Guises of Magic: Sparky's Cultists

Hello, and welcome to Guises of Magic. My name is Yusuke, and my article is focused on a topic not brought up all that often, aside from the casual table. This article is focused on Vanguard. But first, a little Vorthos explanation before I enter the meat of the matter.

He does more than swing swords.
When playing a game of Magic: The Gathering, it is usually a duel between two planeswalkers who have gained vast knowledge by viewing and learning from the history of the many planes in the Multiverse. These planeswalkers are non-descript, and are very much alike. They are shrouded and battle for fame, glory, greed, or sport. But anyone who has read any of the novels based off of the sets knows that it is not the non-descript planeswalkers that are dueling. For example, in Odyssey, Kamahl doesn't just go around swinging his sword. He summons flame elementals and the like, much like planeswalkers do. It is HE that is dueling. So if these "Legends" from Magic can duel each other, why can't we play as them? Oh, wait, we can! In Vanguard, you take on the persona of the Avatar you choose. Although it does not comprise ALL of the Legends available, it does have a hearty amount, especially from the Kamigawa Block. I will admit, Kamahl was not the best example, for he does not have his own Vanguard, but I am pretty sure you understand my point.

Since you now are playing as these characters, you assume a personal ability that they inherit. These abilities vary from the simple (whenever you play a spell, gain 2 life), to the utterly insane (If you control a land, enchantment, creature, and artifact, you cannot lose the game and your opponents cannot win the game). Also, not all of the Avatars can handle the amount of knowledge the average planeswalker can, while others can handle more, causing certain avatars to have a smaller or larger maximum and starting hand sizes. Certain Avatars also do not have the integrity of the average planeswalker, while others are more hearty, resulting in an addition or subtraction to the starting life total. These differences make the Avatars you play as unique, but adaptable.

Unless you have been locked in a closet about Magic Online, you must have heard that Vanguard has made its way into the program. When you get Magic Online, you get the five starter Avatars: Serra Angel, Prodigal Sorcerer, Grinning Demon, Goblin Warchief, and Ernham Djinn. Each has an ability that, although doesn't exactly correspond with the card, it does correspond with the colors' flavor. Because these are the five most accessible Avatars and with the release of Dissension and the Rakdos cult, who better to spotlight than Sparky, the Goblin Warchief!

Would you look at this guy! Not only is there a nice buffer to your life total, his ability makes your attacking creatures that much more powerful! +1/+0 may not seem like much, but when attacking with multiple creatures, the damage adds up so quickly your opponents will be running for more than just cover.

With the induction of Rakdos into the Magic: the Gathering environment, it gets its point across. Across to your opponent's face, that is. With cards like Gobhobbler Rats, Rakdos Pit Dragon, and Taste for Mayhem, quick and fast damage is the focus of the Rakdos. They aren't Zoo, mind you; they don't have many one drops. Kill-Suit Cultist is probably the best bet there is in that department. However, the variety in their two and three drops is very vast and useful. With fast creatures usually comes mana acceleration. Most of the guilds can take advantage of their respective bouncelands. Rakdos, however, does not. In fact, their best bet at accel is the Rakdos Signet. A third turn Rakdos Pit Dragon can always put a look of fear in your opponents' eye. And with the Dragon, your opponent will most certainly see some more threats coming across the board.

Anthem of Rakdos may seem like a great card, but deep down inside, it's flat out horrible. Why? Let's say you have Hellbent with one Anthem out and you attack with your Pit Dragon. What does your opponent do? Condemns it. Now you're up one life and have a creature gone. What hurts more is when you have Cultists on the board and you HAVE to swing with them. Sure, they get +2/+0, but they can get blocked by Saprolings, and you're taking two damage per swing. Ouch. Instead of filling the spot of CMC five with Anthem, I'll be using Dread Slag. Yup. The Slag. Why? Because he's a 9/9 trample. And in a good Rakdos deck, by the time you drop him, you should have an empty hand. And with an empty hand, Sparky's Cultists are gonna have a lot of fun smashing face. Trust me.

Card Highlights:

Sparky's Cultists - T2 Goblin Warchief VanguardMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
2 Dread Slag
4 Rakdos Pit Dragon
3 Avatar of Discord
4 Gobhobbler Rats
3 Drekavac
4 Kill-Suit Cultist

Other Spells
4 Taste for Mayhem
4 Seal of Fire
3 Wrecking Ball
3 Rakdos Signet
2 Skullmead Cauldron

4 Blood Crypt
2 Rix Maadi, Dungeon Palace
2 Sulfurous Springs
8 Mountain
8 Swamp

Rakdos Aggro is the name of the game here. Even with the new Lyzolda Vanguard out that makes every Hellbent player's dreams run wild, these types of decks have to be more accessible to the little guy, even though the deck is running rares galore. Despite that horrible oxymoron, this deck does run the quick beats when it comes to Kill-Suit Cultist, Drekavac, and Avatar of Discord.

One questionable inclusion into the deck is Skullmead Cauldron. Why run it, when you should be winning without it? Because drawing into that second Avatar of Discord with only it in your hand can get pretty damn annoying. Same with Drekavac. If they drop early, that's great, more Hellbent for the rest of your guys! Draw them later, and suddenly your creatures are powering down and don't know what's going on. The Cauldron is there as a fail-safe for such an occasion. Or discard fodder.

There are a lot of ways of changing or improving this deck. Changing avatars for the deck would be probably the best move, as the Lyzolda avatar has Rakdos written all over it, giving you that nasty Anthem effect without the added pain of a CMC of five. Two-Headed Giant is another good choice, making it so your creatures have to be blocked by two or more creatures and can let the block up to two creatures. This makes Gobhobbler Rats particularly nasty, for regeneration has always been a friend of defensive players, and if you attack, you can just regenerate after they block with two creatures. Both Vanguards and their abilities, along with every other MTGO avatar, can be found here.

However, if you want to keep the Goblin Warchief Vanguard but want to change the deck, there are several options, like using Goblins themselves. Even Elves can put the smackdown on an opponent, leaving an opponent unable to respond after a third or fourth turn win with the right deck. They may not be the best of friends, but when a Goblin leads the Elves, it can lead to a lot of...

Card Highlights:
  • Quirion Ranger - Untapping a Priest is always nice.
  • Tribal Forcemage - You need a win condition. He comes with one in a nice, tidy, morphed-to-go box.
  • Seeker of Skybreak - Do you need more elves? This guy is tall enough to find 'em, kapish?
Crackpot Elves - Legacy Goblin Warchief VanguardMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Fyndhorn Elves
4 Priest of Titania
4 Quirion Ranger
4 Seeker of Skybreak
4 Bloodline Shaman
4 Elvish Champion
3 Tribal Forcemage
4 Elvish Sprit Guide

Other Spells
4 Concordant Crossroads
4 Aether Vial
4 Land Grant
2 Tribal Unity

7 Forest
4 Wooded Foothills

If you don't see how this deck can win, then you've never seen a Legacy Elf Deck pound an opponent into submission. If you ever go to an Arena League, pray to God that you don't face a good Elf deck. Although the addition of Sparky here as the Vanguard may seem superfluous to those who have played an Elf deck before, it is all the more satisfying when you deal 70 damage to your opponent instead of 50 (your results may vary).

If you don't want to focus on the all-out aggresion tactic, you can optimize on additional power boosts with cards like Orcish Oriflamme and then use cards like Fling and its kin to deal the damage directly to your opponent after attacking. With kamikaze cards like Fling and Ghitu Fire-Eater, more power equals more pain. If you want to maximze the pain when using the Fire-Eater, or even Spikeshot Goblin, give them Vigilance through an enchantment, like Serra's Blessing. And so comes forth the...

Card Highlights:
  • Mob Mentality - Easily overlooked, this card can really pack a wallop.
  • Stalking Vengeance - Although I'm running only two, his doubling of my Fire-Eater's and Fling's damage helps.
  • Serra's Blessing - Vigilance is the key here. Get this out with your creatures and you should be dealing damage in no time.
Vigilant Kamikaze - Legacy Goblin Warchief VanguardMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
4 Ghitu-Fire Eater
4 Spikeshot Goblin
2 Stalking Vengeance
2 Gate Hound
4 Oathsworn Giant

Other Spells
4 Fling
4 Serra's Blessing
4 Orcish Oriflamme
4 Mob Mentality
4 Taste for Mayhem
2 Desperate Ritual
2 Seething Song

12 Mountains
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Plateau

With so many different possibilities in the Vanguard variant, be sure to just use the above decks as guides. Although they do work, they need finetuning if they were to make it in a tournament scene. Goblin Warchief and his friends can only be worked so much in one day, and they're tired. There's only so much you can do with one avatar, and I think the bases of this one have been covered pretty well. If you have any ideas you want to squeeze out of him or any other avatar, email me them at [EMAIL="[email protected]"][email protected][/EMAIL]. You might see them in another article! But for now, I bid you all adieu.


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