While I would normally talk about a new set on a per-color basis when looking at it from a Limited perspective, I think it makes much more sense to look at Lorwyn on a per-tribe basis. This is a little bit tricky, since you will often play off-tribe cards in your deck, whether they’re very strong (something like Cloudcrown Oak in an Elf deck) or relatively weak (something like Spiderwig Boggart in a Treefolk deck).
Still, there is plenty to say about the cards that you will have to consider under normal circumstances when drafting a particular tribe. This week, I’ll be focusing on the Faerie tribe, since it’s my favorite tribe that hasn’t been covered yet (right now, I like Elves the best). The thing that I’ve found strangest when drafting Faeries is that it’s very difficult to jam-pack your deck with the best Faeries out there. It’s not too hard to assemble sixteen Treefolk or Kithkin, but when I draft Faeries, I usually find myself in a Faerie/Merfolk hybrid deck.
My decks are still usually Blue/Black, so when I say that I have Merfolk in my deck, I’m not talking about Judge of Currents or Wellgabber Apothecary. Because of this, my “pick orders” below talk about all of the cards I’ll seriously consider taking for my Faerie deck, no matter what tribe they actually happen to be in. I say “pick orders” because this set, more than any other, can take what would be an extremely marginal card in one deck and turn it into a complete powerhouse in another deck. I’ve had Elf decks where Lys Alana Scarblade was among the best cards in my deck, and I’ve had Elf decks where I groaned when I drew it. Therefore, the lists below shouldn’t be taken as rigid rules; just because Eyeblight’s Ending is listed above Mulldrifter doesn’t mean that it’s always a better card.
Instead of trying to list out everything in a big pick order, I’ve divided the commons into three categories. The first category is for cards that I really like; they’re cards I wouldn’t be unhappy spending my first picks on, and they’ll essentially always make the cut at the end. The second category is for cards that I am happy to see in my deck, but that I’m also happy to leave in the board when my deck is very good. In other words, they’re the filler cards; they’re good but not great. The last category still has playable cards in it, they’re just cards that I don’t usually have in my deck when I feel that I’ve drafted a very strong deck.
Within each category, cards are listed in order of my personal preference. Cards within one or two spots of each other are very close in power level, and there will be times when you can easily justify taking a lower-ranked card over a higher-ranked one.
In my opinion, this is the strongest common in the set. It’s a cheap way to kill most commons (things like Axegrinder Giant and Cloudcrown Oak are safe), obviously, but its two other abilities are also very relevant. Making the target lose all creature types can ruin combat steps involving Kithkin Greatheart, Boggart Sprite-Chaser, or other similar guys. Having Changeling means that you’ll be able to find it with any Harbingers you have and that you’ll fire off any tribal triggers in play.
Another man that makes a run for top common. I rate the Douser higher than Mulldrifter, which I’m sure not everyone out there agrees with, but I do believe that he has a bigger impact on the game. When you’re trying to win with Flying or Islandwalk, there’s not much better than being able to nullify your opponent’s heaviest hitter.
One reason that I value the Ending so highly is that I really like to spend my early picks on Black cards. In the world of Lorwyn, you’ll quickly move from taking the best card in the abstract to the best card in your tribe; Black cards offer you a ton of flexibility in which tribe you choose. Straight off the bat, you can go for Elves, Treefolk, Goblins, or Faeries, and it’s very easy to splash these removal spells into any non-Black deck. Blue is an especially good color to pair with Eyeblight’s Ending, because you’ll be able to use Amoeboid Changeling to take down the shields of any Elf you might want to kill.
I am pretty much in love with 2/2 flying creatures, and Mulldrifter is no exception. Whether you fire it out there when you’re in need of gas on turn 3 or as another threat after your early drops, the sad fish will always be great. Again, being in the Faerie deck helps you really abuse this card, as Glen Elendra Pranksters and Familiar’s Ruse (both good uncommons in this archetype) will let you use the comes-into-play ability more than once.
Pestermite and the Sentinels are very close in power level. This guy is better at holding off those guys that Nameless Inversion can’t simply kill, and the Sentinels are better at making combat dangerous for your opponent. I personally prefer this one because I feel like it’s more versatile, and because it’s one mana cheaper.
Sentinels of Glen Elendra
Even if I like the Pestermites more than this guy, he’s still very good. One big advantage that he has over Pestermite is his high toughness (for a faerie); you can actually play him mid-combat and have him survive. One thing to start noticing is that all of your Instants and Flash creatures make the others better; the more individual effects you can represent, the harder it will be for your opponent to figure out your plan for their turn.
At least in Pittsburgh, these guys are still being fairly underrated. As far as I’m concerned, they’re the second best Merfolk out there; the only reason they’re so low down on this list is that we’re looking at things from a Faerie perspective. Still, he holds the ground as a 3/4 blocker for three mana, which is way better than the standard 1/4 Horned Turtle we’ve come to expect. When the game goes longer, he can then start providing Islandwalk or the Islands you want your opponent to have, closing out games through a clogged board.
Weed Strangle, while still very good, suffers from the fact that a five-mana sorcery is exactly what you don’t want in the Faerie deck. Still, it solves whatever problem you need solving, and if you get a little bit lucky you can gain back some life you’ve been losing.
There’s a pretty good chance that you won’t see too many of these guys; they’re absurd in the Goblins deck and they’re very good everywhere else. Since I think that there are plenty of commons you should be taking over them, they’ll probably all disappear before you can get your hands on them. Still, it should be known that, even though they’re in neither tribe you’re focusing on, they’re still well worth playing. Gravedigger as a 3/3 is much more impressive, and you might manage to give it haste if you regrow a Changeling.
Like Silvergill Douser, this card impersonates a previously-printed three-mana 1/2. Unfortunately for you, this one is dramatically worse. I suppose that “dramatically” might be overstating it, but two mana is quite a bit more than one, and this card can be somewhat awkward to activate. However, there are plenty of ways for you to use it beyond the Master Decoy effect, and so you should still rate it highly.
If your deck is just an average Blue/Black deck, then you’ll be happy to have these guys because they’re a 2/2 flyer with a bonus ability. If your deck is a finely-tuned machine, then these guys will probably be some of the scariest cards in your deck. Even without a deck that can truly abuse them, their ability can easily pick off scary utility guys like Goldmeadow Harrier, Silvergill Douser, Boggart Loggers, and so on.
People used to play something like this card a couple of blocks ago, a 3/2 for 3UR that was a very high pick. Of course, back then you had Peel From Reality to go with it, but even when you didn’t the card was very good. For a slightly more expensive, slightly easier casting cost, you get a 4/4 body instead of the 3/2 one, and you get the option to Boomerang for just three mana if you really need to. When you’re casting a host of smallish fliers, following them up with a bounce spell for your opponent’s biggest threat that also holds the ground remarkably well can go a long way towards locking the game up.
In my opinion, you can “expect” to win clashes a little over a quarter of the time; you’ll reveal a land a little under a half the time, automatically losing, and in the rest of the cases you’re still more likely to lose or tie than you are to win. Therefore, I really look at this card as an Unsummon that will sometimes get lucky. Either way, it’s a great way to stop some huge man from halting your offense, and if you do win the clash, you will often find yourself very far ahead.
3/3 landwalk is a very sizeable threat, especially since many people appear to believe that Merfolk are the strongest tribe out there. He also goes very nicely with the Aquitects, giving you a 4/4 blocker or an unblockable 3/3 against any deck. His Sage Owl ability isn’t the greatest thing out there, but you won’t mind smoothing your draws over the next few turns, and there are plenty of ways to do more than that, whether you shuffle your library with a Harbinger or reuse the ability after bouncing him.
On his own, this Sprite isn’t the most powerful creature out there. The way his ability is structured, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to stop an on-curve spell, since you will usually have at least one fewer Faerie than your opponent has lands. However, in the late-game, it’s not uncommon for you to be able to stop a mid-range drop, a removal spell, or a combat trick with him, and if you happen to pull off the Glen Elendra Pranksters combo, then your opponent will have a hard time getting anything he casts to stick.
As a 2/1 for two, you will often find yourself trading this guy off early, which is fine. Stopping your opponent’s early plays will allow you to set up your Sentinels or Pestermites, which is exactly what you want. Luckily, though, when he comes off the top in the late-game, his Islandwalk ability will often combo with Tideshaper Mystic or Streambed Aquitects to give you an unblockable creature.
Flying Ravenous Rats for one more? Sometimes, yes, but often the Thieving Sprite will manage to play Coercion instead of Mind Peel. Like Spellstutter Sprite, his ability isn’t at its best when you play it on-curve; you’re often better off slowrolling it until turn 5 or 6, and picking off whatever big spell your opponent was setting up.
Changelings are pretty much always good, no matter what. The Blue/Black deck doesn’t have any commons that trigger off of playing a tribal type spell, but this Changeling still does plenty. In conjunction with Eyeblight’s Ending and Boggart Loggers, you can kill any guy. You can use it to allow Streambed Aquitects to target any creature in play. You can use it to stop a tribal effect your opponent might be relying on, and so on.
As a 1/1 Merfolk for one, this guy can be fine for powering up things like Silvergill Douser. He can also fix your mana, either enabling a splash or just making sure you can cast your double-cost spells when your lands aren’t cooperating. His main role, though, is to make sure that all of your landwalk abilities work as they should, and so he’s often a very sizable threat for your opponent.
When you look at this card, you’ll probably first compare it to Assassinate, and that’s a fairly reasonable comparison. However, being an enchantment means that something like Wispmare can always pick you off later, and the fact that it’s “Enchant tapped creature” means that if it ever untaps, the Nap will fall off the creature. At common, you only need to worry about Pestermite, Stonybrook Angler, and Triclopean Sight, but there are a few more answers at uncommon and rare.
Like Inkfathom Divers and Deeptread Merrow, these guys are good primarily because of their landwalk ability. However, the three-mana removal ability is often useful against a Green deck (or against any Changeling), and it does combo nicely with the Amoeboid like I’ve mentioned. Still, you’re mostly looking at assembling a critical mass of unblockable men, and these guys help that plan out quite nicely.
Changelings are Changelings. This one doesn’t have the greatest ability out there, but you’ll still need guys to hold the ground, and he’s pretty decent at doing just that.
Wings of Velis Vel
Making your creature a 4/4 flyer for a turn isn’t the greatest effect when you’re already drafting 2/3 flyers and 3/3 islandwalkers, but it’s still a pump spell in a color where you don’t usually find them. On the other hand, making your creature into, essentially, a 4/4 Changeling can do a whole lot of good things for you. First of all, it counterspells both Nameless Inversion (well, you wind up with a 7/1 flyer) and Eyeblight’s Ending. Second, it can turn on any tribe-dependent creatures you might have. Finally, you can always just search it up with a Harbinger if you need a way to kill your opponent on a stalemated board.
The inability to counter Changeling spells can be brutal, since it would be really nice if you could stop Nameless Inversion or Changeling Titan. However, this still counters a lot of bombs that you can expect to play against, and it contributes to your overall gameplan of trying to make your opponent figure out what you’re going to cast on their turn.
Like the Warren Pilferers, other people at your table will want this guy much more than you will, and so you will probably not wind up with any of them in your stack, despite the fact that any you do pick up will probably make your deck. Without good goblin interactions in your deck, this is basically just a solid defender, either picking off a threat much bigger than himself, or discouraging an attack comprised of smaller men.
This is pretty much the same card as the Harasser. Elf drafters will take him off of you, but when you get him you’ll play him and you’ll block with him. Kithkin decks might be stymied by the three toughness, but even if they have the trick to save their guy from standard combat, Deathtouch will make sure that it’s at least a trade.
If you can cast this and stack three Pestermites on top of your deck, that’ll be a pretty good turn. However, chances are good that most of the time it won’t be nearly that powerful. I’ve played this card out of the board multiple times when I was involved in a matchup with a lot of trades happening, and even then it wasn’t the greatest thing in the world. I wouldn’t be embarrassed to play one of this card, but circumstances would have to be strange for me to play more than one.
A lot of people like this card more than I do, and they’re always happy to have it in their decks. After all, it kills Silvergill Dousers and Goldmeadow Harriers, messes up combat, and often does all this while cycling. However, I find that the effect is just too small for me to want to spend a card on it; much like in the last block, I find myself needing to cut good cards from my deck, not add marginal ones. Since Dreamspoiler Witches already do a good job taking out the utility guys, I’ll usually leave this in the sideboard. Still, it’s nice to have it so that you can bring it in when you know it’ll be good.
I’ve spent a lot of space talking about the Aquitects/Divers combo, and so why is the Will all the way down here? The simple fact is that the other cards all do things on their own, and they’re good at what they do. The Will simply makes an Island (permanently, though) and hopefully cycles. If I knew it would cycle every single time, no matter what, I would probably rank it slightly higher, but nothing less appealing than drawing this card when I have an empty board comes to mind.
I feel like the costs on this guy are just a little too high to justify him outside of either a Smokebraider deck or a Black control deck. As it is, I can’t really justify a seven-mana 3/3 to myself when I’m trying to put men in the air and defense on the ground.
Sometimes you’ll be able to pick off a spell for just two mana, and sometimes you’ll have to spend your whole turn tapping five to stop your opponent’s three-drop. Either way, it’s not the most exciting card you can have, especially since you’ll already have some Spellstutters to shut down scary cards from your opponents.
I expect that this will be the card that I get the most disagreement about. In Tenth Edition, I heard a lot of people say that they would always run Peek, and I think that this card is pretty comparable to that. However, I didn’t like Peek then, and I don’t really like Ponder now. It can help smooth out some questionable opening hands, and it can help you set up Clash wins, but I feel like most of the time it just eats up deck space.
The best thing that you can say about this guy is that he’ll let your Spellstutters actually counter on-curve spells when you’re on the play. While that could be enough to let him make the cut in the weaker Faerie decks, you won’t really be happy about playing him.
If you win the Clash, he’s a 3/3 for three, which is traditionally very good. Why, then, do I have him so low? My problem with the Rascal is that he just doesn’t do anything on his own; the only way in which he adds to your gameplan is by being a vanilla Merfolk. Then there’s the fact that you can’t count on him being a 3/3 to begin with, and a creature that’s only slightly better than an off-color morph really just doesn’t get me excited.
In the full Merfolk deck, where you’re planning to win either with Islandwalk or milling, you don’t really mind giving your opponent a flying defender if you’re stopping them from hitting you with a 5/5. In this deck, though, you’re trying to win with flying creatures, so giving your opponent a flying defender is just giving yourself another problem to deal with.
You don’t traditionally play 1/1 flyers for two, and the Clash ability on this one doesn’t change that fact. It’s still a faerie, and as such will make your from time to time so that your Spellstutters and cohorts can do what they do best, but you’d rather have a different faerie for that job.
You’re already aiming to cast guys that have evasion, so you don’t really need to spend an extra card just to give that to them. Untargetability is good too, but it’s not four-mana-and-a-card good.
Obviously the Harbinger that’s in your tribe is something that you want to see. Both the Faerie and Merfolk Harbingers will be high picks in your deck, since they each find Nameless Inversion and since they each find very high-quality men in your deck. Mostly, though, you want to see these guys because they have relevant evasion abilities in addition to the tutor ability.
Countering spells for just two mana is great, and the additional cost on this one can often be a benefit instead of a drawback. Returning Mulldrifter, Pestermite, and Inkfathom Divers can all be beneficial for your overall game-plan, but returning something like Shriekmaw can win the game by itself.
Glen Elendra Pranksters
The body on this Faerie isn’t the most impressive out there, but it still blocks many of the flying creatures you might run into. The ability, however, can turn very sick very fast, and if you manage to pick one of these up early, you can craft your whole deck around it. Spellstutter Sprites can lock your opponent out, Pestermites can continuously hassle your opponent’s plans, and Dreamspoiler Witches (with another few guys) can kill nearly anything out there.
On one hand, he’s a Changeling and he holds the ground. On the other hand, he can attack for five unblockable points when you combine him with Streambed Aquitects. While he might not be as high of a pick as something like Pestermite, he’ll still be a welcome addition to your final forty.
In the Faerie deck, you won’t have too many guys that live through the Infest side of this card, so it’s not as easily abusable as it might be in other decks. Still, you can use it to reset the board when you fall behind against a fast draw. However, since you’re so overloaded with evasion creatures, you can often use this card to Fortify your side and attack for the win. This versatility makes it a very high pick.
Pretty much everyone out there knows how good this guy is. You get Terror or a bigger Nekrataal, whichever is best for you. Like other creatures, though, he gets even better when you’re able to bounce and reuse him. I don’t think it would be easy to lose if you managed to start pulling off a Pranksters/Shriekmaw combination.
I drafted this deck in a three-on-three team draft this past Saturday, after the Lorwyn Release Event. I started out with a first-pick Nameless Inversion, and then moved into Blue when I got passed a fourth-pick Faerie Harbinger. Picks two and three wound up languishing in the sideboard, while the following deck managed a 6-0 rampage across the other team.
1 Tideshaper Mystic
1 Stonybrook Angler
2 Silvergill Douser
2 Spellstutter Sprite
2 Deeptread Merrow
2 Streambed Aquitects
1 Glen Elendra Pranksters
1 Faerie Harbinger
2 Sentinels of Glen Elendra
1 Inkfathom Divers
1 Familiar’s Ruse
1 Nameless Inversion
2 Glimmerdust Nap
My matches were against a Black/White splash Red deck that was mostly Goblins, a Red/White Giants deck, and a Red/Green Elementals deck.
Against the first deck, I was in a little bit of trouble game 1 because I had to spend both of my Spellstutters when I had the Pranksters out so that I could counterspell a Galepowder Mage. Two turns later, though, I drew into Nameless Inversion to reset the lock. In game 2, I simply played an evasion creature every turn starting turn 3, and killed him with them soon after.
Game 1 against the Giants deck featured one of the better draws my deck could produce, curving out with Deeptread Merrow, Streambed Aquitects, and Surgespanner. My opponent had a Stinkdrinker Daredevil to power out a fourth-turn Axegrinder, but since I was on the play, the Surgespanner set him so far back that by the time he could play two spells in one turn, he was already at one life. In game 2 I got slightly stuck on mana, but I was able to use Shriekmaw to kill his first big threat, and Familiar’s Ruse to preempt his second. All the while, I was attacking for four in the air.
In the last match, my opponent kept a Smokebraider/Fertile Ground hand that only contained one land, and he missed on turn 2 (though he did play a Flamekin Bladewhirl that hit me for a few points before Douser came online). On turns 3 and 4 I had a Pestermite, so even though he hit his land on turn 3, he still couldn’t cast anything. In the second game, we started to go long, as I had kept a Merfolk-heavy draw while my opponent kept a land-heavy draw. Eventually I started hitting him for five points each turn with Streambed Aquitects, Deeptread Merrow, and Inkfathom Divers. When he tried a Lash Out to stop me from killing him, I had a Spellstutter to win the game.
All in all, I think that this style of deck is very strong. It’s not as massively tribe-focused as an Elf, Kithkin, or even solid Merfolk deck might be, but I think it has the same power level. The key is that all the cards work well together, even if they don’t have rules text that makes that immediately obvious. I also enjoy the fact that I find myself with multiple good options on each turn, which makes me feel like I can win more games since I’ll have different plays for different situations.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me in the forums, via email, or on AIM.
ben at mundy dot net
SlickPeebles on AIM