Momir Basic IRL

Hallie SantoCommunity

Of all the formats you can play on Magic Online, Momir Basic is undoubtedly the strangest. Players start the game with 60 basic lands and a Momir Vig, Simic Visionary Avatar, and throughout the game, they take turns discarding lands to generate token copies of random creatures. It’s a swingy format, and as a competitive player who aims to minimize Magic’s inherent variance, I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying it. There’s something delightful about spinning the wheel and seeing a creature you didn’t even know existed appear on your side of the battlefield.

The entire Momir set, in all its color-coded glory. (Photo credit: Chris Rowlands)

Momir draws from a pool of tens of thousands of creatures, so it’s nearly impossible to replicate the experience with paper Magic cards – but that hasn’t stopped a few intrepid players from trying. Here in Seattle, where Card Kingdom has its offices, we’re fortunate enough to have one of those players in our midst. If you live in the area, you may have even seen Del Johnston set up shop at Mox Boarding House Seattle, where he often meets with friends to play tabletop RPGs and board games. Every so often, Del brings along his curated Momir Basic set – a collection of over 400 creatures in piles of color-coded sleeves – and challenges players to duel. Last month, we posted a photo of Del’s Momir set-up on our Twitter account, and our community was so eager learn more about his creation that we decided to call him in for an interview.

Of course, to get the full Momir experience, I just had to play a few games with Del – and, of course, some of those games were comically lopsided. In the first game, I paid two mana and got a copy of Walking Atlas, which would enable me to ramp into enormous creatures; in another, I got a Tempting Wurm for the same cost, and Del was four land-drops ahead of me for the rest of the game. Del intentionally included these powerful “bombs” and detrimental “bricks” in his Momir collection to make the games feel as uncertain as possible.

“I included some incredibly powerful and one-sided cards that basically say ‘Win target game’,” Del said. “I want players who feel like they don’t have an out to know that, if they believe in the heart of the cards, they can flip something game-changing.”

Pay 7 mana, at your own risk.

While Del tried to preserve the spirit of playing Momir Basic online – you still risk summoning Phage the Untouchable every time you pay seven mana – he’s also adapted the format to suit the paper medium. His Momir cards go to the graveyard and stay there, which means that creatures like Gravedigger are much more effective. He also has a separate pile of Morph creatures, sleeved back-to-back with Morph reminder cards in KMC Perfect-Fits, that can be cast for three mana to add an extra element of surprise to his already unpredictable games.

“Like a Cube builder, you want to design for a specific feel,” Del said. “I’ve gotten rid of any creatures with additional casting restrictions, like Kicker and Affinity, that are just uninteresting to play.” Like a good Cube curator, he also updates his Momir set regularly as new cards are released – he seemed especially excited to add Prowling Serpopard, the famous cat-snake of Amonkhet, to his menagerie.

Narrowing down his collection of creatures took some trial and error, but the lessons Del learned in the process have helped him make more informed decisions about future additions to the set. Creatures whose activated abilities cost mana weren’t as useful as anticipated; most players want access to as much mana as possible each turn, so they can cast the largest possible creatures. In the end, he chose to include a few, such as Gigantomancer and Giant Trap Door Spider, because they had such game-changing effects.

Nekrataal: Momir Basic MVP.

I was also happy to see lots of creatures with valuable “enter the battlefield” effects. I was lucky enough to flip a Nekrataal after paying four mana, but Del admitted that it’s difficult to find creatures with creature-removal effects. He’s endeavored to find such creatures at all possible casting costs, and managed to turn up some unlikely winners, like Unyaro Bees.

Overall, Del is proud of his creation, and he’s always pleased when another Mox local is willing to indulge him in a few games. “People are somewhat suspicious if they aren’t familiar with the online format,” he said, “but the set-up draws a crowd, and I’ve had a lot of success with the ‘put your quarter in the machine’-style environment.”

If you’d like to replicate the experience with your playgroup or at your local game store, you can purchase Del’s entire Momir set from Card Kingdom thanks to our friends at TappedOut, or consider making one of your own!

Header design: Justin Treadway
Header art: “Momir Vig, Simic Visionary” by Victor Adame Minguez