Removed From Game – Here Comes Mister Jordan: Five Lor-Lor-Mor Drafts

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While not featuring quite as many pie charts, dataflow analysis grids, and quantum mana differentiator pylons as Paul Jordan’s epic articles – actually, there are no pie charts – Rich Hagon brings you analysis of 39 LorLorMor Draft decks and a full 10 decklists of variable quality and sanity. These are brought to you at a cost of $0.000000001 each, allowing for standard deviation, taxation, and Gribble’s Third Law of Mechanics.

Here comes Mister Jordan… Well, not quite, as I’ve got almost to the end of my first sentence without a spreadsheet. Nonetheless, in my own small way I hope to add to your understanding of the new Lorwyn-Lorwyn-Morningtide Draft format with some information. Lots of information in fact. So, to set the scene. This weekend saw 15 players of varying ability come to test out the new format over 5 Drafts. For each, I’ll list my deck. For each, I’ll list the winning deck. (These, astonishingly, are not always the same thing. Or even ever.) I’ll tell you about some of my more interesting matches. And, I’ll give you the records of every deck of the weekend, all 39 of them. Let’s get this party started.

Draft One

With Galepowder Mage and Knight Of Meadowgrain getting things going, I’m well en route to my favorite all-Lorwyn archetype. Here’s the deck :

Wellgabber Apothecary is pretty poor, but I wanted it over a 17th land. With 14 2cc spells in the deck, this really doesn’t need 17. Against James, a local FNM player in Round One, my double Cenn’s Heir opening goes up against Mirror Entity. That’s a fight I should lose. Forfend manages to save my last blocker however, and the Reinforce from my Burrenton Bombardier takes me home. Game Two introduces me to a delightfully sick little combo. After a nice start of Knight Of Meadowgrain, Ballyrush Banneret and Goldmeadow Harrier, I make Galepowder Mage. Then I cast Meadowboon. Do you know what Meadowboon does when it leaves play? Yep, counters all round. Do you know that my Meadowboon left play every turn, thanks to my Galepowder Mage? That’s filth. 2-0.

Next up is Neil Rigby, a well-known name here in the UK and 7-time Pro Tour veteran. In Game One I push him down to 4 in double-quick tiume, but Game-Trail Changeling (sooo good) helps him to stabilise. Then he starts the clunky machine gun Thornbite Staff, and I’m one down. Off a mulligan to 6, Ballyrush Banneret acts like rocket fuel, and a Skirmisher, Cenn’s Heir, Burrenton Bombardier and a second Banneret, coupled with a smidgeon of removal, tie things up at 1 each. In the decider, it’s the same as Game One with early pressure, this time leading to Galepowder Mage. There’s no Game-Trail Changeling, and I’m into the final.

Paul, who’s played in a couple of Pro Tours, is up next, running Elves. He makes Lys Alana Huntmaster, adds an Obsidian Battle Axe, and he churns out the Elves as if there’s no tomorrow, which for me, there isn’t. Game Two is the first authentic non-event of the weekend, as I mulligan to 6, keep Knight Of Meadowgrain, Lash Out and 4 land, and proceed to die having drawn 6 land in a row. Oh well. So, here’s the results of the 8 decks :

3-0 – Gb – Elves, splashing for removal
2-1 — Wr – Kithkin, kithkin, kithkin
2-1 — RW – Elementals
2-1 — BU – Faeries
1-2 — Buw – Mildly Faeries
1-2 — RG – Large men, lots of removal
1-2 — UW – Merfolk, milling strategy, key components missing
0-3 — BU – Heavy Faeries, bits of Rogue

Color major drafters : W — 3, U — 4, B — 3, R — 2, G — 2

Paul’s winning deck :

He’s been a bit cheeky with his mana, but fair play to him, he didn’t drop a game. On we go to Draft number two….

A few thoughts on the new cards. Mosquito Guard is pretty dull, but an acceptable combat trick that’s a guy in a pinch. Cenn’s Tactician is a superb one drop, because it gives you late game when you bring out a flyer or two, especially good with Kinsbaile Balloonist. Order Of The Golden Cricket is nice too, and well worth the activation cost when those irritating little green players turn up with their Woodland Changelings. As for the Zephyrnaut, they are awesome. Talk about duality. On the one hand they’re a thoroughly uninspiring Gray Ogre. Then – ta da – they’re Serra Angel. So much fun.

We’ve already seen what Meadowboon can do under peculiar circumstances, but what to do with him normally is a tricky choice. You frequently end up with 4 or 5 monsters in play, and those counters are awesome. On the other hand, a Hill Giant is sometimes a valuable resource. Then you have to weigh up whether they’ll have to kill it anyway, thus profitably letting you have a monster and the counters to boot. An interesting card all round.

I’m drawn against James again first up. This time he’s playing RB Goblins, with lots of removal. I mulligan to 5 – joy – and his combination of Shriekmaw, Footbottom Feast getting back Shriekmaw, and Shriekmaw second time around virtually seals the deal. The card that actually does it is Rival’s Duel. When someone first told me about it, I thought of it as a kind of Arena or Contested Cliffs kind of card, and the hoops you had to go through to make it work seemed substantial. Then James looks at my board of Mosquito Guard, Meadowboon and Hillcomber Giant and proceeds to run the two 3/3s into each other, allowing me the pyrrhic victory of a solitary counter going on my Mosquito Guard. Ah. That’ll be a bit good then. 0-1.

After a quick start in the second, it’s up to James to try and stablilise, which he tries to do by at least emptying my hand of it’s two remaining cards via an Evoked Mournwhelk. I respond by using my Bombardier as a Reinforcement, and my 3/2 is now a 5/4. I power in for the win. 1-1.

It’s really, really hard to win when you mulligan to 4, but it can be done, as witnessed by thousands of you when Gab Nassif beat Patrick Chapin at Worlds. But Chapin wasn’t playing Kithkin, and James isn’t playing Dragonstorm. I murderise him in less time than it took to tell you about it. 2-1.

Paul’s in my way again in Round Two. He’s UB. I see all my 1-drops as a kickoff, and the Cenn’s Tactician piles on the pressure. Paul comes back in the second, with removal, including the deeply irritating Violet Pall and the deeply good Nameless Inversion. I die, facing multiple regenerating and Deathtouch creatures, utterly blunting what limited threat I pose. Game Three was a strange one, since I don’t have a fast start, and we basically trade damage back and forth for a while, me on the ground, him in the air. Then I evoke Meadowboon, and there’s suddenly a discernible gap between my guys and his, and you don’t want to be on the defensive with 1/1 flyers for 3 mana. Once again, my Kithkin have served me well.

Mark Pinder is an improving local player who works hard at his game, especially on the Constructed side. He’s in the final with a GB deck that has some black Faeries and a bunch of green Treefolk. His weenie flyers and some removal make short work of me first up, but piling in repeatedly brings the score to 1-1. And the decider? 3 spells, 11 land. Ho hum. To the results :

3-0 – GB – Treefolk and Faeries
2-1 – WW – Kithkin, kithkin, kithkin
2-1 – RU – No particular theme
2-1 – RGu – Giants and Elves
1-2 – RU – Elementals, plus Mirror Entity
1-2 – RB – Golbins
1-2 – UB – Faeries and Rogues, slow and clunky
0-3 – UW – Merfolk, again missing key components

Color major drafters : W — 2, U — 4, B — 3, R — 4, G – 2

Mark’s 3-0 deck :

For the final draft of day one, there were some personnel changes chez Hagon that led to a feeble 7 man draft. So I drafted, and then played a couple of games as other matches finished. You’ll be relieved to hear that I moved away from the little white men :

It makes a nice change to actually have some removal myself this time, and some of the Morningtide stuff is very tasty. Fencer Clique is going to irritate the hell out of people for the next three months. A 3 power flyer that’s super-hard to kill for just 4 mana, and without the usual drawback of having 1 toughness. With or without the Prowl cost, I watched Morsel Theft change the complexion of a lot of games during the weekend, not least because it’s often enough to allow you one more turn to attack with your flyers against increasingly overmatching ground forces.

I split two matches, beating James for a third time with his GRb base-Elves deck, before newcomer Gary did a proper number on me with Ashling The Pilgrim and then Militia’s Pride. To be fair, this wasn’t just a tale of two Rares, as he played well too. As to the results :

3-0 – UW – Merfolk, missing nothing at all, thank you
2-1 – RW – No obvious theme
2-1 – UB – Faeries
1-1 – BU – Faeries and Goblins
1-2 – GWb – Treefolk and Elves
1-2 – RW – Giants-ish
0-3 – GRb – Elves

Color major drafters : W — 4, U — 3, B — 2, R — 3, G – 2

The pilot of the 3-0 Merfolk deck, Dave Sutcliffe, did European Grand Prix coverage with me in 2006, and covered Pro Tour : Valencia, so it’s no surprise to me that he had a decent deck. Actually, decent doesn’t do it justice :

What a beating! With the Stonybrook Schoolmaster in play, Dave was quickly in a position to do the oh-so-humorous trick with Summon The School, namely tapping 8 Merfolk to gain 8 life via Judge Of Currents before the card gets returned to hand from the graveyard. If a bunch of 1/1s can’t win it for him by sheer weight of numbers, he can turn to Drowner Of Secrets for a very short clock milling win. Then there’s Hoofprints, a longterm threat creator. And if everything’s going horribly wrong, just reset everything with Austere Command. Or even better, reset half of everything with Austere Command, and put their big fat monsters in the bin and leave your little ones in play. A smashing deck from every angle.

After 9 hours of Magic, it was obviously time for some Magic. The rest of Saturday passed with a mix of Cube and Morningtide Winston Drafts (and no, this may not be a truly rich and diverse format to play, but at least it’s something to do with the 6 boosters, right?)

Then we’re on to Sunday, and lots more people coming through the door to learn about Morningtide.

In the first bleary-eyed Draft of Sunday, I found myself more by accident than design in a milling strategy via Drowner Of Secrets. Sadly, I did not find myself in a milling strategy involving Drowner Of Secrets, Stonybrook Schoolmaster, Summon The School….The evidence so far suggests that you really have to get this archetype completely right to compete, and I definitely didn’t have it completely right.

The Bannerets are largely irrelevant here in terms of acceleration. They’re in my deck for who they are, not what they are. Ink Dissolver is a nice addition, as each successful trigger is equivalent to an average Drowner turn. Dewdrop Spy is yet another reason not to run your 1/1s into an empty board. It’s ability proved useful once, but only in the ‘yes, that lorry coming towards you is actually going to take your face off about three seconds from now’ sense. Sage’s Dousing seems quite close to a hard counter against most people, even it’s against the second spell they choose to cast in a turn. Changeling Sentinel is basically miserable. As a 2/3 he’d be sooo much better. As he is, that Vigilance isn’t really worth a damn, but here he’s a welcome 3 power of Merfolk. Fencer Clique is obviously good, and Waterspout Weavers features in the Combo I most want to see in Kuala Lumpur next month.

Picture the scene. There’s an almighty creature stall on the ground. Nothing flies. Into play comes Waterspout Weavers. Now we’re into Booby Trap territory. There’s a craning of necks as people see whether the top of the deck is going to Kinship wings on everything. It doesn’t. His opponent breathes a sigh of relief. The same next turn, still no Kinship. Then, finally, it’s a match. Everything to the air, turned sideways for the win. And the opponent says, ‘Cloudthresher…….’ If I get to see this in KL, I’ll die a happy man.

I face Colin in the first round, and in the first game I’m still in contention until he wins the dice roll and begins with a turn one Heritage Druid. From there he has an apparently infinite supply of little green men, followed up by comedy rare Chameleon Colossus and then the rather fine Incremental Growth. 4 becomes 8 becomes 16 is now 7 becomes 14 becomes 28. A 28/28 Chameleon Colossus tends to be an issue. Hmm. Game Two I prove to my own satisfaction how thoroughly rubbish my deck is, by winning. Yeah, this sounds strange, but I won with a couple of Avian Changelings and my countermagic. That really shouldn’t work, especially as I discover via a couple of Ink Dissolver Kinship triggers that his deck is actually pretty good. I’m fairly confident that I need a really good start to the decider, and I’m confronted with this opening hand :

Broken Ambitions
Stonybrook Banneret
Drowner Of Secrets
Ink Dissolver
Forced Fruition

A land on either of the first two turns seems like I’m a heavy favorite, although admittedly it’s possible that he might still kill my Stonybrook Banneret. Nonetheless, I believe that my basic percentage here in the match over the long haul is less than 50%, all other things being equal, but I have a nearly 75% chance of finding a land over the next two turns. That feels like a much better route to victory, so that’s the chance I take. Turn one, draw an island, gg.

Although there are some good players in the draft, I’m next paired against Craig Stevenson. Yes, that one. I used to beat Craig pretty much all the time, but then he got a job talking with most of the world’s best Magic players on a daily basis, and got better. Funny that. Add in the fact that he was drafting on the right of (apparently) a blind three year old, and you have some clue of what’s coming around the corner at me. Here’s Game One from Craig’s point of view :

Turn 2, make Oona’s Blackguard. Turn 3, make Thieving Sprite as a 2/2 thanks to the Blackguard. Force Rich to discard a Changeling Hero, since he only has spells left in his hand. Turn 4 attack, forcing a discard of Waterspout Weavers. Then make another Thieving Sprite, as a 2/2, forcing a discard of another Changeling Hero. Turn 5 attack again, forcing Rich to empty his hand to the bin. Use the Prowl cost to cast Latchkey Faerie, as a 4/2. Turn 6 cast Distant Melody to draw 4 cards. Attack again. Disperse Rich’s Stonybrook Angler at end of turn, then make him discard it when I attack again, then make Dreamspoiler Witches. End of his turn, flash in Pestermite, kill Rich’s Judge Of Currents. Untap, beat him seven ways to Christmas.

I’m delighted to say that he didn’t hurt me that badly in Game Two. It was worse. Evoke Mulldrifter. Warren Pilferers, return the Mulldrifter. Evoke the Mulldrifter. Warren Pilferers, return the Mulldrifter. Trade Warren Pilferers. Cast Warren Pilferers, returning Warren Pilferers. Cast Mulldrifter. Ask if I’ve made a will. End.

I am already thoroughly convinced that my deck is unexciting at best, and over the course of 11 turns that belief is confirmed by Chris, whose Kithkin deck comes screaming out of the gates both games and mocks any possible idea I might have had of stabilising.

Unfortunately for Craig, Magic is a game of specific answers to specific questions, and the answer to the question, ‘What beats an army of 1 and 2 toughness flyers?’ turns out to be ‘Final Revels’. Kenny took Craig down 2-1 in the final, but only with Craig mulliganing to four in the final game. So, a moral if not actual win for Craig, and since he pays me, here’s his deck :

The results in full :

2 + draw – Gb – Elves Elves Elves
2 + draw – BGW – Doran Treefolk
2-1 – UB – Faeries and Rogues
2-1 – WW – Kithkin
1-2 – UW – Merfolk
1-2 – GB – Elves
1-2 – RB – Goblins, Wort first pick
0-3 – RUb – Elementals

Color major drafters : W — 3, U — 3, B — 4, R — 2, G – 3

Just one to go, and you may want to keep a list of my final deck handy when you’re feeling down about yourself and think that you can’t Draft. This lot is the very antithesis of synergy :

Okey dokey. You know that it’s good to have a plan, and that it’s also good to have a backup plan. Let’s count the ways my deck is potentially attempting to win.

1. First off, I’m splashing 3 plains because I got Summon The School pick 8 of pack 2, and then got the Stonybrook Schoolmaster pick 7 of Morningtide. Okay, so I can win with a million 1/1 guys.
2. Plan number two begins at 4 mana with a motley selection of Giants culminating in my first pick, Thundercloud Shaman. Now I could be wrong, but I suspect that casting my Thundercloud Shaman will comprehensively destroy all my Merfolk. Wow, that rocks.
3. Plan number three involves my opponent mana burning for 5 and then me drawing all 17 of my land and casting Titan’s Revenge for 15. This is an obviously superb plan, and of course I may be able to win even more efficiently by utilising the win-the-clash ‘strategy’.
4. Fourth, I can power through my opponent’s defences with streambed aquitects and my vast army of flyers.
5. And then there’s the fifth plan, the only one that I think might actually work. Make a ground guy, make a flyer, stop my opponent attacking, cast Jace Beleren, draw a million rubbish cards, but overwhelm my opponent with card advantage. It’s good to have plans.

I’d rather have a deck.

It may astonish you to learn that I won a round. It astonished me, I can assure you. Here’s the shakedown of the final draft :

3-0 – Gb – Elves plus a bit of removal
2-1 – WR – Kithkin, featuring Galepowder Mage and Meadowboon
2-1 – GB – Treefolk, Profane Command
2-1 – UW – Faeries, bits of Kithkin
1-2 – RUw – My disaster
1-2 – UB – Faeries and Rogue
1-2 – BU – Goblins and Faeries
0-3 – 4color – Everyone’s unwanted cards!

Major color drafters : W — 2, U — 3, B — 3, R — 2, G — 2

The winning deck looked like this :

OK, time to try and draw some conclusions. Let’s check the 5 winning decks :

Draft 1 – Gb — Elves
Draft 2 – GB – Treefok and Faeries
Draft 3 – UW – Merfolk
Draft 4 – Gb – Elves (2 and a draw) and GBW – Doran (2 and a draw)
Draft 5 – Gb – Elves

Five of the six best decks over the weekend were majorly green. The Elves seemed largely unstoppable, once they were sufficiently left unmauled by others in the draft.

As for the UB Faerie/ Rogue decks, they seemed extremely powerful when they worked, but they averaged out as not overly spectacular.

No Kithkin deck managed to win a draft, but interestingly all 4 dedicated Wx decks or hardcore WW decks managed a 2-1 record. That might be worth knowing in Kuala Lumpur, where a 4-2 record is required to advance to the third draft of Day One.

There was near universal agreement that Giants have lost out in the Morningtide shuffle.

There were only two RB Goblin decks out of 39, and both went 1-2.

There’s something intriguingly psychological about Kinship. Most of the players were in agreement. Individually, one successful trigger of Kinship isn’t generally terrible. It’s sometimes not ideal for you – who wants to face a bonus 2/2 guy for example? – but it shouldn’t always stirke terror into your heart. However, we saw multiple times over the weekend how GR decks ended up with three Kinship guys in play, and suddenly every upkeep was a tense affair, as you waited to see just how hard you were going to get whipped. ‘Let’s see, I need this to be a non-Treefolk, non-Shaman, non-Goblin, non-Rogue, non-Merfolk, non-Wizard. Hmm. I know, draw a land please.’ Whilst there are clearly Kinship results that are properly significant, I currently liken the effect on the opposition of having Kinship multiples in play as similar to Mike Flores‘ analysis of Counterbalance – its effect is less in pure gameplay terms than the impact it has on the thought process of the opposition. Well worth watching.

I’d like to end with a disclaimer. Only about half of the players who took part this weekend would expect to make the Top 8 of their local PTQ. The level at the Pro Tour, and probably in your 8-4 Magic Online Draft, will be higher. Nonetheless, while they may not be the definitive results and decklists, there’s still 39 more results and 10 more decklists than you had ten minutes ago. I hope you find them useful.

As ever, thanks for reading.