The Momir Basic Primer

When Magic Online was officially released, I bought the software. I have never bought or traded for any cards online until very recently, but my account was still valuable just to be able to watch replays of premier events. Years later, I have finally purchased my first card, and it was the bargain of a lifetime. For only 2 tickets, I now have the Momir Vig avatar, which (along with basic lands) completes the most competitive deck in one very entertaining format: Momir Basic.

When Magic Online was officially released, I bought the software. I have never bought or traded for any cards online until very recently, but my account was still valuable just to be able to watch replays of premier events. Years later, I have finally purchased my first card, and it was the bargain of a lifetime. For only 2 tickets, I now have the Momir Vig avatar, which (along with basic lands) completes the most competitive deck in one very entertaining format: Momir Basic.

What is Momir Basic?
For those unfamiliar with Vanguard magic, the concept is that you pick one avatar card that gives you some additional ability, and then build your deck with that ability in mind. The Momir Vig avatar allows you to start with 24 life, and grants the following ability:

X, Discard a card: Put a token into play as a copy of a random creature card with converted mana cost X. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery and only once each turn.

So in the Momir Basic format each player uses the Momir Vig avatar, and a deck of 60 basic lands. That’s all! While the format may seem trivial or impractically random, there is a surprising depth to the strategy involved.

But just to whet your appetite a little, here are the top 5 reasons to play Momir Basic:

5. It’s a great combination of Constructed and Limited.
4. Your cards will never rotate out of the format.
3. Every game is different.
2. It’s virtually free.
1. You never get mana hosed.

Important Rules Info
Regardless of whether you are playing Standard, Extended, or Classic Vanguard, the random creature you get is picked from the entire Online Classic card pool. This even includes premium cards from sets that have not been released online, such as Preacher from The Dark, or Serra Avatar from Urza’s Saga.

A very important thing to consider is that the avatar produces token copies of the cards, not actual cards. This fact has one very important implication: any time a token leave the in-play zone, it is gone for good. Bounce is as good as removal. Phasing creatures never come back. Creatures trigger goes-to-graveyard effect when they die, but they do not stay in the graveyard, so reanimation is a bust (sorry Reya). Haunt and Soulshift trigger, but do not actually work. The tokens do have the original card’s converted mana cost though, when that matters.

Remember that you can only use this avatar once per turn. I was pretty excited the first time I turned up Arcanis, until I realized that the extra cards I drew each turn were pretty useless, since I could still only generate one creature every turn.

Basic Strategy
While you can start pumping out creatures on your very first turn, that is not necessarily the wisest strategy. Using this plan, you would run out of cards after making a six-mana man playing first, or seven playing second. While you can get some extremely useful creatures at six and seven mana, the most effective creature generation comes at the nine-mana level. This means that playing first, you would need to skip making a creature for three turns, and the second player would need to skip two creature drops in order to reach nine mana without a stall. Typically, players will skip their initial drops. This play is most logical, since if you are going to ignore creatures of a certain cost, you might as well ignore the smallest of the creatures. After all, they will have weaker stats and abilities in general. I prefer a slightly different strategy, though. When drawing first, I play a two-drop, and then skip the three-drop.

The benefits of playing a 2-drop are threefold. First, you will usually get a chance to attack your opponent once or twice, if they are not using the same strategy. Since games can frequently come down to races, four extra points of damage could make all the difference. Second, there are some very good utility creatures at two mana. Both two- and three-drops usually get outclassed very quickly as the game progresses, so getting in a couple of early damage and potentially getting a good creature (e.g. Slith Firewalker) early can be a small advantage. Finally, there are a substantial number of mana accelerators at two mana. Mana acceleration is obviously very strong in a format whose limiting factor is your number of lands in play.

It is easy to see that your best value comes at eleven mana, where 2/3 of the time you will get a giant monster (choices are only Darksteel Colossus, Hypnox, and Mycosynth Golem). To reach this level, however, you would need to sacrifice another two earlier creature drops. Furthermore, ten-mana creatures are generally a waste of time, since you have a 1/6 chance of getting a vanilla 3/3 and another 1/6 chance of getting Broodstar, the most expensive 0/0 ever. So it is not worth skipping any additional creature drops in order to power out ten- or eleven-mana creatures. The only time you would want to continue to play land after nine mana would be if you encountered card drawing earlier in the game. In that case, by all means, make your 11th land and start pumping out Colossi.

A Momir basic manabase must consist of exactly 60 basic lands. Any more than 60 would be an unfair advantage in where cases where library size matters, such as with an Arc-Slogger. A naive manabase might consist of either 12 of each basic land, or 60 or all the same basic land. Neither is ideal. While creatures have activation costs and upkeeps of all different colors, mana cannot usually be spent early using any abilities; you are too busy summoning larger monsters. Later in the game, though, creature abilities get much more powerful. At the seven-mana-plus level, practically no creatures use Blue or White mana. A few use Green, but the most powerful abilities are Red and Black. Also, one of the most powerful nine-mana spells – Kuro, Pitlord – requires a BBBB upkeep. Clearly, a manabase should consist of primarily Swamps and Mountains. In the event that you get an early creature with an off-color activated ability, though, you will want access to every color of mana. Without further ado, the decklist that you have all been waiting for:

20 Mountain
20 Swamp
8 Forest
6 Island
6 Plains

I will usually play out Mountains and Swamps alternately and only play a different type of land when needed. While I will occasionally lose a creature due to not being able to pay its upkeep, I am also in much better shape against landwalkers and the dreaded Sundering Titan.

Playing the Odds
While a significant percentage of the time games will be decided by one player out-randoming the other, many games will come down to large creature stalls. In situations like these, generating another nine-mana creature might not be your best bet. You need to know what creatures are available at each mana level, and choose how much to spend based on what you really need. For example, if you need direct damage, you will never get what you are looking for at nine mana. At eight mana, though, you have almost a 10% chance of success, with Bosh and Bloodfire Colossus being your outs. The same is true of creature removal. At nine mana, you have just Kuro, but at eight mana there are at least seven potential creature answers. That’s more than a 25% chance of getting what you need! Similar situations frequently arise, and knowing which number to choose can make or break a game. Need a flier? Choose nine. A creature with haste? Nine again. But if your opponent already has Spirit of the Night in play, you’re better off choosing eight if you want a hasted flier.

There will also be times when you need to play the long odds, because only one specific creature will save you. Usually that creature is Blazing Archon. However, it may also be Netherborn Phalanx, Ancestor’s Chosen, or Platinum Angel. Keep your options open. To reiterate, nine is most often the correct choice, but there are circumstances when you will want to choose a lower number.

Play or Draw?
When you play first, you reach the higher mana counts a turn quicker, but when you draw first you get to play the first creature. Which is better? This question is certainly open to debate, but I prefer to play first. Even though your opponent will get the first creature, you will be able to match with a larger creature on turn 4 most of the time. The only time the drawing player has a real advantage is when they get a mana producer or card drawer on turn 2, letting them surge ahead of you in development.

Various Tips and Tricks
1. Play your creatures before attacking, since you may get a creature with a combat-helping ability, or a creature with haste.

2. If you already have a legend, avoid making more creatures with that mana cost if possible. You do not want to waste two turns when both of your Spirits of the Night go to the graveyard.

3. Conversely, remember that you can remove your opponents’ legends by playing copies of them.

4. The first time your opponent uses their avatar, right click on the ability, and choose to permanently auto yield to Momir Vig. It will save you a few clicks throughout the game.

Best and Worst Creatures at Seven-Mana-Plus
At six mana and less, there are hundreds of creatures you might search up, so playing the odds is not terribly practical. At the higher mana counts, though, the numbers are much more manageable. Feel free to discuss what you feel the best and worst creatures are in the forums.

7 mana: 95 creatures

Ancient Ooze
Angel of Despair
Platinum Angel
Serra Avatar
Shauku, Endbringer

Lunar Avenger (vanilla 2/2)
Phage the Untouchable (you lose)
Solarion (0/0)
Sutured Ghoul (0/0)

8 mana: 42 creatures

Akroma, Angel of Wrath
Sundering Titan
Vampiric Dragon

Cognivore (0/0)
Scornful Egotist (1/1)

9 mana: 22 creatures

Blazing Archon
Bringer of the Red Dawn
Kuro, Pitlord

Worst (though not useless):
Chromescale Drake
Suncrusher (vanilla 3/3)

All 10+ Mana Creatures:

Dragon Tyrant
Krosan Cloudscraper
Myojin of Infinite Rage
Myojin of Seeing Winds

Darksteel Colossus
Mycosynth Golem

Iname as One

Autochthon Wurm


Other Formats
Of courses there are other way to play with the Momir avatar besides Momir Basic. Here are a few ways to consider:

1. Momir Spells. This is normal Vanguard play, where you can use spells in addition to non-basic lands. Mana accelerators and bounce are the keys to this format, with Mark of Eviction being particularly brutal.

2. Real Life Momir. Still not convinced to get a Magic Online account? You can play Momir basic with real cards, too. Just create stacks of creature at each mana cost and you’re on your way. You may not have every creature to choose from, but if you have 100 or more creatures in each stack, the game will be sufficiently random.

3. Momir Draco. Each player fills their deck with no lands or spells that can be played without mana. Battle to the death with zero mana critters. Hint: play first.

To those with internet access, Momir Basic is the most accessible of all possible formats, putting even Pauper Magic to shame. The randomness of the format puts players on a somewhat even footing, but there are still plenty of opportunities to earn your share of wins. No two games are the same. You have practically everything you need, so get online, get your avatar, and I’ll see you in the casual room!

Jeff Till