When Core 2019 was first released, this little fella was predominantly talked about in a Modern context, specifically whether he would see play in Humans. Due to the way that Magic players tend to compartmentalize information, this led to Militia Bugler being written off as a "Modern card" rather than considering what it could do in Standard.
Rather than ensuring that its controller will always have the resources necessary to enable casting spells, Militia Bugler makes sure that there's always gas in the tank. That can mean that he's closer to a curve-topper, or that he performs a role that runs opposite to how we think about cantrips and the bouncelands of original Ravnica.
When playing lands like these in "fair" decks, they tend to count for more than a single land during the deckbuilding process.
Take this classic Solar Flare list from original Ravnica block:
Despite the deck playing piles of mana-intensive spells, being three colors, and including a splashy Miren, the Moaning Well, there are only 23 "real" lands. The aforementioned bouncelands make more than a single mana, and the play patterns they create are effectively creating extra land-drops. This means that the decks that play them get to cheat on their land count a bit.
When building a deck with Militia Bugler in mind, we can do the same thing with Militia Bugler, but for spells instead of lands. Similar to bouncelands, there's a requisite number like-typed cards in order for the card to be effective, but what are those numbers like?
|Number of Hits||Percentage to Hit|
(Credit: Frank Karsten)
So, what we know from this table is that for Militia Bugler to hit approximately two-thirds of the time, we need fourteen hits and we need a little under half of our deck to be Militia Bugler hits in order to crack the 90% threshold. Generally speaking, looking at more hits is going to be better; we want our cards to have text boxes, right? The difference will be in what role we're interested in Militia Bugler playing.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that while building with Bugler in mind is important, most of what this should be doing is telling you how to play Militia Bugler, which will incidentally inform the cards that you'd like to be grabbing with the Bugler.
Grabbing Trostani Discordant
The easiest place to start with 'Bugler decks is where my article left off last week : Selesnya.
A white-leaning Selesnya deck is going to have a host of creatures that serve different functions, but it ultimately benefits from having a critical mass of them on the battlefield. This type of deck is going to feature Militia Bugler's ability not just being used for raw card advantage but for the built-in selection as well.
- 3 Benalish Marshal
- 2 Knight of Autumn
- 4 Knight of Grace
- 4 Militia Bugler
- 4 Emmara, Soul of the Accord
- 4 Shanna, Sisay's Legacy
- 4 Trostani Discordant
With the first copy of Militia Bugler having twenty other possible hits, the deck is right around the 80% mark of hitting another card. The idea behind the deck is that despite the deck playing several different legendary creatures, Militia Bugler increases the odds of having a mix of legendary creatures, rather than stranding redundant copies in one's hand.
Note that despite a lack of anything other than Trostani costing more than four, the deck is playing 25 lands and likely wants the 26th. The reason for this is that with cards like Legion's Landing and Militia Bugler in the deck, as well as a glut of three-drops, it isn't hard to envision a scenario in which this deck has something to do with its mana every turn of the game. Hitting the first five or six land drops is going to be fantastic, and land drops don't start being bad until the seven-ish mana mark, as six lands is simply the threshold for casting multiple three-drops in a turn.
This effect is the type of thing I'm talking about when I comment on the fact that Militia Bugler lets us have a lower density of spells in our deck but can keep the odds of having spells to cast roughly the same.
What happens when we push the limits of the card advantage side of things?
Grabbing Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
We're gonna kill em.
This decklsit is going to look a bit strange, particularly the land count for a deck with a curve that tops out at four, but I've got two words for you: Mana. Sinks.
The newest Boros mechanic is about dominating combat, and having so many creatures with Firebreathing-esque abilities makes it difficult for the opponent to profitably block. While this deck is much closer to something we'd expect to have 22 lands, Guildmages' Forum acts as half a spell and has natural synergies with the guild's mechanic.
All this deck wants to use Militia Bugler for is making sure that it always has creatures to spend its mana on. In most decks, a 2/3 for three is fairly reasonable, but what if you hit any of these in the later portions of the game?
A 2/3 for three that draws a spell is already fairly nice, but what happens when that body is even better? A 3/4 for three that a draws a spell as the best card is powerful, and anything bigger than that is comfortably "the best creature in the format."
Grabbing Graveyard Nonsense
I know that Sam Black is writing about graveyards this week, and I'll avoid stepping on his toes too much, but think about how Standard graveyard-synergy decks tend to operate. It's generally some enablers and then oversized payoff cards. Remember this?
- 2 Deathrite Shaman
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 3 Lotleth Troll
- 4 Nemesis of Mortals
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 2 Shadowborn Demon
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 3 Herald of Torment
- 4 Nighthowler
- 2 Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
The core strategy of the deck was "cast spells that make Nemesis of Mortals and Nighthowler unfair, then cast Nemesis of Mortals and Nighthowler." The best draws from the deck were quite powerful, and one of the biggest problems the deck suffered from was losing to itself. That's to say, it had to mulligan hands without enablers, and even when keeping enabler-heavy hands, it had a fail-rate from not drawing enough big things to reward all the self-milling it was doing.
What about today?
Zero power, huh?
Two power, huh.
Two power? What a fine coincidence.
- 4 Glowspore Shaman
- 4 Golgari Raiders
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 4 Militia Bugler
- 2 Moodmark Painter
- 4 Stitcher's Supplier
- 4 Izoni, Thousand-Eyed
The basic sketch here is rough, but finding payoff cards in this deck is comically easy, and the explore mechanic from Ixalan is doing this self-mill strategy a lot of favors. For a deck completely lacking blue, there's a lot of card selection packed in here. Casting Stitcher's Supplier on the first turn isn't easy, but it's so powerful in the deck that its efficacy isn't drastically reduced as the game progresses past that point.
As Magic players, we all have some cards in our back pocket that we're trying to think of ways to break, and Teshar is pretty high on my list. With four copies of the same two-power creature in our library, each Bugler has a 25% chance of hitting that specific two-power creature. Any sort of synergy deck leaning on a specific creature or two is going to benefit from Militia Bugler.
It feels as if there must be some sort of shell involving Militia Bugler, Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle, and other creatures that can be reanimated by Teshar, grabbed by Militia Bugler, and trigger Teshar. It's a tall order, but there are a handful of playable creatures that meet the criteria:
This is absolutely taking some liberties in what is and isn't "playable," but it feels as if there is some sort of value deck hiding here, and I very well may not be smart enough to assemble it. On top of that, this list is simply cards that check all of the aforementioned boxes. When we start excluding single boxes and deciding that checking two of them is enough, things really start to open up.
If only there were a card that could be found by Militia Bugler, triggered Teshar, and also benefited from filling the graveyard in the way that Teshar does. If only…
The overarching point here is that Militia Bugler changes how we can build decks and how we should be building decks. Observing the impact that cards like this have outside of the game is going to shift how games themselves play out. I've always been a proponent of playing more lands , and cards that let us do that without hurting our spell density in-game are going to reduce the number of games that we lose the ability to play Magic.
Preview season is always ripe for trying to find the wackiest interactions to break, and Guilds of Ravnica is no exception. Remember that it isn't just the newest cards that we should be looking at, but taking second looks at some old cards that may have been held back by previously legal cards is going to take one's deckbuilding to the next level. Rotation is a very big deal, and ignoring it is doing yourself a disservice.