel

Flicker, at a mere two mana, seems especially powerful.  Consider this sequence:

  • Turn one: Play any card you want as a land.
  • Turn two: Play a Serra Avatar (or something equally ridiculous) as a plains.  Tap both lands to cast Flicker on the plains.  Then get a 20/20 creature into play.
  • Turn three: Attack with that creature.
    Concordant Crossroads

If turn one was spent casting a Concordant Crossroads or something, so much the better.  Of course 20 points of damage isn't enough to kill every avatar outright, since some start with higher life totals... but it's still pretty good.

Between big creatures and flip effects it might seem like the entire deck is already finished, but I want to point out a few bits of design strategy I came up with:

  • The chancellors.  Opening with a Chancellor of the Annex allows you to use its ability, while keeping the card in your hand, so you can also play it as a land, and opt to flip it later if needed.  That's three uses out of a single piece of cardboard.  Er, group of pixels.  Chancellor of the Tangle is especially ridiculous as it allows for a first turn Flicker.  Even if all you're flipping that first turn is the Chancellor himself, and not a 20/20 angel... it's still pretty good!
  • Gigantomancer is one of the few flippable big creatures who makes threats out of the combo pieces themselves.  If flipped with a Flickerwisp or a Glimmerpoint Stag, Gigantomancer can attack with them the next turn for 14 points of damage.
  • Since we will be playing more lands than only our giant creatures, we can afford to put in a few situational cards that are only useful every few games.  My favorites for green-white are Seedtime, Bind, Celestial Purge, Reprisal, Aura Blast, Divine Offering, Hail Storm, and Primal Order.  Of course there are tons more out there.
  • The best form of acceleration in a deck where every card can turn into a land... is enabling multiple land drops.  I started off with 2 Exploration, which soon became 4, which was soon joined by 2 Explore, which was soon upped to 4 as well!  Trust me: they are good in here.

Here's the list.  It's powerful!

Avatar: Dakkon

Land: 0

Huge creatures (20):
2 Victory's Herald
1 Sunblast Angel
2 Primalcrux
2 Aegis Angel
1 Angelic Arbiter
4 Chancellor of the Annex
4 Chancellor of the Tangle
1 Serra Avatar
2 Gigantomancer

Enablers (12):
4 Flicker
4 Flickerwisp
4 Glimmerpoint Stag

The rest (28):
4 Exploration
2 Mirri's Guile
2 Rebuff the Wicked
4 Explore
2 Aura Blast
1 Bind
2 Celestial Purge
2 Disenchant
2 Divine Offering
1 Seedtime
4 Journey to Nowhere
1 Hail Storm
1 Primal Order
Exploration Chancellor of the Tangle

In the end, this decklist overlaps with the one in FwV#4 by exactly 6 cards: 4 Flickerwisps, 1 Divine Offering, and 1 Aura Blast.  And I have to say, the new list is a lot better.

See you next time, and have fun with vanguard!


Transform cards? by Effovex at Tue, 11/08/2011 - 15:43
Effovex's picture

What happens if you play a transform card face-down using Dakkon? According to the rules, you should get a free face-up transform card, I think. Turn 1 investigator gang (no spells played, flips during your opponent's upkeep?)

Edit: actually, maybe you get a face-up basic mountain? HOW DOES IT WORK?

I've tested it! The answer by CottonRhetoric at Tue, 11/08/2011 - 18:42
CottonRhetoric's picture

I've tested it! The answer is... it just becomes a regular old basic mountain. And if you flip it, it returns as the non-transformed version.

Yeah transform is not by Paul Leicht at Tue, 11/08/2011 - 23:43
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Yeah transform is not flipping in the sense we think of it. The mechanic of the paper version of the cards is misleading because they made the transformed version on the other side of the card but in actuality both versions exist on the same (face up) side.

RE: Dakkon Avatar, someone was talking about that recently as a solution to mana screw games. Just play vanguard format agreeing to both use Dakkon as the avatar and you have a format where it is impossible to get a bad land draw.

It seems a lot more fun than by CottonRhetoric at Wed, 11/09/2011 - 08:05
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It seems a lot more fun than Momir basic....
Certainly more strategy-based, anyway.