Sullivan Library – Oops! … Looking at Lorwyn

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After a blunder with the topic of today’s Sullivan Library, Adrian turned to Patrick Chapin for help. Ever the scholar, The Innovator delivered in spades. He presented Adrian with a list of 25 of the most exciting Constructed cards from the Lorwyn spoiler, and told Adrian to examine them. This article, packed with fresh ideas, is the result… and if I have to tell you, be warned: this contains spoilers.


The last time I think I’ve had any kind of “Oops!” in the title of an article was going into my deck “Oops! Red,” a Goblins/RDW crossbreed from a few years ago for States. It had this uncanny ability to just win off of the top of the deck, largely because of combinations of Shrapnel Blast, Blistering Firecat, and Goblin trixiness. This “oops!” is nowhere near as fun.

Laboring under the mistaken assumption that Extended was going to be rotating on October 20th, 2007, I spent a great deal of time researching an article about the new Extended that would be coming out of that. Unfortunately (for me), Extended doesn’t rotate until October 20th, 2008. Oops! (Or, if you prefer, “Wow, BOB, Wow.”)

Thankfully our humble editor let me know, and I’m scurrying about to find a solution to the problem. Rewriting it seemed fruitless, but thankfully, the generous and wonderful Patrick Chapin came to my rescue.

“I’m going to make you write about 25 cards that I think are interesting.” At least, it was something like that that he said.

What can I say? It sounded like a great solution. One of the things you’ll often find creative people say is that they work best in a place with some kind of restriction. Tell a painter to paint anything, and they’ll often paint something that is far less interesting than if you give them some kind of definite restrictions, but still give them a lot of room to maneuver.

Thanks, Patrick.

Here are the Top 25 most interesting cards in Lorwyn, spoiled thus far, according to Patrick, presented in the order that I find least worthy of paying attention to and ending with those cards that are the most noteworthy. (Patrick would like to make sure that it is clear that these aren’t what he considers the Top 25 cards in the set, merely 25 very interesting cards…) As usual, all spoiler information comes courtesy of the guys at MTGSalvation.com. The spoiler can be found here. I hope you enjoy!

25 – Rings of Brightearth
3, Artifact
Whenever you play an activated ability, if it isn’t a mana ability, you may pay 2. If you do, you may copy that ability. You may choose new targets for that copy.

This card has such a narrow application and such a hefty activation cost, I’d be a bit surprised to see much use out of it. Remember, you’ll have spent five mana on that first use of the card, and seven on the second. I don’t know if any of the effort that someone might spend on this card will actually make it worthwhile, even if you are copying the best possible effects like Isochron Scepter, or a Goblin Welder, or drawing a card from Sensei’s Divining Top. It’s possible something broken might be squeezed out of this card if you squeeze hard enough, but I’m thinking that you’ll never get anything worthwhile if you try.

24 – Makeshift Mannequin
3B, Instant
Return target creature from your graveyard to play with a mannequin counter on it. As long as that creature has a mannequin counter on it, it has “When this creature becomes the target of a spell or ability, sacrifice it.”

Unless this is reanimating a creature with comes-into-play abilities or a creature with massive protection abilities (read: Akroma), this is a lot of mana to spend on reanimating a creature that will almost certainly die.

23 – Guile
3UUU, Creature – Elemental Incarnation
Guile can’t be blocked except by three or more creatures. If a spell or ability you control would counter a spell, instead remove that spell from the game and you may play that card without paying its mana cost. When Guile is put into a graveyard from anywhere, shuffle it into its owner’s library.

Guile is like that person you had a crush on, but you eventually realized wasn’t that exciting. Sure, Guile can do some mind-numbingly cool things, but you have to keep buying it dinner to get any payout. Sadly, this is probably the worst of the Elemental Incarnations, all the rest of which require much less work to get working, which is especially rough since it is so expensive.

22 – Masked Admirers
2GG, Creature – Elf Shaman Rare
When Masked Admirers comes into play, draw a card.
Whenever you play a creature spell you may pay GG. If you do, return Masked Admirers from your graveyard to your hand.

I wish the Admirers were just a little bit bigger in the butt or cheaper in the bank. This isn’t a Wall of Blossoms. This isn’t a Phyrexian Rager. The returning ability is nice, but still pretty darn expensive.

21 – Hearthcage Giant
6RR, Creature – Giant Warrior
When Heartcage Giant comes into play, put two 3/1 red Elemental Shaman creature tokens into play. Sacrifice an Elemental: Target creature gets +3/+1 until end of turn.

Eight mana is a lot of mana. In return, you get 14 power worth of creatures. Is that worth it? Honestly, I don’t think that it is. Yes, you can sack those two initial elementals to potentially get +6 power to someone right away, but we’re still talking about 8 mana. Unless you’re somehow cheating that mana, I don’t see it.

20 – Oblivion Ring
W2, Enchantment
When Oblivion Ring comes into play, remove another target nonland permanent from the game. When Oblivion Ring leaves play, return the removed card to play under its owner’s control.

Some people seem to view Oblivion Ring as a kind of Vindicate replacement. While that is one way to imagine the card, it does seem like an incredibly fragile version of Vindicate. Its inability to off a land also seems like a rough element to the card. Perhaps one of the best uses for the card might be using it on your own cards as a means of re-triggering their comes-into-play abilities after removing the Oblivion Ring, or as a means of protecting your card from a Nevinyrral’s Disk-style effect. Since these effects are few and far between, I expect this card, if it gets much acclaim, will probably be a bit overrated.

19 – Sower of Temptation
2UU, Creature – Faerie Wizard
When Sower of Temptation comes into play, gain control of target creature as long as Sower of Temptation remains in play.

Sower of Temptation is both better and worse than Control Magic. Control Magic doesn’t go away from a Shock. On the other hand, against decks that aren’t packing much in the way of creature control, you’re getting a great extra pair of hands to help you out. Control Magic seems like the winner, in this case, to me.

18 – Wild Ricochet
2RR, Instant
You may choose new targets for target instant or sorcery spell. Then copy that spell. You may choose new targets for the copy.

I’ve tried to use Twincast and Reiterate in the past, and often they can be totally incredible. At other times, however, they can just rot in your hand. Similarly, Misdirection can be incredible, but can also rot. Four mana is a lot of mana to tie to this effect. It’s going to be hard to use this on your own spells. When you do resolve it, it’s going to be great. Just how often that will happen seems a bit in doubt…

17 – Mistblind Clique
3U, Creature – Faerie Wizard
Flash, flying
Champion a Faerie
When a Faerie is championed with Mistbind Clique, tap all lands target player controls.

Ah, the Champion cycle. Clearly, it’s cool to have the Clique be a Mana Short on wings, but it does seem to be a little bit fragile, since most Faeries that it would champion are pretty tiny. At its best, though, you could drop a 4/4 Flier and make your opponent lose a turn really, really quickly, and that at least, could go a long way to winning a game.

16 – Garruk Wildspeaker
2GG, Planeswalker – Garruk
[+1]: Untap two target lands.
[-1]: Put a 3/3 Beast creature token into play.
[-4]: Creatures you control get +3/+3 and trample until end of turn.
[L 3]

Ah, Garruk. Of all of the Planeswalkers, I’m least impressed by Garruk. The best of the Planeswalkers, I think, will all get something somewhat useful out of activating their +1 Loyalty ability on the first turn it is out. I just don’t see Garruk able to reliably pull that trick. Yes, it is possible to have it be a really potent chain of Call of the Herds, but I expect it will be, in general, one Beast out, and then the loss of one of their cards to kill the Garruk. In a world full of Tarmogoyf and the like, I think it might just be too little an effect for the mana.

15 – Bogart Mob
3B, Creature – Goblin Warrior
Champion a Goblin (When this comes into play, sacrifice it unless you remove another Goblin you control from the game. When this leaves play, that card returns to play.)
Whenever a Goblin you control deals combat damage to a player, put a 1/1 black Goblin Warrior creature token into play.

Bogart Mob has one of those lovely abilities that makes it well worth taking note of: it generates critters, and is a worthwhile clock in its own right. Unchecked, a Bogart Mob can begin overwhelming any opponent who doesn’t answer it. Still, the Champion mechanic’s inherent disadvantages make it really risky.

14 – Cloudthresher
2GGGG, Creature – Elemental
When Cloudthresher comes into play, it deals 2 damage to each creature with flying and each player.
Evoke 2GG

A six-mana 7/7 is very nice, especially if it can hop out as a surprise. I don’t know how often the Evoke ability is going to matter, but from time to time, I’m sure it will, especially now that there are Faeries to potentially worry about. I expect, mostly, that it will be one of the biggest, playable Simian Grunts of all time.

13 – Spellstutter Sprite
1U, Creature – Faerie Wizard
When Spellstutter Sprite comes into play, counter target spell with converted mana cost X or less, where X is the number of Faeries you control.

Speaking of faeries… In general, the Sprite will be a flying Force Spike, at worst. Sure, the opponent can respond by killing the Sprite, but often they won’t be able to get that to happen. As a game progresses, the Sprite can quickly climb into Complicate territory. The Sprite should be totally worthwhile. Expect that all of those friends of yours who have been working on Faerie decks over the years are going to be all aglow at a card like this. [Nope, not quite… this one works a little differently… – Craig.]

12 – Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
W, Creature – Kithkin Wizard
Protection from red
Sacrifice Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender: Prevent all damage a red source of your choice would deal this turn.

The Forge Tender is one of those really, really good torch carriers for an entire strategy (or anti-strategy, if you prefer). One of the things that has usually held back this kind of card has been a mana cost associated with its activated ability. As it stands, though, it is a kind of walking Seal of Red Prevention. The fact that it itself has Protection from Red is actually kind of incredible. Your opponent can’t sneakily off your Forge Tender and then play out their actual threat. While clearly weak against any non-Red opponent, it seems like a very potent response to any primarily Red deck.

11 – Ponder
U, Sorcery
Look at the top three cards of your library, then put them back in any order. You may shuffle your library. Draw a card.

I love Brainstorm. Ponder is no Brainstorm, but in many ways it is an improved Portent. You lose the ability to stack the deck of the opponent, but you get back the immediate drawing of a card. I expect that you’re going to see a ton of these find their way into the combo decks of the future, as well as any of the Quirion Dryad decks, and any base-Blue deck looking to cheat on its mana (like a Turbo-Xerox or Chevy Blue).

10 – Changeling Berserker
3R, Creature – Shapeshifter
Champion a creature

The Changeling Berserker is one of the best champions out there. It doesn’t require a specific creature type, so long as you have some creature, he’ll work. 5/3 haste is a lot of damage, and it seems like perhaps the best champion at resisting cards like Damnation and Wrath of God.

9 – Cryptic Command
1UUU, Instant
Choose two – Counter target spell; or return target permanent to its owner’s hand; or tap all creatures your opponents control; or draw a card.

I always thought that Dismiss was overrated. “Bad,” even. I know that the BK, Brian Kowal, and I were generally on the same page on this card. Randy Buehler had this habit of putting it into decks, and BK and I pretty much always thought that Randy was wrong. With Cryptic Command, however, you have a card that is anything but overrated. The card will never be dead, even if you simply use it on turn 3 or 4 to bounce a land and draw a card. The versatility of the card grants it a kind of power that makes it something that could break the back of an opponent.

8 – Hostility
3RRR, Creature – Elemental Incarnation
If a spell you control would deal damage to an opponent, prevent that damage. Put a 3/1 red Elemental Shaman creature token with haste into play for each 1 damage prevented this way. When Hostility is put into a graveyard from anywhere, shuffle it into its owner’s library instead.

Hostility is a lot like Guile in that it requires investment of extra resources to get any actual payoff. The difference is that the pay off is actually incredible. A Lightning Helix becomes 9 power of extra attackers. These Elementals don’t even die at the end of turn. It’s very reasonable to kill someone the turn after you untap from Hostility. Unlike Guile, that makes the six mana seem very reasonable.

7 – Brion Stoutarm
2RW, Legendary Creature – Giant Warrior
R, Tap, Sacrifice a creature other than Brion Stoutarm: Brion Stoutarm deals damage equal to the sacrificed creature’s power to target player.

Ah, Brion. Patrick had wanted me to talk about Tarfire, but changed his mind. “Blah blah, Tarfire and Tarmogoyf, blah blah, Tarfire and Goblin Recruiter, blah blah”. There, that’s out of the way. Without the equivalent of Loxodon Hierarch and Ravenous Baloth, Brion represents the new world of midrange lifegain. It wouldn’t take many hits from a Brion to totally make an aggressive deck cry. If things stall out, Brion can start chucking people over the wall at your opponent, and finish a game. Remember, Lifelink doesn’t care if it is combat damage, so his Stone Giant ability still gains you life. Seems pretty solid to me.

6 – Silvergill Adept
U1, Creature – Merfolk Wizard
As an additional cost to play Silvergill Adept, reveal a Merfolk card from your hand or pay 3. When Silvergill Adept comes into play, draw a card.

Silvergill Adept is one of those cards that should be an absolute beating. Sure, the one toughness makes it Fanatic-meat, but that doesn’t stop the sheer power of a two-power two-drop creature that lets you immediately draw a card. Lord of Atlantis is soon to skyrocket in value. Get yours now.

5 – Jace Beleren
1UU, Planeswalker – Jace
[+2]: Each player draws a card.
[-1]: Target player draws a card.
[-10]: Target player puts the top twenty cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.
[L 3]

I love Jace. Maybe it’s my infatuation with Howling Mine decks (definitely worth considering in any such deck), or maybe it’s something else. Regardless, we have to remember that the turn Jace comes into play, you are likely to have both players draw a card immediately, effectively taking Jace out of range of most easy threats to its immediate death. Even if you just start taking a card off of it every turn, you’ll be getting a slow Ancestral Recall’s worth of card advantage. More likely, you’ll gain some “life” as they expend effort killing Jace. Works for me!

4 – Gaddock Teeg
GW, Legendary Creature – Kithkin Advisor
Noncreature spells with converted mana cost 4 or greater can’t be played.
Noncreature spells with {X} in their mana costs can’t be played.

There has been a lot of chatter about Gaddock Teeg, especially when formats like Vintage are discussed. Shutting down Force of Will, Fact or Fiction, Gush, and the like are going to be very important. In Standard, the more common cards will be Damnation, and Wrath of God, with the odd card draw spell thrown in there. While Gaddock Teeg can completely shut down some of these cards until he is killed, he is still pretty puny. I expect he’ll find a lot of room in main decks, but be better suited to sideboards in most common tournament formats, while in Vintage and the like he’ll be a hard spell to fit into decks, mostly because it is difficult to fit in Green and White mana and be competitive in the format. A good card, but I think it will become marginal, on some level.

3 – Thoughtseize
B, Sorcery
Target player reveals his or her hand. Choose a nonland card from it. That player discards that card. You lose 2 life.

Within a year, we’ll be losing Duress and Therapy from Extended. Thoughtseize will almost certainly hold the slot held by those cards in the future. The two life isn’t anything to sneeze at. This is a pretty simple card, and it can’t be understated how powerful it is to have only the barest chance of missing.

2 – Wren’s Run Packmaster
3G, Creature – Elf Warrior
Champion an Elf (When this comes into play, sacrifice it unless you remove another Elf you control from the game. When this leaves play, that card returns to play.)
2G: Put a 2/2 green Wolf creature token into play.
Each Wolf you control has deathtouch (When it deals damage to a creature, destroy that creature.)

I absolutely love the Wren’s Run Packmaster. Elves have this nifty ability to come out a bit quicker (thanks Elves of Deep Shadow and friends!), so it is totally reasonable to get out a Packmaster in a window where they can’t kill it. Once you do, the wolf creating ability seems absolutely amazing. It’s entirely reasonable to drop this guy on the ground on turn 3, and then dominate the table with it. This is going to be a mainstay, I’m sure.

1 – Doran, the Siege Tower
BGW, Legendary Creature – Treefolk Shaman
Each creature assigns combat damage equal to its toughness rather than its power.

A few of the people I know out there said that they immediately started building decks around this card once they saw it. I know that when I saw it, I started thinking about the arms race that seems to be going on within Wizards for aggressive creatures. If you’ve been on the receiving end of a turn 1 Watchwolf, or a turn 2 Watchwolf with Llanowar Reborn helping him out, you know just how potent a consistent, huge creature actually is. The mana on Doran is incredibly difficult to support, but despite that, he represents another card that can reliably pose a huge amount of damage very quickly. Clearly, Doran’s interaction with Walls (Wall of Roots comes to mind) provides a very, very potent set of defenses, and also encourages a quick re-examination of every card that already came to the show wearing pants. It’s held back by difficult mana, but this is clearly a card to watch.

That was fun!

Patrick’s cards of interest were really a lot different than the ones that I might have paid attention to, so looking at what he made me examine was an exercise that I’d love to try again in the future. I hope that many of you will find my own take on Patrick’s cards of note to be worth the look. Please feel free to tell me what I got wrong in the forums… I’d be curious to see what you all think.

Until next week,
Adrian Sullivan