Limited Lessons – Dangers in Lorwyn/Lorwyn/Morningtide

Read Nick Eisel... at StarCityGames.com!
Tuesday, March 4th – Morningtide has finally emerged into the light on Magic Online, and Lorwyn/Lorwyn/Morningtide drafts begin later this week. Today, Nick takes us through six of the more popular tribal archetypes and examines the tricks and traps each deck may spring. If you’re looking to maximize your online draft potential, look no further!

With Morningtide being released on Magic Online this week, I plan on having a Lorwyn/Lorwyn/Morningtide walkthrough for next week, or possibly the week after at the latest. This week I wanted to do something different to help my readers prepare for the new format on Magic Online.

The set will be available for draft this week, and I thought it’d be nice to have a guide that outlines the things you should be worried about when playing against each tribe, and what your general plan of attack should be. I obviously can’t cover every possible iteration and every dual tribe deck, so this will just be a collection of things you should refer back to based on what you’ve seen from your opponent. To give you an example, if you’re playing against a Faerie/Merfolk opponent you can refer to both of those sections, and then try to figure out what your opponent can likely have based on what cards you’ve seen so far. What I mean by this is that if you’ve seen only a few Faeries then it’s probably unlikely that he’s packing Spellstutter Sprite, and if it’s the other way around then he probably doesn’t have something like Judge of Currents. This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how your plays and entire game plan can change by simply taking the time to deduce what answers your opponent could have to your deck.

This article is mainly going to focus on commons since that is what you’ll be facing on a regular basis, though I will occasionally mention an uncommon that is very specific to a tribe and unplayable elsewhere. There’s little point in repeating the fact that you should be concerned that your opponent could have Final Revels in any deck that has Swamps, but there is more importance mentioning something like Summon the School or Elvish Promenade in their respective tribes. I’m also going to avoid talking about the “lords” in this article, since every tribe has them and it’s essentially a waste of space. You should basically know what each lord does by now, since the format has been around over a month.

Moonglove Extract is a special case for an article like this because it fits directly into any deck. I know when I’m playing a game I’m always trying to make a list in my head of all of the possible answers my opponent could have to stop a key play I’m going to make, and it’s important to remember that Moonglove can be anywhere.

The easiest way to identify that your opponent is Faeries will be something like a Nightshade Stinger, or more reliably a tribal Faerie like Thieving Sprite. This is because someone could just have a Nightshade Stinger in a Goblin Rogue build because of the evasion. Faeries will usually be base UB as well, and will make most of their plays on your turn so that they can keep counter mana up. This is probably one of the trickiest archetypes in the format to play against, so you’ll have to spend plenty of time thinking through your turns in advance and attempting to play around the various Flash creatures and other Instants.

Spellstutter Sprite, Faerie Trickery, Broken Ambitions, Scattering Stroke, Sage’s Dousing.

The bad news is that the Faerie mage is likely passing with all of his mana up on a lot of the mid-game turns, and you won’t know if he has a counter or is simply waiting to play a removal spell or Flash guy to ambush your possible attacks. Another piece of bad news is that all of these counters are very good, and your opponent will likely have multiples so you can’t just run a bait spell out there and then feel pretty confident that your opponent doesn’t have more counters after the first, or even second. The best builds of the Faerie archetype have a bunch of different counters, so it’s nearly impossible to put them on a card or play around the entire group at once. I’m not sure what advice to give except to attempt to play your spells in the most productive manner while avoiding countermagic, as the Faerie player isn’t likely to tap out often and you’re just going to have to cross your fingers and hope your good spells resolve.

Dreamspoiler Witches
This is the Flagship common of the archetype, because it gives you a reusable source of removal that plays very well with the overall goal of casting spells on the opponent’s turn. Since this article is about playing against these archetypes, the best piece of advice I can give you is to kill this guy as soon as it is played, as your opponent won’t be tapping out much afterwards and will just start picking off your guys.

Thieving Sprite
This is something to always keep in mind and play around. The fact that this exists will make it correct to hold back lands and make other weird plays, protecting a bomb in your hand that you’re currently unable to cast. I’ve certainly made the mistake of not always keeping this guy in mind when facing this particular archetype and it can be a very costly mistake when he happens to show up.

Beware of the Ambush
Sentinels of Glen Elendra, Dewdrop Spy, Pestermite, and all of the other Flash Faeries are something to always keep in mind. Pestermite usually isn’t a huge deal, as he will be cast in your upkeep or to tap one of your attackers, but you do have to be aware that he can untap a creature that attacked and allow it to block, so that’s important. Sentinels is the big one, and you never want to be attacking into that without an answer if you can avoid it. The thing that sucks is that you can’t even really bluff that you have something, because the player with Sentinels is just going to assume that you forgot about its existence and block anyway. Hopefully what I’m trying to say there makes sense, but if not I’m basically saying that nobody is going to give you credit for a trick when they have Sentinels and you swing with a 2/2, so just don’t bluff in that spot.

Glen Elendra Pranksters
This is an archetype specific uncommon that I wanted to mention, because there are those rare cases where it “goes off” with Spellstutter and Thieving Sprites, and you should know that it’s possible if your opponent drops it on turn 4.

Removal & Tricks
Peppersmoke, Eyeblight’s Ending, Weed Strangle, Nameless Inversion, Whirlpool Whelm, Disperse, Final-Sting Faerie, Pack’s Disdain, Pestermite, Wings of Velis Vel, Nevermaker, Violet Pall

The Faerie player has plenty of options for removal, and the thing to remember is that most of these get even better due to the presence of Dreamspoiler Witches. If I missed something feel free to point it out in the forums, but these are all of the big players and things you should be thinking about and playing around if possible, in addition to the counters. Like I said earlier, beware of overthinking things against the Faerie player by assuming they just have everything, because that will only get you into trouble. Try to make sound plays based on what you’ve seen previously and you should be fine.

The Rogue Problem
Latchkey Faerie is absolutely huge in this archetype, since there are a ton of cheap Faeries to enable it and they all have evasion. Of course, you have to be ready for any of the Prowl cards like Morsel Theft or Noggin Whack, but I’d say the Latchkey is the biggest and most common annoyance you will face. Back in triple Lorwyn, when people were playing Nightshade Stingers it was mainly to power up Spellstutter Sprites, but nowadays it’s to turn on the powerful Rogue mechanic. I’m not sure there is any strategy-specific advice I can give on how to fight Rogues except to know that they are very good at racing with Morsel Theft, and you should have some cheap answers to the Rogue enablers.

Really, the best way to fight this tribe is with any kind of anti-Flying measure. Hurly Burly is good for this, and Festercreep can wipe their side. I honestly prefer the ‘Creep, as it comes down under their counters and can totally screw with their gameplan, and it shuts off their Spellstutters as there is always the threat of activation. The best way to dismantle the Faerie player’s plans is to play something like a Cloudcrown Oak and kill their key men. It doesn’t matter so much that they are countering your spells if they aren’t applying any pressure to you. It’s when they have some fliers out and you’re behind, and then they fall back on the counters… that’s when you really need to start worrying. They are very good at swarming with 1/1 fliers, so you have to be ready for that.

Good Answer Cards: Hurly Burly, Festercreep, Lys Alana Bowmaster, Cloudcrown Oak, Cheap Removal

This tribe will be primarily UW to take advantage of the Stonybrook Schoolmaster in Morningtide. They may be splashing for removal, but it should be easy to identify them early in the game with the presence of cards like Tideshaper Mystic or Judge of Currents.

Faerie Trickery, Broken Ambitions, Scattering Stroke, Sage’s Dousing

Here Sage’s Dousing and Broken Ambitions are my favorites, though I’d expect to see Faerie Trickery often as well when facing Merfolk opponents. They do tap out often though, unlike the Faerie deck, so countermagic isn’t as ever-present as in that matchup.

Judge of Currents
This card tends to make games go very long if left unchecked, so I would advise killing it on the spot. The very nature of this card defines the tribe’s cumbersome intentions, and it also highlights the goal of tapping creatures for positive effects.

Silvergill Douser
Another must-kill creature which I’m sure most of you have had the pleasure of playing against (and by pleasure, I mean annoyance). This guy makes it nearly impossible to engage in combat.

Drowner of Secrets
The alternate win condition is thankfully Uncommon, and therefore not something you’ll always have to face. The annoying thing is that it plays so well with the rest of the tribe, due to the ability to tap any number of Merfolk at any time. So if you’re following so far, all of these creatures have huge targets on their head and you should kill them instantly.

Summon the School
Recently I made a big deal about how Jon Finkel was able to get away from this card and switch into Kithkin in the Top 8 of Pro Tour: Kuala Lumpur. The reason I made such a big deal is because this is essentially the best card you can hope for in the Merfolk archetype. This gets out of hand quickly, and is also an “unkillable” tapping outlet.

Stonybrook Schoolmaster
The key common from Morningtide, and you were right if you guessed that it is another must-kill. This isn’t as ridiculous as the School itself because it’s on a 1/2 body, but nevertheless you should focus your sights on it when it enters play.

Inspired Sprite
I’m mentioning this for a few reasons. First of all, you have to be aware of Flash creatures since most Merfolk builds will have a few Faeries included to be able to start attacking through the air. Second, this Faerie is actually better in the Merfolk archetype, since almost every Merfolk you play will trigger the ability and allow you to loot again.

Be wary of “Tapping Outlets”
I remember when we first started playing triple Lorwyn and someone would play Springleaf Drum against me. My initial thoughts were always “Nice Mulligan,” as the card never did anything for me and I couldn’t imagine it having an impact on the board. Not only was I wrong initially, but this is truer now more than ever, and you should be aware of what your opponent can do with a tapping outlet online. The real problem is that you can’t be wasting removal on something like Mothdust Changeling because there are so many other pieces to the Merfolk puzzle, like Judge, Schoolmaster, and Douser, all of which demand an answer before getting out of hand. Whatever the case, familiarize yourself with all of the tapping bonuses so that you know what you’re possibly up against, and there should be no surprises.

The general plan of the Merfolk archetype is to lock the game down with Douser and Judge and then eventually kill you with Deeptread Merrows or Inkfathom Divers and Islandwalk. This is usually enabled through Tideshaper Mystic or possibly Aquitects Will, but if you happen to be playing Islands yourself then matters get even worse. I’ve actually sided into a different second color on multiple occasions to dodge a deck with 6+ Islandwalkers, and had mixed results. The problem is that you’re siding in suboptimal cards to do this, but depending on the situation it might be the best chance you have of winning the matchup.

Removal & Tricks
Neck Snap, Coordinated Barrage, Whirlpool Whelm, Disperse, Pestermite, Oblivion Ring, Wings of Velis Vel, Crib Swap, Triclopean Sight, Burrenton Bombardier, Weight of Conscience, Nevermaker, Stream of Unconsciousness

I wouldn’t worry too much about Burrenton Bombardier in this deck, because they aren’t usually attacking too much. The main tricks I’m concerned with when facing a Merfolk player are Neck Snap, Coordinated Barrage, and something like Pestermite or Whirlpool Whelm to screw up my combat. Be aware that Pestermite is quite sick with Silvergill Douser and can seriously screw up what would otherwise be a great attack step.

Wrath effects are great here since most Merfolk are small. A simple Festercreep or Hurly-Burly will usually do the job, as with Faeries. The nice thing about playing against Merfolk is that you know you usually have time to get your plans together, as they don’t apply much pressure. You do have to be careful about letting them get control of the board but defense is not usually a prime concern as it is in other matchups. Something like Flamekin Spitfire is essentially the MVP for a matchup like this, as you can pick off their entire team without any cost to yourself. The best advice for beating Merfolk is to have a ton of removal to kill all of their utility elements, and then killing them with whatever guys you have shouldn’t be too big of a task. Also have a plan for Judge of Currents, because if you don’t then all of your combat steps can be rendered completely useless by him.

Elves are best as a GB archetype, but I’ve also seen GR and GU have success more than once. Elves are pretty easy to recognize as they are usually accompanied by a Lys Alana Huntmaster in the early turns of the game.

Lys Alana Huntmaster
Take this guy out at any opportunity because he has a tendency to go nuts very quickly. I’m not sure what else to say except that you should be killing those turn 2 Blightsoil Druids or Leaf Gilders to slow down the Huntmaster production if you have a Tarfire or Release the Ants.

Gilt-Leaf Ambush
The Clash on this isn’t as big of a deal as I initially thought it would be when the Lorwyn spoiler was released. The key here is that it makes two guys and possibly more with Huntmaster in play and also allows the Elf player to dig for more copies or more ways to create guys.

Nath’s Elite
Tokens usually can’t get through on their own without swarming, so this guy comes down to soak up all of the blockers. Killing this with Clash on the stack is always a good way to protect yourself. Another thing to do is let the Elf player make his move and then bounce this sucker mid-combat to totally wreck his team.

Elvish Promenade
Powered by Gilt-Leaf Ambushes, Huntmasters, and possibly even Hunting Triad, this card has been known to go absolutely nuts. I have a screenshot somewhere on my desktop where a single Promenade created 18 tokens for me and ended a long-standing stalemated game.

Elvish Branchbender
Since the tokens usually have trouble getting past multiple blockers, this guy is a great way to put them to use. Once you’re ready to turn this online your Forests aren’t much use to you anyway, and the attacker will usually be rather large. This isn’t a must-kill, but it’s something to be wary of as they can play a bunch of guys and then create a huge dude out of nowhere.

Lys Alana Bowmaster
I’ve ranted about this one plenty, and while it’s no Matsu-Tribe Sniper it’s pretty damned close in a mono-Elf deck. This guy completely wrecks any flying strategy, so you’d better have some answers available if you’re the Faerie drafter or you can kiss the game goodbye, and quickly.

Removal & Tricks
Lignify, Fistful of Force, Weed Strangle, Eyeblight’s Ending, Nameless Inversion, Earthbrawn, Final-Sting Faerie, Pack’s Disdain, Violet Pall

Violet Pall is excellent in this deck to give Elves more flying defense. Pack’s Disdain is also sick with all of the tokens ,and I’ve even splashed a couple of Roar of the Crowd in a deck with multiple Gilt-Leaf Ambushes. Final-Sting Faerie is something to worry about too, with all of the token production. Crash with the team and pick off their best guy with the Faerie after combat. Eyeblight’s Ending creates a token with Lys Alana Huntmaster in play, or can be searched up via Elvish Harbinger.

The best way to deal with Elves is to have a solution for the tokens and stop things before they get out of control by killing the Huntmaster as soon as possible. They can get some very aggressive draws so it’s nice to have good defensive creatures as well. Weed-Pruner Poplar is very good in this matchup if you can manage to stave off the initial attacks, as he will consistently pick off tokens. If they don’t have Bowmaster then flying is obviously an option, but they aren’t unbeatable on the ground as long as you have a plan for the tokens.

Giants are usually RW, and a tell-tale sign will be an early Stinkdrinker Daredevil. Kithkin Greatheart could also be a good signal, though he is also prevalent in the Kithkin archetype. If my opponent led with Plains, Mountain, Greatheart I’d put him on Giants, whereas if he led with two Plains I wouldn’t be as sure.

Thundercloud Shaman
This guy is obviously the creme de la creme of the Giant crop. Casting him with a few other Giants in play is almost always game over, and this is something I’m always worried about if my opponent is in this archetype. There’s no simple answer here except to have a counter ready, or board in something like Shields of Velis Vel or Forfend if you can.

Stinkdrinker Daredevil
This guy enables some sick starts, like a turn 4 Axegrinder or two four-drops like Lowland Oaf and Hillcomber Giant. I usually kill this if I can, but it doesn’t do much after the first few turns of the game unless my opponent happens to have a huge Giant like Hearthcage or Arbiter of Knollridge. Since those guys tend to go pretty late, I try to remember if I saw one floating around or not when I’m deciding whether or not to kill Stinky on turn 5 or later.

Kinsbaile Balloonist
This is a card I usually want to deal with as soon as I can because it allows those huge oafs to start flying in. Giants are usually manageable on the ground (again, depending on what deck you’re in), but they become pretty unreasonable in the air.

Brighthearth Banneret
This is like the Stinkdrinker in that it usually needs to be answered. One thing to remember is that it also hangs around to Reinforce later in the game.

Axegrinder Giant and Friends
These are staples of the archetype, so if a Giant opponent hits six mana it’s time to start getting worried or have a plan against these fatties. Remember that Lairwatch also has some other abilities when blocking, as I’ve punted a game by not realizing it can do all of this weird stuff.

Removal & Tricks
Tarfire, Lash Out, Oblivion Ring, Consuming Bonfire, Crib Swap, Burrenton Bombardier, Weight of Conscience, Kindled Fury, Shard Volley

Giants usually pack a good amount of burn, basically whatever they can get their hands on in the draft. Combat is usually straightforward with the occasional Reinforce trick. Remember that their deck is usually geared towards Stinkdrinker and playing lots of big guys, so they don’t do a lot of tricky stuff like Fistful of Force or Earthbrawn like an Elf opponent might.

Giants can be a slow bunch and that gives some options for how to beat them. The first thing you can do is kill the Stinkdrinker Daredevil and strand them with a bunch of six drops in their hand. If you can’t do that then you can attack them in the air or swarm them as quickly as possible. Tokens are strong for chumpblocking since a lot of Giants don’t have Trample. I’ve found that the best way to beat a Giant player is to generally avoid direct combat with him, as his creatures are huge and a battle of attrition will almost always be unprofitable. Find ways to go around his fatties rather than fighting them head on.

The best Kithkin builds are mono-White, but splashing for removal is definitely a good idea if you didn’t pick up any Oblivion Rings, Weight of Conscience, or Moonglove Extracts.

Surge of Thoughtweft
This is the biggie, though they will often have lots of Reinforce as well. Remember that this only costs one with Banneret out.

Ballyrush Banneret
Tiago and I were certainly wrong about this guy in our set review, and I’ve since had a chance to draft mono-Kithkin a few times and really see the ridiculous openings this card can enable. Obviously you kill this if you can, but since it often comes down before you can cast your removal you just have to hope your opponent doesn’t have a blazing fast opening.

Goldmeadow Harrier
This guy needs to be removed from the board as soon as possible or you will have a lot of trouble winning. What tends to happen against the Kithkin opponent is that he hits you for a lot early and then you manage to stabilize. If the Harrier remains in play it will be able to take out two of your blockers and force through even more damage, or just deliver the killing blow.

Kithkin Zephyrnaut
This guy is pretty annoying to play against if you can’t kill it because they can just randomly kill you by hitting a few times.

Kinsbaile Skirmisher, Order of the Golden Cricket, Kithkin Greatheart, or whatever else you can get your hands on are all excellent men. The trick with the Kithkin deck is to get as many of these as possible when there isn’t an insane card in the pack, or something like a Surge or Harrier. These really make the archetype tick. I’m not sure there’s anything you can really do to fight against these, except to have two-drops yourself and have ways to grind the game to a halt where your more powerful cards will have a chance to get online.

Removal & Tricks
Oblivion Ring, Crib Swap, Weight of Conscience, Coordinated Barrage, Triclopean Sight, Mosquito Guard, Burrenton Bombardier, Surge of Thoughtweft

I’d certainly watch out for the Coordinated Barrage against the Kithkin player, but the degree to which you can protect yourself from it is very small since it only costs one mana and they will almost always have plenty of guys to prevent you from killing one in response to nullify its effect. Always remember that Surge is there, as well as the Reinforce cards, but you still have to take some risks sometimes to stabilize and just hope they don’t have it.

The Kithkin player is hoping to get a blitz start and put you far enough behind that pushing through those final points won’t be a problem. The way you counter this is by sideboarding in more early creatures and stopping them in their tracks before you get run over. If you can hit the mid-game at 14 life or higher, your more powerful spells should be able to take over as long as you always keep Surge in mind. Some of the draws this deck can get are just unbeatable, as Burrenton Bombardier can create a very large attacker very quickly. Bounce is very good against this deck now because of Reinforce. To keep the Kithkin player off his game, you optimally should have cards in your board to lower your overall curve and stall the game as long as you can.

I’m going to focus on the mono-Red or near versions of this tribe here because when we start talking multi-colored Elementals things get very deck dependent. Of course, a Flamekin Brawler would be quite the obvious sign of this archetype. I did write about this last week, so you can refer back to that article for more information on this archetype.

Soulbright Flamekin
This can allow the deck to explode when it hits six mana, so I’d highly recommend killing it.

Smokebraider & Brighthearth Banneret
Smokebraider isn’t at as much of a premium here as in the multi-colored builds, but it’s still quite good. I’d say that you should still be killing it instantly against mono-Red, but I honestly think that Soulbright is a bigger problem if both are in play.

Caterwauling Boggart & Glarewielder
One thing I’ve learned about playing against this deck is that you can never be too eager to get on the offensive. If you’re sitting there in a close situation and wondering whether or not you should attack, the answer is that you should sit back. If they drop either of these guys you’ll be happy you stayed back with your extra creatures so that you don’t die to an alpha strike.

Ceaseless Searblades
This guy obviously gets out of hand quickly, and thankfully he’s Uncommon.

Removal & Tricks
Tarfire, Lash Out, Consuming Bonfire, Shard Volley, Blades of Velis Vel, Inner-Flame Acolyte, Sunflare Shaman

Again, the burn suite will be prevalent in this matchup. Consuming Bonfire can come down early via Smokebraider, so it’s something to keep in mind. I didn’t list every possible trick here, but you should be aware that this archetype is capable of some crazy things with Haste tricks, and also pumping and mana out of nowhere. I never feel completely safe when playing against one of these decks because they can just pull a win out of their hat if you’re not careful.

This is another tricky matchup to play against because there are a number of cards that can just kill you out of nowhere. You may think you have the board all locked up until they drop Nova Chaser and haste it up with Inner-Flame Acolyte. The best plan against this deck is to kill the annoying Soulbright Flamekin and plan to win through the air. I think the Soulbright is the best target if you have limited removal, because he can give Flamekin Brawler a lot of power and Trample at the same time and he also allows other cards like Flamekin Spitfire to just explode. Remember to keep back as many blockers as possible at all times, and make aggressive trades with the Elemental player to lessen the effect his attacks will have. Taking damage is not something you want to do in this matchup, as a Glarewielder will just hop out and finish you off if you do.

If there’s interest I could do the other few tribes not discussed in this article as half of another article in the coming weeks, but I’ll leave that up to you guys in the forums. I hope this serves a good reference piece when you start playing with Morningtide online this week.

See you all in the forums.

Nick Eisel
[email protected]