You Lika The Juice? – Morningtide Glory

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I have to admit to finding it difficult to focus on anything other than Morningtide right now, so I thought it would be fun to go ahead and get some discussion going with what we know so far. Today, I’m going to talk about cards we know about for sure from the Wizards preview page…

Ripped from the most recent Magic headlines, this is some of what the Magic community is buzzing about:

News item: Biorhythm is pretty nifty cast from a Hideaway land.
News item: Doran decks are really good, but how do you attack the mirror?

If you’re a regular reader of You Lika The Juice, you already know this stuff. Sometimes I think it’s a shame that my playskills are so woefully inadequate that my interesting ideas never hit Top 8 decklists and, therefore, barely make a peep on the technology radar. Still, I love deckbuilding and I love writing about it, so all this goodstuff is for you, intrepid reader!

Last week I found it interesting that I got zero response in the forums regarding my different spin on the Doran deck, but I got a ton of discussion going on the Intruder Alarm/Opposition deck I mentioned briefly. Which makes me wish I had gone ahead and played it, so that I could have offered you more information on the deck and some ideas on where to take it from here! Jay and I talked about the deck on the drive back home, and he feels that it is a very solid deck that’s very capable of taking someone to a Top 8 (note that one Elf Intruder Alarm deck made Top 8 at the Star City PTQ). The combo potential is enormous, and turn 2 Trygon Predator is very problematic against a wide variety of decks. His only suggestion is swapping out the Tarmogoyfs for Merfolk Looter (and/or some number of the human counterpart). My idea with Tarmogoyfs is that he helps give you some protection from opposing Tarmogoyf beatdown decks, but Jay seems to think that the Looter would be much more helpful in getting to one of your key enchantments; it also addresses some of the concerns I had with your hand filling up with too many redundant copies of cards like Opposition and Sprout Swarm.

Anyway, I’m glad the next PTQ I’ll be attending won’t be until March because who can concentrate on Extended with Morningtide is very nearly upon us?!

I wanted to urge all of you to make sure you make time to go to your local prerelease, and not simply because they are a lot of fun. The DCI recently changed the rules so that, as soon as a new set is released, you can play the cards in sanctioned Constructed events. Morningtide releases February 1, which means you could spring new cards and strategy to competitive advantage at your very next FNM (or, conversely, have it sprung on you). Don’t wait until release day to try and acquire the cards you want – go to the prerelease and get a jump on Morningtide; play in some flights and drafts, get some cards and do some mad trading! Speaking of which, I’ll be manning the admin table at the Morningtide prerelease in Richmond this Saturday, so make sure you come by and say hi! I’ve got a new Elder Dragon Highlander deck built and will have it with me; I don’t know if I’ll have time to muster up a game after my duties are over, but the potential is there!

I have to admit to finding it difficult to focus on anything other than Morningtide right now, so I thought it would be fun to go ahead and get some discussion going with what we know so far. I’m going to talk about cards we know about for sure from the Wizards preview page; the good folks at MTGSalvation of course have assembled a near complete spoiler, but there’s a high probability for some minor errors here and there, so I’ll wait for a more comprehensive look at Morningtide later on. For now, here’s what’s on my mind.

1. Racial Discrimination

Stonehewer Giant – 3WW
Creature – Giant Warrior (Rare)
{1}{W}, {T}: Search your library for an Equipment card and put it into play. Attach it to a creature you control. Then shuffle your library.

Stonybrook Schoolmaster – 2W
Creature – Merfolk Wizard (Common)
Whenever Stonybrook Schoolmaster becomes tapped, you may put a 1/1 blue Merfolk Wizard creature token into play.

Sage of Fables – 2U
Creature – Merfolk Wizard (Uncommon)
Each other Wizard creature you control comes into play with an additional +1/+1 counter on it.
{2}, Remove a +1/+1 counter from a creature you control: Draw a card.

Man, you gotta feel bad for Giants and Merfolk. Coming out of Lorwyn, you’ve already got competitive Elf, Faerie, and to some degree Kithkin decks. Shriekmaw and Mulldrifter are all over the place representin’ for the Elementals. Giants have a major problem with their very concept – they’re supposed to be, well, giant, and that means they’re going to cost more mana to cast, even if they’re costed aggressively. So what does a Giant deck do while it develops enough mana to cast Giant spells? That’s been a problem so far. And the Merfolk are rather sad, with most of the tribe looking pretty sad by themselves, and trying to assemble multiple Merfolk on the board in a world of Damnation and Wrath of God makes that very tough going. So Giant and Merfolk fans turn an eye towards Morningtide for answers. Sadly, Wizards hasn’t shown us but three preview cards each for Giants and Merfolk. There have been six Elf cards, six Faerie cards (though two are technically Rogue cards), four Elemental cards and four Treefolk cards (plus lands to help those last two tribal themes). On the plus side, the Merfolk and Giant cards seem pretty good, especially Stonehewer Giant, which has got to be one of the most impressive equipment-themed cards I’ve ever seen. Sure to be a “giant” hit on the casual scene, it’s aggressively costed enough to see some competitive play with some of the better equipment cards out there. Stonybrook Schoolmaster seems to be a step in the right direction, providing a steady flow of Merfolk creatures without investing too many more cards on the board. It’s awful tiny for a three-mana creature; it’s like all the Merfolk pretty much demand a turn 2 Lord of Atlantis in play. Sage of Fables seems nice, helping to permanently boost later-cast Merfolk while allowing you to cash in counters for cards. Still, I think the card might prove to be a bit annoying bookkeeping-wise since you’re going to be adding and removing +1/+1 counters from token creatures.

2. Singles frenzy

Land (Rare)
{T}: Add {1} to your mana pool.
{1}: Mutavault becomes a 2/2 creature with all creature types until end of turn. It’s still a land.

It’s funny in retrospect the amount of “disappointment” expressed when Lorwyn first hit the scene when compared to all the flashy, nostalgia-fueled Time Spiral block, especially in lamenting how Lorwyn was significantly “underpowered.” I think it’s pretty safe to say now that Lorwyn was chock full of very powerful cards that have made an impact across multiple formats. I was perusing the singles prices for Lorwyn cards recently while preparing for the Extended PTQs and was stunned at how expensive some of the chase rares have become. Just for curiosity sake, I figured out how much it would cost if you purchased one copy of each Lorwyn rare, and it pushed well over $300 total. And that’s including the regular number of $1 “junk” rares! Seems to me buying boxes of Lorwyn is incredibly cost-effective in terms of value, more so than I remember in a long time, and I have to wonder if I need to change my collection paradigm. Typically, I get some product for working the prerelease, and then I buy a box, and fill out my collection by buying and trading for singles. But there are so many high-dollar singles I’m wondering if I should just shoot for buying another box since that may prove to be cheaper and easier than buying the chase singles. What does this have to do with Morningtide? My suspicion is that it’s going to have a significant number of chase rares too, with Mutavault leading the way. That card is going to be ridiculously expensive the moment it hits singles market and won’t come down in price any time soon (if at all). This is a card that nearly every single player, no matter how competitive or casual, no matter what formats they play, or whether they’re getting Tribal or just running 8Wrath.dec, everyone will want a playset. That means you won’t be able to find a random Mutavault in someone’s trade binder after the prerelease, nor after the set releases, and if you do you’re trade through the nose for it. As a writer for Star City Games, I’m happy for them since selling cards like this one is very profitable, and whether they sell singles or move more volume as people buy more boxes, these sorts of cards are win-win. As a player, I really wish this card were an uncommon!

3. Reinforce is spiffy

Earthbrawn – 1G
Instant (Common)
Target creature gets +3/+3 until end of turn.
Reinforce 1 – {1}{G} ({1}{G}, Discard this card: Put a +1/+1 counter on target creature.)

I’m kinda grooving on Reinforce; it’s like you can cast creature-boosting spells without worrying about them being countered. It makes Troll Ascetic even more of a beast, and makes me damn glad I already have a playset of Tarmogoyfs since these cards give you both a way to win Tarmogoyf wars and also will often toss an extra card type in the graveyard.

4. I’m not sold on Kinship

Leaf-Crowned Elder – 2GG
Creature – Treefolk Shaman (Rare)
Kinship – At the beginning of your upkeep, you may look at the top card of your library. If it shares a creature type with Leaf-Crowned Elder, you may reveal it. If you do, you may play that card without paying its mana cost.

Sensation Gorger – 1RR
Creature – Goblin Shaman (Rare)
Kinship – At the beginning of your upkeep, you may look at the top card of your library. If it shares a creature type with Sensation Gorger you may reveal it. If you do, each player discards his or her hand and draws four cards.

This strikes me as a Limited mechanic, and I admit it has some cute synergy with Clash, but overall it seems that the mechanic is just way too slow to be much use in Constructed decks. I do however really like Leaf-Crowned Elder! Now that’s a seriously sweet benefit to making sure the Kinship ability fires off, making the Harbingers more interesting and Liliana’s tutoring ability even stronger. Sensation Gorger is rather interesting too…

5. Treefolk rock!

Indomitable Ancients – 2WW
Creature – Treefolk Warrior (Rare)

Reach of Branches – 4G
Tribal Instant – Treefolk (Rare)
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.

Speaking of Leaf-Crowned Elder, I’m incredibly excited about some of the Treefolk cards I’ve been seeing. The Treefolk have some of the issues the Giants have, of being a tad bit slooooow to hit the board outside of Doran (though the mana tricks to get him in play quickly can be tough). Still, Green is not hurting for mana acceleration, so if a “big” tribe has a shot at breaking into the competitive realm, I’m thinking the Treefolk might be able to pull it off. Man, look at Indomitable Ancients, one of the most ridiculous vanilla creatures ever printed. Ten toughness for four mana?! That’s incredibly difficult for any creature deck to punch through without help from Black removal, and if there’s a Doran in play that fellow hits hard. I’m also really impressed by Reach of Branches, which gives you an easy pitch to early discard spells cast against you, easy fodder for spellshapers, and an incredibly potent late game spell that gives you incentive to play lots and lots of Forests while also giving you something to do with them all.

6. Kithkin FTW?

Preeminent Captain – 2W
Creature – Kithkin Soldier (Rare)
First strike
Whenever Preeminent Captain attacks, you may put a Soldier creature card from your hand into play tapped and attacking.

Kinsbaile Borderguard – 1WW
Creature – Kithkin Soldier (Rare)
Kinsbaile Borderguard comes into play with a +1/+1 counter on it for each other Kithkin you control.
When Kinsbaile Borderguard is put into a graveyard from play, put a 1/1 white Kithkin Soldier creature token into play for each counter on it.

Rustic Clachan
Land (Rare)
As Rustic Clachan comes into play, you may reveal a Kithkin card from your hand. If you don’t, Rustic Clachan comes into play tapped.
{T}: Add {W} to your mana pool.
Reinforce 1 – {1}{W} ({1}{W}, Discard this card: Put a +1/+1 counter on target creature.)

Playtesting for Champs last fall, a friend had built a pretty fast Kithkin deck that certainly had my attention, capable of dishing out a ridiculous amount of damage fast. Two of the preview cards seem to do a nice job of both speeding up the deck and also giving it some resistance to mass removal. Preeminant Captain raised a lot of eyebrows as a new spin on Goblin Lackey, one of the most feared Goblins on the planet back in the day. The Captain comes down a little slower, but his ability is faster, activating during the attack phase! This lets an aggressive Kithkin deck the ability to advance his board position with creatures while keeping mana back for combat tricks and such. Then we’ve got Kinsbaile Borderguard, which seems like the perfect turn 3 play to insure against a Wrath of God coming down the following turn to save the day. Conveniently, you can even boost the counters on it with the Reinforce mechanic, found even on the “Kithkin land” Rustic Clachan.

7. Maralen is scary

Maralen of the Mornsong – 1BB
Legendary Creature – Elf Wizard (Rare)
Players can’t draw cards.
At the beginning of each player’s draw step, that player loses 3 life, searches his or her library for a card, puts it into his or her hand, then shuffles his or her library.

When I first saw this card I thought, yikes, how awful! Giving your opponent first crack at tutoring up whatever card they want sounds very iffy. Ben Bleiweiss turned me around on her though, mentioning how brutal she could be in a Tarmo-Rack style deck; having to pay 3 life to go get a card is pretty huge in conjunction with damage from The Rack. She also prevents a player from tutoring up a card-drawing card to get from under The Rack. You can also get all combo-licious with Aven Mindcensor to make it much more difficult to find a solution to Maralen, or use Saffi or perhaps some elf-boosting like Imperious Perfect to make her more resistant to removal like Nameless Inversion or Incinerate. What’s important to remember is that he’s basically hitting your opponent for 3 life right off the bat.

I made a stab at a G/B deck featuring Maralen that I thought might be interesting:


4 Birds of Paradise
4 Fertile Ground
4 Nameless Inversion
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Maralen of the Mornsong
2 Krosan Grip
4 Garruk Wildspeaker
1 Colfenor’s Plans
4 Primal Command
1 Liliana Vess
3 Profane Command
1 Cloudthresher
1 Mind Shatter
1 Pendelhaven
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Gilt-Leaf Palace
4 Treetop Village
4 Mutavault
2 Forest
3 Swamp

When I first reviewed Lorwyn I mentioned Colfenor’s Plans struck me as a card to keep an eye on, and I think it might be interesting as a one-of in this deck that you could tutor up with Maralen to give you a card-drawing spell that can function under Maralen. The Planeswalkers and the Commands give you the ability to play more than one spell a turn in effect. I like how both Commands work well with Maralen; Profane reanimates Maralen while draining your opponent for even more life, and Primal Command gives you a seven life boost while getting a backup copy of Maralen. I also thought Mind Shatter would be a nice addition to the “mana-ramp” combination of Fertile Ground and Garruk Wildspeaker.

8. Prepare for the Faerie Assault

Bitterblossom – 1B
Tribal Enchantment – Faerie (Rare)
At the beginning of your upkeep, lose 1 life and put a 1/1 black Faerie Rogue creature token with flying into play.

Faerie decks have already proven to be the most powerful tribe to come out of Lorwyn, and things are just going to get worse. Check out Bitterblossom! Free 1/1 fliers each turn for just 1 life – sign me up. How ridiculous is that? And if some of the Faerie and blue Rogue cards spoiled on MTGSalvation are true, I have a feeling these “nuisances” are going to be much more than that. Stock up on Cloudthreshers now, my friends!

9. Prowl is better than you think

Latchkey Faerie – 3U
Creature – Faerie Rogue (Common)
Prowl {2}{U} (You may play this for its prowl cost if you dealt combat damage to a player this turn with a Faerie or Rogue.)
When Latchkey Faerie comes into play, if its prowl cost was paid, draw a card.

Notorious Throng – 3U
Tribal Sorcery – Rogue (Rare)
Prowl {5}{U}
Put X 1/1 black Fairy Rogue creature tokens with flying into play, where X is the damage dealt to opponents this turn. If the prowl cost was paid, take an extra turn after this one.

I’ve talked with a few people about Prowl and most seem underwhelmed by it, since it requires a particular creature type or two to attack and connect in order to function. The thing is, there are tons of flying Faeries and Rogues out there to easily turn on your Prowl cards (see Bitterblossom for instance). Sure, a Faerie deck doesn’t want to spend mana on its own turn, but if the effect is worth it why not? For instance, Latchkey Faerie is a heckuva bargain at three mana for a 3-power cantrip flier; just wait until you have five or mana so you can still cast a counterspell if you need to. And what about Notorious Throng?! Holy cow, that’s a heckuva Time Walk affect that can pretty well go lethal on you if you’re connecting through the air for three or more Faerie Rogues.

10. Goblins are still “eh”

Lightning Crafter – 3R
Creature – Goblin Shaman (Rare)
Champion a Goblin or Shaman (When this comes into play, sacrifice it unless you remove another Goblin or Shaman you control from the game. When this leaves play, that card returns to play.)
{T}: Lightning Crafter deals 3 damage to target creature or player.

From what I’ve seen so far, the Goblin tribe still seems a bit “eh” to me – and I see that as a good thing. The Goblin tribe was ridiculously overpowered in Onslaught, and we definitely don’t need to have that nonsense hitting us again, or making Goblins even more powerful in Extended and Eternal formats. Lightning Crafter is certainly interesting if you can use him at least once.

11. Fires of Obsidian

Obsidian Battle-Axe – 3
Tribal Artifact – Warrior Equipment (Uncommon)
Equipped creature gets +2/+1 and has haste.
Whenever a Warrior creature comes into play, you may attach Obsidian Battle-Axe to it.
Equip {3}

I really like Obsidian Battle-Axe a lot. It reminds me of Fires of Yavimaya; who cares if it only gives one creature haste – Fires of Yavimaya typically only gave one creature haste except when it was breaking off Saproling Burst. So the question is – are there enough good Warriors out there to make this worthwhile? A quick scan in Gatherer for Warrior yields a few surprises – did you realize that Imperious Perfect is a Warrior himself while he makes Warrior tokens? Tapping to make hasty 4/3 Warrior Elf tokens can be dangerous all by himself. Mirri, Cat Warrior would be quite impressive as a 4/4 hasty first-striking Forestwalker. What about Stonebrow, Krosan Hero coming into play, picking up the Axe and hastily smashing into your grillpiece as a 8/7 trampler? Giving Keldon Marauders haste is quite a boost to its effectiveness. Wren’s Run Vanquisher and Radha, Heir to Keld are Warriors. What about Korlash, Heir to Blackblade? How about Mudbutton Torchrunner? Norin the Wary is a Warrior!

Needless to say, I’m stoked by what I’ve been seeing from Morningtide and can’t wait to get hold of the cards this weekend. Hope you all are too! Let me know what you think of the cards we’ve seen so far in the forums; what’s your favorite? What singles are going to be hot? What are you looking forward to playing in your casual decks?

Take care!


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com