Lorwyn is in stores now. I picked up a fair amount of product. Three boxes (a box of Prerelease and release product and prize) and a few judicious early orders from SCG later, I’ve got a playset of Gaddock Teegs, a full playset of commons and uncommons, and piles and piles of pools to practice for Kuala Lumpur PTQs. If I don’t qualify for Kuala Lumpur (not that it’s a long flight from Japan), it won’t be for a lack of practice and trying. Heck, how strong can the local player base be? It’s not a long flight from Japan. I bet I can fly and make it in the Last Chance Qualifier if I have to. Call me foolhardy, but it can’t be harder than qualifying in Japan.
What impresses me about Lorwyn Limited is the supremacy of tempo. Time and time again, I see the decks that win tapping all their mana on all their turns. I’ve had remarkable success with Blue/White decks. The first time out it was a mess of Hillcomber Giants, Veterans of the Depths, Inkfathom Divers, Plover Knights, and Kinsbaile Skirmishers. There was no tribal synergy, just efficient evasion guys. That got me all the way to the finals, where the guy to my left in the draft took me out with all the Merfolk and Kithkin fission he poached from me. The second time, I got all the fish and hobbit gems. But it turns out that Ryouma Shiozu’s faeries were able to dissect my army with Dreamspoiler Witches and Peppersmoke in the finals. Faeries definitely impress me in draft. The card advantage is critical, but every tribe gets card advantage in some way. Faeries have quite an edge in tempo, and if you haven’t seen it in action yet, keep your eyes peeled.
The White/Blue decks kept playing spells after spells. Running low mana curves, decent creatures, and cantrips like Surge of Thoughtweft is quite feasible. Whirlpool Whelm and Goldmeadow Harrier kicked the slow decks in the teeth. The Faerie deck took a turn or two more to set up its board position, but kept building more and more advantage.
What are the single cards that wreck boards unaided? There really aren’t that many that do the whole job by themselves. If there was something like, oh, a Magus of the Moat or a Desolation Giant in the format, we’d be in big trouble. We have to look at the cards that totally, reliably wreck people I’m not talking about a finisher, I’m talking about sweepers. Time Spiral’s major sweepers were Damnation, Magus of the Disk, and Sulfurous Blast. You could get a Pyroclasm out of Subterranean Shambler with a little work.
The list in Lorwyn is happily short, consisting of Final Revels and Thundercloud Shaman. [Hurly-Burly? – Craig.] Black’s typically short on big creatures, so it’s not going to rip your entire board apart. (Then again, if you’re behind the ball on creatures against black, Final Revels can spell your doom in a hurry.) Thundercloud Shaman’s the best draw to a Giant deck in draft, so if you’re playing against Giants, don’t be surprised if this behemoth comes down and trashes your board. Keep some resources back.
Pollen Remedy and Ego Erasure make attacks go completely awry. But they won’t totally eradicate your army.
When it comes to rares, there’s Austere Command, Incendiary Command, and Chandra Nalaar. Incendiary Command is just as good as Final Revels for the same mana cost and leaves the big guys around. It’s useless against Giant and Treefolk decks. Chandra takes time to set up, and if you’ve got the evasion handy, it’s far more likely that your evasion guy who would have knocked down the hot Planeswalker. The only truly reliable mass kill spell is Austere Command.
The only rare creature that blows up the world is Ashling the Pilgrim. Ashling’s surprisingly expensive as sweepers go. Yes, the explosion is customizable, and that’s a nice perk, but it takes lots of work and mana to cultivate Ashling.
Keep these sweepers in mind as you consider whether to hold back your best cards. When cards team up to perform powerful combos, it’s natural to make the most of the moment and capitalize on the advantage. That impulse is what the sharp players capitalize on. Know your opponent, and if you can put a read on whether they’re sandbagging or not, you can really get a lot of information that can give you the win.
Of course, a lot of the same principles hold true if you are the guy holding the board sweeper. Relish those instances. I know I do.
Without further ado, here’s today’s card pool.
Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
2 Kinsbaile Skirmisher
2 Springjack Knights
Surge of Thoughtweft
2 Aquitect’s Will
Glen Elendra Pranksters
2 Thieving Sprite
Boggart Birth Rite
Wort, Boggart Auntie
Rebellion of the Flamekin
Wings of Velis Vel
2 Skeletal Changeling
Cryptic Command (foil)
2 Whirlpool Whelm
2 Fertile Ground
Heal the Scars
Lace with Moonglove
Thorn of Amethyst
Around the tribes in 80 paragraphs! Fine, fine, maybe less.
Journeymen: Imperious Perfect, Moonglove Winnower, Gilt-Leaf Ambush, Elvish Harbinger
Losers: Scarred Vinebreeder
If your deck has got two ways to make mana of any color (not your third color, but any) or is actually running Forests, then you should be playing Imperious Perfect. It’s a reasonable victory condition in itself and doesn’t require the investment of the last similar card, Selesnya Guildmage. This is an utter must-kill card. I only wish that there was a card in Lorwyn block similar to Netherborn Phalanx to hose this guy’s strategy.
There’s very little damage prevention in Lorwyn. The only commons that do the job are Kithkin Healer and Dawnfluke. So when Moonglove Winnower’s on the job, rest assured that regeneration and bounce are the only escape clauses.
Journeymen: Kinsbaile Balloonist, Kithkin Daggerdare, Kithkin Healer, 2 Kinsbaile Skirmishers, Plover Knights
Followers: Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender, Kithkin Harbinger, 2 Springjack Knights
Losers: Goldmeadow Dodger
When it comes to a solid offensive line on the cheap, Kithkin are your best chance. The mana efficiency on these little guys is through the roof. The downside is that they’re a little light on the evasion and need to work together to punch through, and they fold when they’re unable to attack.
There’s nothing in the world wrong with a true Grizzly Bear, and Kinsbaile Skirmishers are a Grizzly Bear with an upside. The pump helps get one guy through or make a decent trade. They’re not an inherent draw to White, but the Skirmishers are always attractive options.
I’m much, much more impressed with Springjack Knights in draft than sealed. The ability to craft together a tighter mana curve makes a lot of difference. But if we have tons of White beaters, we’ll be served in good stead by the Knights.
Leaders: Wort, Goblin Auntie
Journeymen: Boggart Loggers, Mad Auntie, Tarfire
Followers: Adder-Staff Boggart, Facevaulter, Mudbutton Torchrunner, Boggart Birth Rite
Losers: Stinkdrinker Daredevil, Bog Hoodlums
Here’s where our pool does stupid, stupidly powerful things. Wort, Goblin Auntie is a fantastic card advantage engine tacked onto a 3/3 evasion creature. Players who presume a single removal spell will do the job won’t care for your Boggart Birth Rite. If that fails, you’ve got Footbottom Feast to repair the works.
What do we recycle time and time again that wins us the game? How about Mudbutton Torchrunner? Three damage time and time again is nothing to sneeze at. Facevaulter and Marsh Flitter help us put the Torchrunner in the yard.
Mad Auntie and Boggart Loggers are perfectly fine creatures. I love Lords and evasion. Boggart Loggers has the additional advantage of destroying much more expensive Treefolk or pesky Changelings.
Okay, maybe you noticed the Tarfire and Nameless Inversion as well. Wort’s perfectly happy recycling those.
It’s highly likely we’ll see Boggarts in the final deck.
Journeymen: Stonybrook Angler
Followers: Inkfathom Divers, Streambed Aquitects, 2 Aquitect’s Will
A good Merfolk deck overwhelms the opponent by generating some sort of advantage, whether it’s tempo through life gain, ridiculous numbers of tokens through Summon the School, milling the opponent out with Drowner of Secrets, or card draw with Fallowsage. We have none of these cards.
If you’re a Faerie deck and need someone on the ground to keep trouble away, look no further than Streambed Aquitects. Shoppers out for a bargain shouldn’t turn down a creature that’s 3/4 on defense for three mana.
There’s a little trick I’ve seen out there with Stonybrook Angler that’s gone unnoticed. Have a Judge of Currents out? For 1U, you can gain one life as an instant. Just tap the Angler to untap itself. The card’s a perfectly reasonable answer to any big threat creature as a splash, but the cost adds up quickly.
Journeymen: Marsh Flitter
Followers: Glen Elendra Pranksters, 2 Thieving Sprite
With two Skeletal Changelings in the pool, the chances of a Thieving Sprite hitting goodness is reasonably high. But the investment of three mana and a mere 1/1 flier is not what I consider a great deal.
There’s nothing in the world wrong with Marsh Flitter. Three power for four mana is reasonable, and the Flitter has the potential to get through for six with two swings in the air. It’s a shame we can’t use Wort to get the Flitter back.
Journeymen: Cloudgoat Ranger, Hillcomber Giant, Axegrinder Giant, Thundercloud Shaman
In my Prerelease article, I said that either Cloudgoat Ranger or Shriekmaw was the best uncommon in the set. I still can’t decide, but I’m pretty sure both have excellent odds of seeing play in the final 40. The Ranger is a little less exciting when your opponent removes one of the little buddies, but we’ve got a lot more Kithkin in the pool so it shouldn’t be an issue. If we happen to have six Kithkin in play, we can pump the Ranger up to a 7/3, but I suspect that shouldn’t have to happen too often. At that point you should have won the game already.
Thundercloud Shaman is a prodigy sitting around in an empty auditorium, wishing for the audience to show up. As it happens, the Shaman’s got a big death ray designed to destroy everyone outside the auditorium. Make no bones about it, even on his lonesome the Shaman wipes out a Flamekin or Elvish army. He’s great. But don’t work too hard to include him. There just isn’t enough profit in it today.
There’s nothing wrong with these guys. They’re all large and reasonably statted. But four does not constitute a dominant force.
Solid: Inner-Flame Igniter, Mulldrifter, Shriekmaw
Decent: 2 Benthicore, Faultgrinder, Soulbright Flamekin
Poor: Flamekin Bladewhirl, Ingot Chewer, Rebellion of the Flamekin
Yes, if we get Inner-Flame Igniter and Soulbright Flamekin and six lands on the table, we can do crazy things. But there just aren’t enough reliable Red Elementals to play Flamekin Bladewhirl on the first turn. The amount of labor it takes to get a 2/1 into play on turn 1 is considerable and the amount of labor it takes to have the Flamekin get chumped by an Elf token is saddening.
Five mana for land destruction isn’t worth it. Seven mana for a 4/4 Elemental combined with land destruction isn’t worth it. Save this card for the Smokebraider draft special and move along.
Shriekmaw is getting played in Constructed. It’s a bona fide Limited superstar. I don’t like first picking Shriekmaw in draft, because I like drafting White. I prefer Kithkin or Merfolk or both. So I’m always glad to open this in draft, because the guy next to me is gonna be drafting Black and staying out of White. It’s also superior in a pool with Footbottom Feast.
We didn’t open any, surprisingly. Rootgrapple doesn’t count. So it’s time to make like a tree and move on to the next topic.
Solid: Woodland Changeling, Nameless Inversion
Decent: 2 Skeletal Changeling, Turtleshell Changeling, Wings of Velis Vel
Poor: Fire-Belly Changeling
Skeletal Changelings are unsung Sealed heroes. Yes, they’re a little slow and unresponsive. They’re practically useless on offense and a drag in draft. But they’re two more Goblins that get boosts from Mad Auntie or recycled with Wort.
Solid: Cryptic Command, 2 Whirlpool Whelm, Footbottom Feast, Weed Struggle, Springleaf Drum
Decent: Ponder, Protective Bubble, Primal Command, 2 Fertile Ground, Heal the Scars, Lace with Moonglove, Rootgrapple, Windbrisk Heights
Poor: Spring Cleaning, Thorn of Amethyst
Cryptic Command is an amazing late game counterspell. Its best application is countering a spell before the opponent’s combat step and tapping down their entire army. Then you can swing in for the kill. If they just played a creature, you have the option of bouncing it at the end of their turn instead. Believe me, this card will win many games in Limited. The only issue is the prohibitively Blue casting cost.
I’ve had wonderful results with Springleaf Drum in draft with Merrow. It’s easy to trigger Veteran of the Depths or Fallowsage or even just reap the benefits of having Judge of Currents in play. Benthicore becomes a lot more playable when you bang on the drum all day.
Primal Command does absolutely nothing for me. Yes, it’s far better than Natural Spring. But unless you absolutely must have a single creature in your deck that will win you the game when you play it the next turn, don’t bother.
The last pool I wrote about also happened to have Windbrisk Heights. When I was playing with giant, burly treefolk, lining up three attackers at any given moment was only going to happen when you’d win the game. And since it was so expensive, coming into play tapped was a dealbreaker. This pool’s a lot more aggressive. I’m much more willing to sign on with this card this time.
It’s clear we want to run our powerful Boggart cards. But they’re not enough to fill out the deck. Where do we turn? The might of the towering Giants? Or the rapid Kithkin rush? Or do we look to the crazy tricks of Blue? Here’s what I came up with after thirty minutes’ work. (I gave myself more time than usual because the cards are all in Japanese and I still have to memorize the card text.)
1: Facevaulter, Boggart Birth Rite, Tarfire
2: 2 Kinsbaile Skirmisher, 2 Skeletal Changeling, Nameless Inversion, Surge of Thoughtweft
3: Boggart Loggers, Kithkin Healer, Mad Auntie, Mudbutton Torchrunner, Footbottom Feast
4: Kinsbaile Balloonist, Marsh Flitter, Moonglove Winnower, Wort, Boggart Auntie
5: Cloudgoat Ranger, Plover Knights, Shriekmaw, Weed Strangle
Evasion guys (counting landwalkers and fear): 6
Removal: 5 (three of which can be recurred)
Boggarts: 11 (counting Changeling and Marsh Flitter)
This deck is great. It has tons of removal, a vicious end game, evasion, and a reasonable mana curve. We’ve got a solid combat trick in the form of Surge of Thoughtweft, which has excellent odds of cantripping. We can deal with giant ground pounders by throwing the Skeletal Changelings in front of them. Eighteen mana is a lot, but the deck wants to hit its high end fairly regularly. With all the building synergy of Lorwyn, getting ahead on cards is vital, so it’s a smart idea to draw. This deck wants to draw, but not fall behind on the early board.
Blue simply didn’t have the troops to keep up on the board and get the recursion going. Bounce is fine and dandy, but we were short on troops. The Flamekin don’t have enough punch, as is usual for those guys. Flamekin are short on synergy and understatted. Green simply didn’t have any numbers to speak of, so that’s one entire color written off.
People have commented in previous article forums about my conservative manabases. I know there’s one more land than the deck would need for its mana cost, but I look at an extra land as a security blanket, a thing I know to be of dubious use. But I ain’t letting go of the blanket. Make fun of me, call me Linus, but I’d rather play a tournament without getting mana screwed. Skeletal Changeling regeneration mana isn’t cheap, either.
Adder-Staff Boggart got cut. Yeah, it’s a 2/1 that can be a 3/2 for two mana, and it’s got good synergy with the rest of the Boggart clan. But it’s not a great card late in the game and we don’t expect Red mana in the early game. It’s imperative to balancing our colors properly, so we’ll have to see this guy out.
On the other hand, recurring Mudbutton Torchrunner over and over again with Wort is huge. I crave redundancy when it comes to victory paths, and Footbottom Feast combined with Boggart Birth Rite is excellent fuel to keep the Wort fires burning. I usually like bigger, beefier creatures, but I’m perfectly happy with this mix of Boggarts and Kithkin. There is a fine end game.
But what happens if we don’t get our recursion going? Well, there’s a Plan B. We have a fair number of evasion critters, and when the opponent sends their armies into this deck, they’re rarely going to get through. Mad Auntie’s regeneration is handy, but the Skeletal Changelings work just as well. In the meantime, the fliers have ample opportunity to grind away at the enemy’s life total.
Regret wells up within my heart for not running Springleaf Drum. Ramping up the curve would have been worth it.
I have full confidence that this build could put a competent player into the Top 8 of a 100 player PTQ. There aren’t a lot of surprising tricks, but the card synergy and efficiency is extremely high. And yet my intuition tells me that there’s room for improvement. Disagree? Did you go down a different path? Care to give me a high five in agreement? Say so in the forums. Your input is greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading.
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