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By: Umii, Mike Patterson
Oct 19 2007 8:50am
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Standard with Vanguard is a Magic-Online only variant of Magic where each player has an “avatar” that grants them special abilities, like increased starting hand size, or giving all creatures you control haste.  These special abilities create an environment where spectacular and unexpected plays are possible, like attacking with 8/8 creatures on turn two, or skipping half your turns and still winning the game.  This article serves as a primer for anyone interested in exploring a unique format.

As in normal Magic, top eight replays are a great way to get information about the best decks in the format.  Magic Online has weekly Premiere Events using the Standard with Vanguard format, starting on Saturday at 11 AM EST.   The last Standard with Vanguard tournament was on Oct. 6th, and it was the first tournament following a variety of changes to avatar abilities that had been found over- and underpowered.  That week’s top eight broke down into six decks:

2 Chronatog Free Stuff2 Dakkon UW Control1 Mirri UGw Weenies1 Heartwood Blink1 Oni Fat Aggro1 Dakkon NarcoDredge

If you’re unfamiliar with the Vanguard avatars, you might wonder how one of the bad ‘togs from Visions is the centerpiece of a Standard deck.  Each of the decks above lists the avatar used first, so in this case, Chronatog refers to the Chronatog Avatar, the “premiere” avatar from the Visions release events.  The Chronatog avatar allows you to skip a turn, in exchange for drawing three cards.  Deck featuring the Chronatog avatar rely on using free spells like the Future Sight pacts, or the Coldsnap spells like Sunscour to gain card advantage over the opponent.  A sample Chronatog decklist might look something like: 

Chronatog Free Stuff

Mana (14):
10x Land
Simian Spirit Guide
Lifegain (8):
4x Martyr of Sands
4x Intervention Pact

Win condition (2):

Answers (28):
4x Pact of Negation
4x Slaughter Pact
4x Pact of the Titan
4x Sunscour
4x Angel's Grace
4x Soul Spike
4x Commandeer

Answer Fuel (8):
4x Transguild Courier
Scion of the Ur-Dragon

Sideboards often include cards like Extirpate, or Feldon’s Cane to win attrition wars.  The modus operandi of this deck is to continually draw cards, and answer the opponent one-for-one until you have more cards in hand than the opponent has life.  Then you play and flashback conflagrate discarding your hand, and deal twenty or more damage with counterspell backup.  Recent variations on the deck have also begun to include the Perilous Storm combo package, using the free spells to just pump up the storm count.

Overall, the Chronatog avatar is one of the most powerful.  It can answer individual threats efficiently using pacts, can answer creature swarms with titans, and Sunscour, and can force through its own gameplan with countermagic.  Its downside is that it is somewhat vulnerable to land destruction spells (which prevent paying for Angel’s Grace), and opposing lifegain decks.  If you plan to play Vanguard, you will most likely see one to two Chronatog decks at the top tables, and must have a plan to beat it.

The other populous deck in the top eight is a new deck featuring the Dakkon avatar that debuted with the Master’s release events.  This avatar gives your hand one more card, and allows you to play any spell face-down as a land.  Originally, many people thought this would be a great deck to combine with burn, since it would allow them to topdeck burn to finish off an opponent.  Unfortunately, no Dakkon burn decks made the top eight, but a pair of control decks did.  Here’s my decklist that won the premiere event:


UW Dakkon Control

Lands (4):
4 Azorius Chancery

Creatures (12):
4 Azorius Guildmage
4 Martyr of Ashes
2 Crovax, Ascendant Hero)
2 Aeon Chronicler

Enchantments (10):
4 Suppression Field
4 Porphyry Nodes
2 Sacred Mesa

Spells (34):

4 Tidings
4 Rune Snag
4 Trickbind
3 Proclamation of Rebirth
4 Sunscour
4 Wrath of God
3 Luminesce
4 Mana Tithe
4 Condemn


The basic idea of this deck is to not lose, and then finish off the opponent with Pegasus tokens, Crovax, or Aeon Chronicler.  As a control deck, the most important thing to do is not miss land drops, which you nearly impossible to do with Dakkon.  The Azorius Chanceries also allow you to drop your “finisher” cards as lands early so that you can play your early game cards.  One of the huge upsides of the Dakkon avatar is that you can include powerful sideboard cards, like Trickbind or Luminesce, in the maindeck because they just become lands in the matchups they’re no good in.  I literally lost only one game the entire premiere event, so I am unsure as to what the downside of this deck are.

Rounding out the top eight were a variety of solid decks that have seen top 8 many times before.  I won’t cover them here, as Frank Karsten has discussed many of them in his Online Tech column.  Instead, I’d like to present a few questions that any deck designer must be able to answer when designing for Standard with Vanguard:

1. How can my deck survive an Oni onslaught? Oni decks will drop three to four 5/5s, 6/6s, and 8/8s by turn four, and all of them will have haste, meaning you may be dead by turn four.  Common ways to survive this include Pyroclasm to slow down Oni's early mana (Llanowar Elves and Birds of Paradise) or Martyr of Sands to gain enough life to buy time.  Oni decks are not as popular as they once were, but they can win quickly, and require unique answers for them.

2. How can my deck win despite the Mirri avatar killing all its creatures?  The Mirri avatar will check up most aggro decks, but even midrange or control decks need to consider how they can beat Mirri.  Common answers are creature sweepers, or Suppression Field to shut down the avatar.  The other common way to beat Mirri is through burn or combo.

3. How can my deck win against lifegain strategies?  Many of the powerful decks in the format use Martyr of Sands to buy time (e.g. the Chronatog and Dakkon lists posted above), so you need a way to either deal forty points of damage, or prevent them from gaining life.  Decks like Oni which can deal twenty damage out of nowhere can simply play through it, while burn decks may want to include Sudden Shock or Rain of Gore in the sideboard to shut down lifegain.

4. How many spells can my deck resolve against the Heartwood avatar?  The Heartwood avatar makes opponents' noncreature spells cost one more to play, which will slow down almost all control decks.  Against Heartwood, one and two mana spells that can kill their relatively small creatures are essential.

Many of the current decks in the format can only answer two or three of those questions.  For example, the Chronatog deck I listed first has no problems with Oni because it simply gains life and kills their important creatures.  Similarly, Chronatog decks are unconcerned with Mirri's creature kill.  However, Chronatog decks can be vulnerable to decks that gain too much life due to its narrow win condition, and can have trouble resolving its spells against Heartwood decks.  If you can design a deck that can answer all of these questions well, you'll probably be succesful come Saturday.


by Grey_Mana (Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 10/23/2007 - 14:30
Grey_Mana (Unregistered)'s picture


Wandered over here from the official boards.  Nice article, thanks for the effort!

by Caliban17 (Unregistered) (not verified) at Fri, 10/19/2007 - 20:42
Caliban17 (Unregistered)'s picture

Hey Umii,


Great article.  Always nice to see other players pushing the format. 

Good first article by mtgotraders at Fri, 10/19/2007 - 08:51
mtgotraders's picture

Great first article.  Just try to get a picture for your avatar up soon please.  Let me know on the forums if you need help.  Hope to see more articles from you in the future.