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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Jul 21 2010 1:38am
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With Freeform, you can run two avatars, ten avatars, whatever.  But I think two avatars at once is the best number.  Because if you start saying "pick any six avatars you like," it's pretty hard to make a deck that DOESN'T get a first turn kill.  Two avatars is a lot more balanced.  (Still room for degeneracy, but not nearly as much.)

Of course, you pretty much need to coordinate these games with a friend beforehand, because just randomly going to the casual room and posting "freeform 2 avatars" isn't likely to get much response.  But if you are interested in giving this format a try, here are a few of my observations about how to craft your pair.

   

1. Some avatars combo with pretty much anything

If you already have a good regular vanguard deck, you can probably just haphazardly toss in Hermit Druid as the second avatar and make it strictly better.  Same goes for Royal Assassin, Serra Angel, Prodigal Sorcerer, Orcish Squatters, Squee, or Birds of Paradise.

Doesn't require much explanation beyond that, so I'll move to the next category.

2. Some great synergies exist between specific avatars

This category is much more interesting to me, as I believe it better captures the spirit of the format.  Here is a list of some of my favorite pairs.

  • Enigma Sphinx + Reaper King: Let's start with a simple one.  Enigma Sphinx wants you to play multicolored creatures.  Reaper King wants you to play multicolored creatures.  And when you consider that both avatars are overpowered by themselves, this deck is sounding pretty unfair.  Not to mention extremely easy to build.
  • Nekrataal + Reaper King: A less obvious use for Reaper King, but IMO a much cooler one.  Most people just use Nekrataal to get a bunch of free 1cc guys.  I like to use him though to cast multicolored creatures in less-multicolor decks.  And if you're going to be running lots of multicolored creatures, Reaper King is right at home.
  •    
  • Hell's Caretaker + Teysa: If someone kills your guy, you get a token.  Which you can use to get your guy back.  Or, if you sacrifice your guy for Hell's Caretaker to get a second guy back, you get a token.  Which you can use to get your first guy back next to your second guy.  Really, it can get pretty silly.
  • Ashling the Pilgrim + Raksha: A simple one, and a seemingly negligible one, but there are times when Raksha's toughness boost can make a difference with Ashling's damage.  You can start running creatures with lower toughness than you used to.  Or, if you use a card that gives everyone a lot of 1/1s, you can make sure that yours survive a lot longer than your opponent's.
  • Murderous Redcap + Arcbound Overseer: If you're running Murderous Redcap, you probably want to run creatures like Arcbound Worker, Mindless Automaton, or Spike Feeder.  Why not give those cards even more counters to play with?
  • Any two of Stonehewer / Bosh / Enigma Sphinx: All three of these avatars center on artifacts.  Any of these avatars combo with the others quite well.
  • Flametongue Kavu + Arcanis: Flametongue, by itself, has a habit of killing your own guys, or not dealing enough to kill your opponent's guys.  Arcanis though lets you save your guys from themselves, and repeat-cast them to stack up the damage on your opponent's creatures.  All while potentially drawing cards.  Do prepare yourself for having to cast that Eager Cadet three or four times before it takes down a single Birds of Paradise, but the possibility exists.
  •    
  • Mayael + Braids: Mayael generally encourages you to run more large creatures than your mana curve can support.  Braids gives you a way to support it!  And Mayael ensures that your Braids doesn't run out of fuel.
  • Raksha + Stonehewer: Okay, it's an obvious one.  So casting a first-turn Kitesail Apprentice won't win you any creativity awards.  But it will get you a 3/3 (or larger) with flying and first strike.
  • Karona, False GodLoxodon Hierarch: Trade your stuff for your opponent's stuff.  Then sacrifice your opponent's stuff.  And then get your stuff back, either because it was an auto-returning card like Rainbow Vale / Saltskitter, or because you're running Brooding Saurian.
  • Nekrataal + Higure: Okay, Nekrataal can already get turn one kills by itself.  But let's say you cut out the Glimpse of Nature and just run a Higure avatar.  Empty your hand of 1cc black creatures on the first turn, and attack will all on the second turn.  This refills your hand, which you can empty again, and attack for even more on the next turn.  This gets even sicker with Mass Hysteria or something similar.
  • Loxodon Hierarch + Ashling, the Extinguisher: Remember, Loxodon isn't just a sacrifice outlet: he also lets you regenerate things!  For instance, creatures who were about to die to your Extinguisher activation.
  • Mirror Entity + Sliver Queen: Mirror Entity works best when your creatures are all of the same type.  Guess what Sliver Queen does!  The same basic trick also works with the Seshiro avatar in Sliver Queen's place.

 

3. Erhnam combos with more avs than anyone

   

Without question, he does.  And I don't mean in that "it's good in any deck" way, like the avatars in Observation 1 do, above.  You can't shoehorn in Erhnam wherever (he certainly doesn't combo well with creatureless decks).  But consider all of the avatars he specifically synergizes with:

  • Goblin Warchief: Double the creatures to pump up.
  • Rith: Much easier to sneak somebody through.
  • Kresh: Double the guys to devour.
  • Dauntless Escort: Double the exalted triggers.
  • Akroma: Double the abilities going around — and if a 1/1 with protection from red and flying doesn't impress you by itself, run a Concerted Effort Akroma deck, to put those abilities on someone who can make better use of them.
  • Fallen Angel: Double the creatures to sacrifice.  (Unlike most avatars, there's no "nontoken creature" clause on Fallen Angel.)
  • Mirri the Cursed: Double the -1/-1s going around.
  • Mirror Entity: Make your saproling army huge!
  • Maro: You'll never be short on guys to tap.
  • SakashimaTurns Erhnam into Dual Nature.  Except one-sided.

That was... let me count... 25 different suggestions for combinations, not even counting the near-limitless possibilities from the first Observation up top.

I'll just wrap this all up with a sample decklist.  I ended up going with the combination that was to me the funnest, Sakashima + Erhnam.

   

So every creature you cast gives you a token, which for 2 mana more you can turn into that creature, or any other one.  This gives you a lot of tricks to perform, but perhaps my favorites are:

1 - Cheat cards with EtB penalties.  It's hard to stomach the cost for Avatar of Discord, but when you get two 5/3s instead of one, it's a lot better.

2 - Double up on legends.  The legend rule states that you sacrifice two permanents if they are legendary and share the same name.  But if one of them is named "Sliver Overlord," and the other is a nameless Saproling token, you can keep them both!  (A warning, though: if you have two nameless saprolings in play, and each copy different legendary permanents, they will still both die.  Nameless, at least in mtgo, counts as a name.)

There are also cards that let you do both of the above at once, like Lord of Tresserhorn.  Today's deck ended up being GRb though, so he didn't make the cut.

After a few different versions, I ended up making a heavy focus on the second strategy: the final cut has 26 different legendary permanents!  (Four of which, of course, are Reki, the History of Kamigawa.)  Other legendary helpers include Sword of the Chosen, Konda's Banner, Tenza, Godo's Maul, and Time of Need — some of which are themselves legendary and so help Reki even further.  So which legendary creatures did I end up running?

  • Brothers Yamazaki.  He's ordinarily underwhelming, but getting two out at once is pretty well guaranteed with this avatar combination.  Really, for 5 mana, you're getting two 4/3s with bushido and haste.  It's a decent deal.
  • Shizuko, Caller of Autumn, Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro.  This deck is very mana hungry.  Not only for its many legendary permanents, but also for its many avatar activations.  These snakes (and, to a lesser extent, Radha, Heir to Keld) help greatly with that.
  • Stonebrow, Krosan Hero.  This is another one that is usually not too impressive.  But even if you cast him on an empty field, consider that the next turn you can be attacking for 16 points of trampling damage.
  • Nath of the Gilt-Leaf.  The main reason I splashed black, this guy gets pretty sick in multiples.  Again, using the empty-field example, a mere two of these guys will make your opponent discard two cards, and give you four 1/1s.  Every single turn.

Here's the list.  It's casual and customizable, as always:

Avatars: Sakashima and Erhnam

Lands (23):
Savage Lands
3 Swamp
7 Mountain
10 Forest

Creatures (28):
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Radha, Heir to Keld
2 Avatar of Discord
4 Brothers Yamazaki
4 Reki, the History of Kamigawa
2 Shizuko, Caller of Autumn
2 Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro
3 Stonebrow, Krosan Hero
3 Nath of the Gilt-Leaf

Noncreatures (9):
2 Lightning Bolt
2 Time of Need
2 Terminate
1 Konda's Banner
1 Sword of the Chosen
2 Hull Breach
1 Tenza, Godo's Maul
Brothers Yamazaki Tenza, Godo's Maul

See you next time, and have fun with vanguard!

1 Comments

Sad by Goopile at Wed, 07/21/2010 - 10:30
Goopile's picture

I hope MTGO will re do playable Avatar... that was an awesome part of release event.