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By: Rasparthe, R.A. Sparthe
Oct 04 2007 9:32am
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Around the Block

When I first started playing Magic the current block was Mirage.  I learned to play, as cliché as it sounds, around a kitchen table and it was terribly casual.  At the time, I didn’t know it, but we only played Block Constructed.  I would like to say it was for some virtuous reason but it really came down to the fact those were the only cards I owned.

To this day I cringe when I think of those cards.  Not because I played so badly or because the games always ended with ridiculous disputes like if Dirtwater Wraiths could block each other.  No, I cringe because I sold approximately 1500 Mirage Block cards for $20 for gas money to get my broke butt home from university.  I don’t even want to think about what cards were in those boxes.

At any rate, I didn’t start playing Magic again until Ravnica and it became much more serious once Time Spiral was released.  I had the classic problem of the desire to play but no real place to satisfy it.  That was, until I discovered Magic Online.  It was here that I became one of the growing number of people that own exactly zero paper Magic cards.  That’s right.  I own not one physical card.  My entire collection is online for better or for worse.

Most of my collection consists of Time Spiral and I had a great time assembling it.  I found the Time Spiral Block diverse and enjoyable.  There was room for a wide variety of decks and strategies and the metagame seem to swing weekly.  It paid off for those that paid attention and did their homework but for the most part it was fun and seemed a pretty successful set.

This of course brings us to the impending release of the new Block, Lorwyn.  The spoiler has been officially released on the Wizards site giving the first confirmed look at the new cards.  I missed the whole Onslaught tribal theme as it fell during my ‘dark ages’ so I have mixed feelings about if it’s good or bad.  Truly, only time will tell if the changes that Wizards have made this time around will give it that non-linear feel.  Nothing can stagnate a Block faster than pre-fabricated decks with zero diversity.
But with any new set the think tanks are quickly gathering steam and turning out suggested deck lists and possible strategies.  The inherent tribal synergy will heavily influence the very first decks that appear.  And surprisingly, perhaps in apology for years of beats, it appears that white, specifically the Kithkin tribe, may be first out of the gate.  Already a fourth turn kill can be achieved and with a very effective steamroller.

Here is how it works:

Turn 1  - Plains, Goldmeadow Stalwart, revealing another Kithkin

Turn 2  - Plains, Wizened Cenn, attack with Stalwart – 17 life

Turn 3 – Plains, Mirror Entity, attack with Stalwart & Cenn – 12 life

Turn 4 – Plains, Tap four Plains to activate Mirror Entity and you have three attackers who are 5/5 rolling in for the kill.

Of course this is with a perfect draw, not missing any land drops and no disruption from your opponent but the possibility is there.  Not to mention the more lands you drop the bigger the steamroller gets.   
There are two classic problems with White Weenie decks.  First, they typically run out of steam and as the turns progress their smaller creatures become dominated by larger fat.  Second, they usually exist in a constant state of fear of mass removal.
Mirror Entity helps with this problem creating large creatures to keep up the pressure.  Not many decks can boast a trio of 5/5’s charging into the red zone on turn four.  Thoughtweft Trio can also help here.  With Wizened Cenn on the board it becomes a 6/6 first striker with vigilance all at the bargain price of a Kithkin and 2WW.
The mass removal problem is certainly a threat but it appears to be mostly in the later game.  There are several mass removal spells in the Lorwyn Block but they all seem expensive or very situational.  The cheapest is Hurly Burly but only deals 1 damage which may not be enough.  The next closest is Incendiary Command but costs 3RR which makes it a full turn slower than
Wrath of God or Damnation.


22 Plains


4 Goldmeadow Stalwart
4 Wizened Cenn
4 Mirror Entity
4 Goldmeadow Harrier
4 Kithkin Harbinger
4 Thoughtweft Trio
4 Cenn's Heir


2 Militia’s Pride
2 Oblivion Ring


4 Neck Snap
4 Crib Swap

Will the Kithkins be the end all for this season?  Probably not.  With the official release of Lorwyn still two weeks away it would be presumptuous to think so.  There are other tribes.  Will the Kithkins make an appearance?  It seems pretty much certain.  Will they stay mono-white?  Gaddock Teeg seems to insist they will not.  Only testing and experience will show which is stronger, a tuned version of the mono-white above or a Green White version featuring Gaddock Teeg.  It is worth nothing, however, that Wizards created a dual land for every other tribe except the Kithkin.  Goblins got their Black Red dual, Giants the Red White one and so on.  No dual land was created for Gaddock Teeg to abuse.  The Kithkins alone are stuck with the Vivid Land but then again, perhaps that is just more salt in the wound for the beleaguered white mages.

Beyond the Kithkin, Goblins seem just as sure a bet to make an appearance and not just because of the love for the green-skinned critters.  Although looking through the list of Goblins it appears they will take a more aggro-control approach.  There are some quick Goblins, like Adder-Staff Boggart, which for 1R and some luck can come into play a 3/2, or the Squeaking Pie Thief a 2/2 with Fear.

Those two goblins are the exception more than the rule.  Most pure goblin decks will revolve around Wort, Boggart Auntie and the Knucklebone Witch.  Some of the goblins, like Facevaulter, are able to pump their stats at the expense of their goblin warren mates.  Tar Pitcher will deal two damage to a player or creature for the low price of one muck grubbing goblin.  If that goblin is Mudbottom Torchrunner add another three damage and with the enchantment Boggart Shenanigans dealing yet another damage the goblin decks may turn into huge goblin sac-fest.  Dealing damage and adding +1 counters to Knucklebone Witch while recurring the lost goblins with Wort, Boggart Auntie or Boggart Birth Rites or Warren Pilferers.

While there are fully twenty three different goblins available to play the Treefolk only number fourteen.  They do have some of the most talked about members though.  One is Doran, the Seige Tower who effectively neuters every high power, low toughness creature out there. Yes we are looking at you, Nova Chaser.  Doran is one of the most interesting cards in the set and will likely be the subject of a lot of deck building as someone tries to break him and his troublesome three colored mana cost.  Will Doran be sidled up next to the Timber Protector and Dauntless Dourbark?  Or will he stand alone as the only playable Treefolk?

With all the attention on tribal beatdown will the creature-light control decks thrive as they did in Time Spiral Block?  The answer is more complicated then you would think.  In Time Spiral there were four spells that could counter another spell.  Cancel was a standout and so solid it was included in Tenth Edition.  Draining Whelk was expensive but back-breaking.  Spell Burst could turn into a soft lock for any deck.  Spiketail Drakeling, the least played of all four rarely even countered a spell.

Lorwyn has six counter spells.  Two of the spells are unconditional hard counters.  Broken Ambitions is a Condescend variant which can be used cheaply especially in the early game but still has power in the later stages.  Faerie Trickery has a fairly easy condition that can make it useless in the mirror match.  Familiar’s Ruse condition can actually turn into a benefit if you are also playing the counter creature Spellstrutter Sprite or any other come-into-play creatures.


Of course the counter magic does not the control deck make.  With so much of it available and of the effective, cheap variety it seems as if Wizards has taken special pains to make sure there is something for the control player.  Lorwyn even gives the possibility of a Pickles-like lock using Mistbind Clique.  It is way clunkier then the Pickles lock and about as effecient as Brittany Spears is a parent but someone will at least try to make it work.  Perhaps with Glen Elendra Pranksters?  There are plenty of flash creatures (ten in total, six in blue) and even a reuseable bounce creature in Surgespanner.

It will be interesting to see how the new metagame develops and alters and what unfolds before Lorwyn is even available on MTGO (probably the biggest downside of having a paperless collection).  Will the tribal theme prove as good as Time Spiral or even Ravinca?  Will the four set, dual Block design work?  We won’t know for certain until about this time next year.

Finally, what would a Block article be without an update on the Time Spiral Block.  The format seems close to forgotten.  Eight man queues can take upwards of an hour to fill and the 2x Premier Event that launched at 8pm on Saturday, September 29 didn’t start until almost 8:15 as it waited to fill.  (This may have been because of a crash just before the start of the event).

Still there are some interesting details about the event.  There were three Blue Black Teachings decks as is to be expected, a single mono-red deck, a Blue White Blink deck which was running Maelstrom Djinns, two Haze of Rage Red Green aggro decks and a single Blue Black Control deck that didn’t seem to be running any main Mystical Teachings or very few.  Instead opting for Cancel, Take Possession, Temporal Isolation and Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir.  There was even a Darkness in the side.  Leading one opponent to complain, although he had been beaten, his loss was to a four month old deck list.  An ironic comment considering the Blue Black Control deck split the finals.  Notice the total lack of mono-blue Pickles decks in the Top Eight and only the single Blink deck whose Riftwing Cloudskate and Venser, Shaper Savant could have thrown a monkey-wrench into the works.  In all the deck seems a very good metagame read.

'Til next time, see you around the Block.


by Rasparthe at Mon, 10/08/2007 - 20:14
Rasparthe's picture

I have no doubt underestimated Oblivion Ring but it is still an enchantment and subject to removal.  I'm not entirely sold it, although looking through the spoiler again i see there is only 3 enchantment removal spells.  Unfortunately for Oblivion Ring one of them is attached to the best mass removal spell in Block, Austere Command.  There can be nothing worse then losing an army of Kithkin to the White Command and having your opponent's creature return as well.

I wanted instant speed removal so I added the playsets of Crib Swap and Neck Snap more because they are unrestricted removal then their cost.

If I had 2 or 3 Trio's in my opening hand I would likely mulligan but the four are likely necessary since you want one on the board on Turn 4 if you don't have a Mirror Entity on the board.  The Knight of Meadowgrain likely could take up a spot and they were in the very first list but Cenn's Heir took the spot.  I wanted to stay true to what the deck would try and accomplish.  It wants to attack each and every turn and 2 other Kithkins on board outstrip the Knight in quick order.  With this thought it makes me wonder if Dolmen Gate might not find a spot.

Thanks for the feedback, the deck is untested but I will try your suggestions when I begin testing it.

by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Sun, 10/07/2007 - 20:41
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Why would you play a playset of Crib Swap and Neck Snap over Oblivion Ring?  Oblivion Ring is nuts, Crib Swap is good, and Neck Snap is terrible.  Four Thoughtweft Trio is too many.  You don't want an opening hand with 2 or 3 of them and no other Kithkin.  Also, where is Meadowgrain Knight?

Great insight by Basic Land at Thu, 10/04/2007 - 23:19
Basic Land's picture

I enjoyed reading your article. Keep pumping them out. I also had a lapse. But I got in around Unlimited and my dark ages started just after Mirage.

I also played a few tournaments in TSP Block. I am looking forward to your analysis of the metagame after it is realeased online.



by Rasparthe at Thu, 10/04/2007 - 15:24
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You are right of course about the power levels of the attackers.  Always the problem with speculation not backed by actually testing something slips through.  Thanks for the catch.

I believe I will buy some actual paper cards at some point only it probably won't be boosters and such as I do with MTGO.  When I first started up it seemed the best way to optimize my collection was chose one or the other considering my financial restrictions.  Unfortunately, it means I miss a good deal of the social aspect with a pure Online collection but it is certainly the easiest access.

by ludyee at Thu, 10/04/2007 - 14:34
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"Turn 4 – Plains, Tap four Plains to activate Mirror Entity and you have three attackers who are 5/5 rolling in for the kill."

I believe you would have two 5/5 and one 4/4 since the Cenn still doesn't effect itself.

Like you I have played some and taken a long layoff and have come back.  I am not only online however as I really enjoy the face to face with friends aspect of play the most.

I like the article, keep up the good work.  Discussing what the new set brings to each archetype is a nice way to start looking at things.