elcome back, folks! I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays, or as I like to call them, Shovel-apalooza. You see, in Toronto where I live, we had something like 35 centimetres of snow unceremoniously dumped on us. Worse, it seemed like every stop on my holiday tour of duty had been blanketed by more and more snow with less and less ceremony. The heavens just opened up and said, "Deal with it." When I reached my final port of call, I was chagrined to discover that not only was I using terms like "port of call" and "chagrined," but that the poor town had been swallowed up by more than 50 centimetres of the white, fluffy stuff. For those not familiar with the metric system, that's the equivalent of about three miles. It was deep. At a certain point, it would not have surprised me at all if the neighbours started loading various forest creatures onto a snowmobile, two by two.
Sure, you might counter my bottomless self-pity by pointing out that all of my snow has already melted, and, yeah, my roommate could commit justifiable homicide if I were to take credit for doing any shoveling whatsoever, but the fact remains that, like a certain Boggart dwelling, I am very anti-shovel. (Yes, it took two paragraphs to get to that joke. It's so worth it, though.)
Judging by the amount of drool on my chest, either I've transformed into a napping Bill Bryson or Morningtide previews are live and in full effect. Luckily, it's the latter. Just check out some of these beauties. I know everyone is excited about all the new Elves you'll get to play with, but I'm sure many of you are probably wondering what you're going to do with all of those Lorwyn cards that have been gathering dust for the past three days. Have no fear! I'm sure someone will come to the rescue.
Thirteen Little Piles
Beside me on my desk sits thirteen little piles of cards. How lucky. These aren't just random piles of leftover draft commons. No, sir. At least, not any more.
What I did was take four (and only four) copies of every Lorwyn
common and use them to create thirteen—roughly equal, at least semi-playable—decks. The four-copy restriction meant that I couldn't put Oblivion Ring
in every white deck, Mulldrifter
in every blue deck, or Lash Out
in every red deck (like you're supposed to), but it also meant that I had to find a suitable home for unmaindeckable dreck like Bog Hoodlums
, Soaring Hope
, Herbal Poultice
, and Dawnfluke
. To keep things in something resembling balance, there will have to be a lot of compromise. This is the main reason why bad cards happen to good decks during the course of this experiment. It would be much easier—and much less satisfying, I think—to build six relatively "great" decks and seven miserable decks.
Why would I undertake such a bizarre, uh, undertaking? Well, I was spurred on by the fact that at Worlds 2007 I found myself drowning in Lorwyn commons. The reason? It turns out that people who draft a lot (and there were hundreds of drafts during the week) don't necessarily care about their cards afterwards. They just pick out the good and/or valuable ones and either give or *gasp* throw away the rest. How many Boggart Foragers does one person really need, anyway? And besides, if you flew some great distance to play in the main event, you need to leave some space in your luggage for plaques, oversized novelty cheques, and Toyota FJ Cruisers.
Still, the amount of cards that people left scattered on tables, on the floor, and piled in garbage cans was just crazy to me. I've spent most of my Magic career with a relatively isolated playgroup, where you had to wheel and deal just to get four copies of "chase" commons like Terminate or Wild Mongrel or Duress. Surely something can be done with all of these perfectly good cards that will otherwise go to waste? I talked to some judges who said that they scoop up a lot of cards after events and give them away to needy players or those just starting out. I know I personally saved a dozen Leaf Gilders and countless Aethersnipes from a fate worse than Terror. It just so happens that I have some friends who are interested in taking up the hobby, so I'll be able to find good homes for these forlorn Adder-Staff Boggarts and Elvish Eugoogolists.
The other reason I decided to do this was because I like deckbuilding restrictions (I hear they breed something, but I can't remember what). I also like the idea of working within a closed system (or at least, a system more closed than usual), whether it be Rotisserie Draft, the Magic Super Limited League, or Pauper Magic.
I've mentioned it before in this column, but I once built decks using every single card in my collection. Unfortunately, that would be way too time-consuming nowadays, and besides, that's not a "system" that has any particular meaning or is relevant to anyone but me. By using just Lorwyn commons, the experiment becomes repeatable and the decks become much easier to balance since the cards were meant to co-exist from the get-go. The end result will be sort of like Elves vs. Goblins, except with six other tribes fighting for supremacy.
On top of all that, I thought it would be fun and I wanted to see if I could do it. I expected it to be like a huge jigsaw puzzle, with the edge pieces (traditional starting points) represented by little pockets of card synergy, or "modules," that would give each deck a basic identity.
Deck #1: Red-Black Goblins
The first deck has one such module: Facevaulter, Mudbutton Torchrunner, Hornet Harasser, and Lowland Oaf. Your basic collection of willing sacrifices and sacrifice outlets. The deck is about as aggressive as a Goblin deck can be, considering the limitations, and can even play a bit of long game with recurring Torchrunners and Lowland Oaf's ability to break ground stalls. I kind of regret that Boggart Loggers didn't end up in a deck with Amoeboid Changeling, but the deck needed an answer to Bog-Strider Ash, which would otherwise (swamp)walk all over it.
Deck #2: Black-Red Elementals
The second deck that I built united a pair of Elemental almost all-stars: Flamekin Brawler and Soulbright Flamekin. Often seen with uncommon compatriot Ceaseless Searblades, these two can smash some serious face once you hit six mana (enough to activate Soulbright Flamekin three times). Inner-Flame Acolyte adds to the aggression, while Spiderwig Boggart and Caterwauling Boggart make blocking difficult. A deck like this wouldn't normally want any seven-drops like Faultgrinder, but they have to go somewhere and you can always play them a turn early with Soulbright Flamekin. Hurly-Burly can be a little awkward since it kills Soulbright Flamekin, but on the other hand, all of your other creatures survive it, it makes Caterwauling Boggart better by clearing out tokens, and it's your only answer to a cloud of Faeries.
Deck #3: White(-Black) Kithkin
The Kithkin deck is pretty straightforward, with tons of early drops including the build-around-me Cenn's Heir. Surge of Thoughtweft pumps up your creature swarm, Triclopean Sight is really, really good with Goldmeadow Harrier, and a small black splash for Quill-Slinger Boggart gives the deck some late-game "reach."
Deck #4: Mono-Blue Merfolk
There are enough Merfolk for two solid decks, and I knew one would be aggressive (this one) and one would be more controlling (the next one). I also knew that I wanted the four Zephyr Nets in the deck with all of the islandwalkers, making it into a less-pale imitation of Pacifism. This deck also includes the devastating Stonybrook Angler + Glimmerdust Nap combo. *cough*
Deck #5: Blue-White Merfolk
Hey, more Merfolk! This one comes equipped with scads of ground stall (Silvergill Douser, Stonybrook Angler, Wellgabber Apothecary) and life-gain (Judge of Currents). Control decks like to play powerful finishers, and Plover Knights is practically Meloku in this format. If any of these decks can drag the game into next week, it's this one. In the unlikely event that the game comes down to decking, you've got Broken Ambitions and the potential to shrink your opponent's library by four cards.
Deck #6: Blue-Black Faeries
Perhaps the best deck in the bunch, the blue-black Faerie deck is not that far off from a real Standard deck. Dreamspoiler Witches is an incredible beating against many strategies, Pestermite gives you a leg up in any damage race, and Faerie Trickery gives you an answer to anything but changelings (since all of the Faeries are in this deck).
Deck #7: Red-White Changelings
This deck is an adaptation of a fun deck I built a little while ago. Based on the synergy between Kithkin Greatheart or Boggart Sprite-Chaser and Runed Stalactite, the deck can come out of the gates extremely quickly. Even if you don't store your decks in some kind of gated enclosure, the deck still has game, with Oaken Brawler holding down the fort while your air force beats down through the, uh, air.
Deck #8: Red-Green Giants
It's possible that this deck is the best of them all. It's super-aggressive, great for those of us who like to keep attacking every turn, no matter what. With twelve cheap Giants (as well as Giant's Ire), your Elvish Handservants can grow out of control very quickly. Once your creatures become outclassed, you can turn to your burn. Needle Drop, Moonglove Extract, and Giant's Ire aren't exactly Seal of Fire, Lightning Helix, and Char, but that just makes using them to deal the death blow even funnier.
Deck #9: Black-Green Treefolk
Treefolk were are tricky tribe, since they are all fairly expensive and you can't just throw them all into the same deck the way you can with Faeries. My solution was to use the remaining changeling (Skeletal Changeling), Nath's Buffoon, and Fertile Ground to stall the ground early and accelerate you to your big boys. Nath's Buffoon seems a little out of place, but it gives you an answer to an early Elf rush and, since it's a Goblin, it triggers your Bog-Strider Ashes to recoup some of the lost life you will incur from a slow start. Nameless Inversion also triggers Bog-Strider Ash (and Battlewand Oak, for that matter), plus Treefolk is the one tribe where it can act as a pump spell as often as removal.
Deck #10: Red-White Giants
Giants are the other tribe with potential mana issues, especially since I've already used up many of the cheap ones. Hopefully, between Wanderer's Twig, Stinkdrinker Daredevil, and a ton of clash cards, you will be able to play your Lairwatch and Axegrinder Giants in a timely manner. Springjack Knight and the sorry Soaring Hope are decent Giant enhancers (double strike and flying being good qualities for five- or six-power creature to have), and they have a bit of synergy between them. Soaring Hope's ability to put itself on top of your library makes your hopes of winning a clash, um, soar.
Deck #11: Black-Green Elves
Gilt-Leaf Ambush, Lys Alana Huntmaster, and Elvish Branchbender form another "module," since they produce then count Elves. Scarred Vinebreeder has some clumsy synergy with Elvish Eulogist but is just as happy eating your spent tribal instants. I figured this was the place for Hunt Down, since it works well with Moonglove Winnower and it can allow your tokens to occupy a fearsome defender while your bigger guys make it through.
Deck #12: Mono-Green Elves
The other Elf deck is all about Nath's Elite, combining it with the devastating Lace with Moonglove and a whopping eight ways to regenerate it. It's like Thicket Basilisk, Lure, and Regeneration all over again, except more unwieldy and less likely. Gilt-Leaf Seer can help you avoid drawing a handful of Herbal Poultices and Heal the Scars or just dig up more land. One of the problems I've run into with Lure-based decks is that you can lose the game to a single flyer. Cloudcrown Oak should help out in this respect, keeping those pesky flyers back on defense where they can be Lured to their deaths.
Deck #13: Four-Color Elementals
I knew I would probably paint myself into a corner at the end of this. That's basically what happened, although if you've been keeping track, you'll have noticed that plenty of excellent cards have thus far gone unused. This is the Smokebraider deck, and it really needs to draw an early Smokebraider. Between Ponder, Mulldrifter, and four copies of ol' Smoky himself, you should have a decent shot to see one early. If you don't, you'll just have to hope to win on the back of your superior card quality, infinite card advantage, and, I guess, unparalleled damage prevention.
Well, I hope that was fun and at least a tiny bit useful. I'm sure you can extrapolate some things about Lorwyn Limited from this (Faeries are good, Merfolk are deep, the colour red can lead you down many paths), but that's all old news. I certainly had fun doing it and I expect to have lots of fun battling with new players with the decks. You can easily spruce up all thirteen of them with some choice uncommons and rares as well.
Lastly, I'm sure there are other "solutions" to this puzzle, so feel free to post your thoughts in the forums. If there's interest, I might try this again with a format that isn't about to receive an influx of new cards.
Oh, yeah: I don't have a preview card this week.
Until next time, have fun with commons.