Levelling Up – Ups and Downs in Lorwyn Draft

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With over forty triple-Lorwyn drafts under his belt for Drafting With Tiago, Portugal’s Mr Chan investigates some of the cards that fluctuated in his estimation through the course of the series thus far. With the Morningtide prerelease mere hours away, this final fling to Lorwyn Only Limited serves as an excellent reminder of what works, and what doesn’t, in the land of the Tribal troubles…

A couple of months have passed since I started the “Drafting With Tiago”cseries. I’ve presented over forty drafts here at StarCityGames.com. I’ve also played the drafts that DraftCap didn’t save, and dozens of Paper Magic drafts. These drafts have turned me into a better drafter than I was in TPF, where I rarely turned to Magic Online. I already own one and a half times more Lorwyn cards than my entire collection of Time Spiral + Timeshifted cards.

All these drafts stocked up my Lorwyn collection, and at this points I like to do a little research out of curiosity and analysis. I like to count how many copies I own of each card. This allows me to see if subconsciously I have certain preferences for colors, tribes, or cards, as well as prejudicial dislikes. With this inside look at my Online collection, plus the feedback I get from the StarCityGames.com forums, I’ve made a list of “Up and Down” cards.

A card listed on the Up side doesn’t necessarly mean it’s an high pick. It’s a pick I’ve been picking quite frequently, perhaps more than I should, while other people rank it slightly lower. Earning a place on the Up list comes through a combination of facts: I have lots of copies in my collection, and/or other people question my reasoning for picking that card. On the other hand, a card on the Down side doesn’t mean it’s a bad pick. It’s probably just a card I dislike when other people think it’s better, so perhaps I should pick it higher. When we couple together my personal beliefs (or stubborness) and the common opinion, there will be arrows going up and arrows going down.

Before presenting you those lists, I should probably let you take a look at my Limited collection, to give you an idea of the numbers in question and their relevance in the matter. All the cards in my Lorwyn collection are from Drafts, except for one Release event in which I played.

On the top of the most drafted commons, we find:

40 – Thieving Sprite
34 – Peppersmoke
33 – Dreamspoiler Witches
32 – Gilt-Leaf Ambush
31 – Bog-Strider Ash
31 – Eyeblight’s Ending
31 – Streambed Aquitects
30 – Lys Alana Huntmaster
29 – Weed Strangle
28 – Moonglove Winnower
27 – Kithkin Daggerdare
26 – Silvergill Douser
26 – Whirlpool Whelm
26 – Glimmerdust Nap
26 – Elvish Branchbender
26 – Surge of Thoughtweft
26 – Wellgaber Apothecary


Advancing below, we find the highest ranked Red cards

22 – Consuming Bonfire
21 – Hurly Burly
20 – Tarfire

This allowed me to conclude that I draft Black most of the time, followed by Green and Blue. White and Red are two colors that I’ve been avoiding, or so it seems. The highest placing White cards on the list are far lower than the Black, Green and Blue, and the Red ones are even further down. However, this is something I’ve been doing subconsciously, as I try to be detached when it comes to Magic: I do not have a favorite color, and I do not have a favorite card… and even when I do, I try to be impartial anyway. For example, I don’t like Green in Constructed or in Limited, but it ranks very high on my Lorwyn stats list.

At the bottom of the list we find mostly crappy cards, but there’s some more information to de found nontheless:

9 – Bog Hoodlums
9 – Herbal Poultice
8 – Ringskipper
8 – Blind-Spot Giant
7 – Giant’s Ire
7 – Aquitect’s Will
5 – Spellstutter Sprite
4 – Shields of Velis-Vel

Spellstutter Sprite is quite playable in the right Faeries deck. As far as I can remember, I only managed the dedicated Faeries draft once, and I was playing with two Spellstutters. The reason why I have so few of them is that every time I draft Blue/Black I tend to draft classic Blue/Black control decks instead of theme Faerie decks.

The other conclusion is related to my shyness about drafting Red cards. It seems that I don’t believe in the power of the Giants archetype, according to the placing of Blind-Spot Giant and Giant’s Ire.

Based on a look through my Lorwyn cards and the feedback I’ve received from other players, I’ll present you my Up and Down list.

Cards That I Value Highly (in Collector’s Number Order):

Arbiter of Knollridge (4 owned)

I tend to like this card a little more than the average drafter because I’m a little less aggressive in drafts than most. In the majority of my rounds, I’m not the aggro player. This card not only provides me a decent win condition and a great blocker, it also refills my life total when hopefully I’m starting to get the game stabilized. I consider splashing this card in my Blue/Black control decks, and the only time I drafted Giants I had one Arbiter of Knollridge in my deck. DraftCap didn’t save that draft, but in one game he brought me sixteen life points back.

Surge of Thoughtweft (26 owned)

This is the White common I own the most, a tribal spell for the Kithkin that shines when attacking with White weenies. Play it – drawing a card in the process – to save an attacker or to trade with a blocker, dealing some extra damage in the process. But the main reason I have so many copies of this is that in the early days, when people underdrafted Lys Alana Huntmaster, it was very easy to build full-on Elf decks that produced a lot of 1/1 tokens. Surge of Thoughtweft was a key card in the archtype because it allowed you to attack for twelve damage or so, sometimes even drawing a card thanks to Kithkin Daggerdare, which was also good in the deck.

Cryptic Command (2 owned)

Some people might think it’s for the money, but that’s not the only reason to take these. In a deck where you can cast Cryptic Command, I rank it close to a bomb. For example, I think it’s much better than Guile. There’s no small-print or hidden features… everything is written on the card. It can counter, bounce, Falter, or cantrip. Just choose two. I think I like this so much is because it can just win you the game with the “Falter” effect, but if you never make it to that point it will never be a dead card, and it will always be good when you cast it.

Mulldrifter (21 owned)

I don’t have more because other people first pick it too. So how come I overvalue a card that everyone already first picks? Among the people with whom I regurlarly draft, I’m the guy who ranks it highest on the list. For me, a card that’s considered top quality needs to have an impact when you play it. That’s why I think spells are better than creatures, as creatures have to lose summoning sickness (unless they have a comes-into-play effect). I think that the cards I would pick on the first pick over Mulldrifter are: Profane Command, Garruk Wildspeaker, Shriekmaw, and Chandra Nalaar. All of them have an impact the moment you play them. So does Mulldrifter.

Colfenor’s Plans (2 owned)

Truth is, I haven’t been picking those Colfenor’s Plans that highly, but since people ask me a lot about this card I still have the impression it’s one of the most underrated rares in the set. There are some ways to abuse it, the best one being Aethersnipe. At Worlds I was in a side draft where my deck was amazing, and it was playing with Colfenor’s Plans. I should probably start picking it higher myself.

Nath’s Bufoon / Warren Scourge Elf (20-18 owned)

They’re two decent tribal hosers that can buy a lot of time. If you happen to be on Goblins or Elves then you want one of these in the sideboard. I also like to have one Nath’s Bufoon in the sideboard of Blue/Black decks.

Peppersmoke (34 owned)

Lately I’ve found myself taking Peppersmoke higher and higher, even when I don’t have many Faeries. There are many good creatures it can kill, such as Silvergill Douser and Pestermite, and it’s also one of the few answer to a turn 2 Smokebraider or Leaf Gilder. It’s just a single Black mana, and at Instant speed. Most of the time I manage to draw a card from it, thanks to Changellings and another undervalued Faerie…

Thieving Sprite (40 owned)

I think this card ranks between the playable and good, but most people rank it between the playable and the filler. Yes, with more Faeries it gets better, that’s true. Sometimes, if you have more Faeries or if the opponent is down to very few cards in hand, it can be very good, but even alone it’s card advantage. I also love the fact that people won’t attack with their 2/1 for two mana into it, and I also love to draw cards off Peppersmoke with it, or Champion it with one of the uncommon guys. Plus, it costs three mana, while most of the good Green, Blue, and Black creatures cost four. However, it shouldn’t be underdrafted for much longer, since it becomes a whole lot better with Prowl.

Bog-Strider Ash (31 owned)

I actually hate to play this card when I’m Elves because he’s not an Elf, and it’s not everyday I can draft a good Treefolk deck. However, I see this tabling quite late, and it’s the card I hate-draft the most. Even though it won’t often make your main deck, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a passable body and it has a couple of abilities. Every Green deck should have this in the sideboard, because it’s the best hoser against Red/Black Goblins, and a good threat against Blue/Black control.

Gilt-Leaf Ambush (32 owned)

The numbers on this card might be a litte inflated because of the previously mentioned Green 1/1 tokens deck that splashed Surge of Thoughtweft, but even outside that, Ambush is one of the most feared Instant combat tricks of the format. If you win the clash, then you get to kill your opponent’s two best attackers. Even if you don’t win, it can act as a pseudo Fog for one or two turns, and there’s the ideal scenario of your opponent attacking you in the early game with a one toughness creature and another decent guy. No matter what happens in the clash, you will get some profit out of it.

Gilt-Leaf Seer (24 owned)

I don’t love this guy. But people seem to be horrified when I draft and play him. In certain situations, I think he’s fine. First, he’s an Elf, and in the dedicated Elves build almost every playable Elf should be maindecked over some average off-tribe card. Second, if you’re Elves you probably have Gilt-Leaf Ambush, and thus you have a nice interaction. Either you have a better shot at winning a clash in combat, or you can simply use the clash from Ambush to put a land on the bottom, helping the Seer peer further into your deck. I think that repeatable activated abilities are good, and in the late game it can have an impact.

Mosswort Bridge / Shelldock Isle

To me, these lands are extremely high picks, as they represent the concept of the perfect card very well: something that gives you mana early on, which can act as a good spell when you don’t need more lands. In Limited, both these conditions aren’t that hard to meet, and once you do, you’ll get the best card out of four, which you can play for two mana at Instant speed. Usually you play it fair, tapping mana every turn for your spells at sorcery speed. These cards break those rules and they give you the most precious resource in the early turns.

On to the Down list…

Cards That I Value Lower

Thoughtweft Trio / Mistbind Clique / Boggart Mob / Nova Chaser (1 of each and 2 Boggart Mob owned)

They’re all quite good if you play them, but I don’t like taking them as my early picks. I love getting them late when I’m already committed to that tribe. For these cards to work, I think you need to be playing with a fairly high amount of creatures on-tribe, maybe even a two-digit number, and you want to have at least a couple in play if your opponent isn’t tapped out and has removal. If they stick around, they’re all quite good at their job. I exclude Wren’s Run Packmaster from this list because I think it’s on a different power level compared to the other four, and I would pick it earlier.

Veteran of the Depths (7 owned)

An example of a card that I’m very happy to have if I’m in Merfolk, but one that doesn’t put me into Merfolk. I’m not being picky, it’s just that there are so many strong cards in Merfolk, such as Summon the School, Sygg, Drowner of Secrets… they make Veteran of the Depths look pasty pale. I’ve seen it played outside Merfolk… ocasionally it was good, but mostly it was merely average.

Ameboid Changeling (11 owned)

In the very first Prerelease, I understood the importance of creature types and maindecked this guy. By himself he provides you with all the creature types, and he boosts some of your cards (or weakens some of your opponent’s cards). Many times I played against it, and it nullified my Aquitects or Eyeblight’s Ending. But I’ve been leaving it on the bench more often lately, and as a consequence I’ve started picking it lower. I see all he can do, but in the Blue decks I usually draft I can’t afford one slot in my deck or one card during the game for him.

Guile (2 owned)

Most of the time I’m reluctant to pick the Incarnations because they require a very solid manabase due to their triple-color-specific mana cost. For six mana you get a nice body, though it’s six specific mana. Guile doesn’t have the same evasion as Dread or Purity, nor has he a game-winning ability like Dread or Vigor. It is shifty, but it’s not static in play… you need to counter a spell. Maybe I was expecting more from a 3UUU spell when I compare it with the other colors, but the fact is I believe I have picked commons over it when I was Blue.

Jace Beleren (0 owned)

I’ve already said many times that I feel Jace to be the weakest of the planeswalkers for Limited play. He’s one of the easiest to kill due to his low loyalty and inability to defend himself. Also, the other Planeswalkers have two abilities that are useful to the controller alongside their uber-ability, while Jace’s ability to restock counters (both player draws a card) isn’t very good.

Fodder Launch (3 owned)

I don’t like Fodder Launch because, outside of Red/Black Goblins, it’s mostly just a Lava Axe. Yes, I’ve lost many times because the card was a Lava Axe, but it’s a situational removal spell that will set you back a lot on tempo in the early game. You spend one turn to play a Goblin, and another to play Fodder Lauch. Exceptions are Mudbutton Torchrunner and Hornet Harasser.

If I’m in Goblins, I like this card a lot, but not so much outside of R/B Goblins. I don’t pick very early, as I need to be already committed to Goblins. This is not a card that will make me change my non-Goblin plans.

Hoarder’s Greed (9 owned – awkward)

From a post I made on the forums:

In my typical Draft decks, I don’t want any of the things Hoarder’s Greed is offering me. I don’t want to draw two cards and lose two life for 4 mana… it’s not good enough, though it’s acceptable at a low level.

Four cards is a good deal, though most of the time I can’t afford to pay four life. More than that, I will probably have to discard and the life swing benefits my opponent too much.

Or, of course, I could just play it on turn 5 and take 18.

In an aggro deck like Red/Black Goblins, it may be good winning some clashes.

I dislike it a lot, because you can’t control the outcome. Most of the clash cards are coin flips – if you win, you get a bonus, and if you lose nothing happens. Not so with Hoarder’s Greed. It can be really bad, and it can never be really good.

Like I said, the only good scenario is in a Red/Black Goblins deck, where you really want to win the clash once or twice. If you fail, then it was just an average spell.

Cloudcrown Oak (10 owned)

Okay, I’m wrong on this one. I’m not giving enough credit to this card, I know, but will you hear what I have to say?

The reason why I have so few of them is because he’s a Treefolk. I don’t draft Treefolk that often. It’s not that I dislike them… it’s because they’re a hard tribe to hit. When I’m drafting Green Elves, I usually prefer all the good Green Elves, even if they’re lower in power compared to Cloudcrown Oak. He’s good at his task, which is to stop Blue’s air offense, but he’s far worse than Penumbra Spider.

Primal Command (3 owned)

This is another card that people question me about all too often. Even though I like it, and I have picked it very early in some drafts, there were some drafts in which I didn’t pick it. I guess it depends on the quality of the rest of your deck, especially your creatures. Interestingly, I think this card is good, but I feel I should rate it higher. That’s why I have it on my Down list. I’m not sure how the rest of the world feels about it… Some love it, and some have no formed opinion.

Dolmen Gate (1 owned)

This card provides a very powerful effect, but also a very specific one. It requires you to attack a lot for it to be good, and in many situations it’s a dead card.

Moonglove Extract (17 owned)

Seventeen would be a respectful number of copies, but I find it a bit low for a card that is removal in an inexpensive artifact form. André Coimbra is a very good drafter, and at GP: Bangkok in the early days of Lorwyn he told me I was picking this card too highly. He said it was a much lower pick, and he was right. For a card that can go into any deck, I think 17 shows that I am not drafting it that high.

With the format’s ups and downs, there are some controversial cards on these lists. But these are the cards that rose or fell in value for me since I began the Drafting With Tiago series, and I believe I’m a better drafter today.

Please let me know which of the cards I mentionted here you don’t agree with, and share some of your own Up and Down cards that I’ve not mentioned on my lists. What cards are you picking higher or lower than common sense tell us?

Thank you for all the comments I’ve received so far. I hope I’ve been helping you learn something, because I’ve learnt many things myself by doing this for you, and from reading your opinions.