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BMoor's Magic The Gathering Deck Garage
Bryan's peasant vanguard deck
December 28, 2006

I wanted to submit this deck to you to get your opinion on it. I'm a member of a MTGO clan (League Warriors, great clan that focuses mostly on, you guessed it, league play) and I organized a little tournament for us to play. Without going into too much details it's basically a standard peasant vanguard format with timeshifted cards considered rare. With your experience I assume you know the peasant format. So without further ado here's the deck:
Avatar: Hell's Caretaker
Creatures (in order of cc):
4X Festering Goblin
4X Llanowar Elves
2X Wild Cantor
4X Ravenous Rats
2X Civic Wayfinder
4X Infectious Host
4X Highway Robber
4X Nekrataal
4X Rampant Growth
4X Search for Tomorrow 
12X Forest
12X Swamp
The idea is that I can keep cycling robbers and host to deal damage, switch off to nekrataal for removal and rats on the upkeep. Wayfinder is there to get me some lands to begin with, chump block, and later thin out the deck. Wild Cantor is there because my opponents, once learning how my deck works, are unwilling to send a creature to the graveyard so I can start the cycle. They just wait till they get the big guys out and alpha strike me or use evasion.
Now the main problem I'm having with this deck is the avatar's -2 card penalty. I need a playable hand as a mulligan puts me down to 4 cards to start, where my opponent can have 8 before his draw. That puts me at a serious enough disadvantage for me to maybe get a diffrent avatar, but I really like this one's ability I think there's potential here.
If you see anything that can be improved upon please let me know. :-)
Bryan Dean
Thanks for the E-mail, Bryan!  For all my time spent online and all my love of Magic, I don't have Magic Online.  I've kind of wanted to foray into the world of Vanguard, and this is about as close as I'll come without paying a monthly fee.  For those readers who've never heard of Vanguard, here's how it works.  When making your deck, you pick a Vanguard "avatar" from among the various Vanguards that MTGO makes available to you.  That vanguard works a lot like one of the Leylines-- it affects play from before the game even starts.  Each Vanguard changes your starting life total, and changes the amount of cards you start with in your opening hand (that number also becomes your maximum hand size).  Most importantly, each vanguard has a different ability that acts just like a global enchantment-- you keep the ability all through the game.  To fix this deck, my first job to go find out what the Hell's Caretaker vanguard does:
Hell's Caretaker:  -2 hand/+4 life
3, Sacrifice a creature: Return target creature from your graveyard to play.
So that means that Bryan starts his game at 24 life, and by drawing 5 cards instead of 7.  Also, he can play Hell's Caretaker's ability whenever he wants-- and this deck certainly looks able to take advantage of it.  Every creature in here does something either when it comes into play or is put into a graveyard, which means for every time you play the ability, you're bound to get at least one ability to trigger as well.  Not only that, but this makes for great combat advantages.  As long as you can keep three mana open, you can block any creature and get another creature back from the graveyard to replace it.
Now, how to improve this deck?  Well, as you say, the big problem is drawing a good hand.  You only get 5 cards, so you need to make them all count.  And because it's a peasant format, you can't play rare card draw spells like Phyrexian Arena.  I looked for card drawing spells that you could run, but the only worthwhile nonrare cards in Black or Green are Carven Caryatid and Pyrexian Gargantua.  Which is actually a good thing-- because they're both creatures, you can sacrifice them and bring them back to get more cards.  Now, the loss of life from Phyrexian Gargantua would be offset by the extra 4 life you get from Hell's Caretaker, and it would be the biggest creature you've got, but the Caryatid is cheaper, can take more damage, and would make your opponent's offense that much harder.  Which one you want to run, if either, is up to you.
Next, I'd really like to remove Wild Cantor from this deck.  She's just not the optimal inclusion here, I'm afraid, despite being the only creature in Standard that costs 1 mana and can sacrifice herself for no cost.  But better options abound.  My first impulse was one of the Rusalkas-- Plagued or Starved.  Plagued Rusalka is probably the more useful, especially if you can combo it with Festering Goblin for -2/-2 to a creature, but Starved is easier to sacrifice when your opponent doesn't have a creature.  You might also try one of the Matryrs-- of Bones or of Spores.  This time it's the green Martyr of Spores that's the most useful, but your 5-card hand size hurts the Matryrs either way.  Any of these might prove more useful than Wild Cantor at getting creatures into the graveyard so you can commence the dance of life and death, though it should be noted that the Martyrs are common while the Rusalkas are uncommon-- an important consideration in the peasant format.
Your creature base is already pretty tight, so that just leaves your mana base, since all your noncreature spells are about getting more mana.  And it's well that they are, since you really do need to be able to pay 3 mana at any time to do the ol' Switcheroo with Hell's Caretaker.  Search for Tommorow is a great choice, but I'd replace Rampant Growth with Golgari Signet.  The Signet can be played with colorless mana, great if you're stuck on black mana.  And while Rampant Growth gives you a tapped land, Golgari Signet can give you extra mana the turn you play it (unless you still only have two mana).  And in that vein, I'd also like to suggest you run a few Golgari Rot Farm as well.  The common bouncelands work best in a deck that can play a lot of things off of one mana, so you still get to tap the land you return to your hand on Turn Two.  Let's see, what can you do with one mana?  Festering Goblin, Llanowar Elves, Wild Cantor (or her replacement), or suspend a Search for Tomorrow?  Quite a selection, and quite a motivation to give a few bouncelands a try.  With a hand of a bounceland, a regular land, and three spells, it's almost like having three spells and three lands, which will aid your low hand size problems a good deal.  I'd say 10 each of Swamps and Forests plus 4 Rot Farms ought to be just fine.
Good luck to your neverending Living End, Bryan, and good luck to all the League Warriors out there!

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