elcome back to the Lab. This week, in accordance with the biweekly thematic layers of Magical focus, is Lord Week. Lords are generally creatures that provide benefits to others of their races. Naturally, these creatures show up frequently in tribal-oriented sets. Therefore, it makes sense to have this week in the midst of Innistrad block, which is shaping up to be a spiritual sequel to the previously attempted blocks with tribal themes (Onslaught and Lorwyn). While the former set is perhaps my favorite of all time, the latter set is as of now my least favorite set, which is an interesting duality to possess.
Diregraf Captain | Art by Slawomir Maniak
The silver-symboled lords of Dark Ascension have swung my pendulum of tribal appreciation back into happier zones, however. The tribes feel far more balanced this time around, at least to me. Importantly, cards like Immerwolf, Deranged Outcast, and Havengul Runebinder have serious fun streaks.
A recent lord I've been itching to discuss is Diregraf Captain. In fact, I'll itch right into the intro! Perhaps the most popular combo enabled by Dark Ascension (as far as my inbox goes) is the collaboration of the Captain, Rooftop Storm, a sacrifice outlet, and the key piece: Gravecrawler. This interaction spawned countless emails dating back to late January.
To showcase this combo, I've cobbled together two reader decks. I liked both of them, which were submitted by Brandon Buncher and Will Robinson, and strung together elements of both decks. Brandon was in favor of using Jar of Eyeballs, as am I. The Jar is amazingly versatile and flavorful, and I can't believe I haven't talked about it yet. Will R. used Grimgrin, Corpse-Born as a sacrifice-outlet-slash-insane-Zombie-weapon and some Ghoulcaller's Chants to recover from opposing meddling.
Lord of Innistrad
The newest planeswalker card is certainly one that has been buzzing on everyone's radar for a while. I'm glad to see his story arc continue, and eagerly await his decision-making about the whole Avacyn's-trapped-in-the-Helvault fiasco.
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad | Art by Michael Komarck
While his ultimate ability is full-on insane, I actually find Sorin's second ability to be the most exciting. I've been a fan of emblems for their short existence, and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad stands solitary as the only card to reliably churn them out. (Koth, Venser, and Elspeth usually only get around to making one before poofing away.)
My game plan was simple: Feature a black-and-white token deck and accumulate a ton of emblems. That way, your token swarms pack massive beats. I had just finished my creation when frequent inbox weirdo Travis Froggatt emailed me his Sorin list, fitted for Standard play, sideboard and all. So, I guess there are two Standard decks today. If you're into that, then, woohoo!? Travis's deck is relatively straightforward. Just get little dudes out and beat down, or have Skirsdag Flayer use them to kill stuff, or have Mentor of the Meek draw cards.
Here's my take on Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. I naturally dipped into older sets for some great token makers. Spectral Procession was an instant four-of. Rise of the Hobgoblins is a pet card of mine for token-related strategies, so in it went. And as an apt mass-removal card for such strategies, I used Hour of Reckoning. Yikes, that sounds swingy. Convoke always helps as well.
I shoehorned an artifact subtheme into my version of the deck, mostly to support Throne of Geth, which is a really roundabout way of saying: I heart proliferate. Inching up the loyalty on Sorin or the charge counters on Shrine of Loyal Legions doesn't sound too shabby. Origin Spellbombs speed things along. I also used Spread the Sickness, a piece of direct proliferating removal.
Other token makers include Lingering Souls (natch), a singleton Increasing Devotion (heard tell this card rocks), Myrsmith (Signets and Spellbombs are early artifacts in the deck), and Thraben Doomsayer (the only other similarity between my deck and Travis's, although he's right that the guy does resemble The Dude).
That's the recent stuff out of the way. Now I can dive into the extensive back catalogue of tribal boosters. After some initial frolicking, I decided to find two obscure red and green lords to build around. (This will complete the color wheel for today as well... yay!)
Greatbow Doyen | Art by Steven Belledin
While sifting through the green lords, I was delighted to rediscover Greatbow Doyen. Part of a series of Morningtide lords that benefited rather obscure classes of creatures, the Doyen's prowess bolsters all other Archers in both size and damage potential.
Intrigued, I began forging a supporting cast of bowfolk. These turned out to be mostly other Elves. Jagged-Scar Archers pack a walloping punch, and Lys Alana Bowmaster will dole out a bunch of damage alongside a handful of Elves. Hmm... sort of lordy. Thornweald Archers and Scattershot Archer fill out the lower rungs of the mana curve.
Of course, the whole deck falls apart if your opponent has no creatures with flying. Fortunately, this is an easily remedied problem. Hunted Troll bursts into the deck, providing ample beats and a squad of four 1/1 Faerie tokens as a gift to your opponent. Shoot them all out of the sky at once with Scattershot Archer. That guy was designed to hose Faeries anyway.
Other ways to give your opponents' creatures wings include Evolution Charm, which is surely one of green's most versatile common spells. It can find lands and return dead Doyens in a pinch. I also found room for two fitting singleton artifacts. Power Matrix doubles as an offensive weapon, and will happily hoist an opposing creature for Archery practice. (The +1/+1 boost can usually be overcome by Jagged-Scar Archers.) And Predator, Flagship was basically too good to be true.
One of the last inclusions in the deck was Wirewood Symbiote. Although neither an Elf nor an Archer, it offers many strategic facets. Returning Elves at instant speed can save them from harm and give the Bowmaster more artillery. Untapping Jagged-Scar Archers seems powerful as well.
Loveless Acid, Yo
After scanning databases of red lords and tribal benefactors without feeling much in terms of inspiration, I finally hit upon my answer: Have a steamy deck building session with Lovisa Coldeyes...
Lovisa Coldeyes | Art by Brian Snoddy
The rugged mountain leader boosts not one but three different tribes at once. And although she's been retconned into a Barbarian, the mighty Oracle can't fully erase her lordship. Surrounded by her comrades and wielding that battle axe... I'd be scared if I was an ice wizard. Or wasn't.
At first I wanted to go with an all Berserker or Barbarian deck (Warriors have lots of sun-time), but I eventually felt a properly flavorful Lovisa deck would run red beaters of all three marauding types.
Beginning with Berserkers, I found a solid one-two punch in Frenzied Goblin and Stormblood Berserker, both of which make blocking difficult for your opponent. Warriors entered the deck in droves, kicking off with Goblin Fireslinger, who reteams with best M12 buddy Stormblood Berserker. Stingscourger and Keldon Marauders hit the two-slot as the feisty and powerful Warriors they are. And under Lovisa's gaze, they raid hard. Another interesting Warrior would be Ghitu Encampment.
Markov Blademaster is downright scary as a hasty double-striking 3/3 Slith for three. And Markov Warlord snuck into the deck as a singleton to create more blocking havoc.
At this point I needed Barbarians and burn, and Barbarian Lunatic stepped up. Using outlandish removal is a slight pastime of mine, so I dug deeper and found a perfect fit: Bloodshot Trainee. Normally a somewhat pathetic card, the Trainee is instantly whipped into shape with Lovisa around. And as a final touch, two copies of Thunderblade Charge spice up the deck. If your horde is getting through, chances are you'll be able to come up with .
Hope you enjoyed. Until next time!