Tribal Thriftiness #8 – Morningtide Has Broken

Morningtide is not even on sale yet, and already the singles are running the gamut in terms of price. Dave breaks down what a player with a tight wallet should be focusing on obtaining.

For the heavily-competitive player for whom money is no object, it appears that Morningtide is really a bust: a few expensive rares look to make a big impact, but other than that, the rares are looking lackluster. Only thirteen of the fifty rares are five dollars or over here at StarCityGames.com, and of those thirteen, five are exactly five dollars.

That, however, is good news for budget players.

What this means is that a player with a limited expense account can instead focus on picking up playsets of the commons and uncommons that work so well inside Lorwyn’s tribal world. And Morningtide has a good number of cards that will end up outshining rare stinkers like Knowledge Exploitation, for instance. It is my opinion that every one of these cards is something that a budget player should try and get a playset of.

I Figured They Were Flagbearers

Let’s start with the Bannerets. In a move that I guess was designed to really push the tribal synergies (and promote cross-race ‘class’ decks), they slipped what is normally an ability for an uncommon (like Krosan Warchief) into the common slot for this set. Across the board, the bannerets have fair bodies and inexpensive casting costs, meaning that they can come down early and affect the rest of your army. The fact that some of them have additional abilities on top of their mana-cost reductions… well, that’s just gravy.

Ballyrush Banneret: As a 2/1 for 1W, he certainly fits into the standard White Weenie mold. The problem with the Kithkin banneret is that most of his buddies don’t benefit from his mana reduction. Goldmeadow Stalwart and Cenn’s Tactician cost W, and Wizened Cenn costs WW. He might be a little more worthwhile in a deck that runs the upper range of pricey rares like Thoughtweft Trio, or in a deck that wants to run out creatures while still saving mana to use Crib Swap or Amrou Scout’s ability.

Bosk Banneret: Treefolk, on the other hand, are a tribe that can definitely use some cost reduction. Bosk Banneret is a 1/3 for 1G, which can fit into the Treefolk mana curve fairly well (coming down after either Treefolk Harbinger or your mana-elf of choice), and speeds you into your high-end Treefolk. Timber Protector is pretty impressive on turn 3. And since any good Treefolk deck worth its salt will be running Battlewand Oak, the Banneret’s not a horrible draw even in the midgame – and at the very least, he can still help you get that Deadwood Treefolk engine going.

Brighthearth Banneret: The Elemental Shaman banneret is the first one to be useful even if you don’t have any reason to play him out to the board. His Reinforce ability means that if you need to squeak in that singular extra point of damage or make an advantageous trade during combat, you’ve got the surprise +1/+1 counter in your hand, and this makes him doubly-great in an aggressive Elemental deck featuring guys like Flamekin Bladewhirl, Soulbright Flamekin, and Inner-Flame Acolyte. On the other hand, he adds up with Smokebraider to give you the possibility of an interesting multicolor Elemental “good stuff” deck.

Frogtosser Banneret: Having already seen what Goblin Warchief did back in Onslaught, I worry about the new Goblin Rogue banneret. However, the question for Frogtosser is this: Will you be powering out Goblins, or Faeries? Faeries certainly seem to benefit more from the on-color cost-reducer, and have proven their value in Standard for a few months now. Could the Frogtosser anchor a new Blue/Black, Rogue-based Faeries build? Oona’s Blackguard and Oona’s Prowler come forefront, with Pestermite, Nightshade Stinger, and Latchkey Faerie as backup – not to mention the Prowl cards. The haste on this guy is just an extra toss-on, as I doubt you’ll want to run him into combat very often if you’re counting on using his cost-reducing ability for more than a turn or two.

Stonybrook Banneret: I think the Merfolk Wizard banneret is the one I’m most excited about, because it opens up a new possibility for Merfolk decks beyond just “Islandwalking Offense.” Just about every Merfolk short of Lord of Atlantis benefits from the cost reduction, from Silvergill Adept to Summon the School. It might also speed up a Merfolk milling deck to the point where it’s viable. And he comes built-in with the Islandwalk that features so prominently in the Merfolk aggro decks.

The five bannerets each have their place in a deck. Some of them slot into existing decks; some could have completely new decks built around them. The fact that the reduce not just one creature type, but two, means that there could be new and interesting uses for them, just waiting to be discovered.

The Counter Lords

I don’t know if I think we needed this much variety in our “lord” selection process, but Morningtide brings it – at least for some of the tribes. The counter lords are different from the racial lords we had in Lorwyn – they all target a class rather than a race, and they use +1/+1 counters rather than a static effect so that their influence sticks around even after they die.

Bramblewood Paragon: A great creature as a 2/2 for 1G, the Paragon rewards you for playing him early and then backing him up with other Warriors. He fits extremely well into aggressive Elf builds, where most of your Elves are already Warriors (Imperious Perfect and his tokens, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, and Wren’s Run Packmaster are all Warriors) and you can fill out with Morningtide cards like Winnower Patrol (more on that later). The trample ability is fine if you end up playing larger Warriors (or other creatures with counters), but with the swarm mentality of Elves, it’s unlikely to come into play.

Cenn’s Tactician: Cenn’s Tactician is great because he’s flexible. He doesn’t require you to have a bunch of creatures already in play (like Rage Forger) and he doesn’t require you to hold off playing all your pumpables after he’s already on the board (like Bramblewood Paragon). Nope, he just comes in, and if he survives a turn, he’ll just pump up whatever’s available. Goldmeadow Stalwart, Goldmeadow Harrier, Aven Riftwatcher, Icatian Javelineers – there are a number of good Soldiers already seeing play that would love to be pumped up by the Tactician. The extra blocking is fine, but shouldn’t be used in an aggressive deck like the Tactician prefers.

Oona’s Blackguard: The Blackguard is, in a word, brutal. As if Rogues didn’t already get a great perk in Morningtide just by doing combat damage (in the form of Prowl), now they get hand disruption as well, all in a package that you would probably play without the discard ability. I’ve already mentioned earlier that I think Blue/Black Faerie Rogues could be a very viable deck, and the Blackguard gives you resilience in bigger creatures, as well as the discard to prevent something Very Naughty from happening in one fell swoop. A 1/1 flier for 1B is a pretty fragile body, and the Blackguard comes into play with a very large target on her head, so expect to at least try and protect her so you can reap her rewards.

Rage Forger: I played with Rage Forger in my Morningtide sealed deck, and I always felt like I was playing him wrong. I would hold onto him until I had two or three other Shamans out, just so I could maximize his comes-into-play ability. His secondary ability seems to be saying, “Put me in an aggro deck!” but the problem with that is, the other Elemental Shamans aren’t really that aggressive. Maybe it would be better to pair him up with Shamans from another color… maybe Green? Wolf-Pack Shaman and Riftsweeper are both Shamans, and come down before the Rage Forger.

Sage of Fables: With the card-drawing ability to provide some protection against removal, the Sage of Fables is a great card for both Merfolk decks and dedicated Wizard decks, which have seen some play. I think Sage of Fables, along with Stonybrook Banneret, could anchor a new Merfolk milling deck.

With the focus on class type rather than race, it seems like these lords want to take a deckbuilder in a different direction than the lords in Lorwyn. I think that’s a good thing. I think it gives room for creativity, which can be rare in a block with such a linear design. I’ll most likely be exploring the classes further in later articles.

The Best of the Rest

The Tribal Equipment: I think I like the Equipment. In a class-specific deck, they are essentially free Equips all day long. Some are better than others (Obsidian Battle-Axe is excellent, Veteran’s Armaments is pretty good as well, but Diviner’s Wand is stinky) but they all seem great in flavor and appropriate for their class. I’d definitely try and work in the Battle-Axe or the Armaments into those decks, as they specifically seem to further the desires of the Warrior and Soldier classes.

Coordinated Barrage: Single-mana, instant-speed removal for White. Not too shabby. Requires you to play a dedicated class or race, which is probably if you’re talking about White anyway. Wizards tried something similar to this with Unified Strike, which removed the creature from the game (nicer), but required you to play Soldiers and required the targeted creature to be attacking (suckier). Coordinated Barrage can be used with Kithkin, Knights, Soldiers, Treefolk, and maybe even Merfolk – and it hits attackers and blockers.

Deglamer: Sometimes, you just Do Not Want to Disenchant your opponent’s artifact or enchantment, knowing that it will only come back to haunt you. Epochrasite is currently springing to mind as an annoying recurring threat, but it could be just about anything thanks to Academy Ruins as well. Deglamer solves your problem. Yes, it means that your opponent has a possibility of drawing it again – but in the face of Epochrasite, that’s a much Less Sure Thing, which means you should at least consider running this in place of your current artifact/enchantment removal.

Disperse: Unsummon costs U, hits only creatures, and is in Tenth Edition. Boomerang costs UU, hits everything, and is in Tenth Edition. Did we really need a third bounce spell, right smack in between those two? Well, it is splashable, and the ability to only hit non-land permanents seems to be less problematic, unless you need to bounce an attacking man-land in order to survive. I like this just from an “options” perspective; if you are running two colors, this may be a better answer to things like Planeswalkers and pesky Elephant-based weapons.

Graceful Reprieve: This card has a number of possible roles in a deck – acting as a “backup plan” to rescue a difficult-to-kill / difficult-to-handle creature, reusing comes-into-play abilities, or giving permanence to Elementals you had to Evoke. It’s not QUITE as handy as Momentary Blink (because of the flashback), but it does have the ability be used as a deterrent as well as a rescue spell.

Meadowboon: While being a failure at preventing mass removal, this is at least a guy who gives back to the rest of the team upon his demise. Probably best in the swarm decks like Kithkin, where you can Evoke him and swing with a suddenly-larger force. Not TOO much larger, though – they’d still be Kithkin.

Merrow Witsniper: Possibly the first salvo fired from a Merfolk milling deck? He’s also a Rogue, although I’m not sure how well a Merfolk Rogue deck would work yet.

Mothdust Changeling: A 1/1 everything that can act as a conduit for all those Merfolk tappity abilities.

Negate: The polar opposite of Remove Soul, somewhat out of place in what is essentially a “creature block,” but worthwhile to get your hands on nonetheless, as it will be very useful, especially in tempo aggro decks that just want to avoid Wrath of God for One More Turn. Blue/Black Faeries probably loves this card as another early “hard” counter, where it still has Spellstutter Sprite and other countermagic to fall back on. This (as well as Deglamer and Disperse) are good candidates for future inclusion in the base set as well.

Order of the Golden Cricket: A 2/2 flyer (albeit conditionally) for 2 mana is pretty good; add in the fact that he’s a Kithkin and can benefit from their weenie rush strategy, and you have a solid evasion man that will only cost you a little bit each turn to keep him in the air. Yes, he’s a Knight, which means he’s not AS good with Cenn’s Tactician, but if you want to use him, maybe use Cenn’s Heir, who doesn’t mind that he’s not a Soldier.

Shard Volley: I honestly think this is one of the best commons in the set. Standard always has that line between what a one-mana burn spell will do, and what a two-mana burn spell will do. Sometimes, two damage isn’t enough! In the mid- to late-game, I know I’m more than happy to pitch a land to turn my Shock into a Lightning Bolt. Add in the fact that it isn’t Tribal (and so won’t grow your opponent’s Tarmogoyf any more than it has to — I’m lookin’ at you, Tarfire) and you have a great addition to any burn deck.

Warren Weirding: Black has plenty of ways to take care of creatures. Except other Black creatures, sometimes. With high toughness. Or creatures with protection from Black. Or untargetable dudes. Hate those guys. Unfortunately, Morningtide gave us Chameleon Colossus… there are a fair few guys that Black can’t kill with Eyeblight’s Ending, instead being forced to wait for Damnation to come around. That’s where the Weirding comes in, acting as cleanup once you’ve narrowed down the other side of the field to that one problematic creature. Edict effects like this one have always been popular; the fact that (if you’re playing Goblins) you can use it on yourself to get MORE Goblins is just icing.

Winnower Patrol: With power equal to mana cost (3/2 for 2G), the Patrol already has a lot going for it. Then, on top of that, it’s a Warrior, so it works with Bramblewood Paragon. And THEN to add even more to it, in what is likely already an Elf or Warrior deck, he can grow to even bigger sizes. He’s missing the trample to make him truly effective – luckily Bramblewood Paragon provides that.

Wolf-Skull Shaman: The Elves really scored with these Kinship triggers. This one is already decently costed (2/2 for 1G), and he can bring an entire army with him, simply because you’re already running 20 or so other Elves. Nice perk. Throw in Wren’s Run Packmaster for deathtouching goodness.

So that’s what I would consider “staples” for Morningtide for the thrifty player. A lot of these will be attainable simply by buying packs here and there, or playing in drafts, and they will go a long way towards building competitive decks without breaking the bank.

Next week, we’ll start looking at the new and different tribal interactions that we received in Morningtide. Don’t forget, if you have a Launch Party near you, make sure you head out to it – it’s a great way to play some Magic, get your hands on the new cards, and get a feel for the new set and the new Standard environment!

Until next time!