Hello and welcome to all players, fans, and collectors of Magic: The Gathering, the world-famous collectible trading card game designed, developed, and produced by Wizards of the Coast! We are back again to discuss the Vanguard series. We have so far discussed the eight cards from the first series of Vanguard characters, a set of oversized cards that augment life totals, hand sizes, and additional factors for the players using them. These effects range from innocuous, to arguably overpowered, to just plain janky. But in the transition between Series 1 and Series 2, is the second verse the same as the first? Read on as we cover the first four of eight cards in Series 2, and decide for yourself.
Please kindly keep in mind that this is the second series of characters. Each series of Vanguard cards contains eight cards, but these cards are unnumbered, so for the sake of simplicity we will be counting past eight from here on, starting with…
Barrin, the headmaster of the esteemed Tolarian Academy and father of Hanna (who we will encounter later in this article), is a fantastic character to utilize for your games. The deck that wants to use Barrin to its advantage thrives on having a glut of creatures to use as sacrificial fodder for other purposes already. A deck like Meren of Clan Nel Toth, Tayam, Luminous Enigma, or a different Aristocrats wants to use this Vanguard as good case against other Aristocrats decks, while any Stax-type deck is behooved by making opponents cast their spells over and over again.
Even though Barrin is very old and intelligent, for some reason your hand size will not be increased if you make use of his character card. However, your life total will be augmented to a net positive. This is a bit odd, but we'll allow it.
Crovax, the cursed vampire, friend to Mirri, scorn of Selenia. The man had many different epithets and wore many proverbial hats. He was even a hero in another timeline. But does his Vanguard stack up?
Put simply, Crovax somewhat underperforms for most any deck that doesn't quite need the lifegain aspect of his card. A buff of two extra cards in hand is nice but many other characters offer the same or better, and will have a stronger effect. The net-zero augment to one's starting life total also does not do this Vanguard character any favors, even if one were to use it and gain a bit of life afterwards. We would pass on it unless we were playing a commander like Karlov of the Ghost Council or… Well, the buck mostly stops there, frankly.
#11. Greven il-Vec
Greven il-Vec is the infamous captain of the Skyship Predator, the foil to the Weatherlight captained by Sisay, who we had discussed in our last article. Greven is a nasty, nasty character, as well as a harsh taskmaster. You would do well never to encounter his flagship in aerial combat, nor Greven himself in hand-to-hand strife.
In games using Vanguard characters, Greven gives your creatures a form of deathtouch that essentially functions from the command zone. While a two-point increase to your starting life total is a small handout compared to the rather big deficit that is losing a card from your starting and maximum hand size, these things pale in comparison to giving all of your creatures a stronger, impossible-to-remove form of deathtouch. Decks using Fynn, the Fangbearer will not care for this deck, though, as Greven doesn't technically give your creatures verbatim deathtouch. Plenty of decks will like Greven il-Vec, however, and he stands out in this article as the second-most destructive Vanguard of this batch behind Barrin.
We mentioned Hanna, who is all of Barrin's daughter, Gerrard's love interest, and the resident artificer of the Weatherlight (besides Urza, of course), at the beginning of this article. If there is any Vanguard card in this batch of four that is better than Barrin, it has to be his own daughter.
In Commander, Hanna is a one-sided Helm of Awakening and increases your maximum and starting hand size by one card. The five life deficit is nothing in Commander, though we would be remiss to neglect to acknowledge that Vanguard cards were not geared for games with a life total higher than 20 at default (this being said, we have tried them with 40 life and the life augmentations meant very little, even when modified). Storm decks of any variety would love to use Hanna's character card, plain and simple. This is our pick for the best Vanguard among these four. But don't you worry, they are about to get a lot more wacky and far more powerful in coming series, just you wait.
Are you a fan of Vanguard cards for Magic: The Gathering? Have you used them before, either on Magic Online or in paper? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!