Chatter of the Squirrel – Morningtide in Extended

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Earwig Squad is my home boy. My bro. He and I play GameCube on a regular basis after he sprays me with like a can and a half of Axe. I think this is the most underrated card in the set. He’s got Negator stats, basically, and can come down as early as the second turn in most Goblin builds. Once that happens you get a ton of information and automatic strategic superiority, or at least the opportunity to dictate how the game is played on your terms.

I know, I know. Last week Richard promised I’d deliver lists, and that’s what he and I agreed. Lists. Convenient-looking sixty-card maindecks that sported your favorite Morningtide darlings. And as of Saturday, I thought I’d be well on course for three or four solid, tech-laden creations.

But we didn’t get there,

The problem was not a lack of research, or that somehow I didn’t get around to worrying about the impact of a new set. Nor was the trouble with the quality of the cards – in fact, I think Morningtide is a comparatively powerful small set. No, the issue was that I have certain standards for decklists in my articles. If I spell out the numbers and ratios, I want to be reasonably sure that you could take that list to a tournament and do well with it. Absent the impact on Morningtide on the metagame as a whole, though, I simply can’t do that.

What I do want to do though is go a little bit beyond several of the other set reviews that have been released so far and talk about the impact of certain Morningtide cards in particular archetypes, particular situations. From there, once we get a better picture of the post-Morningtide environment – or can simply play enough games to be confident in the numbers – it’s reasonably easy to produce educated and informed decklists.

We might as well start with Biggie Smalls himself, the Countryside Crusher.

I’ve seen a lot of people try to plug this guy into a Sadin-like R/G Devastating Dreams creation in place of Burning-Tree Shaman, and we’ve all heard talk about (or noticed ourselves) his convenient interaction with Life from the Loam. The problem, though, is that Loam-style archetypes are strategically poor in an environment defined by Counterbalance and in an environment where everybody is equipped to deal with large undercosted green creatures. Getting the best card in the world won’t completely salvage an archetype if it’s doing something fundamentally unsound to begin with.

People often ask me why it is I don’t care all that much about undercosted, efficient creatures. I mean, I love a Dark Confidant, a Mogg Fanatic, a Keldon Marauders (better than Watchwolf), a Meddling Mage, so I have no problem with cheap creatures. But if all a guy is going to do is attack and block – and that’s going to be your primary threat – there are simply too many ways in Magic to kill that creature without going too far out of your way. Tarmogoyf is so good that it doesn’t matter, but in general you can kill any creature you want on the second turn or earlier if it becomes a big enough priority, and kill every creature on the board by the third. Therefore, the prospects of a really huge 1RR creature don’t get me all that excited, no matter how good it is. There’s already a deck with straight-up three mana 5/5s that make the rest of your guys larger, and that guy’s Black so he dodges Shriekmaw.

That’s not to say that Captain Crush doesn’t have promise, though.

Imagine a hypothetical deck of forty Lightning Bolts and twenty Mountains. If you’re in the midgame and haven’t drawn an abnormal ratio of lands to spells, every draw step effectively counts as two points of damage. Every turn places your opponent, on average, two points closer to dead. If a Countryside Crusher magically materialized on the table, though, all of the sudden every turn yields you three damage instead of two in addition to the threat of the Crusher himself. This is substantial enough of a gain to me to warrant looking twice at. The significant difference is that if instead of building around trying to make the Crusher huge you put him into a fairly standard Red Deck Wins list, you’ve got yourself a tight little card advantage engine. Your opponent has to actually kill the Crusher to stop his inevitability, as opposed to merely finding a way to contain him, and by that point if you’ve milled a single land off the top you’ve gained effective card (and, according to the Philosophy of Fire, damage) advantage.

He’s basically the perfect post-Wrath drop, because after the initial Deed or Wrath or Explosives the last thing you want to happen is to stall on lands. To put it into perspective, I could never ever lose with Sadin’s Standard Red deck if I drew three or four lands. Five it was basically impossible to win, and two was a fight because of the velocity at which I could deploy spells. Crusher keeps you perpetually in that optimal range.

So, now, for the rest…

The lands:

Bosk and Mutavault are fine but nowhere near as exciting as a lot of people are making them out to be. Oh, both will be played, sure. But Mutavault is no Treetop Village, and it’s definitely no Mishra’s Factory. I can’t even begin to articulate how big a difference there is between a 2/2 and a 3/3, but suffice to say the reason the Giants just won the Super Bowl is that they could play defense. I’m actually much more excited about Mutavault in Standard, because it’s there that the creature type difference will matter the most.

As for Bosk, without Doran in your hand this card is going to be a comparatively loose Grand Coliseum. Sure, you don’t have to take damage for Green, but you’re also worse off on the splash and nobody is exactly clamoring for a playset of Grand Coliseums. Again, I’m not saying it’s bad. You probably want at least a single copy to tutor for, and if you’re running Doran and are straight G/W/B then this is one of the better lands you can draw. But this isn’t better than your average Ravnica dual under most circumstances.

The goblins (Earwig Squad, and to a lesser extent Auntie’s Snitch, Frogtosser Banneret, and Warren Weirding):

Earwig Squad is my home boy. My bro. He and I play GameCube on a regular basis after he sprays me with like a can and a half of Axe. I think this is the most underrated card in the set. He’s got Negator stats, basically, and can come down as early as the second turn in most Goblin builds. Once that happens you get a ton of information and automatic strategic superiority, or at least the opportunity to dictate how the game is played on your terms. He’ll make a splash in every format he’s legal in. My only issue is that as of right now I don’t know what the best place for him is.

Obviously, the first answer that springs to mind is Goblins, and that’s where you’d want to stick the other cards as well. The trouble is that Goblins as it exists presently doesn’t really need an undercosted huge creature. Goblins is good right now, but it’s a very complex deck. Hard to classify. The best answer I have ever been able to come up with is that it’s a Goblin Warchief combo deck. With a Warchief in play it is a well-oiled machine, and without it it’s a pile of terrible, overcosted spells. At first glance, then, Banneret would be a very welcome addition to the existing core, and it very well might be. But what makes the Chief so good is that if you untap with him you’re threatening a kill immediately. “Going off” and playing a bunch of guys isn’t all that impressive because you’re so reliant upon Piledriver, and Piledriver is reliant upon having a ton of other men on the table with him. That’s just begging to get Wrathed into oblivion. Now, if all the guys you cast are Matrons and Ringleaders and Bannerets, then sure, you’ve got a restocked hand. But you’re not threatening very much, either. They play a Watchwolf (or whatever) and they block your team.

My point is that the new Goblin options are extremely intriguing, but for them to become maximally effective I think people are going to have to rethink the Goblin archetype and redefine it to become more of a traditional aggressive deck. I think a couple Squads and maybe Banneret will get played in the existing core regardless, but a two mana recurring 3/1 is nothing to sneeze at and there’s no way the existing builds can support four Squads, even though they are situated very high on the power curve.

Mirror cards:

Disperse has some limited applications right now, specifically in the Ichorid mirror if anyone wants it. Right now, if both of you have Leylines, you have this awkward crippled fight where Stinkweed Imp reigns the absolute king. But if you try and Chain their Leyline, they just Chain yours right back – thanks, weird text of the card that nobody ever pays attention to – and you’ve got to kill them in a single turn. Ditto Echoing Truth. With Disperse, you still have the nice 1U casting cost and none of the drawbacks.

Stenchskipper might find a home in the revamped Goblin deck I was talking about as a tool for that mirror match or against other Red decks that cannot realistically kill every single one of your goblins. He ends games quickly.

Boldwyr Heavyweights, similarly, might fulfill the Fledgling Dragon role in an RDW mirror very effectively. The trouble is, of course, that everybody packs Tarmogoyfs so he’s not going to be quite as uncharacteristically huge as he would be otherwise, but he’s still never ever getting blocked. Unlike the Dragon, he’ll always be enormous on the fourth turn and even through a Tarmogoyf he’s probably going to kill the opponent once he swings. It’s very awkward though if they’re trying to go big also with aforementioned Dragon and kill you immediately before you untap. All depends on the size of the graveyard at the time you cast your biggie and whether or not you think the frequency at which you have Threshold makes up for the fact that you’ve got to give your opponent a Goyf.


Vendilion Clique is the type of card I would have been thrilled about during the Psychatog era. It’s a cheap, reasonable, evasive clock that can be deployed while keeping Counterspell mana up. Moreover, it does something extremely relevant the turn it comes into play. The Coercion ability is fine if there’s something particular you want to get rid of, but more often I find myself simply looting away an extraneous removal spell or similar, which is a subtle but very powerful effect. At the same time, its stats are small for the current age, and the fact that you can’t have multiples in play limits its utility as your only finisher (after all, one Tarmogoyf is good, but two is unreal). I can see it entering Blue instant decks – particularly more classically-oriented draw-go/Thirst for Knowledge decks – as a two-of or as a supplemental finisher.

Bitterblossom is just wow. This card does so much, and I don’t think its potential is necessarily immediately evident. To compare this card to Phyrexian Arena misses the point. Arena was good but was purely an investment card; you were taking damage and then given the imperative to do something with the cards you received in exchange. Bitterblossom comes down a turn earlier, can block and flashback Cabal Therapy immediately, and will kill the opponent by itself surprisingly fast. Some sort of control deck that deploys the Blossom early and then trades one for one for the remainder of the game can bury the opponent in an avalanche of Faerie Rogues. Sure, it’s particularly immune to Deed, but so are most decks. Keep an eye out for this card, and get them while they are comparatively cheap.

Chameleon Colossus has been talked about before, and I’m not exactly the type of person to wax poetic about midrange Green cards. I’ll grant that I like it better than Phantom Centaur, but I don’t know how much weight that pulls. It might also be worth noting that Flametongue Kavu is very close to being good again, and it deals with a Colossus very well. The fact that it can kill a 3/4 Goyf without binning a card is huge. Remember, kids, they’re not always two mana 4/5s.


For some reason Heritage Druid just begs me to abuse it. I don’t know what deck it would go in – presumably some U/G Opposition creation – but it is the first card in a long time that screams “engine.” If only Wirewood Hivemaster made Elf tokens.

I can’t offer a plan for how to use this guy just yet, but I wanted to place him on the radar.

Stream of Unconsciousness is probably just me being optimistic, but there are some very limited situations where this card could be positively spectacular. Remember how many Wizards there were in those Finkula decks? A lot of times Fish decks in general get into trade/race situations where it becomes hard to get ahead; even in Columbus Legacy, when you had Swords, it’s still just a one-for-one. Stream could very cheaply and very effectively win races and/or set up favorable trades while still being useful against any deck with creatures. In a world where a Tarmogoyf is reliably going to swing at you, Stream could be a Renewed Faith at half the cost and twice the life. If playing Wizards isn’t that much of a stretch, I could see this card becoming a very effective role-player.

The one card you might be surprised isn’t on the list is Scapeshift. Scapeshift is the exact type of card I’d love to build around. With one spell you can get a positively obscene amount of mana, but the trouble is that because of the 2GG mana cost you sort of have to build your deck around it, and you can’t play too many spells that are bad when you don’t draw Scapeshift. Even in traditional Tooth and Nail, most of the time you cast Reap and Sow you wound up being able to cast Tooth next turn. Getting Boseiju along with the rest is cute, but that means you’ve got to resolve Scapeshift.

Tom LaPille suggested, half-jokingly, to just go get a bunch of Treetop Villages and Mutavaults and bash face. There might be some substance to that, honestly, if those cards are making your deck anyway. Overall, though, I think this card is just too bulky to reliably build around.

But, of course, feel free to prove me wrong.

That’s it for this week. Hopefully between now and the time I write you next I’ll have learned something about Lorwyn/Lorwyn/Morningtide draft, because I ship off to KL next Monday. Arriving a mere two days later, I’m sure to be good and rested for the tournament itself.

Mmhmm. Wish me luck!