Feature Article — Lorwyn Standard: The Mockvitational Warm Up

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Lorwyn, it seems, brings all the boys to the yard. Everyone wants to play with the new cards, and Steve Sadin is no exception. This coming weekend, he’ll be slinging spells in the Mockvitational, and invitation-only tournament that features a Lorwyn Standard section. Today, he shares some of his decks and preparations, plus a couple of Lorwyn Draft thoughts and ideas…

This weekend I am going to be playing in the first annual Mockvitational. What is the Mockvitational, you ask? Let me tell you:

The Mockvitational is an invitation-only event that will include gamers from the NY area, forum posters, and podcast guests from the Top8Magic audio show.

The formats will be post Lorwyn standard, Lorwyn booster draft, Bring Your Own Block, and Auction of the Preconstructed Decks.

Bring Your Own Block – Decks may be constructed from a pool of cards that contain any first set from Ice Age forward through Lorwyn, any second set from Alliances through Planar Chaos, and any third set from Cold Snap through Future Sight. Any card banned in either Legacy or Block is banned in this format.

The Prize? The winner gets to record an audio bumper commemorating their win, and taunting the losers, which will get played on every podcast until the next Mockvitational.

I’m particularly excited about Bring Your Own Block, as I expect everyone will come with a radically different strategy.

I am also very excited for a chance to play some Standard, as I am playing in a bunch of Standard tournaments over the next couple of months. It is the format for State/Provincials, GP: Krakow (which I hope to attend), and Day 1 of Worlds.

Luckily for me, I had the Prerelease last weekend to help me gear up for this event.

I like to use my experiences in Limited not only to assess how good I think a card is in the forty-card format, but also to look at cards for potential constructed applications. While there are, as always, obvious gems such as Thoughtseize or Cryptic Command, and there cards with very obvious applications such as Tarfire, there are also a lot of other cards that might appear somewhat underwhelming at first glance but could easily become Constructed staples. Cards like Battlewand Oak, whose power you don’t really recognize before playing with it in Limited. Okay, so Battlewand Oak probably won’t amount to anything in Standard. Even so, I think it is a very good example of a card that people tend to overlook that could have very powerful applications.

I showed up at the prerelease with a 1996 Limited rating, in need of four points to guarantee myself a third bye for GP: Brisbane. While I’m really looking forward to the trip and the potential for pro points that I will need to either lock up Level 3 or give myself a shot at Level 4, depending on how well I do at PT: Valencia (I currently have 15 pro points and I want to insure that I will be able to Level 3 this season), I would have felt pretty silly if I flew for 30 hours and spent an absurd amount of money to play in a GP with only two byes (although the one time I played in a GP with only 1 bye things turned out pretty well for me!).

I decided that the best, and most enjoyable, way for me to pick up those extra points would be to play in a booster draft.

I began my draft by first picking a Cloudgoat Ranger over Nameless Inversion (I’m not sure if this is right, but I wanted to try to force Kithkin, and this seems like the perfect card for the archetype) and then picking up a bunch of aggressive White Kithkins. I picked up a sixth pick Thorntooth Witch and began picking up creatures and other spells with changeling in order to abuse him. I picked up two more copies of Thorntooth Witch in the second pack, at this point I abandoned the Kithkin theme and began taking almost nothing but removal, changelings, and Treefolk to abuse my Thorntooth Witches. In this draft I was also able to pick up 2 Nameless Inversions, which are especially devastating with Thorntooth Witch, and a rare-drafted Secluded Glen.

3 Thorntooth Witch
1 Cloudgoat Ranger
1 Shriekmaw
1 Black Poplar Shaman
1 Ghostly Changeling
2 Skeletal Changeling
1 Kinsbaile Skirmisher
1 Sentry Oak
1 Kithkin Greatheart
1 Dreamspoiler Witches
1 Wispmare
1 Kithkin Healer
1 Crib Swap
2 Nameless Inversion
1 Peppersmoke
2 Shields of Veils Vel
1 Weed Strangle
9 Swamp
8 Plains

2 Summon the School
1 Dawnfluke
1 Secluded Glen
2 Quill-Slinger Boggart
1 Shimmering Grotto
1 Ego Erasure
1 Silvergill Douser
1 Kinsbaile Balloonist
1 Battlewand Oak
1 Lace with Moonglove
1 Surge of Thoughtweft
1 Nath’s Buffoon
1 Wispmare
1 Thundercloud Shaman
1 Exiled Boggart
1 Deeptread Merrow
1 Boggart Sprite-Chaser
1 Faerie Trickery
1 Elvish Handservant
2 Spring Cleaning

I wound up playing a B/W control deck with 18 lands. All of my games, unsurprisingly, came down to me abusing Thorntooth Witch. I won the draft, but after some quick calculations I realized that my rating would be stuck at 1998, thus forcing me to do another draft.

Some of the things that I learnt this draft are:

* You can play Secluded Glen in a U/B control deck with Faerie Trickery instead of Cancel.
* Crib Swap is probably going to be very playable in Constructed. Off the top of my head I believe it would make a very good addition to both Kithkin and Giant Strategies (and maybe even Elf strategies…).
* Shriekmaw is going to be awesome in Constructed.
* Peppersmoke is really good (though probably only for Limited). Black has more than enough changelings that you should be able to set up a two-for-one with it pretty easily.
* Elvish Harbinger, and other tribal tutors, are a pretty reasonable inclusion in your Limited deck if you have any changeling card(s) worth drawing.

In my next draft I drafted a very exciting nearly Mono-Green Elf deck. My picks were pretty easy as I locked myself into Elves with a first pick Wren’s Run Vanquisher, second and third pick Lys Alana Huntmasters, and fourth and fifth pick Gilt-Leaf Ambushes, and continued forcing elves throughout the rest of the draft.

1 Fertile Ground
2 Fistful of Force
1 Wren’s Run Vanquisher
1 Elvish Harbinger
3 Lys Alana Huntmaster
1 Elvish Promenade
1 Leaf Gilder
1 Incremental Growth
2 Nath’s Elite
2 Cloudcrown Oak
1 Battlewand Oak
3 Leaf-leaf Ambush
1 Woodland Changeling
1 Jagged-Scar Archers
1 Elvish Branchbender
1 Imperious Perfect
1 Nameless Inversion
14 Forest
2 Swamp

2 Elvish Eulogist
2 Warren Scourge Elf
1 Thorntooth Witch
1 Windbrisk Heights
1 Oakgnarl Warrior
1 Nightshade Stinger
1 Lace with Moonglove
1 Faultgrinder
1 Heal the Scars
1 Gilt-Leaf Seer
1 Kithkin Daggerdare
1 Peppersmoke
1 Ghostly Changeling
1 Cryptic Command
1 Tarfire
1 Turtleshell Changeling
1 Hurly-Burly
1 Spring Cleaning
1 Amoeboid Changeling

I fortunately won this draft as well, splitting in the finals, thus insuring myself a third bye at GP: Brisbane.

And now, onto Lorwyn Standard!

This deck could very easily splash another color (and probably should), with Black being the easiest as the deck is able to play Gilt-Leaf Palace with no drawback. Elves have had a little tournament success over the years, with its most recent premier event finish being Richard Feldman’s G/B Elf deck that barely missed Top 8 at GP: Columbus. (Zac Hill’s feature on his deck can be found here.)

There’s also Diego Ostrovich’s Elves! Deck from the Top 8 of GP: New Orleans 2003

2 Dust Bowl
18 Forest
3 Gaea’s Cradle

4 Birds of Paradise
3 Deranged Hermit
1 Elvish Lyrist
4 Llanowar Elves
3 Ravenous Baloth
4 Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
3 Skyshroud Poachers
4 Call of the Herd
4 Living Wish
3 Masticore
2 Naturalize
2 Slate of Ancestry

3 Bind
1 Dust Bowl
1 Elvish Lyrist
3 Fecundity
1 Genesis
1 Masticore
1 Naturalize
1 Gaea’s Cradle
1 Slate of Ancestry
1 Spike Feeder
1 Uktabi Orangutan

However, much of my inspiration for building this deck was not from looking at other Elf decks, but instead from looking at the Mono-Green beatdown deck that Mike Jacob’s used to beat me while playing for Top 8 at this year’s U.S. Nationals, a Top 8 berth that he was able to convert into a spot on the U.S. National Team

16 Forest
2 Pendelhaven
4 Treetop Village

4 Llanowar Elves
4 Boreal Druid
4 Scryb Ranger
4 Silhana Ledgewalker
4 Troll Ascetic
4 Giant Solifuge
3 Timbermare
4 Moldervine Cloak
4 Might of Old Krosa
2 Loxodon Warhammer
1 Stonewood Invocation

4 Groundbreaker
3 Spectral Force
3 Serrated Arrows
2 Viridian Shaman
3 Pithing Needle

Mono-Green beatdown decks are often very capable of exploiting certain holes in the metagame, and are thus a good thing to keep in mind when preparing for an event. Mike Jacob’s deck for example was designed to maul the U/G/W GerryT Blink decks that were quite popular for U.S. Nationals. While my version is quite untuned, it would be very easy to gear this deck to beat most other beatdown decks. All that you’d need is a good understanding of what they are trying to do. If your enemy is White Weenie, other less aggressive Green decks would probably be a good choice. If your enemy is Teachings and Giants, then you would likely have to approach the deck differently. I like this style of deck a lot so I will bring you an update next week after I have a little more Standard under my belt.

I was watching a draft game between Chris Manning and BDM. Manning had a U/B Faerie control deck with multiple copies of Faerie Trickery. BDM was playing a U/R Elemental deck with multiple Mulldrifters and a lot of burn. It was game 3 and BDM had mulliganed into a pretty slow draw, which allowed Manning to develop his mana before BDM was able to mount an offensive. When BDM made his first attack, Manning already had six mana and was able to flash in a Wydwen, the Biting Gale in an attempt to ambush one of BDM’s attackers with enough mana left over to protect it from the burn spell that BDM was forced to play. While BDM picked up some tempo on the play he didn’t have enough of a board presence to get through Manning’s Wydwen, allowing Manning to slowly push through damage with his other evasion creatures and once he was up to eight mana – and thus capable of bouncing, recasting, and protecting his Wydwen – with the Wydwen as well. While BDM was able to kill the Wydwen after some tricky maneuvering, he had lost too many cards and too much time dealing with the Wydwen.

While the situations involved in this game aren’t exactly translatable to most Constructed games, it showed me how much potential Wydwen has to become a Constructed all-star, especially in Mystical Teachings decks that are now capable of tutoring for him as a win condition instead of the difficult to cast Teferi or Bogardan Hellkite.

This deck was incredibly successful, putting 3 people (Paul Cheon, Paulo Vitor Dama Da Rosa, and LSV) into the Top 8 of GP: SF. It has answers to pretty much any problem that an opponent could pose, with its greatest enemy being time. And by time, I mean both getting tempoed out, losing to very quick Red deck draws or Pickles/UG draws backed by counterspells, and “time” as in “timed rounds.” Ben Rubin, playing a different version of Teachings, finished GP: SF with a record of 10-1-4. This, while still a good enough record to post a Top 16 is pretty annoying. It just plain sucks to end a tournament with a single loss and not make Top 8.

Here’s an update for Lorwyn Standard:

The big additions to this deck are Wydwen, Shriekmaw, and Thoughtseize for the sideboard. I feel pretty sad that this deck can’t support Cryptic Command, but it’s just so tough to get together the proper mana for a UUU spell and still support 4 colors.

I would talk about why Shriekmaw is awesome, but Chapin beat me to the punch. Eyeblight’s Ending probably deserves an inclusion, as it would provide the deck with an additional way to kill Black creatures.

The Thoughtseizes should probably be maindeck, though I’m not sure that you can support 4 Thoughtseize, 4 Shriekmaw, and a Teachings package. So maybe what that means is that the Teachings have to go, a move that would also allow the deck to support Cryptic Command

Before I started working on a U/B control deck, I decided I would look at Osyp’s U/B Pickles deck that he designed for the Block PTQ season that was piloted to a number of PTQ wins.

U/B Pickles

4 Desert
4 Dreadship Reef
2 Tolaria West
1 Urza’s Factory
17 Island

4 Riftwing Cloudskate
3 Venser, Shaper Savant
3 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
4 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
4 Brine Elemental
2 Willbender
4 Ancestral Vision
4 Delay
4 Cancel

4 Damnation
3 Serrated Arrows
3 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
3 Spell Burst
2 Aeon Chronicler

I also looked at Conrad Kolos’ U/B control deck that he piloted to a Top 8 at U.S. Nationals:

1 Faerie Conclave
1 Desert
1 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Ghost Quarter
3 Island
4 River of Tears
2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
3 Tolaria West
4 Dreadship Reef
4 Watery Grave
2 Urza’s Factory

1 Brine Elemental
1 Tombstalker
1 Skeletal Vampire
1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
1 Draining Whelk
3 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
1 Tendrils of Corruption
1 Haunting Hymn
1 Careful Consideration
1 Last Gasp
1 Repeal
1 Damnation
1 Slaughter Pact
3 Mystical Teachings
3 Remove Soul
4 Spell Snare
4 Remand
4 Rune Snag
1 Dimir Signet

1 Seize the Soul
2 Terror
1 Flashfreeze
1 Haunting Hymn
1 Extirpate
1 Pact of Negation
3 Damnation
1 Tormod’s Crypt
4 Bottle Gnomes

I liked this deck a lot. Pretty much everyone but Conrad had written off U/B Control as a viable choice for Standard, but Conrad stuck with his choice (which was admittedly made much better by everyone writing it off) and was able to post a Top 8 that, after losing a heartbreaking Game 5, left him just inches away from earning a spot on the National Team.

While no Watery Grave, Secluded Glen is pretty awesome with Faerie Trickery to enable it. I like the Mind Stones a lot in this deck; it is very important that this deck runs some sort of mana artifact, as they enable the deck to get to four mana on turn 3, which is absolutely crucial. Because I don’t have that much trouble fulfilling my colored mana requirements from my lands alone, I can afford to run the cyclable Mind Stones.

I think this deck might be a bit too heavy on countermagic and hand disruption. I am going to try cutting some (probably the Rune Snags, though maybe the Thoughtseize) and moving the Shadowmages main deck.

I will have more information about Standard next time, after I’ve had the chance to play in a tournament setting.

See you soon,

Steve Sadin

PS: You know how it is… sometimes you get signs that Magic is slipping, ever so subtly, into the rest of your life. This week I’ve done some little things and noticed such signs. I tossed my trash “in the graveyard.” I also narrowly avoiding disaster when I was able to stop myself from shouting “Judge” while raising my hand in a class. I even told one of my non-Magic playing friends that “You shouldn’t wear your sunglasses on your chest, your opponent will be able to see your whole hand.” Of course, he responded with “what the hell are you talking about?”

What are some of the most embarrassing ways that things from Magic have slipped into your non-Magic life?