Limited Lessons – A Fertile Ground Walkthrough

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As promised last week, today’s Limited Lessons opens the door on an intriguing power-packed Lorwyn draft archetype, as Nick walks us through an 8-4 draft that forces the issue. From first pick to last, with game descriptions… is this the format that could lead you to triple-Lorwyn success?

It’s been a busy month, with lots of furniture moving and holiday activities taking up the majority of my time. Despite all of that I managed to draft a good deal and spent most of those drafts tinkering with the Fertile Ground archetype that I outlined a few of weeks back. This week I want to walk you through a draft where I forced this archetype and explain some of the nuances of how to draft the deck correctly.

As usual this draft is from an 8-4 on Magic Online. One thing I want to mention is that I may not talk too much about the “normal” picks from each pack. I am focusing on forcing the Fertile Ground deck and so I will center most of my discussion on cards that are good in this particular archetype. What I mean is that I’m not going to talk about Wizened Cenn or Streambed Aquitects or similar cards, because they don’t usually fit well into the deck.

The Draft

Pack 1

Pack 1
Boggart Sprite-Chaser, Oaken Brawler, Smokebraider, Stonybrook Angler, Fertile Ground, Moonglove Winnower, Tideshaper Mystic, Rootgrapple, Triclopean Sight, Nightshade Stinger, Flamekin Spitfire, Changeling Hero, Rebellion of the Flamekin, Hoofprints of the Stag, Tideshaper Mystic (Foil)

Already with the first pick I’m faced with the classic dilemma of Smokebraider or Fertile Ground. If you recall back to my drafting guide for the archetype I said that Fertile Ground is usually the better of the two for the deck overall, but there are exceptions.

This just happens to be one of those exceptions.

Since it’s the first pick of the draft I could easily just draft some sort of Elemental deck if the Green cards (and more Fertile Ground) aren’t showing up. Once you know you’re solidified in the archetype you should certainly take the Ground if you’re faced with this decision. Overall the Braider offers more power and more options so I’d rather start off the draft by taking it.

Oh, and yeah, for all of you normal people out there who would take Changeling Hero or Flamekin Spitfire let me remind you that I am forcing this archetype. Even with that being the case I think Smokebraider is the best overall pick from this pack no matter what archetype you’re going for.

My Pick: Smokebraider

Pack 2
Lash Out, Kithkin Daggerdare, Herbal Poultice, Avian Changeling, Warren Pilferers, Lowland Oaf, Fistful of Force, Scarred Vinebreeder, Gilt-Leaf Seer, Protective Bubble, Ingot Chewer, Elvish Promenade, Crush Underfoot, Battle Mastery

This pack offers a couple of real options for me.

I’m discounting the Avian Changeling and Fistful of Force right away for a few reasons. The Changeling is great and very playable in the archetype, but both Lash Out and Pilferers are stronger cards. Fistful is not really very good in the archetype because you aren’t an aggressive strategy and you should be focusing more on card advantage and removal than combat tricks. The idea is to bury your opponent under an avalanche of card advantage and when that happens you won’t need to worry about winning in combat since he should just be dead anyway.

So the pick is obviously between Lash Out and Pilferers, but which do you take? I think both can be the right pick given the right situation but Lash Out is going to be better more often than not. If this was late in the draft and I already had a bunch of removal I may prefer to take the ‘Digger here, but since it’s only second pick I’m very happy taking the burn spell to go with my Braider.

My Pick: Lash Out

Pack 3
Axegrinder Giant, Lignify, Silvergill Douser, Oblivion Ring, Quill-Slinger Boggart, Bog-Strider Ash, Springjack Knight, Ponder, Bog Hoodlums, Caterwauling Boggart, Fire-Belly Changeling, Woodland Guidance, Changeling Hero

Apparently the theme of this draft is Changeling Hero.

Unfortunately for our buddy the Hero, there are better picks available yet again in this booster. This pack is also an example of what I was saying earlier about not discussing in detail cards that don’t work well in the deck. Silvergill Douser is sitting in here 3rd pick and I’m not even going to consider it as an option for a couple reasons. First, I’m forcing this archetype no matter what (hopefully it pans out as I’m on the fly here). Second, I’d rather have the guy behind me taking this late pick Douser and getting focused into Merfolk or Fairies and shipping me all of the good Elementals in pack 2.

Anyway, back to the pick at hand, Oblivion Ring is by far the best card here and I’m happy

My Pick: Oblivion Ring

Pack 4
Runed Stalactite, Nath’s Elite, Sentinels of Glen Elendra, Soulbright Flamekin, Fertile Ground, Moonglove Winnower, Ringskipper, Black Poplar Shaman, Shimmering Grotto, Elvish Eulogist, Thorntooth Witch, Faerie Tauntings

For most drafters this would be an interesting spot where you could possibly take Sentinels, Thorntooth Witch (planning on getting Changelings later), or even just Soulbright Flamekin.

For me, however, this was a simple decision and I took the Fertile Ground without even thinking much about it. You have to pick them high if you want them and you will always have plenty if playables since virtually any card can make the cut.

My Pick: Fertile Ground

Pack 5
Whirlpool Whelm, Adder-Staff Boggart, Wispmare, Streambed Aquitects, Boggart Loggers, Spiderwig Boggart, Boggart Forager, Ringskipper, Vivid Crag, Inner-Flame Acolyte, Shelldock Isle

So what can I really take here that I want in a deck like this? Whirlpool Whelm is decent I suppose, but not exactly what I want to be taking fifth. Inner-Flame Igniter is a bit too color intensive for a four or five color deck like this. The rest of the cards aren’t anything great either. So what did I take?

Vivid Crag, of course! I know this isn’t the best spot to show you how highly you should be taking these lands, but there are still some decent cards in this pack like Whelm and Aquitects and I’m very happy taking the Crag from this booster. I’ve been known to take Vivid lands over better things than this, if that gives you a better idea.

My Pick: Vivid Crag

Pack 6
Battlewand Oak, Hurly-Burly, Paperfin Rascal, Flamekin Brawler, Facevaulter, Warren-Scourge Elf, Blades of Velis Vel, Cenn’s Heir, Fodder Launch, Horde of Notions

Allow me to paint a picture for you. I just got back to my apartment tonight after being away for a few weeks. The draft I’m writing about took place about 2.5 weeks ago and I don’t exactly remember what the picks were like so it’s almost as if I’m drafting again while writing this (which is how it should be).

When I looked at this pack and what I’d taken from it, I just laughed. In the previous pick I took a Vivid Land fifth pick in pack 1 no less! Now here in my sixth pick I remember instantly picking Horde of Notions when this draft actually occurred.

So yeah, I’m sure some of you may click the Back button right now, or think I’m terrible, or any number of other things, but I assure you I’ve had success with the strategy and encourage you to read on despite the seemingly ludicrous picks I’m advocating.

Now that I’m done explaining why this particular pick was funny to me, I want to say a few other things about this pack. First off, Horde of Notions is a stone cold bomb in this deck and very easy to cast with Vivid Lands, Smokebraiders, and Fertile Grounds. If I’d opened the pack, or this was an earlier pick, I may gamble on it and try to get it to table rather than wasting a high pick on it since players don’t raredraft as often in 8-4. In this particular pack there isn’t anything else I want, and there is no chance it will make the lap so I’m slamming it every time. Finally, it’s odd to see this late a Fodder Launch, but I don’t exactly want a card like that unless I have lots of Changelings.

The lesson with this pick is to learn to love the Horde, and I will also say that it is very enjoyable to beat people with it as they call you a newbie and lots of other names.

My Pick: Horde of Notions

Pack 7
Springleaf Drum, Kithkin Healer, Lace with Moonglove, Exiled Boggart, Heal the Scars, Mournwhelk, Scattering Stroke, Boggart Harbinger

Dear Mournwhelk,

You are ever so expensive but you provide nice card advantage and nobody else wants to play you in their deck. I, on the other hand, see all of your good qualities and usually include not only you, but a brother or two of yours in my forty card piles.

I love you.


P.S. — Please only be in my opening hand if Smokebraider is there with you.

My Pick: Mournwhelk

Pack 8
Moonglove Winnower, Kinsbaile Balloonist, Paperfin Rascal, Black Poplar Shaman, Nath’s Buffoons, Wings of Velis Vel, Footbottom Feast, Entangling Trap

Sure, there are some decent creatures here in the Winnower and Balloonist, but I like to have a Footbottom Feast in most of my Fertile Ground builds and this is the opportune time to pick one up. I don’t really like Wings of Velis Vel in this deck, for the same reasons I’m not a huge fan of other pump spells like Fistful of Force. I guess I could see taking the Winnower here, but personally I prefer the Feast by a lot.

My Pick: Footbottom Feast

On the way back around I got Hoofprints of the Stag, Gilt-Leaf Seer, Lignify, and not much else relevant. While my deck may look like a pile of junk to most of you after the first set of packs, I was very happy going into pack 2 with some good fixers and plenty of room to improve. Not to mention the all-important Horde of Notions.

Pack 2

Pack 1
Wispmare, Streambed Aquitects, Consuming Bonfire, Boggart Loggers, Lys Alana Huntmaster, Deeptread Merrow, Runed Stalactite, Inner-Flame Acolyte, Rootgrapple, Goldmeadow Dodger, Flamekin Brawler, Thundercloud Shaman, Benthicore, Giant Harbinger, Heat Shimmer

This pack has quite a few possibilities for me, but unfortunately isn’t that difficult a pick. Bonfire, Huntmaster, Heat Shimmer, and Benthicore are all great cards for this archetype but they are simply outclassed by the Thundercloud Shaman. Some may say that in a deck like this he will usually just deal one damage to everything, or possibly two with the help of a Changeling, but that’s still usually awesome in a format filled with Silvergill Dousers and Elf tokens.

Now that I have the Shaman I’ll value some Giants and Changelings a bit higher but still won’t go overboard with it.

My Pick: Thundercloud Shaman

Pack 2
Plover Knights, Paperfin Rascal, Dreamspoiler Witches, Runed Stalactite, Nath’s Elite, Neck Snap, Pestermite, Hunt Down, Triclopean Sight, Warren-Scourge Elf, Lowland Oaf, Faerie Harbinger, Flamekin Harbinger, Knucklebone Witch

This pack gives me the choice of Dreamspoiler, Pestermite, Nath’s Elite, Lowland Oaf, or Flamekin Harbinger. Normally the Faerie Harbinger would be an option but I don’t have any Blue cards yet and definitely not any Faeries.

I could see someone taking the Dreamspoiler from this pack but honestly I think the Flamekin Harbinger offers the most power and synergy for the archetype. It lets me search up an early Smokebraider, or find Mournwhelk or Horde of Notions in a pinch.

Basically, he does it all.

My Pick: Flamekin Harbinger

Pack 3
Aethersnipe, Quill-Slinger Boggart, Surge of Thoughtweft, Cloudcrown Oak, Inner-Flame Acolyte, Wanderer’s Twig, Silvergill Douser, Spring Cleaning, Exiled Boggart, Shields of Velis Vel, Mournwhelk, Flamekin Bladewhirl, Captivating Glance

It’s way too high to take Wanderer’s Twig, and to be honest I like the card less and less as the weeks go on. Wanderer’s Twig is like a bad Vivid Land because it takes up an actual slot in your deck and is clunky on any turn but the first.

So the choice here is between Aethersnipe and Cloudcrown Oak and to be honest I can see going either way with the decision. Since I don’t have any Blue cards yet it may make more sense to take the Oak, but in general I think the Snipe is going to be a more powerful pick. I timed down a lot on this pick before finally deciding to stay consistent and go with the Oak. I can’t argue with anyone who makes a case for the Snipe here though except to say that I want enough Green to make it a main color and play plenty of Forests for early Fertile Grounds.

My Pick: Cloudcrown Oak

Pack 4
Fertile Ground, Moonglove Extract, Whirlpool Whelm, Leaf Gilder, Adder-Staff Boggart, Elvish Handservant, Dawnfluke, Broken Ambitions, Nath’s Buffoon, Faultgrinder, Veteran of the Depths, Howltooth Hollow

Yaus, Fertile Ground number two!

And no, I didn’t even consider picking Moonglove Extract over it. Does that make me a genius or terrible? I’ll let you decide.

My Pick: Fertile Ground

Pack 5
Lignify, Boggart Loggers, Bog-Strider Ash, Aethersnipe, Bog Hoodlums, Protective Bubble, Fire-Belly Changeling, Skeletal Changeling, Vivid Creek, Boggart Harbinger, Seedguide Ash

Well, I went with the Treefolk last time when faced with a similar decision but Cloudcrown Oak is a bit better at being defensive than Seedguide Ash. I also just picked up another Fertile Ground which makes the Snipe even easier to cast.

This time around I don’t think the pick is close, and I’m happy to get another chance at picking Aethersnipe. I also know there are probably a few of you out there thinking that I should have two Snipes right now, but like I said I think the first pick is close and I made what I thought was the best decision at the time.

My Pick: Aethersnipe

Pack 6
Oaken Brawler, Stonybrook Angler, Thieving Sprite, Leaf Gilder, Springjack Knight, Nightshade Stinger, Faultgrinder, Benthicore, Boggart Harbinger, Drowner of Secrets

Since most of the cards in this pack are pretty terrible for me, I just had to decide between the two seven-drop Elementals. Once I realized that, the decision was pretty easy as Benthicore is by far the better of the two. Faultgrinder is also common, and if I really wanted one I’d likely have a shot at it later.

My Pick: Benthicore

Pack 7
Bog-Strider Ash, Mudbutton Torchrunner, Springleaf Drum, Spring Cleaning, Blind-Spot Giant, Wellgabber Apothecary, Gilt-Leaf Seer, Makeshift Mannequin, Woodland Guidance

Well, this is both unexpected and awesome. Since the Mannequin deck has been doing well in Standard people have subsequently started picking it higher in draft and ruining my chances of getting it late like I did a month ago.

There is also a Mudbutton Torchrunner here that I’d like to take if the Mannequin wasn’t also present, but unfortunately I have to go with the stronger Uncommon in this case.

My Pick: Makeshift Mannequin

Pack 8
Peppersmoke, Woodland Changeling, Boggart Sprite-Chaser, Wings of Velis Vel, Oaken Brawler, Facevaulter, Bog Hoodlums, Squeaking Pie Sneak

I could certainly use some early drops, and the Changeling is also a way to power up my Thundercloud Shaman.

My Pick: Woodland Changeling

On the lap I got I got lucky and picked up a bunch of very strong additions. First I somehow tabled Giant Harbinger to go with my Thundercloud which I was ecstatic about. I also got Nath’s Elite and Leaf Gilder as likely additions to the maindeck. The deck is really shaping up going into pack 3, and I was feeling positive about my chances of making the finals.

Pack 3

Pack 1
Fistful of Force, Aethersnipe, Quill-Slinger Boggart, Surge of Thoughtweft, Cloudcrown Oak, Tarfire, Gilt-Leaf Seer, Protective Bubble, Ingot Chewer, Amoeboid Changeling, Spring Cleaning, Kithkin Harbinger, Lammastide Weave, Pollen Lullaby, Purity

Okay, so most of you would probably just go for the safe pick here and take Tarfire or Aethersnipe depending on your preference. If you’re in that camp, I’d say go for the Tarfire and be happy about it.

I’m guessing that most of you would consider taking Purity to be too risky with only two Fertile Grounds, a Braider, and one Vivid Land. Maybe I’m crazy, I don’t know, but I decided to gamble it up yet again and take the Rare over Tarfire.

My Pick: Purity

Pack 2
Inner-Flame Acolyte, Peppersmoke, Paperfin Rascal, Fistful of Force, Boggart Sprite-Chaser, Triclopean Sight, Nath’s Buffoon, Hurly Burly, Tideshaper Mystic, Guardian of Cloverdell, Glarewielder, Vivid Marsh, Spinerock Knoll

I’m fairly certain that many of you will think I’m nuts for taking Vivid Marsh out of this booster, but this is exactly the type of example I want to share to show you just how important these lands are to the deck.

There isn’t anything too spectacular here anyway, and I’d probably take Guardian of Cloverdell if the Land wasn’t here. I already have a couple of seven-drops, and I could really use some more fixing after taking that Purity with my last pick. In situations like this you really just need to ask yourself what your deck needs and forget about the fact that it’s a second pick and just swallow your pride and take the land.

I guess either way this will either be a really interesting walkthrough or really controversial, both of which are better than it being boring or “normal.”

My Pick: Vivid Marsh

Pack 3
Smokebraider, Gilt-Leaf Ambush, Moonglove Winnower, Kinsbaile Balloonist, Soulbright Flamekin, Broken Ambitions, Nath’s Buffon, Faultgrinder, Spring Cleaning, Goldmeadow Dodger, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, Crush Underfoot, Favor the Mighty

Miser, Lucksack, whatever you want to call me, this deck just got insane.

Never mind that the pack is pretty strong overall, there is another Smokebraider in it and that’s all that matters. I should now have zero problem casting Purity or Horde of Notions even in the early game and I also have Flamekin Harbinger to search up whatever piece of the puzzle I’m missing.

My Pick: Smokebraider

Pack 4
Footbottom Feast, Axegrinder Giant, Lignify, Boggart Loggers, Gilt-Leaf Ambush, Inkfathom Divers, Boggart Birth Rite, Soaring Hope, Nectar Faerie, Woodland Guidance, Lace with Moonglove (Foil)

Gilt-Leaf Ambush is perfect to give me some early game defense. Honestly, I’m not sure how much defense I’ll need with all of the acceleration and bombs I already have.

My Pick: Gilt-Leaf Ambush

Pack 5
Shimmering Grotto, Hornet Harasser, Lowland Oaf, Woodland Changeling, Amoeboid Changeling, Blades of Velis Vel, Hillcomber Giant, Ringskipper, Blind-Spot Giant, Merrow Commerce

The Oaf is better than the Changeling because I have acceleration for it and it’s just bigger. I’m not a huge fan of Shimmering Grotto in this deck, though I’ll play it if I absolutely have to.

My Pick: Lowland Oaf

Pack 6
Deeptread Merrow, Soulbright Flamekin, Glimmerdust Nap, Ponder, Heal the Scars, Shields of Velis Vel, Sylvan Echoes, Hearthcage Giant, Changeling Titan

I’m not really sure what to say about this except that Titan should never be in the pack this late. He’s also absolutely insane in this deck with all of the acceleration I already have. I really can’t say a whole lot except that this shouldn’t happen and it’s just the icing on an already insane deck.

My Pick: Changeling Titan

Pack 7
Footbottom Feast, Tideshaper Mystic, Scarred Vinebreeder, Springjack Knight, Dawnfluke, Elvish Handservant, Captivating Glance, Flamekin Bladewhirl

Thankfully my deck is already done because there’s nothing I really want here. Flamekin Bladewhirl is terrible in a controlling deck like this one, if you hadn’t already figured that out.

My Pick: Footbottom Feast

Pack 8
Moonglove Winnower, Lairwatch Giant, Glimmerdust Nap, Spellstutter Sprite, Boggart Forager, Hunt Down, Rings of Brightearth

Unlikely to make the deck but there is only one playable for me here.

My Pick: Moonglove Winnower

I managed to pick up Ingot Chewer and Faultgrinder to round out the draft.

The Deck

2 Smokebraider
Lash Out
Thundercloud Shaman
Flamekin Harbinger
Giant Harbinger
Lowland Oaf
2 Fertile Ground
Cloudcrown Oak
Woodland Changeling
Leaf Gilder
Changeling Titan
Gilt-Leaf Ambush
Oblivion Ring
Makeshift Mannequin
Horde of Notions
7 Mountain
7 Forest
Vivid Crag
Vivid Marsh

Relevant Sideboard
Footprings of the Stag
Gilt-Leaf Seer
Boggart Loggers
Nath’s Elite
Ingot Chewer
2 Footbottom Feast

I ended up cutting Footbottom Feast as the last card in favor of a maindeck Faultgrinder. I planned on boarding in Footbottom Feast in any matchup where my opponent had a lot of removal but that didn’t end up happening. I also ran Woodland Changeling over Nath’s Elite due to the Thundercloud Shaman. I’m still not sure if this was right or not, but I believe it is.

Overall I was very happy with my deck, and although some of the picks (specifically the 2nd pick Vivid Marsh) may seem very sketchy on paper, I have had quite a bit of success with this strategy. Hopefully my drafting guide, and now this walkthrough, will help you to try the deck out on your own.

In round 1 my opponent was U/W Merfolk and attempted to stall the ground with a Douser while I built mana. Eventually I played Aethersnipe and then wrecked his board with Thundercloud Shaman and Lowland Oaf in play. In game 2 I opened with the nuts.

Turn 1 Flamekin Harbinger for Horde of Notions.

Turn 2 Smokebraider

He didn’t have the counter on turn 3 and instead conceded a few turns later

Round 2 was a long and grueling match. Game 1 was a drawn out affair with my opponent killing both Smokebraiders I played and drastically slowing me down. My Cloudcrown Oak bought me some time and held off the small ground guys he had. Unfortunately for me he built up to a turn where he cast Profane Command for six and attacked for the win via Fear. Game 2 I got a fast Changeling Titan that proved very difficult for his BR deck to deal with. Just when it looked like he would be able to trade three of his guys for it I ripped Aethersnipe off the top and we went to sideboarding for game 3. In game 3 my deck decided it didn’t want to come out and play as I mulliganned to five on the play after seeing two hands without a single land. His deck was pretty strong and mine certainly has trouble functioning on a five card opener, so he beat me pretty handily.

In summary, I got somewhat unlucky in the deciding game and thankfully it wasn’t due to color issues. I really can’t see this deck having too many problems with color issues with all of the fixers, and sometimes you’re just gonna mull to five and lose. At any rate, I hope this has been interesting and informative, and I’ll see you guys next week.

Nick Eisel
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