You Lika The Juice? – High on Morningtide!

Read Bennie Smith every week... at StarCityGames.com!
It’s amusing the expressions of horror I get from the surprising number of Magic players who view cellophane-wrapped booster box of product as several evenings of draft fodder instead of the wondrous trove of singles treasure that I see. I love cracking those packs, accumulating a small mountain of foil booster wrapping to the side as I stack rares, uncommons, and commons.

Man, I love the smell of freshly cracked new Magic cards in the morning (or afternoon and evening for that matter)! It’s amusing the expressions of horror I get from the surprising number of Magic players who view cellophane-wrapped booster box of product as several evenings of draft fodder instead of the wondrous trove of singles treasure that I see. I love cracking those packs, accumulating a small mountain of foil booster wrapping to the side as I stack rares, uncommons, and commons.

“You’re just cracking open all those packs?! You’re not going to draft them?!”
“Not even pack wars?”


Laugh as they flinch. Cracking open new packs is a time-honored tradition of mine dating back… well, since I started playing Magic in the mid-90s. I remember back then Magic was first catching fire, and distribution was so fickle that each store limited the number of packs you could buy. So on release day I’d drive to one store, buy my five packs, and then crack them open while driving to the next store to buy five more packs – not exactly easy while driving stick shift through the city streets.

I get some new product for helping out at each prerelease. I’m proud to say Star City wrapped up yet another awesome event in Richmond this past weekend. Pete usually gets at least one artist to come hang out, sign cards and sell prints, but it didn’t work out this time. Instead, each flight you signed up for after the first you got your choice of two cool Morningtide playmats and a random signed Magic print. Quite a few people who come to our prerelease play in more than one flight, so we gave away a bunch of the playmats and everyone seemed quite stoked.

Aside: every time I type playmat, MS Word wants to change it to playmate. Giving away a choice of playmate would have made for a very different atmosphere…

Also, to make things even cooler, an old Magic buddy showed up out of the blue to play. Some of you may have read me long enough to remember a multiplayer column I wrote called The Legend of Chuck (from 2003, a fun read that also features a younger, pre-Pro Tour Star Wars Kid, and the forum thread has some nice advice from The Ferrett and Anthony Alongi and lots of fun posts)… Chuck had dropped off the Magic scene for a while and has been playing poker instead. But Magic is an insidiously addictive game; you can try to walk away, but it keeps trying to pull you back in. That’s why I’m always telling people who drop their “I’m quitting the game and selling off my collection” spiel to just hold on a moment, take a deep breath and don’t be stupid. I’ve been playing the game since its beginning, and I can’t tell you how many people who’ve expressed regret at doing that. They’re burned out, they stop playing, sell off the cards… and then, a year or two or three later they begin to get that itch to play again. Starting from ground zero when you’re a brand spankin’ new player is one thing, but starting from ground zero again when you once had a sizable collection is flat out hard, both financially and psychologically. My advice is to sell off excess cards, get your collection down an easily stored and transported level, keep your “favorites” and some money cards you can cash in later when/if you want to jump back in. Our own Mark Young dropped the “I’m quitting and selling off my collection” bomb last week, and I just shook my head. He’s going to regret that; I can damn near guarantee it.

Anyway, Chuck seemed to have a really good time, and expressed interest in playing in the next Elder Dragon Highlander game we get together. Of course, if you’ve read The Legend of Chuck, you know I may pay a heavy price for having him come back, but it’s fun playing with the old crew.

Now that I’ve got some actual, honest-to-goodness Morningtide cards in hand, and a complete and accurate full-spoiler online, I’ve got some more thoughts on the set.

1. The artwork on Sensation Gorger
I bow to Matt Cavotta brilliant rendering of Sensation Gorger. For me, Magic art is like air – it’s something you’re not aware of so long as it’s good quality. It’s definitely a vital part of what makes Magic, Magic… but I tend pay much more attention to card text. Still, every once in a while a piece of Magic art really grabs me. Like Elephant Ambush, the first Magic print I ever purchased. Cracking open a Sensation Gorger right out of the pack is the first time I’ve seen the artwork… and it had me laughing almost immediately. And laughing some more the longer I looked at it, with more and more details coming clear. The little goblin is quite literally gorging on sensation, with every orifice filled to the point that you’re glad you can’t make out what’s behind the little goblin!

2. Taking TurboBlink to the Next Level
When I took TurboBlink to State Champs last fall, it was the first time in a long while I had felt such utter confidence in my deck. It was incredibly powerful, and I knew it. I felt I had a good shot at Top 8, and could even win the thing. Instead, I stumbled along the way and finished in the middle of the pack. Still, I know the deck has a lot of potential; it just needs some real work to take on the metagame.

There’s a new card in Morningtide that I think really takes the deck — already very powerful — up another notch. Perhaps you’ve seen it?

Creature — Elemental
When Reveillark leaves play, return up to two target creature cards with power 2 or less from your graveyard to play.
Evoke {5}{W}

In Morningtide, the Evoke elementals don’t give you any benefit until they leave play, as opposed to right away when they come into play. Generally, this makes them worse than the immediate joys of Mulldrifter and Shriekmaw, but Reveillark’s effect is so strong as to be worth the wait. For one thing, he’s a natural partner with Saffi Eriksdotter; together they make mass removal like Wrath of God or Damnation look silly. Putting two creatures with power 2 or less directly into play is a huge tempo gain, especially if you’re getting some effect from it such as Mulldrifter or Venser, Shaper Savant.

The trick of course to these “slow-vokes” is to get them to leave play, and my TurboBlink has answers to that obstacle. First is the namesake spell, Momentary Blink, and second is Galepowder Mage. Reveillark is conveniently costed to come into play the turn after you’ve cast Galepowder Mage, so you cast the Reveillark first and then attack with GPM, removing the elemental and reanimating two creatures – hmm, maybe Saffi and Mulldrifter?

So here’s my new spin on TurboBlink:

I’ve been torn between trying out Primal Beyond as color fixing, since my only Black and Blue cards are elementals… but I do need Blue for Momentary Blink’s flashback, so I’m going to give Civic Wayfinder a try to see if he can team up with assorted special lands to make the mana happen.

Patrick Chapin latest on Mono-Black Prowlers over on the Premium side has me a little worried, since I’m pretty much wide open to Fear here, outside of dropping a Shriekmaw and killing one of my own dudes. I’ve got plenty of fliers so I should be covered on that front. It’ll be interesting to see how Prowlers impact the metagame and may require some adjustments be made to TurboBlink.

3. For the love of Forests
I don’t know if Jamie Wakefield is paying attention to Magic much lately, but Morningtide is a really good time to be a Green Mage at heart! In particular, there’s a lot of Forest-love going on here. Take a look at this card:

Reach of Branches
Tribal Instant – Treefolk
Put a 2/5 green Treefolk Shaman creature token into play under your control.
Whenever a Forest comes into play under your control, you may return Reach of Branches from your graveyard to your hand.

On its face, Reach of Branches doesn’t seem like all that much. At five mana, you’re getting a 2/5 creature, which is not exactly going to have anyone quivering in his or her boots. Making it an instant is a nice added feature. But it’s the recursive power that makes this an amazing card.

Think about Magic at its most basic level – mana and spells. You can’t cast your spells if you don’t have enough mana, so you’ve got to put enough mana sources in your deck so you can play the game from the first turn or two. If the game goes long enough, however, there’s the risk that mana cards will become “dead draws” when what you need are more action spells since you’ve already got all the mana you need to cast whatever you draw. What if you could make it so that, from the mid-game on, every land you drew was actually like drawing one or more spells?

That’s what Reach of Branches does for you. Each Forest you draw and play once you’ve got five or more mana out (and have already played a Reach) is just like you’ve drawn a Reach of Branches. Sure, an individual 2/5 isn’t all that much, but a 2/5 every single turn after turn after turn — or more with enough mana — can quickly get out of hand. Reach of Branches basically ensures a Forest is never, ever a dead draw for you. In the mid- to late-game you will never find yourself without something to do. That strikes me as very powerful, folks.

Let’s not also forget that Reach of Branches basically gives you a buffer against many discard spells, and can fuel Spellshapers (or Razormane Masticore) for free, provided you play a fair number of Forests. Play with Scryb Ranger, and you’ll never find yourself without a Forest to play when you may want to.

And speaking of Forests! Who’d have guessed Morningtide would bring us a trip-land Forest? When I first saw this card I completely missed that it was a Forest. With all the good Treefolk in Morningtide, I really wanted to pull together a Treefolk deck. The problem was the apparent rivalry between Doran, the Siege-Tower and Dauntless Dourbark. Both of these guys are powerful Treefolk you want in your deck, and yet Doran cries out for a bevy of special lands in order to make it on the board in a reasonable amount of time. So I was weighing the pros and cons of each of them when I suddenly realized Murmuring Bosk bridges the gap – giving you color fixing for Doran while counting as a Forest for Dourbark

Murmuring Bosk
Land – Forest (Rare)
({T}: Add {G} to your mana pool.)
As Murmuring Bosk comes into play, you may reveal a Treefolk card from your hand. If you don’t, Murmuring Bosk comes into play tapped.
{T}: Add {W} or {B} to your mana pool. Murmuring Bosk deals 1 damage to you.

Man, just look at that thing of beauty. I sure wish Doran wasn’t tearing up Extended right now, because it would be real nice to be able to pick these up without taking out a second mortgage. As if Mutavault weren’t bad enough!

Anyway, enough blathering about Treefolk, here’s the first pass on a deck:

With Nameless Inversion, Hail Storm and Cloudthresher (not to mention Doran being a Black creature), this deck might be in better shape to handle Prowl decks (and Reach of Branches giving some resistance to discard). I’m thinking Hail Storm might be some hot tech against Faeries and Rogues, and maybe even Kithkin too provided you could hit them with it early enough. Leaf-Crown Elder ought to hit often enough to provide some nice card advantage.

4. Cream of Elf Kinship
I was a little dismissive of Kinship last week, but I think Cream of the Crop might be a strong enough enabler to make things pop for decks that can make use of Kinship. Wolf-Skull Shaman does seem like a strong addition to an aggressive Elf deck, and Cream of the Crop makes sure you always draw gas (and sets up your kinship). Turn 2 Wolf-Skull, turn 3 Imperious Perfect, and you may never need to cast another creature card for the rest of the game! Check this out:

I had an Abyssal Elves deck pre-Morningtide that used the various Elf token-makers to try and break the symmetry of Magus of the Abyss, and I think we’ve got even more tools to do it now. Cream of the Crop really adds a lot of value here, making sure you can keep dropping creatures and advancing the board. I’m thinking Beacon of Unrest can be quite nice here, reanimating key creatures in either graveyard (and triggering Cream of the Crop) and then shuffling back into the deck to keep the odds high of hitting another Beacon with Cream.

If I’m not mistaken, Masked Admirers works very nicely with Cream of the Crop. When it comes into play, you can stack things so that the Cream trigger resolves first, letting you dig three cards down (or more depending on Imperious Perfect counts), and then drawing the best one.

Lys Alana Bowmaster strikes me as a sleeper card that could really make a splash combating the faerie menace, so I want to give her a shot. If Wolf-Skull doesn’t overly impress here I’d likely pull back on the Elf tribal stuff and add things like Shriekmaw and maybe Spectral Force. You know you want to drop a Spectral Force with Cream of the Crop in play, don’t you? That’s some deep digging there, folks.

I’m bumping up against deadline and somewhere across the big pond there’s an editor tapping his foot, so I’ll knock off for now. I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of these initial deck ideas, either in the forums or drop me an email. I want to get one of these things up to speed by the time the Star City $5K rolls around February 23rd so I can take home some cash and glory!

Here’s hoping you’re having fun with some of your prerelease Morningtide too!

Take care,


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com