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Missed Opportunities of Lorwyn, Part II

 

Missed Opportunities of Lorwyn, Part II

by Jonathon Loucks

And now for the conclusion of Jonathon’s overview of the cards he wished he had played from Lorwyn block. Click here for the first installment.

Red – Living in the Past

5) Inner-Flame Acolyte
Just as people yearn to rebuild decks from the past, they look for old favorites in new cards. Inner-Flame Acolyte looks a lot like [card]Reckless Charge[/card], a card that I’m sure a lot of people used to great success. Not only is this a Reckless Charge, but it doubles as a 4/2 with haste, giving your pump spell something to do when you don’t have any creatures! It’s all upside, except when formats change. Things are a lot different now than they used to be, so traditional “play a guy and give him haste” strategies are just worse than casting [card]Boggart Ram-Gang[/card]. I like the idea of using an Acolyte to get Baneslayer Angel into the red zone faster, but I don’t expect that combo to amount to anything great. Reckless Charge, we’ll miss you.

4) Furystoke Giant
Back in the day BR tokens was a deck to beat, and Furystoke Giant was its sledgehammer. The card is still just as powerful, but he’ll need to find a new deck if he wants to impact Standard. The reason I bring our giant friend up, however, is to talk about how hard it can be to get a creature to hit the graveyard. Wrath of God left, but to be honest, I find it harder to build creature-based decks when the control decks are running Hallowed Burial. No longer can you build up a force of persisting creatures, or protect them with a Dauntless Escort. A card as cool as Twilight Shepherd has no chance in a format like this, and that makes me sad. Wrath of God leaving was one thing, but I can’t wait for Hallowed Burial to get out of town.

3) Heat Shimmer
I wasn’t that excited when I first saw this spell, but once somebody keyed me in to the combo of Nucklavee and Heat Shimmer, it was all I could think about. The problem is that this wants to be a kind of control deck, getting back Cryptic Command and Firespout with Nucklavee, a deck filled with red sorceries and blue instants. Heat Shimmer, on the other hand, wants creatures, and cheap ones. I can’t afford to sit there with a blank Heat Shimmer in my hand in the early game, so I went in search of the best two-drop to Heat Shimmer. Unfortunately there wasn’t anything that interesting, as even making a Putrid Leech copy is so much worse than having Char in your hand. There’s also a lack of good red sorceries, and what you really want to return is Lightning Bolt. Never casting Heat Shimmer on Nucklavee is probably my biggest regret in the current Standard format.

2) Stigma Lasher
There was a time when it looked like Stigma Lasher was going to put all those Kitchen Finks lovers down once and for all. Unfortunately Stigma Lasher is just a hard to cast Runeclaw Bear (still feels awkward to type that) and if you don’t land him on the second turn, it’s much harder to get his effect off later, and you’ll probably still lose to that life gain spell. I do love the design of Stigma Lasher, however, as the ability to remove a player’s life gain forever is pretty cool. I wonder if Stigma Lasher can come back and make Cruel Ultimatums and Baneslayer Angels a little less painful.

1) Taurean Mauler
I gave up on Taurean Mauler the moment I saw it. Other people were excited about this reverse Quiron Dryad, but Magic had changed. A grey ogre that can get bigger isn’t as exciting as it used to be, especially with Boggart Ram-Gang shooting into the red zone. Now the roles are reversed, and while it seems that everybody else forgot about this changeling, I’ve fallen in love. I can’t imagine a better thing to be doing in a format filled with cascade. This guy is even a goblin, and you know how I feel about goblins. I’ve been trying to Profane Command this guy through enemy lines, and I like what I see.

Honorable Mention – Knollspine Invocation
This card has a lot in common with [card]Seismic Assault[/card] and [card]Stormbind[/card], two cards that have had success in the past. Unfortunately, adding a heavy cost to your discarding, and removing your ability to kill things with lands, hurts a lot. I’ve been tempted to make an [card]Idle Thoughts[/card] and Knollspine Invocation deck, but the problem is that I can still see myself losing from that position.

What The Hell Award – Stomping Slabs
I still have no idea what the hell this card was trying to accomplish.

Green – Failed Solutions

5) Eyes of the Wisent
Green players, rejoice; your spells are safe from the blue mage’s persecution! Well, ok not really. The problem with Eyes of the Wisent is that it doesn’t actually do anything. Raking Canopy, another card that was supposed to save us from the blue menace, has the same problem. You play them, and they do absolutely nothing. Instead of adding pressure to the blue mage, you’ve given them exactly what they want. You spent a card doing nothing, and you gave them time. The lesson to learn is that if you want a do-nothing hate card that actually works, it has to physically stop your opponent from doing something. Pithing Needle, Gaddok Teeg, and Runed Halo are good examples. Even Trinisphere, in the right format, completely stops action.

4) Talara’s Battalion
This one feels a little too easy. Everybody knows Talara’s Battalion just doesn’t work. At first the Talara’s Battalion or Serra Avenger looks pretty awesome, but once you stack your deck with two-drops that aren’t actually two-drops, it doesn’t seem to work. I do like what’s happened to Manamorphose, the best way to get a Talara’s Battalion into play. Not taking manaburn makes Manamorphose much more attractive, and I still can’t tell if I want to cascade into Manamorphose or not. Two free mana and a card? It’s probably just worse than actually casting a spell for free, though. Speaking of cascade, Bloodbraid Elf into Wren’s-Run Vanquisher is bad, but Bloodbraid Elf into Talara’s Battalion is good.

3) Lignify
Green mages, rejoice once again! Green removal! Heck, this little guy is even one of the few things that can stop a Reveillark. Unfortunately the drawback of Lignify, giving your opponent a 0/4 blocker for your green creatures, sucked. The treefolk tribe as a whole is just full of disappointments. Woodfall Primus is a powerful spell that suffers from being expensive and losing a lot of value to Hallowed Burial and Path to Exile. Leaf-Crowned Elder has a super powerful ability, free spells, but triggering it has proved unruly. Reach of Branches has another powerful line of text, coming back to your hand as easy as playing a forest, practically a Squee. Sapling of Colfenor is an indestructible creature that draws cards. It’s almost too bad that Doran, the frontrunner for Treefolk, is so good he doesn’t actually need any tree friends to function. Murmuring Bosk also offered the Treefolk Tribe great manafixing that other tribes envied, until Vivid Lands and Reflecting Pools proved that you could do anything.

2) Scapeshift
I’m still amazed at how good this card is. Being able to give yourself practically any combination of lands you want has to be insane. The lands in Standard aren’t very exciting right now, but give me something like Urza’s Tower and we’ll talk. It’s not a matter of if Scapeshift will be broken, but when.

1) Masked Admirers
I’m a big fan of cards that never stop. Who cares if there is another 3/2 elf for four out there that draws you a card (and guarantees that it’s a spell and plays it for free and has haste), mine comes back from the graveyard! Once again suffering the graveyard problem, that’s not Masked Admirer’s biggest obstacle; it is this elf’s struggle to find an accommodating deck that keeps it at bay. There’s also the fact that a 3/2 isn’t as big as it used to be, and when you’re staring down a Plumeveil you can’t help but wonder if you’ve chosen the right path. Can’t we at least play this as a fifth Bloodbraid Elf?

Honorable Mention – Bloom Tender
It’s a shame that the elemental deck died so quickly because it looked like Bloom Tender may have finally found a home to be broken in. Bloom Tender suffers from the age-old problem of high upside, but a disappointing reality. There are certain decks where Bloom Tender can really shine, but unless those decks are well placed in the metagame you can’t force these things to work out. You try really hard to make Bloom Tender ridiculous on turn three, and then they effortlessly cast Volcanic Fallout.

Unanswered Question Award
How long does it take to win with a turn one Helix Pinnacle? What if you play a turn two Braid of Fire?

Artifacts, Lands, and Gold – Fun and Fancy Free

5) Evershrike
I still think this is an incredibly powerful card. Once again, getting it to hit the graveyard and have it not find its way to the bottom of your deck is one problem, but there’s a bigger hurdle for Evershrike to cross. Have you done a search of the legal enchant creatures in Standard? I have, and let me tell you, it is severely lacking. For the Evershrike deck to work, the auras you run have to be pretty good on their own, and not super-specific like Steel of the Godhead. But when you fill your deck with bad creature enchantments, what happens when you don’t draw Evershrike? Actually, what happens when you do draw Evershrike? Nothing that impressive, unfortunately.

4) Giantbaiting
I almost removed Giantbaiting from the list because of a recent PTQ top 8, but this kind of thing has been happening ever since its release. Some people really love the idea of two big giants with haste, so the idea never fully dies. And every time this deck does well, I find myself wondering if it is time to conspire some Nettle Sentinels. Even Bloodbraid Elf into Giantbaiting is pretty interesting. I’m somewhat hopeful, but remain doubtful.

3) Memory Plunder
Once again: high upside, but disappointing reality. Ok, I’ll be honest, that was the practical side of me talking, but I still haven’t given up hope. You can cast an instant speed four-mana Cruel Ultimatum! It’s practically like you’re running eight Cryptic Commands! The problem with Memory Plunder is not its power level, but its unpredictability. A card that’s this blank against a lot of aggro decks is hard to justify in the maindeck, so your instinct is to move Memory Plunder to the sideboard. Once in the sideboard, however, you realize you have better things to side in against five-color control than a random spell, so you replace it with a real sideboard card. There’s a format where Memory Plunder is maindeckable, and I can’t help but think that we’re close to that format right now. [That format is called EDH. –Riki]

2) Pyrrhic Revival
There’s a good combo deck out there somewhere that wins the turn it casts Pyrrhic Revival, but I haven’t found it. The ability to reanimate every creature in your graveyard this easily is incredible. If you’re not winning that turn, though, your opponent also has all their creatures back, so it’s a little awkward. I just keep having dreams of Goblin Bidding, or even Zombie Bidding, from back in the day.

1) Ward of Bones
This card easily made it to the top of the list, but I have the feeling it’s not on anybody’s radar. Locking people out of spells is incredibly powerful, and this even stops them from making more land drops. That’s unheard of! One of the problems with Ward of Bones is that they can still have one more than you, so your board of no creatures is staring at their board of one creature. It also has the problem of being a six-mana do-nothing artifact, but there’s so much potential here it’s unbelievable. Maybe using some artifact acceleration like Master Transmuter or Etherium Sculptor is the way to go. I wouldn’t be surprised if people suddenly found themselves locked out of their lands and creatures on turn three thanks to Krark-Clan Ironworks come next Extended season.

Honorable Mention – Quillspike
Abilities this narrow on a creature this fragile spell trouble, but preventing noncreature spells from ever being cast again with Glen-Elendra Archmage keeps me coming back. And guess what, Reveillark brings both of these creatures back from the graveyard.

Blue Mage Is Dead Again Award – Vexing Shusher
I brought up Eyes of the Wisent and Raking Canopy earlier as cards that finally killed the blue mage and failed, but Vexing Shusher takes this award hands-down. Sure, it’s still a good card and occasionally finds its way into a sideboard, but the blue mage is in no way dead. It turns out when your “answer” is a vulnerable 2/2, things aren’t that bad.

The End

Phew! That turned out much longer than expected, but at least I had fun writing it. Some people in the forums mentioned interest in my spreadsheet article that I hinted at, but that’s way more technical of an article than I want to write right now. I’m on vacation!

I hope you enjoyed our little countdown. I’d love to hear what you guys think I should play at my one PTQ in a few weeks, so e-mail me or write in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,

Jonathon Loucks
Loucksj at gmail

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