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Attention to Detail #25
Three Gifts
by Jordan Kronick
June 9, 2006

How fortutious that I'm writing the 25th installment of Attention to Detail today.  This weekend happens to be my 25th birthday, as well.  Ordinarily I receive birthday gifts, but today I'm going to give one.  There's a new format taking Magic Online by storm, and I'm going to present it here for those who have not yet encountered it.  In addition to this (don't you love small gifts, as well?) I'm going to talk a bit about two other formats.  I think it's time I do a bit of update on Mental Magic, since there's new strategies to talk about.  Lastly, I'm going to talk about the “new” Tribal Wars format which was announced last week by Aaron Forsythe.  Without further ado however, I present to you the newest Magic Online-only format, Momir Magic.


Momir Magic (among other names, though this appears to be the one that's sticking) is a format which is probably cheaper and easier to construct a deck for than any other format to date.  Everyone is on completely equal ground, and so the format tests luck and skill without testing your bank account.  That's something that can be said of precious few formats, so this bears greater examination.  The Momir Magic format was developed on the Dissension beta test server by the first people who were allowed in (which I happened to be one of).  Simply put, you use 60 basic lands and 1 Momir Vig avatar and that is your deck.  Here's Momir Vig's stats for those who haven't seen it or heard of it yet.


Momir Vig

Vanguard Avatar

Handsize +0

Life + 4

X,  discard a card: Put a creature token that is a copy of a random creature with casting cost X into play.  You may only use this ability once per turn.


What exactly does that mean?  It means that if you pay 2 for X and discard a card, the token that you get will be randomly chosen from amongst all 2-cost creatures available on Magic Online.  You could get a Grizzly Bear, a White Knight, a Meddling Mage or any of many many other options.  It's completely random!  But the format itself is not so random as you might think.  At first, we took the format as something of a joke, where the random nature of the avatar's ability made it impossible to formulate any real strategy.  However, this is not the case.  There are some things to remember about the format, which can help you figure out how to make what few choices you will be allowed.


Firstly, there are no spells in Momir Magic.  There is no way to get any card into your hand other than a basic land.  This means, among other things, that mulliganing is something you will never have to worry about.  Everyone gets 7 cards to start with.  However, card advantage is extremely scarce here.  There are precious few creatures which will allow you to draw cards and fewer still which will allow you to draw them reasonably.  Some creatures that have been proven to be powerful card drawers in the past – like Etched Oracle – are completely useless in Momir Magic.  An Etched Oracle token, after all, has no +1/+1 counters and will probably die as soon as it enters play, barring some other effect.  Most people quickly realized that one of the most important casting costs to reach is 9.  At that particular number, you can get Bringers, which are always useful for their size and in some cases (blue, green and red) extremely effective abilities.  In addition to these, there is one of the most feared creatures in all of Momir Magic – the Blazing Archon.  Almost every single game played in this format is going to be decided by attacking with creatures.  Blazing Archon is extremely hard to remove as well, since the number of creatures that can kill a 5/6 Flying creature are quite few.  Now, the reason I mention this in the same breath as card advantage is that you can't get to 9 easily if you play your game wrong.  If you count the number of land required to be played and the number of cards drawn, you will realize that if you want to be able to make a 9-casting cost token on turn 9, you're going to have to not play anything on a few previous turns.  Most people have decided that the most effective strategy is to choose to draw first (assuming you win the opening die roll) and not make any creatures on your first or second turns.  This will leave you a bit behind if your opponent decides to play off the bat, but hopefully your long game will be able to overpower them.  Defense is often quickly established in Momir Magic.  There's a lot of great offensive creatures, but there's also a lot of great defensive ones. 


Luck of the draw resolves many games, but there are important things to remember.  Not all casting costs are created equal.  Just because you have access to specific amount of mana, that doesn't mean you should be making a creature of that cost.  This is especially true of the higher casting costs.  While there's not much way of predicting what you'll get in the 3-6 range, once you go above that, there's some things that you can know ahead of time.  Case in point – I was playing a game of Momir Magic and I happened to get a lot of cheap flying creatures.  My opponent had managed to get Sasaya out (very strong in Momir Magic for obvious reasons) and was able to quickly ramp up his mana.  However, he kept picking 11 for his number.  11 has a couple great creatures (Darksteel Colossus and Hypnox – even though you don't get the effect of the latter), and one pretty bad one (Mycosynth Golem).  Those are the only three creatures that he could hope to pull.  Now, while the offensive power of the first two cannot be denied, his situation was one where he needed an answer.  You can only use the Momir Vig avatar once per turn after all.  So even though 11 has a very high probability chance of pulling him a flier (33% is about as high as it gets until you get to 16 which has a 100% chance) the one flier he could have gotten wouldn't very well stop a swarm.  Instead, he should have been trying to pull something a bit more far-reaching in its defensive capabilities.  The above-mentioned Blazing Archon would be nice.  Or, failing that, a Hoverguard Sweeper (especially deadly in a token-based format) or a Bloodfire Colossus.  Either of those could have easily dispatched most of my creatures.  On his last turn before I was able to kill him, he activated Momir Vig for 13.  Now, that sounds great until you remember that there aren't any 13-cost creatures in Magic!  The only two such numbers below 16 are 13 and 14.  That's a good thing to remember. 


Another good thing to remember is that there are a number of creatures which can lose you the game very quickly.  The most obvious one is the dreaded Phage the Untouchable.  I've only gotten hit by this once, but it sure ends the game in a hurry.  Since the token didn't come into play from your hand, you lose right away (unless you've managed to get a Platinum Angel token – another favorite of mine).  Possibly worse than Phage – if such a thing is possible – is Leveler.  For five mana, you suddenly lose your entire deck.  Even if you did have a Platinum Angel, you would quickly find yourself without any more cards to discard to make more creatures, giving your opponent the leisure to destroy you in time.  Also at five mana is one that I haven't yet seen anyone pull – Sky Swallower.  Although it's a huge body that could end the game in 4 swings, the amount that it sets you back is probably going to be too much.  The Simic did a good job of improving on this design.  Creatures that make you sacrifice creatures during your upkeep can hurt, but are a mixed blessing.  Although you have to upkeep them with creatures, that is something which you are virutally guaranteed never to run out of.  So if you get that Wayward Angel (keeping in mind that you'll have Threshold in a hurry in Momir Magic), you may want to consider beating down with it for a while before you let it kill itself.  You never know when you might pull a Symbiotic Wurm of Verdant Force that will keep it fed for a long time. 


Some creatures as vastly decreased in power in this format.  Creatures that get their power or toughness from the number of something in play will probably not work too well.  Nightmare looks pretty wimpy when you're playing a 5-color deck.  Broodstar relies on you having pulled an artifact creature before it (hopefully a Pentavus).  Cognivore, Mortivore,  Magnivore and Cantivore all die as soon as they come into play without the intervention of an Oathsworn Giant or something.  This is made up for with the incredible power boost that some other creatures get.  Rounding out the 'vore cycle is Terravore.  Now, since every card in every player's graveyard is a land, this can be absolutely huge.  In a group game, Terravores can finish off opponents single-handedly.  Also of particular note is a creature that I always wanted to find a use for in normal Magic but never did – Desecration Elemental.  Although the survivability of this thing is very small in a format where people are casting spells, that's something that simply doesn't happen in Momir Magic.  An 8/8 Fear on turn 4 probably means you just won the game.  Unless your opponent can hold it off with assorted black and artifact creatures until they are able to get something bigger, they'll be dead in three hits. 


Momir Magic is all at once the most random and most equal format that exists.  Everyone has an even chance of pulling a Terravore or a Desecration Elemental.  The lowliest player can always pull a Blazing Archon and find their opponent unable to destroy it.  The Momir Vig avatar itself is very affordable – usually 2 tix or so in the marketplace of Magic Online, and everyone's got basic lands.  Talk has already started surfacing about the possibility of Momir Magic events.  Not just player-run events – though I'm sure those will happen as well – but real Premiere Events that utilize this very cool format.  If you've ever wanted to play the ultimate mix of competitive and casual Magic, that will likely be it.  I have no doubt that a Momir Magic Premiere Event would be one of the highest-attended events in the history of Magic Online.  Thousands of Momir Vig avatars have been handed out and anyone who wants one can get one.  I fully expect that this format is going to become a permanent part of Magic Online.  After all – you can't play with it in paper Magic!


Next on the menu today, I mentioned that I'd go over some things regarding Mental Magic.  I did a piece on Mental Magic a few months back and it's still my favorite casual Magic format (sorry, Momir).  Dissension brings us some new options for the Mental Magic field, and I think it's a good idea to remind people of this very cool format.  We have three new guild mechanics.  Two of them are rather dull in terms of Mental Magic.  Both Graft and Hellbent are fairly straight forward.  It's fairly unlikely that you'll want to use either, but there are definitely situations where they might come in handy.  For instance, if you have no cards in hand and you draw a card that costs 3R, remember that you can use it as a Cackling Flames for 5 damage, rather than something like a Lightning Blast for 4 or a Blaze for 3.  Graft is probably less useful as most of the best graft creatures are multicolored blue/green cards.  There's not a whole lot of blue/green out there, so unless you're using Dissension or Apocalypse as your card pool, you probably won't get much use out of it.  Howeve, the third mechanic is destined to become extremely useful in Mental Magic.  Forecast works a lot like Buyback in Mental Magic.  You canForecast any card in your hand that has an identical cost to a Forecast card.  From that point on, that card is considered to have bene played.  It means you won't be able to cast it as that card or Forecast again as the same thing, but it still means you get an extra use out of a card.  For instance, you could use an Oathsworn Giant to forecast as a Paladin of Prahv.  Then you could play it face-down as a morph creature and morph it into an Exalted Angel!  That's a lot of lifegain and power from a single card.  Some Forecast abilities will be more useful than others.  You're not likely to be using Writ of Passage much, but you never know what 2 points of unblockable damage is going to come in handy before you use your card as a Peek or something. 


The second addition to Mental Magic besides the mechanics is probably the more sneaky and powerful one.  I'm talking about the Eidolons.  In Mental Magic, you can call any card with the same cost as an Eidolon an Eidolon when you cast a multicolored spell.  This means that if you've just cast (for instance) a Cackling Flames, you can cast any multicolored spell and say 'thats a Sandstorm Eidolon' to bring it back to your hand.  You can only use this trick once per color of Eidiolon, but it's a great way to get some cards back to your hand. 


The last thing I want to talk about this week is the change to the Tribal Wars format.  For those who didn't see the announcements (first in the new Banned & Restricted list and secondly in Aaron Forsythe's Latest Developments column), Tribal Wars is being altered to only allow Standard-legal decks.  That means that a huge majority of the cards and tribes which used to populate the format are now not legal.  At first I took this as devastating news.  I complained about it on Wizards' Magic Online boards along with many others.  Forsythe announced that they had taken this outcry into consideration and were altering the decision to include the creation of the new 'Classic Tribal' format.  Classic Tribal will be exactly the same as the old Tribal Wars format.  That's great news for those of us who liked things they way they were.  The new format still provides an interesting challenge, though.  It's obvious that the Standard Tribal format will be very much associated with the tournament scene rather than the casual one.  After all, most casual players will stick to their old Classic Tribal decks and leave the new format to those who want to win big prizes with it.  As I see it, there's a problem with the way this is going to play out, however.  The current standard environment makes one nearly-tribal deck viable.  I'm talking, of course, about the Ghost Dad deck which became very popular recently.  This deck had quite a bit of success in the Standard format.  With a few minor changes, it becomes legal for Standard Tribal.  Now, can any of the other tribes stand up to the spirits?  It seems unlikely.  Right now, two tribes have more members than anyone else, by a huge margin.  First is the Spirits.  Because of Kamigawa block, a huge portion of the available creatures are spirits.  Second is Humans.  Ever since humans arrived with Mirrodin, they've been the fastest growing tribe apart from Spirits.  No other tribe can really keep up with either of these in terms of card choice.  The Akki goblins of Kamigawa and the few goblins that inhabit Ravnica simply can't stand up next to an entire block based on one single creature type.  This format becomes legal on June 22nd.  I fear that it's going to give Tribal Wars a bad name because it will be a breeding ground for degenerate decks and there will be very little that is “casual” about it.  Despite this, I urge everyone out there to give the new Standard Tribal format a fair shake.  Don't dismiss it as being entirely the province of Spikes.  Not yet, at least.


That wraps it up for this week.  I'm going to go have a happy birthday weekend.  I'll see you all next week.  Now go get a Momir Vig avatar!


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