Limited Lessons — Lorwyn Mixed Bag

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Drafting triple Lorwyn is proving to be a somewhat tricky affair. There are color concerns to consider as usual, alongside the complicated drafting-by-tribe problems posed. Signaling seems especially difficult, and people disagree on the power of cards, colors, and creature types. Nick takes a look at a variety of Limited questions, and takes us through some of the harder decisions he made in a recent LLL draft…

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This week I’m going to be doing a mixed bag type of article again since I don’t feel I’ve had enough experience yet to completely nail down a tribe and write a strategy guide. Perhaps that will be next week if things go according to plan.

A Word on New Mechanics
Oh, Mistform Ultimus.

The card that spawned an entire mechanic wasn’t very good when it was around. Things are quite different now, as the Changeling ability of Shapeshifters is one of the best things you can have going for you in LLL draft. Since tribes are the driving concept behind the set, having interactions with all tribes and fitting any mold is extremely potent.

Amoeboid Changeling
I think I mentioned this briefly last week, but this guy is very playable. He provides two Shapeshifters for the home team since you can turn one of your other guys into one every turn. Not only that, but more importantly he sucks the creatures types off opposing guys. He turns on and off tribal bonuses, foils Consuming Bonfire, and has Changeling himself to boost whatever else you have. The only thing I can say is that you better kill this guy if you can or he will cause you plenty of trouble. The harsh truth is that if he isn’t going to hurt your deck too much then it probably sucks anyway because you aren’t tribally focused.

The rest of the Changeling creatures are all much better than they look on paper since they can be searched up with Harbingers, brought back with Boggart Birth Rite, and turn on anything that requires you to have a certain creature in play like Surge of Thoughtweft or Peppersmoke. Shapeshifters are the real deal and you should treat them accordingly.

I also have some thoughts on Clash. Many people are treating it like this completely new mechanic and have no idea how to evaluate it. Think of it simply as Scry 1 with bonuses randomly attached if you happen to win. This makes cards like Paperfin Rascal look much more attractive when you read it as Scry 1 and it gets +1/+1 roughly 50% of the time. Cards with Clash allow you to keep somewhat marginal hands if you have a shot of Clashing into that land you need or getting out of a potential mana-flood. Cards that Clash as an Instant can be used on Upkeep as well to fix your draw for the turn, and this is something that has been overlooked in games I’ve watched.

My First Draft
This draft was interesting most of the way through even though I cemented myself into Merfolk and Fairies pretty early and didn’t look back.

In pack 1 I opened Sygg, River Guide, and then was passed a pack with Oblivion Ring and Merfolk Reejerey.

What do you take?

Conventional wisdom would suggest that Oblivion Ring is the better pick for a few reasons. First, it’s only the second pick of the draft and I have little idea whether Merfolk will be open in later boosters. Merrow Reejerey is a pretty good sign that they will, but it’s not a certainty as the guy next to me also took a rare and he could’ve possibly opened Sygg or another Merfolk card. Second, Oblivion Ring will make the cut no matter what and I could end up being WX and splash Blue for Sygg, as he’s a fine creature on his own and doesn’t necessarily need friends. Finally, if I end up staying UW I will really want that removal spell as there are enough annoying utility creatures around to give me headaches.

After the draft I talked with some friends from CMU about the pick, and they all told me that while it might be close, the Reejerey was definitely the better pick. Since I planned on getting into Merfolk after opening Sygg there is no reason to not just dive right in with Reejerey second, and after thinking about it more I kind of agree but am still not 100% certain. I ended up needing Oblivion Ring to win one of my matches and no other card would’ve done it for me, though the Reejerey still may be the percentage pick.

Another mispick I made in this draft was at the beginning of pack 3 when I took Mulldrifter over Sower of Temptation. When I initially read the spoiler I thought the Sower was a bomb. At the prerelease I heard from multiple people that the card didn’t do anything for them as it would always die immediately. Because these stories came from respectable Magic players I gave them more weight than they should’ve been worth, and figured that if Sower wasn’t good in Sealed then it probably was only okay in Draft. It turns out these guys just had some bad experiences because the Sower is a bomb, and I just made a complete mispick based on bad information.

My deck ended up looking like this.

Kinsbaile Balloonist
Oblivion Ring
2 Silvergill Douser
Wellgabber Apothecary
2 Sentinels of Glen Elendra
Broken Ambitions
Inkfathom Divers
Ego Erasure
2 Ethereal Whiskergill
Plover Knights
3 Streambed Aquitects
Wings of Velis Vel
Judge of Currents
Paperfin Rascal
Amoeboid Changeling
Sygg, River Guide
10 Island
7 Plains

Relevant Sideboard:
Kinsbaile Skirmisher
Hillcomber Giant
2 Wispmare
Surge of Thoughtweft
2 Wanderer’s Twig
Kithkin Greatheart
Spellstutter Sprite
Vivid Creek
Windbrisk Heights

Some people may have built the deck differently but they probably wouldn’t be following tribal lines very well and would end up with a suboptimal starting forty by doing so. The last card to make it was the Balloonist, and it was only because I didn’t want to run Hillcomber Giant with only seven Plains. The Balloonist’s ability doesn’t really help this deck so much as the game plan is to lockdown the board with Merfolk and eventually win with evasion guys.

Ethereal Whiskergill
I got both of these very late in pack 3, and they are awesome. In a normal deck they will be a solid blocker like Wall of Swords. In this deck they are simply amazing since I have three Aquitects that can give my opponent an Island and allow this undercosted beast to attack.

All of this is without mentioning the times my opponent leads with a turn 1 Island and I giggle to myself. A lot of the color-hoser creatures in this format are very playable on their own, so you want to be picking them relatively high to increase your chances of winning mirror matches. Since they’re generally playable creatures anyway it’s not like you’re adding something like Boil or Chill to your maindeck. The point is that you should pick landwalkers higher than usual in this format because they all have solid power/toughness stats and dramatically increase your chances of winning when your opponent plays the land type you’re looking for.

Windbrisk Heights
I would guess that this should almost always make your deck if you’re White. The reason for this is because most White decks in this format will be aggressive and the Hideaway ability is probably the easiest of the bunch to turn on. In this particular deck, however, I couldn’t really envision too many games where I’d be attacking with three or more creatures and my opponent wouldn’t already be dead on board. This deck has lots of utility guys and plans on playing defense usually instead of racing or all-out attacking. A second reason is that I didn’t really have too many good cards to Hideaway into play since the curve overall is low. This is great if you’re an aggro White deck with a few guys at the top-end that you’d rather not cast.

Judge of Currents
While this may look like junk on paper, it’s simply amazing in the Merfolk tribe as so many of them have tap abilities. This is a much higher pick than it looks if you’re in this archetype, and you should evaluate it as such. I can’t even begin to imagine what happens if you get multiples in play alongside Aquitects and Silvergill Dousers [Not to mention Summon the School… – Craig].

Wellgabber Apothecary
This is generally going to be garbage but I thought it really found a home in this particular deck. So many of my Merfolk have tap abilities and it can allow a Douser to block and shrink a guy, which is pretty hard to get past. In general though you need a very specific build to be playing this guy, as the ability is quite narrow.

The rest of the cards in the board didn’t make the main because they were simply outclassed. There is no real need for Wanderer’s Twig in a straight two-color deck. Wispmares can come out of the board and Surge of Thoughtweft was unlikely to draw a card. I considered running the Vivid Creek and the Hillcomber Giant instead of the Balloonist and an Island but decided to just stick with basics for more consistency this time around.

Spotlight On…
Since I didn’t do a tribal strategy guide this week, I want to at least cover some more cards that I have strong opinions about that other players may be mis-evaluating at this point.

Wanderer’s Twig
This is a tricky card to evaluate. If we assume that being tribal is the key concept in Lorwyn (which it certainly is) then you probably won’t be playing more than two colors in the majority of your decks. The Twig doesn’t help in those situations except for allowing you to splash a bomb off a single basic land if you also play the Twig. These seem to go around late in the drafts I’ve done and I think their real home is in some sort of multi-color Green build that is splashing for bombs and focused in either Treefolk or Elves. There are other ways to fix in Green too, like Fertile Ground or Elvish Harbinger, so I think this is the best place for the Twig.

My advice is to avoid playing this in a straight two-color deck unless you have some really tough mana costs like UUU and WW or if you are splashing something. Assessing the card in this way makes it easier to understand when you should be picking it in the draft.

Quentin Martin made a big deal about this card in his article on MTG.com last week. I certainly agree that this card is amazing in Sealed and still a fine addition in most draft decks, but I also feel that it is being slightly overrated at this time. Depending on my deck there are plenty of other Blue commons I’d rather have than this guy. So he’s definitely playable but being overrated right now.

Lowland Oaf
There are so many things this guy can do for you that it’s crazy.

He can get through those final few points in an aggressive Goblin strategy when your opponent manages to gum up the ground. He combos with the Goblins that do something when they die, like Mudbutton Torchrunner and Hornet Harasser. This lets you get some damage through and also kill a guy. He keeps fliers at bay since most opponents won’t want to trade a good flier like Sentinels of Glen Elendra for a crappy Goblin that just happened to gain flying. Finally, he combos with Amoeboid Changeling to effectively give your whole team flying and put your opponent on a very short clock if the ground is sealed up.

Makeshift Mannequin
Some people at the prerelease had this card in their sideboard when they were playing Black, and I simply couldn’t understand why. At the very least you will ambush someone with this in most cases by reanimating a guy during the attack and blocking. After that, they will usually have to spend a card to target your guy and get rid of it. This is a great trick, and if they can’t stop the guy they just might lose anyway.

A friend of mine drafted a deck last week with five Aethersnipes and this card in it, and did the turn 3 Evoke Aethersnipe, turn 4 reanimate it multiple times, which is simply backbreaking. On that note, the Mannequin also allows you to reuse comes into play abilities, which is something that really matters in LLL as there are a lot of them.

All I have to say is hello, Mulldrifter… you’re my new best friend.

Nameless Inversion versus Eyeblight’s Ending
I’m going to settle the argument right now and make a pretty bold statement by saying that Nameless Inversion is the best common in Lorwyn. Eyeblight’s Ending has some limitations, and while it will sometimes kill a bigger guy, the Inversion has all of the benefits of Changeling and no restrictions. We spent a good half hour talking about this last week while we were drafting, and it became pretty clear to me that the Inversion is what you’re looking for. Personally I think I’d rather open Mulldrifter, but that’s because I have a personal preference for cards like that, and everyone knows I was in love with Fathom Seer from the moment I saw the Time Spiral spoiler.

Take Inversion and you won’t be disappointed. If you need more reasons why this is the case, please refer to my section on Shapeshifters at the beginning of this article.

Cloudcrown Oak
I thought this guy would be much better than he actually is. Yes, he’s a fine creature and a solid answer to fliers. The problem is that he doesn’t really add a lot in terms of tribal bonuses and doesn’t do anything super special. This format is about assembling a tribe and doing degenerate things (I probably sound like a broken record by now, but it’s true) and the Cloudcrown is merely a good card in the presence of others with more synergy. I take Battlewand Oak and other Green commons over this all day long. This doesn’t mean I’m not going to play the Cloudcrown, but it seems that Giant Spider isn’t as exciting in this format as it has been in the past.

Battlewand Oak
I really love this card. If you’ve drafted correctly this will be almost unstoppable and it comes down on turn 3. If you’re full on Treefolks this will attack for five from turn 4 onward and demands an answer immediately or it will stomp all over you. This is one of my favorite cards in the set simply because it is so explosive.

That’s all I’ve got for this week, but I plan on hopefully doing a tribal walkthrough next week depending on how many drafts I’m able to get in between now and then. See you in the forums.

Nick Eisel
[email protected]

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