Umii's picture
By: Umii, Mike Patterson
Feb 18 2008 12:00am
Login to post comments

(Vanguard is an online-only format of Magic, where each player has an "avatar" that grants special abilities.  Some of the avatar's abilities include giving your creatures haste, or the ability to play spells as land.  These avatars make the format different from vanilla magic, and enable unique plays and decks.  The partial list of avatars can be found here, and my archive here at covers various avatars and decks popular in the format.  A Standard with Vanguard Premiere Event starts every Saturday at 11 AM EST.)

Morningtide is coming to MTGO v2.5!  And with each new set we get new avatars, and new decks to design.  Before I get to some Morningtide-fueled ideas, I would like to briefly touch on two items.

Wizards has started a thread at about bannings, restrictions and the like for online formats, including Standard with Vanguard.  A number of frequent Vanguard players like a small child and Bearded Monk have chimed in there with great suggestions.  I have made my opinions clear here before, but I'll state my suggestions one more time.  I would take one card away from Mirri, Heartwood, Dakkon, and Jhoira.  For Mirri and Heartwood, it is because the avatars are extremely focused at destroying other decks, rather than doing something proactive themselves.  For Dakkon and Jhoira, I believe each avatar is powerful enough that they do not need the bonus of an eight card opening hand.  I would also modify the Ashling avatar, reducing its starting life from 26 to 22.  Ashling has not proven as harmful as Mirri, but its ability certain has the potential to make playing aggro decks impossible.

If you have any comments or concerns regarding Vanguard, chime in!  The more people that give their opinions, the healthier the format will be.

Everything Old Is New Again

To recap the recent metagame swing, Mirri decks have made a triumphant resurgence in popularity, putting three people into the Top Eight.  Reaper9889 even innovated on the archetype, creating a deck that could win the mirror match, even after losing the die roll!  The Mirri avatar naturally beats other creature decks, and decks using it can be designed to give trouble to control or combo decks by including creatures like Gaddock Teeg or Saffi Eriksdotter.  What Mirri will always have problems against, though, are burn decks.  Seeing this opportunity, Omgoozle made a great metagame call for the last Vanguard event:

Slumming It
a deck by Omgoozle

Land (20):
18x Snow-Covered Mountain
2x Keldon Megaliths

One mana burn:
4x Shock
4x Rift Bolt
4x Tarfire
4x Assault/Battery

"Big" mana burn:
4x Incinerate
4x Ghostfire
4x Sudden Shock
4x Surging Flame

Discard Protection:
4x Guerrilla Tactics
4x Fiery Temper

The problem with normal burn decks is that you need to deal twenty damage to win.  The Rumbling Slum avatar changes this by dealing one damage every turn, so you only have to deal 15-18 damage yourself.  The Slum has been popular before, and Frank Karsten wrote about decks using the avatar twice when he was writing Online Tech.  You can read those articles to see some examples of Slum decks. When I think about the Slum avatar, I think of a quintessential deck from Ravnica-Time Spiral Standard:

Land (20):
4x Stomping Ground
4x Karplusan Forest

Creatures (12):
4x Kird Ape
4x Scab-Clan Mauler
4x (Skargaan Pit-Skulk

Burn (28):
4x Shock
4x Char
4x Volcanic Hammer
4x Seal of Fire
4x Rift Bolt
4x Fiery Temper
4x Sudden Shock

Bloodthirsty creatures are natural fits with the constant stream of damage the Slum provides, and this deck can put out the best zoo-style creatures possible.  At the time, Slum decks did not succeed for long when surrounded by faster decks like Oni Storm and Ravnica-block fueled Dragonstorm. I suspect the Slum Avatar will always survive on the periphery of first tier decks as long as premiere burn like Rift Bolt is around. (As an aside, one of my favourite parts of Mike Flores's articles is when he write about old decks from formats of yore.  If anyone has a decklist for Kamigawa-era Undertaker/Dragon decks, please post in the comments or contact me on MODO.)

Back to Omgoozle's deck, "Slumming It" was a great deck for the metagame.  The deck directly attacks the weakness of any low-life total deck, like the newly popular Mirri decks, or Squee Storm.  Attrition based decks, like Jhoira and Dakkon Pickles also have problems, since the burn deck has a very focused, straightforward game plan.  Jhoira decks' power comes from the avatar's ability to cast a wide variety of useful spells, but the Slum deck dodges most of them.  Random land destruction will not hamper the Slum deck too much, and there are no creatures for Jhoira to kill.  Furthermore, if the Jhoira player tries to make the Slum player discard, he can simply "discard" Fiery Temper or Guerilla Tactics.  Finally, the Slum player can burn Jhoira's mana creatures before they are useful. As for Dakkon, the Slum avatar puts them on a slow clock, and while Dakkon decks can pack a ton of counterspells, enough instant speed burn can get through the counter-wall to win.  For example, you could suspend a Rift Bolt, and then cast Fiery Temper on Dakkon's end-step.  Then on your turn, you have your Rift Bolt unsuspending, and the mana to play at least two more spells.

When I asked about the deck's bad matchups, Omgoozle specifically mentioned Heartwood Faeries, since the Heartwood avatar makes all of the burn spells mana-inefficient, and the Heartwood deck starts with a high life total.  The Faeries deck is also packed with two-for-one card like Spellstutter Sprite and Mystic Snake, and burn-proof creatures like Spectral Force.  Fortunately for Omgoozle, Heartwood is currently hated out by all the Mirri decks.  The slum strategy may also be vulnerable to Oni decks, which are burn-proof and have a fast clock, although Oni decks are not currently popular.

In discussing the deck with Omgoozle, I thought of two modifications I would make.  First, I would probably include Mogg Fanatic as a one-drop that can do three or four damage against Jhoira or Dakkon.  Second, I would consider playing Needle Drop, a bloodthirsty instant.  To make room for them, I'd probably remove the Assault/Batteries, and move a combination of Tarfires or Guerilla Tactics to the sideboard.

In with the Morningtide













I am lucky enough to be a beta tester for Morningtide, and one of the beta tester's jobs is to test the new avatars to see if they need to be modified.  Naturally, this is my favourite part of the beta, since I can do what I enjoy, and help beta test at the same time.  The two new avatars for Morningtide are Stonehewer Giant for participation, and Maralen of the Mornsong for achievement.

Both of these avatars are closely related to their Morningtide card.  The Maralen avatar, like the card, allows you to search your library for any card, every turn.  It has three downsides, though: 1.) You can't draw cards (both through the draw step and by spells); 2.) You can only search for a specific card once per game; and 3.) You lose life equal to the mana cost of the card you searched for.  To compensate for the tutoring and life loss, the avatar also has the stats of -1 card and +10 life.  I think the Maralen avatar will be rather tricky to design around, whether people design combo or control decks, so I need to play around with it more before I report any findings.

The easiest way to think about the Stonehewer Giant avatar is that he is the Momir of Equipment.  Whenever a creature comes into play under your control, you put a random Equipment into play attached to that creature, where the converted mana cost of the Equipment is less than or equal to the cost of the creature.  Note that the equipment is attached when the creature comes into play, so all zero mana cost tokens get a Paradise Mantle.  Also note that the converted mana cost of the equipment can be less than the cost of the creature, so your reanimated Akroma, Angel of Wrath may get stuck with a Hankyu.

The most important factor in deciding whether to play with this avatar is the quality of equipment in the game. Given the limited number of equipment in Magic, I decided to make a table of all of them, and rate them on their quality as "Great" (generally providing +power or other game-changing abilities), "Useful" (for providing abilities like evasion, or +toughness), or "Useless" (for cards that do nothing or may even actively hurt your cause).

 0  1  2  3  4  5+

Golem-Skin Gauntlets
Leonin Scimitar
Runed Stalactite

Banshee's Blade
Cloak and Dagger
Cranial Plating
Empyrial Plate
Horned Helm
Scythe of the Wretched
Specter's Shroud
Sword of the Meek
Veteran's Armaments
Vulshok Morningstar
Vulshok Gauntlets
Umezawa's Jitte
Grafted Wargear
Loxodon Warhammer
Oathkeeper, Takeno's Daisho
Obsidian Battle-Axe
Ronin Warclub
Sword of Fire and Ice
Sword of Light and Shadow
Tenza, Godo's Maul
Vulshok Battlegear
Sword of Kaldra
Sword of the Paruns
the Dragon's Fang
Useful Paradise Mantle Blinding Powder
Leonin Bola
Dead-Iron Sledge

Neurok Hoversail
Slagwurm Armor
Viridian Longbow
Sparring Collar
Surestrike Trident
Thornbite Staff
Mask of Memory
Diviner's Wand
Ensouled Scimitar
Grifter's Blade
Helm of Kaldra
Whispersilk Cloak
Shield of Kaldra
General's Kabuto
Useless   Peregrine Mask
Healer's Headdress
Vorrac Battlehorns
Rakdos Riteknife
Neurok Stealthsuit
Lightning Greaves
Konda's Banner
Darksteel Garrison
Nemesis Mask
Nightmare Lash
Opaline Bracers
Pariah's Shield

As you can see, almost half of the equipment in Magic are extremely helpful, and only 20% are actively bad.  With that in mind, and the idea that most of your creatures will generally get a few extra power from the equipment, I designed a simple-minded deck:

Land (24):
4x Desert
19x Mountain
1x Kher Keep

One Drops:
4x Ornithopter
4x Raging Goblin
4x Spark Elemental

Two+ drops:
4x Suq'Ata Lancer
4x Viashino Sandscout
4x Avalanche Riders
4x Lightning Elemental
4x Inner-Flame Acolyte
4x Storm Entity

With a Bonesplitter attached to it, Raging Goblin becomes the best one-drop in magic history, a 3/1 with haste.  If you don't get so lucky, it still isn't hard for the little Goblin to get +1/+1 or some other useful ability.  The Ornithopters are free Birds of Paradise, always a boon.  Once you move up to the two and three drop creatures, you only need to get lucky once with Empyrial Plate or Sunforger to win the game.  In playtesting a rough version of this deck in the Morningtide beta, I found myself averaging a turn 4.5 goldfish kill.  As an added bonus, the deck may have some resliency against control decks since each creature you play leaves behind the legacy of its equipment for your next creature.  If you're feeling adventurous, you could add black or green for cards like Nether Traitor, and Mirri the Cursed, or Firewake Sliver and Timbermare.  Unfortunately, as long as the Mirri and Ashling avatars are floating around, this deck cannot probably survive.  If Wizards ends up modifying avatars, though, this might be the shell of a nice aggro deck.

That's all I have for this week.  I will explore more Morningtide inspired deck design in my next article as I get to play in the beta more, and see what the Maralen avatar is really good for.  While I may be distracted with Morningtide, don't forget Vanguard Premiere Events will fire at least twice more before Morningtide is released.


by largebrandon at Mon, 02/18/2008 - 06:51
largebrandon's picture

I'm liking the Free BoP on the thopter!  Very cool!  I think it is neat that you can end up with a LOT of Equipment in play.  Isn't there an ext that puts all equipment on him:?  That'd be neat.

One thing by Dreager_Ex at Mon, 02/18/2008 - 09:44
Dreager_Ex's picture

Im not sure if you pointed it out well enough but the the Moonsong avatar they basically want you to play a singleton deck =/

Which I hate to the utmost...  but at least you will have no problem comboing out

by Umii at Mon, 02/18/2008 - 10:18
Umii's picture

largebrandon: I think you're thinking of Vulshok Battlemaster, which coincidentally also has haste!  Mirrodin has 4-5 cool equipment creatures which you can find by searching for equipment and filtering by creature spells in either Gatherer or MODO.

Dreager_Ex: Maralen encourages you to play a singleton deck, but you'll still want 4x of certain cards.  For example, if you are playing Knoll Storm, you still want 4x Rite of Flame, Knoll, Lotus Bloom and Dragonstorm, but may only want 1x of Pyromancer's Swath or Molten Slagheaps.

 Also, as an addendum, Omgoozle made T8 this week with Slumming It again, so the deck is putting up consistent results.

by TheUsualSuspect (Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 02/18/2008 - 14:59
TheUsualSuspect (Unregistered)'s picture

try the equip avatar with a RG agro deck with like 14 lands and 4x boreal 4x llanowar 4x gargadon 4x mogg war marshal 4x that new tap 3 elves add GGG and 4x llanowar mentor. im on beta too and have a deck that is more like t3.5 average on godfish using that as the base.