Interview with a Vanguard

Posted in Feature on May 2, 2005

By John H. Klauk

First, the facts. As many are already aware, the old fan favorite, Vanguard, is coming to Magic: the Gathering® Online. For many, that brings forth cheers of excitement and delight. It’s been far too long for most since they last took part in any Vanguard shenanigans and miracles. For others, it simply makes them tilt their head sideways and say, “What is this? I must know.” Well, let me explain. No, there is not enough time for that. Let me summarize. Vanguard is a casual format where you construct a deck based around the abilities of a Vanguard Avatar. The Avatars you have available are dependent upon which online Avatars you have in your collection. Simple enough so far, right? Good, let’s continue. Depending upon the Avatar’s ability, your Starting and Max hand size is adjusted either up or down, as is your Starting Life total. Here’s an example:

Akroma, Angel of Wrath Avatar: Starting/Max Hand Size (8), Starting Life (27), Ability (When a creature comes into play under your control, it gains two of the following abilities at random: flying, first strike, trample, haste, protection from black, protection from red, or vigilance.)

Pretty spiffy, is it not? Just to let you know, not all the abilities are random. In fact, most aren’t. And with the exception of one (Elvish Champion and his Amazing Mana Super Slug) all the abilities will be in effect for you the entire game’s duration. For a complete preview of all the Vanguard Avatars, check out Bennie Smith’s four fantastic Into the Aether articles located at these links. And here’s one final link if you want to see all the Avatars available together in one article, as well as when they were introduced to Magic: the Gathering Online.

Vanguard Release events will begin Thursday, May 5 at 2:00 PM and will run until Wednesday, May 11, with the last event starting at 9:00 PM. Wizards of the Coast will have events launching every 3 hours. The events will support Extended, Standard, and Champions of Kamigawa formats. In each format you will be using a Vanguard Avatar. The only entry fee is 6 tickets. And for that you are guaranteed a Birds of Paradise Avatar!

If you don’t play in one of these events, you will be missing out on some massive amounts of entertainment. If that wasn’t good enough, Wizards will be giving out prizes! It will be a 2x Prize Support event… meaning:

Place Boosters
1 24
2 18
3-4 12
5-8 6

If you are one of the final four competitors in any Vanguard Release event, you qualify for the Vanguard Release Championship, which will take place Saturday, May 14, at 9:00 AM PST. You could walk away from this 6x Prize Support event with 72 booster packs! In addition, if you make it to the finals you will receive a Magic: the Gathering Online Avatar of your choice. Me personally, I want a Darth Vader Avatar.*

The official Vanguard Release Events web page is located here just in case I lost you in my rambling up above. This pretty much takes care of the Public Broadcast Announcement for these events. Now let’s have some fun!

I could easily go for pages and pages about possible decks to make for each Avatar. But why? Bennie Smith has already covered that territory. Instead, I thought I’d bring someone we all know in on the conversation. I’d like to welcome one of my personal favorite Magic: the Gathering Online Avatars… the original old man with a butter knife… the one, the only… Royal Assassin.

RA: “Thanks for the invite old buddy.”
JHK: “My pleasure, my pleasure. So, I understand you are just back from your trip to Phyrexia?”
RA: “Yeah, I spent little over a year in the Arenas of Phyrexia; you know, just after that whole recreating my image with Eighth Edition thing. It’s not so easy under the spotlight there, especially when most other challengers are so much larger than you are. But it worked out. I even picked up a few new tricks from the competition.”
JHK: “Like you needed any new tricks. Your time-honored methods of execution seem just fine to me.”
RA: “Thanks. I was getting worried that my skills needed to evolve to keep up with the current game. Of course, then Wizards brought back my favorite sidekick, Icy Manipulator, and now things are pretty much back to the old ways for me.”
JHK: “Well, yeah, except your popularity is nowhere near what it used to be.”
RA: “Pardon me?!”
JHK: “Um… nothing. Moving on. So, you’ve been an Magic Online Avatar for quite some time now, and I know you were pretty excited about that when you first got the news.”
RA: “Yep. I got a little scared though when Wizards emailed me saying they were going to be creating a Jandor’s Saddlebags Avatar though. Then of course, I realized it was just an elaborate April Fool’s joke staged by MaRo.”
JHK: “Cute. Clever guy that MaRo.”
RA: “If you say so.”
JHK: “So, let me ask you the question of the moment. How do you feel about your Vanguard Avatar? For such an iconic figure rooted in the history of Magic, do you feel you got the respect you deserve?”
RA: “Oh, definitely. I couldn’t be more pleased. Well, maybe if I could destroy creatures, but drawing cards is an acceptable tribute to pay to my legacy. I’m not so keen on the life loss part though mind you.”
JHK: “Seems fair enough to most everyone I’ve spoken with.”
RA: “Well, not really. It almost forces me to work in cahoots with White to counteract the life loss. I’m not too sure I like that. In fact, nope... that’s definitely my least favorite part of this whole deal.”
JHK: “You could always just play the CHARGE! game like Bennie suggested. You know, get ’em before your life total goes away like the last fading counter on Blastoderm.” RA: “Nah, not really my style. I’m more of a wait in the shadows and pounce when the time is right kinda’ guy.”
JHK: “True. True. Well, thank you for your time my roguish companion. Let us leave on this final question: What strategy would you recommend for your fans?”
RA: “Well, I do have a little something I’ve been playing around with. I’m not one for explaining things too much, so I’ll make this quick. I figure most will see how it works. To put it simply, last through the early game with your disruption. Then simply blow up the landscape, lock down their mana, and then draw more cards and recover quicker. Hopefully you won’t have to recover if you have the Desolation Angel in play, but I find that most opponents can be crafty. It’s nothing too fancy ya’ know, but it makes me smile. Oh yeah… and enjoy the throwback combo with yours truly in the mix. Here’s the decklist.”

ICEASSIN (Royal Assassin Vanguard Extended Deck)

Download Arena Decklist

RA: “Never let it be said I don’t think about my budget playing fans. Here’s a more affordable version of my creation.”

ICEASSIN (Royal Assassin Vanguard Extended Deck) LITE Version

Download Arena Decklist

RA: “I know… sad, but I am not very expensive online and you need me and the Desolation Angels for the deck (though you could try Hokori, Dust Drinker)."

Well, I hope everyone enjoyed this visit with my old friend as much as I did. He gave us something out of the ordinary when you think of Magic Online Extended, that’s for sure. But really, isn’t that the point when it comes to the Vanguard format? Whether you decide to build a Royal Assassin Vanguard deck or utilize a different favorite, make sure you check out and participate in the Vanguard Release events in May. I promise you’ll thank me.

Now… if they would only release an Armageddon Klauk Avatar…

Catch Ya’ll Later,
John H. Klauk
Klaukwork Wizard on Magic Online

*Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith: Starting/Max Hand Size (6), Starting Life (16), Ability (3: Pay 1 Life. Destroy target non-black creature with power less than your current life total. Pay half your life rounding up: Target black creature becomes non-black until end of turn. Oh…and 0: Destroy target Rebel.)

Naturally, this is not a real Magic: the Gathering Online Avatar. And no, Wizards will not create a new Avatar if you make it to the finals. You must pick from one of the Magic: the Gathering Online Avatars that are already in existence. But wouldn’t that be cool if you could “…know the power of the Dark Side”?

John started playing Magic back when Antiquities came out. He is a frequent top 8 finisher at PTQs and States using non-archetype decks and is a Regional Coordinator for the Delegate program. He also wants to say he has the most amazing girlfriend a gamer like him can ever hope for. John also wants you to know he is more excited than you about Revenge of the Sith.

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