Magical Hack – Drafting With Morningtide

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Friday, April 4th – With Shadowmoor just a few weeks away, it seemed apropos to put together a final look at drafting Lorwyn before it disappeared from view entirely. Originally I had shied away from looking at Lorwyn-Lorwyn-Morningtide (LLM) draft too heavily, because I did an awful lot of losing early on by trying to force things I didn’t understand off the preconceived notion that the new cards worked a certain way.

With Shadowmoor just a few weeks away it seemed apropos to put together a final look at drafting Lorwyn before it disappeared from view entirely. Originally I had shied away from looking at Lorwyn-Lorwyn-Morningtide (LLM) draft too heavily because I did an awful lot of losing early on by trying to force things I didn’t understand off the preconceived notion that the new cards worked a certain way. A few weeks of drafting triple Morningtide once it came out on Magic Online while a bit tedious did at least do one thing… it taught me how the new cards work and thus how to adjust my drafting to compensate for this strange new set working at cross-purposes to Lorwyn’s themes.

The two sets blend together very well especially if you want to think about things in a world that doesn’t become horrifically stale after a few months. Morningtide doesn’t walk completely in lock-step with Lorwyn and even with just Lorwyn there were still plenty of tribes and lots of open-ended means to bridge any two tribes or color combinations. You have room to think and to develop and what is true of Lorwyn is mostly true of Morningtide as well. There are still the same eight tribes and many of them function similarly. The Changelings still help and if anything they may very well be better in the new set… while there are fewer of them overall there isn’t a one of them that is actually ‘bad’ and the worst one is a 3/2 with vigilance for 4. Everything else is downright impressive or at least it is when you start abusing that little 1/1 in your Merfolk deck and as powerful commons in a small set they have a pretty strong impact. You can go as Class-crazy as you want and maybe reap amazing rewards or just stick with your Tribe of choice and see some tangential benefits for favoring a Class within that Tribe… Treefolk Warriors Flamekin Shamans whatever floats your boat might just have some benefits in there.

One great way to show you how to do things though is to just do it in the most visible way possible and walk through with full commentary. Nick Eisel uses this as his main means of explaining how to work with a Limited format and we also have some lovely “Drafting With…” articles that presently are featuring the mighty Rich Hoaen once again. I will note I am not Rich Hoaen… but have been trying to apply the “Fake It Till You Make It” method of gaining experience with the new set and then applying that to working with the old set too. Here you will get to watch my first foray away from the comfort of the 4322’s into the big dangerous world of the 8-4 queues that apparently you should be playing in “if you take yourself seriously as a drafter.”

Personally I don’t take myself seriously as a drafter… or to put it more exactly I draft as a means of relaxing and having fun as a general rule so the idea is to get to draft as often as I can without going broke in the meantime.

Pack 1:

Pack 1: Fistful of Force Eyeblight’s Ending Soulbright Flamekin Glimmerdust Nap Cloudcrown Oak Oblivion Ring Wanderer’s Twig Spring Cleaning Wellgabber Apothecary Gilt-Leaf Seer Rebellion of the Flamekin Captivating Glance Vivid Creek Garruk Wildspeaker Mountain

Pick: Garruk Wildspeaker

Okay it doesn’t exactly help that the first draft I feature for the format happens to start by opening a ridiculously powerful bomb rare. Without the Planeswalker I would hem and haw and take Eyeblight’s Ending; but this draft turned out quite well for illustrative purposes and Garruk only came up once in the games so let’s not overly focus on the stupid bomb rare. We pick a Green card and send neutral Green signals as neither Cloudcrown Oak nor Fistful of Force are so potent that we can expect them to disappear quickly when Oblivion Ring and Eyeblight’s Ending are in the offering.

I would take Ending over Oblivion Ring by the way because Eyeblight’s Ending is in a color that is more flexible and can work with more other colors well. Oblivion Ring as a white card works best with other White cards or with Merfolk and sort of kind of works with Forests and Mountains but not in a way that makes me happy.

Pack 2:

Pack 2: Hornet Harasser Axegrinder Giant Woodland Changeling Kithkin Greatheart Footbottom Feast Boggart Birth Rite Zephyr Net Bog Hoodlums Judge of Currents Inkfathom Divers Lys Alana Scarblade Veteran of the Depts Woodland Guidance Windbrisk Heights

Pick: Woodland Changeling

Here the idea is to defend our Green card and maintain flexibility. We might want to pair Green with Black for Elves but even if we do we want Woodland Changeling before Lys Alana Scarblade and either before Hornet Harassers; we might end up with Treefolk and want Harasser over Scarblade but even then we would greatly value a solid Treefolk two-drop. We don’t see much in the way of signals other than to note a common is missing and we can presume some piece of removal left but really we know nothing this is a really weak pack. Note that this favors the guy upstream being a Black Blue or Red mage as those are some of the most potent common first-picks. I imagine he took one of Lash Out Oblivion Ring Mulldrifter or Nameless Inversion / Eyeblight’s Ending just as a worst-case scenario as I try to figure out what I think he actually took by the cards I see passed my way.

Pack 3:

Pack 3: Lowland Oaf Lignify Weed Strangle Kithkin Healer Deeptread Merrow Lash Out Kithkin Daggerdare Needle Drop Soaring Hope Elvish Branchbender Wellgabber Apothecary Battle Mastery Final Revels

Pick: Final Revels

This pick pretty thoroughly discounts Black as the guy feeding us’ first-picks and I have to think long and hard before saying he’s Red either. I now presume the missing card was a Mulldrifter and that Black/Green is wide open for me and aim to figure out if I am Treefolk or Elves by the end of the pack and the first-pick of my next pack. Lash Out is good but G/B fits much better than G/R and Revels is blatantly more powerful anyway.

It is worth noting that Revels makes me favor the Trees over the Elves as most Elves die to Revels and this is a potent sweeper with the high-toughness men. It is also worth noting that this drops Nameless Inversion and Eyeblight’s Ending off what I suspect by predecessor first-picked and there is reasonable argumentation to peg him on Oblivion Ring simply because Final Revels would work very well in a deck that first-picked either Lash Out or Mulldrifter.

Pack 4:

Pack 4: Herbal Poultice Lowland Oaf Fistful of Force Aethersnipe Aquitect’s Will Mournwhelk Zephyr Net Scarred Vinebreeder Gilt-Leaf Seer Elvish Promenade Flamekin Bladewhirl

Pick: Aethersnipe

Here we see very little we actually want. B/G decks can use a Mournwhelk but most will exclude it unless they get a Mannequin or a reason to favor Elementals which ain’t exactly likely to happen. I can take Fistful of Force but I am doubting I really need one so badly that I have to take it here when instead I can try and shore up my future some. Elvish Promenade I don’t even like having in my Elf decks good or bad so I take Aethersnipe to see if the person I think opened and picked either Oblivion Ring or Mulldrifter is now telling us we can have Blue. I doubt this will develop but if he abandons the color and lets me have it there are worse fates than to draft a Blue-Green tempo-based deck.

It’s unlikely this may be a beneficial pick but Final Revels really suggests we will aim for a more controlling deck than a more beatdown deck and we can use later opportunities to scoop up Growth effects. Likewise I doubt that a ‘late’ Fistful of Force is going to scream that the color is open if anyone to my left is watching for a signal to switch into Green. It costs us very little and may be rewarding if this is the first hint of a new signal.

DraftCap skipped a card out of this pack and I have no clue what it was. It seems if I am to use this program more frequently I shall have to poke its creator Mark Schmit to see if we can’t figure out why I randomly drop a card out of five different packs over the course of this draft. It was still certainly a good deal easier to use DraftCap to record the progress of the draft than anything else but it’d be nice to be able to say with certainty that the missing card was say Kinsbaile Skirmisher instead of making it up at random and hoping you believe me.

Pack 5:

Pack 5: Fistful of Force Soulbright Flamekin Glimmerdust Nap Cloudcrown Oak Wellgabber Apothecary Gilt-Leaf Seer Boggart Birth Rite Zephyr Net Bog Hoodlums Rebellion of the Flamekin Captivating Glance

Pick: Cloudcrown Oak

I consider Cloudcrown Oak to be by far the better Green card at least when you aren’t a hyper-aggressive G/W beatdown deck and while this doesn’t really tell me if I am Trees or Elves I am hoping that this lends credence to my theory that I am a Treefolk deck. I will aim to be mindful of this preference as I send future signals like not passing White treefolk too late in the pack if I haven’t a useful pick of my own to make.

Pack 6:

Pack 6: Tarfire Herbal Poultice Kithkin Greatheart Oakgnarl Warrior Aquitect’s Will Spring Cleaning Blind-Spot Giant Vivid Meadow Nectar Faerie

Pick: Tarfire

This is awfully late for a Tarfire so we scoop it up to see if more such presents will be appearing. The only other card I’d be interested in is Vivid Meadow to enable the possibility of splashing future White cards or possibly branching out into the other Treefolk color but it’s not anywhere near as high a priority as reading incoming signals and picking accordingly. DraftCap again loses a card here but other than to be certain it wasn’t a Treefolk card I’d have wanted I can’t tell you what it was.

Pack 7:

Pack 7: Bog-Strider Ash Oakgnarl Warrior Exiled Boggart Shields of Velis Vel Mournwhelk Needle Drop Springjack Knight Lammastide Weave Rebellion of the Flamekin

Pick: Bog-Strider Ash

Adding another Tree to the count gives us more reason to think we will end up Treefolk than Elves which is added to by the fact that we haven’t even seen an Elf in a while. Whomever is taking Green cards to our right is taking Elf cards and if he is content to leave the Treefolk I am content to draft them. I am doubtful that the person to my right is the Elf deck… after all I’m still favoring the belief that his first-pick was Mulldrifter or possibly Oblivion Ring… but it is certainly somewhere to my right and we can work quite well with that our cards are sending us there anyway.

Pack 8:

Pack 8: Quill-Slinger Boggart Surge of Thoughtweft Cloudcrown Oak Protective Bubble Ingot Chewer Amoeboid Changeling Spring Cleaning Vivid Grove

Pick: Cloudcrown Oak

Another solid Tree for what is really looking like a Treefolk signal. I’m happy to see Cloudcrown Oak this late and content in where I feel my future lies.

Pack 9:

Pack 9: Fistful of Force Soulbright Flamekin Spring Cleaning Wellgabber Apothecary Rebellion of the Flamekin Captivating Glance Mountain

Pick: Fistful of Force

Growth spells are not quite what I want in my average Treefolk deck… the men are big enough and temporary boosts don’t make me so happy as the Reinforce spells in the third pack anyway. If I want a Growth spell I want it from Morningtide… but I don’t want to make another person to my left think of Green as a second color who hasn’t already so I take the card that might make my deck as it is over being a little more exploratory and taking Soulbright Flamekin in case that Tarfire turns into something real later.

Pack 10:

Pack 10: Axegrinder Giant Boggart Birth Rite Zephyr Net Bog Hoodlums Lys Alana Scarblade Woodland Guidance

Pick: Lys Alana Scarblade

I am suddenly curious whether there is in fact an Elf deck to my right but I don’t want to make a new one to my right so I take the Scarblade. It’s unlikely I will play this but I could always maybe end up with Elves anyway at this point and I don’t want to encourage someone who passes me cards next pack to take my cards instead.

Pack 11:

Pack 11: Lignify Kithkin Daggerdare Needle Drop Soaring Hope Elvish Branchbender

Pick: Kithkin Daggerdare

I am now thinking that maybe I was reading a phantom signal as all the Green cards out of that pack with Final Revels came back. If it’s just me then great. I’d be happy to have Lignify as another removal spell for my Treefolk deck but if I pass a Daggerdare this late I will make another Green mage and it is the best Green card in the pack anyway. In he goes.

Pack 12:

Pack 12: Herbal Poultice Zephyr Net Scarred Vinebreeder Gilt-Leaf Seer

Pick: Gilt-Leaf Seer

Pack 13:

Pack 13: Bog Hoodlums Rebellion of the Flamekin Captivating Glance

Pick: Rebellion of the Flamekin

Pack 14:

Pack 14: Herbal Poultice Spring Cleaning

Pick: Spring Cleaning

Pack 15:

Pack 15: Needle Drop

Pick: Needle Drop

Nothing to see here. The pack ends with nothing else interesting to say for itself.

Pack 16:

Pack 16: Wispmare Streambed Aquitects Consuming Bonfire Boggart Loggers Lys Alana Huntmaster Runed Stalactite Wings of Velis Vel Flamekin Brawler Facevaulter Warren-Scourge Elf Blades of Velis Vel Briarhorn Changeling Berserker Treefolk Harbinger Knucklebone Witch

Pick: Briarhorn

Again we have a very easy first-pick out of the new pack and we are passing good Green cards to our right where we suspect there is an Elf drafter for that Lys Alana Huntmaster two or maybe three seats to our right. Nothing is even close to Briarhorn and there is no Black removal to tempt the possible Blue deck to our right into U/B over U/W so it’s not a nightmare setting up to get our Black cards in pack three still. All for the good.

Pack 17:

Pack 17: Moonglove Extract Boggart Sprite-Chaser Oaken Brawler Smokebraider Stonybrook Angler Nameless Inversion Elvish Handservant Dawnfluke Broken Ambitions Nath’s Buffoon Faultgrinder Changeling Titan Nectar Faerie

Pick: Nameless Inversion

I am sad to pass a Changeling Titan but we have no removal and were passed Nameless Inversion. These two facts work very well together so the big tree goes right and into the pile of that theoretical Elf player while the Blue deck next to us can have a counter an Angler or Moonglove Extract… and still sees no Black cards worthy of tempting him into U/B over U/W. DraftCap loses a card here and I can’t figure out what it was by what is present eight packs later but I can say with certainty it wasn’t better for my deck than Nameless Inversion!

Pack 18:

Pack 18: Dreamspoiler Witches Runed Stalactite Nath’s Elite Neck Snap Sentinels of Glen Elendra Spellstutter Sprite Black Poplar Shaman Elvish Eulogist Caterwauling Boggart Seedguide Ash Flamekin Spitfire Hoarder’s Greed Swamp

Pick: Seedguide Ash

Our four-drop slot is already going to be absurdly busy with the various treefolk that sit in that part of the curve while Seedguide Ash is a large man that should serve us well. Dreamspoiler Witches will give that Blue deck reason to consider Faeries over Merfolk but it is also going to be basically useless to us so we take the card that will be great for our deck over the one that would be the fifth or sixth-best creature at that mana cost in our draft pool by the time we’re done here.

Pack 19:

Pack 19: Fertile Ground Moonglove Winnower Plover Knights Whirlpool Whelm Adder-Staff Boggart Nath’s Buffoon Faultgrinder Rootgrapple Goldmeadow Dodger Thorntooth Witch Brigid Hero of Kinsbaile Veteran of the Depths

Pick: Thorntooth Witch

And so we reap rewards for having cut off Treefolk so hard in the first pack as we get a Thorntooth Witch that three other people to our left passed up on. Nothing else is interesting signal-wise but we do reap clear rewards for the picks we have made so far.

Pack 20:

Pack 20: Stinkdrinker Daredevil Battlewand Oak Hurly-Burly Plover Knights Paperfin Rascal Facevaulter Hunt Down Giant’s Ire Dawnfluke

Pick: Battlewand Oak

Again our pick is clear; one card is interesting and fits our tribe while everything else can go into somebody else’s deck. Again DraftCap loses a card… and I’m sure it’s not very relevant as far as the signals I am sending or better for my deck than the card I took.

Pack 21:

Pack 21: Inner-Flame Acolyte Neck Snap Boggart Sprite-Chaser Thieving Sprite Kinsbaile Balloonist Cenn’s Heir Ringskipper Black Poplar Shaman Shimmering Grotto Battle Mastery

Pick: Black Poplar Shaman

There are a lot of White cards here but we already see where we want to go with the B/G Treefolk and have an on-color pick in Black Poplar Shaman that may do good work for us.

Pack 22:

Pack 22: Wispmare Gilt-Leaf Ambush Hillcomber Giant Tideshaper Mystic Elvish Handservant Broken Ambitions Cenn’s Heir Boggart Forager Battle Mastery

Pick: Gilt-Leaf Ambush

Again since we were given some cause to doubt the actual existence of that green Elf mage to our right we have no good reason to reward him for sticking to his guns if we can instead give him reason to get nervous and look to jump ship. Gilt-Leaf Ambush probably won’t make the main-deck unless we’re desperate as it has no synergy in the deck unless it happens to accidentally be Twinstrike but the sorts of decks that we’d like to have it against may still appear and this in our sideboard is better than in someone else’s pile.

Pack 23:

Pack 23: Moonglove Winnower Paperfin Rascal Nath’s Elite Goldmeadow Dodger Faerie Trickery Nightshade Stinger Scattering Stroke Rings of Brighthearth

Pick: Nath’s Elite

The more powerful card fits our deck better. Tough concept I know. This also further chokes off someone to our right who wanted the late Elves hook-up while also not picking a bad four-drop we will already have too many of just because Moonglove Winnower can fake being a removal spell sort of.

Pack 24:

Pack 24: Wispmare Lys Alana Huntmaster Flamekin Brawler Facevaulter Warren-Scourge Elf Blades of Velis Vel Treefolk Harbinger

Pick: Treefolk Harbinger

All that worrying about the Elf deck to our right is now clearly a waste of time. No one wants Elves so ignore the signal and take the best card for our deck without worrying that we are going to send the wrong idea to the persons to our right. If he decided to super long range the Huntmaster he is a mad genius and deserves to be rewarded for his bravado alone. Treefolk Harbinger doubles the number of all of our best Trees and can smooth your mana draw and prevent early damage while he is at it. Vastly under-rated.

Pack 25:

Pack 25: Boggart Sprite-Chaser Oaken Brawler Elvish Handservant Dawnfluke Faultgrinder Nectar Faerie

Pick: Oaken Brawler

Pack 26:

Pack 26: Nath’s Elite Black Poplar Shaman Elvish Eulogist Hoarder’s Greed Swamp

Pick: Black Poplar Shaman

Pack 27:

Pack 27: Moonglove Winnower Nath’s Buffoon Rootgrapple Goldmeadow Dodger

Pick: Rootgrapple

Pack 28:

Pack 28: Hunt Down Giant’s Ire Dawnfluke

Pick: Giant’s Ire

Pack 29:

Pack 29: Ringskipper Battle Mastery

Pick: Battle Mastery

Pack 30:

Pack 30: Battle Mastery

Pick: Battle Mastery

Nothing else interesting except that we took another low-curve Tree over a second Nath’s Elite we could have had. If there really is an Elf deck two seats to our right his genius is beyond my ability to contain so he can have his Nath’s Elite 13th.

Pack 31:

Pack 31: Fencer Clique Changeling Sentinel Dewdrop Spy Reins of the Vinesteed Pack’s Disdain Sunflare Shaman Moonglove Changeling Lys Alana Bowmaster Stonybrook Schoolmaster Negate Prickly Boggart Pyroclast Consul Hunting Triad Warren Weirding Borderland Behemoth

Pick: Hunting Triad

This is a really hard call. I really want the removal spell… we have so very few of them so far… but Hunting Triad is so powerful it is exactly the kind of pump spell I want to have in my deck. On raw power alone I pick Hunting Triad at least partly because the cheap Pack’s Disdain requires early drops that are already problematic for me to expect to have in a big-butt Treefolk deck so I can’t expect to use it optimally anyway.

That’s probably just a shoddy justification. But I pick the powerful pump spell knowing it will wreck house mightily because it is uncounterable and permanent.

Pack 32:

Pack 32: Fertilid Burrenton Bombardier Disperse Brighthearth Banneret Winnower Patrol Hostile Realm Everbark Shaman Pulling Teeth Mosquito Guard Floodchaser Nevermaker Redeem the Lost Boldwyr Intimidator Slithermuse

Pick: Fertilid

On looking at the DraftCap log I noticed a few missed cards and had to reconstruct a few picks out of this pack from memory and what was still in it when it came back around. DraftCap is wonderful but not so happy when you are using your mouse on other programs at the same time. I don’t use the program every day so I didn’t quite realize that chatting with a cute girl would muss up the recorder software and we missed a few cards that I had to remember and go back and feed in so it’s possible the Uncommons might be off by a little. Literally the most relevant Green or Black card out of the pack was Fertilid and so I took it thinking it might help me accelerate the expensive drops out while Winnower Patrol was going to do not much of anything at all.

I think the next card I’d want to pick out of this pack after Fertilid was Slithermuse. Maybe Burrenton Bombardier but I don’t really need to go out of my colors to get a combat trick so that doesn’t seem special even if it is good. Neither excites me in a slow Treefolk deck so I take the three-drop I might play if I were desperate instead of the off-color card I have no use for.

A disappointing pack. I was hoping to get another shot at a Violet Pall or Pack’s Disdain. Instead I got Fertilid. Stupid Fertilid… like socks and underwear on Christmas.

Pack 33:

Pack 33: Final-Sting Faerie Fire Juggler Squeaking Pie Grubfellows Ambassador Oak Everbark Shaman Shinewend Merrow Witsniper Morsel Theft Stingmoggie Waterspout Weavers Diviner’s Wand Thieves’ Fortune Bosk Banneret

Pick: Bosk Banneret

We desperately need cheap drops and acceleration and Bosk Banneret is thus made of win and awesome for us. Ambassador Oak is great and Final-Sting Faerie is solid removal in a deck that frequently attacks but Bannerets are very special and I pick the Banneret of my tribe very highly indeed.

Pack 34:

Pack 34: Burrenton Shield-Bearers Elvish Warrior Ballyrush Banneret Lunk Errant Stream of Unconsciousness Stonybrook Schoolmaster Mothdust Changeling Pulling Teeth Roar of the Crowd Wolf-Skull Shaman Daily Regimen Primal Beyond

Pick: Wolf-Skull Shaman

Again we see nothing we’re very interested in but it is worth noting that we have enough Elves and Shamans to expect that 10 of our 40 cards will make a spare Wolf off the Wolf-Skull Shaman. We haven’t been aiming for Shamans we’ve been focusing on Treefolk but here we pick up a slight subtheme because the pack remains very dry for us.

And we are so not going to see any more removal spells this draft.

Pack 35:

Pack 35: Winnower Patrol Seething Pathblazer Burrenton Shield-Bearers Shard Volley Bosk Banneret Prickly Boggart Stingmoggie Festercreep Deglamer Inspired Sprite Boldwyr Heavyweights

Pick: Bosk Banneret

I am hoping to get a Festercreep still but Bosk Banneret is an A+ card for our deck and we’d take him over anything that wasn’t a removal spell or worth 10 tickets.

Pack 36:

Pack 36: Seething Pathblazer Final-Sting Faerie Lunk Errant Order of the Golden Cricket Morsel Theft Luminescent Rain Mudbutton Clanger Stonybrook Banneret Shinewend

Pick: Final-Sting Faerie

The most depressing thing is knowing that these are the only removal spells you are likely to see for the rest of the pack… and that the only creatures this is very likely to remove from play are your own. Trees rumbling on your own turn aren’t likely to bounce off of very many things and Final-Sting isn’t even going to make the cut except as a 23rd card then. How sad. DraftCap loses its fifth and final card from the draft here but it can’t have been one I’d have wanted in my deck because this Final-Sting Faerie is not a high priority to add to my deck at this point I’m not even expecting it to make the cut.

Pack 37:

Pack 37: Disperse Ambassador Oak Shard Volley Festercreep Hostile Realm Negate Orchard Warden Recross the Paths Prickly Boggart

Pick: Orchard Warden

As I said I do really want a Festercreep… but Orchard Warden will be a bomb in our deck and is drafted accordingly. Again we reap late-pick Treefolk-tribe rewards for reading our signals right in pack one and forcing the colors shut to our left in pack one.

Pack 38:

Elvish Warrior Earthbrawn Fire Juggler Forfend Kindled Fury Lys Alana Bowmaster Thieves’ Fortune Heritage Druid

Pack 38: Elvish Warrior Earthbrawn Fire Juggler Forfend Kindled Fury Lys Alana Bowmaster Thieves’ Fortune Heritage Druid

Pick: Earthbrawn

I like Bowmaster but won’t have very many cards that trigger it in my deck as I am already at 10+ Treefolk in my deck and have Nameless Inversion Wolf-Skull Shaman and Nath’s Elite to trigger him. Oh and no Hunting Triad doesn’t trigger him… you’d have to cast it for it to do that silly. Instead I take the Giant Growth spell that is actually good enough for me to want to play rather than that Fistful of Force because this leaves something to work with behind after the fact to make it feel like it was worth the card in my more controlling deck.

Pack 39:

Pack 39: Reins of the Vinesteed Sunflare Shaman Lys Alana Bowmaster Negate Prickly Boggart Warren Weirding Borderland Behemoth

Pick: Warren Weirding

A removal spell is a removal spell is a removal spell. A situational removal spell is still a removal spell more often than most of the rest of the cards in our deck so we take Cruel Edict and pass another Bowmaster we can’t really use.

Pack 40:

Pack 40: Winnower Patrol Hostile Realm Everbark Shaman Pulling Teeth Mosquito Guard Floodchaser

Pick: Everbark Shaman

Pack 41:

Pack 41: Final-Sting Faerie Everbark Shaman Shinewend Merrow Witsniper Stingmoggie

Pick: Final-Sting Faerie

Pack 42:

Pack 42: Burrenton Shield-Bearers Lunk Errant Pulling Teeth Daily Regimen

Pick: Daily Regimen

Pack 43:

Pack 43: Seething Pathblazer Stingmoggie Deglamer

Pick: Deglamer

Pack 44:

Pack 44: Luminescent Rain Mudbutton Clanger

Pick: Luminescent Rain

Pack 45:

Pack 45: Hostile Realm

Pick: Hostile Realm

Again nothing to see here. Final-Sting Faerie comes back but still likely won’t make the cut so we are left with not a lot of removal a stupidly powerful Planeswalker and an entire tribe we were left alone to pick at our leisure and an entire color the rest of the table just didn’t want. We read color signals well opened a few bombs and capitalized on everything we could and happen to have a really great deck because of that. We’ll just have to remember not to waste our removal spells and work that Thorntooth Witch really hard if we can… it’ll be great.

Final deck:

10 Forest
7 Swamp

Final Revels
Warren Weirding
Nameless Inversion
Garruk Wildspeaker
Hunting Triad

2 Black Poplar Shaman
Thorntooth Witch
2 Bosk Banneret
2 Cloudcrown Oak
Battlewand Oak
Bog-Strider Ash
Orchard Warden
Seedguide Ash
Treefolk Harbinger
Woodland Changeling

Kithkin Daggerdare
Wolf-Skull Shaman
Nath’s Elite

Relevant sideboard: 2 Final-Sting Faerie Fertilid Everbark Shaman Spring Cleaning Rootgrapple Deglamer Gilt-Leaf Ambush Fistful of Force.

Conceptually at least you can see how a little bit of the Morningtide interactions work here. We concentrate pretty heavily on casting Treefolk spells… but have just enough Shaman cards (and a few technical Elves) that we benefited from a late ‘off-Tribe’ bomb in the Wolf-Skull Shaman who helps fill out our early curve and if left unmolested should make another pair of 2/2’s over the course of the game. While we focus on being very Tribal to let all the synergies work together and have plenty of Treefolk tribe synergy we still play non-Treefolk good cards… Kithkin Daggerdare is good in a Green deck no matter what your tribe is Nath’s Elite excels at getting an attack through or can just two-for-one an opponent’s best guys or maybe even do crazy stuff with help from pump spells… and Briarhorn is the Green Shriekmaw. We stayed pretty closely on-tribe and made sure to pick up two Bosk Bannerets at a very high value because they make the entire deck so much faster and bring us up to competitive speed.

Playing out the games you’ll see that you can’t just point the finger at Garruk and say that is why the deck is so good.

Game one of round one however I can’t say that is true. Our opponent gets to play first and we both keep our initial hands… mine has a two-drop a three-drop Garruk and enough land to cast him. His first two plays are Mountain Swamp and Sunfire Shaman while I lead with Forest Swamp and Kithkin Daggerdare. For his third turn he plays a second Mountain and Inner-Flame Igniter attacking with both creatures after a bit of hesitation trying to decide if the Kithkin will block. Knowing that I will win the long game if I just conserve my life totals and will be starting on the defensive rather than as the aggressor I happily trade the Daggerdare for his Shaman and take four. I play a Swamp and Battlewand Oak with a Forest left in hand for next turn to pump it… the opponent has Nameless Inversion to kill it and Thornbite Staff ‘for later’ and gets in for another two damage.

I of course play Forest Garruk Wildspeaker and make a token. This stymies his assault right there and he equips his Acolyte with the Staff putting a very limited life expectancy on Garruk. For my fifth turn I attack with the Beast token unmolested cast Cloudcrown Oak then use Garruk’s untap ability to follow that with Black Poplar Shaman. The opponent has just a sixth land and Brighthearth Banneret down to just one card left in hand and obviously mana-flooded. I attack with everything and my opponent blocks Black Poplar Shaman with his Acolyte and chumps with his Banneret taking another three damage and poking Garruk in the eye with his free untap. I make a fresh Beast token with Garruk who then gets poked in the eye to die an honorable death and cast a second Cloudcrown Oak plus Woodland Changeling.

The opponent casts Ashling the Pilgrim on his turn with the ability to pump twice. I attack with everything and he again blocks Black Poplar Shaman with his Acolyte and chooses not to block with Ashling and lose her to a pump spell. There’s an obvious fallacy to this part of the plan though: if I have a pump spell he dies for not blocking here and that is exactly what happens.

For the second game he is on the play again and happens to mulligan to 6 which seems just so very wonderful for me considering the only thing that I would find frightening would be a very aggressive draw… harder to get off six cards on the play. He leads with Swamp Mountain and Thornbite Staff while I lead with Forest and Treefolk Harbinger fetching Bosk Banneret a second Forest and said Banneret. Bosk Banneret eats that Nameless Inversion from the first game alongside a third land for my opponent while I have a Swamp and no play on my third turn save to attack with Treefolk Harbinger for my own amusement.

On the fourth turn however action resumes. He has an Adder-Staff Boggart and loses the clash revealing Inner-Flame Acolyte to my Bog-Strider Ash. I play a third Forest and my Bog-Strider while the opponent plays Inner-Flame Acolyte picking up the Thornbite Staff for later and gets in for four. I follow up with Woodland Changeling gaining back two life and attack with my Ash. The opponent plays another Swamp looking as if he is flooding out again and attacks with his Boggart getting in for two as his Acolyte can ping the Harbinger to death if I try to soak up the attack.

For my turn the Ash and Changeling attack and Changeling trades with Inner-Flame Acolyte… or at least so it looks. We stack damage he gets a final ‘vengeance’ ping in at my life total and Hunting Triad saves my guy and turns him into a 5/5. I’m figuring this turn I’d attack and then Final Revels to kill both his guys at the expense of my Woodland Changeling but he blocked so this line of play is clearly quite a bit better. He equips his Boggart on his turn and doesn’t attack; I cast Orchard Warden and do attack. His next play is a Sunflare Shaman and that Final Revels clears his board and forces the concession.

For the second round my opponent mulligans on the play and leads with Swamp into Nightshade Stinger. This likely means his deck is either very good or very bad… and no way to know until he starts Prowling cards out. I have but a Forest on my turn and he plays a second Swamp and attacks… then passes the turn. So far we are not in the nightmare territory as I didn’t just get Noggin Whacked or something equally unfair. On my second turn I have a Swamp and that Wolf-Skull Shaman and the opponent attacks again plays a third Swamp and casts Moonglove Changeling. Wolf-Skull Shaman doesn’t make a free guy but I do have a Forest and a Black Poplar Shaman for my turn after attacking with the Shaman and getting in for two by threatening a pump spell. I’d have been willing to trade my worst two-drop for a Moonglove Changeling but he didn’t necessarily know that and so read me as having a pump spell. The opponent then plays a Plains and attacks which allays many of my chief fears about his deck being “the good Rogue deck” but now I have to consider a whole host of Reinforce cards when blocking. I take three then the opponent casts Hornet Harasser.

On my fourth turn I get a free Wolf and my worst two-drop is looking pretty good right now. I attack with the Shaman again and he blocks with Hornet Harasser; I again stack damage and Reinforce a Hunting Triad onto it. The free Wolf bites it… easy come easy go. His fifth turn sees his Stinger and Changeling attack and again I take three which he then follows up with Cenn’s Heir and Kithkin Harbinger emptying his hand and tutoring up a second Moonglove Changeling. I attack for five then play a Forest and Cloudcrown Oak and he turns around and attacks with Kithkin Harbinger Cenn’s Heir and Moonglove Changeling.

And then I misplay. I fail to remember that I know the card in his hand and play around a trick that I know for a certainty doesn’t exist; I block the Kithkin Harbinger with my Black Poplar Shaman and go to seven instead of eating his Cenn’s Heir with my new Treefolk. He follows up with Moonglove Changeling #2 and things get interesting.

On my turn Wolf-Skull Shaman misses again and stays back for defense rather than trading with the fresh Moonglove Changeling. I cast a second Black Poplar Shaman and sit back to weather the incoming attack. The opponent then decides to attack with everything despite it really not being terribly advantageous for him to do so and the 5/5 Wolf-Skull Shaman blocks the 4/4 Heir Cloudcrown Oak eats Nightshade Stinger and Black Poplar Shaman bounces off Kithkin Harbinger instead as I go to three life and leave the opponent with Kithkin Harbinger two Moonglove Changelings and whatever he drew this turn.

I get a free Wolf by revealing Thorntooth Witch swing back for five and play the Witch. The opponent attacks with his two Changelings and trades with a Wolf and the Cloudcrown Oak then concedes the game.

For the second game the opponent leads with Swamp and Plains but no plays on his first two turns; I have Forest Swamp and Bosk Banneret my ideal play for the first two turns. The opponent has a second Swamp and Ghostly Changeling on his turn and my Banneret attacks right through it as again he doesn’t want to risk losing a good man to a combat trick. I have a Forest and Kithkin Daggerdare to follow it up then pass the turn. I receive an attack from the Changeling and get hit with Noggin Whack; I reveal two lands and the Hunting Triad as I really want to keep one land but am pretty sure if I flash the spell that killed him last game he’ll take it over a land… and even if he doesn’t I can draw out of it and have a great spell to work with. He follows up with a Kithkin Greatheart then I play a Swamp and Seedguide Ash on my fourth turn thanks to the Banneret’s acceleration.

My opponent then attacks with his Changeling and I trade my 4/4 for his Ghostly Changeling and four mana on his turn. I am happy to cash it in for three Forests to turn on the rest of my hand if he happens to have a trick but both creatures die and I get three Forests for my trouble. I attack for one with the Banneret then cast Thorntooth Witch. My opponent plays a Swamp and nothing else so Orchard Warden kills Greatheart off the Witch’s ability and I attack with my Trees. Orchard Warden is killed with Violet Pall but the token doesn’t block and my Daggerdare makes sure I get an extra two damage in.

The opponent’s token Faerie attacks and he casts a second Ghostly Changeling. I draw for my turn and have to do the math to see if I can use any Witch activations to pump my team and attack for the kill; I’m two points short so I “just” massacre his creatures with the ability instead. Cloudcrown Oak comes into play and tries to kill the Ghostly Changeling who grows large in response and Nameless Inversion kills the Changeling and the token Faerie. I attack for four and make it six with Daggerdare and the opponent draws his next card then concedes the game when it’s not Austere Command.

The third round is anticlimactic as it usually is in these “Drafting With…” columns. My opponent is someone I generally recognize from being around these drafts who seems a decent enough guy… but who isn’t online when the round starts. Ten minutes later I’m up game one and he is very pleasantly surprised when I still offer him a split to settle the round ‘fairly’ rather than have me beat up on him at a disadvantage to sleaze an extra two packs out of the draft. Six packs and a Garruk will have to be all I get for three packs and two tickets and I’m content with that.

The one big thing I think this walkthrough displays is that from the very first pick I had a reasonable sense of where I wanted the deck to develop and tried to position myself early on to make that happen. I worked on cutting my main color Green from the get-go and received a signal to tell me I could pair Black with it if I wanted to. From there I chose an archetype I felt would work best with my cards and as the early picks continued I saw several Treefolk but no Elves to add to my pile and saw that initial vision through to become a reality. Knowing how much you want certain cards like your tribe’s Banneret then valuing them accordingly during the draft is an important skill… but you really can end up anywhere the signals lead you or the packs send you and having a lot of experience goes a long way to getting the winning deck. Personally I have found Blue and White to be painfully overdrafted which means I never ever win with a Merfolk deck even when I get a brutal Merfolk deck… the removal is so quickly picked up by your neighbors that you end up having severe problems with any utility creature and one opponent with a third-turn Imperious Perfect has a card that is now going to trump your entire deck. Because of this I find I like Green Black and Red the best and while I will of course happily pick Mulldrifter highly I find I am now hoping to pair him with Red’s Elementals unless I get a strong signal telling me to play him alongside Faeries or somebody twists my arm enough to get me back into the Merfolk tribe.

But overall my two favorite decks are this style of “fattie control” Treefolk decks and heavy Red Elemental decks often featuring a mish-mash of Warriors and Shamans and leaning on the third pack’s Elemental-favoring cards like Brighthearth Banneret and Sunrise Shaman instead of any true Class-based synergy. I find these are the two styles of deck I am most successful with as I always get a quality deck once I start down those avenues and that may have something to do with the fact that both these styles of deck have a bit more flexibility in their color combinations than any other in the format – with Treefolk you can end up with any amalgamation of Green White and Black though I see mostly G/B decks and Elementals can literally pair any second color (or even more than one if you have enough Smokebraiders!) and come out with a good deck because of its heavily Red focus. If everyone else is fighting over the White and Blue cards… and trust me they probably are… picking and choosing your deck within the other three colors is a pretty good way to have a solid deck. The name of the game is to get the most good cards as late in the pack as possible since the tribes are not so unequally balanced that being the third White drafter in a row is still better than being the only Green drafter at the table and frequently those colors offer you that potential more often than White or Blue do.

Your mission should you choose to accept it is to maximize your options while sending good signals and reading what the people upstream of you are telling you to position yourself away from the colors and tribes they are favoring. Much like any other format but very gracefully done… now that I can understand what is going on and how heavy a hand you should have in forcing Morningtide class synergies at the expense of Lorwyn tribes (not very heavy a hand at all) I find I am very appreciative of the format.

And now in just a few weeks it’ll all disappear as the world of Lorwyn falls into shadow… we shall have a look next week at the cards that have been released as public information about Shadowmoor and get a feel for what this dark new world has in store for us.

Sean McKeown
s_mckeown @ hotmail.com