Guildpact Release Avatars

Posted in Feature on February 2, 2006

By Bennie Smith

Bennie Smith began playing Magic in 1994 and started writing about it shortly after. A Virginia State Champion, he enjoys few things better than winning at tournaments with home brews. Bennie has a weekly column on He also recently published The Complete Commander. Follow him on Twitter, on Facebook, and the occasional Commander games on Magic Online under the handle "blairwitchgreen."

Guildpact hits MTGO 2/27

The light at the end of the tunnel is in sight! In case you haven't seen the announcement, mark your calendars: Guildpact hits the Online Store and becomes legal to play Monday, February 27 th at 9:00 am PST, and Guildpact Release Events start on Wednesday, March 1st. As usual, the events include Release Leagues (one week long), Draft Queues, Premier Event Flights (2x and 4x Prizes), and the Release Championship. Keep in mind that the Thursday downtime will be hitting as normal, so make sure you're not in the middle of a League game or something when that occurs!

Getting 1st place in the 2x PE or getting Top 4 in the 4x PE will qualify you for the Release Championship where you play for free and booster pack prizes go all the way down to 64th place. Winning the Championship gives you a complete set of Magic Online Premium (foil) Guildpact cards! 2nd place gets a complete set of regular (non-foils) Magic Online Guildpact cards!

Playing in a Release League and Premier Event will net you the participation avatar of Teysa, Orzhov Scion. Going 5-0 in the League, making Top 2 in a 2x PE, or Top 8 in a 4x PE will all get you the prize avatar Rumbling Slum. Longtime readers of Into The Aether know I enjoy making kooky decks around the Vanguard avatars, and Release Events are exciting because they give me two extra avatars to tinker with. What a happy coincidence that talking about the Rumbling Slum avatar for Vanguard falls on Gruul week! Look, Ma — I'm in theme! Okay, here are the stats (keep in mind that the stats are not necessarily 100 percent final until the release):

Prize Avatar: Rumbling Slum
Hand: +1
Life: +1
At the beginning of your upkeep, Rumbling Slum deals 1 to each opponent.

(Since we're showing you the stats of these avatars so early, we can't show you the the graphics, because they're not yet final.)

Note the lack of targeting for the damage, so they can't hide behind Ivory Mask! Samite Healer on the other hand is a major problem...

Old-S'Gruul Rumbler (Standard w/Vanguard) by Bennie Smith

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The card Rumbling Slum is obviously the flagship of the Gruul armada, being a prime Bloodthirst enabler and a heckuva beatdown creature for the mana cost. With this avatar you get to start the party on turn 1, getting the most out of early Skarrgan Pit-Skulks and Scab-Clan Maulers. Tin Street Hooligans will make short work of any random broken Kamigawa equipment lying around, and Moldervine Cloak lets your big Bloodthirsties up-size, which is particularly tasty combined with Skarrg, the Rage Pits. Orcish Artillery can help clear the ground of blockers or just go to the dome with some direct damage, along with help from Gruul Guildmage. I topped the curve at three because the Avatar should effectively shave 4-6 points of life from your opponent's total so there shouldn't be much of a late game.

Gruulzhov Bleeder (Standard w/Vanguard) by Bennie Smith

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Interestingly, Rumbling Slum has an Orzhov feel if you think about it. Many Orzhov cards win by slowly bleeding your opponent to death, so why not use the big Rumble as an anti-coagulant? I particularly like the Pontiff in Vanguard because of the power of the Erhnam avatar's swarm deck. His battle cry would be “I pontificate you!” We can only hope not. Belfry Spirit and Skeletal Vampire ought to give plenty of token madness to feed your Ghost Council, a card that Zvi found to be surprisingly powerful.

Rumbling Control (Standard w/Vanguard) by Bennie Smith

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Finally, there are those who will look at Rumbling Slum, not as the aggressive ball of furious vengeance, but as a nice tidy package perfect for... control. With a small life boost, increased hand-size, and a kill condition that goes to work turn 1, what more could you ask for? I put this together as an exercise in ultimate control, with zero win-conditions outside of the Avatar pinging. Yeah, I definitely don't want to run into Loxodon Hierarch! Truth be told, I should probably add a couple Meloku, the Clouded Mirror, but honestly what deck sporting Islands shouldn't run a couple Meloku? Anyway, the Rumbling Slum avatar should shave the number of attack phases you'll need to put the game away by a turn or two once you do drop your kill condition.

Yeah, I know that last deck was a bit blasphemous and I fully expect the Gruul to come calling on the battlefield to extract some payback. So as penance, why don't we take the participation avatar and twist it to the Gruul agenda? Here are her stats (again, keep in mind that the stats and avatar graphics are not 100 percent final until the release):

Participation: Teysa, Orzhov Scion
Hand: +0
Life: -2
Whenever a non-token creature is put into a graveyard from play, put a 1/1 white, Spirit creature token with flying into play.

Gruul Scion (Standard w/Vanguard) by Bennie Smith

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Teysa certainly gives Scorched Rusalka more bangs for the buck, and lets you go nuts with Dripping-Tongue Zubera. With all the spirit action going on, I figured why not go ahead and run Long-Forgotten Gohei since, well, it has been so long forgotten? Your own personal Crusade should turn all those little 1/1 fliers into more than just annoyances.

To wrap things up, let's use Teysa for an actual Teysa deck:

Kay Tey-sa Tey-sa (Standard w/Vanguard) by Bennie Smith

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Twilight Drover
C'mon, you know you've been itching to break off Twilight Drover! Teysa the card lets all your bat token creatures be reborn as spirits, and Teysa the avatar does the same for all your creature cards. Non-Green token madness is here, and it feels much cooler than slowly cranking out Pegasus tokens with Sacred Mesa. I wanted to squeeze Promise of Bunrei here but the three-mana slots were already pretty full.

Come March 1st, we'll have our chance to try out the new kids on the Vanguard block. If any of you want to toss your Vanguard creations against one of these decks, come find me online and I'll be happy to play.

Do you think these Avatars will make a splash in the Vanguard metagame? It looked like Akroma won again in this past Saturday's 2x Standard Vanguard tournament, and I saw a several Prodigal Sorcerers in the Top 8. It's interesting to see some folks simply take a good Standard decklist and add Prodigal Sorcerer to improve consistency. Does this make for better decks than ones built exclusively around the Avatar's abilities like I tend to do here? I'm curious to hear what you think.


So You Have Picked My Gunslinging Decks!

Last week I talked about gunslinging for Star City's Pete Hoefling at Grand Prix Richmond this weekend, and I asked you to pick two decks for me to play. The results are in, and I am pleasantly surprised to announce you all picked each of the decks I voted for myself! Interestingly, both are control decks, but they are not anything alike and are certainly not your garden-variety control decks. I look forward to putting Grand Prix Richmond duelists through the paces at the gunslinger tables this weekend!


Which deck should I play as my Standard gunslinging deck for Grand Prix Richmond?
Eminent Domain 1466 28.9%
Red Deck Wins (and Wins and Wins) 1318 26.0%
FungusFire 1170 23.1%
URzatron 1113 22.0%
Total 5067 100.0%

Eminent Domain (Standard) by Adrian Sullivan

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Which deck should I play as my Extended gunslinging deck for Grand Prix Richmond?
Helldozer Control 1468 35.9%
Elemental Bidding 1148 28.0%
Boomstick Deck Wins 745 18.2%
Friggorid 732 17.9%
Total 4093 100.0%

Helldozer Control (Extended) by Jack Elgin

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Helldozer I had the pleasure of watching several of Elgin's games in action while he battled through the top seats to win the coveted blue envelope, and along with some experience with Torment-era Mono-Black Control, I feel fairly confident in playing his deck. Helldozer was an absolute beating in an environment chock full of Ravnica and Apocalypse non-basic lands, especially with Cabal Coffers to fuel him! Staff of Domination seemed an odd choice, but it's not a bad additional mana sink for Cabal Coffers. If nothing else it can help untap your Helldozer if he has to munch on basic lands.

Sullivan's deck on the other hand is completely alien to most anything I've played, so if any of you out there have some experience playing the deck and have any advice, please post in the forums. I'm going to be furiously playing this deck on MTGO this week to try and get up to speed. Luckily, Adrian wrote about the deck so I have a primer to jump-start me.

I'll also likely tweak the sideboards a little to better handle the most current environment. Any thoughts on that? What do you think people are going to bring to the gunslinging table?

So are you going to Grand Prix Richmond? If so, please come up and say hi, and if you have time, jump across from me at the gunslinger table with your favorite deck or Grand Prix cards and let's get a match in! Also, make sure to check out my Guide to Dining and Nightlife in Richmond over on Star City for information on how to get around the area and where to go for some R&R away from the Magic tables.

Can You Handle Even More 3.0 Info?

This week I'd like to introduce you to Brian Lindley, the Producer for Magic Online.

Although Justin and Scott normally do most of the talking for Magic Online, I'm excited to have the opportunity to start introducing you to some of the cool new aspects of the Version 3.0 user interface. For those of you that don't know me, my name is Brian Lindley and I am the Producer for Magic: The Gathering Online. I have worked at Wizards for 5½ years, and have been working on Magic Online for the last 3 years. As Producer, I oversee the technical production of all new releases for Magic Online, including new card sets, any special projects, and the much-anticipated Version 3.0. As such, I work closely with our developers, artists, and Quality Assurance (aka "QA") team to ensure that the software we create is of high quality and meets the expectations of our players and the team here at Wizards. My Magic Online account name is B_Lind, so if you see me online sometime, say hello!

This week I want to give you a sneak peek at one of the cool new features of the Version 3.0 user interface: the navigation menu. The navigation menu was designed as a way to further our goal of making the Version 3.0 GUI (graphical user interface) as convenient and easy to use as possible. So, instead of having to click through multiple screens or rooms, users can access any game feature or location within one or two mouse clicks.

MTGO gameplay menu

Located in the left side of the window frame, the navigation menu will appear whenever the mouse cursor is positioned over the area marked by the stream of white particles. The menu stays visible as long as the mouse cursor remains over the menu or any of the sub-menus. As soon as a user selects an item in the menu or moves the mouse cursor away off of the menu, it disappears. Additionally, if you check out the screenshots or the video, you will notice that the items in the menu are organized by a series of color-coded icons. These icons and their colors represent the various feature categories in Magic Online:

  • Purple - Community features such as clans, buddies and trade.
  • Green - Card-related features such as collection, deck editor and online store.
  • Red - Gameplay features including casual play rooms, tournaments and leagues.
  • Blue - Settings
  • Gold - Help features

We use these colors throughout the interface to distinguish each section of the game, making it easy to know where you are at a glance.

MTGO cards menu

Quick point of clarification on the Marketplace options shown in the screen shots: We have renamed the trade areas in Version 3.0 to better represent their function, we have not made any significant changes to Magic Online trade features with Version 3.0A. Enhancements to the Magic Online trade system are planned for Magic Online V3.0B and beyond. The name changes in V3.0A are as follows:

  • Version 2.0 Marketplace is named "Trade Ticker" in Version 3.0.

  • Version 2.0 Message Board is named "Classifieds" in Version 3.0.

MTGO community menu

Want to see it in action? Click here for a 5MB downloadable Zipped Quicktime (.zip/.mov) file.

I hope you enjoyed this week's quick preview of the Version 3.0 interface. Please remember that Version 3.0 is still under development, so items discussed here may change before the public release. Stay tuned as we reveal more information about Version 3.0 in the coming weeks. See you online!

- Brian

Tip of the Day

Aaron Larson wrote in with this interesting suggestion:

“In your last article you wrote about the laments of a younger Magic Onliner that doesn't have access to a credit card. Well he can get a Visa gift card from almost any bank and use that for MTGO purchases - they work like a debit card only you put money on them when you buy it, and you don't have to be 18 to get one! Hope that helps!”

Join us next week as I recap my adventures at Grand Prix Richmond and announce whose decks made the first cut for my Tombstone Stairwell Deckbuilding Challenge!

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