Removed From Game — Actually Reading Your Lorwyn Spoiler

Read Rich Hagon every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Now that the Lorwyn Spoiler is in our grubby and impatient little hands, Rich Hagon revisits the techniques for Spoiler analysis he espoused last week and attempts to show how these touchstones can be useful in dissecting so much raw data. This episode also includes the largest font yet seen in a Magic article. (Mr. Hagon wishes to make it clear that this is not a challenge to a rapidly-escalating Font War with other writers. Thank you.)

Greetings, fellow Spoiler analysts. Far be it from me to ask you to go read other stuff written by me, but if you haven’t yet read last week’s article, “Reading your Lorwyn Spoiler,” now may be an appropriate time to do so, since I’ll be building on that foundation this time around. If you really can’t be bothered, I’m going to reprint some of the salient bits as we go along.

I’d like to start by making one thing very clear. Lorwyn is not your typical first day of the Magic year Prerelease, and the reason is simple math. Let’s cast our minds back to the days when the Magic year was extremely heavily weighted towards the October release. Take Urza’s Saga for example. Saga had 335 cards, or 315 if you forget basic lands. This was followed up by Urza’s Legacy and Urza’s Destiny, both weighing in at a mighty 143 cards. There was no fourth set that year to link with these three, so when you went to the Prerelease for Urza’s Saga you were looking at 52.5% of the entire Block.

Now let’s do the numbers for Lorwyn. The set has 300-odd cards, 280 without basics. Assume that both small sets — Morningtide and “Doughnut” — are going to be around the 165 mark. We can make a good guess that symmetry will be maintained between the two mini-Blocks this year, so “Jelly” should have 300 cards minus the 20 basics (we know there are tournament packs coming for “Jelly,” QED basic lands. This means that the 280 cards you’re currently poring over are approximately 30% of the full Block pool.

If all these numbers are starting to get to you, here’s my point. Lorwyn feels relatively weak compared to other Prereleases from the past. There’s one “Oh my God” card, and there are a few more that raised a pleased eyebrow. The power and the depth are missing, and that is quite simply because they are still to come. I’m prepared to pretty much guarantee that there will be more pizzazz in Morningtide than in Lorwyn, and for pizzazz read “cards I really want four of right now.” Just imagine a Prerelease where they only let you play with the White, Blue, and Black cards, and told you they were keeping all the Red and Green for January. That’s kind of what’s happened here. Last year, when assorted people were complaining about the supposed “tired” nature of Future Sight before the set came out, Mark Rosewater and Devin Low were wearing extremely confident smiles and saying, essentially, “let’s talk again once you actually see it.” I expect a similar response from inside Wizards towers this time. Frankly, I expect Morningtide to have more fireworks than bonfire night. (For all you non-Brits, that’s a historical reference to a time quite possibly before your country was a country). Does this mean I’m disappointed with Lorwyn? No, because there’s some cool stuff, and interesting stuff, and powerful stuff, and flavorful stuff. I just know there’s plenty left in the locker.

So, to business. I suggested last week that, in broad terms, we should use Standard as our reference point for working out the potential value of cards. In terms of Constructed Magic this is definitely the way to go, having seen the spoiler. Most Block Constructed strategies that present themselves from Lorwyn are at first glance both obvious and linear. Throw all the best Kithkin together, see if they beat the best Goblins, see if either of them can deal with the best Treefolk etc. As for Extended and “upwards,” there is very, very little to see in Lorwyn. There is, however, the “Oh my God” card, so that’s something. On the Limited front, the Prerelease weekend seems to have shown a fair Sealed environment that is less bomb-heavy than 10th Edition, and once players have to construct from a pool of just a Tournament Pack and two boosters, there are going to be some serious deckbuilding headaches ahead for the PTQ season to come, which is as it should be.

In order for us to get an overview of what may be possible, I said that we should start by looking at the land. So let’s, er, look at the land…

Reading Your Spoiler — Lands

Let’s kick off with the headline set of tribal dual lands. These fall into two categories. Quite simply, Auntie’s Hovel and Gilt-Leaf Palace are likely to come into play untapped in Constructed games, and the other three are likely to come into play tapped. This is because both Elves and Goblins are likely to be viable in November Standard, and they’re obvious in a nascent Block format. To be fair, it’s possible that all five may be untapped in Block, although I’m less certain about Wanderwine Hub and Secluded Glen than the first two, and I’d be really surprised if you can make Ancient Amphitheatre work for you at a Constructed level.

Next up, we have the Vivid lands. For Sealed play, these are comprehensively the value. Although you’ll find them irritating when you want them as your second White source on turn 7 for the 3/3 first striking flyer that’s going to save you, most of the time you’re going to find these really help out with your mana fixing. Two counters may not sound like a lot, but if you genuinely need three activations of a color outside regular basics, something’s either wrong or greedy or both in your manabase. Like any “comes into play tapped” lands, their usefulness for Draft purposes will very much depend on the tempo of the format. There isn’t a lot of incentive to spread yourself widely across multiple colors in Lorwyn beyond a typical Draft pairing, so perhaps Sealed is where they’re going to properly shine. While we’re talking of Sealed, Shimmering Grotto should be an automatic inclusion anytime it’s in your pool, which since it’s common will be quite often. Most spells need the generic mana it provides somewhere along the line, and spending one extra mana to get your big spell into play is a small price to pay. This probably will be decent in Draft, as paying three mana for a splashed Lash Out is more than fair.

Then we get the Hideaway lands. Now generally, when I see a set of cards that I think stink so badly it’s like chemical warfare, I make a few discreet phone calls to my trusted team of advisors to find out in what specific way I’ve misread them. This time, I got the green light from everyone I spoke to — these are terrible. I am by no means encyclopaedic on the hundreds of multiplayer formats that exist, so it may be that one of them, perhaps something like “The Worst Rares To Stalk The Earth” variant, can find a home for these monstrosities. Otherwise, these are basic lands that come into play tapped. I could italicise that last sentence, or maybe capitalize it or something, because I’m struggling to find the way to hammer the keyboard hard enough to warn you off these vile concoctions. Let’s try this:


Somebody somewhere will doubtless build a deck that features all five of these and manages to activate them all in one turn, and I have to say that would be pretty cool. Meanwhile, the Howltooth Hollow I unfortunately got at the Prerelease is currently propping up a dodgy table leg in the garage, and I’m guessing that’s the best use of a Howltooth Hollow you’ll ever hear about.

Deep breath. Now it’s time to move onto the artifacts. Here’s what I said last week:

Artifacts – Your task then, when it comes to reading the artifact section, is try to determine (a) whether there are obvious candidates for every deck under the sun (b) whether any artifact creatures are sufficiently better than their colored brethren to justify their inclusion, given their inherent weakness of dying to, wait for it, artifact removal, and (c) whether any of the “what the hell does this do again?” artifacts are likely to have a deck built around them anytime soon.

So how do they stack up? As for the first group, when it comes to Sealed play there are at least two mana fixers that everyone’s going to want to use. Both Springleaf Drum and Wanderer’s Twig are very solid, especially the Drum. Moonglove Extract will be played in exactly 100% of the Sealed pools that it’s found in, and Runed Stalactite is deceptively good, which won’t come as a surprise to those of you who played with Leonin Scimitar. As for Deathrender, that’s definitely one of the cards that got the word “foolish” attached to it during the weekend. “Foolish” translates as very good, in case you were wondering. We don’t have to worry about (b) since there are no Artifact Creatures this time around, which makes sense on a flavor level. As for the third group, Rings Of Brighthearth is the main candidate. You could “loot” twice, “ping” your opponent twice, draw a card twice, search your library twice… there are a lot of options, and as always with this kind of card, you need to work out whether the investment of five mana over two turns plus an already-active permanent ready to take advantage of it is a set of hoops that are worth going through.

Before we leave artifacts, I’d like to mention Thorn Of Amethyst. If you’re a serious Constructed player, and like to have your options covered, I suspect you want four of these. Ben Bleiweiss currently advocates trading them away, and for the right reasons, but he also tells you who will want them, and that’s why I’m getting four.

Now we’re onto the main five chunks of color goodness. For each, I’ll reprint my guidelines and highlight points of interest along the way.


2/2 ground guys for 1W or WW, probably with a useful ability. Knight Of Meadowgrain sits here, and with Lifelink plus its Kithkin status, chances are that Block will like this guy a lot. Why you’d play it in Standard over either Knight Of The Holy Nimbus, Serra Avenger, or even Benalish Cavalry, is beyond me.

2 power guy for W, probably with a drawback. Goldmeadow Stalwart — well, the drawback is something you can build around in Block, and a straight-up 2/2 for one solitary mana is something that weenie builders are going to want for their Standard arsenal. Whether they can squeeze in enough Kithkin to make this happen remains doubtful, but it’s the sort of thing you should keep under review for when new cards get added to the Block.

2/2 flyer for 3W or 2WW. Kinsbaile Balloonist has a similar cost and effect to Seasoned Marshall, and that guy didn’t fly. Strictly Limited, but good.

Rubbish effects with “draw a card” tacked on. Oh me of little faith. Maybe Wizards have worked out that a rubbish effect with “draw a card” on is still a rubbish effect. This time, they haven’t bothered trying to bribe us with cantrips, they’ve decided to let the rubbish effects be rubbish all on their own. Favor Of The Mighty and the two-mana Fog Pollen Lullaby are right up there on the poorness scale.

3/3 flyers for 5. Angel Of Mercy is a 3/3 flyer that gains you three life in 10th Edition. In Lorwyn, we get Plover Knights, and they have First Strike. Let me assure you, with almost fifty one-toughness creatures in the set, Plover Knights is going to gain you a lot more than three life if it sits on defense. And it’s a very decent Sealed threat. Nice card.

4/4 flyer for 6. This cupboard is bare.

Some incredibly powerful game-winning flyer for pots of mana (think Akroma, Angel of Wrath). Yep, it’s called Purity, and is part of the Elemental Incarnation cycle. Never mind that it turns off all burn spells, although that might help to find it a place in Standard somewhere. Never mind that it keeps cycling back to your library when it dies — how often is it going to die? Just remember that it costs six mana, it’s 6/6, and it flies. Sealed carnage, Draft goodness, but not quite the White Akroma, which was in Standard last time I checked.

Some form of targeted removal, usually pretty narrow (Condemn is one of the best in recent times). Oh helloooooo. Three, count them, three bits of White goodness that might even persuade you to draft the color highly. Condemn is still in Standard, and although adding “or blocking” to it shouldn’t have upped the cost by as much as it has, Neck Snap is a Limited certainty and eminently splashable. Oblivion Ring single-handedly says to me that you should be playing with enchantment removal in your Sealed decks, because this guy is no respecter of reputations, it just gets rid of pretty much anything in the non-land universe, and for three mana that’s filthy. Talking of filth for three mana, we have Crib Swap. As a Sorcery, it would probably be confined to Limited play. As the instant that it is, I see this as a definite for your November Standard U/W Control deck. I believe there is a two-mana creature that nullifies Wrath Of God and assorted other high-maintenance goodies? Not any more there isn’t. Oblivion Ring and Crib Swap are significant additions to White, and to the set.


1/1 for 2 with nice ability (Merfolk Looter). Amoeboid Changeling may turn out to be okay in Block, although I doubt it. Getting 2/1 out of Deeptread Merrow means that the Islandwalk ability doesn’t desperately matter, and then we have Spellstutter Sprite, which in Limited looks pretty miserable, but may make it into tribal Block play.

2/1 flyers for 1U, some kind of drawback. This hole has been left unfilled. Instead, R&D have given us a pair of flyers with the useful ability of Flash in exchange for one extra mana. I’d be surprised if either Pestermite or Scion Of Oona make it out of Limited, but the Gaea’s Anthem-style boost ability on the Scion makes it the better bet.

2/2 flyers for 4, with useful abilities (Aven Fisher, or 1/3 Thieving Magpie). The Sentinels Of Glen Elendra have an extra toughness for the price at 2/3, but I’d rather have an ability and two toughness, like the clearly excellent Faerie Harbinger. In Sealed, finding your best Faerie is a great tutor effect, especially given that, as you should know by now, all Changelings are all creature types, so Changeling Titan (7/7 for five mana) is a card that can be tutored for with any of the five Harbingers, all of which are fabulous in Limited. In a slow Block format, you could theoretically chain four of these together, and flying for two, four, six, then eight through the air appears to be twenty damage over four turns, all with casting-at-flash-speed backup. Probably not good enough, but worth making sure.

3/3 flyers for 5, or for good times, 4/4 flyers for 5 with no ability (Air Elemental). Not so much. I guess Guile is closest, and that’s just a Sealed finisher with no Constructed application.

Countermagic – the more you pay, the more certain that it will be a “hard” counterspell i.e. no get out clauses for opponents. At one, expect super-narrow (Spell Snare) and at two think of counters that aren’t always counters (Mana Leak, Remove Soul). Three mana is the benchmark for an actual spell that Counters come what may (Cancel) and if you’re paying four, it better have something good tacked on (Rewind, Dismal Failure). Oh boy, am I ever excited?! It’s hard to imagine a more promising suite of Countermagic. At anywhere from two mana upwards, we’ve been given Broken Ambitions, and in Standard that could see play, especially if aggro decks run a super-tight curve as they may very well do. I said that for two mana counterspells wouldn’t always counter spells. In Lorwyn, although that’s technically true (since Familiar’s Ruse demands that you have a creature to return to hand), for Block or even Standard purposes, this could be arranged. I suspect lots of people will be moaning that Counterspell is back. At three they gave us Cancel+, which sounds like the programming language for MTGO, but which is actually Faerie Trickery. Only a metagame with heavy faeries running around the place will stop this being played as an automatic part of Standard decks. And then at four we have the flagship Cryptic Command, which in addition to countering spells, drawing cards, bouncing permanents, and tapping creatures is currently cooking my evening meal, which means I may have to marry it if the sex continues to be good enough. Okay, I’m a Blue mage at heart, but boyohboyohboyohboy R&D have delivered.

Card draw – tacked on to multiple creatures, either as combat dealers or occasionally as a tap ability (this latter is seriously good news, and is almost always rare i.e. Arcanis the Omnipotent). One of the bigger questions around Lorwyn is the potential role of Planeswalkers in Standard. Jace Beleren is I suspect the most likely candidate for this, and as Ben Bleiweiss pointed out, maybe you don’t mind your opponent having the occasional bonus card in exchange for keeping Jace alive and drawing. By the way, sadly Jace isn’t quite as good as somebody at the Prerelease thought, who cast him and proceeded to draw four cards. Tidings for three mana, anyone?

Straight up card drawing spells at all costs and varieties, including nearly-blank one mana (Peek), up through genuine card advantage (Compulsive Research) to Completely Restock My Hand And Win The Game, which should cost no less than five (Tidings). Ponder is a terrific addition to the one-mana slot. The ability to simply dispense with the top three and shuffle up before drawing your card is good news, and swapping Ponder for the best of your top three seems fine. Expect this to see muchos play(os). (I like to keep my Mexican readers happy.)

Meanwhile, hats off for the interesting hunk of goodness that is Fathom Trawl. To be honest, this is probably my number two card in the entire set, and I’m delighted to say I’ve got my four before anybody else decides that it’s better than Tidings. Well okay, maybe it’s worse on occasion, but the whole point of occasions is that they don’t happen very often, like Christmas, Birthdays, or the Mets making the post-season (shame). Drawing three action spells seems to me to be seriously good times, and in an environment where tapping out still leaves you Pact Of Negation backup, I expect this to be all over Control decks in November Standard like a rash.

As you can tell, I quite like Blue, and before I leave I want to share with you a near-unkillable lock coming your way in November Standard. Turn 4, Glen Elendra Pranksters. Turn 5, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. From turn 6 on, every opponent’s upkeep goes like this:

Cast Mistblind Clique, Championing the Glen Elendra Pranksters. Tap all land opponent controls. Return Mistblind Clique to your hand, Glen Elendra Pranksters returns to play. In essence, Mana Short your opponent in their every upkeep. Ways round it include Coalition Relics already in play, but not a lot else. This could be way too clunky, but it’s quite a payoff.

Oh Blue, I do love you.


Decent removal. This used to be at the 2-3 mana range, but is increasingly in the 3-4 range nowadays. Lorwyn may roll this back somewhat, since in any multicolor environment the difficulty of casting B/x spells allows some shaving off the mana costs (think Terminate for BR). Well, let’s see. Shriekmaw is kind of removal at 1B, since Evoke means you often won’t bother to cast it at it’s full face value. In Limited it probably functions as a rather good Flametongue Kavu-style guy. Constructed? With an optional body attached I can see this maybe being used as some kind of finisher, since Evoke is kind of a reverse-engineered kicker. Eyeblight’s Ending is the kind of card that needs to know the metagame for Block before it’s an automatic inclusion, like Rend Flesh or Rend Spirit. At five you have Weed Strangle, and abilities notwithstanding, that’s a big cost at Sorcery speed. One card that looks versatile and good is Nameless Inversion, which in Limited could interact cosily with your fat flyer going unopposed for the win, but will mostly take down plenty of small to medium men.

Mass removal – you’re not getting another Damnation for a while, which let’s face it you weren’t supposed to have in the first place. Hideous Laughter and Mutilate type effects are likely, which is good for dealing with Protection from Black monsters. Okay, there are holes, and then there are holes. The complete absence of a dedicated Black mass removal spell lends credence to the idea that Wizards want you to play with your creatures. Expect Morningtide to address this.

1/1 flyers for 2. Nectar Faerie is authentically bad. Oona’s Prowler probably likewise, although it conceivably goes in a discard deck, where the cost of the discard to your opponent may become significant. Even at 3/1, for Constructed purposes it’s unlikely to figure highly.

2/4 or 4/2 for 4, with a mixed bag of abilities, often dedicated to a particular theme i.e. madness. Dreamspoiler Witches. Hornet Harasser. Moonglove Winnower. Quill-Slinger Boggart. Right, read them? If you’re a Constructed player, now you can forget about them. If you’re a Sealed fan, this lot is the price you pay for wanting to play with Black spells.

3/3 ground guy for 5. If you think of it in these terms, Shriekmaw is clearly excellent value for Limited purposes. Hmm, ShriekmawPoisonbelly OgreShriekmawPoisonbelly Ogre… oh, alright then. Hunter Of Eyeblights is a card worthy of mention because it has quite an interesting ability. With cards like Momentary Blink or other assorted re-casters, it has the ability to slowly machine gun his way through opposing monsters. Equally, players thrilled with Llanowar Reborn may find themselves regretting the fact that their +1/+1 counter turned into a big red target for the Hunter. Unfortunately, five mana makes this sort of scenario the world of Preconstructed Theme decks, which is a great world, but won’t be winning you a PTQ anytime soon.

Occasional massive flying Legend. Dread may not fly, but Fear does the job just as effectively.

Discard – probably situational at 2 mana, broader at 3 mana. Anything that consistently works at 1 mana that doesn’t involve 17 people other than you deciding what gets discarded should seriously interest you. I swear to you that when I wrote this last week I hadn’t looked at any kind of full or even partial spoiler. In case you haven’t spotted it yet, Black has the ‘Oh My God’ card in Lorwyn. It’s Thoughtseize or “SuperDuress” as it may come to be known. There are a few naysayers who are pointing out that two life is, well, two life. Can’t fault the logic, but the sheer brutality of Thoughtseize makes up for it. You can even target yourself if you need a hand getting your Reanimator strategy up and running. This is the one card in the entire set that I looked at and was truly amazed that it had been printed. Look, I’m doing lots of Extended testing right now, and Duress is a massive irritation to all sorts of strategies. Cabal Therapy is extremely nasty. Even cards like Augur of Skulls and Stupor have been running around in Standard to solid effect. Thoughtseize is awesome, and if you don’t think so, your card has dollar bills written on it.

Graveyard recursion – probably at 4 mana attached to a body if going back to hand, or if going direct to play probably has a drawback. 3 mana or less straight to play is good times. Yes, it’s Makeshift Mannequin, so-called because it’s a Mannequin, and it’s makeshift. Clever. You’ll happily play this in any Sealed deck with something resembling big splashy monsters, and almost certainly nowhere else. Footbottom Feast could be very good late game in Sealed, and maybe even in Draft, and the cantrip (draw a card) is a nice bonus. Boggart Birth Rite is a serious no-no, however.

Graveyard disruption – Extirpate is as good as it gets, so you’re probably looking to see if there’s anything to replace Cranial Extraction. There isn’t.

Card draw – usually linked to life loss, expect approximately 1 life per card. Now this one is interesting. Night’s Whisper let you draw two cards and lose two life, and that’s what Hoarder’s Greed does too. On the plus side, it lets you do it again sometimes. On the minus side, it lets you do it again sometimes. This is one of those cards where the whole Clash mechanic could be really significant. At two cards for two life it’s good. At four cards for four life it’s mostly excellent, or occasionally terrible, and I suspect that anytime you get above that you may be in trouble. Still, I suppose as a turn 6 play with two cards in hand and at fourteen life (not unreasonable in Sealed) you could end up with a grip of ten cards and be on six life, which should be more than enough action to take it home.


The world’s worst monsters at every cost above 1. I stand by this. Red has horrible Limited monsters. They don’t fly, they don’t evade, they’re weak and expensive for their cost with often tenuous of expensive abilities. If I’m playing Red as a main color, it’s Sealed, and I’ve got lots of Giants.

2/1 for 1 with a big drawback. Now this is exciting, possibly at least. There is indeed a 2/1 for one mana, and its drawback, like its Kithkin cousin, can be circumvented during deckbuilding. It may well feature in Draft, and almost certainly Block. Flamekin Bladewhirl is the guy, and you will be seeing him soon.

2/2 for 2. How completely miserable is this lot? Two mana in Lorwyn buys you a 1/2 Boggart Sprite Chaser. It buys you a 1/1 Firebelly Changeling, Flamekin Spitfire (complete with four-mana ability, joy!) and Smokebraider, all of whom are, to coin a phrase, crap. Or, drum roll, you can get an actual 2/1 for two in the shape of Soulbright Flamekin. Ironclaw Orcs had a drawback of sorts, but was essentially a Glory Seeker. No chance of that this time. Excuse me, I have to go and wash my hands after writing about this collection of cardboard catastrophe, I feel unclean.

3/2 for 4, perhaps with haste or first strike.3/3 for 4. There’s a gap here, and that’s largely because the Red creatures are bigger and badder at the top end. Thundercloud Shaman is 4/4, Sunrise Sovereign is 5/5, Hearthcage Giant is 5/5 too, and Hamletback Goliath is so big as to be the answer to every Timmy’s prayers. I mean, it even makes me want to play multiplayer, just to make this guy 436/436 or something. Fling, anyone?

1/2 flyers for 3 – yes, I know that’s rubbish. I know you know that I know that that’s rubbish, but hang on, there’s a whopping zero flyers for Red. I recommend teaming with some evasion color like Blue or White. Actually, I recommend playing Red burn as your splash spells and getting the hell out of there.

Targeted removal –
1 mana for 2 damage, ideally to creature or player
2 mana for 2 damage with some kind of bonus (Sudden Shock)
2 mana for 3 damage is seriously good (Incinerate, who knew?)
3 mana for 3 damage is more likely, as Incinerate doesn’t come around that often.

Tarfire is very nice. Anytime somebody lets you play with Shock, and with a possible mini-bonus thrown in, can’t argue. No Sudden Shock equivalent, but then we’ve always got, er, Sudden Shock. What we do have is Hurly Burly, a card that might end up in Block if lots of x/1s turn up masquerading as good creatures. In Sealed, I think it’s an auto-include, as there are, wait for it, forty-nine x/1s in the set, and from my observations at Prereleases up and down the land, plenty of punters are playing them. I said Incinerate doesn’t come around that often, and although I’m aware of the absence of “it can’t be regenerated” which is a fair part of Incinerate’s value, I was still pleasantly surprised to find Lash Out in the list. It’s a Block staple, and the possibility of bonus three to the dome may take it all the way to Standard. Like all Clashing cards, ways to manipulate the library will likely determine if they get to a Constructed level. Nonetheless, this is one of the best cards in the set for Limited.

Some kind of X spell, preferably with something more exciting tacked on (Blaze rarely saw play except in lesser formats) . Sadly not, yet more evidence that Wizards want Lorwyn fights to be settled by creatures.

Mass removal – rarely taking out flyers, some kind of Earthquake effect, likely to involve multiple Red mana. Ashling, The Pilgrim is one of the more interesting cards in the set. I’ve seen him blowing up the creature world almost straight away, and I’ve seen him with the best part of a dozen counters on him. For choice, I’d always want to play him no earlier than turn 6, as making him 3/3 at least gets him out of range of some stuff. Molten Disaster hasn’t made much of an impact on Constructed, so this shouldn’t either. Nonetheless, a Limited card with nice options, a top design.

Overall, you can tell that I’m not fond of Red’s monsters outside a Sealed environment. Pinpoint removal is top notch, so as usual Red will be the number one support color in Draft. The one card that falls outside my parameters from last week is Boggart Shenanigans, and whether this makes it to Standard is one of the more interesting progressions I’ll be watching for. Three mana and an entire card is quite an Investment, but its absence of a cost to the ability may make it something abusable. “Empty the Warrens for 10 Goblins = 10 damage if you Damnation them away” seems just a starting point for this.


Mana fixing 1/1s for 1. Since there’s no half a mana cost in Magic, if your 1/1s give you acceleration or fixing, that’s good (Boreal Druid, Llanowar Elves) and if it costs 2, that’s bad. Mana fixing spells usually cost around 3 (Harrow, Kodama’s Reach) . Mana fixing is fine for Limited, less so for Constructed. Leaf Gilder is top for Sealed and Draft. Maybe Block, not Standard. At three mana the Elvish Harbinger is expensive, but one hell of a fixer. As for spells, no complaints about Fertile Ground. It’s been good in the past, and will be now too.

3/3s for 3. You may not see one this time, as Nessian Courser is already in that “slot.”
4/4s for 4, with abilities, often slow
. Bramble Horns looks nice for Limited, and Dauntless Dourbark might turn out to be an enormous Block finisher for mono-Green, if such a thing exists.

Any number of 5/5s and 6/6s costing anywhere from 5 to 7. The key to all these guys is the word “trample.” Without trample, they’re probably rubbish. It takes a lot to impress me when it comes to fat Green guys, but there are a couple that I was happy enough to see. Oakgnarl Warrior is a prime example of what I mean about Trample being important. He’s decent in Limited at 5/7 anyway, but with Trample he gets to avoid spending three turns effectively chomping through a Mogg War Marshal. As for Changeling Titan, this is an amazing uncommon for Sealed, and combined with a Harbinger it’s monstrous.

Targeted enchantment and artifact removal — one mana is amazing, two is about right, three needs to have something else attached (Krosan Grip is Naturalize for two plus Split Second for one) . Zero artifact removal here as such, although Rootgrapple can fill this role at a scandalous cost. The plus side to that spell is that it buys you versatility, especially with regard to Planeswalkers, since it features the word “permanent,” a useful fact in these new-type times. Spring Cleaning is a dedicated Enchantment killer, and I believe there are enough bits and pieces floating about the place to make this a maindeck card in Sealed, especially as everyone in the known universe will be wanting to play Oblivion Ring.

Mass removal for flyers – maybe an X spell. We do have something, and it’s called Cloudthresher. It’s not quite an X spell, but it does Pyroclasm the skies.

Pump spells – once it costs more than 1, you want it to be all singing, all dancing, all winning. Anywhere between +2+2 and +4+4 is the one-mana benchmark, with Might Of Old Krosa beating Giant Growth in exchange for Sorcery speed. I’m afraid that nothing here is going to usurp the pump spells that you’re already using. Fistful Of Force would be an interesting competitor for Might Of Old Krosa if it actually cost the same rather than twice as much. Meanwhile, bomb Sealed rare is undoubtedly Epic Proportions at +5/+5 and Trample forever. Carnage. Since we now have Epic and Mythic Proportions, expect to see Pro-themed versions soon, including Marco Proportions (+6/+6), Gabe Proportions (+4/+4), Osyp Proportions (+1/+1) and Kenji Proportions (-4/-4).

So that’s a guide to the individual colors. Now let’s move on to some things that you should consider when looking at any card.

“Take it to Extremes,” and “How long does the effect take?” – The perfect card for this is perfect in every way, although it won’t take any notice. Yes, it’s Impervious Perfect. Let’s take it to Extremes. If left unchecked, the elf generator will churn out what amounts to a 2/2 elf every turn cycle. That’s an army of Grizzly Bears. Now let’s consider how long that army takes to assemble. Suppose you’re on the draw (going second.) You make the Perfect on turn 3. It becomes active on your turn 4, and you activate it for the first time at the end of your opponent’s turn 5. You then attack with your token on your turn 5, before making another at the end of their turn 6. On your turn 6 you attack for four. Turn 7 you attack for six, turn 8 you attack for eight, and turn 9 you thoroughly kill them. For just one card, that’s pretty funky, and exactly the kind of engines that the Theme Decks are so great at demonstrating. What’s your opponent doing, however? How about turn 1 2/2, turn 2 2/2 hit you for 2, turn 3 Char you plus hit you for four, turn 4 Incinerate times two and hit you for four, turn 5 hit you for four. Oh wait, there is no turn 5, because you’ve just died to Kithkin Deck Wins. (Yeah, it’s a casual format with Char still legal, okay?) At that point, you’ve made precisely zero tokens. Knowing how long you have to wait for gratification is key to evaluating cards like this.

Think of Multiples — The Goldmeadow Stalwart I mentioned in our last example demonstrates this principle too. Alone, it doesn’t do much, especially without any Kithkin buddy to power him out turn 1. Now imagine him with a second copy and a third random Kithkin. That’s how the best Aggro decks start out, with 2/2 one-drops plus backup. The Red 2/1 may be even more useful, but synergize either of them with quick monsters and burn and you have the makings of a contender.

Narrow cards should be Powerful cards — Can you say Thoughtseize? There are so many things that Thoughtseize can’t do for you. (Kill a creature. Remove anything from the game. Draw you a card. Deck your opponent. Destroy an artifact. Counter a spell. Reset the board. Gain life. Regenerate a creature. Re-animate a creature. That’s the first ten that spring to mind.) It even loses you life, guaranteed every time. So this is definitely narrow. Sometimes it doesn’t do anything at all. If they have no hand, it’s a blank. Thankfully, the power of the card is like a laser beam, incredibly narrow but supremely focused, most likely as part of a whopping great twelve-card package of discard at one mana. Thoughtseize, Duress, and Cabal Therapy may be the closest thing we’ve seen to an Unholy Trinity in Magic for some time. I can’t imagine a format where this is bad news. Get them.

Listen to R&D — Only two things came through to me really strongly from looking at Lorwyn. The first is that there was clearly a meeting (or nine) where it was decided that there was going to be a steady flow of interest in the months ahead, and there wasn’t going to be a diabolical splurge of goodness all focused on a record-breaking sales month in October. We all know that cards get bumped back to other sets all the time, and you can imagine the conversations along the lines of:

“Too good. Morningtide for you.”
“Too good. Jelly for you.”
“Too good. Doughnut for you.”

The second clear indication stems from the first. Wizards have been sparing in the number of “must haves” in the set. If we go back to Mirrodin Block, Chrome Mox was the chase card, along with Arcbound Ravager. You could easily pay $20-25 a pop for these. In Champions there wasn’t really an uber-Rare [Cranial Extraction? — Craig]. For Ravnica, the dual lands were there to drive sales, so a single chase rare was unnecessary. Time Spiral had the entire Timeshifted experience to send the boxes rolling off the print lines. Since then, however, there have now been three sets on the bounce (ignoring 10th) with a dedicated chase rare. Planar Chaos has Damnation. Name some other genuine must-haves. Future Sight has Tarmogoyf. Likewise. Now Lorwyn has Thoughtseize. On the basis of the totally imaginary conversations within R&D that I’ve had in my head — and what greater recommendation of accuracy could there be? — I believe that both Morningtide and Doughnut will have any number of killer goodies that will make us feel Apocalypse is back in town, and that Jelly will repeat the chase rare formula of the past year.

Treat Reprints with Caution — Big congratulations to Wizards. Reprints were virtually at zero, with Fertile Ground I believe being the only one. It makes the game look fresh and exciting, and FG is a good card to have in the set. As I say, well done.

Huh? — I couldn’t go without sharing with you my list of “Huh?” cards, which have weirdness attached to them, and might eventually end up being useful to somebody somewhere:

Forced Fruition — you can deck someone in Sealed with this in approximately three to four spells time. So the question becomes, if they draw their entire deck, can their best three or four spells beat your random collection of land and spells? Having tried this once, my answer is “probably,” but this is still a fun card if you like a gamble.

Hoarder’s Greed — I’ve talked about this already. How many cards is too many cards?

Nettlevine Blight — from a flavor perspective, this is fabulous. Eat a land, it spreads to a nearby land, cross-infects a creature, then another land as with diminishing resources the player tries to find a cure. Sadly, it’s too slow for almost any conceivable Constructed format, although in a super-slow Mono-Black Control…

Colfenor’s Urn — I mean, could this possibly be any good?


This has not been a traditional Set Review. I haven’t attempted to analyse every card in the set for you, and am well aware of plenty of good things, especially for Limited play, that I haven’t touched on. That’s for others to do. Here at Removed From Game, the idea is to find something a little different, and I hope that over the last two weeks I’ve enabled you to look at future Spoiler lists in ways you’ve not done before. The Pro scene once again takes centre stage for the next few weeks, as I’ll be bringing you the definitive answer to what will win Pro Tour: Valencia, then I’ll be bringing you the definitive answer to what won Pro Tour: Valencia, and then I’ll be bringing you the definitive answer to who won the Magic Invitational.

Until all that, go read.

As ever,

Thanks for reading.