Hello, players, collectors, and other fans of Magic: The Gathering, the premier collectible trading card game by Wizards of the Coast! Over the years, the game of Magic has been played, played, and played again. Some people say that in this game there is no possible identical pair of processes bearing identical outcomes, making each match and game therein completely unique. But despite this, some people suffer stagnation from overplaying the same formats ad nauseam. Fortunately, Wizards found a way to mitigate this nearly two decades ago and has been able to do some pretty cool things with this new format of card production. Vanguards, a supplemental card type, represent characters in Magic's history and can be portrayed through special cards that grant effects of very different sorts. This may sound similar to Commander, but it's very different and even can supplement that format! Read on, and we will show you four of the first eight characters within Vanguard.
The first Character card from the first series of Vanguards that Wizards of the Coast presented the public with is Ertai. Ertai is probably one of the first instances of a card granting hexproof to, well, anything, let alone a whole side of creatures on the board. Starting the game with one less card in hand is fine when you have hexproof on all of your creatures, and the extra 4 life is just gravy.
The next card, when contrasted with the previous one, is a good example of how unbalanced these characters can be when compared with each other. Gerrard is, in a few words, pretty bad comparatively. While Gerrard draws you an extra card on each of your turns, to start the game with a maximum hand size of 3 is abysmal and you'll soon find yourself looking to dig for a Reliquary Tower, Thought Vessel, or another Spellbook-type effect, lest you need to discard more cards than you'd prefer.
In formats like Vintage where a 0-mana artifact can be the difference between winning by a slim margin and losing by a landslide, Karn doesn't help your game too much. But in Commander, he can definitely do some work. The format allows for a 40-life starting total and the usual seven cards in hand, and Karn augments both of these figures positively. Just don't expect to keep your artifact lands while playing as the Silver Golem.
Maraxus is an example of a Vanguard that is extremely simple but can be pretty effective even considering that simplicity. While he just buffs your creatures' power by 1 apiece, this could allow for some effective blowouts, especially where other players may be lacking in their life totals due to a life-negative Vanguard. Plus, he increases your hand size and your own life total, padding both to good effect. Don't count him out!
How Do We Use Vanguards?
I'd be remiss not to mention the way we use Vanguard cards in Magic: The Gathering. For those with a full enough collection, meaning close enough to 32 Characters, I would recommend a blind Rochester-style draft during a game night of your favorite format. What this means is you place all of the Vanguard cards facedown on a table and let each player select one or more, depending on how many players are involved. Make sure each player has an equal amount of Characters and then let them choose one for themselves to use for the games ahead.
What do you think? Have you played using Vanguard cards before? Have you used other Magic: The Gathering supplemental releases to augment your games? Let us know in the comments below!