Limited Lessons – Elementals With Morningtide

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Monday, February 25th – The Limited Pro Tour is over, and Morningtide is due for its online release. People across the world are diving head-first into Lorwyn/Lorwyn/Morningtide Draft. In the first of a series of updated tribal articles, Nick brings us the lowdown on the Elementals, and how they’ve improved with a change in the third pack…

I definitely plan on doing some walkthroughs once Morningtide is released on Magic Online. Until then I’m going to continue with updated strategy guides for the tribal archetypes in LLM. This week I’ll be tackling Elementals, which happen to be one of my favorite tribes to draft. Since you can draft the deck a few different ways, I’m only going to do one tribe this week and focus on covering as many angles as possible.

Mono Red
Before the release of Morningtide it was possible to draft a mono (or near mono) Red Elemental strategy, but it didn’t seem to happen very often. Morningtide has brought some boosts to the archetype, and I think the deck is now something that is seriously worth consideration. The idea behind the archetype is to play lots of cheap and aggressive guys and hopefully also have the option of going off with Soulbright Flamekin/Flamekin Brawler/Ceaseless Searblades, or whatever else you’ve managed to pick up.

Flamekin Brawler
This guy alone is reason enough to draft this deck, as you can easily get multiples and get them very late. Nobody wants this card in their deck, but it is absolutely amazing in this archetype.

Soulbright Flamekin
Obviously the cornerstone of the deck, this guy enables so many silly combos. Activating him pumps Ceaseless Searblades through the roof while also giving it Trample. You also get to activate it a ton of times with the eight mana you get from the ability. Also with the eight mana you can go nuts with Inner-Flame Igniter, Flamekin Spitfire, Flamekin Brawler, or just dump your hand onto the table with the extra mana. Did I mention that a huge Trampling Flamekin Brawler is quite annoying?

Since we plan on killing our opponent as fast as possible, this guy is a great way to enable that key attack that gets them low enough to lock up the game.

Caterwauling Boggart
I think this card is actually better in this archetype than it is in Goblins.

I’m not going to go over every card in Lorwyn as I’m sure you guys have had experience with a lot of them, and if it’s Red and aggressive it’s probably pretty good in this deck. I now want to focus my attention on some of the new cards that fit into this archetype, and then talk some more about the general concepts you should be thinking about when attempting to draft it.

Shard Volley
This card is so good in this archetype. It may seem silly for me to make such a big deal about a burn spell being good in a deck with Mountains, but let me explain why. In most other decks, the Volley will be fine but not amazing. This deck has Smokebraider and Soulbright Flamekin to generate mana, as well as a low curve in general. The Volley also fits the plan of being as aggressive as possible and just pounding someone before they have a chance to get online. The big thing here is that sacrificing a land in this archetype just doesn’t matter, and on a turn where you activate Soulbright Flamekin’s mana ability you can just fire the Volley in there and still play out your hand without losing any momentum. This card feels like it was made specifically for this archetype.

Brighthearth Banneret
Yet again this guy shines, and is possibly better than a Smokebraider in the mono Red build of this deck. If you play this on turn 2 your hand should be empty by turn 5, and your opponent should be in a heap of trouble. The Reinforce is just excellent, and I can’t say enough about this card.

Hostile Realm
Tiago and I talked a bit about this card in GR Warriors in our set review, but I think it has an even stronger presence in Red Elementals. Think about it… your opponent has finally stabilized the board and is ready to start attacking you back. All you have in play are a bunch of lands and a lonely Flamekin Brawler which your opponent has conveniently held in check with a Kithkin Greatheart that is powered up. Then you play Hostile Realm, remove his only blocker, and attack for the win.

I realize this scenario won’t come up all of the time (though it did come up in a draft a few days ago for me), but the card should prove its worth in general in this archetype. It’s kind of like a poor man’s Caterwauling Boggart, though it also works well in combination with the Boggart as it can screw up well laid blocking plans by your opponent if they are playing around the Boggart and suddenly you also play Hostile Realm.

Kindled Fury
This is definitely at its best in this archetype, as it fits the theme well and there really aren’t many substitutes for what it does in Red. If you’re GR then you would obviously be happier with an Earthbrawn or Fistful of Force, but this deck is ecstatic to have the Fury as an option.

Pyroclast Consul
This one I’m not so sure about. Yeah, you’re obviously going to pick it high and obviously play it, but the problem is that it often ends up killing your whole team in this archetype. I’ve had it a few times now and never even wanted to activate the ability, making it a five mana 3/3. Don’t take this the wrong way, as the card is obviously excellent in GR or other builds with guys that can survive, but it really just isn’t as good as you’d hope in this archetype. The only scenarios where it is good are when you are losing and have to get lucky to fire off a Pyroclasm, or if you need to kill a bunch of fliers. These situations make the card playable, but not as amazing as I’d first hoped.

Rage Forger
Here’s a card that totally fits the theme of the deck, and is really something you can windmill. A lot of the Elementals are already Shamans, and allowing them to do extra damage as well as grow is just sick. My favorite part about this card is that it doesn’t have to come down before all of the other guys, unlike the other new lords. The reason for this is obvious if you think about it. Say you play a turn 2 Bramblewood Paragon in your Warrior deck. That guy has a huge target on his head and will be killed instantly, and will likely have no time to boost your other Warriors. With Rage Forger, your opponent doesn’t get a chance to stop your team from growing since he comes down last and distributes counters. You can also wait until your opponent is tapped out and organize a lethal attack to make sure that he can’t kill the Forger before combat and disable the pinging ability.

Release the Ants
This is fine on its own, and is yet another way to go off with Soulbright Flamekin if you happen to reveal a Faultgrinder or other huge monster on top of your deck and just cast this 4-5 times in one turn.

Roar of the Crowd
This is pretty good in the archetype, since you are usually almost mono Elementals and this will deal around three damage on average. This is another card that nobody else particularly wants, and you should get it semi-late.

Seething Pathblazer
Fits the goal of the archetype perfectly and is a strong attacker. As I said in an earlier column, this is also really good with Spitebellows or any of the other new “leaves play” Elementals like Meadowboon. Often, mid-late game your Smokebraider will be useless or you’ll have Inner-Flame Acolyte to sacrifice off and make this guy a very potent attacker.

Sunflare Shaman
An odd form of removal, but this is definitely the archetype in which you want this guy. I’m not picking these very highly but I still end up with one or two when I’m in this deck, and they’re always solid. They also combo well with Seething Pathblazer.

Warspike Changeling
This is just huge for the archetype, and also hard to stop. One thing that always bugged me about this deck in LLL was that sometimes it could just run out of steam with an opponent at 8 life and never get back in the game. Now that this guy is around we can force someone to start chump blocking him and maybe get an offense going again. Whatever the case, this card is excellent in any deck that can cast him.

Here’s a sample deck from a couple weeks back.

2 Flamekin Brawler
Flamekin Bladewhirl
Flamekin Harbinger
2 Soulbright Flamekin
Fire-Belly Changeling
2 Shard Volley
Sunflare Shaman
Lash Out
Mudbutton Torchrunner
Seething Pathblazer
Ashling the Pilgrim
Flamekin Spitfire
Countryside Crusher
Inner-Flame Igniter
Inner-Flame Acolyte
Caterwauling Boggart
Nova Chaser
Pyroclast Consul
16 Mountain

Hopefully you understand how this type of deck is supposed to work by now. You want as much burn as you can get your hands on and cheap aggressive guys. The other goal here is to get an explosive Soulbright Flamekin package if you can and there are a number of ways to do that. Overall, I really like this deck because there are a lot of staple commons like Inner-Flame Acolyte and Flamekin Brawler that come back very late in Lorwyn and nobody seems to ever want to draft this.

This was by far my favorite archetype in LLL, and I’m sure many of you are already aware of that. It’s not even that it was the best archetype (because it usually wasn’t), but it was the most fun to play and draft and still ended up showing positive results for me. I did an entire strategy walkthrough on the Fertile Ground archetype, which is essentially multi-colored Elementals, so you can check that out. What I want to do now is highlight some of the new additions from Morningtide and where you should be going with the archetype in general. It really hasn’t changed a ton, but there is a whole new third pack to consider.

This guy is just awesome, and a great fit for the archetype. He’s either a strong defensive flier to help buy time or a Repel, whatever your current position demands. The best part is that he’s only one Blue mana for color commitment and fits right in.

Supreme Exemplar
Usually I don’t talk about Rares in these guides unless they’re extremely important, which this one is. This is essentially the nut high card for this archetype, and players usually won’t be taking it from you so you can even get it 4th or something. For this reason I usually try to pick up some way to give Trample in Lorwyn, like Fistful or Soulbright, just in case this guy happens to fall into my lap. The ultimate in small child cards that is actually good.

This guy is an absolute house against archetypes like Elves or Merfolk where he can wipe away entire boards. He’s splashable and plays really well with Smokebraider (besides the fact that he kills the Braider itself) because you can add two Black and play and activate him on the same turn for surprise effect.

Another solid fixer, but a clunky one at that. This is obviously good in the archetype and gets better as you add more colors, but the best fixers are still available in Lorwyn.

Walker of the Grove
This card fits the theme of the archetype perfectly as you can make the 4/4 if you need a guy early on, and it’s very conceivable that you’ll just cast the 7/7 almost every game with all of the fixing/acceleration these decks tend to employ.

I was looking through my box of decks trying to find a good example of this archetype, and apparently I either broke down the decks I’d drafted or just haven’t drafted this as much as I thought I had. I had four mono Red Elemental builds, but no examples of multi-colored decks that I could find.

I doubt this really matters much, as the goal of the strategy is to take fixers and then take the best card from each pack, and that isn’t too tough of a thing to figure out on your own. Now that Morningtide is in the mix you want to be picking up those Pack’s Disdains, Shard Volleys, Violet Palls, and any other splashable removal that’s floating around. There are also lots of good Elementals that are rares that should pique your interest, as well as solid Green men to fill the holes. As always focus on a GR base, and then look to splash lots of good cards provided you get the fixers you need.

The nice thing about this archetype is that you rarely open a bomb that you can’t take, and there are a lot of ways you can go with the deck. The more you draft this, the more comfortable you will get with it. The big things I want to stress are to take as many Changelings as you can get your hands on, and take as much removal as comes your way.

See you next week.

Nick Eisel
Soooooo on MTGO
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