The Momir Basic Box

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By Byron King
@DoneTheMath

 

Building my Momir Basic Box was one of my proudest moments in Magic.  I spent years working on cultivating my list and buying or trading for an absurd number of foils.  I even got to show my Momir box off and play a game against Rich Hagen on a GP stream (Atlanta 2012, I can’t find footage for anything but the finals now).

My Momir Basic Box was my first real attempt at anything like a cube.  I built a cube years ago, but I didn’t understand a lot of the basic concepts at that time (like how busted Sol Ring is).  Momir Basic was something I enjoyed online, and I wanted to take a stab at building it in real life.

I had my Momir Basic box for about six years before I sold most of it.  It had gotten valuable enough that I was nervous playing against people that I didn’t know, and my play group had a preference for traditional cube after years of Momir.  Part of my Momir Basic box was preserved in my current cube, and the rest was broken apart.  I’ve still got the sleeves, box, dividers, and land decks if I get the hankering to rebuild.

Despite not currently having a Momir Basic Box, I wanted to go over what I learned from the process.  Hopefully, I can save you the effort of learning lessons I’ve already learned.  I’ve got plenty of advice and suggestions to pass along.

Before I get too far, I should explain what the Momir Basic format is.

 

Momir in a Nutshell

The actual rules of Momir are straightforward.  Each player has a deck consisting exclusively of basic lands.  Once per turn, players can pay X mana and discard a card to get a random creature token with converted mana cost X.  Since the only things available to spend mana on are Momir Vig and occasionally creature’s activated abilities, the game revolves around the battlefield and which creatures each player hits.

Today, most people have heard of Momir through Magic Arena’s Momir event.  The name originated from the Vanguard card Momir Vig, Simic Visionary.

This Vanguard card evolved into a niche Magic Online format where people would play a deck full of basic lands with the Vanguard card.  You’ll notice the Vanguard card has some information about life and hand size at the bottom.  Since Magic Online used the official Vanguard card to work, Momir on Magic Online had players start at 24 life and the typical seven card hand.

Magic Arena simply adopted the format and removed the random rules that the Vanguard card provided.  Instead of having the Vanguard, Magic Arena essentially gives each player an emblem with the Momir Vig ability.

 

How Real Life Momir Basic Functions

Running Momir Basic in person revolves around organizing several large piles of cards as efficiently as possible.  The easiest way to differentiate between creatures of different mana costs is the sleeve color.  I gave each mana cost a specific sleeve color, and I used a physical divider when I had the room.  When players acviate Momir Vig, they would discard a land and draw a random card out of the appropriate section of the box.  When a creature died, it would end up in a pile next to the box.  After a few games, all the pulled creatures would get sorted and returned to the box.

If you plan to play for an extended period of time, you can remove each of the piles from the box and make stacks for each converted mana cost.  That increases the diversity of cards used, since players typically pull from the middle of a section when everything is in the box.  Making piles takes up a large amount of room, and periodic shuffling should help prevent the same creatures from getting pulled.

 

Building a Physical Momir Box

There are thousands of unique creatures in Magic and no feasible way to transport and organize all of them.  That means building a Momir Basic box is akin to building a cube.  You will need to sift through a bunch of cards to identify the ones you want to run.  That said, there are a lot less balancing issues you need to manage with Momir Basic.

Before we get to individual card selection, let’s cover everything you need to get started.  At a minimum, you need:

-A box for everything

-A large selection of different colored sleeves

-a budget of a modest EDH deck for cards (flexible).

A cardboard 1000 count box is probably the best initial option for storage.  The issue is that the box is barely big enough, and there isn’t really room for physical dividers between different sections.  The Magic Holiday boxes were excellent for storage, but those haven’t been around for a few years.  If you are willing to spend a little more money, Ultimate Guard and Dex have some boxes that would work well.  Something with two rows will have more than enough room to store your creatures, land decks, and any miscellaneous dice, tokens, or other life counters you want to include.

The sleeves are the most unique challenge for building Momir Basic.  To keep the cards sorted by converted mana costs (CMC), different color sleeves are pretty much the only way to go.  I’d recommend around 60-80 cards for each CMC from 1-8 and at least 10 for everything higher than that.  That means 15 different color sleeves along with 1 more for the decks of basic lands.  You want a pretty big range of colors too, since visually distinct colors make sorting creatures easier.  You should just go ahead and buy eight full boxes of sleeves and dig around your old sleeves to flesh out the last few colors you need.  You’ll also need 120 sleeves for your basic lands, though you can play with unsleeved basic lands to save space and/or money.  If you use sleeves for your lands, I would recommend black so they are easy to distinguish from your creatures.

 

The Nuts and Bolts for Building Momir Basic

There are a lot of ways to go about getting the cards for Momir.  The first goal should be to find enough cards to play.  The number will vary for each CMC, but 30-40 of each should give enough variance to function.  Access to bulk rares at your local store or boxes of old cards are a great place to start.  Eventually I would try to work up to:

60 CMC one

70-80 CMC two

80-100 CMC three to seven

100 CMC eight

10-20 CMC nine

Everything CMC ten through fifteen

CMC one and two are often used less due to the common strategy of aiming for CMC eight.  To reach that point before running out of cards, a player can’t start making creatures until turn 2 on the draw or turn 3 on the play.

My original Momir box did not have a great selection of nine CMC creatures, simply because there weren’t that many.  The Bringer cycle from Fifth Dawn was a large chunk of what was available, and there certainly wasn’t a Zacama, Primal Calamity to hit.

 

A Tip of the Hat to Strategy

It’s important to touch on a few strategy points for Momir, since building a box presents a lot of opportunities to alter traditional strategy.  For Momir Basic on Magic Online, the strategy was to start at CMC 2 on the draw and CMC 3 on the play, since that would get you to CMC 8.  CMC 1 and 2 are full of low impact creatures, and the odds of hitting a mana creature were slim.  Eight was the magic number for two reasons.  Hoverguard Sweepers was the best hit in Momir (no longer true), and you did not risk losing the game to something like Phage, the Untouchable.

When Momir was first released on Magic Arena, it only had a handful of sets available to work with.  The strategy in that version was to aim for CMC 9, since Zacama, Primal Calamity was the only creature you could hit.  As long as you found enough mountains, Zacama would dominate the battlefield and almost ensure you won the game.

These rules change as new sets are released.  Magic didn’t even have a creature with CMC 13 until Emrakul, the Promised End was released.  I’ll go into these in more detail later, but you can alter your box to encourage or discourage strategies in Momir

 

Customizing the Strategy of Your Momir Basic Box

After you have a good selection of cards, you can begin customizing your choices based on the experience you want to create.  There are two directions you can go:

  • Your cards can be mostly balanced.  When bomb creatures and duds are less common, the game focuses more on correct combat and the occasional bomb becomes far more valuable.  This also happens to be the cheaper choice, as commons and uncommons will be a larger percentage of the total cards
  • Your cards can be swingy.  Luck becomes a bigger factor in the games, since more cards are bombs or duds.  These games tend to be more memorable since unique interactions can occur.  There is also a bigger chance to cause hurt feelings, as people can lose from seemingly unlosable situations.  Monetarily, this is the more expensive route as these cards tend to be rares and mythics.

I found that a bunch of swingy creatures was more fun.  There are plenty of opportunities for players to play with vanilla creatures in draft, and I wanted something more exciting.

Ari Lax wrote an excellent article on how creature stats affect a draft format (here).  There is some information there that is useful, particularly if skew towards more vanilla creatures in your build.

 

Whammy Creatures

These are the creatures you are crossing your fingers to never hit.  Are you going to be mad your good game ended when Phage, the Untouchable caused you to lose on the spot, or do you want the sweat knowing you can still spike a win against if an opponent gets greedy?  You need to consider this for yourself and the players you expect to play with.

There are a handful of creatures that die instantly or are horribly below rates for stats, but these are the REALLY bad ones.

2 CMC: Tempting Wurm

3 CMC: Countryside Crusher

4 CMC: Eater of Days

5 CMC: Leveler, Sky Swallower

6 CMC: Worldgorger Dragon, Demonlord Belzenlok

7 CMC: Phage, the Untouchable

Some of these leave big bodies behind that might still win you the game, but the effects are devastating.  Specifically, Eater of Days is huge enough that it might still win the game despite the handicap.  I think the worst creatures at eight CMC are Akron Legionnaire and Denizens of the Deep.  They are both pretty terrible hits, but not guaranteed losses.

I’m not positive that I’ve got a comprehensive list anymore.  Demonlord Belzenlok is newer than my Momir box, but there might have been others that slipped through without me noticing.

You will need to decide how bad the creatures in your box are.  There are plenty of Sunburst creatures that die immediately, since Momir makes them with no colored mana spent.  Scornful Egotist is a laughable 1/1 at eight mana.  Just how bad do you want the bad hits to be?

I included a handful of bad hits at each mana, and then one creature at each CMC from the list above.  Momir just doesn’t feel right to me if you can’t hit Phage and auto lose.

Creature Suggestions

These are some of the creatures I recommend getting as soon as possible:

  • Kederekt Leviathan – Blowing up the board is important.  Kederekt Leviathan can get you out of situations where nothing else can.  It also punishes players that get too greedy when they are ahead, particularly if they are making creatures pre-combat.
  • Hoverguard Sweeper – It’s a flying dragon with 2 removal spells attached.  This was the default best card in Momir for years.  It’s iconic enough that Magic Arena programed it in specifically for their Momir events.
  • Denizen of the Deep – This is another punisher card, but it’s presence forces players to think before just mindlessly making another 8 drop.
  • Scornful Egotist – One of the most iconic misses in Momir Basic
  • Emrakul, Kozilek, and Ulamog – If you ask any player to name the biggest creatures in magic, these always come up.  Because of their iconic nature, players will naturally expect these creatures to be in your box.  Emrakul, the Aeon’s Torn is particularly iconic.  You will eventually have someone go out of their way to try to hit 15 mana, and you want Emrakul available for them to hit.
  • Autochthon Wurm and other ten+ CMC creatures – You don’t want to guarantee an Eldrazi when players hit high mana costs.  You want some randomness involved.
  • Angel of Serenity – It’s pretty hard to beat a 4 for 1 in Momir Basic.  Angel of Serenity is in the running for the best creature in Momir.  It is only held back by people aiming for 8 drops and sharing the same CMC as Phage, the Untouchable.
  • Phage, the Untouchable – Speaking of Phage, she might just be the single most iconic card in Momir Basic.  No other card explicitly tells you that you lose the game when you pull it.  There are multiple cards that remove your deck or do something else awful, but Phage kills a player on the spot.
  • Laboratory Maniac – After playing a few games where people lose to Leveler, Demonlord Belzenlok, and Countryside Crusher, players will start to imagine living the dream of wining with them and Laboratory Maniac.  There is no reason not to keep the dream alive.
  • Craterhoof Behemoth – Because Momir favors the defensive player, board stalls are not uncommon.  This can be mitigated with more powerful creatures, but it is impossible to prevent the board stalling out altogether.  Craterhoof Behemoth is probably the best and just ending a game from one of these positions, though End-Raze Forerunners does an admirable job as a fraction of the monetary cost.

Miscellaneous Advice

Your eight CMC slot should be your largest and best maintained section.  Players will typically pull one card from the earlier sections, but they will often pull multiple eights in a single game.  You don’t want to start running into repeat hits after two or three games.

I never bothered with zero CMC creatures.  They just take up space, and it’s almost never correct to make them.  Feel free to provide them if you want, but the joke gets old fast.

I made the lands decks with 12 of each basic.  Momir Basic on Magic online allows for customized basic lands, which skew towards Mountains and Swamps and almost no Islands.  That always felt like a needless complication to explain.  The reasoning for that is the abundance of creatures that pump for red or black, and there are several creatures that can’t attack unless the opponent controls an island.

I quickly cut all of the good, reusable mana creatures.  Creatures like Zhur-Taa Ancient, Oracle of Mul-Daya, Rosheen Meanderer, and Bloom Tender regularly allow players to blow past eight mana into Eldrazi territory.  This is fine on occasion, but players will quickly burn through your selection of expensive creatures if you have multiple enablers.  I found that temporary enablers like Orcish Lumberjack and Rith’s Attendant made it easier to manage what creatures were hit.

I never ran multiple copies of the same card, but there are plenty of reasons to do it.  Knowing that Emrakul, the Aeon’s Torn is no longer available to hit changes the strategy a lot.  Beyond that, I never had to deal with a CMC that literally had a single creature (Emrakul, the Promised End).  It’s expensive to run multiples, but that would be the best fix.  My solution was to simply make it extremely hard (but not impossible) to reach those mana costs.  Another option would be to add a stack of proxy Emrakuls and Autochthon Wurm and just store the physical cards in a different section.  You have 2 of each so each player can grab one if they need it, and Autochthon Wurm are cheap enough to pick up multiples.

If you want to encourage players to pull one and two CMC creatures, you want to seed those slots with particularly good creatures.  Mana creatures are an easy way to do this, but there are some strong rares and mythics that are exciting to pull too.  These will encourage players to take a chance on lower cost cards more often and keep those sections from collecting dust.

Creatures with mana abilities are difficult to use effectively.  Threatening to activate a firebreathing ability in combat is nice, but it’s rarely worth downgrading or skipping a creature for the turn.

There are some options that a physical version of Momir offer that aren’t available anywhere else.  Silver bordered cards can add some silly interactions that you would never see anywhere else.  Fruitcake Elemental, Frazzled Editor, and Emcee were some of my favorites.  I would avoid going overboard on these, but a little spice never hurt.

There are other options for physical Momir that make things truly random.  I’ve played multiple Two-Headed Giant games of Momir just to accommodate more players.  I found teams to be particularly enjoyable for Momir, since multiple people are invested in what you hit from the box.  I’ve also used Planechase cards a few times, though it’s impractical to roll the Planechase die more than once a turn.  I might consider tweaking the rules on Planechase cards if you are interested in using them repeatedly.

Magic Online has the Jhoira of the Ghitu (spells) and Stonehewer Giant (equipment) vanguards that people used to occasionally use in conjunction with Momir Vig.  If you are interested in truly jumping off the deep end, you could pursue those as well.  I might skip the Stonehewer Giant, as I didn’t feel like it added much to the experience.  Spending the mana to reequip wasn’t worth it unless you got something busted, so the equipment typically produced random, temporary bonuses.

Magic Arena did a Momir variant where each deck had one of every planeswalker in War of the Spark, along with 60 basic lands.  You can certainly seed your starting decks with whatever you want, though I would try several games without that before you delve into games with altered decks.  A box with multiple rows would give you ample storage space for multiple decks if you wanted to keep those together without needing to add/remove cards.

 

 

Overall, I feel like Momir is a good alternative to building a cube, particularly if it is difficult to find sufficient players to run a cube draft.  Momir allows for a large amount of customization during construction, and the games are never repetitive.  The best part is that games are quick, rarely going past five minutes.  That makes Momir ideal to fit in between rounds during events.

If you have an interest at looking at my complete list, here is the link.  Something like Cube Cobra or Cubetutor would be a good way to organize it now, but all I had was a spreadsheet back in the day.  I sold my box about three years ago now, so it is missing anything newer than that.  I also skewed towards cards that could be foil, as my box was as close to foil as I could get it.

If you have any questions about building your own Momir box, I would love to help.  I derived a lot of joy from building and playing my box, and I’m happy to help other people find that enjoyment too.  Twitter is the easiest place to find me (@donethemath) where I occasionally post and I’m mostly a lurker.

Best of luck!

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