Constructing Time Spiral

Posted in Feature on April 18, 2007

By Frank Karsten

Hey-o! Today I will feature the extremely fun Momir Basic format again and cover the online Time Spiral Block Constructed results, as Pro Tour–Yokohama—which uses that very same format—is drawing close.

Momir Basic

With two Premier Events every day, Momir Basic is a popular format that can only be played on Magic Online. You play a Momir Basic game with a deck consisting of 60 basic lands and 1 Momir Vig avatar, aiming to win solely with the random creatures provided by the avatar's ability.

Momir Vig, Vanguard Avatar

What makes the format tick? Momir enthusiast Josh C. explains and offers his insights.

OnlineTech: Can you tell me what makes Momir Basic so exiting? Why should everyone give it a try?

Josh C.: The great thing about Momir in general is how inexpensive it is. There are a lot of decks that, if they're to be competitive, have to have a considerable amount of money sunk into them. Such is not the case with Momir. I think the last price check put the avatar at 8 tix. From there it's a simple matter of furnishing basic lands. The Vanguard booster each account comes with enough lands to make a deck, I believe. So Momir Basic is perfect if you are brand new to the online game. It's a fun format, as well. People with identical setups can have completely different games. The random factor is awesome.

OnlineTech: What is the preferred land configuration you use in your decklist?

Thriss, Nantuko Primus
Josh C.: You want a balance between the five colors, since you would like to use the activated ability of any creature you get, although some colors offer more and better activated abilities on creatures. My personal deck consists of 14 Mountain, 13 Swamp, 10 Plains, 12 Islands, and 11 Forests. I've found that in the overall scheme, white doesn't get a lot of useful activated abilities. Red is very important for guys like Crimson Hellkite and Vampiric Dragon, and black works with Sanguine Praetor, a huge game-turner. Blue plays in a decent bit with guys like Memnarch, Ethereal Husher, and the four-cost Masters. Green I keep in because Thriss, Nantuko Primus and Sisters of Stone Death are big game-turners as well.

OnlineTech: What strategy do you tend to use? When do you start making guys and how does that depend on what your opponent does?

Josh C.: In the past I used to take an aggro approach, making fast drops as quickly as possible. But now I've taken to going second whenever possible, and skipping the one-drop. I've found that most games I play go longer, and eight is a real powerhouse cost. So, on the draw, I start making guys on turn two, then make a guy every turn all the way up to eight, and then just keep making eight-drops.

OnlineTech: Did Planar Chaos affect the format in any way? And do you have an updated version of your famous drop chart (which includes the number of available creatures and the stars for each cost) for Planar Chaos?

Josh C.: Planar Chaos did not change as much overall as one might hope. Coming into the format this "late," the set adds a lot of creatures to the lower and more populated costs, and only a handful into the higher/more consistent slot. The best Planar Chaos creatures for Momir Basic are Magus of the Bazaar, Magus of the Coffers, Jedit Ojanen of Efrava, and Numot, the Devastator. As for the chart, that is still a pet project of mine. These are the creature categories I use for my percentage charts:

Flubber: A creature that either bounces the turn it comes into play, or at a set, unchoosable time. Includes "gating" creatures, phasers, and upkeep bouncers.
Mana/Hand Boost: Creatures that either produce mana (Birds of Paradise), fetch lands (Wood Elves), or increase your hand (Merchant of Secrets). All work to the same basic effect.
Dies when played: Any creatures that die upon entering play. Generally, 0-toughness creatures. Most all of these can live if a toughness booster is in play.
Huge Resource Loss: Creatures that, upon entering play, represent either an instant loss or a major setback in resources that almost definitely result in a loss. For example, Leveler.
Creature Removal: All creature-related non-damage removal, including effects such as destroy effects, bounce, and "return to top of library" effects. Also includes limited removal such as "destroy target creature with flying" and the venom/basilisk ability. Does not include effects that only destroy artifacts.

Converted Mana cost Number of creatures Flubber Mana or hand boost Die upon arrival Huge resource loss Creature removal Stars Kerplunks
0 3 0.00% 0.00% 33.00% 0.00% 0.00% Ornithopter  
1 226 2.20% 5.30% 0.90% 0.00% 2.20% Weathered Wayfarer, Wall of Hope, Taunting Elf, Soul Warden, Sakura-Tribe Scout, Birds of Paradise, Isamaru, Hound of Konda, Groundskeeper,  
2 462 1.50% 7.40% 0.60% 0.20% 1.10% Azorius Guildmage, Broodhatch Nantuko, Kiku, Night's Flower, Shinen of Life's Roar, Magus of the Bazaar Tempting Wurm
3 606 1.70% 6.30% 2.00% 0.00% 4.30% Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Terravore, Dogged Hunter, Hallowed Healer, Krosan Restorer, Witch Hunter  
4 630 1.90% 3.30% 2.50% 0.50% 4.90% Nightscape Master, Thornscape Master, Sunscape Master, Solemn Simulacrum, Desecration Elemental Desolation Giant, Eater of Days, Dust Elemental
5 414 0.70% 3.90% 1.70% 1.20% 4.30% Stuffy Doll, Sprouting Phytohydra, Fortune Thief, Scalpelexis, Master Healer, Elvish Bard, Magus of the Coffers Sky Swallower, Leveler, Desolation Angel, Soulgorger Orgg
6 243 1.60% 3.70% 0.40% 0.40% 4.50% Rith, the Awakener, Treva, the Renewer, Nut Collector, Visara the Dreadful, Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, Kamahl, Pit Fighter Kamahl, Fist of Krosas, Jedit Ojanen of Efrava, Numot, the Devastator Worldgorger Dragon
7 112 0.00% 5.40% 1.80% 0.90% 6.30% Platinum Angel, Ancient Ooze, Serra Avatar, Memnarch, Stone-Tongue Basilisk Phage the Untouchable
8 49 0.00% 0.00% 2.00% 0.00% 8.20% Bosh, Iron Golem, Living Inferno, Silver Seraph, Avatar of Woe, Bogardan Hellkite, Sanguine Praetor, Hoverguard Sweepers, Akroma, Angel of Wrath  
9 21 0.00% 4.82% 4.80% 0.00% 0.00% Bringers, Blazing Archon, Kuro, Pitlord, Crimson Hellkite  
10 8 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% Krosan Cloudscraper, Deep-Sea Kraken  
11 3 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% Hypnox, Darksteel Colossus  
12 1 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% Iname as One  
15 1 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%    
16 1 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%    

Now, some of you may be skeptical about this format, as it looks like a deck with just 60 basic lands and random creatures takes the creativity and skill out of Magic. I admit that Momir Basic cannot accommodate innovative deck builders. But there definitely is still a lot of skill in this format, especially as Momir takes you back to the basics of Magic: creature combat. The games where you just roll over to your opponent without a chance are rare. Sure, still sometimes he gets big dragons on turn 6-7 while you get Crawling Filth and Sutured Ghoul. And the difference between a Scornful Egotist and Hoverguard Sweepers is very large.

But often you have to make big decisions. For example, when you hit Rathi Dragon on turn 4, what do you do? How do you divide Wurmskin Forger's counters? What creatures should attack if the board stalls? Would you rather pay the upkeep of Uktabi Efreet or just use all your available mana to make the best drop? It can get even harder if you have creatures with activated abilities. Choosing the correct plays and making the right blocks can still mean the difference between winning and losing.

Lastly, there are a couple fun aspects of Momir Basic that you won't have in normal Magic. First off, you are never mana-screwed (unless you hit Desolation Angel). And you can also get fun situations based on the randomness factor of the avatar. How often does the board gets cluttered with 8 drop creatures in a normal game of Magic, where your eventual route to victory is to use Bloodshot Cyclops for 13 damage to your opponent with a Krosan Cloudscraper?


Yup, that only happens in Momir Basic!

Time Spiral Block Constructed

Scott Larabee asked me to put up the following announcement:

"In anticipation of the upcoming TSP Block Constructed round, I have added 4 more TSP Block Constructed events to the weekly Magic Online schedule. There will now be 1 TSP Block Constructed event per day. And as an extra added bonus, there are 2 4x Saturday TSP Block Constructed events, one each in April and May."

Good news! You can be sure to see a lot of Block Constructed coverage in this column over the next couple months. Now, one of those 4x tournaments was last weekend. It might actually be in my own interests not to cover that event at all, as the Block Constructed Pro Tour in Yokohama is next weekend, and anything I write here may benefit my opponents there. But then again, I always try to incorporate coverage of the big 4x Constructed Premier Events in my column in one way or another. Furthermore, everyone I spoke to was already long aware of the message that this 4x tournament conveys, so I think for the people who are qualified and took the effort to look at the online Premier Events (they should) this will be nothing new. And even if some people were still clueless prior to reading this, then they would have to read this article the day before the Pro Tour and then make last-minute deck switches, which in my experience never work out well. So as long as I don't actually post the exact decklist that I want to play, I won't give up a competitive edge by covering this 4x event (which is a good representation of the online metagame).

And for those of you who would like to follow the Pro Tour coverage back at home, I think this article will be a good introduction on what to expect, as this particular 4x tournament gives one crystal clear message. The Magic Online metagame tends to be a good indication of the metagame on professional paper events nowadays (I showed that was true for the '06 Worlds here). It should be interesting to see whether the Pro Tour will exhibit the same trends as Magic Online again and/or how the Magic Online events affect the Pro Tour metagame. So here goes. This is what the Top 8 consisted of:

1/2. Ceriaton24 – White Weenie
1/2. Edel – White Weenie
3/4. Flughund – White Weenie
3/4. manu chao – White Weenie
5/8. about2rock – White Weenie
5/8. crethas – White Weenie
5/8. Mahakus – White Weenie
5/8. millennium9999 – White Weenie

We started this 115 player tournament with 31 White Weenie decks, and after seven rounds we get the most boring Top 8 ever? Is this a one deck format? It looks like it, especially as the other (smaller) recent Premier Events also usually had 3-4 White Weenies in the Top 8. The efficiency and consistency of white's Calciderms, Knight of the Holy Nimbus, Griffin Guides, Soltari Priests, and Serra Avengers just wins many games. Furthermore, many White Weenie versions also have some long-game capabilities after their blazing fast starts and won't run out of gas quickly. Now let's also take a deeper look at all the available data, not just the Top 8. I had collected lots of extra matchup and deck win percentage data from this 4x tournament during the rounds, by noting down what deck archetype everyone played, and in the end cross-referencing that with their final records and round-by-round results. This is what we get by looking at the 5 most popular deck archetypes:

Deck Number of players Total record Win percentage
White Weenie 31 121-80 60.2%
Blue-based Teferi Control 22 65-54 54.6%
Green-red variations 16 48-41 53.9%
BlinkRiders 8 15-17 46.9%
Wild Pair decks 6 12-19 38.7%

There were also some Black-Red control, Red Deck Wins, Slivers, and blue-green morph decks around in smaller numbers, all of which performed horribly.

From the above results, it seems that White Weenie is clearly the best. When 31 out of 115 players run White Weenie in the tournament, and the entire Top 8 consists of that very archetype, you can bet the deck is good. A win percentage against the field of over 60% is also astounding. BlinkRiders and Wild Pair decks did very poorly, mostly because the slow inconsistent nature of these decks can not beat the White Weenie decks. Blue-based Teferi Control and green-red variations posted a match win percentage above the 50% mark, so these decks might still be good. How about we zoom in on their respective matchups against White Weenie? Perhaps one of these decks can actually beat the white menace? In that case it would be a healthy format.

The results show a different picture. In this 4x tournament, blue-based Teferi Control faced White Weenie 33 times, and won 15 times (45.5% match win). Green-red variations faced White Weenie 26 times, and won 9 times (34.6% match win). Right. So even the second and third deck of the format cannot beat White Weenie? Perhaps a well-tuned blue-based Teferi Control list in the hands of a good player has a chance, but green decks are definitely doomed to fail in this format. One thing is for sure: you either have to play White Weenie or be able to beat it, and unless there is a deck out there that has 50% or better against White Weenie (we will find out soon enough...), then the only optimal deck choice (in game theory terms) for the Pro Tour will be White Weenie tuned for the mirror match.

I can relate my own playtest experiences. My team had built a good deck that seemed to beat White Weenie early on in testing, so then we just focused on the other matchups. But when we returned to the White Weenie matchup again, this time against an updated and tuned White Weenie decklist, the matchup was no better than 50-50, to our surprise. Now this is something that may or may not be solvable, but it also clearly reminds me of the Mirrodin Block format. Many people thought they had a deck that would beat Affinity there (by just playing infinite artifact removal and then thinking they could never lose), but they would still have bad matchups against good Affinity versions, due to the sheer consistent power, efficiency, and late-game staying power of that deck to beat.

So how would a tuned White Weenie list look like? Well, I got the Top 8 decklists of about2rock, crethas, millennium9999, manu chao, and Ceriaton24. I want to show two of these "public" lists so that you can get a feel for the diverse card choices. I chose Ceriaton24's decklist because he made it to the finals and I chose crethas's decklist because his card choices had the least deviation from the average version.

White Weenie

Download Arena Decklist

White Weenie

Download Arena Decklist

I'll conclude with a prediction. The finals of Pro Tour–Yokohama will consist of the ubiquitous Japanese deck that breaks the format (I'm sure they will have found something and show off the next deck to beat) against a White Weenie deck perfectly tuned for the mirror match. After the Pro Tour White Weenie will not be as dominating anymore, as people will have figured out ways to beat it. What do you think? Head to the forums to share your predictions (or ideas on how to break the format or how to beat White Weenie) and don't forget to follow the Pro Tour from the Tournament Center this weekend to see how the format will pan out.

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