What's Wrong with This Picture?

Josh Moore • January 10, 2018

Before I answer that question, I'd like to tell you about an element in gaming that I love: Random Number Generators (RNG). Pokemon, Borderlands, and PUBG are a few personal favorites that use RNGs to keep things interesting.

Will this Pokemon be shiny? Is this Unkempt Harold the Double-Penetrating version or just the Stiff version? Will there be an assault rifle and armor in this barn, or just a gas mask? An RNG is used to make these determinations.


RNG elements create excitement in games that otherwise might quickly become repetitive or redundant. It's the same feeling you get from opening a booster pack in Magic. You might want to open Chandra, but sometimes you open Depala instead.

Let's get back to our picture. My opponent just got that Jugan, the Rising Star into play on their last turn. On my turn, I tapped Intrepid Hero to destroy it. My opponent put the counters on Rhox War Monk. No big deal, I'll just destroy it on my next turn, again with Intrepid Hero.


Then my opponent got that Noxious Dragon into play which spells danger for my Intrepid Hero. My strategy has just changed because of the RNG effects built into Magic gameplay.

So what is wrong with the picture?

Well, in a typical Magic game: a lot. There are no instants, sorceries, enchantments, artifacts, or planeswalkers in the photo. The graveyard is full of basic lands, and Jugan never hit the graveyard.

What format allows these specific interactions between the cards? It seems so... random.

Magic has its own RNG format that creates these board states, called Momir Basic.

If you've never heard of Momir Basic, it's an online format that boils down to putting token copies of randomly selected creatures into play from ANYWHERE in the Magic multiverse. As of Ixalan, Gatherer reports that there are 9,373 unique creatures in the Magic multiverse. Momir Basic selects creatures from that pool to copy and put into play. RNG at its best and this is the Avatar that makes it happen:


Also, your 60 card deck can contain only basic lands, used to discard for the tokens or to play as lands to cover action costs on the cards.

I've played a few hundred matches of Momir Basic, and it's never the same game twice. The large pool of creatures and random selection means that the fun interations and unique lines play are highly unlikely to reproduce across games. Both players have perfect information, like in chess.

The nature of the format is such that cards get better or worse. Flickerwisp is a bit stronger than usual, while Kitchen Finks is weaker. Dogged Hunter becomes incredible. With lands in your graveyard, Terravore is extremely good. With only lands in your deck, Grozoth is terrible.

Since Momir Vig technically uses an activated ability, Phyrexian Revoker and Azorius Guildmage are busted. Phage is still unplayable.

The fun and variety that RNG brings to games can also bring with it some serious disappointment. It's just no fun when Leveler comes into play during a game of Momir Basic. If only I could maximize the excitement of Momir Basic while minimizing the disappointments...


Yep. I'm building Momir Basic IRL, except I'm not going to use all 9.373 creatures in Magic. Sorry Dandan. This will give me the ability to guarantee a satisfactory experience while eliminating the possibility of Taniwha coming into play (forcing me to look up Phasing rules.) Odds are that each game will be interesting, rewarding and totally random!

I'm targeting 600-700 creatures to create that random feel. These cards need to be categorized according to power level, CMC, and activated ability costs. Spreadsheet time -- can you feel the excitement? I ended up sorting creatures into three categories: Good, Great, and Busted. A card is Good if it's a decent vanilla or french vanilla creature, like Child of Night. It's Great if it has a Momir-relevant ability, like Intrepid Hero. A card is Busted if it will immedaitely turn the tide and probably let you win, like Krosan Restorer or Desecration Elemental. If a card didn't fall into one of these categories, or would be totally useless like Broodstar, I didn't include it.

On Cardsphere, I started browsing cards and adding interesting creatures to my Wants. That list reached 300 cards in one night, valued at over $1000.00. That's more than some of my Modern decks cost, so I decided to cap each card at $5.00. No Dark Confidant, no Emrakul. This brought me down to 246 Wants worth $177.00. Much better.

Since each deck is 60 basic lands, it makes sense to just use 12 of each color, right? Maybe. I'm surprised by how often I'm mana screwed by a deck comprised of basic lands. When Kamahl is in play, you don't want balance, you want GGG. I'll use activated ability costs to dictate how many of each basic lands are in the decks.

Currently, I only have about 100 cards sorted by CMC in a fat pack box. I have plenty of room to grow, so I will keep you updated as I:

  • Receive new cards from the Cardsphere community
  • Tweak the set to keep power levels in balance
  • Modify basic land counts in the decks
  • Discover awesome interactions, opportunities, lines of play, and beers
  • Build a custom box to take Momir on the road to play with my fellow Texans

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Insults? Find me in Discord!

One last photo to hold you over until next time: