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This page is about the card type. For the MTGO format, see Vanguard (format).

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Vanguard is a supplement and a card type for Magic: The Gathering that debuted in Arena's Summer Season of 1997 and are used in the format of the same name.

Description[ | ]

The oversized (3" × 5") Vanguard cards aren't played like regular cards. Instead, each player chooses one of the character cards before the match begins and plays under the conditions set by that card.[1][2]

A Vanguard card modifies your starting (and maximum) hand size, as well as your starting life total. It also contains one or more abilities. Sometimes they're abilities that you can play; sometimes they're abilities that just change aspects of the game. Any abilities printed on a Vanguard card work exactly like those of an in-play Magic card. Note, however, that Vanguard cards are colorless, aren't permanents, and will remain in the command zone the whole game, so they can't be affected by spells or abilities.

History[ | ]

The result of a cooperative effort between Wizards of the Coast's R&D and Events departments, Vanguard was designed specifically for casual play. Mark Rosewater was the lead of the project.[3] The cards were released in four 8-card sets, the first two were designed together. Series 1 could also be obtained in the Vanguard Gift Box. The intent was to use the Arena League as a test market for the concept of supplemental products.[4] As it turned out, Vanguard was a huge success. Nearly 5,000 joined Arena during the first season, the biggest increase in league history, yet. From there, the decision to release the second group of eight cards in early 1998 (Winter Season) was simple. The third set appeared in late 1998 (Autumn Season), and the fourth in the Spring Season of 1999.[5][6][7]

List of Vanguards by Series[ | ]

Vanguard Ertai Gerrard

Vanguard cards Ertai and Gerrard from Series 1

Cards from the first three sets picture a character from the Weatherlight Saga. While the two first sets featured the central characters, the latter set depicted characters from the periphery of the tale. The fourth set depicted characters from Urza's Saga.[8]

Series 1 Series 2 Series 3 Series 4
Ertai Barrin Eladamri Ashnod
Gerrard Crovax Lyna Gix
Karn Greven il-Vec Multani Mishra
Maraxus Hanna Oracle Serra
Mirri Orim Rofellos Tawnos
Sisay Selenia Sidar Kondo Titania
Squee Starke Sliver Queen, Brood Mother Urza
Tahngarth Volrath Takara Xantcha

Duelist Magazine[ | ]

Four cards were bagged together with The Duelist magazine:

  • Duelist #19 - Series 1 Gerrard
  • Duelist #33 - Series 3 Multani
  • Duelist #37 - Series 4 Urza
  • Duelist #47 - Series 4 Mishra

Magic Online[ | ]

Since May 2005, Vanguard avatars have also been used in casual games for Magic Online. You would add one of them to your deck before playing, and at the start of the game, the avatar card from your deck would start in play for you and applied the modifications listed on it.[9] Starting with Zendikar, rules text and starting hand size/life total modifiers for Vanguard avatars have been discontinued. Nowadays, you may continue to play the vanguard format with previously released avatars. Both old and new avatars can still be used to represent you in-game.[10]

Mystery Booster[ | ]

The Mystery Booster set in 2019 was the first set to feature a new paper Vanguard as a test card: Ral's Vanguard.

Requirement[ | ]

Ral's Vanguard introduced the requirement keyword, which specifies restrictions on contents of the deck that plays with the Vanguard.

  • A vanguard with a requirement can't be your vanguard unless its requirement is met as the game begins.[11]
  • Your starting deck includes only those cards that will be shuffled to become your library. It doesn't include your sideboard or any other cards that begin the game outside the game.

Rules[ | ]

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

1. A casual variant in which each player plays the role of a famous character. See rule 902, “Vanguard.”
2. A card type seen only on nontraditional Magic cards in the Vanguard casual variant. A vanguard card is not a permanent. See rule 313, “Vanguards.”

From the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

  • 313. Vanguards
    • 313.1. Vanguard is a card type seen only on nontraditional Magic cards. Only the Vanguard casual variant uses vanguard cards. See rule 902, “Vanguard.”
    • 313.2. Vanguard cards remain in the command zone throughout the game. They’re not permanents. They can’t be cast. If a vanguard card would leave the command zone, it remains in the command zone.
    • 313.3. Vanguard cards have no subtypes.
    • 313.4. A vanguard card may have any number of static, triggered, and/or activated abilities. As long as a vanguard card is in the command zone, its static abilities affect the game, its triggered abilities may trigger, and its activated abilities may be activated.
    • 313.5. The owner of a vanguard card is the player who started the game with it in the command zone. The controller of a face-up vanguard card is its owner.
    • 313.6. Each vanguard card has a hand modifier printed in its lower left corner. This is a number preceded by a plus sign, a number preceded by a minus sign, or a zero. This modifier is applied to the starting hand size and maximum hand size of the vanguard card’s owner (normally seven). The resulting number is both how many cards that player draws at the beginning of the game and their maximum hand size. See rule 103.5.
    • 313.7. Each vanguard card has a life modifier printed in its lower right corner. This is a number preceded by a plus sign, a number preceded by a minus sign, or a zero. This modifier is applied as the starting life total of the vanguard card’s owner (normally 20) to is determined. See rule 103.4.

References[ | ]

  1. Magic Arcana (September 23, 2002). "Vanguard Series 1". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Magic Arcana (October 9, 2002). "Vanguard Series 2". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Mark Rosewater (January 5, 2024). "Can I request birthday trivia for the oversized cards that went with the Weatherlight crew?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  4. Andy Collens, 1998. New Year, New Vanguard, the Duelist # 22, 1998
  5. Mark Rosewater (August 30, 2010). "Thank You Sir, May I Have Another". Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Jesse Decker, 1999. Third Vanguard Set Charges into Arena's Autumn Season, the Duelist # 33
  7. Editorial Staff, 1999. Get ready for Vanguard, the Duelist # 37
  8. Magic Arcana (October 14, 2008). "Vanguard Portraits". Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Wizards of the Coast (January, 2005). "Ask Wizards - January, 2005". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Magic Online Vanguard
  11. Eli Shiffrin (November 11, 2019). "Mystery Booster Release Notes". Wizards of the Coast.