You Lika The Juice? – Cracking Open Lorwyn

Read Bennie Smith every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Regular readers know I go nuts over every new set; I literally love each new Magic set, and for at least a little while, my favorite set of all time is the most recent Magic release. The reason why I’ve been a passionate fan of Magic year after year since I cracked open my first starter deck back in 1994 is the joy of discovering new cards, and brainstorming new card combinations and deckbuilding possibilities.

Another prerelease is in the books! A big thank-you to all the people who came to the Richmond prerelease and made it a success! Working the admissions desk, my impression was that attendance was strong and enthusiasm for the new set high. I also wanted to give a special note of appreciation for all of you who came by and told me how much you enjoyed my column; as a writer, you crave feedback, and sometimes response in the forums is light and you wonder whether or not people are interested in what you have to say. It always feels great when you meet someone in person who takes the time to let you know they read your stuff.

Regular readers know I go nuts over every new set; I literally love each new Magic set, and for at least a little while, my favorite set of all time is the most recent Magic release. The reason why I’ve been a passionate fan of Magic year after year since I cracked open my first starter deck back in 1994 is the joy of discovering new cards, and brainstorming new card combinations and deckbuilding possibilities.

It starts when I get to look over each set’s spoiler, but nothing beats actually busting open the booster packs and holding these new cards in your hands. I’m privileged to get to help out the StarCityGames.com gang during the prereleases, and I get compensated for the work in booster packs at the end of the day. I then drive home, wait until the wife and kids go to bed… and then go into a pack-ripping frenzy!

And yet… right before I crack that very first booster, there’s a sense of dread… a fear of the inevitable disappointment. My good fortune in getting a substantial jump on my collection before you can buy the product always seems to be balanced by the fact that I never fall on the HELLS YES! side of the random distribution curve. I almost never get more than one copy of each set’s hot card, and I never crack a foil version of it; and of the cards I really want, I’m almost always disappointed by the time the last pack is opened. Somebody somewhere out there is going to crack open a box of Lorwyn and find two or more copies of Thoughtseize, including one foil that will go on eBay and get you the cash to buy another box.

Will it be me this time?

That awful feeling in the pit of my stomach is history talking — of course it’s not going to be you! I thought it might be a fun “review” of Lorwyn by checking out the rares I open pack by pack and what my impression is of each card, as well as the agony and the ecstasy of what fate deals me. This time I have some extra packs a friend of mine traded to me after doing well in a prerelease flight. I go into this by hoping to crack at least one copy of the following rares, preferably in multiples, for decks I’m already wanting to try out: Thoughtseize and Gaddock Teeg, of course; Gilt-Leaf Palace; Masked Admirers; Deathrender; Primal Command; Liliana Vess; Garruk Wildspeaker; Wort, Boggart Auntie; Mad Auntie; Doran, the Siege Tower.

Shall we see what I get? Let the booster pack wrappings fly!

Colfenor’s Plans: Wow, what creepy-ass artwork! I actually think this card has a lot of potential. If I can be a little outrageous, let me compare it to Tarmogoyf; on its surface, Tarmogoyf is a so-so card. In a typical Green deck, turn 2 will show this guy as an unimpressive 0/1. But we all know how awesome Tarmogoyf is, so much so that the card is riding nuts at $30 a piece. The catch is your deck needs some special consideration to unleash its full potential; you want to have ways to get various card types into the graveyard early enough so that Tarmogoyf hits the board as a fearsome presence. Those deckbuilding constraints are completely worth the payoff. Now I don’t think Colfenor’s Plans is going to be anywhere close to Tarmogoyf good, but I think you can build your deck in such a way as to unlock its potential. First, you’ll want a way to get rid of the card when you’re done with it, since skipping your draw step isn’t very much fun except in narrow circumstances; the recently Timeshifted Auratog springs to mind, as does Claws of Gix. You’ll also likely want to not play a land from your hand before you play Plans, since you will draw at least one land in the seven cards you set aside and will want to go ahead and play it in case something bad happens. You’ll also want a good number of instants or cards with flash so you can wiggle around the “one spell a turn” drawback. Anyway, bottom line is — I don’t think you should dismiss this card too quickly.

Boggart Mob: This fellow seems decent, and strikes me as a perfect “top of the curve” creature in a goblin-swarm strategy by allowing your unblocked Boggart to replicate. Like many of the Champion creatures, I worry a bit about top-decking this fellow against a control deck that has just wiped the board with Wrath of God or Damnation, and if I played this I’d probably want to run some number of Squee, Goblin Nabob to make sure I had a Goblin to play each turn.

Thoughtweft Trio: This card is incredibly powerful, but shares my concerns with Champion cards above, and there’s no real way to wiggle around that drawback other than to just make sure you always hold back on your Kithkin if you smell a global sweeper from the other side.

Hamletback Goliath: As the Ferrett wrote about over on MagictheGathering.com, this is a fantastic and fun multiplayer card, and as a player with a large casual streak I am not unhappy to see this fellow in my stack… though cracking him so early makes me hope he doesn’t have any twins lurking deeper in my stack of booster packs.

Oona’s Prowler: I noted this card in the spoiler and thought it seemed pretty damn good, but I didn’t realize it was a rare… which makes me think that Wizards knows this is pretty damn good. The Faerie tribe seems really good, and this one fits right in as a great early beater in all sorts of decks – tribal, Reanimator, Black weenie beatdown, hand destruction/Rack, Haakon.

Twinning Glass: Ugh. I have a healthy dose of Johnny in me, but this seems way too narrow and combo-licious for my tastes.

Sunrise Sovereign: My friend Jay seems to like the Giant tribe, but I remain unconvinced. This fellow may serve as a decent top-of-the-curve fellow in a giant deck, provided there are enough decent Giants at five mana and below.

Ancient Amphitheater: Gah, Giants! Where the hell is my Gilt-Leaf Palace?!

Boggart Mob #2: Sigh. Six packs in and my first duplicate is a Goblin card I likely wouldn’t play more than one of in a deck…

Wydwen, the Biting Gale: This strikes me as a fine finisher card in a Black/Blue control deck, jumping out a turn earlier than Teferi, evasion, and the ability to dodge removal or even jump back if you feel the need to cast Damnation. As someone who doesn’t play Black/Blue control, I likely won’t be using this unless a faerie deck strikes my fancy.

Primal Command: Ah! Eleven packs in and I finally hit one of the cards I’m specifically looking for. I think most all of the Commands are quite good given their flexibility. I’m looking for this card primarily for my Deathrender deck that I’ll be sharing next week after I get to test it a little bit. Primal Command fits that deck like a hand to glove, but it’s nice to see a card like in Green. I imagine this will primarily be used to set your opponent back on tempo by nailing a land or artifact mana (hel-lo Coalition Relic!) while searching up the perfect creature to play next turn, though the 7 life and graveyard shuffling effects are great to have as options.

Deathrender: Mmm, Deathrender! Another card on my list. Let me take a moment to applaud Wizards for making a real effort at taking the sting out of global creature-sweepers lately; as someone who’s always been a fan of creatures, Wrath of God was always my bogeyman. That spell always seemed to jump up and break my back, year after year after year. Then they printed Damnation! And yet on the other side of the equation we’ve been given Saffi Eriksdotter, Deadwood Treefolk, Epochrasite… and now Gaddock Teeg and Deathrender. Equip a creature in play with Deathrender, and suddenly your opponent has to sweat, worrying what may drop into play when they kill it. Maybe it’s only an Elf… but maybe it’s Spectral frickin’ Force! Deathrender is particularly brutal against Wrath/Damnation, since you will likely get at least one swing with it. Of course, that’s just playing “fair” with Deathrender — stay tuned next week when I go in a decidedly unfair direction with this cool little artifact!

Chandra Nalaar: Of course, my first planeswalker is one I likely won’t be running any time soon. Still, Chandra is really good; see my column on Planeswalkers from a few weeks back.

Nath of the Gilt-Leaf: Nath seems like a perfectly fine addition in the Green/Black discard deck that’s been floating around lately. A very nice complement to Augur of Skulls, don’t ya think? Of course, I will have to give Black/Green a try for States this year!

Mirror Entity: Strikes me strictly as a Limited bomb, with some casual Johnny potential. Where’s my Thoughtseize?!

Spinerock Knoll: This Hideaway land seems very playable in a creature deck backed with burn that would have a good shot at ramping up to seven damage in a turn. I suspect the Hideaway lands may not be worth the drawback of coming into play tapped, but I want to give them a try to see.

Fathom Trawl: This seems to compete with Foresee, and I don’t think it wins that matchup. Not only do you have to spend five mana during your turn, but also your opponent gets to see exactly which three cards you’ve gotten and has the time to react accordingly. Might be interesting in some land-heavy type of deck!

Galepowder Mage: I’m intrigued with this card, especially since the four spot held down by Loxodon Hierarch in Green/White is vacant in the new Standard with no ready heir apparent. A flying Hill Giant is a solid clock, and its special ability can help cards like Ohran Viper get in there. You can even get tricky with your Epochrasite. There is a big down-side though – note the lack of the word “may” in its ability text, so if the Mage is the only creature in play, it’s not going to be able to connect with your opponent.

Cairn Wanderer: Another Johnny card, this seems like a pale shadow of Bodysnatcher in a dueling environment, but I think its likely pretty darn good in multiplayer — though the bookkeeping it demands might prove to be annoying and tedious.

Austere Command: This card hasn’t gotten much respect as of yet, and I’m surprised. Sure, it’s more expensive than Wrath of God, but for that extra two mana you get a lot of flexibility and options. As I mentioned above, it occurs to me that Wizards has taken steps to give creature decks resilience to Wrath, so much so that I’ve actually be considering building a mid-range Green/White deck with maindeck Wraths and the tools to break the symmetry. Austere Command seems like a solid inclusion in just such a strategy.

Militia’s Pride: Speaking of blunting global sweepers, here’s another one! Once you play out one or two early attackers, you can drop this card and escalate your weenie assault without investing more cards. It obviously works best with some of the Kithkin-boosting beaters, maybe backed with Glorious Anthem. I especially like the cheap activation and the fact that multiple copies can all trigger off the same attack… hmm, now that I look at the card some more, could you activate Militia’s Pride for each attacker, paying WW to get two 1/1 attacking Kithkin Soldiers if you have two attacking creature cards?

Brion Stoutarm: Man, I love this card, and it’s almost enough to get me interested in playing Giants. If he could sacrifice himself I’d be all in… I have visions of “flinging” Greater Gargadon with ol’ Brion here!

Shelldock Isle: As above, I’m not sold on the Hideaway lands, but I think I might keep an eye out on control decks and see how often they get down to 20 cards or fewer so that having a couple of these might be of benefit.

Sunrise Sovereign #2: Another one?! Where’s my Thoughtseize? Where’s my Gaddock Teeg?!

Primal Command #2 (foil!): I don’t really play foils unless I have to, and I doubt this would have any demand on the foil singles market, so this is mostly a blank unless I need a fourth. Maybe Shane Stoots might want this for his blinged-out Type 4 stack.

Wanderwine Hub: Okay, a dual land is a nice pull, though I’m not overly impressed with Merfolk as a competitive tribal theme as of Lorwyn.

Mirror Entity #2: Sigh. Thoughtseize-Gaddock-Palace-Admirers-Vess-Garruk?!?!

Immaculate Magistrate: The Johnny in me is looking forward to using this to feed Mindless Automaton, Spike Feeder, etc. in casual decks. The Spike in me (the part of me that’s more dominate now during Champs season) scrunches his nose and moves on.

Favor of the Mighty: Seems pretty awesome as a sideboard card to bring in against creatureless decks. It also occurs to me that this would be pretty sweet alongside Affinity artifact creatures.

Surgespanner: This fellow almost redeems the Merfolk tribe. Almost.

Secluded Glen: Another dual, sweet! Faeries certainly seem to be one of the top competitive tribes out of Lorwyn, and also have the advantage of one of the few, rock-solid two-color mana combinations post-Ravnica.

Hamletback Goliath #2: Sigh.

Thoughtweft Trio #2: Le sigh.

Horde of Notions: Hmm. You know, when I was just reading the spoiler, this really didn’t jump out at me, but now that I’m looking at the card itself I’m intrigued. 5/5 for five is solid power to cost ratio, and the vigilance, trample, and haste are an awesome trifecta of creature abilities. The activated ability is actually really nice since it lacks that “remove from the game” clause that so often infests these sorts of cards that use the graveyard as a resource. Keep in mind Changeling cards are Elementals. The big trick is getting that five color mana consistently available turn after turn.

Cairn Wanderer #2: I still haven’t gotten my first Thoughtseize, Teeg, Palace, Admirers, Vess, Wildspeaker…

Ajani Goldmane: I would likely never play this card, but it doesn’t seem like a bad card in a White-based control deck, where life is time and this card buys you time and eventually a buys you a win condition.

Jace Beleren: This card looks really good, and I know a lot of people are really enamored with it, calling it the new Phyrexian Arena. I think Phyrexian Arena is better than this card, and when’s the last time Phyrexian Arena was played? With Jace, you need to make sure that you’ve got some blockers in play before playing this, or else you’re going to be feeding your opponent cards to try and keep Jace’s loyalty above water. Personally, I would draw two cards from Jace before I even thought about turning on the Howling Mine ability.

Oona’s Prowler #2: Alright, this is the first card I’ve been happy to have multiple copies of.

Heat Shimmer: This seems like a fun card that’s costed cheap enough to give Spike some pause. Copy something you can sacrifice off to Brion after it attacks, kill off legends, or copy Goblin War Marshal, Siege-Gang Commander, or your opponent’s Spectral Force.

Shelldock Isle #2: Gah.

Twinning Glass #2: *facepalm*

Wydwen, the Biting Gale #2: Filed away under “If I play faeries…”

Cloudthresher: Now we’re talking! I’ve been kicking around various Green-based decks lately, and when filling up the curve higher up, once you’ve added 4 Spectral Force and are looking around for your six-drops, there haven’t been many attractive options that don’t look downright feeble in comparison. Cloudthresher measures up quite nicely as huge body at a reasonable cost, with flash to make it tricky, and the Evoke gives it even more options — you could get it out as early as turn 3 with Saffi.

Sunrise Sovereign #3: OH, COME ON!!!! Could I have gotten three copies of one of the money cards in the set? Or three copies of one of the nine other cards I really, really want? Or something that’s at least moderately good, a dual land, something?! NO, OF COURSE NOT.

Galepowder Mage #2: I am looking forward to giving this a try. Might be decent in a Blink deck perhaps?

Forced Fruition: This is an intriguing card for multiplayer, but dangerous as hell. I don’t mind cracking a copy to ponder…

Profane Command: I like all the Commands, and I think this is one of the better ones — removal, direct damage, and reanimation is all awesome, and the fear will occasionally be good too.

Dauntless Dourback: I wasn’t sold on this card until Ben Bleiweiss talked about it in his recent piece on Lorwyn. If you’re playing a Mono-Green — and heavily Forested — Treefolk deck I could see this being quite the beating. I’m not seeing such a deck being competitive but then again I may be totally missing something; I haven’t played a Mono-Green deck since I discovered the joys of Survival of the Fittest/Living Death.

Auntie’s Hovel: Yeah! Finally a dual I’m really happy to see. I really like the building blocks we have for a mid-range Goblin deck built around Wort and Mad Auntie and will be testing it for States in the weeks ahead.

Nettlevine Blight: Seems like a solid multiplayer card, and a fine way of punishing the player who never plays creatures and just resets the board over and over with global removal. It’s the ultimate F-U to them, chewing up their mana resources. It strikes me as not being a bad card to try in a Mono-Black

Incandescent Soulstoke: Now that I’ve been pondering Horde of Notions, this card suddenly looks a bit more interesting too. I remember the days of Sneak Attack decks that were absolute beatings, so this certainly feels intriguing… again, keeping in mind Changeling cards as Elementals.

Horde of Notions #2: Okay, okay — I’ll get to work on a 5 color Elemental deck! Memo received.

Mistbind Clique: Wow, this guy seems to be perfect for casting during your opponent’s upkeep step for a neo-Time Walk, and I can sense all sorts of Momentary Blink shenanigans you could pull off. And of course, an instant-speed 4/4 flier for four is just a stone cold beating on its own.

Ashling’s Prerogative: Hmm… choosing odd with this card prevents hasty zombies from killing you with Bridge from Below tokens the turn they come into play, so this might be worth considering for Extended (or in Standard if someone breaks Bridge post-Ravnica). I can see building your creature deck hitting all odd or even to take better advantage of this, but the symmetrical nature makes it risky since roughly half of your opponent’s creatures will likely get haste too.

Timber Protector: Great at protecting Doran, provided I actually cracked one. I actually really like this card… indestructible Treefolk and Forests? I could totally see building a funky Treefolk/Obliterate deck for multiplayer play!

Dolmen Gate: I really like the artwork on this card, though it doesn’t seem to match up very well with the effect… This feels like a Limited bomb and not worth the card slot in competitive decks.

Scion of Oona: Another good Faerie card if you think about it in terms of countering a removal spell that’s targeting a Faerie you have in play (say, Oona’s Prowler). Raise of hands the people who first heard the races featured in Lorwyn and thought, “man, I bet the Faerie tribe is going to be a beating!!”

Oh yeah? You’re lying, bub.

Brion Stoutarm #2: Okay, okay — Giants, I got ya. You don’t need to sacrifice me to deal damage equal to my power to get me to notice.

Favor of the Mighty #2: Eh…

Vigor: I’m definitely torn on this card versus Cloudthresher at the top of the mana curve. On the one hand this card definitely breaks open stalls in creature deck-on-creature deck battles, and has got to be a back-breaker against Red decks… but I somehow think the coming environment is going to see several flavors of black/blue control rising up — including Faeries — so I think Cloudthresher wins the nod.

What’s this? Looking down at my stack of booster packs, there’s a gigantic pile of empty wrappers… and one single booster pack left. Only one?! Let’s do a quick inventory of the cards I was hoping to open, and how many of them I in fact did open.

Thoughtseize: 0
Gaddock Teeg: 0
Gilt-Leaf Palace: 0
Masked Admirers: 0
Deathrender: 1
Primal Command: 2
Liliana Vess: 0
Garruk Wildspeaker: 0
Wort, Boggart Auntie: 0
Mad Auntie: 0
Doran, the Siege Tower: 0

The Magic Gods hate me. What have I done to them besides love, cherish and spend ridiculous amounts of money on this game?!? WHAT, I ASK?!? WHAT?!?!?!?!?!

I am the Job of Magic.

You know, unless that last booster pack is one of those mythical all-rare booster packs you used to hear about on rare occasion, I’m going to be profoundly disappointed with my Lorwyn haul.

Anybody know the address of whoever is in charge of collating Magic boosters?

Trembling, I reach for the very last booster pack…

Thoughtseize: Words unsuitable for a family site escape my lips when I see the rare. Of course, it’s the very last booster pack I open! I shake my fist at the Magic gods, who have yet again mocked and taunted me in my quadrennial pack-opening ritual.

Let me take a moment to go on the record as saying, as much as I typically like most of the decisions Wizards makes regarding Magic cards, whomever decided Thoughtseize should be a rare ought to be tarred, feathered, and run out of town for his or her terrible call. It’s one thing to make Damnation a rare that’s going to be super-expensive; it’s simply a Black version of another really good rare that’s long been valuable on the singles market. But Wizards has long established that this sort of effect — cheap, one-for-one hand destruction — is appropriately set as an uncommon rarity at worst. The cards this most resembles in terms of power — Duress and Cabal Therapy — are uncommons, and staples across nearly every Constructed format they are legal in. Thoughtseize is going to be similarly sought after for Standard, Extended, and Block Constructed, and likely will see use in the Eternal Formats. Each competitive player who plays any of these formats is going to be looking for a playset of these cards, and they are going to be forced to pay top dollar to acquire them, either in purchasing numerous boxes of boosters, paying premium prices for singles, or trading dearly for them from the casual players who cracked three Thoughtseize instead of three Sunrise Sovereigns.

To add insult to injury, sorting through my uncommons I only got one Prowess of the Fair and one Wren’s Run Vanquishers, two uncommons I think are going to be pivotal to any good Green/Black Elves deck in the new Standard. I did, however, get seven Elvish Promenade


Despite the crabbing, this irritation will soon fade away as I acquire the new cards I need and start giving deck ideas a try and dig into the joys of Lorwyn. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you in the weeks ahead!

Take care,


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com