The Kitchen Table #265 – Finding Cho-Mannos

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Thursday, December 25th – I like theory as much as the next person. I think there’s a lot of important theory, especially in casual land. Where most players and writers investigate the theory of duels and metagames and sideboarding and tournaments, very few explore the theory of multiplayer. That’s a shame, because casual and multiplayer is more complex than duels so, frankly, it needs even more theorists.

Hello my friends, and welcome back to another article by yours truly. This is the column truly dedicated to the casual world of big creatures, janky combos, and all out fun. Welcome to the weenie roast.

I like theory as much as the next person. I think there’s a lot of important theory, especially in casual land. Where most players and writers investigate the theory of duels and metagames and sideboarding and tournaments, very few explore the theory of multiplayer. That’s a shame, because casual and multiplayer is more complex than duels so, frankly, it needs even more theorists.

A while ago, (article number 213) I wrote an article about Silklash Spiders. To me, the Silklash Spider is an efficient and perfect card, and I went questing for other cards that provided a similar benefit. It was a fun article to write.

Today I want to do that same process, but for a different card with a different play strategy.

Say hello to Cho-Manno, Revolutionary

What’s Cho-Manno With You?

I used Cho-Manno as a threshold for my gigantic deck (Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy). Basically, any card that was as good as, or about as good as, a Cho-Manno made the cut. Let’s take a look at him.

Cho-Manno prevents all damage that is dealt to him. This means a lot of things. First of all, he doesn’t take damage when blocking, so he is good for blocking a lot. Cho-Manno can block virtually any ground creature and live, because he doesn’t take any damage. (There are a handful of exceptions, such as Thicket Basilisk).

This is great, because he will stop any attacker that does not have an evasion ability, but it is important to note that Cho-Manno has two holes. First, as mentioned before, he doesn’t stop evasive creatures. He doesn’t fly, like Commander Eesha, nor does he have reach like Silklash Spider. This is not a guy who will solve all of your blocking needs. He won’t stop pro White creatures, feared creatures, nor those with shadow and horsemanship.

Cho-Manno is also not good as stopping either trampling creatures, or those with the pseudo-trampling (like Thorn Elemental or Pride of Lions) that were the flavor of the day a few years back. Cho-Manno just absorbs two damage from Silvos, and you are taking six.

Cho-Manno is no Commander Eesha. Eesha can block flyers, and can swing through defenses for two a turn. Cho-Manno isn’t going to win you the game. However, because of his ability, he can survive some removal that other creatures might find bothersome. He survives Earthquakes, Pestilences, and Wave of Reckoning. All damage-based removal is neutered against him.

What I tried to do was to find cards that were very similar to Cho-Manno and rate them. Those that scored similarly got added to my deck, and those that didn’t got axed.

Let’s take a look at my ratings, by scoring Cho-Manno right now:

Defense — 3. He’s no Silklash and a lot of things get through, but he’s strong in defense, no question.
Ability — 3. If a creature has extra abilities, they chart here. Cho-Manno can survive damage-based removal and can’t be killed by most burn spells. Survive-ability is always a good thing.
Tilt — 3. Cho-Manno is strong and slides under the radar. No one fears him, but he halts an opposing creature with ease.

Therefore, Cho-Manno notches 9 points, out of a possible 15. What I am looking for are those creatures that are Cho-Mannos and score similarly.

I use defense for a card’s ability to block incoming attackers, using Cho-Manno as a baseline. I use tilt for things like casting cost, and other values.

Now, I’m staying away from the true houses of multiplayer. Eesha, for example, would score a 14 on that scale (5, 4, 5), but Eesha far outclasses Cho-Manno. I am not looking for Eeshas, because there’s aren’t any others. I am looking for Cho-Mannos. Let’s take a look.

Cho-Manno, Cho Problems

Spirit Mirror

Defense —2. The Spirit Mirror has almost the defensive abilities of Cho-Manno, with one weakness — the token creature made by it cannot block numerous times before your upkeep. If you attacked, and it dies, then it cannot block other attackers in future rounds until it gets back to your turn.
Ability — 4. The token can come back after any creature removal you can think of. No one cares enough about the Mirror to Disenchant it. Plus, it can be used to kill off the changeling creatures.
Tilt — 3. It’s very solid, and no one wants to waste their enchantment removal on a vanilla Grizzly Bear. It has a higher survivability but note that it can easily get caught up in things such as Tranquility effects like Multani’s Decree and Cleansing Meditation.

Total Score — 9. I’d put it in the same level as Cho-Manno, no better and no worse.

Trap Runner

Defense — 4. Simply put, if you can target it, you can block it with a Trap Runner. Trap Runner can even block creatures that elude all blockers, like landwalkers. Trap Runner stops flyers, fear, horsemanship, and shadow. It does not stop creature with shroud, protection and it’s even worse against trample than Cho-Manno. All trample damage comer through, instead of just some. It sucks against Silvos, even more. Plus, it is a tap ability, so you can use it just once per attack, and like Spirit Mirror, you could get attacked by numerous people before you untap. Still, for what it does, the Trap Runner is really strong.
Ability — 2. Trap Runner doesn’t survive any removal or have any extra abilities. That would normally get a lowered score, but what Trap Runner can do, and this is very useful, is save another player from an attacker. In multiplayer games where you have a partner, you can help save your partner from being attacked. You can also play politics with it and try to curry favor. Therefore, Trap Runner can do some things Cho-Manno cannot.
Tilt — 4. With the manaless tap ability, the ability to save friends, and the ability stop a lot more creatures than Cho-Manno this seems like a nice package, plus it has an extra toughness to boot and can’t be bounced by Karakas.

Total Score — 10. This is a hair stronger than Cho-Manno and worth playing.

Avenger en-Dal

Defense — 4. A far as tap abilities go, the consequences could not be rougher for your opponent. Removing an attacking creature from the game is very tough. No more Darksteel and no more Akroma the Elder. It retains the tap disadvantage that it can be only used once per untap.
Ability — 2. It’s just a 1/1 and dies to everything from Dry Spell and Tremor on up. It has the same advantage of Trap Runner, however, in that it can be used to help allies and friends.
Tilt — 2. Cho-Manno just sends attackers elsewhere, but this removes them from the game. However, the combination of a thin body, discard in the cost, mana in the cost, and tap ability means it does not score as well here as it might have otherwise.

Total Score — 8. Avenger en-Dal is really good and I’m happy to advise players to run him. The life gain opponents get is negligible and often hurts them. Many times I’ve seen players hit the one with the biggest life, so it’s not as good as you think. RFG’ing the attacker is really, really strong, however.

Spurnmage Advocate

Defense — 4. Destroying an attacking creature is not as good as RFG’ing it, but it still works the same in most cases. It will be feared almost as much. I’ll hit it in the tilt section for not RFG’ing though.
Ability – 2. It’s right on the curve for a 1/1. Note that, although you cannot return cards from a partner’s graveyard, you can still play politics. I can double Regrowth Jeff and kill Jay’s Akroma.
Tilt — 2. Although it does not RFG, just destroys, its cost is not nearly as bad. There is almost always something innocuous in someone’s graveyard. Note that it does not require you to return cards from the graveyard of the creature targeted controller. Feel free to Regrowth Jay’s two lands to take out Akroma.

Total Score — 8. It rocks a worse ability than Avenger but better cost to use with no mana activation and cheaper casting cost. Therefore, Spurnmage Advocate is a creature I support and advise people run in their decks.

Beloved Chaplain

Defense — 3. Same as Cho-Manno except it just sucks up one damage from tramplers instead of two, and doesn’t deal as much damage to attackers in combat.
Ability — 2. Although it won’t survive as much removal as Cho-Manno, it is immune to things like Nekrataal and Ghitu Slinger. Our Chaplain can also swing through defenses for one damage, which is not a lot, but it’s something.
Tilt 3 — It doesn’t scare people, it’s not a threat of any size, and it just sits there. Not bad.

Total Score — 8. Not as good as Cho-Manno and certainly not as good as the other Protection from Creatures critter in Commander Eesha, but still strong.

Indomitable Ancients

Defense — 4. It still can’t block all of those evasive creatures, but it can stop most big tramplers on the ground. Silvos has got nothing on this!
Ability — 3. Let’s face it, it is not as immune to stuff as Cho-Manno, but it’s close. You aren’t going to find too many burn effects that are going to kill off this guy. There are a few, but remember that the Ancients also do not suffer from the legendary weaknesses, which are also minor, so they wash as far as I am concerned.
Tilt – 3. This card as awesome. Fear Doran out when someone has an Ancients. It makes a great choice for equipment. Add Sword of Kaldra to this! I love me some Ancients.

Total Score — 10. I rate Ancients a bit better than Cho-Manno (and in fact, I actually do).

Spike Weaver

Defense — 3. Look, it only works thrice, but it can stop all attackers, not just one. It stops flyers, feared guys and even creatures that say they can’t be blocked. You preventify all of the damage. You’ll probably not want to use this on the small stuff, because it only works the three times, and some things might leak through as a result.
Ability — 2. You can hop counters if it is about to die, and that’s nice. You can use it multiple times if needed, and that’s nice. You can save an ally, and that’s nice. However, it doesn’t have any additional abilities of major significance. I mean, hopping a counter is good and all, but it’s not something worthwhile.
Tilt — 2. Even though it really works well when it works, the failure of it to be permanent drops it in my eyes. Please note, it may work to send opponents elsewhere (“Well, this guy will just fog, so let me attack elsewhere.). On the other hand, some players, used to it, will just attack into it to get it off the table. Just like good players push into the Pernicious Deed to get it to trigger.

Total Score — 7 by itself, but with cards like Volrath’s Stronghold, you can turn its temporary nature into semi-permanent and make a strong run at winning the game as a result.


Defense — 4. Works like an Avenger en-Dal, except it stops everything but doesn’t kill anything. The normal tap ability disadvantages apply.
Ability — 2. Fogging is good, but again, no killing. It is very vulnerable, but it can be used to save the bacon of others at the table.
Tilt — 2. I like this combination of Avenger en-Dal and Spike Weaver. It doesn’t kill the creature, but it can stop an entire horde. However, the mana activation and loss of a card drop it in my eyes.

Total Score — 8. Same value as Avenger en-Dal but used for different things. I like it and it usually flies under the radar, so you can get some value from it.

Angus Mackenzie

Defense — 4. Has the same power as Dawnstrider. It can tap to Fog, and that is really powerful.
Ability — 2. It’s a little bit bigger than a 1/1 and again can be used to save others. In these two sections, I rate it as similar to Dawnbringer.
Tilt — 3. The only disadvantage here in Angus’s casting cost and Legendary status, and he does not fly under the radar like some other options. Plus you have to tap three mana to activate him, and all of that keeps him from the highest rated creature today. However, he absolutely shines because he can be used over and over again without forcing you to discard a card. You’ll note that SCG is out of stock because his is that cool (I assume). He’s also now a cleric, in case you have a need for a nice defensive cleric (because there aren’t enough of those running around).

(Okay, rant time. How many times in the English language do you use these three words together: “there are not.” You can use contractions here in two ways: there’re not is one, and there aren’t is the other. What I’d love to see is a way to contract all three: there’re’t).

Total Score — 9. He is a big ol’ fan of Bant decks. With a strong reusable Fog ability, Angus is a valuable tool in a lot of decks, and he is on the same level as Cho-Manno himself.

Vhati il-Dal

Defense — 4. He’s basically a Trap Runner that allows one point through, which can be bad in many cases and cannot be used in perpetuity. But, if he can target it, he reduces its power to one. What he can do is block the same creatures Cho-Manno blocks, and then reduces his power to one. That means he can stop Silvos where Cho-Manno and Trap Runner cannot. He is also the first creature that does not Fog on our list to be able to stop Darksteel Colossus. However, it is still a tap ability, and as such, drops him a point.
Ability — 5. Vhati is very good. He’s a 3/3 four 4 mana, so he has some size. He can kill creatures as well by dropping their defense and allowing you to block them with one of your creatures (or Vhati himself). The result is a very strong card.
Tilt — 3. One of the best tap abilities ever printed, but again, just a tap ability. Plus, Vhati is so strong that he often does not go under the radar like other creatures.

Total Score — 12. I am not sure if Vhati is still a Cho-Manno at this point, he may simply be much, much better and be on the next level up. Obviously, my opinion of Vhati is really high. Frankly, I might be able to do an article entitled Finding Vhatis. I love him.

Fog Bank

Defense — 4. With the ability to block flyers added, Fog Bank can block more and survive than Cho-Manno. It still has problems with trample, obviously.

Ability — 1. It does not have the survivability that Cho-Manno and several others have. Easy to kill.
Tilt 3 — With a good casting cost, and in a color that can use the help, the Fog Bank is really strong, but unlike Cho-Manno, people are happy to swing into it, because it has no power. A player won’t attack you with two Grizzly bears if you have Cho-Manno out because you will kill one and take two damage. They are happy to attack into a Fog Bank because the blocked creature suffers no ill effects.

Total Score — 8. Fog Bank is the best of the next group of creatures I am reviewing, and it is really good for the color, but poor when compared to the true giants of the defensive field. Good enough to play? Absolutely, no question. Drop and hide behind it. Just don’t rely on it.

Uncle Istvan

Defense — 3. It’s about as good as Cho-Manno on defense but it sucks up one more damage from tramplers at the cost of one power. Overall, on defense, I’d prefer Uncle Istvan.
Ability — 1. Look, preventing damage from creatures is keen and all, but see Fog Bank above for why I don’t rate this card too highly in this category.
Tilt — 2. The casting cost is obnoxious.

Total Score — 6. It’s not as good as Fog Bank because it doesn’t fly, the casting cost is awkward, and the card doesn’t work well as a result. Let’s be honest, however. This card is not as bad as it seems.

Wall of Vapor, Wall of Shadows

Defense — 2. Almost as good as Cho-Manno but they absorb one less damage from tramplers, and as mentioned above, having no power sort of asks people to attack into you sometimes.
Ability — 1. Very, very fragile.
Tilt — 1. They cost too much.

Total Score — 4. They don’t completely suck, but there are much better options in other colors. Much better.

Champion Lancer

Defense — 3. Just as good as Cho-Manno on defense, but with a bigger attack and defense it can absorb one more on attack from tramplers and keep away x/3 creatures .
Ability — 2. Pretty good actually, compared to what you might think. Unlike the above creatures, it prevents damage from all creatures, so it stops Ghitu Slinger and Jiwari and Crater Hellion type effects.
Tilt — 3. Hey look, this ain’t bad at all, and with a 3/3 body, it’s pertinent to the red zone. High casting cost drops it down, however.

Total Score — 8. It’s my job to try and unearth these good cards for you from other sets, so here is my treat for the day.

Silklash Spider

Defense — 5. Can block flyers and most ground creatures of size up to and above its casting cost. Stops Akroma the White cold.
Ability — 4. Hurricaning the skies is quite nice, and has strong abusability. Very hard to kill with burn.

Tilt — 4. Although an amazing card, Silklash Spider is being judged on a different scale here than on its own from the previous article. Still very good though.

Total Score — 13. Not a Cho-Manno because it scores better (similar to Eesha) but I just wanted to toss it out here for fun. Note that on its own scale, Silklash is a 15. (It looks for a few different things there.).

Commander Eesha

Defense — 5. Stop anything and everything it can block, and since it flies, that is a lot. Although it has the same trampling issues Cho-Manno has, with a higher defense, it can absorb more damage.
Ability — 4. Swings through creatures for two a turn, can stay alive through creature based removal, but dies to burn.
Tilt — 5. Absolutely amazing, a house, an essential, and I’d play one if I had to reduce Abe’s deck of happiness and Joy to 100 cards.

Total Score — 14. Again, not a Cho-Manno, but since I’ve been talking about her, I thought I’d show you more information about how I rated her.

Other examples of cards that are not Cho-Mannos but would rate highly here include Visara, Avatar of Woe etc.

And with that, I bring this article to a close. I hope that you enjoyed another trek through card evaluations with an eye towards multiplayer and casual. Thanks for tour time!

Until later…

Abe Sargent