I saw it! It was big, allll trampley, and it blocked everything! It...was...a...
Now, I wouldn't want to jilt any other spells by saying that it is far and away the best card from the new set; in my articles, I try to fuse the bouncing around of ideas with the laying down of edicts. Advent is definitely near the top of the charts when it comes to Dragon's Maze, and the fact that it shares the colors (and a theme or two) with the card that seems to be getting the most press, Voice of Resurgence, bodes well for our bawdy invertebrate. I decided to give both a spin in the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Somerset, New Jersey the weekend after the Prerelease, and while I learned a ton and had a great time (when I wasn't enduring horrific back pain), my list was terrible, I didn't play well, and I scrubbed out. Hard. You could say it was a bit of a bummer.
You know what always cheers me up?
Rolled up Tusks over Elves. Slime-Restoing stupid tourists and taking huge games off of them. Playing low EV Magic all night on twitch.tv, "where they make playing games more fun." Life gain and card draw, so much I can't even count it.
Screw it, let's draft.
Don't tease me.
Let's play some cards.
Ahem. So, yeah, Advent of the Wurm is the real deal. I want to discuss every single attribute of the card in excruciating detail with you today. We're really going to put it under the microscope. That's right—it's time to go back to middle school biology class and dissect a Wurm.
I'm mostly going to be discussing the importance of the card to the budding archetype of Bant Flash in the body of the article, though many of the principles equally apply elsewhere. This is because I feel that it is both the most obvious and likely the best home for the card. I will, however, supply some proposed alternative archetypes to utilize this sweet new spell at the end of the piece.
"In an alternate universe."
When you first look at the card, you may wonder why it is an instant that makes a token rather than a creature. Other cards that have done this in the past have had flashback or other reasons to be a noncreature spell type. This card, however, is fairly straightforward, so why not just make it a creature?
I imagine the designed purpose is populate, the Selesnya guild mechanic (which I will get to towards the end of the article), but for now I want to discuss a key side effect of having this card be a populate enabler (which happens to be my stage name) [Editor's Note: I don't think that's true…]: it's an instant.
Being an instant means you can cast it any time you'd like. Revolutionary, I know! This allows for some pretty interesting tactics, the most obvious of which is ambushing unsuspecting attackers.
This is obviously a scary threat to have to play against, particularly for aggressive decks. I feel I don't have to go into this any further, as Restoration Angel has been out for a while now so I'm sure you understand the tactics involved with beefy surprise blockers.
Another use of an instant speed threat is the ability to double-up against a counter-based control deck. If all you're able to do is play one spell a turn at sorcery speed, then there's nothing preventing the opponent from simply countering everything you do that they find threatening and using the non-threatening "turns off" or any mana they have left over to cast card drawing on your end step. By casting something threatening on their end step and then untapping, you strain their mana and try to cross them up, only being able to stop one thing when you can do two.
In a similar vein, being an instant lets you sneak the threat in under countermagic when the control deck uses your end step to generate some velocity and get deeper into their deck, usually with Think Twice but the same applies to small Sphinx's Revelations (if it's for three or more, you've likely lost even if you "sneak in" a Wurm), a Forbidden Alchemy, a Snapcaster Maged Thought Scour, etc. I can imagine a humorous situation arising where an opponent cycles an Azorius Charm or two only to have their somewhat ironically tapped out position be exploited by a card that those very Charms would have efficiently answered.
Speaking of Azorius Charm, that card really is the bane of Advent of the Wurm. While I would generally say the two aforementioned tactical applications are a couple of the more important qualities of an instant speed threat, Advent is actually relatively poor at them due to its nature of being one of the more answerable threats you can present to a control deck. It's fairly easy for them to Charm your Wurm your token into the purgatorial oblivion and still be ready for your follow-up with a Dissipate or what have you.
Can snake charmers do Wurms, too? Even if not, that would be an apt graphic to envision here.
I would say that a more useful tactical application against control would be as a Supreme Verdict follow-up. After producing sufficient pressure in the opening turns, you put them to the test to wrath you, after which you lay your 5/5, untap, and get your damage in while they're tapped down. And you're still demanding an answer. If they have the Azorius Charm after this, then they may be up the mana exchange without even investing any utility risk in deckbuilding, but you've already gotten your value in the form of a quarter of their starting life total. Plus, they may be bottlenecked to use that two (or however much) mana to answer your Wurm before taking another hit, whereas you weren't using that four mana that went into the Advent otherwise so it's actually still potentially profitable depending on how the game develops.
Another side effect of Advent of the Wurm being printed as a populate enabler (that's what they call me) [Editor's Note: Noooo they don't…] is that it is an instant. No, I know I just went over that; I'm moving past the fact that you can cast it whenever you want and am going into the existential realm. I'm talking about the fact that it has the quality of being of the card type "instant."
For competitive play, there are two cards in particular that work quite well with instants and sorceries that have been staples of the metagame for quite some time now: Augur of Bolas and Snapcaster Mage. It's also worth noting that it can help your Delver of Secrets flip, but what are you cutting for Advent in Delver decks? Also, is the Delver deck with Advent worth playing? Is Delver even good in it? And more inane questions that I don't care to bother investigating.
Traditionally, these decks need a way to close out a game. People have experimented with Aurelia, the Warleader and/or Assemble the Legion as well as maindecking various Jaces. The prototypical kill used to be one or two Runechanter's Pikes when the deck had Moorland Haunt. That was before the printing of Boros Reckoner, which was subsequently used jointly with Harvest Pyre (and/or Blasphemous Act). Geist of Saint Traft falls in and out of favor as builds fluctuate throughout the aggression spectrum. I've even seen people use Thundermaw Hellkite in their "Flash" shells!
These cards were endgames. They were, for a lack of a better term, win conditions. Those decks needed a clean, effective way to convert their massive resource advantage into a victory in a timely manner. This is because of the relative weakness of the deck's incidental threats and the relative nimbleness of the mana production capabilities compared to a more classical control shell (which, thanks to their more robust mana, are more inclined to play pure, dedicated win conditions).
Enter Advent of the Wurm.
Changing colors aside, Advent is essentially the newest generation in the search for a clean kill. It is a control card that both helps stabilize/control and also finishes an opponent off. And in a relatively quick way, I might add, which is extremely helpful in this style of deck that needs to be able to turn the corner and close quickly if not immediately. So why am I explaining all of this fairly intricate deckbuilding theory and history in a section that is supposed to be about Augur of Bolas? Well, if you look at the list I just wrote of the past role-players that filled this slot, you'll notice that none of them can be found off of our little Maritime Guard friend (well, I say "friend")—at least until now.
A normal number of spells (read: Augurable cards) in U/W/R Flash was somewhere in the area of 22. Gerry Thompson—widely regarded as the reigning authority on the archetype and rightfully so—had 21 in his Pro Tour Gatecrash Top 8 decklist and 23 in his StarCityGames.com Invitational: Atlanta winning decklist. You'll find that all builds float around that ballpark. Now it's basically a straight swap cutting Reckoners for Advents. The only Bant Flash lists I have for reference right now are Matt Costa's from his Top 16 finish in the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Somerset the weekend after the Prerelease and his article. He had 27 spells there, 26 in his updated list, and 25 in his proposed alternative take on the archetype with Voice of Resurgence supplementing the creature base. These numbers check out.
If you have 22 "hits," Augur of Bolas will give you a card ~77.6% of the time.
If you have 26 "hits," Augur of Bolas will give you a card ~84.6% of the time.
As someone who has said in the booth that Augur's text is "look at the bottom three cards of your library" and has called Bane Alley Blackguard the Black Augur since the Prerelease, I'm pretty excited at whiffing 7% less often with the fishy warlock. The reason it may seem like that should be higher is because there are huge diminishing returns after around 60% thanks to it not mattering for this calculation the times that you see more than one "hit." That being said, the variety of options is certainly strategically significant.
When your options off of Augur are Thought Scour, Think Twice, and Azorius Charm, it doesn't really matter all that much that you were given a choice since they all kind of do the same thing. The choice matters when you hit varied effects, such as a cycler and a removal spell. Now you can make a strategic choice based on the matchup and game state and such.
Advent brings in a whole new category of card.
It used to be that if you needed a win condition, then you had to hit Sphinx's Revelation or a cycler and hope to dig to one. Being able to peel one straight off is super helpful, and introducing that new card type into your calculations lets you make a lot more decisions. Decisions are good (as long as you make them correctly, obviously).
Speaking of varied spell effects, enter Snapcaster Mage. I've spoken at length about the deckbuilding theory principles that go into building with Tiago. How a varied spell suite gives you ultimate utility in the late game due to the capability to turn one of a slightly narrower but more powerful effect into two when it is good. Also, how you can use effects that power through your deck—like Thought Scour—as pseudo card selection. I'm pretty sure that most of the time that I have discussed these principles I was discussing Legacy, but it all applies to every other format just as well.
Well, you are now able to close a game out directly with Snappy rather than having to use it to Sphinx's Revelation for three or something and hope to find the pieces necessary to kill the opponent before they draw out of it (which they are wont to do with the haymaker nature of the metagame).
I'm going to reiterate that for emphasis: Advent of the Wurm takes no set up—unlike many of the other kills—and can be used proactively. The significance of being able to play proactively is being able to turn a corner in the midgame, transitioning into an aggro-control, Counterslivers-esque (or Delver-esque for the uninitiated) deck.
You don't have to carefully play around removal because you're not investing significant resources. You don't have to set it up over the course of multiple turns and meet a bunch of strange criteria. You don't have to close your eyes, cross your fingers, and tap five-plus mana at sorcery speed (or wait until you make an unreasonable number of land drops first). You don't have to wait a long time to finish off your opponent. It's a no fuss, no muss kill that naturally assimilates cohesively into your deck without having to invest additional slots or giving up utility. I feel like Snapcaster Mage and Advent of the Wurm are going to be good friends from now until rotation.
I just have a couple more small things to go over pertaining to the qualities of this glorious Magic card, and then I'll post some primitive lists that utilize it.
Despite being a multicolored spell, the Wurm token itself is just green. It may not be easy being green, but it's definitely a lot easier than mixed—I MEAN MULTICOLORED! At least, I think that's the preferred nomenclature these days. I certainly don't want to give the impression that I care what color a creature is—because I don't. It's just that...others might. Others like Blood Baron of Vizkopa, who is quite...discerning of the company he keeps. I even got to expose the shame of a Knight of Infamy in New Jersey. It's 2013, people. You can't just go around and Invoke Prejudice like that.
There is, however, a bit of a schism at hand. You see, the Wurms are in favor of starting a movement to Renounce the Guilds and continuing to attack unimpeded. And Snapcaster Mage—ugh, don't get me started—he really picked up the movement and ran with it. They, along with Augur of Bolas and Restoration Angel, have bonded over their monochromatism and have been cleaning up the streets in a rare and instantaneous manner. They have efficiently gotten rid of all sorts of otherwise difficult-to-answer threats, such as Obzedat, Ghost Council; Sire of Insanity; Assemble the Legion; Boros Reckoner; Falkenrath Aristocrat; Sorin, Lord of Innistrad; Geist of Saint Traft, and so many more.
One more little thing before we get to the juicy new decklists. Settle down, baby birds; I'll feed you. But first, A POP QUIZ!!! *gasp*
Did you know the Wurm token from this article's namesake card has a keyword ability? Ok, well, that's admittedly not a very trying test, as we're well into this article already. My point is that not many people realized it did at first. Costa didn't. Two of my opponents didn't. Owen didn't ("this used to have fading, you know"). But, if you look closely, on a full moon you might be able to make out the word hidden deep within the text of the spell. Legend has it that a boy once saw the word. It was on a night just like tonight exactly ten years ago today, and he was never seen again. Some say that his spirit still haunts this place and that if you say Advent of the Wurm three times while looking into a mirror, you'll see it...
This article got weird. I mean weirder. Let's reel it back in. Why would we care about a keyword like trample? Why is it so important here?
Well, let me take a step back and tell you about how great I am at Magic for a moment. Trust me, this is relevant. Also, that was a joke. I do feel as if I won more games involving Geist of Saint Traft than many players—on both sides of the legendary Spirit. Why? Because when I was attacking with it, I took maximum advantage of the blockers step priority and disallowed my opponents to do the same to me when the table was flipped.
This seems simple enough, but the times that I saw people Vapor Snag the token and THEN attack, only to trade with the Huntmaster and have no more pressure...*sigh*. Whether it's Dismember or Swords to Plowshares or whatever else, you can bet I've watched players miss this line with it, likely multiple times. And on the other side, had the player simply shoved two or more (or all, like I usually did; you figure it out, opponent person with your fancy mythic rare) blockers in front, this type of sequence wouldn't have been possible.
Well, instead of ensuring you get another Angel token next turn, with Advent of the Wurm you're getting in that damage right away! Even Azorius Charm, a card that forces you to take this awesome and often correct line, works awesomely with the Wurm.
While that tactic is pretty sweet, the true reason that trample is so important for the Wurm is because of the existence of the stupidly powerful Lingering Souls. When I was testing the beta builds of what I played in Somerset online (Dragon's Maze had not been released on Magic Online yet), Lingering Souls was impossible to race and made many games feel hopeless. Snapcaster Mages, Avacyn's Pilgrims, Arbor Elfs, Stromkirk Nobles—the list of chump blockers in Standard right now goes on and on. But Wurmy McSquirmy gives zero craps; he's too cool for school!
And that gives us a nice transition into our decklists! When I was trying that deck, I made a list of the things that I felt it was missing. I wanted a threat that let me hold my mana up for countermagic or the plethora of instants in the deck. I wanted something that dealt with or raced Lingering Souls tokens. I wanted a better late-game threat than 3/3s. And I wanted another populate enabler (you rang?) [Editor's Note: *sigh*] since I was often light on tokens to utilize the populate cards. After I jotted down some notes and compiled them into the concise list you see before you, I realized that Advent of the Wurm fills every single one of those holes the deck had!
Who would've thought that populate would be a Constructed-playable mechanic? I know I didn't, but this card singlehandedly gets me excited about the possibilities.
I was pretty stupid and only played two Advent of the Wurm, as I was afraid it would get clogged in my hand and may not be good in certain matchups, but as I played in the tournament, I realized that it's pretty much all I ever wanted to draw on every single turn of every single game. Ha! I guess that's why we playtest! Rather than show you my horrible list, I will say that this is closer to where I think it should be and that it is inspired by a list I saw do decently in a couple of online PTQs but with good cards instead of Delver of Secrets and Cloudfin Raptor.
NOTE: These decklists are not tested, and I'm not saying they are "correct" by any means. These are just some ideas I had that I fleshed out into 75 for the sake of the article and to give you a jumping-off point. Any sort of comment along the lines of "why not *random card*, isn't it insane??!?!?" or "isn't 24 is too many lands??! #?%?$?" or anything else of that nature, I can save you the time and tell you that the answer is "idk maybe" and that you should try it out yourself and draw your own conclusions! If you have a question about general ideas of the decks or my untested thoughts on a particularly peculiar card choice, then I'd be happy to answer, and you should feel free to leave a comment. I just wanted to make my intentions clear with these lists before sharing.
I call it Bant Tchotchke because it's tokens and charms!
Here is a more midrangey pile that incorporates some of those elements but phases out blue entirely in exchange for some mana acceleration and a higher curve.
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 3 Fiend Hunter
- 3 Loxodon Smiter
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 3 Thragtusk
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
I'm pretty sure this will end up being a mixture of (that is worse than) both Reanimator and The Aristocrats, but it does have a slightly unique angle of attack for now, so it might be worth looking at.
And finally, the deck that I actually think is going to be a big player going forward, Bant Flash.
That's all I have for you for now. Thanks for reading, everyone! I have a bunch of announcements since I'm working on a bunch of different things and am making tons of content! I'll be doing parallel commentary for the Pro Tour this weekend on my twitch.tv channel whenever I'm awake and up for it, so feel free to come hang out in the chat. Then I plan on doing AJTV episodes on any matches that catch my eye, so watch for those in the following weeks. I've also started doing personal coaching on my stream and posting the lessons to YouTube for all to enjoy, so check all of that out if it interests you.
Finally, I'll be in the booth for SCG Open Series: Baltimore June 1st and 2nd with my new boss, GP Providence teammate, and [all-around nut-high human] Cedric Philips! [Editor's Note: I swear I didn't add any of this.] You should definitely be attending the event, but if you're a prisoner of war in a far-off land who still gets Internet access somehow or something, then be sure to tune in to the live coverage!
Or you could not worry about remembering any of that and just follow me on Twitter since I tweet whenever any of this stuff happens.
Thanks again for reading. Please comment below and let me know what you think of the article, what you think of Advent of the Wurm, and what you think the meta will be like come #SCGBALT!
- AJ Sacher