Limited Lessons — Approaching Lorwyn

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After a brief delay due to unforeseen circumstances, today we have Nick Eisel’s first look at Lorwyn! He walks us through his prerelease experience, sharing his card pool and thoughts on his eventual Top 8 build. He also highlights a few of the stronger cards in draft, and touches on the importance of the tribal theme, which will be a surefire cog in the Limited machine for weeks and months to come…

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My article is appearing later than usual this week because my girlfriend’s father passed away last Friday and we’ve been swamped with sorting out all of his affairs. Unfortunately this has been cutting into my Magic time as well, and I haven’t been able to draft with Lorwyn as of this writing. I plan on starting to do that soon though, and this article will be a collection of useful things I learned at the prerelease.

I apologize if some of what I have to offer today overlaps with Benjamin Peebles-Mundy’s article from Wednesday, as I was planning on having this done for my usual Tuesday slot and couldn’t find the time. First off, I want to talk about some things I learned about the format and some cards that could end up being very influential.

I remember when Onslaught came out there were a barrage of articles addressing the idea that creature type could now be the deciding factor in draft picks. These articles (I may have written one or two myself) usually said that in some cases you could justify taking a card that was much worse in power level than the rest of the pack as long as it fit your tribal theme. These articles may have had some amount of merit back in OLS, but I think in general the impact of the creature type theme was exaggerated and not as important as it initially seemed.

Now that Lorwyn is here though, I think this concept may have some serious merit.

The tribal theme was certainly present in OLS, nobody is debating that. The extent to which it was present is nowhere near the extent to which it dictates how you draft in Lorwyn. Even though it’s early and the set just came out, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is the driving concept behind drafting the set. If you don’t draft with your tribe in mind, your deck will literally end up being an unplayable mess. Even though I haven’t drafted yet, I can say with a high degree of certainty from past experience that the central theme of Lorwyn draft will be tribes. Those who follow tribal lines will likely succeed while those who stray will end up with much weaker decks. The synergy present for focusing in one or two tribes is much more important than just taking the best card from each booster as tribal cards build on one another.

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, take a very tribal-oriented deck that was drafted by a close friend of mine.

Boggart Mob
3 Warren Pilferers
Boggart Harbinger
2 Squeaking Pie Sneak
2 Ghostly Changeling
Boggart Birth Rite
Mad Auntie
Weed Strangle
Fodder Launch
2 Nameless Inversion
3 Caterwauling Boggart
Tar Pitcher
2 Mudbutton Torchrunner
10 Swamp
7 Mountain

Yes, this deck was drafted at a prerelease with a pod of mediocre players at best. It’s likely far better than the average deck you will draft if the other players at the table are competent. That’s not the point.

The point is that if you can focus in a single tribe as my friend did here, the result is enormous. Every card in this deck has synergy with the others, and this creates a snowball type effect that is extremely difficult to stop.

This deck had lots of playable cards like Mournwhelk, Ingot Chewer, Axewielder Giant, and Glarewielder in the sideboard. The reason they didn’t make the maindeck is partially due to card quality, but mainly because they aren’t part of the Goblin tribe.

Caterwauling Boggart
This guy has been unbelievable every time I’ve seen him in play. He essentially says all of your guys are unblockable if you’re playing Red and he immensely compliments the Goblin theme. Most Goblins are poor attackers anyway, until you make them unblockable.

The Facevaulter and Tar Pitcher both go well with the Torchrunners, and having three Gravediggers in Warren Pilferers makes the long game almost impossible for opponents. One combo I found in my Sealed Deck which I’ll talk about later was Championing a Pilferer with Boggart Mob. This creates a sort of pseudo lock, since if the Mob dies, you get the Pilferer back who in turn returns the Mob (or something better).

Based on initial speculation alone, Giants seem like the worst tribe to me, and Elves and Goblins both look excellent. I definitely plan on looking at the tribes closer in the coming weeks once I’ve had some more experience playing with the set. I think I’ll be doing tribal strategy guides rather than archetype strategy guides, but we’ll have to see.

Specific Cards
Since I’m not going to talk about one tribe in particular this week, I want to at least offer some thoughts on cards that I already have strong opinions about.

Silvergill Douser
I hope most of you realize the dominance this guy will have if he’s left on board for a few turns. Since we’re fresh from TPF and have dealt with Saltfield Recluse for the past few months, it shouldn’t be hard to imagine how good this guy is. The difference here is that he’s cheaper, and has the potential to stop even huge creatures from doing anything thanks to interacting with two tribes.

I talked about this card briefly last week but I want to reiterate just how amazing it is. A 2/2 flier with a marginal ability has always been acceptable in Limited, and Mulldrifter’s ability is much better than average. Quite the bomb common.

Nath’s Elite
Taunting Elf on crack, you say? These guys will usually be your top end in the Elf tribe, but they are well worth the investment. The problem with Taunting Elf was always that you needed another card to make it kill anything, and one alpha strike usually wasn’t enough. Hopefully the Elite will allow you to get damage through while also hurting your opponent’s board. If you combine this with Lace with Moonglove you should win immediately if your opponent doesn’t have some way to foil it.

Warren Pilferers
I’ve already talked a little about this card but I really cannot say enough. This guy is amazing even if he is five mana, and if you manage to get multiples you can do some really sick things with the other goblins available.

Nameless Inversion
Some people have mentioned this card in articles this week and they refer to it as an improved Last Gasp. In reality this card is so much more than that.

First off, you can search it up or return it from the graveyard with any card that is tribe specific. Second, it makes its target lose all creature types until end of turn, which has been relevant on more than one occasion so far. It has no non-Elf or non-Elemental restrictions like some of the other removal spells available. The best quality, in my opinion, is being able to search it up with the Harbingers.

Runed Stalactite
This is a card I’m not really sure about, and that is why I’m mentioning it. I figured it was probably pretty good in Sealed so I ended up playing it. Unfortunately I didn’t draw it much, and when I did it seemed clunky or didn’t impact the game at all. Based on that experience and some general thinking about how the format will play out, I think it might be a tad slow for Draft. This is something I could easily be wrong about, so I encourage you to try it out for yourself and see if you have different results. Definitely a card to watch in the coming weeks. [Personally, I thought this card was fantastic — Craig.]

Hoarder’s Greed
This card seemed pretty good to me on the spoiler, but I heard a few stories at the prerelease where people died to it. You can’t really cast it in the early turns because your opponent could clash into a land and just leave it on top and let you win all of the clashes and draw too many cards. If you’re low on life, this will just kill you. My advice is to be very careful with this and try to play it in decks where you’ll be ahead on board often or can gain the life back in some other manner.

Inner-Flame Acolyte
This card really impressed me for a number of reasons. First of all, a 4/2 haste for RR1 is a pretty solid deal and can help you get far ahead in the race. Second, and possibly more important, is the ambush factor that the Evoke ability can provide in the middle or later stages of the game. The opponent figures he has things under control and can attack with an extra creature, and then you steal the win out from under him when you play a fatty (maybe even with trample) and give it this new Reckless Charge. Flexibility here is huge, and I think this card will be undervalued for quite some time.

Neck Snap
This card will be good for at least a little while. After that it will suffer from the same problems that Second Thoughts did in that it is pretty easy to play around. Neck Snap at least can get blockers too, so it makes it harder to totally avoid, but the better players out there will always have it in mind when you have four mana untapped and play accordingly. It’s still a solid piece of removal no matter how you slice it, and White is pretty aggressive which makes this a little better.

Now that I’ve talked about some cards that I have opinions about, I’d like to offer my Sealed pool from the Prerelease as it was relatively tough to build. Take the time to build it if you can before reading my comments.

After removing the unplayables I laid out my deck not only by color but also by tribe. I think this is very important, as cards like Crush Underfoot can either be amazing or totally unplayable depending on the rest of your card pool. The first thing I noticed with this pool was that Goblins were by far my strongest tribe, and my best card was probably Jace Beleren or Wort, Boggart Auntie. I tried multiple iterations before ending up with the following build.

Runed Stalactite
Mudbutton Torchrunner
2 Soulbright Flamekin
2 Consuming Bonfire
Adder-Staff Bogart
Inner-Flame Igniter
2 Glimmerdust Nap
Amoeboid Changeling
Broken Ambitions
Jace Beleren
Wings of Velis Vel
Blades of Velis Vel
Inner-Flame Acolyte
Caterwauling Boggart
Tar Pitcher
Wort, Boggart Auntie
2 Warren Pilferers
Boggart Mob
7 Mountain
6 Island
Vivid Crag
Vivid Marsh
Secluded Glen

Even though I made Top 8 with this build it is very possible that there is a better build.

I did quite a bit of sideboarding during the event based on matchup, and even sided out Blue entirely for Nath’s Buffoons and Boggart Loggers in some of the Green matchups. The main reason I played Blue to begin with is because of Jace, and also because if you lay out the straight B/R build you’ll see that it only comes to twenty cards, and it’s stretching it on some. I decided it was better then to be U/R as a base and splash for the four best Black cards in the pool. Blue also provided some Changeling effects so I didn’t really lose too much by dropping the extra crappy Goblins in Black anyway.

I am looking forward to learning the ins and outs of the new draft format and sharing that knowledge with you guys in the coming weeks. See you next week, hopefully at the regularly scheduled time.

Nick Eisel
[email protected]

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