Vikya, Scorching Stalwart - Illustration by Zoltan Boros

Vikya, Scorching Stalwart | Illustration by Zoltan Boros

Innistrad: Crimson Vow shows the humans of the plane facing the vampires’ machinations and plans, and as usual, it’s time to stick together, face all adversities as a team, and obviously, train the people so that they can become better fighters.

So let’s train ourselves in the training mechanic, so to speak. At the end of this session, you’ll be able to understand how the training mechanic works, to spot the main differences between training and mentor, and much more. Oh, and I’ll tell you all about the best training cards and deck suggestions in which you can use them effectively.

Let the training begin!

How Does Training Work?

Gryff Rider - Illustration by Yongjae Choi

Gryff Rider | Illustration by Yongjae Choi

Training is a simple mechanic. It triggers on the attack step whenever a creature with training attacks together with another creature or creatures. You then compare the power stat between the training creature and other creatures that are attacking with it, and if the creature with training has a lower power, it gains a +1/+1 counter.

For example, Hopeful Initiate is a 1/2 creature and attacks with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, which is a 2/1. Training triggers, and since Initiate has a lower power than Thalia, Hopeful Initiate gets a +1/+1 counter. That can happen once per attack step. If Hopeful Initiate attacks with a 3/2 during the next turn, it gets another +1/+1 counter, and so on.

The History of Training in MTG

Training is a creature mechanic present in a few creatures from the Innistrad: Crimson Vow expansion, which was released in late 2021. In this set, has a human subtheme and a +1/+1 counter subtheme, and the set designers wanted humans to have a common mechanic. Since the last Innistrad: Midnight Hunt set had coven as a mechanic for humans and that mechanic cares about creatures with different powers, it makes sense to have a mechanic that cares about power, since both sets interlap in theme and synergies.

There are only 9 cards with training spread across all rarities and only in green and white. The training mechanic was used again in the Street Fighter Secret Lair Drop months later on Ryu, World Warrior, a card that was later redesigned as Vikya, Scorching Stalwart. All cards with training are, at least until now, green and white humans.

Does Training Target?

It doesn’t. When a creature with training attacks with another creature with greater power, it puts a +1/+1 counter on itself. You or your opponent have a chance to respond to the training trigger, either to enhance another creature or to weaken/destroy another creature.

What if Either Creature Dies Before Training?

If the training creature dies before the training trigger resolves, nothing happens since the training creature can only affect itself. If I’m attacking with a training creature and a stronger creature, and the stronger creature dies before the trigger resolves, training still works and the training creature still gets the +1/+1 counter.

What if Either Creature’s Power Changes After Attacks But Before the Trigger Resolves?

There are no changes. According to training rules, if a 1/1 with training attacks together with a 2/2, the training creature gets a +1/+1 counter, no matter if the 2/2 creature dies or is power shrunk before the training trigger resolves. The only thing that matters is if the training creature is still alive.

How Does This Work with “Last Known Information”?

From comprehensive rules 112.7 : “If the source (of an ability) is no longer in the zone it’s expected to be in at that time, its last known information is used”. In this case, the source of training is what made training happen, that is, the stronger creature that was attacking together with the training creature. Even if the stronger creature is removed during an attack, training still resolves.

Does Training Stack?

It does. According to comprehensive rules 702.149b: “If the creature has multiple instances of training, it can get a +1/+1 counter for each instance, and those triggers are resolved separately.”

Training vs. Mentor

Both mechanics are very similar, and in fact, training has been inspired by mentor. Actually, training is the mirror mechanic related to mentor. Mentor says that “a creature with mentor will put a +1/+1 counter on another creature with lesser power that is also attacking.” Training says that ”the creature gains a +1/+1 counter when it attacks alongside a creature with greater power.”

Another key difference is that mentor targets, so when a mentor trigger happens, you can choose which of the weaker creatures gets a +1/+1 counter. The training mechanic doesn’t target since the training creature puts a counter on itself.

Is Training Good?

I’d say it’s an okay-to-good mechanic in aggressive decks like white weenies. The nice thing about training is that if you’re the aggressive player, you can snowball the game by constantly putting +1/+1 counters on your creatures and making it hard for the opponent to block profitably.

Savior of Ollenbock

It’s worth noting that training does nothing on defense, and you’ll usually have a subpar creature if you’re behind and cast a creature with training. For example, Savior of Ollenbock is a 1/2 for three mana, and that’s way off rate. Once you can attack, train the Savior, and get the training trigger, it becomes a much better creature. And it also requires another creature that’s at least a 2/1 attacking with the Savior.

All in all, it’s a nice mechanic in aggressive decks only, and it requires a significant setup.

Gallery and List of Mechanic Cards

Best Training Cards

Savior of Ollenbock

Savior of Ollenbock is a bad card on pure rate that requires a little setup to be good. But once it gets going, it can be really strong. It’s very powerful in Limited, but probably not very reliable for Constructed purposes. Each time it trains, you’ll get to exile a creature until it leaves the battlefield (the Banisher Priest effect). In Limited, it takes only one attack to be serviceable, and by exiling their creatures, you’ll be able to launch more potentially devastating attacks.

Vikya, Scorching Stalwart

Vikya, Scorching Stalwart or Ryu, World Warrior is a 2/4 with training for three mana, and that’s a good rate already. Its special ability is what makes it shine, because you can turn cards into “hadokens,” removal spells that are related to Vikya’s power, and you can draw cards in the process. Vikya’s untap ability gives it a pseudo-vigilance, and if you can’t get a good attack going, there’s a bunch of ways to tap it, whether using artifacts, equipment, or abilities like convoke.

Torens, Fist of the Angels

As with many creatures with the training mechanic, you’re interested in what the card does without training. Torens, Fist of the Angels is a 2/2 that rewards you for playing creatures, making tokens that also have training, and in a deck that’s usually going to happen a lot. It can also be your commander, in a deck focused on going wide with human tribal incentives and +1/+1 counters synergies. Torens is also a 2/2 that grows whenever it attacks with a larger creature, so make sure you fill your deck with large creatures or creatures that give Torens evasion when attacking.

Hopeful Initiate

Hopeful Initiate has been a mainstay of white weenie decks in Standard/Explorer ever since it was released. The initiate is often a 2/3 or 3/4 for just a single mana, which is well above rate. It’s also a human for human typal decks and can work as a main deck enchantment/artifact removal when needed. It has its place in Boros decks, since those play creatures with haste. A turn 1 Initiate and a turn 2 Bloodthirsty Adversary or Feldon, Ronom Excavator triggers training on Hopeful Initiate on turn two, granting you a strong aggro start.

Decklist: White Weenie Deck in Explorer

Hopeful Initiate - Illustration by Dan Scott

Hopeful Initiate | Illustration by Dan Scott

This Explorer decklist has only one training creature, and that’s Hopeful Initiate. This decklist is very powerful and has a tribal interaction in Thalia's Lieutenant, a creature that puts +1/+1 counters on other humans and grows with other humans.

Hopeful Initiate has plenty of opportunities to grow and train in this deck. I could see a card like Torens, Fist of the Angels making the decklist, but the deck only splashes green for Collected Company, and there are superior options in three drops (Brutal Cathar, Adeline, Resplendent Cathar).

Wrap Up

Rural Recruit - Illustration by Eelis Kyttanen

Rural Recruit | Illustration by Eelis Kyttanen

Overall, there’s nothing special about training. Training is one of those niche Limited mechanics that was created because WotC needed a bond between humans in Innistrad: Crimson Vow and came up with this. Flavorwise it makes total sense. The creature that’s training learns from the stronger creature and gets better. It’s good in decks that are attacking or decks that need more +1/+1 counter placement on their creatures.

I can see training reappearing in some designs for Commander or supplemental sets, but it’s very hard to see this mechanic in a main Standard set again.

What do you think about training? Aside from Hopeful Initiate, do you play training cards in your decks? Let me know in the comments section below or in our Discord Server.

Stay safe folks, and thanks for reading!

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